The Mark of the Beast

Evangelicals in a school district in Louisiana are objecting to a palm scanner that kids could use to pay for their lunches, thus eliminating the need for lunch money. Why? Because it sounds too similar to “the mark of the beast.”

“As a Christian, I’ve read the Bible, you know go to church and stuff,” said Sonnier. “I know where it’s going to end up coming to, the mark of the beast. I’m not going to let my kids have that.”

For those not familiar with evangelicalism, the mark of the beast is part of evangelical eschatology, or end times theology. The rapture is expected any day now, to be followed by seven years of hardship and tribulation that includes the rule of the Antichrist, followed by the battle of Armageddon in which Jesus will lead an army of the righteous to defeat the Antichrist and his forces and establish the millennial kingdom. At some point during the tribulation, the Antichrist will require that everyone get “the mark of the beast,” which will be used in buying and selling.

Revelation 13: 16-17

It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.

As a result of this passage and the eschatology formed around it, evangelicals have long speculated over just what this “mark of the beast” will be. And growing up I remember a good deal of concern about advances in technology for this reason. Believe it or not, there was concern about the mark of the beast when bar codes came out. Buying and selling, right? It seemed a step in a dangerous direction!

The barcode did something very important to help bring in 666: The mark of the Beast. . .

The barcode opened the door (in fact, it not only opened it, it kicked the door down) to the “digital world”. Everything is now a number. Everything gets a barcode. As someone truly said, “If it exists, bar code it”. I remember when barcodes first started appearing. I began telling people back then, the barcode was preparing the world for 666: the Mark of the Beast. Was I ever laughed at. . . even by the Christians. I can still remember their laughing and ridicule, “You mean to tell me, everything is getting one of those “marks”. You mean, I’ll go even to the local “7-Eleven” and they’ll have laser scanners and they’ll scan these “marks”. No way. It would be too obvious what was happening. Everybody would know the mark of the beast is coming”.

But isn’t it amazing 25 years later. . . and nobody gives the “mysterious” barcodes even a “second thought”.

Satan very carefully and subtlety (see Genesis 3:1 and 2 Cor. 11:3) indoctrinated us to our wonderful, convenient, new “digital world”.

And the road to 666 is just ahead. . .

At some point when I was a child some newspaper suggested that children should be implanted with bio chips so that missing children could be located, and I remember reacting in horror. This was simply too close to the mark of the beast! And it wasn’t just me:

There’s just too much evidence to discard the possibility that the Mark of the Beast is a subdermal microchip implant, namely the Verichip implant. In fact, the language in Revelation strongly supports such an idea. … Not long ago their VeriKid product tracked children in urban environments, but they have also since pulled this product, likely until the market is able to accept it more readily. It was easy to see the similarities between VeriKid and the Mark of the Beast.

Part of the concern about the mark of the beast is that no one who takes the mark of the beast can be saved. Ever. It’s like a stamp of eternal damnation.

Revelation 14: 9-11

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

I remember reading Tim Lahaye’s Left Behind books and coming to the part where everyone was forced to get the mark of the beast. It was a bit terrifying. Well, the whole series is terrifying, but that’s beside the point! I remember that one character was knocked out or something and then implanted with the mark of the beast against his will. The book explained that this meant that he was still saved – see, no one who takes the mark can be saved – but that he could also buy and sell and get through checkbooks and such. (I remember thinking it this was very convenient for the author.)

There was a lot of fear attached to this whole thing. We were confident in our salvation (usually), but we also believed that the end times would be a time of trauma and horror. And there was always the possibility that you might not be saved, and therefore might not be raptured but rather “left behind” to endure the tribulation like the heroes in the Left Behind books. And of course, if that were to happen, we all knew we must refuse to take the mark of the beast, whatever the consequences.

The fear of the mark of the beast is an excellent example of how evangelical beliefs can influence one’s perception of and reaction to developments in the world. The way things are going, I could easily see a move to use some sort of palm scanning devise to purchase things, acting almost like a debit card, but a debit card you can’t lose. There are already cell phones that you can scan in place of a debit card, so why not a hand? But if we were to actually move in this direction, you better believe there would be huge outcry by evangelicals. In fact, I don’t think we could move in this direction for this very reason – too many people would be concerned about the mark of the beast. And this is extremely unfortunate.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.