Scriptural Numbers

Have you ever taken a trip with a car full of kids? In the halls of my memory I have pictures of journeys taken with our three children, Brenda, Karen and Eric. Being approximately three years apart, they were quite the active little bunch. Eric was the youngest, but by no means unable to hold his own with his two older sisters.

True, there were times when by the sheer weight of their bodies they were able to bring him into temporary submission, but their victories were relatively short lived. Being a real boy, he would eventually find a way to triumph.

So you can imagine the jolly time Ken and I had, still inexperienced in child rearing as we were at the time, as we trundled off with three lively youngsters and sometimes our dog in the back seat of our car, headed for Grandma’s house many hours away.

Our first hurdle usually happened about ten miles down the road. “Are we there yet, Daddy?” a little voice would say. “No, dear. We have many more miles to go. We won’t be there until evening. Try to find something to do.” That was just the beginning, of course. Finding something to do isn’t easy in the crowded back seat of a car.

“Waugh!”

“What’s the matter, dear?”

“Sissy took my Bunny Rabbit!”

“Brenda, give Eric his Bunny.”

“Don’t look at me! I didn’t do it.”

“Karen, give Eric his Bunny!”

“I already did, Mommy. I just wanted to hold it for a minute.”

“OK. Is everyone all right now?”

“I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!”

“Me too!” “Me too!”

“Daddy, how long will it be before we can stop so the children can go to the bathroom.

“I just saw a sign that says the next rest stop is twenty five miles.
They will have to wait until then. It hasn’t been that long since we stopped the last time.”

“I know, dear. Children, you will have to wait for another twenty minutes, or so.”

“I can’t! I can’t! I have to go now!”

“Yes, you can. Daddy says so.”

Silence.

“Children, would you like to make the time go faster by doing ABC’s from the road signs?”

“Please, Mommy, can’t you read more stories from Swift Arrow? I want to hear what happened when he got to the Indian village!”

“Sure, Eric. That’s a great idea. I’m really curious about that too!”

Well, so much for my little journey down memory lane. But isn’t this a little like all of us, even adults, when we are waiting for something important to happen?

Take for example the coming of Jesus. Christians have been waiting for this event for many years, now, and we have gone through many stages and experiences as the time has lengthened into centuries. Waiting is one of the most dreaded of human experiences, especially if the wait is long. God knows this, and so He has graciously given us prophetic insights that break up the long wait into time periods.

Even these seem shadowy and mysterious at times, but God means for us to study these time periods in order to help us to know where we fit in to the scheme of things, and what our duties, responsibilities and privileges are in relation to our spot in history.

In order to expand our minds to a better understanding of prophetic time periods, we can learn much by studying the significance of Biblical numbers.

Perhaps you have noticed that some numbers are repeated over and over in the Scriptures. Most notable are 7, 10, 12 and 3, or 3 1/2, 4, and multiples of these numbers. Take for example, the number 7. Our world was created with the number 7 imbedded into the very structure and functioning of our earth, and perhaps of our being as well. It took 6 days to put our world together, and the 7th day was set aside as a day for rest, and for communion with our Creator.

But have you ever wondered why the number 7 is so significant throughout the Bible? Usually the response to this question is, “Because it signifies perfection.” But why does it signify perfection? I have discovered that nothing is random in the Bible. If God says it, then it means something important to Him, no matter how mysterious it may seem to us. He invites us to ask for wisdom, and if it is something that God wants us to know, He will reveal it to us. Hence, here are some thoughts about the meaning of the number 7 that I have gleaned over the years.

The first clue (from my perspective) is that there are 7 lights, or lamps, on the candlestick in the Sanctuary. Since the earthly Sanctuary represents God’s heavenly Sanctuary (Heb. 8:1-5), let’s go immediately to the throne room scene in Revelation 4:1-5, to see what significance we can find there.

“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this. At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the One who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian…. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God.”

Seven, then, must encompass the totality and completeness of the character attributes of God, and reflect them in the 7 aspects of the Holy Spirit. But what are these 7 attributes? They are listed in Isaiah 11:1-4:

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit (speaking of Christ).

“The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him––the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD––and He will delight in the fear of the LORD.

“He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes, or decide by what He hears with His ears; but with righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth.”

For a clearer understanding of the seventh aspect of the Holy Spirit, which is righteous judgment, turn to Isaiah 4:4:

“The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion: He will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by the Spirit of judgment and the Spirit of fire (see NIV mg. and KJV).”

So these 7 aspects of the Holy Spirit that reside in all their fullness in Christ are these: 1. Wisdom 2. Understanding 3. Counsel 4. Power 5. Knowledge 6. Fear of the Lord (which is hatred of evil – Pr. 8:13), and 7. Righteous Judgment.

Paul echoes the sentiments of Isaiah in this Messianic prophecy when he says that these reside in all their fullness in Christ –– and that the church should possess them, as well! (Now you know what to expect when you pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the early and latter rain!)

“I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea…. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge…. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” Col. 2:1-3, 9.

Notice that this counsel is given specifically for the church of Laodicea. We usually perceive our identity to be outlined in Revelation 3:14-22, where our lukewarmness is addressed, and the correction stated by Jesus is to buy of Him gold, eyesalve and white raiment.

But I think we can also learn something very important here in Colossians, where it is pointed out that we must be united in love in order for the Holy Spirit to be poured out in its fullness. No wonder Satan is trying to keep us separated from each other by schisms of liberal vs. conservatism, varying opinions about the nature of Christ, law and grace, Christian standards, male-female issues, or the color of the carpet in the sanctuary –– anything to keep us from feeling the bonding of Christian love which will remove the differences between us, and permit the flow of the Spirit in our lives and churches.

Going back to our throne room scene in Revelation, we see that the Lamb, representing Christ, “had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” Rev. 5:6. The seven horns represent all the fullness of the power of the Godhead, and the seven eyes represent all the fullness of wisdom, knowledge, etc.

By the way, when the Bible uses the term, “seven spirits,” it means “sevenfold spirit,” meaning the seven aspects of the Holy Spirit, just as we see symbolized in the seven-branched candlestick in the Sanctuary, which is made up of one lampstand with seven branches. So when the church is filled with the Holy Spirit, we should see these seven characteristics of God as they were, and are, exemplified in Christ – and then being displayed in the lives of the believers.

As Paul points out in Ephesians 4:12, 13, the Holy Spirit gives gifts to the church “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of Christ.”

But let’s go back, now, to the significance of Biblical numbers. Have you ever wondered why the number 3 1/2 seems to pop up over and over in the Scriptures? Obviously, 3 1/2 splits the perfect number, 7, right down the middle. This would suggest that in order for perfection to be complete, there should be two halves of the same issue, with the second half complementing or completing the first. Sometimes the 3 1/2 year concept is spoken of as 1260 days or years, especially if it is being used in the context of prophecy, and utilizing the year-day principle.

But the basic idea seems to be that it takes 3 1/2 days and/or years to sufficiently work through something having to do with the sin problem so as to reveal all the ramifications which are needed to finish the display of the characteristics of righteousness versus wickedness.

Take for example the 1260 years allotted to the beast power spoken of in Daniel 7:25, and contrast this with the preaching of the two witnesses of Revelation 11:3 during that same time period. Good and evil were being fully displayed, and the world and the universe had an opportunity to see where the sin problem would take mankind if allowed to fully develop. As Paul describes in 2 Thessalonians 2:3:

“Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day (Christ’s coming) will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed.”

But the interesting thing to note about the day-year principle, is that when His people were suffering for their own sins and working through the issues needed to understand the cause and effect of the sin problem, God assigned them a year of discipline for every day of the indulgence in sin which caused their departure from obedience.

Example:
“For forty years––one year for each of the forty days you explored the land––you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.” Num. 14:34.

But notice the opposite side of this principle, ie: When a righteous person suffers for the sins of others and in their behalf, he suffers one day for every year of their sins.

Example:
“Lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the house of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year.” Eze. 4:6.

Of course, the most notable example is that of Jesus, who fasted and prayed in the wilderness for 40 days, thus successfully completing the testing which the Israelites failed to do in 40 years of wandering; and in so doing, Jesus also conquered the world, the flesh and the devil for each of us. Isn’t it wonderful to know that the length of punishment for sin has been cut to the shortest possible time through Jesus, and that in receiving His righteous life in our behalf, we have immediate reconciliation with the Father?

Contrary to what Satan would have us believe, we need not wait until we work hard enough and long enough to merit forgiveness and acceptance, for Jesus has already paid the full penalty for our waywardness, and through Him we can have immediate connection with God. As the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness for the healing of the people, so we too can look to Jesus and find life and healing.

So even in the day-year principle we can see the doctrine of the gospel of grace displayed. A righteous Man has taken our place. Endless eons of purgatory where sins are burned away by fiery torture is a daydream and a lie of the evil one.

See how he loves to torture us even now by tempting us to believe that our sins are too bad for us to come back to Jesus, and that even if we do, we will have to pay the price for our waywardness by days or months or years of living under the shadow of what we have done, until perhaps we earn the right to be free of our guilt and shame.

What an evil deception! Nowhere in Scripture is this concept supported! On the contrary, Jesus says:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30.

Think of the parables Jesus told about the lost coin, the lost sheep, the lost boy. In each case, there was rejoicing, not incrimination when the lost was found. Think of the story of Jacob when he was running from his brother, Esau. Jacob had committed a most serious crime against Esau, and against his aged father, Isaac, as well. When he laid his head on that rock on the first night of his flight, he was exhausted and discouraged. No doubt he was depressed, guilt-ridden and afraid, as well.

And then, the windows of heaven were opened to him in a dream. He saw heavenly angels ministering to him; and he saw the Lord as well. Now, God could have said to him, “Jacob, you certainly have lived up to your name, ‘deceiver.’ Look at you! Out here in no-man’s-land sleeping on a rock, when you could be resting in your own soft bed and enjoying the comfort of home and family. But no, you had to take things into your own hands and botch up your life, and my plans for you, as well. Believe me, it’s going to be a hard road for you from here on out!”

Is that what God said to Jacob? Not at all! He didn’t even mention Jacob’s sin to him. I’m sure Jacob’s own conscience and Satan’s accusations were pounding upon his mind quite enough. But listen to what God said to His servant, Jacob:

“I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Gen. 28:13-15.

What an awesome, loving God we have! And to each of us He says:
“My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” Jer. 24:6, 7.

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (an expected end - KJV). Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity.’” Jer. 29:11-13.

So, while it is true that there are natural results from wandering away from God’s principles, we can be assured of God’s presence and guidance while we are recovering from our mistakes. The cause and effect of sin is not easily undone, for it becomes a part of our very physical, mental and emotional faculties, and it takes time to regenerate. Paul spent 3 years in the desert of Arabia after his conversion, preparing for his years of ministry (Gal. 1:15-18).

The disciples spent 3 1/2 years with Jesus during His earthly ministry, and then another 3 1/2 years preaching to the Jewish nation, thus completing the perfect 7-year cycle which brought to a close the 490 years of their probationary time as a nation, which had been prophesied by Daniel: “Seventy ‘sevens’ (or weeks) are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness….” Dan. 9:24.

So in our own experience, it may take an actual or proverbial 3 1/2 years, or longer, to recover our health, our energy, our mental acuity, or some other precious commodity that we may have lost in our wilderness wanderings. But God’s forgiveness, peace, hope, joy and usefulness, and His continuing presence and ongoing healing and power we can have now for the asking.

It only takes a willing heart, and submission to His leading and guidance in our lives. As Paul so eloquently expresses it:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:17-21.

So, dear friends, I have shared just a little bit of my thoughts about the significance of numbers in the Bible. You Bible students out there can add much more to this study, I am sure. In fact, you are welcome to share your thoughts by e-mail, or my new blog which has been so ably provided by my daughter, Brenda, all the way from El Dorado, KS.

In the meantime, “walk in the light, as He is in the light” (1 Jno. 1:7); “Rejoice in the Lord always…. Do not be anxious about anything…. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:4-7).

“Stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near!” Lu. 21:28.

“By standing firm you will gain life.” v. 19.

Extra quotes:

“Oh, the wonderful condescension of God! He is ever ready to meet us, even in our infirmities, and to encourage us by His presence, when we have done all in our part to make an entire surrender to Him. Heaven is open to man. God will be entreated to do these things for us. The future may seem dark before you, but God lives…. Surrender your will and die to self now, and leave God to make your way for you.” TD 323.

“By yielding up the will to Christ, we ally ourselves with divine power. We receive strength from above to hold us steadfast. A pure and noble life, a life of victory over appetite and lust, is possible to everyone who will unite his weak, wavering human will to the omnipotent unwavering will of God.” MH 176.

“We are in no case to become discouraged. Let us keep our eyes off the disagreeable parts of our experience, and let our words be full of good cheer…. Let us educate ourselves to talk courage…. Hold the beginning of your confidence firm unto the end. From Christ is flowing the living stream of salvation…. When in faith we take hold of His strength, He will change, wonderfully change, the most hopeless, discouraging outlook. He will do this for the glory of His name.” SD 218.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up. Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isa. 43:18, 19.

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Pet. 3:8,9.

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” Heb. 10:35-39.