by Mike Ratliff
14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
17 From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. Galatians 6:14-17 (NASB)
The Apostle Paul did indeed bear the marks of persecution on his body. He had been found to be worthy to suffer shame for the name as had Peter and John (Acts 5:17-42). Paul had been stoned, beaten, imprisoned, run out of town, and would die as a martyr. Why were the Apostles persecuted so? They preached the truth. They preached against sin and works theology. They preached the Cross. They preached the exclusivity of the Gospel and against pluralism. They held that God’s truth was absolute. This is the message the natural, unregenerate person hates. This is the message the pseudo-Christians hate as well because the clear bright light of God’s truth reveals their compromises and false doctrines.
This always results is some level of persecution. All Christians should bear some marks of some kind that testifies to their faithfulness to the Lord. These marks could be physical or they could take the form of insults from coworkers, professors, or the defenders of those forms of Christianity that are heretical. These marks could take the form of the loss of a job, the sacrifice of worldly goods for the sake of gospel ministry or other such things. The marks of Jesus do not have to be from physical abuse, but all of them, no matter in what form, give evidence of the believer’s love for our Lord in his or her willingness to suffer all manner of hardships for the truth of the gospel (2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10). These believers do not attempt to substitute their own efforts for God’s grace and then claim to be Christians while following a false gospel. This is bearing the marks of Jesus.
I heard a sermon by R.C. Sproul several years ago about suffering. In that sermon, he referred to an incident in our Lord’s ministry in which a man born blind was brought to Him (John 9). They asked the Lord Jesus who had sinned, the man himself, or his parents that he had been born blind. This is the either/or fallacy. It assumes that the reason is one of only two options. Our Lord told them that this man was born blind for neither of those reasons, but that the works of God might be manifest in him (John 9:3). In this, we must understand that Christian suffering may indeed come upon believers for the very fact that they are faithful. They may indeed refuse to compromise and may indeed preach and teach things that cause offense to some. However, we must never forget that God is allowing these things that the works of God might be manifest in them. This is all part of being found worthy to suffer shame for the name in partaking of the sufferings of Christ on the Cross.
While all believers should bear some evidence of their faithfulness to Christ Jesus as marks, not all do. The contrast to this is bearing the mark of the beast. I am sure all of you have read of the number 666 being that mark.
16 And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 17 and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either 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 the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six. Revelation 13:16-18 (NASB)
“what the number 666 represents is at least as significant as the beast’s human identity. When John tells us that this is “man’s number,” he may even mean that this number does not refer to a specific individual, such as Nero, but to a series of individuals who behave as Nero did. As Beale points out, “The omission of the article in 13:18 indicates the general idea of humanity, not some special individual who can be discerned only through an esoteric method of calculation. Therefore, in both verses ἄνθρωπος [man] is a descriptive or qualitative genitive, so that the phrase here should be rendered ‘a human number’ (so RSV) or ‘a number of humanity.’ It is a number common to fallen humanity.” “In light of the beast’s attempt to parody the redemptive work of Christ so as to receive the worship of the nations, the idea that this number is to be understood as the number of fallen humanity makes a great deal of sense. If seven is the number of perfection, the number six comes close, but never reaches the goal.”1
“What, then is the mark of the beast? It may indeed be directly tied to Nero as indicative of his personal wickedness and hatred for God’s people, but Nero does not exhaust what is implied by taking the number-worshipping the state or its leader in order to avoid persecution for confessing that Christ is Lord. The beast is manifest to some degree throughout the inter-advental period but is restrained until the time of the end through the preaching of the gospel or the providence of God (see 2 Thess. 2:1-12; Rev. 20:1-10). The meaning of the number is at least as significant as identifying to whom it applies. The number of man, 666, is “perfectly imperfect” in contrast to the number of perfection-seven. The thrice repeated number “6” implies endless work without rest. The creational pattern was for humans to work for six days and then rest on the seventh as did the Creator. But in this case, those who take the mark of the beast work endlessly and never do enter the hoped-for- Sabbath rest. When placed in the larger context of the New Testament, Christians are said to be “sealed” unto Christ in their baptism (Rom. 4:11; see also Rom. 6:1-11). The mark of the beast may be the theological equivalent of the rejection of baptism (in the case of apostasy) or the rejection of Christ’s lordship through the confession that Caesar (or any other political figure) is Lord. This comports with the New Testament’s repeated warnings about apostasy being connected to the final manifestation of the beast (see Thess. 2:1-12; Rev. 20:7-10).” 2
With that in mind my brethren, here is a post by Kim Riddlebarger relating this excerpt from his book, The Man of Sin, with some very events in the visible Church. We do not know, yet, who the Man of Sin is. We do not know when our Lord will return. However, we know that the Word of God does tell us that there have been and will be many “Antichrists.” The mark of the beast is apostasy, which is what happens when professing Christians reject God’s truth and in one form or another fall into a state of unbelief. These pseudo-Christians may claim atheism or they may become part of the apostate, compromised, visible Church that is spiritually dead. This would also include all those forms of “doing church” that are unbiblical in nature. These are inclusive in the term “mark of the beast” because they are all part of unredeemed fallen humanity instead of according to the Grace of God.
Therefore, we must all examine ourselves. Are we bearing the marks of Christ or are we bearing the mark of the beast? I pray that each one reading this will be convicted by the Holy Spirit to repent and strive to be the faithful, holy, disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ that we are called to be.
Soli Deo Gloria!
1Riddlebarger, Kim The Man of Sin. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 112.