The Numbers of Revelation
It’s no secret that the book of Revelation loves its numbers, but you may not have realized just how much. In his commentary on Revelation, Gregory Beale (using some insights from Richard Bauckham) highlights some of the ways Revelation uses the numbers 4, 7, 12–each are numbers signifying fullness and completion. In addition to the most obvious (seven bowl, seven trumpets, etc.), there are numbers and patterns of those numbers skillfully woven throughout the book. Check out this amazing list:
- There are seven beatitudes (blessings) in Revelation.
- The number four shows “cosmic completeness” as the “four corners of the earth” and the “four winds”.
- There are four series of seven judgments.
- The fourfold “every tribe, tongue, people and nation” is used seven times.
- “…the one who lives forever and ever” is used four times.
- “…the Lord God Almighty” and “the one who sits on the throne” are each used seven times.
- “Christ” is used seven times, while “Jesus” is used fourteen times and “the Lamb” is used 28 times (that one involves some math).
- The “Seven Spirits” are spoken of four times.
- “Twelve” is the number given to God’s people, sometimes squared and multiplied by a thousand “to connote vastness.”
- Many agree that the book has a series of seven cycles as well as a four-fold division.
- Some allusions to the Old Testament occur four times (Ex. 19:16 is an example).
- Other titles for the church: “woman” occurs ten times, “bride” occurs three times and “saints” occurs fourteen times, all “highlighting the totality of the people of God over against the totality of the unbelieving world.”
- Some of these numbers increase in frequency toward the end of the book (especially the number twelve), moving toward the culmination.
What should the reader of Revelation make of all these things? Isn’t it possible that some of these are coincidences or happy accidents? Certainly, but it’s highly improbable that all of them are. Although you don’t have to be a number sleuth to benefit from reading Jesus’ Revelation to John, knowing that these are here helps us see the extraordinary composition of the book and, more than anything else, convinces us of the fullness of Jesus’ sovereignty over all His world. So next time you’re studying Revelation, enjoy it! Delight in all that the Holy Spirit packed into this wonderful book.