Revelation 13:11–18 (NKJV)
After the description of the beast from the sea, John then observes another beast coming from the earth.
11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. 12 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth—by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. 15 He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. 16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, 17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.Revelation 13:11-17
This second beast is a partner of the first beast. He is the religious spokesperson of the first beast, the antichrist, exercising authority in his name. He appears like a lamb with two horns, but speaks like a dragon. This is the false prophet, who will lead many to worship the beast and take his mark. His sorcery and magic cause multitudes to follow his commands. He even calls down fire from heaven, reminiscent of Elijah’s encounter with the prophets of Baal. He was granted the ability to deceive, erecting an image of the beast, even causing it to speak as if it had come alive. All along the way, he reminds them that the first beast had been wounded in his head with a sword, and lived, giving him even more awe in the eyes of the people. Those who would not worship the beast would be killed, like those who refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image in Daniel. The final, ominous requirement of the false prophet was that every person, old and young, male and female, rich and poor, free and slave, would receive a mark on their right hand or their foreheads, or they would not be allowed to buy or sell. This mark would be either his name or the number of his name.
18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.Revelation 13:18
This mark, that has been associated with evil and the curse of the tribulation for years, as long as people have had the book of revelation readily available. Here, John refers to wisdom or knowledge that points to the number of the beast’s name. Each letter of the Hebrew or Greek alphabet is assigned a number. The sum of the numbers of the beast’s name add up to 666 according to this mathematical representation called “gematria.” While several possible names add up to 666, one of the more well-known theories says that the name “Nero Caesar,’ translated into Hebrew, has a value of 666.
A more complex solution has been proposed by Stauffer (“666,” 237–41), who argues that the Greek name of Domitian, ΔΟΜΙΤΙΑΝΟΣ (= 755), complete with his official titles, was ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤΩΡ ΚΑΙΣΑΡ ΔΟΜΕΤΙΑΝΟΣ ΣΕΒΑΣΤΟΣ ΓΕΡΜΑΝΙΚΟΣ, occasionally found abbreviated on coins as Α ΚΑΙ ΔΟΜΕΤ ΣΕΒ ΓΕ (= 666):
Αυτοκρατωρ = 1
ΚΑΙσαρ = 20 + 1 + 10
ΔΟΜΕΤιανος = 4 + 70 + 40 + 5 + 300
ΣΕΒαστος = 200 + 5 + 2
ΓΕρμανικος = 3 + 5
Excursus 13C 666 and GematriaDavid E. Aune, Revelation 6–16, vol. 52B, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 771.
Either way, both of those ancient rulers are now deceased. However, it may be that a ruler similar to them, or else another ruler whose name adds up to 666 using gematria, may be the actual beast or antichrist to which this passage refers here. The most important things about this story, though, is the requirement to receive the mark of the beast in order to to business. Otherwise, those who refuse to worship the image and take the mark will be killed. This is the plight of those who recognize the evil ruler for who he is and then refuse to worship him. I do not wish to be alive during this time, but everyone does need to know the truth and the situation in case they are not raptured at the beginning of the tribulation. The antichrist will be charismatic and moving. One cannot be duped by his actions and words. Although it will require one’s death, this stand will be necessary to live through the Great Tribulation.