“666: What’s That All About?”
Series: Understanding The Book Of Revelation
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
First Baptist Church, Henderson KY
- Please open your Bibles to Revelation, chapter 13.
We’re continuing our study of the book of Revelation, going verse-by-verse through the 22 chapters and today we’re in chapter 13. Now as you open to chapter 13 let met just quickly set this up. We have here in chapter 13 the most information given to us yet about the person to come known as the Antichrist. He is described here as the beast rising up out of the sea. And so we’re going to be reading about him and he is the one who is designated with the infamous number 666. You see that there in the very last verse of chapter 13, verse 18. There we read, “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculated the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” So we’re going to be reading about this man, this one described as the beast, the Antichrist.
- Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word. While we’ll be studying the entire chapter this morning, we’ll read just the first verse to get us started.
1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.
The designation, 666, is the number to identify the Antichrist. The number 666 has been a source of growing fascination over the past 2,000 years. People have long speculated as to who this number identifies. Using different numbering systems, people have drawn conclusions as to who they think this number represents. Many of the reformers during the Protestant Reformation, for example, identified the Pope as the Antichrist. Many in the Catholic church responded by suggesting one of Martin Luther’s children might be the Antichrist. And many, many, other candidates have been suggested.
I remember a few years ago when I was in the seminary bookstore in Louisville buying a classic 15th century devotional book by St. Thomas A’Kempis entitled, The Imitation of Christ. While the book challenges the reader to imitate the ways of the Lord, it was pretty wild, given the title, that it should ring up exactly six dollars and sixty cents: 666!
The online reference site, Wikipedia lists some contemporary people some have thought to be the Antichrist. According to Wikipedia, “Candidates for the Antichrist have been men in virtually all positions of public influence . . . Among the modern candidates are Prince William, his father Prince Charles, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, George W. Bush Sam Walton, Bill Gates, Vladimir Putin , Adolf Hitler, Ronald McDonald ( I don’t get that one!), Marilyn Manson, Kristie McDonald, Kim II Sung, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,” and the list goes on and on. This all seems to illustrate that fact that you can pretty much see anything you want if you look hard enough and long enough.
It’s like the psychiatrist who was giving the Rorschach test to one of his patients. You know that the Rorschach test is a psychological test in which a person’s interpretations of a series of standard inkblots are analyzed as an indication of personality traits or preoccupations. The patient looks at the inkblots and tells his doctor what he sees. Well, this fella was looking at these inkblots and responded to each inkblot with some kind of sexual description. After six or seven of these, the psychiatrist paused and said, “Do you mean to tell me that you see something sexual in every single one of these inkblots?” The man replied, “Hey, don’t get upset with me, Doc. You’re the one who owns the dirty pictures!”
I want us to see together some things we need to know about the Antichrist. Number one:
1. His Method is one of Imitation (1-3)
The Antichrist is the personification of Satan himself. Satan has always envied the power and position of God. In one real sense, the Antichrist is the incarnation of Satan and his name well summarizes his identity as well as his methodology. He is “anti” or “against” Christ.
The Bible describes him in verse one as a beast rising up out of the sea with seven heads and ten horns. Because horns in the Bible typically represent power and rule, most evangelical scholars understand the Antichrist to be a future person who will represent an alliance of 10 countries or powers. He will be a winsome political leader who will succeed in brokering a peace agreement with Israel in a time of political unrest. So the Antichrist is the one Daniel describes as “the prince that shall come” (Daniel 9:26) or the “willful king” (Daniel 11:36). He is also the one Paul describes as the “man of sin” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
Verse two tells us that this coming Antichrist that John sees in his vision is “like a leopard, his feet like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion.” Now while we cannot know for certainty the meaning of all these descriptive words in verse two, I want to draw particular attention to the last sentence of verse two: “The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.”
The previous chapter, chapter 12, taught us about the dragon. You will remember that the dragon is Satan himself. You see that back in 12:9 where John refers to Satan as “the great dragon, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan.” So as you read verse two you read that the dragon, Satan, gives power and authority to the Antichrist. The Antichrist is a sort of incarnation of Satan. His description is very similar to John’s description of the dragon. And his method is one of imitation. Just as the heavenly Father has sent His Son Jesus, so Satan has sent his son, the Antichrist. Now the Antichrist’s method of imitation is even clearer in verse 3:
3 And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.
This seven-headed beast, the Antichrist, this future coming world ruler, will imitate the death and resurrection of Christ. This is the meaning of verse 3 where we read that one of his heads will appear to be mortally wounded, and then healed. The world will marvel at this apparent miraculous “resurrection” of the winsome political leader and will follow after him. So it’s important to see Satan’s parody of the ways of God. Just as God sent the Son, so the Dragon (Satan) sends the beast (the Antichrist). His method is one of imitation. Secondly:
2. His Mission is that of Adulation (4-10)
The Antichrist seeks the worship, adoration, and adulation of all people. That’s his mission.
4 So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”
5 And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.”
That’s 3 ½ years, most likely the first half of the 7-year tribulation period, or what is called “Daniel’s 70th week.” Daniel prophesies that the coming Antichrist will broker a peace agreement and will receive authority to rule during this seven year period known as the Tribulation. Daniel 9:27 teaches us that in the middle of the seven years, the Antichrist will break the peace agreement by appearing in the temple and demanding to be worshiped himself as God. The Antichrist’s mission is that of adulation.
6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.
7 It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Now we’re reading about the second half of the Tribulation period. It will be a terrible time as Satan makes “war with the Saints,” with believers, Christians, alive during the Tribulation. For a brief period of time, the Antichrist is granted power and authority over every tribe, tongue, and nation.
8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Christians will not follow the Antichrist. Their names have been written in the Book of Life, but all who dwell on the earth whose names have not been written in the Book of Life will worship the beast, the Antichrist, whose mission is that of adulation. Encouragement comes in verses 9-10:
9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear.
10 He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
The Bible says to every Christian alive during this time of Great Tribulation: Endure persecution and be faithful. Remember that this world in its present form is not your final destination. If you die a martyr’s death, just know that you will be all the more quickly ushered into the presence of God! Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
We’re learning about this future world ruler, this Antichrist. His method is one of imitation. His mission is that of adulation. Number three:
3. His Minister promotes his Deification (11-15)
11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.
Now we read of “another beast,” this is “another of the same kind.” This beast is a man who will serve the religious purpose of promoting worship of the Antichrist. He’s sort of like the Antichrist’s “Public Relations Man.” I think of him as a “Sinister Minister.” Verse 12:
12 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
In chapter 16, John identifies this second beast, this “sinister minister,” as “the false prophet.” Turn to 16:13 and read this. John writes, “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.”
So you have here Satan’s parody of the Holy Trinity. God the Father sends the Son into the world and the Holy Spirit points people to the Son. Similarly, Satan the Dragon sends his son, the Antichrist, into the world and the false prophet points people to the Antichrist. In my Bible I have written out in parenthesis the words “Antichrist” and “False Prophet.” In verse one I have “Antichrist” next to the “Beast from the sea” and in verse 11 I have “False Prophet” next to the “Beast coming up out of the earth.” That helps me keep all of this straight.
So the Antichrist’s minister, the false prophet, promotes his deification. See how the false prophet does this in verse 13:
13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.
The false prophet, the Antichrist’s PR man, performs signs and miracles. He imitates the miraculous work of the “Two Witnesses” we read about back in chapter 11, making some kind of fire come down from the sky.
14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.
The false prophet, this sinister minister, this religious sidekick of the Antichrist, deceives those who dwell on the earth, that is, the “earth dwellers,” the people whose name are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Remember when Jesus spoke about the coming Tribulation? He said in Matthew 24:24, “False christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Even the Christians are nearly deceived by the work of the ultimate false prophet during this future time of Great Tribulation.
The false prophet will promote the deification of the Antichrist. Just as the Holy Spirit promotes the worship of the Son of God, so the false prophet promotes worship of the Son of Satan, the Antichrist. He does this by “telling those on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.” This second beast, the false prophet, leads the masses of humanity to make some kind of idol or image to the Antichrist. They will make an image of some kind, maybe a tall statue, and they will worship and bow down before the image.
Watch what else this false prophet does to promote the deification of the Antichrist:
15 He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
The false prophet does some kind of miraculous work to make the image speak. We could speculate all day long about exactly what this looks like and how it happens. This apparently is the essence of what Paul writes about in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 where he mentions the “man of sin” (that is, the Antichrist) as one, “who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” The False Prophet promotes this deification of the Antichrist and gives the people the option of either worshiping the Antichrist or being killed.
Now you may think, “How could all of this really happen?” Well, we must remember we’re only about 70 years removed from the dictatorships of Hitler and Stalin. It wasn’t that long ago men were worshiping those two leaders as though they had the answers to everything. You look at the state of the middle east today and you can’t help but think that if some winsome political leader were to come upon the world scene who could broker peace in that land, people would flock to him as the one who finally made peace possible and even worship him as their savior from toil and trouble. Again, just study history for when man has done this in the past.
We’re learning about the Antichrist. His method is one of imitation. His mission is that of adulation. His minister (the false prophet) promotes his deification. Fourthly:
4. His Mark illustrates his Limitation (16-18)
16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads,
17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
The False Prophet, the Antichrist’s PR man, causes everyone living during the time of Great Tribulation, to receive a mark either on their right hand or on their foreheads. One must receive this identifying mark in order to buy food, clothing, and shelter—in order to buy anything. We see again the Antichrist’s method of imitation in this. Just as God sealed the 144,000 as belonging to Him, so Satan seals people as belonging to him. The Bible teaches in Ephesians 1:13 that Christians are “sealed by the Spirit.” So during this time of tribulation man is either sealed by the Spirit or branded by the beast. In the words of my doctoral supervisor, Danny Akin: “During the Tribulation one is either pro-Christ or anti-Christ. If you are anti-Christ you will live then, but die eternally. If you are pro-Christ, you will probably die then, but live forever.”
18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.
Now we’re not going to speculate about this number. I’ll leave that to you for your afternoon enjoyment. Just get on the internet and do a Google search for 666 and you’ll find all kinds of things. Some suggest the number is found in credit cards, or Social Security cards. Some have noted that the license plates of taxis in Israel begin with 666. Whatever it is, people during the Tribulation will have to have either the number or the name of the Antichrist either on their right hand or upon their forehead in order to buy or sell anything from a loaf of bread to a house or car.
But the main point of this mark, the number 666, is that the Antichrist’s mark illustrates his limitation. According to Jewish thought, the number six is the number of man. Man was created on the sixth day. Man is to work six days. Six is the number of man. The number of perfection, however, the number applied to God, for example, is the number seven. A six will always be a six. The number six will—listen!—the number six will always be short of seven. This Antichrist is a six, not a seven. He is limited. His mark illustrates his limitation.
The fact that the six is tripled here, 666, may refer to his parody of the Holy Trinity. Satan (the dragon) is a six. The beast rising up out of the sea (that is, the Antichrist) is a six. And the beast coming up out of the earth (the False Prophet) is a six; all sixes, all coming up short. The triple designation, 666, may also be a way to stress or emphasize the utter limitation and imperfection of the Antichrist. As powerful as the Antichrist is, he will forever come up short when set against God. Try as he may, he will always be a six—six, six, six—emphatically and forever six. His mark illustrates his limitation.
I can’t think of a better way for the chapter to end! God reminds us that whatever power the Antichrist has, he has only because God has allowed it. In that sense, Satan really has no power at all. God is the One ultimately in control of everything. No matter what Satan may do to you and me, he will always be limited in power, always coming up short of the perfection of God. Put your trust in God, whatever you’re facing this morning, whatever you’re facing this week, put your trust in God. He’ll take care of you. He always does the right thing. Stand for prayer.
We don’t know exactly when this future time of Great Tribulation will come. We don’t know. But whenever the Great Tribulation comes, the question then will be the same question now: “Whose mark do you bear?” Have you been “sealed with the Holy Spirit” or does the wrath of God remain upon you because of sin. We’re either pro-Christ or anti-Christ. Turn to Christ today. Receive Him into your life.
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