Chapter 13 begins with a very colorful, almost overpowering, vision showing an overview of the political system that Satan works through.
There is just enough given here to connect this with the Daniel 2 and 7. What arises in Revelation 13 actually has its beginnings long before Jesus Christ, all the way back to Nimrod, showing a definite time progression. This is the system that rears its head at the end time, but the vision is given so that we will understand that this is the system that Satan has always worked through.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church
In Revelation 13:11-17, John describes "another beast coming up out of the earth." This one has "two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon." He "exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence" (Revelation 13:12), indicating that his authority is the same as the first beast's. If the first beast's authority is global, so is the second beast's; if the first beast's authority is more localized to the environs of the Near East, Middle East, and North Africa, then the second beast's authority is the same.
In the same verse, the second beast "causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast." The Greek word translated "earth" is the same one used in verse 8. It could mean "the world," "the country," or "the land." So what is the scope of the second beast's authority?
When it comes to imposing the Mark of the Beast, Revelation 13:16 seems to ascribe universal authority to him: "He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads." These three pairs of opposing classifications of people seem to include every person on the planet. However, they have to be seen within the context of his authority, rather than as a definition of his authority. That is, he will impose the Mark across all social, economic, and political strata within the realm of the Beast—there will be no exceptions because someone is rich or has high rank in in the Beast's government. The Mark will be universal for those over whom the Beast rules.
Acts 26:22 contains another example of this phraseology. Paul says he is "witnessing both to small and great." This does not mean that he was witnessing to all people on earth but to the "small and great" who were in his audience. Revelation 19:17-18 uses the same rhetorical device to describe the aftermath of the war between the returning Messiah and the Beast:
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great."
Will the birds devour the flesh of every person on the planet? Again, these classifications of people (free and slave, small and great) describe universality within an already-defined grouping—in this case, the people who "gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army" (Revelation 19:19).
Will the Mark of the Beast be a truly global phenomenon, imposed on every man, woman, and child on earth? If so, the biblical math does not add up! Consider: The second beast "causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark" (Revelation 13:16). However, in Revelation 14:9-11, an angel proclaims that anyone receiving the mark
shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.
If every person (aside from the saints) receives the mark, then every person (aside from the saints) will die at Christ's return! Yet, numerous other prophecies show that not all nations will be destroyed at His coming; instead, all nations will be ruled by Him. Hence, a substantial number of people—enough to make up nations—will not "drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation" because they did receive the Mark of the Beast. Thus, the Mark is not imposed on every person because the second beast is not given the power to impose it on every person. Rather, he causes all within the rule of the Beast to receive it.
David C. Grabbe
The Whole Earth
Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:16-20 to look for fruit as a way of testing what kind of a spirit would emanate from a beast like this. Biblically, spirit is used to indicate "that which motivates." Spirit is invisible. It is immaterial, but what it produces is not, because it shows up on the outside of the person in behavior and sometimes in the spirit that radiates out from them.
In a spiritual sense, "the mark of the beast" is Satan's attitude. He is the great red Dragon, who gives power to the beast, and a great deal of power over mankind resides in the spirit that radiates from him.
It was Satan who created the original bad attitude, and he sustains it in humans when we permit these things to enter into our conduct and manipulate others to gain advantage and to achieve our self-centered objectives. Spirit is something that inclines the mind and, in this case, in a hostile anti-God, anti-law direction.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Spiritual Mark of the Beast
Paul wrote II Thessalonians to correct a false impression held by the members of the church in Thessalonica. He did this by telling them what Christ had revealed to him regarding the "gathering together with Christ" of those dead in Christ and those remaining alive when He returned. He opens by foretelling, first of all, that Christ's return will be preceded by a period of apostasy that could include anything from a falling away, a departure from doctrine or teaching, all the way to and including an outright political rebellion.
The second sign would be the appearance of the man of sin. This person has four different names or titles, but all of them are described similarly: the man of sin (II Thessalonians 2:3-10), the little horn (Daniel 7:8), the two-horned lamb who spoke like a dragon (Revelation 13:11-18), and the false prophet (Revelation 19:20). The description in each location is not exactly alike, but each adds to what the other gives. Consider this summary of comparisons.
In each case, the person described appears at the time of the end. This is the one piece of information that every one of them has in common.
In three of the four, his end—his destruction or annihilation—comes at the return of Jesus Christ (Daniel 7:8-9; II Thessalonians 2:3; Revelation 19:20).
In three of the four, it directly states or strongly implies the person speaks with great pompous words (Daniel 7:8-9; II Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:11-14).
In three of the four, it directly states the person does miraculous, supernatural signs (II Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:13-15; Revelation 19:20).
In two of them, the signs are done in the presence of the Beast, showing they are not the same figure (Revelation 13:13-15; 19:20).
In two of them, he deceives and leads people into idolatry (II Thessalonians 2:4,9-10; Revelation 13:12,14).
In two of them, he either makes war against the saints or causes those who would not worship the beast to be put to death (Daniel 7:21; Revelation 13:15).
In two of them, he either thinks to change times and law—suggesting the law of God—or he sets himself in the Temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. The implication is that he has the authority to do these things (Daniel 7:25; II Thessalonians 2:4).
In two of them, his period of greatest influence is three and a half years (Daniel 7:25; Revelation 13:5).
All of these scriptures are describing the same person. The Bible shows that this person—the man of sin—has a direct connection to a large political power and has a religious influence. It should be understood that we are dealing with a personage and with prophecies of global significance.
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 4)
Is the 'Mark of the Beast' an Implanted Microchip (Revelation 13:16-18)?
With fair regularity, stories appear in the media about technology that will allow the Beast to number and track every person on earth. People believe that either a number or bar code will be imprinted on the foreheads or hands of those who will be permitted to buy or sell. Lately, the stories have been about implantable microchips that will store vital information about each of us. Such stories are widely circulated, but no proof exists that any of them are part of a worldwide conspiracy. These reports are based on a misunderstanding of Revelation 13.
The "Beast" mentioned in Bible prophecy is a governmental system, a revived Holy Roman Empire, headed by an evil human dictator (see Daniel 2:26-45; 7:1-8, 15-27; 11:36-45; Revelation 17:7-18). When Jesus comes, He will personally throw both that dictator and his "False Prophet" accomplice into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20).
Receiving the Beast's number, name or mark has to do with giving allegiance to the government this dictator will establish and to the false religion that will be an integral part of that system. The Bible uses the symbols of the forehead and the right hand to represent one's loyalty by thought and work—mental and physical allegiance. The Scriptures teach that God's law is to be uppermost in our lives (Deuteronomy 6:8; 8:3).
Satan the Devil will be the spiritual power behind the Beast (Revelation 13:2), and he invariably counterfeits God's way to deceive even true believers into forsaking the truth (II Corinthians 11:13-15; Matthew 24:24). The Beast's system will therefore be a counterfeit of God's, and its mark—or identifying sign—a counterfeit of God's sign, the Sabbath (Exodus 31:13-17; Ezekiel 20:12). It is more likely, then, that the mark of the Beast will be an enforced "day of worship"—and it will not be the seventh-day Sabbath!
Nebuchadnezzar's Image (Part One): 'Head of Gold'
The Spiritual Mark of the Beast
What Is a False Prophet?
The Whole Earth
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Revelation 13:16:
2 Thessalonians 2:3-10
2 Thessalonians 2:9-12