What does Revelation 11:1-6 mean to us now?

 

The “two witnessesare somewhat of a mystery. There are many theories, but the point that is often missed by the speculators is the call and example to be faithful in dire times. Some commentators say that a literal, new Moses and Elijah will come, but the word meanings and context clearly point to the Church. Again, this misses the greater point of faithfulness (Rev. 1:6; 5:10). 

The controversies that arise in Revelation are exemplified in this text. As many commentators and speculators focus on who these two witnesses can be, the conjectures abound. The good, prevailing theories are that these are two humans who are faithful and God empowers them as courageous examples to the Church. They can be ordinary Christians, perhaps prophets in the Old Testament sense. The next controversy is about when they do appear; will it have been had been at the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. or will it be just before Jesus comes back. It is more probable, because of the Lamp stands, that they  are symbolic representatives of the two good, faithful churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia seen or given as a model for us to follow and not necessarily literal. But the defining is not as important as the actuality of their mission, which is faithfulness, and which means more and applies further and deeper than any theories that could all possibly be wrong (Deut. 17:6; 19:15).  

Questions to Ponder: 

  1. What does it mean to you to be a witness? What needs to happen for you and people in your church to be better witnesses?
  1. God is omniscient, which means He is all knowing; this also refers to His power and ability, in which all things are under His control and plan. In addition, He cares for and is active and involved in our lives personally and collectively as a Church. So, how does this fact affect your faith and plans in your life and church? (Because God is omniscient, I will….)
  1. The goal of pagans and people who hate God is to get rid of anything that convicts them and points to truth. How do you feel about this? How does knowing this give you confidence in faith?
  1. Have you ever considered your actions as ripples in a pond caused by throwing in a small stone? How so?
  1. What can you do to be sure you have no reason or need to fear our Lord for the future? How can this help your reverence and trust in His protection and provision?
  1. What does greatness in faith mean to you and your church? What would happen if your church took more seriously its call to model “greatness” or become people who exemplify true stature and character? In so doing, what would your church look like? How would it be impacting to its members and neighborhood?
  1. If God showed you two great witnesses of faith, perseverance, and courage, what would they look like? What could you do to be like them?

© 2006 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org

 

The Four Main Views of Revelation 11:1-6

 

The Preterist view: They see this passage as a reference to Ezekiel. To measure is seen from Ezekiel, chaps 40-47, to divide from what is holy from what is profane and corrupt as what defines a true Temple of God; the results from the examination mean judgment and destruction. The call to remain pure and reform was rejected by the Jews and thus the Temple was destroyed (Is. 1:12; Jer. 10:16; 51:19; Ezek. 22:26; 40-43; Zech. 2:1-5; Dan. 7:25; Luke 21:24; Rev. 21:15-16). (Forty-two) 42 months is seen as the length of Nero’s war with the Christians and/or the siege of Jerusalem. The two witnesses seem to have baffled many in this camp, as it seems to point to a hole in their theory. (All these views have holes because our reasoning is limited and we tend to look to our own education and agendas, not at the big picture, and do not do all of the inductive research to see what the text is really saying.) Many see them as symbolic of a testimony to corrupt Judaism, as two literal people or prophets who are lost to history, as the “lamp stands” and “olive trees” from Zechariah 4:11-14, or as representative of the witnesses of Christ. Some have said they were Peter and James. 

The Futurist view: They see to “measure” as representing God’s ownership of his faithful during the tribulation and/or His preservation and protection of them. The “Temple of God” is seen as a new one, yet to be rebuilt, which, citing examples from Ezekiel, people in this camp see as an even essential prior to Christ’s return. However, a major exegetical, textual problem occurs with this view as the Temple had already been destroyed, then rebut twice, once right after Ezekiel’s prophecy and again under Herod. It was destroyed in 70 AD. The Temple represents faithfulness and/or the Church: the people of God and the “outer court” are seen as representing apostasy and/or the distinction of people remaining faithful or not during the tribulation. The “two witnesses” are viewed as literal forerunners to Christ’s return, those faithful ones who preach and prophecy during the tribulation, or that Moses or Enoch and Elijah actually come back to do that. The “42 months” and “1260” days are seen as the first half of the great Tribulation, the last half, or a time after the tribulation. 

The Idealist view: They see to “measure” as God’s awareness of His worshipers—those who are true and those who are not as referenced by the “outer court.” Also, this refers to apostasy invading the Church such as liberality and worldliness. (It is ironic that most who hold this view are mainline liberals.) The “Temple of God” is seen as the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies where the high priest entered once a year to dust, which to this view refers to those who are true worshipers of God (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:6; 1 Pet. 2:5). (Forty-two) “42 months” is seen as grace, limiting the time of persecution (Dan. 7:25). The “two witnesses” refer to the church as a witness to the world from mission movements. “Sackcloth” refers to bringing the message of repentance. The “olive trees” refer to Zerubbabel and Joshua who were agents of restoration. “Fire from mouths” means those who bring harm to the Church will be judged. 

The Historicist view: They see to “measure” as to look over and examine the church and see what is real, true, and devout, and what is distorted from God’s call and God’s authority given to those who are to reform the Church. The “Temple of God” is seen as the church of true, devout believers drawing from other N.T. passages (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Thess. 2:4). The “outer court” or Court of the Gentiles is seen as the visible Church that becomes a corrupt institution, devoid of real, heartfelt worshipers, such as the Roman Catholic Church or liberalism. These were the indicators that gave the Reformers the vision and reassessment to reform the Church back to God and away from corruption which led to the Reformation. (Forty-two) “42 months” is seen as 1260 years, the duration of the Catholic Church and its persecution of true believers up to the Reformation. The “two witnesses” are representative of the faithful Christians who tried to reform and stand against the Catholic Church such as Huss and Wycliffe. The miraculous power given is seen as an instrument and reason for God’s judgments and/or clothed in God’s power (Deut. 32:2; Is. 55:10). “Fire from mouths” means the power of preaching and the power of the Spirit and/or from Jeremiah 5:14. The plagues are seen as the evils resulting from the corruption of the Church, such as wars and the inquisitions. 

 

Exegetical look into Revelation 11:1-6

 

  • Measuring rod/Reed was a surveyors tool, made from cane plant, a type of bamboo that grew beside the Jordan river, and grew to a consistent 20 feet (Ezek. 40:3; Zech. 2:1-2).
  • Measure. The Jewish mindset then believed that saying how vast and magnificent was the Temple was a way of praising God (Psalm 48:12-13; Ezek. 40:3-42:20; Zech 2:1-5). This term also refers to God’s omniscience, (that He is all knowing) that He cares and is active and involved in our lives personally and collectively as a Church. This also refers to God’s power and ability, and that all things are under His control and plan (Ezek. 40:1-43:17; Rev. 21:15).
  • Go and measure. In ancient times to measure something meant you owned it or were claiming ownership of the item being measured, usually property. This meant that what was measured was claimed; it is mine and I have responsibility and direction over it. Here, it appears that John is claiming the Temple in the Lord’s Name, measuring and pointing to the rights to it for the Lord. 
  • Temple of God. This represents God’s presence on Earth. This is not where He lives, as He is omnipresent and thus cannot be confined; rather, it is His representative and a place where people can worship Him. For those who feel Revelation was written after the Temple’s destruction around 90 A.D., this may refer to those who are left, His “remnant,” God’s chosen people. (Rev. 4:1-5:14). 
  • Altar. The context is worship; this may imply that this is the “great altar.”
  • Count the worshipers indicates those who are faithful and who have not bowed to idolatry, committed adultery with God, or given up their faith in tough times, but who have persevered. These are the people He seals and protects (Rev. 7:1-17). 
  • Exclude. God is not the One who excludes; it is we who reject and fight against Him (Is. 56:3-7; 66:5).
  • Outer court refers to The Court of the Gentiles which is the large outer section of the Temple (26 acres in Jesus’ Time) where the Gentiles were allowed to gather, this also denotes a form of evangelism (Gen. 12).
  • Given to the Gentiles refers to the attacks on God’s people by those who hate God, who are “outsiders” who refuse His grace and call. God freely gives to the Temple’s oppressors what is theirs—the courtyard, the gathering point for those who are not His Chosen People. But they, the Romans, take it all and destroy it in 70 A.D.
  • Trample. The goal of pagans was to get rid of anything that convicted them or pointed to truth; the Temple represented both. Thus, it was an object of wrath and a prime objective of destruction to many. The Temple has been vandalized, broken down many times, and destroyed completely at least three times by its enemies (Psalm 79:1; Is. 63:1-18; 1 Macc. 3:45; 6:40; Luke 21:24).
  • Holy city. Most likely it is Jerusalem that is in view. Some say it is Rome, but that would be like telling people who live in New York, NY that Los Angeles or Paris was the great holy city, and that would be absurd. Nothing of Rome was considered great or holy to a first century Jew.
  • (Forty-two) 42 months was a metaphor for a limited time of unrestrained impiety, evil, and/or oppressions, possibly meaning the symbolic timeframe of the Temples destruction or the Syrian dictator, Antiochus Epiphanes (168-165 B.C.) who instigated great suffering to the Jews and defiled the Temple and shut it down for over three years. Not necessarily a literal number, “42 months” is symbolic, referring to grace, “a time, times and a half time” or 3 ½ years, which means half of seven years. This is pointing to grace as God cuts the suffering in half. The context denotes an intense time of conflict and stress as evil people fight against God’s people; yet, He is still there and sets His limits of what persecution will take place by His grace (Dan. 7:25; 9:27; 12:7-12; Rev. 11-13).
  • Give power refers to God’s control as He uses His servants as His instruments; their impact is like a ripple in a pond caused by throwing in a small stone. In addition, we have no reason or need to fear our Lord for the future; rather, we can reverence and trust in His protection and provision.
  • Two witnesses are two people (either angelic or human) who are God’s representatives. They possibly represent some sort of Moses and Elijah. Their call is to stand against the beast and testify to the believers to stand for the faith, possibly in the final days before Christ returns. 
  • Prophesy for 1,260 days. Not necessary literal, some view this as denoting the Great Tribulation (from Daniel,) which really means enduring great troubles. Three and a half years is the same meaning as 42 months—42 months of 30 days each x 30 days = 1,260 days. (Dan. 9:2-24; Rev. 12:6). 
  • Clothed in sackcloth meant being remorseful and repentant. It referred to a coarse burlap type of material woven from goat hair to signify one’s mourning or repentance. This also denotes, as Zechariah states, a promise for a full restoration and blessing for God’s people (Joel 1:13; Jonah 3:5-6; Matt. 11:21).
  • Two olive trees. Olive Trees in combination with Lamp stands usually refers to the two anointed ones, such as Moses and Elijah, or the ruling class of priests and kings. In Zechariah, this meant presenting two ruling houses—“the king” and “the priest,” possibly referring to Zerubbabel and Joshua (Zech. 4:2-14). Many Jewish thinkers see this as futuristic, pointing to a messianic figure, either a priest or a king. Both were fulfilled in Christ.
  • Two lampstands refers to reverence to God. Also, in Revelation, it refers to the Church as the body of believers whose duty it was to be a light as a witness for Christ. The objects possibly point to the two good of the seven churches. The description in this passage calls attention to the scope and power that God gives for us to remain faithful and give an effectual testimony (Rev. 1:12-20).
  • Stand before the Lord refers to those who are His representatives and/or His Church (Matt. 18:10; Rev. 4:4). It could also have referred to O.T figures that did not die, such as Enoch and Elijah, the power and impact of Moses, or to the Zechariah passage. Most probably, it was all of the above.
  • Fire comes from their mouths possibly refers to some supernatural spiritual gifting that God gives these beings (Lev. 9:24-10:02; 1 Kings 17:1; 18:41). In the Jewish culture then, it meant to stare back at someone spitefully who was being disrespectful. But, because of the mouth usage, this is also a metaphor for prophesying Judgments; these events could happen literally, be metaphorical, or both (1 Kings 1:10-12; Jer. 5:10-14).
  • Power to shut up the sky refers to drought that was used as punishment for disobedience (1 Kings 17:1; 18; Luke 4:25; James 5:17). Elijah was a miracle worker. He is not an esoteric figure but an inspiration and incentive for the power and prominence we have available to us. Elijah also represents the “everyman,” who, by his prayer life, was powerfully used by God (1 Kings 17:1; 18: 1, 41-46; 1 Sam. 12:17-18)! 
  • Turn the waters into blood. This is reminiscent of Moses and the miracles God used through him to convince Pharaoh and the Israelites of God’s purpose and power (Ex. 7:14-25). John may be using this part of the passage also as a slap in the face to the arrogant Jew who refused to see Christ—who still wanted for a messiah when one had already come (Deut. 18:15-18; Mal 4:5).

 

Revelation 11:1-6

Introduction 

The Two Witnesses 

This passage is our introduction of the two witnesses and another interlude to show us in greater detail what God is doing and how it applies to us. John is given the task of measuring the Temple to see its dimensions as well as to see who is really worshiping God and who is not—those who are His in word and deed versus those who are the pretenders and manipulators. He is given parameters of what to measure and what not to count. And then, John is given the reason; this great Temple would be trampled upon, defiled, and destroyed. God’s great Temple, His witness to the earth, a place of worship, and the cultural identity to His people will be gone, wiped away, leaving the Jews without their sacred rituals or their cultural identity, except the most important identity—the one that is in Him, the one we typically ignore. John is even given some specifics on time and place; this will be no surprise; the warning is given and the judgment looms. 

This passage is also a description of faithfulness shown by the two great witnesses of faith, of great perseverance and courage, who have amazing powers, and who walk like Moses and Elijah. We are not told specifics of who they are, but they are models of greatness who exemplify, in stature and character, whom we should seek to be like. That ought is faithfulness of faith and character so we can stand in Christ with an authentic consistent testimony from our relationship with Him that is reflected in our behaviors and words (2 Kings 2:1-12; Ezek. 37; Zachariah 4:1-14; Daniel 8; Matt. 17:3-4; Luke 10:1). 

When something is measured, it is usually by the owner, meaning there is an aspect of responsibility and direction over it. So, what is your responsibility and direction over your spiritual growth or your church? 

What can you and your church do to be great? What is the plan? When will you do it?

 

Amillennialists View of the Millennium

Second is the Amillennialists view, and believes that Jesus is reigning now since His resurrection, that there is no literal thousand-year millennium before or after Christ returns to earth (Rev. 20:1-6).

People with this view usually subscribe to the Historicist view. They see an allegorical or symbolic approach to prophecy. The major proponents are Covenant and Reformed theologians, and most mainline denominations. Since there is no literal thousand-year reign, Millennium refers to the preeminent reign of Christ in this age, covenant, or dispensation (Rev. 6:9-10; 20:5).

The resurrection of the Christians refers to the new life in Christ and/or their life in eternity of Heaven (Rom. 6:8-11; Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1-4). They believe that Satan is bound already and is limited in his activities here on earth (John 12:31; Col. 2:15). They believe that the rapture and the Second Coming are simultaneous events and realities to come as Christ returns to earth before the millennium.

There is a splinter group, Dispensational Premillennialism, which believes that the Second Coming occurs in two stages; the first is the rapture of the church, then after seven years, Christ returns with his church to rule on earth. This view has a literal interpretation of prophecy.

Apocalyptic Literature is Not a Secret Code?

Remember, the Apostles and most of the early Christians were fluent in Greek as well as Aramaic and some Hebrew; they fully knew the Old Testament and were immersed in that culture. Paul, John, and others used a good amount of borrowed material for illustration sake, which they knew but that we may not know so well.

Consequently, the inscription key is the understanding of the Old Testament and Jewish customs and thought, not today’s newspaper headlines! So, you use a concordance and look up that word, such as lampstand, and see what it meant in Exodus and then in Zechariah, and you have your key to unlock the “code” of the word.

Remember, the Bible interprets itself, too. For more in-depth research, you can do what we do at Into Thy Word; we use the Old Testament first and foremost and then look in the other first century literature that John and his reader would be very aware of and have borrowed from, such as the other apocryphal Jewish Books. But, keep in mind that these are hints and helps that give us insights to this type of genre and metaphors and their usage to a first-century Jewish understanding, but are not recognized or inspired as Scripture! These works include the apocalyptic books, 4 Ezra, 1 Enoch, 2 Esdras, Profetes, Sibylline Oracles, Petronius, 4 Maccabees, Joseph and Asenath, Jubilees, Simititudes of Enoch, and the Qumran Texts, to name the main ones (there are many more). They are available on CD and online that makes searching them easy (www.ccel.org).

We also need to keep in mind that many of these images are metaphors with meanings that a first century Jew or Greek would clearly have known and understood; we today, two thousand years hence, may not. In conjunction we need to seek the context and word meanings of the passage and image in question, and seek what they meant to the people at the time as well as comparing it to other passages. Thus, we look to the underlying meanings in the Greek, and study Jewish apocalyptic literature and the Old Testament. Our big clue is the Old Testament where most of it resides, but not just in Daniel.

What we do not do is seek what they mean two thousand years later in someone’s fantasy or speculations. For example, in Revelation chapter seven, the 144,000, the context and word meanings tell us that there is no ethnicity, as all in Him are His, and the numbers are beyond measure. The O.T is our code breaker and will help us unveil the clues. God’s Word clearly tells us what the meanings are. It is not today’s newspapers and popular trends that give us the meanings; it is the understanding of God’s Word and the context that does.

Images such as the beast, the mark, or 666 are not to be taken literally; rather, they are symbolic depictions of dire warnings meant to strike terror. These were most terrifying images to an ancient person. They are meant to be a wake-up call to heed the Lord, Sovereign of the universe, and get our lives lined up to His, or else. And, the or else is that you will be judged, not just in eternity, but in this life, too. What does it take to get you lined up to His precepts and yielded to His Lordship? God wants us to make a real, passionate effort to repent, get right with Him, and not lead misguided and harmful lives by trying to serve other things, idols, desires, or trying to choose between two contradictory paths in life (Prov. 24:3-4; Is. 45:7; Jer. 29:11-14; Phil. 2:3-4; James 1:6-8; 4:7-10). God is far more concerned about how we lead our Christian lives, knowing Him, and making Him known than replacing or covering our speculations over our faith.

Let us not get caught up and stuck in meaningless speculations; rather, do as the passages tell us. Be caught up in Christ by your faith. Good exegesis means God has control of what He says; we do not. We are to dig out His precepts, not interject ours. We are to accept what it actually means for us, not what we want it to mean.

More In-depth Information

When we come to an apocalyptic word or book, we need to realize it is not esoteric (meaningless or obscure or too deep and hidden); it also has a meaning for us today, as it contains past, present, and future events. Examples include the many prophecies concerning Jesus in Matthew 24 most likely already have been fulfilled, and there are parts of Daniel and Revelation that will yet come to pass. Prophecy does not always follow a clear, logical, systematic pattern; rather, it often jumps from thought to idea to another point and so forth. It also may jump over large periods of time. Thus, in prophecy, we need to be aware of two essential forms of language.

First there is the Literal (Didactic). This is the simple and direct meaning, or in other words, what it says is what it means. It has a plain meaning. Zechariah, chapter seven is a good example, as are much of Isaiah and Jeremiah. The imagery had a clear meaning to the people to whom it was first presented, so don’t jump to conclusions or read in what is not there. If you get frustrated with it, put it aside. Most Bible scholars debate the meaning, so it is improbable that you will have a clear insight. Some people are not ready or able to comprehend this part of the Bible; if so, that is OK! Focus on the parts of Revelation that are crystal clear.

The second form of language is the Figurative (Predictive). This is the category into which most of prophecy and thus, Revelation falls. We are to always view prophesy with the attitude that it has a plain meaning until we have clear and compelling reasons to place it in the figurative category. Our task is to determine the points and ideas that apply today and point to tomorrow. The bottom line is that it will happen at some point in history, and come to pass in a literal and plain way. We may not understand it until it is right on top of us. Daniel 7-12; Joel 2; Isaiah 11; and Zech. 4 are clear examples of figurative language.

Furthermore, some of the language in Revelation is “word pictures” where John is trying to describe in their language and culture as well as technology, such as Daniel, chapter seven, and many parts of Revelation. For example, if he was describing events we might see in our lifetime, how would he describe a helicopter if he had never heard of or seen one? For most parts of Revelation, John was using imagery from Ezekiel, Daniel, and other Jewish literature that they would have known. Unfortunately, there are few of some so called Bible scholars who write the popular books of today who are even aware that there is an Old Testament, let alone how to inductively read it. The key to the understanding of Revelation is in the Old Testament!

The Popular Apocalyptic Images

The Beast!

The first thing that comes to mind that people love to speculate about is the beast, which was a maxim, meaning a persecuting power and/or a people who are demonic and evil. The beast in the original Greek refers to a “bestial” man, one who is brutal, savage, and ferocious. In context, this infers that the sea is a dwelling place for monsters, suggesting terrifying, repulsive, and evil things that seek to lead the world and the Church astray. This passage also gives comfort and hope because it depicts how God is still in control—even over the beast, and even in times of insurmountable chaos and suffering (Job 7:12; 41:1; Psalm 74:13; 89:9-10; Is. 27:1).

Whenever the “beast” makes his “appearance,” it may not be the same person all of the time such as the antichrist; rather, it is a metaphor or a theme of intent rather than a specific personality. At this place in Revelation, the beast denotes someone of power and influence who is doing the persecuting (Psalm 87:4; 89:10; Is. 51:9; Dan. 7:3-8, 16-25). Thus, any dictator, or gossiper for that matter (Rom. 1), can be a beast. Some say this indicates that the antichrist will take over the Temple and John is seeking to prevent or at least slow it down; however, this is not shown in the text or context (2 Thess. 2:3-4).

This term, the beast, from a literary, historical, or theological perspective does not denote a singular person being an antichrist, although the theme as John uses in First John does apply as opposing Christ. These two metaphors, beast and sea put together in Revelation 13 in this literature type, refers to the tenacity, fierceness, and repulsiveness of this beast, which is evil and has evil motives. In John’s time, this also represented the Romans or any secular, pagan authority because Rome was birthed near the sea in its Mediterranean location as compared to the inland Asia Minor churches. This term was also a symbol for Rome that had an eagle with 12 wings and three heads coming out of the sea on its banners (Dan. 7:3; Rev. 11:7; 13; apocryphal book 4 Ezra 11).

The Antichrist!

Thus the term beast has more to do with who are the beasts in your life? Once in a sermon, Augustine asked his people if any of them were antichrist, as in opposing Christ in character or unfaithfulness. The First John definition of antichrist, the only place in Scripture this term appears, simply means anyone who opposes Christ. It isn’t about an ominous, opposing personality rising up and tricking us; rather, it is about our willingness to be tricked. God gives us a mind and the incredible resources of His Spirit and Word; we have no excuse to be disloyal to our Lord.

The call here is to heed the warning, not engage in vain speculation; rather, we are to make sure we are lined up to Him, loyal to our LORD! This means that as we lead our lives and run our churches, we have to seek Him and ask, are we being disloyal to our Lord? If so, guess what? The antichrist is not a political figure; it is us…you! We are the ones who are opposing Christ! This aspect is far more important that the speculations, because it all comes down to one thing, loyalty. Are you devoted to Christ or a slave to your will and to the manipulations of others?

666!

Another popular image is six hundred and sixty-six (666). This was a symbol typical of first-century Jewish apocalyptic riddles usually known to the audience for which it was written; John’s readers knew who he was talking about. It perhaps referred to Nero, and thus was a warning about making loyalty-oaths to Caesar. It was not a secret code to the hearers, only to those outside of the Church such as Roman officials. This was also a common way to express or warn about godlessness or those opposing Christ (could be attributed to a specific person such as Nero, or to any person in opposition to right and God) while avoiding unnecessary reprisals. Some commentators have said this is “the trinity of evil”, referring to the number of the antichrist who seeks to combat God and His people.

This is called, in the Greek, a “triangular number;” it is used as a parody or a word play in the first century, referring to someone or something else. It was also a cryptic code word that referred to Nero, using the Hebrew translation of the Greek numerical values. This type of code is called “gamatria” where each of the letters in the Greek or Hebrew has an equivalent numerical value, such as alpha, which stands for one. This was not secret but common Jewish thinking; Jesus, in the Greek (IhsouV), has a numerical correspondent to 888. Some early Christian thinkers, such as Irenaeus, have attributed this to Euanthas or Lateinos or Teitan; Martin Luther thought it might refer to a Pope Benedict, and/or to other various evil Popes. In addition, 666, as a number, is diametrically opposed to the perfection of the number seven which means fullness and completeness.

Thus, the theory of the numerical value is that a future antichrist may have a name equal in numerical value to 666 when it is written in Greek. “Nero Caesar” is 666 in the Greek when transliterated from the Hebrew (Matt. 24:15, 36-51). There is no reason or call to seek to decode this; it is not about the world’s population hitting 6,666,666,666 that may have happened in Nov 2006, or some mathematicians’ theory or whatever the theory of the day is. Thus, this term 666 could be attributed to a specific person such as Nero, or to any person who is in opposition to righteous and God. In this way a first century Christian can avoid unnecessary reprisals.

The various theories of 666 do not always take into account what it meant then, which is crucial for our understanding and application of His Word. For example, the numerical value as that of a future antichrist may not be accurate, because it is also the name for “Nero Caesar” when it is written in Greek, transliterated from the Hebrew (Matt. 24:15, 36-51). Sometimes the plain meaning is far more important to us than what speculators have come up with. We are to be watchful to those who oppose Christ and make sure we are not opposing Christ in thought, word, or deed, taking oaths, or making promises that counter Christ’s principals!

The Mark!

Another popular apocalyptic symbol is the mark. Mark basically means ownership and control; in its context, it also refers to a forgery of the seal and love of God given to Christians (Ezek. 9:4-6; Rev. 7:2-8; 14:1; Rev. 13-14). This “mark of the beast” is about who controls us—Satan or God. This beast forces people to bear the mark as a way to control and also as a counterfeit to the Holy Spirit that “marks” a true believer. In addition, this is also a pattern of the stranglehold that has been repeated throughout human history, such as the trade guilds that controlled who could buy or sell in the midst of the church at Thyatira (found in Revelation 2:18-29.)

Also, it is the corruption as exhibited in John’s time by both Jewish and pagan priests, and especially the emperor cults. Additionally, it is also represented in countries that are run with totalitarian tactics by corrupt officials and/or dictators. There are countless speculations on this, but it really denotes, from the word meaning and the context, that it is a metaphor for ownership and control, but the means by which this will occur is unknown. All we can do is see how this has played out before and be ready for the future. Fear mongering over technologies and personalities are beside the point; neither Satan nor God need technology to make this happen, because it has happened before in grand scale without it. However, since we do have it… (Eph.1:13; Rev. 14:9-11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20 and 20:4).

The Dragon!

And of course, there is the dragon or Red dragon…. The term “dragon” literally means “serpent” or “sea monster” such as the leviathan, and for the Jews, it symbolized monstrous evil (common in Canaanite and Mesopotamian myths), and Heracles and his battle with the hydra. A dragon is also a description of Satan who is the enemy of God, who is a terrifying and destructive beast, and who seeks the total devastation of God’s people. This image is not meant to terrify us, but to show us how he and evil work together so we can beware and defend. This was also a metaphor for Babylon and the enemies of Israel and God. It is very unwise to read in meanings that are not there to this and other metaphors (apocryphal book, “Bell and the Dragon;” Gen. 3:1-15; Psalm 74:13-15; 89:9-10; Is. 27:1; 30:7; 51:9; Ezek. 29:3; Luke 10:18; 11:14-23; John 12:31; Col. 2:15; Rev. 12:7-9; 13:2; 20:2).

Many times, the metaphors are directly from the Old Testament, as Scripture interprets Scripture. For example, the Sea turned into blood. This term is indicative to the first plague in Egypt (Ex. 7:20-21). It means the ultimate destiny of mankind as being judged and the preparation for the Second Coming and/or the Last Judgment. This is also called “eschatological;” it is from God and His judgment, not the pollution from man’s industrial machine. Volcanic upheavals can also produce this effect from God’s direction—see Revelation, chapter six notes (Is. 15:9; 2 Pet. 3:10-12; Rev. 6:13; 9:1). If there is a metaphor you do not get, just place it in our search engine on our website with the word Revelation and we probably have covered it, or use our online Bible Study Aides channel.

Apocalyptic writing can also be cryptic as representing something else and symbolic such as “IXIOUS,” the “fish” which was a secret greeting in the early Church, which was under persecution from Jewish leadership, Rome, family clans, and peer pressure. Thus, this was a greeting (not in Scripture) to see if another person was a Christian, too. IXIOUS was an acronym and is not directly in Scripture in this form, but the meaning and the words spelling the acronym are. In the early church Christians evading persecution would write out the Greek word for fish, “IXIOUS”, or the symbol <>< which stood for Jesus, Christ, God, Son, and Savior. This acronym stood for who Jesus was—the Savior; not a man or a half-god/man hybrid like Hercules, but the Mighty One of the Universe, humanity’s God and Savior (just as the name Jesus meant).