I remember the first time I’d ever heard of a “search engine.” In the old days of the internet, finding new websites came from typing in randomly guessed URLs and hoping for the best. I remember as a high schooler walking into a Circuit City (remember those?) and asking an employee what software would work best for file conversion, and his answer was “try Googling it.”
Google was started in 1995, and as of 2014, it is worth a reported $350 billion. It is one of the most massive companies in the world, and no one knows just how far-reaching it is. Google owns Android, an open-source technology that is able to connect all electronics from phones, TVs, and computers together under one operating system. It owns YouTube, which sees over a decade worth of new video content uploaded every day. However, many don’t know of Google’s other secretive subsidiaries. Nest, for example, is developing smart-thermostats, and since that can be controlled by apps on Android smart phones, before long most people’s entire homes will be powered by Google. Google X (also known as the “Area 51 of Google”) is developing quantum computers and weather balloons with Wi-Fi signals to bring cheap internet to third-world countries that still are not connected to the world wide web. And this still doesn’t include Google Earth, which has used advanced satellite technology to map out the entire world, where any home or location can be viewed by anyone.*
This is the amount of power only one site has acquired in only 20 years. And it’s not the only one.
Though its exact origins at Harvard University are shrouded in controversy, Mark Zuckerberg debuted Facebook in 2004, and it quickly replaced Myspace as the most used social-networking site. Today, only 9 years later, it has become the second-largest site on the internet (just behind Google), with over 1.3 billion users. If it were a country, it would be the most populated in the world, with over 100 billion friend connections made and 250 billion pictures uploaded since its creation. Facebook’s data center in California is over 3 football fields in area, with over 21 million fiber optic cables needed to transmit the extreme amount of data that passes through each millisecond.**
And as with any major organization, there is a dark side. Just as Google X is experimenting with weather balloons, Facebook also is developing a massive drone that it claims will be able to bring high-speed internet to over 3 billion people in the world who are still offline. In 2014, Facebook initiated an experiment on 689,000 of its own users called “emotional contagion,” where it deliberately fed misinformation to their news feeds to provoke negative and positive feelings. The scandal was made public but to this day, Facebook has refused to apologize to the victims. When one uses Facebook’s mobile app on their smart phones, they allow the company access to all the private information on the device, letting it record personal pictures, videos, and emails. On several occasions, the company has been caught stealing private information from users who were not even logged in, but has yet to face any legal retribution. ***
Over 4 billion pieces of unique content are uploaded to Facebook every day, and it must be monitored constantly for objectionable material. This 24-hour job is outsourced to third world countries, where workers getting paid $1 per hour have to filter out graphic images of child pornography, suicides, necrophilia, etc. However, no laws in these countries prevent said workers from downloading the content for themselves if they so desire. Former employees have even admitted to stealing private pictures and videos from Facebook users who think their profile settings are safe.
Revelation 13:16-18: 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. 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. During the Tribulation Period, the Bible tells us the antichrist will introduce a mark of loyalty that everyone in the world must take. It will be either in the right hand, or the forehead, and without it no one can engage in any business transaction. Those Christians who refuse will face unemployment and starvation without the mark, but Revelation warns that taking it means eternal damnation. 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…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 (Revelation 14:9-11).
Revelation contains many concepts that were impossible in John’s time. While evil despots like the antichrist existed in Bible days, the technology simply didn’t exist for them to create a mark that they could force onto the entire world.
I could state how times have changed. In fact, that kind of technology has been here for a long time, and is ever changing and growing even more in this fast-paced information age. And yet with it, our depiction of the mark of the beast has also changed over the years, constantly trying to keep up.
I remember books, movies, and comics about the end times. I remember illustrations of people with three sixes literally tattooed on their foreheads. Of course, over time, this concept seemed passé as we saw technology become more ominous. Most Christians now seem firmly convinced that the mark will be some form of computer chip. This isn’t much of a stretch, as microchips that can be implanted in people to track them have existed for several years. It is also believable that with computer chips in debit and credit cards, and the possibility of a cashless society looming, the mark will end up being some form of implanted access to one’s bank account.
But even this is becoming old technology. Cell phones have become small computers with easy-to-use swipe screens, and all of our personal data is carried with us in the palms of our hands. We can now even buy products by having our phones scanned without even pulling out a card.
The problem with satellites and implanted chips is that we’re scared of them. It’s frightening to think that the government might put something in our bodies that would allow them to track us. And I tend to think that people would naturally resist. But the Bible tells us that only a few will refuse the mark, while all the world wondered after the beast (Revelation 13:3). To introduce and enforce it would require a massive global police battling great resistance and an unreal amount of technology that would take years to store up such information. And if we study prophecy, we understand that the mark will only last for the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation before God destroys all those who took it at Armageddon.
Unless that information is being collected now, and we are willingly giving it up.
So if we want to understand how it will consume the world so quickly, we simply need to look at how fast two tech giants have emerged and the frightening amount of power we’ve given them.
Whatever the mark of the beast ends up actually being or looking like, I don’t believe it will scare people. After all, the devil never lets people know of his true intentions in the beginning. For Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). If he can package it as fun, people will willingly give everything they have. Just like Facebook or Twitter, the mark of the beast will be the next big thing, an interactive way to connect with friends and make our lives more convenient.
So many will take the mark not because they were forced to by uniformed soldiers, but because all of their friends took it. And by the time they wake up to what it really is, it will be too late.
But the worst part is the thought of God’s people embracing it. Oh, if it were a literal 666 tattooed on a head, we would resist. If it were a microchip or a barcode imprinted on a hand, we would fight it. But package it as something useful, and we will embrace it with open arms. The sudden rise Facebook is the greatest foreshadowing of the mark of the beast human history has ever seen. Seemingly overnight, it was everywhere, and everyone was on it, and the pressure is constantly on people who haven’t signed up to fall in line. It’s on every product in every store; even a box of Cheerios has the Facebook logo plastered all over it. And while it certainly can be used for good, for the most part it has been used by the devil to tear apart God’s children.
And even as Facebook is now the leading cause of divorce in America****, the church still welcomes it into its doors, looking at it and declaring “this is a great tool for us to use!” while it floods the house of God with sin and worldliness.
My most frightening revelation of the mark of the beast is now not that the antichrist will kill all those that don’t have it, but that so many of God’s people just might welcome it and save him the trouble. Matthew 24:24 tells us of great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
*Cold Fusion: Just How Big Is Google?
**Cold Fusion: Just How Big Is Facebook?
***Dark5: 5 Darkest Facebook Secrets
****HG.org: Facebook Is The Leading Cause of Divorce