Microchips and the Mark of the Beast

Three Square Market, a software design company in Wisconsin, gained national notoriety this week when it became the first company to offer to microchip all its employees. According to this article, the purpose of the chip is to allow “workers to open doors that require identification, login to their computers, and even pay for snacks out of the company’s vending machine.”

Christians and non-Christians alike have gone crazy all over the web denouncing this as the arrival of the end times. I have seen several polls asking, “Would you do this?” with some pretty heated responses. Many are calling this the “mark of the beast” and claiming that anyone who accepts it is selling his or her soul to the devil.

So, here are two questions:
1) Is this the mark of the beast?
2) Is this preparing the world for the end times?

Answers: No and Yes

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Acts 8

Chapter eight introduces the key antagonist of the story. Luke mentioned that Saul was a co-conspirator at Stephen’s murder, albeit not a full participant. The most zealous of his peers (Galatians 1:14), Saul used Stephen’s “blasphemy” as the perfect catalyst to begin an outright war with these Jewish traitors, who blatantly worshiped a criminal instead of God. He made it his personal mission to “DESTROY THE CHURCH” by any means necessary (Acts 8:1-3).

Like the Tower of Babel, however, God used this as the catalyst to scatter the early Christians and spread the gospel. For the first time, Samaritans were presented with the truth, and they accepted it in multitudes (Acts 8:4-8). The miracles Philip performed convinced even a local magician, Simon, that this message was truly from God (Acts 8:9-13). Peter and John arrived from Jerusalem to confirm what was happening, which they saw when the Holy Spirit came on the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17). This impressed the magician who wanted that power as well, offering money to learn their “spell” (Acts 8:18-25). Some have questioned Simon’s salvation because of this, but Peter’s command that he should “REPENT OF THIS WICKEDNESS” and pray for forgiveness seems to indicate that his infant faith was genuine.

Luke recorded one more scenario of the gospel spreading beyond the Jewish people (Acts 8:26-40). Philip received a direct order through an angel to meet with a man on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza, whom he discovered to be an Ethiopian official. Philip caught up with him and got into his chariot, realizing that the man was reading from the prophet Isaiah without understanding it. Philip was able to start from that passage (Isaiah 53:7-8) and point him to Jesus. The Ethiopian believed, and Philip baptized him immediately. The Holy Spirit then “SNATCHED PHILIP AWAY” (the same verb used for the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:17) and dropped him in Azotus, where he continued to preach the gospel.

There is a textual note to consider regarding Acts 8:37. Only a handful of Greek manuscripts include this verse, and most of them were copied during the tenth to twelfth centuries (AD 900-1100). Because of their late date and scarcity, it is best to see this verse as a later addition to Acts.

2 Thessalonians 3

Chapter three also picks up and expands on a theme from 1 Thessalonians, namely, the Christian’s work ethic. Paul prefaced this topic with his request that the gospel would continue to “spread quickly and be honored as in fact it was among” the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5). He also prayed that they would be protected from those who would do them harm in this world.

Paul believed their work ethic was an important part of the gospel’s effectiveness (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15). It seems that some of the believers had quit their jobs and were living off of the generosity of the church community. In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 Paul had already gently called them out for this, but they needed something stronger. Here Paul reminded them of his own example among them, how he worked for his own food rather than relying on support from the church. He also insisted that their lifestyle was disparaging to the gospel and that someone who continued to live like that was to be shunned within the Christian community. This was such a big deal that even before Paul had to leave town he commanded them, “If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat.” This principle is still applicable today.

Paul closed his letter with a personal signature to authenticate it, another hint that there was a forged letter going around with his name on it (2 Thessalonians 3:16-18).