Foreheads and the Mark of the Beast

Will you end up with the mark of God on your forehead in the end, or the “mark of the beast”?

An American woman has auctioned off her forehead to the highest bidder. Karolyne Smith1 accepted $10,000 to have a tattoo of “” etched onto her forehead forever. The company’s payout for a lifetime of advertising was made all the more lucrative by the media attention generated by such a ridiculous enterprise. “The problem with face tattoos is there is no coming back from one,” says tattoo artist, Kevin Paul. “Having face tattoos myself, I know how people look at you and judge you differently. I personally wouldn’t have it done if I could go back again.”

There’s just no hiding it. Our foreheads are about the most prominent part of our whole body – the polar opposite to the “unpresentable parts” as 1 Corinthians 12 calls them – the parts we treat with greater honor and protect with greater modesty. Your forehead, on the other hand, is just right out there, whether you like it or not.

In the Bible the forehead is often a metaphor for brazenness or boldness, but it also has connotations of identity and decided destiny.

The significance of foreheads in the Bible

When we look at the concept throughout the Bible, the references to foreheads are either very good or very bad. There’s not much middle ground. Here are some examples of what I mean:

 “You are to make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engravings of a seal, ‘HOLY TO Adonai.’ Attach it with a violet cord onto the turban, on the front of the turban. So it will rest on Aaron’s forehead, so that Aaron will bear away the iniquity committed regarding the holy things, which Bnei-Yisrael set apart as all their holy gifts. It is to be always on his forehead, so that they may have favor before Adonai”. (Exodus 28: 36-38)

Clearly, this is about as positive as it can get.

The chief priest has to display his allegiance to God in the most prominent way possible. He is wholly dedicated to the Lord and his purposes – he is no longer his own, but belongs to God as a vessel on behalf of the people of Israel.

The sign, “Holy unto the Lord” right there on his forehead was a constant and prominent reminder to the people, to God, and to the priest himself about the agreement that was in place between them. Decisions had been made, and his life was set apart for God.

We see several references to foreheads being brazen as a picture of Israel's determined stubbornness against God, and we also see a couple of interesting appearances of the forehead in two tragic stories: Goliath was taken down by David‘s slingshot right in the forehead, and King Uzziah's foolish attempt to usurp the role of priest in the tabernacle (after refusing to heed rebukes and warnings) was punished by an outbreak of leprosy that appeared – you guessed it – on his forehead. Right there on full display, for all to see.

Then we have a more positive reference in Ezekiel 9, as God was carrying out judgment in Jerusalem, but sparing those who grieved over sin as God did. They got a special sign to preserve them on their foreheads:

Adonai said to him, “Go throughout the city, through the midst of Jerusalem. Make a mark on the foreheads of the people who sigh and moan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” To the others He said in my hearing: “Go through the city after him and strike... But touch no one who has the mark. Begin at My Sanctuary.” (Ezekiel 9:4-6)

Again, it's a matter of allegiance, standing on one side or the other.

Whose side are you on?

We see this same idea in the last book of the Bible, Revelation. Interestingly, the subject does not appear at all in the New Testament, apart from in this apocalyptic book. When God is about to pour out his wrath, he says,

“Do no harm to the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” (Revelation 7:3)

This mark on God's people was to protect them from judgment, like in the book of Ezekiel. Later, in Revelation chapter 9, a judgment is released in the form of destroying locusts, who were sent to attack mankind… but not all of mankind:

…only the people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. (Revelation 9:4)

This is a seal of protection, of ownership, of belonging to God.
When I was young, I remember reading this powerful and inspiring passage in Isaiah 44:5 which describes God's people making a strong and permanent decision to identify with the God of Israel. It had a profound affect on me:

This one will say, ‘I am Adonai’s.’
That one will be called by the name Jacob.
Another will write on his hand, ‘Adonai’s’
and will take the name Israel.”

I thought it would be great to get a tattoo on my hand, declaring my allegiance to God. Thankfully I was persuaded against the idea. It's a not a great idea to get tattoos on your hands either. Face and hand tattoos are tricky to hide. Isn't it interesting that these are the two places that the mark of the Beast will be put? Foreheads and hands?

The Mark of the Beast

He also causes all—the small and the great, the rich and the poor, the free and the slave—to receive a mark on their right hand or upon their forehead. And so no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark—either the name of the beast or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:16-17)

This is a very serious matter. Accepting the mark of the beast is to seal your fate, forever.

If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he shall also drink the wine of God’s fury, poured full strength into the cup of His wrath. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone before the holy angels and before the Lamb. The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. Those who worship the beast and its image and those who receive the mark of his name have no rest day or night. (Revelation 14:9-11)

There's another forehead marking mentioned, on the woman who rides the beast in chapter 17:

On her forehead was written a name, a mystery:
“Babylon the Great, the mother of prostitutes and the detestable things of the earth.” (Revelation 17:5)

Not great. Who would want that written on their forehead? Worse than by far. But those who have determined to stand against God in rebellion don't care. They are happy to have that designation and wear it with pride.

Forehead markings are like a brand, a marking of identity and allegiance. Decisions made. Stands taken. What a wonderful thing for those who have the Father's name marked on their heads instead.

These passages that come at the end of Revelation are like a breath of fresh air:

Then I saw thrones, and people sat upon them—those to whom authority to judge was given. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Yeshua and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image, nor had they received his mark on their forehead or on their hand. And they came to life and reigned with the Messiah for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)

They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:4)

It's a season for boldness

Brothers and sisters, bearing in mind that eternity is a very long time, it is wise to make up our minds very resolutely now, today, where our allegiances lie. We must be willing to stand up and be counted, even at the pain of death, knowing that our lives will go on long after the grave. Many try to sit inoffensively on the fence, not willing to be boldly open about their faith, but not willing to deny their Savior either. However, in God's eyes we are either in the kingdom of the Son he loves, or we are out of it. There is no grey. Just the kingdom of light or the kingdom of darkness. We belong to one or the other whether we like it or not, and today is the day to make up our minds which one it will be, so that we can endure the opposition when it comes.

Just as Peter was emboldened by the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, we can ask God to fill us with His Spirit to change us from being timid to becoming full of power and love. Many persecuted Christians in the Middle East know what it is to have the Arabic letter ن painted on their door – “N” for Nosreni, or Nazarene. It signifies that one who follows Jesus of Nazareth, a Christian, lives in that place, and can be a marking for destruction and even death. Some have come to embrace that symbol with pride, willing to be known as a follower of Jesus no matter what the cost.
When believers pay a heavy price for refusing to deny Jesus, they not only receive a heavenly reward, but give a great blessing to brothers and sisters all around by their example. The stories of those who have been persecuted and killed for their faith are a source of great inspiration, and give great glory to God. It shows how much they believe God to be worth – everything.

“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” (Billy Graham)

God sees our hearts, and knows what will ultimately be written on our forehead at the end of time, but the truth is that people around us can see much of what is in our hearts too – and far more clearly than we might like to think. We may not consciously have our beliefs emblazoned on our foreheads, but Paul the Apostle reminds the believers in Corinth that our conduct is the “Scripture” that those around us read:

You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. It is clear that you are a letter from Messiah delivered by us—written not with ink but with the Ruach of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3)

People might not read the Bible so much, but they can read us. What kind of Scripture are we displaying? What does our life say about the God that we serve, and our devotion to him? Are we living a life to please other people, or to please God? I never got a tattoo (and I'm quite pleased about it) but I'll be delighted to have something even more permanent, with much more serious implications written on my forehead: The name of my heavenly Father. Until I see him face to face, I will consider my forehead etched permanently with his beautiful name. I want to be holy unto the Lord, set apart for him. There is no room for anyone else to put their mark.

I have decided to follow Jesus.

No turning back.

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[1] NOT the sweet woman in the photo above! You can read Karolyne Smith's crazy story here

Photo by Remy Loz on Unsplash

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