Throughout the history of Christendom, every generation has fancied itself to be the last one, every generation has had its end-times prognosticators, every generation has tried to identify the beast whose appearance ushers in the final events leading up to The End.
And every single one of them has failed.
From this we learn, but they don’t, that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. (And, I might add, those who expect history to repeat itself are disappointed.)
Both Hebrew and Greek used ordinary letters as numerals, so any word or name can be interpreted as a number. By translating names into Hebrew or Greek, you can discover that practically anyone is the beast in Revelation. During the Reformation, Lutherans used this scheme to identify the pope as the beast, while Catholics used the same method to identify Martin Luther as the beast! Just about every historical figure is the beast using this method. Since we know that God is not the author of confusion, these results cannot come from God. I submit that the problem is not in the calculation, but in the calculating.
For scripture does not say:
This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the numbers of men, for that way you can identify the beast. Whichever man has 666 as his number is the beast.
—Revelation 13:18, Reversed Fractured Version
Nor does it say:
No one knows about that day or hour, but whoever figures it out first wins a special door prize.
—Matthew 24:36, Reversed Fractured Version
Nor did Jesus ever say:
Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For when I was coming, you figured out the time; when I was fighting, you identified my enemy; when I was physically absent, you solved all the mysteries of the Bible.
—Matthew 25:24a-36, Reversed Fractured Version
In truth, Jesus said:
Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
—Matthew 25:34a-36, NIV
So I think we should stop listening to the serpent, who tempts us with the fruit of knowledge, and listen instead to the Spirit, who empowers us to bear the fruit of obedience. I do understand the allure of the temptation: knowing is easier than doing, and knowledge is easier than obedience. But what is easiest is not always what is best.
Let us stop seeking the beast and seek instead the Kingdom of God. Let us stop eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, and start bearing the fruit of obedience.