What is the mark of the beast? What does the number 666 mean? Who is the beast?
Who is the Beast?
This question has been asked more times than I can even count and the number of people who this was thought to be has been just as long. Some said it was Hitler, then Stalin, then Mussolini, and some even the Pope. We see that these have all turned out to be wrong so who is the beast mentioned in the Book of Revelation, chapter 17:7-14? Here is what John wrote.
“But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her.The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast.These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”
We would expect that the beast would give us some information on what the mark or number of the beast is but these chapters about the beast don’t tell us much. What it does say is that the beast will or some say already has made war with the saints. Several theologians believed this was what happened in A D 70 when the future emperor Titus destroyed Jerusalem. Others think it is yet to be fulfilled. The seven heads of the beast are the seven kings and there were seven kings in Rome. Even though they were called emperors by the Romans, the Jews called them kings because when the Jews wanted Jesus killed, they said “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15) so it’s not what the Romans called kings that is relevant but what the Jews did and John, a Jew, wrote the Book of Revelation. There were also Jewish puppet kings like King Herod for example so kings are what John is speaking of. Seven kings did rule in Rome before and up to the time that Titus became ruler. Augustus was considered the first by many but the list has been historically considered to be Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius Caligula, Claudius and Nero. That’s numbers “seven kings.” When Titus destroyed Jerusalem some considered him the seventh ruler so the seven heads of this beast (Rome) may have been the seven kings (emperors or Caesars). Titus may well have been he who “has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while” (Rev 17:10). More recent evidence and research by modern scholars, including writings of the early church leaders, seem to point to the Book of Revelation being written in A D 64. This would explain why Jesus said in the Olivet Prophecy in Matthew that “these things must shortly come to pass” (Matt 24:6). If it was to come 2,000 years later, near our time, that would hardly be “shortly” coming to pass! This lines up with Revelation 1:1 which says “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.” Again, if it was “soon [to] take place” it wouldn’t make sense if it was going to take place 2,000 years later.
The Mark of the Beast
The number of the beast is said to be 666. Six is the number of man and the three six’s could indicate an unholy trinity. The beast is certainly inspired by Satan. Could it be that it is Satan himself for he does attempt to set up worship for himself in the end times during the abomination of desolation that Daniel wrote about (Dan 9:27)? Satan wanted Jesus to worship Him in the Wilderness and Satan wanted to take the place of God, probably to receive worship. The abomination of desolation or sometimes better worded, the abomination that makes desolate was also mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:15 in the same chapter where Jesus said that “these things must shortly come to pass”. Jesus says in Matthew 24:15-16 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” Apparently you cannot buy or sell if you have this mark but what is the mark? It is actually the number 666 but here is what Revelation 13:15-18 says that mark of the beast actually is:
“And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead,so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.”
The Reformation Study Bible says that the mark of the beast is a counterfeit for the seal of God’s name on the saints (Rev 7:2-8; 14:1; Ezek 9) because those who are Christ’s also have a mark but it is from God and not from Satan or the beast. The beast owns those who are his slaves as Satan is called the father of lies and those who are lost are called the children of the Devil which Christ called them many times during His earthly ministry. Revelation speaks of the same thing (Rev 14:9; 19:20; 20:4). Looking for a visible mark misses the mark because it is a state of mind…a spiritual distinction between the children of darkness (the lost) and the children of light (Christians).
The Number 666
When Nero reigned, historians recorded that he was the most evil man that may have ever lived. He burned Christians as torches for his parties full of debauchery, he dressed himself in animal’s skins and attacked Christians who were tied to poles and bite off their genitals, and generally was seen as the most “anti” of any “anti-Christ” type that has ever lived. Ironically, he was known as the beast. Many have tried to count up the number of particular historical figures and these have all turned out to be wrong. The number was considered to be counted using Greek letters as numbers and interestingly, Nero’s full name, Caesar Nero, equaled 666!
The mark that you need to worry about is not the mark of the beast, who the beast is, or what the mark is but to be ready today to meet your maker. If you are not saved, then you will endure such agony for all eternity that it cannot even be described. There is no need for this. Today if you have not already repented from your sins and your sinful life, confessed your sins and asked for God’s forgiveness, and then put your trust in Christ, all of this discussion is nothing to worry about. However, if you have not yet been saved, your eternal future is indescribable. It will be worse than any tribulation that ever has been or ever will be. Imagine on that day you will face Christ and you will have to pay for all of your sins for all eternity (Rev 20:11-15) If you will repent and trust in Him, then He will tell the Father what He said at Calvary; “it is finished” which is literally “paid in full” (John 19:3). Your sins will be placed on Him and His righteousness will be imputed to you (2 Cor 5:21). You will pay for your sins or you can repent and trust in Him and He will. It’s your choice and to make no choice is to choose to reject Him and suffer for all time…ages without end.
Jack Wellman is Senior Writer at What Christians Want to Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design