Q. Could you offer a fuller explanation of Revelation 13:18? “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understandiing count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six.” (KJV)
A. This verse has been subject to much speculation and incorrect interpretation because it tells us so little. It says that the anti-Christ’s number is the number of a man, and that his number is 600 and 60 and 6, which may be different from 666. We don’t know.
What we do know is that both Biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek) gave numerical values to the letters of their alphabets to compensate for their lack of a direct numbering system. The Romans used Roman Numerals, assigning numerical values to a few letters, and today much of the world uses Hindu-Arabic Numerals, value specific symbols originally developed in the 2nd century BC but not widely used until several hundred years later.
If (and it’s a big if) the numbers six hundred, sixty, and six, are supposed to signify a name, then the numerical value of the anti-Christ’s name would probably have to equal that amount in its Greek form, Greek being the language of the Revelation.
I don’t think it makes sense to devise a numerical equivalent for the letters of the English alphabet to figure this out because, outside of certain pagan religious practices, there’s no accepted valuing system for doing so. We’ve always used Arabic numerals and so haven’t assigned numerical equivalents to the letters in our alphabet like the Hebrews, Greeks and Romans did.
Some think that the number might apply to something other than his name, his birthday for instance, or a title of some sort. It could also be a registration number, like the American Social Security number, or any one of the other numbers by which we’re known in various aspects of our lives.
The big qualifier for the verse is the phrase “let him who has understanding.” To me that disqualifies most of us from even guessing. It seems that a person would have to have an understanding of the practice of gematria, the calculation of the numerical equivalence of letters, words, or phrases, to come up with the answer.
Daniel 12:4 tells us that in the latter days knowledge will increase. That means that pretty soon someone will crack this code. Personally, I think its unlikely that this will happen before the church disappears.