And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. 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. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. (Revelation 13:11-18)
And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. (Revelation 19:19,20)
Most Evangelical Christians are literalists. When Evangelicals read the book of Revelation, they see the first four chapters as past history or representative of various ages and believe that the rest of the book prophesizes events that have yet to happen. Deeply influenced by dispensational, premillennial, pretribulational eschatology, Evangelicals believe that we are living in the last days; that the return of Jesus and the rapture of the church are imminent. Granted, most Evangelicals don’t live in ways that give credibility to their end-times beliefs, but theologically they believe that Jesus is coming soon! (Believe what I say, not how I live, Evangelicals say.)
Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, explained what will soon happen on earth this way:
We have never been closer to the end of the world than right now. It is, however, important to know that the Bible also talks about a new beginning when there will be no perversion, no terrorism, no war, no starvation… no problem of any kind. As Isaiah 11:9 says, the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth. [But] it is going to get worse before it gets better.
Revelation 13 talks about spiritually dark times, the tribulation period. “Satan’s son” will emerge on the scene… “the man of perdition, the man of sin, the beast… best known as the antichrist… the most evil man who’s ever lived… history’s vilest embodiment of sin and rebellion.
Revelation 13:15-18: 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. 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. 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.
If you google the number 666, you’ll receive 543 million results. And you probably will find 543 million ideas about what it actually means. I don’t think anyone can answer this with complete certainly, but this much we do know… The antichrist is going to introduce a cashless society… The endgame of this is to cause people to engage in devil worship.
This scenario is unfolding before us. The technology to make that happen is already here. The fact that the words of Revelation 13 were penned in the age of wood, stones, swords and spirit, makes this prophecy one of the powerful proofs of the inspired nature and reliability of God’s word that one could have ever imagined. Who could have predicted a one-world economic system that controls all commerce but God?
God knows the future just as well as we know our past. While we sometimes forget even our past, God knows the future with complete precision. Only God can tell what is going to happen, as Isaiah 46:9,10 says.
The real reform is some kind of a banking union where everyone signs on board, that there’s going to be some kind of a banking overlord, a banking union that everyone’s gonna have to bow down to. Can this actually happen? And the leader of it will be the antichrist, and he will have his mark.
The antichrist’s economic policy will be very simple. Take my mark and worship me, or starve to death… No mark, no merchandize… No seal, no sale.
The technology to do this is already here. A June 1, 2012 headline from New York Daily News read, “‘Human barcode’ could make society more organized.” The article said, “Microchip implants have become standard practice for our pets, but have been a tougher sell when it comes to the idea of putting them in people.”
Since 2006, new U.S. passports include radio frequency identification tags, known as RFID, that store all of the information in the passport as well as a digital picture of the owner. In 2002, an implantable id chip, called VeriChip, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The chip can be implanted in a person’s arm, and when scanned can pull up a 16-digit id number containing information about the user. However, it was discontinued in 2010 amid concerns about privacy and safety. Am I saying that this technology will be the mark of the beast? No, I’m not. I’m just saying the ability to technically pull this off exists.
We don’t know when the tribulation period will begin, five or 20 years from now. But with the technology today, we know all this is “totally plausible.” But let’s not overreact. Not every stamp put on someone’s hand by some authority is the mark of the beast. Or, if an office building’s number is 666, that’s not the mark of the beast.
While we do not know exactly when the mark of the beast will appear, we know this though that a great delusion will come upon the world and many will believe the lie leading to their destruction, as 2 Thessalonians 2:9 warns. Destruction will happen “because they refused to believe the truth that would save them.” At the time of the tribulation, they will choose to believe in a lie that the antichrist is “God.”
Got all that?
I came of age in an era when Evangelicals believed that Jesus would come and rapture them away at any moment. Evangelical pastors and evangelists preached prophecy-focused sermons, reminding believers to be busy winning souls for their “redemption draweth nigh.” Congregants were told that it was likely that the antichrist was alive and would soon establish his satanic, one-world government on earth. Some Evangelical pastors tried their hand at predicting who the antichrist was and when Jesus would rapture all the True Christians®. Catholics, mainline Christians, Seventh Day Adventists, and Mormons were considered false Christians. Only those who believed the Evangelical gospel were saved and would soon be taken up into Heaven by Jesus, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
Over time, rapture mania faded away. Evangelicals focused on building kingdoms in the present, and not the future coming of the kingdom of God. It’s rare to find Evangelicals these days who really believe that the next sound they could hear is Gabriel’s trumpet. One need only look at how Evangelicals live and how deeply they are immersed in the materialistic culture of the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world to see that they don’t really believe Jesus’ return is imminent.
Silly stuff, right? Here’s why these things still matter. First, the federal government and many state governments have Evangelicals who are embedded within the halls of power. Trump is crass pussy-grabbing heathen who only uses Evangelicals for political gain, but Mike Pence is a true believer — a man who reads the book of Revelation literally and who believes that the second coming of Jesus will be ushered in by war in the Middle East. As Evangelicals watch the conflict between the United States/Israel and Iran/Iraq/Syria, they can’t help but think that Jesus is coming soon! Remember, the Evangelical view of the world ends with the battle of Armageddon; a divine reckoning of sorts; a war between God/Good and Satan/Evil. Evangelicals will be raptured away by the time of the battle of Armageddon, but most of the rest of us, having been led astray by the false prophet, will have taken the mark of the beast and will wage war against God. God will slaughter us, ridding the world once and for all of non-Evangelicals.
The mark of the beast will be used to control and manipulate people. Most importantly, Evangelicals say, the mark of the beast will be used to control commerce. Want to get a hamburger at McDonald’s? You will have to have the mark. Want to buy or sell groceries, seeds, and other necessities? You will need the beast’s mark. I remember when grocery stores started installing barcode scanners. Why, Evangelical preachers lost their collective shit. I heard numerous prophecy “experts” say that barcodes were the precursor for the mark of the beast. And then it was RFID chips. And then it was DNA encoding. And then it was . . .
Evangelicalism continues to be infected by what I call tabloid/news headline preaching. During my Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) days, I would preach sermons straight out of the local newspaper. It was easy to connect paper headlines with this or that Bible verse. I later changed my eschatological beliefs and that put an end to such speculation, but millions and millions of Americans literally believe that Jesus is coming soon, and those of us who are not raptured away will be forced to accept the mark of the beast if we want to survive. Of course, if we do accept the mark, that means our souls are doomed, and after we die, we will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire with Satan.
Are you ready to get saved, dear readers? Jesus is coming soon — so said many an Evangelical. Surely, you don’t want to miss out on an eternity of bliss and perfection and endless praise and worship songs. Neglect your salvation, and you risk spend eternity with Christopher Hitchens, Steve Gupton — yes, I still miss him — Steven Hawking, Gandhi, Bruce Gerencser, and countless other heathens. I plan to remain an unrepentant atheist. As one reader told me, “heaven for the climate, hell for the company.” I am sixty-two years old. Evangelical preachers have spent my entire life saying that the coming of Jesus is right around the corner; that this or that world event is a sure sign of his imminent return; that the moral and social decay and secularization of the United States reflect the increasing influence of Satan on our country. How many times have you heard a homophobic Evangelical preacher say, “if God doesn’t judge the United States soon, he will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Evangelical preachers with all their doom and gloom warnings have become the little boy who cried wolf. Not only aren’t their congregants listening to them, neither are unbelievers. The Bible and its “prophecies” are no longer believable. “You just wait Bruce, God is going to prove you wrong,” Evangelical zealots say. Maybe, but I doubt it. The only hell I am worried about is the one we humans are creating through war and ignoring global climate change. One need only watch what is going on in Australia to see how quickly our planet could burn to the ground. One need only watch the violent acts of warmongers — in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East — to see how quickly millions of people could die. The notion that war stops war is absurd. As the Trappist monk Thomas Merton said decades ago (and I quote from memory, so forgive me if I don’t get Merton’s words exactly right) “war begets war. War only brings a cessation of hostilities. Only peace brings an end to war.”
We humans are the enemy, not fictitious deities, demons, and Bible characters. We need not worry about the rapture, the second coming of Jesus, the antichrist, the mark of the beast, or the Great Tribulation, any more than we need to worry about the events and people found in the Harry Potter books. WE have met the enemy, and it is US.
Did you grow up in a church that focused on eschatology? Did you worry about the rapture? Did you wonder if the return of Jesus was imminent? Did your pastor ever talk about the mark of the beast? Please share your astute thoughts and experiences in the comment section.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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Has there ever been a time in the last two thousand years when there wasn’t some segment of these Bible-thumpers claiming that their own time was the End Times and that the end of the world was nigh? I think it helps them feel important if they can claim to be part of a critical period in history.
As you say, the modern ones don’t really behave as though they believe it. For that matter, most fundies’ attitude about death isn’t what you would expect it to be if they truly believed they were going to Heaven. I suspect on some very deep level they realize it’s all baloney.
Incidentally, in the context of the time it was written, it’s pretty clear that 666 was a reference to Emperor Nero. I know there are all kinds of ideas out there about what this stuff refers to, but the authors of the texts that became the Bible were mostly writing about their own times and about earlier history that they thought was important — not about our time, which they could no more imagine or discuss than we can imagine or discuss the world of the forty-first century.
Yes, absolutely – we grew up believing that the rapture could happen at any moment. I used to sing a song at church called “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” by Larry Norman.
Life was filled with guns & wars
And everyone got trampled on the floor
I wish we’d all been ready
The children died, the days grew cold
A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold
I wish we’d all been ready
There’s no time to change your mind
The Son has come and you’ve been left behind
Man and wife asleep in bed
She hears a noise & turns her head –
I wish we’d all been ready
Two men climbing up a hill
One disappears & one’s left standing still
I wish we’d all been ready
There’s no time to change your mind
The Son has come & you’ve been left
The Father spoke, the demons dined
How could you have been so blind?
There’s no time to change your mind
The Son has come and you’ve been left behind
In the mid-80’s, I was taking an optics class while working towards my EE degree at a public university. I had to write a paper on barcodes and present it to the class. I was using an overhead projector, and on my last transparency, I drew a hand and a head with barcodes on them. It didn’t go over well. But always be witnessing — that’s what I was taught.
I spent much of my college years believing the end was imminent. In the 80’s, that mindset was everywhere. I missed the whole New Wave experience and didn’t discover Depeche Mode until the 2000’s. What a waste!
I vaguely remember my mom telling me that all the preachers had the rapture wrong and then telling me how it was really going to happen. I don’t recall the details, just that this was one more instance of us being True Christians and everyone else being False Christians. A lot of people here in Kentucky still take take 666 literally. A few years ago I picked up a couple of things at the grocery store and the bill was $6.66. The clerk asked me if I wanted to buy some other little thing to make the total come out differently. Not sure if she was serious or not.
Apocalyptic! I like that. The end is near. I can’t really disagree with evangelicals. As science advances, the end days for evangelicals draws nigh. They’re talking about their end times …. not ours. When an evangelical tells me that end times R almost here, I ask them if they would like to avoid it. If they say no …. I respond …. “then what’s your worry? Be happy!” I tell them “I’m immune. I got science!” Conversation usually ends.
I was with a friend years ago, and she took the top off her Coke bottle (back when you could turn caps in for prizes). it had the number 666 on it. She was sure that it was the Mark of the Beast. She threw out the Coke and the cap, and said she would never drink it again. She asked me what I thought, and I said that 666 was a number between 665 and 667. That did not go over well.
You could have told her to turn it upside down so it would say 999 and be harmless. Although I suppose that’s the Mark of the Australian Beast.
I actually laughed out loud at that.
I laughed out loud too, then thought about the current Australian wildfires. That’s too much End Times for me, even if it is (currently) localized to one continent.
I do believe that the human species will create its own extinction, and take down a whole lot of other species with it. It will be the Greatest Extinction the planet has ever endured. Perhaps it will be documented some time long in the future by exoplanet geologists and paleontologists from some other world.
Karen, I feel mixed feelings about our world and my place in it. Serious regret that my sons’ lives are probably going to be radically impacted by climate change. Wishful that I live another 30 years (yes I’d be old as dirt) and at the same time, hopeful that I do die before our world has transformed into a hellscape. Never thought I’d be hopeful that death would spare me horror, but that is the 21st century for you.
Bar codes, credit cards, microchips-I’ve heard all that is supposed to be the sign of the beast. And yet, the mega pastors horde wealth and property . Do they plan to take it with them to heaven? A bribe to St. Peter for a better room up there? Does heaven have stores and a stock market to play? Just more proof they don’t believe their own nonsense. All the fearmongering is to keep the minions under control while the billionaire pastors laugh their way to the bank.
OMG! This post was timed perfectly for me. I had to drop my a friend of the family’s house this morning while running an errand, and she invited me in for a short visit. She’s normally a nice person, but as an evangelical Christian, she sometimes goes into salvation mode. You never know when it’s gong to happen, but it seems that Trump’s latest stunt inspired her to talk quite loudly about everything from Trump-is-always-right to Why would anybody go to college these days – all those evil, liberal teachers! The whole thing ended with her practically weeping for all the people who will be left behind because they’re not saved. She was totally talking to me because she knows I think her beliefs are nutty. She’s sure the Rapture is near. I did not take the bait because I would feel like I was arguing with a five year old. She will not listen to anything vaguely rational. I extricated myself from the situation and wished her a happy new year. Those kinds of experiences fascinate me. One more question: Why are those who are so afraid of college educations the same people who don’t have a college education? Also: Why do Evangelical Christians know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING?
BEWARE THE MARK OF THE BEAST !!! It is the beast well known as the EVANGELICAL !!! BEWARE !!! HIDE YOUR CHILDREN !!! HE WILL PUT THE MARK OF RELIGION ON YOU !!! 666 !!! OR HE WILL SECRETLY TAKE YOUR CHILDREN INTO THE RECTORY AND PERFORM BEASTLY ABOMINATIONS UPON THEM !!! DON’T LET THE EVANGELICAL BEAST LEAD YOU INTO FORNICATION !!! FIGHT THE RIGHTIOUS WAR !!! DESTROY THIS BEAST THAT PREYS UPON CHILDREN !!! I hope I made it clear to everybody. U know who the beast is.
No mystery Caroline. Evangelicals know an awful lot about nothing and nothing about everything else. Hope this answers your query?
We did have some occasional talk about The Rapture and The Beast but the main point was that the Devil is stronger than people and you don’t stand a chance without Jesus! Once one accepts that mockery of simple human reason, then anything goes… by the way, have you purchased your 5 gallon pail of cheesy pasta-like substance from Jim Bakker? Better hurry.
“We have never been closer to the end of the world than right now.”
Well, I mean, technically this has always been true…
Daughter bought her first house, newly built and I visited a lot. Addresses were odd numbers down one side of the street and even numbers on the other. She was number 15. It was some months later that I realised next door was number 11, not 13. Fundies would laugh at the superstition that 13 is unlucky…but their fear of 666 is no different than that!
I was a teen in the 1980s and whoo boy how evangelicals lost their minds over bar codes. There were serious discussions about whether we should buy our Cheerios at Kroger now that EVIL BARCODES were on the boxes! (Obviously everyone continued to shop at Kroger). It’s so weird how the whole John Nelson Darby interpretation of eschatology caught on and scared millions of evangelicals with a bunch of ridiculous interpretations of texts that are incomprehensible to us in our time and place.
I watched a documentary about Hasidic Jews in NY, and one of the interviewees showed the small boxes of scriptures that were to be worn on the forehead and on the back of one hand (I can’t remember whether it was right or left) during prayer. It struck me that maybe “mark of the Beast” meant that people weren’t supposed to substitute anything else in place of scriptures.
What scares me most is that religious nutbaggery is influencing our foreign policies.
I had the pleasure of attending an all-boys catholic school for 12 years (Colegio Marista in Puerto Rico). The school was run by Marist brothers (old school catholicism from battle-hardened Spaniards), so we didn’t go much into eschatological teachings but more into the “less materialistic and more community involvement, especially with those less fortunate” stream. Organized religion and I don’t get along at all, but I do credit this upbringing with a lot of my current social/economic/philosophical views. A requirement for graduation was getting a certain amount of community involvement hours during our junior and senior years with approved locations to ensure that the students attended and made a meaningful impact. My most significant criticism of the school was being surrounded by those from a much more affluent background, my father worked a lot of long days to make sure that my tuition got paid, and their attitude with material things. At the same time, I credit these interactions with helping to shape a portion of who I am today. We heard the metaphor of the “eye of a needle” and its relation to spiritual wealth at least once a week for those 12 years.
The brothers did not speak about the mark of the beast but did talk at length about the devil and the influence of evil in society. I distinctly remember an exchange I had with one of the senior brothers about the fact that evil could never be eradicated since the mere presence of good was predicated on the presence of evil. I’m not sure how this type of discussion would have fared with someone who had a stricter view of the bible.
Why do some adhere to such a strict interpretation of the end of times? Because it scares the crap out of people and since they are the only ones with the right answer, people have to follow them or risk eternal damnation.. and that lasts for like a long loong looong time. Find a need and fill it and if you can’t find one, make one up. I’ve often wondered what would happen if religious individuals or organizations got taxed *gasp* and were forced to declare all of their assets *double gasp* Remember when Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland or Jesse Duplantis told their congregation that they had to have a private jet to spread the gospel? They can’t fly commercial because planes are full of demons. Are you [censored] kidding me? Your parsonage allowance lets you live in a million dollar mansion and not pay taxes? Get the [censored] [censored] [censored] out of here!! These so-called “men of god” see evil each and every day when they look in a mirror.
This is a test comment
Is there any mention of end times in the old testament that lines up with Revelation? I can’t think of any instances off the top of my head. Christians are so big on corroboration as proof of reliability that basing entire end time beliefs on this particular book seems quite the stretch. Not to mention the mishmash of figurative and literal interpretations.
God is real. I’m a evangelical
What did you hope to gain by your comment? Who are you trying to convince that “God is real?” If you meant to convince the owner of this site, you are going to have to do a lot better than bald assertion — for which you have no evidence.
Jazzy, as the word evangelical begins with a vowel then the correct form of the indefinite article is ‘an’ and not ‘a’.
It might be that the placard Jazzy holds high is not quite big enough to fit the ‘n’ so it must be sacrificed: That word, ‘evangelical’ is a mouthful of syllables sufficient to mumbo-jumbo out any old meaning you prefer for any old day of the week.
Hello Mr Bruce Gerencser,
As you’ve got a moderated view of religion, I wanted to share with you my experience as a Buddhist.
I find that prophecy in all religions is equal.
And a prophecy in one faith can happen that doesn’t exclude the prophecies and miracles that one can experience in other faiths as well.
There’s perfect proof of the miracle that occurred on the day after Obama’s election (on his day of acceptance speech in Chicago.)
The famous Newsweek magazine carried the news. But the Christians of the world are not reporting it. Why is that? Aren’t Christians the ones who are supposed to save the world (in most Christians’ way of thinking?)
What’s more, the article was written by Newsweek’s highly-respected and moderate Senior Editor Lisa Miller:
Belief Watch: Is Obama the Antichrist?
excerpt: “One of the winning lottery numbers in the president-elect’s home state was 666— which, as everyone knows, is the sign of the Beast (also known as the Antichrist). ”
Hair-raising!!! Can any Christian just look away as the 2d Coming is occurring? Also spread the good news to everyone on earth!!! Thanks. Bye.
It’s a miracle three lottery balls came up 666? sigh
Claim: The numbers 6-6-6 were the winning combination in an Illinois lottery the day after Election Day 2008.
You do understand the book of Revelation is fiction, right?
Origins: Human beings have an innate tendency to find patterns in randomness and ascribe meanings to those patterns — a phenomenon whose most basic manifestation is something we call “coincidence”: A sequence of events that, although accidental and unrelated, seems to have been planned or arranged.
One of the more interesting (if obscure) coincidences connected with the 2008 U.S. presidential election had to do with lottery numbers in Illinois. On 5 November 2008, the day after Election Day, the winning numbers in that state’s Evening Pick 3
lottery draw were 6-6-6 — a string of digits traditionally held to represent the “Number of the Beast” as described in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation. When one considers that the winner of the previous day’s presidential election was Barack Obama, who began his political career in Illinois and represents that state in the U.S. Senate, and who was the subject of a spurious election year rumor positing that he matched the Book of Revelation’s description of the anti-Christ, well … it might all seem a bit eerie.
While we can’t speak to the absolute predictive power of coincidence, we can note it isn’t all that uncommon for the string 6-6-6 to turn up in “Pick 3” type lottery games which feature the random selection of three digits from 0 to 9. The odds of any particular combination’s turning up are one in a thousand, and if multiple drawings are held each day (as is the case in Illinois, which offers both midday and evening Pick 3 games) the odds are better than even that any given combination will turn up at least once a year. In fact, the numbers 6-6-6 had already been the winning combination in Illinois’ Pick 3 game three separate times in 2008 prior to November 5: In the evening picks of January 16 and March 22, and in the midday pick on October 23. And for good measure, the winning combination for the evening Pick 4 draw on July 5 was 0-6-6-6.
Another noted example of lottery numbers appearing to have a coincidental connection with recent events occurred on 11 September 2002, the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center towers, when the combination selected in one of the New York state lottery drawings that day was 9-1-1.
Today is the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma bombing. You’ll never believe what just happened, what a coincidence! Absolutely nothing….
If we spent our time discussing issues on non-coincidence we’d never do anything else, and still wouldn’t scratch the surface. If coincidences never happened I’d be wondering if there might actually be a god, because statistically they are inevitable.
The idea of Mark of the Beast honestly does scare me. Christian or not, I would never let someone stick a chip inside my body. I would rather die than give up that freedom