The Mark of the Beast and modern technology – did John envision NFC and RFID microchip implants?

Attempting to formulate a distinct interpretation of the book of Revelation’s rich symbolism would be a grave mistake but people with logic-oriented minds can’t help puzzling through the various possibilities for each bewildering scenario that John describes. His narrative of the Mark of the Beast has always been especially perplexing. Economically, a “mark” that facilitates commerce makes sense – but how are we to recognize the Mark as an implement of the Beast?

In Revelation 13:16, John describes the Mark of the Beast (or Number of the Beast) as a “mark” that represents the number “666” (or “616”, chi, iota, stigma (hexakosiai deka hex) in the oldest preserved manuscript of Revelation). The verses tell us:

“It (the Second Beast) 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.”

Before technology was used to facilitate commerce and trade, most envisioned the Mark of the Beast as some sort of visible tattoo. Placement on the forehead, where it could be easily seen, would make identification effective and efficient – but placement on the back of the hand seemed inconvenient. Possibly a tattoo on the forehead would be too unappealing, so the back of the hand was offered as an option.

A significant advance in modern-day technology was the introduction of optical, machine-readable representation of data – the barcode. The varying width and spacing of parallel vertical lines could be quickly scanned using optical scanners. With this technology, placement of barcodes on the back of the hand seems a logical choice. A person would simply slide the back of their hand over a scanner in order to complete a transaction or identify themselves. However, like a tattoo, placement on the forehead exposed an unattractive, visible mark. And how would a barcode on a person’s forehead be scanned without inconveniencing the person?

Today we have NFC and RFID microchips which store data and transmit information via radio waves. These chips can be embedded under the skin and offer all the advantages of barcodes without presenting a visible remnant on the person’s body. Forehead placement seems ideal – it faces the direction of the NFC radio receiver and could be hidden along the hairline. The back of the hand would work too but given today’s state of technology, would leave a small lump on an oft-used part of the body, a location where the skin is thin and frequently comes into contact with other objects. Placement of an NFC chip on the back of the hand has never made sense – until today.

In the UK, contactless implants are becoming a realistic means to identify employees, a benefit touted by big-business in the name of security and convenience. The number of implants in use today is small but growing quickly. In fact, the Confederation of British Industry has publicly expressed alarm about the chip’s growing implementations and the privacy implications the chip exposes for the recipient.

More to the point of this article however, is how and where the implant is being placed. Lay your hand on a flat table and spread the fingers slightly. See the flap of loose skin where the index finger and thumb join? That is the location where NFC microchip implants work best – on the back of the hand where the index finger and thumb meet. The position allows wireless reading of the data while tucking the implant in a place where it does not inconvenience the recipient and protects the device from damage.

We can’t propose a hard interpretation that NFC chips are the implement described as the Mark of the Beast in Revelation 13. After all, previous possibilities included tattoos and barcodes. It’s important to understand that biblical prophesy is not meant to be interpreted beforehand but rather, comes together like puzzle pieces when the events begin to transpire. Acceptance of the Mark of the Beast is just one piece of the puzzle and Christians will not “accidentally” accept it. But the use of NFC chips as the Mark of the Beast and their placement on the back of the hand seemed physically impossible until today – a good example of why we should not attempt to form interpretations of biblical prophesy or force prophesy to fit preconceived “guesses” of what we think may happen.

Sources: NIV, Wikipedia, The Guardian, BioTeq