What does 666 mean?
It is a symbol typical of first century Jewish apocalyptic riddles usually known to the audience being written to; John’s readers knew who he was talking about. It perhaps referred to Nero, and thus was a warning about making loyalty-oaths to Caesar. It was not a secret code to the hearers, only to those outside of the Church such as Roman officials.
This was also a common way to express or warn about godlessness or those opposing Christ (could be attributed to a specific person such as Nero, or to any person in opposition to right and God) while avoiding unnecessary reprisals. Some commentators have said this is “the trinity of evil”, referring to the number of the antichrist who seeks to combat God and His people. This is called in the Greek a “triangular number;” it is used as a parody or a word play in the first century, referring to someone or something else.
It was also a cryptic code word that referred to Nero, using the Hebrew translation of the Greek numerical values. This type of code is called “gamatria” where each of the letters in the Greek or Hebrew has an equivalent numerical value, such as alpha stands for one. This was not secret but common Jewish thinking; Jesus, in the Greek (IhsouV), has a numerical correspondent to 888. Some early Christian thinkers, such as Irenaeus, have attributed this to Euanthas or Lateinos or Teitan; Martin Luther thought it might refer to a Pope Benedict, and to other various evil Popes.
In addition, 666, as a number, is diametrically opposed to the perfection of the number seven which means fullness and completeness. Thus, the theory of the numerical value is that a future antichrist may have a name equal in numerical value to 666 when it is written in Greek. “Nero Caesar” is 666 in the Greek when transliterated from the Hebrew (Matt. 24:15, 36-51).
There is no reason or call to seek to decode this; it is not about the world’s population hitting 6,666,666,666 that may have happened in Nov 2006, or some mathematicians’ theory or whatever the theory of the day is. The plain meaning, is far more important to us than what speculators have come up with…
Which is? That we are to be watchful to those who oppose Christ and make sure we are not opposing Christ in thought, word, or deed, taking oaths, or making promises that counter Christ’s principals!