This series on Christian Eschatology discusses the aspects of Daniel and Revelation least affected by speculation. The most significant problem with Christian Eschatology is arbitrary interpretation, rooted in writer’s opinions or church traditions. This series derives conclusions from only two things: scripture and the historical record. No tradition is permitted.
The complete series:
The Image and Mark
The mark of the beast is, arguably, the part of Revelation that everyone is most familiar with. Even many non-Christians know about it. The mark of the beast is often portrayed in popular media as a computer chip that is put under the skin. Many thought the COVID vaccines contained computer chips that would be injected into each person without their knowledge, forcing them to take the mark of the beast and thus damning the whole world as per scripture. But, as this series has shown, appealing to tradition or popular culture to explain scripture is the wrong approach and ends up blinding you.
In “Reviewing Wright’s Universal Apologia: Part 9“, I discussed the image and mark of the beast at length, including an identification of the second beast (or False Prophet) of Revelation 13:11-17, 14:9, 11, 15:2, 16:2, 19:20 and 20:4. Some of that information is presented here, but this will focus only on scripture and more detailed historical records, as pertains to the both the image and the mark of the beast. We begin by reading about the image and mark in John’s apocalypse:
“And [the second beast] will deceive those who live on the earth by the signs that were given him to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who live on the earth to make an image of the beast who had the stroke of the sword and lived. And it was granted to him to give life to it, even to the image to the beast, so that the image of the beast could both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. And he will make everyone, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free and the slave, be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, so that no one will be able to buy or to sell unless he has the mark, the name of the beast or the number of his name.” — Revelation 13:14-17
The image and mark of the beast are also mentioned in Revelation 14:9, 11, 15:2, 16:2, 19:20 and 20:4. Revelation describes the following signs of the image and the mark:
- The image will come alive
- The image will speak
- The image will be worshiped
- Those who do not worship the image will be killed
- The mark is received on the hand or forehead (13:16, 14:9, 20:4)
- The mark is received when the image is worshiped (14:9,11)
- No one without the mark will be able to buy or sell.
- Ugly and grievous sores on those who received the mark (16:2)
Identifying the Image and Mark
We start by observing that an image is an idol. It is an object—or representation—made by human hands. Idolatry is the worship of that object—the image—made by the hands of man. For example, Daniel 3 records Nebuchadnezzar making an image of gold and commanding that it be worshiped. Even the idolatrous greedy man worships his money and possessions. So, to identify the image of the beast, we are looking for an object, made by the hands of man, that is worshiped.
Next, we observe that the mark of the beast is received when the image is worshiped. This is why a vaccine cannot be the mark of the beast. While it is made by human hands, it is not worshiped. Being forced to receive a thing against your will is not worshiping it. You can be deceived into worshiping the the image, but you can’t be forced to against your will, and like all idolatry, you can repent.
The next clue to the identity of the image is found in the mark itself, which is received on the head or forehead. What does this mean? It is an ancient Mosaic figure-of-speech. There are three things that can yield a mark on the head or forehead. The first is the use of unleavened bread of Passover (in Exodus 13:6-9), the second is the redemption of the firstborn (in Exodus 13:12-16), and the third is teaching God’s word to our children (in Deuteronomy 6:6-8 and 11:18). The first is described thus:
For seven days eat bread made without yeast and on the seventh day hold a festival to the Lord. Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders. On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 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.
Of the three, only this is an act of receiving something that is made from the hands of man. Moreover, it is the Passover bread, the very thing that Jesus used when he instituted communion at the first Lord’s Table and instructed us to repeat in remembrance of him. The image of the beast that we seek is the unleavened Passover bread of the eucharist. The term eucharist (meaning ‘thanksgiving’ or ‘praise’) was adopted alongside “The Lord’s Supper”, in part because of the offering of prayers of thanksgiving and in part because the food for the meal was taken from the thanksgiving tithe offering. To wit:
“At the conclusion of the thank offering—the Eucharist—the congregation said “Amen.” Bread and wine were then taken from the tithe for the Lord’s Supper to be Consecrated for a memorial meal. That was the ancient liturgical order: Dismissal. Eucharist. “Amen.” Consecration. The Lord’s Supper. For three hundred years, the early Church celebrated it that way.” (Timothy F. Kauffman, The Collapse of the Eucharist, Part 1)
The liturgical order of the Roman Catholic Eucharist does not follow that of the early church. This alteration reflects the change in meaning of the Lord’s Supper, and so also the meaning of the unleavened bread.
The bread of the Roman Catholic Eucharist is the image of the beast. It can be nothing else. Taking this bread in an act of worship is idolatry and causes one to be marked. The Roman Catholic religion claims that it transforms into the ‘Host’, the actual body of Jesus, by process of transubstantiation. But it is just bread made by human hands. To worship something made by human hands is idolatry. Thus is the mark of the beast received when the Roman Catholic Host is received during the Roman Catholic Mass and worshiped as if it were Christ himself.
What then about the other five signs? Can we confirm that they apply?
When has the image of the beast come alive?
On August 18, 1996. The story is relayed here.
At seven o’clock in the evening on August 18, 1996, Fr. Alejandro Pezet was saying Holy Mass at a Catholic church in the commercial center of Buenos Aires. As he was finishing distributing Holy Communion, a woman came up to tell him that she had found a discarded host on a candleholder at the back of the church. On going to the spot indicated, Fr. Alejandro saw the defiled Host. [..] he placed it in a container of water and put it away [..] On Monday, August 26, upon opening the tabernacle, he saw to his amazement that the Host had turned into a bloody substance. He informed Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Auxiliary Bishop at that time), who gave instructions that the Host be professionally photographed. The photos were taken on September 6. They clearly show that the Host, which had become a fragment of bloodied flesh, had grown significantly in size. For several years the Host remained in the tabernacle, the whole affair being kept a strict secret. Since the Host suffered no visible decomposition, Cardinal Bergoglio decided to have it scientifically analyzed.
And what was the result?
On October 5, 1999, in the presence of the Cardinal’s representatives, Dr. Castanon took a sample of the bloody fragment and sent it to New York for analysis. Since he did not wish to prejudice the study, he purposely did not inform the team of scientists of its provenance. [..] Zugiba testified that, “the analyzed material is a fragment of the heart muscle found in the wall of the left ventricle close to the valves…The heart muscle is in an inflammatory condition and contains a large number of white blood cells. This indicates that the heart was alive at the time the sample was taken…since white blood cells die outside a living organism. They require a living organism to sustain them. Thus, their presence indicates that the heart was alive when the sample was taken. What is more, these white blood cells had penetrated the tissue, which further indicates that the heart had been under severe stress, as if the owner had been beaten severely about the chest.” [It was at this point that Dr. Zugiba informed the research team that police authorities should be notified because a violent crime had likely occurred. It is also worth noting that the sample’s condition is consistent with the effects of death by crucifixion].
This is one of the better documented of the many claims of Eucharistic miracles where the host comes to life, one authenticated by the current Roman Catholic Pope.
Has the image of the beast spoken?
As with the Eucharistic miracle of the Host coming to life, there are many more cases of the Host speaking, especially to Roman Catholic mystics. Examples include Clare of Assisi, Anna Maria Taiga, Paul of the Cross, and Alan de la Roche (Timothy F. Kauffman, If This Bread Could Talk).
Has anyone who refused to worship the image been killed?
The Roman Catholic religion’s violent responses to heresy are well-attested (see: The Martyr’s Mirror). During the 1,260 year period where the Roman Catholic used the civil power of the sword to persecute Christians, many were killed for refusing to take the bread. The Waldensian Christians were massacred in 1655 for their heresy, including not believing the bread was the real body of Christ. In the early 13th century, the Albigensian Christians (Cather) were murdered in a Crusade for their heresy. The refusal to take the bread was a primary feature of the Medieval Inquisition. Here are some examples:
“Although the king was willing and able to protect individuals when their views seemed to him orthodox, the growing scale of Protestantism in France and the assault on a number of doctrines that Francis I held to be absolutely essential to religious orthodoxy—notably the doctrine of the Eucharist—diminished the king’s role over the next several decades and heightened that of parlement and the faculty of theology at Paris. The king himself appears to have followed the custom in France since the late thirteenth century of appointing an inquisitor-general from the Dominican Order. (Edward Peters, Inquisition, pg. 141-142).
Jacob Birone, a schoolmaster of Rorata, for refusing to change his religion, was stripped quite naked; and after having been very indecently exposed, had the nails of his toes and fingers torn off with red-hot pincers, and holes bored through his hands with the point of a dagger. He then had a cord tied round his middle, and was led through the streets with a soldier on each side of him. At every turning the soldier on his right hand side cut a gash in his flesh, and the soldier on his left hand side struck him with a bludgeon, both saying, at the same instant, Will you go to mass? will you go to mass? He still replied in the negative to these interrogatories, and being at length taken to the bridge, they cut off his head on the balustrades, and threw both that and his body into the river. (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Further Persecutions in the Valleys of Piedmont, in the seventeenth Century)
Has anyone who refused to worship the image been unable to buy or sell?
Yes. When the Roman Catholic Church didn’t kill heretics outright, it banished them and forbid commerce with them. For the “heresy” of the Albigensians, Pope Alexander II at the Council of Tours in 1163 in Canon 4 declared:
That the Albigensian heretics are to be shunned. … Commercial trade with them is forbidden; neither the sale nor the purchase of things may be undertaken with them, in order that that source of comfort to mankind might at least force them to see the errors of their lives to return to their senses.
History thus attests.
Has anyone who received the mark also received sores?
Yes, the stigmata.
The ecstasy and sufferings usually began for the Saints who suffered stigmata starting on Thursday and ending on Friday afternoon around 3 or 4 o’clock. All the recipients of this mystical wounding suffered dreadfully. Many of the stigmatics experienced cruel rejection and suspicion before their wounds were authenticated. Saints who suffered stigmata were carefully watched day and night so that tampering with the wounds could not be performed. When these methods were used, a number of false stigmatics were exposed. Sometimes this stigmata became invisible on express request and prayers by the Saints who suffered them. (catholic.org, Stigmata; Mysteries, Marvels, Miracles in the Lives of Saints by Joan Carroll Cruz ISBN 978-0-89555-541-0)
At least ten Roman Catholic Saints suffered from the stigmata, as well as others who received the mark. There are countless examples of the Stigmata. Although not all can be authenticated, many are. Their association with the Host—from Thursday to Friday afternoon, the times when Jesus was on the cross—is undeniable. The suffering that these people receive for worshiping the image is quite real as well.
The Roman Catholic Church is not the only one that believes in transubstantiation. Others include the Eastern Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, and Assyrian Church of the East. But it is only in Roman Catholicism that the five signs are fulfilled. Of particular noteworthiness, the Stigmata only afflicts Roman Catholics and of those usually one in a Roman Catholic Order, those who are especially devout in their zealousness to the church. It also occurs frequently among Catholic mystics, those who are most open to the influence of the spirits. Many stigmatics become obsessed with the Eucharist.
Though worshiped as an image in these other churches, the bread is not the image of the beast because the beast only refers to Papal Roman Catholicism. These miracles only occur in Roman Catholicism because it is the beast, not because worship of the Host is idolatry. It is through the fulfillment of these signs that we can infer the identity of the beast, rather than be unclear which church or churches it applies to.
There is no ambiguity or subjectivity in determining how the signs might apply. There is only one possibility and nothing else comes close to satisfying the conditions. To be completely sure, John gave us five signs, so that we wouldn’t have to worry if we applied a one or two incorrectly. For example, whenever someone is forbidden from buying or selling by a government or business, someone may bring up the mark of the beast, but they can never satisfy the other four signs, nor the reference to the “hand and forehead”, nor explain how idolatry is involved. And of course, all five signs have already been fulfilled. Rejecting fulfilled signs to look somewhere else for something more palatable is an intentional act of self-deception (see below).
Scripture and History
The most significant impediment to identifying the image and mark of the beast is tradition. Unlike many of the prophecies contained in Revelation, this one is both the clearest and the most important.
The return of Jesus will likely be a surprise to most people who experience, but it matters little. What matters is being ready, and you don’t need to know when Jesus will return to do that. If you are a Christian, when Jesus returns you won’t care that you missed the signs. Similarly, if you mistake the historical events that involve the seals, trumpets, and bowls, this is unlikely to impact your life unless you are unlucky enough to experience one of them personally.
But the identification of the antichrist matters. If you get that wrong, you stand a huge chance of being deceived, even embracing the antichrist and taking his mark. Your very soul is at risk. What this series has shown is that the identity of the antichrist is solely a matter of scripture and knowledge of history. There is no need to speculate on what you do not know. There is no need to derive complex eschatological formulae. No esoteric knowledge is required.
Without any sense of self-awareness, Roman Catholics confronted with these facts may simply assert that the future antichrist will be so convincing at imitating the true church that its signs will be nearly indistinguishable from the real thing, except for those true Catholics who know what they are looking for. Such is the impact of self-deception of trusting a church over the Word of God.
Consider the absurdity. Will the antichrist cause the unleavened bread of Passover to come alive, to pulse and bleed and come up on scientific tests as heart muscle? How could this miracle be in any way distinguished from the Eucharistic miracles experienced by Roman Catholics? The answer is that it can’t be. Will the followers of the antichrist get sores on their hands, exactly like their Roman Catholic counterparts? How will anyone know if someone receiving the Stigmata is a true Roman Catholic or a wolf in sheep’s clothing? They cannot know, for the signs are identical. The fulfillment of the signs is not an imitation, it is an exact prophetic match.
The purpose of signs is to act as identification. If the antichrist of Revelation and the Roman Catholic church are so similar that the signs match each one, then they are not meaningfully different enough to distinguish between them. Either the signs are of no use whatsoever, or the signs match the Roman Catholic Church and condemn it.
Because they do not believe in the primacy of Word of God alone, their chosen axiom prevents them from identifying any errors inside the church, as by definition no such errors can occur. So long as they cling to this axiom, detection of the antichrist will always remain out of reach, for it is the Word of God that defines the antichrist. Such confirmation bias is self-imposed blindness.
 Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5
 Jesus broke the unleavened bread of Passover and gave it to his disciples. Then he instructed them to repeat it in remembrance of him. For the Christian, the Passover took on new significance in Christ’s fulfillment. The referent of the modern Lord’s Supper remains the Passover feast that Jesus celebrated with the disciples. The use of unleavened bread has remained in Roman Catholicism.