(Today’s post by Chris Queen)
Ok, so there’s a three digit number that strikes fear in the hearts of just about everybody. Admit it – you’ve had a receipt that totaled $6.67 and felt relieved that it wasn’t one penny less. Or you’ve seen 666 on a car tag and breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t on your car.
I don’t know for a fact, but I’d guess that no other number in history has been subject to so much speculation or analysis at the number we see at the end of today’s reading plan passage.
The most popular game people engage in is to add up some sort of numeric value in a leader’s name and figure out how to make it equal 666. I’ve seen people do it with Adolf Hitler, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton – and I’m sure someone has tried it with Barack Obama.
Here’s the deal – 666 is probably a symbolic number for evil and imperfection (6 being one off from 7, the number that’s meant to represent perfection). There’s also the economic aspect to this passage, and anytime someone comes up with a new way to pay for things more conveniently, somebody always says it’s the “mark of the beast.”
Let me share a story that I heard on the news recently that ties in to the practical application of this passage: in Miami, there’s a cult pastor named Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda who leads a “church” of followers who believe he is divine. Here’s a snippet from a 2007 CNN story about him:
De Jesus says he learned he was Jesus reincarnate when he was visited in a dream by angels.
“The prophets, they spoke about me. It took me time to learn that, but I am what they were expecting, what they have been expecting for 2,000 years,” de Jesus says.
De Jesus preaches there is no devil and no sin. His followers, he says, literally can do no wrong in God’s eyes.
And what about the tattoo of 666 on his arm?
Although it’s a number usually associated with Satan, not the son of God, de Jesus says that 666 and the Antichrist are, like him, misunderstood.
The Antichrist is not the devil, de Jesus tells his congregation; he’s the being who replaces Jesus on Earth.
“Antichrist is the best person in the world,” he says. “Antichrist means don’t put your eyes on Jesus because Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t a Christian. Antichrist means do not put your eyes on Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Put it on Jesus after the cross.”
And de Jesus says that means him.
Yeesh. If that doesn’t creep you out, nothing will. Freaky old Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda of Miami is just like that second beast; in verse 11, John describes it as such:
It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon.
In other words, it looked harmless but was completely harmful.
We need to keep a close watch who we follow. Measure the words of your pastors and teachers against the Word of God. If they stray from the Bible, they’re just like the beast. Pretty simple, huh? Way easier than trying to make their name equal 666.