Well, today is the day that we see just how uneducated the world is. And not just the world. No. We get to see how uneducated the Church is too. For today is June 6th, 2006. Or, as so many of called it, '666'. Today also marks the release of the remake of the 'Omen' -- a movie about a boy who has the 'mark of the beast' on him. He is supposed to be the son of Satan -- a parody of the 'Son of God'. What this means is that most of the world, including the church, gets it's understanding of biblical things from Hollywood!

So, what does it mean? This '666'?

We find all about it in The Revelation of St John the Divine. This letter, sent to at least seven churches in Asian Minor, is a highly coded book (Talk about your Divinci Code. This letter puts that book to shame!). It was sent to the suffering Christians who were being persecuted by the Jews and tortured and killed by the Romans in the first 'official' Roman persecution. The things talked about in this letter was all about inserection and rebellion against the 'rulers of darkness', i.e., the Roman Government and it's 'false prophet' the first century Jews. Just being in possession of this letter meant certain death. So you can imagine why it was coded.

In the thirteenth chapter, we are told:
Then I saw another beast come up out of the earth. He had two horns like those of a lamb, and he spoke with the voice of a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast. And he required all the earth and those who belong to this world to worship the first beast, whose death-wound had been healed. He did astounding miracles, such as making fire flash down to earth from heaven while everyone was watching. And with all the miracles he was allowed to perform on behalf of the first beast, he deceived all the people who belong to this world. He ordered the people of the world to make a great statue of the first beast, who was fatally wounded and then came back to life. He was permitted to give life to this statue so that it could speak. Then the statue commanded that anyone refusing to worship it must die.

He required everyone -- great and small, rich and poor, slave and free -- to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. Wisdom is needed to understand this. Let the one who has understanding solve the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.' (Revelation 13.11-18)

As can be seen, the 'mark of the beast' was given to the people who would follow the 'beast'. No one was allowed to 'buy or sell anything without that mark'. But the story doesn't stop there. And this is what drives me crazy. . .

One day, when I was a younger man working in a 'Christian' book store (how can a building be 'Christian' anyway?), I was working at the register. A man came up and made a purchase. His change was '$6.66'. He freaked out! He even gasped and yelled and refused to take all of the money. That man did not have 'wisdom needed to understand'. He was clueless just like so many other people today. We will hear it all over the place. There are stories of people trying to have their children born on a different day, etc. It's crazy. And it's all because most of us don't have the 'wisdom needed to understand this'. So, what is the wisdom?

The 'messenger' told St John (who in turn wrote it down as instructions to the seven churches of Asia because 'the events will happen soon' (1.1)) that this 'mark' was 'either the name of the beast or the number representing his name'. This 'mark' was 'the number of a man'. And 'his number' equated to '666'. So who was this?

To figure this out, let us turn to David Chilton, who wrote in his book The Days of Vengeance:
For the Hebrews, 666 was a fearful sign of apostasy, the mark of both a king and a kingdom in the Dragon's image. As we have already noted, the ancient languages used each letter of the alphabet as a numeral as well; thus, the "number" of anyone's name could be computed by simply adding up the numerical value of its letters. Clearly, St John expected that his contemporary readers were capable of using this method to discover the Beast's name -- thus indicating, again, the contemporary message of Revelation; he did not expect them to figure out the name of some 20th century official in a foreign government.

At the same time, however, he tells them that it will not be as easy as they might thing: it will require someone "who has understanding". For St John did not give a number that could be worked out in Greek, which is what a Roman official scanning Revelation for subversive content would expect. The unexpected element in the computation was that it had to be worked out in Hebrew, a language that at least some members of the churches would know. His readers would have guessed by now that he was speaking of Nero, and those who understood Hebrew probably grasped it instantly. The numerical values of the Hebrew letters in Neron Kesar (Nero Caesar) are:

n=50 r=200 w=6 n=50

q=100 s=60 r=200

thus: rsqnwrn=666

As I mentioned earlier, the point is not that Nero's name is the primarily identification of 666. The point is, instead, what the number meant to the churches. St John's Biblically informed readers will have already recognized many clear indications of the Beast's identity as Rome (indeed, they already knew this from reading the Book of Daniel). Now Nero has arrived on the scene as the first great persecutor of the Church, the embodiment of the "666-ness" of the Empire, and -- Lo and behold! -- his very name spells out 666.

It is significant that "all the earliest Christian writers on the Apocalypse, from Irenaeus down to Victorious of Pettau and Commodian in the fourth, and Andreas in the fifth, and St Beatus in the eighth century, connect Nero, or some Roman emperor, with the Apocalyptic Beast". There should be no reasonable doubt about this identification. St John was writing to first-century Christians, warning them of things that were "shortly" to take place. They were engaged in the most crucial battle of history, against the Dragon and the evil Empire which he possessed. The purpose of the Revelation was to comfort the Church with the assurance that God was in control, so that even the awesome might of the Dragon and the Beast would not stand before the armies of Jesus Christ. Christ was wounded in His heel on Friday, the sixth day, the Day of the Beast -- yet that is the day He crushed the Dragon's head. At his more powerful, St John says, the Beast is just a six, or a series of sixes; never a seven. His plans of world dominion will never be fulfilled, and the Church will overcome through her Lord Jesus, the 888, who conquered on the Eighth Day.' (pgs. 144-145)*

So there you have it. There is the wisdom for the masses. The number was given for understanding -- not for us to fear. It was also intended to give understanding to the first-century Christians about the persecution of Nero. It has nothing to do with us today. We have nothing to fear. Our Lord reigns. The Kingdom of YHWH has come!


May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.


*If you would like more from this book, you can now read it online here


Pinball said…
Normally, I don't hate to be contrary, but I do this time because I don't want this to be misinterepreted as a return to a former argument we used to have. I agree with everything you said and quoted here, with a very small exception.

Near the end, you said that this has nothing to do with us today. I'm sure you meant that it has nothing directly to do with us today. We certainly don't need to be consulting our fortune cookies to find coincidences with vagaries of Revelation. The apocolyptic vision of the endtimes that we've been fed for 100 years is not what this portends. That's what I mean by "directly".

As a testimony of how God is good to his people in the midst of unfathomable earthly discomfort, this passage is of GREAT use to us today.

I'm sure that you agree. You probably presumed that. I just didn't want anyone who happens to come along to think that 'doesn't apply today' = 'worthless'.
Odysseus said…
I completely agree with your thoughts here, Pinball.

However, the context for that statement (and the whole post) had to do with '666'. That was Nero. So, directly or indirectly, '666' has nothing to do with us.

Now, the general admonition from the letter, that is, the very broad stroke from the brush, can (and should, imo) be used for comfort in time of great persecution. No question. This letter continues to comfort people in just that situation.

Thanks for the insight!-->
Odysseus said…
I deleted the last 'comment' since it wasn't a comment but a 'lesson' longer than my original post!

For the record, I do not appreciate someone else using my blog to post their own blogs. If you have a comment, please leave that. If you want to link to your blog, by all means do so. But please refrain from posting a thesis here.

Lastly, I do not agree with the aforementioned 'comment'. Revelation is NOT talking about our day. We are not waiting for a revised Roman empire -- be it the US, Russia, or whomever. Those speculations have NOTHING to do with the letter 'to the seven churches of Asia' at the time the letter was written.


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