A Baptist pastor asked last week if we would provide something on why the COVID-19 vaccine should not be considered the ‘Mark of the Beast’. Our very own retired Carey Baptist College lecturer, specialist in church history and New Testament, author of two books on the Book of Revelation, gladly responded to that question:
666—the number of the demonic beast (Revelation 13:16-18). Scary, mysterious, dangerous. What’s it all about?
16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666. (Revelation 13:16-18, NIV)
No buying and selling without a vax-certificate—question mark?
In today’s covid-infested world, there’s lots of people who think they know the answer: it’s the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Clear, isn’t it?” they say. “What is the situation where people can’t buy or sell? Well, you can’t go into a lot of shops without a mask. And it won’t be long before they extend that to no shopping without a vax-certificate. Without that, no buying or selling. But the vaccination will implant code into you—666. Mystery solved.”
Solved today maybe. Yesterday it was a cashless society, using credit cards only. Earlier it was the introduction of bar-codes. Earlier still it was…
The pope, Hitler, Obama and Trump
Perhaps 666 is not a thing but a person. How about the pope of the day, as Martin Luther suggested. Maybe identifying 666 as Hitler was closer to the mark. More recently 666 has been used to smear Barack Obama and Donald Trump. No end of possibilities, but many of them quite bizarre. No wonder G.K. Chesterton said, “Though St. John saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators.”
Is it possible that all these sorts of interpretation, including the current COVID-19 one, are barking up the wrong tree?
These sorts of interpretation assume that the Book of Revelation was written in coded form to predict events twenty centuries later. And that would suggest that Revelation made little sense to its original audience in first-century Turkey.
What about Nero
Alternatively, Revelation made a lot of sense to its original audience. They were under huge pressure from the governing Roman Empire. The worst emperor in recent memory was Nero.
In the Greek and Hebrew of that time letters had number equivalents. When the term ‘Nero Caesar’ is translated from Greek into Hebrew, its numerical equivalent is 666. We cannot be certain that this is the original meaning of 666 but it is a probable explanation—far more probable than bar codes or COVID-19 vaccination passports.
One question to ask is, ‘Why such big focus on one reference in the entire Bible when this reference is just a tiny mound compared with the soaring mountains of Christ and the love of God?’
Finishing with the Hallelujah Chorus
My advice in interpreting Revelation is to hold loose on small matters such as interpretations of the mark and number of the beast. Ponder rather the fact that the Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered (Revelation 5:5). And that we can be winners too by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11).
Then we may find ourselves bursting out in Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus:
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).
Contributor: Laurie Guy
Laurie Guy is author of two books on the Book of Revelation:
These books are available through Koorong and Amazon etc.
For further online reading on 666, try dipping into:
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.comThe “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™