Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
— Revelation 13:16-17
The first beast, the second beast and the dragons mentioned in chapter 13 are all likely cryptic references to Roman emperors of the time, each successor following in the footsteps of his predecessor: And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth...and he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him.1
Christians at the time of John of Patmos were an especially persecuted people, living under an already oppressive system. Any subversive talk had to be done secretly, cryptically, to keep the authorities in the dark.2 The obscure and enigmatic language and imagery used in the book of Revelation represents secret communication among Christians anticipating, and actively planning for the apocalypse—the arrival of the kingdom of God on earth. Thus "the beast" is essentially Rome, and for us, today, perhaps the beast is the coercive, controlling governments whose ever-increasing, self-appointed emergency powers take away more and more of our freedoms and autonomy.
The beast in Revelation marks the people, identifying them as his own, that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark. Without the mark, a person will not be able to participate in the economy or the civil life of the community. An unmarked person thus becomes an outcast.
How closely our governments today parallel those of Rome in 60-100 AD. The mark of the beast is not on the right hand or the forehead, indeed is barely a visible mark at all. It is the mark of a needle in the arm, a vaccine in the body, without which a person is forbidden to participate in social events, to travel, to receive state benefits, or even to attend school.3 Each country has different rules around vaccines, but the convergence is towards what we see in Austria, Hungary and Nigeria (mandated vaccines) and Australia during the COVID pandemic (enforced isolation camps for the unvaccinated and the unwell).4 By surrendering to the beast, and receiving the mark, we get in exchange the status of first-class citizen, person of honour. And we receive a certificate to show to the authorities and their lackeys, to be allowed to enter the places where the unmarked, second-class citizens are forbidden to go.
It becomes harder and harder for the unmarked to participate, as the beast is nurtured and fed by social media, mainstream media, the pharmaceutical industry and all the shareholders surrounding them. The governments actually need to do very little, as the beast is loose and dwelling in vast swathes of the population.
These are strange times, in many ways frightening times, where the best course of survival would seem to be total compliance to the will of the authorities. Few can resist. And yet we can remember that amidst such oppression, in many ways far worse, Christians survived, and they rose up, their power coming from their faith. What do we have to believe in today? What kingdom do we have to work towards? It's a difficult question, and one that may easily lead to despair.
I refer the reader back to yesterdays reflection.5 Take time to pause. Act slowly, thoughtfully. Give yourself space. The kingdom will be revealed by the still, small voice, not by the thunder.
1 Revelation 13:11-12
2 The use of secret language among oppressed people is something seen throughout history, take for example the rhyming slang of cockney Londoners living as second class citizens, downtrodden servants and servers to the upper classes. The language they developed allowed them, amongst other advantages, to mock their employers, to retain some dignity and autonomy.
3 In a few countries, and many USA states, including the most-liberal-of-all, California, such restrictions have been in place long before COVID came around. My own family left California in 2016 after the bill was passed to exclude unvaccinated/part-vaccinated children from school, and even prevent different families from home-educating together. We are not anti-vax, only vaccine-cautious, seeking more information and dialogue.
4 See for example, Lockdowns and no medical coverage: Countries' limits for the unvaccinated are growing more draconian, Fast Company, 15/11/21 and Which Countries Have Restrictions on Unvaccinated People?, MoveHub, 06/01/22. For a more recent update on travel restrictions see Which countries still have Covid travel restrictions?, The Independent, 14/10/22. There are still 25 countries, including the USA, requiring full vaccination and/or Covid 'passports'.
5 Pause, Revelation 8:1-2