The dragon now has another agent to help with his corruption of the world. It’s a little creepy how we see the formation of a demonic trinity here. Did you notice the attempts to “appear” similar to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Look closely. But these creatures truly represent false prophets because true prophets will lead people to God the Father, not a dragon or beast set on destruction.
It was in today’s passage that the “famous” mark of the beast is revealed. I say famous because it seems like most people associate the number 666 with the book of Revelation. Many times, that’s all people really know about the book. Yet they don’t truly understand what it means. And did you notice in the footnotes that some manuscripts record it as 616 instead of 666?
John says, “Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.” Because John tells us this is the number of a “man”, over the years, people have calculated different ways of figuring out who it might be. Of course, John’s audience would be familiar with Emperor Nero, whose name spelled one way equals 666 and the other equals 616. I understand Hitler’s name also calculates to 666.
Like so many thing we can get stuck on, this number has definitely gotten a lot of attention. I suppose I would rather look at the number as being the “anti-seal.” Remember in Chapter 7 when God put a seal of protection on his people? Well, this is the demonic trinity’s attempt to put a seal on their followers. However, it is not a seal of safety or protection, it is a mark of evil and destruction.
These chapters do a nice of job of reminding us how evil is present and lurking. Just as our seal of blessing is not a visible mark on the outside, neither is the mark of the devil. We can, in that way, often be easily deceived by evil without even knowing it. You can bet that as crafty as that dragon is, he will not look like a dragon, despite John’s vision.
Think about it. Would anybody you know worship a dragon or an ugly beast? I’m not thinking so. Not even a statute of the same! The imagery is meant to represent their character and their intention. We need to stand vigilant. You’ve heard the idiom “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Did you know it has Biblical origin? It’s used to describe those playing a role contrary to their real character with whom contact is dangerous, particularly false teachers. Bingo!
Be on the alert. Be cautious and careful. The world is changing all around us. Ask God for eyes of discernment. Open your heart to God alone. You can know without a shadow of a doubt that anything that goes against God’s word is not the truth. If something is pointing away from God, we should know to go the other way ourselves. Stay vigilant.
Let’s pray. Father God, I thank you for this reminder to be on guard and watching for you and for the evil attempt this world will make to keep us distracted from you. Lord, forgive me for times I spend thinking about things that are not wholesome or helpful. Cleanse my mind and my heart to be pure. Set me apart for the work of your kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.