THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST
(Fourth article in a series based on the book, Out of the Abyss … can the number of the beast be solved, 666?)
Does anyone remember the movie, Rosemary’s Baby? If you do, then, like me, you’re probably a member of the Baby Boomer generation; because it was released in 1968. How about the trilogy of movies called, The Omen? No … then you’re not a baby boomer, as the first one was aired in 1976. Or, maybe you’re still on the good side of 40, but have seen these movies replayed on television. What did these movies have in common? What were they about? Still don’t know?
Then let’s fast forward to a movie released in 1999 entitled, End of Days? Or, a few years before that, Children of the Corn. Alright, enough trivia, enough guessing. We’ll move on to a movie released in 2006, called 666 The Child. Or, a recently released film, 666 the Beast. Now you’ve got it! (The baby boomers already had it).
Several “faith-based” movies have also been made about the end-times, with most of them featuring a fairly well-known actor in the role of the Antichrist. Unfortunately some of these movies are not well made, either in quality or accuracy. There are a couple of exceptions, such as the movie, Left Behind.
The Common Bad Guy: Antichrist.
The Common Plot: Trying to determine or confirm the true identity of the sinister character who was systematically eliminating anyone interested in proving that he was the dreaded Antichrist (such as Damien in The Omen, even while he was still a child, i.e. just use your imagination on what he would and could do when he grew up).
The Common Proof: None other than finding the one who is tagged with the infamous number known throughout the world: 666. In Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen movies, Hollywood goes a step farther with the implication that Satan is the actual father of Rosemary’s baby and of Damien. Which, of course, is absolutely nowhere to be found in the Bible, either stated or implied. But that’s Hollywood! Actually, it doesn’t matter how accurate they are; the fact is that such movies are indicative of intensified interest in and fascination with the well-known doomsday, power-crazy megalomaniac who wants to put his mark on all of mankind.
Such a Number!
Other than Jesus Christ, himself, can you think of any other historical name that has captivated more people the world over, than the polar opposite of Jesus Christ … Antichrist? Is there any number—other than the most prominent number found in the Bible (seven) the significance of which is acknowledged by Christians and non-Christians alike—that has engrossed millions of people, than the number 666? The title of Antichrist and the mysterious number assigned to him by the Bible has been the subject of hundreds of books, articles, commentaries, sermons, television shows, radio broadcasts, or movies.
Many contend that the number six hundred, sixty-six is the only viable means of identifying or trying to identify the Antichrist. In doing so, they have used several different languages, through the dynamics of Gematria, to show that various world leaders could be the Antichrist. (In my book, Out of the Abyss, I go to great lengths to demonstrate that the number of the beast is only one of several pieces of the prophetic puzzle needed to accurately identify the Antichrist; with Biblical and historical evidence to support my premise and conclusion).
*Note: Gematria is a system of assigning numerical value to a word or phrase. In short it is a way of counting (numbers) by using the alphabet of any given language. In fact, before the advent of the Arabic or Roman decimal system, it was the only way to count or perform mathematical functions. The Hebrews of ancient Israel and the Jews of New Testament times used this system exclusively. Accordingly, every person’s name had a numeric sum or value.
Because, however, all languages are different, the use of gematria is deemed by some to be an imprecise and unreliable method to calculate the number of the beast, 666. For that reason, many students of prophecy have gradually discounted the importance of the number, to the extent that most of them agree that the ultimate meaning of the number simply can’t be known until after the actual identity of the beast is disclosed, meaning after the Rapture. And, to some extent, this viewpoint is valid … especially for modern languages that have developed since the introduction of the Roman decimal system, i.e. the way we count and perform mathematical equations. The use of the decimal system essentially renders gematria obsolete. But not for Christians (or anyone else) in the first century. Thus, I would respectfully contend that we can’t dismiss the use of gematria, if we are going to decipher the meaning of the number of the beast. Nor, does the Bible say we should shy away from figuring out the meaning of this number.
In fact, Revelation 13:18 says just the opposite: “Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.” I’m going to make a rather bold statement now: If, in fact, the Lord didn’t want us to identify the beast, he would not have given us this mystery to solve, nor would this verse have even been in the book of Revelation. Let me put it another way: What significance would there be for the 1st century Christians or any subsequent generations to solve the number of the beast and, therefore, know the identity of the Antichrist, once the Antichrist has been identified? It would serve no purpose whatsoever. There would be no mystery to the number after the identity of the beast is known. And yet, today’s scholars essentially advise us that it’s futile to unscramble the meaning of 666.
Revelation 13 is telling us more than the fact that this mark of the beast will be imprinted in the hands or foreheads of his followers. For that matter, we often overlook the detail that it’s not just the number of the beast (666) that will be implanted, it’s also his name. “And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name” (Revelation 13:17). If God didn’t want his people (beginning with the 1st century Christians) to know the meaning of his number and the name of the beast-man, then why continue with verse 18, “Wisdom is needed here…”
The very existence of this verse, the very challenge of exercising wisdom and understanding to “solve” or “calculate” the number (that’s the meaning of the Greek word in this verse) contradicts the current mainstream notion that the meaning of this number can’t truly be understood until the Antichrist actually appears. But when he does appear, why then do we need to know the meaning of the number, which is equivalent to the identity of the beast? Do you see what I’m saying, or better yet, what these verses are saying?
Narrowing It Down
Too many people have used far too many languages to try to identify the Antichrist. One result was that a former US President, Ronald Reagan, was even tagged as the Antichrist, because use of gematria in English resulted in his English name adding up to six hundred, sixty-six.
It is imperative to understand that there could have been only three languages in which gematria could have been used to calculate the number of the beast when Revelation was written: Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Why? Once again, because the book of Revelation was given to and written for the believers alive at that very time in history. Romans spoke Latin, but many of them more often spoke Greek, which was the universal language of the time, much like English is today. The Jews spoke Hebrew (Aramaic) but many Jews also spoke Greek.
Because of the potential devastating consequences for Christians (arrest, imprisonment, torture, confiscation of property, death), it was necessary for both Paul (II Thessalonians) and the angel (through John in Revelation) to encode or conceal the actual identity of the beast (Nero). That’s why Paul used the term man of lawlessness (see Chapter 21 of Out of the Abyss), and that’s why the angel announced the mystery of the beast to John by encryption. But use of Greek gematria would have been too obvious, too much of a give-away to the readers of Revelation and perhaps to non-believers, especially Caesar, who would have hunted them down because they dared call Nero a beast, instead of a god.
Thus, it was necessary to conceal the mystery even more, i.e. by supplanting the use of Greek gematria with Hebrew. Plus, this would make perfect sense to the early Christians, the vast majority of which were Jews. And so, what do we find? Well, let’s count in Hebrew: Resh = 200; Samech = 60; Kuf = 100; Nun = 50; Vav = 6; Resh = 200; Nun = 50. Sum Total: Six, Hundred, sixty-six! And what does it spell? NERO.
Please understand, there can be only one language whose alphabet could be used to arrive at the numerical sum/value of six hundred sixty-six. Not just the abbreviated form of this number, which is three successive sixes (666). The implication of the passage is very clear: one must add the corresponding numerical value of each letter to arrive at the sum total of the beast’s name. Once again, for emphasis: the Lord would not have given John a number that could be calculated in more than one language. If that were the case, then other languages could theoretically use gematria to solve the number; which, of course, simply wouldn’t work. And, no amount of wisdom, understanding or logic could possibly ascertain the number of the beast, which defeats the whole purpose/challenge of Revelation 13:18 … to, in fact, calculate the number and by so doing, to identify the NAME of the beast.
Moreover, it would have to be one of these three languages (Latin, Greek, Hebrew), as any other language on the face of the earth at that time would have been completely irrelevant in the context of the seven kings of Revelation 17 being Roman Emperors. Actually, all three languages are involved, but in a progressive sort of way. Nero’s name, of course, is Latin. Had his name actually been disclosed by John it would have been given in the language of the New Testament (Greek), i.e. Neron Kaisar. Which, as indicated, would have been a death sentence for many more Christians.
But to assure even more secrecy and, therefore, protection, and to make it essentially irrelevant and unimportant to non-believers, especially those hostile toward the Christians and Jews, the Greek name for Nero Caesar needed to be transposed to the Hebrew spelling of the name. THEN, we match the equivalent numerical value of each Hebrew letter. The very fact that Nero’s name was often written in one of the three prominent languages of the Roman world—Latin, Greek, Hebrew—validates the accuracy and authenticity of this Biblical prophecy, by the very means of counting in the 1st century—through the alphabet.
Use of Hebrew to correlate the number of the beast to the name of the beast would have been, by far, the least conspicuous. Both logically and from reading historical accounts of the ancient Roman world, very few Romans or Greeks or other ethnic groups spoke Hebrew, or even cared to. And then there’s the greatest proof of all. What three languages were written on the sign over the cross of the true Messiah, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? Most of you know: Latin, Greek, and Hebrew! Though the sign was put up to mock Jesus as the King of the Jews, those who put it up unwittingly proclaimed the truth of who he is. Likewise, with the king-beast of Revelation … use of all three of these languages, with Hebrew as the actual language to conceal (to those without wisdom or understanding) the true identity of the Antichrist.
Look how short and easy these two labels of the beast will be to mark a person’s hand or forehead: NERO or 666. Even if a person selects the name of Nero in their own language, it will still have only three, four, five, or perhaps six letters. And who says that Nero or 666 will be an implant beneath the skin, just because we have developed computer chip technology in today’s world? Why couldn’t it be a dye implant, or a tattoo, or a brand, or a laser mark, all of which could be visibly seen by other people or by some scanning device? As arrogant and vain as the Bible portrays the beast (Antichrist), you would think that Nero (who was also exceptionally egotistical) would want his name or number to be clearly seen on all those who take his mark. For that matter, please tell me how a computer chip could possibly be implanted in someone’s forehead? I’m no doctor, but I do know that immediately behind the skin of the forehead is the skull. Hardly any room for even the tiniest of computer chips!
Moreover, it certainly won’t be a long name such as Mahmoud Armadinejad! And, history tells us that Nero, himself, discarded his birth name of Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus at the age of 13. That name just wouldn’t fit very well on a person’s hand or forehead, would it!
Things to Ponder
– Does it make sense that the challenge of Revelation 13:18 (to solve the number of the beast) can only be done through gematria? Actually, those who spoke the ancient languages (like Hebrew) didn’t know any other way to count, other than through their alphabet. Wouldn’t that be the optimum way and best reason to encode the beast’s name by using a number that “represents his name.”
– It’s clear that the three main languages of the New Testament and Roman Empire were Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Doesn’t it also make sense that only one of these languages would/could be used? If two or more other languages could be used, then how would anyone know which language to select? Even if the Hebrew alphabet matched the name of the beast (which it does, i.e. Nero), someone else could argue that the name and corresponding numbers should be read in, say Greek. If so, then the one applying the formula could assert that the correlation between name/number could only be done in Greek, or Latin. End result: No way to calculate the number.
– Isn’t it even more logical that Hebrew would be used to encode the name of the beast, as explained in this article? The angel had to provide just enough clues to enable the reader to solve the mystery of the number without making it so obvious (using Greek or Latin) as to endanger the Christians, who had already suffered massive persecution and death at the hands of Nero, and to a lesser extent at the hands of subsequent Roman emperors. That’s why the angel begins by saying, “Wisdom is needed here…”