High-tech innovation: The VeriChip, which was implanted for the first time in a family in Boca Raton, Fla., contains personal medical information that can be accessed by a specialized digital reader (May 10, 2002).Source: Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images
After an exhausting 18 hours in labor, a mother delivers a healthy baby. The parents are overwhelmed with emotion to see their firstborn come into the world. Nursing staff wheel the child into the newborn ward, with a smiling father following.
But his joyful expression suddenly changes into a distressed frown when a nurse takes a stainless steel syringe and inserts a microchip capsule into the child’s right hand. The healthcare worker quickly reassures the concerned father this is standard procedure…
This scenario depicts the much-discussed, often-feared, possible expanded use of radio-frequency identification (RFID). According to The Morning Call, developers claim, “This stuff is going to be everywhere” and “nobody has even thought of where this [technology] is going to be applied.”
RFID is an advanced identification process in which an individual or item is tagged with a specific ID number. Using radio waves, a computerized reader can scan a tag’s unique serial number and access any stored information.
The advantage of this system? Beyond today’s barcode technology, the tagged object need only come within a few feet of a reader to process an identity number.
Picture a society in which a microchip embedded in a person’s hand is crucial to everyday life. Shopping at the supermarket or buying any other item would be as simple as a flip of the wrist or walking through a pay point. Doors would unlock with a wave of the hand, and carrying a wallet with a driver’s license would be unnecessary.
Proponents of this technology maintain the chip would improve day-to-day life, with almost infinite applications. Consider how it could revolutionize the banking sector or advance the healthcare industry—or the benefits to travel, education and keyless home access.
In 2004, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved the RFID implant, VeriChip, for medical purposes. According to The Associated Press, the device is no bigger than a grain of rice and can be inserted under the skin through a procedure that takes less than 20 minutes.
On top of proposed widespread medical uses, the chip is already being used for recreation, as reported by AP: “Club hoppers in Barcelona, Spain, now use the microchip to enter a VIP area and, through links to a different database, speed payment much like a smartcard.”
But there are genuine concerns.
“You are walking into potential pitfalls when it comes to privacy,” an American Civil Liberties Union legislative director told The Morning Call, adding, “People are amazing with their skill and ability to hack into databases. Any time there is massive amounts of information gathered anywhere or your personal information gathered anywhere, we want to make sure there are barriers in place to protect it.”
Security issues are not the only concern. The thought of RFID implants or similar technology causes anxiety and fear for some. A number of evangelical Christian groups even feel the technology may be the biblical mark of the Beast described in the book of Revelation.
The New York Times described a 2007 lawsuit in which a woman sued the police department after being suspended from her employment because she refused “to be fingerprinted or accept [an updated identification] card, insisting that she was guided against doing so because she feared the cards carried ‘the mark of the beast’…She felt that getting the new card could ‘jeopardize [her] salvation.’”
Many prophecy watchers are convinced that RFID will be part of the mark of the Beast. Articles, books and websites offer a cacophony of wildly different ideas on this subject. Self-proclaimed experts merely contribute to the confusion.
Is microchip technology the mark of the Beast?
The only place in the Bible the mark is mentioned is in the book of Revelation.
“And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Rev. 13:16-17).
A chapter later, the mark is mentioned again: “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark…the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God” (Rev. 14:9-10).
After reading this account, some conclude the mark is an implanted computer chip or a barcode tattooed on a recipient’s right hand or forehead. Others feel the Nazi swastika is the mark. Then there are those who think the Worldwide Web (or “www”) is the mark, with a few even considering it the H1N1 swine-flu virus.
Yet just one mark of the Beast is described in the Bible. Which is correct?
How could anyone be under “the wrath of God” if it is not clear what the mark is? Would God leave people clueless regarding this subject and then punish them for not knowing?
God never leaves His followers in the dark about matters He wants them to understand. Notice the first verse of the book of Revelation: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass…” (Rev. 1:1).
Simply put, God shows His servants what “must shortly come to pass”—including the nature of the mark of the Beast! The answer, therefore, must be simple and crystal clear.
Recall that in Revelation, the mark is placed in the “forehead” or “right hand.” This is where biblical theorists often make a jump in logic that this refers to an RFID chip, as this technology can be implanted in the wrist or brain.
Yet the careful Bible student never forces any conclusions. Instead, he allows the Bible to interpret itself. Simply breaking down these two terms reveals the actual meaning.
Consider. The frontal lobe of the human brain is the area where a person makes decisions. With his hands, he performs actions, deeds or works. Through the “right hand,” a person acts upon choices made in his “forehead”—the mind.
Similarly, a series of verses in Deuteronomy 6 shows the Bible uses symbolic language to discuss the mind and actions: “Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do…these words, which I command you…and you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes” (vs. 3, 6, 8). Here, God is commanding obedience to His Law through a “sign” upon the hand and “frontlet” (a decorative band or ribbon worn across the forehead). But this does not mean a literal sign or frontlet, but rather symbolizes obedience to God’s commandments in the mind and through one’s actions. Read Psalm 51:16-17.
Romans 6:16 reveals more on the subject of obedience: “Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey...” Reread the last portion of this scripture: “his servants you are to whom you obey.” Strong’s Exhaustive Bible Concordance defines the word “servant” as “a slave,” whether “literally or figuratively, involuntarily or voluntarily.” A slave belongs to his master. In short, this verse reveals a person belongs to whom he obeys.
Just as a Christian obeys God—and therefore belongs to Him—a person with the mark of Revelation obeys and belongs to the Beast.
Return to Revelation 13: “no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark” (vs. 17). Under the Beast’s rule, if one does not obey him, he will be unable to “buy” or “sell”—meaning unable to work or do business with others.
For the Beast to control buying and selling, he must have the political power to implement laws and the military backing to enforce them. Those who do not follow the laws of his government system will be unable to “buy” or “sell.” The consequence of obeying the Beast and taking his mark becomes clear: if one is unable to work or do business, he cannot earn money to support himself.
Realize. No invention by itself could be the mark of the Beast!
Rather than being frightened by new technology, such as the RFID computer chip, a serious Bible student should instead consider his own thoughts and actions. When the political-military leader known as the Beast rises to power, the world will ultimately be divided into two groups: those who obey the Beast and those who refuse. Remember, the mark will be tied to obedience.
The decision to accept or reject the mark will present a great world test. All people will face it. Those who take it will incur God’s wrath; those who refuse it will have God’s favor.
Soon everyone will be confronted with a choice of whom to obey—either God or the Beast. To understand that choice in detail, read David C. Pack’s booklet Who or What Is the Beast of Revelation?