A Short Study of Revelation 13:8
Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
The Greek phraseology for “it is the number of a man” can also be correctly written as “it is the number of man”. You will see why the latter translation makes better sense once we have studied and understood what 666 means.
Throughout the New Testament era, theologians have tried all kinds of approaches to understand the number 666. Prevalent is the use of numerology – that is, using the numerical values assigned to the Greek, Roman or other alphabets. Supposedly, the name of the antichrist will be such that the values of all its letters add up to 666.
There is no biblical authority, however, for using numerology to interpret Scripture!
With reference to the Word of God, I Corinthians 2:13 says, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”
To understand the symbols used in the Bible, we must find the answers from the Bible itself.
The answer to 666 can be found in Zechariah 13. There, God declares in verses 8 and 9: “And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God.”
Here, God divides the human race into two groups.
The first group, represented by the figure two parts, comprises all the unsaved of the world. They shall be cut off and die.
The other group, comprising all those whom He has chosen to save and whom He would call “my people”, is symbolically identified as the third part.
Let me hasten to point out that these are symbolic fractions. We cannot infer from the statement that one-third of all the people that have ever lived will become saved. The Bible has made it very clear that only a remnant of the population is chosen by grace to be God’s children. A remnant means just a tiny fraction.
The number 1,000 represents the completion of God’s plan. Well, two-thirds of 1,000 equals .666 in whole numbers. So, 666 is really the symbolic number that God has assigned to the unsaved of the world.
There are at least two other accounts in the Bible where God uses the two-to-one relationship to represent the unsaved and the saved.
The first is in II Samuel 8. It begins by noting that David smote the Philistines and subdued them. Then verse 2 reads: “And he smote Moab, and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive. And so the Moabites became David’s servants, and brought gifts.”
Here we have another picture of salvation. David is a figure of Christ. Two thirds of the Moabites, who typified the unsaved, were put to death. One third were spared and they became the servants of David. We of course are the bond servants of Christ.
The second account is in II Kings 1. Remember Elijah called down fire from heaven and destroyed two captains with their companies of fifty men each? Well, the king sent a third captain with his fifty men to take Elijah. This group pleaded for mercy and they were spared. Thus, God again destroyed two-thirds, and saved one-third.
In this closing verse of Revelation 13, God is effectively issuing this warning: you need true wisdom. Things are not what they appear on the surface. Those who follow after the false gospels may think that they are worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ and are therefore saved. But they are really buying and selling in the temple; they are a den of robbers. They belong to the beast, because they are among the symbolic two-thirds that are unsaved.