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Questions About the Return of Jesus and the End Times: Resurrection, the Mark of the Beast, and Going to Heaven

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This is the final post in which I am answering questions about Jesus’s return and the end times that we received. While I devoted an entire post to the questions about the Rapture and Israel, respectively, and another post tackled two questions (the millennial kingdom and the concept of “preterism”), I think I can answer these five questions in a “lightning round” fashion within this single post. So, here we go…

Will there be a literal resurrection of the dead at Jesus’s return?
Yes! While Christians have different interpretations of the nature of the timing of Jesus’s return and the kingdom he brings, the hope of a literal resurrection is something about which there is wide agreement. We affirm this belief whenever we read the Apostles’ Creed, as we say “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” This hope in resurrection is found in both the Old and New Testaments (Daniel 12:2, John 5:28-29). Jesus’s resurrection is the grounds for our hope both because he stands as the first one whose body was raised to life (1 Corinthians 15:20-21) and because the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will give life to our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 6:14). 

If Jesus’s return will raise the dead from their graves, how do we explain entering God’s kingdom after death? If the dead have already entered the kingdom, why would raising from the dead be a good thing?
The Bible teaches that when a Christian dies, they are in the presence of God (Philippians 1:23). However, it is only the soul that is in God’s presence; their body remains on earth. Since we are made body and soul, Paul notes that this intermediate is kind of like being naked and that our hope is for the rebuilt “tent” of our bodies (2 Corinthians 5:1-5). The goal of the Christian faith is not to escape from our bodies or this earth, but the renewal and re-creation of this world (see Matthew 19:28; Acts 3:21) which includes the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23) in our resurrection as we live in the new heavens and the new earth (Isaiah 65-66 and Revelation 21-22).

Any insight on the mark of the beast?
The Book of Revelation describes a “beast from the earth” that follows a “beast from the sea” and causes one “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” (Revelation 13:16-17; also see 19:20). Those who receive this mark will experience God’s wrath (Revelation 14:9-10; 16:1), while those who do not receive this mark will experience the first resurrection and rule with Christ in the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:4). The text does not give much other information about this “mark of the beast” aside from this comment in Revelation 13:18: “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” (CSB).  

There has been no shortage of theories about what this mark is. One of the most famous theories is that it is Visa credit cards as “VI” is the Roman numeral for 6 and “S” being 6 in Greek and “A” being 6 in Babylonian, but the latter two links seem unlikely and it is unclear why one would be two letters and the other just one. Others viewed Ronald Wilson Reagan as the antichrist because he has 6 letters in the first, middle, and last name! Since the text calls for wisdom for its original readers, others posit that it referred to something in that time and have noted a connection with the Roman emperor, Nero. Support for that view is that there was a “death and resurrection” myth about Nero and there is a way to move from the letters of his name to the number 666. However, the numerical link is a bit convoluted because one needs to use a certain pronunciation of Nero and transliterate his name from Greek to Hebrew. 

Rather than fixating on the number, it might be good to look at the idea of the “mark.” Revelation also discusses a mark being placed on the forehead of believers (Revelation 7:3; 9:4; 14:1). The mark of the beast is a parallel to that mark and thus may be more symbolic than literal. In addition, the placement of this mark may recall how God’s people were to have the law of God on their hands and foreheads (see Deuteronomy 6:8), a command that is not literally applied today and points to the need to have God’s word upon our hearts. This symbol would be another way in which Satan imitates what God does, a common theme in Revelation and Scripture and is seen in this context in which there is the “unholy Trinity” of the dragon, beast from the sea, and beast from the earth. Even the number 666 is a pale imitation of God because 7 is the number of perfection and repeating something 3 times is also a sign of perfection and completeness. Thus, God’s number is 777 and Satan’s is 666. He tries to mimic God but falls short of it. In noting that this is a human number (as humans were created on the sixth day), it may be a way of showing that this reflects allegiance to a human kingdom rather than God’s kingdom and/or that this is our default state. The commentator Simon Kistemaker interestingly notes that 6 in Revelation is often connected with judgment as well, showing that this is a reminder that the work of Satan will be judged. 

This mark was a danger to Christians living in the Roman empire and will continue until Christ’s return, as one is either marked by God or the beast. Rather than being on guard against anything that has the number 666, we should focus on worshiping God and keeping His commandments – and be on guard against things that look and sound similar but are not true both in the world and also in the church. Thus, the call for wisdom is less about seeking to discern patterns in numbers or being able to do calculations, and more about being faithful to the Word of God, having endurance and keeping God’s commands (Revelation 14:12). 

Do I have to be in a state of grace in which I have confessed all my sins in order to be accepted into heaven?
Our salvation is not based upon our awareness and confession of every sin but rather upon our belief and trust that the death of Christ has paid for every sin. Thus, those who have faith in Christ can know that we have eternal life and don’t need to wonder or worry about whether we have confessed every single sin at any point in our life and especially at the point of death (1 John 5:13). In fact, we should probably recognize the reality that there is more sin in our life than we are even aware of, and that none of us will ever confess every sin we have committed.  I would encourage us to search and try to confess all our sins, not because otherwise our souls are in jeopardy when we die, but rather so we can be in awe and wonder of how much God has forgiven us and to help us to turn from the sin that deprives us from experiencing God’s best for us in life. 

How do I know if I’ll make it into heaven?
I’ll point you to John 5:24: “Truly I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life” (CSB). If you have heard the word about Jesus (that God sent him to die for our sins and raised him from the dead) and believe in him, then you can know that you are going to heaven. It is not about what you have done (as you can never do enough to earn entrance into heaven), but looking to Jesus and trusting that what He has done for you is more than enough. 

We can’t know for sure when Jesus will return, but we can know what will happen to us when he does or when we die. It is my hope and prayer that all those reading this know and have this hope. If you don’t – please reach out as I would love to help you find that.

Questions about the Bible or theology? Email them to Pastor Brian at Theology@WeAreFaith.org. 

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