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The Origins Of '666': Is The Apocalypse Really The End Times?

666 is a number often related to the Apocalypse and Satanism, but where does this concept come from? Does the Bible mention it so?

Thanks to the entertainment industry, today we have an evil and pessimistic conception of the Apocalypse. We see it as a cataclysmic event or the end of times, where life will come to an end. But originally, the Apocalypse did not have a negative connotation. It was conceived in the Bible as a symbol of hope for a new beginning. Moreover, what was expressed in the book was not to be taken literally, but as something symbolic.

What is the apocalyptic genre?

Contrary to the tragedies we see in entertainment formats about apocalyptic scenarios, the genre emerged in Hebrew and Christian culture during the Hellenistic period between the second and first centuries BC.

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The writings under this current use symbols and metaphors to express the torment that the Jewish people or the followers of Christ suffered when they were persecuted. However, in addition to the suffering, these symbols expressed the hope that a savior would come.

Depending on the apocalyptic current, the messiah is conceived in different ways: in Judaism, the savior has not yet arrived, while for Christians, it was obviously Christ, and we are waiting for his second coming to the world to save it from the vices it is currently suffering.

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Under the understanding that the language used in this genre was full of metaphors, then it is clear that when translating the writings many of these symbols are affected, changing their original meaning or even losing it completely.

Why is 666 the number of the devil?

This is the case of 666, for example. Today it is known as the number of the beast and alludes to Satan, but the original meaning was different, and to understand it, we must go back to the ancient language.

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Back in school were taught Roman numerals, a system different from the Arabic system, the one we regularly use today. Roman numerals were and are represented by letters, instead of digits.

Thus, the 666 in Roman numerals would be DCLXVI, which to everyone's surprise, is an acronym that abbreviates "Domitius Caesar Legatos Xti Violenter Interfecit," a phrase that would translate as "Domitius Caesar vilely killed the envoys of Christ."

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Who was Domitius? Well, this was the name of Nero before being adopted by the emperor Claudius. Domitius or Nero was a character known for cruelly persecuting Christians and to whom the title of the Antichrist was first attributed.

There is no Apocalypse without a 'happy ending'

Although the writings under the apocalyptic genre emphasize the purification of the Earth, it is equally important for these writings to specify that this is not an end, but a new beginning where the old will be replaced by something new and better.

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Many of the biblical quotations give proof of this good end, as can be Revelation 22: 16-20: 

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. (16) 

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And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will let him take the water of life freely. (17)

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (20)

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But more attention is always given to the sinister aspect of the apocalyptic genre, completely forgetting the element of hope. When we speak of the Apocalypse as it is known today, we are not grasping the complete meaning of the concept.

So you know, the Apocalypse may mean the end of time, but not as we think of it. Maybe the correct way to describe it is not as the ultimate destruction, but as a change of times.

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Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
Images from Wikimedia Commons: Benjamin West, Death on the Pale Horse / Gustave Dore, Vision of Valley of Dry Bones /  J. M. W. Turner, The Deluge

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