Virgil Ambrose Cruz, The Mark of the Beast

Cruz, Virgil Ambrose. The Mark of the Beast: A Study of the ΧΑΡΑΓΜΑ [CHARAGMA] in the Apocalypse. Amsterdam: Academische Pers N. V., 1973. 153 pp.

This thesis is a very important, but also quite neglected study. Cruz carefully surveys how the mark of the beast is used in Revelation.

One of the most debated issues is the earth beast’s mark, to charagma (Rev 13:16-17; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4). The number of its name is given as six hundred and sixty-six (Rev 13:18). The interest in the imagery of the mark has not been comparable to the interest in the number. The only extensive investigation seems to be Virgil Ambrose Cruz’s The Mark of the Beast from 1973.

Cruz analyses four aspects, namely the question of who gives the mark, the issues of the bestowal and the reception or rejection of it, the facet of the place of the mark, and, finally, the parallels to the mark. He completes his study with a discussion of all the passages in which the charagma imagery occurs.

Cruz concludes that the mark constitutes a magnitude of threat, and that it is “the mark of God’s arch adversary, the anti-God force”, wherefore the recipients are “stigmatized as [the adversary’s] followers, hence, similarly as opponents of God”. He asserts that it “becomes in its own right an enemy to be conquered by God’s people (15:2)” and “a symbol of evil” (p. 131).The mark should be understood as symbols, which nevertheless point to realities in the world (p. 132).

Cruz concludes that the charagma is “whatever decisively indicates that a man is allied with the anti-God force” and that it earns its bearers the wrath of God (p. 132).

Cruz’s analysis is a major achievement in that he pays attention to the narrative use of this motif. The mark is clearly described as a contrasting parallel to the seal of God, as is shown by the location of the seal and the mark, by the agents of this act, by the behaviour, and by the final outcome (cf. also pp. 86-100).

As regards the location, both the seal of God and the mark of the beast are to be placed on the forehead (7:3; 13:16), although the latter may also be put on the (right) hand (13:16; 14:9; 20:4) (p. 79).[1] V. A. Cruz argues that the wearing of the charagma on the forehead or the right hand is “tantamount to making a fully public confession of faith in and acceptance of the authority of the forces which are diametrically opposed to God”.[2]

With regard to the agents, the servants of God are marked by angels (7:3), probably indicating that they are approved as servants.[3]

As regards the force behind, it is explicitly said that the beast is behind the marking with the charagma (cf. kai poiei in 13:16) (pp. 7f), while it is only implied that it is God who gave order to the sealing of his servants (7:2f).[4]

As far as the behaviour is concerned, there is a clear distinction between those who dwell on the earth and the servants of God.[5] On the one hand, the whole earth follows the beast (13:3) and worships the dragon and the beast (13:4 cf. 13:8), prompted by the second beast (13:12).[6] Their names are not written in the book of life (13:8). On the other hand, the saints against whom the beast makes war (13:7) even let themselves be killed rather than worship the beast (13:15) (cf. also pp. 58-63).

As for the outcome, the two groups are quite contrastive. Those who are killed will be raised and reign together with Christ for ‘a thousand years’ (20:4) indeed forever (22:5), while those who worship the beast and receive its mark will suffer the wrath and torment of God (14:10), in fact also forever (14:11).[7]


[1] See also pp. 72-3.

[2] Cruz also calls attention to the parallel use of onoma in Rev 14:1 and 22:4. This name motif is introduced already in 3:12 (cf. 2:17). The name of God, of the New Jerusalem (which perhaps includes the name of the Lord as in Ez 48:35), and of Christ may thus be the mark of the seal of God and therefore the contrast to the mark of the beast and its number. Such a contrast is also implied in the ‘blasphemous names’ and the blaspheming of God’s name in Rev 13:1 and 6. The 144,000 have the name of the Lamb and his Father written on their foreheads, where the seal of God should be placed according to 7:2f.

[3] Cruz convincingly rejects the view that the bearers have marked themselves (cf. e.g. DNT-1948 and DBI). The reason is that the Greek of Rev 13:16 reads not epi tês cheiros heautôn, but epi tês cheiros autôn and the parallel passages in Rev 14:9, 11; 19:20 and 20:4 use the verb lambanô (pp. 6-7).

[4] Cruz argues, however, that “the words sphragida theou zôntos explicitly point to God as the authority behind its bestowal” (p. 87).

[5] See pp. 56-8 for a description of the recipients of the mark of the beast.

[6] Cruz argues that the reason why the bearers worship and receive the mark was not that it was imposed “irresistibly”, but that they were prompted to do so by the great signs, the threat of death sentence and by economic sanctions. He therefore concludes that “the bestowal of the ca,ragma is not to be taken for granted in every individual case but depends rather upon the success of the variously expressed enticements and pressures to conform” (V. A. Cruz 1973, 56).

[7] Cf. also pp. 58. However, Cruz interprets Revelation 13 as a description of non-parousian circumstances and claims that the recipients of the mark of the beast receives “approval, membership in the cult (13:12) and exemption from economic and political sanctions applied against recalcitrants” from the dragon and the two beasts (ibid.).

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