Today’s post is #666 on this blog. I want to state clearly that I have no superstitions about this number, do not adhere to numerology, and believe the number 666 has been given far too much attention in Christian teaching and in non-Christian treatment of Christian teaching. 666. 666! Six-hundred sixty-six. See? I’m not afraid of it.
This #666 gives me a fine opportunity to state a bit of what I believe about the book of Revelation!
- I think Revelation was written to comfort, to instruct, and to bolster, not to alarm.
- I think some of Revelation’s symbolisms will probably always elude us.
- I am somewhat interested in pursuing exactly what is meant by the “four living creatures” or by the “seventh bowl of wrath,” but not as interested as in understanding more about Jesus.
- I suspect that there is no impending doom related to a terrible monster or “beast.” I suspect that the personification inherent in the word “beast” has misled millions.
If I had to guess, I would suggest that most of the events described prophetically in Revelation have already happened. I draw this primarily from the teaching of one man, which is usually a dangerous thing, but it just makes so much sense that I don’t feel that bad about it. Essentially, Jim McGuiggan convinced me, through his repeated emphasis on two passages, that Revelation is primarily a revelation about the first century, not about some still-impending events:
1. “The time is at hand.” (1:3)
Letting alone the actual happenings of the last two millennia for a moment, if John believed he was writing about 2,000 or more years later, I simply don’t think he would have written this.
2. “The beast you saw was, and is not, but is about to come up from the abyss and then go to destruction.” (17:8)
McGuiggan has stated that this verse refers to certain Roman emperors of the first century—namely,
- Nero—the “beast” that was and is not (he ruled and persecuted Christians in the 60s)
- Domitian—the soon-coming manifestation, as it were, of the same “beast” that was about to come up from the abyss (in other words, the next persecuting emperor was still to come, and the period in which the book was written was between the two)
Revelation, then, according to McGuiggan, was written in 78-80 AD, during the reign of Vespasian, and not in 64-65 (Nero’s time) or in 96 (Domitian’s time).
Whenever Revelation was written … I firmly believe there was/is no Satanic, dragon-like monster. The “beast” of Rev. 13:1-8f appears to be representational–like so many other symbols in Revelation. Compare the wording of 13:7b to that of 5:9b, too: those over whom the beast supposedly had authority are said, FIRST, to have been purchased for God with the blood of the Christ. How can 5:9b square with a fear-monger’s (or money-grubber’s) notion that the beast is still to come and has power? To think that “beast” refers to the past, but then-future, fiercely persecuting emperors of the first century makes as much sense as any other idea I’ve heard on this. However, I offer this caution: I know more about most other books in the New Covenant collection than Revelation, and what I know about the others is pathetic, so don’t take my word for it. And whatever God wants to do as part of “last things” and “end times” is fine by me.
Whatever you think–whether you fear that the number 666 represents a yet-to-come man (you might think this if you aren’t yet aware that there’s no definite article before “man” in the original language in Rev. 13:18) or a future, more pressing, spiritual persecution . . . you need not fear the beast if you belong to Christ, because you will stand.