Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Great Image

I had a dream and in the last second of the dream I was handed a simple drawing and that drawing was all I remembered of the dream. With the help of google images I tried to draw near exactly what I saw in the dream and things I saw after I laid there pondering. I will share my thoughts on the drawing in the next post. But for now, here it is: 

The topic of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream has been on my mind for quite some time. My dream helped me to move forward with blogging about it. I am going to start this post in an unusual way with the topic of:

The Mark of the Beast 666

There is no question we are seeing unprecedented times in many regards. The emergence and increasing dependence of technology with the human race is seemingly unstoppable. We are advancing in artificial intelligence at a break neck pace. Scientists are working to be able to upload our consciousness and be wholly implanted and connected with advanced technology, the likes of which we have never seen. Even kids books have breached the topic.

In the last 150 years the human race has advanced more rapidly than any known race. From horse and buggy to race cars. From month long ship voyages to air planes that take a matter of hours. From looking at the moon, to walking on the moon. From telegraphs to FaceTime. From brooms to irobot floor vacuums. We are living in a time of extreme abundance which has birthed an intensified dependance on the electrical grid to keep our supplies coming and Amazon delivering the next day. 

For all our technological advancements, one major blow to the electrical grid, be it through a powerful solar flare, geomagnetic storms, electromagnetic pulse attacks (EMP) via a high altitude nuclear detonation, cyberattacks, kinetic attacks, etc. and in one single day we would move from being one of the most sophisticated and advanced races, to one of the most benighted and ignorant races to ever populate the planet earth. Very few would possess enough knowledge to sustain their own lives for very long. For most of us, food comes from a shelf or a can, not the ground. Meat comes in a package and we aren't required to see the face of the animal we intend to eat. Water comes from a tap and when we need to get somewhere, we drive.

Prophets of old have seen our day and prophesied of our times. Moroni spoke directly to us when he said, "35 Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing."

In King Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Daniel 2) he saw great image of a man that consisted of differing metals moving from a head of gold, arms and chest of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron and finally - the feet made, not of solid metal, but a mixture iron (one of the strongest metals) and clay (one of the weakest elements) mixed together.

There have been many interpretations of the iron and clay mixture. I am merely giving my interpretation and I recognize that the Lord is very good at using one symbol to communicate a multitude of important truths. With that said, let's move onto the number 666.

Icon carver, Jonathan Pageau, helped me to understand the symbolism of the number 666. He suggested that if you want to understand 666, the best way to do it is to go back and to look at where the number appears in the Old Testament or in other places in the Bible, and then you can see if there’s a pattern among the different places where these numbers appear, and it can help you understand what 666 is referring to.

I will quote from him extensively in this part because he says it best:

"If you look at the number 666 you have to understand the way the ancients thought; that Creation was six days, and then there was the day of rest. The years of Noah were 600 years, and then there was the flood. And the whole world lasts 6000 years, and then it’s the end of the world. The six is related to the notion of man; is related to the idea of the sixth day of Creation. The key to understanding 666 is to understand it in relation to the sixth day of Creation.

"The Greek bishop Irenaeus relates 666 to the statue which was built by Nebuchadnezzar in the story of Daniel. That statue was 60 cubits high and 6 cubits across. And the connection is important, because in Revelations, it talks about how the second beast makes an image of the first beast, and then breathes life into it and asks everybody to worship it (Rev. 13). So, the fact that Greek bishop Irenaeus would connect that to the statue of Nebuchadnezzar is extremely important, because in the story of Nebuchadnezzar, the king has the statue built and asks everybody to worship it, and those who don’t worship it get thrown into the fire.

"...One thing that makes it difficult for us to understand 666 is that we tend to see it as this dark, ominous thing. But if you see it that way, you’re going to miss out on what 666 is, because the symbolism of six has more to do with a fullness of Creation; it has to do with the fullness of six days. So, the full cycle is seven days. The complete cycle is seven days. But that completeness includes rest, includes the part that can’t be calculated, includes the part that doesn’t do labor, includes the margin, the buffer. The six are the days of work and are therefore related to man and to the notion of the days of work.

Six represents: a perfection of work 

Seven represents: completeness

"And so, that is why the symbolism of six and the symbolism of 666 is not a dark symbolism; it’s actually a symbolism of light. There are reasons why, for example, Satan is represented as an angel of light; it is because it is the pride of light, it is the pride of work, it is the pride of accomplishment which gives you something like the statue of Nebuchadnezzar, which is to think that man is everything

"Another example is the Tower of Babel. The negative aspect of something like 666 would be a type of perfect system; a system which the people think is completely worked out and has everything in it, despite the fact that it’s actually lacking the 'rest' part. It only has the work part in it. 666 has to do with control, and in Scripture, it has to do with control of trade. 666 is also about calculating; it’s about accounting for. For example, in scripture if you don’t have the sign of the beast on your hand or on your forehead then you cannot participate in the counting; you cannot participate in the world of exchange. That’s why it ends up being, in its negative aspect, an image of control.

"Many people are talking about how 666 is likely going to be a microchip that people put in your hand, or in your forehead, and if you don’t have that then you won’t be able to trade. The intuition is pretty accurate in terms of symbolism, because it is the idea that, if you don’t have your identity accounted for, then you cannot participate in the trade.

"There are certain aspects of reality which you should not account for. In Scripture, it is the Sabbath. In Scripture, it’s the Jubilee. In Scripture, it’s the corners of the field that you have to leave for the foreigners, that you don’t want to count. You don’t want to gather the corners of the field. You also want to leave a fringe on your vestment, you don’t want to completely tie up the knots of your clothing. You don’t want to completely close the system.

"And so, the problem that happens when you try to account for everything is that you get this system that creates a weird tyranny of the exception, because it’s trying to account for the exception. An image of this is in the vision of artificial intelligence. Many of you have probably seen the speech that Tim Cook – the CEO of Apple – gave to the ADL. What he talks about is the creation of an artificial intelligence which he describes as “the god out of the machine." And this "god out of the machine" will solve our problems; the problem of hate speech, the problem of hate in general, the problem of excluding these marginal identities. He wants to account for everything, and he believes that he can create an image of man and he somehow believes that he will be able to breathe life into it so that it becomes this consciousness, and that this consciousness will then be put up above us as an authority and will decide for us who is excluded and who is included, in the desire to actually include all the margin. 

"So, in order to include all the things that should not be accounted for – things that should exist on the fringes in terms of potentiality and in terms of exceptions and all of this – we want to now contain it all, and we want to control it. Those who won’t bow down to this image of man – to this golden image – will not be able, ultimately, to participate in the system. Those are the ones who will be excluded from the system; not the marginal identities, not the exceptions, but those who will not recognize the totality of their system; that their system accounts for everything. Those are the ones who will be excluded and will be thrown out.

"That’s the whole image of idolatry. That’s the whole image of pride itself – the problem of believing that it all of it stops here, and you can recognize that you celebrate and ultimately you worship the image of man – that you worship reason, that you worship science, that you worship technology, all of these things. As we look at where the world is going, it seems that we are going in that direction.

"666 is an extremely powerful number. It is an image of perfection to a very strong degree, and there are many reasons why it’s that way. The first reason is, six itself is extremely powerful, because one plus two plus three equal six. The first three digits – very important ones – are unity, duality and multiplicity. That’s what one, two and three symbolize. You add those up and you get six, so it’s a very important number. Not only is it the sixth day of Creation; even mathematically, it has a lot of power. It has a lot of importance.

"As these patterns start to appear to us in the world, we shouldn't be looking for the dark Satanist who is going to be wearing all black and looking like a ghoul coming out of the Earth. That is not what 666 looks like. 666 looks like a luminous system that seems like it contains everything and can control everything. And that is why it is so seductive. That is why it can delude us if we’re not careful, because to not participate or to not worship this system can exclude you from the discourse. It makes it very easy to compromise in that sense. Even credit cards and some banks deny access to people – which has to do with counting. So, when we see these human systems that are all-controlling, that is when we have to be careful and suspicious, especially when we see them start to exclude people from participating in them because they don’t acknowledge their narrative. It is very dangerous."

When Jesus Christ comes and Zion is established, we will finally be freed from the toxic influences and the corrupt traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation, all the way back to Babylon. The prophecies of John talk about the fall of Babylon the great (Rev. 18). The head of gold which King Nebuchadnezzar saw still remains with us 
in our desire for power and wealth and influence, in our banking, in our motives to make a profit, in our culture, in our education, in our mistaken beliefs about what is important and what is not. These things corrupt business, governments, society, and even churches. It creates a culture of warring with one another to gain influence, wealth, worldly accolades, and power. 

The prophecy which Daniel interpreted in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar points to this. As Daniel interpreted, the metallic statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s changed from one metal to another metallic type. Similarly, human technology has been changing from one technology age to another one throughout human history—the stone age to the bronze age to the iron age. From the ancient time to the post-modern time, technology has become the main tool for kings and rulers not only to protect their kingdoms but also to conquer others. The more technology progresses, the better human world is civilized, and the worse humans’ fear is increased. Technology has not only produced advanced machines to meet humans’ needs, but has also brought forth metallic military weapons that empower kings or rulers to enslave other weaker people or even to destroy human lives.

Though Nebuchadnezzar saw an image which he later created an idol for the people to worship, the less obvious interpretation is that it refers to other things made of metal which could be worshipped or treated as gods which undoubtedly could include certain forms of technology or machinery. Leviticus 19:4 points to this when it says, "
Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the Lord your God."

Our lives can be likened to living in an epic film. Our struggle at the end of times is that we don’t know our story, yet we try to talk about the climax of the film (Christ's return) but most of us walked into the theatre an hour and a half late. Even worse, we think we know the story since we’ve heard it so many times, but we never actually read it. As Scalia said, many today have been “sacramentalized, but never truly evangelized. Having never quite experienced that cognitive moment of encounter with Christ, they do not know what they do not know, or why any of it matters.” This is crucial to remember as Christianity is not an idea, it is an experience. It is an encounter with Jesus Christ.

As Grondin taught, "...ours is an acetic age, one of distraction, where we wander about as fragmented beings hungry for meaning. The real struggle, as it has been from the beginning, is a struggle to commune with God and return to our origin — to return from exile. We sought to, “become like God without God” to shortcut our way to communion with the divine. Call it meaning, call it God, but the struggle to belong, to feel at peace, to find our place and our purpose, remains humanity’s struggle which advancing technology promises to fulfill." This is what is represented with iron and clay mixed together. Technology mixed with the fragility of the clay/dust, from which man came from and to which he will return.

In the quest for to return from our exile, we humans (clay) turn to technology (iron) for progress. Anciently the concept of two different “materials” with significantly different “attributes,” mixed together would have sounded strange and reprehensible to the biblical mindset; but it sounds reasonable as we embrace current AI technology. The more we blend humans with AI technological features, the more we create a potentially mixed culture between real human beings and humans mixed with technology. You could even say, as you read this very blog post, we are iron mixed with clay (the devices we carry with us everywhere).

In King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, as the iron and clay take shape in the feet (and feet are where movement of the image can begin) he was then shown a great stone will come forth and brake these metals to pieces and then grind them to dust (Daniel 2). We have not yet reached the stone coming forth in what King Nebuchadnezzar saw.  

In our present time, the relationship between humans and technology has been increasing in some countries such as America, China, Japan, and Russia. Unlike in the past, many current global leaders focus on technology, and this has been addressed by Russian President, Vladimir Putin when he said, “The nation that leads in AI ‘will be the ruler of the world.’. . . Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind.”

Daniel once interpreted the fate of King Nebuchadnezzar after the king decided to transfer the glory that God granted him into a metallic human-like image. Nebuchadnezzar created a golden humanoid statue and ordered everyone in his kingdom to bow down and to honor the golden image he built (Dan. 3:1-6). Fast forward to our day, are we no different...bowing our heads down in worship to a metal god of technology in our hands?

To paraphrase Jordan Peterson, these are non trivial realities that are being pointed to and we ignore them at our peril. Anciently there was a hunger to learn and appreciate the world...but that gradually narrowed down. It happens to any human civilization as soon as they say, "We have reached perfection. We don’t need to learn anything from the outside world." That attitude is the tower of Babel...the minute we build a structure and believe it has reached the heights of soon as you begin to believe you have achieved that, God steps in and everyone who exalted themselves is brought low and everyone speaks a different language and are unable to understand each other. Then from there, everything descends at a rapid pace. And all of that is followed by the flood...and that’s not an accident.