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Here is wisdom. 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 threescore and six.

New Defender's Study Bible Notes

13:18 understanding. This information is evidently intended for people living before the beast is openly identified by his seven-year covenant with Israel. Thus, he will probably have become an important and influential political leader even before the rapture of the church, and Christians—as well as others—need to be warned not to be deceived by his charismatic personality.

13:18 number of a man. The beast appears to be a man, not a church or other kind of body; he has a name, and that name has a number (Revelation 13:17). In fact, every word in the Greek language (in which John wrote the book of Revelation) has a number, since every letter corresponds also to a number. That is, “alpha” (a) also signifies “1,” “beta” (b) signifies “2,” etc. To “count” the number of a word, one would simply total the numbers of its individual letters. Even though other languages don’t follow this system, the New Testament Greek language did, and it should normally be easy enough to transliterate any certain name into its Greek equivalent, and then to add the corresponding numbers (i.e., “Al” in English would become al, or “alpha lambda” in Greek equivalence, with a number value of 31). Although about one in every ten thousand names would add to 666, if any potential world leader’s name has this value, one should be extremely cautious about believing or following him.

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