v.15-17 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. And 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, 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 “image of the beast” and the “mark” are both highly speculative. Theories offered by commentators range from the supernatural to a form of advanced technology. Some interpret the false prophet’s “breath of life” as a lofty call to the demons, and others as an act as ordinary as switching on a computer. So let’s examine both events in the light of what Scripture tells us then consider a possible scenario.
According to Scripture, the image of the beast is definitely some form of idol that characterizes the Antichrist. It’s made by man as an object of worship, and when set in the holy place of the temple becomes an abomination that desolates the temple (Dan.9:27). What we know of the mark we read here in Revelation. It includes the name of the Antichrist and the number of his name and in turn carries with it the privilege to buy or sell goods. Its purpose will be to identify dissenters. For when one attempts to exchange goods without the mark, they will be branded an enemy of the state and thereby arrested and executed.
Okay, here’s a possible scenario:
In my opinion, given our world’s newly acquired reliance upon the computer, I see both the image and the mark as parts of a computerized system—the image being a computer, and the mark a computer chip implanted under the skin that feeds data into that computer. It’s the swiftest and surest way to monitor the buying and selling activities of every man, woman, and child simultaneously across the globe. Moreover, for his purposes, Satan can accurately separate out from humanity those who worship Antichrist and those who do not.
v.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.
This chapter closes with possibly the most widely known element in all of the Revelation—the number 666. It might also be the most-widely misunderstood. So, before we dig in, let’s first consider what the passage says about the number.
- It is wisdom – insight about the number is given by God
- It should be understood – people of understanding will calculate the number
- It is the number of the beast and a man – the Antichrist
- It is a real number – “His number is 666”
Now let’s consider what it might mean.
Most commentators believe (as do I) that the name of Antichrist, when translated into either Hebrew or Greek, will contain letters that total the number six hundred sixty-six. For unlike our alphabet, Hebrew and Greek alphabets assign a number to the letters. The letter ‘A”, for instance, might be assigned the number “1”, “B” the number “2”, and so on. Therefore, when a name is translated into either Hebrew or Greek, a number can be calculated simply by adding the numerical values assigned to the letters. In the case of Antichrist, it appears that the name of this man translated into Greek or Hebrew will total the number 666.
Okay, but allow me to stress this about the number:
Those who calculate the names of world leaders hoping to locate and identify the Antichrist are mistaken. God imparted this wisdom for those who are here during the reign of the beast so they can recognize, and not be deceived by him. We should know about these things to teach others, but should keep in mind that the Church is told to watch for Jesus Christ, not the Antichrist.