While selling books at my book table at a Kroger grocery store in Wylie, Texas, a woman asked about my book Web3 Social: How Creators Are Changing the World Wide Web (And You Can Too!). When I mentioned cryptocurrencies, she got a concern look in her eye and brought up the events in the book of Revelation. It wasn't the first time that had happened.
Many Christians are fearful that we are on the verge of Armageddon. Attacks on Israel by Hamas and technological advances that make it possible to create a worldwide digital currency that can be forced down people's throats have converged into a new wave of end times hysteria.
It isn't the first time in my lifetime that I've heard these concerns. In the 1970s, there was concern about credit cards being used to implement the Mark of the Beast. The advent of RFID chips led to similar concerns, but that didn't materialize in a populist way until the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, cryptocurrencies are the target of Christian prognosticators whose primary mission seems to be to search out and discover identity of the infamous Beast.
To be sure, these concerns are typically heightened whenever Israel is targeted by a terrorist group, which has happened quite often since Israel's emergence in the 1940s.
I'm not trying to get political with this post. Rather, my point today is to address the concern about cryptocurrencies being implemented as a means of forcing people worldwide, including Christians, to "buy into" a world system that is ungodly, Anti-Christian, and idolatrous leading to the ultimate demise of Christianity through widespread persecution. Let's discuss what this is all about.
Why Is There Concern About Cryptocurrencies?
The question we must ask ourselves is what is the source of the concern? Why are Christians even concerned about the Mark of the Beast? It comes from Revelation 13: 16-17, which reads:
And the second beast required all people small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark—the name of the beast or the number of its name.
Note that this mark will be on the right hand or the forehead and that, without it, no one will be able to buy or sell. In other words, if you want to participate in the worldwide economy, you'll have to receive this mark. However, doing so will put you on the outs with your Creator and possibly lead you to hell. That's the narrative.
According to one theological perspective, with several different thought chains, these events are supposed to take place in our lifetimes. I do admit, there are some technological advances in recent years that have me concerned about human freedom, but very few of them have anything to do with cryptocurrencies. Nevertheless, this idea that world citizens must take "the mark" if they want to buy or sell is a major stumbling block for many Christians because, in their minds, cryptocurrencies make that possible in a way that no other technology before ever has.
I understand these concerns, but they are based mostly on a misunderstanding about crypto technology and how it works. Keep reading and I'll explain.
Discerning the Difference Between Cryptocurrencies and Digital Currencies
I won't belabor the history of cryptography here, but the two most important things to understand about cryptocurrencies are ...
Cryptographic security has to do with the way that data is secured against outside threats. In the old days, a man carried a wallet, usually in his back pocket. But a good pickpocket could separate the man and his wallet along with all of his money, without detection. That led to some men securing their wallets by attaching a chain to the wallet and some other part of their attire, like a belt loop. Credit cards also ensured that men didn't need to carry cash, but if the card was stolen or lost, that led to another security threat.
Cryptographers have created ways for digital money (ie cryptocurrencies) to be secure in a digital wallet so that no one else--including government entities and representatives--cannot access them.
While cryptographic security is the best known cybersecurity that I'm aware of, it isn't enough. That's why the creator of the first cryptocurrency (bitcoin) devised his invention with another very important feature. Decentralization.
The entire Bitcoin network is kept secure by decentralization. What that means, in a nutshell, is that no one person, group, or entity owns or controls the system. It is virtually impossible to force people to use it or to ensure that bitcoin is used in transactions while other means of currency are banned or outlawed. It simply isn't likely to happen, because using bitcoin is entirely voluntary.
I'll note two additional things about cryptocurrencies: Because of the economics of mining (the process by which bitcoins are made), the Bitcoin network has been beset by extreme consolidation. That means it is much less decentralized than before as fewer miners can afford to remain in business. By the time the last bitcoin is mined, at least 100 years from now, there may only be one, tow, or three miners in operation. That would be a bad thing for the network, but it wouldn't change the difficulty to making bitcoin an international currency that must be adopted by everyone.
The second thing I want to note is that, while bitcoin is decentralized, not all cryptocurrencies are. Some are very centralized. But they are centralized by private entities, not government entities.
There is a type of digital currency, however, that is controlled by governments. It's called Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). Of 193 countries in the world, 131 have some type of CBDC in development right now. Given the difficulty of getting 193 world leaders to agree on how their citizens will be governed, it's not likely that a single CBDC will be developed any time soon for all countries to use, which seems to be what Revelation 13: 16-17 hint at. If I'm wrong, a single CBDC may not be necessary for the mark to be effective. Still, the stark reality is that Christians hoping to avoid the Mark of the Beast have more to fear from CBDCs than from cryptocurrencies.
How Cryptocurrency Can Save the Day
I am not convinced that the events in Revelation 13 pertain to our day, but let's say that I'm wrong. What if the Mark of the Beast was implemented in our lifetime, say, within the next 20 or 30 years? More than likely, it would look more like a CBDC, which is centralized by nature, than a decentralized cryptocurrency like bitcoin.
If that happens and Christians are forced to choose between accepting the mark and using the required CBDC or "going underground," then cryptocurrencies could be the tool that would allow Christians to build an alternative economy using open-source technology that can be harnessed for our benefit. Here's what that would require:
Savvy developers who can learn how to code a cryptocurrency that can be used as an alternative cash system (that's much easier than it sounds!)
Developers who can implement cryptographic security to keep the alternative network secure
Christians willing to manage distributed nodes in the decentralized network
Knowledge on how to build a digital economy that is fair for all participants and a willingness to explore the options
Alternative systems, such as off-grid energy distribution, from government-run services most people are accustomed to using in our society today
Wholly-owned real estate to serve as operational bases for these digital assets
Skills that allow Christians to serve others usefully and earn a cryptocurrency income without having to accept the government-sponsored CBDC
All of these things are within the grasp of Christians, or anyone else wanting to set up an alternative economy, today. In short, cryptocurrencies are not something to be feared but a technology that can be harnessed for the good of a worldwide community of Christ followers.
If this topic interests you, I'm planning to write a book about cryptocurrencies and the end times. I've already written a potential outline. I'd like to know what questions you have about this technology so I can answer them in the book. Please include your questions in the comments below.
This article was first published by Author Allen Taylor on Paragraph. Image from Pexels.