WHY IS “666” THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST?
by Shawn Brasseaux
The following Bible passage is known far and wide: “ And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:  And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.  Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” (Revelation 13:16-18). With a “score” being equivalent to 20, the verse furnishes us with the following mathematical formula: 600 + 60 + 6 = 666. But, what is so significant about “666?” Why is this the number—and not “665,” “2,” or “999,” for example? Exactly what role does “666” play in the Antichrist’s arrival?
CONFUSION! (CONFUSION! CONFUSION!)
Ironically (and most regrettably), as touching Bible topics, culture and vain religion have impacted our thinking far more than the Holy Bible itself. This is certainly true of Bible prophecy, and especially the “number of the Beast.” (Another highly misunderstood topic along these lines is “the mark of the Beast.” For a treatment of that concept, please refer to our companion article linked at the end of this study.)
In smugness and lightheartedness, mockers of Christianity tattoo “666” on their bodies, write it in their online posts, use it flippantly in speech, and so on. Some interpret the phrase “the number of his name” as really suggesting the number of letters in his name. Decades ago, for instance, former United States President Ronald Wilson Reagan (count the letters in his full name) was suspected as being the Antichrist. Such speculations are made about ancient Roman Emperor Nero too. Counting letters in someone’s name to see if he may be the Antichrist has led to such wild speculations that it would be best for us not to go that route. It is as profitable as the rumors spread by those who feared the date June 6, 2006 (06/06/06), still dread getting a “666” address or telephone number, avoid labeling airline flights and bills of legislation as “666,” and so on.
Superstition and alarm are expected where Bible ignorance abounds and faith lacks. People often do not study Scripture itself, but they are quite familiar with books written about Scripture. Therefore, the elaborate and endless conjectures of unsaved theologians and other “experts” have taken precedence over the actual Bible text. Despite abounding commentary though, Bible understanding is quite shallow. If Holy Writ speaks of “666,” and it certainly does, then we in this study insist on closing our ears and eyes to the vain speculations of men and are become resolute in opening them to the Bible’s self-interpretation. Far better we have eternal Scripture verses supporting our view than relying on the opinions of mortal, fallible men such as ourselves!
CLARITY! (CLARITY! CLARITY!)
The best method of interpreting the Bible is to find related verses found in the Bible. As noted earlier, this will prove far more useful than appealing to “scholarship,” church tradition, history, hunches, et cetera. Varying opinions and assumptions mean nothing in light of God’s eternal Word. They will only lead to more darkness (and there is more than enough of that already!). In the ensuing pages, we aim to be as simple as possible about a topic people have needlessly complicated. Again, the key is to let the Scriptures themselves lay the basis for our understanding.
Genesis 1:31 is the first time where the number 6 appears in Scripture. This passage sets the stage and attitude of the Bible concerning the number 6. Read for yourself: “ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
“ And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.  And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.  And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”
The LORD God created man on the sixth day, so 6 is the Bible’s number for man. Three, on the other hand, is the number of God (think of the Trinity/Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). That human connotation of the number 6 in Scripture is apparent when we read Revelation 13:18: “…for it is the number of a man.” The Antichrist is the personification or embodiment of Satan’s policy of evil. He is, in one being, everything that Satan intends to accomplish in creation. The Antichrist is the perfect example of what it is like to live exclusively for self—apart from the words and influence of the one true God. He “does his own thing,” and he behaves as though he is “his own authority.”
Second Thessalonians chapter 2 speaks of Antichrist’s arrival: “ Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;  Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” Here is exactly what Lucifer intended to do when he was transformed into Satan (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-19). Lucifer endeavored to counterfeit God in order to receive worship that belonged only to God (cf. Matthew 4:8-10; Luke 4:5-8).
Six is the number of the Beast’s “name,” with “name” carrying the idea of character or authority. Again, the Beast is the pinnacle of natural-man wisdom. We see his perverted philosophies underscored throughout the Book of Ecclesiastes. The Holy Spirit warns us of worldly wisdom in the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). The evil world system that began in Genesis chapter 3 (before us), and will give rise to the Antichrist (beyond us), it is here with us even now. We had better be sure to understand God’s Word rightly divided, or that evil world system will deceive us!
One supernatural characteristic of the Bible is its ability to preview or typify future events. There are various historical characters (“types”) scattered throughout Scripture—at least 18—whose qualities and behaviors provide us with hints as to what the Antichrist (“antitype”) will be like. We want to focus on three on them, and note well their relation to the number “6.”
Giant Goliath in 1 Samuel chapter 17: “ And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span [6 cubits = 9 feet = 2.7 meters; 1 span = 9 inches = 0.23 meters] [total height = 9 feet 9 inches = 2.93 meters].  And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.  And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders.  And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.” (Notice how “six” appears here. Goliath is a type or picture of Antichrist—he is an oppressor, challenger, and ridiculer of Israel. Check Revelation 12:1-6 and Revelation 13:1-18.)
King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel chapter 3: “ Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits [60 cubits = 90 feet = 27 meters], and the breadth thereof six cubits [9 feet = 2.7 meters]: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.  Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.  Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.  Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,  That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:….” (Notice how the number “six” emerges here—right down to the number of musical instruments in verse 5! Nebuchadnezzar is another picture or type of Antichrist—someone who persecutes Israel’s believing remnant for refusing his false religious system and its image/idol. See Revelation 13:15-18.)
King Solomon in 1 Kings chapter 10: “ Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold,  Beside that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffick of the spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and of the governors of the country.  And king Solomon made two hundred targets of beaten gold: six hundred shekels of gold went to one target.  And he made three hundred shields of beaten gold; three pound of gold went to one shield: and the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon.  Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold.  The throne had six steps, and the top of the throne was round behind: and there were stays on either side on the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays.  And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other upon the six steps: there was not the like made in any kingdom.” (The number “six” pops up throughout in reference to now-apostate King Solomon, another picture of Antichrist. Like Solomon, Antichrist will be king of Israel. Notice in verse 14—“six hundred threescore and six” ! Solomon constructs a great throne of ivory, counterfeiting God’s great white throne in Revelation 20:11.)
Scripture uses the number 6 as man’s number. The forthcoming Antichrist is the pinnacle of man’s life apart from the Creator God. His self-will and self-worship will align perfectly with sinful man’s fallen nature and Satan’s original goal. He will rule and pervert God’s people Israel (like Solomon), he will tyrannize and corrupt her with false religion (like Nebuchadnezzar), and he will taunt and challenge her (like Goliath). This is as anti-God as one can get. It is therefore wholly appropriate that the number of the Beast’s name be “666” (Revelation 13:18). However, it is not necessary to imagine the actual number “666” will appear on everything related to the Antichrist. Revelation 13:17 says his followers will have that number, but in what sense they “have” it Scripture is unclear. They do not have to have it on or under their skin, for example—that would be the Mark of the Beast (see our related study linked at the end of this article).
In its most basic sense, according to Revelation 13:18, someone having “666” is advertising an alliance with sinful man as he operates without Divine life and wisdom. With the Antichrist and his “666” association, it will be Satan’s last stand and sin’s final exaltation before the Lord Jesus Christ returns most violently to destroy it and set up God’s eternal kingdom in creation! If we have trusted Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, we need not be concerned with the Antichrist/Beast, his image, his mark, his name, or his number. They are for another dispensation, for the purging of the nation Israel, and have absolutely nothing to do with us the Church the Body of Christ. Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, show that we in the mystery program are totally isolated from that time period. In fact, 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 and Romans chapters 9–11 were written to show we do not belong in the prophetic program of which Antichrist is a part!
Friend, have you noticed the spiritual profit here? That is because we have used the Bible to interpret itself. We did not appeal to church tradition or scholarly consensus. There was no philosophy or speculation. We simply compared verses—and what immeasurable spiritual light has flooded our minds and hearts! Such is the result when we set aside the opinions of men and let Scripture speak for itself. The Holy Spirit gave us insight here because we desired to give His words a fair hearing. Unsaved people cannot do this because they lack the Spirit of God who wrote the Bible—and they also refuse to understand it anyway! Their answer to unraveling Bible enigmas is to use everything but the Bible in order to guess possible meanings. Worldly wisdom is of no use in understanding the things of God. Human viewpoint will lead us to additional ignorance. We have considered such speculations, and found them profitless. Therefore, we have chosen to take our stand on plain and simple verses.
SUPPLEMENTAL: WHAT ABOUT “616?” (HERE IS THE IDLE SPECULATION WE ALREADY WARNED ABOUT!)
Based on a few ancient witnesses (Papyrus 115, Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, and so on), some suppose “616” is a possible alternative to “666.” We austerely reject that view, not only because it is a departure from the proper text (Greek Textus Receptus and its resultant King James Bible) but also because “616” has no Scriptural precedence.
Studying what the Bible says about the Antichrist/Beast, we expect him to be man-oriented (a “humanist,” if you please) to the fullest degree. After all, “6” is man’s number in Scripture. Would not “666” be much more man-oriented than “616?” Which reading would you thus believe to be the correct one? Surely, “666!” Satan, no doubt, encourages such a corruption of the Bible text and resulting confusion. It covers up what is really going on with his chief man in the Earth. Once the Antichrist does show up, there is a perverted “bible” to deceive people. They will avoid “616” (ignorant of the fact they should be avoiding “666.” Consequently, they will likely fall for the lesser lie (false text) which will make them vulnerable to embracing the greater lie (Antichrist).
With “6” appearing not once but thrice (“3” being the number of God—namely, the Trinity/Godhead, remember), that signifies man is endeavoring to replace God with himself. As it turns out, that is exactly what Antichrist seeks to do as well! Let us go back to what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2: “ Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;  Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” (Again, the Antichrist/Beast is “the man of sin” because he is the embodiment of sin, Satan’s lie program; he is “the son of perdition” in that damnation has given birth to him, and he is heading to an eternal doom. Draw your attention to the fact that he, like Satan, seeks to be worshipped as God—Matthew 4:8-10 and Luke 4:5-8.)
In Thessalonians, Paul was drawing from what the Prophet Daniel had already laid out 600 years earlier in chapter 11 of his Book: “ And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.  Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.”
Like Satan who is empowering him, like Satan who enticed man to rebel against God back in the Garden of Eden, the Antichrist is an egotist, a narcissist who seeks the worship that belongs only to the Creator God. Romans 1:25 amply summarizes any defection from the God of Creation (but here it speaks of the nations seeking idols at the Tower of Babel in Genesis chapter 11): “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” No better number could fit all this but that “number of the Beast”—“666!”
Unbelievers will fall for the Antichrist, just as 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 predicted. Their penalty will be eternal Hellfire! Read Revelation chapter 14: “ And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,  The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:  And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.”