“Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six .” (Revelation 13:18)
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 that hath understanding count the number…” To understand what it means, we must first ask the question: What is the “wisdom” John writes of 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 we might know how to begin deciphering 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 (despite the fact that Revelation was written in Greek).
“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 hath 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. And what we seek is the truth of God’s inspired Word, so the meaning of it is no secret if God will grant us the wisdom it requires.
The Mark of the Beast
As Stuart mentioned in his essay, 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)
Clearly, in verse 17 the “number of his name” is 666 (the same number in verse 18). And the “name of the beast” is the name of which the number is designated. The number and the name are perhaps equivalent. We know the mark is equivalent to the number because it is called “the mark of his name” in the chapter that follows (Revelation 14:11) – a clear example of John using the terms ‘mark’ and ‘number’ interchangeably.
So what is the mark of the beast? Will it be a physical marking of the name and number? Rev. George Floyd Taylor, founder of Franklin Springs Institute (now Emmanuel College), believed this to be true. Taylor wrote in The Second Coming of Jesus that 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 some chip implanted under the skin. But the physical application of the mark (or whether it is even physical at all) is of little consequence. It may be of greater importance to understand why the “mark” required to buy or sell will be “in their right hand, or in their foreheads” (Revelation 13:16). In Revelation 22, the saints in the presence of God’s throne are said to have God’s name “in their foreheads” (Revelation 22:4). Furthermore, “right hand” symbolism found in various places throughout scripture would be much too lengthy to cover here. The point being, there may be a spiritual or symbolic interpretation of the mark which deserves further study.
The Bible says that anyone who receives the mark will be cast into the lake of fire burning with brimstone (Rev. 14:9-11, Rev. 19:20). If the mark is merely a physical chip or engraving, anyone could be pinned down and forced to take it against their will. God is too merciful to allow any man to take away the salvation of another man. So a physical marking could never separate a man from his salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:38-39). Nonetheless, the physical mark could still be in the form of a chip/engraving, if it is merely an indication that a man has denied the Lord by choosing to “worship the beast and his image.”
“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)
The Bible gives plenty of evidence that the worship of the beast, or the image, is indispensable to receiving the mark. Every time the mark is mentioned, it is preceded or accompanied by the worship of the beast or his image (Rev. 13:15-16, Rev. 14:9, Rev. 15:2, and Rev. 20:4 are just a few examples). The mark would then be a sign of beast/image worship and a token allowing men to take part in commerce. So it is much more important for God’s people to understand the image, for it is the object of idolatrous worship that merits retrieval of the mark. The real questions we should be asking are: what does the number 666 mean, and what is the image of the beast?
What Is the Image of the Beast?
To understand the image, perhaps we should begin with an examination of the beast’s character. 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). It is the nature of his speaking that characterizes him as a dragon, and the dragon is, of course, Satan, a.k.a. the “serpent” (Rev. 12:9, Rev. 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 chapter in the Bible where Satan speaks as a serpent. If we examine the infamous 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.
As many of us know, the core of the serpent’s message is the deceitful assertion that men can become “as gods” through the obtaining of knowledge (“tree of knowledge of good and evil,” Genesis 2:17). The serpent insinuates that the object of man’s worship should be himself, rather than God, because he can become as a god.
Now, if we apply the concept of the serpent’s message to the second beast’s speech that prompts the people to construct the image (Rev. 13), we may infer that man is the image (or the image of the beast is the image of a man). It is also worth noting that the “number of the beast” is called “the number of a man” in Revelation 13:18.
In Revelation 13:15, three things are written which make it difficult to argue that the beast image will be an inanimate object (like images in the Old Testament):
- The beast will “give life unto the image.”
- The image will “speak.”
- 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)
The Beast Will “Give Life Unto” the Image
If the life given to the image of the beast does not represent a breathing/talking statue, then what does it represent? It is interesting how the same exact phrase in English, “give life unto” is only found in one other verse in the Bible, John 6:33. This is where Jesus speaks of the eternal life he gives to the world. The Greek word translated ‘life’ in this verse is a different one, ζωή (zōē), which of course means eternal life. The same word is used in many other places as well, all meaning the eternal life given by Christ (John 6:27, John 10:28, John 17:2, Revelation 21:6).
It should come as no surprise that the Bible uses two different terms for the eternal ‘life’ (zōē) given by God and the counterfeit ‘life’ (pneuma) given by the beast. With God’s gift of eternal life, man is shaped into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29, Colossians 3:10), while Satan’s artificial version of life will be given to the beast image.
If the beast’s power to “give life unto the image” in Revelation 13:15 is understood to be eternal life (or immortality), it will certainly not be anything like the true immorality that God gives to those who believe on His son Jesus. But assuming that the beast will have power to give immortality to the image, and man is the image: what will this man-made, false immortality look like? The answer may lie in the advent of transhumanism.
Ray Kurzweil (appointed as a Director of Engineering at Google in 2012) stated in his 2001 article, The Law of Accelerating Returns, that mankind will soon achieve immortality via the technology of software-based intelligence – the merging of biological man with nonbiological machines, otherwise known as transhumanism.
“Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity — technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and non-biological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.” (Ray Kurzweil, The Law of Accelerating Returns)
Dmitry Itskov, founder and chair of 2045 Initiative and president of the Global Future 2045, made a statement in a video interview that affirms Kurzweil’s theories. He said that the next stage of human evolution will be a controlled evolution; a pursuit of technology that enhances the human lifespan by making a new body for the human being.
“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
Furthermore, Michio Kaku seems to share sentiments with Kurzweil and Itskov. Kaku is a professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center, and author of New York Times best sellers: Physics of the Future (2011), and The Future of the Mind (2014). He also believes the future of technology will be marked by mankind achieving immortality.
“My point of view is that in some distant point in the future, when robots do become gradually more intelligent… instead of fearing them, we should either put a chip in their brain to shut them off if they become murderous or we should merge with them. Because our descendants may have a choice: (A) get older and older every year and die, or (B) wake up in an enhanced, genetically enhanced body of silicon and glass and live forever. So if you were faced with that choice: live a decrepit life aging year after year, or be a superman, young, handsome, [inaudible], and immortal, which would you choose?” (Michio Kaku)
Remember what Satan in the form of a serpent said to Eve: “…Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). The beast’s dragon-like speech (Rev. 13:11) that tells the people to make an image (Rev. 13:14) will not only be a message of man’s apotheosis (becoming as gods – Genesis 3:5), but also an empty promise that man can live forever outside of God’s gift of eternal life (John 3:16).
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 Unveiled and Sea Beast / Earth Beast: Unlocking Revelation 13, we established that the beast is always a symbol of an empire or system of government. And the first beast of Revelation 13 is identified as Rome. This must mean 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 be the one in power by the time of its inception. 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. Many times they were “graven images,” carved idols, or “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 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 still exists 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, have to be an enhanced or perfected state of man’s physical form, or intelligence – both of which are the work of man. And as we covered earlier, the fact that the beast will “give life unto” the image could mean it has something to do with mankind’s pursuit of immortality.
Counting the Number of the Beast (666)
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 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.
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 Letters, The 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 heightened state of mind 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 who taught us how to perfect the mind (which they believe is the soul). 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?
So the number of the beast, as it relates to the lie told by Satan (the serpent) in the Garden of Eden (“…and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5) has much to do with the universal esoteric philosophy of men becoming as gods. We provided clear examples of this philosophy in our present world, and this is the extent of what we conclude on the matter. As we showed earlier as well, the image of the beast shares this same relation with Satan’s lie to mankind. In coming to this conclusion, we are not exempt from error. But until there is reason to believe otherwise, the premise remains. 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 illustrations from analogy and history. Most of all, let the Holy Spirit continue to lead us to a greater understanding of God’s Word. Amen.