A Mark of the Beast
The following is an excerpt from
Truth, Tradition, or Tare? A Simple Guide to Growing in the Word
, an upcoming BEKY Book that deconstructs questions about paganism, rabbinic rulings, and other traditions, especially those mentioned and practiced in Scripture. The booklet lists the "litmus tests" taught by Yeshua that can help each individual navigate through very serious questions of whether one is "adding to" or "taking away from" the Torah.
The booklet will discuss logical fallacies such as that posed by the question "Truth or Tradition?" and analyzes why Paul twice urged Jewish tradition upon very un-Jewish assemblies. The goal of the booklet is to give believers a set of Scriptural guidelines to apply in locating the seed of truth, and then practice deciding whether any given custom is a valid tradition or a tare.
A Mark of the Beast: Buying and Selling on Shabbat
Since John wrote so frequently from the Jewish expectation and traditions in the Book of Revelation, what was the Jewish context concerning the mark of the beast? For the non-Jew who is unfamiliar with Jewish law concerning Shabbat (Sabbath), it sounds scary. Oh, no! We won't be able to shop at the grocery store if we don't take the mark? Horrors!
A lack of insight into both the TANAKH (Old Testament) and Jewish tradition concerning the most important number in Revelation, 7, leads to some pretty outlandish conclusions about the mark of the beast. There has been all sorts of speculation concerning what a mark of the beast might be: a computer chip embedded in the hand or forehead, a barcode, a tattoo, a debit card...there's no shortage of ideas.
When one wants to find the significance of a word or number in Scripture, it is important to follow established rules of biblical interpretation called
. One rule is First Mention, and it means that the first mention of a word or number will establish its significance, and that significance can be found in a pattern all the way to the end of Scripture. Other rules are Progressive Mention and Complete Mention, which is locating each mention of that word or number and observing that pattern of significance unfolding. Whatever significance the number 7 has from the beginning to the end of the Bible will be consistent. Shabbat is completion and rest in the week of Creation, and it will be resolved into completion and rest in Revelation.
The Torah instructs humankind to rest on the first Shabbat, and He wants humankind to rest in Revelation. Those who are sealed at the conclusion of the Sixth Seal are those who are prepared to enter Messiah's rest, just as those who observe Shabbat today "seal" the preparations of the workweek for enjoyment on the Seventh.
How does John's traditional Jewish background intersect with the Divine purpose? In Jewish tradition, one does not buy or sell on Shabbat. It is a rabbinic fence that is not explicitly stated in the Torah, yet it is established by ancient Jewish sages.
The Concise Code of Jewish Law
explains this rabbinic fence of prohibiting buying and selling on Shabbat: "The purpose of these rabbinic enactments is to keep Shabbat from becoming an ordinary weekday, with people occupying themselves with their usual weekday pursuits." (Appel, p. 97).
The rabbinic fence was not erected in the First Century by scribes and Pharisees, but by the ancient sages, for Nehemiah accepts the fence without question, vowing to keep the gates of Jerusalem closed to the merchants on Shabbat and the special Sabbaths of Israel's feasts. Isaiah 58:13 validates this ancient rabbinic fence, reminding Israel that it dishonors the Sabbath and the One who gave it to mankind when they pursue their business occupations on that day.
To the Jewish mind, it is the "beast," or the red, hairy Esau character of human beings that continues to occupy himself with his normal weekday business on the Sabbath; therefore, no man could buy or sell (on Shabbat) without the mark of the beast. Esau, also known as Edom, the Red One, is the established Jewish icon of the lower "beastly" human nature that strives against the Holy Spirit. The Jewish prayerbook records a plea, "Deliver us from the Red One!" A clear reference to this prayer of repentance is delivered to the Church of Sardis, which means "Red Ones."*
Shabbat is a distinctly spiritual experience, for the physical aspect of life is surrendered to serve the spiritual rest in Messiah. What is prepared in six days is surrendered for enjoyment and freedom from those burdens on the Seventh. This wholeness of physical and spiritual is the goal of Shabbat, elevating the good work of the weekdays to a state of holiness on Shabbat. A holy Shabbat is not simply a continuation of the workweek, for this gives mankind no rest.
When a human reverences Shabbat and sets it apart to worship, he is sealed by the Holy Spirit; when a person dishonors it, he is marked and set apart, for he has identified with the beast who was created on the Sixth Day along with the man. Six is the number of both man and beast. The difference? The beast, like Esau, was born first; the man, like Jacob, was second born. The apostle Paul says the physical is revealed first, then the spiritual.
The firstborn beast must submit to the rule of the second born man, a being set apart from the animal kingdom because he is made in the image of Elohim (Creator God of Genesis 1). One who reverences Shabbat is a man made in the image of Elohim. One who doesn't is conforming to the image of the beast. This has to be rectified, and the Book of Revelation prophesies how it will be accomplished in end times. When the Holy One reveals to the Apostle John this process, He uses the rabbinic fence to illustrate how His Word will be performed.
Is the rabbinic fence of not buying and selling on Shabbat the Truth, a tradition, or a tare? It is a tradition grown from the seed of Truth in the Torah. His Word is Truth. This tradition is not a tare.
*For a more thorough investigation into the mark of the beast and 666, see Creation Gospel Workbook Four: the Scarlet Harlot and the Crimson Thread.
Preparing for the Storm
A couple of weeks ago, I'd been meditating on the upcoming fall feasts and their overlapping themes. In Jewish tradition there is a metaphor that at Rosh HaShanah, the Feast of Trumpets, it is a time for repentance, for on that day, humans are judged "like trees." They are judged according to the location of the ROOTS of that tree. If sin is seen as a type of fence, then even though some branches may hang over the fence, the tree will be preserved for life. Yeshua, however, cautions his disciples that it is better to go into the Kingdom without a hand if that hand causes offense.
What did he mean? In a traditional sense, Yeshua is hinting to the period between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, the ten Awesome Days of repentance. Why do Jews keep repenting from Rosh HaShanah until Yom Kippur? Because on Yom Kippur, the tree's BRANCHES are judged. Those ten days of reflection are to deal with those limbs that offend with sin, for they are hanging over the fence. Yeshua tells us to prepare for a great and terrible day of judgment on Yom Kippur by chopping off those sin limbs. He is calling for self-examination, not self-mutilation.
As I mused on these themes to prepare a Sukkot teaching, a storm approached. The week before, we'd been hit by a similar storm that blew shingles off the roof on a Thursday night, but we were blessed with a Jewish roofer who repaired the damage before sundown on Friday. Baruch HaShem! This time the storm approached from a different direction. I hurried to put on my boots to go pick some squash and tomatoes from the garden for supper, but I was too late. By the time I made it to the doorway of the garage, the storm hit.
I watched, and I realized it was another bad storm. There were two very old, but very green trees on our property fence line by the garden, one that stands just on our side of the fence, and one on the neighbor's side of the fence. They are at least 50 years old. Both trees began bending in the storm, but I noticed the neighbor's tree catching more of the wind, and I couldn't stop watching it in morbid fascination. About the time I decided I'd better shut the garage door because the debris from the wind was flying by, I heard a big snap and the tree toppled. It was pretty impressive...but a very good reason to go back inside the house!
After the storm passed, I went out to make sure the tree didn't fall in the garden and to see whether it mashed the fence. To my surprise, the fence was intact. The tree had snapped off at about eye-level and fallen over the fence. Although every limb had perfectly green leaves, the inside of the tree trunk was hollow! Insects had eaten little tunnels in the trunk, and huge ants were scampering about.
How could a perfectly green tree be so rotten?
Okay, you've already seen the life lesson. It's obvious. The Jewish sages really did pick a great analogy to demonstrate the need for repentance. Some of that tree's branches had hung over the fence for years, yet the tree appeared to thrive. In Luke 11:35 Yeshua states: "Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness."
In other words, we can have the appearance of light and life, yet there actually be a hollow place within. It can fool everyone who thinks the limbs are healthy and the leaves are green, but when the strong wind finally hit that tree at the right angle, the tree snapped and fell where its branches had been hanging. It was the very green leaves that caught that wind and helped to bring it down to the other side of the fence than its roots. All that is left is a dry stump.
We are entering days of reflection and preparation for the fall feasts. Yeshua gave the assembly at Laodicea an exhortation on how to prepare, for Laodicea represents the Feast of Sukkoth (see
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,
I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me." (Revelation 3:15-20)
I thought the tree was clothed in green leaves and had need of nothing, but the spirit had already been hollowed out, leaving only the appearance of a rich, stately tree. At its very center it was naked and empty, filled with devouring insects. We need our eyes to be anointed so that we can see with the eyes of the Ruach HaKodesh, not the eyes of flesh that see exterior light and life as evidence of light and life within.
Father, we pray that you would heal our hollow places and give us Your Spirit so that we may cut off those limbs that will bring us down in the day of trouble. We repent of bitterness against our neighbors that has left hollow places inside us. In, not out. Hot, not cold. Upright, not fallen. Thank you, Father, for your mercy in the storms.
If you enjoyed
What is the Torah?
, then three new BEKY Books are available today to extend your library. BEKY Books are
Books Encouraging the Kingdom of Yeshua
, and they offer simple explanations to questions that newcomers have. I invite you to take a look at
for bios on our authors and the list of upcoming releases.
The booklets can be read in one sitting, and they are designed to encourage and invite the newcomer to explore further for truth. Click on the images below to see the full book description on
Introduction to the Jewish Sources is a brief history of how the Jewish sources such as the Mishnah and Talmud evolved into the documents we have today. If you've ever read a commentary with a reference such as
Pesachim 2b and wondered what it was, Rabbi Creeger's quick reference guide in the booklet will give you a brief summary of each seder and tractate's contents. The simple explanations in this BEKY Book are a great way to walk in the sandals of the Jewish sages as they thought through the problems of guarding and remembering the Torah in each generation, and it will quickly lift your literacy level in Jewish history. Here is one Jewish reader's response to Introduction to the Jewish Sources:
I finished your book and then immediately turned back to the beginning. I'm very excited to read it. The timing is particularly good because I just began to read Pirke Avot-- not for the first time.
Your message is fresh, necessary; it is simultaneously simple and profound. You organically explain the development of the oral Torah in a way that anybody could understand. I have never seen anything like it. Moreover, you exhibit a humble tone throughout your work managing to be scholarly without being pedantic. For that I thank you personally. This book is the best witness for Yeshua that I could imagine. This is important to me. If I were speaking to an observant Jew who did not believe in Yeshua, I would be able to stand behind your book. Thank you!
is the first BEKY Book by Dr. Robin Gould, and it's the simplest explanation yet to some of the most controversial verses in the letter to the Colossians. Her careful examination of the Greek words and context deconstructs issues concerning the celebration of new moons and sabbaths, as well as answers the question of what was nailed to the cross. At the same time, Dr. Gould demonstrates the danger of taking verses or phrases out of context, which can lead the reader to draw a conclusion exactly opposite of what the writer intended. I want to buy several of these to keep in our own congregational library.
Messianic Shabbat Service is my second BEKY Book, and it is based on a visitor's booklet we compiled for visitors to our congregation. It was compiled after years of answering questions or addressing problems that arose due to a newcomer's lack of experience with our unique walk which is not Jewish, nor is it Christian. It also grew out of my retirement job of training Bureau of Prisons chaplains in how to meet the needs of Messianic Sabbatarian inmates. The challenge was to describe something that is entirely too diverse to describe!
The booklet includes a brief history of the Nazarene Jews and the "Messianic" movement along with some of the more usual components of a Messianic Jewish or non-Jewish Shabbat service or fellowship. For those who would like to have a resource with which to greet visitors to make them more comfortable, this is the booklet. In the question-and-answer section are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions, such as
What are those little strings people are wearing?
Why do you turn toward Jerusalem to pray?
Isn't the Star of David a pagan symbol?
Why so much Hebrew?
If you'd like a quick summer read that is at the same time a handy giveaway to coworkers, family, and friends, consider ordering one or a full set of BEKY Books today. We could also use some positive reviews on amazon that will help potential buyers as they are considering whether it's worth that $4.49. I think they're worth every penny!