One of the simultaneously fun and sad things about the internet is that there is never any shortage of crazy things to be found while perusing web pages for cat videos and Bernie Sanders inauguration memes. It’s fun to watch the madness unfold in real time, but it’s also a sad thing to see the kinds of corners that some folks paint themselves into. One such thing that I saw recently was a post proclaiming that the vaccines being developed these days were actually the Mark of the Beast – yes, that one from Revelation…
At first blush this seems like maybe it has something to do with politics. I can see how politics might feed into the discussion about everything having to do with the ‘Rona, but I don’t think this fear is really about politics. I think it’s about not understanding all of what John is trying to communicate to believers through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in his book.
In truth, Revelation is a hard book to understand. It has many many layers of meaning and tons of references to old testament and apocalyptic literature. We modern readers don’t always pick up on those references because we often haven’t read the books John read, or we sometimes miss things because they aren’t as clear once translated out of the original language of the text. So I don’t think there’s any reason to judge someone who may never have had Revelation presented to them outside of a very flawed context.
I think what makes a lot of people worry about the ‘Rona vaccines is the notion that they may have heard bandied about the internet that at some point the vaccines could become mandatory for people to participate in public life or economic activity. I can see why that notion would bother them. It’s a scary thing for someone else to mandate what goes into your body, right? But on top of that, it does sound a bit like what John writes in Revelation 13:16-17.
So here you have a bad combination of pandemic fears, political division and inflammatory rhetoric, the internet’s unique ability to fan the flames of controversy and rumor, and some factors that line up with one of the scary bits of John’s book. Doesn’t John say that everyone with that mark ends up spending eternity in the fires of God’s wrath? If the vaccine is the mark then maybe the ‘Rona is the better option…
Except that the vaccine isn’t the mark. Read Revelation 7-14. The “seal” and the “mark” that John describes are identifications of 2 groups of people – Those who follow God and those who follow the beast. This is a binary choice that John is presenting. No one can be on both sides (sort of like the pineapple on pizza thing). So whatever the “mark” is that John describes, it must be something that is incompatible with worshipping God and it must identify the marked individual as someone in league with the beast. It does the opposite thing in contrast to the “seal” that identifies the followers of God. The two are incompatible with each other,
So ask yourself this: Do you have to reject Christ and worship an idol to get vaccinated against the ‘Rona? Nope. No one is going to make you do that. You can if you really want to, but it’s got nothing to do with getting vaccinated. If the vaccine isn’t incompatible with following God, then it isn’t anything to be worried about in an apocalyptic sense.