Thoughts on the Passage
A second person arises – but this time from the earth not the sea. He is a man who makes people worship the antichrist. He does it through religious persuasion – through signs and miracles. He does it through economic threats and restrictions. This person forces the nations to worship the antichrist and restricts the worship of God. This person has both religious authority and administrative authority and he develops laws, economic laws, and religious systems that force mankind into worshipping the antichrist.
Who is this kind of person? Well, to the Church at that time, it was the religious priests of the temples who required worship of Caesar and the gods. It was the Roman rulers of each area that enforced the worship of Caesar – and could kill anyone who refused to do it. It was the city administrators who prevented anyone from doing business in the cities unless they first offered incense to Caesar – and worked with labor guilds to enshrine the worship of various gods for workers. The Church knew exactly who these people were because they caused so much hardship to God’s people who refused to worship those gods or Caesar. The rest of the world willingly did what was asked, but God’s people could not do it. They were oppressed because of their faith in God and they were shut out of places of work. They were discriminated against in work, opportunities, and socially.
Finally, this passage identifies the antichrist. It is through the number of his name—666. The Jewish people identified numbers by letters (just like Roman numbers were given by letters – X,I, V, C M, etc). When they took the name of Caesar Nero – and converted it to Hebrew and took the number – it added up to 666. To the people at the time, Caesar represented the antichrist. He did all the things that the antichrist would do. In addition, the coins carried the imprint (the word “mark” means to impress or imprint) of the face of Caesar. If anyone wanted to buy or sell in the marketplace, they had to offer incense to Caesar (worship him) and use his coinage. For the Christians, they probably required them to prove that they had offered incense – put some of the ash on their hands or forehead – in order to do business in the marketplace. The mark of worship to Caesar was necessary or people could not buy or sell.
Father, in many places of the world, Your children face discrimination because they worship You. They face oppression, shame, lack of opportunity, and all kinds of actions against them – just because they love You and choose to worship You only. You warned us that this would happen and yet You still ask us to be faithful witnesses in the midst of it. Your people back then knew the cost – and they willingly faced it so that the good news of Jesus got out to their world. When we face this today, give us that same spirit – many of our brothers and sisters face exactly the same thing today around the world. If it comes to us, help us to meet it with the same godly heart. In Jesus Name, Amen.