Second Earth Beast
Next Previous Index Tellout Home

53. Second Earth Beast
Revelation 13.11-18

"Then I saw a second earth beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. It exercised all the first beast's authority on his behalf and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And it performed great signs, even causing a fire to come down from heaven to the earth in the people's full view. Because of the signs, it was given the power to perform on behalf of the first beast. It deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in the beast's honor who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. The second beast received the power to give breath to the first beast's image so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or their forehead so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. This concept calls for wisdom. Let the person with insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is a man's number. That number is 666." (Revelation 13.11-18)✞

Perform Great Signs

Caesar Worship StatueThis passage from Revelation 13 deals with the power of "a second earth beast." Generally, the second beast means the organization set up to enforce Caesar worship throughout the Empire. This particular earth beast performs great signs and wonders, such as fire from heaven, and the image of the second beast speaks. We need to understand this, knowing that in every city, town, and village in the Roman Empire, the official act of burning incense and worship occurs at the emperor's statues.

Caesar Worship Statue

Emperor Domitian Bust"The second beast performed great signs." In all ancient religions, the priests know how to produce illusionary signs, tricks, and wonders, and they know how to create the effect of a speaking image by throwing their voice. Pharaoh had his magicians in Moses' time, and the imperial priesthood had its experts in conjuring tricks and ventriloquism. This earth beast from the land has "two horns like a lamb." which is a kind of grim parody of the Lamb of God. It also speaks "like a dragon" or "like the serpent."

Emperor Image Worship

Garden of Eden PictureEmperor image worship is employed to test a citizen's loyalty to the emperor as a god. The emperor punishes Christians who refuse. "An image in honor of the beast" probably refers to the serpent who seduces Eve in the Garden of Eden. The imperial priesthood can easily use this seductive appeal to induce emperor image worship, such as, "Look what Rome has done for you. Look at the peace and the prosperity you enjoy. Have you ever known a greater benefactor than the emperor? Surely in simple gratitude, you can give him this formal and simple act of worship?" There are always excellent arguments why we should compromise with the world and worship other gods, but the fact remains that, when we do, we betray Christ once again.

Second Earth Beast

Bust of CaligulaThe "second earth beast" is given power so that those who do not offer worship are killed or imprisoned. That is the Law. If a Christian refuses to burn incense to Caesar's image, he or she is liable to death. If a Christian does not obey and does not have the beast's mark, he can not buy or sell in the marketplace or engage in any business in the community. That is to say that refusing to perform emperor worship would economically ruin a person even if the Romans spared their life. The world knows how to bring pressure to bear on those who will not accept its standards. A person may have to choose between material success and loyalty to Jesus Christ.

Beast Tattoo Mark

Jewish PhylacteriesThe authorities branded the person who worshipped the beast with the beast tattoo mark on the forehead or the right hand. The King James Version interestingly translates Revelation 13.15-18 as "And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." Note here that "the mark" is to be received "in" their right hand or "in" their forehead." Modern science has developed and can insert a small computer chip in an animal or person's body in the frontal brain area to cause a mood change or as a locator chip. Dogs and cats are routinely given a computer chip under the loose skin in their neck to identify them to their owner and locate them if lost. Revelation 13.15-17 tells us that in ancient Rome, everyone who worships Caesar's image has the beast tattoo mark inscribed in them "in their right hand or forehead."


A tattoo is a form of bodily decoration that comes in a wide variety of patterns and colors. The word "tattoo" comes from an 18th-century word "tattow" and the Polynesian "tatau." Formerly, it is known as painting, scarring, or staining. It is prohibited in the Levitical commandments, "You must not cut off the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. You must not make any cuts in your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD." Joseph Banks (1743-1820), the naturalist aboard Captain Cook's ship the HMS Endeavour, describes "tattowing" in the South Sea Islands. In his journal, he writes, "I shall now mention the way they mark themselves indelibly; each of them by their humor or disposition." It seems that in the South Sea Islands, warriors and their wives chose to express their individuality by the tattoo marks given to them between the ages of twelve and fourteen. It is a rite of passage and an ancient custom. The mummified arms of a Scythian chieftain found in Siberian have tattoos 2,500 years old.

The Phylactery

In Exodus 13.8-9, Jews are told, "On that day tell your son, 'I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.' This observance will be like a hand sign and a forehead reminder that this Lord's law is on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand." This sign is not a tattoo but a phylactery, a leather prayer box containing Hebrew texts on a strap worn during weekday morning prayers. In Deuteronomy 6.8-9, we read of the phylactery as a reminder to respect the law, "Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the house' door frames and your gates." Accordingly, a religious Jew wears a phylactery, or a small leather box containing Jewish law's written portions, also called a "tefillin" strapped to his left arm and forehead. These little leather boxes contain parchment biblical verses from the law and indicate the relationship between the owner and his god. Therefore, the beast tattoo mark on the right hand or the forehead is a grim parody of a sacred Jewish custom.✞

Slave Mark

TattooIn Revelation 13.16, the word for "the beast mark" is "charagma," which means a "stamp or an imprinted mark." Every purchase or sale contract carries a "charagma" or imprinted mark or seal in the Roman Empire. The emperor has a seal stamped in the clay of pottery oil or wine jars before firing. The source of that item is then known. The seal bears the identity of the emperor and a date. Every jar of wine, for example, is marked in this way. The word is used seven times in Revelation and once in Acts. Sometimes domestic slaves are branded with the mark of their owner. But usually, they are branded if they have run away or been guilty of some serious misdemeanor. The British Army tattooed the capital letter "D" on deserters. Concentration camps like Auschwitz branded their occupants with an identifying number on their forearms. Such a mark is also called a "stigma," a word which we still use in the English language to mean "a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person." "The mark of Cain" is mentioned in Genesis 4.15, which reads, "But the Lord said to him, 'anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.' Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him." Cain is cursed and marked for life, possibly with a tattoo on his forehead for killing his brother Abel. If the tattoo in Revelation connects with this, it means that those who worship the beast are the beast's property, marked out by his ownership tattoo.✞

Constantine Soldier

Charagma on Constantine ShieldThe beast number "666" is the mark placed on the forehead or forearm of a fourth-century Constantine soldier who worships the emperor's image. If the number "666" connects with the beast, it means that those who worship the beast from the sea are his devoted followers. This assigning of a numerical value to a word or phrase is technically known as "gematria" from the Greek word meaning "geometry." The "Beast Number 666" is "humanity's number," according to Revelation 13. In this passage, the beast tattoos or brands his adherents with the number "666." Human branding, called "stigmatizing," was widely practiced in the Roman Empire during the Early Church. A bone or metal point inscribes a mark, symbol, or ornamental pattern with ink into a person's skin, and the resulting scar makes it permanent. Livestock branding is a similar technique used today on animals such as beef cattle. Human branding is performed with the person's consent or as a mark of either punishment or enslavement. Another use is to mark the rite of passage of a person in a group with a tattoo. Owners often brand their slaves. In the Roman era, "FGV" for "fugitivus" marks a runaway slave meaning "he or she is a fugitive." Sometimes soldiers brand themselves with the name of their general if they are particularly devoted to him. To some extent, this branding corresponds to our modern custom of tattooing upon one's person the name of someone, especially dear like a husband, a girlfriend, a wife, or mother, or the badge of a regiment in which one serves.

Contract Seal

Six Sixty Six"Charagma" or the "mark on his forehead" appears nine times in the New Testament and can be found in other parts of Revelation, particularly Revelation 14.9. The distinctive mark "666" means that those who worship the beast accept his authority and are under his control and ownership. Jesus asks his disciples in Matthew 22.21, whose head is on the coin that he holds. Jesus says, "So give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God, what is God's." All coinage bears the emperor's stamped head and inscription, showing that it is the emperor's property in the final analysis. Today, this custom comes down to us in our coinage with Queen Elizabeth 2nd's head on British or Canadian currency and the President's head on American coins and banknotes. Technically, all our currency belongs to the person marked on it.

Certificate of Worship

Coin with Emperor's HeadThe "beast number 666" may also mean that those who bear it are the beast's property. When a person burns his pinch of incense before Caesar in the town square, he receives a certificate to say they have done so. The "the beast number 666" may refer to the declaration of worship, which a Christian could only obtain at the cost of denying his or her faith. This certificate is necessary to do business in a town. Without it, that person will receive no work and become destitute.

Revelation Beast Number

A GoatThe Revelation beast number 666 in the Early Church is the source of much speculation about its meaning. The number of the beast, 666, has been discussed probably more than any other part of the Bible. John of Patmos here challenges his readers to try to understand the meaning of this number. He says, "This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number." John then gives a clue to his readers, "it is the number of a man."

Complete Imperfection

dice number sixWhat does the number 666 mean? If the number seven is the perfect number in the Bible, and if three sevens, 777, represented complete perfection, then 666 falls completely short of this standard and indicates absolute imperfection or evil in a person or thing, all that is imperfect.

Letters Numerical Values

Emperor NeroEach of the letters of the alphabet in Hebrew and Greek has a numerical value. Many possible combinations of letters produce Revelation number 666, and this infamous number suggests many candidates. Some have proposed Emperor Nero, the great persecutor of the Early Church, others Communism, and even Napoleon or Adolph Hitler.

Emperor Nero's Number

Nero Letters = 666Using the number 666 or 616 to describe the beast in Revelation is probably a disguised reference to 'NERO KESAR' or Emperor Nero's name. "The number of a man." may be translated as "humanity's number." John of Patmos uses numbers to identify a person, in this case, Nero, without the Roman authorities knowing. One of the most plausible answers to the question of the meaning of the number 666 may be under our noses as a reference to "Emperor Nero." In the Nineteenth Century, James Austin Bastow (1810-1894), a Primitive Methodist Minister in Lancashire England, identified the number as having a symbolic correlation to Emperor Nero. The first readers of Revelation probably thought that "666" was an oblique reference to Emperor Nero because of the great persecution he initiated upon the Christian Faith. At the very least, "666" is the "number of imperfection," in contrast to "777," the number of perfection and completeness. "Nero" symbolizes all the evils of the Roman Empire. The Greek name "Nero" transliterated into Hebrew letters reads, "N-R-O-N Q-S-R," which has the numeric value of "50+200+6+50+100+60+200," adding up to "666"!✞

616 or 666?

A few early manuscripts have the number "616" in place of "666." "616" strangely also further points to Emperor Nero. The Greek form of Nero's name adds up to "666," and the Latin form adds up amazingly to "616." "Papyrus 115," which is the oldest preserved manuscript of the Book of Revelation from c317 AD as well as "Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus," gives the number of the beast as "616" not "666." Another very early manuscript has "616" written out in full as "six hundred and sixteen!" It is interesting to note that "888" is the Greek number for "Jesus" by the same calculation and that "777" is commonly accepted as the number for "completeness!" Whatever the specific application of "666" or "616", whether to Adolf Hitler or the "world's unified governments" or "Emperor Nero," it symbolizes worldwide dominion and the full evil of an unholy force designed to undo Christ's work and overthrow his followers by deceit.

"Second Earth Beast"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

^Top Page Next Previous