In the centuries that followed the writing of Revelation, countless writers and preachers have tried to interpret John’s vision, speculating what the Number of the Beast could mean, but without success. The prophetic descriptions of the Mark and the peculiar number 666 became among the most well-known of all the prophecies in the Bible. There even developed a certain obsession related to this prediction. No Christians wanted to be associated with anything that even remotely reminded them of 666—just in case God would disapprove. In extreme cases, people have been known to send back credit cards or license plates just because they contained that number. Some companies have even received hate mail merely because they made the mistake of incorporating this number sequence into their ads or addresses. It’s amazing how this one simple, three-digit number can almost cause paranoia in Christian circles. In fact, there is even a technical term coined to describe those with a fear of the number 666. It is called hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia!
Authors of end-time books have further perpetuated this fear by citing almost anything that contains three sixes in sequence and saying that these examples are proof of the soon rise of the Final World Order. The fact is, though, such interpretations of John’s prophecy are mainly just numerical coincidences that could occur at any time and any place when sequences of numbers are used. Basic statistics shows that any of the other numbers between zero and nine also have an equal chance of repeating in any sequence of three numbers. In fact, the probability that 666 will occur in any random sequence of three numbers is equal to 1 chance in 1000 (or 1/1000). This can be calculated simply by assuming that each digit can consist of any number between 0 and 9 inclusive. Thus, for each position in a triad the probability that a 6 will occur is one chance in 10 or 1/10 (because there are 10 possible numbers that could occur in a given position). Therefore, the overall probability of the sequence 666 appearing randomly together is 1/10 x 1/10 x 1/10 = 1/1000. In a society where sequences of numbers are used virtually billions and billions of times daily, the number 666 is bound to come up frequently. In other words, just because the number sequence 666 happens to show up on your checking account or credit card number doesn’t mean that it is associated with the Antichrist’s system—it just means that it randomly appeared because of probability. It also doesn’t mean that you are endorsing or following the Antichrist if you find that number randomly showing up on one of your account numbers or license plates.
For most of church history, the number 666 was thought to be associated strictly with the Mark itself. In fact, to many people the prophecies about 666 and the Mark were describing basically the same thing. Probably a significant percentage of Christians may have believed that the Antichrist will actually have this number branded right on a person’s hand or forehead as part of the Mark. The movie “The Omen” furthered this view by showing the Antichrist himself as having the mark mysteriously engraved on his scalp as a birthmark. Is this really the way the number 666 will be used at the end? Will the Mark of the Beast and the Number of the Beast turn out to incorporate the literal number 666 written on the body? In one very real possibility, this may turn out to be the truth, because a tattoo consisting of a barcode could be used to identify all the people in the world and also incorporate an encoded 666 feature within it (see the sections The Final Mark and Barcode Technology for additional information).
Other people have thought that the Number of the Beast would turn out to be the secret code that would identify the Antichrist to the world. This belief most likely originated because in the English Bible the prophecy of 666 says to “count the number of the beast” (Rev. 13:18). The original Greek word for “count” in this verse is ψηφισάτω (psefisato), which means “to count, to reckon, to vote, or to decide”. It might also be said that it means “to determine” or “to figure out” the Number of the Beast. In this sense, to understand the prophecy some form of discovery, unveiling, or calculation must take place to determine the true meaning of 666 in the end times. According to the Apostle John, the true application of this prophecy will be difficult to figure out. In fact, no other prophecy in the Bible is given with this type of qualification, so it is natural that people have tried to calculate the Number of the Beast to discover its meaning…[more]