Q. I heard that in the Hebrew language each letter has a numerical value and when you translate number 666 to corresponding Hebrew letters, you come out with the name Nero who was persecuting Christians at the time of John’s banishment to Patmos. Do you think John was referring to Nero? Was he perhaps referring to Nero and a future anti-Christ, too?
A. There’s a group of scholars who believe that the Book of Revelation is all history and does not speak of the end times. They’re called Preterists. Many of them don’t believe in a Rapture, Great Tribulation, or 2nd Coming, but that only the judgment of mankind remains for future fulfillment.
They’re correct in saying that each letter of the 22 letter Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value. There are no numbers in Hebrew so they used letters, and the numerical equivalent of Nero’s full name and title in Hebrew adds up to 666. So they claim that Nero is the anti-Christ that John was writing about.
The problem is that many other End Times prophecies were not fulfilled in the times of Nero, nor have they been since. Preterists twist the Scriptures to either deny those prophecies exist, or they find substitute fulfillment.
For example, instead of having the anti-Christ stand in the Temple proclaiming he’s God for the Abomination of Desolation as in 2 Thes 2:4 and Daniel 9:27, they claim that when Rome affixed a large model of the Roman Eagle to the wall just outside the main gate of the Temple this prophecy was fulfilled. Some Preterists also claim that the 2nd Coming prophecies were fulfilled on the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus appeared in His glorified form to Peter, James, and John (Matt. 17:1-8).
There’s no doubt that Nero was a model for the future ant-Christ, as were Antiochus Epiphanes before him (175-164 BC) and Hitler after him. But to make the claim that the prophecies of Revelation were all fulfilled during Nero’s reign requires a gross departure from the literal, historical, grammatical interpretation of Scripture to which Futurists (those who believe the Revelation is about our future) adhere.