Tag Archives: Catholicism

Edification From Revelation: What Does “666” Really Mean?? (Part 2)

Yesterday I wrote Part 1 of an article that studies the biblical meaning of the infamous symbol “666” in Revelation.  That article focused mainly on how people view the number, the various erroneous interpretations commonly given to it, and biblical principles we need to keep in mind in order to come to the correct conclusions about it and the rest of the symbolism found in Revelation.

Let’s now start examining what 666 really means.  It is called the number of the beast (Rev. 13:18), so it’s probably best to first come to understand what the Bible says about the beast of Revelation 13.

There are actually two beasts in chapter 13.  The first beast mentioned is the one which rises out of the sea (Rev. 13:1-10).  Space doesn’t permit us to examine in great detail all the symbolism surrounding this beast, but the best way to sum up what this beast represents is to study Daniel 7:1-7, 15-18.

Daniel, like John, had a vision of beasts, four of them rising out of the sea.  He then specifies that these beasts each represented four kingdoms or governments.  If we allow the Bible to be its own best interpreter (which is what God wants us to do; compare Ephesians 4:15, John 17:17, and 2 Timothy 4:2), we will apply this same interpretation to the beast rising up out of the sea in Revelation 13.

Thus, the “beast” in Revelation is a symbolic term used to represent governmental forces which rule in this world.

This beast which rises out of the sea in Revelation 13 was a servant of the dragon whom Revelation 12:9 identifies as Satan, and those who followed the beast would worship both the dragon and the beast (Rev. 13:2, 4).  This beast would blaspheme against God, his name, and his dwelling, and would make war on the saints and conquer them (Rev. 13:5-8).  All who dwell on the earth, specifically “everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” — i.e., those who aren’t Christians — would worship the beast (v. 8).

This tells us that the first beast rising up out of the sea represents governmental forces which rule in this world who are hostile to Christianity.  During John’s day, this would have been the Jewish ruling class in Jerusalem and the Roman Empire, both of whom severely persecuted Christians.  Throughout history, including today, we see many governments showing various degrees of hostility towards Christianity.  America’s government and society is becoming increasingly hostile to the Christian faith as well, as seen in the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage and how florists and bakers who profess the Christian faith concerning same-sex marriage are being persecuted by governmental authorities.

It’s very clear that the first beast of Revelation 13 is still alive and well today, and will always be until Christ comes again.

Let’s now turn our focus to the second beast, the one which rose out of the earth (Rev. 13:11-18).  Again, space does not permit a detailed examination of all the symbolism surrounding this second beast, so we’ll hit the highlights.

To sum up, we know from our study of the first beast and also the beasts of Daniel 7 that this beast would symbolize an entity that has the power of civil government.  Additionally, this beast apparently had the power to force people to make an image to the beast and worship it (v. 15).  This tells us that this second beast controlled not only the physical actions and freedom of man the way civil governments would, but it would also control his spiritual worship.  This is the meaning of the two horns (v. 11).  Horns symbolize power, and this beast had two horns.  Its power was twofold.  It possessed civil powers and spiritual powers.

Elsewhere in Revelation this second beast is called a false prophet (Rev. 16:13; 19:20).  This shows that the beast was a false religious power which caused or forced many people to worship in ways other than those designed by God.  This is why the Bible says it had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon (Rev. 13:11).  It acts like a lamb of God but speaks the message of Satan the dragon.  It represents the wolves in sheep’s clothing, the false teachers and prophets which Jesus and Paul warned us about (Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29).

Think back over history since the church of Christ was founded on Pentecost after Jesus’ death and resurrection?.  Are there any false religions which profess to have allegiance to Christ?  Of course there are.  We call them denominations.  Where did these denominations come from?  History shows us that the Protestant denominations (the Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc.), all of which teach and practice doctrines contradictory to New Testament teaching, originally split off from the Roman Catholic Church.  The Roman Catholic Church, also infamous for adding to and taking away from the Word of God, used to be known as simply the Catholic Church before it had a split one thousand years ago which formed the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, an entity which continued to add to and ignore biblical doctrine.  Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church are more than just religions and churches.  Historically and all the way up to today, they are both churches AND governments.

Catholicism’s headquarters is in the Vatican.  The Vatican is its own country, having its own form of government.  Throughout Catholic history, the Catholic Church has been very closely aligned with various governments in the countries that have been predominately Catholic.  Over the past one thousand years, the Eastern Orthodox Church has split into various Orthodox Churches, all defining themselves by the countries and governments with which they are aligned.  That’s why we have Greek Orthodox Churches, Russian Orthodox Churches, etc.

In like manner, the religion of Islam claims to follow the God of Abraham and Jesus and is closely aligned with many Middle Eastern governments.  Yet it has always persecuted Christians and continues to do so, and its doctrine and tenets blatantly go against the teachings of the God of the Bible.

Thus, history shows us the existence of false religions which are closely aligned with governmental powers that look on the surface to the uninformed like they follow the Lamb of God while in reality speaking the message of Satan the dragon.  The second beast of Revelation 13 which rose out of the earth, has two horns like a lamb, speaks like a dragon, and makes people worship the first beast is clearly seen in the false religions, specifically the denominations of Christendom and the various sects of Islam that are closely aligned with governmental powers hostile to true New Testament Christianity over the years.

To sum up what we know about the two beasts of Revelation 13:

  • The first beast symbolizes any governmental power throughout history that is hostile to Christianity.
  • The second beast symbolizes any false religion aligned with governmental authorities which is hostile to Christianity, false religions who profess to follow God but in reality serve Satan.

The next article will continue our study of Revelation 13 in order to understand the meaning of 666, but for now let’s end with some encouragement, some real “edification from Revelation.”  I’d like to call your attention to a few passages from Revelation:

“And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army.  And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.  These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.”

Revelation 19:19-20

“And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Revelation 20:9-10

Take heart, Christians.  What you just read is the ultimate destiny of the two beasts and Satan the dragon whom they serve.  We may be persecuted in varying ways by the government or by false churches and religions, but in the end Christ will conquer over all!

Will we be conquering with him?

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it.  From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.  Then another book was opened, which is the book of life.  And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.  And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.  Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  This is the second death, the lake of fire.  And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Revelation 20:11-15

Do you want to spend eternity with the two beasts and the dragon in the lake of fire?  If your name is not written in the Book of Life, that’s what will happen.

Is your name written there?  Contact me to find out what the Bible says about being saved.

Departures From The Faith – Jon Mitchell

This article I wrote for the September/October, 2013 issue of the Carolina Messenger contains a general overview of the history of the origin of various denominations and sects of Christendom. Check it out!

Departures From The Faith – Jon Mitchell.

You Are Peter, And On This Rock I Will Build My Church…

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18 – Scripture of the Day (January 20, 2014)

Such an encouraging verse with a powerful, uplifting promise!  And yet, due to translation error and false teachings this powerful passage is misunderstood by so many!

For example, “the gates of hell” should be more accurately translated from the Greek “the gates of Hades.”  Hades and hell are actually two different words in the Greek which describe two different places, but many think they’re the same thing due to many English translations translating Hades as hell, which in turn is due to the translators being influenced by the erroneous teaching that Hades and hell are the same.  Hell is gehenna in the Greek (Matt. 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6).  The word originally referred to the city of Jerusalem’s garbage dump, and then was used to symbolically refer to the eternal lake of fire reserved for Satan and his followers after judgment.  Hades is where the dead wait for judgment.  The rich man was in torment in Hades, although several translations erroneously translate the word as “hell” (Luke 16:23).  However, Jesus and the thief whom he forgave were also in Hades after they died, in the part referred to as Paradise or Abraham’s bosom or side (Acts 2:27; cf. Luke 23:39-43; 16:22-24) which is separated from where the rich man is tormented by a gulf or chasm (Luke 16:26).  Thus, Hades is a place where both the righteous and unrighteous dead are, unlike hell which is reserved for the unrighteous for all eternity.  On the day of judgment, Death and Hades will deliver up the dead that are in them and then be cast into the lake of fire which is hell, after which all who are judged by God to be condemned will also be cast into hell, along with Satan (Rev. 20:10-15).  Thus, Hades and hell are two different places.  By telling Peter that “the gates of Hades” shall not prevail against the church, Jesus was in effect promising that the church would not die.

Another misunderstanding many have about this passage revolves around the mistaken notion that one church is just as good as another.  This ecumenical mindset ignores several biblical points about the church:

  1. When Jesus spoke of building his church in this passage, notice that he spoke of the church in a singular fashion, not as pluralistic.  In other words, he said, “…I will build my church.”  He didn’t say, “…I will build my churches.”
  2. This is because the New Testament reveals that there in fact is only one church.  Paul spoke of the body of Christ as being his church (Eph. 1:22-23), and then specifically said that there is only one body, as well as only one faith (Eph. 4:4-5).  If the body is the church, and there is one body, then there is one church.  One church, one body, one faith.  Compare that to the thousands of different denominations, sects, and cults which all believe different things while claiming to all follow Christ…even though Christ’s New Testament specifically commands Christians that “…all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10; cf. John 17:20-23; Phil. 2:1-2).

Another misunderstanding many have about this passage revolves around the Roman Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession which teaches that Peter was the first Pope.  This verse is commonly cited by Catholicism to mean that Jesus was saying that the church was built on Peter.  However, this notion is mistaken for two reasons:

  1. Peter could not have been the first Pope, because Peter was married (Matt. 8:14-15; 1 Cor. 9:5) and Catholic doctrine teaches that the Pope and other bishops must be celibate, even though the New Testament specifically states that bishops must be married (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6).  (With this in mind, compare Catholic doctrine to the prophecy of Paul in 1 Timothy 4:1-3.)
  2. It is well known that “Peter” means “rock,” and so the assumption is made that when Jesus said, “…you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…”, he was saying that the church would be built on Peter.  However, a study of the Greek words used in Matthew 16:18 reveals that Jesus actually used two different words here.  When he said, “…you are Peter…”, he used the masculine Greek word Petros, which refers to a rock or stone.  However, when he then said, “…upon this rock…”, he used the feminine Greek word petra, which refers to a large rock or stone, or a cliff.  The two similar but different words show by definition that Jesus had two similar but different concepts in mind when he spoke this sentence.  The church would not be built upon the rock of the apostle Peter (Petros), but upon a large rock or cliff (petra).  Contextually, the only thing Jesus could have in mind in reference to the petra would be the confession Peter had just made that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 16:16), which of course we know is the foundation of faith upon which the church is built (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11).

Thus, today’s Scripture of the Day records a promise Jesus made to Peter, the other apostles, and us that gives me comfort every time I read it.  He promised to build his church, of which there is only one, upon the rock of the confession of faith in him as the Son of God, and that his church would never die and thus be overcome by the gates of Hades.

Are you a part of his church?  The Bible specifically states that he is the Savior of his church (Eph. 5:23).  Do you want Christ to be your Savior?  Be a part of his church, not some man-made denomination.  Make the same heart-felt confession of faith that Peter made (Matt. 16:16; Rom. 10:9-10), choose to repent of your sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19), and wash your sins away via immersion into the body of Christ, his church (1 Cor. 12:13; cf. Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).