Have you wondered what the “mark of the beast” actually is? We read of it being the numerical characters “666” (Rev. 13:18), but what does that mean?
According to Sabbatarians it is Sunday worship. What is a Sabbatarian? It is a person who insists the sabbath of the Old Covenant is to be the day Christians worship in the New Covenant.
Sabbatarians are pretty sure of themselves concerning what the “mark of the beast” is. They identify six indicators that help set forth who and what they believe the “mark of the beast” is. They are (1) a “beast” is a nation (2) the “mark” is a law (3) the “mark” goes against God’s law (4) the “mark” is a global issue (5) the “mark” forces worship (6) the “mark” compels worship. They assert “While some think it is very mysterious [mark of the beast] … it is actually very simple to understand” (religious tract: “The Mark of the Beast”).
Based on what they say in their religious tract, their interpretive assertions have nothing to do with the biblical text. Compare their six indicators with what the Scripture says. Revelation 13:18 reads, “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” (ESV). All that can be said, all that is known is simply this: it is the number of a man; this means it is unknown but has its origin in the nature / creation of man.
Some suggestions concerning what is in view are: (1) pagan Roman Empire, (2) Papal Roman Empire, or the Roman Catholic Church, (3) a man or a certain race of men, and with the Sabbatarians, Sunday worship. The other three have a much stronger case to make than Sabbatarians do!
To make their case the “mark of the beast” is Sunday worship, the Sabbatarians make many historical references to the writings of men long after the time of the first century and couple that with an interpretative framework of the book of Revelation that is associated with premillennialism and the rapture. With these historical references, they assert that men after the time of the apostles changed the worship day from the seventh day to the first day of the week. This is factually wrong.
In the New Testament, from Acts to Revelation, the word “sabbath” is used eleven times. Of those eleven times, six of those are times when the Lord’s apostle went into a Jewish synagogue or setting to reason with those who worshiped on that day. On one occasion (Acts 16:13), Paul and Silas went into a community without a synagogue but found a place where some were worshiping the Lord. Not once in those eleven times is the word “sabbath” used in any New Testament church engagement in worship; it was, mostly, related to Paul seeking common ground with the Jewish community, reasoning from the Scripture.
What about in the Gospels (Matthew through John). The word is used nearly five time more often; let us be reminded that Jesus came unto the Jewish community and preached His message to those who did sanctify the sabbath day as a day of worship, a day of rest. Not once did Jesus command any sabbath day observance for those who identified as His disciples for a New Covenant application. If He did, then one can be sure in Acts through Revelation, an exhortation toward that end would have been mentioned. It is not. Instead, what we have is this: “And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7, ASV).
In our next article on this topic, we will consider how Sabbatarians handle (mishandle) this verse. RT