On the sixth day of creation, Genesis tells us, God formed a man from the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And he named this man Adam, which basically means “creature made out of earth”.
And from the beginning, God designed Adam to act as his ambassador. It was Adam’s job, really, to establish God’s government on earth, and extend God’s rule over all creation, gradually centering all things around the worship of their Creator.
So, it is a bit ironic that the very first human government described in the Book of Genesis was a government centered around the worship of man.
This government really began with Cain, Adam’s oldest son.
Now, Cain was a man who — inspired and empowered by the same serpent that had tempted Adam in the beginning — had murdered his own brother Abel over a disagreement about worship. And that is when he ran off to establish a city and a government far away in the east: a system centered around his own need for protection and provision.
But really, Cain’s government did not reach its peak until six generations later when a man named Lamech took over, a king possessed by the same murderous, self-centered spirit as his ancestor. But Lamech was not just a murderer, he was a political genius. Genesis tells us he used his three sons and his daughter to seize control over every aspect of his society — agricultural production, industrial production, worship, and sexual reproduction — centralizing all power around himself, within himself.
To put what he did in modern sociological terms, Lamech consolidated religion and politics — Church and State — so that he could be god as well as king. And as Genesis describes it, this religio-political combination turned out to be a terrifically effective way to enslave people, because when the government is god and god is the government, questioning human authority is the same as religious blasphemy, and rebellion becomes almost impossible. And as result, Cain’s government grew up into a bestial, all-consuming empire.
But Genesis makes it clear that all this did not happen on its own: this idea of uniting Church and State was actually inspired and empowered by the serpent, who was actually just setting up a counterfeit earthly copy of God’s true government. In God’s government, the Creator is God as well as king; in the serpent’s version, the creation becomes god as well as king: a complete inversion of the heavenly reality.
And what this means is that Cain’s bestial empire was actually just the product of the serpent’s political genius. They were bound together in a symbiotic relationship: as Cain’s empire gathered more and more of the earth into its system of false worship, the serpent’s power grew in the heavenly places; and the more powerful the serpent grew, the more it empowered Cain’s empire to conquer more and more of the earth.
Genesis also makes it clear that force was only the part of the serpent’s plan. Yes, that bestial, all-consuming empire filled the earth with violence and death. But the serpent was first and foremost a master of deception and propaganda: when it comes to enslaving people, seduction is far more effective than violence. Why force people into false worship when you can lure them there with promises of agricultural production, industrial production, sexual reproduction, and perhaps even the chance to become a god?
Well, Moses — the first leader of God’s nation — understood this dynamic very well, because he had grown up as a prince in the ancient Egyptian empire. And the Egyptian empire had taken this ancient serpentine combination of Church and State and perfected it: the common people were expected to worship their kings and priests as if they were gods, and in return their gods rewarded them with the yearly flooding of the Nile river, which filled Egyptian farm-lands with rich soil and gave the empire a stable annual source of wealth unmatched by any other nation at that time.
This was a giant scam, of course: the annual floods were — and still are — a natural phenomenon, a gift from the Creator. But instead of glorifying God, the government pretended the whole thing depended upon the submission and worship of the common people, and in this way they enslaved everybody with the threat that if they did not cooperate they would all die, and the promise that if they did cooperate they would all enjoy stability and peace and perhaps even great prosperity.
But Moses had actually met God, so he knew this was a scam. And he set about saving his people from this scam. At the same time he understood the immense seductive power of this scam, even for people who know the truth about the scam. He knew that, after his people escaped and began to experience the tribulations of the wilderness, they would quickly forget about the slavery, they would remember only the stability; they would forget the threats of death, they would remember only the false promises of life.
And so, several times during the 42 years of their Exodus, Moses told his people to take God’s words, God’s promises, and tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
Now, many centuries later, just before the time of Jesus in the New Testament, some of God’s people decided that Moses meant this literally, and they began to tie little boxes on their hands and foreheads, boxes that contained written copies of the four passages where Moses commands this. Jesus himself commented on this practice, and it is clear he did not approve, because — in his opinion — those who did such things were using physical religious marks to gain status in society: they were trying to combine religious and political power in the same old-fashioned Satanic way. And that was not what Moses meant at all!
Moses was not talking about physical, visible marks on foreheads and hands; he was talking about transformed identities resulting in transformed lives. In Moses’ culture, the forehead was the place where the high priest would wear a golden seal that identified him as, “Holy to the LORD”; and the hand, of course, symbolized human action. So when Moses said, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds, tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads,” he was telling the people to remember who you really belong to, and live as if you belong to him! Do not allow yourselves to be seduced and enslaved by promises of economic and political stability under other gods, other nations: put your trust in God’s Word alone.
If you are familiar with the history of Moses’ people, then you know that many of them failed.
And the greatest example of this failure is actually found at the highest point in the story of God’s people, during the reign of King Solomon. David’s kingdom had finally reached the peak of its power and influence in the world. Nations from thousands of kilometers away were beginning to come and learn who God is, and how to live by faith in his Word. And those nations, in their gratitude for this spiritual wealth, naturally wanted to compensate King Solomon with physical wealth. And so, at his peak, the records tell us, the weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents — approximately 23,000 kilograms of gold a year!
And at first Solomon did use a lot of this immense wealth for the glory of God, to facilitate worship in God’s temple…but in the end he used a lot more of it on his own palace, on his own military, and — eventually — on pagan temples for the many pagan wives he had married to secure his political status among the nations.
And so we find that King Solomon was seduced — not forced — into the ancient Satanic game of using religion to stabilize and increase political power.
But it was not all bad news in the Old Testament.
In fact, one of the best examples of how God’s people did well is actually found at the lowest point in the story of God’s people, when David’s kingdom was essentially dead, his descendants enslaved by the Babylonian empire. As Daniel’s journals describe it, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babyon was busy combining the powers of Church and State in a massive golden statue that was sixty cubits high and six cubits wide — about 27 meters tall. He gathered ministers from all over his empire, and he told them to worship the statue as if it were a living expression of the State. And he caused all who refused to worship the image to be killed.
Well, three of Nebuchadnezzar’s favourite ministers refused. So Nebuchadnezzar demanded to know why. He said, “Guys, don’t you understand that I have the power to call down fire from heaven upon you in the full view of all these people?”
So they told him that they actually belonged to a different God, and that they were determined to live as if they belonged to that God. They remained faithful, even to the point of death, and so God gave them life as their victor’s crown.
Those three men are a perfect Old Testament example of the kind of people Moses was looking for: people who have fixed God’s words in their hearts and minds, on their hands and foreheads, people who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony.
Which also means — according to the Book of Revelation — that they are also a perfect example of the kind of people the serpent is still at war with.
Of course, if you have been travelling with us through Revelation over the last few weeks, then you already know that the serpent has grown into a seven-headed dragon. And last week it was confirmed that this ancient dragon is still up to its old tricks: he cannot actually hurt God’s people directly, so he is busy raising up one, last, bestial, world-devouring empire that will destroy Jesus’ Church for him.
Today, however, John is going to reveal that the threat of violence and death is only part of the dragon’s plan for enslaving the earth and destroying Jesus’ Church. After all, when it comes to enslaving people, seduction is far more effective than violence. Why go through the trouble of trying to crush the walls of Jesus’ Church when you can simply lure people out with promises of prosperity and power and stability?
So let’s get started…
Last week, John revealed how the dragon summoned a beast from the sea, from the Abyss, this beast that symbolizes the dragon’s world-devouring empire. But that is not the end of the dragon’s grand strategy:
 Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth.
Now, when the first beast came out of the sea last week, we realized that was a call-back to Daniel’s Old Testament vision of the four beasts from the sea. And that is when we realized that this beast from the sea, like the four beasts in Daniel’s vision, symbolizes a world-conquering kingdom.
Today, a beast comes out of the earth…and this is where we realize that this beast is also a call-back to Daniel’s vision. Because, during that vision, when Daniel asked an angel to explain what he was seeing, the angel replied, “The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth.”
In other words: in Daniel’s vision, the four beasts from the sea symbolized kingdoms — and they also symbolized ”kings from the earth”.
Now, kings and kingdoms are very closely related concepts, of course: the king represents the kingdom, and the kingdom is the extension of the king; they are almost the same thing, while at the same time they are also different.
And this reminds us of something else we noticed last week, where we discovered that the dragon and the first beast from the sea are also the same but different. Here, it seems, the pattern continues: the first beast from the sea and the second beast from the earth are also one, while at the same time they are many.
In fact, as we go on here, we find out that the relationship between this second beast, the first beast, and the dragon is really a…how should we put it? it’s a triangular relationship. Because this beast from the earth is not just like the beast from the sea, it is also like the dragon:
It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon.
So in some ways this beast from the earth is very different from the dragon: it has the potential for authority — that is what these two little lamb’s horns symbolize — but it is not threatening at all…except that it also speaks with the terrifying voice of a dragon.
But even though the second beast actually lacks its own authority, it uses its dragon-like voice to exercise all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.
Huh. Last week we were told that the dragon gave the first beast his power and his throne and great authority, and as a result, when people worshiped the first beast he bounced that worship back up to the dragon.
Now we find out that the first beast has also passed the dragon’s authority down another level to the second beast. Which the second beast uses to harvest mankind’s worship and bounce it back to the first beast, who then bounces it up another level to the dragon…and, call me crazy here, but doesn’t this three-way relationship of give-and-take sound a bit familiar?
Let’s go on:
 And it — the beast from the earth — performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people.
Huh. This also sounds familiar:
Because, back in Chapter 11, we were told the Church would act as Jesus’ ambassadors in the world, and that they would have the power to perform various great signs, even causing fire to come from their mouths and devour their enemies. And at that time we realized those great signs ultimately pointed back to the ministries of Moses and Elijah, symbolizing the Church’s power to rescue and to pass judgement through the preaching of God’s Word.
Well, here we find that this beast from the earth also has power, through the dragon’s voice, to perform various great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven in full view of the people.
What we are seeing is that this beast from the earth is actually a counterfeit copy of Jesus’ Church, an inverted mockery of Moses’ and Elijah’s ministries. Everything the Church does, the beast pretends it can do also: when the Church preaches the Good News of Jesus’ kingdom and the Father’s kingdom, the beast preaches the ”good news” of the sea beast’s kingdom and the dragon’s kingdom; when the Church performs miracles of salvation and judgement, the beast performs the same kinds of miracles.
And  because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth.
Deceived them into doing what?
It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And then  the second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.
And this also seems very, very familiar!
Because isn’t this exactly what King Nebuchadnezzar did in the Book of Daniel? He set up an image in honor of his empire, and then he gave that image the power to speak death upon anyone who refused to worship it! In essence, Nebuchadnezzar invented a centralized religion that was designed to unite and stabilize his political power.
In the same way, the second beast from the earth has now set up a centralized religion — an earthly, counterfeit copy of Jesus’ Church — that is designed to unite and stabilize the first beast’s earthly empire, and it has given this false religion the power to speak death upon anyone to refuses to worship.
Basically, John’s vision is pulling back the curtain and revealing the same old Satanic game at work behind the scenes: Church and State combined into one terrifying, all-enslaving, all-consuming religio-political system that rules by pretending to have the ultimate power to destroy.
But the power to destroy, as we have already noticed, is only half of the dragon’s plan to enslave the nations and kill the Church. The dragon does use the stick of death to drive people into false worship; but he also uses the carrot of prosperity to lead them willingly forward:
 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads,  so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
And this also seems familiar.
It would have been especially familiar to the Christians of the Roman empire. Because, at the time John wrote this book, a system was growing up that forced every citizen to worship before an image of the emperor — the god-kings of the Roman State. If a citizen performed their civic duty, they would receive a certificate of completion. If they did not, they would not receive a certificate, and as a result their options for business or employment or promotion became limited. The empire was offering a very simple exchange: worship for prosperity; loyalty for stability.
And for many new Christians this would not have seemed like a big deal: so what? It’s a pinch of incense. It’s a quiet prayer. It’s all external ritual, so what does it really matter? God knows the truth about what is really going on in my heart anyway, right?
But this is why John talks about marks on hands and foreheads here, instead of talking about certificates: he wants his readers to make the connection between this mark of the beast and the mark that Moses’ told God’s people to accept in the Old Testament. He wants his readers to understand that the external actions we do with our hands are never just external actions, they are always reflections of our true identity, who we really belong to. He wants his readers to understand that, just as this beast has set up a counterfeit copy of Jesus’ Church, so now he has also set up a counterfeit copy of the mark of the Lamb — the seal on the foreheads of God’s people that was first mentioned back in Chapter 7. The mark of the Lamb back in Chapter 7 was not a physical, visible mark, but it led to physical, visible faithfulness; the mark of the beast here in Chapter 13 is not a physical, visible mark either, but it also leads to physical, visible unfaithfulness.
Really, the point John is making is pretty simple: those who have the mark of the Lamb on their foreheads — the priestly seal that says “Holy to the Lord” — are going to prove their loyalty to Christ’s kingdom by what they do with their hands, their bodies, their lives, their worship. Those who have the mark of the beast on their foreheads — the Satanic seal that says “Holy to the Dragon” — are going to prove their loyalty to Satan’s kingdom by what they do with their hands, their bodies, their lives, their worship.
And, over the weeks to come, John’s book will reveal much more about what all this looks like, so make sure to keep coming back for that.
In the meantime, however:
 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.
This is John’s application for us, this week.
Last week he introduced the beast from the Abyss, the monstrous many-headed political system the dragon is weaving together all around us. We learned that the Church is not destined to destroy the dragon’s bestial empire and seize earthly power for Jesus; rather, that bestial empire is destined to kill the Church, and then be destroyed by Jesus. And so our application for last week was, simply: endure, even to the point of death.
This week John has introduced the beast from the earth: the monstrous, many-faceted religious system the dragon is weaving together in support of his monstrous, many-headed political system. But this time his application for us is: be wise. Learn to recognize this Satanic system in all its many deceptive, seductive forms, so that you will not be seduced.
And to help us do this, John has boiled all its many confusing features down to this simple number: 666. If we can figure out what this number means, then we will know how to avoid being seduced.
Now, unfortunately, many Christians over the centuries have been taught to apply the ancient art of “gematria” to this problem.
Gematria is the art of using numerals to replace letters, in order to create a kind of code. And this was a very popular game people played in ancient Rome: archaologists have uncovered ancient graffiti scratched into walls, things like “I love her whose number is 545” — silly stuff like that.
And by far the most popular gematrial — gematric? gematritational? — interpretation of 666 has been the name “Nero” — and this makes sense, we want it to make sense, because he was the first Roman emperor to really persecute Christians, about 20 years before John wrote the Book of Revelation.
The problem is, in order to get 666 to fit Nero’s name in Greek, you have to misspell it. But nemind la, we try the Latin alphabet, and: wow! It works! So Nero must be the great Beast of Revelation, right? Somehow, during the End Times, the ancient spirit of Nero will be reborn into some modern political leader, whose name will also equal 666, and then, once we have identified this leader, we will know that Judgement Day is just around the corner!
But John wrote in Greek. And he did not tell us to calculate the number of the beast in Latin, or Hebrew, or English, or any other alphabet. Besides, if a Chinese reads this, what are they supposed to do? Are Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans automatically disqualified from this game?
Gematric — gematritational — interpretations are all nonsense, I’m afraid. And we can tell because gematria is so subjective: with a little creative effort we can force almost anybody’s name into this number 666. And over the years, every possible name has been forced into this number. If we really apply ourselves, we could probably prove that Wee Lern is the beast. Or we could just ask Sue.
But here’s the thing: John did not tell us to simply calculate the number of the beast as if gematria is the key. This is what John actually said: let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast. Quite literally, he says, “let the person who has a mind, count up the number” — by which he means, “let the person who has the mind of God.”
See, decoding numbers does not require the mind of God. Everybody can do that, Christians as well as non-Christians! — and, trust me, everybody has tried. But only Christians can have true Godly insight into the meaning of this number.
Basically, John has written this number down as another parable, another stumbling block, designed to keep ordinary, worldly-minded people from hearing and grasping the truth. Just like Jesus always did, John wants to separate out those who have worldly minds from those who are seeking the mind of God through the Holy Spirit.
And, as usual, when we ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the mind of God to us, he directs us back into God’s Word for insight — back to the only distinct use of this number in the Old Testament: the weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents. That number, in its original context, was the writer’s way of saying, “Watch out! Solomon is about to be led astray by his lust for prosperity and political stability.”
So, above all, the lesson of the number 666 is this: watch out! If David’s earthly kingdom could be destroyed from within by the greed and lust of God’s wisest human king…then so can Jesus’ earthly churches.
But there is also another significant use of sixes in the Old Testament: Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image that was sixty cubits high and six cubits wide — a strangely narrow kind of statue. Those numbers, in their original context, were the writer’s way of saying, “Nebuchadnezzar’s empire is just as unstable as the image that he has chosen to represent it.”
And so the great lesson of the number 6 in King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign is this: watch out! Satan wants us to believe that his combination of Church and State is stable, that resistance is futile, that the rewards of worshiping him are incalculable. Do not be fooled: Nebuchadnezzar’s empire collapsed in a single night, and so will Satan’s.
But there is also one more significant use of the number six in the Old Testament, going right back to the beginning: because God created man on the sixth day, forming him out of the earth and breathing into his nostrils the breath of life.
And so the great lesson of the number 6 in creation is this: watch out. Because the number 6 is our number, the number of imperfect Man. And that is exactly what John said right here! — the number of the beast is the number of a man. And of course we want to know which man: Nero? Stalin? Trump? Muhyiddin? No: Adam, our father. Adam: the first beast that came out of the earth. Adam: the first one who accepted the mark of the serpent’s identity on his forehead when he listenedto the serpent’s voice, and then accepted the mark of the serpent’s rebellion on his hand when he reached out and tried to seize God’s kingdom for himself.
So, what, exactly are we watching out for here? — a man, a great, godless god-king who seizes political and religious power and has the combined rebellious characteristics of Adam, Nebuchadnezzar, and Solomon?
Oooo, wait a minute: Is this supposed to be the famous ”antichrist“ that John talks about in his other letters? Is this the famous “man of lawlessness” that Paul talks about in one of his letters?
Well…maybe. But, then again, as we have already noticed today, kings and kingdoms are conceptually interchangeable, so it is entirely possible for the beast from the Abyss to symbolize a world-conquering empire and a world-conquering individual. At the same time, the beast from the Abyss has many heads, which could also symbolize many kings, and John does say, in his letters, that we should not just be watching out for one antichrist but many…so we just don’t know if this number of the beast is referring to just the number of a man or if it is the number of Man, all men, all of mankind that refuses to submit to the true God-King over all creation.
But it does not really matter. Because whether the beast is an empire that represents an individual, or an individual that represents an empire, now we thoroughly understand the dragon’s grand strategy in his war against Jesus’ Church. This is what he has been doing all the way through Chapter 13: he has been setting up a counterfeit trinity, a counterfeit earthly copy of God’s original government.
See, in God’s system we have the Father, with his Son — who was fatally wounded, but brought back to life — ruling over their shared kingdom from heaven, with the Holy Spirit on earth working through Jesus’ people to expand the Father’s kingdom.
In Satan’s system we have the dragon, with his son the sea beast — who was fatally wounded, but somehow the fatal wound had been healed! — ruling over their shared kingdom from the Abyss, with their unholy spirit on the earth working through Satan’s people to expand the dragon’s kingdom.
Biblically speaking, the three persons of God’s Trinity would be represented by the number 777, the number of perfected redemption and rest. So it makes perfect sense that the three persons of Satan’s false trinity should be represented by the number 666, the number of imperfection, the number of rebellion.
And of course we want to know why? Why is Satan so uncreative? Why does he copy God’s structure instead of inventing his own?
And there are a few answers to that: first, Satan is uncreative. He may have the wisdom of ancient experience, but he is actually very boring, he is not innovative at all. Second, Satan enjoys taking what already exists and defiling it. It is more fun to corrupt something good than to create something that is bad from the start. But third — and most importantly — Satan knows that the most effective deceptions are always the ones that borrow most from the truth.
Satan has created this counterfeit trinity because he is hoping that people — especially Christians — will be too foolish to know the difference. This deception is at the very core of his strategy to destroy Jesus’ Church, because, after all, why bother to go through the effort of killing Christians if you can just fool them into exchanging their true faith for a counterfeit? Why bother to destroy Christianity from the outside-in when it is, in fact, far more satisfying to discredit it from the inside out?
And so, brothers and sisters, here is the really scary lesson that comes with all of this: Satan’s ultimate works of deception on earth are purposely designed to look very, very much like Jesus’ work on earth. The bestial empire that rises out of the Abyss is going to pretend to be based on Christian principles. The bestial false religion that rises out of the earth is going to pretend to be Christianity, but bigger, better, stronger, more prosperous and stable.
And that is why John says this calls for wisdom. His application for us is: be wise! Because he knows we all tend to think with the mind of Man, not the mind of God. Our earthly insights tell us that Satan’s power is most effectively expressed through things like Nazism, Socialism, Communism, ISIS — and when it comes to simply killing Christians’ bodies, that is true. But when it comes to killing human souls, things like the Prosperity Gospel, political activism, healing rallies, religious nationalism, revivals based on great signs and wonders and fire from heaven…these things are far, far more destructive, simply because — as the Apostle Peter says in one of his letters — they are purposely designed to “entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.” In other words, these things are purposely designed by the devil to attract people who have been introduced to the ideas of Christianity, but do not know enough yet to understand that the Cross of Jesus Christ is at the true center of the faith. And only those who have the mind of God are going to see these deceptions for what they are. It is just as God told Daniel way back in the Old Testament: “During the time of the end none of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”
So, in closing here, let’s get practical:
Many of us have been led to believe that the mark of the beast is going to be something physical, like a tattooed bar-code, or an implanted microchip, or a mandatory vaccination program. And even if we do not believe this, many of us know people who do.
Let us be wise. Let us understand that this kind of teaching is just another version of the same old Satanic deception, this is nothing more than the earthly mind of Man at work. Jesus himself said that those who teach such things are are obsessed with physical earthly marks because they are obsessed with physical earthly power and prosperity, status and stability. And as the Apostle Paul said in another place, the whole reason they focus on these physical things is to scare people into joining them, so they can count them among their followers and boast about their success.
So if you are here today, and someone has tried to scare you with this nonsense, please do not be scared of that. The mark of the beast is not some secret government conspiracy that is going to inject you with nanobots. You are not going to pick up the mark of the Beast by accident! — because the mark of the beast actually comes from ignoring the Word of God and listening to the voice of the dragon instead, which leads to adopting the identity of the beast, which leads to acting out in worship of the beast.
Do you want to know what the true mark of the beast looks like? The Apostle Paul has described it in great detail: “Mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be vaccinated! They will be micro-chipped! No: they will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
Do you see how boring and uncreative the mark of the beast actually is? Satan does not create anything new or amazing, he just takes the good things God has created and turns them into their opposite. And that is, in fact, the secret to Satan’s success: while we are distracted, looking for elaborate political conspiracies to fight back against, he is busy teaching us to be ungrateful, unforgiving, lovers of money, lovers of pleasure, lovers of ourselves…and we don’t even recognize what is going on because it is so ordinary.
That is what we should be scared of: not vaccines or nanobots, just.plain.ordinary.boring.sin.
But this bad news actually leads to our Good News: if Satan’s work really was an elaborate political conspiracy, we would need elaborate political weapons to fight back against it, and every few of us are equipped for that kind of battle. But since Satan’s work is ordinary — mostly just deceptive words leading to sinful actions — the weapons of our resistance are also rather ordinary, available to every ordinary one of us.
So this is what we are going to do, this is how we are going to fight back against the mark of the beast:
First, we are going to fix God’s Words in our hearts and minds, we are going to bind the identity of Christ on our foreheads, so that when we look at each other we will be constantly reminded that we have been set apart as “Holy to the Lord”.
Second, we are going to bind God’s words as symbols on our hands, we are going to let the identity of Christ come out in our everyday actions: we are going to be lovers of others, generous with our money, modest, humble, caring, obedient to our parents, grateful, holy, loving, forgiving, truth-telling, self-controlled, gentle, lovers of the good, loyal, prudent, unpretentious, lovers of God rather than lovers of pleasure, having not just the form of godliness but also its power.
And I’m sorry if the resolution to this whole “mark of the beast” thing is a bit disappointing. I know: conspiracy theories are tight! Exciting! Inspiring! Living an ordinary holy life is…boring.
But as John is going to make even more clear next week, living an ordinary holy life is actually how we are going to triumph over Satan’s unholy trinity. Remember, at the end of Chapter 12 we were told that the dragon is specifically at war with those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus. And the whole reason the dragon is at war with those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus is because he knows that it is those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus who are going to triumph over him in the end.
So let’s commit ourselves to doing that!