Fr. Angelo Artemas
June 6, 2006 (6-6-6) has come and gone, and certain people are still wondering if the Beast, whose number is 666 in the Book of Revelation, was born. The remake of The Omen has given rise to another round of naming of the beast/anti-Christ. Some alleged beasts of the past have included Napoleon, Hitler, Gorbachov, Barney the Dinosaur and Tinkie Winkie from the Teletubies.
The Book of Revelation has been mistranslated, misused and misinterpreted since the 2nd century. It was written by John, the beloved disciple and theologian, on Patmos at the end of the 1st century (roughly 90 A.D.) as a response to the turmoil, pain and suffering experienced by early Christians. Thousands of Christians were being martyred because of their faith, and many suffered the consequences of high infant mortality and low life expectancy.
The Roman Emperors of the first three centuries were responsible for millions of deaths. The Beasts of the Book of Revelation refer to Nero (54-68 A.D.), Vespasian (69-79 A.D.), and Domitian (80-96 A.D.). The number 666 was specifically a cryptic reference to the Emperor Nero.
According to biblical numerology, 6 represents evil, 7 represents perfection (seven days in a week), and 8 represents holiness (Sunday, the Day of the Lord, is the first and eighth day). The tripling of numbers represents their eternal/infinite nature; thus Nero is eternally evil while Christ is eternally holy. The numbers and symbols in the Book of Revelation are not secret references to today's leaders, economic or environmental conditions, but refer to first century conditions. Attempts to make direct associations are misdirected.
Yet there is no doubt that Revelation speaks to the faithful of the 21st century. There is still evil, discrimination, persecution, war, hatred, environmental disasters, illness, and catastrophic conditions in our time. We are encouraged to endure all difficulty, to remain faithful to Jesus Christ unto death, and to worship Jesus Christ while doing good deeds for our world with every breath we have left.
In a very real sense, every time one gives into temptation and sins, the beast is born. Evil is not confined to a particular day, date, or time period. The devil is alive and well, and is a regular guest in magazines, books, movies, theaters, television shows, radio programs, schools, malls, concerts, soccer games, on the Internet (working overtime), and even at some churches and Greek festivals.
But the devil is not to be feared, for Jesus Christ has overcome evil. The only power evil has is the power people give it. Every time one does good, prays, reads scripture, participates in Sacraments, sacrifices for their loved ones, nurtures, comforts, feeds, cares and loves, evil is rendered powerless; and Jesus Christ has come into the world again.
Perhaps the most significant theme of the Book of Revelation is that the end of the world is not an historical event, but a person, Jesus Christ. As long as Jesus Christ is accepted, followed, embraced, believed in and communed with, His second coming is occurring.
Orthodox faithful have believed for two thousand years that the second coming of Jesus Christ occurs at every Divine Liturgy, throughout the world and throughout time. The Book of Revelation is properly understood in light of the Holy Eucharist. Every time the faithful receive Jesus Christ through Holy Communion, they receive the Lord who was, and is, and is to come.If people are guided by the Holy Spirit to follow righteousness, and if people sincerely participate in the Lord's Supper on the first and eighth day of the week, then the faithful are already experiencing the second coming of Jesus Christ, and participating in eternal life.