Many Christians are uncertain about the meaning of 666 in the Bible. Given the increasing global changes pointing towards the end times, it is crucial to comprehend fully what the Bible teaches about 666. This article is an excerpt from the book titled “666: The Mark of the Beast Made Simple.”
Unlocking the enigma of 666, a cryptic number intrinsically linked to the Antichrist, requires delving into the ancient practice of assigning numerical values to letters, ultimately revealing the identity of this vile figure and shedding light on the prophecy.
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The Biblical Facts First
Getting the biblical facts is essential before interpretation. The Bible mentions 666 in the end-times context only in Revelation 13:18:
“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.” (Revelation 13:18, ESV)
Here are a few important facts from this verse:
- Understanding the number requires wisdom or some special knowledge.
- The number must be calculated (see gematria below). However, some scholars suggest that the Greek word for “calculate” in this context could also mean “figure out” or “come to understand.”
- 666 is the number of the name of the beast. The Antichrist’s name had a numerical value (Revelation 13:17).
- The number is six hundred sixty-six, not three sixes.
- 666 represents a man, a figure that embodies defiant humanity. Some scholars believe that the absence of the word “a” before “man” in the Greek grammar suggests that the number may refer to humanity rather than an individual.
- The term “number” appears thrice in that single verse, emphasizing its importance.
- John wrote Revelation in Greek, but the language of the Antichrist’s name used for numeric symbolism is unclear (Greek, Hebrew, or even Latin?).
- Some ancient manuscripts use 616 instead of 666. Most scholars agree 616 is likely a later editorial change. The original number John wrote about is 666, not 616.
With these facts, we can now review how Christians have interpreted the significance of 666.
Two Systems of Interpretation
No theme in the Bible has sparked the imagination and speculation of God’s people like 666. However, most interpretations fall under one of two groups: symbolic or historical.
In this view, 666 is a symbolic number that represents defiant humanity. As mentioned before, the absence of an article “a” or “the” before “man” in Revelation 13:18 supports this view. Looking beyond grammar, however, the context of Revelation 13 and other Bible passages support an individual—a coming prince (Daniel 9:26); the man of sin (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
Furthermore, humanity does not have a secret name that requires special wisdom to understand. And why would John use numerical symbolism (gematria) to conceal the special name of humanity?
The historical view posits that 666 is the numeric value of a historical figure’s name—past, present, or future. Although John likely had a figure in view when he wrote Revelation 13:17, the Scriptures still point to a future figure—the man of sin or the Satanic prince—yet to come. When that Satanic world ruler is revealed, his name, through gematria, will add up to 666.
So, what is gematria?
Gematria or Isopsephy — Numerical Symbolism
Gematria (Hebrew) or isopsephy (Greek) is a system of assigning numbers to letters and then adding up the numbers to derive a total for a word or phrase. The number 666 is the sum of the numeric values of the letters of the Antichrist’s name.
Though many might find it difficult to grasp in our modern culture, most ancient languages did not have numbers as we do today. Instead, they used the letters of their alphabet as numbers. For example, the Jews assigned numbers to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet as follows: aleph = 1, bet = 2, gimel = 3, etc.
Thus, every name can be converted to a number by summing the numerical values of its letters. Please see Figure 7 for an example of gematria applied to the name of Nero, the vile Roman emperor.
Why use a number instead of an alphabetic name? The answer lies in secrecy.
Using the number of someone’s name can hide their identity from some while revealing it to others. A notable example, famous among Bible scholars, is a love story quoted by the German theologian Adolf Deissmann, written on the walls of Pompeii (an ancient city in what is now Italy): “I love her whose number is 545.”
This man openly professed his love for his beloved on a city wall, yet he concealed her identity from anyone who could read the text. Only the woman and those who knew the matter could decipher the person referenced in the writing. We can imagine the smile on that woman’s face each time she read that public message while others remained oblivious. When John wrote 666 in Revelation 13:18, he likely had a contemporary ruler in mind. Using gematria, he hid the ruler’s name from some and unveiled it to those with understanding.
So What Does 666 Represent?
In Revelation 13:18, 666 is the sum of the numerical values of the letters of the Antichrist’s name. John likely had a specific ruler in mind and used gematria or isopsephy to hide the name while revealing it only to those who could understand it.
Most scholars agree that Nero’s name in Hebrew adds up to 666. But a future ruler is coming; his name will add up to 666. God alone knows if the language used for the number of his name will be Hebrew, Greek, Latin, or something else, even English!
Christians who know this verse and are on Earth during the Antichrist’s reign will have no problem understanding 666 and its present application. But I pray that none of us reading this book will be left behind to meet the Antichrist and explain the meaning of 666 to others should these events occur in our time.
As we delve further into the enigma of 666 and the identity of the Antichrist, one essential piece of the puzzle remains: the mark of the beast. This symbol represents allegiance to the Antichrist and has profound implications for the fate of humanity during the end times. In the next chapter, “The Mark Revealed: Unmasking the Beast’s Ultimate Symbol,” we will uncover the hidden truths behind this mark and explore its far-reaching consequences. Are you ready to learn the secrets behind the mark that will change the world forever?
This article is an excerpt (Chapter 4) of the book “666: The Mark of the Beast Made Simple“.
- The Context for Understanding 666 and the Mark of the Beast
- Revelation 13: A Simple Guide to Understand this Chapter
- 666 and the Mark of the Beast: Confronting Fears and Debunking Myths
- What is the Mark of the Beast?
- Watch Book Trailer. 666: The Mark of the Beast Made Simple
- View all Bible Study Topics, including End Times Articles.
- External Resource: Bible Verses About 666 from BibleInfo.net
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