“And with all the miracles he was allowed to perform on behalf of the first beast, he deceived all the people who belong to this world. He ordered the people to make a great statue of the first beast, who was fatally wounded and then came back to life. He was then permitted to give life to this statue so that it could speak. Then the statue of the beast commanded that anyone refusing to worship it must die. He required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.”
Revelation 13:14-18 NLT
In John’s vision he saw a horrifying attack on the liberty of mankind. Everyone had to be registered. There were no exceptions. Of course, in the UK, registration, in one form or another, is already in place. We have National Insurance numbers. NHS references. Entries on the Voter’s Roll. My banking is defined by a sort code and account number. My driving Licence has its own unique number. We have passports. A young person sometimes has to have an ID card detailing their age, so that certain age-limited purchases can be made, or entry allowed into some premises. In many respects, personal identification details are essential in UK, and other Western, societies so that the lives we lead can be as smooth as possible. But what the devil had in mind was much more insidious than this. The identification mark was to be visible to all. And this mark was necessary to allow life to be lived the devil’s way. Without the ID, “no one could buy or sell anything”. But how could personal freedom deteriorate to become like this? And why would the “beast” require such a universal action?
First of all we already have the technology to give people a “mark” or ID. Think of bar codes, QR codes or the semiconductor chips contained within bank cards. Dogs in the UK are legally required to have a “chip” inserted in the loose skin around their necks. A few years ago, a media report disclosed that thousands of Swedes were having microchips inserted under their skin, to make life easier when faced with login requirements. So technology is not the problem. The world today has reached the stage where ID requirements have become ubiquitous.
So as populations increasingly become familiar with presenting their ID, perhaps a universal and unique code, visible to all, sounds like a good idea. No more fragmented login requirements. And if a universal login is used for good, I don’t think anyone would complain – it would make their lives easier. But what the devil is up to is more insidious. Once he has the world population marked in this way, he will be able to exert total control over them. And that is really the problem – God created mankind to be able to think for itself, but our enemy the devil wants to control us, thoughts and all. And those who refuse to be “marked” will be effectively outcasts and unable to function within society.
I believe the mark the devil wants to apply will ultimately be capable of being remotely monitored and controlled. Where God created human beings with the ability to make their own choices, the devil’s world wants automatons. John’s vision described a scary world. If the population behaved in a way that suited the devil, the people would be able to live their lives without too much hassle. But the lack of individual freedoms would increase as the rules governing and controlling the population start to be ratcheted up. If we allow our thoughts to extrapolate what technology might be able to achieve, think of how the devil could control and even prevent what he disapproves of, such as going to church. Or something else that doesn’t fit within the devil’s world view.
These verses today from Revelation 13 end with a reference to the number “666”. What is all that about? Over the millennia there have been numerous attempts to decode what this means but no definitive solution has been found. So I’m not going to add my tuppence worth to the debate. Suffice to say, that the number refers to something we don’t yet understand, something in the future, technology or a process. However, with the scientific advances being made, the required technology is probably not far away over the horizon of human understanding.
So we pilgrims plod on through life. Grateful for the revelation and support of the Bible and the warnings of what is to come from John’s vision. Forewarned is forearmed. We know what the devil is up to, so we pray. And keep on praying. For our countries, our political leaders, our communities and families, and finally, for ourselves, that we will stand firm through all these troubles, affirming our faith. God is our loving Heavenly Father and He will lead and guide us through the devil’s schemes. The Apostle Paul helpfully set out some practical ways in which we can live in a devil-influenced world. In Ephesians 6:11 we read, “Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil“. God’s armour indeed has the capability of preventing the devil from overwhelming us. And Paul finished his armour verses with Ephesians 6:18, “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere“. So that is what we pilgrims will do.
Dear God. I thank You for John’s faithfulness in recording his vision. I pray for us all, that we will stand firm in the face of the devil’s attacks, looking to the One who defeated the devil at Calvary. Amen.