Revelation 13 – 666

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The number 666 is notorious.  It represents evil.  This number comes from the Apocalypse of John (Revelation).  The Apocalypse is the mystical prophecies of a first century AD Christian by the name of John.  The Apocalypse is the last book in the Bible (Revelation).  666 is the number of the incarnation of evil in the last days just prior to the final battle between good and evil.  It is the number of a person, pejoratively called the beast, who will have all the authority of the Devil just as Jesus has all the authority of God.

The Apocalypse says:

“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 666.” (Revelation 13:18)

The Apocalypse invites us to calculate the number and thereby to identify the person.  The most likely theory is that the number stands for Nero who was emperor of Rome from AD54 to 68.  Nero initiated in those days a terrible persecution of Christians.

In classical Hebrew and Greek, the letters of the alphabet represent numbers.  In the first century, this provided an opportunity to make secret codes for the initiated.  The formal title of Nero in Greek was NERON KAISER.  If we transpose that into Hebrew letters we get NRON KSR.  There are no vowels in ancient Hebrew except the letter O.  If we add up the value of each letter we get 666!  N is 50. R is 200. O is 6.  N is 50.  K is 100. S is 60 and R is 200 = 666.  Nero’s formal title was sometimes written as NERO KAISER that is without the final N in NERON.  This fact is very important and adds weight to the theory that 666 is Nero.  Some ancient manuscripts of the Apocalypse have 616 instead of 666.  If we drop the final N = 50, lo and behold, we get 616.

The Apocalypse seems to be saying that in the last days the decisive battle between good and evil will take place.  In those days evil will be embodied in a person who will be like Nero but much worse and much more powerful.

Rev Dr Peter Pimentel

Ephesians 6 – Pray

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Duerer-Prayer

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.’ (Ephesians 6:18)

Pray is a powerful weapon.  Paul tells us two things about pray in this passage, it must be constant, pray in all situations.  It must be unselfish, pray for others, pray for our Church.

Paul is in under arrest, chained to a Roman soldier day and night, no longer spreading the Gospel message from city to city across the known world.  Paul was under spiritual attack, doubt would have filled his mind and so he asks that they pray also for him:
‘Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.’ (Ephesians 6:19-20)

Paul’s request for prayer is not that he will be released from the chains, but that he will share the Gospel fearlessly in his chains, to the Roman soldiers and to those in power. Paul doesn’t want the chains he is in to stop him from sharing the good news about Jesus.  

What do we pray for?  Release from the chains that hold us?  Or that we might fearlessly make know the mystery of the gospel in whatever circumstances we might find ourselves.

Psalm 1 – Meditation

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It’s easy for us to think that meditation has roots in the eastern (Hindu and Buddhist) religions.  And of course it does – but not exclusively. Meditation is also prominent in the Bible. It is foundational to Judeo-Christian spirituality.

There are 150 Psalms (poem-songs) in the Bible.  The first Psalm sets the scene. It has to do with meditation:

“Their delight is in the law of the Lord and they meditate on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)

The Hebrew word translated in English bibles as “meditate” is pronounced haga.  We get a good idea of what haga means by looking at the usage in the Bible.  In addition to the obvious texts that have to do with meditation, the word is also used of a lion that growls (haga) over its prey (Isaiah 31:4).  The lion is meditating presumably because it is doing something repetitive and audible and it is focused on its prey.  The lion is aware of the present moment! The Bible also speaks about the cooing (haga) of a dove (Isaiah 38:14).  The word haga in other contexts describes the wailings in the mourning rituals of the ancient Near East.  

The noun “meditation” (in Hebrew higgäyôn) in Psalm 92:3 refers to the melody played on a musical instrument.

“Their delight is in the law of the Lord and they meditate on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)

The word “law” in the Bible doesn’t mean what it means in English. The Hebrew word torah very often means: “teaching”, “instruction” and “guidance”.  Meditation in the Bible has to do with focus, recital, repetition, melody and chewing over the guidance given by the Good Lord.  The person who meditates on the torah

“is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1:3).  

Unlike trees growing wild or planted in the fields, where rainfall might be sporadic; the person who meditates on God’s good guidance is like a tree that has been planted beside irrigation canals (in Hebrew, palgê māyim, “streams of water”) – artificial water channels made for the purpose of irrigation.  Whatever he does prospers.

Rev Dr Peter Pimentel

See also: Pslam 1 – We are formed by what we love

John 6 – Eat my flesh

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Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’ (John 6:35)

It is interesting that in John’s Gospel there is no account of the Last Supper itself.  John’s Gospel does talk about Jesus washing the disciple’s feet, teaching and praying; but there is no mention of bread and wine in chapter 13.  But throughout John’s Gospel, the Eucharist is there in the many chapters that talk about Jesus as the bread of life and the true vine. About feeding on him and the importance of his blood.  It’s here very clearly in chapter 6:

‘For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.’ (John 6:55)

We need more than just physical food, Jesus is telling us that we must feed the souls.  When we feed on Jesus we feed our minds and our souls.  We need spiritual food not just physical food.

When we come to church we get that kind of nourishment, in the songs we sing, in the profound liturgy we say, in the prayers, in the bible readings, in the sermon. In the sharing of communion with our church family and in the fellowship afterward.

But it’s not just on Sundays at Church that we can get spiritual nourishment.  We can feed on the words of Jesus, by reading the Bible a little every day, by talking about our faith with others.  We can feed on Jesus through praying together or by ourselves. We should never stop learning about God’s love, we should never stop feeding on Jesus.

Ephesians 3 – The Power (part 3)

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Click here to read – The Power (part 2)

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’ (Ephesians 3:16-19)

I really like Paul’s prayer in chapter 3 of Ephesians, in it you see Paul’s desire for the church to be filled with the same power that his ministry has been full of.  Paul’s ministry was so powerful because through prayer he experiences the deep love of Christ.

Prayer brings together love and power: the relation of love that grows up between God and the person who prays, and the flowing of power from God too and especially through that person. (Wright)

Through prayer, we too can experience the deep deep love of God and have the power, that is the Holy Spirit, flow through our ministry as we build the kingdom of God in our communities.

‘Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us’, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.(Ephesians 3:20-21)

click here to read – The Power (part 3)

Luke 6, Mark 14 – The Power (part 2)

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Click here to read Mark 6 – The power (part 1)

Jesus …came with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people …They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. (The Gospel of Luke 6:17-19, New Revised Standard Version).

“Power came out from him and healed all of them.” The same Greek word is used here as in the Mark passage above. Dunamis! Not only run of the mill healings but power-healings! At first glance, the power seems to be some sort of spiritual energy that flows out from Jesus. It seems to be a kind of energy that is detachable from Jesus. What is this power? To answer this question, we do need a little 1st Century Jewish background. After all, Jesus was a 1st Century Israeli rabbi. In the time of Jesus, it was forbidden to use the holy name of God, YHWH (pronounced, Yahweh. There are no vowels in ancient Hebrew!). Whenever YHWH occurs in the Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament) the reader would use a substitute such as Adonai (the Lord), Ha-Shem (The Name) or Ha-Gevurah. (The Power). Most English Bibles translate YHWH as “The Lord”. In conversation one of these substitute names was always used. To utter the divine name YHWH was blasphemy and liable of the death sentence. So, it seems likely that the power that came out of Jesus was not some mystical or spiritual energy but that it was nothing less than The Power! YHWH! The manifestation of God himself in healing. At his trial, Jesus also avoided speaking the divine name YHWH and he used the substitute, The Power. The High Priest is interrogating Jesus. He asked Jesus if he is the Messiah. Jesus replies: I AM. Then he says:

And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of The Power and coming with the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:62).

The Greek word dunamis again and with the definite article. Jesus would have used the Hebrew original Ha-Gevurah. Although Jesus did not utter the divine name YHWH nevertheless the High Priest deems that Jesus has committed blasphemy anyway because of the other things he has said:

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? Mark 14:63).

At this point, the Gospel has the ring of truth with a piece of detail of historical reliability. We know from ancient rabbinic sources that The High Priest tore his robe and that this constitutes the verdict of blasphemy. The sage Rabbi ben Qorha said that once the

witnesses have given their evidence, “the Judges stand and tear their clothing and never sew them back up.” (Mishnah, Tractate Sanhedrin, 7:5).

Jesus, after his death but before his ascension, told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they are “clothed with Power from on high”. (Luke 24: 49). It is clear that Jesus didn’t think of this power as some sort of mystical or spiritual energy but rather as nothing less than the third person of the divine trinity – The Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8).

Revd Dr Peter Pimentel

Mark 6 – The Power (part 1)

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And he could do no power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. (The Gospel of Mark 6:5-6, my translation).

Haha. That’s funny. Most churches today would be ecstatic with joy if they witnessed a few healings! Evidently there is a difference between run of the mill healings and power healings (miraculous healings?). The Holy Gospel of Mark is a 1st century biography of Jesus in the Greek language. The Greek word used in Mark translated above as “power” is dunamis from which we get “dynamite”! In the language of Jesus, the Hebrew behind dunamis is ha-gevurah.

It must be significant that Jesus was limited by the level of faith in the crowd. I wonder if Jesus is still limited today by the level of faith in many churches! Conversely, The Holy Gospels also inform us that where there is faith in Jesus amongst the people then a connection is made and the dunamis is able to flow through Jesus from heaven to earth.

Revd Dr Peter Pimentel

Click here to read Luke 6, Mark 14 – The Power (part 2)