I have studied this issue for a number of years. Some of the theories may surprise or offend some people. The purpose is not to offend. Please do not interpret any statement from this essay as a condemnation of people from a certain faith. I find that many Christians are not that familiar with church history, so some of the information may come as a shock. So please give all statements an open-minded chance. There is much more I could say to support my beliefs on the topic of Anti-Christ, but I felt it would distract from the main topic which is the mark of 666 mentioned in Revelation 13:18. However, since this mark is closely related to Anti-Christ, I felt I needed to deal with that issue at least a bit.

The mark of the beast will indicate a person’s allegiance to the Anti-Christ (or, an anti-Christ). First, we must realize that the word “anti” can mean “against” or “in place of.” Since 1 John 2:18 reveals that there were many antichrists in his day, and since there are other Bible Books and verses predicting future anti-Christs (or one Anti-Christ), I think both meanings might apply depending on the person fulfilling that role. This is a key concept when interpreting End-Time Scriptures.

There was a time between the Testaments when Jews were forced to be branded with the symbol of the god Dionysius. Was this some kind of forerunner to what Revelation reveals? There are three viewpoints concerning the mark of the beast mentioned in Revelation 13:16-18.

Dispensationalists believe that God has made more than one covenant at different times in history. The one with the Jews is somewhat different than the one with Gentiles. Their tendency is toward literal interpretations of end-time prophecies rather than symbolic. They assert that most end-time prophecies have not yet been fulfilled. Therefore they say this mark has not yet occurred in history, and it will be a stamp on foreheads or right hands, meaning it will have physical substance. Due to the modern technology boom, they have speculated that the mark may be a computer chip embedded under the skin. When scanned, it will enable people to buy or sell things much like our use of plastic money today.

Historicists, on the other hand, believe that most end-time prophecies have been fulfilled by events in the past. They see a consistent use of symbolic phrases used in OT repeated in the NT and they try to let the Bible interpret itself rather than imposing a theory about end-times and trying to make verses fit that theory. They therefore think the mark is not literal and has been already occurred in history (and may be still occurring today). They tend to look at the Old Testament for clues for interpreting prophecies about end-times. For example, in Exodus 13:16 God commanded His people to be sure to remember their redemption by placing the memory of it on their hand and between their eyes. Perhaps this meant he wanted that memory to be part of their thoughts (between eyes, mind) as well as their actions (hands). If this is precedence, then the mark of the beast would not be a literal mark but rather something that would align a person to the (or an) anti-Christ’s power. In John’s day, it meant worshiping the Emperor of Rome. Certain cities, especially Thyratira and Pergamum, had powerful trade guilds that demanded anyone who buys or sells to participate in some unholy practices in the name of the Emperor. Needless to say, Christians had a difficult time with this.

Preterists believe that all end-time prophecy has been fulfilled by 70 AD, except Christ’s Second Coming. They are similar to historicists in that they perceive much end-time fulfillment in history, but believe the mark is the stamped image of the Nero’s head on every coin of the Roman Empire – the stamp on the hand or in the mind of all, without which no one could buy or sell. New Testament scholar Craig C. Hill says, “It is far more probable that the mark symbolizes the all-embracing economic power of Rome, whose very coinage bore the emperor’s image and conveyed his claims to divinity. It had become increasingly difficult for Christians to function in a world in which public life, including the economic life of the trade guilds, required participation in idolatry.”

A similar view is offered by Craig R. Koester:

As sales were made, people used coins that bore the images of Roman gods and emperors. Thus each
transaction that used such coins was a reminder that people were advancing themselves economically by
relying on political powers that didn’t recognize the true God. (Source)

Update from “Studying the Book of Revelation” by David Riggs in Bookmarks:

Also, the beast sought to cause all (no exceptions–from the highest official to the lowest slave) to receive the mark of the beast (again, he imitates God’s action, Rev. 7:3; 9:4;14:1). As God’s seal placed on the foreheads of the saints was not literal but figurative of His recognition of His own, so the mark of the beast is symbolic of those officially belonging to Satan. Later, those with the mark of the beast receive the wrath of God (14:9-10;16:2;19:20). Those who did not receive the mark of the beast were refused the privileges of buying and selling (Rev.13:17). This is a well-known fact in Roman history in the time of Domitian (81-96A.D.). Images were set up to make worship of the emperor easier and those who refused to worship the image were refused the privileges of buying and selling in the market places. Thus, those with the mark of the beast were those who yielded to the idolatrous edicts of the Roman emperor.

In any case, the content of this mark will contain the name of the beast or the number of his name, and the number is 666 (some manuscripts say 616). A popular method of associating a number with a name is using the number equivalents to letters of the alphabet in certain languages. The first letter also represents the number 1. The second letter = 2, 11th letter = 20 and the 12th letter = 30 etc. So it is possible to add the letters up to get a final number total from a name. This process was known as “gematria.” Unfortunately there have been many ridiculous applications of this method over the years in an attempt to identify Anti-Christ, but this does not mean that we should scrap the whole method. Jesus’ name is calculated as 888. I’m not sure if this means anything. The Pope is crowned with these words as they are inscribed on his mitre (headgear): “Vicar of the Son of God.” This phrase IN LATIN equals 666: V=5, I=1, C=100, A=0, R=0, I= 1, U=5, S=0, F=0, I=1 L=50 I=1, I=1, D=500, E=0, I=1. Total = 666. The word “vicar” means “substitute.” Therefore any Pope is “in place of” Christ.

The prophecies in Daniel 2 and 7 clearly point to Rome being the place from where the man of sin would arise. In Chapter 2 God shows him a vision of 4 earthly kingdoms in the order of their times. The first was Babylon, then Medes-Persia, then Greece, and then Rome. Verse 44 pinpoints when God would set up His Kingdom that will never end. It would be during that 4th kingdom – Rome. Since Christ’s triumphant ascension (marking the beginning His eternal reign from the Throne of God in Heaven) occurred during Rome’s rule which was the 4th kingdom prophesied by Daniel, we know that the Anti-Christ and the 666 number will arise out of that city.

Then later in Chapter 7, God shows Daniel those same 4 kingdoms, and describes the nature of each. Verse 7 refers to the Roman Empire. Verses 8 and 20-26 describe an (or the) anti-Christ. Verse 25 even says this reign would last for 1260 days (42 months). Many theologians believe “days” means “years” because if the number of days mentioned in Daniel 9:25-26 are converted to years, that accurately pinpoints the timing of Jesus’ appearance as Messiah. The Papal State did rule for 1260 years which poses an eerie connection. Only the King James Version makes verse 26 clearly state that this Anti-Christ power would be overthrown BY THE SAINTS (true believers). As a result of the Protestant Reformation, the gospel of the saving grace of Jesus Christ began to spread rapidly throughout the world. The Papal State had this truth locked up for all those years by banning Bible reading and claiming salvation was only through their rituals. There were small pockets of true believers who were under constant persecution by the Popes such as the Waldenseans and the Moravians, but they were never stamped out. Thank God. So the saints during the Reformation found Biblical Truth and spread it to nations thus weakening and eventually toppling Papal world power. The Papal tyrannical, bloody rule, which murdered and tortured millions of Christians throughout its history, was indeed beastly.

The Reformation played a major role in defeating papal world power. More specifically, it was the Word of God getting into the hands of the public domain that was the source of power that did this. Jesus, in the Book of Revelation, appears to the Apostle John with a sword coming out of His mouth. Clearly, Jesus was donned with symbolic meanings. He really does not have a metal sword coming out of His mouth. But the Bible makes clear that this sword represents the “Word of God” both in Hebrews 4:12 and Revelation 1:16; 19:15. The “war” that Jesus wages with His “sword” is figurative language describing how the Bible changed lives and nations throughout the Church Age.

The Preterists believe that Nero was the Anti-Christ because he killed believers and the letters of his name add up to 666 if “Nero Caesar” is written in Hebrew. When his Latin name is written in Hebrew, it adds to 616. If not the Anti-Christ, perhaps he was a prototype for someone else who was or is to come. He certainly fits an anti-Christ profile from the Scriptures.

Is there any significance to 666? Some speculate that since those 6s are one short of 7, which is God’s perfect number of completion, an Anti-Christ would be someone striving to take God’s place but comes up short. The fact that there are 3 sixes leads some to think that it is a false Trinity.

Conclusion – I do not believe this mark is physical and therefore can somehow be detected or seen by humans. There is enough precedence in OT and NT showing that various seals and marks are seen by the spirit realm only (see Ezekiel Chapter 9). Besides, if 666 was literal and visible, how could an Anti-Christ con people into following him? Wouldn’t that be just a tad too obvious?! Many dispensational books and movies have been produced in the last 40 years in America proclaiming these interpretations. So if a world leader emerged and entered a rebuilt Jewish Temple, claimed to be God, and stamped a 666 on people’s bodies, I just don’t see how that could fool anyone since those interpretations have been so widely publicized. We must always bear in mind that Satan is a master deceiver. Therefore, I believe the mark of the beast is spiritual and the people who have it could even be from different centuries. I think a person would receive this mark if their heart is devoted to an, or the Anti-Christ – someone who arrogantly claims to be in place of Christ or God, and history can cite several. 1 John 2:18; 4:3 states that there have been several and the spirit of Antichrist was already in the world at his writing.

I think it is safe to say, as John did in his second epistle, that there were and are many anti-Christs in the world. In my opinion, the position of the Papacy fulfills the specific predictions that Anti-Christ or the man of sin would do. Therefore, the man of sin is not just one man but many men. It was the position of the Papacy that claimed to be “in place of” Christ on earth (and still does), and this authority raged against God’s people for 1260 years – the longest of any one governmental authority in the history of the world. The Book of Revelation chronicles the Papal State’s activities. The Pope’s tiara (beehive-shaped hat) has three gold bands proclaiming that he is “Lord of Heaven, Lord of Earth, and Lord of Under the Earth.” The words that were used when popes were crowned were: “Receive the tiara adorned with three crowns and know that thou art father of princes and kings, the ruler of the world on earth, the vicar of our Savior Jesus Christ, to whom is honor and glory through all ages.” This position also claims to be “The Holy Father” and accepts that title from others. No man should ever be addressed as “Holy Father.” The pope is definitely “in place of Christ.”

Roman Catholicism is a whole system of “in place ofs”

  • Papacy – claims to be Christ on earth
  • Priests – mediators between God/man (violates Book of Hebrews)
  • Mary – mediator between God/man
  • Saints – mediators between God/man
  • Statues – mediators between God/man
  • Mass/Eucharist Transubstantiation – mediator between God/man

Truth = Only one mediator between God/man – Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). If I lived between 538-1798 AD, I would be burned at the stake for writing this, or for simply reading the Bible to others.

About Catholic people today – I love them, but many have a difficult time perceiving the need to be born-again for two reasons: 1) they believe the Catholic rituals save their souls, and 2) their religion contains so many “in place-ofs” that they miss the real Jesus. Some know Jesus and want to do what is right. Some couldn’t care less about God (just like some Protestants). Some have become close friends of mine despite our differences. Some have hated me and tried to get me fired from my teaching job back in the 1980s, and not because I said anything against their church. They just hated Jesus in me. Some barred me from teaching Catholic teens even though I never taught anything against that Church back in my early days as a Christian. There are some Catholic beliefs I agree with, especially their strong and admirable Pro-Life stance. Many Roman Catholic scholars helped preserve the Bible centuries ago. There are also some beliefs they hold that are in serious error and may have them in bondage to the doctrines of a system that is the false church. One of my favorite aunts was devoted to that Church. She was very kind-hearted, but very deceived when it came to Christianity. Let us all heed 1 Corinthians 3:11 – “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” May we all keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and finisher of our faith and the only mediator between man and God (1 Timothy 2:5 and Hebrews 12:2).

JG – Great stuff, Dave! As for your conclusion: born and raised a Catholic, in my late 20’s I finally set out to read the Book we supposedly follow. The Lord opened my eyes in that so much of the Word was contrary to Catholic teaching. The verses hit me between the eyes (my Bible is filled with lines from a particular verse to an open space on the page where I write “Catholics: READ”- I do the same for those verses that contradict evolution (Evolutionists: READ), abortion rights, condoning homosexual behavior, etc.).

A great book on this is Dave Hunt’s “A Woman Rides the Beast.” It is thoroughly researched and takes the position that Rome and Roman Catholicism is a key player in the Tribulation period. I gave the book to my mother-in-law (a VERY devout Catholic) many years ago and never got it back. Maybe she burned it or threw it in the trash J. Anyways, great stuff again – all your “At Issue” topics are great. God Bless you!

Dave to JG – Thanks. While Mr. Hunt has some great research and convictions on certain issues, he is a dispensationalist, so I would not embrace all that he asserts. I think he has some good insights but I believe his time-line is off base due to his dispensational “glasses” he wears to interpret the Bible. I believe that approach to end-time prophecy is in error and leads to conclusions that are off the mark. You said he believes the RC Church is a key player in “THE Tribulation.” This phrase does not come from the Bible, unless you read Cyrus Scofield’s version (or some others influenced by this bias). Scripture speaks of “tribulation” not THE tribulation. When Jesus spoke of this He most likely meant what happened to Jerusalem and Israel in 70 AD with the destruction of the Temple. This was a 3-year siege by the Romans so the Jews suffered horribly for a long time before being slaughtered. Because Scofield was a dispensationalist, he put the word “the” in front of “tribulation” in Revelation 7:14. His bias influenced his translating which is a no-no. So this whole notion of THE great tribulation, as a single futuristic event, is most likely a fantasy. I prefer the historical approach because it knows, appreciates, and connects history with the Scriptures in a most accurate manner and yields tremendous insights into Ezekiel, Daniel, 2 Thessalonians 2, and Revelation.

Unfortunately, many Christians today in America have been exposed only to dispensational views and are not even aware of other interpretations. There are actually four approaches. But the other three don’t sell as many books :-). One of my arguments against dispensationalism is that IF their interpretations are correct, this means that in the near future 1) one man will take over the whole world, 2) he will walk into a rebuilt Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and claim to be God, 3) he will stamp all followers with a literal 666 on or in their bodies. Now think about this…the Anti-Christ is supposed to be filled with Satanic power and ultimate deception, right? Well, aren’t those signs just a tad too obvious for anyone to be conned by this guy?? Check out my commentaries on the historical approach to Daniel and Revelation and I think you will be blessed by it.

LT (a Roman Catholic) – Amazing. And to think that the only church established by Christ would turn out to be the Anti-Christ. I don’t know who inspired you to write this nonsense but the Holy Spirit is not present.

Dave to LT – History is not on your side. Christ never established the Roman Catholic Church. If you are willing to listen to me sometime, I can tell you what happened. You’ve been taught that Jesus made Peter the first Pope, but He simply was saying that the faith to which Peter just confessed would be the rock of His Church, not the man Peter. That first confession of faith said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” We also see throughout Scripture that Peter was not the only man in charge of everything. In other words, he did not act like a pope. No one bowed to him as they do to popes. In fact, Peter stopped a man from doing that very thing in Acts 10:26. Also, Catholicism maintains that Jesus gave Peter the “keys of the Kingdom” which, in their minds, meant Peter had power over Christ’s Church. But later in Scripture (Matthew 18:18), Jesus said these same words to ALL of the disciples, not just to Peter. Therefore, the very genesis of Roman Catholic mindset started in gross error.

LT to Dave – Dear Saul, you know I was going to use the Satan thing but felt I didn’t need it. Satan smiles when anyone attacks Christ’s church. He even enjoys attacks about any church that Loves Christ. I will not attack the Protestant Churches or anyone who Loves the Lord. I just don’t think that you needed to do that. Glad to hear Mike accepted the job. Even though I am Catholic, God heard my prayers.

Dave to LT – I understand your anger. You have been raised to believe as you do. I hope we can just agree to disagree for now. I also hope that this disagreement does not become a part of our men’s group talk. As I’ve said before, my Bible Sessions are apart from the men’s group. About addressing me as Saul, he attacked people physically and hated them while I simply challenge man-made doctrine by God’s Word and love people. I assume you agree with this difference.

LT – Dave, I just concluded a wonderful discussion with a Lady that loves the Lord as we. She said that we must continue to pray together with love and understanding. “We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life! But that is not all; we rejoice because of what God has done through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has made us God’s friends.” Rom. 5:10-11. Let us remain friends in and through Jesus Christ.

Dave to LT – Amen to remaining friends, but I noticed that you capitalized the “L” in lady, which
indicates you are claiming that the lady you got that advice from was Mary. Is that what you were saying?

[No further response from LT]. Error culminating in spiritual bondage is a tragic thing.