EDITOR, The Tribune.
The following is my exposition of Revelation 13 and the dreaded mark of the beast, which many Bahamians have wrongly assumed to be the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. This faulty conclusion is due to them disregarding the time text indicators in the opening and closing sections of the Apocalypse (Revelation 1:1,3; 22:20).
In Revelation 13, John, while on Patmos, sees a seven headed composite beast emerge from out of the sea, of which Bible interpreters from the Futurist, Historicist and Preterist schools of thought believe to be the Mediterranean Sea. The beast had subsumed elements of the first three beasts of Daniel 7:4-6, which symbolizes Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece. Based on my Partial-Preterist understanding of Revelation, the beast, specifically speaking, is none other than Nero Caesar, while generally speaking, is the first century Roman Empire. The cryptic number 666 is the numerical value of Nero’s name. With the mention of the Herodian temple in chapter 11 of Revelation, one can then deduce that the Apocalypse was composed prior to AD 70, notwithstanding the late first century date allegedly postulated by Patristic father Irenaeus in his Against Heresies. The ancient writers Tacitus, Clement of Rome, Suetonius and Apollonius of Tyana mentioned Nero’s vile character and his state-sponsored persecution of Christians, which coincidentally, lasted for approximately three and a half years or 42 months, from November, AD 64 to June, AD 68 (Revelation 13:5).
The seven heads on the beast represents the first seven Caesars: Julius Caesar, Augustus (Octavian), Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero and Galba. The ten horns represent the ten imperial provinces of the Roman Empire. In Revelation 13:3, the wounded head that was healed miraculously is interpreted as the suicide of Nero in AD 68 and the subsequent bloody civil war involving Vespasian, Galba, Otho and Vitellius for the empire – known as the Year of the Four Emperors. With the Flavian dynasty under Vespasian wresting control of the empire, stability was restored. The revivification of Rome under Vespasian is the fulfilment of the prediction of the healing of the wounded head. As for the second beast with the two lamb horns of Revelation 13:11-18, it symbolises apostate Jewry, and in all probability, the Sanhedrin that lobbied Pontius Pilate for the execution of Jesus Christ. As for the mark of the beast, it is no more a literal mark or tattoo than the seal that was placed on the 144,000 of Revelation 7 and 14. Whereas the seal symbolises the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14, 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22), the mark is seen as a mimicking of this seal and a parody of the law of God in Deuteronomy 6:6-8. In the New Testament Greek, the word for mark is charagma, which means a tattoo. In biblical times, slaves and livestock were tattooed. Consequently, the technology existed in John’s day, 2,000 years ago, for the mark of the beast. The imperial cult of emperor worship was particularly strong in Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17), in which the church faced immense persecution for its refusal to worship Caesar (i.e., taking the mark of the beast). Failure to do so would result in not only physical harm and death, but also economic deprivation. Students of church history would be familiar with the volume titled The Martyrdom of Polycarp, in which the aged Patristic father was executed for refusing to say Caesar is Lord.
John was not talking about AstraZeneca or the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or a computer chip. Ask yourself this question: is a mark a vaccine? Moreover, how would a 21st century COVID-19 vaccine be relevant to the seven churches of Asia Minor, who were the original recipients of the Book of Revelation, two millennia ago?
These irresponsible Bahamian Bible prophecy “experts” are twisting Scripture, which could have disastrous consequences for the entire country from an economic and health standpoint, which would prevent the nation from achieving COVID-19 herd immunity status. With their deeply entrenched Scofieldian eschatology, they are unable to view themselves as not living in the last days. This is where the Bahamas Christian Council, Bishop Fernander, Pastor Mario Moxey and the COVID Vaccine Investigative Committee should step in, with the aim of educating Bahamians on the proper methodology in interpreting Scripture.
With Revelation being a highly symbolic book, one can state dogmatically that the mark of the beast is simply a symbol of identification with the first century Roman Empire and Satan, who influenced Nero to launch the first imperial persecution of the Christian church and the murders of the apostles Paul and Peter. The apostle Paul spoke about handling the Word of God deceitfully in 2 Corinthians 4:2. I think this is an apt description of those using Revelation to warn Bahamians about the AstraZeneca vaccine being the mark of the beast. Those who are opposed to AstraZeneca will have to use medical science to argue their case, not biblical prophecy. The Bible offers no help at all to them.
Freeport, Grand Bahama.
March 29, 2021.