Caller: My family has been telling me in the last month or so that I should beware of the COVID vaccine, that it’s the mark of the beast, and they know this from priests and/or Catholic mystics that have received this message from above. So my question is about the mark of the beast; is that something that is explicit, or is it something that could be disguised?
Jimmy Akin: The Church does not have a teaching on exactly what the mark of the beast is, so I’m gonna have to go into the realm of opinion here. I can give you my opinion, and the evidence that it’s based on, but I can’t simply point you to a Church teaching that tells us exactly what the mark of the beast is. In Revelation chapter 13, we read that the beast from the sea has a number, which is 666, and we’re told it’s a human number, or the number of a man. And we’re also told that people in Revelation have to either receive this mark on their right hand or on their forehead if they want to engage in commerce, if they want to buy and sell.
Now Revelation is a book that contains a lot of symbols, and in order to understand these symbols we need to look at how Revelation and at how other books in scripture use symbolism. Now the idea of a mark on the forehead, you would have that sometimes happening literally in the ancient world. Sometimes a slave would have a mark put on his forehead to symbolize who owns him. Or sometimes—it’s claimed, or at least I’ve read—that sometimes the devotee of a particular god might literally have a mark put on his forehead.
If you look at how the Bible talks about marks on foreheads, though, it’s a little bit different. If you go to the book of Ezekiel, there is a passage where God is having an angel mark people in Jerusalem on their foreheads with a tau. “Tau” is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In paleo-Hebrew, the type of alphabet that would have been in use in Ezekiel’s day, a tau was shaped like a cross, like an X, like the letter X, so a kind of cross. And Christians could not fail to look at that passage and see a messianic significance, a significance connected with Jesus, to God’s people being marked with a cross on their foreheads.
And thus, in the book of Revelation, we see the 144,000 faithful—those who are faithful to God—being marked on their foreheads, and that seems to be an allusion to Ezekiel. And now that Christ has come we’d better understand the significance of the cross, and so it’s a sign that these people are faithful to Jesus, they’re faithful to Jesus and his cross.
But the thing is, angels are doing this invisibly. These are not outward, objective, literal tattoos or brands or scars. Instead, they represent an invisible spiritual reality that signifies who your allegiance is to. And given that background, that would seem to be the case with the mark of the beast as well. If the mark that Jesus’ followers get represents an invisible spiritual allegiance, then the mark of the beast would seem to not literally be a tattoo or a scar or a brand, but instead a symbol of who your ultimate allegiance is to.
And there’s a lot of good evidence—and I won’t go through it all now, but if you Google “Jimmy Akin” and “book of Revelation,” some of it will come up—there’s good reason to think that the book of Revelation primarily dealt with the first century, and that the beast represents the first-century line of Roman emperors. And in particular, the beast was connected in a special way with the emperor Nero who persecuted Christians, just like the beast does in Revelation. And it so happens that if you take the name “NERO CAESAR” in Hebrew, and add it up—because their letters also served as numbers, if you add up the number value of the letters in “NERO CAESAR”—it turns out to be 666.
And so my take on what the literal meaning of the mark of the beast would be, in a first century context, is that it’s a symbol of your ultimate allegiance not being to God, but to Rome, and your willingness to participate in the cult of emperor worship. And in fact, Nero was worshiped as a God, as were some other Roman emperors. And so I would say that the mark of the beast in Revelation is a symbol of putting your hand to work for the service of the empire and putting your mind to work for the service of the empire, so the Roman empire and its cult of emperor worship is your ultimate loyalty, rather than loyalty to God and to his Christ.
Now prophecy works on different levels, though, and so there can be a future echo, that is still in our future, of what the mark of the beast would be. We can’t really predict very well in advance what it could be, but given what it meant in a first-century context, it would presumably mean something similar. It would be a symbol of greater loyalty to some totalitarian, anti-Christian dictator rather than to God and to Christ. Would it take a physical form, like a scar or a brand or a tattoo? Well, it didn’t in the first century, so we wouldn’t have reason to suppose it would in the future.
What about the COVID vaccine? How does that relate to this? Well, the COVID vaccine, so far as I can tell, has nothing to do with anybody whose number is 666, so it fails on that point.
Secondly, people are not gonna be given the COVID vaccine in their right hand. In fact, you don’t get vaccines in your hand, because it’ll mess up your hand. If you want to get a vaccine, an intermuscular injection, they’re gonna give it in your upper arm or your butt or somewhere like that, where there’s a lot of fleshy muscle and not a lot of nerves and tendons like in your hand. So people are not gonna be getting it in their right hand.
Also, they’re not gonna be getting it in their forehead. Ramming an intermuscular injection needle into someone’s forehead would be painful and not deliver the vaccine where it needs to be, and that’s where they don’t give vaccines. So the idea that the COVID vaccine would be the mark of the beast also fails on the location of the body where it’s given. And that would give us reason—the fact it has nothing to do with 666, and the fact it’s not given in these two locations, would be signs that this really is not the mark of the beast.
And if you want further confirmation for that, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in Rome, has issued a document that indicates it is legitimate to take different forms of the COVID vaccine—not necessarily every form, but it’s legitimate to take some forms, and which forms are appropriate will depend on your circumstances. But that’s consistent with other teachings the Church has held down through the years, now they’ve simply applied them to this vaccine, and the Pope, the successor of Peter and the Vicar of Christ, has approved it. And so any mystic who’s saying something else is going up directly against the teaching of the Church and is not to be trusted.
Furthermore, God loves his people, and he’s not going to let his people receive the mark of the beast without their knowing what they’re doing. Whatever the mark of the beast may be in the future—if there is a future fulfillment of it—it’s gonna be something that his people will be able to look at and say “Based on established Catholic teachings, we need to avoid this,” and that is not the case with this vaccine. So I would say that your relatives have been unfortunately misinformed.