666 and the Image of the Beast

“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.” (Revelation 13:18, NKJV)

Here is Wisdom…

The number of the beast is 666, and it is the number of a man. John of Patmos introduces these two important points with “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number…” To understand what it means, we must first ask the question: what is the “wisdom” John writes about in Revelation 13:18? The Bible speaks of more than one type of wisdom. Sometimes it is a “foolish” wisdom – Paul calls it the “wisdom of this world” in 1 Corinthians 3:19. Other times, wisdom is a gift from God, like the wisdom given to Solomon in 1 Kings 3:28. One thing is for sure: being that the Bible is inspired by God, it could not possibly be inviting the reader to employ foolishness to understand what follows.

If we can discern what nature of wisdom John is writing about, then it could help us to decipher the message. Nineteenth-century professor Moses Stuart of Andover Theological Seminary explains what John might have meant by “Here is wisdom.” In his essay he calls attention to the cultural context, noting John’s Hebrew dialect.

Here is wisdom conveys an idea somewhat different, according to Hebrew usage, from that which the words in English seem to suggest. The Jews, as appears by the Rabbinical dialect, were accustomed to call any thing חָכְמָה wisdom, which was said summarily, obscurely, or in the way of a mere hint… when the writer exclaims: Here is wisdom, he evidently means to say, that here is a matter which is somewhat enigmatical [difficult to understand] or obscure, for the explanation of which wisdom is needed… ‘Let him who has the requisite intelligence (νοῦν being an equivalent for the preceding σοφία,) reckon the number,’ etc. In other words: Not every person can read and understand what follows; but let him who is skilled in matters of this nature, compute what name the letters which may designate 666 will make; for this is the name of the beast.” (Prof. M. Stuart, The Number of the Beast in the Apocalypse, an essay from Bibliotheca Sacra: Or, Tracts and Essays on Topics Connected with Biblical Literature and Theology, 1843)

Prof. Moses Stuart

To sum up Stuart’s commentary, we ought not read too much into “Here is wisdom,” because computing the number 666 is simply reserved for “him who has understanding.” If there are some who are wise enough to “count” the number 666, John exhorts the reader to leave it up to them to do the counting. But seeing that John presents the number with a preceding hint, “it is the number of a man,” it would only encourage us to seek out what it means. The meaning of which is no secret if God will grant us the wisdom it requires.

The Mark of the Beast

As Stuart mentioned, the number 666 is a designation of the name of a man, not just the number of a man. In Revelation 13:16-17 we read that the beast causes everyone to receive one of three things to buy or sell: the mark, the name, or the number of his name.

“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” (Revelation 13:16-17, KJV)

The “number of his name” is none other than the 666 found in verse 18, as well as “the mark of his name” in the chapter that follows (Revelation 14:11). It is an example of John using the terms ‘mark’ and ‘number’ interchangeably.

So, what is the mark of the beast? Will it be a physical marking in the skin? According to Rev. George Floyd Taylor in The Second Coming of Jesus, the number, the name, and the mark all indicate a literal marking on the flesh. Strong’s Concordance seems to back this up as well. It defines the Greek root word for ‘mark,’ χάραγμα (charagma), as an ‘engraving’ or a ‘stamp’ (or a ‘sign’…). 

It could be true that the mark will be an engraving, a stamp, or something penetrating the skin. However, our understanding of the physical mark is of lesser importance than that of the beast and his image, and how they will be worshipped. In other words, it is more importantly an indication that a man has committed idolatry by choosing to “worship the beast and his image” in place of God.

“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:” (Revelation 14:9-10, KJV)

Notice how the mark is not mentioned alone, but rather, it tags along with the worship of the beast and his image. Revelation gives us repeated occurrences of this same three-fold framework. Almost every time the mark is mentioned, it is accompanied by the worship of the beast and his image (Rev. 13:15-16, Rev. 14:9, Rev. 15:2, and Rev. 20:4).

Could it be that the mark is merely a sign of the idolatrous beast/image worship? Maybe the questions we should be asking are these: what is the image of the beast, and what will it look like to worship the beast or his image?

The Image of the Beast

To understand the image, perhaps we should examine the beast’s behavior. The second beast is the one “saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the [first] beast,” (Rev. 13:14). Notice what the beast does here: it is his act of speaking that prompts the people to make the image. Before this, the same beast is described as “speaking like a dragon” (Revelation 13:11). From this we know it is the message, or the content of his speech, that characterizes him as a dragon. And the dragon is, of course, Satan, a.k.a. the “serpent” (Rev. 12:9Rev. 20:2).

“The second beast is represented as “speaking like a dragon,” Rev. 13, 11. The meaning of this simile is not obscure. A dragon, according to the idiom of the New Testament, means a huge old serpent. The sly cunning and deceitfulness of the serpent have been proverbial, from the time when Satan, under the guise of a serpent, misled our first parents in paradise. The second beast, then, speaks as the dragon did on that occasion; that is, he speaks craftily, deceitfully, in a manner adapted to allure and ruin those whom he addresses.” (Prof. M. Stuart, The Number of the Beast in the Apocalypse)


According to Prof. M. Stuart, in The Number of the Beast in the Apocalypse, the beast’s dragon-like speech is a reference to the third chapter of Genesis. That is where the serpent speaks to our first parents in paradise. Remarkably, it happens to be the only other occurrence in scripture where Satan speaks while appearing as a reptile. If we examine the deceptive words of Satan in Genesis 3:4-5, it may give us an idea of what the beast will say to the people that prompts them to make an image to worship in Revelation 13.

Let’s remember what the serpent said in Genesis. The main idea of the serpent’s message was the deceitful assertion that men can become “as gods” by eating from the “tree of knowledge of good and evil.” The serpent insinuates that man’s worship should point to himself, rather than God, because he can become as a god.

If we apply this interpretation, that the serpent’s philosophy will characterize the speech of the second beast (Rev. 13:11), then what are the implications? The serpent telling Eve that she will become as a god through the obtaining of a forbidden knowledge points to Gnosticism, without a doubt. According to Gnosticism, the serpent represents the agent who gifted humanity with a “divine spark,” or “pneuma,” (spirit) which saves us from the bondage of ignorance. The creator of the physical world, the “Demiurge” according to the Gnostics, enslaved us to this world before the serpent freed us through the introduction of the divine knowledge of self (tree of knowledge of good and evil). This knowledge of self, the divine spark (Greek ‘pneuma,’ or spirit) points ultimately to man, or the spiritually ascended self, as god. If it were possible to capture all forms of Gnosticism in one generalization, you could say that the god of the Gnostic is himself and the full potential of his intellect. For this reason, we infer the image of the beast will appear to be an image of a man. Again, it is worth noting that the “number of the beast” is called “the number of a man” in Revelation 13:18.

The Beast Will Give Life Unto the Image

In Revelation 13:15, three things are written which make it difficult to argue that the beast image will be an inanimate object (like graven images in the Old Testament):

  1. The beast will “give life unto the image.”
  2. The image will “speak.”
  3. The image will “cause” anyone who does not worship the image to be killed.

“And he [the second beast] had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.” (Revelation 13:15, KJV)

If it is safe to conclude that the image will have no likeness to the inanimate graven images of Old, then there is no need to cover the various eschatological arguments as to whether or not the image will be a repeat of the past (or whether or not it is a fulfilled prophecy). We know that the image of the beast (Rev. 13) is nothing like the world has ever seen. That being said, what will it look like to give life to an image? Or, given our interpretations already covered, what will it look like to give “pneuma” to the image of a man? Perhaps a brief word study will help.

The word “life” used above in the KJV is translated as “breath” or “spirit” in other versions. In the Greek it is “pneuma,” which happens to be the same term used by the Gnostics for the “spirit” in man, or the “divine spark.” Mind you, we should be extremely careful not to allow Gnostic doctrines to interpret the scriptures for us. Even so, the parallel usage of the term could help us to understand how the beast animates his image. After all, let us be reminded we are discussing Satan and the beast! Notice what the Official Magazine of the Rosicrucian Order says about Gnosticism and the term, pneuma.

“Human beings, according to this view [Gnosticism], are composed of a body and a soul [meaning the body and the fleshly mind], both of which belong to the material world, and a divine spark, or pneuma [spirit], which is the godly element within. As long as humans are kept in ignorance of their true position, by the demiurge, they continue to be prisoners.” (Rosicrucian Digest: Official Magazine of the Worldwide Rosicrucian Order, Vol. 89, No. 2, 2011)

Also, look at what Hans Jonas, PhD, says about pneuma in his book, The Gnostic Religion. His book is an excellent academic introduction to the religion of Gnosticism.

Enclosed in the soul is the spirit, or ‘pneuma’ (called also the ‘spark’), a portion of the divine substance from beyond which has fallen into the world; and the Archons created man for the express purpose of keeping it captive there… In its unredeemed state the pneuma thus immersed in soul [mind] and flesh [body] is unconscious of itself, benumbed, asleep, or intoxicated by the poison of the world: in brief, it is ‘ignorant.’ Its awakening and liberation is effected through ‘knowledge.'” (Hans Jonas – The Gnostic Religion)

The Worship of the Beast and His Image

As we covered earlier, the worship of the “first beast” (Revelation 13:12), or his “image” (Revelation 13:15), will be indispensable to receiving the mark of the beast. Considering that the beast and his image are two different things, we can expect that the people on earth at that time will be required to pay homage to the beast in one of two ways.

The first requirement for the people to take the mark will be to worship the first beast. In two previous articles, The Antichrist Demystified and SEA BEAST / EARTH BEAST: A Brief Study on Revelation 13, we established that an apocalyptic beast is always a symbol for a king or a kingdom. And the first beast of Revelation 13 is identified as the Roman empire. We could take this information and conclude that the worship of the first beast will be a form of statism; the worship of the Roman style world government. Even though the people will worship the first beast (Rome), we know the second beast will have power given to it by the first beast. Because the second beast will “causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast,” and he exercises “all the power of the first beast before him” (Revelation 13:12).

The second requirement for receiving the mark will be to worship the beast image (Revelation 13:15). Examples of idolatrous image worship are scattered all throughout the scriptures. Sometimes they were “graven images,” carved idols, and sometimes “molten images,” which were idols cast from metal (Isaiah 42:17). The Bible frequently dubs these images the “work of men’s hands” (Psalms 135:15, 2 Kings 19:18, 2 Chronicles 34:25). In contrast, Jesus Christ the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15), was called the “stone” cut out “without hands” when Daniel interpreted a prophetic dream (Daniel 2:45). And Jesus prophesied of his own body being raised from the dead after three days, calling it the temple “made without hands” (Mark 14:58).

Seeing that the beast will say to “…them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast…” (Revelation 13:14), it is clear that the beast’s image will be the work of men, like the graven and molten idols. At the same time, there is nothing in the text to suggest the beast image will be molten or graven from sculptors’ material of any kind. The fact that the image will “both speak, and cause” others to worship it (Revelation 13:15) strongly suggests that it will be human, evidenced by its ability to communicate. But if the image is simply a man, there remains a problem with our interpretation: a man cannot be the work of men’s hands; otherwise he is not ‘man’ (אָדָם in Hebrew transliterated ‘Adam,’ God’s creation). The man image that people will worship would, therefore, be an enhanced or super state of the human being in some way that is not yet entirely conceivable. And as we covered earlier, the fact that the beast will give “pneuma” to the image could mean it has something to do with the fallen man’s natural tendency to gravitate towards philosophies aligned with Gnosticism.

As we have already stated, it is almost entirely unfathomable how it will look when the future image of the beast is given “pneuma” (“life” or “spirit”). Even so, if we have liberty to theorize about how it will look, let us refer to a real world example of humanity planning to do such a dastardly thing as that.

Dmitry Itskov, founder and chair of 2045 Initiative and president of the Global Future 2045, made a statement in a video interview that affirms the transhumanist theories of Ray Kurzweil. He said that the next stage of human evolution will be a controlled evolution; a pursuit of technology aimed at producing a hologram body for the human being. Perhaps, you could say, an image of a man.

“Now we are facing the time where [the] unconscious evolution period has almost finished. And we come to the new era when a new period of controlled human evolution can happen. I think that [the] main efforts of their scientists and main technological progress will be concentrated on their making new body for the human being.
So the first step is to make human-like robot, which we call avatar, and to make their perfect control system via brain computer interface.
Their second step will be to develop their system of human brain life support and to connect it to the avatar so disabled people and people who are at the edge of dying can enhance their lifespan.
And the third one… finally making the artificial brain to which we can transfer the individual consciousness. And we have one more project which is actually our dream. It is producing [a] hologram-like avatar body.” (Dmitry Itskov)

Dmitry Itskov (left) and Ray Kurzweil (Right) at Global Future 2045

Interestingly enough, Hans Jonas references a certain Gnostic religious text that addresses the concept of an image in a man’s likeness. He describes the Gnostic “image” as a sort of doppelganger, alter ego, or human double in the heavenly realm. Primarily referred to as the “heavenly garment,” the image is described in his book as a double of an individual’s personal identity with whom they are met face-to-face after death. What is most interesting, even if it speaks of something spiritual after death, is how the description eerily resembles the concept of a digital avatar.

“The doctrine was taken over by the Manichaeans: ct F 100 of the Turfan fragments, where it is said that the soul after death is met by the garment, the crown (and other emblems)… And in the Coptic-Manichaean genealogy of the gods we find among the divine emanations the “figure of light that comes to meet the dying,” also called “the angel with the garment of light.” In our narrative the garment has become this figure itself and acts like a person. It symbolizes the heavenly or eternal self of the person, his original idea, a kind of double or alter ego preserved in the upper world while he labors down below: as a Mandaean text puts it, “his image is kept safe in its place” (G 90). It grows with his deeds and its form is perfected by his toils. Its fullness marks the fulfillment of his task and therefore his release from exile in the world. Thus the encounter with this divided-off aspect of himself, the recognition of it as his own image, and the reunion with it signify the real moment of his salvation.” (Hans Jonas – The Gnostic Religion)

Counting the Number of the Beast

Our last question yet remains unanswered: what is the meaning of the number of the beast? Albert Ernest Stafford Smythe, co-founder and president of the first Toronto branch of the Theosophical Society, wrote an extraordinary admission of what the number means in the world of occultism. Theosophy – an esoteric movement founded in the late 19th century combining religion, philosophy and occult sciences – is not to be considered an authority on interpreting the Bible, because of its anti-Christian foundation. Nonetheless, it is worth noting what the occult world believes the number to mean; because it is after all the number of antichrist.


Beginning in 1910, Smythe wrote hundreds of columns under the title Crusts and Crumbs, many of them with the intent to proselytize for the cause of the movement. In his January 26, 1918 issue, he wrote:

“Hence the absurd efforts, for example, made in every generation to identify the ‘beast’ of the book of Revelation whose number is 666, a figure recognized long before Christianity in the Pythagorean table of numbers which is based on magic squares, and indicates the key numbers of evolution. It evidently refers to the critical state when the evolution of the animal passes over into the human, a stage of transmutation.” (Albert Ernest Stafford [Smythe] – from his column Crusts and Crumbs, January 26, 1918 issue of Theosophical Outlook)

It is not our purpose to learn every detail about the kabbalistic science of numbers mentioned by Smythe. At the same time, he made an important admission in his arrogant attempt to dazzle the readers with hidden knowledge. He said the number 666 indicates the stage of “transmutation” when the animal passes over into the human. The transmutation he spoke of is not the natural biological evolution of an animal changing to human. This transmutation is a practice in Philosophical Alchemy; an initiatory practice of transforming the animal in man (the lower self) into what they believe it really means to be human (the higher self), becoming as a god. There is that Gnostic doctrine once again, which is no surprise because Theosophy is known to stem from Gnosticism.

Deborah Harkness, an American historian, confirms this to be true as she writes about the 16th-century occultist, John Dee. Here is what she says about the purpose of transmutation in philosophical alchemy:

“Dee linked the seven rotations or revolutions in the alchemical process of transmutation to the ultimate goal of philosophical alchemy: the divinization of the alchemist. While ‘vulgar’ alchemy was concerned only with the material transformation of base metals into silver and then gold, ‘philosophical’ alchemy attempted to transform the alchemist’s soul from human to divine.” (Deborah E. Harkness, John Dee’s Conversations with Angels: Cabala, Alchemy, and the End of Nature)

An article published in the Jan. 1920 issue of The New Age Magazine quoted another occultist magazine titled Azoth. Therein it referenced the work of James M. Pryse, The Apocalypse Unsealed. James Morgan Pryse, another Theosophist, puts forward virtually the same admission made by Smythe:

“”Azoth,” a magazine devoted to mysticism and occultism, printed the following on “The Mark of the Beast” (August, 1917): …Mr. James M. Pryse, in his book, The Apocalypse Unsealed, has very clearly shown that the whole story is of man’s regeneration, and the stages of initiation upon the path to illumination or Christhood. The number 666, as this gifted author points out, is but the value of the letters composing the Greek words, Hé phrén, meaning the lower mind of man, which is the Beast to be conquered.” (A Corner of the Library: The Mystical Relations of Numbers and LettersThe New Age Magazine, January 1920)

Again we see the number 666 associated with transforming man’s animal nature (“the beast to be conquered”) into a state of becoming like god. Here he calls the god-like state “Christhood,” a spiritual state of being known to the New Age movement as the Christ Consciousness. It is a concept that carries the messianic title of Christ but, in fact, has no biblical basis other than how it perverts the teachings of Christ. The only doctrine in the Bible that could parallel with the Christ Consciousness is the doctrine of antichrist (1 John 2:22). It is based on a belief that Jesus was not God; that he was only an illuminated master of the ancient mysteries. The spirit of antichrist (1 John 4:3) denies that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God who “is come in the flesh.” And what better example of antichrist is anyone who claims to have attained a status equal to Jesus Christ?


In closing, we know from Revelation 13:18 that anyone who has the wisdom to calculate the number of the beast should attempt to understand what it means. And we should ultimately allow the Holy Spirit to grant us guidance in doing so, never forgetting to check ourselves that we do not follow the wisdom of men (1 Corinthians 1:17-25). Our study of the image of the beast should take precedence over the mark of the beast and the widely popularized theories associated with it. As it relates to the lie told by the serpent (“…and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5), we undogmatically conclude that the image of the beast will be the image of a man – even as the number of the beast is called “the number of a man” in Revelation 13:18. Examples of this philosophy are in our present world, and this is the extent of what we conclude on the matter. In coming to this understanding, however, we are not exempt from error. If any reader can make known a better way of understanding the scriptures, let them speak. But let us not have conjecture instead of argument, nor private interpretations in the place of Biblical interpretation. Most of all, let the Holy Spirit continue to lead us to a greater understanding of God’s Word.

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3 Replies to “666 and the Image of the Beast”

  1. I know God exist and as well am so careful as to mislead anyone. I believe that maybe in attemps of those who believed trying to convince non believers for the right reason’s to show through ancient artifacts unearthed and out of love we feel compelled to show non believers what we know for sure. I too feel an overwhelming responsability to God to put him first and love my neighbors and help bring as many as i can to God. So I too have analyzed this when someone doesn’t believe and i feel it’s a legitimate reason for them to question what they know of God. I feel that the number and a name and marking on right hand or forehead, also the statement of disaproval of anyone who worships or idolizes it could as stated here 18oo and 1900′ and the mark of the beast is actually money, American money maybe other nations included and those who worship money. It is only a thought as I have been entirely saddened living in a country where no one will seem to really grasp the true meaning of living for God completely. I feel like America has risen to a Country of status and even so many christians will turn away a neighbor to protect thier nice carpet, electronics, valuables in there safes. All that coukd be replaced with money. And believe that its not wrong instead to leave them go out to a street corner where they are volnerable to Satin. America, I feel is up to 90 maybe even more percent of this belief therefore they are as well not true believers in God. As well our Royalty is always in my eyes people of enormous wealth who absolutely dont believe or love God and if you look in every single toy store just about in America and on the rooms and the walls of American children it’s the truth and its a show of idoolizing money and the great statement as to how Satan has decieved us. Just my thaughts.

    1. That is an interesting thought. If you read the first volume of SCARLET AND THE BEAST by John Daniel, he also argues that the mark is on the US dollar. I tend to believe Revelation 13 (at the least the second half of the chapter) is about a future occurrence. But I don’t presume to know all the answers – I’m just presenting the case for my take on it.

      Interesting comment 🙂

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