Some Interesting Theories Regarding The Mark Of The Beast

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It is written:

Revelation 13:16-18-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.

There are many theories regarding the “mark of the beast” from Revelation 13. In this article, we will consider some of the theories which, in my opinion, make the most sense from the available evidence. The beasts of Revelation 13 are clearly identified for us in Daniel 7 (to which Revelation 13 clearly alludes) as the distinct powers of the Roman Empire. With that in mind, let’s notice three theories regarding the mark of the beast.

The Symbolic Interpretation

The symbolic interpretation of the mark of the beast states that the mark is itself symbolic of complete devotion to the Roman Empire. Hence those who “took the mark” were those who were completely devoted to the evil and decadence of the Romans of John’s day and age. This interpretation has several things to commend for it.

First, it acknowledges the use of symbolic language in the Book of Revelation (which the very first verse of the Book acknowledges in the use of the word “signified” in Revelation 1:1). This use of figurative language has often been a stumbling block for those who wish to liberalize the symbols of Revelation.

Second, the symbolic view freely acknowledges the Old Testament use of both the right hand and the forehead. In the Old Covenant, the right hand was often used symbolically to denote someone who had devoted their entire strength to some cause or person (cf. Exodus 15:6, 12; Psalm 17:6; 18:35; 20:6). In the same way, the forehead was used symbolically to reference a person’s entire mind (Exodus 28:38; Ezekiel 3:8, 9). Sometimes these would be joined together to denote a person’s complete devotion (Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18). So the idea of the mark of the beast in Revelation 13 (drawing from both the symbolic language of the Book and its’ Old Testament background) is that those who so take the mark are those who are completely devoted to the Roman Empire.

Third, this interpretation of Revelation 13 acknowledges the symbolic use of the number six hundred and sixty and six.

“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)

The Solomon Interpretation

The Solomon interpretation of the mark of the beast acknowledges the same points as the interoperation listed above, but goes a step further: it reminds us of the use of the number 666 in the Old Testament. Indeed, this number is found only twice, both in connection with king Solomon:

1 Kings 10:14-The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold,


2 Chronicles 9:13-The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold,

Solomon was a powerful example of someone who rejected God for the things of the world. 1 Kings 10:14 marks the chapter in king Solomon’s story where he begins turning against God. Before that he had primarily been faithful to God. But after that, he rebels against Him!

And what is the sign of his rebellion against God?

The number 666.

To the Jewish Christian who read the Book of Revelation, it would have quickly been evident 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).

“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.” (James B. Jordan, The Vindication Of Jesus Christ: A Brief Reader’s Guide To Revelation, 423-428 (Kindle Edition); Monroe, Louisiana; Athanasius Press)

Contextually, the link between Solomon and the number 666 makes perfect sense.

The Nero Interpretation

A final interpretation of the mark of the beast deals with its’ equaling Nero Caesar (the Caesar who began the persecution against Christians). Remembering that every letter in the Greek (and Hebrew) alphabet was also used as a number, we see that the number 666 could apply to Caesar.

“One line of argument in this direction points out that the number six hundred and sixty-six (not a series of three sixes, for the text actually reads: “six hundred, sixty, six”) happens to be the numeric value of Nero Caesar’s name when spelled in Hebrew characters. This discovery is simultaneously made in the late 1800s by several scholars working independently of each other: Heinrich Julius Holtzmann, Ferdinand Benary, Ferdinand Hitzig, and Eduard Wilhelm Eugen Reuss.[ 280] This is a remarkable discovery which pours a flood of new light on one of Revelation’s deep mysteries.…Archaeological finds document that a first century Hebrew spelling of Nero’s name provides us with precisely the value of 666: “Neron Kaiser.”[ 283] In fact, Jastrow’s famous lexicon of the Talmud contains this very spelling.[ 284] That being so, we cannot summarily dismiss this possibility: it does in fact fit a spelling of Nero’s name in the first century. Even if it is a relatively rare spelling, it nevertheless is an acceptable spelling.” (Kenneth L Gentry, Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues, 108-109 (Kindle Edition); Fountain Inn, South Carolina; Goodbirth Ministries)

Whatever the mark of the beast is, the most important thing is to devote ourselves entirely to Jesus Christ. Indeed, perhaps the identification of the mark of the beast lies in all of these possible interpretations: for the mark of the beast represents rebellion against God, in whatever form it may take.

Have you been baptized into Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38)?

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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