Studies in Revelation
Part 3 - The Spiritual Meaning of Three
In Part One of this series, we discussed Matthew 1:17, and considered the three sets of 14 which leads to the Christ. Three fourteens is 42, the number of “months” stipulated in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5. Since 14 is the number for “release” or “salvation,” we discovered that our three fourteens signify the called, chosen, and faithful of Revelation 17:14 as well as the three great Feasts of Israel. Brought together, we have a representation of the whole body of Christ in the “generation of Jesus Christ.”
In Part Two of this series, we discussed the spiritual meaning of seven, due to the fact that it dominates the entire book of Revelation. We also found that there are six important sevens which stand out more than the rest. When we multiply six times seven, we again have 42, the number of months recorded in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5.
In mathematics, times always denotes an increase. With this thought in mind, consider the following from the book of Isaiah.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (NKJV)
6 For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder… 7 Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
No doubt about it, these are very precious words from the prophet Isaiah. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder” and “of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” In our word “increase” we gain further understanding of what our six times seven or “forty-two months” represents.
Just as the spiritual meaning of seven is important in understanding Revelation, so are all the spiritual meanings of the numbers presented. Like seven though, three figures quite prominently. In his book, The Biblical Meaning of Numbers from One to Forty, Dr. Stephen Jones wrote the following about the spiritual meaning of three.
“Gimel is a camel in Hebrew. It signifies to be lifted up. Pride is its negative side; being glorified or elevated to a position of authority is its positive side.
“The number three is the number of divine fullness, completeness, or perfection. Whereas it takes two lines to fix a position by an x-y axis, it takes three to give shape and to enclose a geometric area—in this case, a triangle.
“Because the law establishes truth on the basis of two or three witnesses, the number three may be considered to be a complete witness. Two witnesses are enough to establish truth, but three brings completeness, clarity, and shape to it.
“For this reason, there are three primary feast days in Israel: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. It takes all three feasts to perfect a man with the fullness of the Spirit. Each feast is an aspect of salvation for man’s three-fold nature: spirit, soul, and body.”
In his book, Biblical Mathematics, Ed Vallowe wrote, “The number three also stands for the resurrection of the body. Jesus said, ‘As Jonas (or Jonah) was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’ In John 2:19, Jesus said to the Jews, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’” Since resurrection is the single most important component of the gospel, the importance of our number three cannot be overemphasized.
In three we have “a complete witness” exemplified by the resurrection life of Christ. When we understand this, we should immediately recognize that the “revelation of Jesus Christ” is an unveiling of this life in His body, the church, so, it comes as no surprise that three rises very quickly in the words of this book. Consider the first six verses of Revelation as follows:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ… (1)
… which God gave Him to show His servants… (2)
… things which must shortly take place… (3).
And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to…
… the word of God… (1)
… and to the testimony of Jesus Christ… (2)
… to all things that he saw… (3).
Blessed is he who reads… (1)
… and those who hear the words of this prophecy… (2)
… and keep those things which are written in it… (3)
John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace…
… from Him who is… (1)
… and who was… (2)
… and who is to come… (3)
… and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ…
… the faithful witness… (1)
… the firstborn from the dead… (2)
… and the ruler over the kings of the earth… (3)
To Him who loved us… (1)
… and washed us from our sins in His own blood… (2)
… and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father… (3)
It’s pretty amazing how Revelation reveals the Lord’s resurrection life just in the first six verses, but it doesn’t end there. As we move further into the chapter, we find the following at verse 19.
Revelation 1:19 (NKJV)
19 Write the things which you have seen (1), and the things which are (2), and the things which will take place after this (3).
As this suggests, the visions of John fall into three different categories. “The things which you have seen,” or the past, “the things which are” or present, and “the things which will take place after this,” or the future. This tells us that the visions of this book cannot all be viewed as future events. Rather, we must seek to understand what was fulfilled in John’s past, what were established in John’s present, and, what was yet to be fulfilled in John’s future. We must also take into account the fact that John received these visions almost 2,000 years ago, so much of what the Lord revealed to him as the future may already be part of our past. This is very important to remember when studying this book.
Another very important three is found in the presentation of the entity seen with “seven heads and ten horns,” first in Revelation, Chapter 12, next in Revelation, Chapter13, and last in Revelation, Chapter 17. The context of each reveals that these three entities all represent the same thing, however, they are presented differently in order to give us a fuller and more “complete witness” of what we need to comprehend. Finally, there is another very important three which stands out in John’s visions. It’s found in Revelation 8:13.
Revelation 8:13 (NKJV)
13 And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”
In this passage we see that the last three trumpets of the seven trumpets in Revelation are called “woes.” This is important, because it reveals a pattern which is true throughout Revelation. When we consider the six important sevens, the first four of each are all unique from the last three. This is true of the seven angels and churches, the seven prophecies and seals, and the seven trumpets and bowls. With this in mind, consider what Ed Vallowe wrote concerning the spiritual meaning of seven. “When man began to analyze and combine numbers, he developed other interesting symbols. He took the perfect world number four and added to it the perfect divine number, three, and got seven, the most sacred number to the Hebrews. It was earth crowned with heaven—the four-square earth plus the divine completeness of God. So we have SEVEN expressing completeness through the union of earth with heaven.”
First, the spiritual meaning of seven and now the spiritual meaning of three. Brought together, we have ten, which of course, also has a very important spiritual meaning. Concerning ten, Stephen Jones wrote, “Yod is a closed hand. Because ten is also the number of the law, which brings divine order, it signifies ‘the works of the law.’
“As we wrote earlier, the number eight indicates a new beginning, a new birth in a believer. Nine is visitation and manifests the Holy Spirit’s leading, training, and judgment (learning to discern right and wrong) in the life of the believer, and acts as a witness against the unbeliever to expose the secrets of his heart.
“Ten is the number of divine order being reestablished one way or another through the judgment of the law (as pictured by the Ten Commandments). In other words, it manifests the actual sentence of the law which follows the gathering and presentation of the evidence. After the Holy Spirit has revealed the evidence to expose men’s hearts (i.e., number nine), the Judge reveals the law. That is, he pronounces the sentence (i.e., number ten) according to the law.
“Ten is the number that portrays that time of judgment when men either receive reward or come under divine judgment. One way or another, the law must be fulfilled and the divine order reestablished.
“The tenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is the yod, which means a deed or work. Because ten is also the number of the law, as seen in the Ten Commandments, the yod became a symbol of ‘the works of the law’ (Romans 3:20). The meaning of the number ten is based upon the divine law, because as Revelation 20:12 and 13, say, all will be judged “according to their deeds.”
When we understand that ten is a “symbol of ‘the works of the law,” we better understand what Jesus said in Revelation 2:26. “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations” (NKJV). Beloved, what are His works if not the spiritual fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets as He declared in Matthew 5, verses 17 through 20? And how do we “keep” His works? Our word “keeps” is defined by Strong’s as, “A watch… to guard (from loss or injury, properly by keeping the eye upon).” I immediately think of the following.
Luke 21:33-36 (NKJV)
33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. 34 "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."
What did our Lord say? “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Would it be safe to say that “all these things” speaks of the prophecies to the seven churches and their spiritual fulfillment? Our Lord also said this to the church of Sardis.
Revelation 3:3 (NKJV)
3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
Paul said the “day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” (1st Thess. 5:2; NKJV), and despite tradition’s take on this, it is not referring to a rapture of the church. Jesus wasn’t warning the world in Revelation 3:3, He was warning us, His people, admonishing us to “watch” and “pray,” to observe and understand that He is fulfilling the law and the prophets in the midst of His people until all is fulfilled. It is crucial for us to understand that He only comes “as a thief” to those who do not watch, hence the reason that Paul wrote the following.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-8 (NKJV)
1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.
In summary, it is no coincidence that our numbers seven, three, and ten stand out in the book of the Revelation. In seven we have the ongoing fulfillment of God’s purpose, while in three, we have a complete witness of this fulfillment. Finally, in ten, we discover the spiritual fulfillment of the Law as Jesus declared in Matthew 5:17.
Without a doubt, the visions of this book speak to both the “inward” and “outward” man, to both the soul and the spirit, and to the “thoughts” and the “intents” of His people all over the world. Beloved, the book of Revelation is not about the end of the world or the destruction of humankind, rather, it reveals to us the divine work of God through Christ in His people which is leading to the deliverance and salvation of those who are watching for His appearing.