The 666 of Revelation 13 and 14:
Consider a new interpretation
By Alan Knight
ANTIOCH, Calif.--The number of the beast, 666, is one of the great enigmas of biblical prophecy. It is mentioned in Revelation 13 and 14. Here 666 is described as the identifying mark of a great authoritarian "beast" in the end time.
The New Testament implies that we will understand the meaning of 666. The author of Revelation tells us, "This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast" (Revelation 13:18).
Some in the end time will know the key information (wisdom) that unlocks this secret. As it clearly states, that key is how the number 666 is computed. As it says, we must "reckon the number." (The King James says "count.")
In this the final article of our series, we look at the issue of the interpretation of 666.
What we already know is fairly clear. In the previous installment, in the July issue of The Journal, we saw that the third angel's message symbolizes the renewal of papal authority and oppression in the final stage of the end time, just before Christ returns. But there remains one additional key piece of knowledge about this beast that God wants us to understand, symbolized by 666.
First let's look at the context. The passage in Revelation is about rejecting the religious system of the beast. To be loyal to the true God, we must resist and reject the beast's special mark, identified by 666:
"If anyone . . . receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand . . . he shall drink the wine of God's wrath" (14:9-10). ". . . It [the beast] causes all . . . to be marked on the right hand or the forehead . . . Its number is 666" (13:16, 18).
The common assumption is that this is talking about alphabetic numerology. By that we mean religious systems that assign numerical values to the letters of the alphabet.
Just add up the numbers associated with the letters of a name, and keep trying until you find a name whose letters add up to 666. It seems simple.
Remember, however, that this explanation, though possibly true, is only an assumption. Revelation clearly says that it takes special knowledge or wisdom to calculate the number. It's not simple. The implication is that there is some special background knowledge or training (wisdom and understanding; verse 18) needed to compute (reckon) the number 666.
A second clue is Revelation's explanation that "it is a human number" (13:18, RSV). Some commentaries suggest this means it can be understood by humans.
Another explanation of this phrase, which I think makes more sense, is that it is arrived at by means of a human system of computation. In other words, it is a pagan rather than biblical number. That is, the system of computing it is based on human rather than divine reasoning.
From all the evidence we have covered in Primitive Christianity in Crisis, we know that this beast represents one important branch of apostate Christianity, also called Hellenistic Christianity because it mixes ancient Greek religion and philosophy with genuine Christianity.
Therefore we should expect the computation of 666 to be somehow associated with the pagan theology of Hellenistic Christianity.
Another clue is the significance of the mark. Remember that 666 is described as an identifying mark imposed by force by the beasts of Revelation 13-14. The name of the beast and his number are used interchangeably (13:17) as an identifying mark that represents loyalty to him and his religious system.
Among the people of God the primary sign of loyalty and connection to God is the Sabbath. By contrast, 666 represents loyalty to Satan and his beast rulers. Therefore, what is today the primary sign of loyalty to apostate Christianity and rejection of the true God of the Bible? Whatever that is, is there a number associated with it that computes to 666?
As demonstrated in Primitive Christianity in Crisis, the roots of Hellenistic Christian apostasy began many centuries before Christ in several Greek cults, one of which was Pythagoreanism. The Pythagoreans placed great importance on numbers, therefore they pioneered many new discoveries in the science of mathematics.
The Pythagoreans believed mathematics is a reflection of the divine order of the heavens. Therefore they developed complex mathematical theories to support their religious beliefs.
One of the common themes in their religious interpretation of numbers was the encapsulation of numbers within numbers.
For example, they regarded the first and most important number to be one.
Why? Because one represents God and immortality. Multiply one by one, or divide one by one, and you still have one. It cannot be subdivided into a smaller number. It is unchanging, immortal, an appropriate symbol of God.
So, if one is unchanging and you can't break one up into separate pieces, how did the universe begin, with its many pieces and parts?
After thinking about it long enough, they figured out the answer. The number two, they said, represents the beginning of the division of one into the multiplicity of the universe we see about ourselves.
But how do you reconcile that with the nature of the one, which supposedly never changes and can't be broken up?
Actually, they pointed out, the two contains within itself two separate numbers, both one and two. Therefore the full significance of one--God, immortality, etc.--is encompassed within two, at the same time as two represents the breaking up of reality into the multiplicity of our universe.
If that doesn't make sense to you, don't worry. It's a subtle mystical concept. It's symbolic, and it doesn't have to make sense. It is what the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 6:20 called "science falsely so called."
From that beginning, the Pythagoreans elaborated mystical concepts associated with many other numbers. Three was especially important because it contains both one and two and marks the point at which God (One) could first relate to multiple beings (Two and Three) at the same time.
Over time, many Hellenistic cults developed theories about the perfect number. These special numbers often were described as "complete." In other words, they contained within themselves all the meaning of the universe, because of the significance of the numbers contained within them.
Gnostic Christianity loved the number eight. As we saw in Primitive Christianity in Crisis, this was based on the common Hellenistic belief that the heavens are the eighth level of the universe.
Since the universe is composed of all the other levels, one through seven, and the number eight contains one through seven within itself, eight encapsulates the whole universe, but in a state of heavenly perfection.
The gnostics used this to justify rejection of the law. They were the first to argue the modern Protestant theory that Christians are spiritually "complete."
For gnostics, and much of Protestantism today, to be spiritually complete means they have no need of the law as a spiritual guide to God's will.
Gnostic Christians claimed that the Ogdoad (their name for eight) were established within the heart of each Christian convert. Thereby they instantly and miraculously become spiritually complete, possessing total knowledge of God's will within themselves.
As we also know, from the copious evidence presented in Primitive Christianity in Crisis, their theology of the number eight was the basis for the original change from Sabbath to Sunday, which they called the Eighth Day. And, as is abundantly clear, observance of Sunday the Eighth Day today is the primary identifying mark of loyalty to Hellenistic Christianity, versus loyalty to primitive Christianity.
Eight, however, is not 666. But, as Revelation tells us, what we are looking for is a computation (reckoning) based on some form of pagan numerical theology that must add up to 666.
What happens, therefore, if we take the number eight and compute it according to the common Hellenistic belief in the encapsulation of numbers? Eight contains one through seven plus itself, eight. So, if we add together 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, we get 36.
Well, 36 isn't 666 either. But keep in mind the pagan idea of the repeated emanation of numbers that depicts the unfolding of the universe: Two contains one and two, three contains one, two and three, etc.
So, following that tradition, take 36 and repeat the process. Add 1, 2, 3 and all the intervening numbers through 34, 35 and 36. And what comes out? Would you believe 666?
Using the pagan, human reasoning of Hellenistic theology (a human number) we find that 666 is a religious computation (reckoning) of the number eight. And eight, as the Eighth Day, has been the primary mark of loyalty to apostate Christianity for the past 2,000 years.
Why is this important?
Why is it important to understand 666? Because, whatever it is, in the end time Rome will impose it by force, and God's Word specifically warns we must resist or pay a terrible price (Revelation 14:9-10).
Why are gnosticism and Protestantism so important in this process? Because, just as occurred in the first centuries after Christ, gnostic theology, and its latter-day survival as Protestantism, is playing the role of softening up and preparing the way for primitive Christianity to accept the mark of the beast rather than resist.
In some Sabbatarian churches the Sabbath is described as an honorable tradition but nothing more than that. The leader of one venerable Sabbatarian church has preached that the Holy Spirit tells different Christians different things, meaning it tells some to observe Sunday and others to observe Sabbath. Supposedly either one is okay as long as we all love Jesus.
I have seen reports of some local Sabbatarian churches that have begun holding services on both Sabbath and Sunday. They justify this on the basis they feel it is necessary to promote church growth.
All of this is spreading among those churches that are leading the campaign to join in ecumenical union with evangelical Protestantism.
What will happen, then, when the era of the third angel's message arrives and Sunday observance is required by law?
Those who resist will lose their jobs and homes. Many of us will end up living under freeway overpasses in order to remain faithful to God (Revelation 13:17).
After being told for decades it really doesn't matter which day we observe, will such Sabbatarian Christians be prepared to make the right choice?
Truly the first wave of apostasy is already upon us. Its main purpose is to soften up primitive-Christian churches, through ecumenical union with Protestantism and its Hellenistic heresies, to be ready to cave in when Rome is restored to power and orders observance of its day by force of law.
Summarize the series
What then is the final summation of this series of articles?
First, we are in the end time! We have been there already for at least two decades. Many have misunderstood this because it hasn't yet gotten that difficult.
Nevertheless we are in a genuine crisis. New Testament prophecy clearly refers to what we see going on around us. It is a softening-up process, the first stage of apostasy for something much worse to come.
If we heed the warning against this initial wave of apostasy, we will be ready for what follows. Those who do not will more quickly fail during the second, authoritarian, wave of apostasy.
From the beginning of this series, we have seen how Protestantism is a revival of many ancient gnostic religious themes.
Evangelical Protestantism promotes the doctrine of rejecting Jesus' earthly ministry, exactly as the ancient gnostics did, and it is this very doctrine that the apostle John singles out as a manifestation of the spirit of Antichrist in his epistles.
We have seen how the events of the end time, which are right now beginning to be fulfilled before our very eyes, are a repetition of similar events in the early centuries after Christ. Is it any wonder that Sunday, the Eighth Day, should play an important role in the end time, as it played such a key role in subverting the church in the second, third and fourth centuries?
Why is the Sabbath so important? Why should we draw the line over such a thing as Sabbath observance?
Those among us who believe in joining hands with evangelical Protestantism complain that making a big deal out of the Sabbath prevents us from focusing on inner spirituality.
To be sure, they have a point.
Error occurs at both ends of the spectrum. Some Sabbatarian groups are legalistic in their pursuit of the law.
On the other hand, those who say they are promoting Christ-centeredness by downplaying the Sabbath are engaging in blatant fraud. Can you really be Christ-centered and not take seriously what Christ preached?
Can you really be Christ-centered and reject large parts of His earthly ministry, as evangelical Protestantism does with its dispensational heresy?
Doesn't Christ-centeredness automatically imply we take Him seriously when He warns us to keep separate from apostate Christianity?
We must be loyal to the Sabbath not because of legalistic obsession with the law but because of our devotion to Jesus, to the day that honors His plan of Christian salvation (see our explanation of Hebrews 4 in Primitive Christianity in Crisis).
The end time is already upon us, and it will take a seriously ugly turn fairly soon. What happens to us in the terrible days ahead depends largely on decisions we make now.
There are Sabbatarian groups that will be protected, and there are Sabbatarian groups that will not be protected.
Is it absolutely certain that 666 refers to Sunday observance?
It is a mistake to be too confident. What we can be certain of is that we must resist and keep separate.
When we see the Christian world uniting under Rome, then whatever it is that they try to force on us to make us acknowledge loyalty to them will be clear enough at that time.
Most important is to understand is the nature of Christian apostasy and Jesus' repeated instruction through the authors of the New Testament to remain separate.
If we understand the nature of Christian apostasy, if we have made our decision to remain loyal regardless of the cost, if we understand the prophecies of Christian apostasy in the end time, then the battle is already half won.
The second edition of Primitive Christianity in Crisis can be purchased at a special discount for readers of The Journal, for $17 plus $2 shipping and handling, from the author, Alan Knight, 1917 Mount Hamilton Dr., Antioch, Calif. 94531, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. (The second edition is 421 pages and retails for $23.45.)
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