Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Rise of Tattoos

As a Christian, you look at everything that goes on in life within the context of God’s biblical timetable. That said, there is however always the danger of becoming over-zealous in your interpretation of things in order to fit the biblical worldview…particularly as it relates to attempts at ‘time-setting’ the return of Christ. On that point, always keep in mind that Jesus himself said: "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Matthew 24:36 NIV). However the Bible makes very clear that there is indeed a biblical time-table for our world, and with each passing day we naturally move closer towards the end.

Throughout the Bible, God gives us many clues to observe the behavior patterns that will emerge in people that signify the unstoppable move towards the climactic events at the end of the age. One such human phenomenon that I believe meets this criteria is the explosion of “human branding” or tattoos that has developed throughout our culture in recent years. The ‘art’ of tattooing up until fairly recently was by and large limited to subculture groups such as motorcycle gangs etc. However driven by the makers of popular culture – sports athletes and pop celebrities, Americans of all ethnic groups and gender have adopted this kind of human branding…most ostensibly to communicate something of personal or social significance about themselves to the rest of the world.

Let us pause here and take a look at this development within a biblical context: During the early social development of the Israelites whom God created as the model for the people whom He would separate for Himself, God commanded the following: Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:28 NIV). Here God was very specific about forbidding the practice of tattooing and as this Bible version puts it: “cutting your bodies”. The actual application of tattooing includes the piercing of one’s body in order to apply the ink for the finished product. In what I consider to be a related activity, let’s now fast forward to the latter stages of human history as described in the Bible where again the tattooing or branding of one’s body plays a central role in human events: All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast--all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world…(Revelation 13:8 NIV) Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf…(Revelation 13:11 NIV) He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 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. (Revelation 13:15-17 NIV)

As more and more ‘regular’ people lose their inhibitions regarding getting tattoos (in other words “marking their bodies”), I believe this is setting the stage for the “marking” that is referenced in the above scripture. People will not see it as problematic whatsoever to receive a mark in order to buy and sell and participate in the normal commerce of the world order that the Bible states is definitely coming. But as we ponder these things, please note what God has to say about those who will accept these “marks”: A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "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. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. 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 14:9-10 NIV)

All of the activity that is occurring around us and throughout our culture today all happen within the context of the biblical battle for the souls of men and women. The devil being fully aware of the “mark” that is to come that will irreversibly seal people to eternal loss, is slowly breaking down the instinctive natural barriers that would prevent people from being so accepting of taking his coming “brand”. Today’s NBA stars, Hollywood stars and musical stars (feel free to fill in the names) are the devil’s all too eager tools of use to get star-struck Americans to rush into the tattoo parlors to imitate their heroes and heroines. And to the celebrities who respond that their tattoos is their way of acknowledging God and therefore should not be judged, God says this: ..."What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice... (1 Samuel 15:22 NLT truncated).

Not to be left out of course is the multi-million dollar media owning corporations with such outlets as “The Learning Channel (TLC)” and the “A&E Network” both of which recently began airing competing TV reality shows chronicling the comings and goings of tattoo parlors and tattoo artists. For our part, the citizenry eagerly absorb these seemingly innocuous images not realizing the demonic planning that is setting the stage for their ultimate demise.

Sure, to the cynic all of this sounds like the ranting of another ‘religious’ lunatic, who sees the devil in everything; or there are those who read this and will shrug their shoulders and move on with nary a second thought. To them I reference the following scripture: The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie…(2 Thessalonians 2: 9-11 NIV). There are others however of whom God will use this blog to get their attention, and will cause a change in thinking regarding the insidious activity of tattooing. To them my prayer is an echo of one of God’s most favored servants: "All this," David said, "I have in writing from the hand of the LORD upon me, and he gave me understanding in all the details of the plan." (1 Chronicles 28:19 NIV). You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding. (Proverbs 8:5 NIV).

Bloggers Note: According to the Bible, having a tattoo does not disqualify you from being saved through Jesus Christ. The mindset that caused you to want to get the tattoo in the first place is what God is trying to change.


Sue said...

Hello Peter. You recently left a message on my blog (Bible Therapy), so I visited you. I'm so glad I did, because you have an analytical perspective of the Bible that I'm very drawn to. I love your treatment of this, and although I did not come into this post with the same opinion, I must admit I now have more to think about (I do not have a tatoo).

When I started looking into the issue of tatoos, my research showed me that the tatoos to which God was referring in the OT were of a religious nature. People were marking their bodies with religious symbols, and those were the ones to which he was referring. A little butterfly on a woman's ankle didn't seem to qualify for the admonition.

However, I must admit, what God did NOT say is, (paraphrased) "Don't get any body markings unless they're either about Me or not religious at all." He didn't qualify it. He simply said, "Don't."

I guess that's it.

I'll be back here again. I appreciate your analysis and your use of Scripture (in-context!).

BTW, I, too, am a latecomer into the Kingdom. My birth year is 2001, ten days before 9-11. I was 48 at the time. It's never too late...

tattoos said...
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