I recently received a comment on the post A Cashless Society - Closer than you may think... which requires a rather lengthy answer, so I thought I would post it on the main section of the blog so that everyone can read. It concerns the primary argument I forward in my book Unveiling the Apocalypse - which attempts to show how the prophecy of the mark of the Beast may have already been fulfilled in the advent of internet-enabled mobile phones. The answer to the question below addresses a number of points that have been raised recently, mostly by people asking that if the prophecy of the mark of the Beast has already been fulfilled, then what are the direct spiritual implications of using these devices now in the present. The original question is given below:
OK--this is my question. If the Mark of the Beast is the cell phone as you say... well... aren't we all now under the mark of the Beast? (Or most of us. I actually don't have a cell phone--but I use a computer!) Aren't we all being decieved now? And does this mean we are putting our salvation in jeopardy if we use one? This is just not clear to me why using a cell phone (and I understand it's not quite up to the sophisticated level you are explaining on your blog--but it's coming along with a cashless society) is somehow sinister and evil. I understand the lack of interaction with people although that's happening now. Families are falling apart, sin is rampant... it's here already!
I also understand that your every move can be detected by someone by these devices, but we're really not that far from that now also. So... I need something to see how spiritualy this sophisticated cell phone Mark of the Beast is going to make me lose the salvation of my soul. Thanks for the interesting blog.
The most fundamental question raised above is that if the mark of the Beast has been fulfilled in the advent of cell phones, then how could the use of mobile phones cause spiritual harm? To answer this, we first need to deconstruct the question itself. The quite reasonable objection that it "is just not clear to me why using a cell phone... is somehow sinister and evil", can just as easily apply to receiving a microchip implant as the mark of the Beast. The word "cell phone" (underlined above) can justifiably be replaced with the word "microchip implant", to form the statement "is just not clear to me why using a microchip implant... is somehow sinister and evil" - since the same logic applies to both. The sole difference is that we have become psychologically conditioned over the past twenty years (since the theory was first introduced) to envision the reception of a microchip implant as the mark of the Beast. This conditioning has generated a considerable amount of fear around the act of receiving a microchip implant itself, to the point where this act has become inextricably equated with the reception of the mark of the Beast, and no other possible fulfilments of this prophecy have been considered. In fact the focus has been concentrated on microchip implants so much that it has blinded the vast majority of Christians to considering any alternatives, allowing for the implementation of the prophecy to be "sneaked through the back door" in a manner which is much more consistent with how the mark of the Beast would have been conceived by Jewish Christians in the first century AD - i.e. as a diabolical inversion of the practise of wearing phylacteries - physical objects bearing the name of God which were only worn temporarily during prayer services. But both the cell phone and the postulated future microchip implant are merely pieces of technology, and both are therefore essentially the same thing. The difference resides solely in how they are worn - if you were to somehow shrink a cell phone and pop it under the skin on your hand it would basically be a much more highly sophisticated version of a "mircochip implant".
One of the primary psychological factors which has enabled the mircochip implant to be perceived as the mark of the Beast is that it is a more permanent mark, and there is also a certain fear over the bodily intrusion this would cause - as if it would be like some form of technological parasite. Over time, the equation of the mark of the Beast with its original inspiration in the Jewish practise of wearing phylacteries was forgotten by Christians, as they became more distanced from their Judaic roots. This led to the development of a more literal conception of the mark of the Beast as the actual number 666 being branded or tattooed onto the subjects of the Antichrist - and these forms of brandishings are permanent and indelible marks. So gradually, the mark became considered to be permanent, and when the barcode hypothesis surfaced in the early 1980's after the publication of Mary Stewart Relfe's books When Your Money Fails and The New Money System, which was then combined with the RFID implant theory by Peter Lalonde in his 1991 book One World Under Anti-Christ, this appeared to provide a solution as to how the Antichrist could covertly brandish his subjects with a permanent mark that would be necessary in order to engage in commerce. This idea was then wildly popularised by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins' bestselling Left Behind series, and has since become so deeply entrenched in Christian apocalyptic thought that it is almost impossible to grasp any other alternative way in which this prophecy could be fulfilled.
Yet the advent of non-intrusive biometric mapping (which is already being rolled out en masse in India) renders the use of RFID implants for identification purposes completely redundant. The use of iris and fingerprint scanning by the inbuilt camera in smartphones is already being touted as the most effective way of safeguarding NFC transactions from taking place through a stolen phone (see here). By using biometrics, the smartphone would automatically scan your iris or fingerprint before allowing any transactions to take place, bypassing the need for PIN codes.
When we look to the original practise that the prophecy of the mark of the Beast was based on, we find that phylacteries are physical box-shaped objects worn externally on the person, and they are only used temporarily. The idea of tiny objects containing barcodes being inserted under the skin (so that they would effectively be invisible), would have been extremely foreign to the mind of the original author of the Apocalypse. On a symbolic level, the mark of the Beast was meant to be understood as an open, fully visible display of allegiance to the Beast, just as the practice of wearing phylacteries was a public show of allegiance to God. This is why some Jews indulged in "keeping up with the Jones'" type behaviour, wearing ever bigger and more elaborate phylacteries to show that they honoured God more than anyone else - a practise which was condemned by Jesus:
They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.
There is nothing in the original Greek text of the Book of Revelation which would suggest that the mark of the Beast would be worn invisibly inside the hand. In fact we find the complete opposite. The original Greek of the Apocalypse concerning the mark of the Beast reads "ἵνα δῶσιν αὐτοῖς χάραγμα ἐπὶ τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῶν τῆς δεξιᾶς" "hina dosin autois charagma epi tes cheiros auton tes dexias". The word epi used here has the primary meaning of "upon" or "on", giving the meaning of "on" or "upon" their "right hand", rather than "inside" (which would require the word mesa). Moreover, the word charagma, as well as meaning a "mark" or "stamp", can also be translated as "sculpture", or "graven image". The NAS Greek Lexicon gives the definition of the word charagma as follows:
- a stamp, an imprinted mark
- of the mark stamped on the forehead or the right hand as the badge of the followers of the Antichrist
- the mark branded upon horses
- thing carved, sculpture, graven work
- of idolatrous images
And in the one of the other instances in which this word is used in the Bible, in the Book of Acts, we find that charagma is also used in the sense of "graven image".
Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image [chargama] formed by the art and imagination of man.
Also the word dosin "to give" is usually translated in the sense of the giving of an object, rather than branding with a mark. So the word we have translated into English as "mark" was quite probably originally intended to mean "graven image". Indeed this translation makes better sense in context with the earlier reference to the image of the Beast which is fashioned by the False Prophet:
It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.
And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain.
The only difference being that the word used for "image" above is εἰκόνα eikona.
So the true translation of the passage concerning the "mark" or charagma of the Beast can just as easily be (and was most likely originally intended) as follows:
Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be given a graven image on the right hand or the forehead...
The significance of the mark being given in the "right hand" (dexias - from which we derive the word dexterity), could suggest that the "graven image" was in some way usable - as a tool for instance, since the vast majority of people are right-handed. And if the charagma of the Beast is to be directly identified with the image of the Beast fashioned by the inhabitants of the earth at the behest of the False Prophet in Rev 13:13-15, then we are informed that this graven image has the ability to speak, and would in some way lead to a persecution of the Church (to "cause those who would not worship the image of the Beast to be slain"). But those who remain steadfast during this trial to the point of martyrdom would eventually conquer the Beast, along with its image and the number of its name (which are directly linked here), through the reckoning of the seven bowl judgments:
And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands.
Furthermore, the "mark" or "graven image" of the Beast is presented in the Apocalypse as a parody of the sealing of the saints after the opening of the sixth seal in Rev 7. The first time the Seal of God is alluded to in the Apocalypse is in the letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor, which is described as a white stone with a name inscribed upon it - meaning that it is a physical object like the Jewish phylactery:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.
We find that this theme of the sealing with a name recurs a number of times in the Apocalypse, and that it is parodied by the mark of the Beast, which is said to contain a number which represents the name of the Beast.
The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.
“Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel...
Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads.
On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
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 once we examine the textual evidence, we find that the mark of the Beast is presented as a diabolical inversion of the Jewish practise of wearing phylacteries, which are worn in a manner to symbolically represent the name of God as El Shaddai. In addition, the original Greek wording can just as easily refer to a graven image, which directly links it to the image that the False Prophet deceives the inhabitants of the earth into constructing for themselves, just as the Israelites were deluded into fashioning the Golden Calf. The image which the False Prophet incites the people into constructing has the illusion of life, and also the ability to speak. It also contains the number of the Beast, which by using the process of Hebrew gematria, can also be used to determine the name of the Beast itself. And the Greek word for "beast" - therion, has the numerical value of 666 once transliterated into Hebrew.
The mark is also the demonic counterpart to white stone engraved with a name in Rev 2:17 - which is to be identified with the Seal of God given to the saints after the opening of the sixth seal in Rev 6. And the opening of the sixth seal, during which these acts of sealings takes place, is marked on earth by a series of astronomical and geophysical signs, including an earthquake, a total solar eclipse, a total lunar eclipse and a meteor shower - all of which occurred around the turn of the millennium at the exact moment of the marriage between cell phone technology and the worldwide web (www) with the introduction of WAP - which will allow for the future of commerce to be conducted solely through the www and mobile phones (see the post Signs in the Sky). In addition, some private revelations have suggested that the prophecy of the sealing of the saints took place during the turn of the millennium (see the post The Seal of God), and Fr Stefano Gobbi predicted that the prophecy of the mark of the Beast would be fulfilled in a time period which would begin in the year 1998 - which is 666 x 3 (see the post Fr Gobbi on the Mark of the Beast).
When we take into consideration that the three letter acronym for the worldwide web (through which all future commerce will be conducted via cell phones) - www, is the numerical equivalent of three sixes once transliterated into Hebrew (using the exact method which the number of the Beast was originally encoded - gematria), then we can conclude that the modern use of mobile phones fulfils every last aspect of the prophecy of the mark of the Beast (for additional information on the equation of www with 666 see the earlier post Hebrew 666?).
Like phylacteries, they are a physical object, temporarily worn externally on the person, and as the original Greek word charagma can suggest, they are a crafted object - or "graven image". In a further correlation to the image which the False Prophet causes the inhabitants of the earth to fashion, they have the appearance of life, and also the ability to speak.
So, in answer to the question if this means that we are "all now under the mark of the Beast?", then we would have to conclude, yes we are - and have been since the first merging of cell phone technology with the worldwide web in the year 1999 (which has a further symbolism in the fact that it resembles three sixes turned upside down - and this was the year after 1998, which is 3 x 666). I understand that this can be a frightening prospect, especially in light of the verses which appear to suggest that those who accepted the mark of the Beast would be eternally condemned to hell, but we have to take into consideration that there is also a symbolic layer to this prophecy which depicts those who have accepted the mark of the Beast as all the evil people who have ever lived - they represent "those whose name was not found written in the book of life" (Rev 20:15). So there is a certain amount of hyperbole included in these verses.
We have to remember that forgiveness is one of the cornerstones of Christianity. It would be extremely difficult to reconcile theodicy (the righteous of God) with the notion that someone would be eternally condemned to hell for accepting the mark of the Beast without any possibility of salvation, especially when they have been tricked into doing so.
Since this is a Catholic blog, I assume that the majority of the readers are of the same religion. As such, Catholics are required to believe that the keys to heaven and hell - the very means of salvation, reside solely in the papacy and the magesterium - which is protected by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, especially so when speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals. Whatever form it would take, the mark of the Beast would have to be formally identified as such by the Church before it could be considered to have any spiritual effects as to the destiny of the soul. Until it does so, think of the material presented here as the "case for the prosecution". So I don't believe that using cell phones will have any immediate spiritual effects until the Church reaches a formal decision on this matter. For now, as far as I'm aware, no one of any authority in the Church is aware of these arguments - so any decision on this subject appears to be very far off indeed. So technically speaking (in theory at least), if you own one now (and the vast majority of the readers of this blog almost certainly do) it should be possible to continue using one until the Church issues a verdict itself.
For Protestants however, who adhere to sola scriptura, unfortunately there is no such protection offered - they would have to form their own decisions in the present.
As to the question concerning how the use of cell phones could be evil in itself - this is fairly simple to answer. If the cell phone can be definitely established by the Church as the fulfilment of this prophecy, this identification alone would make using it inherently evil - since it would be tantamount to accepting the mark of the Beast. There is nothing that would distinguish using a cell phone from accepting a RFID microchip implant - the sole difference being that a large number of Christians already expect the mark of the Beast to be the latter.
Yet the use of microchip implants seems to be positively morally benign compared to the propensity of the cell phone for evil purposes. The cell phone can be used as a medium to browse and upload material onto the www, viewing anything from violent and pornographic images, to arranging hook-ups with random strangers for sex. The lack of face-to-face social interaction often leads to a lack of inhibition and breaking of taboos. A recent article in the Huffington Post has highlighted the increase in the trend of "sexting" (the sending of intimate photos to partners via cell phones) amongst teenagers - which are very often shared around school yards, and the resultant humiliation and bullying can in turn lead to suicide (see here). And paedophiles are exploiting this craze by pretending to be school children themselves, encouraging children to send them explicit photographs they have taken with their cell phones - which are then circulated around paedophile rings.
The use of mobile phones is changing the way we act and live; slowly breaking down social boundaries through desensitisation and deforming the concept of moral behaviour. A microchip implant could never achieve such a capacity for leading people into immorality.
Yet, unlike a mircochip implant, everyone actually desires to have one. As well as being central to daily business operations and allowing us to keep in contact with family members, they have also become a fashion statement, with the use of older models often being met by sneers and derision - which brings us back to Jesus' condemnation of the ever more elaborate phylacteries worn by the self-aggrandising Jewish leaders in the 1st century. They have become a "catch-all" device, with in-built functions including internet gateway, gaming, camera, video recorder, and calculator. And this level of covetousness is even before they become central to engaging in commerce. The strong inclinations that will undoubtedly prevail in favour of keeping them means that a large number of people will already be programmed to automatically reject the idea that the cell phone could be the ultimate fulfilment of the prophecy of the mark of the Beast. They truly are a temptation worthy of the wiles of the Devil.