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He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666. Revelation 13:16–18


As new churches came into being during the Reformation teaching essentially the same doctrines, the beast of the earth had to do something to protect the spirit of division.

It is natural for people that have experienced salvation to want to fellowship with other saved people. Truly born again Christians want to learn more about the faith from the Bible; they want to be taught by God-called ministers and teachers. They also like to share testimonies of how God has worked in their lives and to see how God has worked in the lives of others.

Remember that it is the great red dragon of chapter 13, the spirit of Christ-less religion, that is behind both the beast of the sea and the beast of the earth. The one thing the red dragon wants to do with his churches is to either keep people from coming to a saving relationship with Christ or if they should get such a relationship, he wants them to lose that relationship or at least make it ineffective in their lives. It was very easy for the beast of the sea to accomplish the red dragon’s goals as Jesus was effectively kicked out of the church and replaced by the Pope. The gospel was replaced with ritual, images, and the mass. People were taught that they could only have a relationship with Jesus if they actually eat him in the mass. They were told that Jesus is hard and angry with them because of their sins and the only way they can get any mercy from Him is to pray to His mother.

The beast of the earth gave the red dragon a problem because the Protestant Reformation protested the failures and errors of the Catholic Church. The Reformers taught gospel salvation emphasizing two great truths of the experience of salvation: Justification and sanctification. While the Reformers had some disagreements, they agreed on more things than on which they disagreed. People were actually experiencing gospel salvation, which upset the great red dragon, so he had to come up with another method of destroying the influence of the gospel. His method was to divide Jesus. Even though there were efforts among some of the Reformers to unite as one church, they choose to organize individual churches according to nationality. The Protestant creeds acknowledge Jesus as the head of His church, but they divided themselves and tried to claim that Jesus was the head of a broken, schismatic conglomeration of churches.


Buying and Selling


While the spirit of division was rampant among the Reformed churches, there were Christians that received greater light and understanding of the Scriptures. There were many issues such people saw that put them at odds with the newly established state-churches, one of which was believer’s baptism and another was the meaning and benefit of the Lord’s Supper. One such group was the Anabapitsts, who taught believer’s baptism and did not accept infant baptism. Other’s gained the same understanding from the Bible but something came up that kept them from coming together as the one church built by Jesus.

Verse 16, “He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads.” The great red dragon comes up with a solution to keep Christians separate. He whispers in the ear of the beast of the earth to put a mark on these new groups that are popping up all over. The beast of the earth causes all to receive this mark. To say small and great, rich and poor, free and slave is one way of expressing the universality of this mark and the people that receive it. Barnes says,


The idea is, that, in the matter referred to, none were exempt, either on account of their exalted rank, or on account of their humble condition; either because they were so mighty as to be beyond control, or so mean and humble as to be beneath notice.


The effect of this mark is that no one can buy or sell without having this mark. To what does this buying and selling refer? We find the answer in Proverbs 23:23, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it.” Matthew Henry examines buying and selling truth.


Buy the truth and sell it not. Truth is that by which the heart must be guided and governed, for without truth there is no goodness; no regular practices without right principles. It is by the power of truth, known and believed, that we must be kept back from sin and constrained to duty. The understanding must be well-informed with wisdom and instruction, and therefore,

We must buy it, that is, be willing to part with any thing for it. He does not say at what rate we must buy it, because we cannot buy it too dear, but must have it at any rate; whatever it costs us.

We must not sell it. Do not part with it for pleasures, honours, riches, any things in this world. Do not neglect the study of it, nor throw off the profession of it, nor revolt from under the dominion of it . . . Hold fast the form of sound words, and never let it go upon any terms.


Christ is the truth and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth that leads people to a saving relationship with God. It is the responsibility of the church to proclaim the gospel and lift up its truth. The truth of the gospel informs us of God’s will and His expectations for our lives. Buying and selling truth is an expression that depicts the church putting forth the gospel. But notice that the beast of the earth puts restrictions on who can declare the gospel and who can accept it. This is restricted only to those that have the mark of the beast—which is also called the name or the number of the beast.

The mark is received in two ways; either on the right hand or on the forehead. The mark on the hand is seen in Galatians 2:9,  “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” The mark on the hand is indicative of being accepted into fellowship. Ephesians 4:20 Shows us the mark on the forehead is being accepted through instruction and learning. “But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus.” Colossians 1:7 also supports this concept.


The Mark of the Beast


What is this mysterious mark of the beast? Verse 18, “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” This mysterious mark identified with the number 666 has been called many different things.

Uriah Smith, the Adventist writer makes an observation about trying to identify the meaning of this mark.


This number some find in the word “Lateinos,” the “Latin” kingdom, using letters for numerals, according to ancient custom. . . . which numbers added together, make 666. Deriving the number from a name, in this manner, we must regard as rather conjectural than otherwise, seeing that names can be found to almost any extent, making just that number.[1]


Having written that, he goes on to designate the title Vicarius Flii Dei taken by the Pope as the mark of the beast as it is the name of a man. F. G. Smith in his The Revelation Explained comes up with the same answer.

But, these names however point to the Roman Catholic Church, the beast of the sea; however, the mark of the beast applies to the beast of the earth. The Beacon Bible Commentary points out that the name of the Roman Emperor Nero can be reduced to 666 from both its Latin form and its Hebrew form. The Commentary goes on to say:


In modern times the number has been variously computed as representing Mohammed, Luther, Pope Benedict IX, Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm (during World War I), Hitler (during World War II), and Mussolini (in between).[2]


There is also the theory that the number 6 represents mankind because he was created on the sixth day. As there are 7 days in the creation week, the number 6 represents man’s incompleteness. The iteration of 6 in the mark suggests that no matter how mankind tries to reach perfection, he never will. God rested on the seventh day and achieved perfection. Because mankind is 6, he never will reach perfection.

While these are interesting theories, we must turn to the Bible for understanding. The number 666 appears in three places in the Bible and in each place it is the number of a man. Those places are 1 Kings 10:14, 2 Chronicles 9:13 which is the parallel of 1 Kings, and Ezra 2:13.

The 2nd chapter of Ezra contains the account of the people that left the Babylonian captivity with Zerubbabel. Ezra 2:13, “The people of Adonikam, six hundred and sixty-six.” What is significant here is the meaning of the name Adonikam. The name means a high lord. In applying this to the mark of the beast it is an emblem of the arrogance of the beast of the earth as it lifts itself up as a high lord over the product of the Protestant Reformation. As the high lord, the beast gives itself the right to demand tribute from those over which it is lord.

The tribute is disclosed in 1 Kings 10:14 (2 Chronicles 9:13), “The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold.” This is a yearly tribute paid to Solomon by the people of all nations over which he ruled. Although he was wealthy beyond imagination, he still coveted to have more. The mark of the beast binds people to satisfy the greed of the beast of the earth—that is, to hold them in his control and to increase his wealth as the number of people increase. What did Solomon do with the gold that came to him? Verses 16–17 record that he made shields of gold and put them in the House of the Forest, a building that was used as an armory. In verse 18 Solomon used the gold to overlay his ivory throne so that “nothing like this had been made for any other kingdom.”

The spirit of the beast of the earth is a spirit of division. With the sense of unity that was trying to arise among God’s people the beast had to come up with something to protect its spirit of division. Appling the biblical attributes of the number 666 we can deduce the mark of the beast to be nothing more than the concept of church membership.

There is only one thing that makes people members of the church built by Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:13 “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” which is the body of Christ (V 27), the church (V 28). Formal church membership is extraneous, it is not needed and it is contrary to the operation of the Holy Spirit. Formal church membership is Adonikam as it raises a man-made organization over the Holy Spirit. It makes a church high lord saying who can be a member and who cannot be a member. Church membership dictates who in its organization oversees the buying and selling of truth—what can be taught, who can teach it, and who can receive it. Church membership is tribute to the church as it commits people to that organization alone and effectively separates them from all other believers. Church membership perpetuates a church’s membership by inducing future generations to be members of the church. “I am a _____ because my family is ____.” Enter a church name; this is the modern number of his name. Church membership takes this loyalty and makes shields of defense to keep its people as members rather than giving them shields of faith to make people loyal to Christ. Church membership is a golden throne that commits people to that church and only that church. It blinds its people to division because it convinces them its throne is Christ’s throne.


Jesus Must Intervene


Jesus said, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

The Reformation restored so much of gospel truth but the churches were selective as to how much and what kind of truth to accept. As the Reformation progressed, more understanding of the gospel was given but churches stopped accepting truth beyond what they perceived.

People experienced genuine conversions under the gospel but they were held captive by their memberships in the national churches or the new churches that broke away from them. When a group accepted more light on the gospel, the beast of the earth said “Enough” and convinced them to stop at that point, build a church around it and exclude anyone that had less or more understanding than they had.

This is contrary to the church Jesus built and to which the Holy Spirit adds people. Because of this Jesus finds it necessary to intervene in history. Suddenly in chapter 14 He appears on Mount Zion, the biblical church of God, to bring His church out of all the confusion of the past history.





[1] Smith, Uriah;  Thoughts Critical and Practical on the Book of Revelation;  Steam Press: Battle Creek, MI;  1875;  pg. 239.

[2] Beacon Bible Commentary;  Beacon Hill Press, Kansas City, MO;  1969;  ppg. 577, 578.