I grew up believing that the mark of the beast was something I may be forced to take under threat of violence. Some told me it would be a microchip that would be implanted in my arm and that it would be the only way to buy or sell goods or services. Some thought it would be an implant in the head that would do likewise. Some today believe it’s contained in a vaccine. Perhaps some believe it’s something that goes on your left behind. None know what the hell they were talking about.
There isn’t a lot clear in the Bible, but something that IS clear is that the Bible wasn’t written to us. It was written to folks living in the first century. In occupied Rome. From a Jewish context. So, with that in mind, when we come to the book of Revelation – that crazy apocalyptic book where the number of the beast is discussed – we have to keep this in mind. In Revelation 13, the number of the beast is discussed. Verse 18 goes a little something like this: “This calls for wisdom: let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. Its number is six hundred sixty-six.”
We’ve all heard it. We’ve used it synonymously with Satan. We’ve heard it is an evil number. But what is it, really?
It’s not really any of that.
Remember, this book wasn’t written to us. It was written to people who had been dealing with despotic emperors running the big, bad ROME. One of these was the tyrant Nero. So with that in mind, let’s use some wisdom here. In the Hebrew language, letters have numeric values. When we write “Nero Caesar” in Hebrew, it looks like this: נרון קסר. If you are like me and don’t read Hebrew, here’s the English equivalent: NRON QSR. If we were to turn those letters into numeric values, it would be this: 50, 200, 6, 50, 100, 60, and 200. What does that add up to? You guessed it!
This isn’t a coincidence, and is much more likely to be what the writer meant than what the Left Behind (so-called) theologians claim. Now, we can obviously debate why this was written, when this was written, and what purpose it served. We can debate between an early date or a later date, whether this was written during or after Nero, and how it all fits either literally or symbolically (was this about Nero per se, or was it code to talk about the later Domitian, who happened to rule just like Nero did?). But the point being: It is NOT about some future event, nearly 2,000 years down the road. Remember, as the verse in question says, “this calls for wisdom.” It is not wise to ever think someone writing a letter in one century is wanting 20 centuries to go by before it becomes relevant. That is the opposite of wisdom. That is stupidity.
Why do I say all this?
Easy. Because I don’t want people to live in fear like I did. I don’t want people to worry about vaccines, about credit card chips, or any of that. And yes, people are still worried that by taking a vaccine, or by getting a new credit card, they are selling their soul to the devil and won’t make it into heaven. I’m here to tell you to have some wisdom and know that none of this stuff literally applies today. And I say “literally” because I do think the book of Revelation is a great book. It still applies. But it needs to be approached with wisdom. It’s Jewish apocalyptic literature. It’s not gonna make any lick of sense unless we know what we are getting into. But that’s a topic for another discussion. I’ve got an appointment to get that vaccine everyone’s talking about. Peace.
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