By Dr. Emmanuel Mutyaba
The number 666 which is referred to as symbolizing the anti-Christ in the book of Revelation has attracted many false interpretations such as: The Jehovah’s Witnesses take an idealistic interpretation (Ref: Beale, Gregory K. (1999). The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 722.) of number 666 holds to the view that, number seven is a number of perfection and is associated with the divine, six is imperfect so much so that triple six refers to a total imperfection. (Ref: Chang Soppe, SeokLyun (2014). God’s Mystery That is Christ. Westbow Press.) The number is therefore suggestive that the anti-Christ referred to as 666 in the book of Revelation is completely defective. Moreover, this beast represents an individual’s incomplete or immature spiritual state.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the beast identified by the number 666 represents the world’s unified governments in opposition to God. The beast is said to have “a human number” in that the represented governments are of a human origin rather than spirit entities. The number 666 is said to identify “gross shortcoming and failure in the eyes of Jehovah,” in contrast to the number 7, which is seen as symbolizing perfection (Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_the_Beast). A Futuristic interpretation of 666 by the Seventh Day Adventists. They believe that the Mark of the Beast refers to a future disaster for those who enforced Sunday-sacredness rather than the Sabbath/Saturday. The worshiping on Sundays was introduced by the Catholic theologians who interpreted Easter which is the day of resurrection of Christ (the day of our redemption) as the day that God Himself chose to be the greatest day on which He manifested his greatness, mercy and loving kindness .So, it became the day of adoring God.
Such a theology was endorsed by the pope, so, the Seventh Day Adventists see the pope as the beast (666). But that is a farfetched claim. The book of Revelation does not point to the future or to the destruction of the world; it is not a prophesy of what will happen at the end of the world, but it was intended to encourage the Christians who were persecuted by the Roman Emperor Nero Caser.
The book was written as an encouragement of the Christians of Asia Minor ( Revelation 1:9-11) at the time of persecution to stand firm till the second coming of Christ. It was written from the Aegean Island of Patmos off the West Coast of Asia Minor. The book was based on the books of Daniel and parts of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah using future events symbolically to encourage the persecuted Christian to stand firm; their salvation is at hand. The author creatively imported Daniel’s narrative and approach of the captivity of Judah, the prophecies pointing to both promised Messiah and the events of the end of the world and focusing on major points of Christian history: the cross of Christ (Rev. 5:6,9,12); the Second Coming (Rev. 14:14-16; 19:11-16); the 1,000 years in heaven (Rev. 20:4-6); the third advent of Christ to earth along with His loyal followers and the destruction of Satan and those who refused Christ (20:7-15); and the creation of a new heavens and a new earth where death, sorrow, and sin cease and God dwells with His people (Rev. 21:1-8, 22-27; 22:1-5)
However, the author could not mention the name of the persecutor Emperor Nero Caesar since all letters that entered the territory were controlled by the emperor’s army. If they had discovered that the emperor was the one referred to as a beast, it would have been so terrible for the Christians. In this way, the emperor’s name “Nero Caesar” was written in Greek Iopsephy and Hebrew gematria numerically so that the Roman soldiers could not understand it. The name Nero Caesar translates literally into Hebrew as and yields a numerical value of 666, as shown: (Ref: Cory, Catherine A (2006), The Book of Revelation. Collegeville. Minnesota, p61, The Catholic youth Bible: New American Bible including the revised Psalms and the revised New Testament (Rev. ed.). Winona, Minn.: Saint Mary’s Press.And Hillers, D.R. (1963).”Revelation 13:18 and a Scroll from Murabba’at”. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.P. 65).
Some Biblicists argue that Revelation was written before the destruction of the Temple, scholars argue that it was written after Nero committed suicide in AD 68, the Catholic Encyclopedia has noted that Revelation was written during the latter part of the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, probably in A.D. 95 or 96. (Ref: Peter M. J. Stravinskas; Russell B. Shaw (1998). Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Encyclopedia, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, p. 861), a claim which Protestant scholars agree with though some have argued that the book of Revelation was written around 30 years after the death of Nero Caesar (Ref: The New York Times (2007), The New York Times guide to essential knowledge, p. 73). However, even if it was written after Nero’s death, it does not nullify the use of 666 after the death of Nero because, rumors circulated that Nero had not really died and that he would return to power (Ref: Harpers Bible Commentary, ed. James L. Mays Harper Collins: San Francisco:1988), 1300). Therefore, paying tribute to him continued even after his death.
The Classical Greek word charagma translated as mark (of the beast) in Revelation 13:16 can also mean any mark engraved, imprinted, or branded; stamped money, document.The mark was the stamped image of the emperor’s head on every coin of the Roman Empire: the stamp on the hand or in the mind of all, without which no one could buy or sell.The refusal to use Roman coins resulted in the condition where “no man might buy or sell” (Rev.13:17). As sales were made, people used coins that bore the images of Rome’s gods and emperors. Thus, each transaction that used such coins was a reminder that people were advancing themselves economically by relying on political powers that did not recognize the true God.
The mark symbolizes the all-embracing economic power of Rome, whose very coinage bore the emperor’s image and conveyed his claims to divinity a thing that Christians rejected as idolatry. Biblicists have also suggested that the numerical reference to Nero was a code to imply all other ruthless emperors such as Emperor Domitian, whose style of leadership resembled that of Nero; he put the people of Asia/Lydia, under heavy taxation. The author used some other symbolic numbers such as: Revelation 7:1-8…I heard the number of those who were thus saved and it was 144,000 (or 12 x 12 x 1,000) – a symbolic number based on the square of twelve which stands for the twelve tribes of Israel. Number 12 meant completeness or a great multitude of people.
The author of the book of Revelation used a lot of symbolism: the pregnant woman symbolized the chosen people from whom the messiah was born. Now, we take it to be the church which means people of God. The male child and the lamb refer to Jesus Christ (this shows that the book is not giving a future prophecy since Jesus was born and died before it was written, his second coming will not be through birth). The church is also referred to as the bride. The guardian refers to the Archangel Michael (see Daniel 10: 13, 21: 12:1).
God’s people are the Christians. The star fallen from Heaven is the devil, he is also the dragon, the fathomless pit/sheol which means destruction/hell, in Greek, means the place of the dead. The locusts, scorpions refer to the evil spirits/demons. The beast from the sea refers to the anti-Godly, an authoritarian emperor (Nero Caesar). Whereas the sea refers to the godless empire (Roman Empire).
The prostitute/harlot referred to the Roman city, the centre of worldly power and pride.The animal from the Earth was the worldly anti-godly power that tried to dominate religion; any power opposing God.
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