March 28, 2024 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Ted N.C. Wilson, President, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

Greetings, friends. Today, as we continue our journey through The Great Controversy, we will look at the foundation leading up to what is known as the “Mark of the Beast.”  This is a topic that many people wonder about, and as we delve into this study, it is very important to keep in mind that the book of Revelation is filled with symbols, and the Bible itself interprets those symbols. 

In our video message last week, we discovered that in Revelation 13 there are two prophetic beasts—one coming up out of the sea, the other, described as a “lamb-like beast,” coming up “out of the earth.” We read in Revelation 13:11 that the beast that first appears like a lamb with two horns, speaks “like a dragon.” Then in verses 14 and 15 we read: “And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.” In verse 17 it refers to this “image of the beast” as a “mark,” and explains that “no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”

So, what is this mark? Is it a literal mark, or is it a symbol that carries a deeper meaning? Let’s explore more deeply what we understand from the Bible. We see in Revelation 13 that this image is made by the two-horned, or lamblike beast, and that it is an image to the beast. It is also called an image of the beast. So, to learn what this image is and how it will be formed we must study the characteristics of the beast itself. 

This beast, represented as coming up out of the sea as we read in Revelation 13:1-10, represents the papacy. We also saw that the two-horned, or lamblike beast described in verses 11-18 of the same chapter represents the United States of America. Understanding this, we see that Revelation 13 describes a cooperation between the papacy and the United States in enforcing a mark of authority. 

As we have studied church history outlined in The Great Controversy, we have seen that “when the early church became corrupted by departing from the simplicity of the gospel and accepting heathen rites and customs, she lost the spirit and power of God; and in order to control the consciences of the people, she sought the support of the secular power. The result was the papacy, a church that controlled the power of the state and employed it to further her own ends, especially for the punishment of “heresy” (The Great Controversy, p. 443). We saw how this power was exercised for 1,260 years as it persecuted those who chose to follow their consciences rather than the dictates of the Roman Church. We then saw how, as foretold in Revelation 13:3, this power would be “mortally wounded,” but that the “deadly wound” would be healed. As we saw from history, the first part of this prophecy was fulfilled in 1798, when the pope was taken captive, and the power of the papacy was broken for a time.

However, the prophecy also foretold that the “deadly wound was healed.” And just as the first part of the prophecy was fulfilled, we can be sure that the second part will be as well.

It is helpful to keep in mind that “it was apostasy that led the early church to seek the aid of the civil government, and this prepared the way for the development of the papacy” (The Great Controversy, p. 443). We read about this apostasy in 2 Thessalonians 2:3— “Let no one deceive you . . . for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed. . .”  

So, apostasy in the church will prepare the way for the image to the beast. The Bible clearly tells us that before Jesus comes back there will again be a state of great spiritual decline. We read in 2 Timothy 3:1-5—“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.”

My friends, we see trouble all around us today. As the world continues its downward spiral, political and religious leaders will look for ways to bring order and stability out of chaos. It is this scenario that will bring strong pressure for everyone to unite for the supposed common good—and it is then that we will see the return of the beast whose deadly wound is healed, and the enforcement of his mark.

In our next video, we will look specifically at what the mark of the beast is and how we can avoid it. Until then, I strongly encourage you to download the book The Great Controversy, at the URL shown at the bottom of the screen. There, you will find further explanation of these very important prophecies that we are studying together.

May the Lord draw close to you as we continue to learn more about prophecy and what the future holds. 

Let’s pray together just now. 

Father in Heaven, Thank you for giving us the revelation of Jesus Christ in the Book of Revelation. We understand how prophecy unfolds to help us to be prepared for what is ahead. Thank you also for the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament and these two books, Daniel and Revelation, work together to help us to truly know what to expect as we face the near future. We place ourselves completely in Your hands, leaning upon Your power to guide us through the events of the future. And we are so glad that you have promised to be with us until the end of time. We look forward to Jesus’ soon coming. May it be sooner than ever. In Jesus’ name, we ask it. Amen.

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