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COVID-19 and the Mark of the Beast
So this has become a thing — of course it has. Go down the rabbit hole online and you’ll find people convinced that COVID-19 will lead to the mark of the beast, which will be in the form of a vaccine or antibody certification in order to work.
Some people have too much time on their hands.
A seminary professor of mine once said eschatology is the only area of theology that people study from the vantage point of their own time. Read the eschatology studies from the Great Awakening period and you will find a stunning amount of positive views on the end times. Read the theologians going through World War I and, surprise, the eschatology is pretty pessimistic.
It is World War I where we should focus.
I sometimes fall prey to the thinking that the end is nigh. With an upsurge in coverage of random earthquakes, volcanic activity, war, and plague, you can just hear certain New Testament passages about the end times drift into your mind.
But consider World War I. During that war, the Spanish flu hit. It ravaged towns and cities. Children died at alarming rates as did communities. While the flu killed off millions, the war killed off more. They called it the war to end all wars. Kingdoms and empires collapsed, governments overturned, and the men of Europe bled out on battlefields.
A lot of people, in their personal correspondence, presumed the second coming was fast approaching and the end must be near. Concurrently, governments imposed mask measures on populations. Even here in the United States, some local governments fined or jailed citizens who refused to wear masks in public because of the flu. Some cities required certification that those who had the flu had fully recovered before they could work.
But there was not a lot of talk about marks of beasts.
After the Spanish flu, polio hit the United States. Polio had a disproportionate impact on children. It would hit in epidemic like proportions in regional areas. The New York area got hit frequently. During World War II, the United States suffered a major epidemic of polio, and then it hit again in the 1950s.
Jonas Salk came up with the polio vaccine and the world rallied to wipe out the virus that had killed or crippled so many children. No one really worried about the marks of any beasts because their children were suffering and Salk found a cure.
It is a striking bit of twenty-first-century first world selfishness that anyone could look on the mad dash to find a vaccine to stop COVID-19 and conclude it would lead to the mark of the beast.
If COVID-19 were wiping out children instead of grandparents, many of the same people now demanding we fully reopen and refusing a vaccine would be beating down the door to get one. A virus that takes children would be viewed far differently than one that kills an elderly person in a nursing home.
Throughout history, there have been anti-Christs and marks of beasts. It is arguably not a one-time thing even if the precursors are just shadows of the real and final anti-Christ. I have a pastor friend who argues the rainbow flag is just the latest incarnation as increasingly a refusal to celebrate LGBT issues can ruin a person or small business. I know a guy who persuasively argued the hammer and sickle of communism is the mark.
I would argue that instead of obsessing about marks of beasts and whether a government might exercise long-established precedent to make sure you and I don’t spread viruses that can kill and overwhelm hospitals, we should instead focus on what we truly know is true. If we put our trust in Jesus, we are saved.
No one can escape the fallen world. Jesus himself had to suffer through it. Presuming to test our faiths ourselves is not how this works. Pre-emptively declaring a refusal to get a vaccine or show a card to get to work as a show of my faith would make me an idiot, not a strong Christian.