“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 13:18
Chuck Swindoll writes, “Imagine that you live in an oppressive regime in which professing to be a Christian is outlawed and punishable by death. You cower in a small apartment at night while the heavy boots of soldiers can be heard on sidewalks and streets and people in the neighborhood are arrested, suspected of being Christians. As you pray that the soldiers will pass you by, they force themselves through the door. Lights flash around the room, boots stomp across the floor, and you suddenly find yourself looking into the barrels of automatic weapons.
“’Tell me,’ barks the man pointing his rifle at you, ‘are you a Christian?’
“You have a choice to make. Either deny Christ and live, or confess Him and die on the spot.
“Chances are, most believers reading this would think, ‘I’d confess Christ. Of course I would. That soldier can’t threaten my faith in Jesus as my Lord!’
“Now let’s intensify that scene.
“Imagine that you aren’t alone. Instead, when the soldiers barge through the door they point their weapons not at you but at your spouse and your three small children. ‘Reject Christ or they die!’
“Dying for your faith is one thing. Letting others die for your faith is quite another. Yet this is just the kind of sickening scenario Satan will inspire in the dreadful future John is describing. Because of the impact of earthly disaster, food will be scarce. Yet people will still need to buy and sell food to provide for their families. The alternative to participation in the Antichrist’s economy is a long, slow death by starvation. The book of Revelation tells us that the Antichrist’s regime will force believing parents to choose between feeding their families and defending their faith! As a father and grandfather, I can’t imagine a crueler test of faith than this.” 1
Let’s look at the last three verses of Revelation 13 in detail. In addition to the False Prophet using his persuasive words and profound works to deceive people to worship the first Beast out of the sea (Antichrist) during the last half of the Tribulation period (13:11-15), he will also require people to receive an identifying mark to signify allegiance to the Beast. “He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads.” (Revelation 13:16). This second beast “causes all” unbelievers from various social (“small and great”), economic (“rich and poor”), and cultural (“free and slave”) groups “to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads.”
What exactly is this “mark”? This “mark” will be a brand-like logo, possibly like a tattoo, that will identify beast-worshippers. 2 The word “mark” occurs throughout the Bible. “For example, it is used many times in Leviticus as a reference to a mark that renders the subject ceremonially unclean, usually related to leprosy. Clearly, in these cases the ‘mark’ is external and visible.
“Interestingly, Ezekiel 9:4 uses mark similarly to the way Revelation uses it: “He said to him, ‘Walk through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of all who weep and sigh because of the detestable sins being committed in their city.’” Here the mark preserved the righteous, similar to the way the blood on the doorposts spared the Hebrews from the death angel in the Exodus. In Ezekiel, the mark is placed visibly on the forehead, which anticipates the practice described in Revelation.” 3
The Greek word translated “mark” (charagma) in Revelation 13:16-17, means “a mark that is engraved, etched, branded, cut, imprinted, mark, stamp.” 4 The same Greek word is used to refer to a brand left by a branding iron. It also described the seal attached to legal documents, the logo of which bore the name of the emperor and the date. 5 Sometimes Roman soldiers branded themselves with the “mark” of their general if they were particularly fond of him. 6
Some believe this could be an implanted radio “microchip” under the skin of the person that can be used to track billions of people worldwide. But the text says it is “on” their hand or forehead, not “in” (en) their hand or forehead to identify the person as a beast-worshipper. The Greek word for “on” (epi)means “upon” in this context. 7 It will be on the outside of the skin, where it can be seen. Its placement on the skin will make it easy to identify those who are loyal to the Antichrist.
Without this mark of allegiance to the Beast or Antichrist, a person will not be able to buy or sell: “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.” (Revelation 13:17). Without this “mark” upon one’s right hand or forehead, a person will not be able to participate in commerce (“buy or sell”) of any kind during the last half of the Tribulation period.So, there will be a penalty if a person chooses not to receive the “mark of the beast.” There will be no buying or selling for that person. That means no groceries, clothing, medicines, or shelter for you and your family.
In the day of the apostle John, Roman coins bore the stamped “image” of the head, and the inscription of, the emperor. Likewise, those who bear the “stamped image,” or “mark of the beast,” will show by this that they belong to him. When a person burned a smidgeon of incense to “worship” Caesar, he received a certificate attesting that he had done so. This certificate protected him from death by persecution and enabled him to buy and sell. 8
Please understand that it will be far better to refuse the mark of the beast and starve or be beheaded (cf. 20:4) than to receive it and receive eternal condemnation. The Bible tells us, “9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.’” (Revelation 14:9-11). God will only allow unbelievers to take the mark and those who do will be hardened in their unbelief. Though they may live during the entire Tribulation period, their eternal destiny will be in the lake of fire because of their continued unbelief. 9
However, believers in Jesus will not face eternal judgment because they have been guaranteed not to come into judgment (John 5:24). They possess eternal life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). God’s grace will enable believers in the Tribulation not to take the mark or worship the beast. But some unfaithful believers will succumb to the worldwide lawlessness and not be delivered from the Tribulation judgments (cf. Matthew 24:10-12). But those believers who faithfully endure for Christ during the Tribulation will be saved from physical death, except for those whom God allows to be martyred (cf. Revelation 20:4).
Notice in Matthew 24:22, that if the Tribulation period had lasted any longer, no human flesh would have been saved physically. “But for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” The implication of these verses is that some of the elect will die during the Tribulation because they will fail to persevere. This is supported further by Revelation 16:15: “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” “The garments” refer to the “righteous acts” of believers (cf. Revelation 19:7-8; cf. 3:4-5, 18; 4:4). The consequence of failing to be watchful for Christ’s return is a lack of righteous acts (loss of garments) and “shame.” This verse teaches that believers can be unfaithful, especially if they have lost sight of Christ’s return. The idea of this verse is that the saints have the garments (faithfulness) but can lose them if they lose their hope of the Lord’s coming.
We learn from Jesus’ judgment of the sheep and goats at the end of the Tribulation period (Matthew 25:31-46), that some Gentile believers (“sheep”) during the last half of the Tribulation period will find ways to help Christ’s Jewish “brethren,” the 144,000 Jewish evangelists. These evangelists will preach the gospel during the last half of the Tribulation period resulting in large numbers of Gentiles getting saved (Revelation 7:1-14). These believing Gentiles in turn will minister to these evangelists by giving them “food, drink,” shelter, clothing, medical care, and comfort when they are in prison (Matthew 25:35-36). Jesus will reward them at this judgment of the sheep and goats for risking their lives to help these faithful Jewish evangelists who will not be able to buy or sell. Christ says they “inherit” the kingdom which refers to reigning with Christ in His Millennial Kingdom on earth (Matthew 25:34; cf. 19:27-29; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21).
John informs us that the “mark of the beast” will consist of “name of the beast, or the number of his name” (13:17b). “The interchangeability of the beast’s ‘name’ and the ‘number of his name’ evidently indicates that the name, written in Greek letters, has a numerical equivalent.” 10
“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 13:18). Believers will need “wisdom” during the last half of the Tribulation period to understand and “calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man,” not God: “His number is 666.” Believers during the Tribulation will understand the connection between the mark of the beast and the beast himself and will refuse to worship the beast and take his mark by the grace of God since those who do take the mark will experience eternal damnation (cf. 14:9-11).
The number “666” is one of the most familiar numbers even among the most biblically illiterate people in the world. “In the 1976 horror movie The Omen, Damien is born on June 6, at six o’clock (666) to symbolize his identification as the coming Antichrist.” 11
Throughout history, people have tried to calculate the identity of the man behind this number. “In Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, letters stand for numbers, so anyone with a calculator and a good dose of creativity can slap the ‘666’ label on a number of prominent personalities.” 12
The following people have been proposed to be the Antichrist by the misapplication of numerical calculations: Nero Caesar, the emperor Constantine, Mohammed, the popes, Martin Luther, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Mikhail Gorbachev, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, 13 Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama. 14
Figuring the identity of the Antichrist by calculating the numbers of his name is not to be applied by those of us living today. It is to be applied by believers who will be living during the Tribulation period. The Bible tells us that the Man of Sin or Antichrist will not be revealed until the middle of the Tribulation period when he takes his place in the rebuilt Jewish temple: “3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). It is at this time that believers in Jesus will be able to identify the Man of Sin or Antichrist because the number of his name will be 666. It is quite possible that the Two Witnesses will have disclosed the identity of this first Beast through their teachings before they ascend to heaven (cf. Revelation 11:1-12). So, believers will wisely make the connection between the Beast and the number 666 and avoid taking his mark and worshiping him. 15
We may wonder why God planned for the Antichrist’s name to equal 666? Several Bible prophecy students have taught that the triple six equals man’s number, which is the number six or one short of God’s perfect number, seven. After all, man was created on the sixth day (Genesis 1:26-31). 16
Hitchcock quotes M. R. DeHaan, the founder of the Radio Bible Class: “Six is the number of man. Three is the number of divinity. Here is the interpretation. The beast will be a man who claims to be God. Three sixes imply that he is a false god and a deceiver, but he is nevertheless merely a man, regardless of his claims. Seven is the number of divine perfection, and 666 is one numeral short of seven. This man of sin will reach the highest peak of power and wisdom, but he will still be merely a man.” 17
Adam, the first man, was created on the sixth day, while Jesus, the Second Adam, “was raised from the dead on Sunday, the ‘eighth day’ of the week (the second first day of the week).” 18 Interestingly, “the number of the name Jesus in Greek is 888, and each of His eight names in the New Testament (Lord, Jesus, Christ, Lord Jesus, Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, Lord Christ, and Lord Jesus Christ) all have numerical values that are multiples of eight.” 19
Jesus Christ is complete perfection because He is God (John 1:1; I John 5:20), while man is a complete failure. The number 666 is God’s way of showing that Satan’s masterpiece, the Antichrist, is a fallen man who is completely inferior to God and is under God’s sovereign control. 20
The technology is available today to accomplish the purposes of the mark of the beast by regulating world commerce and controlling people’s transactions. There are also many remarkable new means of locating, identifying, and tracking people’s lives that foreshadow the global scenario depicted in Revelation 13. This is one more indicator pointing toward the nearness of end time events. 21
Instead of the world getting better and better as some argue, the world will get much worse before Jesus returns to earth. As Christians observe world events today moving rapidly toward a one world government and economic system which will enable the rapid rise of the first Beast and his False Prophet to take place, they are to be motivated to make the most of their time before the Rapture of the Church or death brings an end to their ministry on earth.
Prayer: Loving Father, thank You for revealing Satan’s future strategies for deception and destruction regarding the first and second beasts who will seek to mislead people away from the true and holy triune God to worship a false and unholy triune god. Although the Antichrist and False Prophet will manifest themselves during the future Tribulation period, we know that the spirit of the antichrist is already at work to deceive and destroy people in the present. Please equip each of us who believe in Jesus for spiritual battle today with accurate knowledge, acute discernment, and heavenly wisdom. Empower us to make the most of our time on earth to reach lost people with the gospel of grace and train believers to multiply disciples of Jesus Christ. In the name of the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 254.
2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 150.
3. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 336.
4. See Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 1077.
5. Constable, pg. 150.
6. Ibid., cites Plutarch, Pericles, 26; Herodotus, 7.233.
7. Hitchcock, pg. 342.
8. Constable, pg. 151 cites William Barclay, The Revelation of John, 2nd Ed., Vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 130.
9. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1548.
10. Constable, pg. 151 cites R. H. Charles, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, International Critical Commentary series, Vol 2 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1920), pg. 364; Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 6 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 406.
11. Hitchcock, pg. 337.
12. Swindoll, pg. 255.
14. Hitchcock, pg. 338.
15. Vacendak, pg. 1549.
16. Hitchcock, pg. 339.
17. Ibid., pp. 339-340.
18. Ibid., pg. 340 cites Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, Tyndale; and San Diego: Creation-Life, 1983), pg. 256.
20. Hitchcock, pg. 340.
21. Ibid., pg. 342.