The mark of the beast
13 He performs great signs (startling miracles), even making fire fall from the sky to the earth in men’s sight.
14 And because of the signs (miracles) which he is allowed to perform in the presence of the [first] beast, he deceives those who inhabit the earth, commanding them to erect a statue (an image) in the likeness of the beast who was wounded by the [small] sword and still lived. [Deuteronomy 13:1-5.]
15 And he is permitted [also] to impart the breath of life into the beast’s image, so that the statue of the beast could actually talk and cause to be put to death those who would not bow down and worship the image of the beast. [Daniel 3:5.]
16 Also he compels all [alike], both small and great, both the rich and the poor, both free and slave, to be marked with an inscription [stamped] on their right hands or on their foreheads,
17 So that no one will have power to buy or sell unless he bears the stamp (mark, inscription), [that is] the name of the beast or the number of his name.
18 Here is [room for] discernment [a call for the wisdom of interpretation]. Let anyone who has intelligence (penetration and insight enough) calculate the number of the beast, for it is a human number [the number of a certain man]; his number is 666. AMP
Scriptures Cross Referenced
13:1 IF A prophet arises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder,
2 And the sign or the wonder he foretells to you comes to pass, and if he says, Let us go after other gods — gods you have not known — and let us serve them,
3 You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your [mind and] heart and with your entire being.
4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and [reverently] fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and cling to Him.
5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has talked rebellion and turning away from the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of bondage; that man has tried to draw you aside from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So shall you put the evil away from your midst. AMP
5 That when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, dulcimer or bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. AMP
13:16-18. Enforcing his control over the human race and encouraging worship of the beast out of the sea, the second beast required everyone…to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, and without this evidence that he had worshiped the beast no one could buy or sell. The need to buy or sell such necessities as food and clothing would force each person in the entire world to decide whether to worship the beast or to bear the penalty. Apparently the great majority worshiped the beast.
There has been much speculation on the insignia or "mark" of the beast, but it could be any of several kinds of identification. Countless attempts have been made to interpret the number 666, usually using the numerical equivalents of letters in the Hebrew, Greek, or other alphabets. As there probably have been hundreds of explanations continuing down to the present day, it is obvious that if the number refers to an individual it is not clear to whom it refers.
Probably the best interpretation is that the number six is one less than the perfect number seven, and the threefold repetition of the six would indicate that for all their pretensions to deity, Satan and the two beasts were just creatures and not the Creator. That six is man’s number is illustrated in many instances in the Bible, including the fact that man should work six days and rest the seventh. (For further discussion of the many views cf. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, pp. 263-65; Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ, pp. 206-7; and Walvoord, Revelation, pp. 209-12.)
The practice of gematria, the attempt to find hidden meanings in numbers in Scripture, was prominent in the ancient world. Maybe John had in mind a particular person whom his close associates would be able to identify. Literature from the early church fathers, however, reveals the same confusion and variety of meanings that exist today, so probably it is best to leave this puzzle unsolved. Probably the safest conclusion is that of Thomas F. Torrance, "This evil trinity 666 apes the Holy Trinity 777, but always falls short and fails" (The Apocalypse Today, p. 86).
Chapter 13 is important because it introduces two of the main characters of Revelation: the beast out of the sea, the world dictator; and the beast out of the earth, the false prophet and chief supporter of the political ruler. There is no evidence that either of them is a Jew though some have identified one or the other as an apostate Jew based on the expression "the God of his fathers" (Daniel 11:37, KJV). However, the Hebrew word ‘elohim is a general word for god, quite different from Yahweh, and there is no proof that in Daniel it refers to the God of Israel. In recent translations it is "gods" (cf. ASV, NASB, NEB, NIV, AND RSV). Thus while it has been popular to consider either the first or the second ruler of Revelation 13 as an apostate Jew, the supporting evidence is lacking. Both beasts are probably Gentiles inasmuch as this will be the final hour of the time of the Gentiles, when Gentiles will tramp underfoot the city of Jerusalem (Luke 21:24), and both rulers will persecute Jews as well as believing Gentiles.
Revelation 13 , however, gives much insight into the character of the Great Tribulation. It will be a time of one world government and one world religion, with one world economic system. Those who will resist the ruler and refuse to worship him will be subject to execution, and the martyrs may outnumber the believers who survive. It will be Satan’s final and ultimate attempt to cause the world to worship him and to turn them from the worship of the true God and Jesus Christ as their Savior.
This chapter also makes it clear that the postmillennial dream of a world getting better and better through Christian effort and gospel preaching is not supported in the Bible. Instead the final form of world religion will be apostate, satanic, and blasphemous. There are many indications today that the world is heading in this direction, with the corresponding conclusion that the coming of the Lord may be near.
Bible Knowledge Commentary