What Is The Mark Of The Beast

“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

Many people ask me about the mark of the beast in Revelation. Who is it referring to? Today, some believe that the beast of Revelation will be a modern person from the 21st century. The first thing I always remind people when interpreting Scripture is the rule of original meaning. Sometimes we miss the meaning of Scripture because we read it with modern eyes. We have to first find the original meaning of a verse to understand its meaning for our day. St. John was writing to the persecuted Christians in the 1st century. When they read this passage, what would they have thought? St. John asks the readers of the 1st century to exercise wisdom and to physically calculate the number of the beast. St. John also lets us know that the number refers to one man. With these clues, we can deduct that St. John was referring to a real 1st century person. If you back up and read the preceding passage before the verse about the number 666, you will find that the beast has ultimate dictatorial power of people. St. John is also directing us to look at someone who is ruling at the time.

The transforming of names into numbers was actually very common in the ancient world. The reason for this is that many of the languages spoken at the time used the letters of their alphabet as numbers too. The Roman historian, Suetonius, is known for a famous accusation about Nero, which he coded numerically in his work, Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Suetonius revealed how Nero murdered his own mother when he wrote, “count the numerical values of the letters in Nero’s name, and in ‘murdered his own mother’ and you will find their sum is the same.” Gottcha! In Greek, the number of “Nero” and of “murdered his own mother” is the same, 1005. Now, that must mean that Nero couldn’t be the ruler St. John is referring to because his name doesn’t add up to 666 in Greek. However, it is interesting to remember that most of the 1st century Christians that St. John wrote to had a Jewish background and an understanding of Hebrew. If you use “Nero Caesar” in Hebrew, the name adds up to 666 exactly. Surprisingly, some manuscripts have a variant number, which is 616. That is also not a problem, because “Nero Caesar” in Latin adds up to 616 and Latin would become the language of the Church by the 2nd century.

St. John was calling Nero the Antichrist. He was the ruler who instituted the first major persecution of 1st century Christians when, he himself burned down a portion of the city of Rome and then subsequently blamed Christians for the act. Nero was famous for hosting extravagant orgies in his palace gardens at night and lighting the event with Christians burning on stakes. Nero is also the emperor who was in power when St. Paul and St. Peter were both martyred for their faith. Nero is the Antichrist and beast of Revelation who ravaged Christ’s Church. For us today, we know that anyone who persecutes the church is forever known as an antichrist. We also know that no one in this world can overcome the plans of God or Christ’s Church, which we belong to by grace! “He (Jesus Christ) who is in you is greater than he (antichrist) who is in the world.” -1 John 4:4

God Bless,

Pastor Joel