Mark of the Beast

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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, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. (Rev 13:16,17)

Do you know the first question I am asked by the majority of people who find out our kids don’t have social security numbers?  They want to know how our kids are going to get a job, drive a car, and otherwise function in society as we know it.

I was thinking about this the other day as I was talking with a friend of mine about the mark of the beast.  I think it’s highly unlikely that a future president/ruler is going to stand up some day and proclaim:

“We are now requiring the Mark of the Beast to be worn by every citizen!  Please report to the nearest Antichrist Station for your 666 tattoo!”

No, people will receive the mark (in whatever form it takes) because it seems harmless, is accepted by society at large, and they feel they have no other choice.  If it’s true that we won’t be able to buy or sell without having the mark, then it stands to reason that most of the world will receive it blindly because that’s what society tells them they must do.  And if functioning in society is a person’s main concern, they’re not likely to resist or even consider resisting, just as most people have never even considered not giving their children social security numbers.  (It’s telling that the reasons people question us [sometimes harshly] regarding our kids not having SS#’s are the exact same reasons people will “need” to receive the mark of the beast.)  And while I’m not equating social security numbers with the mark of the beast, the conclusion is exactly the same, and it’s a frightening one.  We allow ourselves and our children to participate in the social security system without a second thought because it’s the only way we know how to function in society.  An alternative is not even considered, the assumption is that there is no other option.  And maybe there isn’t, if we want our children to be able to drive cars or get a typical mainstream job or buy a house on credit.  But is that the only way for our children to live a happy, productive life? If we believe that it is, it’s not surprising that the bible tells us the majority of the world – Christians included – will line up to receive their mark. 

Today I read a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Ben Hewitt.  In response to an article by Rebecca Solnit called “Abolish High School” in which she asks why children should be “confined to institutions in which [bullying and high suicide rates] are so common,” he writes:

“Because their parents can’t imagine something different. Part of the reason they can’t imagine something different is because they can’t afford to imagine something different. And partly, it’s because they’re afraid to imagine something different – in my experience, that fear is oriented primarily around their children’s social and economic prospects. In short, they worry that if they don’t send their kids to school, their kids will become outcasts with few prospects for gainful employment….  They are not aware there are other paths to walk.

…When people read interviews with me and criticize what I have to say about education, I often wonder what they see in the institutionalized school system that is so worthy an alternative. Are they thinking of the 72% of children who aren’t bullied? I mean, hey, that’s a majority! Nice work. But what of the bullies themselves, if one can be so compassionate as to think of them? I’ve known a few bullies in my life; I even know one or two now. None of them seem very happy to me.

Or are they thinking of the economic opportunities they presume unschooled children won’t have? They are, or at least they say they are, and in a way, this makes me saddest of all, because it suggests that a child’s education should first and foremost be subservient to their economic interests….

Still, sometimes I wonder if the reasons stated for their opposition run even deeper. As Solnit writes, school has become a definitive part of the American experience. It is apple pie, it is Fourth of July, it is part and parcel of our faith that the story we’ve all grown up inside, the story we are all – to varying degrees and by varying levels of complicity -invested in is the right story.

Therein lies the crux of the matter.  How many of us have never even considered whether or not we ought to be homeschooling (or giving our kids SS numbers or sending our kids to public school or letting them eat liver and onion sandwiches? [You definitely should NOT be letting them eat liver and onion sandwiches.  Gross.])  How many of us don’t even entertain these questions because it would cause too much angst, or work, cost too much money, or set us apart from our peers too much (or, or, or.)  (And I’m not saying our family is immune to any of this, because I know there are things we haven’t considered.  In fact, to my shame, there are things on the table right now that everything in me is resisting looking too carefully at.)

But isn’t this the very definition of setting our minds on worldly things, which the Bible clearly tells us (over and over again) not to do?  In light of this, it’s not hard to see how many will be deceived.

One of my favorite people, George Muller, was once questioned by a few Christian women about his beliefs regarding believers baptism.  He replied that sinced he’d already been baptised as a child, he saw no reason to be baptized as an adult.  In response, the women asked him if he’d ever prayerfully searched God’s word on the matter and he confessed that he hadn’t.  Upon hearing this, one of the sisters said frankly “I entreat you, then, never again to speak any more about it till you have done so.”  Here is how Muller responded:

He therefore determined to study the subject until he should reach a final, satisfactory, and scriptural conclusion; and thenceforth, whether led to defend infant baptism or believer’s baptism, to do it only on Scriptural grounds.

The mode of study which he followed was characteristically simple, thorough, and business-like, and was always pursued afterward. He first sought from God the Spirit’s teaching that his eyes might be opened to the Word’s witness, and his mind illumined; then he set about a systematic examination of the New testament from beginning to end. So far as possible he sought absolutely to rid himself of all bias of previous opinion or practice, prepossession or prejudice; he prayed and endeavored to be free from the influence of human tradition, popular custom, and churchly sanction, or that more subtle hindrance, personal pride in his own consistency. He was humble enough to be willing to retract any erroneous teaching and renounce any false position, and to espouse that wise maxim: ‘ Don’t be consistent, but simply be true.’ Whatever may have been the case with others who claim to have examined the same question for themselves, the result in his case was that he came to the conclusion, and, as he believed, from the word of God and the Spirit of God, that none but believer’s are the proper subject of baptism, and that only immersion is its proper mode.

…Years after, in reviewing his course, he records the solemn conviction that ‘of all revealed truths, not one is more clearly revealed in the Scriptures – not even the doctrine of justification by faith – and that the subject has only become obscured by men not having been willing to take the Scriptures alone to decide the point.‘”

George Muller of Bristol, His Life of Prayer and Faith” by A. T. Pierson

I believe we should follow his example.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)

 

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