The Health Care Bill recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama certainly has its share of opponents. Intelligent people argue back and forth about the Constitutionality of the Bill, its effectiveness (or lack thereof), and the financial impacts. It is not the purpose of this article to get involved in any of the usual arguments pro or con about the Bill. But a friend recently sent me an e-mail (which he also sent to a large number of other people), containing a link to a site that maintains that this Bill mandates that all U. S. citizens be implanted with a Radio Frequency Identification chip (RFID chip). The owners of this site believe that this RFID chip constitutes ‘the Mark of the Beast’ of the Biblical book, Revelation.
Here’s the site. It gives the locations in the Bill where this supposed mandate is said to be located, and has a link to the Health Care Bill itself so you can check it out. There is also a link to an FDA site that relates specifically to RFID chips. After reading and pondering the statements in the Bill and the FDA site, I’m simply flabbergasted at anyone being able to put such a spin on it. There is simply NOT ONE WORD about requiring anyone (much less everyone) to be implanted with such a device so that our ‘Big Brother’ government can keep tabs on us! What is mandated by the Bill is a national registry of information concerning a number of different medical devices (called class III and class II devices) in order to monitor their effectiveness and safety. The idea is to pool into one national registry information being collected by various agencies throughout the country, in much the same way as the Homeland Security Agency collects and coordinates national security information collected by various agencies (CIA, FBI, NSA, etc.).
What has upset our fundamentalist Christian friends is the fact that one of the class II medical devices is an RFID chip “for patient identification and health information”. Note that while this RFID chip does in fact belong to the category of class II devices, our friends at the above site want us to think that the chip is the definition of a class II device. (And they completely overlook the fact that the national registry also monitors class III devices, whatever they are). Here is what the Bill itself says:
“National Medical Device Registry from H.R. 3200 [Healthcare Bill], pages 1001-1008:
(g)(1) The Secretary shall establish a national medical device registry (in this subsection referred to as the ‘registry’) to facilitate analysis of postmarket safety and outcomes data on each device that— ‘‘(A) is or has been used in or on a patient; ‘‘(B)and is— ‘‘(i) a class III device; or ‘‘(ii) a class II device that is implantable, life-supporting, or life-sustaining.”
Note that it is plainly stated that the purpose of this registry is to gather information in order to analyze the safety and efficiency (“outcomes data”) of these devices after they come out on the market. Class II devices that are implantable, life-supporting, or life-sustaining are covered by this bill. That would include a heart pacemaker, as well as an RFID chip and many other medical devices in use today or that may be put in use in the future. And the registry itself is THE ONLY THING mandated by this bill. NOT ONE WORD about requiring the use of any kind of medical device, including an RFID chip. If it is or has been used on a patient, it will be monitored for safety purposes. That’s all. I urge anyone who is inclined to doubt this to check out the links, and read the appropriate sections of the Health Care Bill and the FDA guideline in their entirety.
What has so excited these fundamentalist Christians about this provision? It all comes down to their “last days” beliefs about the Antichrist, “The Great Tribulation”, and “the mark of the Beast”. They think they can clearly see the fulfillment of the Biblical prophecy concerning the ‘mark’ (which they believe will be placed on the hand or the forehead of the followers of ‘the Antichrist’) in this RFID chip; so all they have to see is the slightest mention of such an implantable device and they immediately ‘see red’ and lose sight of everything else. It’s all a conspiracy to trick us into taking this ‘mark’! No matter the fact that there is not one word about a mandate for everyone to get a chip implanted; they’re able to “see” that mandate there anyhow. No matter that all kinds of medical devices (some implanted and some not) are to be monitored for safety and efficiency; all they can see is the word “implantable”, and that to them obviously means implanted RFID chip (AKA “mark of the Beast”). And it’s ‘obviously’ the information obtained by the RFID chip which is to be monitored, rather than the chip itself being monitored for its performance and possible health hazards.
This would be laughable if they weren’t so serious about it. My friend told me that someone he knows in Virginia saw this site (because of the e-mail my friend sent out), and proceeded to take the information to Jerry Falwell’s church. Jerry Falwell’s son then decided this needed to be looked into, and you can be sure that unless his people turn out to be less gullible than others, this ‘information’ will be going out to everybody on that church’s mailing list. And then it will spread from there as more and more easily fooled people pick up on it. If you don’t like the Health Care Bill, attack it for what it actually says; not for what a fertile and inventive imagination can create out of thin air!
The irony of this situation is that, even if this chip is a bad thing, it can’t possibly be the ‘mark of the Beast’ of Revelation fame. The whole ‘last days’ scenario is built on a foundation of sand. I have written several previous articles on “The Last Days” and “The Olivet Discourse”, but I probably ought to point out a few things about the book of Revelation and the mark of the Beast here. I’m not going to make any attempt to give a ‘commentary’ on that book in my blog; that would be too massive an undertaking for me. I just want to give a few pointers for those who are interested in figuring out that difficult book.
First of all, then, note what John himself wrote about the time when the visions of his book would find fulfillment. Rev. 1:1 – “The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave him to show His servants what must soon take place”; Rev. 1:3 – “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near”; 1:19 – “Write down therefore the things you have just seen, and those which are now taking place, and those which are soon to follow” (Weymouth); or as Young’s Literal Translation puts it: “Write the things that thou hast seen, and the things that are, and the things that are about to come after these things”; 3:10 – “Because in spite of suffering you have guarded My word, I in turn will guard you from that hour of trial which is soon coming upon the whole world, to put to the test the inhabitants of the earth” (Weymouth); (again, the literal rendering is “about to come”); 3:11 –“I am coming soon”; 22:6 – “…for the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place”; 22:7 – “See, I am coming soon”; 22:10 – “…Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near”; 22:12 – “See, I am coming soon”; 22:20 – “The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon’”. Nothing could be more clear than that this prophecy was not concerned with things which were way out in the future for John and his 1st century readers, and which couldn’t possibly be of any concern to them. Whatever the vision signified, it was “surely” going to happen soon!
It hardly needs to be said that the prophecy was given using symbols, or metaphorical language. No matter how ‘literal’ a person wants to be in interpreting this book, it is simply out of the question. Anyone who thought that the visions were meant to be understood literally would have to conclude (as some people have) that John was a lunatic, or ‘wiped out’ on drugs! Who, for instance, believes that this is what Jesus, ‘the Son of Man’, actually looks like in his ‘resurrection body’? “His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force” (1:14-16).
Keeping in mind, then, that the prophecies of this book concerned things that were to happen soon (for John and his readers), is there anything which will help us figure out who the awful tyrant called ‘the Beast’ was? There is one person who stands out above all others in the first century for his atrocious character and actions: Nero Caesar. Could this possibly be the Beast? John gives us a very important clue to answering that question. He said that “the number of his name” would be six hundred sixty six (13:18). This is based on the fact that in Hebrew and Greek, the letters of the alphabet were also used as numbers, so that the letters of a person’s name could be ‘added up’ to arrive at a numerical equivalent for his name. Just as Nero stands out for his character, he stands out as being the only outstanding man of that time period the letters of whose name add up to six hundred sixty six. Nero Caesar, written in Hebrew letters, adds up to that number. John was a ‘minister of the circumcision’ (the Jews), and his ‘Revelation’ has a distinctly Jewish character (for instance it speaks of the Temple as if it were still standing, and of the 144000 who were ‘sealed’ from the 12 tribes of Israel – only a couple of many Jewish characteristics). The number was a ‘mystery’ (or secret) for those who had wisdom to figure out – it wasn’t immediately apparent to Greek speakers reading and hearing this book in the Greek language; but the Hebrew Christian recipients would be able to figure it out (and any others who were familiar with Hebrew). To John’s readers, the identification of this person would be obvious.
What about the placement of the ‘mark of the Beast’ or the number of his name on the hand or forehead of his followers? Remembering that the book is written in symbolical language, consider that the 144000 ‘sealed ones’ from the 12 tribes of Israel mentioned in Rev. 14:1 had the name of the Lamb and of his Father written on their foreheads. Is that literal? Are we to imagine that there were 144000 Hebrew Christians walking around with the words “the Lamb” and/or “the Father” branded on their foreheads so they could be identified as being Christians rather than followers of the Beast? Or do our fundamentalist Christian prophecy ‘experts’, who are so worried about that RFID chip implant, believe that in the near future God will literally brand some Christians (whether Jewish or not) with those names on their foreheads? I can’t think of any interpreter who believes that; the ‘mark’ of the believer is acknowledged to be spiritual and moral. It’s the presence of the ‘Holy Spirit’ as evidenced by their manner of life; such a life ‘marks them out’ as belonging to God. If this is true with regard to the ‘mark’ on the foreheads of the believers, why should we believe in a literal brand or mark on the right hands or foreheads of the unbelievers? It would be their manner of life – words and deeds – which “marked them out” just as surely as if they had brands on their bodies. The followers of the Beast were willing to ‘worship’ Nero as being the visible representative of ‘God’ on earth, and say “Caesar is Lord”; they would mock and persecute the Christian believers who would not pay homage to Nero. They turned in the Christians for their ‘treason’ against the state. Thus they proved their allegiance to the one the number of whose name was six hundred sixty six. There may be other things involved in ‘the mark of the beast’, but there is no good reason to assume that the ‘mark’ was (or will be) physical, any more than the ‘mark’ of the believers was (or will be) physical.
So since the events prophesied in Revelation were to happen ‘soon’ in terms of the 1st century readers; it was Nero whose character and name (adding up to 666) marked him out as the Beast; and the ‘mark’ is not a literal physical mark; there is absolutely no reason we today should be worried about the ‘rise of the Antichrist’ and the ‘mark of the Beast’. An implanted RFID chip may not be a good thing, but it has nothing to do with the prophecies of the book of Revelation. There’s no reason to get ‘tunnel vision’ when one reads the words ‘implanted device’ in the Health Care Bill. And even if you don’t find my ‘preterist’ interpretation of Revelation and ‘last days’ events convincing; even if those things are still in our future; this Health Care Bill simply does not in any way ‘implement’ the ‘mark’. As desperate as one may be to find something to validate one’s ‘last days’ views, this Bill doesn’t provide that validation.