Whilst some people are working hard to find a vaccine for coronavirus, the scare stories are already doing the rounds even before the drugs are available. The vaccine will lead to other illness, will cause autism, etc – the same kinds of worries raised about MMR. At the same time, Christian speakers with a focus on “end time” speculation are already beginning to claim that the vaccine will in fact be the mark of the beast and so to accept it is to fall under the Anti-Christ.
I am not sure what medical or scientific qualifications those making the claims have but I want to deal here with the kind of scaremongering that high profile Christians engage with. I think we can give them fairly short shrift and here is why.
First of all, those making such claims are being inconsistent with their own approach to end times teaching. We can see that in two ways. First, the suggestion that the mark/number is a literal physical sign rather than a metaphorical symbol should be followed through consistently. In other words, you cannot claim that there will be a literal mark given to everyone and then completely ignore that it is meant to be applied to the forehead and/or the hand. So if you go to your GP and instead of offering you an injection in the arm, they insist on printing a label with a number or code on your head, you are probably okay.
Secondly, those that tend to take this kind of speculative approach to the end times tend usually to assume a particular timetable of the events that will lead to the anti-Christ emerging. They tend to believe that the church will be raptured out of the word prior to the time of tribulation and the arrival of Anti-Christ.
But the bigger problem is that the whole approach misunderstands how the book of Revelation works. It is a description of a vision, as John puts into human words what he saw. John is provided with a glimpse of heaven and a revelation of the whole of history from the perspective of the end. This means that he uses the language of how the end will happen, colourful cosmic language of the sun, moon and stars falling to help each of us in every age make sense of the circumstances we face today.
What that means, I believe is that when John talks about those who belong to the beast – or the systems of this world that stand in hostile opposition to Christ, he is saying that everyone will be marked out either as belonging to Christ or belonging to the world. This helps us to understand what he means because we have two points of reference.
First of all, in Deuteronomy 6, God’s people were told to bind the law to their hands and in front of their eyes (notice the link to foreheads and hands again). They were also to write Scripture on the doorposts of their houses. The aim was that wherever they were and what ever they were doing, they were to constantly have God’s word to them in their sights. They were literally to inhabit God’s Word. They were to observe it and they were to put it into action. We are meant to dwell in God’s word, or in fact to have it dwell in us. It is meant to completely transform our minds and affect how we live. In the same way, sin and the devil will control an unbeliever in their thought life and their action.
Then in Ephesians 1:13 -14 we are told that we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. Again this represents the fact that the Holy Spirit has taken control of our lives, filling us with his presence so that we are completely dependent on and completely obedient to him.
Christians are already marked out and sealed. We belong to Christ. We have his mark or branding. In the same way, the opponents of Christ are marked out as belonging to the enemy and opposing Christ. We should not be worried about accidently buying or product or being injected with a substance that contains the mark. Rather, we should be concerned, especially during this pandemic to show by what we do and say that we are marked as belonging
 C.f. Revelation 13:18.