Numerology, Revelation

Numerology in The Revelation

number 12
Billy Frank Alexander http://www.rgbstock.com/user/ba1969

Principles in Interpreting Numerology

In a recent post, entitled Responding to The 8 Great Debates of Bible Prophecy, I pointed out the following principles that determine when to use allegorical interpretation of numbers in a text.

Allegorical interpretation should be considered if –

  • the literature is apocalyptic (a genre that uses symbolic and allegorical language)
  • there is clear use of numerology
  • numerology is used at the outset
  • numbers associated with Biblical numerology are used
  • numbers associated with Biblical numerology are used throughout
  • only numbers associated with Biblical numerology are used throughout
  • credible Biblical meaning is consistently the outcome of interpretation
  • multiple cases make chance meaning an impossible explanation

Establishing the use of numerology in The Revelation is clearly not difficult and, for the most part, neither is discovering the meaning being communicated by the numbers. And, why would it be if The Revelation was intended for our encouragement?

Finding the Meaning

The exact meaning behind the numerology in The Revelation might not always be as clear to our generation as it once was to the generation to whom it was first given. Nevertheless, enough is understood to get the essential meaning for a panoramic understanding of The Revelation. Just as with a puzzle, begin with what is clear and this will help with what is less clear or unclear.

In many cases the text in explains itself and very often the text alludes to previous Biblical accounts. These allusions are not the interpretation of the text, but are the allegorical context. In other cases, the text refers to what literally existed at the time of writing. Even here, the literal meaning is temporary and gets superseded by the allegorical meaning. For example, the literal existence of the 7 churches is trumped by what they get to represent allegorically, i.e. all the church.

The numbers used in The Revelation hold to each of these principles. These principles, in turn, become the proofs that symbolic meaning was given to the numbers. Where interpreters have changed measurements to modern equivalents in certain versions, e.g. 12000 stadia to 1500 miles, clear use of numerology is missed and the meaning is lost.

Numbers used in The Revelation

Number Example from The Revelation Meanings and possible meanings
2 And I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth (11:3-4) 2 = Double witness

Context

·         Witnesses = Lampstands = Olive Trees

·         Lampstands = Churches

Allusions

·         Olive Trees = Zerubbabel the governer and Joshua the high priest (Zech 4)

·         Elijah and Moses at the transfiguration

·         Jesus sent disciples out in 2’s

·         2 Churches = Old & New Testament churches

·         2 Churches = Smyrna & Philadelphia as ideal churches

·         Olive Trees = Kingly & Priestly authority

·         Two witnesses required to establish truth

·         God’s house on foundation of the apostles and prophets

two witnesses with authority to prophesy depicts “those who worship in the temple” (11:1), i.e. God’s people of both Old and New Testament eras

3 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates (Rev 21:13) 3 = Number of God; perfection; holiness

Sometimes used to mimic the trinity e.g. in the number 666

Allusions

·         the Trinity

three depicts that only God’s people may enter

3 ½ For three and a half days members of the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb (Rev 11:9) 31/2 = incompleteness

Half of 7

7 = completeness

three and a half days indicates that time is not completed, it is not the end

4 the four living creatures…sing, “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Rev 4:8) 4 = creation

Allusions

·         4 corners of the earth

Fullness of the heavens and the earth; Creation

four living creatures represent all of creation

6 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings (Rev 4:80) 6 = man; day all creation was completed

Allusions

·         Day man was made

·         Day all of creation was completed

six wings depicts redeemed creation’s (6) heavenly (wings) status

7  John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne (Rev 1:4) 7 = Qualitative fullness; completeness; totality

7 = 3 + 4

God + creation = perfection, “very good”, completeness

7 = God’s number in relation to creation

Sometimes used to signify mimicking of God’s perfection/completeness e.g. the 7 heads of the beast

Allusions

·         Days of creation, days of the week, day God rested, Sabbath rest

seven churches represent the complete church

10 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom (Rev 17:12) 10 = quantitative fullness

Allusions

·         10 fingers (counting)

ten horns are the full number of kings not yet revealed

12 A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars (Rev 12:1) 12 = 3 x 4

God’s people in the earth

Allusions

·         12 patriarchs

·         12 apostles

twelve depicts God’s covenant community

24 Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes (Rev 4:4) 12 + 12 = 24

Leaders of old and new covenant church

Allusions

·         12 sons of Jacob + 12 apostles

twenty-four thrones…elders; reign given to church in the Old and New testament eras

twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders represent all of God’s people of Old and New, reigning in life (Rom 5:17) and are seated in heavenly places (Eph 2:6).

42 …they will trample over the holy city for forty-two months (Rev 11:2) 42 = 6 x 7

42 = men allowed activity in ordained time

42 months = 1260 days = 3 ½ lunar years

Half of 7 = 31/2 = incompleteness

forty-two months depicts period men are allowed, but it’s not the end or not complete

144 He also measured its wall, one hundred forty-four cubits (Rev 21:17) 144 = 12 x 12

one hundred forty-four cubits depicts complete number of God’s covenant community

666 This calls for wisdom: let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. Its number is six hundred sixty-six (Rev 13:18) 6 = man

3 = God

666 = Man setting himself up as God

666 = number of the beast…is the number of a person  (variant 616)

666 = Neron Kaesar (Greek)

616 = Nero Kaesar (Latin)

six hundred sixty-six depicts Nero’s reincarnation in imminent leader(Domitian) possibly later reincarnations (several world leaders and popes)

1,000 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years (Rev 20:2). 1,000 = 10 x 10 x 10

10 = quantitative fullness

3 = God

thousand years, is therefore, 10 x 10 x 10 or 103, depicting the fullness of time that God has determined

1,260 And I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy for one thousand two hundred sixty days, wearing sackcloth (Rev 11:3). 1260 days = 3 ½ lunar years = 42 months = time, times and half a time

30 x 42

1260 = 3 x 6 x 7 x 10

God ordained time for human activity with qualitative and quantitative fullness

1260 = 10 (complete) x 3 (God) x 6 (human) x 7 (complete)

one thousand two hundred sixty days depicts complete (10) God (3) ordained activity (prophesy) given to witnesses (6) in God ordained time (7)

1,600 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for one thousand six hundred stadia (Rev 14:20) 1,600 = 4 x 4 x 10 x 10

4 = creation

10 = quantitative fullness

Possibilities

4 x 4 = creation in eras of both testaments

4 x 4 = antediluvian creation and postdiluvian creation

10 x 10 = paying the double for sin

one thousand six hundred stadia depicts creation paying completely the double for sin

7,000 seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake (Rev 11:13). 7,000 = 7 x 10 x 10 x10

 

seven thousand people depicts God ordained number killed

10,000 (Myriad) I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands (Rev 5:11) 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 = 10,000 = myriad

Highest number with own name

Multitudes

 

 

10,000 (Myriad) depicts multitude of angels

12,000 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width; and he measured the city with his rod, twelve thousand stadia (Rev 21:16) 12 x 10 x 10 x 10 = 12,000

length x width = Quantitative fullness of God’s people

12,000 (length) x 12,000 (width) = 144,000

see 11:1 – “count the number of worshipers”

twelve thousand stadia depicts one side in measuring fullness of God’s people

144,000 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel (Rev 7:4) 12 x 12 x 10 x 10 x 10 = 144, 000

12 = covenant people

10 = quantitative fullness

3 = God

2 = both Old and New Testament eras

one hundred forty-four thousand, 10 x 10 x 10 (or 103) x 12 x 12 (or 122) depicts the fullness (10) of God’s (3) people of both (2) the Old (12) and New (12) Covenant eras

2 x 10,0002 And the number of the army of the horsemen were twice ten thousand ten thousands (Rev 9:16) 2 x 10,0002

2 = both eras

2 = men and angels

not literal 200,000,000

Allusion:

Psalm 68:17

twice ten thousand ten thousands depicts God’s army

1/10 Terrible earthquake destroys a tenth of the city (Rev 11:13) 10 = quantitative fullness

1/10 = 1 part of quantitative fullness

Allusions

·         10 fingers (counting)

10/10 is complete destruction

a tenth (1/10) depicts very limited destruction

1/4 I looked and there was a pale green horse! Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth (Rev 6:8) 4 = Creation

1/4 = 1 part of creation

Allusions

·         directions

 

 

 

 

a fourth depicts significant judgment of 1 part of a possible 4

1/3 a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up (8:7) 3 = God’s fullness

1/3 = 1 part of God’s amount

Allusions

·         Trinity

a third  depicts significant judgment of 1 part of a possible 3

1/2 there was silence in heaven for about half an hour (8:1-3) 2 = double witness (sufficient or full witness)

1 part of 2 = 1 part of a full witness

half depicts the silence is not the final silence/end

 Objections

As you can imagine, those who hold to a literal view of The Revelation would have a myriad of objections to numerology being used throughout the book and far too many to handle here. Nevertheless, by way of example, I will address a question put forward by someone defending a literal view of the numbers in The Revelation. He asked, “Why should we not understand that an army of 200,000,000 is actually composed of that number?”

Firstly, consistency in interpretation of the numbers in The Revelation is in favor of an allegorical approach, because every number in The Revelation can be allegorically understood and explained. In contrast to this, those who hold to a literal view are forced to concede that several numbers are symbolic. In fact, this same author admits that 16 numbers in The Revelation are symbolic. This inconsistency is hugely problematic for credible interpretation.

Secondly, this is a strange question from a futurist, who sees this as prophecy still to be fulfilled, because the days of armies comprising horses are long gone.

The description, twice ten thousand ten thousands is where we will find the meaning, not in a literal 200,000,000.

The Cart is Before the Horse

It appears that the literal interpretation of numbers in The Revelation is what gets defended or promoted in order to protect inter-connected beliefs that have been established by that approach. Sadly, this is done in the face of admitted inconsistency and bizarre outcomes.

Rob Morley

6 thoughts on “Numerology in The Revelation”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s