The Word of Truth
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
The Last Days
How will the RFID chip play into the last days?
Editor’s Note: RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, is a technology that uses radio waves to transfer data from an electronic tag, called an RFID tag or label, attached to an object, through a reader for the purpose of identifying and tracking the object. The use of it to identify and track people, by use of an attached or implanted microchip, has raised concerns about privacy and personal freedoms, as well as some viewing this as “the mark of the beast” spoken of in Revelations.
“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:11-14)
“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:16-21)
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
According to the Word of God we are and have been in “the last days” for nearly 2000 years. Although some of the scriptures I will be mentioning speak of a time after the time the New Testament writers were in, it is important to recognize that the Lord in His Word identifies a considerable amount of the prophecies and predictions and admonitions regarding “the last days” with this age, the “gospel age”—the last age in God’s plans for our earth.
The first scripture above relates the temptations that the children of Israel succumbed to in the wilderness to our times, in the sense that we need to profit from them and flee from the same types of temptations; that is, lust (v.6), idolatry (v.7), sexual immorality (v.8), tempting the Lord (v.9), and grumbling against the Lord (v.10). Many today are thinking they are standing or will be able to stand by avoiding some conception they have of “the mark of the beast” while engaging in these other sins, and are not seeking the way of escape the Lord provides for them for these temptations.
The second scripture shows that the “wonders in the heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath” had been fulfilled at the time Peter was speaking, and admonished the listeners (including us) that now is the time to call on the Lord for salvation (“behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2)). Many seem to be looking to identify with physical signs the approach of a critical time, when they plan to make sure they are right with God. But we are called to get right and stay right with God now, and no one knows, anyway, if they are going to even be alive tomorrow.
The third scripture brings out that we are living in an age in which we are accountable to how the Son has been dealing with us, through the Holy Spirit.
Before we examine the scriptures addressing “the mark of the beast,” let us consider the nature of prophecy in the scriptures. Many have said that we ought to take prophecies “as literally as possible,” and that not to do so is to not respect God as meaning what He says. But let us consider for a little while how God Himself, in His Word, demonstrates the meanings of His prophecies.
In the prophetic dreams which Joseph interpreted, branches represented days (Genesis 40:12), baskets represented days (:18), and cows and ears of wheat represented years (41:26). The faithfulness of God and His holy character demonstrate themselves in that the themes of the dreams stay true in their representation of good and evil. That is, the butler’s dream showed good things happening (growth of branches and grapes and being able to serve Pharaoh again), the baker’s dream showed bad things (birds eating what was intended for human use), and the Pharaoh’s dream showed both good and bad things consistently (good cows and good ears = “good” times, bad cows and bad ears = “bad” times).
In the prophetic dreams of Nebuchadnezzar which Daniel interpreted, a statue represented human kingdoms, a stone represented the kingdom of God (ch. 2), and a tree represented the king (ch. 4). Again, the nature of things is fairly represented—a statue that looks substantial and valuable but turned to chaff before the striking of the stone fairly represents earthly kingdoms looking substantial and valuable but being found worthless when the kingdom of God is established; a stone growing into a mountain representing the “solid” nature of Christ’s kingdom and it’s marvelous ability to grow (both within people and among them).
Jesus interpreted the prophecies of Elijah coming as applying to a different man (John the Baptist), who came in the same spirit as Elijah: bold, uncompromising in calling to turn from evil to righteousness, yet giving way to doubts and discouragement (Elijah giving way to discouragement when Jezebel threatened him, John wondering about Jesus when imprisoned).
In Peter’s preaching at Pentecost, he interprets David’s prophecy concerning the Christ (Acts 2:25-28) in that Jesus was now sitting on the throne of David, but on a heavenly throne, not an earthly. (So many look to Christ returning to establish some earthly “throne of David,” but here we see the prophecy has already been fulfilled!)
I could multiply examples in the Word of God, but let me leave these with you with this principle (and you examine the Word of God and pray about it and see if it be so): Seeing and understanding the things of God depends on a restored relationship with God and eyes and ears tuned to the unseen realities (spiritual world). “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3); “my kingdom is not of this world” and “every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (Johhn 18:36-37); “whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4)
If these things be so, then as we look at prophecies of the end times, we ought to be looking for spiritual realities being focused on. Furthermore, we should expect that some things have already come to pass by now or are in process. The things described in the prophecies should represent things according to their true (spiritual) character. Finally, a focus on our relationship with the Lord should be prominent. This should be true whether we look at the book of Revelation in general, or the scriptures pertaining to “the mark of the beast” in particular.
“And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth 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. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” (Revelation 13:11-18)
Here are a few points to consider: The “beasts” appear as separate beasts, but we find a likeness of nature, in that the second beast causes people “to worship the first beast.” We see that deception is at work, a deception that is supported by fire coming down from heaven. With Elijah, this was a valid demonstration of God’s power, and we could expect just as (apparently) valid demonstrations of God’s power with this deception.
An “image” of something is not something itself, but a representation, or “likeness” of it. The reality which the second beast represents does not have to directly cause people to follow, or worship, whatever the first beast represents. But it is evident from the prophecy that it will cause a “likeness” to what the first beast causes. And the first beast made war with the saints (v.7). The second beast caused those who wouldn’t worship the image of the first beast to be killed. Since we are being warned in prophecy, and we are instructed that deception is involved, we will have to look deeper than surface appearances. As Jesus said, in speaking of false prophets that would deceive, “by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:20)
If we have indeed been in “the last days” for the past 2000 years, and since John is inspired to instruct us that this revelation is about “things which must shortly come to pass,” (Revelation 1:1) it is to be expected that much of what is in Revelation has (by now) already come to pass or is in process of happening.
During Jesus’ ministry on earth among the people God had chosen, we find that the religious leaders were held in high esteem in the eyes of the people, and represented the religious system that God had established for His people through Moses, the ones that all would naturally expect to point people accurately to the truth. But these people, the elders of Israel, were the ones who hindered His ministry more than any other source, and crucified Him, and continued to oppose the truth after His resurrection.
What is most likely to deceive us? That which most closely represents what we would expect to depend upon as true. The religious systems which have dominated the “Christian” landscape for most of the time since the gospel age began are Catholicism and Protestantism. Do I dare identify them with the two beasts? Consider: The Catholic church set up a system which drew men’s allegiance from a simple obedience to the Word of God and Spirit of God to a trust in a man who was supposed to be the connection between God and men on earth—the pope—and that system put to death millions of people who were trying to follow God simply and purely. Consider: The Protestant churches generally started with someone getting a hold of some truth that had been obscured from view by the dark clouds of Catholicism, but each soon became (and becomes) a system that turns men from following God simply and purely to giving allegiance to their leadership, their creed, their government. Certainly the Protestant system has had “fire from heaven” as people saw light and got saved and got help, but the “fire” has been used by the system to draw people’s allegiance to itself.
Buying and selling are normally terms we associate with temporal life, and are the means by which we acceptably interact economically with others. Spiritually speaking, “buying and selling” would be the means by which we acceptably interact within a religious system. In other words, in order to be able to work within that system, ministering, doing the work we believe we are called to do, being accepted, we would need to receive this “mark.” Consider that our Savior, in order to be able to freely work within the religious system of Israel, would have had to bow to the requirements (both open and subtle) they had, such as giving and receiving honor of each other, accepting the yoke of all the “traditions of the elders,” meeting their expectations of an earthly king with earthly “credentials,” etc. He didn’t, and He soon was not allowed to “buy and sell” among them. Eventually they not only cast out people who believed in Him, but put Him to death themselves.
There is no more reason to believe that the “mark” and “right hand” and “forehead” are speaking of literal things than anything else in the prophecy. If we look through the scriptures, we see “right hand” is used to refer to the place of preference and honor (Genesis 48:13-18, Psalm 16:8, Matthew 22:44, 25:33-34), and the representation of strength and power (Exodus 15:6,12, Deuteronomy 33:2, Job 40:14, Psalm 17:7). The “forehead” represents our allegiance and character (see the contrasts between those with God’s mark in their foreheads [Revelation 7:3, 9:4, 14:1, 22:4] vs. the beast’s mark or some other character represented [Revelation 13:6, 14:9, 17:5, 20:4]). In the Old Testament, we see “holiness to the Lord” to be worn about the high priest’s forehead (Exodus 28:36,38). The people of Israel are described by Isaiah as “obstinate… and thy brow brass.” (Isaiah 48:4) Jeremiah describes them as having no shame, having “a whore’s forehead.” (Jeremiah 3:3) When God calls Ezekiel to prophesy to the children of Israel, He speaks of having made “thy forehead strong against their foreheads.” (Ezekiel 3:8)
Where is your allegiance and strength, the place you put your trust, and the character you are taking on? If you are truly yielding to God and all His, then His “mark,” or seal, will be in your forehead and right hand. If you are yielding to what “the beast” represents, you have it’s “mark,” or seal, in your forehead and right hand. The number of the beast is “the number of a man.” The beast represents some rule by man or men. Jesus had His Father’s seal in His forehead, and not the “Elders of Israel,” or “The Pharisees.” Throughout this last age of earth, religious systems with a man or men ruling instead of the Holy Spirit of God have deceived many away from truly following the Lord.
I grew up as a pastor’s son in a Protestant denomination, and I can tell you that there, and in every other denomination with which I became acquainted, the Lord was supposedly the head, but to “buy and sell” you needed a seminary degree in one of their schools, or at the least you must accept the headship of the man or men at the head of that group, follow their “rules,” etc.
Let me give an example to illustrate. We are called to “be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (Romans 13:1) The following information I have derived from the May 2011 issue of Asia Harvest magazine and from articles on the Internet. In China, the government has permitted “Christianity” under the requirement that every church be registered with the government, as part of the “Three-self patriotic movement.” This movement originated with ideas that sound good (self-governance, self-support, and self-propogation), in the sense that it is not a foreign culture imposing their “religion” on the Chinese people. But what if the Holy Spirit burdens someone in another country to give money to support the Christians in China, or is burdened to go minister to them there? Can you imagine Paul and Barnabas leaving off preaching somewhere on their first missionary journey because they were informed that only local people must preach, or for the offering to the Jerusalem church by those in Greece being refused because it wasn’t locally financed? Pastors in this registered movement must be trained at one of 13 sanctioned seminaries. Did Peter or John or Paul or James get their authority to preach from a seminary? “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
Let me suggest one more thought about why the acceptance in ourselves of the rule of men and men’s systems of religion instead of the Holy Spirit’s government would be “the mark of the beast.” We are instructed in the word of God to “obey them which have the rule over you,” (Hebrews 13:17) and “submit yourselves unto such” (1 Corinthians 16:16) as God establishes in ministry to His Church. But “we ought to obey God rather than men,” (Acts 5:29) and the line between discerning when God is instructing you through a valid instrument of His and when the devil is trying to deceive you through one of his false prophets in sheep’s clothing is a place where deception is very possible. Indeed, it is an easier area for the devil to lead astray people who are zealous to do right than all the obvious immoralities and evildoings with which he tempts people.
Back to the RFID chip, then. A piece of technology is simply a piece of technology in itself. Jesus said, “Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” (Mattthew 5:10-11) Jesus goes on to explain that it is what comes out of our hearts that defiles us (v.18-19). If being required to have an RFID chip will cause me in my heart to deviate from obedience and allegiance to the Lord, it will be death to me, and if it doesn’t, it won’t (Romans 14:14). If it is used to make men obey and worship other than Jesus while thinking it is a necessary part of their religious life, it will be a “mark of the beast.” If it is used by our government to exercise greater control and be more intrusive of our privacy, it may simply be a cross to bear, but not in itself something that forces us to “worship the image of the beast.” If ungodly leaders track my movements with such a chip and throw me in jail because I am doing right (obeying God, worshipping Him, etc.), then I am suffering for righteousness’ sake. If I can’t “buy or sell” in an economic sense without these devices, how is that really different in substance from being required to use government-issued currency or some representation of it (check, money order, debit or credit card) to buy and sell? But if in my conscience with God, there is something about the requirement of using such a device that crosses a line between myself and the Lord, then I must not use it at whatever cost, including death. If it requires some agreement on my part to not do things God may require of me or do things God does not allow me, then I must reject it at whatever cost.
The sum of what I am saying is this: The RFID chip in itself is not and will not be the “mark of the beast.” Whether it is something we must resist unto death, if necessary, will depend on each of our consciences with God and on how our encounter with it interacts with our conscience before God.
“Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” (Joshua 24:15)