The numbers of the beast – Revelation: a review

We love a good conspiracy theory. We like a good mystery. We simply adore being able to work something out and prove it. This is the human condition and it has helped us discover gravity, atoms and many other wonders. It has also led us to make amazing claims about the book of Revelation, the last New Testament book in my journey through the bible in a year.

The beast

Algebra and calculus

I was taught a lot of mathematics at school that I have never been able to use in my life since. What might have been helpful was if I had been taught how to understand the numbers of the book of Revelation, because they seem quite important. To be honest any help I could get to try to understand what is going on here would help!

The apocalypse

Revelation is written by John, although exactly which John can’t be proved. It begins in the form of letters to seven churches, or their angels, and then turns into something that is more difficult to understand than an episode of Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy. Once again we have strange language that is similar to the book of Daniel and some of Ezekiel. We have beasts, dragons, prostitutes, crowns, horns, multiple heads, a lake of fire and 666. And the thrust of the book is essentially that there will be suffering but then God will sort everything out.

So what does it mean?

The book could be historical, all about events that concern the first readers at the end of the 1st century AD. It could be prophetic, beginning with the time of the first readers and ending when the world ends (2012 isn’t mentioned). Or it could simply be symbolic and mean very little to any specific historical events. The other option is to see it as futuristic, with no relevance to the first recipients and only dealing with events to come. How you choose to see it has a lot to do with whatever church tradition you are currently with. Personally, I am uneasy with making any literal predictions based on something so weird and wonderful.

And the point is?

I suppose there are two opposite approaches that are unhelpful. The first is that we obsess and worry about what and when these sometimes frightening events have taken or could take place. The second is that we simply ignore the book as mumbo jumbo, because it’s too difficult to make out any sense. If there is any point to the book being in the bible then we have to find some mid point. What did help, once again, was reading it over a relatively short period.

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