Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

You said in today's post that you will post your answer to the meaning of "666" when somebody asks you. May I please be considered a "somebody" so that you will do so?

I, too, believe in "types and shadows" and do believe that the Bible is to be read both historically and predictively. We are certainly living in some very frightening, scary times, aren't we? The antichrist knows his days are numbered . . . and so do we.

Thanks to Jesus of Nazareth . . . we know!

May you be greatly blessed.

Mary Kay

Dear Mary Kay,

Here is your answer:

The number "666" is the number of the name of the coming Antichrist. Giving a number to a name is called "gematria," which is the Greek practice of adding up the letters in someone's name. In Latin this practice is called "isopsephism." Each letter in the Greek language has a numeral equivalent. Add up the letters and you get the number of the name.

When Julie and I were dating I often wrote the initials, "RB + JT" in my notebook or in the wet cement of a newly poured sidewalk. Of course, the Initials stand for, "Roger Barrier plus Julie Tacker." Young lovers in Greece and Rome used gematria to express their relationships. For example, one inscription on a wall in Pompei reads, "I love the girl whose number is 545.

Of course, it is quite easy to take a name and turn it into a number. It is much harder to take a number and turn it back into a name.

Turning the number into a name is the key to unlocking the name of the Antichrist. Revelation 13:18 is the applicable verse: "This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666." According to John, those who are wise can get an insight into the Antichrist's identity by knowing the number of his name. 

In ancient Greek, Hebrew and Latin letters represented numerals according to their order in the alphabet. For example, in Greek, Alpha is one, Bata is two and so on.

The letters in Greek for “Nero” (Neron) add up to 1005. However, if the Greek letters for Nero Caesar (Neron Kaisar) are transliterated into Hebrew (nrwn qsr), the letter numbers add up to 666 (50 + 200 + 6 + 50 + 100 + 60 + 200 =666).

By the way, the "the number of the beast" was not written as a figure like “666.” Rather, the letters of the alphabet were written out in full.

Many interpreters consider the Roman Emperor Nero to be the “antichrist” of Revelation 13 because the number of his name is 666 and because he inflicted “Antichrist-like” horror upon the first century Christians. Some consider Nero to be a historical Antichrist and we that we are not to expect a future Antichrist. Yet, for the number to have any significance for a first century AD reader, it would have to refer to a contemporary historical figure.