Beastly Economics

The second Beast employs economic pressure to coerce men so they swear allegiance to the Beast from the sea

The “False Prophet” uses the economic power of the “Beast” against anyone who refuses to render homage to the World Empire, and the “mark of the Beast” enforces submission. The ability to impose monetary penalties on nations, communities, and individuals is key to the Beast’s power.

Too often we assume the power of the “Beast” lies in its military might. And while it may indeed possess the ability to subdue nations through naked force, the key to its domination over the nations is control over world commerce.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
[Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash]

The book contrasts the “
inhabitants of the earth” with the followers of the “Lamb.” Members of the former group have the “number of the Beast” branded on their “right hand,” but those of the latter have the name of the “Lamb written on their foreheads.”

And so, the “mark of the Beast” is the Devil’s counterfeit of the “seal of God” - (Revelation 7:1-3, 14:1-4).

ECONOMIC CONTROL

All the “inhabitants of the earth” take the “mark of the Beast,” therefore, they are legally authorized to engage in trade - to “buy and sell.” In contrast, the followers of the “Lamb” bear his name, and so, they are prohibited from participation in the economic life of the World Empire - (Revelation 13:16-18).

Humanity is divided into two recognizable groups - the men who follow the “Lamb,” and the “inhabitants of the earth” who submit to the “Beast.” There is no middle ground, no neutral position.

To which group one belongs determines whether one’s name is included in the “Lamb’s book of life.” References to the “earth” and “Zion” are NOT geographical, but relational.

The “mark” or “number” of the beastly system designates whether one belongs to the “Beast.” Without it, no one may engage in commerce. It is also called its “name” and the “number of its name.”

Functionally, they all accomplish the same thing – determining whether anyone can engage in commerce. One’s ability to “buy and sell” is dependent on his fealty to the “Beast.”

But having the “mark” also determines whether one is excluded from the “book of life.” And placing the Beast’s “mark” on the “forehead” or “right hand” mimics the ancient call for Israel to worship Yahweh alone:

  • (Deuteronomy 6:5-8) – “You will love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I command you this day shall be in your heart. And you will teach them diligently to your children and talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise-up. And you will bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”

If the “seal of God” is figurative, so is the “mark of the Beast.” By default, anyone who gives allegiance to the “Beast” takes its “mark,” just as everyone who follows the “Lamb” receives the “seal of God.”

ALREADY UNDERWAY

In chapter 2, the congregation in Smyrna is experiencing economic deprivation because of its refusal to compromise with the surrounding culture, and members of the church have endured slander from the “synagogue of Satan” – (Revelation 2:8-11).

Nevertheless, according to Jesus, though the saints in Smyrna are impoverished, in his evaluation, they “are rich” precisely because they have endured and persevered. And if they continue in faithfulness, even “unto death,” they will escape the “second death.” Instead, they will receive the “crown of life” in the city of “New Jerusalem.”

The beastly system existed in John’s lifetime in the Roman Empire. Though it was not the final incarnation of the “Beast,” it certainly was a forerunner that possessed many if not all of its attributes. Satan has been pushing the same agenda from the beginning, and this is why God’s people experience economic and other forms of persecution.

But its final form will come, and when such a political entity appears on the world scene that uses economic control promiscuously against nations, peoples, and individuals, that will be the first clue that the “Beast” is “ascending from the sea.”

And we must choose whether to give fealty to it or “follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” If we do the latter, we will find ourselves marginalized by society, but we also will stand before the “Lamb” in the “city of New Jerusalem.”

In contrast, anyone who swears allegiance to the “Beast” may preserve his economic standing in this life, but he will find that his name has been “blotted out of the book of life of the Lamb.”


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