Six hundred and sixty six
Rev. 13:18: "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 and sixty six."
The 'antichrist' has several definitions, but is generally understood to mean the antagonist of Christ, to come and reign over the world for seven years (the Tribulation) until overthrown2 at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
This means that when the antichrist appears, it won't be long before Christ's return; in other words, the end of the world. So, if the Beast can be identified, then we will know that we are in the final years, or days, of the existence of mankind. And knowing when the world will end has been a quest, probably since mankind has been intelligent enough to philosophize on mortality and the end of the human race.
Alternatively, if we can identify the antichrist and destroy him, then the world will not end, and we can continue enjoying life.
If only it were so simple.
Christians have been looking forward to the Second Coming since the 1st century. So many generations of disappointment.
Who is the antichrist?
One candidate was the Roman Emperor, Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. Nero wielded enormous power and is infamous for being a Christ-hater. Also, the numeric value of the Hebrew characters of his name add up to 666. This is all very interesting for numerologists, but Nero isn't around any more; he committed suicide nearly two thousand years ago. His influence has no bearing on the world today; there is no Nero to overcome or destroy.
If we're searching for the real antichrist, we need to focus on a candidate who is alive now, and many people have come up with some interesting theories. Find somebody you don't like and it shouldn't take you long to associate them with 666. That will give you the smug feeling that your adversary is the antichrist and you can feel justified in calling him your enemy and hating him.
Let's take a peek at some of the sillier 'amazing revelations' that have been in circulation for a while now:
Specific commercial enterprises
It seems a natural instinct to be jealous of the wealthy, and several successful companies have been targets of hatred. If it can be shown that a commercial enterprise is evil, then people can feel justified in attacking them.
Here we see one of many logos that supposedly conceal the demonic number 666.
Toys "R" Us are in a powerful position to directly influence the minds of the very young. Such seemingly innocuous enterprises are obvious candidates for being the antichrist. Toys "R" Us is where you can buy a Scooby-Doo Zombie Island DVD for $9.99 (inverted 666).
The main feature of this design is "Я", a backwards "R", 18th letter of the alphabet (6 + 6 + 6). Notice also that it is centred on a pentagram. You might like to ask them about these subliminal messages; their New York store number is (631) 666-66113.
Sadly for conspiracy theorists, however, apart from the children's Halloween costumes, there is not much more to link this multi-billion dollar company with the occult. 666 happens to be the area code for thousands of businesses and as the company reports4 show, the stores are opened in whatever area is likely to be profitable. Having a certain telephone code gives is no commercial advantage or disadvantage.
In 2008, the company began significantly reducing the lead content of paint used on their toys. The controversial phthalates, used in plastic manufacture and linked to reproductive problems, are prohibited by Toys "R" Us. Their line of environmentally friendly products include natural wooden toys and organic cotton dolls, coloured with natural dyes, and packaged in 70% recycled material. Millions of dollars are donated to children's charities5.
Hardly satanic, is it.
(See why we give meaning to the meaningless)
'The love of money is the root of all evil' (1 Timothy:10) and Japan is a country that became, in many ways, a model of capitalism.
If you add the value of all six current Japanese coins (1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 yen - which happen to coincide with all the Roman numeral values less than 1,000), you get 666 yen. Apodeictic proof that the Japanese monetary system is based on evil.
But that's a shaky conclusion from just a subset of Japanese currency, which excludes the current Japanese notes (1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 yen) and includes the relatively new 500 yen coin. Yet it is proof to those people who want to believe such things.
Evil is jealousy, envy, hatred, and all the other unethical judgments or immorality we care to muster. It is not something that can be inherent in objects such as coins, or in systems such as money.
A phrase used for another context: 'seek, and ye shall find'6. If you want to see evil, then you will. Similarly, if you want to see good, whether it's money, people, or anything else, then it is always there to be found.
Let's look again at the source of this number: Rev. 13:18: "...it is the number of a man..." The antichrist is a person; specifically, a man.
The pope has often been accused of being the antichrist. For one thing, it's obvious that the antichrist comes to us in disguise. And what better disguise than the pope himself! (Rev. 12:9 'Satan, which deceiveth the whole world')
Then again, the antichrist could be anybody who doesn't look like an antichrist.... Hmmm. Let's see what other 'proof' there is.
One of the most popular popes, John Paul II, was known as a very Marian pope. Images of Mary are often shown with a white crescent moon at her feet. And the name of the Mesopotamian mythological moon god was known to the Akkadian as 'Sin'.
The Minaean moon god was also known by the name 'Sin', and here's another Sin: The pope's equivalent in the Philippines was the Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Sin. But like all people, all Christians, all Roman Catholics, we are all sinners.7
Ah yes, that upside-down cross favoured by the pope. This is commonly known as Satan's Cross, because it points downwards to Hell.
And then there's his bent cross - all twisted and mis-shaped.
But actually the bent cross is to remind us that Jesus was crucified on a rough wooden structure. And the formal name for the inverted cross is St. Peter's Cross, named after the first pope, Peter, who was crucified on a cross. At his own humble request, Peter was hung in the opposite orientation of Christ.
I guess that rules out the Satan's Cross theory. But let's look at just one more attempt to prove the pope is the antichrist:
The pope is 'Vicar of the Son of God' and in Latin (the language of the Vatican) this is Vicarius Filli Dei. Now most of us don't know much
Latin, but we recognize from a clock face that 'I' corresponds to '1', 'V' corresponds to '5', and 'X' corresponds to '10'. There are a few other Latin (and Greek and Hebrew) numbers represented by letters: 'L' is 50, 'C' (century) is 100, and 'D' is '500'.
So with that code, we can calculate the value of Vicarius Filli Dei. Ignoring the letters that have no numeric value (a, r, s, F and e) and reading 'u' as 'v', since the Romans didn't have a 'u', we see that Vicarius is 112, Filli is 53, and Dei is 501. Add those three numbers together and we have (ta taaaa!) six hundred and sixty six.
But in addition to the fact that pope John Paul II died, without starting the Tribulation, another spoiler is that Vicarius Filli Dei is not actually the pope's title; just something made up by people who want to support their Catholic-bashing arguments. It would be fun (although pointless) to take names or titles of other famous people and see if their numeric value adds up to 666.
The pope has been the malicious target of Protestants in the past. Fortunately most now occupy their time with more important matters.8
Despite predictions (such as those made by the Jehovah's Witnesses), we have no idea when the world will end and Jesus made it quite clear (Matt. 24:35-36) that the time is unknowable to man. Consequently, looking for any sign is not only a waste of time, but such attempts could be seen as trying to out-smart Jesus.
Not a good idea.
The failed predictions above, and countless others, are ridiculous but not harmless. They are in fact a diversion, a smokescreen, which prevents us from being on the defensive for the real antichrist. The antichrist does not have 666 tattooed on the back of his neck - that's just for the movies.
The antichrist is possessed by an evil spirit, professing to be derived from Christ. He begins as a gentle lamb, but soon reveals himself as a dragon. His goal is to draw people away from worshipping the true God.
So what does 666 mean? God knows.
We don't know. The Nero theory is flawed, the pope theory is old-fashioned prejudice, and the Japanese yen idea is just silly. The number of the beast is given, to show the infinite wisdom of God, and to exercise the wisdom of men.