666 And The Love of Money Part 6

In this series, 666 and The Love of Money, we have been looking at how John used Solomon, 666, the love of money and the corruption of the leaders of Israel to confirm to his Revelation readers that the leadership of Israel, in particular the High Priesthood symbolized the Kingdom of the beast. The High Priest held the holiest position in Judaism and acted as spiritual leader to the Jewish people. While the temple was Judea’s chief financial institution and its largest bank. It was the centre of commerce in the land and it was a very corrupt system.

In post 4 and post 5 we looked at the Saduceean High Priesthood family – The Ananus Dynasty whose power extended up until 68AD. while in this post we will be looking at how Jesus and the other New Testament writers spoke about the religious leaders love of money, their oppression of the people and how the New Testament writers referred to their Jewish enemies and persecutors as beasts.

Firstly in Luke, Jesus said that the Pharisees were lovers of money.

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were ridiculing Him.  And He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of people, but God knows your hearts; because that which is highly esteemed among people is detestable in the sight of God. ~ Luke 16: 13-15

And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!  For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  And they who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?”  But He said, “The things impossible with men are possible with God” ~ Luke 18:28-30.

The Widow’s Mite Parable

Jesus also used the parable of the widow’s mite to illustrate how corrupt the leaders of the temple were. This is what Jesus said immediately before the widow’s story in Mark 12:41-44:

“Beware of the scribes who like walking around in long robes and respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.”

Jesus had no time for the scribes as they re-interpreted the Mosaic law and claimed that their private interpretation – the oral law was correct and they enforced its obedience. Unfortunately this was detrimental to the likes of widows and so Jesus told the parable of the widow’s mite. So many interpret this parable in the WRONG way, especially those who preach a prosperity gospel message today. Please take the time to watch this 3 min video to see the historical context of this parable and how it relates to the passages of scripture before and after found in Mark 12.

 Paul Penley from Re-enacting The Way writes the following:

Jesus is angry at the Jewish teachers who are persuading widows to give all their money to the Temple bank account. He sees a corrupt religious system that no longer honors God’s heart to care for the needy. Teachers of the Law no longer honor the intent of the Law. Instead, the system has created wealthy religious celebrities who construct lavish buildings and pray in long robes to puff up their public reputation, while the poor go bankrupt. That’s why he isn’t impressed by the “wonderful stones” and “wonderful buildings” in the Temple complex.
Jesus is intentionally highlighting the widow’s gift to the Temple as an illustration of how messed up Jerusalem is. He is condemning Jerusalem’s leaders just like Amos and Isaiah and Ezekiel did before him. The widow’s gift is evidence of what Ezekiel saw in the Temple over 600 years earlier: “The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice” (Ezekiel 22:29). In that context of prophetic judgment against Jerusalem, the widow’s offering takes on a much different meaning than we first suspect. [1]

Moth and Rust Destroy Treasures

Jesus said in The Sermon on the Mount:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. ~ Matthew 6: 19-24

Jewish Idiom – Good Eyes and Bad Eyes

What most people will miss when reading the above verses is that Jesus used two Jewish idioms that his audience would have been so aware of.

Having a ‘good eye’ is to look out for the needs of others and be generous in giving to the poor.

To have a ‘bad eye’ is to be greedy and self-centred, blind to the needs of those around you. [2]

 The leaders of Israel had ‘bad eyes’.

James Also Referred To Rotten and Moth Eaten Treasures

James also reminded his listeners about the Sermon on The Mount when he referred to the moth-eaten garments and the corrosion of rust of the religious leaders.

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.  Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.  ~ James 1-8

The Leaders of Israel were Hypocrites

Matthew records Jesus telling his listeners that the leaders and teachers of Israel did not practice what they preached and they placed heavy burdens on the people. Everything they did was for show and they neglected looking after the poor, the needy, the sick, the orphans and the widows.

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. “Everything they do is done for people to see … Matthew 23: 2-5

Continuing on in Matthew 23 Jesus then condemns the teachers of the law and Pharisees with 7 damming woes, calling them snakes, vipers and murderers, and finally declaring that their temple would be left desolate.

Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruit. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and on whomever it falls, it will crush him.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. And although they sought to arrest Him, they feared the crowds, since they considered Him to be a prophet.

Paul And Peter Referred to the Jewish Leaders as “Beasts”

In I Corinthians 15:32 Paul said that he had “fought with beasts at Ephesus.” However, there is no record that he ever fought with bears, lions, or any other animal. He did, however, deal with Judaizers (Acts 19:8-9, Ephesians 6:12; I Timothy 1:3-4). Likewise, Peter referred to the false prophets (2 Peter 2:1) in his lifetime as being “natural brute beasts” made to be caught and destroyed” (verse 12).

In my final post in this series we will be looking at why 666 does not refer to Nero.

You can read the rest of the blog posts in this series here.


[1] https://www.reenactingtheway.com/blog/the-widows-mite-good-or-bad-example-of-giving

[2] Craig Keener A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), pg 232

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