The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 103

Six Hundred Sixty-Six

Revelation 13:18.     Here is wisdom.  Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six.

     This concluding verse of this amazing chapter of Revelation is most intriguing.  It is as though John were posing a puzzle, a challenge that would help people determine the identity of the beast.  Once the tribulation begins, however, there will be no question as to his identity, since it is he who will make the seven-year covenant with Israel.  Therefore, John evidently intended this clue for his initial readers in the seven churches of Asia, and therefore for all other believers before the Church is raptured prior to the beginning of the tribulation.

    But why would he do this?  If the Church is to be removed before the beast comes to power, then what difference would it make to them, except as an item for curiosity and gossip?  And, if he felt people should know who the beast would be, why didn’t he just give his name (after all, both Josiah and Cyrus were named prophetically long before they were born – note 1 Kings 13:2; 2 Kings 23:16; Isaiah 44:28 – 45:4; Ezra 1:1-4).

     The answer to the first question is that the beast will evidently come into power gradually, and will become well known in the world long before the tribulation actually begins.  He will, no doubt, be an extremely impressive personage, a leader of great ability and personal magnetism.  His convincing new form of the philosophy of evolutionary humanism will be made immensely attractive, especially to the oncoming younger generation steeped in an older form of evolutionism in their schools, and he will become an international hero long before he acquires political leadership.  Like Antiochus Epiphanes, the evil Syrian monarch of old whom Daniel made to be a type of this final man of sin, he will be a “vile person” who will “come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries” (Daniel 11:21).

     Like the false prophets who would “deceive, if it were possible, even the very elect,” he and people of similar kind will have a great influence even over true Christians.  Long before the actual kingdom of Antichrist is set up, antichristian doctrines will have taken a deadly toll even among true believers.  Forewarned is forearmed, however, so that if his true character could be recognized and exposed before he actually comes to power, much harm to Christ’s churches can be prevented.  Hence, “here is wisdom,” for Christians to recognize the beast before the world does.

     As to why John doesn’t give us the man’s name plainly, the reason probably is that God reveals His mysteries only to those who really love His Word and search them out.  In Proverbs this principle is enunciated: “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures: then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.  For the Lord giveth wisom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:1-6).

     The concluding words of Daniel are to the same effect: “. . . and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10).  The Lord Jesus voiced a similar principle:  In answer to the disciples’ question: “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?  The Lord replied: “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matthew 13:10, 11).

     Evidently, the Lord wants his children to know the identity of the coming man of sin, but only in response to implicit faith in His Word and the willingness to act and study in obedience to it.  Thus only those will learn his identity, discovering the secret knowledge which God’s clue will provide, who will have the “understanding” to use such knowledge properly.  Here is wisdom!”

     And here is the clue: “Count the number of the beast.”  But what is that?  The previous verse tells us that it is “the number of a man.”

     That is, the beast is not a kingdom, but a man, and that man has a name, and his name has a number.  We are to count the number of that man’s name.

     But how does one count the number of a man’s name?  In the English language, such an instruction would seem absurd, but not in the Hebrew or Greek language.  In English, there are certain written characters (the Arabic numerals) for the different numbers.  In Hebrew, and Greek, however (the original languages of the Old and New Testaments, respectively), each symbol used for a letter of the alphabet was also used for a number.  The same is partially true in Latin (thus, V means “five,” X means “ten,” L means “50,” etc.).

     Since the Book of Revelation was written in Greek, it is probably the Greek language in which the instruction applies specifically. Every letter in Greek has a corresponding numerical value, so that each word likewise has a numerical value equal to the sum of the values of each letter in the word.  Thus the Greek letter alpha was also used for the number “one,” beta was used for “two,” iota means “ten,” rho means “hundred,” and so on.

     To “count” the number of a name means, obviously simply to add up the numbers attached to all the letters in the name.  If the man’s name is Greek, this would be a straightforward operation.  If his name is in some other language, then his name can be easily transliterated into Greek.  We have noted that this coming prince may well be a descendant of the ancient Romans, though the prophecy of Daniel 9:27 might also be understood to apply to a person in any nation with a legal and cultural system traceable to Rome (that is almost any country in the western world), but Latin (the language of ancient Rome) is a “dead” language today, and only a few of the letters in Latin were used for numbers anyway.

     Since there is essentially a one-to-one equivalence between letters of the Greek alphabet and letters of the English alphabet (as well as between Greek and French, Greek and Italian, etc.), it is possible to transliterate any name in one of the western languages into a corresponding number. For example, the name “Robert” becomes in the Greek:

     rho     omicron     beta     epsilon     rho     tau

     The numerical values associated with this group of letters are

     100    +   70     +     2     +     5    +   100 + 300   =   577.

Similarly, every name has a certain numerical value associated with its Greek transliteration.  The Greek word for “number,” incidentally, is arithmos (from which we get our English word “arithmetic”).

     All of this suggests that whenever a particularly popular leader begins to figure prominently in world affairs (especially if he is antichristian in his thinking and counsel), Christians would be well advised to “count the number of his name.”  Then, if that number turns out to be “666,” they should be extremely careful not to be influenced by him and try to warn others of his possible satanic associations.

     It is obvious that there can be many names with the numerical value 666, of course, but only one man can be the Antichrist.  For example, “Lyndon B. Johnson,” when transliterated into Greek, adds up to 666, but President Johnson was not the Antichrist.  In fact, probably the names of about one in every 10,000 people will total 666.  This identification is not in itself a sure test, but it is at least a caution and an incentive to be more incisive in examining the teachings and private character of any new and charismatic international hero who shows up on the world scene.

     The number 666 is significant in its own right.  Since “six” is one short of the perfect “seven” and since man was made on the sixth day, the number six has long been associated with man in his imperfection.  The three sixes together may be suggestive of the unholy trinity – the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet.

     Further, 666 has the interesting characteristic of being the sum of the first 36 numbers (1+2+3+. . . +36), and  36 is 6 x 6.  This “number of man” seems to permeate the number 666, and so is uniquely appropriate for the beast to use as his number.  It is also remarkable that John refers to him by the name “beast” exactly thirty-six times in Revelation.

     It is bound to be significant that, in contrast to the number of the name of the beast, the number of the name of Jesus in Greek is equal to 888.  Just as the number “six” is associated with man, especially sinful man and the man of sin, so the number “eight” is associated with the second man, the perfect man, the God-man, Jesus.  Each of His eight names, as used in the New Testament (that is, “Lord,” “Jesus,” “Christ,” “Lord Jesus,” “Jesus Christ,” “Christ Jesus,” “Lord Christ,” and “Lord Jesus Christ”) have numerical values which are multiples of “eight.”  As the first man, Adam, was made on the sixth day, so the second man, Jesus, was resurrected on the eighth day (the second first day of the week).

     One other point of significance may be noted in connection with the number of the beast.  Some men will be marked with his name, some with his mark, some with the number of his name.  Although the Scriptures do not tell us what his mark will be (one may speculate that it might be a mark representing either his human likeness or the likeness of the symbolic beast depicted here in Revelation 13, but there is no way of knowing at this time), there is a strong possibility that the number of his name will be written as the Greek number Chi Xi Stigma. 

     Sinners of the world have been led into perdition time without number by antichrists who have appeared through the centuries.  Mistaking them for great deliverers, people have followed their pernicious ways into destruction.  The greatest of all of these false Christs, the Antichrist, will appear at the very end of the age, and will deceive and carry vast multitudes with him into hell.  Outwardly he will appear as the most attractive, brilliant, strongest man of history – the Man.  He seems to be the very highest pinnacle of the agelong evolutionary process which culminated in man.

     But inwardly he is a venomous snake, a ferocious beast, the pseudoincarnation of the  Devil himself!  God wants His people to be forewarned against him, and so has graciously granted us this clue by which to recognize him as he slinks onto the world stage.

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