Gospel Gazette Online
Vol. 14 No. 10 October 2012
Page 16

Questions and Answers

Send your religious questions to rushmore@gospelgazette.com

666, The Mark of the Beast

Louis Rushmore, Editor

Louis RushmoreThe mark 666, what does it mean? ~ Chukwuemeka Onwe

The reference to ‘666’ and ‘the mark of the beast’ (Revelation 13:17) refer to Revelation 13:18, “…Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666” (NKJV). In cryptic fashion, some combination of numbers adding up to 666 but assigned sequential alphabet letters were to produce the name implied in the biblical text. “This consisted in assigning to the initial letter of the name of the number a value equal to the number” (Clarke).

Each letter represents a component of the whole number: …‎The majority of the commentators use the Greek alphabet in computation; others, however, employ the Hebrew; while a third class employ the Roman numerals. …This famous number has been made to yield almost all the historical names of the past eighteen centuries… (Vincent’s)

Now the figures 666 are the Arabic characters for the numbers, but they were unknown for several hundred years after John wrote. John wrote in the Greek language for readers who understood that tongue. So the numbers, naturally, would be expressed in Greek characters. Now the Greeks did not indicate their numbers by figures but by letters, just as the Romans did. (Tomlinson 238)

Since different people resort to different languages, as well as comport to different arrangements of numbers to equal 666, the results vary widely.

Finally, 666 in Rev. 13:18 is capable of various explanations. In ancient times the letters of the Greek, Latin and Hebrew alphabets served as numbers. Thus, any person’s name could be translated into a numerical value. Many different and ingenious attempts have been made in all three languages to work back from 666 to some infamous name such as Nero or Domitian. (Gaumer 38)

The number 666 in Rev. 13:18 can be made to be Nero Caesar, so the book was written in the days of Nero. First, it cannot be told whether the vision is current, or prophetic of what will happen in the future. Second, 666 can be made to come out TEITAN, the family name of Titus Vespasian. It can also be worked out to represent Lateinos (the Roman Empire), announce (to deny, thus the antichrist), Hitler, and C. Smith. (Moffitt 18)

This symbolic number has long been a source of study, consternation, manipulation and speculative hocus-pocus. This “number of a man” has been made to refer to men down through the ages, anywhere from ancient war lords, or medieval pontiffs, to nineteenth and twentieth century dictatorial rulers of various nations of the world. (Bright 247)

Some of the more popularly known names sometimes ascribed to the number “666” besides those already noted include Titus, Diocletian, Muhammed, Martin Luther, John Calvin, various popes and the papacy itself and Napoleon. “It is only in eternity that we can ever hope to know absolutely, without doubt, who or what is represented by ‘666’…” (Bright 255). “The number 666 given to the Beast (Rev 13:18), though presumably readily understood by the writer’s immediate public, has proved a riddle capable of too many solutions to be now readily soluble at all” (ISBE).

Respected students of the Bible fail to agree upon the identity of the person assigned by our Lord the numbers “666.” Whereas one asserts that the man is Nero, another confidently denies the same.

In my view, the culprit was Nero Caesar, who was the personification of the persecuting power, as it waged war against the early church. That this vile person wrought great persecution upon the church needs no verification. This agrees with what Hendriksen said in his introductory remarks, “A sound interpretation of the Apocalypse must take as its starting point the position that the book was intended for the believers in John’s day and age. The book owes its origin, at least in part, to contemporary conditions.” John wrote of “…things which must shortly come to pass…” (Rev. 1:1). Thus, in the first century, there was one to whom John specifically referred; he who was the personification of the persecuting power, as its head. (Bright 249)

Some argue for an early date by asserting that the enigmatic 666 (13:18) is a reference to Nero. It takes a good deal of manipulation to reach such a conclusion. In order to make 666 compute to “Nero” (via the numeral/letter code), one must: (a) Add the title “Caesar” to Nero’s name. (b) Compute the title-name in Hebrew, instead of Greek (the language of the book). (c) Alter the spelling of “Caesar” in Hebrew by dropping a letter. In addition, Leon Morris points out that Irenaeus discussed “a number of views of what 666 symbolizes, but he did not even include Nero in his list.” Noted critic Theodor Zahn observed that Nero was not even suggested as a possibility for 666 until the year 1831.” (Jackson 11)

At least some manuscripts had a different number altogether in Revelation 13:18. “‎Unfortunately some MSS. here read 616 instead of 666” (Robertson’s). It appears that the person to whom the number “666” referred was a historical figure contemporary to and recognized by the recipients of the Book of Revelation. Nevertheless, the forces of evil represented by this mysterious person have manifested and will continue to manifest themselves until the end of time. History in every way has a tendency to repeat itself. Similar circumstances with a firm driving person behind them will from time to time assault the people of God, but God’s people will prevail and triumph – God will see to it.

Works Cited

Adam Clarke’s Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Bright, Tom L. “Difficult Passages in Revelation, No. 5.” Studies in the Book of Revelation. Dub McClish, ed. CD-ROM. Denton: Valid Publications, 1984.

Gaumer, Tom. “Keys to Interpretation.” Studies in the Book of Revelation. Dub McClish, ed. CD-ROM. Denton: Valid Publications, 1984.

International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (ISBE). CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Jackson, Wayne. “When Was Revelation Written?” CD-ROM. Memphis: Spiritual Sword 29.1 October 1997: 9-12.

Moffitt, Jerry. “An Introduction.” Studies in the Book of Revelation. Dub McClish, ed. CD-ROM. Denton: Valid Publications, 1984.

Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Tomlinson, Lee G. The Wonder Book of the Bible: A Commentary on the Book of Revelation. CD-ROM. Indianapolis: Faith and Facts, 1963.

Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006.

Fornication, Adultery,
Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage

Louis Rushmore, Editor

Hello I am writing because I’m going through a unique situation. I live with my gf but the thing is we are both believers in God but were both married. Her husband abused her and they’ve been separated for years. My wife and I have been separated a year. She confessed to cheating on me before and during our marriage but she left me. My gf and I are both going to divorce our spouses but is it wrong we fell in love and live together? And both our marriages were civil. ~ Adrian Velez

Frankly, there is nothing “unique” about this “situation.” The same scenario has been repeated across the globe for nearly as long as mankind has inhabited planet earth. In every religious time, Almighty God has strictly forbidden fornication, adultery and marriages not authorized by Him. Everyone now living, though, is governed by the New Testament – whether one accepts that fact or not (John 12:48; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 9:15).

Whereas one might flee an abusive marriage partner in self-defense, though the ideal is to remain together or resume the marriage when possible (1 Corinthians 7:10-11), our Lord Jesus Christ only provided one exception whereupon someone may divorce his or her mate and subsequently enter into a marriage with another eligible partner. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9 NKJV). The apostle Paul wrote by divine inspiration that there is one additional exception whereupon a spouse may marry another – when one’s marriage partner has died. “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man” (Romans 7:2-3).

All marriages are both civil (regulated by human laws) and religious (regulated by divine law – for us, the New Testament). Furthermore, marriage is an institution brought about by God and governed by Him irrespective of whether humans acknowledge His right to govern it. When there is a conflict between human law and the law of God, God’s law triumphs – we must in those instances “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

We humans are naïve to think that we can conduct ourselves in violation of God’s revealed will for us and somehow later gain His approval for our disobedience. Our emotional investment does not change sinful activity into sanctified behavior. Sometimes, we must make difficult and painful decisions to bring ourselves into the good graces of God; such was the case for God’s children in Ezra 10:2-3. Happily, 1 Corinthians 6:11 assures us that when we put sin out of our lives we can be “washed… sanctified… justified in the name of the Lord Jesus…”

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