Here is wisdom. Let him that has understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man…
The opening words of this verse, "Here is wisdom," seem almost ironical in the light of the subsequent treatment that the verse has received, for it has been chosen as one of the favourite spots where sober understanding shall be forgotten. The people that have been busiest in reckoning up the number of the beast have, far from revealing the wisdom of which the passage speaks, only served to show us how foolish and fantastic even some good and earnest men can be. The name of anything, when used in the ideal and symbolic way in which it is used in this passage, is used to denote its real and essential being, The ideal function of a name is to express accurately and completely what the thing is. In actual life names are very far from doing this, but symbolic pictures deal with the ideal, and not the actual. So the name of the beast denotes its true nature, its living collection of qualities. The number of the name gives mystic indication of the fate that lies hidden in and for such a character. It is the destiny of the life written in the name. Therefore, while it is called "the number of the name of the beast" in one verse, it is simply called "the number of the beast" in another. It is not an external label, an arithmetical puzzle, but is vitally related to the life and character of the beast. Now, I don't think there can be the slightest doubt that the "beast" is a general expression for the kingdom of evil. The aptness of the term needs no exposition. Ferocity and baseness and all else that is included in brute-force serve well to symbolise the fierce and lawless power of evil.
I. THE KINGDOM OF EVIL, THOUGH APPARENTLY STRONG, IS ESSENTIALLY WEAK, This is the first truth symbolised by the number 666. It is eternally incapable of becoming 777, and therefore eternally incapable of imperilling the supremacy of God.
II. THE HEIGHT OF ITS POWER IS THE CERTAIN HOUR OF ITS DOWNFALL. How vividly the symbols point out this! 666 almost the summit of attainment; but when it seems almost on the point of scaling the heavens and seizing the throne, out flash the fierce lightnings from the heart of regnant truth and purity, and the black mass is scattered to the earth crushed and impotent. It is the curse of evil that it cannot stop, that it must go on trying to swell itself out into the dimensions of God, and because it has eternal incapacity for reaching such a magnitude, it necessarily follows that after it has swollen to a certain point, like the frog in the fable, it bursts and collapses. Just like a bubble, the more it swells the nearer it is to destruction. The larger its dimensions, the less power it has to hold itself together. The most effectual way of crushing a weak and ambitious man is to load him with power and responsibility, for the weak spirit will not be able to sustain the burden, and will fall under it. Then his inherent weakness will be made manifest, and the number of his name be revealed. So beastism, or the kingdom of evil, can go so far and no further. It is fatally flawed by the fact that its own power is its own destruction.
(John Thomas, M. A.).
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.