RFID Chips and the Mark of the Beast?

Question
Are RFID chips the Mark of the Beast?
Answer
There have been some amazing breakthroughs in RFID technologies, medical implant chips, and fingerprint technology in mobile phones (such as paying for items with your iPhone, Apple Watch, et. al.). RFID chips (radio frequency identification) are helping with security and accessibility concerns. However, some states have already banned the mandatory implanting of microchips (California, Georgia, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Wisconsin, etc.).

All this has increased the interest in their possible relationship to the "Mark of the Beast mentioned in Revelation 13:16-18 (cf. Rev 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4):

Revelation 13:16-18 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

So, is there any relationship? In our answer we will briefly address: (1) what is the meaning of the text to the original audience; (2) what is the meaning of the term antichrist(s); and (3) what does 666 mean?

Meaning: Original Audience

In our interpretation of this text, one of the first questions we should ask is what did it mean to the original audience? John wrote to the seven churches (Rev 1:4, 11). What did they understand in these passages?

Revelation 13:16 states, "both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave" were "to be marked on the right hand or the forehead." Right hand? RIFD chips today are used by left-handed people too? Moreover, the original audience had never heard of a computer, an iPhone, or RFID chips, etc. It wasn't part of their thought process or vocabulary.

More than likely, the original audience would have understood the "Mark of the Beast" as an allusion to branding or tattooing. In Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus', Epitome of Military Science, we read that a recruit to the Roman Army:

should not be tattooed with the pin-pricks of the official mark as soon as he has been selected, but first be thoroughly tested in exercises so that it may be established whether he is truly fitted for so much effort.

Julius Caesar described these type of tattoos in Book V of his Gallic Wars, which chronicles the history of his military engagements during the years 58-51 B.C. in Gaul, Germany, and Britain. This type branding was used to show ownership and/or loyalty to a master. The seven church's of Revelation most certainly had heard and even seen these type tattoos. So, with this historical understanding, the "Mark of the Beast" would refer to the Beast's property and/or devotees, that is the faithful followers of the Beast.

As to the "mark" (Greek, charagma, meaning, "a stamp or sign" or "graven work of idolatrous images") in the foreheads of the followers of the Beast, this contrasts to the saints who are "sealed" (Greek, sphragizo, meaning, "set a seal upon") in their foreheads (Rev 7:3-8; 14:1; 22:4; cf. Exod 13:9; Rev 3:12). So, the reprobate have a counterfeit "mark" as opposed to the true and everlasting "seal" of the elect. The "seal" of a king normally contains three things: (1) the king's name; (2) his title or claim to authority; and (3) the region of his rule (cf. Dan 6:15-17). So, it denotes ownership and authority. In the case of the saints, the seal appears to be figurative, not literal (John 6:27; 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30).

The Beast has "seven heads" with each head having "a blasphemous name" (Rev 13:1). This is figurative language; the Beast isn't a seven headed man. The Beast has "ten crowns and on its horns ten diadems." This refers to the Beast's false claims of divine kingship. So, the Beast, masquerading as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), is attempting to imitate or look like God. As God's name on believers connoted his ownership and spiritual protection of his invisible church, the "Mark of the Beast" refers to all those who belong to the Devil.

Since the seal on the believer is symbolic and invisible, we should also consider that the "Mark of the Beast" is too. The language is simply a figurative way of describing the loyalty of the Beast's followers and his ownership of them.

Meaning: Antichrists

Second, John assumed his audience already knew about the antichrist (perfect tense, "have come;" 1 John 2:18). Moreover, he actually states that there are "many antichrists" (1 John 2:18, 22; cf. 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7). The Apostle Paul called it the "mystery of lawlessness" that "is already at work" (2 Thess 2:7). While this interpretation does not necessarily do away with a final antichrist before the Parousia (Second Coming), it does mean that we are not dealing with a mere individual person. It rather refers to the satanic power, influence, and world-system (economic, political, social, or religious) used in an attempt to destroy the Kingdom of God (John 10:10; Eph 2:2; 6:11-12; cf. Rom 8:35-39; 1 John 4:4; 5:4).

Therefore, "the spirit of antichrist" can be seen throughout all redemptive history. It can refer to the serpent in the Garden, the spirit of Cain, the spirit prior to Noah's Flood, Babel, Egypt in Moses' time, the Roman Empire in Christ's, Paul's, and John's era, Hitler's Germany, Darwinism, Roe v. Wade, radical Islam, and Kim Jong-un's North Korea, et. al. Each of these is the Beast individually and collectively.

Meaning: 666

Third, the number "666" is mentioned in the biblical text (Rev 13:18). The majority of numbers used in the book of Revelation are figurative, not literal. In other words, numbers can mean something more than just a mere number. Six ("6") is the number of "man." Man was created on the sixth (6th) day (Gen 1:26-28). He was appointed to work for six (6) days and to rest on the seventh (Gen 2:2-3; Exod 20:10-11; 34:21). The sixth (6th) commandment prohibits the murder of man (Exod 20:13).

On the other hand, the number seven ("7") refers to perfection and completion. God made a "very good" (Gen 1:31) creation in six days and rested on the seventh (7th - Gen 2:2-3). The seventh (7th) day was set aside for Israel (Deut 5:12). Animals had to be at least seven (7) days old before they could be sacrificed (Exod 22:30). Joshua and Israel marched around Jericho seven (7) times while seven (7) priests blew seven (7) trumpets before the walls fell down (Josh 6:3-4). Leprous Naaman was to bathe in the Jordan River seven (7) times to complete his cleansing (2 Kings 5:10).

The book of Revelation is the book of completion; God wrapping things up for the present world as we know it. So, we might expect to see an emphasis on the number seven (7). There are seven (7) cycles of recapitulation in the book of Revelation (see "Recapitulation: Interpreting the Book of Revelation?" below). There are seven (7) churches; spirits; golden lampstands; stars; letters; lamps; seals; horns; eyes; angels; trumpets; thunders; seven thousand; heads; crowns; plagues; bowls; mountains; and kings, etc. There are even seven (7) blessing in the book (Rev 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). So, the number seven (7) figuratively signifies a completion of some kind; the fulfilling of a divine mandate (cf. Isa 55:11).

The number of man, 666 denotes the unholy trinity falling short of perfection in every respect. The Beast roars loudly during his war (Rev 12:17; cf. Eph 6:10-18), but doesn't complete his intended mission against the King of Kings and Lord of lords. As compared to the divine Trinity, who are the very definition of perfection ("777"; Psa 18:30; 19:7; Rev 15:3), the Beast falls short on every front. Though the Beast attempts to mimic God, he fails.

In Summary

Since (1) the original audience would not have understood the text as referring to RFID chips; (2) that it more proper to speak of the spirit of antichrist (or many antichrists), as opposed to one antichrist; and (3) that numerous words in the text are figurative and not literal, the likelihood that RFDI chips refer to the "Mark of the Beast" is extremely doubtful.

Related Topics:

Recapitulation: Interpreting the Book of Revelation?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).