Kanye West recently announced that he was running for president and was promptly endorsed by Elon Musk. Welcome to the year that is 2020. In his wildly entertaining and slightly bizarre interview shortly after his initial declaration, Kanye made a statement that is worth zeroing in on. No, I’m not talking about the fact that when asked what party he would be running for he said “Birthday Party” or his campaign promise that everyone would get 40 acres and a mule. I’m talking about his stance on the mark of the beast. When asked about a COVID vaccine Kanye said:
It’s so many of our children that are being vaccinated and paralyzed. . . . So when they say the way we’re going to fix Covid is with a vaccine, I’m extremely cautious. That’s the mark of the beast. They want to put chips inside of us, they want to do all kinds of things, to make it where we can’t cross the gates of heaven. I'm sorry when I say they, the humans that have the Devil inside them. And the sad thing is that, the saddest thing is that we all won’t make it to heaven, that there’ll be some of us that do not make it.
How in the world did Kayne get from a vaccine for a pandemic to the mark of the beast? And while Kanye is obviously an over the top example of this line of thinking, many sensible, godly Christians have had a growing concern that recent technology might somehow be related to the mysterious mark of the beast described in Revelation. So what does the Bible say about this mark? Do we need to fear getting chips in our hands?
Vaccines and the Mark of the Beast
Let me begin by stating what I will not address in this blog. I will address neither the concerns about vaccines nor the broader question of whether getting a chip in your hand is a good idea. I will only be asking and answering the question: is getting a chip the mark of the beast? If the answer is “yes,” then obviously no Christian should get one. If the answer is “no,” then the issue isn’t necessarily settled, but there is at least room for debate.
Let’s start by looking briefly at what the mark of the beast is according to Scripture. The Bible says that during the tribulation a powerful world ruler will require people to get a mark in their right hand or forehead. This mark will be the name or the number of this beast, and getting this mark will be required for buying and selling (Revelation 13:14-15). For a while now, many Christians have been concerned that chipping technologies will be required for people to buy and sell, and they make the connection between getting chipped and this mysterious mark. In some ways, that makes sense: both are something in your hand that allow you to buy and sell. So, what does this have to do with COVID?
Recently, several off-the-cuff statements made by Bill Gates were interpreted to mean that if/when a vaccine is available for COVID, people who get a vaccine would then get a chip in their hand that would track who had it and who didn’t. The logic, then, would go something like this:
A mark that is required for buying and selling… must be a chip implanted in your hand… that was put there first as a record of a vaccine. Voila! A vaccine chip is the mark of the beast and, according to Kanye, may keep you out of heaven!
A major problem with this view is that this whole theory is based on a misreading of what Bill Gates actually said. But it also raises the bigger question that started long before there was a coronavirus pandemic: should Christians get chipped? Is that the mark of the beast?
I have seen some rebuttals to this idea, but the ones I’ve read are based on a very different view of Revelation: “Revelation isn’t about what is going to happen in the future; it’s about living in the face of oppressive governments and the ultimate victory of God, so of course chip implants aren’t the Mark of the Beast!” This isn’t convincing for readers (like me) who, while acknowledging the fact that Revelation has much to say to all of God’s people in all times, still think the book is a description of what God will do at the end of time. So I thought it would be helpful to have a pretribulational, premillennial guy tackle this question.
We will look at what the Bible actually says about the mark of the beast. I want to consider three important facts that should give us a clear answer to the question: Is it a sin for a Christian to get a chip?
The Mark of the Beast is Connected to the Antichrist
This first point is so basic it’s almost embarrassing to say it. The mark of the beast is a mark… of the beast. It is closely connected to the beast, i.e. the antichrist. If you have no antichrist, you have no beast yet and therefore have no mark of the beast. Assuming a premillennial, pretribulational scheme of eschatology (rapture, followed by tribulation, followed by millennium), no one will know who the antichrist is for sure until he signs a seven-year treaty with Israel thus launching the tribulation, per Daniel 9. So, if we don’t even know who he is, how can we have his mark?
In other words, taking the mark of the beast can’t happen before the tribulation since the antichrist hasn’t even shown up. For those who are pre-trib, like me, that means there is literally no chance of Christians living today taking the mark of the beast, since we’ll be out of here before he shows up. For my friends who are mid-trib, pre-wrath, or post-trib (i.e. believers go through some or all of the tribulation), then you still won’t have to worry about taking the mark before the antichrist is revealed, which has yet to happen. In other words, if you believe Revelation describes literal events in the future, then the events are still future!
The Mark of the Beast is Connected to the Worship of the Antichrist
When the mark is discussed, however, it is always associated with the worship of the beast. The Greek word for “mark” (charagma) shows up seven times in Revelation. The first two occurrences are when the mark is introduced in Revelation 13:16-17. The mark of the beast is implemented by the second beast, elsewhere called “the false prophet” (Revelation 13:11-18, cf Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). In this section, the goal of this second beast/false prophet is to cause people to worship the first beast (Revelation 13:12) by performing great signs and wonders (Revelation 13:13) and making an image for the earth to worship (Revelation 13:14-15). After doing this, he makes a mark for all who worship the beast to receive and makes sure no one can buy and sell unless they receive the mark.
This word “mark” shows up five more times in Revelation (14:9, 11; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4). In every instance it is connected to the worship of the beast and/or his image. This means that in the mind of John, receiving the mark and worshipping the beast go hand in hand. This mark goes far beyond, “Hey, we’re implementing new technology that should make commerce easier.” It requires an allegiance to the beast himself, the antichrist, and demands that people worship him. Because of this, John would not have foreseen a situation in which someone who loved God and was loyal to him “accidently” got the mark, not really understanding what it was.
Is it possible that the antichrist will use chip technologies to lock down who can buy and sell? Perhaps. But we just don’t know. Christ could come before I finish this article (although if you’re reading this, He obviously didn’t), or we could be 1,000 years away from the tribulation. Too often the doctrine of imminence (Christ could return at any time) has been confused for immediacy (Christ will return within the next few months/years/decades). It’s not accurate to say that Christ will return soon, because we don’t know that, but it is accurate to say that He could return at any time. This allows us to make sure that we are ready and watching, while warning against reading too much into what is happening in current events (like new chip technologies). Preemptively trying to frustrate the work of the antichrist by resisting chip technology because he may use them in 1,000, 500, or even 5 years is an exercise in futility, and I don’t think that’s God’s idea of His children living wisely and peacefully in this world.
Interpreting the Mark as a Computer Chip Violates the Principle of a Literal Interpretation of Scripture
A very interesting twist takes place here. Those who staunchly argue for the literal fulfillment of Scripture suddenly become very comfortable with allegorical, symbolic, and fanciful interpretation. Those who stake their interpretation of Revelation on the principle that we should understand the descriptions in Revelation as literally as possible suddenly feel very free to find all kinds of hidden meaning in a very straightforward passage. “The mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of his name” in Revelation 13:17 somehow has magically turned into a computer chip implanted under the skin. There is no name and no number with this chip, unless one engages in highly speculative leaps of logic to somehow find a connection between this chip and “666.” The clear statement that the mark is taken on the right hand and the forehead is only partially paid attention to, because no one is getting chipped in their foreheads, and you can get them in your right or left hand. Yet, somehow, some of those who cry “interpret literally” forget all of this and begin warning people that getting a chip is the mark of the beast.
Why does this matter? After all, isn’t it better safe than sorry? What are the long-term impacts of thinking that getting a chip in your hand is preemptively putting you on team antichrist? Well, let’s consider the hypothetical example of Bob. Bob is looking for a job and gets two offers, one significantly better than the other. But the better job offer will require a chip implant, and so he turns it down and takes the other job. He knows better than to get a chip in his hand! His pastor, has warned everyone about new chip technologies, and has said in passing that the fact that some people are putting something in their hand allowing them to buy and sell sounds an awful lot like Revelation 13! So, Bob gives up a lot of money because he wants to do the right thing, and feels confident that he has made the right choice and God will bless him.
Then fifteen years go by. Everyone starts getting chips. Neighbors, friends, family, other Christians. Bob’s pastor retires after a long and fruitful ministry and recommends a competent youth pastor from a friend’s church. Bob is on the pulpit committee as they interview the youth pastor and notices a chip in the candidate’s hand. He is concerned and so asks why he got a chip. “Oh, it allows me to get into the jail so that I can do prison ministry. Don’t worry,” the pastor adds with a grin, “I got it in my left hand, so it can’t be the mark of the beast! Scripture’s clear that it’s a right hand and forehead deal.” Everyone chuckles. Everyone except Bob, who gave up a lucrative career to do the right thing only to find out later that apparently it didn’t matter.
As a young pastor, I fear that in 20-30 years the Bobs of the world will be sitting in my office. I worry that pastors will see people wrestling with doubt, not just about the interpretation of one verse in Revelation, but about God’s Word as a whole: “If I believed this thing so strongly, and it’s not true, what else do I believe that is wrong?” I want to avoid that on the front-end by getting up on my blog and shouting for the world to hear: “Chip implants are not the mark of the beast!” Knowing how to be in the world but not of it is challenging enough for God’s people (and always has been); let’s not make it harder by throwing bad exegesis into the mix.
I’m not a prophet or the son of a prophet, but my guess is my kids will not see anything wrong with having a chip in their hand, and that my grandkids will have a hard time imagining a world any other way. That’s typically how technology works: what is scary for one generation is embraced by the next and a normal part of life for the one after. This is not an argument for why you must get a chip, but rather an explanation of why getting a chip is not the mark of the beast. Feel free to have all the concerns you want about chipping technology, but don’t argue against it by “borrowing” the authority of God’s Word and twisting the Bible to say something it just doesn’t say. And, if the time comes to get a chip and you still feel unsure, just ask if you can get it in your left hand.
Ben Hicks went to Bob Jones University for college and stayed on for grad work, recently graduating with his Master of Divinity. Ben is the Young Adults Pastor and oversees the Single Focus ministry at Colonial Hills Baptist Church. Follow him on Twitter @HicksBen
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