G.) Those who worship the beast are marked, in contrast to the sealing of the faithful (c. 7). So, there would be two distinct groups of people around – those who worship God and serve the Lamb, and everybody else: the greater majority who fold and have bowed to the government under its corrupting power forsaking Christ in order to save their lives.
I have previously dealt with the historical record noting that emperor worship existed from the time of Julius Caesar throughout the first several centuries of the Roman Empire. In the section on the seven cities, we mentioned that there were temples dedicated to Augustus, Trajan, and Severus built in Pergamum, and there were temples dedicated to various emperors, or simply pagan temples found in each of the seven cities and just about everywhere else. A temple dedicated to Hadrian and another to Jupiter Capitalinus (as mentioned) would be built on the Jerusalem temple mound by 117. So, you may be able, by this point, to draw a straight line from Caesars to Popes without requiring either much thought, pencil lead or any real effort. As mentioned, each Roman temple had a purpose in support of the empire and its rulers – they were not around for the sake of the people. They were the banking system and money conduit first locally, then for Rome, its leaders and the various needs of the empire. Read “…for Rome, its leaders” in the preceding sentence if necessary.
Last and not least: though easy to overlook, Matthew 18:24-27 has a glimpse at the purpose and workings of a local temple to a Roman god or emperor. When Christ was ministering and healing in Capernaum: “The persons who received the temple tax came to Peter and asked: ‘Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?’”
The Jews had not built another temple in Capernaum, not in a Roman colony or city, and not in any place other than Jerusalem. So, this temple had nothing at all to do with the Jews, but was dedicated to a living or dead emperor, a heathen “god” or to both. The immediate situation was used as an attempt at entrapment to see if the Lord and Peter were going to support the local economy by putting the required money into the Idols’ coffers. The temple paid the bills through support of its temple idols. We typically drive right past this little jewel in our studies without so much as slowing down.
The solution to this situation was that the Lord “appointed” a fish to provide the contribution for both he and Peter, instead of taking monies out of what others gave them in support.
H.) The number 666 and the identity of the beast: Overwhelmingly the early testimony and numerological accounts attribute this sign to Nero. Joseph Henry Thayer notes that the name Nero, when written in Hebrew will render the number 666, according to the established numerological rules (known as Gematria). However, no reasonable explanation has been found for the sudden transposition out of Greek and into Hebrew for this one name/number, which must be accomplished for the theory to have any legs at all. Therefore, I modestly suggest that “it is weighed in the balance and found wanting.”
Like all numerical signs, it does not require decryption. More than one commentator has written that three sixes are each one short for each place from three sevens, thus short in each column or place from completion or perfection, and so it has been noted from antiquity. Okay, that is a more than useful explanation.
Some attribute the number to “Lateinos” an unknown identity of the fourth kingdom of Daniel 7, or as some other writers like to suppose, the reputed founder of the Latin peoples (and, I don’t recall ever reading about “Lateinos” anywhere or studying him in two years of Latin). As was noted earlier, Irenaeus favored the transliterated name Teitan, which he spelled into Latin, and (Viola!) came up with Titus. These diversions have the same problem as using Nero: the sudden transposition from Greek to Latin for a single name and sign. Others adopt any number of applications to persons in history. Dare we muddy the water by noting (once again): the legend that Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus, both supposedly raised by wolves (with no leap of faith there). I dealt with the listing of Teitan for Titus earlier – and every bit of this remains strained up to this point and will continue so.
“God is calling the prodigal come without delay…”