What do the numbers in the Book of Revelation mean?

Purpose

There are some strange numbers in Revelation. For example:

    • God has seven Spirits (Rev 4:5).
    • Exactly 12,000 people from each of the 12 tribes of Israel are sealed by God (Rev 7:3-4).
    • When Christ returns, the blood will flow for a distance of 1,600 furlongs (Rev 14:20 – YLT).
    • The wall of the New Jerusalem is 144 cubits high (Rev 21:17 – NIV).
    • The New Jerusalem itself is a square – 12,000 furlongs (1500 miles) in length and in width (Rev 21:16 YLT).

The purpose of this article is to explain the meanings of these numbers. It shows that all numbers in Revelation are symbols. In other words, for example, God does not literally have seven Spirits. Rather, the number seven says something qualitatively about God’s Spirit. In the same way, God’s people are not literally 144,000 in number. That number says something qualitatively about the end-time remnant.

The Number 4

John “saw FOUR angels standing
at the FOUR corners of the earth,
holding back the FOUR winds
of the earth
” (Rev 7:1).

During the Millennium,
Satan will be released from his prison,
and will come out to deceive the nations
which are in the FOUR corners of the earth

(Rev 20:7-8).

The earth does not literally have 4 corners and there are not literally 4 winds. The number 4 signifies THE WHOLE WORLD. This may be confirmed as follows:

Four words to describe All People

The number 4 is often hidden in phrases that use four related words to describe ALL the people of the world. For example, Revelation 5:9 could have read:

You have … purchased for God with Your blood men
from every
NATION.”

But it is expanded to read:

You have … purchased for God with Your blood men
from
every TRIBE and TONGUE and PEOPLE and NATION.

The following are further instances where four words are used while one word might have been sufficient:

    • Every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Rev 7:9);
    • Many peoples and nations and tongues and kings” (Rev 10:11);
    • The peoples and tribes and tongues and nations” (Rev 11:9);
    • Every tribe and people and tongue and nation” (Rev 13:7);
    • Every nation and tribe and tongue and people” (Rev 14:6);
    • Peoples and nations and tongues and kings” (Rev 17:15);

These seven instances use only the following five concepts but in different permutations:

        • Nations
        • Tribes
        • Peoples
        • Tongues
        • Kings

The fact that all seven of these instances use exactly four words while one word might have been sufficient confirms the significance of the number four. And since all seven instances describe ALL the people of the world indicates that the number four signifies THE WHOLE WORLD.

All Creation

The meaning of the number four can also be seen in that creation is sometimes described as consisting of four parts:

1) “Worship Him who made the HEAVEN and the EARTH and SEA and springs of WATERS” (Rev 14:7).

2) “Every created thing which is in HEAVEN and on the EARTH and UNDER THE EARTH and on the SEA” (Rev 5:13)

Conclusions

1) Since the number four symbolizes the whole earth, and since the “four living creatures (are) full of eyes in front and behind” (Rev 4:6), they symbolize awareness of EVERYTHING that happens on earth.

2) 1600 is equal to 4x4x100. In other words, it is the superlative form of 4, just like 144,000 (12x12x1000) is the superlative form of 12. Therefore, since the number 4 symbolizes the whole earth, the blood that will flow out of the wine press for a distance of 1,600 furlongs (Rev 14:20 YLT) means that people will die all over the world.

3) The first four trumpets attack the four elements of creation as described in Revelation 14:7; the earth, the sea, the waters, and the heavenly bodies (Rev 8:7-12). In other words, they attack the whole world.

4) The same applies to the first four plagues. They also attack the earth, the sea, the waters, and the heavenly bodies (Rev 16:2-8).

The Number 12

The number 12 appears more than a hundred times in the Scriptures and consistently represents the people of God. For example:

12 in the Old Testament

Since Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs (Acts 7:8), Israel consisted of twelve tribes (Gen 35:22; 49:28). The lists of the tribes in the Old Testament differ, but there are always 12 in the list. Since the number 12 was regarded as important, there were:

      • Twelve spies of Israel (Deut 1:23),
      • Twelve stones of the Jordan River (Josh 4:2-9),
      • Twelve cities of the Levites (Josh 21:40),
      • Twelve governors for Solomon (1 Kings 4:7),
      • Twelve bronze oxen that held up the bronze sea in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 7:44; 2 Chr 4:2-4; Jer 52:20),
      • Twelve lions in front of Solomon’s throne (1 Kings 10:18-20; 2 Chr 9:17-19),
      • Elijah’s twelve stones (1 Kings 18:31), and
      • Twenty-four courses of priests, each with twelve trained musicians (1 Chr 25:1-31).

12 in the New Testament

Similarly, Jesus chose exactly 12 disciples; not 11 or 13.

Judas fell away, leaving only 11 disciples, but Revelation still refers to “the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev 21:14).

12 in Revelation

The number 12 also symbolizes God’s people also in Revelation. For example:

1) The pure woman has a crown of “twelve stars” (Rev 12:1). She first gave birth to Christ (Rev 12:5) but, after Christ had ascended to heaven (Rev 12:5), she also had other “children” (Rev 12:17). She, therefore, represents God’s people both before and after Christ. For a further discussion, see – Who are the woman, the dragon, and the child?

2) “The New Jerusalem,” which is another symbol for “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev 21:9-10), has 12 gates with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel written on them (Rev 21:12), meaning that only Israelites may enter. But it also has 12 foundations with the names of the 12 apostles written on them (Rev 21:14), meaning that this city is built on the foundation of the message of the New Testament. This also means that Revelation merges the church into Israel.

3) In the original language, the height (or width) of the wall of the city is 144 = 12 x 12 cubits (Rev 21:17 YLT).

In conclusion, in both the Old and New Testaments, the number 12 symbolizes God’s people.

The 144,000 Israelites

Since the number 144,000 equals 12x12x1000, it is derived from the number 12. Since 12 symbolizes God’s people, the number 144,000 symbolizes something more specific about God’s people.

Another article (See – Who are the 144000?) shows that the 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel (144,000 in total) are using Old Testament military language as a symbol. In other words, the doubling of 12 (12×12) in the number 144,000 symbolizes the perfection of the end-time remnant of God’s people; prepared for spiritual battle.

No lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless” (Rev 14:1, 5).

They “have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste” (Rev 14:4), meaning that they were not defiled by Babylon, the mother of harlots, or by her harlot daughters (Rev 17:5). They will be pure in their worship of God.

Jerusalem’s Wall

The other symbol in Revelation that employs the number 144 is the wall of the New Jerusalem, which “was 144 cubits thick” (Rev 21:17; NIV or YLT). In ancient times, the wall of a city was the most important defense for the people of that city. Both this huge wall and the 144,000 sons of Israel in Revelation 7:4 use military strength to symbolize something about God’s people:

The 144,000 Israelites symbolize that God’s end-time army will not surrender. They will be willing to die for their testimony (Rev 12:11).

The huge wall of the New Jerusalem symbolizes the spiritual strength of God’s eternal people: Never again will anybody be able to tempt them to sin.

The 24 Elders

In Revelation, there are 24 elders in God’s throne room (e.g., Rev 4:4); comparable to the 24 names written on the New Jerusalem.

Since the number 24 is equal to 12 + 12, the root number for the 24 elders is 12. And since the number 12 symbolizes the PEOPLE OF GOD, the number 24 symbolizes some aspect of God’s people.

The number 24 could be drawn from the fact that the Old Testament priests were organized into 24 divisions, each of which served consecutively in the temple for a week at a time (1 Chr 24:1-19). In Revelation 5:8, “the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding … golden bowls full of incense.” The incense seems to imply that they function as priests. So, associating the elders with the 24 divisions of the Israelite priesthood is certainly possible.

Specifically, another article has concluded that the 24 elders are human representatives of God’s people in God’s throne room. They sit on thrones, meaning that they rule the world under “Him who sits on the throne” (Rev 4:9).

The Number 7

Seven is the most prominent number in Revelation (e.g., seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls, seven heads of the beast, etc.). This number is mentioned 56 times in Revelation.

The number seven is derived from the seven days of the week. Similar to the days of the week, many of the sevens in Revelation imply a sequence of events, namely, the second follows after the first—the third after the second, and so forth, with the seventh being the last or the end (e.g., the seven seals). In that respect, the number seven in Revelation is different from the other numbers in Revelation.

The number seven, therefore, has to do with time and should be understood as the completion or perfection of time. Just like the number 4 means EVERYWHERE, the number 7 means ALWAYS.

Seven Spirits

One of the sevens in Revelation is God’s seven Spirits (Rev 3:1; 4:5; 5:6). This number must be interpreted symbolically. God does not literally have seven Spirits.

Since the number seven symbolizes ALWAYS, and due to the connection between the Spirits and the seven lamps in the temple (Rev 4:5) that were ALWAYS burning, the seven Spirits of God can be understood to mean that God’s Spirit is ALWAYS with us.

The Seven Heads

There are three beasts in Revelation that have seven heads and ten horns each (Rev 12:3; 13:1; 17:3). Although these beasts represent different things, they all have the same seven heads and ten horns. The seven heads of the beast are the seven phases of the beast, covering all time.

The Number 2

Similar to the number 4, the number 2 is often hidden in phrases that mention two related things, for example:

John, who testified to the WORD OF GOD and to the TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST, even to all that he saw” (Rev 1:1).

The WORD OF GOD and … the TESTIMONY OF JESUS” (Rev 1:2);

I, John … was on the island called Patmos because of the WORD OF GOD and the TESTIMONY OF JESUS” (Rev 1:9).

Those who had been slain because of the WORD OF GOD,
and because of the TESTIMONY which they had maintained
” (Rev 6:9).

Her children, who keep the COMMANDMENTS OF GOD and … the TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST” (Rev 12:17);

The saints who keep the COMMANDMENTS OF GOD and their FAITH IN JESUS” (Rev 14:12);

Those who had been beheaded because of their TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST and … the WORD OF GOD” (Rev 20:4).

These seven verses, therefore, refer to only four related concepts:

    • The word of God,
    • The testimony of Jesus,
    • The commandments of God, and
    • Faith in Jesus.

These seven instances combine these four concepts differently but always list only two of the four concepts, indicating the significance of the number two. Since these seven verses always describe God’s people, the number 2 symbolizes God’s people. This symbolism is probably based on the Old Testament principle that at least two witnesses are required to confirm evidence (e.g., 2 Cor 13:1; 1 Tim 5:19).

The following are further examples of the number 2:

1) The two witnesses (Rev 11:3);

2) The strong angel’s two “feet like pillars of fire,” which He placed on the sea and on the land; The sea and the land symbolize the people of the world (cf. Rev 13:1, 11). The angel’s fiery feet are another symbol of the fire that flows out of the mouth of the two witnesses (Rev 11:5).

3) Revelation 13 mentions the dragon, the beast, and the beast from the earth (Rev 13:1-2, 11) but later Revelation identifies the beast from the earth as the “the false prophet” (Rev 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). The beast from the earth has “two horns like a lamb” (Rev 13:11). In name, it is a Christian organization. But “he spoke as a dragon” (Rev 13:11). For that reason, it is “the false prophet” (Rev 16:13).


Summary

This article analyses the meanings of the numbers 2, 4, 7, and 12 in the book of Revelation.

The Number 4

The number 4 signifies THE WHOLE WORLD. For example:

1) John “saw FOUR angels standing
at the FOUR corners of the earth,
holding back the FOUR winds
of the earth
” (Rev 7:1; cf. Rev 20:7-8).

2) The number 4 is often hidden in phrases that use four related words to describe ALL the people of the world, for example, “men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev 5:9; cf. Rev 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:15). Since all seven these instances describe ALL the people of the world, this confirms that the number four signifies THE WHOLE WORLD.

3) Creation is also sometimes described as consisting of four parts (Rev 5:13; 14:7).

In conclusion, since 1,600 is equal to 4x4x100, it is the superlative form of 4, just like 144,000 (12x12x1000) is the superlative form of 12. Therefore, since the number 4 symbolizes the whole earth, the blood that will flow out of the wine press for a distance of 1,600 furlongs (Rev 14:20 YLT) means that people will die all over the world.

The Number 12

The number 12 appears more than a hundred times in the Scriptures and consistently represents the people of God. For example, the lists of the tribes in the Old Testament differ, but there are always 12 in the list. In the New Testament, Jesus chose exactly 12 disciples; not 11 or 13. The number 12 also symbolizes God’s people also in Revelation. For example:

1) The pure woman, representing God’s people both before and after Christ, has a crown of “twelve stars” (Rev 12:1).

2) “The New Jerusalem,” which is another symbol for “the bride, the wife of the Lamb,” has 12 gates, the names of the 12 tribes of Israel, 12 foundations, and the names of the 12 apostles (Rev 21:9-10, 12, 14). And its wall is 12 x 12 cubits high (Rev 21:17 YLT).

The number 144,000, therefore, which is equal to 12x12x1000, is derived from the number 12 and symbolizes the perfection of the end-time remnant of God’s people; prepared for spiritual battle.

The Number 7

The number seven is different from the other numbers in Revelation because it implies a sequence of events. The number seven, therefore, has to do with time and should be understood as the completion or perfection of time. While the number 4 means EVERYWHERE, the number 7 means ALWAYS. Consequently, God’s seven Spirits (Rev 3:1; 4:5; 5:6) symbolize that God’s Spirit is ALWAYS with us. And the seven heads of the beast (Rev 12:3; 13:1; 17:3) are the seven phases of the beast, covering all time.

The Number 2

Similar to the number 4, the number 2 is often hidden in phrases that mention two related things, such as “the WORD OF GOD and to the TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST” (Rev 1:1; cf. Rev 1:2, 9; 6:9; 12:17; 14:12; 20:4). All seven these instances describe God’s people. The number 2, therefore, symbolizes God’s people. We see this number also in the two witnesses (Rev 11:3). Similarly, the two horns of the lamblike beast indicate that this beast symbolizes an organization that is Christian in name. But “he spoke as a dragon” (Rev 13:11), which is Satan (Rev 12:9). For that reason, it is “the false prophet” (Rev 16:13).

Even some of the most learned people do not understand the symbolic nature of numbers. For example, the NASB converts the 12,000 furlongs (Rev 21:16) into 1,500 miles. This destroys the symbolism, which is dangerous, for John has warned, “if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life” (Rev 22:19).

– End of Summary – 


Other Articles

Revelation 15: Introduction to the Plagues of Revelation

This is an article in the series on the vision of the seven last plagues (Rev 15-16). The first part of this article is a summary.

The seven last plagues are poured out in Revelation 16. This article is a verse-by-verse discussion of Revelation 15, which serves as an introduction to those seven last plagues.

REVELATION 15:1

Then I saw another sign in heaven,
great and marvelous,

The previous “great signs” which John saw in heaven were the woman clothed with the sun (Rev 12:1) and the great red dragon (Rev 12:3).

seven angels who had seven plagues,

These seven angels already had the plagues. In Revelation 15:7, they ALSO receive “bowls full of the wrath of God.”

Revelation 14 ends with Christ’s return (Rev 14:14). But the plagues are not poured out AFTER His return. The seven last plagues form a new main part of Revelation and each such main part ends with the return of Christ. Revelation 15, therefore, jumps back in time to before the time of the end of Revelation 14.

which are the last

Revelation 21:9, similarly, refers to the seven plagues as the “last.” As explained elsewhere, these plagues end in the return of Christ, as described in Revelation 19.

because in them the wrath of God is finished.

The warning of the third angel, namely that anyone who receives the mark of the beast “will drink of the wine of the wrath of God” and that “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever” (Rev 14:9-11) is often taken as proof of eternal torment.

However, according to Revelation 15:1, with the seven last plagues, “the wrath of God” will be “finished.” The smoke rising “forever and ever” does not mean eternal torment. Similar to Babylon’s smoke that “rises up forever and ever” (Rev 19:3), it means that their torment will always be remembered. For a further discussion, see – The smoke of their torment goes up forever (Rev 14:9-11).

REVELATION 15:2

And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire,
and those who had been victorious over the beast
and his image and the number of his name,
standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God”

WHO ARE THE VICTORIOUS PEOPLE?

The beast, his image, and the number of his name refer back to the end-time persecution described in Revelation 13:11-17. The “victorious” people are those who refused to worship (obey) the beast (Rev 13:12) or to accept its mark (Rev 13:16).

Revelation 13:16-14:3 identifies BOTH the mark of the beast and the seal of God as names on foreheads. This implies that that end-time persecution will divide the world into two groups:

        • Those with the mark of the beast and
        • Those with the seal of God.

The people “who had been victorious over the beast” (Rev 15:2) are described by Revelation 14:1 as the 144000 with the seal of God on their foreheads (Rev 14:1). The “victorious” people of Revelation 15, therefore, are the same as the 144000.

WHEN DID JOHN SEE THEM?

Since their number seems to be complete, it is implied that John saw them at THE END OF that persecution. Since he saw them before the plagues are poured out in Revelation 16, the plagues are poured out AFTER that persecution. The time of this vision, therefore, is a point in time BETWEEN the Revelation 13-persecution and the seven last plagues.

WHERE DID JOHN SEE THEM?

The “victorious” people stand on the “sea of glass,” which is before the throne of God (Rev 4:6), which is in His temple (Rev 16:17) in heaven (Rev 11:19; 14:17). It, therefore, may seem as if they are in heaven. However, they are the same people as the 144000 “standing on Mount Zion” (Rev 14:1). In Revelation, “those who dwell on the earth” refer to evildoers (Rev 6:10; 11:10; 13:14; 17:2) while God’s people are presented AS IF they are in heaven (cf. Rev 11:1; 12:1).

END-TIME PERSECUTION

Since the plagues are poured out immediately after the end-time persecution (Rev 13:15) and since the plagues fall on the people who accept the mark of the beast (Rev 16:2), it is appropriate to say a few words about that persecution:

THE BEAST FROM THE EARTH

That persecution begins when a second beast comes “up out of the earth” (Rev 13:11). It “had two horns like a lamb” (v11), which means that it appears Christ-like, for Jesus is called the Lamb 28 times in Revelation (e.g., Rev 14:1). But, it “spoke as a dragon” (Rev 13:11), which is a symbol for Satan (Rev 12:9). For that reason, the earth-beast is also called “the false prophet” (compare with Rev 16:13; 19:20). It “deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform” (Rev 13:14). These symbols identify the beast from the earth as a Christian organization.

THE IMAGE OF THE BEAST

Christians who accept the mark of the beast, to enforce their views on all Christians, would need the strong arm of the state. Therefore, the false prophet will deceive “those who dwell on the earth … to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword” (Rev 13:14). The image of the beast represents civil authorities under the control of the religious authority. This is confirmed by the following:

      • This is an image of the beast from the sea (Rev 13:1, 3), which symbolizes the Church of the Middle Ages. The image is a replica of the system of government during the middle ages when the church used the State to persecute God’s people, for example, in the massacres of the Waldensians.
      • ??? People create the image of the beast (Rev 13:14).
      • ??? The image kills God’s people (Rev 13:15).
      • Demon spirits, coming from the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet, gather “the kings of the whole world” (Rev 16:14). These are the same four role-players as the end-time persecutors of God’s people (Rev 13:11-12, 14), but the “image” has been replaced by “the kings of the whole world.”
      • Signs and wonders are instrumental in both the creation of the image and the gathering of the kings (Rev 13:14; 16:14).
      • At the return of Christ, we again find the same four as God’s enemies (Rev 19:19-20; 20:2) and again the “image” is replaced by “the kings of the earth” (Rev 19:19).

THE DRAGON AND THE BEAST

The false prophet and the image are the main characters in the end-time persecution. The beast and the dragon are in the background. The beast received its authority from the dragon (Rev 13:2) and the false prophet exercises the beast’s authority, but it is the false prophet that gives life to the image (Rev 13:15) and it is the image that persecutes God’s people (Rev 13:15). This because the dragon and the beast represent historical worldly powers that no longer exist as such during the end-time persecution. For identification of the dragon and the beast, see also the identity of the beasts with seven heads.

PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS BY CHRISTIANS

Since the beast represents the Church of the Middle Ages and since the false prophet appears Christ-like, it will be persecution of Christians by Christians. Both groups will appear to be Christians. Both groups attend church, study their Bibles, and claim to be God’s true people. But the Christians who persecute other Christians show by their intolerance that they have Satan as their father. Their desire to prescribe what others should believe, and their desire to punish those who do not comply identify them as the end-time Pharisees:

You, too, outwardly appear righteous to men,
but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness

(Matt 23:28).

You are of your father the devil,
and you want to do the desires of your father

(John 8:42).

A true Christian does not insult or injure any other person:

Whoever wishes to become great among you
shall be your servant;
and whoever wishes to be first among you
shall be slave of all
” (Mark 10:44).

God gave our Master “all authority … in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28:17) but He never used His power to benefit Himself. Even when He hung on the cross, suffering the most excruciating torment and pain, He did not use His powers to benefit Himself. Thus He demonstrated God’s character, which is the opposite of ours.

HISTORICAL PERSECUTION

The first official persecution of Christians by Christians, through the power of the State, was in the fourth century. The main matter of controversy, in that century, was whether Christ is equal to God the Father. Some of the emperors were Arians and banished Nicene Christians to the other ends of the empire. Other emperors adopted Nicene Christology and persecuted the Arians. This practice continued and escalated into the Middle Ages when the church used the state to persecute those who rebel against her blasphemous practices. Revelation 17 symbolizes this relationship as “a woman sitting on a scarlet beast” (Rev 17:3, 18).

In recent centuries, the church, to a large extent, due to the modern principle of separation of church and state, has lost its power over the State and therefore its ability to persecute those who oppose its teachings. However, the beast’s fatal wound will heal (Rev 13:3). That will happen when the false prophet deceives the people of the world to create an image of the beast.

??? The false prophet will “give breath to the image of the beast” (Rev 13:15). Then this image would kill “as many as do not worship the image of the beast” (Rev 13:15).

THE MARK OF THE BEAST

It is not the purpose here to identify the mark of the beast but only to describe certain characteristics:

(1) VERY OLD

It is the mark of the beast that comes up out of the sea (Rev 13:1, 12). That beast looks like a leopard, has the characteristics of a bear and a lion, and receives its power from the dragon (Rev 13:2). These are the four animals in Daniel 7:3-7. The dragon represents the Roman Empire. For that reason, the beast has been identified as the little horn of Daniel 7, which is another symbol of the church of the middle ages. The mark of the beast, therefore, is something for which the church of the middle ages is particularly well known. It is a fundamental teaching of the church over many centuries and not something new that will be invented in the end time.

(2) FROM THE ROMAN EMPIRE

The dragon gave him (the beast from the sea) his power and his throne and great authority” (Rev 13:2). In this context, the dragon represents the Roman Empire. The church of the middle ages was a continuation of the authority of the Roman Empire. This implies that the beast received its mark (the mark of the beast) from the Roman Empire. What teaching the church retained from the Roman Empire, I will leave for the reader to work out. You will find it on the pages of this website.

In the fourth century, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire, and the Emperor became the real head of the church. In that century, the church adopted the practice of formulating man-made creeds and persecuting people that taught contrary views. This pattern continued throughout the Middle Ages and will be re-enacted. 

(3) ADOPTED BY PROTESTANTISM

Since all Christians will be forced to accept the mark of the beast, it is something that is already accepted by most Christians and something which the protestant denominations accepted from the church of the middle ages.

(4) CONTRARY TO GOD’S WILL

Since God’s people refuse to accept the mark of the beast, it must be contrary to the will of God.

(5) VISIBLE DISTINCTION

Lastly, to enable the persecution of people who refuse to accept the mark of the beast, there must be some issue that makes a VISIBLE distinction. If history is anything to go by, God’s people will rebel against unscriptural doctrines and be persecuted for their rebellion. If we say nothing to oppose such teachings, we will not be persecuted. But we must testify. Satan will be overcome “because of the word of their testimony” (Rev 12:11). Underneath the altar, John saw “the souls of those who had been slain … because of the testimony which they had maintained” (Rev 6:9). God’s people must protest, and that testimony will identify them as the enemies of the false prophet.

IN SUMMARY

The mark of the beast is an age-old but erroneous teaching or practice of the church – received through the Roman Empire – for which the church of the Middle Ages was particularly known, but which was also adopted by the protestant denominations, and which will be used by the persecutors as a boundary marker to determine who is inside and who is outside the church. 

Since the mark of the beast is something that the church of the middle ages is particularly known for, the people that accept the mark of the beast are traditionalists. Over the centuries, Satan has guided church leaders to formulate many doctrines that contradict the Bible. It is important to understand that very few people study the Bible to form their own opinions. Rather, people learn their (often erroneous) doctrines from their spiritual fathers. Then they INTERPRET THE BIBLE TO FIT THEIR DOCTRINES, rather the other way round. Consequently, once a doctrine has become accepted by a denomination, it is almost IMPOSSIBLE TO CHANGE it. For example, the doctrine of eternal torment has been established for many centuries, and although very sound arguments have been proposed against this view (e.g., The Case for Annihilationism), the inertia of denominations prevents them from changing their official doctrines.

REVELATION 15:3

And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

This is a single song, joining the two main figures from the Old and New Testaments. In Revelation, “the Lamb” refers 28 times to Jesus.

“Great and marvelous are Your works,
O Lord God, the Almighty;
Righteous and true are Your ways,
King of the nations!

This is an example of parallelism which essentially says the same thing twice. God is praised for His “works” and His “ways.” As is stated in the next verse, “for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

This is the song of Moses and the Lamb. This, therefore, is what Jesus Christ sings to His Father. In other words, Jesus refers to His Father as “Lord God, the Almighty.” This is consistent with the statements earlier in Revelation that the Father is Jesus’ God (Rev 1:6; 3:12). In Revelation, only the Father is God and only the Father is Almighty.  In His prayer to the Father, He described the Father as “the only true God” (John 17:3).

REVELATION 15:4

“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy;
For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU,

FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.”

Previously, His “works” and His “ways” (Rev 15:3) were hidden in mystery, but now His “righteous acts have been revealed.” In particular, “true and righteous are Your judgments” (Rev 16:7; cf. 16:5) and “His judgments are true and righteous” (Rev 19:2).

Christ’s return is delayed until certain things are revealed. The article series on the seven seals showed the following:

The principle of God’s government is that “if anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35; cf. 10:44; Matt 18:4; 23:11).

Satan was probably the most beautiful and most talented of all of God’s creatures (Exek 28:12-14, 17), but refused to “be last of all and servant of all.” Instead, he said, “I will raise my throne above the stars of God … I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa 14:13-14).

Therefore, God condemned Him. In own his defense, Satan accuses the people who God has elected to eternal life (Rev 12:10), showing that they all use their talents to their own advantage.

The Son of God defended God’s elect and God’s judgments but Satan was able to create doubt about the trustworthiness of God’s unique Son, arguing that, under the right circumstances, the Son of God would also use His powers to His own advantage.

For that reason, Jesus Christ, “although He existed in the form of God,” took on “the likeness of men” (Phil 2:6-7).  “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).

God created the universe through His Son. As a human being, He was able to perform many miracles that amazed the people. Throughout His earthly life, Satan tempted Him to use His powers to glorify Himself. The hours of His death were the most extreme temptation possible. But, throughout this all, the Son of God did not use His infinite powers to benefit Himself. Therefore, He was declared “worthy” to break the seals (Rev 5:9)

Revelation symbolizes the book of life, due to Satan’s informed accusations against God’s elect (Rev 12:10), as sealed with seven seals (Rev 5:1). The intelligent beings of the created universe were unable to refute Satan’s charges against God of unfair judgments. However, after Christ’s worthiness has been revealed by His death, Jesus is regarded “worthy” (Rev 5:9) to break the seals of the book, which means to refute Satan’s accusations against God’s elect by revealing the deeds of God’s people. This was done throughout history but will be particularly revealed during the final persecution involving the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16-17).

To finally confirm the perfection of God’s judgments, the purpose of the seven last plagues is to show that the people with the mark of the beast, although they appear to be Christians, are hardened beyond repentance (Rev 16:9, 11).

In summary, the Son of God became a human being to be tested. His life, but particularly His death, understood as His final hours, revealed Him to be “worthy.” Thereafter, the evil history of this world was allowed to continue to reveal that God’s judgments are perfect; both His judgments of those that will die the second death (Rev 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8) and those who will eternal life (e.g., 1 John 2:25).

REVELATION 15:5

After these things I looked,
and the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened,

Tabernacle” means tent. In modern language, we may understand it as home. In this instance, it is where God lives. “The tabernacle of testimony” is an Old Testament expression for the temple in the wilderness. The “testimony,” when connected with the temple, refers to the Ten Commandments (e.g., Exo 31:18; 32:15), which was placed in the ark. Therefore, the ark was called “the ark of the testimony” (e.g., Exo 25:22).

There is no literal temple and no literal Ten Commandments in heaven. The reference to the Ten Commandments symbolizes that God’s judgments, as reflected in the plagues, are based on His law.

REVELATION 15:6

and the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple, clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded around their chests with golden sashes.

Revelation 15:1 said that the angels are in heaven. It was not specifically said that they are in the temple. But now they come out of the temple, which implies that John, previously, saw them in the temple.

Their clothes symbolize and reflect the purity of God. They have the same “golden sashes” as Jesus (Rev 1:13).

REVELATION 15:7

Then one of the four living creatures
gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls
full of the wrath of God,
who lives forever and ever.
because in them the wrath of God is finished

The four living creatures are always in close association with the throne of God (Rev 4:6). They seem to be the main connection between God and the created universe. That means that they received the golden bowls with the “wrath of God” from God.

Bowls are temple vessels associated with the altar of incense (Zech 14:20; Num 7:84; Rev 5:8). In Revelation, bowls symbolically carry God’s wrath (Rev 15:7) from the temple to earth.

The seven angels already previously had the seven last plagues. Now they also receive “the wrath of God.” As discussed under Revelation 15:1, “the wrath of God is finished” in the final events, concluding with Christ’s return.

In Revelation, only “Him who sits on the throne … lives forever and ever” (Rev 4:9; 10:6).

REVELATION 15:8

And the temple was filled with smoke
from the glory of God and from His power;
and no one was able to enter the temple
until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.

In the seventh seal, “there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Rev 8:1). The article on the seventh seal interpreted this as the sorrow in heaven when the lost are put to death at the return of Christ. In the current verse, “one was able to enter the temple.” If nobody is in the temple, there would be silence in heaven. As stated, the seven last plagues are understood as the first stages of the return of Christ. This implies a relationship between the seventh seal and the seven last plagues. 

This will be a major turning point in the history of mankind. In the preceding period, the persecution of God’s people by the image of the beast (Rev 13:15) and the proclamation of the eternal gospel by the three angels (Rev 14:6) divided the world’s population into two camps; those with the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16) and those with the seal of God (Rev 14:1; 7:1-3). When the last person makes his or her final decision, the temple will be filled with smoke, so that nobody is able to enter. This signifies that, from this point forward, NOBODY WILL BE SAVED. The eternal destiny of every human being is now permanently fixed. Nobody will switch sides.

The plagues start to fall as soon as the last person makes his or her final choice between God and the beast. The question, of why God sends plagues on people after their eternal destinies have been sealed, will be addressed in one of the final articles in this series; The Purpose of the Seven Last Plagues.

REVELATION 16:1

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple,
saying to the seven angels,
‘Go and pour out on the earth
the seven bowls of the wrath of God.

Revelation 15 describes events in heaven. Revelation 16:1 is still part of this heavenly scene, for the voice comes from the temple. As from Revelation 16:2, the focus shifts to the earth, describing the outpouring of the seven bowls upon the earth.

NOT SEVEN LITERAL BOWLS

Obviously, the angels do not pour a literal chemical from literal bowls upon men who had received a literal mark imposed by a literal beast.

Nor is the number seven to be understood literally. In Revelation, the number seven signifies the COMPLETION OF A PROCESS. It is based on the first series of seven in the Bible, namely the seven days of the creation week. In any series of seven in Revelation, the second follows after the first, the third after the second, and so forth, and the seventh is always the last. The number seven is therefore symbolic of a ‘completed process’. Other symbolic numbers in Revelation do not imply a SEQUENCE.

When applied to the plagues, the number seven simply means that an undefined number of plagues will be poured out until God’s purpose has been achieved.


SUMMARY

The seven plagues are part of the Return of Christ. They are preceded by the persecution of Christians by Christians, instigated by the false prophet. The difference between these Christians is not in their doctrines but in their hearts. In the thinking of the persecutors, God is not love, but rather full of wrath and anger.

The people with the mark of the beast are TRADITIONALISTS.  They accept doctrines that have been developed over the centuries.  They interpret the Bible to fit their doctrines and regard other Christians as dangerous heretics. But it is exactly their desire to control and punish non-conformists that makes them worshipers of the beast. 

The same controversies which we see today will form the basis for persecution. The difference will lie in how much power God allows Satan to persecute His true people.

The plagues start to fall as soon as the last person makes his or her final choice between God and the beast.

These are not seven literal bowls. It is an undefined number of plagues that will be poured out until God’s purpose has been achieved.


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