The predictions in the Bible that describe the Mark of the Beast and the Number of the Beast have been among the most fascinating end times prophecies for many generations. In the years immediately following the time of the Apostles, the early church wondered about these prophecies and tried to figure out what they meant. These predictions, which are exclusively found in the book of Revelation, were written down by the Apostle John around the year 95 A.D. when he was imprisoned on the Island of Patmos. At that time, he had a vision of two frightening beasts that would arise in close succession. The first beast John described as coming out of the sea, while the second beast he saw coming out of the earth. These beasts in some mysterious way would have the number 666 intimately associated with them.
The first beast coming out of the sea is a symbolic description of the rise of the Final World Empire, which contains very similar imagery to the end times empire Daniel originally predicted over 700 years prior to John’s time. Daniel actually foretold all the major world empires that would affect Israel, and he said that the final one would arise just before the God of Heaven set up a Kingdom which would never be destroyed. Daniel also predicted that this last Empire-Beast would be “dreadful and terrible and strong exceedingly” (Dan. 7:7). See the sections on the New World Order, The Antichrist and the Mark of the Beast for extensive discussions and explanations of these prophecies.
The second beast John wrote about is portrayed as arising after the Empire-Beast, and is clearly differentiated from the first beast. It is said of the second beast that he “exercises all the power of the first beast before him” (Rev. 13:12). In other words, the second beast would be the leader of the first beast or the head of the empire. The first beast therefore is the entire empire made up of many people throughout the world, whereas the second beast is its leader. This is again similar to Daniel’s prophecies in that Daniel too saw the same Empire-Beast rising up using nearly identical imagery, but Daniel further wrote that it was subsequently given a mouth speaking great things (Dan. 7:7-8, 19-21; compare also Rev. 13:5-8). In other words, Daniel predicted the very same empire as well as the leader of this empire in almost the same way John prophesied of them in Revelation 13.
In Revelation, John then goes on in a series of eight verses recorded in Rev. 13:11-18 to describe the major events that will happen as this second beast (which is the person we know as the Antichrist) rises to power and becomes the undisputed leader of the empire. For our purposes in this section, we will only focus on the last few verses of Revelation 13, where John says,
“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.”
These three short verses represent a fantastic prophecy that describes both the Mark and the Number of the Beast. As discussed in the sections on the Mark of the Beast, the prophecies of the Antichrist’s economic system not only imply the coming of a cashless society where everyone will be buying and selling with a mark, but it also predicts one additional and very important detail. According to the Apostle John, the entire system would relate in some way to a particular number. The prophet saw in his vision the specific number “666” as being intimately associated with the Beast’s system of commerce. Many people throughout the ages have attempted to figure out what the Mark and the Number would actually turn out to be. John predicts in these verses, however, that it would not be easy to figure these things out. In particular, he said that it would take wisdom and understanding to “count” the Number of the Beast.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of wisdom can be summed up in three ways:
: Knowledge that is gained by having many experiences in life
: The natural ability to understand things that most other people cannot understand
: Knowledge of what is proper or reasonable: good sense or judgment
Whatever the Number of the Beast might refer to, it certainly cannot be trivial to comprehend. Therefore, it will not turn out to be something that is merely the number 666 written down in a visible way as a plain number. That would be too easy. It would require no wisdom or knowledge to figure out 666 as a numeral sign apparent to everyone. By contrast, the Apostle John clearly flags this prophecy as being difficult to understand. In the end, it will take experience, knowledge, and understanding gained only through study to determine or uncover the true nature of the Number of the Beast.
What is clear is that in the last days 666 will somehow characterize or be used in the functioning of the world economic system in a way that will be not obvious. According to the prophecies in Revelation this system will require a mark, a number, and a name to participate in the new commerce of the Antichrist. In the sections that follow, we will discover just how the Number of the Beast is being developed by the Empire-Beast even before the Antichrist is revealed. We will see that it is not a simple number of three sixes written down for everyone to easily see, but it is contained in novel ways within the technology of electronic commerce, which currently allows our world to function in an increasingly Cashless Society.
Next: The Number of the Beast