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.
Rev. 13:15 – He was permitted to give a spirit to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast could both speak and cause whoever would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. (HCSB)
He was permitted to give a spirit to the image
In verse 15 John writes of the false prophet, “He was permitted to give a spirit to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast could both speak and cause whoever would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.”
Note first that the false prophet is permitted to give life to the image of the beast. His power comes from Satan; his permission comes from God. Thusly armed, he gives a “spirit” to the image. The Greek word pneuma is used more than 300 times in scripture and may be translated “spirit,” “breath” or “breeze.” It also may refer to the human spirit or rational soul; an angel, demon, or the Holy Spirit; or even a ghost. Here it appears to be best translated “breath” or “life,” for the image speaks and acts.
This is a stunning miracle, for it convinces many to worship the first beast. It’s quite possible that the false prophet uses sleight-of-hand tricks to make it appear the image is speaking. However, it could be that demonic forces are at work. In confronting the Corinthians with the truth about hand-carved idols, Paul pulls back the veil to expose the truth that those who offer sacrifices to idols – which cannot speak or act – are in fact sacrificing to demons, which the idols represent (1 Cor. 10:20). But in Revelation, John depicts the idol as being alive – or apparently so. Whether animated by demons or creative illusions, the image of the beast inspires both wonder and terror in the hearts of people, for he pronounces death sentences on those who hold fast their allegiance to Christ.
Rev. 13:7 – And he was permitted to wage war against the saints and to conquer them. He was also given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation.
Take note of the sinister will of Satan and the permissive will of God. The dragon gives the beast his power, authority and throne (v. 2). The beast’s fatal would is healed (v. 3a.). The whole earth is amazed and follows the beast (v. 3b). They worship the dragon … and worship the beast (v. 4). A mouth is given to the beast to speak boasts and blasphemies, and he is given authority to act for 42 months (v. 5).
So far, the emphasis is on the work of Satan, manipulating the beast. But things begin to turn in verse 7, where it becomes clear that God permits the evil to take place. The beast is permitted to wage war against the saints and to conquer them. He is given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation (v. 7). All those who live on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name is not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who is slaughtered (v. 8).