Tuesday, June 06, 2006

666

"This calls for wisdom. Let those who have insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666." Revelation 13:18

Interestingly enough, when my alarm went off early this morning this passage of Scripture was being read on the secular radio station. But any half-awake thoughts of revival or the launching of a new Christian radio station that I may have had soon evaporated when I realized what all the hype was about. Today is 666, that is, the sixth day of the sixth month of 2006! Never mind that it is really 6606, it is close enough, especially in light of the release of new version of the movie the "Omen." And so Hollywood, which just made millions and millions of dollars attacking the Bible through the Da Vinci Code, now comes quoting the book of Revelation and the mysterious numerical designation for a man that is found therein.

Much has been written about the number 666. Unfortunately, so much of it is exegetical and theological rubbish! We must keep in mind the symbolic nature of the numbers in Revelation and whatever the precise meaning of the number it had to make sense to John's readers in the first century as well as have some kind of abiding meaning and application for Christians throughout the duration of the church age and throughout the world until Jesus comes again. This is where some of the pseudo science-fiction type interpretations of Revelation have done the church a great disservice. They give people a opportunity to ridicule the Scriptures and another excuse not to take seriously what the Bible has to say.

However, the book of Revelation is not as closed and mysterious as many people think. Although there are some details we will probably never understand, the main contours of the work are quite understandable if we approach it with a willingness to learn and we remember that it comes at the end of the canonical Scriptures for good reason. Revelation requires a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament and the rest of the New Testament. It is literally filled with allusions to scores of other biblical passages. In many ways it does not break new ground but underscores and accentuates the glory of the God and his great work of salvation in Jesus Christ. It is a shame that so many avoid the book because of the foolish speculation and uncontrolled exegesis that has plagued popular books and preaching purporting to expound it.

Revelation was not written to provide Hollywood writers with grist for their movies. Nor was it given to make "prophetic teachers" appear wiser than they really are. Nor to fuel idle speculation, or to give Christians an pretext to "circle the wagons' and hang on till the rapture! It was given by God to his servants to show them what must soon take place. This book is the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ and there is a blessing promised to the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and for those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near (Revelation 1:1-3). What we need in our day is less sensationalism and a greater desire to do the will of God from the heart! If we give ourselves to these things the end of the age, and all the events associated with it, will do us no ultimate harm but will merely be used by our Sovereign God to bring us, his people, into the full possession of their inheritance.

3 comments:

JLF said...

But what does it mean?!?! :)

It is a strange thing, eh? I remember once when I was little we had to count the pumpkin seeds from the pumpkin we were carving in class. In our pumpkin (we were working in pairs) we counted 666 seeds. Of course, I knew nothing of the significance of the number, but I thought it was cool that the numbers were all the same, so later that night I told my dad how many pumpkin seeds we counted.

Now my dad is not a Christian, but when I told him that number he looked at me as if I had just done something horrific. When I explained that I didn't know what I had done wrong we had "chat" about that number and how evil it is.

Weird. Makes no sense whatsoever...

Although, when Bill Webb went to go get his licence plate from the drivers and licensing office the first one that they gave him had 666 on it... coincidence? :)

Kirk M. Wellum said...

Without a doubt, 666 is a number that stirs the imagination of anyone who is even vaguely aware of its use in the mysterious book of Revelation. Personally, I don't think it is helpful to identify the number too closely with any one figure in history. Rather, like so many of the symbolic numbers in Revelation it speaks of fallen humanity that for all its greatness never measures up to God's righteousness and always falls short of his glory. In the end Jesus Christ will win the battle and those who oppose him will go down to defeat never to rise again. This lesson is conveyed over and over again in this grand book that brings the biblical canon to a close.

Spencer Haygood said...

Good word, Kirk! I recently taught a series here at the church on "The Gospel in Revelation" using Graeme Goldsworthy's material. It was an eye-opener for a lot of folks around here who've mindlessly bought into the more popular interpretations of John's final book.