The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: 1-9

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Who or what is intended by the 666?

Some modern translators read "666". However, the KJV, as does the Greek text, reads "six hundred (600) threescore (60) and six (6)". In other words, three distinct divisions (600 + 60 + 6 = 666). The definite article is omitted before "man" in the Greek text, suggesting that this number is not exclusively of one particular man, but of fallible men in general.

Some commentators apply numbers to every letter of the Greek alphabet, then add up the numerical value of particular names, and try to discover what man's name "adds up" to 666. (The technical name for this procedure is gematria.) The possibilities are endless, esp considering language variations, and various combinations of names (last name only, first and last, all three, titles, etc.). By this method many candidates have been put forth: Nero Caesar, Constantine, Napoleon, Martin Luther, the Pope of Rome, and -- more recently -- Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler, Kissinger, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan.

But is this the proper Biblical approach?

Bible prophecy students should recognize the value of relying on the OT when interpreting the NT. For example, reference to Daniel is key to interpreting the opening verses of Rev 13:

Bible passage
Revelation 13
Daniel 7
The sea
Rev 13:1
Dan 7:3,17
The beast
Rev 13:1
Dan 7:3,17,23
The ten horns
Rev 13:1
Dan 7:24
The seven heads
Rev 13:1
Dan 7:4-7
The leopard, lion, and bear
Rev 13:2
Dan 7:4-6

Given the reasonableness of this approach, why abandon it when attempting to decipher the 600, 60, and 6?

Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the first Gentile conqueror of Jerusalem (Dan 1:1), dreamed of a great image (Dan 2; Rev 13:14,15), which Daniel interpreted to be the Gentile oppressors of the nation of Israel. Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Empire were the image's head of gold (Dan 2:38). Nebuchadnezzar seems to have been so impressed with this magnificent image of the dream, headed by himself, that he had a replica of it erected; he then proceeded to command the subjects of his empire to worship it (Dan 3). Because of his fierce pride, and his refusal to acknowledge the One God, Nebuchadnezzar was later deprived of his reason and treated, by God, as a beast (Dan 4:16,32,33).

This great golden image, representing the Gentile "beast" and his successors, was "threescore cubits" tall and "six cubits" broad (Dan 3:1). Here are two of the three numbers allotted to the last Gentile oppressor of Israel, the beast/man of Revelation 13. Is this merely a coincidence?

Possibly, the gold with which Nebuchadnezzar constructed the great idol was the same gold that he had confiscated from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Shortly before this time, his army had conquered the city, destroyed the Temple, and carried much gold back to Babylon, breaking it down for other uses (Dan 1:1,2; 2Ki 24:13; 2Ch 36:10).

Curiously, both the numbers 600 and 666 are also connected with this same Temple and its gold:

The Temple connection

If the beasts of Rev 13 are those who trample down Jerusalem and Israel in the Last Days, then the "man" of Rev 13:18 will be the one who, like Nebuchadnezzar, defiles the Temple at Jerusalem! The numbers 600 and 60 and 6 -- uncommon in the Bible as a whole, but common in Daniel and the history of the Temple and Nebuchadnezzar -- suggest a great king, a great empire ("Babylon", also prominent in Revelation), the wealth of Israel and its Temple misappropriated and diverted to abominable uses (possibly with some acquiescence by Jewish leaders?), and a great golden image of idolatry foisted upon Israel. History records a Greek king (Antiochus Epiphanes, in 168 BC) who set up the image and altar of Jupiter in the Jewish temple, and commanded its worship. Is it possible that history may repeat itself in the near future?

This latter-day Arab "Beast" will invade Jerusalem, exalt his "image" (representing Gentile supremacy over the Jews), and will establish his headquarters upon the same site where Solomon's 666 talents of gold was kept -- the Temple Mount! Various passages point in this direction:

"His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation... At the time of the end... the king of the North... will invade the Beautiful Land... He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver... He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain" (Dan 11:31,40-45).

"You [the king of Babylon: Isa 14:4] said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High' " (Isa 14:13,14).

"Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand -- a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come" (Joel 2:1-3).

" 'Hear the word of the Sovereign LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: '... You [Ammon: Eze 25:1] said "Aha!" over my sanctuary when it was desecrated and over the land of Israel when it was laid waste and over the people of Judah when they went into exile' " (Eze 25:3; cp Eze 36:2,3).

"You [Edom: Oba 1:1] drank [in celebration of victory] on my holy hill [Zion: Oba 1:17]" (Oba 1:6).

"So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel [Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11] -- let the reader understand -- then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains" (Mat 24:15,16; cp Mar 13:14,15; Luk 21:20-24).

"That day [of Christ's coming] will not come until... the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God" (2Th 2:3,4).

Some of these passages are not the easiest to understand in all their details (if only because they point to events yet future). But in general terms they all present or supplement the same basic picture.

Further parallels: Daniel and Revelation

"I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, 'Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth'... Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified [Jerusalem, obviously!]..." (Rev 11:1-3,7,8).

Just as there were those faithful Jews who protested the enforced worship of the first golden image of the beast Nebuchadnezzar, and faced martyrdom as a result (Dan 3), so in the Last Days there will be faithful witnesses who protest the "image" of the Beast defiling the holy Temple Mount. Unlike Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will actually be killed (Rev 11:7,8).

But it is the "Beast-Man" whose days -- like those of his Babylonian counterpart -- are numbered (cp Dan 5:26). His power will be limited to "a time, times and half a time" (Dan 12:7), equivalent to 42 months (Rev 11:2) or 1,260 days (Rev 11:3). At the end of this time, the abominating power will be destroyed, the faithful martyrs (of all ages) will be resurrected, and the Temple Mount will be restored to its glorious holy use by Christ and his saints in God's Kingdom:

"Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him...Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise... At that time your people -- everyone whose name is found written in the book -- will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake... to everlasting life... Those who are wise [mg: who impart wisdom: cp Rev 13:18!] will shine like the brightness of the heavens" (Dan 11:45--12:3).

"I will crush the Assyrian [equivalent to "the king of Babylon": Isa 14:4; see Lesson, Babylon = Assyria] in my land; on my mountains I will trample him down. His yoke will be taken from my people, and his burden removed from their shoulders" (Isa 14:25).

"The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel. Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her" (Joel 3:16,17).

"I will make a covenant of peace with them [Israel]; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever" (Eze 37:26-28).

"But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy, and the house of Jacob will possess its inheritance" (Oba 1:17).

"At that time they will see the Son of Man coming [to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount] in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (Luk 21:27,28; cp Mat 24:30; Mar 13:26).

"And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming" (2Th 2:8).

"The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven... 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever'... The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great -- and for destroying those who destroy the earth [or 'the Land']" (Rev 11:15,18).

And so the number of the man of sin -- 666 -- will give way to the number of the man of righteousness -- the 144,000 on Mount Zion, who have the name of the Lamb and of his Father (in contrast to the name of the Beast: Rev 13:17) written on their foreheads (Rev 14:1)!

Addendum 1

Here is the simplest "explanation" of the 666: there are six Roman numerals that, taken in various combinations, account for all the smaller numbers. They are I (= 1), V (= 5), X (= 10), L (= 50), C (= 100), and D (= 500), Thus the SIX common Roman numerals have a total value of 600 (500 + 100), 60 (50 + 10), and 6 (5 + 1). These are all the numerals involved in the Roman system, at the lower level, until the number 1,000 is reached (which is denoted by "M" -- for "mille", or thousand). This is itself is significant: the lesser numbers, in all their possible combinations, represent all men, or all mankind (Roman, at least!) -- until we come to the "M" (the SEVENTH numeral) -- which, obviously, represents the Millennium! When the Millennium begins, all the numbers of "man" (totaling 666) will cease!

Addendum 2

A further possibility, to supplement, not to replace the above: The number of the Beast is the number of MAN. Not necessarily a (single) man, nor a (special, unique) man, but the number of man in general. Six may be the number of man, since man was created on the sixth day, and since six falls one short of seven, the Scriptural number of perfection. Consider, for example, the multiple uses of six in describing Goliath, in 1Sa 17. (Is it a coincidence that this blasphemous brute of a man was a Philistine, or Palestinian?)

As such, 666 makes a triple emphasis on this falling short of perfection, whereas the gematria of JESUS (in Greek) yields 888, which puts triple emphasis on the fact that he is risen from the dead on the eighth day, a new Beginning, the Firstborn of God's New Creation.

One other suggestion along these lines: 666 is written, in Greek, as c x ?. This is c ? (which is in New Testament manuscripts the standard abbreviation for Christ, or Messiah) plus x (the symbol of the serpent). In other words, c x ? could signify "the Serpent's Messiah", or the false Christ!

Addendum 3

Suppose that the Beast/Man is a composite/culmination of all those who have trampled Jerusalem under their feet (cp Rev 11:2). Then there may be merit in the following point:

The total years from the first subjugation of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar -- March 16, 597 BC -- to the beginning of the final siege of Jerusalem by the Roman Empire -- early April AD 70 -- is almost exactly 666 years! 597 plus 70 less 1 (there is no year "zero"!) = 666!

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