June 05, 2014

The Number of the Beast

666 has to do with emperor worship.

John wrote Revelation to seven Churches in Asia minor. These were being persecuted because they refused to participate in emperor worship. Emperor worship was a huge problem at the time. The city of Pergamum in Asia Minor was the regional center of emperor worship and it was particularly difficult for the Church there. St. John notes the difficulty they are having in that particular city.

And to the angel of the church in Per'gamum write: `The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; you hold fast my name and you did not deny my faith even in the days of An'tipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells." (Revelation 2:12-13)

Temple to Emperor Trajan - typical
City of Pergamum, Asia Minor

Emperor worship was the main problem in the Book of Revelation. Those who did not participate in emperor worship were barred from commerce, shunned from society, arrested and sometimes put to death. Antipas (in the passage above) had been appointed Bishop of Pergamum and was martyred by burning on the altar in one of the temples to the Emperors.

Slaves used to be marked on the forehead or right hand by their owner. A mark or name on the forehead was a sign of ownership. 666 represents the emperor. Some would bear the mark of the emperor while Christians would be marked with the name of Christ on their forehead.

saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads." (Revelation 7:3)
they were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads; (Revelation 9:4)
Then I looked, and lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1)

ST. Paul calls himself a "slave of Christ" and notes that he had been marked. The mark on the forehead has to do with slavery and ownership.

The passages above are key to the overall meaning of the Book of Revelation. The followers of Christ with the name of God on their forehead are persecuted now. That persecution is temporary however, and if the followers of Christ persevere to the end they will be rewarded. The followers of the emperor will be destroyed in the end. That's the whole point of the Book of Revelation. It is a message of hope for persecuted Churches.

And St. John challenges us to ask ourselves who's name is on our forehead. Is God's name on our forehead? Is Jesus' name on our forehead? What name do we bear on our forehead? Who owns us?


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