What is the meaning of 666 in the Bible? We are told to work it out. Who is the antichrist? The Bible tells us how to recognize him. The answers to these questions have implications for the life of faith in Christ Jesus.
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Even unbelievers know that the number 666 represents something dark.
Why 666? Where does the idea come from?
It's found in the last book of the Bible ... in the book of Revelation. There is just the one reference ... it's in the 13th chapter. Verse 16 says that “the beast” will cause all people to be given a mark, and verse 17 says that people won't be able to buy or sell unless they have the mark. And the mark will be the name or the number of “the beast”.
Verse 18 follows, and it's the key verse: “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast ... it is six hundred and sixty six.”
This doesn't seem to be widely appreciated. We are told to “calculate the number”. Work it out.
The New Testament was written in Greek. Every letter of the Greek alphabet has a numeric value.
Also, names in the Bible usually tell us something about the person, or the spirit of the person.
For example, “Jesus”, in the Greek of the New Testament, is ΙΗΣΟΥΣ. ΙΗΣΟΥΣ is the Greek form of His Hebrew name ( ישוע ) which means “He will save”.
The numeric value of ΙΗΣΟΥΣ is 888. This number, and the meaning of Jesus' name, seems to be in the Bible by design. So we shouldn't be surprised to find a similar principle at work with regards to the number 666 and the meaning of the name of the beast.
Now there are Christians who are troubled by this idea of numbers with meaning in the Bible. They've been unsettled by people who have told them that it's all to do with numerology or Jewish mysticism. But note: here we are told to calculate the number of the beast. It's the number of his name. We are told that it is wise. If we have understanding, we will calculate the number.
So, here is a calculation ... As far as I can tell, there is just one word in the New Testament that has a numeric value of 666. It's the word ΠΑΡΑΔΟΣΙΣ (PARADOSIS).
Π (pe) … 80; Α (alpha) … 1; Ρ (ro) … 100; Α (alpha) … 1; Δ (delta) … 4; Ο (omicron) … 70; Σ (sigma) … 200; Ι (iota) … 10; Σ (sigma) … 200. Total = 666.
And the Greek word Paradosis means: TRADITION. The word TRADITION occurs 13 times in the New Testament. None of the references picture tradition in a good light. They all give the impression that TRADITION is something God's people need to overcome.
It's not just Jews who have traditions. Let's be honest: As Christians, we have developed many traditions and rituals of our own.
So, someone who is bent on our destruction (the beast) seems to be identified with something (tradition) that is a large part of the religious life of multitudes of believers.
Now, let's understand the meaning of “antichrist”. In the Greek of the New Testament: ΑΝΤΙΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ. ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ is the Greek for “the anointed one”.
In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, we'd say “Mashiach” (the Anointed One). “Mashiach” gets translated into English as, “Messiah”. Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus the Christ. Jesus the Anointed One. They are titles for Jesus.
The word ΑΝΤΙΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ occurs just four times in the original Greek text of the New Testament. It occurs three times in the book of 1 John, and once in the book of 2 John. Here are the key portions of those scriptures:
(1 John 2:18) … the antichrist is coming, and many antichrists have appeared … (We see that there will be a person who embodies the spirit of the antichrist, but there are also many who have the same spirit.)
(1 John 2:22) … … the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ, this is the antichrist … one who denies the Father and the Son.
(1 John 4:3) … every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist …
(2 John 1:7) … many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.
From these, the only Bible references to antichrist, we see that although an individual will come one day, there are many who have the spirit of the antichrist. And the plain text tells us that that spirit is one that denies Jesus as the Messiah.
When people see the word antichrist in English, their reaction is that this is a person who is against Jesus; someone who is opposed to Jesus. That's the modern accepted meaning of the word “anti”. But, that's not the meaning in the Greek of the New Testament. The meaning of the word ANTI, in the original text, is: “instead of” or “in place of” or “as a substitute for”. That puts things in a different light.
If we look for the antichrist, or many antichrists, as people who stand opposed to Jesus, then we'd certainly look for them outside the Christian community. But, when we recognize that the spirit of antichrist is one that seeks to place themselves in the role of Jesus, then we have to consider that such people may exist even within the Christian community.
The test is not their presence in a church. The test is whether they present Jesus as the Christ; Jesus as Lord; Jesus as the one and only Saviour. The test is whether they strive to draw people to themselves, or whether they point people to Jesus.
The Christian life is not about religious rituals and traditions. And it is also not about skillful performers, living in the limelight.
The Christian life is about a living relationship with Jesus Christ ... a life directed daily in His Spirit.
With understanding of Hebraic thought, and awareness of design elements in the Scriptures, we take a journey of growth in Christ Jesus.
The seminar “Bringing sons to glory” starts with Session 1: “You are gods” What did Jesus mean? ... and continues through the Psalms of Ascent.
This series will increase your knowledge of biblical Hebrew.