by Charles S. Meek
Who or what is the “mark of the beast” of Revelation 13:16; 14:9? Prerequisites to this article are my other articles in Section B about When Revelation Was Written, The Central Theme of Revelation, and Who Was the Beast of Revelation—found in section B at my website here:
Revelation – Prophecy Questions
As I demonstrate at this site, the Sea Beast of Revelation was almost certainly Rome, specifically embodied in Nero. Here’s a short summary:
The book of Revelation was written to a first-century audience, in the mid-60s AD. For example, Revelation 17:10 says it was being written during the reign of the sixth king, who was Nero. (The previous five Roman rulers were Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius.) Nero was ruler of Rome from AD 54-68. So, we should expect the first-century readers to have been able to calculate the number. For the beast to be someone thousands of years in the future would have made no sense to the readers in the first century. Remember, the Bible was written FOR us, but not TO us. The first-century context is reinforced by some thirty passages in Revelation that teach its fulfillment as imminent and about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70 (Revelation 1:1-3; 20:6-20; etc.).
As every school child knows, the Romans used letters to represent numerals. Similarly, the Greeks and Hebrews assigned numerical values to their letters. Since Revelation was written by a Jew in a Hebrew context, and with numerous allusions to the Old Testament, we should expect the solution to deciphering the meaning of 666 to be Hebraic. It turns out that when Nero’s name is translated numerically into Hebrew, we find something very interesting. A first-century version of Nero’s name—Nero Caesar (Nrwn Qsr)—provides us with precisely the value of 666! While I will not go into detail here, you can check this out in various places. One book that goes into it is Kenneth Gentry’s book The Book of Revelation Made Easy. You can also find this discussed online in various places. (Do an Internet search for “beast and Nero.”)
The second beast, the Land Beast, was Israel. This can be gleaned not only by Israel’s frequent association with The Land, but also by this statement, “It [The Land Beast] exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast” (Revelation 13:12). Remember that at Jesus’ trial, the chief priests cried out “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). The Jewish leadership was a co-conspirator with Rome in the crucifixion of Jesus, as well as in the persecution of Christians!
In the Old Testament, we find this: “And the LORD said to him, ‘Pass through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it. . . .” (Ezekiel 9:4-6; cf. Deuteronomy 6:6,8).
David Chilton, in his classic work on the book of Revelation, Days of Vengenance, taught that the mark of the beast in Revelation is a reference to Ezekiel 9. It is a “satanic parody of Israel’s allegiance to Rome.” A golden image, emblem, or seal of the Roman emperor Nero―a “mark” of the beast―was set up in the temple. The Jewish leadership bowed to Rome!
But a slightly different view makes more sense to me. Ezekiel 9 is a vision about the coming annihilation of Judah and Jerusalem. The “mark” may simply mean that, in a prophetic sense, most Jewish people were “marked for death” while some seem to have been spared―i.e. “marked for life.” This is similar to the modern English phrase, “He is a marked man.” Revelation 14:9 speaks of God’s wrath falling on those who worship the beast, which suggests the Jews who had “no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). So, regarding Revelation, we see the scene repeated in the Jewish-Roman War of AD 66-70 when over a million Jews were killed by the Romans with only a few escaping God’s wrath.
The mark of the beast is not literal. How do we know? Revelation 14:1 talks about Jesus’ and the Father’s name written on the foreheads of the 144,000. Such marking is obviously is not literal. No one ever puts God’s name on their foreheads. Rather, it has to do with allegiance, affiliation, or ownership.
There you have it. This is not about us today. And it is not about computer chips under the skin, or other such ridiculous notions.
To further investigate Revelation, see theses additional articles: