In the Apocalypse, the last book in the Bible (Revelation), the Jewish-Christian prophet, known simply as John, receives visions and revelation from God via an angel. In chapters 4 & 5 he describes his vision of the throne room of heaven itself. In front of the throne of the Almighty are the highest orders of angels: the twenty-four elders, the mysterious four living creatures, and the seven archangels. Surrounding the throne is a great crystal ocean and surrounding the crystal ocean is an infinity of angels. In this throne room vision, John also hears an incredible song.
“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea and all that is in them, singing, ‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!’” (Revelation 5:13-14).
I think you would surely agree with me that it is impossible to imagine how awesome this experience would have been – to hear every sentient creature that has ever existed and that will ever exist (each according to its capacity and intelligence), including humans and angels, singing a song to God and to the Lamb. The Lamb is a name used by the earliest Christian communities for Jesus describing his sacrifice by the Romans – “led like a lamb to the slaughter”. This universal song gives us great hope. Every song is just a practice for this most wonderful of all songs.
Theologians have a special word for this event – “apokatastasis”. It means “restoration”. It is a classical Greek word that occurs just once in the Bible in the Book of Acts. The Book of Acts written in the first-century in Greek. It’s a history of the beginning of Christianity.
“Turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration (= apokatastasis) that God announced long ago through his holy prophets.”(Acts 3:19-21).
Angels in the Bible are sometimes called in Hebrew bene Elohim which is translated as “sons of God”. So, e.g., in the Book of Job (composed in Hebrew somewhen in the mid 6th to mid 4th century BC) we read:
“The morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” (Job 38:7)
The morning stars in the ancient world are what we now know as planets of our solar system. The morning stars are: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn because these can be seen with the naked eye.
Some translations of the Bible into English have “angels” or “heavenly beings” but a literal translation of the Hebrew bene Elohim is “sons of God”. The angels in the Bible are not, strictly speaking, created by God. It would be closer to the point to say that God begets them. Angels are “sons and daughters of God” we would say today. Angels eternally proceed out from God. Beyond this space-time universe the angels eternally proceed out from God and as sons of God they share the divine nature. Another book of the Bible describes this sublime effulgence of angels.
The Book of Daniel probably written in its final version in 164 BC in Aramaic and Hebrew. The book contains a magnificent vision of “the Ancient of Days”. The vision is highly metaphorical and pictorial but includes the procession of angels:
“A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.” (Daniel 7:10)
The numerical words (“a thousand thousands” and “ten thousand times ten thousand”) is an ancient Near Eastern way of saying “infinity”. An infinity of angels! We also have here an example of a literary device in ancient Hebrew called by scholars “parallelism”. This is when the second line is an echo of the first line. The echo explains the meaning of the first line. So the stream of fire that issues out from God is the infinity of angels. An infinity of angels proceeds out from the Infinite One. The last book of the Bible called The Book of Revelation or The Apocalypse written in Greek but full of Hebrew idioms towards the end of the first century refers to Daniel’s vision:
“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands.” (Revelation 5:11)
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.