Nothing deep. Just some quick thoughts i had this week inspired by Gary DeMar’s God and Government series. My departure from hyper preterism has renewed my interest in postmillennial and theonomist writings, so lately i have been digging out some old books that i had buried in my shed. I started re-reading DeMar’s three volume set in January and finished it last week. I highly recommend the series, especially for homeschoolers!
One of the points that Gary made over and over again is that he who determines the law is god. Of course, there is but one God and He has revealed His law to us. Yet, when we reject this law and create our own, we have in essence replaced Yahweh with a “god” of our own making. This was the sin in Eden. The serpent raised doubts concerning Yahweh’s Law and encouraged Eve to be a law unto herself, so that she would “be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Ge 3:5)
This cosmic reversal gradually finds its ultimate expression in a divine and messianic state; a state that seeks to control and govern every aspect of our lives according to its self-proclaimed authority. And as Del Tackett has mentioned in the “State” portion of his Truth Project series, this sphere of government has the potential of becoming the most dangerous because it “bears the sword.”
With all of this on my mind, i was listening to my new Word of Promise audio bible and the nature of the “mark of the beast” had become more solidified in my mind than ever before. Before i comment on what i believe the “mark” is, let me quote that section of the Revelation:
Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666. (Re 13:11-18)
A couple of things to point out:
1. Notice that the “mark” was to be on the “right hand or the forehead.”
2. Notice that the “beast” “exercises…authority” and demands “worship” and that “no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark.” Do you hear DeMar here? Do you hear “Messianic State”?
3. Notice that the “mark” is a “name”.
So what does it mean to have the “name”, that is “mark”, on the hand or forehead? Dispensationalists have speculated that the “mark” will be a tattoo, possibly of a bar code; others have argued for a computer chip that will be placed under the skin; while one man i knew argued that it was virtual goggles. Yes, i’m sure that is exactly what Latrish from the church in Thyatira was thinking almost 2,000 years ago. haha.
I believe the immediate context clues us in as to what it means to be “marked” with a “name.” Immediately following the “666″ bit, John goes on to say:
Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their legs.” (Re 14:1)
Actually, it doesn’t say “legs”. I was just seeing if you were paying attention. It actually says they had “his name and his Father’s name written on their FOREHEADS.” Keep in mind that Latrish from the church in Thyatira would have already heard about these 144,000 back in chapter 7 who have been “sealed…on their foreheads.” And who exactly are these 144,000? They are those “coming out of the great tribulation” (7:14) and “who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” (14:12)
Do you see the contrast here? You basically have two groups of people, both “marked” with a “name”. One group is marked with Christ and His Father’s name, while the other is marked with the name of the beast aka the state. This suggests then that the “mark” is not some barcode tattoo or computer chip, but a metaphor signifying a person’s loyalty and obedience.
The idea of signifying loyalty and obedience to law as a mark on the hand or forehead was not introduced in the new testament. Recall Deuteronomy 6:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
I believe this helps confirm our metaphorical understanding of the “mark of the beast.”
Now, for the most part, i had already understood the “mark” in this way as a hyper preterist. Namely, that it is a metaphor and had direct relevance for first century Christians. I took the time to explain the above mainly to challenge our dispensationalist readers. But there is an aspect to this that i think i failed to understand as a hyper preterist. Not only did i believe that the “mark” had immediate relevance to first century Christians, but i left it there in the first century. In my mind, the “mark of the beast” was then and that was it. We don’t have to concern ourselves with that…”all prophecy had been fulfilled”…blah, blah, blah.
But what is the “mark” in principle? Is it not a total reliance, trust, and obedience to the messianic state? Remember, you could not “buy or sell” apart from the state. The state governed it all. Does the reference to the “beast” in Re 13 have a specific and direct meaning to the original audience? Absolutely. But the principle still remains with us to this day.
Beasts have continued to rise since ad70. States have continued to reject Christ and His Law, appointing for themselves autonomous rulers. States have continued to compete with God in the hearts of men. And states have continued to be dashed into pieces like a potter’s vessel by the Lord’s anointed. (Ps 2)
I don’t care what Don Preston has argued, judgment and wrath on nations from God did not stop in ad70.
When one realizes this, one can see why hyper preterism is no better off than dispensationalism. Both are extremes. One teaches that the “mark” is wholly future, while the other teaches it is wholly past; both making the principle irrelevant for today. Dispensationalists are looking for a special tattoo or chip and completely miss the fact that a life marked by state worship is a real and present danger; one in which many of them have – ironically – contributed to by their vote. On the other hand, by telling us that this has nothing to do with us because “it was all fulfilled”, the hyperpreterists run the risk of missing the real and present danger as well.
This is just one area where postmillennial and theonomist writings far excel the tiny, little irrelevant “worldview” of hyper preterism in answering the How Shall We Then Live Beyond AD70 question.