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.

The Beast from the Sea ~ Part 2

Revelation 13:1-4
The End Times

In my last post, we began to unpacked Revelation 13 and learned about the first of two beasts:  The Beast from the Sea. In this post, we will conclude the exploration of Revelation 4:1-4.

“Then the dragon stood on the seashore; 1 and I saw a beast come up out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads. On its horns were ten royal crowns and on its heads blasphemous names. 2 The beast which I saw was like a leopard, but with feet like those of a bear and a mouth like the mouth of a lion. To it the dragon gave its power, its throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast appeared to have received a fatal wound, but its fatal wound was healed, and the whole earth followed after the beast in amazement. 4 They worshipped the dragon, because he had given his authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who can fight against it?” ~ Revelation 12:18 – 13:4 (CJB)  [Note that I added the last verse of chapter 12 that we discussed last time as more appropriately tied to this passage.]

Then the dragon stood on the seashore; 1 and I saw a beast come up out of the sea. It is interesting to be aware of the placement of Yochanan on different occasions in the Book of Revelation. In Revelation 1:9, Yochanan is seen on the Isle of Patmos. In 4:1, he is caught up into heaven. In chapter thirteen we see him standing on the sands of the sea. In chapter seventeen he is found standing in the wilderness. In 21:10, he takes his place on a high Mountain. Wherever Yochanan is transported, he has a grandstand view of all that is happening in the Revelation God is sharing with him. The mention of the sea is informative, as it represents the masses of people. Revelation 17:15 explains that the sea symbolizes “the waters that you saw, where the whore is sitting, are peoples, crowds, nations and languages. When observing the sea from the seashore, it is apparent that only on rare occasions is it at peace with itself. Much of the time it appears troubled, casting up mire and dirt, continually seething and surging, never at rest. This is indeed an accurate picture of the people, nations, and multitudes of the world. Out of this global unrest, a universal government will arise with one man ruling with supreme authority.

The beast had ten horns and seven heads. The seven heads loaded with blasphemy are explained further in chapter 17. They symbolize seven empires and seven kings that are, or were, under the control of the beast, who receives his power from HaSatan. Yochanan tells us that five (empires/kings) are fallen, one “is,” and one is yet to come (17:10). There is much speculation on the identity of the five that are fallen. Some believe them to be the significant empires that ruled through the ages, including the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Grecian empires. The one that “is” is thought to be the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was never conquered; it rotted from within and eventually lost its position of world power.

Others believe that the seven heads represent the five kings who reigned up to Yochanan’s day, the sixth king that was in authority during Yochanan’s life, and a seventh king that is yet to come, which is thought to be the Antichrist.

The beast which I saw was like a leopard, but with feet like those of a bear and a mouth like the mouth of a lion. To it the dragon gave its power, its throne and great authority. Consider the order in which Yochanan speaks of these animals. The leopard (Greece); the bear (Medo-Persia); the lion (Babylon); and the beast (Antichrist). However, when Daniel speaks of them, the order is reversed. The reason for the reversed order is that Daniel is looking ahead to the future, whereas, Yochanan is looking back to the past. This beast, the Antichrist, and his kingdom shall be the embodiment of all these kingdoms combined into one worldwide empire. Gary Cohen and Salem Kirban in their book Revelation Visualized write:

The Beast has the fierce qualities of the Daniel 7’s previous beast nations as Rev. 13:2 shows. It has the Babylonian “mouth of a lion” (Rev. 13:2; Dan. 7:4)—lust to consume victims; great power. It has the Persian “feet… of a bear” (Rev. 13:2; Dan 7:5)—great size; armies able to crush rebellions. It has the Greek body of a “leopard” (Rev. 13:2; Dan. 7:6)—agility, swiftness; a capacity for military mobility and speed of strike. The future Beast will have all of these qualities. And lest we forget, it is a Beast—in God’s sight a monster that consumes rapaciously. Since the Dragon, Satan gives it its power, the Beast—both the empire and the man, Antichrist—will be exceedingly anti-god, against all who turn to God, and wicked in every way. [1]

One of the heads of the beast appeared to have received a fatal wound, but its fatal wound was healed. It comes as no surprise that HaSatan, the great imitator, orchestrates the “death and resurrection” of the Antichrist. A cheap imitation, indeed, but the whole earth followed after the beast in amazement. How easily people are deceived if they don’t know the truth found in God’s Word!

Keep in mind that the Antichrist begins his career as a peacemaker (Revelation 6:2). This may be possible through his ability to settle the on-going Arab-Israeli territorial problem. This peace solution will bring about a seven-year covenant with the Jews (Daniel 9:27) and allow Israel to rebuild the Temple and reinstate religious rituals (Daniel 9:27). However, by the middle of the seven years the Antichrist’s true colors show forth, and although the Jews turn against him, the world, in general, is more and more solidified behind him as his popularity continues to grow.

At this point the Jews, who were merely used as a stepping stone, are blocking his way to unanimous public idolization. He breaks the covenant with them (Daniel 9:27) and sets himself up as a god. At about this time an assassination attempt is made on his life. The Scripture says the beast appeared to have received a fatal wound. The people at large think the assassination attempt was successful and that their leader, the Antichrist, has been killed. HaSatan uses this episode to make the people believe the Antichrist has been supernaturally raised from the dead! While it is known that it is beyond the power of HaSatan to give life, the healing of this wound would be possible for HaSatan. This apparent miracle will cause the people to rally behind the Antichrist even more and set the stage for world dictatorship.

They worshipped the dragon, because he had given his authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who can fight against it? It has always been the desire of HaSatan for people to worship him (Isaiah 14:12-14) and pride has been his problem all along. Today, there are all kinds of cults worshiping the Devil; they eagerly give their allegiance to his Majesty, the Devil. They give their bodies, souls, and all they have to his service for time and eternity. There has never been such a defiant, bold, arrogant, blasphemous age as the one now living. Oliver Greene comments on this subject:

The world is looking for a superman, and this world dictator of the revived Roman Empire will sweep men off their feet. Immediately they will begin to worship him. They will declare that no one can stand against him, that there is nothing he cannot do. What horrible blasphemy! This is the age of personality worshippers… in religion, in politics, in social life and in every other phase of life. This is the age of idols. [2]

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 13:1-4 [3]

Futurist Approach:

Futurists see a beast come up out of the sea as the four beasts of Daniel 7.  The sea is a symbol of Gentile nations.  They have no difficulty connecting the beast to the Roman Empire in light of Daniel 7 and Revelation 17.  Dispensationalism asserts that the world empire of the Tribulation period will be a revival of old, pagan Imperial Rome, under a Roman head.  Ironside describes him as “the statesman of a Caesar, the military genius of a Napolean, and the personal attractiveness of a Chesterfield.”

Idealist Approach:

Idealists tend to share the same views as the Preterists and Futurists concerning the beast and the sea. The dragon gave its power to the beast.  Swete comments that the dragon works through the beast as his agent: the war is HaSatan’s, but the Emire is his tool for waging it. Idealists also support the Preterists view on the fatal wound.

In my next post, we will explore Revelation 13:5-10 dealing with The Beast’s War with the Saints.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Quoted in A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones.

[2] Ibid.

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