What does Revelation 13:16 mean?God seals all who trust in His Son as Savior by placing the Holy Spirit in them. This seal designates believers as belonging to God. Similarly, in the end times, the evil False Prophet will cause everyone, regardless of social or economic status, to choose whether to receive a mark on the right hand and on the forehead. This mark will identify the recipients as belonging to the kingdom of the beast. Revelation 14:9–11 indicates that those who accept this mark are identifying themselves with Satan, and rejecting God. Revelation 20:4 explains that true believers will refuse this mark, and many will be executed as a result.
The Greek word used for this "mark of the beast" is charagma, related to the brand seared into animals to denote their ownership. The word is also used of idols and other negative ideas. In contrast, the followers of God are "sealed," from the Greek root word sphragis, referring to a proof or inscription. The symbolism of these words is powerful: God places a symbol of value on His people—Satan brands his followers like animals.
Verses 16 and 17 have created vast speculation about the exact nature of this mark. Some suggest this to be a tattooed barcode or symbol—either easily seen or visible under ultra-violet light. Others suggest that implanted computer chips or other technology might be part of this mark. Today, company-issued ID cards can unlock doors at the workplace, and RFID chips are used to access goods and services. The connection between the mark and commerce, as shown in the following verse, is a large part of these speculations.
Scripture itself gives very little detail about the nature of the mark of the beast. What we can be sure of is that this mark will not be disguised. "Innocent" people will not take the mark of the beast by accident. Later verses make it clear that the act of taking the mark of the beast is intimately connected to offering worship and loyalty to the Antichrist. Verses 17 and 18 will connect this mark, somehow, to the name or "number of the name" of the beast.