The Mark of the Beast

Revelation 13

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
February 2023

Today, we are going to tackle one of the greatest mysteries of the Bible.  We are going to talk about the Mark of the Beast and what that means.  We are going to talk about the mysterious number 666.

There are many things in the Bible no one knows, and no one can know.  God said the secret things belong to Him.  Most people assume this must be one of things, but it is not.

John encourages his readers to solve this mystery and says that they can solve it.  Last week, we looked at the first half of Revelation 13, dealing with the coming Antichrist.

John saw a beast rising out of the sea.  He saw a sea monster.  This was not an ordinary beast.  It was a seven headed beast.  The Antichrist will be a charismatic world ruler and he will be characterized by several things, based on Revelation 13.

He will have supernatural power and authority from Satan himself.  He will have some miraculous powers.  He will persecute Christians.  He will demand to be worshiped by the world.

We also saw last week that the Antichrist is not only future but present, according to Scripture.  We focus on the coming end-time leader who will become the personification of evil.

John speaks of the spirit of the antichrist today.  He said that there were many antichrists in his day and that was two thousand years later.  If there were many antichrist then, there are much more in the world today.  The world has only gotten worse, not better.

We see that spirit manifested not only in bad rulers outside the church who persecute God’s people but in bad teachers in the church who say things about Jesus that are not true.

A Second Beast

Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. (Revelation 13:11-12 NIV)

John does not see one beast but two beasts in this chapter.  One is a land beast, and one is a sea beast.  One is a political leader, and one is a religious leader.

These will be a pair.  They will be a team.  They will be a diabolical duo. Just as the two witnesses were a pair in Jerusalem.  Instead of being God’s men; they will be Satan’s men.

The first beast is more powerful.  He has ten horns on his head.  The second beast only has two horns.  The first beast has crowns on his head (ten crowns). The second beast does not have any crowns on his head.  He is not a politician.

He will work with the Antichrist.  He will be his number two man.  He will run the Antichrist’s propaganda machine.  He will be his spokesperson.  He will be his press secretary.  He will be in charge of the Ministry of Propaganda.

This Beast will be known for three things.  He will be known by his DECEPTION.  He will look like a lamb but speak like a dragon (Revelation 13:11).  He will look like a harmless lamb you want to pet.  He may even claim to be a Christian.

The Bible says that false prophets today are just like him.  Jesus said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15 NIV)

We have all had people knock on our door who look very well dressed.  They smile and have a Bible in their hands.  They claim to be Christians.  They don’t look like ax-murderers, but they do not all say things that line up with Scripture.

Two, he will be known by his MIRACLES.  He will use signs and wonders to draw people to the Antichrist.  Notice the two signs he will do.

And it performed GREAT SIGNS, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. 14 Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it DECEIVED the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. (Revelation 13:13-15 NIV)

The Value of Miracles

There is an important lesson for us here regarding miracles.  Many today are crazy about miracles.  They want to see signs and wonders.  That is not all wrong.  We want to see miracles in our lives.

We need to see the value in miracles and the danger in miracles.  What value do miracles have?  They have apologetic value.  They validate the truth.  They confirm it.

How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:3-4 NIV)

Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16:20 NIV)

The Bible teaches that miracles confirm the truth and validate the truth but are NOT the basis of truth.  They can also be used to validate error.  Miracles always have to be lined up with scripture.  They must be lined up with truth.

The Bible teaches that Satan can perform miracles.  The Second Beast will be able to call fire down from heaven.  Pharaoh’s magicians could perform miracles as well.

10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. 11 Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts (Exodus 7:10-11 NIV)

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie (II Thessalonians 2:9 NIV)

Do miracles prove that God is working? No. Are miracles always evidence of the power of God? No. We need to test the spirits, as John says (I John 4:1-3)

Three, he will be known for his PROGRAM.  

This false prophet “also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.” (Revelation 13:16-17 NIV)

He will use economic pressure to get people to worship the Beast.  Now, we come to the fun stuff.  We get to talk about the Mark of the Beast.  It is the only place in the Bible that has a math problem in it.

The Mark of the Beast

This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666. (Revelation 13:18 NIV)

We are going to talk about all kinds of things.  We are going to talk about the mark and some misconceptions today about the mark.  We are going to talk about that mysterious evil number 666 and some myths about it.

Provocative Questions

We are going to talk about all kinds of things.  We are going to talk about the mark and some misconceptions today about the mark.  We are going to talk about that mysterious evil number 666 and some myths about it.

This verse raises all kinds of questions.  What is the Mark of the Beast?  How do you calculate the number of a name?  How would you calculate the number of your name?  What does the number 666 mean?

Is it possible to take the Mark of the Beast today?  If so, have any of us already taken it?

If you take it, can you still be saved?  Can you be a Christian and take the mark?  If you receive the Mark of the Beast, can you repent?

We wont be able to answer every question here but there are simple answers to these questions.  This is information that many have not heard before.

This will be new to many people.  It is something that is almost never preached in church.  Let’s look at three basic facts about this mark from Scripture.

Three Basic Facts

1. If you take the Mark of the Beast, you CANNOT be saved

Your eternal destiny is at stake.  If you take the mark, you can’t be saved.  That is why this is extremely important.

The Bible warns us that if we have the mark of the Beast, we will then share the fate of the Beast.

And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, OR FOR ANYONE WHO RECEIVES THE MARK OF ITS NAME (Revelation 14:11 NIV)

If you take this mark, you NOT only will not be saved; you will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  This mark will seal your eternal destiny.

You can repent of any sin you commit but this sin is so serious that anyone who commits it will not repent.

There are plenty of people can repent but won’t.  In fact, Hebrews talks about some people who are IMPOSSIBLE to renew unto repentance (Hebrews 6:4).

2. If you are saved, you CANNOT take the Mark of the Beast.

Only unsaved people can take this mark.  If someone takes this mark, it shows they are not saved.  How do we know?

All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. (Revelation 13:8 NIV)

We are in one of two groups.  There are two marks in the Book of Revelation.  There is God’s mark and Satan’s mark.  Believers have God’s mark on them.  Unbelievers have the Devil’s mark on them.  It is a counterfeit mark.  The saved have the name of God written on them.

The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. (Revelation 3:12 NIV)

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. 2 Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: 3 “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” (Revelation 7:1-3 NIV)

Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1 NIV)

They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:4 NIV)

The unsaved have the name of the Beast written on them (Revelation 13:16-18).  Satan is good at counterfeiting things.  We see counterfeits all the time (like fake Jordans or Rolex watches).  I wear a fake smart watch.  It is not an Apple watch.

We have the true gospel.  Satan has counterfeit gospels.  There is a true Jesus and a false Jesus.  There is a true religion and all kinds of false religions.

3. The mark CANNOT be taken until the Antichrist is revealed

Many Christians have caused needless fear.  They have told people that the Mark of the Beast is in the world today.  It is already here.  It is NOT.

The Mark of the Beast will be around in the Tribulation Period. We are not in the Tribulation Period.  How do we know for sure it is not here?

Five Signs of the Mark of the Beast

There are five signs of the Mark of the Beast.  There are five ways from Revelation 13 that you know that the Mark of the Beast is here.  You have to have all five of these signs present.

1) The Antichrist will be revealed.

This end-time world leader has not been revealed yet.  He may be alive today but has not come onto the world stage yet.

2) The Antichrist will be worshiped as God

That has not happened yet.  He has not been revealed and he has not been worshiped.

3) The same individual will wage war against Christians

There are plenty of people that do that today in many different countries, but it is not being done today by the Antichrist.

4) The false prophet will be performing signs and wonders

The false prophet has not come on the scene, and he is not performing signs and wonders.  No one is calling fire down from heaven or making images come to life.

5)  The Mark of the Beast is tied to commerce

This mark was intended to allow people to buy and sell.  If you don’t have the mark, you can’t do that.  That is not happening today.

No one is prevented from buying or selling. The Mark of the Beast is not here but, at some time in the future, it will be.

Five Common Myths

There are many myths about this mark.  Many Christians have some crazy ideas about the Mark of the Beast that have nothing to do with the text.

Today, we are going to debunk many false ideas people have about the Mark of the Beast.  What are some false ideas about this mark?

1) The Sunday Worship Myth

Seventh Day Adventists teach that worshiping on Sunday is the Mark of the Beast. Sunday worship is not the Mark of the Beast.   It is not a mark you put on your hand or forehead.  That is not in the text at all.

2) The Social Security Myth

Some believe that social security numbers are the Mark of the Beast.  The government gives everyone a number.  One man refused to give his social security number to his work.

He believed it was the Mark of the Beast and refused to give it.  He said that that it violated his religious convictions.  It went to the US Supreme Court in 2021 and they refused to hear the case.

The Mark of the Beast is NOT a social security number or a credit card.  It is not the devil’s credit card.  The Mark of the Beast is not your number or name.  It is HIS number and HIS name (Revelation 13:17-18).

3) The Barcode Myth

The universal product code (UPC) started in 1973.  Mary Stewart Relfe wrote a book in 1982 called The New Money System 666 in which she claimed that the Mark of the Beast has to do with barcodes that can be scanned.

It must be a sign that Satan is taking over the world economic system. That number identifies products electronically.  Each number is different.  It does not identify the Beast.

4) The Implant Myth

A fourth myth is that this will be some kind of microchip in your body.  It makes some good sci-fi movies, but this is not a verse against new technology.  It is a verse against idolatry.

The mark is not in people but on them.[1] The idea that the mark is placed in people is based on the KJV translation of Revelation 13:16; 14;9 but it is a mistranslation.  The Greek is upon (ἐπί), as the NKJV corrects.

5) The COVID Vaccine Myth

One of the most popular myths today is that the COVID vaccine in the Mark of the Beast, as if God is waiting before we get into heaven to make sure we do not have a vaccine card.

Whatever you think of the COVID Vaccine (you can be pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine), it has nothing to do with the Mark of the Beast.

Why? The Mark of the Beast is a religious mark, not a medical mark.  It has nothing to do with a medical procedure.  That is nowhere in the text.

Vaccination needles go into arms, not hands or foreheads.  Who gets a shot in their forehead?

It is not a requirement for buying and selling.  You don’t need to show your vaccine card to buy gas or food.  This will be a “commerce passport,” as Ron Rhodes points out.[2]

We do not know exactly what the mark will be, but it will be an outward visible follower of the Beast in the Tribulation Period. It will be a pledge of allegiance to the Antichrist. “There will be no neutrality; one either belongs to Christ or to the beast.”[3]

The Mysterious 666

Now, we come to the mysterious number 666.  Last week, we saw three applications in this chapter.

There is a call to HEAR this prophecy (Revelation 13:9).  There is a call to ENDURANCE, as believers are being slaughtered (Revelation 13:10).  Serving Jesus may cost you a lot, especially in the Tribulation Period.

There is also a call to WISDOM.  This calls for wisdom. LET THE PERSON WHO HAS INSIGHT calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666 (Revelation 13:18 NIV)

John gives us a riddle.  John says this is a mystery that can be solved.  You can figure it out and it involves a calculation.  What is he talking about?

Almost everything you have heard about this number is wrong.  There are many myths about the number 666.  Revelation 13:18 says that it is the number of a MAN.

It is NOT the number of the Devil.  It is NOT the number of the Roman Catholic Church, as the Reformers taught.  It is NOT the number of sin.  It is NOT the imperfection.  It is the number of a man.

A common view among preachers is that 666 just symbolizes imperfection.  Six symbolizes imperfection.  It is one short of seven and is mentioned three times for emphasis.  Six is the number of man.  Seven is the number of God (the number of perfection).  The number is symbolic, not numerological.

That sounds great but the number of Jesus is not 777 but 888 and this number was to be CALCULATED.  There is nothing to calculate if six is just the number of man and in Greek, the number is NOT triple six but six hundred sixty-six.

Furthermore, we are not even sure if 666 is the number of the Beast. The oldest copy of the book of Revelation that we have reads 616 (Χις), not 666 (χξϛ).

It comes from the third century.   It was discovered by archeologists in Egypt.  It is called Papyrus 115.  It reads 616.  That is a little ironic.

Satanists love the number 666.  A lot of heavy metal bands have used the number 666 written on their album covers and have 666 on T shirts.

Wouldn’t it be funny if the number 666 is not as evil, as people have thought, and the real number was 616?

Irenaeus, as early as the second century, said that some copies of Revelation read 616, although he thought at 666 was the correct reading.

Calculating a Name

How do you calculate a number from a name?  People in John’s day knew how to do it.  They knew how to find a name that added up to 666.  Two thousand years later, people do not know what he was talking about.  He is talking about what the Jews called GEMATRIA and the Greeks called ISOPSEPHY.

It is a way of turning letters into numbers.  The letters of the alphabet have numeric value. Each letter in the alphabet is a certain number.  If you add up all of the letters in your name, you can see what number you name makes.

Every name is actually a number.  Your name is a number. That is how the earliest Christians interpreted Revelation 13 (so Irenaeus, Victorinus).

On the walls of the Roman city of Pompeii, archaeologists have found Greek graffiti by a man who wrote, “I love the girl whose number is 545” (Φμέ) and that is not her phone number.  It is the number of her name.

Gematria in English

Now Greek has 24 letters but you can do this in English. English has 26 letters.  Gematria in English would look like this.

A = 1 J = 10 S = 100
B = 2 K = 20 T = 200
C =3 L = 30 U = 300
D =4 M = 40 V = 400
E = 5 N = 50 W = 500
F = 6 O = 60 X  = 600
G =7 P = 70 Y = 700
H =8 Q = 80 Z = 800
I  =9 R = 90

The Identity of 666

What does the number 666 refer to?  There is no way that anyone in the first century would know the personal name of the Antichrist who will come in the future.

He has not been revealed yet but there is something that they would know.  We don’t even know that but there is something that they would know.  There was someone in the first century would was just like the Antichrist.

When we think of the absolute symbol of evil today, we think of Adolf Hitler.  In the first century, they thought of Nero.  His name was synonymous with evil. He was a monster.  He was a demon-possessed mad man.

Some writers in his day called him a beast.  Apollonius of Tyana said that Nero was more evil than any beast he encountered in the wild.

He was a mass murderer.  He killed his mother.  He killed his adoptive brother Britannicus.  He killed two of his wives.

He committed sexual sins.  He had incest with his mother Agrippina. After both of his wives were dead, he married a man (after he castrated him).

He claimed to be God.  He uttered blasphemous words (Revelation 13:7).  He had a huge hundred-foot-tall statue of himself erected in Rome and put in the Temple of Mars. He was saluted on coins as the god Apollo.

He persecuted the saints (Revelation 13:7) and did it for forty-two months (Revelation 13:5).

He was the first persecutor of the church. He executed the Apostles Peter and Paul. He blames the fire of Rome on Christians. He accused his most loyal subjects of being arsonists.

He fed them to a bunch of hungry lions and invited thousands of people to fill a theater to watch them die.  Some were crucified. Some were set on fire.

Tacitus writes, “People began to pity these sufferers, because they were consumed not for the public good but on account of the fierceness of one man”.

He died from a head wound.  He died by suicide at the age of thirty.  He stabbed himself in the neck on June 9, 68 AD.

Nero died about 2000 years ago. He was dead when the Book of Revelation was written. He will not be alive when Jesus returns.

That is correct.  Nero is NOT the Antichrist.  He is a type of the Antichrist, as some church fathers point out (e.g., Chrysostom)[4].

It doesn’t work in Greek.  In Greek, Nero adds up to 1005.  If you use the Hebrew alphabet, it adds up to 666 (the Greek form of Neron Caesar written in Hebrew).

There is a textual variant that reads 616 and the Latin form of Nero Caesar adds up to 616.

[1] Ron Rhodes, Unmasking the Antichrist: Dispelling the Myths, Discovering the Truth (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2012).

[2] Ron Rhodes, Unmasking the Antichrist: Dispelling the Myths, Discovering the Truth (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2012).

[3] Grant Osborne, Revelation Verse by Verse, 366.


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