Q. Why is the number “666” used to designate the Antichrist, and not some other numerals or letters?

A. Again we have a question in which the Bible doesn’t give a definite answer. Revelation 13:18 reads, “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.” Many people have enjoyed popularity for trying to figure out the significance of the number, and many have even tried on the basis of the number to figure out just who the actual person is.

People who study “Biblical numerology” have their opinions too. Robert D. Johnston wrote in his book Numbers in the Bible (Kregel, 1990), “Revelation is the account of the Antichrist, whose number is Six hundred and sixty-six. He is the trinity of human perfection, the perfection of imperfection, the culmination of human pride in independence of God and opposition to His Christ. The first, marked by 6, speaks of the pride of fleshly might; the second, by 66, denotes the pride of absolute dominion; while the third, marked by 666, symbolizes the pride of Satanic guidance.” In his commentary, The Book of the Revelation (Loizeaux, 1987), Bible teacher Lehman Strauss points out various issues in world commerce, computers, and ID methods that could become “tied in with such a world dictatorship,” referring to the Antichrist and the number. But he cautions that these computers and so forth “may have nothing whatever to do with the mark of the beast and the coming world market, but certainly they have made the world ‘mark’ conscious.”

Another view is that the number “666” does have significance but that, like the identity of the Antichrist himself, this numerical significance won’t be known until the tribulation period. Bible students who take this view would agree with Johnston and others that the Antichrist falls short of Christ, the number seven being the perfect number in the Bible. But “this verse [Revelation 13:18] seems to suggest that the number will be understood only by those who in the Tribulation will be spiritually wise” (Mal Couch, A Bible Handbook to Revelation, [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2001]).

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send your Bible questions to nolson@garbc.org, or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.