In our previous lesson we identified three great powers working at the end of time to subvert God's truth and to destroy His people. They are the dragon (Revelation 12), the leopardlike beast (Rev. 13:1-10), and the lamblike beast (Rev. 13:11-18). Elsewhere in Revelation they are called "the dragon," "the beast," and "the false prophet" (Rev. 16:13). The dragon is Satan (Rev. 12:9), who used the Roman Empire (verse 4) and the medieval church (verses 6, 14, 15) in an attempt to destroy Christ and His people. The leopardlike beast of Revelation 13:1-10 represents the papacy in both its medieval and end-time roles. The lamblike beast (Rev. 13:11-18) represents apostate Protestantism, which, in cooperation with the papacy, will provoke the government of the United States to pass religious laws that undermine Bible truth.
As you study Revelation 13:16-18, consider the following questions:
How many of earth's inhabitants are obliged to receive the mark of the beast?
Why is there an alternative place for the mark ("on the right hand or the forehead" [verse 16, RSV])?
What is the mark of the beast?
It is clear from Revelation 13:14 that the work of the lamblike beast is worldwide- "it deceives those who dwell on earth" (RSV). All classes of humanity around the world are confronted by the demand to receive the mark of the beast (verse 16).
The alternative to the mark of the beast is the seal of God (Rev. 7:1-8; Rev. 14:1-5) The seal of God is placed only in the foreheads of committed believers. The "hand" by contrast with the "forehead" (Rev. 13:16) implies that some people will be mentally committed to the legislation enforcing the mark of the beast and some will not. Some will accept the demands made upon them because they will fear reprisals if they do not.
In identifying the mark of the beast, we are looking for the mark or sign of papal authority. We can expect this mark of religious power to be accepted by other churches and enforced by government laws.
What current trends do you see pointing to the fulfillment of this prophecy? Do you see any special significance in the movement in the United States to abolish the wall of separation between church and state?