The New Testament reading at Mass, today (Friday, Nov. 27, 2020, the last full liturgical day of 2020) was a reading from the book of Revelation, chapter 20, and it got me to thinking…
Back in the late 1960’s and through the 1970’s there was a sort of cottage industry in conservative Protestant circles, especially when the Fundamentalist movement resurged, of trying to predict the future based on attempted interpretations of passages of the Bible, especially, the Book of Revelation. This lead to the commercial publication of such works as, The Late, Great Planet Earth, by Hal Lindsey and the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The idea of, “The Rapture,” was all the rage. The Rapture is based on an interpretation of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thesselalonians, chapter 4, verses 13 – 18:
 But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.
 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first;
 then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.
 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
The phrase, then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord, contains the words,
17επειτα ημεις οι ζωντες οι περιλειπομενοι αμα συν αυτοις αρπαγησομεθα εν νεφελαις εις απαντησιν του κυριου εις αερα και ουτως παντοτε συν κυριω εσομεθα
epeita hēmeis hoi zōntes hoi perileipomenoi hama sun autois harpagēsometha en nephelais eis apantēsin tou kuriou eis aera kai houtōs pantote sun kuriō esometha
4:17 deinde nos qui vivimus qui relinquimur simul rapiemur cum illis in nubibus obviam Domino in aera et sic semper cum Domino erimus
The word, harpagēsometha, means, “we shall be caught up,” or , “we shall be seized or taken away).” The idea of this being a rapture comes from the interpretation and synthesis of certain passages of Scripture by John Nelson Darby, as early as 1826-1827, while he was a member of the Plymouth Bretheren. There is no strong evidence, mentioned in many apologetics texts, that he based his idea on a private revelation by a member of the proto-Pentecostal Irvenite group. In any case, Darby developed his Tribulation theory, which lead to many different sub-classes, and expanding to Dispensationalism, Millennialism, etc. All of these are a form of Biblical Futurism, explaining the future based on an interpretation of a supposed Biblical timetable. Darby’s ideas were brought to the public in the footnotes to the Scofield Reference Bible, which was popular after WW I. In the footnote to 1 Thessalonians 4:17, it says:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Not church saints only, but all bodies of the saved, of whatever dispensation, are included in the first resurrection. (See Scofield “1 Corinthians 15:52“) as here described, but it is peculiarly the “blessed hope” of the Church (cf) Matthew 24:42 ; 25:13 ; Luke 12:36-48 ; Acts 1:11 ; Philippians 3:20Philippians 3:21 ; Titus 2:11-13 .
The reason I bring up this up is not to discuss the idea of the Rapture, but because another famous topic that was discussed in the 1960’s and 1970’s by these Protestant interpreters was what was meant by, “The Mark of the Beast.” The passage where this comes from is Revelation, chapter 20:
 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain.
 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,
 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while.
 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom judgment was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life, and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.
 Blessed and holy is he who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and they shall reign with him a thousand years.
 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed from his prison
 and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth, that is, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.
 And they marched up over the broad earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city; but fire came down from heaven and consumed them,
 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
 Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.
 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.
 And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done.
 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire;
 and if any one’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
According to Catholic teaching, the only people who are in Hell, the second death, are those who die in mortal sin. As the online Catholic Encyclopedia says:
“The privation of grace is the “macula peccati” (St. Thomas, I-II.86), the stain of sin spoken of in Scripture (Joshua 22:17; Isaiah 4:4; 1 Corinthians 6:11). It is not anything positive, a quality or disposition, an obligation to suffer, an extrinsic denomination coming from sin, but is solely the privation of sanctifying grace. There is not a real but only a conceptual distinction between habitual sin (reatus culpæ) and the stain of sin (macula peccati). One and the same privation considered as destroying the due order of man to God is habitual sin, considered as depriving the soul of the beauty of grace is the stain or “macula” of sin.”
Mortal sin produces a stain on the soul and the Mark mentioned in Rev. 20 uses the word, χάραγμα, or charagma, which means a stamp or imprint, or scratch or etching, or tattoo-mark or brand. In extra -biblical use, the term could refer to a snake bite. A mark can be in the form of a stain or tattoo. Marks can be temporary, as when one gets ones hand stamped to attend a concert, or permanent as when one is branded by fire. It is no stretch to hypothesize that the Mark of the Beast is nothing more than the, macula peccati, the stain of sin. If one dies in mortal sin, the macula becomes a permanent mark, whereas before death, it is merely temporary or contingent.
If ones soul contains the stain of sin at death, one will be thrown into Hell, which is exactly the criteria of being thrown into the lake of fire for those who have the Mark of the Beast. Thus, it makes sense that the stain of sin and the Mark of the Beast are the same. One could go so far as to say that since baptism impresses a permanent mark of light or belonging to God on the soul, that the Mark of the Beast is in contradiction to the effects of baptism and, as the Catholic Encyclopedia remarks, it’s effect is, “considered as destroying the due order of man to God or considered as depriving the soul of the beauty of grace. This eternal contradiction between the two marks is the eternal torment of hell. Since all men are made in the imago Dei, the image of God, each person is marked, if not by the baptism of grace, at least a baptism of reason and sin is nothing but an assault against right reason. Thus, even the non-baptized will suffer the pain of eternal contradiction after death if they die in mortal sin, if they have enough reason to realize the that their action is a mortal sin. The Mark of the Beast marks one as belonging to the Devil and committing a mortal sin is taking on the Mark.
Why don’t Protestants see this? Why do they publish book after book trying to identify the Mark of the Beast as microchips or price scans or such? The answer is fairly clear: they have no concept of a clean or pure soul. To them, all souls are marked in sin. They have no concept that the soul can become stained in sin because to them, all souls already are, so their very theology excludes the possibility of interpreting the Mark of the Beast as the stain of sin, so, they look elsewhere. Their great flaw is in thinking that in the Book of Life, Christ’s name will be substituted for their own. Christ will judge them by their own name, not his own, as He reads them in the Book of Life – the names of those who do not have the Mark of the Beast, who are in a state of grace.
One may speculate (and this is mere speculation), that the Number of the Beast, 666, is nothing more than one less than 777 in each of the digits, representing missing the mark, the classic definition of sin. In fact, it is an anti-Trinity of three numbers, opposed to the perfection of the Trinity. 7 often represents completion or perfection. This is mere speculation, but it should remind us of what sin is – living life short of what is right.
There is hope. Christ, the Just Judge, knowing that He will be reading the names of the just, wants all men to be saved, so has left man a Great Eraser, capable of removing the Mark of the Beast and re-writing one’s name in the Book of Life. The Great Eraser is the Sacrament of Confession. While one is in this life, before one dies and the macula, the Mark, becomes permanent, one can approach the Throne of Grace to receive mercy. As G. K. Chesterton said in his Autobiography:
“When people ask me, or indeed anybody else, “Why did you join the Church of Rome?” the first essential answer, if it is partly an elliptical answer, is, “To get rid of my sins.” For there is no other religious system that does really profess to get rid of people’s sins. It is confirmed by the logic, which to many seems startling, by which the Church deduces that sin confessed and adequately repented is actually abolished; and that the sinner does really begin again as if he had never sinned.
How many souls have rationalized away sin? The famous psychiatrist, Karl Menninger, wrote a famous book that should be required reading for high school students, Whatever Became of Sin? His opening paragraph is chilling:
The word ‘sin,’ which seems to have disappeared, was a proud word. It was once a strong word, an ominous and serious word. It described a central point in every civilized human being’s life plan and life style. But the word went away. It has almost disappeared—the word, along with the notion. Why? Doesn’t anyone sin anymore? Doesn’t anyone believe in sin?
His idea is that sin has been replaced with the notion of crime. A sin is committed against God, but a crime is committed against man. Defining actions as crimes instead of sins removes the notion of eternity. It removes the notion of a transcendent God who has the right to eternally judge. It replaces it with the notion of a bad act as being an infraction against society and society becomes the ultimate arbiter of one’s fate. This change from sin to crime is the remote precursor of the guilt and mea culpas that one sees on today’s Twitter feed when people are judged by the gods of the Cancel Culture. They have no higher judge.
It was precisely the distinction between a sin and a crime that excused to perversions of the Sexual Revolution. Sex, they said, was between, “consenting” adults, so how could it be a crime? Obviously, if society says it is okay, then it must be okay, right? One of the saddest development among many young people is the sense that whatever is legal, whatever is not a crime, must be moral. This, in part, accounts for the rabid desire to keep abortion, “legal.” It is of no matter if it is a sin.
When one is tattooed, there is usually, some pain, but the Mark of the Beast often presents its pain in the form of pleasure, a pleasure that is as lying as the notion that the newly-conceived baby is nothing more than a clump of cells. The thing that the Beast does when he attempts to mark you is to distract you from considering the future, the ramifications of one’s actions. He makes you look one way while he marks you in another.
Until sin becomes personal, one will never look to see if one has the Mark. Is this a problem, a fault, in education? Perhaps, but it is, also, a fault in interpreting the Fourth Commandment. One must know which authorities to listen too, which are trustworthy. In a society marked by the disintegration of the proper definition of family, there is no wonder that people gravitate to false fathers and false mothers, of a notion, rapidly coming to pass, of the State being mother and the State being father. Such idiocies-based-on-convenience as no-fault divorce have ravaged families and created conditions where the Mark of the Beast has become the adoption papers into a false family, a family of death, whose members are unworthy to be included in the Book of Life.
This is the last week, the last day in the Church year. Let us examine our lives, our souls, to see if we are living up to the Divine Standard of the King who should be leading our lives.