During Ash Wednesday or the Day of Ashes, the Catholics traditionally imposed a mark on their forehead to outwardly manifest inner repentance and penance as they begin the observance of the Lenten season. The mark was formed of ashes in the image of a cross — the image of humanity’s salvation. However, the anti-Catholics rejected its significance. For them, that is the mark of the beast, quoting the sacred Scripture:
“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads” (Revelation 13:16).
Based on the scriptural citation above, these Protestants argued that the beast’s mark would be inscribed on its followers’ forehead; thus concluding that the Catholic tradition of putting ashes on the forehead is thereby the mark of the beast. But is it true? NON SEQUITUR.
Primarilly, what is the mark of the beast mentioned in the book of Revelation?
In the same book, it says: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath . . . There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:9-11).
Notice that the sacred book explicity showed that the mark of the beast is his own name. But what is his name? Quoting the following verse:
“He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666” (Revelation 13:16-18).
SEE?! The mark of the beast to be written on his adherents’ forehead is the beast’s own name with the calculated number: 666. Therefore, it has nothing to do with the Ash Wednesday when the mark imposed on the faithful’s forehead is not the name or number of the beast but the very image of the cross of Christ. St. Paul stressed out: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
The mark (seal, symbol, token, frontlet) of the beast (on the forehead) does not automatically imply that all markings on the forehead are associated to the ones foretold in the book of Revelation. Why is that so? Because the mark on the forehead is not only a sign of curse but also a seal of total obedience to God’s law. In the Old Testament, it reads: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6,8; 11:18). And it is also a symbol of a great service to the Lord — “Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: holy to the Lord. Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the Lord” (Genesis 28:36-38).
But the question would be: What is the mark on the forehead being referred to as a seal of loyalty to God?
In the book of Ezekiel, it reads: “Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, ‘Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it’” (Ezekiel 9:3-4). And the Lord added: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God” (Revelation 7:3).
Notice that God Himself commanded to impose a mark on the forehead of His people. In this verse, the “mark” being referred to is the letter TAV (Tau) in Paleo-Hebrew during the time of the prophet Ezekiel. It is written as ✘. Below are the testimonies of the non-Catholic biblical commentarists:
⚫ Charles John Ellicott (1819-1905), a distinguished English Christian theologian, academic and churchman — “The word for mark is literally a Tau, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This, in many of the ancient alphabets, and especially in that in use among the Hebrews up to this time, and long retained upon their coins, was in the form of a cross—X or +.” (Commentary for English Readers)
⚫ Albert Barnes (1798-1870), an American theologian and Presbyterian minister — “A mark – literally, ‘Tau,’ the name of the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The old form of the letter was that of a cross. The Jews have interpreted this sign variously, some considering that ‘Tau,’ being the last of the Hebrew letters, and so closing the alphabet, denoted completeness, and thus the mark indicated the completeness of the sorrow for sin in those upon whom it was placed. Others again observed that ‘Tau’ was the first letter of Torah (the Law) and that the foreheads were marked as of men obedient to the Law. Christians, noting the resemblance of this letter in its most ancient form to a cross, have seen herein a reference to the cross with which Christians were signed.” (Notes on the Bible)
⚫ David Brown (1803-1897) and Robert Jamieson (1802-1880), Evangelical ministers; and Rev. Andrew Robert Fausset (1821-1910), Anglican priest — “a mark, literally, the Hebrew letter Tau, the last in the alphabet, used as a mark (my sign, Job 31:35, Margin); literally, Tau; originally written in the form of a cross, which Tertullian explains as referring to the badge and only means of salvation, the cross of Christ.” (Jameison-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary)
⚫ Herbert Edward Ryle KCVO (1856-1925), an author, Old Testament scholar and the Dean of Westminster; et al. — “[set a mark] The word is Tav, the last letter of the alphabet, the old form of which was a cross. The term is used here as in Job 31:35, of a mark in general, though perhaps the Tav or cross was the simplest form the mark could take. The passage is imitated, Revelation 7, though the mark there is the name of God. All who mourned over the abominations done in Jerusalem were to be thus sealed and spared.” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)
⚫ Rev. Joseph S. Exell M.A. (1819-1887), an author and Methodist minister; and Very Rev. Henry Donald Maurice Spence-Jones D.D. (1836-1917), an author and Anglican dean — “Set a mark upon the foreheads, etc. The command reminds us of that given to the destroying angel in Exodus 12:13, and has its earlier and later analogues in the mark set upon Cain (Genesis 4:15), and in the sealing of the servants of God in Revelation 7:3. Here, as in the last example, the mark is set, not on the lintels of the doorposts, but upon the foreheads of the men. And the mark is the letter tau, in old Hebrew, that of a cross + , and like the mark of mediaeval and (in the case of the illiterate) of modern usage, seems to have been used as a signature, and is rightly so translated in the Revised Version of Job 31:35. Jewish writers have accounted for its being thus used, either (1) from its being the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and thus denoting completeness, or (2) from its being the first letter of the word thorah (Law); or (3) from its standing in the same position in the Hebrew word for ‘thou shalt live.'” (Pulpit Commentary)
The above citations showed that the biblical scholars have agreed to the fact that the mark used by God’s people on their forehead in the pre-Christian era has something to do with a cross. For the cross is the power of God. The Christians continued to use this seal because the Christ, God and Lord, Himself embraced it, and died on it for the salvation of all mankind; thus making it the very symbol of His victory over death.
At the end of the day, only those who bear the name of the Father and of the Son on their forehead are going to be with Him in the Heavenly kingdom forever. St. John foretold:
“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1).
The mark on the forehead is a curse for the heretics and apostates; yet a gift for those who remain faithful.
THE LORD THOU ACCEPETH, AND TO THE GOSPEL THOU BELIEVETH.