P. N. raises a very challenging issue:
So…I think it’s wrong to tell people that if they’re saved, they won’t do this or that (such as commit sin). I think that is works based salvation and I publicly tell people that’s wrong. But there is one area where things become inconsistent. Because I think believers cannot take the mark of the beast. The book of Revelation says those whose names are NOT in the Book of Life will take the mark. And if a believer could take the mark, that would mean they could lose salvation, which is not possible. But yet, am I not now saying the same as Lordshippers say? Is my statement that “a believer won’t take the mark of the beast” the same as Lordshippers saying, “A TRUE believer won’t do this or that sin?” I’ve had Lordshippers tell me it’s the same thing, and it makes me wonder if it is the same and if I am believing error.
Let’s begin by looking at the Scripture that P. N. alludes to, Rev 14:9-12:
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, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” Here is the patience of the saintsi; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (emphasis added).
Believers today, in the Church Age, will not and cannot take the mark of beast. Of course, unbelievers today cannot take it now since the mark of the beast does not yet exist. It will not exist until the Tribulation when the beast is manifested. If the rapture occurs in our lifetimes, then unbelievers today who fail to come to faith in Christ before then and who are still alive will indeed go into the Tribulation and may well take the mark. But before the rapture, no one can take that mark since it does not yet exist.
The Book of Revelation does not tell us that all unbelievers will take the mark of the beast. In fact, it is clear that not all unbelievers do. First, the mark will be needed to buy and sell (Rev 13:17). Only adults need to buy and sell. No children will be taking the mark of the beast, even though most children then will be unbelievers. Like our tattoo laws today, it is likely that no one will be allowed to take the mark before age 18 (or even 21). Second, there is no statement in Revelation that all unbelieving adults will take the mark. If that were so, then no adults would be coming to faith. Yet the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (Rev 14:1-5) will all be adults when they come to faith in the beginning months of the Tribulation. Third, we do not know when the mark of the beast will be introduced. Most likely it will be near the start of the Tribulation.
Finally, the Book of Revelation does not explain how it is that believers will not take the mark. We do know that some will be martyred for refusing to take the mark (Rev 20:4). But we are not told that all believers were martyred. We know that many will survive the Tribulation (cf. Matt 25:31-46). But what about believers who are unfaithful?
There are several possible reasons why unfaithful believers will not take the mark of the beast. First, and this is the view that N. P. seems to hold, God will guarantee that even unfaithful believers will not be tempted or willing to take the mark of the beast. I find that view unlikely in light of Rev 20:4. If some believers are praised for not having taken the mark, then it seems that a willingness to do so will be possible. Second, God may take the lives of believers who are on their way to take the mark. They would have taken the mark, but God took their lives before that could happen. Third, it is possible that we are misreading Rev 14:9-12 and that some unfaithful believers will take the mark. It might mean that all unbelievers who take the mark will be tormented forever. Possibly we are to understand that believers are an exception. I find this view unlikely as well. There is no hint of exceptions. Therefore, my view is that the reason no believer will take the mark is because God will take their lives before they do so. The reason will not be because there will be some special work of God in their lives so that they are morally incapable of such a sin.
P. N. believes the promise of everlasting life as found in clear verses like John 3:16. He should not wonder if his belief is wrong because of an obscure verse elsewhere. The analogy of faith means that we understand difficult verses in light of clear verses. Revelation 14:9-12 does not invalidate John 3:16. The Lordship argument regarding the mark of the beast is a reversal of the analogy of faith. Lordship Salvation does that. It often points to difficult verses as proving their view. But when they do that, they are ignoring or even overthrowing the obvious meaning of over 100 faith-alone verses in the NT.
i. This is the only reference to the expression “the patience of the saints” in the Bible, though Rev 13:10 speaks of “the patience and the faith of the saints.” Some translations render Rev 14:12 as “the perseverance of the saints” (NASB, HCSB, WEB). (The NASB and HCSB render Rev 13:10 as “the perseverance and [the] faith of the saints.”) See the discussion in the blog of three options as to what this patience of the saints signifies.