Posts Tagged ‘interpretation’

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 Even here, the literal meaning is temporary and gets superseded by the allegorical meaning.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 (11:3) 2 = Double witness


·         Witnesses = Lampstands = Olive Trees

·         Lampstands = Churches


·         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 authority to prophesy depicts “those who worship in the temple” (11:1), i.e. God’s people

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


·         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


·         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


·         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


·         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


·         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


·         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


·         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


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




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

one hundred forty-four thousand, 10 x 10 x 10 (or 103) x 12 x 12 depicts the fullness (10) of God’s (3) people of 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


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


·         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


·         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


·         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


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


Bible TextFor an example of how we can easily misinterpret, and, in turn, misuse scripture, let’s look at the quote from Joel 2:28 – 29 found in Acts chapter 2.

28 “And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” (NIV)

When you read this passage, do you organize the verses into boxes and build formulas? If so, then this is how it would be interpreted:

[Only] sons and daughters will prophesy, [only] old men will dream dreams, and [only] young men will see visions.


Sons and daughters will [only] prophesy, old men will [only] dream dreams, and young men will [only] see visions.


[Only] sons and daughters will [only] prophesy, [only] old men will [only] dream dreams, and [only] young men will [only] see visions.

Knowing how Christians enjoy their formulas, we could easily create three denominations from these. But, are any of the above how God intended us to understand this passage? Or, did this passage simply include examples, written in a poetic way to say what the introduction in verse 28 and the conclusion in verse 29 were saying; in a nutshell, that He will pour His Spirit out on everyone and that everyone will be able to do these things regardless of age or gender.

If you’re interested, I have a related post entitled Interpreting Scripture Correctly on our blog, Real Church Life.


(Go here for Fanciful Interpretation of the Beasts in Daniel Refuted– part 1.)

This is the misleading interpretation as I received it:

There are now FIVE PARTIES forcing Israel out of its Promised Land...

These are the VERY SAME BEASTS that the Prophet Daniel saw:

LION – Britain
EAGLE WINGS – United States
BEAR – Russia
LEOPARD – European Union
(Principally, 4-head German “Leopard” with “wings of a fowl,” French Rooster)
DREADFUL BEAST – World Government – U.N.

In this post I continue to consider this bizarre interpretation in the light of the book of Daniel and elsewhere in God’s word.

The  article’s interpretation of Daniel 7 is not only shown to be wrong in my first post, Fanciful Interpretation of the Beasts in Daniel Refuted– part 1, but appearing to be the agenda of God it is A DISTRACTION TO CHRISTIANS FROM GOD’S WILL.

When handling a similar issue where His disciples asked, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”(Acts 1:6), Jesus said “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8).

Commenting further on what the prophecy in Daniel 7 said:

It reads, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

Later, the prophecy goes on to say, “But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end. And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them” (Dan 7:26-27).

My thoughts on these passages:

You and I have been grafted into Israel and are among the saints written about above. The promises in the prophecy are for us along with all other believers in the Messiah.  Believers in Jesus, both Jews and non-Jews, are co-heirs with Him of the kingdom that He received which is superior to and has authority over all other kingdoms. Jesus said in Luke 12:32 “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” This is Jesus’ kingdom which is not of this world.

Also, in John 18:36, “Jesus answered (Pilate), ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’ In Daniel we see that it is a kingdom more powerful than the kingdoms of this world. It is the “stone…cut…by no human hand” that we read about in Daniel 2:45 and it destroys the kingdoms of this world that were in direct opposition to Israel before their Messiah came.

When He came, Jesus said that not even the gates of hell, let alone the kingdoms of this world, will prevail against His Ecclesia. After His death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus said “All authority has been given to me in heaven and earth…” As His Ecclesia we walk in His authority, more than conquerors, in one sense “the untouchables”, able to carry the Good News while backed by the authority of Jesus, all the while praying that His kingdom will continue to come on earth as it is in heaven. And, just as Jesus began bringing about the kingdom of God on earth through obedience to God through the Spirit, we are called to do the same! We are in this world, but are not of it. Although this world’s inhabitants are in rebellion to God and Christ, they are loved by God and we are ambassadors of the kingdom of God to them.

In Heb 10:12-13 it says, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.” In this context we see that His enemies are still at large in the world. While sin, Satan and spiritual death have no authority as far as believers are concerned, they still operate with authority. Satan influences the kingdoms of this world as the enemies of God and Christ. This will exist until the end of this age when Christ’s enemies will become His footstool.

We read of this in Rev 11:15 where it says, “… The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” Also, in 1Co 15:24-26 it says something in the same vein with “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet…”


Babylonian Lion

As some may have already discovered, over the years people have offered various interpretations to the prophecies in Daniel. Being a difficult book in places, it creates a perfect environment for fanciful, false and distracting interpretations.

I was recently asked by a friend to give my view on the interpretation of a prophecy of Daniel that he came across. This post is my response to this view which, despite being in the fanciful category, appears to be popular. What I have written is by no means comprehensive, but I hope it says enough to show the interpretation that I was asked to comment on to be very misleading.

This is the MISLEADING INTERPRETATION as I received it:

There are now FIVE PARTIES forcing Israel out of its Promised Land…

These are the VERY SAME BEASTS that the Prophet Daniel saw:

LION – Britain
EAGLE WINGS – United States
BEAR – Russia
LEOPARD – European Union
(Principally, 4-head German “Leopard” with “wings of a fowl,” French Rooster)
DREADFUL BEAST – World Government – U.N.

Let’s consider this in the light of the book of Daniel.

Here are the scriptures that this bad interpretation is based on:

Daniel’ vision:

“Daniel declared, ‘I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns’” (Dan 7:2-7).

The angel’s interpretation of the vision:

“‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever’” (Dan 7:17).

Daniel asks about the fourth beast:

“Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.” (Dan 7:19-22).

The angel’s Interpretation of the 4th beast:

“Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth…” (Dan 7:23-27).

Probably much more could be said, but I will respond to just a few things here:

Firstly, the Lion with the wings was one beast and was synonymous with the Babylonian Empire, a world empire that directly ruled over Israel and its people. There is archeological evidence of this type of lion with wings being associated with Babylon.

Also, in the context, Daniel and his people, the Jews, are in exile in Babylon and their land, Judah and Israel, is part of the Babylonian Empire. Daniel was given something to write that was applicable both to the Jews then, who were undoubtedly wondering about their future, and also to the next generations who would be in the hands of subsequent empires. In the light of what the next hundreds of years were going to entail, a beast representing Babylon was the most appropriate 1st beast in the list.

The article goes about dividing the Lion from its wings to depict two separate nations (kingdoms), Britain and the USA. This goes against the interpretation that the angel gives in the Book of Daniel. In Daniel 7:17 the angel says, “These four great beasts are four kings (or kingdoms) who shall arise out of the earth” and also that in Dan 7:23 he says, “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth…” From the angels interpretation we can see that each of the beasts represents a singular kingdom.

Now, some may argue that if the Bear “raised up on one side,” that is traditionally considered to be the Medes and the Persians, were two nations acting as one, why can’t the Lion with wings be two countries. To begin with, the Bear has a parallel prophecy in Dan 8:3 with the Ram corroborating the picture of one kingdom of two nations, with the words “had two horns…one higher than the other.”

Furthermore, the nature of the union of the Medes and the Persians was such that they acted completely in unison. It was a strong alliance through marriage, with the Persians being stronger and bigger in their unity. In the manner that the word “kingdom” was used, used loosely, we can see that many modern “kingdoms” as a union of “kingdoms”. The USSR, with Russia the dominant member was an example. In a sense, even South Africa is a “kingdom” made up of many “kingdoms”. But, the USA and Britain can’t be called a “kingdom” simply because they agree on some issues.

Another thing is if we look at Dan 7:23, the word “shall” has a sense of the fourth beast being part of a line of consecutive kingdoms, and not simultaneous ones. Also, these kingdoms parallel the statue vision in chapter two, where clearly the kingdoms are depicted as coming one after another. In the article that you sent me the beasts are shown to exist simultaneously.

Then, it seems that the need to make prophecy fit the occasion has made for the dubious claim of the Leopard with 4 heads being linked to the EU and to Germany, a key member of the EU. While some frail connection can be found to Germany and the use of a leopard as a symbol, it isn’t convincing at all. Surely their main symbol would be used to avoid confusion!

Then “the wings of a fowl” on the leopard being France, in my mind, only weakens their view further, because, although they and Germany are part of the EU, they are nevertheless independent “kingdoms”. Also, it’s debatable equating the EU into the mold of a “kingdom.” Surely this view is far less convincing than the traditional one that proposes that the Leopard with 4 heads was the Greek Kingdom that was later divided into 4 among 4 generals because Alexander the Great had no heirs. The traditional view is supported in the book with other parallel prophecies and by the outcome of history.

The article claims the following:

But ALL FOUR of Daniel’s Four Beasts are said to be IN POWER – IN EXISTENCE – when Jesus returns!

These Four Beasts CANNOT be the ancient kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome – as most Bible commentators and teachers assert. Here is why:
At Armageddon, Daniel saw that the OTHER THREE BEASTS “had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. (7:12)

Is this true?

Daniel does not say that all four beasts are in power at the same time. Daniel 7:12 reads, “As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.” In context, “As for the rest of the beasts” is Daniel’s commentary on what had happened in the meantime to the other beasts that preceded the 4th beast. It’s not a view of what happens at one point in time as the interpretation above implies. Rather, what Daniel is saying is that at the end of each successive kingdoms’ period of dominion, their dominion was “taken away”, but they were still allowed to exist, only without the dominion that they had previously had.

The 4 beasts are 4 kingdoms that would for the most part have control over the land of Israel and its people from Daniel’s time to the coming of the Messiah. They are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome.

Rob Morley