to the seven churches

this calls for wisdom

“This calls for wisdom: let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. Its number is six hundred sixty-six” (Revelation 13:18). In his book, Principalities and Powers in the New Testament, Heinrich Schlier says in a footnote, “It is clear that today we have not the wisdom which the Apocalypse [the book of Revelation] takes for granted.” (89)

That isn’t meant as an insult. (Though, with some of the crazy theories about the number of the beast, it might be well-deserved.) Rather, it’s a reminder that what we’re reading takes place in a series of visions. And visions have rules of their own.

In Bruce Metzger’s Breaking the Code, he says, “In the last analysis, it is always a choice between the power that operates through inflicting suffering, that is, the power of the beast, and the power that operates through accepting suffering, namely, the power of the Lamb.” (77) That speaks to the essential orientation within the human heart of fear versus love.

Elsewhere, John shows how fear and love exist as opposites: how one hinders and twists faith and the other edifies and enlivens it. In 1 John 4 we read, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love” (v. 18). Without the love that inspires from within, we are left with only “brute” force. We summon nothing more from ourselves than the beast.

This calls for wisdom!

(The top image is from


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