666! Is there a scarier number to fundagelicals? It is, after all,  the “Mark of the Beast.”(Revelation 13:18) As I mentioned in a previous post, I was cleaning out my garage and found an old box of books. (I’ll admit there are many old boxes of books out there.) Among the treasures hidden in the long-neglected box were copies of The Late Great Planet Earth and The 1980’s Countdown to Armageddon I wrote about those in a previous blog post. Fundagelicals love prophecy. They love the dispensational narrative of how all the REAL Christians will suddenly vanish, in an event called the Rapture, and everyone else will suffer God’s wrath for seven years in an event known as “The Tribulation.” My problem with fundagelicals, and remember I’m an ex-fundagelical myself, isn’t that they love this dispensational narrative, it’s the fact they mangle scripture to create their timelines and take secret joy in the fact that unbelievers will finally get what’s coming to them as ANGRY God tortures them for seven years.

Back to the books, alongside the previously mentioned books, I found two gems written by Mary Stewart Relfe, When Your Money Fails and The New Money System. In the first book, she points out how the number 666 is popping up everywhere. She notes the number 666 is showing up on license plates, credit card numbers and even lottery tickets. She has quite the collection of reproduced pictures to show this evil number in dozens of random places. What could it mean? For Relfe, it means the Antichrist is imminent. For rational people, it means that sequentially generated identification numbers will produce the number 666 once out of every 999 numbers generated.

Relfe claims she uses “theomatics,” which is a made up word to replace gematria. (A Kabbalistic method of interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures by computing the numerical value of words, based on those of their constituent letters.) Relfe offers evidence, let’s follow Relfe’s logic for a minute. She says, “English like the oldest alphabet discovered is based on a root value of 6. For example, 6 x 2 = 1 foot; 6 x 6 = 1 yard; 6 ‘forties’ = 1 section; 6 x 6 sections = 1 township. One township is a 6 miles square, etc.”[1] Her example, however, is about map surveying and nothing to do with the English language. However, in fundagelical circles, all those sixes must mean something. A quick glance at how survey maps work shows Relfe got her 6″ forties” wrong. Six “forties” (6 x 40) would be 240. 1 section equals 640 acres. Maybe Relfe meant a 6 next to a 40. It’s this kind of sloppy, random fact word salad that appears throughout her book. To compound her error, using a survey map system to prove the “theomatics” linguistic connection is a complete non-sequitur. But as I’ve said before, fundagelicals never let facts get in the way of their dispensational narrative.

Relf then declares that by assigning numeric values to each letter in the alphabet in multiples of six, for example, A=6, B=12, C=18; that words related to the Antichrist system produce the sum of 666. These words are Mark of the Beast, Computer, and Kissinger. (For the younger crowd, he was a controversial National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford) However, using a gematria calculator, (Yes there is such a thing) you find out words like auctioneer, bricklayer, and buttocks, also equal the dreaded 666. Relfe never explains why she arbitrarily assigns numeric values to letters of the alphabet in multiples of six. Why don’t we assign A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, like on my old secret decoder ring?

It’s unbelievable how much time and energy goes into trying to figure out who the Antichrist will be. One website claims “Almost twenty-five years and literally thousands upon thousands of hours of comprehensive research, have since been invested.” in trying to decode the Bible and unlock its secrets with this made up system. Can you imagine what could have been accomplished if that same time and energy had been spent on helping people as Jesus taught instead of adding up the supposed value of words? Let’s stop adding up scripture and start living what was taught in scripture. What’s the point of finding a hidden message if you miss the obvious message to love one another?

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[1] Mary Stewart. Relfe, When Your Money Fails: The “666 System” Is Here (Pretoria: Bet-El Publishers, 1982), 168.