666 and the Mark of the Beast
by Jerry Falk
Do microchips and bar codes have anything to do with "the mark of the beast" (Revelation 16:2; 19:20)?
Before answering this question, we would do well to remember that the word of God is "handled" a lot in the world. However, it's not good enough to just handle it; we need to handle it accurately. II Timothy 2:15 says, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth" (New American Standard Bible).
What, then, does "the mark of the beast" refer to? When studying the Bible, it's always important to take into account the historical context in which it was written.
The recipients of the book of Revelation were being persecuted for having refused to worship the Caesars and participate in other sinful pagan customs. The "dragon" (that is, Satan, Revelation 13:2,4) had given authority to the "beast" to wage war against Christians (Revelation 13:7), and many people ended up worshiping him or it (Revelation 13:4).
The beast is an adequate description of the Roman Empire, which persecuted Christians from about 64 to 313 A.D. In the Great Fire of Rome (64 A.D.), it is believed that Nero, the emperor at the time, cast the blame on Christians. After this initial persecution, Christians enjoyed a brief time of peace, which ended when Emperor Domitian (81-96 A.D.) resumed persecution of the servants of God. In the year 313 A.D., Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity, thus bringing to an end an evil policy that lasted for almost 250 years.
Concerning this time, the Archeological Supplement in my Bible (by G. Frederick Owen, translated from the Spanish), says,
"Christians were accused of being unsociable and strange, and they came to be hated and were regarded as enemies of society …. The people came to fear them since they were afraid that the wrath of the gods might be inflamed due to the fact that Christians refused to offer sacrifices to them. If the crops failed, if the Tiber River overflowed, if there was an epidemic, the people exclaimed, 'The Christians to the lions' …. To prove the loyalty of men, the Roman government demanded that everyone be present in certain public places and that there they burn a little incense to honor the emperor. Christians regarded this as an act of worship to the emperor and refused to participate. The authorities began to point them out and punish them, even with death."
In the Bible, sometimes the numbers three and seven refer to that which is perfect or complete (that is, to God, to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit, to the Word, etc. (Revelation 1:4,11-13,16,20; 5:1,6)). The number six refers to that which is incomplete or imperfect because it falls short of seven. Thus, when six is written three times (666), it refers to that which is completely incomplete.
Revelation 13:18 says, "Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six." Both the Roman Empire and those who desired to worship this "beast" (with its Caesars and false gods) were completely incomplete. Today, it might be said that 666 is the number of all those who wish to follow the false religions of this world and live without Christ. Without serving Christ we are completely incomplete!
666 is an adequate number to describe all those who live without Christ, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23, NASB). As much as we may try, we will never attain the glory of God (that is, His holiness) by means of our own works of human merit. Sin, and separation from God because of sin, is the problem that all men have in common.
Therefore, 666 does not have anything to do with microchips, nor bar codes, nor Russia, nor China, nor nuclear weapons, nor the International Monetary Fund, nor with the countless absurd interpretations that people come up with. It is simply another way of saying that without Jesus Christ we can never be complete. For this same reason, Jesus said in John 15:5, "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."