The False Prophet goes on to cause "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. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the Beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666" (Revelation 13:16–18).
For millennia, what John described as this new way of buying and selling, essentially conducting commerce, seemed fanciful. It is the amazing technological advances of recent years that have made the implementation of what John cryptically called the Mark of the Beast possible.
From this passage in Revelation, it appears that the Antichrist government is going to establish an economic system that includes this mark that enigmatically links to the number 666. That "no man may buy or sell" also signifies a total control situation. The technical infrastructure that could impose this type of financial uniformity is already in place in developed countries. If universally adopted, this could evolve into the very economic system foretold in this chilling passage of John's.
Already the vast bulk of the money that changes hands in the millions of transactions made each day never takes the form of hard currency. Most is just numbers in electronic ledgers. The lowly bills and coins that are still in use are a mere tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of money in circulation. Although still widely used because of its functionality, cash is being replaced. Paying with plastic—credit, debit, and other cards—has become the norm.
Economists and futurists predict that all financial transactions will eventually be made electronically. The convenience of all our business being transacted from the comfort of our own homes is enticing, and the more technologically savvy already do this.
A forerunner to the Mark was probably the smart card. You possibly have one or more of them in your wallet at this very moment. Many of these cards can hold a variety of data, such as biographic, biometric, medical, and financial, and perform several functions such as electronic identification, encryption, and access keys. They are the size of the ubiquitous credit card, but within their plastic exteriors beat hearts of silicon. At the core of each card is a computer chip that can store just about all the personal information that you or anyone else would want to know about you. On top of that, it contains digital money for you to spend. Initially, smart cards needed to be swiped but now there are contactless smart cards that only need to come near a terminal to be read and transactions completed. As you pass within a certain proximity to the terminal, it powers up the microcomputer in the card via a small embedded antenna, and then via that same antenna transacts whatever business is needed.
In addition, some countries are now offering smart cards to people frequently traversing their borders in order to speed immigration procedures. To prevent the fraudulent use of a card, a match is made with the bearer through biometric identification methods. Without needing to present a passport, a cardholder simply inserts his card into a machine that then compares his fingerprints, retina or iris on a scanner with those on his card. If they match and there are no other problems on the person's record, the person passes the immigration check in a matter of seconds.
But a more cost-saving and efficient idea for identity checking is already in place. For the tiny computer at the heart of the smart card to become permanently associated with its owner without risk of loss or theft, it needs to be physically attached to or inserted into the body. The stuff of science fiction only a few short years ago, such technology exists today not just in the laboratory, but also in real life.
Years ago Kevin Warwick, a British university professor, had a chip implanted under his skin that performed all sorts of nifty tasks for him, such as opening electronically locked doors, turning on lights as he walked into a room, and starting his computer. Oh, and yes, having the building's central address system cordially greet him as he arrived in the morning.
The "chipping" (insertion of a computer chip under the skin) of people began in the U.S. in 2002, via Applied Digital Solutions' VeriChip. In May of that year the "historic chipping of the Jacobs family" took place. This family and several other volunteers had unique identifier chips injected under their skin. The glass encased chip, about two centimeters in length, can be read by a handheld VeriChip scanner. The Jacobs family suffers from various ailments and the storage of their medical history provided the logic behind their volunteering to be the test cases. Despite being given FDA approval for use in humans, due to a number of concerns, including a reported link between chips and malignant tumors in animals, the manufacture and marketing of VeriChips were discontinued in 2010. Nevertheless, research into subdermal RFID chips for humans continues.
Let's once again look at the passage from Revelation:
Already we have a computer small enough to be embedded in a thin piece of plastic carrying out the functions of buying and selling. Taking it a step further, we have the Jacobs and others already proving the functionality and feasibility of having a computer chip inserted under the skin, solving the issue of positive identification, as well as enabling financial transactions, personal data storage, etc. It doesn't seem that there is much of a credibility gap to hurdle to imagine a system similar to this being universally adopted. Is this then the Mark of the Beast? If it isn't, it is so strikingly close that whatever it is, it is likely related in some way.
So what of the number 666? For now, speculating on what that could be is still in the realm of guesswork, but it is likely to have something to do with people being assigned a unique number, much like many countries have today, such as Social Security Numbers. The Bible cryptically tells us that it is apparently going to take "wisdom and understanding" to decipher how this number plays into this scheme, but when it does become apparent, it will confirm the dire predictions associated with it.
Right now, it seems that the switch from cash to electronic currency and the technology associated with it would be very beneficial. It would make our lives a lot more convenient by speeding up many time-consuming tasks, like the ones it already does such as waiting in line to pay bills or at checkout counters, providing quick and easy boarding of airplanes and other transportation, hassle-free border crossings, instant identification when you need it, not to mention delivering the world from much of the crime that depends on cash. Surely such an improvement in the quality of life would not be sinister. Or would it?
The sinister underside to this new economic system is that while it will make life more convenient, it will also make our lives more controlled. It would be comparable to the ankle transmitters that some prisoners under house arrest or on parole must wear. Privacy would be virtually nonexistent. Every purchase you make would be known, every place you frequent could be determined, even every show you watch on TV could be monitored. This is already a fact in several countries. The all-seeing Big Brother of Orwellian fame has become a reality.
The Bible clearly points out that the driving force behind this Mark is not benign but rather the most malign and terrible entity the world has ever known. Satan is not only moving behind the scenes of this world-dominating dictatorship of the Beast, but he is actually in full possession of the Beast. The Beast is the Devil incarnate. The Devil's goal since creation has been to have people worship him instead of God, and in this final horrific period of Great Tribulation, he will pull out all the stops in order to achieve it.
A link is made in the book of Revelation between accepting the Mark and accepting the Antichrist's regime. If the Mark is some sort of computer implant, it could well achieve a dominance over the bearer's mind and actions. John, later on in his Revelation, foretells a horrifying doom for those who bear this mark and worship the Antichrist.
There are two components to this damnation, accepting the Mark and worshipping the Beast. Perhaps it is okay to accept the Mark as long as you don’t become a worshipper of the devil-man behind it. But is that too great a risk to take?
The comforting thought is that although the Beast will rant and rampage against those who refuse to accept him and his system, his time is short and his doom is sealed. He is the ultimate loser. Jesus Christ and those who love and follow Him will emerge from the Great Tribulation as the glorious and eternal winners, as can be seen in the following chapter.