In 1998, British scientist Kevin Warwick conducted the very first experiment with RFID (radio-frequency identification) implants and became the first human to host a microchip. Lodged just under the skin, the implant was used for meagre tasks like opening doors or switching on lights with just a wave of a hand. When Warwick strolled through the front door of his office, a computerized voice would be activated by the implant: “Good morning, Professor Warwick. You have five new emails.” These implants are now used to store digital identity information, medical records or to gain access to buildings. Martijn Wismeijer, Dutch marketing manager for Bitcoin ATM manufacturer General Bytes, placed RFID chips in both of his hands to store his Bitcoin private keys and business card. Jonathan Oxer, a programmer based in Australia, self-implanted an RFID chip in his arm using a veterinary implantation tool. Thousands of Swedes are implanting microchips under their skin to speed up their daily routine.
Whilst Warwick believed that a human-computer hybrid has many applications, both negative and positive, Katherine Albrecht, an anti-RFID evangelist, has been very vocal on the negatives. She believes that such technology may unfold to become the mark of the Beast and wrote a book – The Spychips Threat: Why Christians Should Resist RFID and Electronic Surveillance – warning other Christians about the technology. It is believed that the mark of the Beast is a way to distinguish those who worship the Antichrist, indicating the end of times; a future time period when the world will cease to exist. A passage in the Book of Revelations 13:16 states,
“[The Beast] causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
RFID has been linked to the mark for about 15 years now. Back in 2006, Katherine Albrecht told C/net that her goal as a Christian is to enunciate the alarm. The connection between this technology and the mark has been established for two reasons. First, the microchips have been implanted onto the palm of the right hand for ease and convenience. This mimics the phrase from the passage where all are “to receive a mark on their right hand”. Second, some of these chips have been used to store credit card information, which Biblical theorists believe is true to the phrase “that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark.” This has led some people to infer that those without the implant/mark will not be able to earn a living.
In 2017, a company based in Wisconsin offered to pay for their employees to get RFID implants if they wanted one. This action received grave backlash from religious advocates, who voiced their displeasure on the company’s Facebook page, and accused the company of being the Antichrist and “doing the dirty work for Satan.” The company received hundreds of one-star reviews, and were accused of committing a sin by using RFID as a form of identification or payment.
This is not the first time that end-times theologians have portrayed the apocalypse in reality. Some believe that the WWW (World Wide Web) would bring forth the end-times, on the basis that in Hebrew www is 666, the mark of the Beast. In Hebrew, the letters are used as numbers, translating www as 666.
Rev 13:18 states,
“Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man, and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”
Grant R. Jeffrey, bible teacher of bible prophecy, wrote in his book The Prince of Darkness: “The number 666 indicates that the letters in the Greek form of the name of the Antichrist will add up to 666. There is a slim possibility that his name will equal 666 in the Hebrew language since the Antichrist will be Jewish. The numeric system does not work in English or in languages other than Greek or Hebrew, so it is useless to calculate the values of names in these modern languages.” Further, the www is not imprinted on the right hand or forehead, making it improbable to claim it as the mark of the Beast.
Worried evangelists have had this terror about salvation and apocalypse – a feeling now commonly known as the “salvation anxiety.” This anxiety has been in part because of the mark of the Beast, as seen on their posts on contemporary forums. Predicting and understanding the first sign of the Antichrist has always been a topic of fascination among them, which is why interpreting the lines in Revelations surrounding the mark has been a topic of interest. These lines however, are ambiguous and can be interpreted in various ways on the basis of different contexts. These so called marks would be seen many times over, based on different interpretations. After all, there is no correct way, or a doctrinally acceptable way to foretell what’s to come and prevent the rise of so called Antichrist.
While the religious concern about the mark of the Beast might be evangelists worrying about technological advancements, the origins of the matter do suggest an intriguing question about merging the human body and computing.