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We are a Christian Fellowship meeting in North London with a strong interest in teaching the Bible and understanding our time in

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The future of shopping and the end of freedom

T

‘Going, going, gone.’ As I went up the escalator at Waterloo station in London, I noticed a series of adverts announcing the coming end of cash. It was promoting one of the new payment cards which will allow consumers to make small purchases from a glass of beer to a newspaper without cash. Customers will be able to tap or wave the card over a scanner and buy items less than £10 in value. This will inevitably mean the demise of cash on the high street. A study by retail analysts Datamonitor suggests that ‘tap and go’ could replace the use of cash in purchases totalling £32 billion a year within 5 to 10 years. The cards will work in a similar way to the Oyster scheme on London’s transport system. Millions of commuters pay for travel on the tubes and buses by passing their Oyster cards over sensors at ticket barriers.

 

There is a catch with all this. Every transaction we make with cash cannot be traced. Every transaction we make with a card is traceable. Every journey made by a commuter using the Oyster card can be tracked. While the clerks at Visa or at the Oyster card HQ may not be interested in what we buy or where we are going, in the event of an emergency or a dictatorship taking power this would mean the authorities could follow you around and monitor your life style without the need for secret police. Something Hitler and Stalin would have dreamed of!

 

The other problem is ‘What happens if your card is lost or stolen?’ Newspaper articles have announced that shoppers may one day be able to pay their grocery bills using a microchip implanted in their body. The idea is already catching on with today’s iPod generation. According to research released today by the Institute for Grocery Distribution (IGD), a retail think-tank, almost one in ten teenagers and one in twenty adults are willing to have a microchip implanted to pay shop bills and help to prevent card or identity fraud and muggings. A quick scan of the arm would connect immediately to bank details and payments could be made swiftly. Such microchips are already used in cats, dogs and horses. They are used in cattle and sheep so that consumers can trace their food from farm to plate and are also being used to help to combat drugs counterfeiting.

 

Few people seem aware of the potential for the use of this technology to bring in a police state. Already Britain is becoming one of the most spied on nations in the world. According to an article in ‘The Independent’ (26/11/06) ‘Britain has sleepwalked into becoming a surveillance society that increasingly intrudes into our private lives and impacts on everyday activities. New technology and ‘invisible’ techniques are being used to gather a growing amount of information about UK citizens.’ This assessment is based on the study ‘A Surveillance Society’ which predicts that the level of surveillance will grow even further in the next 10 years, which could result in a growing number of people being discriminated against and excluded from society. Future developments could include microchip implants to identify and track individuals; facial recognition cameras fitted into lampposts; and unmanned surveillance aircraft.

 

The study concludes that routine monitoring is increasing in most areas of life. This includes the systematic tracking and recording of travel and use of public services; automated use of CCTV, some of which are now being developed to pick up conversations as well as photograph people on the street; analysis of buying habits and financial transactions; and the monitoring of telephone calls, e-mail and Internet use in the workplace. The major surveillance techniques include:

 

· Video cameras monitoring buildings, shopping streets and residential areas. Automatic systems can now recognise vehicle number plates and faces.

 

· Software that analyses spending habits and the data sold to businesses. When we call service centres or apply for loans, insurance or mortgages, how quickly we are served and what we are offered can depend on what we spend, where we live and who we are.

 

· Electronic tags to monitor offenders on probation.

 

· DNA taken from those arrested by the police and placed on a database. Tony Blair has now said that the DNA database should be expanded to include all citizens.

 

· Information stored about foreign travel.

 

· Smart cards in schools to determine where children are, what they eat or the books they borrow.

 

· Taps on telephones, e-mails and Internet use that can screened for key words and phrases by British and US intelligence services.

 

The Government still plans to introduce a new system of biometric ID cards, linked to a database of personal information. Tony Blair told Labour’s spring conference in Blackpool, ‘The advent of biometric technology in a world of increased identity fraud, illegal immigration, organised crime and especially terrorism makes our proposals for ID cards not only sensible but vital for Britain’s security in the 21st century.’

 

New tax initiatives are also being used to give the government access into people’s privacy. Council tax inspectors will have the right to enter homes and take photographs in any room. Under government plans cars will be fitted with tracking devices and their exact movements recorded by satellite. Motorists will then be charged per mile depending on where they are driving. Both these measures would give a totalitarian government the ability to keep tabs on any people they suspected of being disloyal to the regime. ‘Big Brother is Watching You’ would not be too far away.

 

All these developments fit in with the prophecies of the Bible. In Revelation 13 a worldwide dictatorship arises at the end of this age ruled by the beast or the Antichrist. As surveillance techniques increase worldwide the conditions are being set for this dictatorship to arise. The use of microchips and ID and credit and debit cards means that everyone is being given a number with which we buy and sell. The problem of course is what if we lose the card, it is stolen or forged or broken? The answer is to put the information on the body – in a microchip – and decoded through a scanner.

 

According to the book of Revelation the false prophet who causes people to worship (and therefore be submissive to) the beast brings in such a system: ‘He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.’ Revelation 13.15-18.

 

Technology allied to economics and a fear of terrorism and organised crime is making this scenario, which in previous generations sounded like a fantasy, look like a feasible solution to the insecurity people feel in our time. However the Bible makes it clear that the ‘peace and safety’ offered by the coming world government will be a delusion and will lead to the tyranny of the beast / Antichrist system and the final war of Armageddon (Revelation 13 –19). This will cause the second coming of Messiah when ‘the kingdoms of this world’ will become ‘the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He shall reign for ever and ever.’ The choice we have to make is whether to put our trust in the empty words of the leaders of the present world system which is doomed to destruction after the brief reign of the Antichrist (3 1/2 years rising to power, 3 1/2 years in absolute power) or in the words of the Lord who gave His life that we might live forever in His kingdom which will have no end.

T