“and that no one would be able to buy or to sell, unless he has that mark, the name of the beast or the number of his name.” — Revelation 13:17, HNV et al.
Transliteration (may require the Greek fonts to be installed in order to view error-free):
και [AND] ινα [THAT] μη τις [NO ONE] δυνηται [SHOULD BE ABLE] αγορασαι [TO BUY] η [OR] πωλησαι [TO SELL,] ει μη [EXCEPT] ο [HE WHO] εχων [HAS] το [THE] χαραγμα [MARK] η [OR] το [THE] ονομα [NAME] του [OF THE] θηριου [BEAST,] η [OR] τον [THE] αριθμον του [NUMBER] ονοματος [NAME] αυτου [OF ITS.] — Revelation 13:17, IGNT
[I thought it might be interesting to examine Revelation 13:17 in light of the current fiscal crisis. What follows are solely my thoughts and reflections on the subject, offered strictly as opinion and only on a for-what-it’s-worth basis.]
Starting with the beginning, the account reads that “no one would be able to buy or to sell.” Considering that for a moment, let’s apply that to our everyday lives. For one thing, nearly every single need we have requires that we have access to a market, after all, that’s where we obtain whatever goods it is that we think we need, right? It’s self-evident that the writer is not referring to self-sufficiency—after all, what need would there be to buy if we grew our own food, fashioned our own clothing, drew from our own wells? What would we sell that we would not be GIVING to those in need?
Regardless, the writer speaks to a time when nobody would be able to “buy” what they need, even those things that support life itself (food, water, shelter) UNLESS… and I’ll come back to that in a moment.
Now, in the original Greek language, in which the Revelation was written, the word I want to first focus on is “agorazō” (agorazo, ‘go to market; redeem’ [Strongs G59])
As I already mentioned, we go to “market” for every single thing that exists in our life. Food? Go to the food market. Need a TV? Go to the electronics market. Need a car? Go to the auto market. Need a place to live? Go to the housing market. Need medical care? Go to the health market, which includes hospitals, physicians, insurance companies, not just drug stores. Even our banks, credit unions, water companies, electric companies, and our governments have become marketplaces. If you live in a city, your water comes from a city-owned well, paid for with your tax dollars and then sold back to you in the form of a monthly water bill that continues to rise year after year. In many cities around “the Land of the Free,” it is illegal for you to have your own well while living within the reach of the city’s own marketed water supply, and residents are fined until they relent. And as I’ve said on MANY occasions, a fine IS a TAX. Just like a FEE is a TAX. A fine is typically a tax paid to a government, a fee is a tax generally paid to a corporation.
The Currency of the Market
So, how do we PAY for all of this? Well, we use money, right? In our nation, the American dollar, which is a “Federal note” is redeemed for purchases. But a little-known fact is that a business or corporation is not required to accept that dollar as exchange for whatever it is that you want that THEY have (try to rent a car, for example, with cash). Further, the American dollar is a form of “fiat money” [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_currency ]. In simplest terms, the American dollar has value because the Federal reserve SAYS it has value, not because it DOES have value in and of itself.
Section 411 of Title 12 of the United States Code provides that Federal Reserve Notes “shall be redeemed in lawful money on demand at the Treasury Department of the United States, in the city of Washington, District of Columbia, or at any Federal Reserve bank”. Before 1964, some notes were “backed” by silver and before 1933, by gold: that is, the law provided that holders of Federal Reserve notes could exchange them on demand for a fixed amount of metal (although from 1934–1971, only foreign holders of the notes could exchange the notes for gold on demand). — Wikipedia, “Federal Reserve Note”
The question is, if every single dollar was turned in, or redeemed for “lawful money” (whatever THAT is!), would there be enough gold to exchange? “Shall be redeemed” requires that it be redeemABLE, that is, have the ability to BE redeemed, at a moment’s notice. Right? Common sense.
We have it on the authority of the Federal Reserve that the American dollar is 1) worth what they say it is, thus able to use in the exchange of goods and services, except that is NOT the reality at all, and 2) that it is also redeemable as a note against the form of currency behind it, primarily gold.
Debts, Public and Private
Pull out any dollar you may have available, be it a $1 note, a $5 note or a $10 note, and see what it says:
“this note is legal tender for all debts, public and private”
In its own words, the notes that we carry around are valid only for DEBTS.
When you go to Best Buy to buy that “brand new” TV, you are not paying a DEBT.
A “debt” is something you owe. To someone else. You are in-debt with them, or, “indebted.”
When you pay that water bill or electric bill, you then ARE paying a debt that they say you owe. Never mind that they may every well be also getting paid subsidies from our government, which pays by means of the taxes we pay. In effect, we are charged twice for MANY things throughout our life. For example, every time we fuel our car, we pay taxes on the fuel we pump into our vehicle, and then the government pays the oil companies “subsidies” for that oil. And the same can be said of many other multi-billion dollar corporations, banking systems, and industries that sell us goods.
Our local governments likewise fall into this form of behavior. As aforementioned, we pay our local “municipality” for debts incurred for providing water and electricity to us, even though our local municipality raised the amount of taxes we pay in order to build that service and raises taxes to maintain it—taxes that we pay… and then are billed monthly ever after, and enact legislation to prevent us from getting it from anywhere else.
Where else, for example, are you going to get your electricity, if not from your local power company? Competition simply does not exist.
In fact, you are probably reading this while using an internet service that is either through your telephone provider, or through your cable company. For some, it may be their cell phone provider. Regardless, you will not have access if you don’t pay what they declare you owe.
We pay this using a monetary system that is ONLY valid for debts. Its validity is only as good as someone says it is, and only redeemable if the intended party accepts it against your debt.
There is no legal requirement that they do so, as I’ve already mentioned. But if your local store suddenly says that it will no longer accept that federal note in exchange for those diapers, or clothing, or what-have-you, then what? How will you buy what you need?
The first thing people do when they don’t have money is turn to selling what they have, but this is to procure money—in this case, American federal notes, so they can buy.
The problem with this is that everyone else has that same American federal note as their form of currency, and theirs is just as unacceptable as yours to that market.
Note the following:
The right, in many jurisdictions, of a trader to refuse to do business with any person means a purchaser cannot demand to make a purchase, and so declaring a legal tender in law, as anything other than an offered payment for debts already incurred, would not be effective. — Wikipedia, “Legal Tender”
All of this is intended to illustrate the emphasis and dependence that exists where our monetary system is concerned. It has become the ONLY means by which the vast majority of people obtain those things necessary to life. Ask anyone how it’s possible that people are starving in Africa, for example, and time and again it will boil down to money. There just isn’t enough money to see to it that the destitute, dying, and starving are fed. Give more money and help feed a mouth.
Just to illustrate my point: Let’s say that Walmart decides to set up shop in an accessible area of Africa, for a vast number of Africans. Will they simply give their products to those in need? Definitely not. Pallets of food, water, clothing and other comforts, separated from those in dire need by a brick-and-mortar wall… and the demand for payment. What will be the form of payment that these destitute residents use to acquire the basic needs from the Walmart? They have nothing to offer that the Walmart store wants (after all, Walmart is there to sell goods, not buy them, right?), so what can the Africans do?
And even though there are currencies in and throughout Africa, the money is “worthless,” primarily because the native peoples presently have nothing to exchange. (This is why trillions have been sent to countries with natural resources which we crave as a nation (petroleum being the most massive of all resources consumed daily, even though it is a limited resource, the exhaustion of which will lead to devastation changes in how we live and carry on with our daily lives), rather than to areas of the world such as Africa.)
The folly doesn’t stop there, however: we pay billions out in personal entertainment, luxury, and recreation, every single year, and the numbers continue to rise, year after year. Arguably, we carry on in this counterproductivity so that we don’t have to think about those people over there, for which there “isn’t enough money to clothe, feed, educate, and raise up as human beings.”
“…unless he has that mark…”
Which brings me now, to the “mark” mentioned in the account there at Revelation 13. People everywhere have spent centuries trying to decipher what this “mark” is when the answer is right in front of them, plain as day.
Even today, people buy into the notion that it was the coin with Caesar’s head on it (or the NAME of Caesar, as played out in the serialization of his name using Roman alphanumeric characters), or the dollar bill, or a microchip embedded in our skin, possibly at our birth. Or a plastic card that we must swipe.
First of all, what did a “mark” mean when the writer of the Revelation put those words down in the account?
In the original Greek, we find the word “χάραγμα” (‘charagma‘). According to Strongs G5480, this generally is understood to mean “a scratch or etching,” and most commonly was used to mean a “stamp” (as a badge of servitude).
So, starting from this point, the writer is saying that the aforementioned condition of our not being able to “buy or sell” will be somehow intertwined with our servitude.
Things become even more interesting when we also take into consideration that the word charagma is directly connected with and derived from “χάραξ” (‘charax’), which, according to Strongs G5482, is in reference to “a stake, that is, a palisade or rampart.”
Why this is interesting is because that is the very same word used at Luke 19:43 when referring to a future event:
“Because the days will come upon you when your enemies will build around you a fortification with pointed stakes [charax] and will encircle you and distress you from every side…” — Luke 19:43
Historically, this led to the destruction of Jerusalem, in 70 C.E, an event that’s generally accepted by theology to be the beginning of the Biblical “times of the Gentiles.”
But what does an event so far in the past have to do with our present-day fiscal crisis?
The answer to that is found in the consideration of another account, likewise found in the Bible.
In Ezekiel, we find a scenario wherein people are given a mark.
and he began calling out to the man that was clothed with the linen, at whose hips there was the secretary’s inkhorn. And Jehovah went on to say to him: “Pass through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and you must put a mark on the foreheads of the men that are sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that are being done in the midst of it.” — Ezekiel 9:3-4, NWT
Nobody would try to reason that anyone received a literal mark on their forehead when Jerusalem was first condemned and then destroyed. It’s clearly understood to be representative of the persons’ “sighing and groaning over all the detestable things” that were being done in Jerusalem.
Arguing from precedent, then, we can reasonably argue that the mark described at Revelation 13:17 is likewise not a literal mark, but rather a representative mark. In Ezekiel, the marking is an approval of the “sighing and groaning” being done, the grieving and mourning over the “detestable things” being done in Jerusalem. Logically, the mark mentioned in the Revelation must mean an approval on the part of the force behind what compels the “mark” mentioned there. Approval means one subsequently has been authorized to “buy or sell.” Apart from being approved, one may not buy or sell.
If one received the mark at Ezekiel 9:4 for “sighing and groaning,” then the converse must be true that the mark at Revelation 13:17 must be for opposite reasons, that is, the opposite of sighing and groaning. They must be happy and content with what is being done. Implicit approval on the part of those in servitude.
Nowhere is this made more clear than by the previously noted billions spent on entertainment, gadgets, recreation, “creature comforts” and excess on the part of Society, most notably within the United States. The accumulation of wealth is the goal of the game, a wealth that consists of nothing BUT a number at its core.
When a people can spend billions on frivolities while fellow humans go hungry, live in poverty and destitution, and cannot “afford” even the necessities of Life or medical care, the people certainly are NOT “sighing and groaning” in the manner described at Ezekiel. The diametrical opposite is true, in fact.
But just try to get off the hamster wheel. Try to stop feeding the problem. Even if you were to stop spending money on “discretionary spending,” you still must acknowledge and acquiesce to the power and authority of the Beast that controls your ability to sustain your very life. Stop paying for your water on the principle, and you’ll find your access to water cut-off. The same with electricity. And without electricity, you’ll have no power to run your well pump, no refrigerator. Even your land that you purchased is not actually owned by you—fail to pay the government into perpetuity “land taxes” and it will be taken away from you.
Ownership, in other words, is never acquired—it is granted, and even then, it can just as swiftly be taken away. Cars are leased, homes are either leased or they are mortgaged. Devices such as cell phones are contracted for years at a time. Even the movie you purchased is merely licensed. And on the list could go.
“…the name of the beast”
For a long time, people signed onto the notion that the “name of the beast” was “Caesar,” after consideration of the alphanumeric representation in Roman language, which added up to a specific number (Six Hundred Sixty-Six), as well. That’s creative, but astute Bible students have long-since recognized that the use of the term “name” in the Bible is nearly universally in reference to authority. Even our modern-day English recognizes this usage. For example, terms like “in the name of the King,” or “in the name of the Church,” or even “in Jesus’ name” clearly point to the authority behind the declaration. Nobody in their reasoning mind would say that the expression “in Jesus’ name” means anything except by the authority vested in Jesus… and not some sort of magical intonation of that name as though by artifice and craft and wizardry.
Likewise, the expression “name of the beast” is not a reference to a singular, mysterious, frightening name by which we will suddenly recognize and identify this “beast” which as in countless movies and books and sermons around the world been referred to as the name of the “anti-christ” himself, some sort of child of Satan.
Instead, it is a direct reference once again to the authority granted to the person needing to buy or sell, granted by the beast. Authority is, in turn, granted by one’s recognition that the beast has the authority being bestowed. Without that, there is no authority given.
Why is this significant to the discussion? Because it goes back to the above-mentioned issue, that money has no intrinsic value in and of itself, beyond the buying power granted it by the beast being described in the Revelation. It is only worth as much as the Federal Reserve (in our case, here in the United States) declares it’s worth, and that worth is based solely on their word and claim. By that granted power and authority, we acquire goods and services. Without it, we get nothing, and even what we have may be taken from us as people try to sell off their possessions just for essential needs such as food, water, or housing.
“…or the number of his name…”
Once again, let’s go back to the original Greek in which the Revelation was written, and have a look next at the word we used “number” to translate into English. In the original Greek, we find the word “ἀριθμός” (‘arithmos’) which essentially means a reckoned number, or value. (Strongs, G706)
Today, we have what is referred to as our “credit rating.” This is a value or “risk index” given to us to indicate our worth in the fiscal system. The lower the credit rating, or value, the less we are worth (read: worthless). The more value we have, the more authority granted—which actually means, literally, our buying power, or authority, to obtain goods and services in the market. If we have a low value, it doesn’t just impact our ability to buy homes and cars and secure loans, however. In many cases, it also means we are charged more for insurances, and that we often have to pay a “deposit” before we are granted water or electric power to our home from funds that we do not have, thus creating a greater servitude (see above).
But there is a greater, more disturbing relevance to be found here.
A New God
While it’s true that this imaginary assignment of value impacts our livelihood, it still goes back to an earlier point made about those “sighing and groaning” at what is happening.
“Arithmos,” in the original Greek, comes from another word—”αἴρω” (‘airō’), which takes us back to the Hebraic expression having to do with the expiation of sin, and connotes a “lifting up” or “loosing” that seems to point to a sense of salvation. (Strongs G142)
Simply put, while there is little room left for doubt in the reality that our present-day fiscal system holds the power and authority over our livelihoods, it doesn’t address the converse of what we find is behind the mark in Ezekiel, in that the people marked or approved are marked or approved because of their “sighing and groaning” in relation to what was happening contemporaneously with the marking from the inkhorn described in Ezekiel.
We need look no further than the emphasis a Society places upon what the beast offers. Not a single day or even a single second of our day goes by where we are not led to believe that by working hard, being a good citizen, behaving, and contributing to the economy, we will enjoy a wonderful, comfortable life. Stay on the cutting-edge and buy the latest electronic device! Don’t miss this summer’s blockbuster! Cast your vote for who stays to appear on next week’s episode of this show or that show! Buy a lottery ticket and win millions! Haven’t bought the lastest hit song from your favorite music group? Buy it online, 24/7!
Marketing has become the new theology, inculcating in its audience the sense of need which drives the consumption which fuels the coffers of the beast which constitutes the fiscal system which keeps us all in servitude.
And the majority of people believe it, and have for a very long time. They have looked to the fiscal system for their salvation. Just one more tug of the arm of the slot machine. Just one more lottery ticket. The latest cell phone, computer, portable device, car, pool, shampoo, video game, fashion… and on the list goes.
Even Christians are not immune to this misplaced notion of salvation. In nearly every instance, when a Christian acquires wealth, they attribute their wealth to being particularly blessed by God. If we follow this logic, then those who are less fortunate and more destitute must likewise be cursed by God. Yet reasonableness tells us this makes no sense.
The fiscal system, however, insists that everyone must do their part and contribute to the economy and help it grow. Doing so will lift us up to a better living. It will make life better… for everyone. What most people do not stop and consider is that “contribute” is really a tactful way of exacting what it is from you that you are willing to sacrifice toward the “cause” of improving life by feeding the beast. What are you willing to offer… or, succinctly, what is your offering?
In the time of Jerusalem, when the Jews would come for the Passover or other religious festivals, they often needed to resort to dealing with the “moneychangers” who exchanged the incoming currency for the “legal tender” that was authorized by the leaders of the Jews. On two occasions, Gospel accounts record Jesus disrupting the financial markets within Jerusalem by castigating the moneychangers and profiteers within the Jewish system for capitalizing on the people’s needs. Even Revelation mentions the collapse specifically of a fiscal system, or economy:
“And the kings of the earth who committed fornication with her and lived in shameless luxury will weep and beat themselves in grief over her, when they look at the smoke from the burning of her, while they stand at a distance because of their fear of her torment and say, ‘Too bad, too bad…’
“Also, the traveling merchants of the earth are weeping and mourning over her, because there is no one to buy their full stock anymore, a full stock of gold and silver and precious stone and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet; and everything in scented wood and every sort of ivory object and every sort of object out of most precious wood and of copper and of iron and of marble; also cinnamon and Indian spice and incense and perfumed oil and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and horses and coaches and slaves and human souls. Yes, the fine fruit that your soul desired has departed from you, and all the dainty things and the gorgeous things have perished from you, and never again will people find them.
“The traveling merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of [their] fear of her torment and will weep and mourn, saying, ‘Too bad, too bad—the great city, clothed with fine linen and purple and scarlet, and richly adorned with gold ornament and precious stone and pearl…
“And every ship captain and every man that voyages anywhere, and sailors and all those who make a living by the sea, stood at a distance and cried out as they looked at the smoke from the burning of her and said, ‘What city is like the great city?’ And they threw dust upon their heads and cried out, weeping and mourning, and said, ‘Too bad, too bad—the great city, in which all those having boats at sea became rich by reason of her costliness… — Revelation 18:9-19, NWT
The only way one becomes “rich” in the sense portrayed in the above-cited passage is through a monetary or fiscal system. Remove money from the equation and the passage becomes nonsensical. And surely it earns consideration that the very people who became rich by means of the fiscal system do absolutely nothing when it fails, beyond grieve over how it will impact their riches. Kings “weep” and grieve… international merchants and traders weep and mourn, but BOTH “stand at a distance” and watch it happen. Not a single one of them rushes in to douse the flames. Instead, they shake their collective heads and utter, “too bad, too bad.”
One need only go to any news website or read any newspaper to see this apathy in our day in regards to the current fiscal crisis impacting the entire world. Nowhere is this more evident than here in the United States as it stands on the brink of fiscal ruin under the guise of a “debt default.” The elephant in the room, however, is not the stalemate in Washington D.C., but rather in the threat of downgrade in the U.S. “credit rating.” Remember, a lower rating means lower buying authority from the beast known as the fiscal or monetary system.
One must also note that the kings, traveling merchants and traders of stock, and even the ones who “make a living by the sea” (the “sea” in the Revelation is often a symbolic term for the masses of humankind) are apparently unaffected by this monetary collapse—but there is no mention of the general public “standing at a distance” to witness the downfall. If they aren’t likewise standing at a distance, they must be caught up in it, otherwise, where are they in relation to the collapse and destruction?
This godlike system that held out so much promise of wealth, health and happiness, the so-called “American way,” as the saying goes here in this particular country, will offer nothing of the sort when the hour of accounting arrives. Nor will the businessmen, government leaders, nor stock traders offer a helping hand when that hour is upon us.
Unfortunately, as in systems past, the less fortunate (read: those with less fortune) will ultimately suffer in what comes. Escape will be difficult, if not impossible, on a geographic level, because of the interconnected nature of the world’s economy. They will, at least an undetermined number of them will be of the sort “sighing and groaning” over what is being done—to the exclusion of those who only start “sighing and groaning” after the collapse, who grieve over their loss and the “good life” but aren’t high enough up the fiscal ladder of success to elude the collapse’s reach.
It certainly falls within the realm of possibility that what happens next to those not included in the “kings,” “traveling merchants,” and businessmen who make a living by means of the “sea” of humankind, may include some form of servitude wherein people will no longer work for the elusive dollar, but for food, water, and shelter—levels of which will be pre-determined and doled out by those nonchalant kings, merchants, and businessmen, having acquired the wealth and control of commodities and land and working together to keep control. In Christian circles, this may prove to be the “Tribulation” that is expected. It is certainly reasonable to hold that view, giving the evidence we have before us. In those days, we will be grateful enough to have even the barest necessities—if not for ourselves, then for our infants, or children, or families as a whole—that we will be willing to work in “sweat shops” much like is already happening around the world so that we can presently enjoy low-priced items here.
The Solution (?)
Really, if we’re candid with ourselves, we must admit that the collapse of the fiscal system, or worldwide economy, is NOT really the endgame for the ones who will be watching its demise from afar. It’s about power and domination, with humans in servitude to whim and will.
We know a revolution is only a temporary fix, and that before long another system is in place that allows a select, elite few to profit from the labors of the People. A more extensive, long-lasting solution is required, and for Christian believers, that solution is found in the Messianic Kingdom that will be instituted and reigned over by Jesus Christ. At least that is the hope held onto.
But what do we do in the meantime to provide for our families? Really, it’s a practical question, given the uncertainty of the very thing upon which the majority have placed their hopes and dreams, but will never truly experience. A better economy will not solve the problem. A winning lottery ticket will not solve the problem… and even if it does provide a temporary relief for you, what about your fellow humans who suffer endlessly, day after day, withering and perishing at unconscionable rates…? What about them? Are they really someone else’s problem, to which we shake our heads and mutter, “Too bad, too bad”?
Unfortunately, there has been absolutely no evidence that the elite will ever tire of enslaving the People, and the People will never tire of being enslaved, all the while believing the doctrine that if you just work hard enough, long enough… and sacrifice enough, you, too, can become one of the elite!
And that’s perhaps the greatest tragedy of all.