O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
I am not going to claim originality for this idea, but will mention that I was first introduced to this concept of a 666-year-old Sea Beast by a single comment made online about this view in Jack Lunsford's book titled "An Overview of the Book of Revelation". For about a year, I filed this idea away in my mental collection of other odd relics and pieces of trivia related to scripture study. Then recently, I was prompted to pull it out and give it some serious scriptural consideration. The following comments are a result of those considerations, which have convinced me totally that this interpretation method for the number 666 is the ONLY way that it can interlock perfectly with every other puzzle piece in Revelation. Please consider the following with an open mind, and I would be most willing to read challenges to this idea, if anyone can spot holes or contradictions in it.
When I was first introduced to Preterism, it was through Dr. Gentry's book "Before Jerusalem Fell". Though I have had to revise quite a few of my Preterist positions since first reading his book, I remain extremely grateful to his work for launching me on a path that has brought me such peace and confidence in a God who has always fulfilled his promises - and within their prophesied time spans as well. One of the bedrock positions Dr. Gentry laid out in his book was the classical use of the gematria method to identify the Sea Beast of Revelation 13. With full acknowledgment of the extensive labor that went into Gentry's dissertation, I am no longer satisfied that this is the intended method God wanted us to use in identifying this entity.
When we read Revelation, it's a good idea to remember not just the time period in which it was written, but the probable education level of those to whom it was addressed. These were very simple people, many of them. For the average Israelite or Gentile in that world, the available education level for the man on the street in John's days was pretty basic, at best. This is comforting to me, since I personally have nothing more glorious than a high-school diploma to my credit.
When John said in Rev. 13:18 that "Here is WISDOM. Let him that HATH UNDERSTANDING count (or calculate) the number of the beast", the reference to supposed "wise" ones with "understanding" was not directed only to those doctors of the law who were at the very top of the ladder, religiously speaking. John was addressing those who had a moderate exposure to the law and history of the Jewish people, with a reasonably-astute mind that could do a little calculation in order to figure this out. It was not intended to be an esoteric puzzle with a near-impossible solution - just a puzzle that would require a moderate amount of contemplation to solve the question. John wanted his words understood by the average John Doe reading this.
That's good, because I certainly am an average Jane Doe. And I use that name with intent, because Paul said, "...ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." (Col. 3:3)
This plausible interpretation for the 666 number does not require any convoluted or controversial use of gematria at all to identify the Sea Beast. It also has the added advantage of pinpointing the date John wrote Revelation to EXACTLY AD 59, using a simple calculation that even the most untutored person reading John's Revelation manuscript in those days had a chance of figuring out and understanding.
Here is the proposal: What if the 666 number is the AGE of the Sea Beast, as of John's writing Revelation?
To provide the background setting for this idea, I propose that John was writing to those who had been his fellow-sufferers among the Asian churches. These were immersed in the Asian tribulation period that broke out following the AD 59 Ephesian riot of the silversmiths in Acts 19. Also, I believe John's letter to the Laodicean church of necessity had to pre-date the AD 60 Laodicean earthquake. These two time constraints limit Revelation to a probable date between late AD 59 to early AD 60 in my estimation.
For the sake of argument, let's presume for the moment that the 666 number actually is the AGE of the Sea Beast of Rev. 13. This Sea Beast was presented as an amalgamation of Daniel's first three beast kingdoms rising out of the Great Sea having leopard, bear, and lion features - all subsumed into the Roman empire phase of the Sea Beast in John's days, which was a replica of Daniel's "dreadful and terrible" 4th beast. These first three beasts of Daniel 7 were also a reflection of the first three kingdoms of gold, silver, and bronze in Daniel chapter 2's statue, which would give way to the 4th, iron kingdom representing Rome.
If we "calculate the number of the beast" as John suggested by counting backwards 666 YEARS from AD 59 when I believe John was writing Revelation's letters to the Asian churches, we arrive at the year 607 BC, the very year that Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and deported Daniel and members of the Jewish nobility to Babylon. Significantly, it was also the beginning year for the 70-year exile period for the Jews in Daniel's days.
If 666 is "the number of "A MAN" (as Rev. 13:18 says), it could well be Daniel's image of a man made of those different metals that John was referring to. After all, when Daniel 7:4 was describing the first of the four beasts (the lion), he said that it was made to stand on "human feet" (Dan. 7:4 LXX), and that "A MAN'S HEART" was given to it. This lion represented Nebuchadnezzar, the head of gold on that image of A MAN made of different metals.
When I hear this phrase "the number of a man", I hear echoes of God dictating the number of years He intended mankind to live - such as in Genesis 6:3, when God limited man's lifespan to 120 years. Later, that number of years was shortened to "three-score years and ten". It would be no great exegetical stretch to interpret this "number of a man" to represent the then-current lifespan of that Revelation 13 Sea Beast for John's readers. Any Jewish citizen reading John's words in that very year, if they were at all familiar with their nation's basic history, would have immediately recognized this 607 BC date as the year their humiliating 70-year exile in Babylon had begun.
If this interpretation of the 666 number truly represents the AGE of the Sea Beast of Rev. 13, it means that the worship given to this Sea Beast would have started as far back as Nebuchadnezzar's image of gold that Daniel's 3 friends refused to bow down to, on pain of death in the fiery furnace. Each kingdom following that first Chaldean one had various ways of seducing worship or demanding it on pain of death, so the homage paid to this Sea Beast did not have to be limited to only a brief period within the last few years of the Old Covenant Age.
The "little horn" on Daniel 7's 4th beast may have "made war" against the saints for only a "time, times, and the dividing of time" (3 1/2 years of Nero's persecution of Christians, I believe), but the 4th beast (aka the Sea Beast) from which the "little horn" originated had existed long before then. This means that the souls John saw in Rev. 20:4 who had lived without giving allegiance to the Sea Beast during their lifetime (like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego), and also those who had been martyred for the word of God during the Sea Beast's career (like Antipas) were those who had lived a life of witness for Christ at any time on the calendar during this Sea Beast's 666 YEARS of existence up to that AD 59 year.
This theory impinges on one's understanding of the millennium, of course. My understanding of the millennium is that it was a literal 1000-year period of a physical temple worship system, spanning the years between Solomon's temple foundation stone being laid in 967 BC until AD 33 when Christ became the true foundation stone of a spiritual temple made of living stones - at the First Resurrection. This literal 1,000-year millennium period overlapped the period of the Sea Beast's existence, which ran from 607 BC until the resurrection day on Pentecost of AD 70.
It was at this time that the evil spiritual powers behind the Sea Beast (the fallen divine council members of all those four beast kingdoms) were destroyed simultaneously by the rock which struck Daniel's statue. Even the righteous members of the divine council were disbanded at this point, since the whole habitable world after AD 70 would no longer be "in subjection" to the angels, as Hebrews 2:5 predicted. As for the council's evil members, they,along with the entire demonic realm, were destroyed in Jerusalem's Lake of Fire and reduced to ashes on the earth, as the Ezekiel 28:11-19 prophecy for Satan, the prince of Tyre, had predicted long ago.
So, here's a rough breakdown of where this 666th-year "birthday" of the Sea Beast fits within all the other "puzzle pieces". Wish I could do a really fancy graphic demonstration at this point, but oh well...this Jane Doe ain't up to it.
967 BC until AD 33 - the duration of the literal 1,000-year millennium of Rev. 20 with Satan's deception of the nations being limited by a "chain". This ended with the "First Resurrection" and Christ's ascension that day, when Satan was cast out of heaven to be loosed on earth. The millennium ended when Christ ascended, and the devil descended. Simple.
467 BC - when God "revived His work in the MIDST OF THE YEARS" (the center of the 967 BC - AD 33 millennium). Ezra 9:9 is the fulfillment year of this "revival" of the whole house of Israel, prophesied by Habakkuk 3:2, and the Ezekiel 37 prophecy of the "dry bones" brought back to life.
607 BC until AD 59 - the age of the Sea Beast at the time John was writing Revelation (666 YEARS up to that year)
607 BC until AD 70 at the Pentecost-day resurrection at Christ's second coming - the total lifespan of the Rev. 13 Sea Beast, with its leopard, bear, and lion components
AD 33 until AD 66 - the "short time" and the "little season" Satan was loosed to deceive the nations again after he and his angels were cast out of heaven at Christ's resurrection-day ascension
May-Sept. AD 66 - the last 5 months of ferocious, ramped up demonic "locust" oppression mentioned in Rev. 9:5,10
Sept. AD 66 until AD 70 Pentecost day - Satan and the entire demonic realm imprisoned in Jerusalem (Rev. 18:2 and Isaiah 24:21-23) along with the living Scarlet Wilderness Beast and the False Prophet / Land Beast
AD 70 Pentecost day - the 1,335th day of Daniel 12:11-13, when Satan and the demonic realm were destroyed, the divine council disbanded for all time with those kingdoms of the world given to Christ to rule with an unbroken rod of iron, the I Thess. 4 "rapture" of only the bodily-resurrected saints, the establishment of the New Heavens and the New Earth with the New Jerusalem manifested, and the GWT judgment of the dead, with destruction of the wicked dead after judgment. No eternal torture chamber.
AD 70 Pentecost day until the close of the AD 70 siege - lots of "weeping and wailing" in Jerusalem's "Lake of Fire" as the city died for the second time since the Sea Beast under Nebuchadnezzar's leadership had first killed it in 586 BC. This period was the judgment of the "quick" (living) who had been giving homage to the Sea Beast and had its mark.
Okay, there you have my best guess for the order of events that surround the period of the Sea Beast's existence. It really does fit seamlessly within the progression of events through the centuries, and coincides perfectly with the tricky Rev. 20 chapter that is so hotly debated. It removes the gematria debate over how to inject an individual human man's name into the 666 number (since it is Daniel's statue of a man that it represents), and above all, it is a perfectly simple solution for the dating of Revelation, once and for all.
What say you, denizens of deathisdefeated? Does this theory have any merit to it?