IT'S not too often one drives past a place of worship and sees the number of the beast, or 666, widely accepted to be a mark of the Antichrist, posted on the sign near its door.
But 666: The Mark of the Emperor was posted for several days on the sign outside Maryborough's Seventh Day Adventist Church, making me curious; so much so that I decided to attend the sermon.
As a non-practising Anglican, my knowledge of the Bible couldn't be described as thorough.
But the number 666 is well-known. It has become a part of pop culture, thanks to horror movies such as The Omen.
In the Bible, 666 appears in the Book of Revelation and it is referred to as the number of the beast.
Seventh Day Adventist church member and Hervey Bay businessman Rodney Tempest led the presentation.
I introduce myself to Rod, who says he has been presenting sermons on this issue for more than 20 years.
It is a topic close to his heart.
Rod believes end times could be near, may well be upon us, as he witnesses people turning away from God.
He says people believe they don't need God in their lives because they are fulfilled by the material world but he believes people use material goods to try to fill a gaping hole where one's faith in God ought to be.
The pastor of the Fraser Coast Seventh Day Adventist Church, Gary Roberts, was also in attendance.
I go to church usually for two reasons: a christening or a wedding. So to be in a room full of people who attend church regularly is a little intimidating.
What surprises me is the effort they go to in order to make me feel welcome.
Val, a sweet older lady, comes over and shakes my hand.
She tells me she is grieving because her pet, a chihuahua cross, had to be put down that day and she has come to church tonight in order to make some sense of her loss.
She tells Rod during the service that she is filled with doubt about whether her dog needed to be put down and he reassures her that it was the kindest thing to do.
Others also come over and introduce themselves to me.
As the service begins, more people arrive until there are about a dozen people in the room, myself included.
Because of my pop culture knowledge of the number of the beast and its link to the Antichrist, I'm interested to hear what Rod will say during the sermon.
What he does say fascinates me.
Rod spoke about how the Bible talks about the seal of God - and how 666 was the number or mark of the beast, in opposition to the seal.
What it boiled down to was how you lived your life and whether your actions served God or the devil, Rod said.
"Whoever you serve, you are the servant of," he said.
"Is that right? If the devil has a bunch of stuff that he loves to do, he loves lying, cheating, killing, stealing, all that stuff; if in your life, you love lying, stealing, killing etcetera, etcetera, whose servant are you?
Are you Satan's servant?
"You know it's pretty hard to break free of some of those behaviours. Just go into some jails and see how many repeat offenders go in there."
Rod speaks of the choice we all have to follow the will of God.
"Satan will do anything to take that power from you," Val chimes in and Rod agrees.
The seventh day, held by Seventh Day Adventists as being Saturday, also holds much significance.
"This is a sign we belong to God, his Sabbath," Rod said.
On the seventh day, God hallowed the Earth, blessed it and rested, Rod said.
"So there are three ingredients in the seventh day that are not in any other day," he said.
"Three ingredients that God put there, he put them there and he also showed us by example.
"Does God need any rest?"
"No," comes the reply from those gathered.
"He rested. This is the example."
Rod said the Sabbath was the gateway to eternal rest, a rest from sin and death.
"God's Sabbath is God's seal."
Talk then turns to the mark of the beast.
"So the seal of God is from God. What about the mark of the beast, who do you think that's from? The beast! Pretty simple, isn't it? The seal's from God and the mark is from the beast. Anyone who worships the beast or his image receives his mark, you're in trouble."
The Roman Church was then mentioned, with Rod saying its teachings defied the word of God, particularly the practice of having Sunday as the day of rest.
"If the seal of God is from God then the mark of beast is from the Church of Rome. Does that make sense? Is it comfortable? Probably not.
"Sometimes these things are uncomfortable when we uncover them."
Worship and the mark were connected, Rod said. "Worship the beast, you get a mark.
"The seal reveals obedience to God and the mark reveals obedience to the beast."
Rod said there was no rest day or night for those connected to the beast, which once again brought the issue of rest into play.
Rod places a lot of emphasis on the fact that man was created on the sixth day - which he connects to the number 666.
"I'm amazed how people just get it so wrong," Rod remarked.
He said the number 666 was not the number of a computer, a car or a silicone chip.
"The Bible says it was the number of a man, is that hard to understand? It's not is it, and his number is 666.
"On whose authority do we worship? On what day?
You know number six is the number of man because man was created on day six.
"And some folks think that's all you need, you don't need seven, that rest. And they're stuck on six, like the record, remember the old records, remember the old records in the old days that goes round and it gets stuck, and it goes six, six, six.
"It couldn't move to seven. That's the problem here, you see. Can't move to seven. Man is saying all I need is me. I don't need to step into God's rest. All I need is me and my authority.
"I'm not going to take any notice of God's authority, I'm going to step around it, I'm not going to take any notice."
By remaining impervious to our connection with God, he argued, we cannot move past six, man's creation and his place in the world, and connect with God.
He said the fact that man was created on the sixth day proved the number 666 was meant to refer to a man - a man who was a servant of Satan and not God.
Rod connected God with the seventh day and said seven symbolised the effort man must make to bring God into his life.
"The number for God is seven. Seven means perfection, completeness and that is God's number and he is perfect and he wants us to be that way.
"Seven is the day of completion."
One did not keep the Sabbath holy in order to get into heaven, Rod said.
They kept the Sabbath to be obedient to God.
He urged those who practised worship on Sunday to turn away from those teachings and observe the Sabbath.
At the end of the presentation I am presented with books, information and videos for further research.
Rod and Gary are happy to answer any questions I might have and invite me to return some time.
In all it's been an interesting night, with plenty of food for thought.