You may not realize it because you’re still here (for better or for worse), but yesterday, September 23, 2015, was the day many were saying the world would come to an end.
I know there have been many previous dates that folks have been absolutely positive it all is coming down, including (but not limited to): March 25, 970; February 14, 1420; November 19, 1795; December 17, 1919; August 17, 1987; and December 23, 2012 and, some say, November 13, 2026.
However, there seem to be MANY signs that today (or sometime right around today) is IT. Including, but not limited to:
1) Yesterday was Yom Kippur and began the 70th Year of Jubilee. According to scripture every 7th year is a Jubilee Year when everyone is super-forgiven of all debts. This would be the 10th “7,” which makes this the most super-powerful forgiveness time, and, hence, The End.
2) Last night marked the 4th consecutive “blood moon” to coincide with Jewish holidays and align with several New Testament apocalyptic prophecies.
3) In May 2014, the French foreign minister in a speech to the US State Dept. cryptically announced that there was but “500 days to avoid the climate chaos.”
` 4) Yesterday an asteroid was supposed to hit.
5) Pope Francis and President Obama met.
6) When the Stock Market resumed trading on July 8 after a 3.5 hour world-stopping “computer glitch”, there was a guy standing by the tv camera “looking busy,” and he was wearing “923” on his shirt sleeve.
We may find this kind of "steeplechasing" (as it were) to be a bit foolish, maybe even quite laughable.
However, it seems entirely Biblical. After all, many parts of the text seem obsessed with providing cryptic-but-if-you’re-in-the-know-you'll-know-what-I'm-talking-about hints about what will for-sure happen when God comes to destroy evil once and for all and create (or transport believers to) a whole new world where the good folk can live happily and forever.
The final authority on this matter (literally and figuratively), The Book of Revelation, tells us from the very first first that God's chosen revealee, John of Patmos, has been sent to heaven so that he may see “what must soon take place…blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near." (1:1ff)
Even though, of course Jesus, said on numerous occasions that no one knows when He will return….
Apocalyptic fever was rampant in Israel in the days just before Jesus, throughout his life, and it has continued until this time. The idea that all the unjust painful crap that the world is presently inundated with would be over soon; that those responsible would finally get their comeuppance with more than a capital "C"; and that faith, love and good deeds would be finally and eternally rewarded does have a lot going for it. It does give hope. It can help keep us living in the moment. It prods us away from laziness in our choices. And it reminds us that God is at work throughout and for the cosmos and not just in and for our own little-but-big-to-us life.
However, as we can see, things can get out of hand. And I wonder if John of Patmos was, and is, up in the clouds even now snickering at all the well-intentioned if paranoid attempts being made to clarify what the near-future most certainly holds.
And missing the point of his work entirely.
After all, no matter how carefully one reads The Revelation, its plethora of detailed and wild information, often circuitously presented and refuting itself, remains completely mind-boggling.
Is that intentional and with comic purpose? Is the Book of Revelation actually a satiric way of telling people the more you seek specific End Time clues the more clueless you look? And are??
One of those specific End Time clues that folks continue to be obsessed with (which also ends up providing convenient opportunity to demonize Others) is the one where we're told exactly who for sure is “the Beast with ten horns and seven heads with ten diadems on the horns and blasphemous names on its heads, like a leopard with feet like a bear and a mouth like a lion who is given authority by the dragon.” This is the person, though not named as such in Revelation, who is later known as none other than "The Antichrist." This person (beast) is the full earthly embodiment of the Devil (dragon). He is the one responsible for all the pain and injustice in the world, Jesus arch nemesis, and being number one on the list receive their comeuppance with a bigger than capital "C" on Judgment Day.
At Rev. 13:18 it's finally revealed (sort of). John says, “This calls for wisdom: let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. It’s number is six hundred sixty-six.”
As one might expect, there are MANY folks throughout history who have been singled out as the for-sure “666," the ultimate reason the world is so messed up now, worse than ever before, and why God -- who is always mad as hell -- soon won't take it anymore....
The first for-sure Antichrist was determined to be the Emperor Nero. He’d tortured Christians terribly after making them the fall-folk for burning Rome. Because of many mysterious details regarding Nero’s death, he was believed in many corners of Asia Minor to either still be alive or soon to raise from the dead to heap further awfulness on Jesus’ followers. And, sure enough, in numerology, Nero’s name comes to 666.
Since then, other Antichrists have included (but have not been limited to): The Emperor Domitian, Bill Gates, Ronald Reagan, Prince Charles, Fidel Castro, Mikhail Gorbachov, Osama Ben Ladin, whoever is the present Secretary General of the UN, whoever is currently the Pope and last but certainly not least (or maybe he is….) President Obama.
Also included on some lists I’ve seen are Michael Jackson and 50 Cent.
My favorite: Alfred E. Neuman (because “E” is said by some to stand for “Enigma”, giving him a three-part name consisting of 6 letters each. Blech!!
Of course for each one of these villains there is an air-tight explanation about why they serve the Dragon and have the requisite number of horns and heads and blasphemes and incontestable zoological features.
As I said before, "666-ing" also gives number/name-bestower the golden opportunity to unleash pent-up hatred for said venal person (who also usually opposes the bestower’s political and religious views, maybe even musical sensibilities). On top even of that, if I may play armchair psychologist for a moment here, 666-ing provides a convenient escape valve for the anger (often great) that is making the bestower’s life difficult and frightening at the present time.
We “cool people” who don’t fall for “Antichristing” anyone may snicker at such dyfunctional objectifying; however, we probably all have knee-jerk experiences of great fear and name-bestowing when persons detestable to us seem to be gaining unstoppable momentum to take control of our government, church and lives. We may not use the “A” word or look for even one “6” associated with their name, but the effort is the same.
Apocalyptic (at least apocalyptic-esque) doom and gloom can’t help but overtake us, any of us, at least some of the time....
May the Comic Lens offer another suggestion of what John's “666” may mean? Was originall supposed to mean? This was suggested to me by Dr. Greg Riley of the Claremont School of Theology, although he is certainly not alone in his idea here.
“666." the absolute for-sure Antichrist is the one who is…drum roll please….
Yup! That’s it. That awfullest awful Beast is really to be known as nothing more than less than God. 777 is the perfect, and hence, "God number," and the Beast ain't it.
It’s kind of like the “eleven” of “This is Spinal Tap”, in the opposite.
Could it be that the whole “666” brouhaha and its build-up in Chapter 13 is a joke? To help us laugh at our paranoid tendencies to believe there actually might be a force equal to Jesus (hence an “AntiChrist”) that could truly threaten to overpower God’s love?
After all, John's description of this beast also includes some pretty funny implications that the "Antichrist" is as much a boob as anything else. We're told he's got a second beast that looks like a lamb but is evil like the first beast and dragon and beast #2 speaks on behalf of the beast and encourages the making of idols of beast #1. Not only that, but #2 encourages idol-makers to give their work breath, so they can speak! Talking statues!
Reminds me of the Wizard of Oz!
And, actually, there were charlatans in John of Patmos' time who apparently did this very thing. With a lot of smoke and folderol they terrified audiences as they stood behind their wood or marble artwork spewing threats to shape up or ship out. (See Craig Koester's book "Revelation and the End of All Things", Eerdmans Publishing 2001, p.130)
Maybe this is what John wants his audience to remember more than anything else: that person who so terrifies, who so tempts us to loose faith and cave to name-calling, they're actually about as problematic to God as
That's why all Antichrists are merely 666.
Of course, there may be an army of locusts with women’s hair, lion’s teeth, scorpion tales out coming to torture me for five months but no longer as I will cry for death but do not receive it because I suggest here (and elsewhere) that The Revelation is a smart, satiric joke.
But then again, maybe because the end of the world (as far as I know) did not happen yesterday suggests there is more to understanding our final book of the Bible than we've previously assumed.
As I always like to say, the only End Time-signaling detail we really need to attend to is the one, mentioned in several biblical books, where the bear comes from the north and is finally victorious in battle. This is NOT Russia as sometimes assumed but rather, of course, the Chicago Cubs. When they win the World Series, then our affairs need to be in order.
So we have at least a couple more weeks....