Back in 1999, the Y2K panic was reaching its peak.  Sadly, it was even starting to consume a few noted national Christian leaders (James Dobson included), which was a little disheartening.  And every church I knew had appointed some person within the congregation as the church’s Y2K representative, whether that person had any real knowledge of the situation or not.  It was a matter of the church leadership feeling the need to do something to address people’s internal insecurity.  And a BIG part of that fear was that Y2K errors would cascade through society and the financial system, leading to a major collapse… and opening up the door for the anti-Christ feared by generations throughout the ages.

But if anyone did any level of study of Revelation, nothing added up in 1999.  Technologically, politically, etc, we just were not where that book describes the world.  Since I was developing and maintaining software for credit/debit processing at the time, I was seeing the strategies and regulations that the major credit card companies and the Federal Reserve were distributing regarding policies to nullify the impact of the Y2K oversight (bug is too strong a word for me). These policies imposed specific deadlines and very stiff fines for non-compliance.

I also was already studying end times prophesy for quite a while.  I understood very clearly that the governments around the world were not going to let any black mark, of any kind, happen to electronic commerce–the core of the future economic system in the world government.  Any problem with it on January 1, 2000 would have caused people to back out of their existing electronic payments, and would have broken trust that would have taken decades to restore.  There was no way that was going to be allowed.

I am a very practical person.  Everytime people inside and outside of the church would start talking about how the financial system was going to meltdown and the government was going to collapse, I would point out to people some simple things that indicated there was little to nothing worth worrying about.  One of my favorites was to ask the person to pull out their credit/debit cards and show them the 2-digit year in the expiration date, which appeared on the front.  In 1999, it was a 00, 01 or 02.  If 2-digit years were such a reason to panic, why were all the new cards being issued with the same 2-digit year instead of a 4-digit year?  Even the expiration date encoded on the magnetic stripe on the rear didn’t change from a 2-digit year.  It was funny to watch peoples’ reaction when they looked at their own cards and saw a 2-digit year.  And as we know now, nothing really happened on January 1, 2000 related to the Y2K scare.

One of the things I was pointing out to people, when the discussion of Y2K led to a discussion of the end times as described in Revelation, was how far we still had to go to get to a cashless society.  A cashless society is the precursor to requiring “the mark of the beast” for commerce.  And it means just that: no cash.  You see, cash represents freedom in a transaction.  There is no middleman: no bank, no government authority to clear the transaction, no approval process, and most importantly… no record of it is necessary.  You yourself can make the person-to-person transaction.  Remove cash, and someone has to facilitate the transaction: the bank.  Thread any amount of middlemen and decision makers into the banking system, and any transaction can be allowed or denied for any number of fluctuating reasons.

So the best way to show people how much of Relevation had NOT yet come to pass (and why the whole Y2K panic being associated to end times was laughable) was related to the “cashless” portion.  Imagine how, in 1999, you would handle the following without cash:

  1. A yard sale
  2. Giving money to friends or family who just dropped by and asked for it.
  3. Giving money to some beggar on the street, who was asking for some spare change.
  4. Giving your child some pocket cash for the ice cream truck.
  5. Buying Girl scout cookies from a stand in front of the local shopping center.
  6. Buying lemonade from some enterprising children sitting in the hot sun on a busy intersection in your neighborhood.
  7. Buying some fresh fruit from a local farmer who has filled up his pickup truck and set up his shop on the side of the highway.

… and some more extreme examples ..

  1. Enticing the dancer at the adult entertainment club for some personal attention (like it or not, this is a real world example).
  2. The illegal drug or arms deal… always done with cash.

As time has passed since 1999, the banks and major credit card companies have addressed a lot of things where people would have “preferred” cash over a credit/debit card, making the card less of a hassle to use.

  • Most credit card and debit card transactions of under $20-$30 dollars no longer require a signature, making the transaction feel more like a cash transaction.  An interesting note:  80% of all purchase transactions in the United States are $25 or lower.
  • All vendors who have kiosks in malls now have the ability to connect to the credit card services wirelessly with their payment terminals.
  • Short term sales events (e.g. concert paraphernalia, souvenirs, etc) are now able to quickly set up the electronic payment system with their tent store for conventions and concerts.
  • Person to person payments have been enabled and become commonplace (via third party vendors like Paypal) for credit/debit cards.  This was a brand new and untrusted concept in 1999.
  • Banks now allow inter-bank transactions via cell phones, including transfers and deposits.

Still, none of these changes addressed cases where cash was the only viable option (the original 8 items above that currently require cash), because there is no effective electronic interface to the banking system.

The Leap:

Only now there are two devices available (and appearing in a short time frame of each other) that can viably address the missing electronic interface for all of the above, where cash still reigns.  One is Square (marketed by Apple), and the other is Intuit’s GoPayment.  These are ingenious devices, and there will be a lot more of these interfaces appearing in the near future.  Initially they will have the interface for a payment card, but later also with a radio frequency reader for implanted ID chips.

Square and GoPayment only require an iPhone or Android, and unlike a merchant account to accept payments (which is quite a lot of paperwork to process and setup), both can be setup online in a few minutes to link to your bank account.

Mark my words: do not underestimate the impact these devices, and others like them will have on the remaining footholds of cash as payment.  It is the missing catalyst to facilitate the true elimination of cash in the future, and force the remaining people holding out on cash to get a personal bank account.

All of the 8 items I listed above will now no longer require cash, but the devices may not yet quite cover the one interesting example: the beggar.  Beggars are most likely not going to have a cell phone with Square: if they did, would you really think they need the money in the first place?  But all government welfare agencies have been issuing benefits in the form of an EBT card (essentially, a debit card tied to a government issued account).  While Square is marketed as the ability to accept card payments, it would only take additional software capability to reverse the payment direction to the EBT card, instead of from it.  So philanthropists (or fools, as you see it): fret not.  If this capability is not there, I would expect it to be added in the future.

And I am sure that the beggars won’t be too thrilled to find that the government is lowering or stopping their benefits, because they have put too much non-Government income on the card.  Technology, after all, is a double-edged sword.

The last two examples of cash footholds I listed are transactions considered amoral by a lot of people.  Remember that cash takes no sides in a moral debate. Cash is hard to track and control, making it the payment method of choice among criminals, people desiring anonomity and, less negatively, those who just don’t trust the motives of the government.  These transactions (and others) will ultimately have to migrate to some form of electronic transactions when cash is eliminated.

With Square and GoPayment, the ability to execute that elimination of cash is truly on the horizon.  It is only a matter of time for promotion and adoption to get devices like Square and GoPayment into widespread, common use.  And once the cash is cutoff, the ability to not only “follow the money” but to catch up with the criminals by “cutting it off” will give law enforcement a whole new level of enforcement ability.  That’s both promising… and scary.

It will also give society a whole new level of responsibility in what it defines as “criminal”.

The proper Christian take-away from this:

Don’t try to outguess God’s timing (a huge mistake made by a number of people in the church prior to Y2K), and don’t read anything into this post, beyond what I have stated.  What we are seeing with the release of these devices is just another event confirming what God said about why he gave his Book of Revelation to man: strengthing our faith.  Read these verses from Revelation 22:10-11 carefully:

Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”

Now take this in context with the following, just a few verses earlier in Revelation 22:6:

The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets,
sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

In addition to telling John that this vision is to be shared, there is also a warning: sharing the events described in revelation isn’t supposed to be the basis for evangelism.  Notice that the purpose of the Book of Revelation stated in verse 6 above: “… to show his servants …”  How can an unsaved person be a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ?  This statement is backed up by verse 11:  “Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy” , and particularly by this passage (1 Corinthians 2:14) “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

I absolutely LOVE what God is saying to us here:  The fear of horrible events drives man to seek God.  Unfortunately, fear of horrible events alone also causes man to seek God in a lot of wrong places and in a lot of wrong ways which makes things worse.  Jesus is personally driven to seek man, to restore the broken relationship with man.  And his motive for this is the pure love of His creation, with whom He wants to restore the original relationship he intended us to have with him–not any desire to inflict pain and agony on mankind.  His divine acts of amazing grace and mercy, and ultimate surrender of His life for us, are why we accept Jesus as our Savior.  The fear of what he will do to us if we don’t accept His mercy is only for us to understand that He is in charge.. not us.  Whatever decision we make or even refuse to make, He respects our decision and binds us to it.  That’s what He means by grace: the time to understand love versus judgement, so make that choice.

For those of you in a Pilgrim’s progress of studying God’s word in the book of Revelation, here is a reference for further study.  This is the basic implanted RF device described as the “mark of the beast”, and is a form of the device used in the SpeedPass which was prevalent at Exxon gas stations starting in the late 1990’s:

So watch for Square and GoPayment, or another competing device to add support for reading this RFID chip.  It’s part of the bigger picture.