When John wrote his book, humanity was in the stone ages in regard to technology. This makes his predictions of future technological circumstances all the more interesting.
Money Tracking? Credit Cards?
(Rev. 13:16-17) And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 17and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.
Much has been speculated about the “mark of the beast” in fanatical Christian literature. We do not pretend to know what the mark of the beast is. But, whatever it is, it monitors and controls trade, and if one doesn’t have it, trade is impossible. Think about this from John’s perspective in the first-century: How could anyone control buying and selling in the first century? Trade occurred on such a personal level that this would be impossible to control. But today? This picture is hauntingly clear!
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) utilizes electromagnetic fields to transfer data—such as identification. The tag or “chip” is about the size of a grain of rice, and these RFID tags are currently used for animal tracking. But the concept of “somatic surveillance” is already a burgeoning concern for humans in modern circles. Torin Monahan and Tyler Wall write, “Radio-frequency identification (RFID) implants function through the subcutaneous embedding of small RFID chips into the arms of individuals. These chips contain unique numerical identifiers, which can be scanned by automated readers, medical staff, or others.” The United States Food and Drug Administration approved RFID chips for humans in 2004. The injection of RFID chips for humans is a simple procedure, as this video demonstrates. Presently, two hospitals in the US are actively implanting RFIDs into patients who consent and pay to be a part of the system, and as of June 2006 about 100 people had been ‘chipped’ for medical purposes. Monahan and Wall write,
RFID implants have already distinguished themselves as being multi-purpose and highly controversial. Aside from their uses in medical settings, in 2004 the Mexico Attorney General’s Office implanted workers to regulate access to secure areas (Associated Press, 2006). Over 1,000 Mexican citizens have been chipped in efforts to facilitate finding children and others who might, at some point, be kidnapped… A US security company, CityWatcher.com, has also required the chipping of employees wishing special clearance to work on high-level, secure projects (Associated Press, 2006; Libbenga, 2006). A subsequent media firestorm over this case sparked state legislation currently in Wisconsin, but being considered elsewhere, prohibiting the involuntary chipping of anyone (Songini, 2006). This of course does not directly address the coercion associated with companies demanding RFID implants as a necessary condition for work. CityWatcher.com, subsequently clarified its position, stipulating that no employees will be fired for not being implanted, but employees may not be able to work on the best—and presumably higher-paying—projects if they do not agree to be chipped. Finally, RFID implants have also gained notoriety for their use by the Baja Beach Club in Barcelona, where implanted patrons can carry their credit card information around in their arms, obviating the need for purses, wallets, or much clothing (McHugh, 2004). If customers desire a drink, all they need to do is have their arms scanned for payment. In some senses, the human embodiment of capitalism that theorists have traditionally spoken about metaphorically has now become quite literal.
Would people really adopt these invasive and controlling technological advances?
Some consider controlling technologies like this bizarre and unimaginable in the public sphere: Would people ever allow their governments to make this compulsory?
1. This would be comfortable and convenient
Consider the free scan cards at supermarkets. Everyone has one, because it’s so convenient. It would be ridiculous not to get a free card to save money on gas and groceries. In the same way, everyone in the future will have the mark of beast, and it would be ridiculous not to. If you do not take the mark, it would be incredibly inconvenient at best or financial suicide at worst. As John writes, “No one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark” (Rev. 13:17). In other words, without this mark, it would be impossible to do anything financially.
2. This would prevent identity theft
Consider if you could keep your credit card in a microchip in your hand. This would almost completely prevent identity theft. According to Credit.org, identity theft costs businesses 221 billion dollars worldwide per year. Currently, we have insurance for this problem. But what if insurance simply couldn’t keep up with this massively expanding form of crime? We could very easily imagine identity chips becoming mandatory for members of banks to eliminate identity theft. What if banks stopped reimbursing identity fraud unless the member allowed such an invasive procedure? We can very easily imagine the logic becoming unavoidable.
3. This would help track criminals or terrorists
Totalitarian leaders are usually able to come to power in times of desperate need. Consider the Weimar Republic in Germany. Hitler’s thugs (the Brown Shirts) were just as tough as the Communist gangs, and the German people were willing to give over their rights to be protected. The Bible states that the end of human history will be the most extremely dangerous and trying time in human history. People will surely hand over their rights in order to be protected. The recent debate of the Patriot Act in the United States is a key example of this line of thinking. Isn’t it reasonable to hand over privacy in the face of terrorism and death? This will be the same line of thinking at the end of human history—getting a chip in the hand will not seem like a terrible state of affairs in light of the world-ending anarchy.
And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb (Rev. 11:8-9).
How is it possible for people from all over the world to look at these two dead men for three and a half days? This would be impossible in John’s time period in the first-century. It would take months for everyone to come and see an event like this. But today? We can easily envision something like this happening with satellite technology.
The Bible also predicts a state of affairs in the future that could potentially wipe out all human life on Earth. For instance, Jesus taught,
Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Mt. 24:22).
Jesus made these predictions in a day when armies still fought with swords and spears. How could every individual on Earth die in a scenario like this? Isaiah writes,
They will be terrified, pains and anguish will take hold of them; they will writhe like a woman in labor, they will look at one another in astonishment, their faces aflame… I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold and mankind than the gold of Ophir 13Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken from its place at the fury of the LORD of hosts in the day of His burning anger (Isa. 13:8; 12-13).
Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and those who live in it are held guilty. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left… 19The earth is broken asunder, the earth is split through, the earth is shaken violently. 20The earth reels to and fro like a drunkard and it totters like a shack, for its transgression is heavy upon it, and it will fall, never to rise again (Is. 24:6; 19-20).
Fire was not common in ancient warfare, and yet, Isaiah writes that the people on Earth will die with “their faces aflame” (v.8), and as a result, human beings will become “scarce” on Earth. Isaiah also writes of the Earth shaking violently as a result of this war. While this could be poetic language, this seems to fit better with modern warfare—not ancient warfare. Zechariah writes,
Now this will be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongue will rot in their mouth (Zech. 14:12).
Ancient people were familiar with diseases that would rot the flesh, eye sockets, and tongue. But notice the language: this happens “while they stand on their feet.” In other words, before they have a chance to hit the ground, their flesh rots off their bones. While this is speculative, modern man is familiar with this in the pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Additionally, John writes,
The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters. 11The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter (Rev. 8:10-11).
We are definitely speculating here, but is it possible that John could be envisioning a missile here? How else would an ancient man describe a missile, if he had never seen one before (“like a torch falling from heaven”)? Moreover, this falling torch strikes the water and turns it “bitter,” and men who drink from these waters are poisoned. A nuclear missile would do exactly this.
The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea and a third of the sea became blood, 9and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed (Rev. 8:8).
This is the language of analogy (e.g. “like” or “as”). John was seeing something “like a great mountain” which was on fire, as it fell from the sky. What must he have been seeing? He is probably describing a giant meteorite, striking the water. Depending on its size, it’s likely that it could cause this much damage. Cosmologist Sir Martin Rees writes,
Almost sixty-five million years ago Earth was hit by an object about ten kilometres across. The resultant impact released as much energy as a million H-bombs; it triggered mountain-shattering earthquakes around the world, and colossal tidal waves; it threw enough debris into the upper atmosphere to block out the Sun for more than a year. This is believed to have been the event that wiped out the dinosaurs… If we knew several years in advance that an NEO [Near Earth Object] was on course to hit Earth, nothing could be done about it today.
Fred Guterl (executive editor of Scientific American) writes,
NASA scientists might alert us to the event a few weeks ahead of time, calculate the trajectory of the object, and demand an audience with the president and go on talk shows and news programs in a campaign to get funding for an anti-asteroid program. Perhaps, if we were really lucky, the NASA folks would have gotten a bead on the meteor a few months ahead of time, giving us at least a prayer of launching a nuclear-tipped missile that might have been able to break up the meteor into smaller parts that would fall relatively harmlessly in the atmosphere, or knock it off course enough to miss Earth. U.S. Congress mandated in 2005 that NASA find nine of every ten asteroids that could strike Earth, and do some damage, so that we could perhaps have years of warning before a potential impact and prepare a plan for dealing with one. But with a measly $4 million budget, NASA’s asteroid watch is likely to fall short. Still, that’s more than T. rex had.
Go back to article: “Predictions of the End of Human History”
 Torin Monahan and Tyler Wall. “Somatic Surveillance: Corporeal Control Through Information Networks.” Surveillance & Society. Special Issue on ‘Surveillance and Criminal Justice’ Part 1, 4(3): 164.
 Torin Monahan and Tyler Wall. “Somatic Surveillance: Corporeal Control Through Information Networks.” Surveillance & Society. Special Issue on ‘Surveillance and Criminal Justice’ Part 1, 4(3): 165.
 Rees, Martin J. Our Final Hour: A Scientist’s Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind’s Future in This Century on Earth and beyond. New York: Basic, 2003. 90, 94.
 Guterl, Fred. The Fate of the Species: Why the Human Race May Cause Its Own Extinction and How We Can Stop It. New York: Bloomsbury, 2012. 33-34.