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Introduction by Jerry A. Stevens
Seventh-day Adventists have long understood the leopard Beast of Revelation 13 to be the religio-political power succeeding the pagan Roman Empire. In this they have hardly been alone. A long and impressive train of Protestant expositors has taken the same Biblical stance, including the likes of Reformers such as the redoubtable Martin Luther.

We say this frankly at the outset so that anyone who chances to pick up this publication, whether Adventist or not, will be able to follow with the drift of our thinking. More than this—indeed, much more than this—is that the careful reader should be able to make the same connection that links the papacy to the apocalyptic leopard Beast.

The Beast of Revelation 13:1 arises out of the “sea.” That the sea prophetically represents multitudes of peoples becomes clearer a few chapters afterward, where the great harlot (also descriptive of the adulterous nature of the papacy) is seen to be sitting upon “many waters,” which includes her apostate paramours, “the kings of the earth” (Revelation 17:1, 2).

And John the Revelator was by no means the first Bible author to record a vision of prophetic beasts arising from the sea. His Old Testament twin, Daniel, described a vision in which he saw the four winds of strife struggling mightily upon the “sea,” out of which emerged not one but four diverse beasts (Daniel 7:1, 2). Thus, both Daniel and John provided students of Scripture with not merely colorful depictions of apocalyptic events, but also furnished clear evidence that these events were of epic, even global, proportions.

Understanding such prophetic symbols aright thus enables the serious Bible student to see many vital links in the great chain of truth. Many people, whether religiously inclined or not, sense that something stupendous is about to usher in the end of life as we know it on planet Earth. Those only who take the trouble to investigate Biblical truth will be prepared for “the end,” which is actually the beginning of life everlasting upon Christ’s return.

Observe that the Beast of Revelation 13:1–10 is the beast of verses 17 and 18. The symbol represents an earthly power, as do the beasts of Daniel and other chapters of the Book of Revelation. This Beast has an Image, a mark, and a number (Revelation 15:2). It receives the dragon’s capital city (Revelation 13:2), a reference to its inheriting the pagan Roman Empire’s seat of government. Students of Bible prophecy identify the following additional characteristics of this Beast power:
  1. It wields religious supremacy (speaking blasphemies, vv. 5 and 6).
  2. It possesses unquestioned global authority (v. 7; cf. v. 3b).
  3. It ultimately receives virtually universal worship (vv. 4, 8).
  4. It rules for 3½ prophetic “years” or 42 prophetic “months” or 1,260 prophetic “days”—all of which signify 1,260 literal years (namely, A.D. 538–1798: Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5).
  5. It is highly persecutory (v. 7).
  6. It bears the number 666 (v. 18).

Now that we have reviewed one key element connecting the leopard Beast with the papacy, it remains for us to determine whether this Beast is the very one of whom Revelation 13:18 assigns the number 666 as its peculiar mark of identification. Moreover, the number of the Beast must itself satisfy two specific criteria: (a) It must be the number of a man, and (b) its numeric equivalent must equal exactly six hundred sixty-six.

The papacy, long deeming itself Christ’s vicar, notoriously fulfills the first specification; Adventists are in a vast company who see this point. The second criterion has proven to be more problematical. Careful attention to the original χξϚ in Greek (chi xi stigma, or six hundred sixty-six) of the same text, however, does away with the basis of the problem. By stark contrast, one faulty interpretation has the text merely concatenating, or stringing together, three sequential numeral sixes (i.e., a six followed by a second six and then by a third six, in Greek rendered as stigma stigma stigma*). This is tantamount to inferring that all three sixes have equal numerical value and serve as mere mathematical placeholders, instead of bearing their respective, distinctive, and true values of a six hundred, a sixty, and a six!

Wresting the Scriptures, moreover, always does violence to their natural meaning, not to say the proper calculation of the beastly number that the text specifically invites. It is not hard to see that such an inferior understanding not only takes undue liberties with the Revelator’s Greek but also imposes an unwarranted mask on the blasphemous perpetrator so clearly identified in the first several verses of the thirteenth chapter. The end result obviously carries the seeds of the direst spiritual consequences.

As the thoughtful reader thus brings to a study of the closing verses of the chapter a clear and consistent prophetic interpretation of the true text, he is well prepared to discern the connecting links that tie the infamous number unmistakably to the execrable religio-political power masquerading as Christ’s very substitute on Earth. The entire preceding discussion naturally provides the raison d’être for the present study.

* This obsolete nonalphabetic letter stigma (sometimes called sigma-tau or digamma), which must not be confused with sigma, was retained as a numeral and not as a letter, and as such uniformly carried a value of 6. See, for example, the explanation for Strong’s number 5516 (chi xi stigma) in James Strong, The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990). Careful scholar Kenneth Jørgensen explains the problem somewhat differently: “Contrary to some proponents of the so-called symbolic view, the number of the beast is not six six six (hex hex hex), but rather  ‘six hundred and sixty six’ (hexakosioi hexēkonta hex) This can hardly be overemphasized in light of the predominant contradictory understanding among recent revisionist historicists and semi-historicists. The whole number (666) must be seen as a unit, as divinely given in Scripture, and not illegitimately split into three equal sixes. If the One who inspired the book of Revelation intended the reader to understand the number(s) as 6, 6, 6, He would have communicated it that way. Evidently, He did not for good reasons: He wanted the reader to understand the number the way it is stated.”—Kenneth Jørgensen, “An Investigation of 666 & ‘Vicarius Filii Dei,’ ” in Ron du Preez, ed., Prophetic Principles: Crucial Exegetical, Theological, Historical & Practical Insights. Scripture Symposium Number I (Lansing: Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2007), 308. Note that this author transliterates the Greek gematric character-numerals used by Strong into equivalent spelled-out words, which explains the apparent difference in their respective approaches.

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