‘Tis no monster

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.

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9 thoughts on “‘Tis no monster

    • Brian Casey 03/26/2011 / 9:39 am

      I just had a scan-look at your blog and must say that I’m immediately unconvinced that you have much to say of value for the seriously Christian world. I refuse to downplay your sense of your own experiences, wishing to allow the possibility that God actually worked miracles in your life in the way you feel He did, but your personal feelings will not be the things that convince me of anything, just as my feelings will not convince you.

      I don’t really mean to be rude, but on a matter much less important than well-founded Biblical exegesis (which you don’t seem to do understand, because you link together unrelated passages to make unrelated points), I might just mention that if you want to influence people, you could be more careful with mechanics but not putting apostrophes in simple plurals such as “truths” and “Scriptures” and “saints.” OK, maybe that was a trifle brusque, since I don’t know you. I’m sorry, but I’ve just heard too many people saying they understand everything in Revelation, and most people get it flatly wrong. I don’t have a clue what some of the symbols mean, and I’m OK with that because I know Jesus is at the right hand of the Father and has redeemed me. I do appreciate your related emphasis (if I understand this odd wording correctly): “And all of the redeemed that ever was, and is, and shall be fell down and worshiped the Lord Jesus.”

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  1. revelationunveiled 03/26/2011 / 10:13 am

    Brian, I appreciate the English lesson, in that it does leave somewhat to be desired.

    With respect to exegesis it is only the Spirit of the Lord that can rightly divide the Word of Truth. As a brief example, if today one tried to set forth, “…In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not…” (Mat 2:18)as an explanation for Herod’s actions with respect to murdering the children in Bethlehem they would be laughed to scorn. For without the revelatory knowledge of the Holy Spirit there is no way for that Scripture to make any sense in the “context” it is used. There are many other instances like this in the New Testament.

    So, my encouragement to you is that you use care when lightly remarking about someone “linking together unrelated passages to make unrelated points.”

    You are correct with respect to there being no definite article before “man” in the original test.

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    • Brian Casey 03/26/2011 / 12:56 pm

      Thanks for the reply to my reply. I sincerely believe you are on the wrong path with regard to exegesis. Of course we should trust the Lord for guidance, in general, and must watch our hearts and intentions to make sure they are pure. Yet leaving all the interpretational effort to the “Spirit of the Lord” can be more of a cop-out than an act of trust. We need to be responsible exegetes and interpreters, using reason, sound scholarship, tools that relate to the original language, and more.

      Thank you, also, for what I take as a sincere exhortation to be careful. If I see careful exegesis, I will either be instructed, or try to extend it, or try to find a logical hole. If I see passages strung together and linked like so much popcorn, I will continue calling that out, because it is not an appropriate way to handle the scriptures. The Bible is a library of books, not a huge, single book.

      Now, I freely confess that I jumped quickly on your earlier reply. Your reply was caught in my spam; its tone and format almost led me to believe it was a hoax or auto-generated bit of spam, so I really didn’t expect that whoever wrote it would read my reply. I apologize for that. However, Common philosophies and and carelessness around Revelation are hot buttons for me, and the things I skimmed off your site were indicative of eschatological rumblings that I tend to reject. I do not subscribe, for instance, to the notion that there is any coming “tribulation” or “millennium,” for instance, and it seemed to me that you might agree with those ideas. If I have judged that carelessly, please feel free to correct me.

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  2. revelationunveiled 03/26/2011 / 2:04 pm

    Brian said, “We need to be responsible exegetes and interpreters, using reason, sound scholarship, tools that relate to the original language, and more.” All that I have done, what lack I yet?

    The Bible IS a library of books. But it IS also one single book for, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2Tim 3:16-17)

    And, it IS only the Spirit of the Lord that can cause us to rightly divide it.

    Sincerely

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    • Brian Casey 03/26/2011 / 4:52 pm

      *2nd paragraph. *Herein is precisely the point. The Bible is only a single book in the sense that that’s how most of us have it physically. I have about 20 copies myself. But if one views the Bible this way primarily, one gets into all sort of garbage hermeneutics, such as “what is the middle verse in the Bible” and such. One also ends up having Colossians commenting on Joshua, and Daniel commenting on John. Although there are conceptual relationships, of course, because the same God is behind it all, when we attempt to study scripture in its finer points, we must not merely pedantically insist that “the Bible is God’s word,” allowing that to serve as some sort of club to beat the skulls of those who can instruct us more deeply and thoroughly. I do not personally count myself among biblical scholars, but I know enough, and have read enough, to know when scripture is being handled carelessly. This happens nearly every day on my college campus. I have done it myself and will do so again, but not intentionally. The “All scripture” of 2 Tim can only refer to writings collected prior to the inscription of that letter. Most likely, just the writings of the Old Covenant, but perhaps the earlier letters such as 1 Thess. and Galatians had begun to circulate, as well. You have the right to your opinion that the Bible is primarily a single book, but I won’t here allow you to go unchallenged in your apparent assertion that 2 Tim 3:16-17 has anthying to do with this opinion. It doesn’t. * 3rd paragraph. *I’ll not spend either your time or mine with gamesaying. “Rightly divide” is such an obtuse, anachronistic expression that I really wouldn’t be sure how to proceed. If you are from the Island of Tangier where a curious blend of a dialect and older English is spoken, or if have been alive for 400 years, or if have lived in seclusion and are unacquainted with modern usage, you have a right to use such expressions. My primary intent isn’t to be catty here; I just have no patience with archaic King James expressions when two people are trying to communicate in the year 2011. * 1st paragraph. *If you believe you have properly and reasonably engaged in exegesis in your approach to Revelation and to all of scripture, great. Again, I confess to being quick this morning, having no idea if a real person would even see my comment since I suspected it was an automatic process, and not human will, that had led to the comment on my original post. If I had known of your sincere intent then, I would have taken more care. /This part is my fault and mine alone. /In your blog, I did not find, in any of the material I skimmed, evidence that you were treating biblical literature with what I consider a good hermeneutic (or much hermeneutic at all, really–I saw a lot of pasting in of verse-by-verse with comments here & there, no examination of the linguistic structure of a text, the nature of the situation, first audience, etc.). I reacted too quickly, too, to your assertion (it is only an assertion, and an unprovable one, at that, but a God-honoring one, I’ll admit) that God helps us interpret. It was the phrasing/terminology that pushed a button for me, and I apologize for reacting too quickly in general.

      *Summary. *May God truly guide each of us. And may He and you forgive me for hastiness earlier today. But may He descend and burn my copies of the scriptures if I have said anything that devalues the true nature of scripture, or His intent to use it.

      P.S. In an effort to help you see where I’m coming from, should you have interest in pursuing what I believe about scripture and its study, I offer these links to prior posts: https://blcasey.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/the-essential-100-better-than-nothing/, https://blcasey.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/application-without-textual-scholarship/, https://blcasey.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/prophets-and-prophecies/, https://blcasey.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/the-%E2%80%9Cword%E2%80%9D-as-hijacked-by-preachers-2/,

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  3. revelationunveiled 03/26/2011 / 6:25 pm

    Brian, apology accepted and no offense taken. I don’t believe you have said anything of a devaluing nature with respect to Scriptures, as I perceive you are a man who’s heart is toward God.

    And, I would again encourage you to read Revelation unveiled from the first post to last, not because I desire to have anyone see anything my way: but I understand Who wrote it and its import for the church today.

    For, in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, “…take you no thought how or what thing you shall answer, or what you shall say: for the Holy Spirit shall teach you in the same hour what you ought to say.” (Luk 12:11b-12)

    Without this anointing we will always be, “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2Tim 3:7)

    Yours in Christ Jesus
    Steve

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