The coronavirus pandemic is dominating media coverage (and rightfully so), but there are some important aspects of this crisis that are not receiving much attention. One such aspect is the discussion of whether the coronavirus scare will push the world into adopting digital-only currencies and banning the use of cash. This post will be devoted to an updated review of this question, which has long received much attention from those who understand and follow biblical prophecies. Before examining the prophetic possibilities concerning this topic, let’s first examine the current state of scientific thinking regarding the coronavirus and using cash/currency.
The first link and second link offer largely overlapping, but not identical, content on the dangers of being infected with the coronavirus via the use of currency. The first link is a print story and the second is from a TV station. The links report that while the coronavirus can live up to three days on plastic and stainless steel, it can only live up to 24 hours on cardboard surfaces. Since cardboard is a paper product, currency bills are most likely to have a similar profile as a virus medium to that of cardboard. The article points out that it has not yet been tested whether the virus can even live on “banknote paper.” Even if it can survive on currency, it notes one can avoid the virus by washing your hands often and that catching the virus via banknotes is very unlikely. The article reports that it is far more likely that the virus will be spread by credit and debit cards because they are plastic surfaces where the virus lives for a much longer period of time. Also, ATMs and credit and debit card processing scanners are metallic so they are much more likely to transmit the virus than currency notes. Smartphones (via which many financial/banking transactions are made) are made of plastic and metal and can be “heavily contaminated.” The links also document that the Federal Reserve Board is quarantining US dollar banknotes that are received from sources in Asia and Europe (the virus hotspots) for 7-10 days before returning them into circulation. This should assure us that US dollar banknotes are actually safe to use as they are regularly quarantined before re-use. Surely, the Fed can conduct such quarantines of US currency circulated within the USA as easily as currency bills that circulated outside the USA. It is also noted that some nations like Iran have been banning cash notes or are burning paper currency due to fears of the virus being spread, even though plastic credit and debit cards are more likely to harbor the virus.
There have been some media reports that the World Health Organization (WHO) has urged people to avoid using currency during the pandemic. The third link and fourth link correct that false impression, and give specifics about what the WHO has actually said on the subject. It has said that one is far more likely to contract the coronavirus via other people than from inanimate objects like surfaces, money, etc. People can sneeze or cough on you or touch you via handshakes with the virus on their hands, but virus particles on surfaces are not going to somehow “leap” up on to your body. As long as people practice good handwashing practices, especially after handling surfaces of any kind of money, the chances of catching COVID-19 from surfaces is low. An analysis by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientifically examines the unlikely possibility of contracting the virus from currency and points out that there is so far no provable instances that anyone has contracted the virus via handling paper currency (fourth link). Given the high credibility long enjoyed by MIT, that assurance should give us a high confidence level in the accuracy of their conclusions.
If you read media articles that a cashless society will be forced on the nations due to the coronavirus pandemic, remember what you have read in the first four links cited in this post. If the world ever goes to a cashless society, it is not likely that this coronavirus will be the impetus for such an action. The coronavirus is an airborne pandemic and the primary means of halting its transmission is to limit person-to-person contacts, as many public health experts have warned. Once particles containing the COVID-19 virus settle on surfaces, they are not likely to become airborne again.
All the above information notwithstanding, it is possible that a future global system will adopt a cashless society for all financial transactions. The biblical prophecy in Revelation 13:16-18 infers as much, but even that needs to be understood in context. John wrote the book of Revelation based on what he was hearing and seeing in his vision of the latter days (Revelation 1:19). Modern languages did not yet then exist, so he was not likely able to read edicts and laws written in modern languages, but was commenting based on what he observed in watching human behaviors in his latter-day vision. Did he see major and tangible financial transactions–buying homes, cars, physical properties, gold and silver, and other commodities–things he would understand as financial transactions in his vision being subject to the monitoring requirement foretold in Revelation 13:16-17? Or did he also see every possible kind of minor monetary transaction–like paying for gas at a service station and purchasing some popcorn and snacks at the same time or buying a newspaper–in his vision? It is possible that the future will still include a limited role for cash in small transactions. This could be accomplished by banning larger denomination currency bills. For example, this could be instituted in the USA by withdrawing $50 and $100 bills from circulation and leaving smaller bills unaffected. India did such a thing not many years ago by banning larger denominations of its currency while leaving smaller denomination bills in circulation.
Since John had no experience whatsoever in digital technologies or transactions, he may not have understood many human interactions he saw as even constituting a financial transaction. It is possible that all major financial transactions with a taxable consequence will be subject to the “beast” system’s monitoring actions, but it is also possible that minimal and minor cash transactions will still occur. Indeed, would John have even understood paper currency as “money” in his vision? After all, it did not exist in his time. Money, as John understood it to be in the 1st century AD, would have consisted of gold, silver or copper coins or perhaps a barter transaction. Given the uncertainty of what John perceived as “money” in his vision of our modern times, we need to stay flexible in understanding what Revelation 13:16-18 may be describing. At any rate, this financial “mark of the beast” will not occur until Revelation 13:1-15 has first been fulfilled when fire, is being called down from heaven and miracles are being done on the earth.
In past posts, I have written several times about the possibility of having a global cashless society and the very large hurdles to actually implementing such a thing. Rather than citing from them individually in this post, I’ve enclosed a menu of these past posts as the fifth link. These past posts have examined such topics as the strong resistance to a cashless society that has existed in the USA and Germany, and I encourage readers to check out the content of those previous posts for a broader examination of the question of when (or if) a cashless society will happen on the earth.