Demonic Economic Blackmail
Government is necessary for the cause of human sin. Had we never fallen, we would not need it, at least not in order to threaten vengeance for breaking the law. For this reason, the Apostle Paul demands that Christians be subject to the governing authorities as they are instituted by God to reward the ones who do good and punish the ones who do evil (Romans 13:1-7). Indeed, Christians are to be the best citizens of the state, not only obeying the law but going beyond it to love their neighbors. It is a great blessing in this life to live under a just government that protects its people and even goes the added step of seeing to the care of the poor and elderly.
Unfortunately, because governments are run by sinful creatures, they can also be vehicles for fleecing and coercing people to do their ill will. This is what we see here. The second beast or False Prophet now demands that literally everyone (“both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave”) receive a “mark” on the hand or forehead to buy or sell. The purpose is obviously to force people into the demonic system of the beast, that is, those who govern the city or state that demands the allegiance and even the worship of its citizens. It is truly horrifying when one considers the consequences. How shall a man feed his family? Economic blackmail has ever been one of the primary ways evil governments have coerced populations: Muslims have placed Christians under such economic stress to force them to convert ever since the Middle Ages, and white Christians in America held blacks down through economic discrimination long after slavery was abolished. In other words, such wickedness has a long history.
I agree with those who see the mark of the beast not as literal but similar to the seal the 144,000 receive on their foreheads (7:3). I say this because I have seen both publications and productions where 666 was tattooed on people’s foreheads. But I think the mark is inward and a sign that one is unregenerate and uncircumcised of heart. I also agree that 666 represents not a specific name but, as 6 is less than 7, represents incompletion (Beale, NIGTC, 720-28). The mark of the beast is Satan’s attempt to copy God’s mark upon His people, which again ends in parody. Satan’s kingdom is one of slaves and lackeys and his rule is coming to a close. In the end, all he can do is coerce, threaten, compel, and intimidate. Even now, Christians in our own country are forced to choose between doing what they love or pursuing another career for fear of being forced to violate their own consciences. These have a different seal on their foreheads—one of the 144,000.