[The beast] also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. Revelation 13:16-17 (NIV)
“Do you have any cash?” Wendy regularly asks me as we prepare to go on a trip or out for the evening. I get it. Wendy and I are perhaps the last generation to even think about asking this question. I always laugh inside when she asks. Sometimes I do have cash on hand. Often, I don’t. My silent retort when she asks the question is, “What do I need cash for?” The world is increasingly operating on a virtual currency exchanged via cards, smartphones, and electronic transactions.
In nine years of being together I can only remember one instance of being burned by not having cash on hand. It happened a month or so ago when Wendy and I went to an event in downtown Minneapolis and for that event the parking garage took cash only. I happened not to have cash that night. Wendy certainly had her “I told you so” moment though she was very gracious. The fact remains that it has happened once in nine years which suggests to me the greater truth that hard currency is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
I have long rolled my eyes at the many fanciful theories I’ve heard over the years regarding connections between the visions of Revelation and particular current events. I’ve long since given up on trying to make such conclusive exclamatory connections while choosing to remain alert and discerning about the spiritual implications of what is happening around the world.
This said, I do find it fascinating that John’s end-times vision alludes to a global economy based not on paper or coin currency, but on a “mark” required for monetary exchange. For nearly 2000 years such a thing was ludicrous, yet in my lifetime the possibility of such a thing is not only possible, but some economists say is probable. I’ve seen several news reports discussing such a thing in recent years.
I find it equally important to point out that the very next words John writes are “this calls for wisdom.” So it does. It calls for wisdom to be neither over reactive nor dismissive. I feel no compulsion to build a backyard bomb shelter and fill it with supplies in anticipation of the apocalypse. At the same time, I grow more and more certain that history is the unfolding of a story that God has been authoring since the beginning and will, I believe, bring to prescribed conclusion. I hear Obi-wan Kenobi’s aged voice warning: “We must be cautious.”
Ultimately, no matter what I read in Revelation or see on the news feed, my role does not change. I am to faithfully traverse the journey laid out for me as it is revealed on a step-by-step, day-by-day basis. I am to love God and love my fellow human beings with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.
Everything else will take care of itself.