Don't worry about the mark - Your worship matters
Revelation 14 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. 3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. 4 These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. 5 And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.
6 And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; 7 and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”
8 And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.”
9 Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” 12 Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”
14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.
17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. 18 Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.
Today’s text is certainly filled with symbolism. We would or should not expect that things will happen exactly as they are described. John is seeing and attempting to describe spiritual things in human terms. Additionally, when seeing things and events that would take place thousands of years into the future, John has no reference for the advances in technology. Certainly much has changed in communication, transportation and warfare since the time John was on Patmos. One thing we should keep in mind is that God, the giver of the revelation and vision, unlike John, the writer, is eternal. God is not limited to or by finite time. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. If God wanted the words of this prophecy to be completely clear and discernible in human terms, He could have and would have given it that way. Jesus says: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven,but My Father only.” (Matthew 24:36) We should probably not focus as much on trying to know the times and even the exact interpretations of who might fit the descriptions and qualities of the beast or other things like that, as we should seek to understand and apply the principles and truths revealed in Revelation, which are also throughout the rest of scripture.
With that in mind, the first thing I’d like to look at from today’s text is in verses 9-11: Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name. There is and has been a great deal of focus and emphasis throughout history concerning the matter of the “mark of the beast.” Many people have wondered what kind of mark it will be. Will it be a brand or a tattoo? More recently will the mark of the beast be a computer chip? Will that be the method which is used in the end times to control who is allowed to buy and sell? These things make for great stories, debates and speculation, but they miss the more important fact that the verse says: If anyone worships the beast… And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image… Lost in all the debate and speculation about the mark of the beast and being concerned not to take the mark, is the more important matter of worshipping the beast. The first of God’s Ten Commandments is: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Unlike the nation of Israel, we may not have been enslaved in Egypt, but we all have been enslaved to sin and to this world’s systems. As the Israelites were led out of bondage to Egypt, so too have we been freed from the bondage of sin and the world. God, through His Son Jesus Christ, has delivered us, redeemed us from sin. We should not return and worship the things of sin or the systems of the world. Jesus says: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24) That does not mean that a follower of Christ, one who worships God, cannot have wealth. It means that wealth cannot have him or her. To worship any part of the world system, whether wealth or any world philosophies, which deny or make God and Christ secondary, is to worship the beast. We should be more concerned with our worship and less concerned with the beat’s mark. If we abide in Christ, we are His and the beast cannot mark us or have us.
The second thing we see in today’s text and throughout scripture from Genesis to Revelation is that there is and will be a judgment of God against unrighteousness. Again the text says: If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image. Many today have removed the concept of God’s judgment and His wrath against sin from their doctrine and philosophies. They say that Jesus forgave all sin so there is no longer a penalty or judgment against it. I don’t pretend to have the answers as to who will be judged, who will know the wrath of God and who will experience torment. I don’t know how it works that we can experience eternal peace and happiness with God if others do not. I am not God, but I trust Him wholly to work it out and I believe what He says. Jesus Himself, the one who paid the price for the sins of the world says: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23) In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, who both died and had differing eternal consequences of their lives. Verses 22-23 says: the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment… This was indeed a parable and not an actual account. But Jesus used parables to teach truth. If Jesus did not want to teach the truth that there are differing eternal circumstances possible after this life, He would not have told the parable.
Again I am thankful that it is not up to me to judge the life of or decide the eternal fate of anyone. For me is simply to worship God, to abide with Him and in Him, to believe in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. It is to confess that Jesus is the Son of God and that through the demonstration of His love, the cross, I have been redeemed, forgiven of my sins, freed from the bondage of sin and the world, reconciled to God, that I might live in His presence now and forever and worship only Him.
Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit. I worship You and live to serve You by loving and serving others and by fulfilling the commission of Jesus my Lord to preach the gospel, to tell the world the good news of Christ’s redemption, the love of God demonstrated on the cross. Amen