We have to understand the context of the book before we start applying it to future times. This is the widely accepted historical Christian way of interpreting Scripture. We have to understand the literal context before we understand the spiritual context. Christians have been interpreting Scripture this way since the beginning of Christianity and it hasn’t changed. Ask any pastor who has been to a real seminary and he will tell you about the literal and spiritual senses of Scripture.
The Book of Revelation speaks of future events but it was written to seven Churches in Asia Minor which were struggling with the problem of Emperor worship at that specific time. Emperor worship was the main problem in the Book of Revelation. This isn’t something I made up but a matter of historical record.
Those who did not participate in emperor worship were barred from commerce, shunned from society, arrested and sometimes put to death.
And to the angel of the church in Per’gamum write: `The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; you hold fast my name and you did not deny my faith even in the days of An’tipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells." (Revelation 2:12-13)
Antipas (in the passage above) had been appointed leader of the Church in Pergamum and was martyred by burning on the altar of the temples to the Emperor Trajan in that city for refusing to command his congregation to worship the emperor.
The Book of Revelation was written as a message of hope to Christians in an age of Emperor worship and great persecution, that those who persevere to the end will be greatly blessed and rewarded with entry into heaven.
*I John, your brother, who share with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance (Revelation 1:9
I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance (Revelation 2:2)
Because you have kept my word of patient endurance (Revelation 3:10)
Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints. (Revelation 13:10)
Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. (Revelation 14:12)*
It is a message of hope during an age of emperor worship for those that endure persecution patiently. Only when we accept these historical facts can we begin to understand what the book it means to us today for our salvation and what it means for the future. It’s not only about the future. The literal context of the mark of the beast are roman tattoos as a sign of ownership or slavery.