Apologetics, Bible Commentary

666 – The Mark of the Beast

“The Number of the Beast is 666” – painted by William Blake (1757 – 1827)

Having grown up in the 1970s, and surrounded by Evangelicals in Southern California during the “Jesus Movement,” I have heard many theories about the Mark of the Beast. When I was a kid, they said it would be a tattoo, and it would probably be your Social Security number, combined with your bank information. As I got older, they said it would probably be a microchip instead. This seems to be the prevailing mindset today. Though in recent months, there has been some talk of the COVID-19 vaccine being the Mark of the Beast. Let’s get some Scripture for context. The Mark of the Beast comes from the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation…

He causes all, the small and the great, the rich and the poor, and the free and the slave, to be given marks on their right hands, or on their foreheads; and that no one would be able to buy or to sell, unless he has that mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. He who has understanding, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is six hundred sixty-six.

Revelation 13:16-18, World English Bible – Catholic Edition

The Mark of the Beast has been with us since the late first century. It’s symbolic, just like the Mark of God, which is also recorded in Revelation 7:3 and Revelation 9:4. According to these passages, the Mark of God is some kind of a seal on the forehead. This has also been with us since Biblical times. Both are meant to be interpreted as symbolic. They’re not literal. You don’t see Christians walking around with some kind of “mark of God” on their foreheads, do you? You don’t expect God to do that to Christians in the future, do you? Neither the Mark of God, nor the Mark of the Beast are meant to be taken literally. As the Book of Revelation is a highly symbolic book.

Consider the context of the chapter. Revelation 13 begins with a vivid description of two beasts. The first comes out of the sea. It has seven heads and ten horns. The second comes up from out of the earth, and it is described as just having two horns. So, do you really believe these two beasts are meant to be taken literally? Do you really think a ten-headed monster is going to come up out of the sea? Do you really believe a two-horned monster is going to climb up out of the earth? If you interpret the Book of Revelation literally, you should! Most people, however, have enough sense to realize these are symbolic images, and not meant to be taken literally. So if neither beast in Revelation 13 should be taken literally, why should the Mark of the Beast be taken literally? It shouldn’t. To do so is to play recklessly with Biblical interpretation. One is picking and choosing, almost randomly, what to take literally and what to take figuratively. By the same token, another could say the Mark is symbolic but the beast isn’t, and we should soon expect a ten-headed Godzilla to arise from the ocean any day now.

No, we have to be consistent in our Biblical interpretation. If a particular book of the Bible, like Revelation for example, calls for a symbolic interpretation from the very beginning, (just as the Book of Revelation does from the very first chapter), then we need to be consistent about that symbolic method of interpreting all the way through. So in Revelation 13, both beasts are to be interpreted symbolically, and so is the Mark of the Beast, just like the Mark of God in Revelation 7:3 and Revelation 9:4. God doesn’t put literal tattoos or microchips on people, neither does the symbolic beast of Revelation 13.

Both marks represent mental and spiritual allegiance. Both marks tell you where your heart is. If you have the Mark of God (on your forehead) it means you’ve got God on your mind, and you’re trying to live for him. If you’ve got the Mark of the Beast on your forehead or hand, it means you’ve got the love of this world on your mind or in your actions, or both. You can neither buy nor sell without it. It’s the love of money. Because the text gives us a number to help us understand, 666, which is the number of a man — Nero Caesar — whose face and name were printed on every Roman coin in the Empire, when the Book of Revelation was written. You couldn’t buy nor sell without using that number. Nobody could buy nor sell without it. Even the early Christians had to use it. However, Caesar was also worshiped as a god, and when you paid your taxes, you had to pay him homage as a god. This is what got the early Christians in trouble with the state. They would pay their taxes using the coins with the Mark of the Beast (666), but they wouldn’t say “Caesar is Lord.” Therefore, they did not bear the Mark of the Beast on their forehead or hand, meaning their mind or actions. So the state would persecute them, even killing them, driving them underground, so they could no more buy or sell in the marketplace, using Caesar’s Mark on his coins.

The Greek version of the name, Nero Caesar, transliterates into Hebrew as Nron Qsr (נרון קסר‎), pronounced as Nerōn Kaisar, which yields a numerical value of 666, as shown here:

Resh (ר)Samekh (ס)Qoph (ק)Nun (נ)Vav (ו)Resh (ר)Nun (נ)Sum
2006010050620050666

There is a lesson in all of this for us today…

Whenever governments set themselves up as gods, they become a type of “beast,” similar to what is written in the Book of Revelation. Whenever people go along with it, paying homage to government as god, abandoning the true God of Scripture and Tradition, they symbolically receive the Mark of the Beast.

It’s symbolism. The Mark of the Beast is all around us. In today’s world, in our time, nothing represents it more than communism. The communist government denies the existence of God entirely and sets itself up, in God’s place, as the supreme authority over the human race. Those who embrace communism are effectively wearing the Mark of the Beast, as it exists in our time. It’s just invisible, because it’s symbolic. And as we can see from Scripture, history, and sound Biblical interpretation, it was never meant to be taken literally in the first place.

So, the Mark of the Beast is…

  • not a credit card,
  • not a debit card,
  • not a social security number,
  • not a bar-code,
  • not a tattoo,
  • not a microchip,
  • and no, it’s not a vaccine either.

It’s a symbolic image, representing worship of the state. That’s what it meant 2,000 years ago, when the Book of Revelation was written, and that’s what it means today.

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