Or has this number, like much of our theology, and many of our symbols, been turned instead to a form of superstition, a Christianized black cat?
See, Christians have long been guilty of idolizing the trappings of religion, in essence behaving as pagans, with our own rituals and forms of magic (though we never call it that!). We'll kiss a cross necklace for luck, as though this piece of metal -- as significant a symbol as it is -- is also a talisman to ward off evil and misfortune.
I got a letter a few months back, a page colored like a "prayer rug," with the note attached that if I prayed for the names on the list, I could also add my own name and then be a party to the "wonderful things" God evidently has in store for credulous recipients of chain mail. Of course, they also offered to send me (for a fee) my very own prayer rug. "It works!" the letter declared.
Works? Works to do what? Bend the will of the creator of the Universe?
There is an historical explanation for this phenomena, of course. As Christianity spread, it was often co-mingled with the pagan religion of the day, or the superstitions in the region. Voodoo is a great example of what can happen with Christianity is allowed to mix with regional occult practices. But that's an extreme example.
Less extreme examples may include Christians who "pray" to their guardian angels, or who say "knock on wood," or engage in other acts of superstition. Even saying "God bless you" after a friend sneezes has its roots in superstition rather than the reality of faith in Christ.
Let's go back, for a minute, to 666.
The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666. (Rev. 13:15-18)
The number of man. It's not mystical or magical. It is significant, but it has no power over you. It is the number of man -- of us. It's the mark of the beast, because it's the mark of our own sin natures. We can avoid paying $6.66 all we like, but it's only through Christ that we can escape what the number actually means. And it is Christ, by the way, who has the power. Not some number, or sign.
We can walk under ladders all day long, while holding a black cat, and then go inside and open an umbrella. We can spill salt without having to toss a bit over our shoulders. Superstition is just that, and Christians need to understand our power is not in magic or ritual, but in Jesus Christ.
More importantly, it's time to understand, you and I have no power over the angels. We cannot bend the will of almighty God. Not even if our lucky rabbit's foot happens to be a tiny, metal cross.