Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj answers
Three Scriptures connect receiving the mark of the Beast which the book of Revelation talks about with receiving something you receive on your forehead and hands (Rev. 14:9; Rev. 13:11,16,17; Rev. 20:4). Since, the corona vaccine done is sent into one’s hands, the speculation has been rife that receiving the vaccine shot equals to receiving the mark of the beast/the antichrist. These well-meaning folks passionately argue this way: ‘If C equals 3, being the third letter in the English alphabet, O equals to 15, R equals to 18, O equals to 15, N equals to 14, and A equals to 1, the total comes to 66. And there are 6 letters in the English word, Corona. So, there you have it – Corona has something to do with 666, the mark of the Antichrist!’ Does this interpretation of Revelation hold water? Let’s see.
The SETTING to the Book of Revelation
There is a background, a setting, a context to every New Testament letter. For example, we know that Apostle Paul wrote to the believers at the church in Corinth to instruct them on how to handle a believer who was sleeping with own mother (I Cor. 5). This was one of the different reasons. In the same way, Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation to seven specific church believers in Asia Minor who faced the specific problem being sucked into and swept away from what was called the ‘imperial cult’. The Book of Revelation mentions that John wrote to an actual bunch of Asian churches, very clearly (see Rev. 1:4,11). So, as we see the book of Corinthians in its context, we must see the book of Revelation in its context.
If someone says, ‘Sunny’, we immediately ask, ‘Sunny Gavaskar, the cricketer or Sunny the weather, or Sunny Leone, the porn star or Nissan Sunny, the car?’, don’t we? In the same way, we must look at everything mentioned in the Bible keeping in mind the context. Or else, the meaning of that text will get assassinated!
When the book of Revelation was being written the believers were faced with the temptation of joining what was called the Roman Imperial Cult. The Caesars of those days wanted the people to worship them or face trouble for not doing so. Bible Scholars of repute assert the book of Revelation was written during the rule of one these two emperors – Nero and Domitian. One killed his own mother and the Christians. The other praised a palace steward, showered with him with courtesies before killing him, the next day. Because of this kind of erratic, eccentric, emotional behavior, these emperors were popularly called ‘beasts’ (of course in whispers).
So, when Apostle John wrote about the beast and his mark, the early church believers instantly knew who he was talking about. They knew he was talking about the ‘beast’ who was also the Caesar of the land, the emperor of the land, the same way, a cricket fan instantly knows Rahul Dravid is being talked about when someone mentions ‘The Wall’ or an action movie addict knows Jean-Claude Van Damme is being spoken of when someone quips, ‘Muscles from Brussels’!
So, when the book of Revelation talks about the mark of the beast being received in the hand, it cannot be talking about the Corona Vaccine, I believe! When you keep the context of the book in mind, you simply cannot come to that conclusion!
The SYMBOLISM of the Beast’s Number
Both the Hebrew people and Greek people assigned numeric to their language’s alphabets. If one spelt “Nero Caesar” in Hebrew letters (like assigning A equals to 1… Z equals 26 in English alphabets), the total came to 666 (you just have to Google this and you will know).
So, the number 666 mentioned in the book of Revelation was speaking about Nero Caesar using a code language which was familiar to the original readers of the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation was clearly understood by its original readers as Romans and Corinthians was by its original readers! The writer of Revelation did not want the church believers he wrote to, to get into trouble for possessing a letter with direct references to an evil emperor like Nero Caesar who was out to capture them and throw them to the lions. So, he used code language like ‘666’, ‘the beast’, etc. to refer to the evil rulers of their time who persecuted them for their faith in Christ and their rejection of him as their Lord!
The SHOPPING-SELLING ban which Revelation talks about
Revelation 13:17 which reads this way has intrigued a lot of people: ‘so that could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name’ (NIV). What was this shopping-selling ban on those who refuse the beast’s mark all about? The Caesars of those days had their images conformed to the images of the popular deities in the coins people used for daily business transactions, day-to-day shopping and selling in the markets. In the public square, a gigantic image of the Caesar was placed so that people would worship him as god. The very helpful NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible observes this: In AD 89/90, maybe five or six years before the book of Revelation arrived in the churches of Asia, Ephesus issued a coin that conformed Domitian to the image of the chief deity Zeus. Domitian also dedicated an imperial statue of nearly 25 feet (eight meters) high in the imperial temple in Ephesus. Individuals faced social pressure to participate in public cults, but unless they were accused of disloyalty, no one would hunt down nonparticipants to ensure their participation’ (page 2247). If you did not worship Caesar you would not be easily granted access to the market he controlled symbolized by the coins that bore his god-like image. You would be accused of sedition. You would be accused of hating your land. So, the book of Revelation was calling the believers to ‘endure’ and not participate in the emperor cult. Revelation 2:10 called for endurance directly: ‘Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life’ (NKJV). And passages like Revelation 14:9-10 (burning sulfur for recipients of beast’s mark) called for the very same thing indirectly: using the ‘mark of the beast’/666 imagery! So, the writer of the book of Revelation was not talking about receiving a literal mark on the forehead or hands, but warning his congregation against possible Caesar-worship – thanks to social pressure! ‘Be ready to lose your business, or a prominent spot for your shop in the Caesar-controlled market because you will rub Caesar the wrong way by not worshipping him. But if you do, and do so stubbornly, you will lose a lot more. You will land up in ever-burning hell!’ – that was the message of the writer of the book of Revelation. There is nothing in the book of Revelation that is not clearly taught in the first 65 books of the Bible – this I believe. In the letter to the Hebrews, the writer challenges the readers to even accept prison terms and property confiscation by the State, joyfully, for refusing to compromise their faith amidst of a similar-to-the-Book-of-Revelation situation of political persecution because of their faith in Jesus who alone was the Lord (Heb. 10:34).
The SEALING of the Saved, which the book of Revelation Speaks About
The book of Revelation talks about 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel who were ‘sealed on the forehead’ by the living God (Rev. 7:2-8). Just like the beast imagery, the 666 imagery, the numbers in the book of Revelation, I believe, have a symbolic meaning. What Revelation 5:9 (‘persons from every tribe and language and people and nation’ will be saved by the blood of Jesus) teaches directly, Revelation 7:2-8 teaches using indirectly, using symbols! 12 x 12 x 1000 (a large number) is one way we can write 144,000. So, the message of Revelation 7:2-8 is this: “people from Old Testament (symbolized by the first 12) and people from the New Testament (symbolized by second 12) will be saved in large numbers (symbolized by the 1000) in the final day by the blood of Jesus! They will be saved if they have a mark of the blood of Jesus! Since Revelation 5:9 and Revelation 7:2-8 seems to be talking about the same thing (how the blood of Jesus ‘seals’ believers from various background across the globe, across various time periods), the sealing of Revelation 7:2-8 can be seen as symbolic. So, the sealing of the mark of the beast mentioned elsewhere in Revelation (Rev. 13:11,16,17; 14:9; 20:4) can also be logically seen as symbolic. Through symbols these passages teach this: “If you allow the evil anti-Biblical, anti-Jesus policies of your political ruler or even your work-place boss to impact your head, you are receiving the mark of the beast on your head. If you allow the evil anti-Biblical policies of your political ruler or work-place boss to impact your actions, you are receiving the mark of the beast on your hands!”
Elsewhere in Ezekiel 9, the word ‘mark on the foreheads’ seems to have been used symbolically as well. A man clothed in linen was assigned by the Lord to go throughout the city of Jerusalem putting a mark on those in the city of Jerusalem who mourn and grieve over the detestable things done there (Ezek. 9:3-4). Such people so marked were spared from the judgement of God, apparently (see Ezek. 9:10-11). So, the message is simple: those who turn from the popular-among-people sinful ways of the city they live in – be it porn-watching, be it pride, be it foul-language use, etc., enabled by the Grace of God, cleansed by the Blood of Jesus – they are ‘marked on the foreheads’ (spiritually speaking) and they will be saved from the soon-coming wrath of God and hell-punishment!
So, when there are clear indications that the ‘mark’ in Revelation 7 and Ezekiel 9 are symbolic the mark of the beast can also be a symbolic thing. The message woven around this symbolism is what rest of the Bible has underlined all through: “Even if costs your life, do not compromise your faith in Christ, despite mounting political pressure or unbearable peer pressure!” (Hebrew 12:4; Acts 20:24; Acts 21:13). The mark of the beast has nothing to do with an injection, I believe! It has got everything to do rejection of the spirit of compromise with sin promoted by celebs and politically powerful, prevalent in our time and age (my opinion)!
So, in CONCLUSION, I would like to say this: if you are standing in a vaccination queue and the nurse says, “You will agree to worship the Prime Minister/President/Chancellor/Chief Minister/the Mayor when you receive this vaccine and if you don’t agree these terms and conditions, then we can’t vaccinate you!’ then you DON’T have to get vaccinated. But to the best of my knowledge, that is not what is being done now anywhere in the world! So, we all get vaccinated against the corona pandemic! Let not a bizarre way of interpreting Revelation, violating self-evident sound Bible interpretation principles, prevent us from taking the corona vaccination!
(This article written by Rev. Dr. Duke Jeyaraj was published by Aim Magazine of Evangelical Fellowship of India in its July 2021 edition. Duke is the founder of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission, the G4 Mission. This is an Indian ministry to presentday people which is reader-viewer supported. Find out more at http://www.dukev.org. Watch Duke’s messages at http://www.Youtube.com/VisitDuke. The video version of the same message is found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Yq3C7udfoU&ab_channel=DukeJeyaraj)