What is the Mark of the Beast? What Does 666 Mean? #Revelation #EndTimes #166
Hello friends, and I can’t believe it is yet another Friday, and we are heading into the weekend again. How time has been flying lately! I want to assure you that this has NOT become the Daily End-Times Bible Prophecy Last Days Podcast of Eschatological Insights. I know we have talked about end-times/Revelation topics quite a bit lately, but that will settle down shortly as we move out of Revelation. One of the reasons why we’ve discussed these topics so much is that I might be writing a book shortly on Revelation and the end-times, but a bigger reason is that this is among my top four favorite topics to preach/teach about. I know pastors/preachers shouldn’t have favorites, but I do feel like it might be appropriate to have favorite topics/verses/chapters/books. Maybe. I hope so, and if you are curious, here is my top 4:
- The Resurrection – Nothing comes close to this one. I love to preach about how our Savior and Lord Jesus overcame death and promises the same to His followers. I specifically like to preach/teach about reasons to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.
- Spiritual Gifts: I suppose my second favorite topic to preach about is spiritual gifts, because I believe that the Holy Spirit has not merely equipped one or two gifted people in the church to lead, but THE WHOLE CHURCH is gifted and empowered with gifts of the Spirit. When I became a writer 3 years and 8 books ago, it was with the express intention of writing a book on spiritual gifts, but that book hasn’t been written yet, even though others have. Hopefully one day!
- The Second Coming/Last Days/End Times – Partially because it is such a fascinating topic to discuss and most everybody is interested in the last days, but mainly because the return of Jesus inspires so much hope.
- The last one is tricky – maybe the Body of Christ, or Prayer…but most likely First Commandment and Second Commandment. This likely should be #1 on my list.
The long and short of it is that I’ll probably focus on one of the above topics whenever we encounter them in our daily Bible reading, and we have certainly encountered the last days a lot in the last couple of weeks. I’m also preaching through Revelation for our church – some of whom listen to this pod – but our focus there has thus far been more on the letters of Jesus in the first few chapters, so hopefully they aren’t too overstuffed on the last days.
I remember when I was a kid watching Degarmo and Key’s epic 80s song 666, which is all about the Mark of the Beast and the number of the beast. At the time, it was a chilling and spooky video, but now…maybe not so much. I’ve posted the video on our site, but if you don’t go look, it begins with a guy at his computer, and an evil agent, apparently, has left a 5.25 floppy disk at his computer with the number 666 on it…so, of course, our hero puts it into his computer to see what the disk has on it!
As you might imagine, this is about as wise as touching an electric fence to see if it was on, which is something dumb I’ve done more than once. As we continue in the song
I was feeling kind of restless
So I went out for a walk
And I ran into a stranger
And for hours we just talked
Said I’m waiting for this moment all my life
This is it
And when I asked him to explain it
He just smiled and he told me, six, six, six
He said «Things will get much better
And the night is New Age Eve
I can even change the weather
I can do things you won’t believe
I got signs and wonder in my bag of tricks
Hummm tricks !
When I asked him to explain
He just smiled and he told me, six, six, six
Six, six, six
I said, «Jesus won’t you save me from this evil man of sin
I have read about his future, I don’t want to go with him»
And when I looked he had gone
But he had left a note that said
«My number is, my number is, my number is
Six, six, six»
Remember me, remember me, remember me,
Said my number, my number, my number is six, six, six
When morning came I laughed
At what I thought was just a dream
And I went to call my neighbor
And tell him all I’d seen
But when I reached for my address book
I felt sick
Cause, written across the page,
Every number there was six, six, six
six, six, six
So – you’re restless, you go for a walk, and you meet a guy who claims he can change the weather and do other things, and he keeps repeating 666. You try to get away, but some cops in shades stop you, and you break out a window and run the other way, and the next day your address book – shout out to the middle ages – has 666 written all across it. I guess this is how we viewed Revelation in the 80s. It was a different time than now. Is this how the Bible presents the mark of the beast and 666? Let’s read and find out, but let me go ahead and take the suspense out of it for you. No, it is not how the Bible discusses the last days.
As we are going along through Revelation, we are learning more and more, though things are still cloudy. A couple of points of clarification we need to make.
#1 – As we alluded to yesterday, sometimes the beast in Revelation seems to indicate a kingdom or conglomeration of countries and sometimes, especially in later references in Revelation, the beast appears to be an individual. If we can combine those two things, then it is likely that the beast is an individual that comes out of a kingdom/group of countries that is closely associated with the leadership of the beast in the same way that a football program might be closely associated with a coach, or a company closely associated with its owner. This is speculation, of course, but a possible solution to some of the verbiage of Revelation.
#2 The beast of Revelation is very likely the same individual as the antichrist of 1 John and 2nd John. The term ‘antichrist’ only occurs in the epistles of John. The term ‘the beast’ only occurs in Revelation, and to a lesser extent in the Old Testament book of Daniel. Daniel seems to refer to the beast of Revelation as the ‘little horn’ of Daniel 7. To further complicate things, it would appear that the ‘man of lawlessness,’ spoken of by Paul in 2nd Thessalonians 2, is the same as the beast, the antichrist and the ‘little horn.’ This might seem to be a bit confusing, but it is not abnormal from a biblical perspective, as Satan is called ‘the adversary,’ ‘the slanderer,’ etc.
I am well aware that Revelation shows us TWO beasts, and the other passages seem to focus on ONE antichrist. I believe that that this issue will be much clearer as we see it unfold, but I suspect that one of the beasts of Revelation will be the antichrist/man of lawlessness, and the other will simply be a prominent and powerful figure that opposes God.
What about the ‘mark of the beast?’ Well, before we discuss that, let’s give our first and foremost attention to the mark of God. Revelation 7 tells us about it:
2 Then I saw another angel rising up from the east, who had the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were allowed to harm the earth and the sea, 3 “Don’t harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we seal the servants of our God on their foreheads.”
It is likely that Revelation 7 is hearkening back to Ezekiel’s vision in which he sees God send out a group to bring vengeance on the inhabitants of Jerusalem – all who DON’T have the mark of God on the foreheads:
3 Then the glory of the God of Israel rose from above the cherub where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. He called to the man clothed in linen and carrying writing equipment. 4 “Pass throughout the city of Jerusalem,” the Lord said to him, “and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the detestable practices committed in it.”
So, this seal or mark of God is protective – it prevents those who are sealed from being harmed by the punishment that God is sending on the world during Revelation. This obviously itself looks back to the blood on the posts of the doors during the Exodus, as celebrated in Passover, which itself looks FORWARD to the shed blood of Jesus covering His people and protecting them from deserved divine judgment. Maybe you can see now why biblical prophecy is a bit…complicated?!
There is also a seal of the beast, and this is spoken of in Revelation 13 and 14. As a refresher:
16 And it makes everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark: the beast’s name or the number of its name.18 This calls for wisdom: Let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, because it is the number of a person. Its number is 666.
(Chapter 14) 9 And another, a third angel, followed them and spoke with a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, which is poured full strength into the cup of his anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb, 11 and the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or anyone who receives the mark of its name. 12 This calls for endurance from the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus.”
Revelation 13:16-18 and Revelation 14:9-12
Many, many lines of ink have been spilled over the years talking about this ‘mark of the beast.’ There are so many theories about it ranging from the mildly plausible to the patently absurd. I recall in the 80s that many were convinced that UPC codes (the bar codes found on things you buy at the store) were the mark of the beast. Others believe it will be an injectable chip or something along those lines. The Greek word is ‘χάραγμα cháragma, khar’-ag-mah’ and it means a stamp, or a mark. It comes from a word that means ‘trench,’ so it very likely contains a connotation of digging, engraving or etching. Consider the one other use of the word outside the book of Revelation:
29 Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.
The word there is ‘formed’ or ‘graven’ in the KJV, and would seem to indicate something drawn/carved or made. I suppose an implantable chip (possibly with circuits engraved on its boards) could qualify there, but that is a slight stretch. So – what is this mark of the beast? And the answer is, of course – WE DON’T KNOW! And once again, I am quite skeptical of those who claim to know exactly, because we aren’t given enough information to know. That said, we are given enough information to know the mark of the beast beyond a shadow of a doubt when we see it. I believe it will be very, very clear, and not something that you can be really duped into getting like some sort of coronavirus vaccine, or thing that is given to you by deceit. The passage seems to indicate that the mark of the beast will be received with a conscious submission to it, and not ignorantly. Here’s what we know:
- The mark will be on the right hand or the forehead.
- The mark will be economic in some ways – there will be finance systems set up where you can’t buy or sell without the mark. As such, I kind of keep up with anti-fraud technology, because that is one possible way we could get to a mark of the beast. I could see a leader or government attempting to make currency obsolete somehow and requiring some sort of unique ID/payment method be somehow put onto every person.
- The mark will somehow tie back into the beast/antichrist/man of lawlessness, and perhaps the kingdom/country/group of countries that individual is leading.
- Even if we see the mark coming – WE WON’T BE ABLE TO PREVENT IT. God has ordained these events, and they aren’t written down in the Bible for us to try and stop them. We have no command to fight against the implementation of these technologies. Do so if you feel so led, but the point of this passage is very simple: Do NOT get the mark of the beast. The point is not – FIGHT AGAINST EVERY TECHNOLOGY or INNOVATION THAT COULD BE THE MARK. God’s Word will come to pass.
Bottom line: Don’t get a mark/chip/tattoo/engraving/implant on your wrist/arm or forehead that has anything to do with buying and selling.
One more thing to discuss – the enigmatic 666. What’s that all about? As you might imagine, Christians over the years have discussed this issue extensively and fiercely debated its meaning. Many believe that John intended the number to be used in a way as a code, and thus many use gematria – which is a way of assigning a number to letters and fashioning a sort of code – as a way to interpret 666. The problems with this approach are legion, as John never tells us exactly how 666 is the number of the name of the antichrist, and never tells us what code he might be using, and Christians have thus guessed for over a thousand years what he was thinking. Even way back in the early 200s, we have figures like Bishop Hippolytus discussing this issue, as George Ladd tells us:
One of the first Christians to give us a treatise on the Antichrist is Hippolytus, a Bishop of Rome during the first decades of the third century A. D. Hippolytus applies the fourth beast of Daniel to the Roman empire then ruling the world, and interprets the ten toes of the image in Daniel 2 of ten kings who would arise out of the Roman empire. This is also symbolized by the ten horns of the fourth beast. The horn which will root up three horns is Antichrist. He is to destroy the kings of Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia, after which he will rule the world and persecute the saints. Hippolytus tentatively suggests that the mark of the Beast, 666, may mean Latinus, but he is uncertain. “Wherefore we ought neither to give it out as if this were certainly his name, nor again ignore the fact that he may not be otherwise designated. But having the mystery of God in our heart, we ought in fear to keep faithfully what has been told us by the blessed prophets, in order that when these things come to pass, we may be prepared for them, and not be deceived”
George Eldon Ladd, The Blessed Hope (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956), 29–30.
Allow me to give you an example of one of these attempts to come up with a meaning for 666, this one from Primasius, a North African bishop of the church who lived in the 500s AD:
This calls for wisdom. Whoever has understanding, let him reckon the number of the beast, for the number of the beast, it says, is that of a man. Let us reckon the number that is to be received, so that in the number we might also learn the name and the mark. And the number, it says, is 666, which we will reckon according to the Greek, especially since he was writing to Asia and said according to the manner of their own language, “I am the alpha and the omega.” Having already described as much as he could the fraudulence of the adversarial party by which the devil attempts to usurp for himself the honor of deity that he does not merit, so that he might exhibit the antichrist who is the opposite to divine honor, he instructs us to investigate the character of the beast, whether by the mark or by the number of his name, that is, of the will and the work of that most wicked beast. The name is ΑΝΤΕΜΟΣ, which, if you compute the numbers that correspond to these Greek letters, fulfills the number 666 (I + L + CCC + V + XL + LXX + CC). This name is interpreted as “contrary to honor,” and so he is said to be contrary to that honor that belongs to God alone, and for this reason he is said to be inept, insolent and inconstant, for no honor pertains to him, but only anathema.10 And so through the number a name is found and from the name a number is computed, and from the interpretation of this name the character of his works is learned. There is another name that gives the sum of the same number and that might rightfully be advanced, and that is ΑΡΝΟΥΜΕ, which also renders 666 (I + C + L + LXX + CCCC + XL + V). The interpretation of this is “I deny.” And it is not surprising that the antichrist is worthy of this name, that is, of denial, since the name of belief is proper to Christ, as he himself indicated, saying, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent,”11 and also, “You believe in God, believe also in me.”12 And so, whether one would speak of ΑΝΤΕΜΟΣ, that is, “contrary to honor,” or ΑΡΝΟΥΜΕ, that is, “I deny,” either can aptly refer to the antichrist, so that as through two parts of speech, that of the name and that of the word itself, both the character of his person and the severity of his work is suggested.
William C. Weinrich, ed., Revelation, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 212–213.
Many have definitely declared that Nero, Roman Catholics (Latinus), this or that pope, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald W. Reagan, Hitler, and others were the antichrist based on somehow making their name match up to 666. The thing is – depending on what code you use, there can be literally thousands of different names that can somehow, someway add up to 666. I think the Holy Spirit, as the ultimate author of the Bible, had full knowledge of this fact, and I believe when the antichrist/beast comes onto the scene, then it will be much clearer how the number 666 relates to him. In this, I wholeheartedly agree with Andrew of Caesarea, another bishop from the 500s, who wrote a commentary on Revelation:
For the sober-minded, time and experience will reveal the actual significance of the number and the truth of whatever has been written about it. For, were it necessary, as some of the teachers say, that such a name be clearly known, the seer would have revealed it. But the divine grace did not consent that the name of the destroyer be noted in the divine book
William C. Weinrich, ed., Revelation, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 213.