In treating the signs of the times, one can not help but recall the prophecy of Revelation 13 which describes the two beasts, one from the sea and one from the land. These picture the kingdom of the antichrist from the viewpoint of his political development as well as his social-scientific-spiritual development. Concerning that antichristian kingdom and the image of the beast which is constructed, we read in verses 16-l 8, “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to deceive 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.

Many have tried to show what that number represented. An interesting pamphlet by the late Rev. H. Hoeksema treats this “Mark of the Beast.” (Available without charge by writing to our business office.) Many have wondered what that mark could possibly represent. Would this be placed literally on the forehead or right hand? Or does it describe some condition which has already taken place in the history of the world — such as the rise of the Roman empire? 

This mark, and its placement, surely is given in connection with the rise of the kingdom of the antichrist. We can expect that this mark will be demanded for all at the end of this age — and without it one can not buy or sell. 

I would suggest that the time is ripe for the issuance of such a number. We, too, ought to be aware of developing events and be on our guard. 

Two articles recently came to my attention, one submitted by a reader, which points out how near this “mark of the beast” may be to us. The first article appeared in the National Observer of April 13, 1974. The article stated:

Is a Big Brother society like that of George Orwell’s 1984 emerging in America? They didn’t think so in Albuquerque a few weeks ago. But now they’re not so sure. 

In an unusual poll of public attitudes, the New Mexico Civil Liberties Union set out to measure the levels of Albuquerque residents’ concern about possible invasions of their privacy, and then to see if those levels could be raised through an intense advertising campaign. 

The levels were low when the researchers took their first poll, they reported, and significantly higher in their second poll, which followed a month-long media “blitz” that this city will not soon forget. 

With ads in newspapers, on television, on radio, on billboards, and on a hot-air balloon, and with a blizzard of pamphlets, residents were warned that Big Brother society may be only 10 years away. 

Along two freeways that intersect in Albuquerque, 30 billboards were filled with an eerily staring human eye, or a pyramid with a staring eye similar to that on a dollar bill, or a young girl wearing a placard containing a Social Security number. 

“What we find today are Social Security numbers being used on medical records, credit records, employment records, so that all the information from the conglomeration of records can be stored in a centrally located computer,” says Charles Daniels, a professor who aided in the study. “This is what we are against.” . . .

In another article, several quotations were presented from national magazines and news services to show how there is developing a system whereby all transactions are done by number. There is a quotation from Parade of Dec. 26, 1971 in which is presented an account of an experiment in Upper Arlington, Ohio where numbers are used, instead of checks, to buy groceries and other products; to deposit wages; etc. 

Another quotation is presented from U.S. News & World Report, Sept. 4, 1974: 

California banks, which introduced the popular bank-credit card systems . . . are now preparing to take another bold step into the checkless society foretold for the future. Beginning Oct. 16, many banks in the state will permit individual customers in California to authorize employers to deposit their pay into their checking accounts automatically. Individuals will also be able to arrange for automatic payment of some or all of their predictable, recurring bills. 

Employers can sign up with their own banks . . . Over the next five years, it is expected that 35% of payroll checks in the State will be converted to automatic deposits. In order to participate, an individual bank must join the automated clearing house system and agree to comply with Federal Reserve regulations. The plan is designed to permit participation of all California banks, regardless of size. Banks representing more than 95% of banking offices in the State have indicated they will participate.

Or another striking quotation is presented in the same article from the New York Times; Jan. 2, 1973,

The Federal Reserve System has endorsed the development of a vast nationwide network of computers to transfer money from one person to another. In a long statement on “the evolution of payments mechanism,” published in the December issue of the Federal Reserve Bulletin, the nation’s central bank spelled out in far greater detail than ever before its ideas on how the coming age of electronic money should be organized. The nation’s payments mechanism can be expected to evolve in the direction of a system where credit to the payee’s account is made at the same time the payor’s account is charged . . . 

The Federal Reserve said its role “in facilitating the development of automated crediting systems or pre-authorized debiting systems may pioneer a similar role in the experimental point-of-sale terminals. 

The Federal Reserve statement . . . made clear that in the future such systems should operate over large geographic areas . . . “The consumer,” the Federal Reserve concludes, “will be able to complete financial transactions through the use of a card or SIMILAR IDENTIFYING DEVICE, and this procedure will be accomplished through automated teller units conveniently located in shopping centers, in other places handling numerous consumer sales and in the homes. “

This current development, which we have simply taken for granted as being a part of our “automated” society, appears strikingly similar to the description presented in Revelation 13. We see today, and shall increasingly see, reliance upon the computer. This handles purchases and sales of most individuals in this country. And, admittedly, this proves to be quite efficient. 

But also, the computer relies on numbers. Whether it is a credit card number, a social security number, or some other number, the computer can immediately identify an individual, record his account, add or detract from his balance, present billings. Most of us are familiar with this already. 

Increasingly, the numbers per individual used are being reduced. Often, one’s social security number is used as the one number identifying an individual. Thus, one’s insurance might be numbered with the social security number, one’s bank account is, one’s withholding tax is, one’s saving account is. In most cases, the government has ready access to information concerning an individual’s earnings from wages and from interest. “Big Brother” knows what you earn. 

As the above quotations point out, the time can well come when this numbering system is so organized that every transaction will be carried out with it. This makes possible the enforcement of restrictions and regulations — under threat of withdrawal of one’s number. It will be possible then that one can neither buy nor sell — unless he is able to retain the mark of the beast. 

What could a central authority require of the church? What demands could such make to which the child of God can not submit? Some of the demands I can see on the horizon now. With the emphasis upon “civil rights,” I can see the time coming when this is strictly applied to church and school. What would we do if the government insisted that because of one’s “civil rights,” none might be kept out of the church — in spite of his religious convictions? What would we do if the government insisted that our restrictions concerning entrance into the ministry or into the offices of elder and deacon violated the “civil rights” of women? What would we do if the government insisted that each must do his share of Sunday labor? Many other instances could be mentioned. The time may well shortly come when the government insists on compliance — or one’s number is taken away. In the latter case, one could finally neither buy nor sell. 

The time of the antichrist is close at hand. What is our calling then? Many suggest organized opposition to this “dehumanizing” of society. Where there is legitimate room for protest, we can well do that. However, there will be no stopping of this “progress.” The kingdom of the antichrist must come — before Christ returns on the clouds of glory. 

But what we must do is to be, alert to developing events of our day. Both we and our children ought to be warned as we see Scripture being fulfilled before our eyes. Let us be aware of what a computerized society will likely mean for the child of God. Our children too must be instructed that the time shortly comes when they (and even we) might face the alternative: forsake Christ and His Word — or lose the number of man so that one is no longer able to buy or sell.