Friday, November 21, 2014

"No one may buy or sell except one who has the mark..."

The quote that is the title of this post is from Revelation 13:17. Here is a full quote and some of the context: "Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men....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, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" (Revelation 13:11-17).

What will be the mark of the beast? Some have suggested it will be Sunday because the Sabbath is a true sign between God and His people and they feel the mark of the beast will be a counterfeit of that sign. That is certainly possible, yet the Bible does not say definitely that Sunday will be the mark of the beast.

Whatever that mark is, without that mark or the name of the beast or the number of his name, men will not be able to buy or sell (Revelation 13:16-17). But what is the connection between the mark of the beast and being able to buy and sell? Or to put it another way, how will those refusing the mark of the beast be prevented from buying and selling?

Some of those who teach that Sunday will be the mark of the beast have reasoned that unless you rest on Sunday and work on the Sabbath you will not be able to hold a job and will have no money to buy and sell. But there must be more to it than that. Just keeping the Sabbath will not make it impossible, by itself, to buy or sell. There would have to be some enforcement mechanism.

You don't have to work on the Sabbath to make money, to have money to buy things, even if most employers require their full-time workers to work on the Sabbath. There has always been the need for part-time workers in different parts of the economy who will work only a few days a week. Those who have businesses or are self-employed can often choose their own hours. All work is not done on Saturday. If you are a roofer and a windstorm blows the shingles off of someone's roof, and he calls the number on your business card, you will schedule a time to repair his roof on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, and your customer won't even know you keep the Sabbath.

And Sabbath keeping certainly will not prevent you from selling. In fact, you may be more likely to sell things you own if you are unemployed or underemployed because you keep the Sabbath. You will sell the things you need less to raise money to buy the things you need more.

I have been unemployed several times in my life, and those were the times I would sell things, not when I had money coming in. When I had a steady income, I accumulated stuff. When I did not have money coming in and I needed money for rent, food, and utilities, I sold less important things like video tapes, computers, TVs, cameras, etc. I sold in person or on eBay.

People in financial stress sell what they have to buy what they need. They sell their second car to buy food. They sell their house and rent a small apartment to have money for utilities.

Sabbath keeping will not stop you from taking your car to a used car dealer on Tuesday, selling it, and then taking a bus or walking to the grocery store to buy milk and bread with the money you got for your car. The used car dealer won't know you keep the Sabbath, or necessarily care, when he buys your car on a Tuesday, and the clerk at the grocery store who sells you food won't know or care either.

Besides all that, many people have money saved up or sources of income that do not require working on the Sabbath or any day for that matter. People who have saved up money in the bank, maybe tens of thousands of dollars or more, perhaps for their retirement, would be able to keep the Sabbath and still live off their savings, spending interest or principle to buy what they need. Many retired people live off their savings and do not work at all. Some people have regular retirement incomes from government programs or private pension funds that do not require them to work.

If Sunday will be the mark of the beast, there will have to be some enforcement mechanism not automatically built in to Sunday keeping, something more than inability to hold most full-time jobs because you keep the Sabbath.

But money itself could be an enforcement mechanism, not just for Sunday keeping, but for any number of violations of God's law that the beast power could impose.

There is a trend in the world to get away from paper currency and coins as a medium of exchange, to go "cashless", to use only checks and bank cards and other electronic processes as money. In the United States, the IRS would like to see that happen because it is easier to track income when all money transfers are through the banking system either by check or by credit or debit card. Transactions through the banking system, checks or bank card transactions, leave a trail of income and spending which physical cash does not.

If governments eliminate paper currency and coins as forms of cash and require all money transfers to be in the form of checks or bank debit or credit card transactions, you will not be able to buy or sell, without a bank account.

It is almost that way today, in some respects. Although paper currency and coins are still used, especially for small transactions, large transactions are usually made by bank check or by electronic transfers. Employers pay their employees by check.

If you work for an employer, you can still cash your paycheck without a bank account today in the United States. You can cash it at a currency exchange, for a fee, and sometimes you can cash it at the bank that issues the check even if you do not have an account with that bank, if you have enough identification.

But it would not take much for that to change. Even today, it is getting harder and harder to function financially, to buy and sell, without some kind of bank account. Even certain kinds of money cards you can buy in a department or grocery store, which you can load up with money at the cash register, are really bank accounts, though they do not seem to be.

If the government eliminated cash, meaning paper currency and coin, as legal tender and required all transactions to be made with bank credit or debit cards or checks, you will not be able to buy or sell without a bank account.

What is the problem with that?

The banking industry is already regulated by the government. To open a bank account, you must sign papers agreeing to the rules of the bank plus anything else the government requires banks to put into their contracts with their customers.

That is where the beast power can require that people commit themselves to a violation of God's law, in letter or in spirit, in order to have a bank account. And without a bank account, if cash is eliminated, you would not be able to buy or sell. Without a bank account, you would not be able to cash or deposit or use your paycheck - it would just be paper - even if you have a job. The beast power can require you to sign something, something in the bank agreement, something you cannot sign as a Christian, in order to have a bank account.

What might be in the agreement you would have to sign to have a bank account? It could be many things.

If Sunday is the mark of the beast, bank agreements may include a clause that you agree to recognize Sunday as God's day of rest and worship and promise not to work on that day.

But it could be other things. It could be recognition and allegiance to the beast and false prophet as God's representatives. It could be recognition of the trinity doctrine. It could be a promise to respect and uphold the worship of Mary. And it certainly could include the words, "I swear", with no provision allowed for those who want to use the words, "I affirm".

Anything false, anything that compromises with God's truth, can be included in a bank agreement required to hold an account, and it would make it impossible for faithful Christians to sign without compromising. And without a bank account, you would not be able to buy and sell, because there would be no more physical cash.

Bank accounts could be the mechanism for enforcement of the mark of the beast that would make it impossible for those who remain faithful to God to buy or sell. For without physical cash, without paper currency and coin, there will simply be no money apart from bank account funds. No bank account, no money. No bank account, no way to receive money even if you work and no way to pay money to others. No way to receive or pay money, no way to buy or sell.

Note that the mark is on the right hand or the forehead (Revelation 13:16). Men work with both hands, but most people are right handed and sign contracts with their right hand. With the mind (represented by the forehead) one chooses to compromise, and with the right hand one chooses to sign a document agreeing to compromise with God's truth.

One characteristic of Satan that can serve as a mark or sign is simply the way of life of deception - of saying something you don't mean, of signing something you know is false and you don't really believe, or signing something false even if you do believe it.

Without money, how would faithful Christians live and eat?

Such people must trust God to provide. God may provide ways for Christians to obtain enough to survive through barter. You mow your neighbor's lawn, or babysit for his children, or repair his car, in return for food, not money. That is a precarious way to live, but it will force faithful Christians to depend on God to give them favor in the eyes of their neighbors, friends, and relatives.

The key, I think, to being prepared for this, to have the courage to refuse the mark of the beast, would be to develop the habit of not lying or deceiving others or compromising with the truth in what we say we agree with, either verbally or in writing.

Let's make sure we never compromise with the truth.

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