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666 -- and other misunderstandings
by Peter Liefhebber

A look at common religious misconceptions regarding the awaited Teacher, sharing & the anti-Christ. 

Within religious groups there are many views as to how and when their awaited teacher will appear. Ideas vary from the extremely concrete to the largely abstract. One Buddhist sect, for example, holds strictly to the literal meaning of an ancient text given out, as legend has it, by Gautama Buddha. This text would have Him say of His successor, Maitreya Buddha, that He would come when girls were 500 years of age when they reached puberty (!).

Many Hindus believe that the new divine incarnation will manifest Himself as the god Kalki, seated on a white horse. Orthodox Muslims cite texts which state that the Imam Mahdi will appear in a mosque in Damascus where, during morning prayers, He will say: "I have come, give me clothes."  For fundamentalist Christians it is unthinkable that the Christ could return in any other way than on a cloud at the end of the world. To all such groups, any suggestion that these prophecies are symbolic, and possibly even distorted, is unacceptable.

An example is the biblical statement that the timing of the Christ's return is known to no one, not even to the Christ Himself. This is a frequent argument against the possibility that anyone could know in advance -- and that therefore Benjamin Creme's information should be disregarded.

But this attitude takes no account of the fact that what was true 2,000 years ago need not necessarily pertain forever. For during the past 2,000 years, not only the Christ but all the Masters and some of their disciples have come into this knowledge: in June 1945 the Christ was able to announce not only His intention to return but also the approximate date of that event.

A Thief in the Night

Likewise, His coming does not contradict the other much-quoted statement that He would come like a thief in the night (thieves seldom announce themselves with fanfares, however, as is expected of the Christ). How many, after all, realized that in July 1977 He took His place in the world?

Christians, in an effort to back up their objection to the claim that Maitreya is the Christ, invariably maintain, from their interpretation of Revelation, that destruction must precede His coming. But have we not already experienced disaster in excess? What do they make of the world wars, of the earthquakes, which this century have taken their toll of millions of lives, of the scourge of famine which every two seconds claims the life of a child? Is that not disaster enough?

If possible, emotions run even higher when the subject of the Anti-Christ is broached. St John's Book of Revelation serves as the principal source for the many theories regarding this concept. The number 666, referred to as the number of the beast, has been juggled with thousands of times by amateur numerologists and declared applicable, simultaneously, not only to Maitreya but also to Stalin, Hitler, Brezhnev, Nixon and Ronald Reagan, among others. 

Nero was The Beast

Against those who adhere to literal interpretations, such arguments are as ineffective as scientific explanations about the real meaning of 666. In an interview with the German author Peter Andreas, the scientist Prof. G. Quispel expresses his amazement that the demonstrably wrong ideas on this subject have not been abandoned:

"I am constantly astonished to see that people still do not appear to know what has been recognized for one and a half centuries: that the beast from the Apocalypse refers to none other than the Caesar, Nero. Only the later Christian church, in the time of Constantine (325 AD), put the Apocalypse into a future, historical time-frame." (From: Was Morgenwahr sein kann, Econ Verlag)

Sharing is not Communism

The teachings of Maitreya about the need for sharing and for economic reform arouse, too, some opposition within Christian circles. "Isn't that communism?" is a frequently-heard question. Fortunately, the majority of Christians and followers of other religions think differently. For them, sharing is not a threat but a longed-for ideal, just as for Jesus and the early church it was an ideal to be strived for. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus states by what criteria a life can be judged to have been correctly lived: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, relieving the thirsty, helping the sick and imprisoned --these to Jesus were signs of a life pleasing to God. "Verily, I say unto you, in as much as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me."

Looking at the Acts of the Apostles it is obvious that the early Christian community took this lesson to heart and practiced the principle of sharing. "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said of any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common...Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands and houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold and laid them down at the Apostles' feet; and distribution was made unto every man according to his need."  Today too, "distribution according to need" is the basis upon which Maitreya the Christ recommends we remake our world.

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First published April 1999, Last modified: 15-Oct-2005