By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
Throughout the Christian Age, there has been much speculation about the “mark of the beast.” The Apostle John wrote:
Revelation 13:16-18-16 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, 17 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. 18 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.
Through the years, there have been wild speculations about the meaning of this mark, and it’s corresponding number (six hundred sixty and six). Some of the more modern theories have identified the mark as social security, debit cards, bank accounts, bar codes, Nazi programs, and of course the microchip (the latest theory).
All of these proposals, of course, fail in several ways-perhaps the most evident in that the number 666 is not literal, but figurative. This fact is substantiated by the knowledge that the very first verse of Revelation instructs us that the contents of the Book are primarily symbolic or figurative. Furthermore, we have learned in previous studies that the number six hundred and sixty and six was understood by the Jewish people to be a harbinger of doom and a reminder of apostasy.
As Milligan points out:
“This is precisely the lesson borne by the number 666. The number six itself awakened a feeling of dread in the breast of the Jew who felt the significance of numbers. It fell below the sacred number seven just as much as eight went beyond it….By a similar process the number six was held to signify inability to reach the sacred point and hopeless falling short of it. To the Jew there was thus a doom upon the number six even when it stood alone. Triple it; let there be a multiple of it by ten and then a second time by ten until you obtain three mysterious sixes following one another, 666; and we have represented a potency of evil than which there can be none greater, a direfulness of fate than which there can be none worse.” (Robert Milligan, The Expositor’s Bible: The Book Of Revelation, 3096-3108 (Kindle Edition); New York; HODDER & STOUGHTON-GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY)
Another clue that the number 666 would symbolically represent rebellion comes from the Old Testament, with one of the most heartbreaking accounts of apostasy: King Solomon.
King Solomon was the wisest man in Israel’s history.
We are told:
1 Kings 4:29-33-29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. 30 Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all men—than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. 32 He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five. 33 Also he spoke of trees, from the cedar tree of Lebanon even to the hyssop that springs out of the wall; he spoke also of animals, of birds, of creeping things, and of fish. 34 And men of all nations, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom, came to hear the wisdom of Solomon.
Sadly, Solomon’s devotion to God began to wane. In I Kings 11, we read of the heights of Solomon’s fall from grace. Having a desire to please his wives from other nations, he began to build temples for them to their pagan gods and goddesses. We read:
1 Kings 11:4-For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David.
1 Kings 11 continues in great detail, explaining how Solomon himself joined in worship to these false gods and goddesses, even participating in the perverted rituals of these beings.
However, Solomon’s apostasy actually started before then, and is described in 1 Kings 10. Amazingly, it is just at the time of his apostasy that we read this:
1 Kings 10:14-The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold,
Did you notice the number specified?
This is even more significant when we consider the following facts:
““The Jews had seen six hundred and sixty-six before. Prior to Solomon’s slide into apostasy, a description of his reign is given. One of the things said about him is that “the weight of gold which came in to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold” (1 Kings 10:14). From the number of shields (300) to the price of a horse imported from Egypt (150 shekels), we ﬁnd round numbers, except when the number of gold talents is mentioned. From the point where 666 talents of gold is mentioned, we read of Solomon’s apostasy. First, Solomon violates the law regarding the accumulation of horses, chariots, wives, and gold (1 Kings 10:26; see Deut. 17:16-17)….Second, Solomon sells himself to foreign interests. It is here that we see a parallel with Revelation 13. In their rejection of their Messiah, the Jews committed spiritual adultery with the nations (Rome) in the way that Solomon committed adultery with the nations surrounding him…” (Gary DeMAR, Last Days Madness, 832-834 (iBooks Edition); Powder Speings, Georgia; American Vision)
So, the Jewish student who read the Book of Revelation would have quickly recognized that the number 666 was used in the Old Testament as an indicator of someone choosing to rebel against God for the pleasures and treasures of this world (just as Solomon himself had done).
Is it any wonder that the Spirit inspired John to use this number-666-as an indicator of the wickedness of those who “take the mark” in Revelation 13?
Indeed, it all makes perfect sense and teaches us some very powerful lessons.
First, the mark of the beast is not a literal mark. It is not a tattoo, a debit card, a microchip, or any such thing. It is a number that the reader of the Old Testament would understand to be an indicator of spiritual wickedness.
It was the person who chose the carnal over the spiritual, the wicked over the righteous.
It was a mark of the individual who desired to remain on the broad way instead of the narrow one, who preferred the wide gate that lead to destruction instead of the difficult entrance which lead to life.
It was the number of wickedness and rebellion.
Second, we are reminded here that each of us is making the decision each day about whether or not we will take the mark of the beast or the mark of the Lamb. As another author has written:
“Finally, the number of the Beast. It is said to be the number of man, a human number. As always, “man” means “Jew.” It is a Jewish number. It comes from 1 Kings 10: 14, which begins the section of Kings dealing with the fall of Solomon into sin. The law of Deuteronomy 17 forbad the king to multiply gold, women, and horses, but here we see Solomon do all three. In Revelation, the religious rulers of the “land” are called kings, the “kings of the land.” The apostasy of the High Priest, and of the religious leaders of Israel, is thus linked to Solomon’s sin. As Solomon lost his kingdom when the northern tribes rebelled after his death, so the Land Beast will lose his kingdom permanently when Jerusalem is destroyed. Note: 666 does not have anything to do with Nero Caesar. It is a Jewish number, and refers to the religious leaders, the false Solomons, of Jewry.” (James B. Jordan, The Vindication Of Jesus Christ: A Brief Reader’s Guide To Revelation, 423-428 (Kindle Edition); Monroe, Louisiana; Athanasius Press)
Which are we choosing: the Lamb, or the beast?
Finally, we should consider this: while the world will persecute the church, in the end the church will be the victor.
Jesus Christ came to this world to suffer and die in our place, be buried, and arise again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). When we hear and believe His Word (Romans 10:17; John 8:24), we can be born again (John 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17) by repenting of our sins, confessing Jesus as the Son Of God, and being baptized into Him (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:37-38; 8:37).
Why not do so today?
If you are a child of God who has turned away from Him, why not today come back in repentance and prayer (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9)?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.