Summary: This sermon is designed to provide a bit of sanity in the whirlwind of stupidity that surrounds the beasts and the number 666.
What’s in a Name? (Part 1)
Sermon Objective: This sermon is designed to provide a bit of sanity in the whirlwind of stupidity that surrounds the beasts and the number 666.
Rev. 13:1And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea.
And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3One 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. 4Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?"
5The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. 6He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.
9He who has an ear, let him hear.10If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.
11Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. 12He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. 14Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.
18This 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.
I think I need to spend a “sermon” giving you an overview of the role that chapters 12 and 13 play in this book. I also think this “sermon time” would be well spent if I helped you to see the historical dynamics that are being depicted here. Yes, there is more going on here in John’s writing than a mere critique of the political dynamics of his day but the interpretation and applications of the text can never be divorced from this historical reality. To do so is not only dangerous but almost guarantees one will develop strange doctrines that cannot be supported by a reasonable and ethical reading of the text. If one is to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) … in other words approach the Scriptures with integrity and let the inherent authority therein come into play as opposed to our own human assumptions and biases … then this historical understanding must not only be understood but respected and utilized in determining the text’s purpose and underlying truths. The Scriptures, after all, are designed to make sense to the reader/hearer. One does not have to do a lot of “cognitive gymnastics” to grasp its meaning.
My job, today, is as much “pastor-teacher” (Ephesians 4:11) as it is “preacher-prophet.”
Chapters 12 and 13 (actually 14 too) work much like a cipher for this book. Or, maybe a more picturesque image is they work much like a frame does for a picture. Just as various frames on a picture will enhance, or even change the mood the picture offers, so these chapters explain the purpose of the book and even set the mood/tone of the text.