Receiving The Mark

Flipping through the channels one evening, my attention was snagged by scenes of people with tattoos — lots of them. The show, it turned out, was “Miami Ink,” a weekly program chronicling the adventures of a parlor in Miami. I was amazed as I viewed numerous (mainly) young adults making the commitment to have ink artistically etched into their skin.
It’s not an isolated phenomena. A study published online by the University of Massachusetts reports that 15% of Americans sport at least one tattoo. “U.S. News & World Report” stated in 1996 that there were 15,000 tattoo parlors in the United States, with one new one added every day. (We suspect that number has escalated in the last decade.)
“To each his own” may be the most common response to tattoos. Apparently 85% of Americans aren’t so enamored with them, perhaps due largely to their permanence. Having “I love Gloria” engraved on one’s biceps might not be a good thing after Gloria moves on to the next boyfriend. Tattoos can be removed, of course, but only at a high cost.
Receiving a tattoo is an image from Revelation 13. In that highly symbolic passage, two beasts capture the attention of earth’s residents. The second beast is described as powerful and deceptive. One measure of his persuasiveness is seen in verse 16: “He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads” (NKJV). The purpose of this mark was to grant special privileges to those so marked. Those without the mark were not permitted to do business in the marketplace.
Receiving that mark of the beast, however, meant alienation from God: “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God …'” (Revelation 14:9,10). It would be a hard decision for some: Do I receive the mark of the beast so that I can make a living for myself and my family? Or will I remain true to God and risk persecution? It was a decision thousands of Christians had to make in the days shortly following John’s Revelation (Revelation 1:1).
The mark of the beast, as John pictured it, is not a literal tattoo engraved into skin, but a willingness to compromise our faith for material gain. It may not be visible to friends and neighbors, but it stands out clearly to God. Receiving this mark continues to be a fateful decision that Christians make on a daily basis.
Like the art applied at tattoo parlors, the beast’s mark can be extremely difficult to remove. It takes willingness to endure hardships and perhaps even pain. Most of all, it requires the most powerful cleansing agent known to man — the blood of Christ. But that blood is available, and is freely offered to any who regret receiving the mark.
“… These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).

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