The Symbolic Meaning of Numbers
February 5th, 1961 @ 10:50 AM
THE SYMBOLIC MEANING OF NUMBERS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-5-61 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled The Symbolic Meaning of Numbers. We are preaching through the Book of the Revelation; and in the vain hope of trying to encompass this message in the little time that is allotted to the preacher, I have written it out. Because also of the multitudinous references that are in it, these sermons are being taken down stenographically. They are being mimeographed, and month by month they will be placed in your hands. But there is nobody that could take this thing down with the multitudinous references that are in it, so I wrote it out.
Now, in preparing it, I broke it up into two parts. It could not be encompassed in one sermon, so I broke it up into two. Now I could not even begin to deliver the first one within this allotted time, so somebody said to me at the eight-fifteen o’clock service, “Well, why don’t you take another Sunday, or take another year?” Well, the reason is I feel that the thing ought to be done in not more than two Sundays.
There are so many other things that ought to be preached. They ought to be declared. They ought to be studied. They ought to be understood. They are written for our consolation, and our comfort, and our strength, and our encouragement, and the preacher ought not to spend too much time on one thing. There are other things that crowd into the ministry of this pulpit and into the preaching of the gospel, and they ought to be said.
So I have tried to do it in two sermons. Now, if I go furiously in part of it, it is just in an attempt to present the whole thing to you. Every sermon, if it is a good sermon, ought to have a message. It ought to have a beginning. It ought to have a middle. It ought to have an end. It ought to be a complete unit in itself. And that is why I try to complete it when we come to this holy and sacred moment.
Now in the first chapter of the Book of the Apocalypse, in the fourth verse, “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before the throne” [Revelation 1:4]. Now the reason I have stopped to speak on this subject now is, you are going to meet this time and again in every section of the book. “John to the seven churches of Asia”; there were far more than seven churches in Asia, the Roman province of Asia. For example, Paul wrote a letter to one of them, Colosse [Colossians 1:1-2]. And in the letter to the Colossians, he mentions another one which is across the Lycus River from Laodicea, Heriopolis [Colossians 4:16]. Here he says, “seven”: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea [Revelation 1:11]. There were many more than seven, but he says “seven.” Why didn’t he say eight of them? Why didn’t he say ten of them? Why didn’t he write to six of them? There must be a reason for seven.
Then again, in that same verse, “from God, from the Holy Spirit, and from Jesus Christ” [Revelation 1:4-5], but he says, “And from the seven Spirits which are before God’s throne” [Revelation 1:4]. Seven Spirits, whoever heard of God’s seven Spirits? There must be a meaning in it. There is only one Holy Spirit of God, yet he says “seven Spirits” [Revelation 1:4].
Now, this is just the beginning. I have selected here, briefly, an illustration of all through the Book of the Revelation.
- In 1:20, it says, “The seven stars, the mystery of the seven stars and the seven golden lampstands” [Revelation 1:20].
- In verse 4, Revelation 4:4, there are four and twenty seats at which are seated four and twenty elders. Well, why aren’t there twenty-two elders? Why aren’t there twenty-eight elders? Why are there four and twenty?
- And in Revelation 4:6 there are four zōa; Ezekiel calls them cherubim [Ezekiel 10:1-20]. Why aren’t there six zōa or a hundred thousand zōa? Why are there four zōa?
- In Revelation 5:1 there are seven seals. Six seals would have sealed it just as securely as seven. There must be a reason for seven.
- In chapter 7:4 it refers to 144,000 sealed of all of the tribes [Revelation 7:4]. Why aren’t there 150,000 sealed, or 130,000? It’s 144,000.
- In Revelation 8:2, seven angels sound seven trumpets.
- In verse 13:18 is the most famous reference to numerals in all history: the number of the beast is 666. And the author says, “And here in his wisdom to understand it, 666,” which he says is the number of a man [Revelation 13:18].
- In Revelation 20:2 is the thousand years in which Satan is bound; translated “the millennium.” Greek, Latin, “millennium,” a thousand years; why isn’t it 998 years?
- In chapter 21, verse 12, 14, it says there are in the beautiful city of the New Jerusalem, twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and there are twelve foundations. Couldn’t the city have been held up just as well if it had thirteen foundations, or maybe fifteen? But there are twelve [Revelation 21:12, 14].
- And in the [sixteenth] verse it says that the city is foursquare, with 12,000 furlongs on each side. Why not 11,000 furlongs? Why not 16,000 furlongs? It is 12,000 furlongs on each side [Revelation 21:16].
Now these are just typical of the countless references to numbers you’ll find in the Revelation.
Now, not only are the numerals in the number stated itself but the configuration of numerals is woven into the pattern, into the speech, into the language, and sentence, and nomenclature of the book itself. For example, in this text, “John to the seven churches which are in Asia” [Revelation 1:4], now he’s going to use three things, and then he’s going to say three things about those three things; it’s woven into the message itself.
- “Grace to you,” first, “from Him which is, and was, and which is to come” [Revelation 1:4];
- Second, “and from the Holy Spirit of God” [Revelation 1:4];
- And third, “and from Jesus Christ” [Revelation 1:5].
Then he’s going to say three things about each one of those three things.
- “From Him, from the Almighty God, who is,” one.
- “Who was,” two.
- “And who is to come,” three.
And now from the Holy Spirit:
- “The Spirit.”
- “And seven Spirits.”
- “And before the throne,” three things.
And then about Jesus:
- “And from Jesus Christ,” one, “who is the faithful witness.”
- And two, “who is the first begotten of the dead.”
- And three, “the Prince of the kings of the earth.”
And then in the aspiration, in the ascription of praise to Jesus, three things:
- “Unto Him that loved us.”
- And “unto Him that loosed us from our sins in His own blood.”
- And three, “and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father.” [Revelation 1:5-6].
The number is stated, and then woven into the warp and woof of the text itself.
Now, that brings us to the symbolic meaning of numbers. The work of God, if it is the work of God, has a character and a manifestation, and a consistency that is evident in everything that God has wrought. It is the same thing as in the productions of an author: if a man has written, he has certain ways and language and idioms and expressions that are peculiarly his. For example, Shakespeare is Shakespeare, whether he’s writing prose or drama or anything that he writes—trying to think of a kind of a poem and it doesn’t come to my mind, that he greatly liked—but if it’s Shakespeare, you can recognize it as Shakespeare. Same thing about Milton: Milton has a certain kind of a style, and a language, and a prose, and a majesty. And if it’s Milton, it’s Milton, and you can see it whether it’s rhymed, or whether it’s bright verse, or whether it’s just ordinary, the unfettered word in the sentence of prose. Same way about Longfellow, same way about any of these authors: they have a way about them that is distinguishing and as characteristic that is peculiarly theirs.
Now it is the same thing about God. If a work is God, there’ll be a certain thing about it; there’ll be a certain characteristic about it that manifests it as being God. God did it. God is the author of two great books; He has written two great books. One is the book of creation: the heavens above, the earth beneath, the earth and the world around us; and the other Book, the one that I hold in my hand, the Holy Scriptures of the Lord.
Now, one of the distinctive features of Almighty God in His books of creation is His love for, His liking for the laws of mathematics, and of numerals, and of arithmetic. I didn’t invent it. You didn’t invent it. That’s God. And wherever you find the workmanship of God, there will you find God’s mannerism, mannerisms, God’s idiosyncrasies, God’s characterizations, God’s idioms, the way God does a thing.
Now it would be an astonishing thing if God did a certain way out here in this book, and then in this Book there wasn’t any evidence of the same workmanship at all. We expect it, the same kind of a thing that God has done out there in the marvelous infinite world of creation, we expect to find in the marvelous revelation by which He has declared Himself in His Holy Word. God is God, and the characteristics of God are to be found whether they’re out there in the world above or here in the Book that I hold in my hand.
Now let us speak of the characteristic of God, the consistency of God, out there in the great book of creation. Every law of nature, everything that God has done, tends to express itself in terms of mathematics, of arithmetic, of numbers. That’s why this modern emphasis of our government upon our young men studying mathematics, which is the basis of all science; that is, all that God has done. Now in the world of astronomy, mathematical laws govern all the movements of the heavenly bodies. You can know how everything in the universe was millenniums ago, and you can predict it without the shadow of a variation in the changing of a second in the millenniums that are yet to come. Why? Because God has governed and made His great universe by mathematical, numerical laws.
You find the same thing, the same workmanship of God, in the world of physics. Mathematical laws govern weight, and motion, and substance; the atomic world, the molecular world, the rocks, the crystals, the snowflakes, they talk to us of mathematical precision and numerical atomic arrangement from every landscape and every cave and every stratum of rock. Every time a sound awakens your ear, it comes according to a mathematical formula. And every time a ripple of light plays upon your eyes, it is according to a numerical arithmetical law which was established by God Himself.
Same thing you’ll find in the world of chemistry. All of these elements have valences, they have atomic weights, and they have separate abilities to combine with other elements; all of it according to a mathematical precision inwrought by God Himself. And you’ll find it in the world of biology. In botany the flowers are arranged according to a mathematical specification, to a numerical order: their leaves, how they are arranged, their flowers, their petals, the time of their growth, all about them. And the same thing in the world of zoology, the animal world: every thing that God has done is characterized by mathematical precision, by the use of numerals and arithmetic.
In every cell in your body and in every human cell that is, in the trillions of cells in your body, there is a certain number of chromosomes. In your body, there are forty-six, according to the latest count. In all the books in which I studied when I was a youth, there were forty-eight. There are forty-six, they say. That’s just been announced. This is a new scientific discovery that I am proclaiming this morning. In the little fruit fly, the Drosophila, there are just four. But they’re all alike according to mathematical precision.
Now, these mysteries were observed by the ancients, and especially by the Greeks. The Greeks, in the beginning of their philosophical intuition, began to see the relationship between numerals and the fundamental undergirding of all mathematical law in all that God has done. The great saint and the great hero of the philosophical Greek world was Pythagoras. He lived almost before all the rest of them. He was born about 582 BC on the isle of Samos, across from the Greek Ionian cultural complex in Asia Minor. And Pythagoras, the god, the hero, the saint of the philosophical world, the central thought of the Pythagorean philosophy is the idea of numbers and the recognition of the numerical and mathematical relationship of all things.
Aristotle summed up Pythagorean philosophy in these words, and I quote from Aristotle: “Number is the principle of all things, and the organization in the universe is in harmonic system of numerical ratios.” And a Pythagorean philosopher, Philolaus, summed it up in these words, and I quote from him, “Number is great, and perfect, and omnipotent, and the principle and guide of divine and human life.” And then I have summed up Pythagorean philosophy, the foundation and the love of all Greek philosophy, in these words: it is number or definite mathematical relation that separates one thing from another, and so in a sense, makes things. Without number and the limitation which numbers bring, there would be only chaos and the illimitable, the glob. Number then is the principle of order, the principle by which a cosmos or ordered world subsists.
Now the Pythagoreans based their great arguments upon two chief observations: first, the heavenly bodies; and second, the musical tones in the scale, the dependence of which is upon regular, mathematical intervals, that they were able to discern as they listened and observed. And in their famous theory, the seven planets, are the seven golden chords of the heavenly hepta-chord, the whole heaven and the whole universe is a harmony, according to the Pythagoreans.
They saw God’s handiwork in the universe, and they don’t miss all God’s handiwork in the world about them that they could observe. And they saw that it was ordered, and it was beautiful, that it was a kosmos, which is a Greek word for “beautiful”—cosmetic, “trying to be beautiful”; kosmos, “beautiful.” That’s Greek philosophy.
They discovered the numerical ratio between musical tones of the gamut. And they made the sun the center of the universe. And it was interesting to me to find out that when Copernicus, in the sixteenth century, discovered the astronomical law by which we look upon all the heavenly bodies today, that not the earth, but the sun is the center, and the planets revolve around it, that’s what Pythagoras said. And what was interesting to me was the medieval church, in condemning Copernicus, said that his theory was heathen and Pythagorean. Shows you the insight into those Greek philosophers, who were the first atomic scientists; and Pythagoras here, seeing the beautiful ratio of the numerical structure of all that God had done, and found in it an infinite harmony.
Now, after I see that, and the heathen Greek could see it, and after I look at that, it would be an astonishing thing, if in God’s great book of the universe, there is ratio, and mathematical formula, and arithmetic, and harmony, and number; it’d be an astonishing thing if I found all that in the world around me in God’s book, and then discovered it not in this Book at all. But it’s just the opposite. What I find as a characteristic of God’s workmanship in the world around me, in the universe above me, I find in the Book that I hold in my hand; the workmanship of God.
Now when God uses these numbers, there is a central thought derived from such natural inherent significance, and from which all the other meanings take their rise. By that I’m saying that the meaning of number that God uses is not arbitrary, or disconnected, or fantastic, but it has a basic meaning in the mind and in the workmanship of God Himself! I’m just trying to say to you that the same ordered intelligence, the same creative workmanship of the Almighty that worked according to mathematical law and the harmony of number that you find in the world around you, chemistry, astronomy, physics, biology, everywhere that things are, that same kind of a mind you will find in the use of numbers in the Holy Book of God. That is, it is not fantastic. It is not ridiculous. It is not arbitrary. It is not disconnected, but it lies in the basic meaning of the workmanship of God Himself. This is God! This expression of God.
Now before we take the one number that I have chosen for this morning and for which I have just this little time to speak, I want to show you that the use of numbers in the Bible and by the Lord is not arbitrary. It is not fantastic. It is not disconnected, but it lies in the mind and the genius of God Himself. Now we’re going to illustrate it. First, number “one”: one refers to unity and to primacy, to independent existence. Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” Ephesians 4:4-6:
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope . . .
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and the Father of all;
unity, primacy, a separate existence, one! That’s in the mind of God.
Two: let’s take “two” for an example. Two in God’s mind and in the Book means addition, an increase; it refers to health and confirmation and fellowship. For example, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe unto him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another to help him up.
Again, if two lie together, they can have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him.
That’s not fantastic. That’s not disconnected. That’s in the mind and genius of God: one, alone and separate, primary; two, encouragement and strength, like the two witnesses [Revelation 11:3].
All right, let’s take the word “three,” the number three. Now we’re illustrating that these things are in the genius of God, that they’re not fantastic. The simplest compound unity is three. The simplest compound unity is three. The first and fixed compound unit of the mathematical science is three. For example, three forms the simplest compound figure in geometry: the equilateral, the equal-sided triangle, which is indivisible, unresolvable into anything else. So the manifestation of God is three. We know God as a Trinity. We know Him as our Father in heaven, we know Him as the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and we know Him as the Holy Spirit of God; three, a Trinity, God [Matthew 28:19].
Now, number four: the word “four” is the word and the number of the world. There are four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall. There are four points of the compass: north, south, east, and west. For example, in the Book of Ezekiel, there are four living creatures that Ezekiel calls cherubim [Ezekiel 10:1-20], and they have four faces, four wings, four sides [Ezekiel 1:5-8], and four wheels upon which they move [Ezekiel 1:15-21]. That is, Ezekiel by number and by symbol is describing God’s creation and God’s providence: four, the world that God has made.
Now we take one other illustration before we go. Five and ten: there are five fingers to the hand, there are ten fingers in all; there are five toes to a foot, there are ten toes in all; and that is the basis of the decimal system. It originated in the practice of counting with the fingers. Now in that day, there were many maimed and crippled who were lacking in some of these digits, and so a perfect, full-rounded man was one who had all his fingers and all his toes. For example, no man could be ordained high priest of Israel who was maimed [Leviticus 21:21]. So five doubled to ten came to stand for human completeness. And the whole duty of man is summed up in nine commandments? No. In eight commandments? No. In thirteen commandments? No! The whole duty of man is summed up in ten commandments [Exodus 20:1-17]; that is, this is the whole, complete duty of the man. It has a significance. The ingenuity of God could have made eleven commandments, and could have made thirteen, or nine; but He said ten, for ten represents the full-rounded man.
Now the one number that I have chosen this morning is the number seven, the sacred number seven, “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: and greetings to you in love, from the seven Spirits of God which are before His throne” [Revelation 1:4]. The number seven is the symbol of fullness and perfection because it is composed of two numbers: the perfect world number, what was it? Four, representing the world, the perfect world number four, added to the perfect divine number, the number of God, three; and it made the holy and sacred number seven.
Seven is the earth crowned with heaven, the union of earth and heaven, four and three, the creature magnifying and manifesting the Creator. There are seven days in each quarter of the moon, and there are seven notes that make all of our music scale. In God’s book, in God’s universe, in God’s Bible, they are musical with the numerical impress. Seven fundamental notes in music and the eighth is but the octave, the beginning of a new series in another key. Seven is God’s perfect, full, and complete number.
Now the sacredness of the number reaches back to the very beginning in the hallowing of the seventh day of creation. After the creative work of God, it was full, it was complete, and the number seven speaks of accomplishment and rest. It is done. It is complete [Genesis 2:1-3]. And as far back in antiquity as mind can go and as the archaeologists can dig, the number seven is a sacred symbol. For example, in China, the great emperor divided his empire into seven provinces. He worshipped at seven altars, and he offered seven sacrifices to the seven spirits. And when he died, he was buried on the seventh day; he was put in a coffin on the seventh day after his death, and he was buried in the seventh month after he deceased.
And I haven’t time to speak of Roman and Greek mythology that is filled with the number seven. And in the ancient Babylonian day, they recognized seven as the number of totality and completeness. The Sumerian word for “seven”—Sumer was the country before the Babylonians conquered it, and the Sumerians were people that were there before the Babylonians took it over. Now, the Babylonians translated the Sumerian word “seven” by a word that means “all, complete”; they equated “seven” and “all.” Seven gods meant all of the gods; the seven story towers of Babylon represented the whole universe; seven was the expression of the highest power and the greatest conceivable thing of force.
So the use of seven is a most distinct thing in the Bible. It’s used more than six hundred times in the Bible. And it symbolizes—it has a meaning—it’s the symbol of perfection, of completeness, of fullness, and of plentitude. So when I read, “John to the seven churches of Asia” [Revelation 1:4], that’s John to all the churches of Asia, and John to all churches of all time; the seven, the full number, all of them, the plentitude of them all. Now when I come to Revelation 3:1, “And unto the angel of the church at Sardis write; These things saith He that hath the seven Spirits of God,” that’s the Revelator’s way of saying the whole power of God is in Him.
This Lord Jesus Christ who is writing and speaking to the church at Sardis, He is the One that has the seven Spirits of God. “God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him” [John 3:34], as John says, He has all of the plentitude and fullness and completeness of the Spirit of God. Now in Revelation 5:6, “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, the cherubim”—and we’ll find out why they are four—“and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, with seven horns, and seven eyes.” The seven horns refer to His illimitable, omnipotent power; and the seven eyes refer to His omniscience. He is all-knowing, and He is all-wise, and He is all-powerful; and that’s done in symbolic form: seven horns and seven eyes.
Now we’re going as rapidly as we can through the use of seven in the Scriptures, that you can see that. Now first we refer to the ritual use of seven.
- In Genesis 2:1-3, the seventh day of the week is the Sabbath; it’s hallowed.
- In Exodus 22:30, an animal must be seven days old before it can be offered for sacrifice.
- In Exodus 34:18, the Feast of Unleavened Bread is to last seven days.
- In Leviticus 12:3, the circumcision of a child is to take place after seven days.
- In Leviticus 14 and through that, there is a sevenfold sprinkling, which is repeatedly mentioned in the rules for the purification of the leper.
- In Leviticus 16:14, the sevenfold sprinkling of the blood on the Day of Atonement; that’s what the Day of Atonement is.
- In Leviticus 23, the seven, there are seven days in the Feast of the Tabernacles [Leviticus 23:33-43].
- In Numbers 8:2, and Zechariah 4:2, the golden lampstand has seven lights and seven branches.
- And in 2 Kings 5:10, Naaman is to dip seven times in the River Jordan.
Now the historical use of seven:
- In Genesis 7:4 and 10—now these are just typical; my, there’s a multitude of others that you could choose—in Genesis 7:4 and 10, Noah enters the ark seven days, after seven days of grace.
- And the ark rested, in Genesis 8:4, on Mount Ararat in the seventh month.
- In Genesis :20, Jacob worked seven years for Rachel.
- In Genesis 33:3, Jacob bows seven times before Esau.
- In Genesis 41:53, Pharaoh has a dream, and there are seven years of plenty, and there are seven years of famine [Genesis 41:53-54].
- In Joshua 6:8 and following there are seven days that the seven priests blowing seven trumpets march around the walls of Jericho, and on the seventh day they marched seven times.
- In Judges 14:12, Samson celebrates his marriage feast seven days.
- In 16:19, speaks of his seven locks of hair [Judges 16:19].
- In 1 Samuel 16:10, there are seven sons of Jesse.
- In 2 Samuel 24:13, David is offered the choice of seven years of famine, or three months of exile and peril, or three days of pestilence.
- In the Book of the Kings, Solomon took seven years to build the temple [1 Kings 6:38], and he observed the Feast of Dedication seven days [1 Kings 8:65].
- In 1 Kings 18:43, Elijah prays seven times for rain, and seven times his servant ascends to the top of the mountain to look for it.
- In Job 1:2, he has seven sons, and his friends sit in silence seven days and seven nights [Job 2:13].
- And they are atoned for at the end of the book by seven bullocks and seven rams [Job 42:8].
- In Daniel 3:19, the heating of the furnace by Nebuchadnezzar is seven times hotter.
In Matthew to John there are seven words from the cross—which our glorious choir is going to sing at Easter time.
- In Luke 2:36, Anna’s seven years of wedded life.
- In Matthew 15 there are seven loaves that the four thousand are fed with; seven baskets of fragments [Matthew 15:36-37].
- In Matthew 22 there are seven brothers in the Sadducean story, when they asked which one had her [Matthew 22:23-28].
- In Mark 16:9, there are seven devils cast out of Mary Magdalene.
- And in Acts 6:3 and following they ordained seven deacons in the church at Jerusalem [Acts 6:3-6].
- And in Acts 19:14 there are seven sons of Sceva.
Now we’re going to look at the didactic or literary use of the number seven.
- In Psalm 12:6, silver is purified seven times; that is, thoroughly purified.
- In Matthew 12:45, the seven evil spirits cover the man; that is, he was wholly given to evil.
- In Luke 17:4, there is a sevenfold sin, sevenfold repentance, and sevenfold forgiveness.
- In Matthew 6:9 and following there are seven petitions in the model prayer [Matthew 6:9-13]. In Matthew 13, there are seven parables of the kingdom [Matthew 13:3-52]; that is, it is a presentation of the entire kingdom of heaven.
- And in Matthew 23, there are seven woes pronounced upon the Pharisees: they were wholly condemned [Matthew 23:13-36].
In the apostolic epistles the following heptads are found:
- In Romans 8:35, there are seven afflictions.
- In Romans 12:6 and following, there are seven gifts [Romans 12:6-8].
- In James [3:17] there are seven qualities of heavenly wisdom.
- And in 2 Peter 1:5-8 there are seven virtues proceeding from faith.
Now when we come to the Apocalypse, it is a book of sevens because it is the book of the final consummation and of completion. It is an amazing weaving in and out and use of those heptads. The book of the final consummation, this is all.
- There are seven churches represented by seven lampstands [Revelation 1:20].
- There are seven stars representing the seven angels of the seven churches [Revelation 1:20].
- There are seven lamps representing the seven [churches] of God [Revelation 1:13, 20].
- There’s a seven-sealed book, that is, it is securely sealed and completely [Revelation 5:1].
- There is a Lamb with seven eyes and seven horns [Revelation 5:6].
- There are seven angels that blow seven trumpets [Revelation 8:2].
- There are seven angels that pour out seven vials and bowls of wrath, in which is filled up the wrath of God, that is, the whole wrath of God is poured out, all of it, seven [Revelation 15:7].
- There are seven thunders that utter their voices [Revelation 10:3].
- The beast out of the sea has seven heads [Revelation 13:1].
- The dragon has seven heads and seven crowns on his head [Revelation 12:3].
- There are seven mountains [Revelation 17:9], seven kings [Revelation 17:10], seven, on and on and on in the Book of the Revelation.
Now, not only is the significance found in the number seven itself, but it is also extended to its multiples and to its division.
- Two times seven is fourteen: the Passover is on the fourteenth of Nisan [Exodus 12:6].
- There are fourteen lambs offered on the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles [Numbers 29:13].
- And in Matthew 1:, the book of the genealogy, it is divided into three groups, fourteen in each group [Matthew 1:1-17].
- Now seven times seven is forty-nine. Pentecost is the day after the forty-ninth day. The seven weeks from Passover, forty-nine, then Pentecost [Leviticus 23:16].
- And in Leviticus 25 you have described Jubilee year; that is, seven times seven years is forty-nine, then the fiftieth year is the Jubilee year [Leviticus 25:8-17].
Now when you multiply it by ten, seven times ten is seventy, that’s a very strong expression of multitude and intensified seven. That’s used of persons;
- Like when Jacob went down into Egypt, there to be fruitful; there were seventy in the household [Genesis 46:26].
- There were seventy elders of Israel [Exodus 24:9].
- Ahab and Gideon had seventy sons [Judges 8:30; 2 Kings 10:1].
- When Ezekiel was shown by our Lord the idolatrous elders, there were seventy of them; that is, the whole family had gone into idolatry, the whole kingdom [Ezekiel 8:11].
- There were seventy members of the Sanhedrin.
- And the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures is called the Septuagint; that is the Greek word for “seventy.”
- And when the Lord sent out His people to preach, there were seventy He sent out and who returned [Luke 10:1].
And seventy is used of periods.
- There are seventy [years] of trial and captivity [2 Chronicles 26:21; Jeremiah 29:10].
- There are seventy weeks in Daniel 9:24; that is, it covers the entire history of the Jewish people from the time Daniel is speaking until the time of the consummation of the end of the age; seventy weeks [Daniel 9:24-27].
- In Psalm :10, our lifespan is seventy years; that’s the whole life, and if it goes beyond seventy, yet it is a trial and sorrow.
- And Matthew 18:22, seventy times seven, by which we are to forgive those who sin against us, refers to unlimited Christian forgiveness: you are to forgive a man seventy times seven times.
Now the significance of the number seven extends to the realm of division; not only multiplication, seven times seven, seven times two, seven times ten, but it refers also, the meaning refers to the dividing of seven. The perfect number seven cut in half is three and a half. That is, the incomplete, the imperfect, and oft times the disastrous, the dreadful, and the distressful. And it’s sometimes, and that three and a half is sometimes called forty-two months; it’s sometimes called 1,260 days; and sometimes it’s called a time times and half a time, or a dividing of times.
- Now in Luke 4:25, in the days of Elijah heaven was shut up three and a half years, didn’t have any rain.
- In James 5:17, Elijah prayed that it might not rain, and it rained not for three and a half years.
- In Daniel 7:25, “And they the saints shall be given into his hand until a time and times and a dividing of time,” three and a half.
- Daniel 9:27, “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week,” the week of seven, at three and a half, “He shall cause the sacrifice of the oblation to cease.”
- Daniel 12:7, “And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and sware by Him that liveth forever that it shall be for a time, times, and a half; and all these things shall be finished.”
- In Revelation 11:3, “And I will give power unto My two witnesses”—what did I say about two? Why weren’t there three witnesses, or four? Two, they were confirming each other—“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth,” 1,260 days, three and a half.
- Revelation 12:6, “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and three score days,” 1,260 days, three and a half.
- Revelation 12:14, “And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, and to her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent,” three and a half, half of seven.
- Revelation 13:5, “And there was given unto the beast a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power given unto him to continue forty and two months,” three and a half.
- Revelation 11:9, “And they shall see their dead bodies three and a half days, and shall not suffer their bodies to be put in the graves.”
- Revelation 11:11, “And after three and a half days the spirit of life from God shall enter into them, they shall stand on their feet.”
All of that has a meaning. It’s not arbitrary, nor is it fantastic; but these things are in the genius and in the mind and in the workmanship of God. And all of those numbers have a profound symbol and a profound meaning. Nor will you understand it, nor will you know of which the Holy Spirit is speaking, unless you know what those numbers mean. And that’s why I took the time out to prepare these two studies, so when we see them, we can see the workmanship, and the mind, and the meaning, and the message of God in what the Lord is laying upon our hearts, that we might understand.
Now, I would look for that, if it’s of God. And when I behold the workmanship of the Almighty in the vast universe around me [Psalm 8:3], I would expect to find that same genius and mind, the workmanship of God, in the other Book that God hath written [Psalm 19:1]. And when I follow the genius of God in His other world, all of those mathematical proportions, and the meaning of numbers, and the arithmetic of God’s harmonious universe, when I find it in the Bible, it’s just another mark that I hold in my hand an authentic work of the great Author and Creator. They’re one and the same: they work alike, they talk alike, they speak alike, they are alike: the God of the universe above and around me, and the God of the Book that I hold in my hand.
Would you suffer me to read you a poem? Then I’ll close. You remember one of the most famous stories of literature concerns the death of Sir Walter Scott, the incomparable Scottish bard and singer and novelist. When Sir Walter Scott lay dying, he said to his son-in-law Lockhart, he said, “Bring me the Book.” Well, he had a vast library, and Lockhart was nonplussed, and asked the great bard and Scottish sage, “What book?” And Sir Walter Scott replied, “There is just one Book. Bring me the Book.” And Lockhart brought him the Bible. Now this is the poem, “There is Just One Book”:
“There is just one Book,” cried the dying sage,
“Read me the old, old story.”
And the winged word that can never age
Wafted him home to Glory.
There’s just one Book.
There’s just one Book for the tender years,
One Book alone for guiding
The little feet through the joys and fears,
The unknown days are hiding.
There’s just one Book.
There’s just one Book for the bridal hour,
One Book of love’s own coining;
Its truths alone lend beauty and power,
To vows where lives are joining,
There’s just one Book.
There’s just one Book for life’s gladness,
One Book for the toilsome days,
One Book that can cure life’s madness,
One Book that can voice life’s praise,
There’s just one Book.
There’s just one Book for the dying,
One Book for the starting tears,
And one for the soul that is flying home,
For the measureless years,
There’s just one Book.
And the author is God.
Now while we sing our song, somebody you, to give your heart in faith and trust to our Lord, would you come? Somebody to put your life with us in the fellowship of the church, would you come? Is there a family you this morning? “Pastor, this is my wife, these are my children, here we are.” In this throng in the balcony round, there’s a stairway at the front and the back; somebody you, come. In the press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” While we sing the song and while we make this appeal, would you make it this morning? Humbly, in reverence, in humility, in devotion, give your life to the Lord, or if you’re saved, put your life with us in this precious church, and let’s love God and love His Book, and look to God, and look at His Book, and learn of God, learn through His Book; let’s do it together. Would you like to join us in the pilgrimage from this world to the world that is yet to come? Would you? Walk by our side. Be with us in this holy and blessed ministry of prayerful attention, and study, and love, and adoration, and service. Would you make it this morning? Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.