A Prophetic Witness to the Church Today
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Most students of the Bible will
be aware of the mystic number in Revelation 13:18 – the number of the
Beast – 666. Many will even think they know what it refers to. However,
there is a point in this regard which most fail to consider – even most
Will You Step Back?
The Greek text of that
passage is literally translated: "Here is wisdom. Let him who has a
mind calculate the number of the wild beast, for it is the number of
mankind, and its number is six hundred sixty-six" (Concordant Literal N
T). The words in bold type are those directly attributable to the Greek
text. Those in normal type have been added by the translators to make the
text more readable in English.
What God is trying to convey
to us is that the number 666 identifies man. Not just specifically a man,
although that could well be the case in due course as God's plan unfolds.
Rather, man as opposed to God. Man's system in contrast with God's.
When reading the prophecies
in Revelation one cannot help but notice the marked contrast between those
who resist God, and Christians who don't. Man's self-willed rule and
rebellious independence from God will only lead to misery and disaster. The
book is a futuristic chronicle of the miserable end of man's defiant
struggle to be his own master and of its apocalyptic consequences. Of
course, that is not all Revelation contains. There is much more. That is one
important aspect of its purpose.
No one can fight God, and
succeed. In the end, Christ will rule, not man. Revelation shows the
ultimate victory that will be God's and which we can all share in if we
submit our ways to His, desiring to do whatever He says, whatever the
temporary personal cost to ourselves.
The final evil end-time
movement which persists in going its human-dominated way, inspired by the
devil, is encapsulated in the number 666, both in the digit used and in its
three-fold use. Six symbolises evil, and in particular, in relation to man.
(13 illustrates evil's association with Satan, whereas 7 identifies God.)
Three emphasises finality, totality or completeness.
In the number 666, God
conveys numerically the totality of evil that will be embodied in the vile
enslaving end-time human system of the Beast which will dominate the earth
prior to Christ's second coming. That event is almost upon us. We are about
to enter the nefarious days which Revelation describes are to occur
immediately prior to our Lord's return.
Before Jesus comes visibly in
the sky (Matt 24:30), evil will escalate in an attempt to counter the
end-time work of the 'Elijah'. The end-time movement characterised by the
'Beast' is described in more detail in Revelation 13. These movements will
be highly influential. No one will escape knowing about them. The preaching
of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will encompass the globe (Matt 24:14), but so
too will the counterfeit movement which will be political as well as
Being separate from the
system of the Beast will not be that easy. Without discernment from God, its
boundaries are not that easily identifiable. They are spiritually
delineated, not always physically apparent. For this reason, many who think
they stand, will fall. The human appeal of the system of the Beast will
claim many victims. The majority will be sucked into its vortex, as the
currents of evil gain momentum.
We must not forget that 666
identifies a counterfeit Christian system, not merely one of the religions
of the east. Christians too, are subject to its bondage. Christians are
Satan's main target. Many will not put up resistance against the swirling
currents, but will be content to drift downstream with the majority. It is
never easy swimming against the main flow!
Disciples of Jesus had the
same problem in AD 30 when, after two years, Jesus' teaching was beginning
to get too much for them to take. He began to turn up the 'heat',
spiritually speaking. He started saying things which some simply could not
This was deliberate on His
part. He had to prepare His chosen. That meant that those for whom His words
were not intended would be sifted and discarded; blown away like chaff.
The winds of change will
come! None of us will be able to coast into the Kingdom sheltered from the
storms or shaded from the heat all the time. We all have to be tested. Every
one of us has to go through the purifying fires of life (1 Pet 4:12). Each
man's "work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it
to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality
of each man's work" (1 Cor 3:13).
When Jesus turned up the heat
over 1960 years ago, many of His disciples decided it was time to go! (Jn
6:66). They had thought being a follower of Christ was the 'in thing', but
now they were beginning to change their minds. They had wanted to be a part
of a popular, rapidly growing movement; they had wanted to be in on the
action; they had wanted a prime piece of the cake. But they were not
following Him for genuine reasons; they were in it for what they could get
out of it, and that is why they left. That is why they failed!
There are Christians today,
who likewise are only nominal Christians. Turn up the heat and they will run
for cover! They will look for shade. They are Christians because it pays
them to be. They have 'given' their lives to Christ for selfish reasons.
They are blessed by His teachings. They find physical, emotional or social
comfort in following some of the Word of God. But when it comes to following
all of it, where will they be then?
I have mused on the curious
reference in which this text occurs. Why would God engineer its placing in
John 6 verse 66? Was it deliberate? I believe so, for God is a most
ingenious God! I have wondered whether the words of warning it contains have
relevance to the soon-coming universal mark of the beast in the western
world which will claim so many – even Christians – in the days ahead!
Does 666 mark those who will step back from following Christ fully, as He
desires? Does it mark those who will seek some other way, than face the
unpleasant? Does it mark those who seek a human solution to their problems,
even while they bear the name of Christ? Does it mark those who shut the
door on Him (Rev 3:20), who prefer to look to man, rather than to God?
It is significant that both
the words "wealth" and "tradition" in the Greek bear the
numerics of 666! If you want to rely on wealth and look to human tradition
– even in the Church – you can forget about entering the Kingdom of God.
God only accepts those who are totally committed to Him.
Put yourself in Christ's
position. Would you marry a bride that is rebellious; that refuses to do all
you ask? Would you marry a bride who is resentful of your words, who is
self-willed, who will not submit, who only wants to go her own way, the way
that she is used to going?
The Church is entering an era
of holiness, when God is expecting more from His people. A new move of God
requires a new commitment. He is making more truth available, and as He does
so, He wants each person to respond to Him, not ignore Him. The more you are
given, the more you are held accountable by Him. You will not be able to
ignore the truth He is going to make available to the Christian world! What
will you do with it? Will you respect it, or reject it?
He is about to turn up the
heat! Get ready to turn your life around.
When Jesus says, "I want
you to do something you never thought I would ask of you" (like He
asked of Abraham), what will you say? Will you step back? Or will you say,
as our Saviour did who went before us, "Not my will, but Thine be
Heap, February 1994
(This article was first published in Awake! Awake! Vol. 2 No 6,
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CLNT: Concordant Literal New Testament. An accurate concordant translation
of the Greek, conveying its literal meaning. Available from The Concordant
Bible Society, 189 Northumberland Avenue, Hornchurch, Essex, RM11 2HW; and
in the USA from: Concordant Publishing Concern, 15570 West Knochaven Road,
Santa Clarita, CA 91350, USA.