Is The Mark of the Beast Finally Upon Us?
Lately in the news there has been an increasing number of reports on microchips placed in humans. The technology used on our pets since the Seventies is now available to us, and hundreds of Australians, as well as those in other countries, are embracing it.
The microchips are the size of a grain of rice and inserted into the hand between the thumb and forefinger. Ultimately they will allow the recipient to do away with their car keys & credit cards; they will contain medical data and enable you to control all the technology in your home and workplace and everywhere in between.
In future, “other uses might include children tapping to let parents know they are at school safely, refugees checking in at camps or women at shelters. It can share diet, exercise and sleep information with you and your doctor, and the next generation could even release medicine as and when you need it.” 
One of the people who has already had a microchip implanted has had some messages from certain Christians on Facebook telling her she’s going to hell (gotta love it when God’s people preach the good news right?). And here’s the problem, because some Christians have an understanding of Bible prophecy that is based more on novels and movies than on sound Biblical interpretation. Consider these verses from the book of Revelation:
“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 13:16-18).
When I converted from atheism to Christianity in the late 70s, everyone was reading Hal Lindsay books, such as “The Late Great Planet Earth,” which interpreted Revelation in the light of current events. Movies like “A Thief in the Night” and “Image of the Beast” reinforced our view of the End Times, and there were regular predictions about the end of the world (as there have been since time began).
This same interpretation of Revelation was again highlighted in the 1990s and 2000s when Tim LaHaye co-authored 16 best-selling religious novels known as the Left Behind series. LaHaye’s book “The Rapture” was released on the 6/6/06 to capitalise on the 6-6-6 connection. Tim LaHaye died last year aged 90 and Left Behind a loving family and a lot of money!
I don’t doubt that these books (and movies) have brought many people into the Christian faith. They were hugely influential in my early Christian years in good ways and bad. For example, because Jesus was coming back soon and the world was going to end, it wasn’t worth buying a house, so I didn’t. I still regret listening to Hal Lindsey instead of my dad.
The greater problem with this kind of pop-theology is that it is simply wrong. In fact, a lot of things taught as valid interpretations of Bible prophesy these days show little historical understanding of the Book of Revelation and other prophetic Scriptures. As a result, much of the church is watching – and sometimes taking a rather gleeful longing – for an increase in war, natural disasters and marks on the right hand and forehead – like the microchips.
This fairly new approach to the interpretation of Bible prophecy is called dispensationalism. It was developed in 1827 by John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren and spread widely with the 1909 publication of the Scofield Reference Bible. Darby went on to be the founder of the Exclusive Brethren cult after George Mueller (and other Brethren) challenged him about some of his unbiblical doctrines. Charles Spurgeon also claimed these teachings were false.
We need to remember that the apostle John wrote his Revelation to seven churches in the First Century. When John told THEM to “solve the meaning of the number of the beast” to identify this man, he wasn’t teasing them to try and recognise someone who would exist two thousand years later. He was writing in a well-known code of the day (gematria) that his readers would understand. They would know that John was referring to Nero Caesar (a Greek form of Nero’s name, when rendered into Hebrew, gives a combined value of 666). 
Understanding history helps us comprehend the book of Revelation and the great tribulation, a period that is spoken of as 1260 days or 42 months or “a time, times and half a time.” All of these refer to three and a half years in the lunar calendar used at that time. These three and a half years began when the people of Judea rebelled against the Roman Empire in mid-66 AD. Nero sent Vespasian to bring the province under control. He was ruthless – destroying villages and crops, massacring people or selling them into slavery. In AD 68 he captured and destroyed the town of Jericho and then advanced onto Jerusalem, which his son Prince Titus defeated in AD 70. The Jewish historian Josephus reported the slaughter of some 250,000 Jews, with much more dying of disease and starvation, and 97,000 Jews sold into slavery.
These are the events that Jesus warned of in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, “And when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that the time of its destruction has arrived. Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. Those in Jerusalem must get out, and those out in the country should not return to the city. For those will be days of God’s vengeance, and the prophetic words of the Scriptures will be fulfilled” (Luke 21:20-22).
History reveals that Jesus’ followers understood His prophecies: the believers obeyed the warnings and fled Jerusalem to a town called Pella, and thus saved themselves. In fact, not a single Christian perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. Christians left Jerusalem thus escaping what Jesus referred to as the “great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). The destruction of Jerusalem occurred three and a half years later, at the end of the Great Tribulation.
Christians today should not be looking for antichrist or the great tribulation, and we certainly shouldn’t worry ourselves about microchips or the Mark of the Beast. We should occupy our time doing good works, living productive lives, making the world a better place and sharing the good news of the Christian gospel. Let’s be looking for the real Christ, not the anti-one!
Rob Buckingham is the senior minister of Bayside Church, Melbourne Australia
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