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WHAT DOES 666 MEAN?

The Number of the Beast is closely linked to the Mark of the Beast. “He (the beast from the earth) causes all… to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom.  Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666” (Revelation 13:16-18).

There have been numerous attempts to find numbers associated with the names of particular people or institutions that add up to 666.  For example, the application of the numerical values of the letters of various names in Greek, Latin or Hebrew (Nero, Napoleon, various popes or papal titles such as VICARIUS FILII DEI and many others) can be made to add up to 666.  More recently interest has focused on the universal bar code that is electronically scanned for purchases, with the idea being that this could be used to determine if people could “buy or sell”.  

However, the Number of the Beast (666) made sense to the people who read about it in John’s day—they were admonished to “calculate the number of the beast“ (Revelation 13:18). This rules out exclusively modern phenomena like bar codes and microchips. The Bible itself provides the information necessary to identify the Mark and Number of the Beast.

The number six is an important number in the Bible—“it is the number of man” (Revelation 13:19) [1]. Man was created on the sixth day, the last Day that God worked before he rested on the Seventh Day, and according to the Fourth Commandment, man is to work for six days every week. Thus six is a number that represents human work and effort rather than God’s grace: “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).     

The number 666 appears in one other place in the Bible. King Solomon was considered one of the greatest kings of Israel, but actually his ignoring of and disobedience to God’s commandments laid the foundation for Israel’s ruin.  

In Deuteronomy 17 God predicted that the people of God would say, “I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me” (v. 14).  This was not God’s will, but recognizing that it would happen, he gave just three commandments for the king, all of which Solomon broke.  “He shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses… neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself”  (vs. 16, 17).  

Ignoring these commandments, “Solomon gathered chariots and horseman; he had one thousand four hundred chariots and twelve thousand horsemen… Solomon had horses imported from Egypt” (1 Kings10:26,28).  “King Solomon loved many foreign women… from the nations of whom the Lord had said, ‘You shall not intermarry with them… He had seven hundred wives… For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods” (1 Kings 11:1-4). 

But perhaps even more than his infatuation with horses and women was his love of gold.  “The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty six talents (23 metric tons!) of gold” (1 Kings 10:14).  No doubt there was some yearly variation, but the Bible writer used the specific number 666 as a measure of Solomon’s vast accumulation of gold.   

However, unlike the gold that his father David had gathered to prepare for the building of the temple of the Lord, Solomon used his gold to build up his own defense and glory—to make shields, a fabulous throne, to make drinking vessels, to buy horses and chariots [2].  “So, King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom.  Now all the earth sought the presence of Solomon…” (1 Kings 10:23,24). 

The 666 talents of gold Solomon accumulated every year symbolized and epitomized his pride and self-exaltation, and most of all his disobedience to the explicit commandments God had specifically given for the kings of Israel to follow.  Thus “The number of the beast”, 666, is a symbol of willful disobedience, a declaration that “I’m going to do things my way, regardless of what God says”.

In the last days there will be two visible symbols of disobedience— the Mark of the Beast and the Number of the Beast. Those who refuse to accept these symbols of allegiance to the antichristian authority will suffer first economic sanctions (“no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast or the number of his name” Revelation 13:17) and finally they will face the death penalty (“as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed“ Revelation 13:15).

With as much misinformation and speculation as has surrounded this issue, a simple statement of what the Mark and Number of the Beast is would in many cases arouse prejudice that would cause some to reject the vital truth about this subject. Please take a few minutes to read all of chapter 13 of The Book so that you can know what the issues really are.



[1]  Several English versions insert the article “a”  (“the number of aman”), which is not in the original Greek.   This makes it seem as if it refers to a particular man.  However, Greek often uses the singular “man” to refer to mankind, as in the NIV rendering, “for it is man’s number”.

[2]  1 Kings 10:16-29.

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