Eschatology is the study of end-time. It is a very crucial subject in the Body of Christ and also very contentious because it is concerned with the end of the world, the coming of the Lord, the rapture of the church and has a lot to do with visions and apocalyptic mysteries. The major complexity that surrounds eschatological teachings is the fact that it is communicated in a lot of visions. When something is centred on visions, it always raises doubts, this is why the kings of old; the likes of Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar always sought for their magicians, astrologers, sorcerers and their wise men because they needed their dreams and visions to be interpreted urgently. As a matter of fact, if you study the book of Daniel intensively, you will discover King Nebuchadnezzar’s threat to kill his sorcerers if they could not interpret a troubling dream or vision. In the book of Genesis, you will also find Pharaoh deeply troubled and in search of an interpretation for his dream, until he found Joseph who accurately interpreted it. In every vision or dream, you will be dealing with spiritual allegorical expressions and they could be quite mysterious; such that they can stir up confusion in your heart especially if there is no express easy interpretation.
One of the major contentions we have in Bible scholastic work is that the book that closed the canon of the Bible (Revelation) happens to be a book laden with heavy visions. It is quite a serious issue, but we thank God for His light in our hearts. Growing up as a believer, I listened to several eschatological world views, and if you have quite some eschatological knowledge, you will agree with me that there are different world views to eschatology. There are various world views to Biblical eschatology and most of those world views are based on visions in the book of Daniel from the 7th to 10th chapter, the book of Zechariah from the 12th to 14th chapter, the book of Revelation from the 6th chapter up till the very last chapter, etc. The clear eschatological texts (without visions) are the books of Matthew 24, Luke 21, as well as some other texts on immortality such as 1Corinthians 15, 2Corinthians 5, Romans 8, 1Thessalonians 4 and 2Thessalonians 2. Apparently, the mysticism of the symbols and visions (in books like Daniel and Revelation) seem to have cast a shadow over the plain texts, such that it is difficult to understand what is being said in the appropriate context.
There is the Dispensationalist world view also known as the Futurist, there is the Preterist world view, we also have world views that combine a little bit of both. By
world view, we mean a group of people who believe in a particular notion as regards eschatology.
The Dispensationalists, who I think to be the most popular eschatological group in the Body of Christ, believe that the end-time visions and prophecies of the Bible are gradually unfolding. The Dispensationalists believe there will be rapture, followed by a thousand years of the antichrist reign, after which there will be a second death, an antichrist and then Jesus is going to come again for a thousand years and Satan will be thrown in the bottomless pit, etc. After all that, there will be a final judgement when Satan and his demons will be thrown into a lake of fire, hell and death will also be casted into this lake of fire, then there would also be a white throne judgement where Jesus will judge all the saints and give us our eternal rewards. They also talk about a judgement that would come upon the antichrist; because the antichrist is supposed to have an alliance with Israel for seven years and give them peace in the Middle East region, etc.
For the Preterists, I find their eschatology more intriguing because they believe that most events which were prophesied to mark the end of the world had already happened, some even opine there is no such thing as the resurrection of our bodies into immortality, some claim it has already happened but somehow, we are ignorant of it. They will often argue that there is a particular date important to them known as the year 70AD. They say it was the year when the capital of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman emperor and several other events took place. They also opine how that Emperor Nero could have been the antichrist. They claim to have historical account of some mysterious events that happened about the time (70AD) and they assert that the sun became blood and spirit beings were seen from Heaven.
I believe there are different kinds of Preterists, just as there are different kinds of Dispensationalists. It often happens that in-between a theological movement, there could be another movement from within, just like the Charismatic circles and the Christocentric circles, which means most of them might believe the same thing superficially but at the core, there could be a drift or difference in their ideologies.
The complexity of Bible hermeneutics in visions is that they are debatable as portrayed in the various books I have read wherein so many antichrists have been rumoured to be in the earth, like Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, etc. It appears that with every new eschatological world view, the personality of the antichrist changes and the complexities
of narratives that surround end-time events become very troubling, as most narratives are a blend of conspiracies and counter conspiracies backed by intelligent Bible interpretations.
Not only does the Bible have a lot to say about the end-time, astrologers also have a lot to say. For example, Nostradamus who wasn’t a believer in Christ but a seer claimed he saw many things that would happen in the future, like the World War I and World War II and also the death of President Kennedy. There have been various conspiracy theories associated with several events that happened in the world, and this makes it difficult to tell what an eschatological fact truly is, because most assertions are subjective, especially since the ones who saw these visions didn’t expressly give an interpretation, for example, we have no lucid bible text that says 666 is a computer software or vaccine or a particular king. As such, most Bible scholars are left to come up with diverse interpretations which are scarcely ever stable. It is almost as though anytime a global crisis of some sort happens, scholars quickly dash to the bible to weave a new eschatological narrative that fits the situation, some of these interpretations are often esoteric, some even spooky while some are an honest desire to proffer true biblical answers to the present confusion.
A classic example of the complexity in visions is that of Peter in Acts 10:28.
Acts 10:28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
He saw a vision of unclean animals coming down from Heaven and he heard a voice – “kill and eat”. If we were oblivious of the scenes that followed after the vision, we could have interpreted his dream to mean there were various animals in Heaven or probably some unclean animals are being killed in heaven or maybe God is opening the church to a dimension of animals in His kingdom, but it turned out that the vision was about Peter preaching the gospel to the House of Cornelius. If only most eschatological visions had an aftermath of events recorded in the Bible like the Peter’s episode, maybe lesser arguments or misunderstandings of eschatology will ensue.
Another major difficulty in interpreting the book of Revelation is that there is no commentary by the seer in the visions or out of the visions. Even in the case of
Nebuchadnezzar, we discovered that Daniel always interpreted the dreams correctly. For example, Nebuchadnezzar once saw a vision (Daniel 2:32-42) where there was an image - its head was of fine gold, its breast and his arms of silver, its belly and thighs were of brass, its legs were of iron and its feet were part of iron and part of clay. Daniel was able to tell that it meant God has given the king Nebuchadnezzar kingdoms, power, strength and glory but the peculiarity about the book of Revelations is the absence of any such commentary.
Before I fully dive into the focus of this book which is ‘666’, one thing I will like you to note is that this subject is quite a scholastic work. I do teachings on subjects like this in our school of ministry (Refined Academy) for extended number of days. As such, it is almost impossible to do adequate justice to this subject in this short e-book. For the starters, we all know visions are not literal, they are figurative or symbolic spiritual expressions but when it concerns the book of Revelation, there is always a temptation to take it all literally. However, let me say a few things that are clear about 666 in the book of Revelation.
Revelation 13:11-12 – “11And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. 12And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.”
Most of the assertions around the personality of this beast are mostly fabrications. People have said the beast could have been the pope. Some time ago, they said it was Obama. All manner of stuff has been said, but the thing about conspiracy theories is they always seem to make sense, until they don’t make sense anymore. Apostle John doesn’t tell us who the other beast is or who the first beast is, he only tells us what he saw in a vision. Therefore, I am trying to let you know within the context of the visions where 666 were mentioned that a believer in Christ should not be afraid of the 666. I will simply employ the hermeneutic principle of explaining a bible text by the facts contained in same text even though in this case, we are dealing with visions. I will not attempt to give a face to 666 or the beast, I will only make sense of the bible texts just as clearly as the writer documented.
One major thing I believe I have communicated to you thus far is that visions are not literal but figurative. However, if I tell you just that and conclude that 666 is not literal, so we should just move on; it will appear as though I do not know what 666 is and I am
only trying to dodge the subject. Therefore within the vision that John saw let us see some sense.
Revelation 13:12-14 - “12And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, 14And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.”
Something about the book of Revelation is, it talks about the things that are and things to come. Most Bible scholars often like to discuss the first four chapters where Jesus wrote letters to the pastors of the churches in Pergamos, Smyrna, Philadelphia and others. It is quite instructive what Jesus says to them, however, from the point where you begin to read about scrolls and seals in chapter 6 and onwards it begins to get more mysterious.
Therefore, I totally believe that there are things to come (futuristic) that the book of Revelation is trying to let us know. However, we must be careful about making assumptions of things that are not plainly said. For instance, there is nothing in the Bible or the book of Revelation that says America is going to be a world power. In fact, America is not mentioned in the Bible at all. China is also not mentioned in the Bible, but the Bible undoubtedly makes mention of kingdoms like Medes and Persia, Greece, Rome, Libya, Egypt and many other kingdoms mentioned in Bible. However, there is no Nigeria nor America mentioned in the Bible. Some people may say it is because America and Nigeria were not in existence at that time. Well, it makes sense to say this, but the question then remains: why then do you drag anything that wasn’t mentioned into the book? I think it is just playing smart.
It is clear that something can be so literal in a dream or vision but mean something totally different in physical reality just as unclean animals in the vision of peter were not actually animals in reality. As such, nobody can emphatically say this is what 666 really means. Nobody can just conjure a theory of vaccines or computer algorithms etc because the Bible never explicitly tells us what 666 literally means. Instead, the vision says those who don’t have the mark cannot trade. Because of this, many people think it could be an economic mark or a technological mark, or something of that sort, but I am not about to say something that the Bible did not say.
Nobody should fabricate all those things and just say the 666 is going to be some artificial intelligence, No! You can only make sense of this vision within what was said.
Revelation 13:15– “And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.”
One very simple fact from the above text is that there was a beast. Now, let us assume that it is literal (though it is not literal because Revelation is not) and anybody who doesn’t worship the beast will be killed. Why is this so strange? There is nothing strange about this. Nebuchadnezzar did this. This is similar to what Nebuchadnezzar did in Babylon when he made an image and made a decree that everybody should worship it, and anyone who refuses should be thrown into a fiery furnace.
Also consider this very simple fact. Nobody can play dumb or say they received this mark unknowingly, like some people are projecting about the covid-19 vaccine being 666 and how it could be received unknowingly and would then take those who receive it to hell. I mean, people who say these things do not even understand the ABC of salvation. Salvation is all about faith and unbelief. The devil is a tempter; which means the devil will attempt to harden you against salvation in Christ, and it is only when you reject the gospel that you are in unbelief. Every man has the capacity to reject salvation in Christ or accept it, there is no unconscious unbelief or unknowing salvation. As such, there is no automatic unbeliever. There is nothing like somebody becoming an unbeliever just because he took a code. That doesn’t make any spiritual or biblical sense.
Now, the vision says that there are those who will not receive the mark and they will be killed, this simply means there will be a persecution, something the devil is bringing (do not forget that I am assuming we take this vision literally), everybody will know that the mark is of the devil and there will be no hiding about it. For example, in Babylon, everybody knew Nebuchadnezzar demanded they bow to an idol; so much so that when God delivered the three Hebrew children, Nebuchadnezzar boldly affirmed that the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is the God of Heaven and earth and everybody should worship Him. There was nothing like worshipping a god unknowingly or receiving a mark that takes us to hell unknowingly.
Also, when there was a decree against worshipping God, Daniel opened the roof of his house and all the doors and began to worship. Do you think that Daniel didn’t know who he was worshipping? Or the exact result of his action? He obviously knew he was worshipping God and that he could be killed for it. Therefore, there is nothing Biblically true about receiving a vaccine unknowingly that becomes 666 and then takes anyone to hell (even if you take the vision as literal). Persecution cannot happen unknowingly. People even bring up theories that if your phone number has 666 then you might have received the 666 unknowingly, or if your account number has that number, you are somehow in a covenant with Satan. These are all fallacies and totally unbiblical. The subject of faith has to do with believing, and believing has to do with receiving the gospel, only the rejection of the gospel makes a man perish eternally. The Bible is abundantly clear about this.
Revelation 13:16-18 – “16And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: 17And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” The text above says that this beast is going to persecute people and whosoever does not receive the mark is going to die. As such, if the government says “whoever does not worship anything that is demonic is going to be killed,” then we know that is persecution.
For example, in many countries like South Korea, North Korea, China and Russia, Saints are being persecuted and killed because they are believers in Christ. This is not new and there is no big deal about this. Therefore, will believers be persecuted? Yes! We already know that we will be persecuted for the Gospel sake (Matthew 24:9). Jesus told us that already. What I am therefore communicating to you is that the idea of receiving the 666 unknowingly does not exist in the Bible. It is just like saying the idea of bowing down to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol was unknowingly and there is nothing like that. If this is going to be the work of the devil on earth, it is going to be clear that if you do its bidding, you are for the devil. It would be obvious that it wasn’t done unknowingly.