The Mark of the Beast

What do you know about “Strong Customer Authentication” (SCA)? If the answer is nothing, you need to know, because it came into force on September 14th. It is an EU directive (yes, we’re still in the EU) designed to reduce credit/debit card fraud in online transactions. Sounds good. But it means that I can now no longer purchase anything on the internet. Buying things online is very convenient. We can get our shopping delivered to our door. We can purchase plane tickets, train tickets and many other things, and often goods are at cheaper prices online than going to a shop. In any case, shops are closing down as more and more transactions are being made online. But I can no longer avail myself of such a luxury.

Why is that? I discovered more information from the BBC:

BBC News website 3/9/19

“Under SCA, if an online shopper spends more than about £28 in one transaction, payment providers will be required to ask for an extra form of verification. This will usually be sent by your bank as a one-time password by text to a mobile phone.” 

I, along with 14% of the population, don’t have a mobile phone. Are there not other ways of verifying my identity? Indeed there are. My bank sent me this helpful email:

 “We're working to make your online card payments safer. We will soon have a new way of checking it’s you when you make online payments - as will all banks. To boost security, you’ll need to use either our app or your mobile to identify it's you making the payment.”

The alternative to using a mobile is to download the bank’s app instead. So I downloaded it onto my iPad. Surely that will do the trick. But in order to initialise the app, they send a code by SMS.... to a mobile, which I don’t have.

The Bible talks about a time coming when we won’t be able to buy or sell any more:

Revelation 13:16-17: And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

This will affect all walks of life: “both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond,” so none of us will escape this going on all around us. We will still be able to buy and sell quite happily, but only under one condition: that we receive the mark of the beast in our right hand or forehead. But the Christian can’t do that. This mark will only be given to those who worship the beast, and we can’t worship two masters. If we worship the beast, we’ll end up having to endure the wrath of God for ever and ever:

Revelation 14:9-11: And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

The only way to escape the wrath to come, is to make sure we don’t have this mark. We should shun this mark. It’s not a question of, “I’ll just get the mark for convenience, but I won’t worship the beast.” No, we must at all costs resist having this mark put on us altogether. Receiving the mark IS worshipping the beast. How do we avoid getting the mark? We must put our trust solely in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, and positively refuse the beast’s advances:

Revelation 20:: And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

James 4:7: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

So, am I saying that mobile phones are the mark of the beast? Not so long ago, I would have thought folk who talk like that were crackpots. There are so many people with their various conspiracy theories, all of them nonsense, and I would have dismissed this as just another stupid theory like the rest of them. 

But what the Bible says seems slowly to be coming true. In the last few years a technological revolution has taken place, which makes us understand, for the first time, how it can be possible for some of the things prophesied in Scripture to actually happen.

China is more advanced than Britain in this regard. Most payments are now done simply by pinging a mobile phone. Even the smallest of street sellers accepts phone payments. Even beggars do. Cash is rapidly going out of use. I got on a bus recently, and they wouldn’t accept cash at all. They’d only accepted payment via a mobile app. My wife had a mobile, so we managed to pay, but without her I wouldn’t have been allowed to travel.

Everywhere, everybody, even in the poorest of countries, is on their mobile. They don’t communicate verbally any more, and they don’t even look where they’re going in the street, because they’ve got the mark of the beast either “in their right hand,” or “in their foreheads” (or how about in their ear?). Their whole life is on their phones, and that gets preference to the real world. If you’re young and looking for a promising career, become an ophthalmologist. Everybody’s going to have eyesight problems by the time they’re 50.

If we’re not to receive this mark, it is inevitable that we are going to be very limited in what we can do. We won’t be able to do many things others feel they can do freely, and they’ll probably laugh at us: “Why don’t you just go to Carphone Warehouse and buy one?” We’re going to be thought of as stupid or backward if we don’t have the mark. So we’ll be very reluctant to avoid receiving this mark. It’s so much easier simply to follow everybody else. In any case, how is it possible to not have the mark, especially if it means we can’t buy or sell without it? How can we survive without being able to purchase anything? This involves patience and faith:

Revelation 13:9-1: If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. 

Revelation 3:1: Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

But this situation won’t last for ever. It only lasts for a short period:

Revelation 13:5: And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.

How is it going to end? Well, Christ will come again. But the Bible also prophesies that near the end of time there will be a complete global financial collapse. Whether this will be before, during or after Christ’s return, I don’t know. The merchants of Tyre are used as a Biblical symbol of what will happen:

Ezekiel 27:26-30: Thy rowers have brought thee into great waters: the east wind hath broken thee in the midst of the seas. Thy riches, and thy fairs, thy merchandise, thy mariners, and thy pilots, thy calkers, and the occupiers of thy merchandise, and all thy men of war, that are in thee, and in all thy company which is in the midst of thee, shall fall into the midst of the seas in the day of thy ruin. The suburbs shall shake at the sound of the cry of thy pilots. And all that handle the oar, the mariners, and all the pilots of the sea, shall come down from their ships, they shall stand upon the land; And shall cause their voice to be heard against thee, and shall cry bitterly, and shall cast up dust upon their heads, they shall wallow themselves in the ashes: And they shall make themselves utterly bald for thee, and gird them with sackcloth, and they shall weep for thee with bitterness of heart and bitter wailing.

And Babylon, the great whore, is also a Biblical symbol of the world, and what’s going to happen to it:

Revelation 18:11-13: And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.

If everything today is done electronically, it’s easy to see how a financial collapse can be possible. All we need is one bright hacker, and every bank account can be wiped to zero by the click of a button.

Should the Christian be worried about these things? Well, life is certainly going to become more difficult. But the Lord is in control. We’re told quite clearly not to follow the world:

1 John 2:15-17: Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

We’re also told:

Matthew 6:24: No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 

So, we must choose one or the other. We can’t have both. And if we refuse to follow the world and serve mammon, how then can we live?

Matthew 6:25-34:

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

We can’t trust the world to help us, and neither should we. We’ll be forced to do what we ought to be doing anyway - trusting in the Lord daily to provide us with our every need. After all, He is the only One who is completely trustworthy. If we take each day one at a time, He will keep us from the evil:

Psalms 37:34: Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.

Isaiah 26:3: Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Now, I’m not saying all of this in an effort to try to persuade every Christian who reads this to get rid of their mobile phones. I have no authority to do that. Only the Holy Spirit in the individual has the authority to convince anyone of the truth. Churches sometimes try to take on such authority, but they are wrong to do so.

To take a subject at random, there are some churches that insist ladies cover their heads in public worship, and they’ll have spare hats at the door for those ladies who haven’t come properly attired. Whether that’s right or not, the point is that, to insist others do what you tell them, whether they agree or not, is not the right attitude. There’s a very important verse in Scripture:

Romans 14:23: Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

The Holy Spirit works in us as individuals. The Holy Spirit convinces each individual Christian as to what is right and what isn’t. We may mistakenly believe one thing for a time, but as we grow in grace and knowledge of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit will change our minds as we understand more. If we believe in our hearts something is right at the time, that is “of faith,” even though we may come to realise we’ve been wrong later.

But if we do what we do just because a church or another individual tells us to, but the Holy Spirit hasn’t convicted us personally of it yet, then what we’re doing is “not of faith,” and is therefore sin. Even if it’s outwardly right.

On many issues, we may never be convicted by the Holy Spirit of the truth before we die: 

1 Corinthians 8:2: And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. Each one of us is responsible for what we believe in our own personal walk with the Lord:

Romans 14:7-8: For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

So, is the mark of the beast going to be a similar phenomenon? I mean, will the Holy Spirit convince some people of its identity sooner, others later, and some maybe not at all? Or will every Christian be absolutely clear as to what this mark is as soon as it appears? We’ll all see the financial collapse, that’ll be obvious. But the mark of the beast involves buying and selling, so it will come before that. Will we all recognise it when it comes?

I don’t know the answer to that question. But what I do know is that during that time, Christians will need each other more than ever before. Nobody else will look after us: 

Romans 12:5,10-13: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.... Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

So, whether we believe mobile phones are the mark of the beast or not, we need to get ready now. Such a time when Christians are excluded from mainstream society will come, and it may be closer than we think.