The Mark of the Beast
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. Revelation 13:16-17
When I say I was once addicted to opioids, I don’t mean that I was buying heroin on the street. That would be crazy, right? No, I thought I was better because I didn’t see myself as an addict but rather as a physician using medication. When I started using, I had no idea that one day those pills would cause me to lose nearly everything. The evil of my addiction was subtle and devious.
I would expect the same to be true of the mark of the beast. In today’s notorious passage, John spoke of this sign that those who follow the unholy beast will one day carry. Without such a marker, no one will be able to buy food or clothing. Whatever this mark is, it will be a necessary part of our lives and without it, no one will be able to function. So, what will the mark of the beast be? I very much doubt that it will be a sign that declares “I love Satan”. No, this evil will be much more subtle. At first, it will seem harmless, but then it will work its way into our lives in such a way that we simply cannot function without it.
I’ve witnessed a version of this that makes me wonder. I’ve known those who’ve struggled with pornography, who’ve made the choice to give up their smart phone for an old dumb one. It wasn’t an easy choice and it’s one that most of us wouldn’t make. I’ve admired these individual’s obedience to God, but I’ve also observed their struggle after the switch. I use my smart phone for everything: mapping directions, my airline boarding pass, limitless information, even purchases. Those who’ve abandoned the smart phone can do none of those things. Somewhat painfully, they’ve had to find ways to make life work without the smart phone – which will one day be impossible.
I’ve got a smart phone. I’m not saying that I know that smart phones are the mark of the beast. I am saying that whatever the mark of the beast will be, it won’t be something obviously evil. It will be something that works its way into our lives, so that we won’t be able to live without it. It will be subtle and cunning and most of us will willingly embrace it. Maybe I sound crazy, but to me, that makes my smart phone a little terrifying.