"He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." Revelation 13.16-17
If, as we saw last time, the name of the beast is "Roman," and the beast itself is an empire, then those who are marked as belonging to a form, or continuation of, the Roman empire, may buy and sell, or participate in the economy. But those who are not so marked, may not.
During the days of the this beast’s power; i.e. the Roman church exercising temporal power in conjunction with the Holy Roman Empire, that is exactly what happened. In Europe during the days of the Dark and Middle Ages, the days of the power of Holy Roman Empire, every person who was born was born into the Roman church. No one could be a member of a town, province, or country, without also being a member of the church.
Membership was not voluntary as it is today; it usually never entered into a person’s head not to be a member of the Roman church. There was no other church to be a member of, nor any other religion. They were baptized into the church as infants, raised in all the church rites and holidays, married in the church, and died in the church. Those who were outside needed to be converted, and many were so, forceably. Those who started inside but left were heretics, and were punished as such.
Those who defied rule of church or pope were excommunicated, or forced to live outside the church. The problem with excommunication was that there was no life outside the church; this is why it was so feared, and such a powerful weapon of coercion. The excommunicate was like a leper of ancient days; shunned by all. Even the plates the excommunicate ate from were broken or burned. He could not employ or be employed; no shopkeeper would sell to him, and if he was a shopkeeper, no one would buy from him.
The church was the legal body which enacted and validated all contracts: personal and business. The excommunicate did not have access to law, and contracts which were previously enacted on his behalf became invalid. The excommunicate, like the heretic, had no civil rights.
So we see that small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, were alike marked with the name of the beast, Roman, on their hand, the agent of action, and on their forehead, the agent of thought. They did what the church instructed them to do, and thought as the church taught them to think. No other authority existed; Bibles were very scarce and were hardly ever read. Those who, because of tradition or knowledge, did or thought contrarily were severely punished, as the Irish and Welsh discovered, and as the Waldenses discovered, and as the Reformers discovered.
To be continued …
Update: continued in Revelation 13: conclusion