top of page

What is the Mark of the Beast & Should I Be Scared?

Jamey Escamilla

Jamey Escamilla  •  Feb 14, 2023

Learn to identify and understand the mark of the beast.

What’s one of the scariest symbols in our American culture today? 666 – the Mark of the Beast!

 

This symbol is one of the most talked about topics in Christianity and pop culture. It carries a lot of opinion, speculation, and debate. It carries a lot of fear, as well. I’ve heard of people who quickly grab a pack of gum to change their checkout total at the grocery store when it comes out to $6.66. Many believe it will be a type of mark given to faithless souls by the Antichrist during a future time known as the Great Tribulation.

Video Coming Soon

Would you like to know more about the Mark of the Beast? If so, I just need you to do two things:

 

1. Put aside any preconceived ideas you might have about the mark.

 

If you’re like me, you grew up hearing about the mark of the beast from a pop culture perspective. You saw it expressed as an evil symbol in movies, and you just knew that it was in the Bible somewhere.

 

Now, you probably hear it mentioned from time to time by the “cooky Christian” down the street who seems to be obsessed with something called the “endtimes”. You’ve always been taught that this is something that’s going to happen in the future right before the end of the world.

 

Right now, make a commitment to not read into the Bible what you’ve been taught about the mark. Instead, let the Bible speak for itself.

 

2. Start as a blank page and be open.

 

In other words, it’s not as important to get a literal blank piece of paper so that you can take notes. What’s more essential is that YOU become that blank page.

 

Be open to what we’re going to learn about the mark. Part of being “Christ-like” means that you lovingly and patiently listen to what your brothers and sisters are trying to share with you about the Word, and then study for yourself to see if these things are so.

When this study is over, you'll be able to...

  • Understand the time frame of when the mark of the beast happens

  • Know all of the scriptures in the Bible that help explain the mark

  • Identify the beast and exactly what the mark represents

Let's jump right in and begin by reading Revelation 13:1-15. Do that now, then come back. 😀

In Revelation 13, we begin with the dragon (Satan). He’s making war with the Christians. Then all of a sudden, a beast comes out of the sea! We’ll call this the first beast – the sea-beast. The dragon then gives power to this sea-beast.

 

This sea-beast is bad. He’s speaking blasphemies against God and people are worshipping it. Then, another beast comes out of the earth. We’ll call this beast the second beast – the land-beast. Now we have two beasts:

Sea beast and land beast

This land-beast exercises authority on the sea-beast’s behalf. It makes people worship the sea-beast, and then it does this:

 

Revelation 13:16-18

16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, 17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.

Revelation is FULL of Symbolic Imagery

To understand what it is, let’s start with a fact:

 

Everyone agrees there is a lot of symbolic imagery in the book of Revelation. These are ancient, Jewish figures of speech and poetic imagery that represent something physical or a spiritual concept. Here are some examples:

 

  • Read Revelation 1:16. Jesus is depicted as having a “double-edged sword” coming out of his mouth. This is symbolic imagery that represents a spiritual concept – Jesus speaks the Word of God, which is sharper than a double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).

 

  • Read Revelation 1:20. There are seven golden lampstands. This is symbolic imagery that represents something physical – the seven lampstands are the seven literal churches that John was writing to.

Symbolic imagery

We see this kind of language all over Revelation, and really, all over the Bible. Oftentimes, Revelations will tell you exactly what the symbol represents, as in Revelation 1:20 (7 lampstands = 7 churches).

 

In Revelation 12, a woman has offspring, and verse 17 tells us who these offspring are – they’re the people “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” There’s no need to guess.

 

If Revelation doesn’t tell you what the symbolic imagery is, here’s one thing you can try: Find the same or similar poetic language from other places in the Bible to make a very good determination of what the symbol might be.

 

This is a good thing to do, because Revelation uses the same symbolic, apocalyptic language that you’ll see in many other places throughout the Bible. This was a common writing style for ancient Israel.

Let’s see if we can find any type of language that’s similar to a mark being given on people’s foreheads or hands, and then we’ll determine if it’s either a spiritual concept or something physical!

The Mark in Exodus...

This whole thing about a “mark” actually begins with the Passover in Exodus. You know the story, right? You can read about it in Exodus 12.

 

The Jews had to put the blood of a lamb over their doors in order to protect their firstborn child from being killed when the angel of the LORD passed through.

 

When this Passover was completed (the angel of the LORD “passed over” the houses with the blood on the doorposts), the Israelites left Egypt.

Blood on the door post

Source

 

Before they crossed the Red Sea, God gave them the instructions for hosting a Passover feast, and said this about it:

 

Exodus 13:9 NIV

This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand.

 

Notice the similar phrases to the mark of the beast: A sign on the “hand” and a reminder on the “forehead”.

 

We should instantly know that this is symbolic language to represent a spiritual concept. You cannot “wear an observance or festival” on your hand or forehead.

The Passover observance was also something that uniquely identified the nation of Israel because it was only for them (Exodus 12:43).

 

We can say that it was also a “mark” or a “brand” for them. It’s simply a figure of speech to say that the Israelites should remember the feast and what God has done for them. In doing so, this also set them apart:

Walter C. Kaiser quote

Remember, the Passover also represented protection. When they had the “mark” above their door, the angel of the LORD would not harm the firstborn.

 

The Jews then used this literal mark of protection in Exodus to represent a symbolic, spiritual concept: Protection from the LORD:

 

Ezekiel 9:4-6

4 and the Lord said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.” 5 To the others He said in my hearing, “Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. 6 Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the temple.

If they had the mark on their foreheads, they would be spared. But let’s ask the question:

 

Was this a literal mark or a spiritual mark?

 

Spiritual!

 

God is not literally putting a mark on their foreheads in this passage. They’re not walking around with some tattoo on their foreheads.

The Mark Was a Sign of Their Loyalty

Again, this spiritual mark on God’s people in the Old Testament also branded them. It showed where one’s loyalty lied and whom they belonged to:

 

Isaiah 44:5 NIV

Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’; others will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and will take the name Israel.

 

Notice the language again: Writing on the hand and taking the name.

 

With the mark of the beast, people are said to be “taking the mark”, and the mark is described as the beast’s “name” or the “number of his name”.

 

Could it be that the mark of the beast is also a figure of speech that showed that whoever took the mark was loyal to the beast?

 

Could it be that they did not receive a literal mark, as in the above scriptures, but this was simply symbolic writing to show where their loyalty lay – to the beast?

Two Views of the Book of Revelation

Now that we know that “taking a mark on a hand or a forehead” in the Old Testament was a figure of speech, we can get a better idea of what’s going on in Revelation.

 

But first, there’s something really important you should know about the book of Revelation.

 

I’m sure you’ve been told that this book is all about events that will happen in the future when the world comes to an end. You’ve probably heard about the rapture and the Antichrist coming in the last days.

 

But remember, you’re coming to this study as a blank piece of paper. We don’t know anything about Revelation right now.

 

So, you should know that there are a couple of ways that people view this book. Some say the things that happen in Revelation happened in the past, and some say they will happen in the future:

 

  • Past – This view is called “preterism”. It means that all or most things in Revelation have already happened in the past. The strange events that are portrayed in this book, like stars falling and dragons talking, are symbolic imagery that represents the end of the Mosaic Law system, the destruction of their city and temple, and the New Covenant church system established by Jesus. Preterism says that all these events happened around the year AD 70.

 

  • Future – This view is called “futurism”. It means that all of the things in Revelation will happen in our future, and most people say they’ll happen very soon. Many of the strange events in this book are literal, like the world falling apart and Jesus coming down from the sky on a white horse. Most futurists say these events will happen in our future after all the Christians suddenly vanish from the earth in the rapture, and then all hell will break loose for 7 years.

Two views of the endtimes

The Mark/Seal All Over Revelation

We’ll find out as the lesson progresses whether or not these things happen in the past or the future.

 

For now, we’ll go through Revelation and look at other places that mention a “mark”, and I’ll tell you what I believe about them:

 

Revelation 3:12

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

 

Revelation 7:2-3

2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”

 

Revelation 9:4

They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

We can see a lot of “marking language” in these scriptures. The ones who receive the mark of God on their foreheads are the faithful saints.

 

Throughout the book of Revelation, these people have the mark of God, which represented three things:

 

  • Where their loyalty lied

  • Who they belonged to (God)

  • Protection from danger

 

This is not an uncommon picture. Paul tells us about this “seal” that all Christians share:

2 Corinthians 1:21-22

21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

 

All Christians are “sealed” or “marked” by God. But we don’t have a literal seal on our skin somewhere.

 

This symbolic mark represents the three things listed above. If the mark of God on our foreheads was always symbolic in the Old Testament...

 

... and if this was a common, Jewish figure of speech that they used in their day...

 

... then it makes more sense that the mark of God in Revelation is also symbolic.

Symbolic seal on the servants of God

Source

 

The above picture is not exactly accurate to what the scriptures are trying to say, and it's even a bit humorous.

The seal of God on the Christians in Revelation is not meant to be thought of as literal.

A "seal on the forehead" was simply an ancient, Jewish figure of speech, much like when we say "a pain in the neck". We don't mean a literal pain in the neck.

Examples of Symbols in Revelation

You must be open to the strong possibility that this mark is not literal, but symbolic.

 

In the above scriptures we’ve read in Revelation and their surrounding contexts, it’s full of figurative language:

 

  • Revelation 1 – Jesus with stars in his hand and a sword coming out of his mouth

  • Revelation 3 – Christians becoming pillars in a temple

  • Revelation 7 – Jesus depicted as a lamb

  • Revelation 9 – locusts in the shape of horses, faces like men, and crowns on their heads

  • Revelation 12 – a dragon throwing stars to the earth and a woman with the moon under her feet

 

It makes sense that if these symbols, along with many others in the book of Revelation, are figurative, then the mark could be figurative, too.

The Seal on the Foreheads of the 144,000

Finally, we’ve come back to our scripture about the mark of the beast:

 

Revelation 13:16-18

16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, 17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.

In this passage, we see a beast writing a mark on people’s hands and foreheads. But remember, a mark has always been a figure of speech that represents a spiritual concept. We haven’t read one scripture where this kind of mark is literal.

 

So, why do many Christians say that this mark is, all of a sudden, a literal, physical mark coming in the future?

 

Wouldn’t it make more sense that it’s simply a figure of speech here in Revelation 13 as it always was throughout the Bible?

 

Shouldn’t we just let the Bible interpret the Bible, instead of speculating what the mark could be?

 

In fact, it’s interesting how numerous Christians believe that this mark of the beast is a literal mark that could be some type of microchip implanted in the hand or forehead.

 

The very next verse in Revelation says that Jesus will also put a mark on the foreheads of his followers:

Revelation 14:1

Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.

 

Countless believers stop after reading the passage about the mark of the beast and never read this verse, simply because the passage about the mark of the beast is more popular.

 

But to anyone who believes that this mark of the beast in Revelation 13 is literal, I would ask one question:

“What is the mark in Revelation 14 on the foreheads of Jesus’ followers?”

What is the seal?

It cannot be a microchip in Revelation 13 when we’re talking about the beast, but all of a sudden be figurative in Revelation 14 when we’re talking about Jesus.

 

And nobody would say that Jesus will give his followers a microchip in their foreheads when he returns.

 

The interpretation that makes the most sense is that the mark of the beast in Revelation 13 is a symbolic mark that would be on the beast's followers to show their loyalty.

 

The mark in Revelation 14 is also a symbolic mark on the followers of Jesus which represents their loyalty to him.

George Eldon Ladd quote

The Mark of the Beast - Past or Future?

We’ve proven that this mark of the beast is more than likely symbolic. But how do we know if it’s something that happened in the past or coming in the future?

 

The scripture says the mark of the beast is associated with the “number of his name”.

 

People have tried to crack this “666 code” for a long time. They’ve cleverly made this number fit with certain names and concepts.

 

For example, Ronald Wilson Regan was said to be the Antichrist because he has 6 letters in his first, middle, and last name. Other candidates throughout the years were:

 

  • The internet (“www” is somehow translated into “666”)

  • Hitler

  • Various popes

  • Martin Luther

  • Barney the Dinosaur

 

I distinctly remember when we entered the year 2000. Some were saying that this was the end of days because if you simply flip the 9’s upside down in the year “1999” and drop the “1”, you get “666”.

Sadly, many believers just don’t know what they believe. They’ll speculate about the 666 without fully knowing the doctrine behind it.

 

What many believers don’t realize is that if you believe this 666 mark is coming in the future, then there’s no way you can know what it is now.

 

Why?

 

Because according to basic futurism teaching, it won’t be revealed until the time when all Christians disappear from the earth in the rapture:

Mark Hitchcock quote

So, there’s just no reason to speculate. Even if the mark of the beast was something coming in the future, we Christians would never know what it is.

The Mark of the Beast... In the Past?

 

If the mark of the beast happened in the past (preterism), then we can research it and find out what it is. Let’s do that now. I’ll begin by telling you exactly what I believe this mark is:

 

The mark of the beast was a symbolic mark of Nero and the Roman Empire. All people who “took the mark” in the days of the Jewish-Roman War, leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, were doing three things:

 

  • Pledging loyalty and worship to Nero/Roman empire

 

  • Clinging to their Old Covenant Judaism

 

  • Denying Christ and the New Covenant

 

Rome would ultimately declare war on Jerusalem and burn it to the ground in AD 70, killing all of these people who symbolically had the “mark of the beast”.

Siege of Jerusalem

Source

 

Those who did not “receive the mark” were the Christians who were persecuted by both Rome and the Jews.

 

They instead “received the mark” of God and were protected from the destruction of Jerusalem. History tells us that the faithful Christians fled and survived this event.

 

This is why it pays to know a bit of history alongside the Bible.

 

The time between the death of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem (AD 30-70) was a hard time for the Jews.

 

Jerusalem was under Roman rule, and there were many wars breaking out between the Jews and the Romans. Some Jews slightly accepted the Romans, but others would fight against them.

Jesus had already come and brought a New Covenant. The new Christians were trying to tell all the Jews to accept Jesus because he was the promised Messiah. However, the Romans and the Jews were killing and persecuting all the Christians.

 

Jesus and the disciples told the Jews to accept Jesus because a time was coming soon when their city would be burned, and they would be killed.

 

If they accepted Jesus and believed in his words of salvation and warning of coming judgment, they would know to flee the city and be spared.

 

The writers of the New Testament also told the Christians to continue in their faith and not turn back to Judaism. If they did, they would be destroyed when the Romans came.

 

Soon, around AD 67, the Romans had enough of the Jews and their wars.

 

They marched to Jerusalem, burned it down, destroyed their temple, killed millions of Jews, and ended their religious system. Israel did not become a nation again until 1948.

Many Jews died because they didn't believe in Jesus, and God's wrath had been accumulating for them.

 

Not all the Jews wanted to war with Rome. But even if they pledged loyalty to Rome, they still remained in the city and were killed in the siege, starved to death, or died by other means.

 

I believe John wrote about these events in the Book of Revelation and depicted them in mostly symbolic imagery. The mark of the beast was a spiritual mark that was on the Jews who clung to Judaism, stayed in the city, and persecuted Christians.

Here are the reasons to prove this:

Proof #1: The Beast Came from the "Sea"

First Reason: The Beast of the Sea

Daniel 7 speaks of beasts coming out of the sea, and pretty much everyone agrees that these beasts represented the Gentile kingdoms – Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans.

 

Since this beast came from the “sea”, and since Revelation is about Rome destroying Jerusalem, this shows us that the beast is likely Nero and the Roman Empire (Nero was the king of Rome during the Jewish-Roman wars).

Proof #2: Nero Was Called a "Beast"

Second Reason: Nero was called a Beast

Nero was a crazy, murderous king of Rome. He kicked his pregnant wife to death, killed his own mother, and used Christians as torches to light up his events and parties.

 

There are writings that say he would tie Christians up, dress up as an animal, and eat their private parts like a beast.

 

Remember, the sea-beast (Roman empire) was given power by the dragon (Satan).

 

“Both Jews and Christians regarded Nero as also having close affinities with the serpent or dragon.”

W.F. Farrar, The Early Days of Christianity (1882), 471-472.

Proof #3: Nero's Name Equals 666

Third Reason: Nero's name equals 666

In Hebrew, each letter has a number assigned to it. This is called “gematria”. If you put Nero’s name in Hebrew, it is “Neron Kesar”.

 

Next, you take out the vowels, because Hebrew has no letters to represent vowels. We’re left with “nrwn qsr”, the correct Hebrew spelling.

 

Again, each letter represents a number in Hebrew. Here are the numbers for “nrwn qsr”:

 

n=50

r=200

w=6

n=50

 

q=100

s=60

r=200

 

= 666

Proof #4: Many Early Church Fathers Connect Nero with "666" and as the Beast

Fourth Reason: Early Church Fathers

There are many, many others if you do a little research.

Proof #5: The Seven Kings

The sea-beast that we’ve been talking about is described a bit in verse 1 of Revelation 13:

 

Revelation 13:1

Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.

 

Let’s focus on the “seven heads” of this beast. Remember, I believe that this beast represents Nero/Roman empire. If we read a bit further into Revelation 17, it tells us what these heads represent:

 

Revelation 17:9-10

“Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. 10 There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.

 

So, the seven heads are seven kings of the Roman empire. Before Nero reigned as Caesar, there were five kings before him who began the Roman empire (“five have fallen”).

 

At the time Revelation was written, Nero was reigning and is described as the beast (“one is”).

Fifth Reason: The Seven Kings

Nero committed suicide in AD 68, and after him, a man named Galba reigned for a very short time, only about 7 months (“when he comes, he must continue a short time”).

 

After Nero died, there were actually 4 kings that reigned in the span of only about one year (Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian).

 

This period is known as the “Year of the Four Emperors”. The reign of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius was incredibly short due to the first civil wars in Rome.

Fifth Reason (2): The Seven Kings

These verses fit perfectly with history and tell us that the Roman empire is indeed the beast of Revelation 13, and Nero's number is 666.

Proof #6: The Agora Market

Sixth Reason: The Algora Market

Another interpretation of the mark of the beast is that of a “mark” taken to enter the agora market. This is a more literal view of the mark, but it places it during the time of Nero.

I was introduced to this view in Jonathan Welton's book, The Art of Revelation, pages 109-110.

People were put in a horrible predicament before the final siege of Jerusalem in AD 70 – take the mark to enter the agora by declaring that Caesar was god so they could feed their families...

 

... or refuse the mark and not be able to buy and sell.

 

This all happened around the time of Nero, and it could be a better literal explanation of the mark of the beast.

 

Perhaps John was alluding to both scenarios – a spiritual mark of allegiance and a literal mark that has to be taken to get into the agora.

Conclusion

 

The most popular interpretation of the mark of the beast is that it’s a literal mark that will happen in the future.

 

But in this lesson, you’ve learned that there is an alternative view – that it happened in the past and was a figure of speech.

 

I invite you now to lay both of these views down, side-by-side, and see which one makes more sense.

 

I encourage you to do diligent studying of both views before making a decision on what you believe about the mark.

Sharing is caring!

LAST UPDATED: 2/20/23

Jamey Escamilla

About Pastor Jamey

Jamey is the co-pastor of New Covenant Church in El Campo, Texas. He has served in ministry for over 10 years, teaching and preaching the Gospel of grace. He is the author of How to Understand the Bible in 30 Days, a simple guide that helps Christians everywhere understand the bigger picture of the Bible, along with how to study it properly and foundational truths. He continues to serve as a pastor and run newcovenantway.com.

LEARN MORE ABOUT NEW COVENANT CHURCH

Bible Study Cheat Sheets

20 Bible Study Cheat Sheets To Increase Your Bible Knowledge Fast

Our best Bible study sheets to help you start learning as quickly as possible...

even if you are a beginner.

bottom of page