By Bob Smietana
Forget your keys, your wallet, or your badge?
No worries, if you live in Sweden.
About 3,000 Swedes have had microchips implanted on the backside of their hands—containing credit card information and other digital data.
At one company, employees with a microchip can wave their hands to unlock the door, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). People can also use the microchips to buy train tickets.
“It was fun to try something new and to see what one could use it for to make life easier in the future,” Ulrika Celsing told AFP.
Celsing said there was a slight sting when the tiny chip was inserted. Other than that, she says, there have been no problems.
Microchips with radio frequency identification (RFID) have been used in animals and on products for years. They’ve been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since the early 2000s, according to USA Today.
For the past 15 years at least, companies have tried to get people to get microchips, calling them the “ultimate form of mobile payment.” So far, says paymentsource.com, few people have signed on.The Bible may explain why.
These microchips remind people of the so-called “Mark of the Beast” mentioned in Revelation 13:
“And it makes everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark: the beast’s name or the number of its name.”
For decades, end-times novels, movies, and prophecy seminars have related microchips and other new technology to this passage.
“I think that this is more of a fulfillment of end-times novels and movies than the Book of Revelation itself,” Wheaton College professor Chris Vlachos told The Tennessean last year.
But at least a few preachers disagree.
“I take microchipping as a form of the mark. There’s many pieces of the mark, and then again, all these pieces of the mark [are] designed to control,” Pastor Dave Doyle from Hope Christian Fellowship Church in Iowa told the Christian Broadcasting Network last summer.
Doyle was commenting on news that about 40 employees of a Wisconsin company agreed to get microchips implanted last year. They can use the devices to get into the building, make copies, or buy food in the break room.
They can even log into a computer with a wave of their microchipped hand. The company had heard about Swedes using the technology and wanted to try it.
“We foresee the use of RFID technology to drive everything from making purchases in our office break room market, opening doors, use of copy machines, logging into our office computers, unlocking phones, sharing business cards, storing medical/health information, and used as payment at other RFID terminals,” CEO Todd Westby said in a company statement.
“Eventually, this technology will become standardized, allowing you to use this as your passport, public transit, all purchasing opportunities, etc.”
Other companies have tried similar technology. It hasn’t always worked.
In 2015 a federal court awarded $150,000 in damages plus more than $400,000 in lost wages to a coal miner named Beverly R. Butcher Jr. His employer required workers to use a biometric scanner to clock in.
Butcher refused, saying the process violated his religious beliefs. It was too much like the Mark of the Beast, he told his bosses.
The company let some people who had physical disabilities avoid using the scanner but refused to do so for Butcher. As a result, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued on his behalf, charging the company with failure to accommodate his faith.
Passages from Revelation have caused trouble for other workers as well.
Five years ago, a Christian maintenance worker in Clarksville, Tennessee, quit his job after the company kept assigning him the number 666—also mentioned in Revelation 13.
Walter Slonopas—who told his story on video and in the newspaper—first got the number in 2011 and was assigned to clock in using 666. The company changed the number. A few years later, the company updated its system and Slonopas got the number 666 again.
In 2013, 666 showed up on his W-2 tax form.
“If you accept that number, you sell your soul to the devil,” Slonopas said.
God, he said, is worth more than money.
Jay Phelan, a retired seminary professor, told The Tennessean in 2013 that for believers like Slonopas, being associated with 666 can be a sign they are betraying their faith.
“It’s seen as a very dangerous number,” he said.
Slonopas’s bosses had no idea why 666 kept popping up.
“I am completely at a loss for words,” said company spokesman Bob Laourciere.
Bob is the former senior writer for Lifeway Research. In September 2018, he joined Religion News Service, where he currently serves as a national writer.