Closely Related:
- What is the Difference between the Marks of the Beast and Lamb?

Apart from "obeying God", or "salvation", etc... Is there anything in the texts to indicate that a person actually has a choice whether to knowingly accept the "Mark of the Beast" or not?

In other words, is this "mark" spiritual or literal? Are the texts indicating that people would actually "go and get a mark"?

According to Ezekiel and Revelation, Is the "Mark of the Lamb" Voluntary or Election?

NKJV, Ezekiel 9:4 - 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.”

NASB, Revelation 7:3 - saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”

And if not, then is the Mark of the Beast Voluntary?

NIV, Revelation 13:16 - 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,

And perhaps a contradiction seeming to show a choice:

NASB, Revelation 20:4 - Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Note: I "Cherry Picked" the NASB and NIV translations to more clearly show the issue.

4 Answers 4



The expression "καὶ ποιεῖ πάντας"(it causeth all-TR 1550) carries the intent that rather than a "voluntary act of will" on the part of the recipient, the "It"(False Prophet-in a neutral gender) makes everyone marked. The 'mark' is Figurative, since the "False Prophet" is figurative, and the descriptions of the "Beast" and "False Prophet" don't convey meanings that can actually be seen in natural(grammatical/historical) settings. A "Beast" which has 2 horns like a dragon, and speaks like a lamb does not correlate to an animal found in nature, any more than a "Beast" with 7 Heads and 10 Horns.

The "causeth" however, is not instantaneous, like some rubber stamp assembly line; rather it appears over a period of time. Since there is no reference as to how 'long' the False Prophet "causeth", there is no indication of when exactly it appears. Therefore, one can reasonably state: The False Prophet will mark everyone.

What is clear from the text is that everyone who "receives" the mark experiences the Judgment of God. Rev. 14:9-11 says,

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, 10The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: 11And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.(KJV)

This indicates that there is a "Voluntary Reception" of the mark, and voluntary worship of the Beast; which may cause the individual to be killed, yet preserve their soul for all eternity in Heaven. Those that don't receive the Beast's mark receive the Father's mark,(Rev. 14:1)

And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.

The "Father's Name", written on their foreheads is what triumphs over the "Beast's name" written on the foreheads of those who worship him.

Therefore, in conclusion, everyone is "given" a mark by the False Prophet, this is mandatory. However, everyone is given the opportunity to refuse that mark, and instead, receive the mark of the Father's Name. This is voluntary, it comes at great cost, and yet the reward far surpasses the price paid for it.

  • Great Answer. Thank you. You raised another issue of who is giving the actual mark, but I suppose that would be for another question. Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 16:43
  • @elikakohen I believe I've answered that question in previous posts; but if you should post another question, I would be happy to respond.
    – Tau
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 16:47
  • @elikakohen Here's a response to your questionhttps://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/21314/2479 : I can elaborate in detail, providing the 'right question' is asked.
    – Tau
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 16:55
  • @elikakohen Here is a link hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/21314/2479
    – Tau
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 16:59

God used a "mark" to literally identify Cain in Gen. 4:15 so that no one would seek vengeance for the death of Abel. But, most of the time the word "mark" was a term / idiom which meant to "take note" of certain places or certain people.

Ruth 3:4, Naomi's instructions to Ruth,

"And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie..." (KJV)

1 Kings 20:7,

"Then the king of Israel called all the elders of the land, and said, Mark, I pray you, and see how this man seeketh mischief:..." (KJV)

Or, in many cases it meant a target as in Job 16:12,

"I was at ease, but he hath broken me asunder: he hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark." (KJV)

Psa. 37:37 expresses the better meaning as it us used in Revelation.

"Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace." (KJV)

The sense is to take notice of the behavior of that man of peace, or to take notice of the sin against God as in Jeremiah chap. 2.

Jer. 2:22,

"For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD." (KJV)

Rom. 16:17,

"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions..." (KJV)

In Revelation, as in Ezekiel it was not a literal "mark" upon their foreheads. The Greek word is "χάραγμα" or "charagma", and is Strong's 5480 defined as a "sculpture" as in a stamp, engraving, or a sign. It was a "brand" mark that was impressed in a coin or a seal or a die-stamp.

Excerpt from Barnes' Notes on the Bible,

"Applied to people, it was used to denote some stamp or mark on the hand or elsewhere - as in the case of a servant on whose hand or arm the name of the master was impressed; or of a soldier on whom some mark was impressed denoting the company or phalanx to which he belonged. It was no uncommon thing to mark slaves or soldiers in this way; and the design was either to denote their ownership or rank, or to prevent their escaping so as not to be detected." Source: here

Having the "mark" or brand of the beast was a literary device in Revelation that represented a common practice of branding slaves with their owners "mark" or "seal". The intent in Revelation was that those who chose to follow the "beast" were branded spiritually by their behavior and worship of the beast.

As opposed to those who chose voluntarily to follow Christ. The believers / disciples of Christ were "sealed" by God who "marked" them as belonging to Him.

The mark of the beast in Revelation is a representation of those who chose to worship the "god" that was demanding such worship of all his subjects /citizens whom he ruled.... Caesar. In the first century A.D. the beast of the sea was the emperor of Rome who declared himself to be a god, and/ or the son of god.

The "sea" in Revelation was the representation of all of the heathen nations that surrounded the "earth" or the land of Judea and Palestine where the remnant of Israel lived. The beast of the land in Rev. 13:11 was the oppressive ruling authority over the Judeans, namely the Sanhedrin - the Sadducees and Pharisees.

We can find an example of that beast of the old Roman empire in any ruling authority that oppresses the people in any generation. Beasts in nature are those animals that prey upon the young and the weak. God used that term to indicate evil rulers that preyed upon the weaker people of their land.

In the Messianic prophesy of Ezekiel c. 34, God compared the wicked "shepherds" who were oppressing His people - the flock - His sheep,

Ezek. 34:22,

" Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle." (KJV)

and then compares the evil shepherds to the wild beasts in verse 25,

"And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land:..." (KJV)

So, any ruling authority or government which does not judge righteously and which oppresses the people is in God's eyes as a wild beast preying upon and devouring the weak. We can certainly see examples of these wild beasts all around us today. But, the beast of the sea in Revelation was the old Roman empire. And, those that willingly bowed down to Caesar were marked by God just as surely as if they were literally branded.

They were certainly threatened and coerced for fear of their lives and livelihood, but they made the choice. It was a voluntary decision whether to follow Christ or to bow down to Caesar. And, we have that same choice today.

I have more scriptural evidences of the beasts of Revelation in the post "The Signs of Revelation - Part V: The Animal Symbols of the Battle" at my blog here.

  • Gina, +1 for pointing out Cain's "Mark". You said: "In Revelation, as in Ezekiel it was not a literal 'mark' upon their foreheads. The Greek word is 'χάραγμα' or 'charagma'"; but, the Septuagint of: Genesis 4:15, "σημεῖον"; Ezekiel 9:4, 'σημεῖον"; Revelation 7:3, "σφραγίσωμεν". Setting that aside, there is a lot of opinion here about who/what the beast is - but I am not sure how that is about this question. Does identifying "the beast" entail whether the mark is "literal" or "spiritual" - and if so, how do they relate? Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 15:38
  • Your question included asking if they had to go get the mark of the beast, which would seem to infer a need to identify the beast(s). And, these are not opinions. They actually verifiable and substantiated from many scholars. The speculations and opinions are from those who wish to make a new prophesy of a futuristic paradigm which is not intended. The word "revelation" means to reveal, not to keep hidden. Christ revealed to those in the first century A.D. who knew what He spoke of. Many posts at my site detail these, as there are many other sources.
    – Gina
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 22:29
  • Gen. 4:15 in Hebrew is "אוֹת" or "oth" for sign. Ezek. 9:4 in Hebrew is " תָּ֫וִי " or "tav" and means a signature mark, or sign. The Greek of Rev. 7:3 which you have shown means "we shall have sealed". In each instance it was God, or the appointed angel of God who was doing the marking / sealing. Man was not making the mark or the sign.
    – Gina
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 22:37

The interpretation of such controversial passages, I guess, should start from establishing of a general theological-philosophical principle and then pass to the very interpretation. Thus, the principle of interpretation should be not the Biblical text's letter, "which kills" (2 Cor. 3:6), but the Spirit which "gives life" and which has inspired the Bible.

Now, the general principle is that nobody can be hypnotized and coerced in such a way as to do a good deed in a stage of a hypnosis, be it human-inflicted, divinely-inflicted or beastly-inflicted hypnosis, for then it would not be a good deed, which per definition, analytically so to say, implies a free deliberation. By the same token, nobody can be, in a radical and absolute way, be hypnotized to do a bad deed, for in this case this would not be a bad deed in a true sense, for "bad deed" entails a degree of freedom and responsibility for it, whereas a hypnosis whether human-inflicted, divinely-inflicted or demonically-inflicted excludes the responsibility (if only the pre-hypnosis responsibility of not getting hypnotized, but then again: nobody can hypnotize somebody to get hypnotized and so ad infinitum).

Now, taken this general principle one can safely interpret such difficulties. When, for example, the Bible says that "Lord hardened the pharaoh's heart" (Exodus 9:12), it is altogether wrong even to suppose that the all-benevolent Lord specially hardened the pharaoh's heart so as to destroy him, because the feature of "all-benevolence" and "all-goodness" simply excludes such an action from the Lord, who not only would not do such a thing, but simply would be absolutely unable to do such thing, for to harden one's heart is evil and the Lord cannot be a cause of evil ontologically.

Thus, according to St. John Chrysostom, such an expression simply means that the Lord allowed the pharaoh to act in an evil way, not interfering in his freedom to do so. And there is an a b s o l u t e distinction between Lord allowing evil and Lord causing evil: the first has to do with the horrible reality of human freedom, which the Lord so much respects that does not interfere into it unless by "pinching" one's conscience, but if human does not wish to hearken to this "pinching", then he is given to his evil ways and the Lord does not coerce him in any outward fashion, like the Lord Jesus did not stop Judas in any outward fashion when He failed to stop him by "pinching" the strayed disciple's conscience several times.

The same stands with the metaphor of the "mark of the beast". The best interpretation of this mark on a forehead and a right hand is that the carrier of this mark will not keep God and love towards Him either in his/her thoughts ("forehead") or in his/her deeds ("right hand"). But this is his/her fault and not God's or entirely the beast's. Yes, evil power can coerce good persons, but this coercion is not absolute. As during persecutions of Christians the Roman authorities coerced Christians to denounce faith and many of them apostatized, but there were others who did not; as the apostasy was not totally a responsibility of the oppressors, so the glorious martyrdom was not totally a grace of the Lord but also the merit of a courageous initiative of the martyrs.

To conclude, "the mark of the beast" is a metaphor of apostasy, of compliance with evil and it cannot be totally exempt from human responsibility, and therefore, those who receive this mark are responsible, whereas those who refrain from receiving it are praiseworthy, for there is a space of freedom and personal responsibility in both instances.

  • Levan - + 1 for the indirect connection between: "The best interpretation ... forehead and a right hand ... keep God ... in his/her thoughts ("forehead") or in his/her deeds ("right hand")," and "tefillin". I know you didn't explicitly say this, but the "dots" are there, nevertheless. One objection - "An All Benevolent God" doesn't preclude a "Just God". It's consistent for God to judge Pharaoh according to his own judgments, (hardening the hearts and removing free will of those that take free will from others). So, the rest of the argument does not necessarily follow. Thanks! Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 0:26
  • Thanks dear Elka for your comments and the positive estimation. As to the problem with God's justice and mercifulness, I opt with that theology, which insists that even in exerting justice, God remains merciful towards such a one. When Israel strays from God, He punishes His people, but not out of hatred or callous justice, but out of love that they may return to His embrace more seriously and committedly. There is not and cannot be a special intentional action on God's part to make somebody sin for some greater good reason; God is not like Hegel's Absolute Spirit to go to such tricks. Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 4:20
  • Levan - I completely understand the argument. However, the texts say that "God will be merciful to those who show mercy", and that "justice will be merciless to those that show no mercy", and that "God will judge people according to their own judgments, (condemnations)". But, I understand why people opt for the opposing doctrine. Anyhoo. I hope you find more references about "hand/head" ... It would be great to see where else you go with that symbolism, (that disagreement is immaterial to your first and strongest point, I think). Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 4:36
  • As a direct reference, for instance, St. Augustine says in the "City of God" (B. XX, ch. 9) that the mark on forehead and hand means abandoning God in two ways: "In the forehead by way of profession; in the hand with respect to work and service". Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 8:20
  • About God's mercy and mercilessness: God's very nature is mercifulness and He just cannot have two activities a) merciful and b) cruel; but only the first. Simply, the "mercilessness" is to be understood figuratively: when e.g. Frank does not forgive Bob, Frank perceives as a painful contrast that God forgives him (Frank), but because he continues to be merciless towards Bob, his conscience cannot receive and enjoy God's forgiveness, for the condition is Frank's forgiving Bob. Thus, "God is merciless" simply means that Frank's conscience does not allow himself accepting His infinite mercy. Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 8:30


Taking the premise that the scripture is required to explain scripture (otherwise, its just speculation), when Revelation 13 is broken down into its parts, the answer becomes evident that we all have a choice and based on what we choose will determine whether we receive the mark of the beast or the seal of God.

  1. 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:
  2. 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.
  3. 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 13:16-18

  1. Right Hand: signifies the power you have to carry out your will. The things you do through your strength or your ability to get it done through other means. (Exodus 6:1, Genesis 31:29, Exodus 15:6, Deuteronomy 11:18-19, Psalm 77:10-12)
  2. Forehead: represents the things we hold in our minds (hearts) and the principles we live our lives by. This we speak and the things in our hearts and our minds. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19, Deuteronomy 6:6-8, Exodus 13:9, Luke 6:45, Matthew 19:17)
  3. Name: To have the name of someone or something is to be under the authority or identity of that person or thing. (John 12:49, John 5:43, John 14:8-9, 1 Samuel 25:5, 2 Chronicles 2:1)
  4. Number (666): Represents Solomon and the actions he took by breaking the commands of God and succumbing to the lust for money and the things of this world. (1 Kings 10:14, Matthew 12:42)
  5. Buy or Sell: This is equivalent to the etymological definition of the word trade. Trade signifies occupation or the ability to generate and income--make money. Not being able to buy or sell, denied income, is a punishment of the Beast.

To worship is to do the commands of the thing you worship. To worship the BEAST, which is a kingdom (highlighted in Daniel 2:31-45, Daniel 2:39, Daniel 7:3, Daniel 7:23), is to follow the commands and practices of that kingdom. To worship God is to do the commands and requirements of God. Serving God with all your heart, soul and mind is a choice.

It is clear that keeping the instructions is a choice. Either serve this kingdom on earth or the kingdom of God

This answer cannot do justice to this topic, so I would recommend some excellent resources for those looking for the truth—God.

A more in-depth explanation can be found on this topic on this website or in this book. Both hold the same premise that scriptures must be used to explain scriptures rather than speculation or fanciful incantations based on secular wild ideas.

  1. The mark of the beast: dispelling the lies and escaping the mark - Kindle, Paperback, Hardback
  2. The mark of the beast series - Main Points

The book has some extra details, but you get the point either way.

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