In the past I used to be afraid of having anything to do with the number “666”. The title of the beast of Revelation has been assigned to many entities over the years, ranging from the Catholic Church, United Nations, European Union, US presidents, the Pope, Middle-Eastern leaders, etc. But the author of Revelation was very clear that every prophecy in the book was imminent within the lifetime of the 7 Churches of Asia.
Revelation 1:1-4,7 “This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things which must happen soon, which he sent and made known by his angel to his servant, John, who testified to God’s word, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, about everything that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written in it, for the time is at hand. John, to the seven assemblies that are in Asia …. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, including those who pierced him”
John prophesied that the coming of Christ would happen while those who crucified Him were still alive. The mark of the beast was something relevant to the 7 Churches in Asia (Turkey). The mark of the beast had nothing to do with the Gentiles or the Roman Empire because the Jews never worshipped the Romans. It was something that deceived the Jews. From the Bible, we know that Christ told the Jews to be wary of false Messiahs and prophets from among their own people. Paul also strongly warned the Gentiles and Jewish believers to not go back to the Law and also warned them about the man of sin who would be seated in the Temple in their lifetime (2nd Thess. 2:1-15). Therefore the mark of the beast was Jewish and relevant only to their lifetime.
The Jews showed their allegiance to the kings and priests of Israel. They rejected Christ by handing Him over first to the Sanhedrin (religious leaders) and then to King Herod (the Jewish political leader). These leaders were the False Prophet and Beast respectively: the Jewish religious leaders and the political leaders. The Jews used the help of the Roman ruler Pilate to crucify Christ but he washed his hands off the guilt and the Jews gladly took responsibility for Christ’s death (Matthew 27:23-25). Therefore the beast was not the Roman Empire but the Jewish leaders.
Remember that Jesus was the true King and High Priest but the Jews chose to worship the false king and false prophet from Israel. This is because the Jews were looking for a Messiah to fight the Romans and restore the kingdom back to Israel. But Jesus came to bring a spiritual kingdom of love where people turned the other cheek. Jesus told them to pay their taxes to Rome and even warned the Jews that the Romans would destroy their nation when the kingdom would be removed from Israel in their lifetime(Matt 21:33-46). The kingdom of Christ was the presence of God with people all over the world and it was no longer found in Israel’s Old Covenant system.
This is why the Jews crucified Christ because He was not the Messiah they wanted. They expected a great king who would defeat Rome, but He came riding on a donkey and preached love, kindness and submission to Rome. They looked for an earthly kingdom but Jesus gave them a spiritual kingdom. He told them to seek this kingdom by selling all their possessions and forsaking everything (Matthew 10:9, Luke 12:33, Luke 14:25-33) because their land and nation was going to be destroyed (Luke 21:12-36). He told them to seek the new spiritual Jerusalem by forsaking the old earthly Jerusalem that was about to perish in their generation (Hebrews 13:13-14, Galatians 4:24-31). That is why they crucified Him.
Revelation 13:16-17 “He causes all, the small and the great, the rich and the poor, and the free and the slave, to be given marks on their right hands, or on their foreheads; and that no one would be able to buy or to sell, unless he has that mark, the name of the beast or the number of his name.”
What exactly was the mark of the beast? There’s no point speculating about it by looking at modern-day history because it had nothing to do with us. It was not a futuristic smart-chip, RFID, barcode, credit-card or skin implant. The book of Revelation was filled with Jewish symbols from the Old Testament. So then we must interpret it using the Law of Moses where we find that the Passover was used as a sign in the hand and forehead just like the mark of the beast! The Passover was the mark of the beast.
Exodus 13:3-10 NIV “Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand …. For seven days eat bread made without yeast and on the seventh day hold a festival to the Lord. Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders. On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year.”
But wait a minute! Didn’t God Himself give the Passover to the Jews while they were in Egypt? The Jews kept the Passover and were saved from the destruction that came upon the Egyptians. Why did this become the mark of the beast now? It’s because Christ Himself was the true Passover in the New Covenant (1st Corinthians 5:6-7, Matthew 5:17). Only the blood of Christ could save them from the judgment that was coming upon the old covenant Jews who did not believe in Him. In the new covenant, the only form of Jewish worship was through the Lord’s Supper by faith in Christ’s death.
1st Corinthians 11:26-27 “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks the Lord’s cup in a way unworthy of the Lord will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.”
The unbelieving Jews instead worshipped the beast by keeping the law through the Passover and animal sacrifices. The Jews were warned to not go back to the Law but to gain salvation through the blood of Christ.
Hebrews 10:4,19-22,24-29 “For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins …. Having therefore, brothers, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having a great priest over God’s house, let’s draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, …. and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which will devour the adversaries. A man who disregards Moses’ law dies without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think he will be judged worthy of who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”
But if they willfully and deliberately sinned in unbelief by returning to the blood of animals through the Jewish Passover, then they were insulting the Holy Spirit and desecrating the blood of Christ. Therefore they invited the final judgment upon themselves in the raging fire of 70AD.
The city of Jerusalem was called as Sodom and Egypt where the beast killed the 2 Jewish eyewitnesses of Christ (Revelation 11:1-18). Who were the two witnesses? From the Bible we know that there were at least 500 Jewish eyewitnesses of Christ (1st Corinthians 15:6, Acts 2:32, Acts 1:8). The Jewish beast killed two of these witnesses who did great miracles in Jerusalem like Moses and Aaron had done 1500 years earlier in Egypt. As a result, the city of Jerusalem was judged just like the nation of Egypt and the city of Sodom in the Old Testament.
Remember how the Temple was a place of buying & selling in Christ’s time (Matthew 21:12-13). In the time of the tribulation, there were great famines in Israel (Matthew 24:7). The people could not eat or drink unless they kept the Passover (mark of the beast) and entered the Temple where the food (tithes) was stored. But Christ commanded the believers to sell their possessions and flee from Jerusalem because God would miraculously provide for them just like He gave manna to the Israelites in the wilderness (Luke 12:21-40). This is why Jesus Himself was their “daily bread” from heaven, greater than the manna because He gave them eternal life (John 6:31-58). That is why Jesus told them to pray for “daily bread” and “ask God for the kingdom to come” (Matthew 6:9-13). It’s because they sold their possessions and fled the Old Covenant beast system. They had to endure temptations & trials till the end to be saved from the judgment of 70AD (Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 24:9-13).
Revelation 12:10-11 “I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, the power, and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ has come; for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night. They overcame him because of the Lamb’s blood, and because of the word of their testimony. They didn’t love their life, even to death.”
The believers overcame the accuser (Law of Moses) and the beast by the true blood of the lamb while the unbelievers perished by trusting in the mark of the beast (Passover blood of animals under the law).
1st John 5:4-6 “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ;”
They overcame the world by their faith in the blood of Christ. They were faithful even unto death and were beheaded by the beast because they refused to worship it.
Revelation 20:4 “I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as didn’t worship the beast nor his image, and didn’t receive the mark on their forehead and on their hand.”
The Bible clearly shows us that John the Baptist was the first Jew who was beheaded because he refused to bow down to the Jewish kings and priests (Mark 6:14-29). In Revelation 12:1-6, it describes the dragon that tried to kill Jesus at His birth. The Bible tells us that it was King Herod who tried to do this (Matthew 2:1-16). The Jewish kingdom was the beast of Revelation that persecuted Christ and the Church until 70AD. This Jewish beast partnered with the prostitute of Babylon (Pharisees & Teachers of the Law) to persecute the believers.
The destruction of the beast was imminent in Paul’s lifetime (1st Thessalonians 2:14-16). In 70AD, the Beast and the False Prophet were thrown into the lake of fire when the 12 tribes of Israel were judged. Christ is reigning and ruling with the martyrs (144,000 from Israel) in the clouds and we are living in the 1000 year reign today before the end will come when the final judgment of the nations takes place along with the resurrection and the rapture at the end of the old heaven and earth. Then the New heaven and earth will be formed where the Church will live in glorified immortal bodies with Jesus and Daddy God – and there will be no more tears, death or pain or curse.