Bitcoin is what is called a cryptocurrency—“money” that is completely virtual and is neither distributed nor regulated by a centralized government. The “crypto” part of cryptocurrency refers to the heavy cryptography (encoding) used to request, confirm, and record the transactions within the context of a decentralized system. The advantage of the system is that two parties can exchange payment without the use of a third party (such as PayPal, VISA, banks, or the federal government) to validate the worth of the currency. More importantly, by replacing the third party with cryptographic proof of the transaction, both parties can remain completely anonymous. The relationship between national governments and cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin is dynamic and ranges from being ignored, to being outlawed, to being taxed.
Bitcoin, created in 2009, is the most popular cryptocurrency. Like other cryptocurrencies, bitcoins are earned by computers that solve complex mathematical problems, specifically those that are needed to ensure the authenticity of bitcoin transactions and the relationships between those transactions. This process is called “mining” and now is often done in series of mainframes dedicated to that purpose.
Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of bitcoin, carefully regulates how many new bitcoins will be “minted,” and that number decreases by half every four years. Ultimately, only 21 million bitcoins will be available. Although 80 percent of all bitcoins will have been mined between 2009 and 2018, it’s expected that all 21 million bitcoins will not be mined until 2140.
From the beginning, bitcoins became the currency of choice for many in the web’s black market. They are used to buy and sell drugs, weapons, and stolen art and to engage in human trafficking. Many who engage in ransomware (viruses that threaten to delete the information on your computer unless you pay) demand payment in bitcoins. They are also popular with people who wish to gamble online on overseas sites (which is illegal in the U.S.) or donate to charities the government doesn’t approve of (like Wikileaks). But, over the years, more reputable businesses have accepted bitcoin payment including the video game platform Steam, Overstock.com, Microsoft, and Tesla.
The idea of a one-world currency is vaguely suggested in the Bible. Revelation 13:16–17 says that the Antichrist will require everyone to have the mark of the beast to engage in any financial transactions. It’s unknown what exactly this mark will be, but it’s entirely possible that some kind of cryptocurrency will be involved. That would certainly be more efficient than printing and distributing a standardized physical currency all over the world. It’s possible that the mark of the beast will be what allows people to access the cryptocurrency in their virtual accounts. One man in Iceland has already implanted a chip in his hand to access his bitcoins.
The current popularity of bitcoin doesn’t mean that bitcoin will be the Antichrist’s one-world currency. In fact, it probably won’t. Bitcoin is only one of over 1,000 different virtual currencies, including Litecoin, Ethereum, Zcash, Ripple, and Monero. It’s more likely that, if the Antichrist uses a form of cryptocurrency, it will be original and more advanced than anything we have today.
Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies could be precursors to the money eventually used in the end times. But this is pure speculation. The Bible doesn’t mention computers, let alone cryptocurrency. Until 1998 cryptocurrency wasn’t even a word, and there’s no saying what new technological and sociological changes will come before the tribulation and the appearance of the Antichrist.
With that in mind, should Christians use bitcoin or any other type of cryptocurrency? Got Questions Ministries does not give investment advice, but there is nothing in the Bible that would prohibit using cryptocurrency if it is legal in your area. At the time of this writing, the value of bitcoin has soared. Many believe this is a bubble that will soon burst, so buyer beware.
Today’s cryptocurrency is not a sign that the tribulation has begun or that the Antichrist is on the scene. Christians will be raptured before the Antichrist rises to power (2 Thessalonians 2:7). In the tribulation, new Christians will refuse to receive the mark of the beast. If the mark is required to access cryptocurrency, tribulation saints who have that cryptocurrency will simply lose their money.