Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Mark of The Beast Revealed

When it comes to the book of Revelation there are ultimately two camps: Futurists (who believe the book tells us something about future events that have not happened yet) and Preterists (who believe the book told First Century Christians about events that would “soon come to pass” in their lifetime).

I am not a Futurist. As such, I read the book of Revelation as a prophecy about events that have already taken place (from our perspective) and were fulfilled soon after John wrote them during the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Because of my perspective, I do not believe that the “Mark of the Beast” has anything to do with current or future events. So, when friends of mine post links to Facebook about a new computer chip that allows people to store their medical records, or purchase products by placing the chip under a scanner, I do not equate this with the end of the world, the rise of the Anti-Christ, or the Mark of the Beast.

Since people seem to be very interested in this topic, I wanted to at least provide a different perspective to help balance things out a bit.

The Mark of the Beast

When John wrote the epistle of Revelation to the seven churches, he made it very clear – on numerous occasions – that the prophecies contained in his letter were to take place “soon”.

For example: In verse 1, John says: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place....”

In verse 3 he says: “.... and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.”

John uses specific words in the Greek throughout his epistle which mean: “Shortly”, “Without delay”, “Soon”, “In a short time”, “Near”, “About to”, etc.

There can be little doubt, therefore, that the First Century Christians who received and read John’s letter understood at least one thing: They were reading about events that were about to happen very, very soon.

Keeping this in mind, let’s see if we can identify “The Beast” from Revelation. First, since John is writing to First Century Christians about events that were about to happen quickly, then we can be sure that “The Beast” was a contemporary of John.

Secondly, John describes this as either a person (Rev. 13:18), or as several people (Rev. 17:10), or as a government or kingdom (Rev. 17:9).

First Century Christians would have been very familiar with Old Testament references in Daniel to the Four Beasts (Dan. 7:17) which corresponded to Four Kingdoms or Empires. Therefore those readers would have known that John’s references to “The Beast” in his letters pointed to the Empire of their own day – The Roman Empire.

But what about the person who is referred to as “The Beast”?

Since the Apostle John was writing this letter from captivity on the Island of Patmos, he reverted to code which his readers (Jewish Christians) would understand easily but his captors (The Romans) would not. Note also that, as a prisoner of Rome, he wouldn’t want to come right out and write anything negative about the Emperor or the Government that held him captive – for obvious reasons. This is why, when he wants to let Christians know that “The Beast” is the Emperor Nero, he would say:

“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.” (Rev. 13:18)

The Hebrew spelling of “Nero Caesar” was NRWN QSR. Since Hebrew letters doubled as numbers it was a simple thing to take that name and add them together which adds up exactly to 666. [Example: N = 50 R = 200 W = 6 N =50 Q = 100 S = 60 R = 200]

One fascinating variant of this same passage notes that “Some manuscripts read: 616” rather than 666. Why? Because when Revelation was later copied into Latin the name Nero Caesar didn’t add up to 666, it added up to 616. So, to make it easier for those later Latin-speaking (non Hebrew reading) Christians to arrive at the same conclusion the number was changed to 616 in certain translations.

Want more proof? Ok. In Revelation 17:9-10 John tells us:

“Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while.”

You’ve probably heard that the “seven mountains” correspond to the seven hills of Rome. However, did you know that the seven kings also point to Nero as “The Beast”? They do. Because John tells us that: “Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come and when he comes, he must remain a little while.”

According to Josephus, the Roman historian, Julius Caesar was the first king, followed by August, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius. The sixth king? That was Nero. So, he is the “one (who) is”.

The seventh king – the one who followed Nero – was Galba, and as John prophesied, he reigned for a short time (about seven months).

Nero, as the sixth king of Rome, was the first to persecute Christians in the First Century. He started persecuting them in November of 64 AD and ended on June 8, 68 AD when he killed himself. That was 42 months of persecution. Notice what John says about “The Beast”:

“And there was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies; and authority to act for forty-two months was given him." (Rev. 13:5)

Coincidence? I think not. Clearly John is going out of his way to let his readers know that “The Beast” had a name that, in the Hebrew, added up to a number (666) and that he was the sixth, and current king of Rome, and that his persecution would last exactly 42 months. What could be more clear than this?

Extra-Biblical Proof

Nero was also called “The Beast” by contemporary pagan writer Apollinius of Tyana, who said of Nero:

“In my travels…I have seen many wild beasts of Arabia and India; but this beast, that is commonly called a Tyrant, I know not how many heads it has, nor if it be crooked of claw, and armed with horrible fangs.... And of wild beasts you cannot say that they were ever known to eat their own mother, but Nero gorged himself on this diet."

Note that Nero murdered his own parents, and his brother, and his pregnant wife, in addition to several other family members.

We also have evidence from the Romans that Nero enjoyed dressing up as a wild beast and raping male and female prisoners.

Still not convinced? Consider that all of the earliest Church Fathers from Irenaeus in the First Century, all the way through to St. Beatus in the 8th century agreed that “The Beast” was Nero.

Buying and Selling?

Roman citizens were required to publicly claim allegiance to Caesar by burning incense in his honor and proclaiming that “Caesar is Lord”. Those who did this received a document that allowed them to buy and sell in the marketplace. Without it, no one could purchase anything. Therefore, the “Mark of the Beast” – or the document that showed your allegiance to Nero as Lord – was required to buy and sell if you lived during the time when John wrote his epistle to the seven churches.
None of those Christians who read Revelation were confused about what John meant by this. It was already happening to them.

In Conclusion: The Mark of the Beast is not a microchip. It is not a bar code. It is not your credit card. The Beast was Emperor Nero. The Mark of the Beast was “the number of his name” which added up to 666. We're told that The Beast would reign in terror for 42 months and Nero's persecution of the Church lasted exactly 42 months.
Questions? Please let me know in the comments below.

NOTE: This article was written with help from a variety of sources, but most notably from an article on The Preterist Archive and Beyond The End Times.



Ross Rohde said...

Thanks Keith,

I was raised on the pre-tribulation rapture, etc. etc. For a long time now I've not felt particularly comfortable with that view, but had never heard a preterist viewpoint developed clearly and succinctly. That was helpful.


the alternative1 said...

yea that's very interesting stuff--I have never really been a prophesy nut I like to take one day at a time and leave the future in Gods hands.

Anonymous said...

What about the other items in revelation that were not addressed. Opening of the seals, the Great War and earthly disasters that would be the worst the world had ever known or would ever be? 1000 years of peace under Christ's rule and his return?

Keith Giles said...

All great questions! I'll do my best to answer those in upcoming blogs.

Anonymous said...

Have you read 'the time of the end'' ? I have recently read it along with other materials and different interpretations. I would love to hear your thoughts on it, if you were to take the time to read it and write about it.

Keith Giles said...

Who is the author? I've not heard of this book and I'd guess there are hundreds of books out there with the same title. Let me know and I'll check it out. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

The author's. Name is Tim Warner , I found his book a fascinating read.

Randi Jo :) said...

Say wwhhaaaa?!?! I've never heard this before !! So interesting...... couldn't t,he Lord have meant this book to have double meanings ??? One for immediate and one for future?? Didn't He do that elsewhere in bible?? Where we aren't sure how "soon" soon is?? The disciples referred to Him returning soon didn't they?? And it's been a long time... Would love to discuss your beliefs further !

Heidi said...

Thanks for this. It's great to read something on this topic from a different perspective.

Scott Wasinski said...

There are some major Biblical and historical flaws with a preterist view of Revelations. First off, the book was written many years after Nero was dead. It was supposed that Nero would come back...He didn't.

I do believe that scripture should be sought to be understood by the Spirit of Truth, and that should always be tested by other scripture. There is a saying in the world..."Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it." There is another saying in scripture that is similar...

"That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past."

Just as people thought that Antiochus fulfilled the AOD, so we shall see the former things in a much grander theater in these last days of the kingdoms of men.

Keith Giles said...

Scott: The date for the authorship of Revelation is disputed. Many scholars believe (as do I) that it was written before AD 70.

This, along with the details regarding John's use of "soon", "near", etc. and the historical data that connects the Beast with Nero and other details about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the writing of Josephus, etc. make a very strong case for the early date.

Obviously, if you reject the early date (and many do) then you will read this book differently than I do. That's ok. You're entitled to your opinions and perspectives.

But don't so quickly assume that "the book was written many years after Nero was dead" when that fact isn't settled among Biblical scholars.

Unknown said...

For an extensive and thorough treatment of an earlier date for the book of Revelation, see:

No sure if it is available for Kindle, but I have seen PDF's floating around.

Good Job Keith.

I'd advise caution for the reader. There are many variations on Preterism with some equally egregious heresies.

felicitydale said...


Sean Steckbeck said...

I am a historic premillenialist, meaning that I believe in a pre-millenial post-tribulation view, which is historically what the early church fathers believed as well. Mike Bickle calls it "apostolic premillenialism." Anyways, I have serious issues with a preterist view of endtimes exactly because of my work with the Jewish people. Jewish people always make the claim about us Christians and Messianics that we believe in a person who did not fulfill all the messianic requirements of scripture. We always answer that the parts the Jewish people claim Jesus did not fulfill, he will fulfill upon His return. In my view, the Jewish antimissionaries are correct about our errant view of Jesus fulfilling the messianic scriptures if take the preterist view. Its a long explanation if you would be willing to sit down with me and understand.

Dr. Robin Starbuck said...

Very clear and constructive. Thanks

Dr. Robin Starbuck said...

This was very helpful and enlightening!

sarah said...

I don't mean to be annoying but I am a bit confused by this. I have no doubt that Johns prophecy relates to Nero's reign...but I have trouble believing that it doesn't relate to the future as well.

What does it mean for today's Christians if accepting the mark of the beast is not something they even have the opportunity to do?

What does it mean for the rest of Revelation? Do the warnings to the churches only personally relate to those churches and not to us in anyway? Do we need to be concerned with making sure we are not luke warm?

If the early Christians have already gone through the process of either rejecting or receiving "the mark", then does that mean the punishments for accepting the mark and the rewards for rejecting it, are only relevant to the people who lived during the time of Nero's reign?

Are we "let off the hook" as far as punishments for belonging to the "beasts kingdom" go, if we have already missed the opportunity to accept "the mark of the beast" at all?

Keith Giles said...

Sarah: Thanks for your questions. I'll do my best to respond.

If the prophecy is fulfilled in all its specificity by Nero, why would we look for another fulfillment in the future? (Other than because we've been told to look for it?)

Why would Christians be disappointed that they don't have the "opportunity" to accept the Mark of the Beast?

The letters to those Churches from Jesus were specific to those churches by name and circumstance. There's no need to look for ways they correspond to future or current churches, and if so, what time frame? What nation? There are Christians all over the Earth? Why do we always assume that Revelations must adhere to either an American or an Israeli church or people group? There are Christians in Korea, Europe, South America, Africa, etc. What about those churches?

Yes, the reward/punishment for accepting/denying the Mark of the Beast was dealt with by those Christians who lived during the reign of Nero.

Are we let off the hook? Of course not. We, like every generation and individual, must give an account to God on the Day of Judgment for how we lived our lives for Christ - or failed to do so.

Matthew 25 is still future. The return of Christ is still future.

This doesn't mean that other persecutors of the Church will not arise throughout history. It just means if they do arise they are not in fulfillment of direct Biblical prophecy.

All we are waiting for now is the Second Coming of Christ and the Judgement Seat of Christ.

sarah said...

Hi Keith,
Thank you for your response. You answered really well.
It's all such a new idea to me. I've never heard anybody even suggest that the mark of the beast was not a future event before so it's hard for me to grasp, but your explanation makes sense...kind of.
I'm going to have a have a good long read of revelation again.
:) thanks

Anonymous said...

Hey Keith,
I've grown up in a pre-millenialism my whole life never knowing about this view. You give some really good points. But, I have a few questions (I'm only 14 by the way). When John writes soon, could he be referring to God's perspective of soon? Because in 2 Peter 3:8 he's talking about the end times when he says, "But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."
Also when reading Revelation, it doesn't say that the mark of the beast and the tribulation/Jesus' coming are separated, since the mark of the beast will be given to those who worship the beast, which is the anti-christ and the false prophet, who are both coming during the tribulation period, which is right before Jesus' 2nd coming. I may need to read it again, but any answer will be fine :) Thanks

Anonymous said...

In John's vision, the forty-two months beast "was given authority over every tribe, nation, language and race. All people living on earth will worship it, except ..." Nero was merely the Emperor of Rome. Nobody had ever heard of Nero in the Americas, Russia, Australia, Japan, Norway or South Africa, until hundreds of years later.

John was shown a second beast, which was allowed to breath life into the image of the first beast. It was the second beast who introduced a mark necessary for trade.

(I think that preterism is too simplistic. Actually, I think most of us are too simplistic about everything, most of the time, myself included.)

Maiar said...

You had me until.the certificate to buy or sell. I am a student of church history, but since I've never heard of that before, do you have any references for that? I'd love to learn more about it. Thanks.

Maiar said...

To Sarah, regardless of how we interpret revelation, all the letters to the churches apply to us today in that we take the warnings and rewards and instructions seriously for us today even though they were originally addressed to someone else. Just like we interpret Corinthians, for instance. The same with the rest of the book. For instance, many interpret the parts about Babylon to be symbolic about toxic religious systems and that God will destroy them.

Kevin said...

Hey Keith. This was really well done. Thank you! I do have one question that I don't think you touched on with the whole "mark of the beast" thing. What is your take on Revelation 13:16, where John writes, "And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead...?"


Keith Giles said...

Kevin: My understanding is that this is symbolic of how Roman citizens were expected to pledge allegiance to the Roman Caesar as they entered and exited the marketplace. This statement about having the mark on your forehead and on the right hand also corresponds to how those who follow Christ have His mark on their foreheads and on their right hand. Do you and I have such a physical mark? No, and neither is this mark intended to be a literal "mark" that is placed there like a tattoo or a microchip, etc.

angelgirl62 said...

According to Swedenborg from the 1700s. He was a Scientist and famous Noble who later in life had spiritual experiences in and out of heaven and gained a lot of knowledge, he wrote it all down in hundreds of writings, well according to him Revelation has already happened. You can find more on him at "Off the Left Eye" on you tube.