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Weekly SNAC, 30 April 2017 - Is this week’s issue of the Weekly SNAC cursed!?


 

 

 

 

 

You may or may not have realised that this issue of the Weekly SNAC is #666… (GASP!) The
chances are that you are aware that this number is considered an evil, fearful, foreboding number.
It’s the number that has bred many superstitions and horror movies. But where does it come from?
Funnily enough, this number shows up in the Bible, in Revelation 13:18:

Here is wisdom: The one who has understanding must calculate the number of the beast, because
it is the number of a man. His number is 666.

Strangely, over the centuries, people take things from the Bible, which is anti-superstition, and twist
it to be superstitious (see 2 Peter 3:16). Nonetheless, over the centuries Christians have debated
what this eerie number might mean, who it might point to, and how significant it should be in our
minds as believers – does this number represent Satan himself? Is it talking about the Roman emperor
of the day? Or is it another prominent figure in history who opposes Jesus? (Most American
presidents have been put forward as options!)

In order to dispel our fears of this paper being cursed, or that this bulletin will bring about the Apocalypse,
I thought we’d take a closer look at the passage where this mysterious number 666 comes up.

It’s well known that the book of Revelation is the last book in the Bible, the last written, and the most
symbolic and strange in its content and imagery. What becomes clear as we read it, though, is that
it’s a symbolic retelling of the story of history – particularly the story between Jesus’ first coming
(his life, death and resurrection) and his second coming. And, rather than instilling fear, it’s meant
to comfort the first century Christians (and us), and give them the strength and hope to persevere
in following Jesus, even though Satan and the world is opposed to Jesus, and Christians face great
suffering and persecution.

So we see the number 666 come up in the wider story of chapters 12-14 – a great, epic story about
Satan (the dragon) and his (unsuccessful) war against God. Here’s a summary:

• Satan tries to destroy God’s Old Testament people (the woman – 12:1) so Jesus can’t be born.
• Once Jesus (the child – 12:5) is born, Satan tries to destroy him.
• Once this doesn’t work, in his anger Satan turns to destroy the church (the woman’s other offspring
– 12:17).
• Satan enlists the help of two beasts (13:1, 11 – possibly evil human authorities). These 3 form an
“unholy trinity” who try to imitate God and persuade the world to worship them, instead of worshipping
God.
• Everyone who worships them get’s the mark of the beast on them – 666, a number that’s “1” short
of 777, the symbolic number of God and his perfection.

And so in this story we see that Satan tries to imitate God, and steal God’s worship for himself, but
he falls short. That’s the meaning of the number 666. Satan tries to make himself look great, and
cause all people of the world to follow him, instead of God, and sadly many people do follow him.

It all sounds quite fearsome and frightening doesn’t it? But the wonder of this story is actually the opposite.
Why? Because what we see happening all throughout the story is God restraining, disarming
and defeating Satan time and time again.

The good news is that God is at work to save and protect a people for himself, who aren’t marked
with 666, but instead marked and sealed with the name of the Lamb and of the Father. Listen to how
it speaks about us as God’s people at the end of the story:

Then I looked, and there on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with Him were 144,000 who had His
name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads… These are the ones who follow the Lamb
wherever He goes. They were redeemed from the human race as the firstfruits for God and the
Lamb. (14:1-4)

The wonder of this story is that the battle has already been won! The Lamb who was slain has already
conquered! Satan has already been defeated! So if you are a believer in Jesus, then you have no
need to fear the number 666. You have no need to fear Satan – he is a defeated enemy. God has redeemed
you by the blood of Jesus and written his name of ownership on you, and he is able to keep
you to the end. What incredibly comforting news in the midst of a world that is against Jesus, and as
we face suffering and persecution! God has sealed us and will keep us to the end!

Troy Munns

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