Rev. 13:16 – And he requires everyone – small and great, rich and poor, free and slave – to be given a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark: the beast’s name or the number of his name. (HCSB)
He requires everyone … to be given a mark
Next, the false prophet requires everyone – small and great, rich and poor, free and slave – to be given a mark on their right hands or foreheads. No one is able to buy or sell unless they have the mark, which is the beast’s name or the number of his name (Rev. 13:16-17).
The identity of this mark is a matter of much debate. Some interpreters believe it is an actual mark – a brand burned into the skin, or a tattoo. Others point to imperial coins that bear the image of the emperor. Futurists say it could be a microchip planted just beneath the skin. Others argue that John’s language is figurative, referring to people’s thoughts (foreheads) and deeds (right hands) as they place their trust in the first beast and pledge their allegiance to him.
The stamp of Caesar
The Greek word translated “mark” is charagma and denotes the official stamp of the Caesar. This stamp is applied to documents to certify them. In whatever manner the mark is taken, it seems clear that it is used to verify those who have submitted themselves to the first beast and to separate them from those who withhold their worship from the Antichrist.
Some commentators say the mark is used in much the same way as Christian baptism, by which believers publicly declare their faith in Jesus and enter into the fellowship of the church. And as John’s audience knows, the Holy Spirit seals believers – that is, places God’s mark of ownership on them and guarantees their future glorification (Eph. 1:13-14). As a counterbalance to this public display of subservience to the King of kings, the false prophet compels everyone who prefers an earthly kingdom to a heavenly one to publicly profess fealty to the beast.
“John wishes to be quite clear with the members of the churches he addresses: in the case of conflict, there remains nothing else for them to do than to accept the forfeiture of such civil rights [as given those who take the mark]. For the mark of belonging to Jesus Christ is irreconcilable with that of the beast because with each of them a legally binding relationship is founded, although in diametrically distinctive ways” (Roloff, p. 165).
Next: The number of the beast … is 666 — Revelation 13:18