I have many relatives who are Pentecostal and Charismatic. Lately, they have become obsessed with the theory that the so-called "mark of the beast" (mentioned in the book of Revelation) is a microchip that will be implanted inside of our hands in the near future. I often hear that such microchip will substitute money and that if Christians receive it, they will not be saved because they would have accepted the mark of the beast.
What is the mark of the beast, according to Reformed theology?
Also, can you direct me to online resources that refute this microchip theory from the Reformed point of view?
Sadly, I can’t provide direct answers to either of your questions, each for different reasons.
The “mark of the beast” is discussed in Revelation 13:16–17, and, unfortunately for your purposes, “Reformed theology” does not take a position on the correct interpretation of any particular passage in Scripture. Nowhere is this fact more true than when considering the Book of Revelation!
What unites Reformed theology is a commitment to certain confessional documents (such as the Westminster Standards or the Three Forms of Unity) as accurate summaries of what the Bible teaches. On the basis of this shared commitment, I believe almost all Reformed theologians would agree that Revelation is largely written in symbolic language, and so we should not be looking for a literal fulfillment of what it describes. Thus, the “mark of the beast” most likely describes allegiance to an anti-christian system of belief.
While I can’t direct you to any online resources which deal with the microchip theory (my failure to answer your second question!), I can recommend a book on Revelation which not only provides an interpretation, but also teaches how it should be interpreted: Dennis Johnson’s The Triumph of the Lamb (P&R, 2001).
Having said that, it seems to me that determining what the “mark of the beast” is or is not may not be the most important issue here. You wrote that your relatives fear that if Christians receive it, they will not be saved because they would have accepted the mark of the beast.
That sounds very much to me like they are concerned that they might lose their salvation if they receive such a microchip. Why would they fear such a thing?
The OPC’s Confession of Faith reflects the Scripture when it says, “Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.” (You can find this, with prooftexts, online at http://www.opc.org/wcf.html) See also 1 John 5:13.
Reformed Christians may disagree over the interpretation of certain passages from Revelation, but they stand united on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, that is, that the Lord will preserve all who truly and sincerely believe in the cross of Christ for eternal salvation from their sins. This doctrine is plainly taught all over the Bible, and is much easier to agree upon than a particular interpretation of Revelation 13:16–17. It’s also infinitely more spiritually profitable! As you prepare for this conversation with your relatives, I suggest you study chapter 18 of the Confession of Faith, and particularly the Scriptures which support it.
I hope that, even if I’ve not been able to give direct answers to your questions, what I’ve written has been of some help to you.
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