The mark of the beast is mentioned in Revelation 13:16-18, which says, “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. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.” This passage describes a future time when the antichrist, or beast, will require people to take a mark on their right hand or forehead in order to participate in commerce.
Many Bible scholars believe the mark of the beast will be a literal, physical mark that identifies those who worship the antichrist. However, some think it could represent allegiance to the antichrist’s world system more generally. In any case, Scripture is clear that receiving the mark of the beast is a serious matter with eternal consequences.
So what happens to those who take the mark of the beast? Is it possible for them to repent and be forgiven after taking it? Let’s look at what the Bible says.
Taking the mark demonstrates allegiance to the antichrist
In Revelation 13 and 14, the mark of the beast is closely associated with worship of the antichrist. Revelation 14:9-11 says that those who take the mark and worship the beast will experience God’s wrath and eternal punishment:
And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” (Revelation 14:9-11)
This passage indicates that those who take the mark are aligning themselves with the beast in worship, and will face divine wrath as a result. They are demonstrating their allegiance to Satan’s regime instead of to God. Other verses like Revelation 19:20 reinforce this idea as well.
Those who take the mark will be conscious of what they are doing
In order for this mark to represent a deliberate choice to follow the beast, those receiving it must be aware of the significance of their actions. Revelation 13 and 14 suggest the marking system will be universally enforced and well-known. People will be faced with a clear decision between submitting to the beast or facing consequences.
Verse 14:6-7 even depicts an angel proclaiming the eternal gospel to unbelievers right before this marking takes place, giving people a final chance to repent:
Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:6-7)
So it appears there will be no confusion or ambiguity about what the mark means. Those who receive it will be making an intentional, informed decision to pledge their loyalty to the beast rather than God.
Those who take the mark display unrepentant rebellion against God
Not only does taking the mark indicate willful rejection of God, but the unforgivable nature of it implies continued unrepentance. Scripture teaches that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – attributing the Spirit’s work to Satan – is an unpardonable sin (Matthew 12:31-32). The reason is this sin demonstrates resolute, defiant rebellion against God and refusal to repent.
The same dynamic seems to be at play with the mark of the beast. After being clearly confronted with the truth, those who take the mark are resolutely allying themselves with Satan and persisting in sin. Their hearts are so hardened that they will refuse to repent, just as Pharaoh persisted in rebellion despite seeing God’s miracles firsthand (Romans 9:17-18).
This is an important point. Scripture is clear that repentance and faith are essential for receiving God’s forgiveness and redemption (Acts 3:19; Romans 10:9). Since taking the mark demonstrates an unrepentant heart, it precludes the possibility of forgiveness.
Parallels with the sin of the generation that perished in the wilderness
Jude 5-7 contains a sobering warning that further confirms why taking the mark is unforgivable:
Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
Here, Jude compares those in the exodus generation who rejected God after seeing His miracles to the fallen angels and the sexual immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah. Just as God’s judgment fell on them, it will fall on all who persist in unbelief and rebellion.
The exodus generation physically experienced God’s power by seeing the 10 plagues, crossing the Red Sea, and eating manna and quail. Yet they still grumbled against Moses’ leadership and sought to return to Egypt (Exodus 16:1-3; Numbers 14:2-4). In response to their unrepentant rebellion, God swore they would never enter His rest in the Promised Land (Psalm 95:7-11; Hebrews 3:7-19).
Similarly, those who take the mark after witnessing God’s judgments through the seals, trumpets, and bowls will demonstrate an unrepentant heart like the exodus generation. They will have no excuse for their continued rebellion against God, ensuring they cannot be forgiven.
Those who take the mark cannot be participants in the new covenant
The new covenant established by Jesus’ blood is the only basis on which God offers redemption to mankind. All who repent and believe in Christ are included in the new covenant and receive forgiveness of sins (Luke 22:20; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 9:15).
But the unforgivable nature of taking the mark of the beast implies those who take it cannot be participants in the new covenant. How could someone who utterly rejects Christ’s Lordship have a share in His covenant?
As Hebrews 10:26-27 warns:
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
Similarly, those who take the mark are sinning deliberately and have rejected Christ after knowing the truth about Him and the gospel, leaving no sacrifice for their sins.
God cannot overlook unrepentant rebellion
Ultimately, while God is incredibly patient and wants all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), His justice and holiness require dealing with willful, ongoing rebellion. He finally executed judgment against the hardened exodus generation; He destroyed hopelessly wicked Sodom; and He promises future judgment on unrepentant sinners.
Just as God removed people from the earth who had become “corrupt and violent” in Noah’s day (Genesis 6:11-13), He will bring severe judgment on those who utterly reject Him and pledge allegiance to Satan through the mark of the beast.
Ezekiel 18:26 summarizes it well: “When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die.” Those who take the mark will be cut off from God’s people and face eternal punishment (Daniel 12:2; Revelation 14:9-11). Their rebellion allows no possibility of future repentance or forgiveness.
What about those forced to take the mark?
One objection might be, “What if someone is physically forced to take the mark against their will?” Could God make an exception for them, since they did not choose to take it?
However, it does not seem Scripture allows for this possibility. Consider these points:
- As mentioned, it appears everyone will clearly understand the significance of the mark and make an informed decision.
- Those who refuse the mark, even if it costs their lives, are called saints and praised for their faith and perseverance (Revelation 13:10; 14:12). This implies they had a choice.
- In contrast, Scripture pronounces condemnation on all who take the mark, with no exceptions mentioned (Revelation 14:9-11).
While being forced to take the mark certainly constitutes intense persecution, God still recognizes our willingness to suffer for Him as an act of devotion (cf. Revelation 2:10). It would appear the mark requires a willful act of personal allegiance to the beast, even if under pressure. Choosing physical death over the mark is a noble display of faith.
What mindset leads people to take the mark of the beast?
Since taking the mark represents an intentional, irreversible pledge of loyalty to Satan, what kind of mindset causes people to choose this path over allegiance to Christ?
Although we cannot state with certainty how people will justify this decision, Scripture provides some clues:
- Desire for physical preservation over eternal life – Many will opt to save their earthly life rather than faithfully enduring to the end and gaining eternal life, like Jesus exhorted (Mark 13:13; Revelation 12:11).
- Comfort and convenience – Life will be extremely difficult without the mark, given inability to buy or sell. The temptation to enjoy comforts and avoid inconvenience will be strong.
- Peer pressure and popularity – Rejecting the mark will result in social ostracization, which most people seek to avoid (cf. John 12:42-43).
- Doubt in God’s existence and judgment – Deception will likely include questioning why God permits such hardship, and doubting His return to judge (2 Peter 3:3-4).
- Attraction to human authority – The antichrist will exert controlling power and seeming benevolence that draws people’s admiration (Revelation 13:3-4, 12)
While speculative, these examples illustrate how the desire for self-preservation and earthly fulfillment can eclipse one’s commitment to God. Only those with true faith in Christ will find the spiritual strength to reject the mark of the beast.
In summary, given the willful rebellion and defiance of God that taking the mark represents, Scripture makes clear it is not possible for someone to repent or be forgiven after receiving it. The mark demonstrates an utter hardening of the heart that precludes repentance. God in His justice must punish those who resolutely pledge their loyalty to Satan’s kingdom after knowing the truth about Christ’s offer of redemption. While God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11), those who take the mark have passed the point of no return, and judgment is inescapable.
The key for every person is to set one’s heart on Christ and His Kingdom now, before the mark is instituted. Only those who receive God’s gracious gift of faith in Christ will possess the spiritual discernment and strength to reject the mark when the time comes. May we carefully examine our loyalty to Christ today, so that we will remain faithful to Him through all future challenges and persecution.