In his haunting vision in Revelation 13, John unveils the first beast who is a metaphor for the Antichrist. Empowered by Satan he will have dominion on earth for three and a half years. He is depicted as one who will heal from a mortal wound, deceive humanity into worshipping himself, and persecute Christians and the nation of Israel. Perhaps his most infamous characteristic is the number of his name, 666.
The meaning of 666 has intrigued people for centuries. It is often associated with Satan. While pop culture adapts it to horror films, others avoid the number altogether due to hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, the fear of the number 666. Many people have attempted using gematria, a mathematical practice of assigning numerical value to a Hebrew word based on the combination of letters, to understand the meaning behind 666. Results of this practice have connected 666 to Nero Caesar who was the Roman emperor from AD 55 to AD 68. However, United States president Ronald Reagan, among other political and religious leaders, also was a result of the same type of calculation. When enough mathematical maneuvers are employed, nearly any name can add up to 666. In addition, some early manuscripts of the Bible have the number 616 instead of 666, adding to the difficulty to correctly identify the Antichrist using mathematics.
From a biblical perspective, the number 666 is not necessarily a code for the Antichrist's name, but rather a symbol of his nature. During the end times tribulation people will be required to have the mark of the beast on their foreheads or hands in order to buy or sell. Those who do not receive the mark will be persecuted by the Antichrist, but those who do, will be subject to God's wrath. In a sense the mark of the beast will signify a commitment to worshipping the Antichrist instead of God. This mark of the beast will in some way represent the name or number of the beast. John hints that this number is an important clue in understanding the nature of the Antichrist. He writes, "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).
Numbers have symbolic significance throughout the Bible. One of the most important biblical numbers is seven. Seven stands for complete, whole, and perfect. The number seven is used over seven hundred times in the Bible, and most prominently as the number of days in which God created the world. 666 is also symbolic. John calls it the number of man. Man was created on the sixth day of creation and chose to sin against God. Man is imperfect and incomplete without God. The Antichrist will try to take the place of God, exalting himself and demanding people worship him. However, the unholy trinity of the Antichrist, False Prophet, and Satan will be defeated at the hands of Jesus (Revelation 19—20).
Christians should neither fear nor focus on the number 666. Jesus has already overcome the sin of the world. If His Spirit is living inside of us, then we have overcome the spirit of the antichrist and can trust that He who is in us is far "greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). Jesus is all we need and the only one we need. Ultimately, 666 reveals the Antichrist for what he really is, a deceiver and a fraud.
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