************ Sermon on Revelation 13:18 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 16, 2018
Revelation 12:7-9; 13:1-18
Difficult Passages #15
What is the meaning of 666? If you are a mathematician, there are a couple of answers:
-666 is the natural number following 665 and preceding 667.
-666 is the sum of the first 36 natural numbers.
What is the meaning of 666? Did you know 666 shows up a number of times in the Bible?
-666 is the number of talents of gold Solomon collected each year (cf 1 Kings 10:14; 2 Chron 9:13).
-666 is the number of Adonikam's descendants who returned to Jerusalem and Judah from the Babylonian exile (Ezra 2:13).
-Since Hebrew letters double as numbers, 666 can be the number of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon; however, using the same method, Caesar Nero, Ronald Wilson Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, and various popes can also be identified as 666.
The only reason we can ask about 666 is because numbers are important in Revelation. Revelation loves to repeat numbers like three, four, seven, ten, and twelve because they have significance
I The Meaning of 777
A We are looking at 666. But, we can't understand 666 unless we first understand 777.
What is the meaning of 777? 777 is the natural number following 776 and preceding 778. No surprises there.
What is the meaning of 777? In the Bible, Lamech, the father of Noah lived for 777 years.
B What makes 777 important is the number seven.
The number seven shows up more than seven hundred times in the Bible. The first time it shows up is Genesis 1 where we are told God rested on the seventh day after creating the heavens and the earth. This became the pattern for Israel -- to set apart the seventh day as a holy day of rest (Deut 5:12). We find seven pairs of each clean animal on the ark (Gen 7:2); seven lamps on the tabernacle’s lampstand (Ex 25:37); seven qualities of the Messiah in Isaiah 11:2; seven signs in John’s Gospel; seven things the Lord hates in Proverbs 6:16; seven parables in Matthew 13; and seven woes in Matthew 23.
Multiples of 7 are also throughout the Bible: the "seventy weeks" prophecy in Daniel 9:24. Jeremiah 29:10 predicted the Babylonian Captivity would last for seventy years. According to Leviticus 25:8, the Year of Jubilee was to begin after the passing of seven Sabbatical years -- that is, after 49 years.
Sometimes, the symbolism of 7 is a great comfort to us: Jesus is the seven-fold "I AM" in the Gospel of John; and, Jesus performs seven miracles in the same Gospel. Other times, it challenges us: Jesus told Peter to forgive a wrongdoer "seventy times seven" times (Matt 18:22). And then there are passages in which the number 7 is associated with God’s judgment: the seven bowls of the Great Tribulation, for example (Rev 16:1), or God’s warning to Israel in Leviticus 26:18.
In the book of Revelation, the number 7 is used more than fifty times: there are seven letters to seven churches in Asia and seven spirits before God’s throne (Rev 1:4), seven golden lampstands (1:12), seven stars in Christ’s right hand (1:16), seven seals of God’s judgment (5:1), seven angels with seven trumpets (8:2), etc.
C So, what is the significance of the number seven? Seven means completeness, perfection, fullness. Why did animals given to the Lord need to be at least seven days old (Ex 22:30)? Why did leprous Naaman bathe in the Jordan River seven times before he was cleansed (2 Kings 5:10)? Why did Joshua march around Jericho for seven days (and on the seventh day make seven circuits) (Josh 6:3-4)? In these instances, 7 signifies completion, perfection, fullness. Likewise, the seven churches to whom the Revelation of Jesus is written represents all churches, the full number of them, the complete number of them. And, that full number, that complete number, includes us today. The seven seals on the scroll represent the fullness of God’s punishment of a sinful earth, and so on.
D Seven represents completeness, perfection, fullness. So, let me ask you a question: Who do you know who is a seven? Besides your grand-kids, of course. Who do you know who is a seven? Not me. Not your spouse. Not your children. Not our President or Governor.
There is only one who is a seven: the triune Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He, and only He, is a seven. He, and only He, is complete, perfect, and full. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are 777. A triple seven.
God the Son is a seven. Turn to Revelation 1. Let's read John's description of Jesus:
(Rev 1:12-16) I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, (13) and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. (14) His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. (15) His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. (16) In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.Do you see the Son's completeness, His perfection, His fullness?
Jesus is a seven in His grace, His death, His suffering, His mercy -- in Him, nothing is lacking for our salvation. Jesus is a seven in His Lordship -- under Him is all of Creation, not one square inch is missing. Jesus is a seven in wisdom -- He knows all things and sees all things and overlooks nothing. Jesus is a seven in His judgments -- He is always just.
Remember John's reaction when He saw the perfect Son? "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead" (Rev 1:17). Jesus is so awesome, so perfect, so complete, it was more than a sinful John could handle.
God the Father is a seven. Turn to Revelation 4. Let's read John's description of our heavenly Father:
(Rev 4:1-6,8) After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." (2) At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. (3) And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. (4) Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. (5) From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. (6) Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back ... (8) Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come" ... (11) "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."Do you see the Father's completeness, His perfection, His fullness? He is an absolutely awesome God!
Likewise, God the Spirit is a seven. His, too, is completeness, perfection, fullness.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are 777.
II The Meaning of 666
A Now that we know the meaning of 777, we can turn to the meaning of 666. Listen again to the words of our text:
(Rev 13:18) This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666.
John tells us the understanding of 666 requires wisdom. Wisdom. Wisdom comes from the Word. Wisdom comes from life lived according to the Word. Wisdom. NOT calculators. NOT computer programs. NOT archeology or Greek mythology or angel dust. Don't be impressed with any approach to understanding 666 that does not look at the plain meaning of the Bible.
Furthermore, we are told that 666 is "man's number." Man's number. What does this mean? When we turn to the opening chapters of Genesis, we see that man was created on the sixth day in God's image, in God's likeness. But, but, man is not God. God is a seven. Man is a six. After the fall into sin can there be any doubt that man is a six? Man is a six. Man always falls short of the glory of God. Six always falls short of seven.
B The number of the beast is man's number. His number is 666. Like man, the beast is not a seven. Like man, the beast is a six. Like man, the beast falls short of the glory of God.
Why the triple six? Why 666? Why is the number six repeated three times? You need to know something about Satan. Satan wants to be God. Satan actually thinks of himself as God. Satan tries everything he can to imitate God. In his imitation of God, Satan forms a counterfeit trinity. In this trinity, the dragon is the counterpart to the Father, the beast out of the sea is the counterpart to the Son, and the beast out of the earth is the counterpart to the Holy Spirit.
Satan tries everything he can to imitate God. So his beast out of the Sea is an imitation of Jesus. Listen to what John says:
(Rev 13:3) One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast.We are to understand that the beast was killed and buried but somehow came back to life just like Jesus was killed and buried and came back to life.
We see many other similarities in our Bible reading. Just like Jesus is the image bearer of God, so the beast is the image bearer of the dragon. Just like Jesus wears many crowns (Rev 19:12), so the beast wears many crowns (Rev 13:1). Just like the Lamb receives God's power, God's throne, and God's authority, so too the beast receives the dragon's power, throne and authority (Rev 13:2). Just like the Lamb is worshiped and adored because He died and arose, so too the beast is worshiped and adored because he died and arose (Rev 13:3-4).
Do you see Satan's plan? The beast is the counterfeit expression of the Lamb. The beast is a replacement for the Lamb. The beast is the antichrist. He is exactly like Christ in so many ways, but he isn't Christ Himself. This is how Satan does his work. Satan loves to imitate the real thing in order to destroy the church.
In his imitation, Satan also counterfeits many of the miracles of God.
(Mt 7:22-23) Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' (23) Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'Jesus gave clear warning that "miracles" done in His name do not, in and of themselves, prove that they are of God. Satan can and does perform counterfeit miracles. That's why Pharaoh’s magicians were able to duplicate some of the miracles of Moses. Now, why does Satan do them?
(Mt 24:24) For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.
Satan even has his own church, a counterfeit church. I'm not talking about churches with "Satan" in their name. Though there are some of those too. I'm talking about synagogues of Satan that look like the church, act like the church, sound like the church, and even have the Lord Jesus in their name -- but they are false (cf Rev 2:9). Satan is not against religion -- he is against Christ. He has his groups that use the Bible and claim to follow Christ but it isn’t the Christ Who died for our sins.
Satan has his own counterfeit gospel. Paul mentions this counterfeit gospel in his second letter to the Corinthians:
(2 Cor 11:4) For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted ...Sometimes the difference with the true Gospel is quite large. More often, the difference is very subtle -- just enough of a difference to put a person on the road leading to destruction, not to Jesus and heaven. Some of these churches preach about Jesus, but the Jesus in their gospel is not the Jesus of the Bible:
-They deny the deity of Jesus.
-They try to explain away His miracles.
-They minimize or do away with the shed blood of Jesus.
-They teach that man can save himself.
-They reject the idea of Christ's physical return.
The world today is flooded with these counterfeit "gospels." Not only do these "gospels" abound in the world; sadly, they have even invaded the church.
Satan counterfeits the Word of God. Satan has many counterfeit books that claim to be the word of God: The Book of Mormon, the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Koran, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Thomas, and the list goes on.
Do you hear what I am saying? What we have in Revelation 13 is nothing less than a counterfeit trinity, an unholy imitation of the triune Godhead.
This unholy trinity is 666. The dragon, the beast out of the sea, and the beast out of the earth is 666. They want to be 777. They pretend to be 777. They fool people into thinking they are 777. But they aren't. They are 666. They aren't God. They are less than God. They fall short of the glory of God.
The triune Godhead is 777. God is and God has completeness, perfection, fullness. The dragon and his two beasts are 666. Unlike God, they do not have completeness, perfection, fullness.
So what? What does this mean for us today? We live in a world where we are under attack by Satan. We live in a world where it is becoming increasingly dangerous to be a Christian. Even in our own country and in our own state there are so many who attack us.
But Satan is only a 666. He is not going to win. He cannot win. He cannot prevail. Because over against Him is the perfect triune Godhead. Because over against Him is the perfect 777. And, as Paul puts it, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom 8:31).
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