The Mark of the Beast

Revelation 13:16-18
The End Times

In my last post, we unpacked Revelation 13:11-15 concerning The Second Beast: The Beast from the Earth. In this post, we move on the Revelation 13:16-18 to examine The Mark of the Beast.

“Also it forces everyone  –  great and small, rich and poor, free and slave  –  to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead 17 preventing anyone from buying or selling unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This is where wisdom is needed; those who understand should count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person, and its number is 666.” ~ Revelation 13:16-18 (CJB)

What Does the Number of the Beast Mean?

No one, including this author, really knows the answer to that question.  According to Halley’s Bible Handbook, the number can be the name of a man, or possibly a group of people, or an institution headed by a man or group of men. Neither Hebrew nor Greek has separate symbols for numbers; rather, letters were also used as numerals. Thus, in Greek, A=1, B=2, etc. The letters of the name, when added together, total 666.

Image Courtesy of Google

Emperor Nero (ad 54-68).
Some believe that the number 666
directly relates to the Roman emperor Nero
since the Hebrew script for
Caesar Nero (qsr nrwn) = 100 + 60 + 200 + 50 + 200 + 6 + 50 = 666.

Few things in the Bible have given rise to such speculation as for the meaning of the number of the beast. Each era in history has discovered the name of a leader who is seen as impersonating the ultimate evil of the Antichrist, from the head of the Roman Empire of Paul’s day to Napoleon, to Adolf Hitler.

I remember seeing a bumper sticker years ago claiming that Ronald Wilson Reagen was the beast because his full name had six letters each. I didn’t agree with that especially as my full name has six letters each.

In our time it has been claimed that the mark is a number rather than a name and that this figure is incorporated in the bar codes on consumer products.

Others understand the number symbolically: 6 is man’s number, just short of 7, which is God’s number; 666 is a “trinity” of sixes. The square of 6 is 36; when we add up all numbers from 1 through 36, the total is 666. The significance, then, is that the beast, powerful as he is – and no matter how powerful he may become – is still not as powerful as God.

At the close of chapter 13, Yochanan tells us that the false prophet, who receives his power from the great imitator, Satan, requires everyone to get a mark on his right hand or his forehead. Without this mark, people could not buy or sell anything (vv. 16-17). Remember the seal God placed on the forehead of all the servants of God at the beginning of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7:3).

Most people are already more readily identified by number than by name, whether it be Social Security number, credit card number, bank account number, or many other computer devices. Recently, there was a news report that a company in Wisconsin was implanting a microchip into employees hands (voluntarily) to punch the time clock, open secured doors and purchase snacks in the break room.

With this conditioning, it will not be all that difficult to get crowds to line up and receive this one number of identity. Most of us don’t remember that during World War II the government gave out ration stamp books that were required for the purchase of certain commodities. Money was not enough; the proper ration stamp was required as well. For example, to buy five pounds of sugar one had to have the ration stamp that entitled him to five pounds of sugar. People today are again being prepared to operate similarly. So where’s the problem? The problem is that this particular mark of identification will be associated entirely with the Antichrist and will give him the additional power needed to manipulate the masses of humanity.

Everyone  –  great and small, rich and poor, free and slave  –  [is forced] to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead. Compare this verse with Revelation 20:4, which says “and,” not “or”: “those who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received the mark on their foreheads and on their hands.” This makes a mockery of t’fillin, which Orthodox and Conservative Jews wear in the synagogue on the hand and forehead to obey Deuteronomy 6:8, “You shall bind them [that is, God’s mitzvot] for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.”

This mark of the beast (Revelation 16:2, 19:20; also 14:9-11) also mimics the sealing of the 144,000 (7:2-3). Regardless of whether any of the speculations are true or fanciful, the mark points to a time of complete totalitarian control over economic life by religious elements.

David Stern lends some interesting Judaic perspective to the number of its name. [1]

In Jewish interpretation, gematria (the Hebrew word derives from the Greek word geômetria,” which underlies English “geometry”) is a system of deducing the sod (“secret”) of a text by positing a meaningful connection between words whose numbers are either identical or related by simple arithmetic. Example: in rabbinic literature, God is sometimes called the “Place” (“Makom). Why this should be is not evident, so Gematria explains it in this way: the letters of YHVH” – yud, heh, vav and heh – are equivalent to 10, 5, 6 and 5. The sum of the squares of these four numbers is 186, which is the same as the number of Makom” – mem, kuf, vav, mem (40 + 100 + 6 + 40).

The number could be entirely symbolic. The name of Messiah in Greek, Iêsous, equals 888; 7 is regarded as the perfect number; and triple repetition symbolizes absolute ultimacy (as in Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, holy, holy is Adonai of Hosts.”). Therefore 888 means that Yeshua is entirely and ultimately beyond perfection, while 666 implies that the beast in every respect falls short of perfection and is therefore utterly and ultimately imperfect and evil.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 13:11-15 [2]

Historicist Approach:

Historicists have concurred with Irenaeus in the second century who believed that 666 referred to Lateinos (Greek for Latin).  This naturally points to the Roman Catholic Church. Popes have been known to forbid commerce with non-Catholics.

Preterist Approach:

Preterists insist that the beast is Nero since Yochanan would want his contemporary readers to know who it was.

Futurist Approach:

Many Futurists view this passage of a cashless, worldwide economy which we seem to be heading towards and in fact already rely heavily on credit/debit cards.  No consensus exists for the meaning of 666 other than what has previously been stated above.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists offer no additional insight other than the mark is synonymous with proclaiming one’s servitude to the beast.

In my next post, we will explore a Summary of Chapters 11-13 and explore an Introduction to the Seven Last Plagues contained in Revelation 14-16.

Click here for PDF version.


[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

[2] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

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