WHO IS THE 666?
Here is wisdom, wrote the Apostle John, 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.
Traditional Adventist teaching insists that the Papacy and its head, the Pope, is the power to bear the mystical number 666. To sustain this idea, standard teaching purports that the Leopard-like beast of Revelation 13:1 -10 is the Papacy in its entirety, and that it is the beast which will bear the satanic number and again dominate the world as it did in the dark ages.
The Shepherd’s Rod message on the other hand, reveals that the number must be placed on the United States and its leader and not the Papacy.It also holds that the beast of Revelation 13: 1 -10 is a symbol of western civilization which would include all of Christendom Protestants and Catholics including the Papacy.Put another way, the Leopard-like Beast is not exclusively a symbol of the Papacy.
Although this position may appear strange or new, we must ask, again, that you unbiasedly study the following pages and note the “weight of evidence” both from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy supports the Rod’s position.
Understanding the Problem
To clearly understand the controversy at hand, we need to go back to the Scriptures from which the difference in interpretation is drawn.
“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshiped the dragon which gave power unto the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blashphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.” Revelation 13:1 - 5.
Later on in Chapter thirteen, speaking about the work of the Two-horned beast—understood by nearly everyone as the United States–John wrote:
And 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. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And 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. Revelation 13:12 -14. Then after speaking about the enforcement of the mark of the beast, the Revelator concluded by saying, “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.” (verse 18).
If the Leopard-like beast is the Papacy, then it would be logical that the world will wonder after the Roman Church (verse 3), and that the making of the image of the beast (verse 14) is the return of its supremacy over church and state and hence the world. But if the Leopard-like beast is not exclusively the Papacy, but something else or something broader, then the conclusion is different altogether.
In reference to verse 18 which mentions the mysterious number “666", the question is, who is the power or “beast” God is referring to? Is it the Leopard-like beast or the Two-horned? If it is the Leopard-like, then it is reasonable to assume that it is the Papacy. But if it is the Two-horned, then it is the United States. By determining the power or beast, then one can determine the “man” who heads that power. We know this because the Bible said, “count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man.” If the beast or power is the Leopard-like, then it is reasonable to assume that the man is the Pope, but if it is the Two-horned power, then it has to be the head (more than likely the president) of the United States.
So, herein is the challenge: (1) We need to resolve the identity of the Leopard-like beast. (2) We need to resolve the identity of the beast or power in Revelation 13:18, thereby identifying the “man” who will bear the enigmatic number “666."
The Denomination’s Position
The idea that the Leopard-like beast is exclusively the Papacy is erroneously drawn from several references from Mrs. White.
In chapter 13 (verses 1 -10) is described another beast, “unto a leopard,” to which the dragon gave “his power, and his seat, and great authority.” This symbol, as most Protestants have believed, represents the Papacy, which succeeded to the power and seat and authority once held by the ancient Roman empire. Of the leopard-like beast it is declared: “There was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies . . . And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindred, and tongues, and nations.” This prophecy, which is nearly identical with the description of the little horn of Daniel 7, unquestionably points to the Papacy.
But what is the “image of the beast”? and how is it to be formed? The image is made by the two-horned beast, and is an image to the beast. It is also called an image of the beast. Then to learn what the image is like and how it is to be formed we must study the characteristics of the beast itself– the Papacy.
“The beast” mentioned in this message, whose worship is enforced by the two-horned beast, is the first, or leopard-like beast of Revelation 13–the Papacy.
By this first beast is represented the Roman Church, and ecclesiastical body clothed with civil power, having authority to punish all dissenters. . . .it is the mark of the first beast, or the Papacy, and is therefore to be sought among the distinguishing characteristics of that power.
The Rod’s Position
Before thinking it is an open and shut case, please consider the context and message of the statements above. The Rod’s position is that all of the aforementioned statements are true. However, it believes that the Leopard-like beast (LLB) of Revelation 13 includes the Papacy and was at one time the Papacy, but is not limited to it. That is to say, the LLB covers a long time span; beginning in the dark ages (the era ruled by the Roman Church), then continues past the Protestant Reformation and culminates in our day.
If you carefully reread all the above quoted statements, you will notice that Inspiration referred to the Leopard-like beast as the papacy in the context of the past—during the dark ages or period from 538 A.D. to 1798 A.D, Mrs. White is perfectly correct for doing so, because she is trying to establish the system that will be copied in the future. But that should not be taken to mean that she is restricting the symbol of LLB altogether to the Papacy, as one would be inclined to believe from just reading some of her statements. For example, she wrote:
“The prediction that it will speak ‘as a dragon’ and exercise ‘all the power of the first beast’ plainly foretells a development of the spirit of intolerance and persecution that was manifested by the nations represented by the dragon and the Leopard-like beast.” So the LLB represents the nations also not just the Papacy.
We are going to see that the LLB represents all of Christendom and their accompanying Christian civil governments. In short, the LLB represents Western civilization or our present world, not just the Papacy. Once we understand this, we will see that there is no contradiction with the Spirit of Prophecy and the Rod. We are going to see that she is referring to only the first phase of the LLB which symbolizes the Papacy. How do we prove this?
(1) The LLB had seven heads, which we know represent religious bodies/churches. Note that only one of the heads was wounded! It is generally accepted that the wounded head is the symbol of the Papacy who suffered a nearly fatal blow to its power during the dark ages. Now if one head is a religious body, then they all must be! But, again, only one head was wounded! There are six other unharmed heads, revealing that they are non-Catholic or not related to the Papacy. So they must be Protestant!
If you are thinking that because Rome was said to be situated on seven hills, therefore it is ample evidence to prove that it is the Papacy, then we should consider two things: firstly, that all the heads should have been wounded not just one. Second, consider that Rome is not the only seven-hilled city in the world. Lebanon is also known as a seven-hilled city.
(2) Also notice that the horns (civil powers/governments) have their own crowns (authority) separate from the heads (religious). This reveals that church is separate from the state; unlike the dark ages when church and state were fused together as shown by the symbol of the horn-head of Daniel 7:8. So the LLB reveals an entity not only during the dark ages but also after it–after the break up of the church-state rule of the Papacy. Therefore, the fact that the horns (governments) have their own authority or sovereignty, reveals the world after the Papacy–a world made up universally of regimes and churches no longer under the dictates of the Roman church. Friends, that is the world in which we live today!
(3) Since the LLB is a descendant of the previous ancient empires (verse 2–Babylon, Medio-Persia, Greece, and Rome—lion, bear, leopard, and non-descript beasts respectively, it represents a universal entity –the world. If the previous beasts were world empires, the LLB must also be. This could not be said of just the Papacy.
(4) The point is further made because John saw the beast in three sections or periods: He wrote: “And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed . . .” That is, he saw the head before it was wounded, then while it was wounded, then when the wound was healed (after the wound). This means that the LLB includes the Papacy and its rule during the dark ages (before the wound), but goes beyond. In other words, God reveals that the beast was at one time exclusively the Papacy (before the wound) then with the onset of the Reformation it began to rapidly decline (during the wound) up to the close of the dark ages when in 1798 the Pope was interned by the French. But then the wound was healed, which is after 1798, climaxing in 1929 when the popes were put back in the Vatican City by Mussolini. But what of the six other unharmed heads? Obviously they are Protestants. All of this clearly shows that the LLB exists after the dark ages up to our time and portrays our present civilization not just the Papacy.
(5) Verses 5- 7 mentioned the forty-two months during which the beast was in power and persecuted the saints. This period is well accepted to be from 538 A.D. to 1798 A.D. But if you compare Daniel 7:25, with Revelation 13: 5 -7, notice that Daniel said, speaking of the Papacy, he “SHALL” wear out the saints . . . .while John in Revelation says “WAS.” One is looking forward while the other looks back. This reveals that the LLB extends beyond the dark ages and is including the world after the fall of the Papacy and up to our modern day.
We also ask the reader to bear in mind, too, that Mrs. White told us that there is more light to come concerning the Mark of the Beast. She wrote:
The light we have received upon the third angel’s message is the true light. The mark of the beast is exactly what it has been proclaimed to be. Not all in regard to this matter is yet understood, nor will it be understood until the unrolling of the scroll; but a most solemn work is to be accomplished in our world.
So let us take Ellen White statements one by one and briefly analyze them. The first statement was taken from The Great Controversy, p. 439. We will just highlight the most critical parts:
This symbol, as most Protestants have believed, represents the Papacy, which succeeded to the power and seat and authority once held by the ancient Roman empire.
Then she continues on the same page after quoting Revelation 13: 6,7:
This prophecy, which is nearly identical with Daniel 7, unquestionably points to the Papacy.
The prophecy she was referring to is found in verses 6 & 7. But remember that they are in the past tense. Whereas, as stated before, Daniel 7:25 is in the future tense. So she is referring to the LLB in his FIRST STAGE, which indeed represented the Papacy, a point to which the Rod fully agrees. Then there is The Great Controversy p. 443 which states:
Then to learn what the image is like and how it is to be formed we must study the characteristics of the beast itself—the Papacy.
Here again, the LLB is referred to as the Papacy but in the context of the past. If we want to know what the image will be like, you must go back to the past. We must go back to the dark ages and see what the Roman Church did, because that is what the Two-horned beast (the power that makes the image) will copy. So, again, the LLB in Great Controversy p. 443, as with the others, represents the Papacy in her first stage—the period before the wound—when it was in power.
The same idea is brought to view on page 445 of the same book. “The beast . . . is the first, or Leopard-like beast of Revelation 13–the Papacy.” But let us go a bit further in the reference. “The Image to the beast,” she continues, “represents that form of apostate Protestantism which will be developed when the Protestant churches shall seek the aid of the civil power for the enforcement of their dogmas.”
Hence there is no contradiction with the Rod’s message. The Rod simply reveals why the LLB cannot be restricted to the Papacy alone and emphasizes that it is the system which began with the Papacy and is now embraced by Protestantism that will be copied or imaged. Remember, the image is never the same as the original, but a mirror of it. If it was the original—the Papacy, then it would not be termed an image.
So then clearly, the LLB includes the Papacy, Protestantism and the “Christian” nations who came out of the dark ages and the Roman Church. Thus Daniel 7 describes the rise of the Papacy, while the LLB describes the fall of it, and the rise of Protestantism and its nations. Is this not precisely what happened in history? With these thoughts in mind, the LLB must be a symbol of our world today, but came out of Catholicism. Which brings us to another crucial point:
Ellen White Never Said the Papacy Would Rule the World Again
The Story of Redemption, pp. 381, 382, a statement which was quoted earlier, and used by the denomination against the message, never intimates that the Papacy will be restored to its past glory. In fact, it reveals the opposite.
“By this first beast is represented the Roman Church. . . .” Inspiration wrote, but notice what she goes on to say, “the image to the beast represents another religious body clothed with similar powers.”
Now consider these next statements:
“Then I saw the Mother of Harlots [the Papacy]; that the mother was not the daughters, but separate and distinct from them. She has had her day, and it is past, and her daughters, the Protestant sects, were the next to come on the stage and act out the same mind that the mother had when she persecuted the saints. I saw that as the mother was declining in power, the daughters had been growing, and soon they will exercise the power once exercised by the mother.”
“Support will be withdrawn from those who proclaim God’s only standard of righteousness, the only sure test of character. And all who will not bow to the decree of the national councils and obey the national laws to exalt the sabbath instituted by the man of sin, to the disregard of God’s holy day, will feel, not the oppressive power of popery alone, but of the Protestant world, the image of the beast.”
If you carefully studied all the references made by Ellen White about the image of the beast, you will notice that she never predicted the reassertion of the Papacy. She does refer to the reassertion of the power, system, or dogmas of the Papacy by Protestants, but not the Papacy itself. We as a people have assumed the Papacy will be returned to the head of the mark of the beast church-state system, but it is not found in the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy.
What About the 666?
Now we come to the heart of the matter. The idea that the 666 is the Pope is not found in the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy either. The evidence shows that the person bearing this number is the head of the United States, not the Pontiff of Rome.
Notice what the Scriptures say: “Count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man.” It did not say, count the number of the beast that was wounded, but said count the number of, “the beast.” This is critically important because by identifying the power or beast, we can identify the “man”—the 666. Now, whenever the Bible speaks of the LLB it always mentions the wound. (See Revelation 13: 3, 12, 14)—always! So the power that bears this number is not the LLB and therefore could not be the Papacy.
The context of Revelation 13: 11 -18, is speaking about the Two-horned beast which we know represents the United States of America. So that is the beast in verse 18. Again, it said, “count the number of the beast”—not the number of the beast which was wounded! All evidence points to the United States and its head! This same fact is born out by James and Ellen White in the little booklet, A Word to the Little Flock.
“Michael is to stand up at the time that the last power in chapter 11 [Daniel] comes to his end, and none to help him. This power is the last that treads down the true church of God: and as the true church is still trodden down, and cast out by all Christendom, it follows that the last oppressive power has not “come to his end;” and Michael has not stood up. This last power that treads down the saints is brought to view in Rev. 13: 11 -18. His number is 666.”
Notice that this statement by James White shows us that the early pioneers believed that the number 666 applies to the beast or power that is found in verses 11 through 18. Now remember that verse 11 clearly describes the United States represented as the Two-horned beast. Therefore, it must also be the United States in verse 18! Ellen White supports this fact on page 19:
“I saw that the number (666) of the image Beast was made up; and that it was the beast that changed the Sabbath, and the Image Beast had followed on after, and kept the Pope’s, and not God’s Sabbath.”
Here again we see that the number 666 is placed on the Two-horned or Image beast, not the LLB. Thus the man who will bear the number 666 is not the Papacy, but the then leader of the United States. So you see that the Rod’s message is in perfect harmony with the Scriptures.
Counting the Number
The idea that the number 666 applies to the Pope because of the numerical value of his name is not reliable because the number can be applied to many other names. Furthermore, the number 666 is comprised of one of the most common numbers throughout history in the realm of the occult, astrology, and Paganism—six. So why would it be strange for the Popes to bear that number when the whole system of the Papacy is a admixture of paganism, occultism, with Christianity? The Bible plainly places the number on the image or Two-horned beast (the United States) and that should be taken as the ultimate proof. Victor Houteff stated the point this way:
“The prevailing belief that the number “666" is the numerical identification of some other power, is the spawn of the Prince of Darkness, and is calculated to conceal if possible the identification of this two-horned power. Inspiration puts the number on the two-horn beast, and there we must leave it.”
Who Inflicted the Deadly Wound? The French or the Reformation?
Before concluding this section, we need to look at two areas of this subject that has been a sore point for some. The first is, who inflicted the deadly wound on the head of the Leopard-like beast?
The Traditional teaching is that the arrest and imprisonment of Pope Pius VI by the French Army in 1798 and his eventual death two years later, was the fulfillment of the infliction of the deadly wound forecasted in Revelation 13:3. The basis for this teaching are two statements from the The Great Controversy.
“The infliction of the deadly wound points to the downfall of the Papacy in 1798.”
“This period, as stated in preceding chapters, began with the supremacy of the papacy, A.D. 538, and terminated in 1798. At that time the pope was made captive by the French army, the papal power received its deadly wound, and the prediction was fulfilled, “He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity.”
The Rod’s message agrees with these Inspired statements but holds that the infliction of the wound should not be restricted to just the events of 1798 and the pope’s subsequent death. It teaches, as will be borne out both by history and the Spirit of Prophecy, that the wounding process began with the Protestant reformation and culminated with the climatic downfall of the Papacy in 1798. For examples, let us look at the following references.
“The calm, dignified power of Luther humbled his enemies, and dealt a most dreadful blow to the papacy.”
Still speaking about Luther and the Reformation, Ellen White went on to say,
“Rome was already descending from her throne, and it was the voice of a monk that caused this humiliation.”
“The papacy had sustained a defeat which would be felt among all nations and in all ages.”
“I put forward God’s word; I preached and wrote–this was all I did. And yet while I was asleep . . . .the word that I preached overthrew popery, so that neither prince nor emperor has done it so much harm. “
Interestingly, in the church’s official missionary organ, the Denomination published the same view as that of the Rod’s:
“The deadly wound here forecast found its fulfillment in the Protestant Reformation, in the French Revolution, and culminated in the apparently mortal thrust at the very heart of the papacy when the pope was deposed and imprisoned by the French in 1798.” Italics ours.
Consider this too. The popes had authority over kings and prelates. How could a general, not even a king, arrest the pope if something had not previously weakened the Papacy! What was it? The Protestant Reformation!
Note, also, that the wound on the head was not inflicted by one of the horns. (See Revelation 13:3). If it was wounded by a horn, it would mean that a civil power (like the French army) was responsible for its downfall. But no, there is no mention of a horn wounding the head. It was God’s Word through the Reformation that brought about the downfall of the Papacy. The arrest of the pope was just the climax of it. It could be likened to a flat tire. Have you ever had a puncture but your tire didn’t go completely flat until some miles down the road? It’s the same idea!
So there is no contradiction with Mrs. White. What she was describing was the culmination of something that had begun earlier; as how one would say that he got his flat tire in a particular city, but in reality, he received the puncture in the previous one. Thus the Rod just views the subject from its broader perspective. Which is in perfect harmony with history and Inspiration.
Is the Seventh-day Adventist Church a part of the Leopard-like Beast?
As stated earlier, the LLB includes both Roman and Protestant churches, and since there are seven heads, and seven indicates completeness, the symbols of the seven heads reveal that it represents all of Christendom and thereby includes the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This view has drawn considerable fire. However, the “weight of evidence” speaks for itself.
The problem seems to stem from the traditional thinking that the LLB represents the Papacy in its entirety. So to suggest that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is included, is to practically declare that the Church is a part of spiritual Babylon. (Remember, that the Rod’s message does not teach, in any way, that the Adventist Church is a part of Babylon).
The reader must consider that, again, the heads are seven (completeness or all) and since one head is a religious body, they all must be. Then notice, again, that only one head is wounded (the Roman Church/Papacy). Therefore, the other heads have to be non-Catholic or Protestant. So to say that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is a part of the LLB is just saying that it is a part of Christendom! As you may remember, the Rod’s message does not teach that the Adventist Church is Babylon. (See Section 2). Victor Houteff put this way:
“If Christ by assembling these seven churches in a group of seven candlesticks and giving the blackest record to the last one, is not calling it Babylon, then neither is the interpretation of the ‘heads’ doing so.”
The unfortunate fact is that all the heads have the name “blasphemy” over them. (Revelation 13:1). “Blasphemy” as used in Revelation, denotes hypocrisy. Professing one thing but doing another. “I know,” wrote John the Revelator, “the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not. . .” Revelation 2:9. Are we not, although claiming to be Adventists, failing to live up to our profession? Have we not, as a body, conformed to the world in our standards and practices? Is not all the world wondering after the beast (LLB or system of the western world)? (Revelation 13:3). Inspiration told us long ago that we have turned our back from following Christ our leader and are steadily retreating toward Egypt—the world. No wonder we are told, “Daily the church is being converted to the world.”
There can be no doubt, that although Adventists are not a part of Babylon we are following much of what it does! Thus being a part of the seven heads just means that we are following the customs and maxims of apostate Christendom and the world.
The Shepherd’s Rod position (in brief) is that our present world, particularly the West, is represented by the Leopard-like beast which is the outgrowth of the Roman Church and the dark ages. Therefore, whereas the Non-descript beast of Daniel 7 reveals the rise of the Papacy, the LLB shows the fall of the Papacy and Catholicism, but the rise of Protestantism and its respective nations. This present system and order of things has now permeated the world at large, including God’s professed body—the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. However, sometime in the near future, America will insist that the entire world pattern this system of apostate Christianity and replicate “the international church-state rule of the Middle Ages, thereby “relegating to the scrap heap, the world’s finest instrument of human liberty—the divinely inspired Constitution of the United States of America;” establishing what we know to be the Mark or Image of the Beast. The political leader of this ungodly regime, will not be a pope, but the head of the United States (possibly the then president) and is termed by Scripture as the “man” bearing the mystical number, “666"
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