Can You Avoid the Mark of the Beast?
EVERYONE desires freedom. No one wants to be a slave to men. But in olden times literal slavery was widespread and buying and selling of slaves was a common practice. It is said that in the days of the apostles half the population of the Roman Empire were slaves. Anciently it was a practice to identify a person as a slave of someone, or as a worshiper of a certain god, by a mark on the forehead or hand. Though such a practice may not be found in the world today, there is nonetheless an attempt made to bring into slavery, not half the population, but all the population of the world. This, of course, includes you, the reader of this article. It is a slavery more oppressive and binding than slavery of the past, and it has its mark.
The Bible states the rule that we are the slaves of the one whom we serve. (Rom. 6:16) What we believe in or support and what we do identifies us as following a certain ideology or way of life, right or wrong. The fight is on today to capture men’s minds. While hot wars spring up here and there, the great cold war that holds the nations in its grip is a war of ideologies. The effort is to control the minds and therefore the actions of men. If you let yourself be persuaded and indoctrinated with a certain ideology so that you mentally support and actively perform services, you can be said to be marked in the mind, which does the thinking, and in the hand, which does the acting or the work for you. Communism, for example, tries to increase its slave holdings by brainwashing people in an effort to wash out one kind of mark and substitute the mark of its own ideology.
YOU ARE IN DANGER
It is a desirable thing to you to keep free from such a mark, which actually means slavery. It is not an easy thing to do. For example, American soldiers thoroughly indoctrinated in democratic principles were not able to withstand brainwashing during the Korean war and were changed in mind to support actively the Communist ideology. Communism is cited here as an example, but it is by no means the only effort at marking men for slavery. Would you avoid receiving such a mark? and, if so, can you avoid it? If such is your desire, then please read the next few paragraphs, which describe from God’s Word the real origin of the attempt to enslave men today, the danger that exists and the way of escape.
At Revelation, chapter 12, we are told that the cause of the troubles on earth in these times is that the Devil has lost a war in heaven with Christ Jesus and has been thrown down to the earth. (Rev. 12:7-12) It tells us that since that time the Devil, knowing his finish is near, has directed his energies at making war upon a group of persons who are themselves doing a marking work, namely, those “who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” These are telling the people that they should look to the kingdom of God for peace on earth with righteousness.—Rev. 12:17; Matt. 6:9, 10, 33.
In sign language the book of Revelation describes the instrument that Satan the Devil uses to fight against these bearers of witness to Jesus and to oppress all who live on earth: “And I saw a wild beast ascending out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, and upon its horns ten diadems, but upon its heads blasphemous names.” This composite beast has the features of a leopard, a lion and a bear. It is not a literal beast, but is a sign or symbol of something to which the Dragon, the Devil, gives power and throne and great authority. (Rev. 13:1, 2) We do not have to guess what the beast represents, for in a similar vision the prophet Daniel saw wild beasts having characteristics of the same animals. God himself explained to Daniel that these represented kings, governments.—Dan. 7:4-6, 17; 8:20-22.
However, the wild beast of Revelation is one beast having seven heads. The dragon also has seven heads. (Rev. 12:3) While the wild beast is something that is not invisible or spiritual like Satan the Devil but is earthly, visible, it reflects the vicious traits of its creator Satan. It was brought up out of the sea of humankind alienated from God. (Isa. 57:20) It symbolizes Satan the Devil’s visible earthly political organization in its continuing form under various, successive headships throughout the centuries until now. The seven heads have ten horns, which the beast uses to push and to fight. They wear diadems and act for the seven world powers that have waged war upon God’s holy ones. In historical order they are (1) Egypt, (2) Assyria, (3) Babylon, (4) Medo-Persia, (5) Greece (Macedonia), (6) Rome and (7) the joint Anglo-American World Power.a
THE NAME-NUMBER 666
Blasphemous names appear on the seven heads of the wild beast. This is because all of them have been against God and against his people and have claimed to do that which only God’s kingdom can accomplish for mankind. However, the beast as a whole has a name, and its name has a number. “It is a man’s number; and its number is six hundred and sixty-six.” (Rev. 13:17, 18; 17:5) Six is one short of the Biblically complete number seven, just as six days would come one day short of a complete week. It pictures incompleteness, imperfection. One of the giants of Gath who fought against God’s people had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, a genetic monstrosity. (2 Sam. 21:20) The number is a “man’s number.” So it stands for fallen man’s imperfections and shortcomings. God uses six to the third (emphatic) degree in the wild beast’s name (6 + 60 + 600), emphasizing powerfully the inadequacy, imperfection and deficiency of the human political organization and how foolish it is to put any hope and trust in it for man’s everlasting welfare.
A good many readers may agree that communism and dictatorial governments could easily be represented by such a beastly thing, but may doubt the application to democratic governments, since some of them have gone on record as being Christian nations. The fact is that the democracies do not even claim God as their source, but recognize that they spring from the operation of political science. The Encyclopædia Britannica says, under the heading “Democracy”: “The modern concept of democracy . . . finally emerged as a result of the perennial search for the best and most equitable form of government.” The Britannica goes on to recount how the ideologies of men, such as Aristotle, John Locke, Charles Montesquieu and other political theorists, gradually shaped democratic government toward what we have today.
The Bible tells us that efforts would be put forth to place the mark of this composite, imperfect, deficient political ruling organization upon the foreheads and on the hands of men, who will not “be able to buy or sell” unless they are identified in mental support and in activity as slaves and worshipers of the wild beast. (Rev. 13:16, 17) So the political rulers put on pressure to the extent that they would make existence almost impossible for those who refuse to worship them or the political State. It is most evident in the rising tide of nationalism. In the days of Rome people were required to burn incense to the emperor. An increasing number of rulers today are demanding worship of themselves or their flags, placing their political government higher than the kingdom of God, as one ex-dictator of Ghana, who erected a statue with the inscription to the effect that his subjects should ‘Seek first the political kingdom and all things would be added to them.’ The well-known British historian, Arthur J. Toynbee, said of nationalism:
“It is a state of mind in which we give our paramount political loyalty to one section of the human race, to the particular tribe to which we happen to be tribesmen. Insofar as we are captured by this ideology, we hold that the highest political good for us is our own nation’s sovereign independence; that our nation has a moral right to exercise its sovereignty according to what it believes to be its own national interests, whatever consequences this may entail for the foreign majority of the human race; and that our duty, as citizens of our country, is to support our country, right or wrong.”b
THE IMAGE OF THE BEAST
But just to worship the beast itself does not prove to be enough. In the same way that Babylonish religionists think they must worship God through some image or idol, political rulers and statesmen feel that the wild beast of political rulership must be worshiped by means of an image. It is true that to date the wild beast has not made a very good appearance or reputation for itself before the people. Some kind of image must be set up in order to perpetuate it, something that makes the ferocious beast have a benevolent, peaceful appearance.
What, then, is the image of the wild beast? Between World War I and World War II it was the League of Nations, which at one time had as many as sixty member nations. People looked to it to bring peace to the earth, but the League died when it was proved ineffective to stop World War II. Since World War II, however, the image has been revived in the form of the United Nations, which is composed, at this writing, of 117 member nations. Will it do better and accomplish that which the League failed to do? No, for it is also only an image, as imperfect as the human governments for which it stands.
The making of the image is something that cannot be overlooked as a mere mistaken effort of men, for it was set up in direct disobedience to the outcry of the first angel with the everlasting good news: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgment by him has arrived, and so worship the One who made the heaven and the earth.” (Rev. 14:6, 7) This has been proclaimed world wide by Jehovah’s witnesses, and the rulers of the nations are not ignorant. They are well aware of this proclamation and know that it is directly from God’s Word, the Bible. By supporting the image they are turning their worship and that of millions of followers away from Jehovah God and his Messianic kingdom.
RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS WORSHIP THE BEAST
What about Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion? Does she worship the beast and its image? Consider these facts: In all the nations, the religions of Babylon the Great turn the people to their own nationalistic governments for hope of life and peace. In many places the Church is united with the State. The most aggressive member in Great Babylon, namely, Christendom, heartily backed up the formation of the League of Nations as proposed by the Anglo-American World Power in 1918. In January of 1919 the National Council of Churches of Christ in America termed the proposed League of Nations “the political expression of the kingdom of God on earth.”
That the chief representative of Christendom worships the image of the beast and wants all his spiritual flock to do so was made certain to millions of television viewers and newspaper readers on October 4, 1965, when Pope Paul VI made a special flying trip to New York city to speak for this political body. He represented himself as the “bearer of a message for all mankind.” He said that his presence at the United Nations fulfilled a desire nourished “ever since the command was given us: go and bring the good news to all peoples.” He declared that his message was a “ratification, a solemn moral ratification of this lofty institution,” the United Nations, and: “This organization represents the obligatory path of modern civilization and of world peace.” He said: “The peoples of the earth turn to the United Nations as the last hope of concord and peace. We presume to present here, with their tribute of honor and of hope, our own tribute also.” He added: “Hearken now to the continuation of our message. It becomes a message of good wishes for the future. The edifice you have constructed [the U.N.] must never fail; it must be perfected.”c How timely, in view of such idolatry, is Revelation’s warning:
“And another angel, a third, followed them, saying in a loud voice: ‘If anyone worships the wild beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he will also drink of the wine of the anger of God that is poured out undiluted into the cup of his wrath, and he shall be tormented with fire and sulphur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever, and day and night they have no rest, those who worship the wild beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name. Here is where it means endurance for the holy ones, those who observe the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.’”—Rev. 14:9-12.
Babylon the Great suffered a fall in 1919 and began drinking the undiluted wine of God’s anger. Jehovah’s witnesses were liberated in that year and since then more than a million persons have had their eyes opened to her ungodliness and have joined Jehovah’s witnesses in proclaiming the good news of God’s established kingdom. Babylon’s world empire of false religion and her worshipers are undergoing a torment, for they are plainly seen to be in God’s disfavor. They display their anguished condition by their desperate use of the political beast wherever possible to suppress, imprison or even kill Jehovah’s witnesses, who sincerely proclaim the judgments as a warning. But this torment cannot go on forever, for neither Babylon nor the worshipers of the beast are immortal. Their torment will end in their destruction. The smoke, representing the evidence of their torment, that is, of God’s judgment upon them, will exist for all times as a warning to all who live of the futility of such blasphemous course of action, just as a supreme court judgment stands as a precedent conclusive for deciding all later cases of a similar nature.
SEEK GOD’S HELP TO AVOID THE MARK
How can you avoid the mark of the beast? As the Bible seriously warns, it takes courage and endurance. Those who refuse it must be men of principle. It is much easier to receive the mark than to resist it, for force is used by men who wish to plant the mark on the forehead and hand of those who do not willingly receive it. It takes spiritual strength, which can be obtained only from God through a study of his Word. Jesus said: “Pay attention to what you are hearing,” and, “Pay attention to how you listen.” (Mark 4:24; Luke 8:18) Listen to what God’s Word tells you; give attention to the message that is being proclaimed regarding this very thing now by Jehovah’s witnesses. There is no middle ground. Jehovah’s witnesses know this, and they know that they must keep their spirituality at a high level by watching their course of action every day. From 1919 onward they have refused to join in this international worship of the political State and the League of Nations and its successor the United Nations. They have observed the “commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”—Matt. 4:8-11.
True, it means a continuing test of endurance for the holy ones, the remnant of the 144,000 of Christ’s spiritual brothers on earth and for their companions who hope to live forever on earth under God’s kingdom. But it means that they avoid drinking the cup of God’s wrath and of suffering permanent destruction that comes upon all worshipers of the beast and its image. And the rich reward is God’s favor that leads to life. Do you wish to avoid being with the fighters against God and suffering their fate? Turn NOW to God’s Word. Jehovah’s witnesses, who have put into your hands this copy of The Watchtower, are glad to help you, free of charge, to learn of God’s provision for delivering those who endure so as not to receive the mark and for saving them to everlasting life in his righteous new order.
a Of the beast ascending out of the sea, the Roman Catholic edition of the Bible (by John Murphy Company, Baltimore, Maryland, 1914) says in its footnote on it: “This first beast with seven heads and ten horns, is probably the whole company of infidels, enemies and persecutors of the people of God, from the beginning to the end of the world. The seven heads are seven kings, that is, seven principal kingdoms or empires, which have exercised, or should exercise, tyrannical power over the people of God; of these, five were then fallen, viz.: the Egyptian, Assyrian, Chaldean, Persian, and Grecian monarchies: one was present, viz., the empire of Rome: and the seventh and chiefest was to come, viz., the great Antichrist and his empire. The ten horns may be understood of ten lesser persecutors.”
b The New York Times Magazine, November 3, 1963, page 23.
c The New York Herald Tribune, October 5, 1965, page B, special section.
[Picture on page 344]
The symbolic wild beast ascending out of the sea