The Significance And Symbolism Of Numbers
In The Book Of The Revelation
What the significance of numbers in Revelation is a matter of interpretation, but that the numbers have significance is not in dispute. Revelation says “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” According to The Complete Biblical Library, one of the purposes of prophecy “is to bear witness to Jesus, to exalt Him and to reveal His redemptive work.” (Revelation, pg. 295). Studying the amazing detail in numbers and symbolism in the book of Revelation is a testimony to how marvelous Jesus is and how powerful prophetic books like the Revelation is.
It is incorrect to call the study of numbers in the Bible “numerology.” Such a name conjures up practices in the occult which are inconsistent with the Bible. However, to ignore or fail to study the repeated use of numbers, especially three, six, seven, and twelve, and multiples of those, would be a disservice to the Scriptures and an incomplete study of the book. This study is by no means exhaustive, but it will delve into the most significant elements of numbers and their symbolisms. The practical relevance of the study is to affirm the divinity and wonder of the Scriptures, to alert us to the corresponding significance (for instance, upon seeing a theme of the number three, we should look for the holiness or heavenly significance of the passage), and to help in interpreting the objects corresponding to the numbers.
Perhaps the most discussed number in the book of Revelation comes from Rev. 13:18: “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.” The speculation that this number refers to Nero Caesar is a forced and false interpretation, since Nero had been dead for nearly 30 years by the writing of Revelation and also because the number is only arrived if you spell Nero as “Neron Kaisar”. More recent false designations have been Ronald Wilson Reagan (six letters in each name), Henry Kissinger, Hitler, Mussolini, the Pope, you name it.
The most repeated number in Revelation is seven and its multiples and divided in half, it is 3 ½ or sometimes seen as 42 months or 1260 days (a Jewish month is exactly 30 days). The number seven is used 31 times in the Greek, and represents a holy completion by God. With the Tribulation period existing for seven years in length, it is the final pouring out of wrath from God upon the earth, but it is also the time when an almost innumerable amount of persons will possibly come to Christ from every part of the earth.
Of all the significant words used in the book of Revelation, the singular and plural form of “angel” is one of the most recurring. From the Greek word aggelos, the word literally means messenger. It is likely that the angels of the seven churches are in fact the pastors, or messengers of the church, since the Lord Jesus would not need to communicate with them via a letter from John. The following study will show that the word angel is used exactly 72 times in the Greek, a holy number signifying three times 24, or the number of representatives from the Old Testament tribes of
and New Testament Apostles.
When the angels are not grouped together, there are exactly:
7 angels who stand alone
3 groups of angels which are in threes (the number of heaven and holiness)
2 groups of angels grouped in fours (the number of the earth)
3 groups of angels which are in sevens (including the seven “angels” of the churches)
7 groups of numerous angels which are only mentioned once in Revelation.
If this seems confusing, realize that this is merely one study of numbers as it relates to one group: angels. Volumes could be written on other divine numberings within the book of Revelation.
At the end of this study, we will see that Revelation also contains three signs in heaven, three voices from the throne in heaven, seven voices from heaven, and exactly 21 “great” (Greek: mega) voices from heaven (21 is the heavenly number of 3 times the completed by God number of 7).
We would be wise to listen to what the voices say…
Generally accepted applications of significant numbers are as follows: