Is the Covid-19 Vaccine the Mark of the Beast?

For some, it’s a strange question. For others, it’s one that needs answering.

It’s an idea that’s been travelling the Internet lately and is perhaps on your mind or the mind of someone you know. Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of a text message, email, or social media post claiming that anyone who gets the Covid-19 vaccine has received the “mark of the beast” spoken of in the Book of Revelation, and will therefore be numbered among the eternally condemned.

It’s deeply distressing – not only the idea itself, but the fact that such a theory has gotten traction in some Christian circles and is now troubling so many people.

How did the Covid-19 vaccine become associated with the mark of the beast? Maybe it’s a combination of mask mandates, travel restrictions, government lockdowns and economic setbacks mixed with the global hope of a vaccine produced at “warp speed” that has plowed the soil into which this theory can be so easily planted. But however the idea came to be, it’s one that needs a biblical response.

When answering this question, it’s important to know that speculation and controversy about this is not new. People have, at various times, associated the mark of the beast with such things as driver’s licences, bar codes, credit cards, and Social Insurance Numbers. Back in the 1980’s, some even believed that U.S. President Ronald Reagan was the beast of Revelation because his full name, “Ronald Wilson Reagan,” was made up of three names, each with six letters, thus making the number “666.”

I suspect that few would claim to believe any of this today. Which should lead us to approach this subject with humility, caution, and biblical discernment.

What is the Mark of the Beast?

The Book of Revelation depicts those who worship and serve Jesus Christ as being “sealed” on their foreheads (Rev. 7:3, 9:4, 14:1, 22:4). Likewise, in a kind of Satanic counterfeit or parody, those who worship and serve the beast are “marked” on both on their hands and foreheads (Rev. 13:16). In the highly symbolic and vivid imagery of the revelation given to the Apostle John, we read about a beast who comes up out of the earth and…

“makes everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead,  so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark: the beast’s name or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: Let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, because it is the number of a person. Its number is 666.” (Rev. 13:16-18; CSB)

There has been endless speculation about the number 666. Some have suggested that the number represents human imperfection, falling short of the divine perfection symbolized by the number 7. Others associate the beast with Nero, who was the Roman Emperor at the time when John was given this revelation. John’s original audience would have easily regarded Nero as a “beast” of a ruler, infamous for his ruthless persecution of Christians and his perceived status as a divine being worthy of worship. Not only was Nero’s image stamped on Roman coins, but under his rule, the local trade guilds would have at times required that those who bought and sold offer worship to an idolatrous image, making it near impossible for Christians to buy and sell without compromising their faith.

Whether the mark on the hand and forehead is literal or symbolic is debatable. I think it’s symbolic, in the same way that the seal on the forehead marking those who belong to God appears to be symbolic. Perhaps the mark on the forehead represents a way of thinking, and the mark on the hand represents a way of behaving. This would be consistent with God’s command that the Israelites “imprint” his words on their hands and foreheads, thus signifying in a symbolic way that God’s commands were to be central in their attitudes and actions (Deut. 11:18). 

Whether literal or symbolic, it’s clear that the seal of God and the mark of the beast ultimately serve to distinguish between believer and non-believer, between those who belong to the kingdom of Christ and those who belong to the kingdom of the Antichrist. In other words, the mark identifies what you already are, it doesn’t turn you into something else.

Which leads to a related question:

Can a believer receive the mark of the beast by accident?

Imagine a well-meaning Christian who gets the vaccine out of a concern for the well-being of others. Does anyone really want to claim that such a person is eternally condemned for, say, wanting to keep grandma safe?

The Book of Revelation closely connects receiving the mark of the beast with worshipping the beast (Rev. 14:9). Those who refuse to worship the image of the beast are said to be killed (Rev. 13:15).  Therefore, receiving the mark of the beast is not some arbitrary or accidental thing, but rather a conscious and deliberate rejection of Jesus Christ, and an expression of loyalty to the beast and all that it represents.

So, the answer to whether a believer can receive the mark of the beast by accident is clearly “no.” To say otherwise trivializes or even undermines the gospel, because it suggests that what is most important is not trusting, worshipping, and serving our crucified, risen, and returning Lord, but rather making the right decision about

a vaccine. And it’s easy to see how that kind of thinking could produce all kinds of self-righteousness, legalism, and division in the church. May God have mercy if it does so in ours.

So, when it comes to your decision about the vaccine, do some research (using credible sources—send me an email and I can point you to some good ones). Talk to your doctor, consider your neighbour, and by all means follow your conscience. But don’t fret about whether getting the vaccine itself will somehow mark you out as belonging to the beast. On the contrary, that very concern, arising from of a heart of faith in and love for Jesus Christ, is a good indication that you don’t.

Pastor Jonathan Kroeker