Anciently, marks, some in the form of an X, were used for various purposes. (Compare 1 Samuel 21:13.) Among non-Israelites animals and even slaves were branded with a mark as an indication of ownership. In the case of humans, such property marks were placed on a conspicuous part of the body, such as the forehead. Worshipers of false gods at times identified themselves as such by having the mark of their deity on their forehead. However, Jehovah’s law to Israel prohibited disfiguring humans with marks. This served to counteract an idolatrous practices and taught due regard for God’s creation.—Lev. 19:28.
The Scriptures allude to marks made on humans and refer to these in a figurative sense. In Ezekiel’s vision a man with a recorder’s inkhorn was commissioned to go through Jerusalem and to ‘put a mark on those who were sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that were being done in the midst of it.’ This action on their part showed that they were righteous persons, servants belonging to God, and therefore worthy of preservation at the time for the execution of Jehovah’s judgment. The conspicuous mark upon their forehead testified to that fact.—Ezek. chap. 9; compare 2 Peter 2:6-8.
On the other hand, in John’s vision persons receiving the mark of the wild beast on their forehead and/or upon their hand were in line for destruction. The mark in the forehead publicly identified them as worshipers of the wild beast and therefore as slaves to it. They were thus shown to be opposers of God, for the wild beast received its authority from the dragon, Satan the Devil. The mark in the hand would logically signify active support of the wild beast, the hand being used to accomplish work.—Rev. 13:1, 2, 16-18; 14:9, 10; 16:1, 2; 20:4.