The apostle John, chosen by God to write the book of Revelation, saw the future in a vision. This is what he wrote about the "beast":
"The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority."
To understand what this beast described in Revelation represents, it is important to consult Daniel 7:1-8, where four beasts representing the four great world empires in history are described.
There is mention of a lion (Babylon), a bear (the Persian Empire), a leopard (the Greco-Macedonian Empire) and a fourth beast (the Roman Empire).
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea."
“The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it."
“And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!"
“After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule."
“After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns."
“While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully."
The fourth beast described by Daniel and the apostle John has "ten horns," and one of its heads is "as it was wounded to death," but before the end of the present era, "its deadly wound [will] be healed." (Daniel 7:7-8; Revelation 13:1-3)
This empire is the "beast" described in Revelation. It is also important to note that the human ruler of this resurrected empire is also called the beast.
The mark of the beast is the mark or sign identifying this empire:
"But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur."
Revelation indicates that the dragon gives his power and authority to the beast. This dragon is Satan, the devil:
"The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him."
"He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years."
Satan uses this beast to rule and deceive the world.
Revelation states that those who receive the mark of the beast will receive it on their right hand or on their foreheads:
"It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads."
It is often believed that this will be a physical mark on the skin, and it could indeed be so.
However, since the book of Revelation contains many symbols, we must also consider the possibility that this too may be symbolic language. In the latter case, what could it be?
The right hand can symbolize our actions, our works. The forehead can symbolize our inner motives, our ideas, what we have "in our head".
Therefore, the mark of the beast has to do with what we believe - in our inner self - and with what we do with our hands.
In Deuteronomy 6:8, God commands ancient Israel to bind His commandments "as a sign upon thy hands" and "as the foreheads between thine eyes.
"Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads."
The link between our thoughts and deeds is a good explanation of faith. In the Bible, the faith of Jesus has two aspects: conviction, and the action resulting from it
This is the patience of the saints, who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. It is about God's saints. When the Lord showed the ancient Israelites how to observe the Days of Unleavened Bread, He made it clear that this act of obedience to His law would be for them, for each one, "as a sign on your hand."
"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."
The mark of the beast thus represents disobedience to God's commandments and rejection of Jesus' faith.
According to Revelation, those who receive the mark of the beast suffer the seven last plagues, while the obedient saints are described as having "overcome the beast."
"And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God."
These people faithful to the Lord will receive eternal life and reign with Christ at His Second Coming.
"I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. Theyhad not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years."
The original Greek word translated into English as a mark in Revelation 14:9 is charagma - a term meaning a stripe, scratch or engraving, with the idea of a sign (like a mark of slavery)" (Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries). Therefore, a mark is a sign of identification.
In the Bible, the Sabbath is called a sign.
"Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy."
It identifies God's people as holy or set apart by Him:
"Also, I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the Lord made them holy."
"The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath, so that the Son of Man is ruler even of the Sabbath."
(Mark 2:27-28) The Bible calls the Sabbath a sign. (Mark 2:27-28) The Sabbath commandment is still in effect today, and it identifies God's people.
Another identifying mark is found in Ezekiel, God said to the prophet:
“Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it."
This mark identified those who obeyed God and grieved for the sins committed in the city.
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