Bible Subjects

Revelation 13:17 Buying and selling

Rev. 13: 17. ”No one may buy or sell”

 Most Bible commentaries interpret the text above literally. This means the ‘buying and selling’ of goods such as food and clothing as a means for survival. However, there is a problem with this interpretation. The words “buy and sell” are named only three times in the book of Revelation. Two times it is interpreted spiritually/symbolically and one time literally. I would like to interpret all these three texts spiritually/symbolically and see what consequences it has on our preaching of the 3 angel’s messages.

Let us look at Rev. 3:18. This message is to the Laodicean church which represents our generation up to the Second Coming of Jesus. It says that the majority of Christians are neither warm nor cold, but they are lukewarm. The SDA Bible Commentary interprets this verse to the church at Laodicea, spiritually. “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”

It is Jesus Christ who does the selling in this text and we believers do the buying.

The spiritual interpretation for gold is faith tried in fire. 1 Peter 1:6.7.

The white garment’s is a symbol of Christ’s righteousness Rev 7:13.14. Is 61:10.

The eye salve represents the Holy Spirit and wisdom to see the hope of our calling to Christ and mission to the world. Ephesians 1:17.18.

Laodicea is a symbol of the church living in the in last days before Christ’s Second coming. Christ invites us to buy faith, his righteousness and the Holy Spirit. With what? What do we have to offer? Money and worldly goods can not purchase them. Christ wants our hearts or our lives to follow him, and in return we get more than he is offering in the verse. We become members of Christ’s family and part of God’s kingdom. The SDA Bible Commentary interprets ‘buying’ in this verse spiritually.

Let us look at Rev. 18:11. “And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore.” This chapter tells of the downfall of spiritual Babylon, which in a nutshell is a symbol of all false gods, false religions and churches with false teachings which do not agree with the Bible.

The merchants are a symbol of all peddlers, preachers, pastors, evangelists who sell their spiritual merchandise of false doctrines and policies to all people on this earth. It is interesting to note that the first merchandise to be named in the following verse 12 is gold, which is a symbol of faith, but this would be a false teaching of faith. The word ‘buys’ is interpreted spiritually in this verse.

Now let us look at Rev. 13:16.17.

All the bible commentaries interpret these two verses literally. This means there will come a time when Christians will not be allowed to buy or sell food, clothing, cars and anything else. However, there is a problem with this interpretation. Everything else in the chapter of Rev 13 is interpreted spiritually with symbols, but these two verses are interpreted literally, that is food and clothing.

As a rule, in Bible interpretation, when all words are interpreted spiritually in a chapter, then all should be interpreted spiritually. But that is not the case in this text. This is strange, is it not? It’s as if all the Bible commentaries copy from each other in this text. They do copy from one another and that is why there is a mistake her.

The context is Rev. 13:11-18 and is about the beast with the lamb like horns, which we interpret to mean the USA. All of the symbols in this text have a spiritual application, so we do injustice to the text to interpret verse 16 and 17 and say it is literally only.

OK! Let us interpret Rev 13:16 and 17.

Rev 13:16 He (is the USA) causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads. What is this mark on the forehead? Is it a tattoo or a laser mark? According to the Bible, the forehead is where we make spiritual and moral decisions. It is where we decide to believe in God or not. It is where we decide to believe in Gods commandments or not.

Deuteronomy 6:6-8. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. Which words are the Bible talking about? The words spoken about are the ten commandments from God in the previous chapter Deuteronomy 5:6-21.

Then in Deuteronomy 6:7. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes. (The forehead).

So, Gods mark on the hands and on the forehead is believing and obeying the ten commandments of God. The opposite to this mark, is the mark of the beast, which is not believing in the ten commandments of God or having the faith of Jesus Christ.

OK! If we give the verses in Rev 13:16.17. a spiritual application, what would ‘buying and selling’ mean? From Rev.3:18 we have the spiritual interpretation of buying and selling related to faith, Christ’s righteousness and the Holy Spirit. Rev. 13:17 is telling us of a power in the future which will prevent us from preaching and teaching the doctrines related to our faith, Christ’s righteousness and the Holy Spirit. There will be a law preventing us from preaching about the ten commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ.

We relate this text to the future, but are there any laws now on the statute books, preventing us preachers and teachers in expounding the Bible?

We have all heard of Salmon Rushdi, the Muslim author who wrote against his religion, and as a result, a death sentence was pronounced on him from his religious community. Then there were the Muhammed cartoons printed in the ‘Jutlands Post’ newspaper here in Denmark last year, which caused quite a reaction from the Muslims in the east. Then there was the terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York, USA.

All these conflicts and many more around the world have given rise to the bringing in of ‘Hate Laws’ on the statute books in some countries. What are ‘Hate Laws’? They are laws of discrimination, which have been made by governments during the past 10 years. When you type ‘Hate Laws’ on the internet in Google, you find these laws in different countries of the world which discriminate between people of different ethnic origins, skin colour, race, religion, sexual orientation and nationality.[1] If you criticize in word or look another person, then you are in danger of being taken to court and be sentenced from 2 to 14 years imprisonment in some countries. Even the Queen of England supports this law[2] which was incorporated into the British legal system in April 2007. This is called the equality act.

A trial case study. In 2002 the Swedish government passed a law prohibiting unfavourable speech towards homosexuals, bisexuals and heterosexuals. On the 29 June 2004 a Pentecostal pastor preached a sermon in his church, citing from the Bible against homosexuals, saying that it was sinful. He was taken to court and sentenced to 30 days imprisonment. His lawyer made an appeal and the pastor was later released. You can read his full story and sermon on the internet.[3]

What implications do these ‘Hate Laws’ have on the future preacher and teacher of the Bible?

There will come a time when we cannot condemn sin anymore or preach against sin. There will be restrictions on preachers from preaching from the Bible. For example, we will not be able to use a text like 1 Corinthians 6:10 preaching against fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, covetousness, drunkards, revilers and extortioners. Why? Because they will be protected by hate laws, and their sinful practices will be accepted by all in society as part of the norm.

How can a preacher bring people to Christ without preaching against their sins? The law of God which are Ten Commandments, reveals our sins and this law will become nullified. A new world order will be set up of religious beliefs and teachings. The future preacher will extol the virtues of having a good relationship with God, through a spiritual experience, involving the Holy Spirit either in worship or personally, like the charismatic Christians do who use healing and speaking in tongues. Hence, the word of God from the Bible will take second place to the experience with the Holy Spirit.

One country which does not have these ‘Hate Laws’ on their books is the USA, with the exception of the state of California. When looking at the context of Rev. 13:11-18 we find from our reading that these laws will come from the USA. This is yet future and there will be a worldwide national law to follow suit with further amendments and severe penalties ending with the death penalty. However, most of these ‘hate laws’ are already on the books in some countries, just waiting to be used when a preacher or any other person steps out of line.

So, remember the next time you preach against sin and there is a ‘Hate Law’ in that country, you might be accused of breaking the law of the land. Hence, if you ignore this interpretation of ‘buying and selling’ you could end up with a prison sentence for preaching from the word of God in the Bible. When looking at this law from a broader aspect into the future, it does not only prevent Adventists preachers, but it will prevent all preachers from every denomination in the world in preaching from the whole Bible.

In addition, we cannot sell religious literature exposing the false doctrines of other churches and denominations. e.g. The Great Controversy.


1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_speech


3. www.religioustolerance.org/hom_hat8.htm


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