I will admit it freely … the book of Revelation is one of my favourites in the Bible. Who doesn’t like seven-headed, ten-horned beasts and buckets full of plagues pouring out death and destruction over the face of the globe? It is the stuff of big budget Hollywood blockbusters.
But it is also the stuff of everyday life here in this sin-broken world. It is a profound and deep commentary of not only how things are, but where they are going. Take, for instance, the part about the mark of the beast from Rev. 13: “Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.”
Now many might look at such a thing and launch into grand conspiracy theories of world governments, secret economic cabals, the world-wide-web, and microchip technology; but I think there is a much simpler way to understand the mark of the beast … Tolerance.
Let me explain. Tolerance is a counterfeit virtue. It is the pale shadow of the real virtue of compassion. Just as God has marked His own (with compassion and for compassion), so too will the devil mark those he seeks to claim. And he will do it with tolerance. For tolerance is that which sweeps all sin under the rug. “I’m OK you are OK we are all OK and everyone should be OK with that.” Tolerance is a breeding ground for every dark and perverted affront to humanity. Tolerance is today’s open door to tomorrows moral atrocities. Tolerance accepts anything. Tolerance celebrates everything … except not being tolerant. Tolerance is completely intolerant of such exclusiveness as right and wrong, good and bad, hurtful and helpful.
And just like the prophecy from Revelation, unless you are marked by Tolerance there is no longer any room for you in our culture. Unless you are fully supporting of everything, and refuse to stand against anything there is no place for you anymore. The recent news has been awash in one story after another showing this is no joke. Entrepreneurs run out of business, employees are losing their jobs because they believe in traditional marriage. [Link Link Link] Religious communities told they must pay for things they find morally reprehensible. [Link] Christian schools facing open hostility for wanting to train lawyers who might also be Christian and hold to Christian ideals. [Link] Christians (and to a lesser degree other religions) told there is no place for them in the public square … you can be a Christian in your own home, so long as you never talk about it, show pride in it, or live your life according to its principles). [Link] But then again, Christians being told they are not allowed to teach their faith even in their own homes. [Link Link]
There is no tolerance in today’s public square for the person who does not firmly and publicly bear the devilish mark of Tolerance. No place for their beliefs, no place for their participation in public debate, no place for their livelihood. No place for them.
But the beast will not have his way. The world, though awash in death and destruction and the trampling of so much in the name of tolerance, will be saved … is being saved. For Revelation shows us that no matter how strong or pervasive this counterfeit mark becomes in the hands of the devil and his beast, it is still only a counterfeit and will never come close to the true mark with which God has sealed His own … The mark of compassion. For compassion is a true virtue. One that does not cover over sin, but still cares for the sinner. Compassion values all human life, defends all human beings … even those who are different, belligerent, or out-rightly opposed. Unlike Tolerance which can ONLY demand, threaten and make claims against others, Compassion never demands but rather it offers, it pays, it sacrifices.
For God in His great Compassion, sent His Son into the world, because He could not tolerate sin and its consequences any longer. And in that great compassion He offered Himself up for those who were not like Him. He payed for their sins and did not love them any less for all that it cost Him. He sacrificed His own life for those who cannot tolerate anything He has to say. In that life-changing compassion He marked us with the sign of all compassion – the cross – and promised to be with us to the bitter end. Defending us from the tyranny of tolerance, protecting us from the evils of this world, and bringing us safely to His heavenly home … not because He tolerates us … but because He has compassion for us.
(Rev 7:3-4) “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel. (Rev 14:1) Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.
We are marked by compassion and we are marked for compassion. And so we, in turn, seek not to be more tolerant but more compassionate. Gently holding our ground, praying for our friends and neighbours and ideological opponents. Opposing those things which are hurtful, no matter how many people want to do them. Holding out the truths of right and wrong, good and evil … especially for those who are not like ourselves. Because, not even we intolerant Christians want to see anyone left for the seven-headed, ten-horned beast and his bitter death and destruction (no matter how cool a movie it might make).