Updated: Apr 29
When we read about the mark of the beast in the book of Revelation the usual response is one of gloom, fear and the dread of the coming end of days. However, if this subject is approached from a Hebrew perspective it is not fearful, gloomy or dreadful at all and should instead make us lift our heads up in awe and great anticipation for the return of our King, Messiah Yeshua.
You see, for all practical purposes the book of Revelation is just another book of Jewish literature. Long before it was deemed a Christian book of the Christian Bible it was a letter written by a Jewish man of the first century who just happened to be a believer in a Jewish Messiah named Yeshua. This man, John, or Yochanan in Hebrew, wrote from his purely Hebraic background and culture the things which were revealed to him concerning the returning of the Jewish King and Messiah, the rightful heir to the throne of David. In fact the letter itself opens with the words, 'The Revelation of Jesus Christ'. In other words, this letter is about the revealing of the Messiah Yeshua. It is not for the purpose of revealing the anti-messiah or for causing fear over the mark of the beast.
Many non Messianic Jews attest to the fact that when John wrote the letter that he just stole words from the Hebrew prophets. The reason that they say this is because the book actually is so Hebraic in nature that it mimics the details, words and prophetic visions/imagery already given to us by the Hebrew prophets. The letter really doesn't contain much that is new especially if taken in light of the words of Yeshua; along with the writings of the prophets.
For most of my life I ignored the book of Revelation because it scared me. I never taught from it because I didn't understand it. I would listen to people teach it in church or on TV but I never really believed much of what was taught. It was only after I began to take an interest in the ancient Hebrew language and culture that I truly began to understand the Old Testament (TaNaKh) and thus, the book of Revelation came alive.
I would now like to share some things that I have discovered in my journey and I pray that it enlightens you as much as it has enlightened me. Sorry for the length of this article but this topic is a delicate one and it is my desire to cover the topic in my usual manner (in much detail). Although, I promise to stop before it turns into a book!
The concept of something written on the hand and forehead is nothing new. There are four verses in the TaNaKh (Old Testament) which refer to this and the idea would have been completely understood by the reader of John's letter. The four verses are Exodus 13:9, Exodus 13:16, Deuteronomy 6:8 and Deuteronomy 11:18. I will place only one here as they all say the same thing.
You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. Deuteronomy 6:8
The orthodox/ultra orthodox Jews take these scriptures literally and wear tefillin (phylacteries) upon their hand and forehead during prayer. In the first century this was also the custom as ancient tefillin have been discovered. Yeshua Himself most assuredly would have probably worn them.
The idea of having something written on your forehead and your hand actually denotes that you have continually placed it before your eyes and in the forefront of your mind.
What was suppose to be in the forefront of their minds? The statutes, judgments, and commands of God (Elohim). That is why if you read prior to the above mentioned verse that YHWH instructs them to teach His words to their children, to talk about them when they sit in their house, when they walk by the way, and when they lie down, and when they rose up, and to write them upon their doorposts and on their gates. This means literally - don't ever forget to teach and to keep them!
Now, the next very important thing is that these scriptures all say that they are to do this because it will be a "sign" upon you.
The Hebrew word here used for sign is the Hebrew word ote (אות). This word means "mark, sign, signal, proof, distinguishing mark, token, evidence" in the sense of good, or in the sense of bad "omen, warning".
In every instance in the TaNaKh where this word is used there is a physical description of something being seen as a sign. In other words, this is not just a spiritually unseen thing. When this word is used the "sign" can be seen by people. When a person keeps YHWH's commandments, statutes and judgments, they can be seen carrying out these instructions by the way they live their life.
For example, the Bible states that the Sabbath and Passover is a "sign" between God and man (Exodus 31:13, 17 and Exodus 12:21, 22). If a person is keeping the Sabbath and the Passover then others can see them as they observe the Sabbath, Passover, etc. Likewise, when a person keeps the Words of the Almighty they have separated themselves unto the LORD as a set apart people and they have a "sign" upon them of obedience to His Words. This sign is a "distinguishing mark" that Elohim recognizes. When He sees this "sign" of obedience upon them He will do something in return - He will "mark" or "seal" them.
Now, this mark/seal is referred to in Revelation and two such references are listed:
saying, "Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads" (Revelation 7:3)
They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads (Revelation 9:4).
We find this same concept in the book of Ezekiel in two places:
and the LORD said to him, "Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it" (Ezekiel 9:4)
"Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary." (Ezekiel 9:6)
Here we find, in both Revelation and Ezekiel, that a mark or seal has been put upon the obedient children of God before anything is destroyed or harmed. This mark or seal is not a voluntary mark put upon man by his own hands, but it is an involuntarily mark placed by God. Why does Elohim put this mark upon them? Because they have kept His teachings and instructions before their face, in the forefront of their minds (hence on their hand and forehead). Keeping His teachings and instructions has made them a set apart, peculiar people and they are not like the world, but in fact, stick out like a sore thumb because people can "see" that they walk by a different walk and they talk a different talk.
The set-apart priests wore the Name of YHWH on their foreheads. Likewise, we are called to be a kingdom of set-apart priests, therefore we are to bear His Name upon our foreheads. To have His Name upon your forehead signifies ownership.
Just as the Passover was a "sign" and when YHWH saw that they obeyed and put the blood of the Passover lamb upon the doorposts (there goes the doorposts again) then YHWH passed over them and protected them from the death of the firstborn. Likewise, at the end of this age, YHWH will pass over those who "keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Yeshua" (Revelation 12:17, 14:12) for they will not suffer the punishment inflicted upon those who do not carry the mark of God, for YHWH will pass over when He sees the blood of Yeshua, our Passover lamb. The book of Hebrews states that we have all been called to the "congregation of the firstborn", Hebrews 12:23.
It is all about obedience. If you want to shelter under His wings of protection then you must be obedient. That is the only way to get there.
I have many more things to say about this good mark by God, but first, what about the mark of the beast? The mark of the beast is nothing more than disobedience to God and His teachings and instructions. It simply means that the person who receives this mark has followed their own desires and plans. They have done what the world system, man, tells them to do. They have followed the world's system and not God's system. They have assimilated to the world and the world's system and have not been the set-apart and peculiar people of God.
Interestingly, in Deuteronomy chapter 28 we find the curses that come upon people when they do not obey God's teachings and instructions. It states in verse 46: "And they shall be upon you for a sign (ote) and a wonder, and on your descendants forever."
You see the sign works both ways. Our actions speak louder than words. God sees the heart and He marks/seals accordingly. Disobedience also acts as a sign to God that the disobedient person does not deserve to be marked/sealed from destruction.
I could go on and on with the corresponding Hebrew and Greek words, including the root words, which denote this analogy of a "sign" and "mark" , but I am afraid I would lose too many readers from the length of the article. So, let me just say this: when these words, along with their root words, are studied one will find the meaning of "being hedged about" as in a military structure, to guard and to protect. To be marked/sealed denotes protection, a concealment, to be hidden, and security.
Likewise the Hebrew word "shamar" means, "to guard, observe, give heed" and we are told in numerous scriptures:
'Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep (shamar - guard/observe) My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel. (Exodus 19:5-6)
We should not be worried about the anti-messiah or the mark of the beast. Instead, we should be concerned about being obedient to God and His teachings and instructions. If we are obedient then we will receive His mark upon us and that will protect/hide us from anything that the enemy can throw our way.
Two more things that I want to leave you with that actually tie together if you stick with me. First, I mentioned that the Hebrew word for sign was ote. I used as reference Deuteronomy 6:8. The Greek word which is equivalent here is semeion and is used in the Septuagint. This word studied out means, "that by which a person or a thing is distinguished from others and is known." God's people should be a strange or peculiar people. Now, in Matthew 24:30 we read, "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." The same Greek word is used here for sign: semeion. Yeshua is the strong SIGN of His Father. He bears the "sign of the covenant".
Let me explain! I mentioned the two verses in Ezekiel where the word "mark" was put upon the foreheads of the obedient people of God. The Hebrew word here used is tav. The tav is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet (ת) and it has the pictorial representation of a "mark" or "mark of the covenant". Many times it is drawn as a cross. This mark/seal of the covenant is put involuntarily upon the obedient people of God. The Hebrew word for sign, ote begins with an aleph and ends with a tav (אות).
Yeshua stated that He was the "Alpha and Omega". That is what it says in the English but that is not what He would have said. He would have spoken in Hebrew that He was the "Aleph and the Tav". This is the first and last letters of the Hebrew Alphabet. In Hebrew the aleph (א) is pictured as an ox, and the tav (ת) as a cross or mark. Hence, Yeshua is the strong sign of YHWH. Yeshua stated He was the Aleph and the Tav (את), the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:13). This is a direct reference to Isaiah 41:4, 44:6 and 48:12 where Adonai declares Himself to be these things and there is "no other god beside Him". Yeshua claimed He was the one to whom these scripture references belonged.
In Genesis 1:1 we find in the Hebrew an untranslatable word which is "ET" or in Hebrew aleph tav (את). Yeshua is the direct object of the created universe. He is the beginning and the end. As the Apostle John said, "in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God", the Aleph Tav. Also, the Hebrew word for truth is emet (אמת) which also begins and ends with the aleph tav (את). This is not a coincidence for the Aleph Tav is truth and Yeshua was the Word made flesh and the word proclaims in Psalm 119:142:
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law (Torah in Hebrew) is truth (אמת).
Yeshua represented and bore the mark/covenant of His Father and was the Word made flesh. His return will usher in a kingdom where all will obey the teachings and instructions of His Father (see Isaiah and Micah chapter 2). So, when it states in Deuteronomy 6:8, "You shall bind them as a SIGN on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes", we have here the SIGN of the covenant being marked on the people of God. A mark placed by God that they are covenant keepers and they practice the visible signs that distinguish them as a called out people.
Forget about the mark of the beast. Focus on the revealing of Yeshua and His set-apart, marked, children who are about to enter His Kingdom.
I could go on and on but I will stop here. I think there is going to be a part two - so stay tuned!
I hope this article has shed some light on the Jewishness of Jesus, His first century disciples and the writings of the New Testament.
All Scripture is from the NKJV