In Revelation 13 we read about the dragon (that is, the devil), giving his power to a beast (that is the anti-christ) coming from the sea. A second beast comes from the earth and makes the inhabitans of the earth worship the first beast. At the end of the chapter we then read about the first beast: “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.” So the number 666 in one way or another identifies the anti-christ.
Many people in history have tried to find out who ‘666’ is referring to. In the Greek language, in which Revelation was written, every letter has a numerical value. All kinds of calculations have been made that pointed to various persons in history. However, never a name has been proposed that has been generally accepted. So it is very unlikely that this method is the right one.
Number 7 in Revelation
A more promising approach is to see that in Revelation often the number 7 is used. 7 is the number of God’s fullness. It is the number of perfection. 6 is falling short of God’s perfection. It is trying to be God, but not succeeding. We worship the Holy Trinity: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Revelation 13 we read about an unholy trinity: the devil, the anti-christ, and the false prophet. But even together, they fall short of God’s power. They are not 7s, they are 6s.
Suffer for our faith
Whenever the power of the devil is shown on earth through people serving him (antichrists), we should be ready to suffer for our faith and to persevere in our faith: “If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:10). That is the main lesson we have to learn from Revelation 13. That is far more important than doing calculations to try to figure out who is meant by 666.
One final manifestation
The Bible indicates that before the second coming of the Lord Jesus there will be one final manifestation of the antichrist (see 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12), and it seems that Revelation 13 especially refers to him. It is possible that the number 666 will point out that person when he manifests himself, but it serves no purpose to speculate about that now. What is more important for us is to recognize that even now the devil is using people for his plans. Elsewhere the apostle John writes: “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come” (1 John 2:18). So we should recognize the devil’s deceptions even now and hold on in faith to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ who died for sinners, rose from the death to conquer satan, and one day will come back to judge the living and the dead.
What did you learn from the Bible this week?