In Christian circles there is constant discussion of the “end times” and the “return of Christ.” I was recently asked by some students about the computer they had heard about in Brussels named “the beast” which is supposed to be connected to the antichrist and 666 and other interesting ideas from the New Testament book of the Revelation. I first heard about “the beast” 20 years ago in the context of the emerging European Union which was not a union yet but in the process that has now created the EU. That teaching stressed the idea that this group would be 10 nations as indicated by the number of toes on the image of the beast, (I believe the EU currently has 27 member states).
It made me remember a conversation I had with Brother Albert Whitney who went to be with Jesus at the age of 105 and was near 100 at the time of our conversation more than 20 years ago. I had asked Albert about some current discussion that was in the Christian media concerning the return of Christ and what he thought about it. He told me that when he was a young man in Alberta, Canada Christians in his area had been told Christ would return on a certain day and so they all went up onto a mountain and put on white robes and awaited the great event. The day came and went but they were still there on the mountain and were not caught up into the air to be with Christ. They went home that day but shortly the teaching came that it was only a mistake and really it was the right day but the next year so one year later found them again in white robes on the same mountain awaiting the rapture of the church. Well, that day came and went also and Albert said to me, “I am not going up on that mountain again.” He then gave me a long list of people who had been identified as the “anti-Christ” or things declared to be the “mark of the best” during his life time.
Given that none of those on that long list Albert gave me in fact turned out to be either the “antichrist” or the “mark of the best” I would say it is clear that all of that speculation was at best a colossal waste of energy and at worst an intentional deception intended to sell books, build a ministry, draw a crowd, frighten people into the kingdom or make people think we have some sort of inside special knowledge (another form of gnosticism). What if we were to simply live according the the values and character of Christ? When Matthew 25 tells us to watch because no-one knows the day or the hour, does it mean to speculate as to who may be the antichrist or what is the meaning of 666? Or does Jesus mean to live our lives in such a manner that represents our faith in Christ, our faithfulness to the purpose and Lordship of Christ, and even more than these, properly represents the faithfulness of Christ as revealed in His obedience to the Father when he suffered and died on the cross? And beyond all of these, does our life reveal the power of His resurrection? Let us be ready for certainly the time is nearer than when we first believed.