Greg Laurie - What Is The Mark of the Beast?
So, I went to the market the other day, and I bought a few groceries; and as I was leaving, they had a nice little flower section. And I was looking around at different flowers. And I usually get my wife orchids. She favors those. But then I saw something I rarely see. They had tulips. In fact, these are the tulips I bought for her. And I thought, "Wow, those are beautiful". So, I paid for them, and they cost a little more than I thought they should, but they were so impressive, I thought, "I've gotta give her these tulips". And as I'm walking to my car, I'm looking at them, saying, "What a marvel of God's creation. They're so perfect. They almost look fake. I can't believe these things".
So, I get home, and I put them in this little jar here, and I put some water in it, and I wanted to cut the stems, you know. And so, I get a knife out, and they're not cutting. I get a more stronger knife out, still not cutting. I thought, "Wow, I didn't know tulips had stems that were so tough". So, Cathe comes home a little later, and I said, "I got you some tulips". And so, then she went to cut the stems, and she said, "Greg, these tulips you bought me are fake". I bought my wife fake tulips. So, I have a real tulip here for comparison. But, boy, they do look a lot like the real one. So, this is a real tulip here, and this is a fake tulip. The white one is real. The green one is fake. But look how close they are. I don't know that you could really tell the difference, if you didn't know better.
Okay, so why are we talking about flowers? You're asking. I have no idea. I just wanted to tell you that story. No, seriously. There is coming a world leader on the scene who's going to be, for lack of a better description, a fake Christ, a phony Jesus. He's called the antichrist. Jesus said in the last days there will come those that will say, "I am Christ," and that's exactly what this man will do, but he's a pretender. And we all know his number, don't we? It's 666. More people probably know that number from the Bible than John 3:16, which says, "For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten Son, and whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life". But we don't know that, but we know 666. We get nervous about that number. And if it's in your Social Security number, maybe you want to change it. If they give you a new phone number, and it has 666, I don't know if I want that number. We know that number is connected to evil. We know that it points to something ominous and indeed it does.
The Bible teaches that there is coming this charismatic world leader, the antichrist, who will introduce a cashless society, requiring everyone to take a mark. No one will be able to buy or sell or engage in any kind of commerce without the mark of the beast. And by the way, this may be one of the most intriguing issues in all of the Bible. There's been more speculation, more sensationalism, more silliness about this topic than any of the other last days events. Now, maybe ten years ago, if I was teaching on this, I would illustrate with some things I read in the news about how close we are to this mark, but I don't even need to do that anymore, do I? We all know that the tech is pretty much here where we could be identified by a mark. We read of microchips being implanted in pets and now in some cases even in humans. I just saw a video for a well-known website where they're saying you don't need a wallet anymore. You can just can your hand or wave your hand and make your purchase.
I hear that Elon Musk, the creator of Tesla and SpaceX, has implanted a little chip into the brain of a chimpanzee. And I saw a chimpanzee playing a video game with this artificial intelligence added. So, clearly, we can see this tech is already here. Think about this. The Bible predicted this technology that the antichrist will harness and use for evil purposes 2000 years ago. John is on an island in the middle of nowhere, and the Lord gives to him what we call The Revelation, which is the unveiling of the eternal, the unveiling of the future. At this time, there were no computers, or tablets, or smart phones. This was the age of spears, and stones, and wood. This was incredible that John would have this kind of insight. And by the way, that's why you can believe the Bible. It's the one book that dares to predict the future. Not once, not twice, but hundreds of times with 100% accuracy. Okay, so let's read that passage. That refers to the mark of the beast.
Revelation 13, verse 16 says, "He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and no one can buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666". So, God has predicted the future, hasn't he? And by the way, that's not risky for the Lord. It wouldn't be any more risky for God to predict the future than for you to tell me what you had for dinner last night. I hope you can remember what you had. And so, when the Lord speaks of the future, it's easy. Why? Because God lives in the eternal realm. So, everything is in a continuum to him. So, when he says this will happen, he knows it will happen exactly as he says it will. I love this passage, Isaiah 46, verse 9. The Lord says, "Do not forget the things that I've done through history, for I am God. I alone, I am God, and there is no one else like me. Only I can tell you what is going to happen before it happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish".
How true is that? So, the Lord has told us this is coming. We know it will, but we don't know when it will happen exactly. You know, there's a lot of speculations and I mentioned recently, conspiracy theories that people come up with about the antichrist, trying to identify him, which is a bad idea, and it's futile, and trying to figure out what the mark of the beast might be. Now because of the coronavirus, we have the vaccines that are available to the public. And on more than one occasion, I've read articles about is the vaccine the mark of the beast? If you take the vaccine, are you indeed taking the mark of the beast?
So, I'm going to answer that right now, to the best of my ability. The answer is no. It is not the mark of the beast. No one's going to take the mark of the beast accidentally; because, in fact, as we study Scripture, we realize it's not just taking the mark on your right hand or forehead. It's a pledge of allegiance to the antichrist himself. No one is going to take it by accident. And by the way, the antichrist will not be revealed until the rapture of the church. So, if you know who the antichrist is and you think you know what the mark of the beast is, congratulations. You missed the rapture. Now, I'm being factitious, of course, because we don't know.
So, the point is it's pointless to try to identify antichrist or even the mark that he will use. Let me summarize. The mark of the beast is future, not past or even present, yet. The mark is a visible literal brand of sorts. The mark will be given as a sign of devotion to antichrist and as a passport to commerce. And here's the thing. You'll know it when you're getting it. There's even an angel that is going to fly through the heavens warning people to not take the mark. So, no one's gonna do it, again, by accident.
So, don't freak out if you go to Disneyland and they put a stamp on your right hand. It's okay. You have not taken the mark of the beast. But when this mark is employed during the great tribulation period, that lasts for seven years. There's gonna be a one world government, a new global economy ruled by one man. You'll have a choice during the tribulation period. You can either take the mark and worship the antichrist or starve. Basically, no mark, no merchandise. No seal, no sale. One thing is clear. We've never been closer to the Lord's return than we are at this moment.
Now we shift gears from Revelation 13 to Revelation 14. We go from horrific things happening on planet Earth to some amazing things happening up in heaven. So, look at your Bible again. Revelation 14, starting in verse 1, John writes, "Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him a hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps, and they sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. These are ones who have not defiled themselves with women, for they're virgins. They are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They've been redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, and they're without fault before the throne of God".
So, 144.000. Remember them? We read about them earlier in the book of Revelation, and God had protected them in Revelation chapter 7. Wherever they went, God watched over them, and they're proclaiming the gospel. Who are the 144.000? They're Jewish people who have put their faith in Jesus as their Messiah. But now we see they're not on earth. They're in heaven. Notice, it's not 143.999 that made it to heaven. No, all 144.000 make it to glory. And that reminds us of the statement of Jesus in John 18:9, "Of those whom you have given me, I have not lost one". Now, as we wrap this message up, here are four takeaway truths about the 144.000 that apply to you. Remember, these are mere mortals. They're not angelic beings. They're not superheroes. They're people who've been called by God. And these principles that are true of them can also be true of every follower of Jesus Christ.
Number one, they have the mark of the Father in heaven, not the mark of the antichrist. So, all marks are not bad. Revelation 14:1, "Having his Father's name written on their foreheads". The Father's name. You know, you have a choice as to who your Father will be. You can either make God your Father, or you can be, as Jesus said, "of your father the devil". So, we have an ID tag on us. God can read it, and the devil can read it. And when he sees that ID tag, he has to back off, because you are God's property, and the Lord will protect his investment.
Number two, another thing about the 144.000, they sing a new song. I love this. They sing a new song. Do you have a new song in your life? Look at Revelation 14 again. "And I heard the voice of loud thunder and the voice and sound of harpists playing their harps, and they sang, as it were, a new song before the Lord". Now, a harp is a beautiful instrument, is it not? So majestic. And, of course, we think of it as heavenly, because we read of harps in heaven. But remember, a harp is a stringed instrument. So, we could just as easily say they played their electric guitars, or the ukuleles, or their mandolins, or whatever it is. But these stringed instruments are being used to bring glory and honor to God. But listen to this. Every believer has a new song. Over in Psalm 40, verse 2, the psalmist writes, "He lifted me out of a pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire, and he has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be astounded, and many will put their trust in the Lord".
See, when you come to Jesus, you're given a new song. You have a story to tell because God has lifted you and me and all of us out of a pit of despair. When's the last time you told someone your story or sang your song? Now, I'm not suggesting you have to literally sing to people. Jesus came into my life, and he can come into yours, too. No, not like that. But the idea is tell your story. When's the last time you told your story about what Christ has done for you to someone who doesn't know the Lord yet. It's a beautiful thing. Sharing your faith is life-giving. It actually replenishes you, as you do so. Listen, when you draw people to Christ, you yourself will be drawn to Christ. When we make him known to others, we effectively know him better. I can make, on telling my story to someone, and I'm remembering all that God has done for me, and it encourages me, as I'm sharing it with them. These folks have a new song.
Number three, the 144.000 are sincere in their faith. They're sincere in their faith. Look at Revelation 14:5. "And in their mouth there was no deceit. They're without fault before the throne of God". This word "deceit" speaks of hypocrisy. There's no hypocrisy. There's no double standard. And sometimes people like to put on an act and appear to be something they are not. And the technical definition of hypocrite in the Bible is the same word that is used for actor, an actor. So, who is an actor? It's someone that plays a part. They learn the lines. They get their makeup on. They go to their spot, and they act. And that's what some people are doing. They're in the church. They've got the props, the Bible, and they have the verbiage down, but they're actors. They're fakers. They're phonies. They're not real. I think sometimes we misunderstand what hypocrisy is. We might see a Christian lose their temper and scream, and you'll point an accusing finger at them and say, "You hypocrite". And even the way you say it, it's like, "You hypocrite," almost like people are enjoying it. Hypocrite.
Now, just because a Christian loses their temper, or does something else that's wrong like that, it doesn't mean they're a hypocrite. It might just mean they're human. I'm not excusing it. I'm saying we're gonna sin, as Christians. The Bible says if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourself, and the truth is not in us. But that's not hypocrisy. That's just messing up. That's just sinning. Hypocrisy is when I put on an act and appear to be pious when I'm not really even a follower of Jesus at all. Listen to this. Hypocrites are the ones who find fault in others, but never themselves. Let me say that again. Hypocrites are the ones who find faults in others, never themselves. So, the hypocrites are often the most judgmental, critical people of all. The Apostle Paul feared being a hypocrite and being disqualified. And he spoke of it in 1 Corinthians 9:27 when he said, "I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should do; otherwise, when I preach to others, I myself would be disqualified".
We're almost done, one last point. The 144.000 follow the Lamb wherever he goes. Look at verse 4. They follow the Lamb. We should do that each and every day. We've all been called to follow the Lamb or follow Jesus. Jesus said, "If any man come after me, let him deny himself and take up the cross and follow me. For whoever will seek to save his life will lose it, and if you lose your life for my sake, you'll find it". I think sometimes people feel, "Oh, if I follow Jesus, I'm going to give up all my fun, and all of my dreams, and aspirations and just live this miserable life". That's the opposite of what is true. What did Jesus say? "Deny yourself, take up your cross". Yes, but then he said, "But if you seek to save your life, you'll lose it. But listen, if you lose your life, you'll find it". What this means is I say, "God, I want your will above my will. I want your plans over my plans," and you'll come to discover God's plans for you are better than your plans for yourself, and you'll see how much he loves you as those plans unfold.
Listen, following Jesus is something we do each and every day. He's not Sunday Jesus. He's Monday Jesus, Tuesday Jesus, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Jesus. You followed him each and every day. And the phrase that Jesus uses to Matthew to follow him means, "Follow with me". Or to put it another way, "Let's walk together". Walking with God, not dragging God where I want God to go, but getting in sync with God, discovering the will of God, seeking to pray according to the will of God, and you can start doing that right now; and when you do, you'll find the life you're looking for. And listen to this. If you know Jesus now, he will know you then. If you say yes to Jesus now, he'll say, "Enter into my kingdom then". But if you say, "I don't want Jesus now," then he'll say, "Depart from me, I never knew you," then. Question, "Who are you following? Antichrist or Jesus Christ? Immanuel or Jezebel? God or Satan"?
You say, "Well, I'm not following Satan, but I'm not following Jesus". Okay, you're following your father, who is evil, the evil one, the devil, if you're not following Jesus. Listen to this. Jesus said, "You're for me or against me". I told you I became a Christian when I was 17 years old. I lived this crazy life with my mother. I ended up getting into drugs myself for maybe a little over a year. I was drinking and partying and doing all these things I never wanted to do, and I was empty, and I was searching. And I came upon this group of Christians on my high school campus, who were having a Bible study and singing songs about the Lord, and I sat down close enough to sort of eavesdrop on their conversation, but not so close that my other friends, so-called, would think I'd joined up with the Jesus freaks. And I watched them sing their songs. I saw the smiles on their faces. I remember thinking, "These poor deluded people, look at them, they're nuts".
But then I tried a new thought on for size, which was, "What if they're right? What if they've found the truth"? I thought, "Oh, no, that's not possible". I quickly dismissed it, and I returned to it. "What if it's all true"? And then a guy got up to speak. His name was Lonnie. I don't remember most of his message, but I remember one statement, when he said, Jesus said, "You're for me or you're against me". Now, I was not an atheist. Whenever I was in trouble, I called on Jesus. But this was the first time I heard that I was either for or against Jesus. And I looked at those Christians, and I thought, "Well, I'm not one of them. Does that mean I'm against Christ"? And that was the day I gave my life to Jesus. Let me close by saying this. You are for or against Jesus. This is an either/or proposition.