In Revelation 13 John introduces the beast (often referred to as the Antichrist), who will rule the world for a brief time in the future and who will bring devastation to the earth for forty-two months. John also describes another beast (Revelation 13:11), later called the false prophet (Revelation 16:13 and 19:20), who also has great authority and will cause all to worship the first beast or the Antichrist (Revelation 13:12). This false prophet will even have the ability to bring an image of the Antichrist to life (Revelation 13:14–15). The false prophet will cause all to receive the mark of the beast on the right hand or forehead (Revelation 13:16).
The specific nature of the mark of the Antichrist is not explained in Revelation. The purpose and implications of the mark are delineated, however. Without that mark no one can buy or sell (Revelation 13:17). Apparently, forcing everyone to receive the mark of the beast will be an important tool for controlling the world’s economy (Revelation 13:16).
Some have assumed that any kind of identification for regulating commerce is of the Antichrist, but that is not what the passage is teaching. John is not revealing principles of economics in this context. Rather, he is describing a future time when the Antichrist will be given authority to rule the world. With that authority, the Antichrist conditions buying and selling based on whether a person is willing to worship the Antichrist. If people are willing to worship him, they will accept the mark (Revelation 14:9, 11). This mark is no mere commercial device. All who accept the mark during the Antichrist’s reign will be rejecting Jesus, instead putting their trust in the Antichrist. All who accept that mark will be judged, while those who refuse the mark during that time will reign with Christ after He returns (Revelation 20:4). The problem with the mark is not an economic or technological issue; it is that accepting the mark will be a universal sign of disbelief in Jesus and trust in the Antichrist.
Today’s technology has advanced to the point where digital identification and electronic currency have certainly put in place some necessary conditions for global dictatorship; however, technology is not in itself a bad thing and can be used for good purposes. John is not teaching that we should fear technology or even digital commerce. He isn’t discussing those things at all. He is simply recounting what he saw and cautions people that there is coming a time when the false prophet will cause all to receive the mark of the beast on the right hand or forehead (Revelation 13:16). Taking the mark will be an act of worshiping the Antichrist.
The reign of the Antichrist will be a terrifying, awful time of global dictatorship, but it will not last forever. The authority of the Antichrist (the first beast in Revelation 13:1–10), the false prophet (the second beast in Revelation 13:11–18), and the dragon (Satan, so identified in Revelation 13:1 and 20:2) will end. Christ will return to earth triumphantly with all His saints (Revelation 19:14) to establish His eternal kingdom (Revelation 20:1–6). After the first one thousand years of that kingdom, Jesus will judge everyone (Revelation 20:7–15). God wins in the end.
Even though the church will not be present on earth during the Antichrist’s rule (the church is taken up to heaven before the day of the Lord, see 1 Thessalonians 4:13–17), Jesus warns that the message of the book of Revelation is for the churches to pay attention (Revelation 22:16). During the time the church is on earth, there is no danger of receiving the mark of the beast. But there are certainly many ways we can fail to trust in and worship Jesus. Jesus warns the churches that He will come suddenly, ending the reign of evil. That message should ensure we will not neglect Him in this current age (see Revelation 22:16 and Hebrews 2:3).