Seven: Numbers and Symbols

What do all the numbers and symbols in Revelation mean? Are they literal or metaphorical? What purpose do they serve in the grand scheme of God’s story? Listen as Pastor Paul Kiss digs into Revelation 5:6 as we explore the Facts and Fiction around numbers and symbols in Revelation. We’ll learn that numbers and symbols of Revelation tell the story of a cosmic battle, in which we are all involved. The good news is that we already know how it ends.


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Seven: Numbers and Symbols

Speaker: Paul Kiss
Date: May 6, 2018

The numbers and symbols of Revelation tell the story of a cosmic battle, in which we are all involved. The good news is that we already know how it ends.

1. A Divine Drama*

1. Numbers
—● Four – universal in nature (4:6-8)
—● Six – incomplete; the antithesis of seven; false divinity (13:18)
—● Seven – represents fullness and completion (3:1; 5:6; 15:1)
—● 12, 24, 144,000 – God’s chosen people; God’s presence (12:1; 21:12)
—● 000 and its multiples – represents a large number: i.e. – 144,000 represents “all of God’s people.” (7:4; 5:11; 20:2-7)
2. Symbols/Images
—● Michael Reddish on Symbolism in Revelation:
—● “[Revelation] uses visions, symbols, and ancient myths to convey its message. The language of the book is primarily pictorial, symbolic language. It is not the language of science or logic. Rather, it is evocative, powerful, emotive language, at times more akin to poetry than to prose. Like the language of poetry, the language of Revelation sometimes is mysterious and slippery, teasing its reader to make connections and see possibilities that one has never made or seen before. The language of Revelation “works” not by imparting information, but by helping the reader to experience what John experienced.”

* Much of my understanding for this message derives from two key authors: Michael Gorman, Reading Revelation Responsibly; and Ben Witherington 3, Revelation. I am grateful for their scholarship and skillful handling of this beautiful NT writing.

2. Key Players

1. The Holy Trinity – Protagonists (1:4-5b)
—● The Father/Almighty (1:8; 21:6 (Isa.44:6); 4:2-3; 16:7; 21:5)
—● The Lamb/Son (1:17-18; 5:6-8, 13-14; 7:17)
—● Sevenfold Spirit (1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6; 22:17)
2. The Unholy Trinity – Antagonists
—● The Red Dragon (12:1-18)
—● The Beast of the Sea (13:1-10)
—● The Beast of the Land (13:11-18)
3. God’s people – Allegiance to the Trinity
—● Chapters 2-3 but also throughout the book
—● Worshipping God and the Lamb (7:4, 9-10)
—● Chapter 12 – Dragon wars against them
—● They are witnesses for Jesus – 17:14 (two prophets in Ch. 11 also)
4. Dragon’s people – Allegiance to the Unholy Trinity
—● Babylon/Rome (Ch. 18)
—● Kings of the earth (6:15; 17:2; 18:3-9)
—● Some in the churches actually belong to the Satan (Ch. 2-3)

3. Our Role in the Drama

1. Worship The Lamb (14:1-5)
2. Be His Witnesses (11:1-12; 12:11, 17)

1. How might considering Revelation as a drama enhance our reading and understanding of the text?
2. How has it been helpful for you to see a contrast between the main characters of the Trinity and the Anti-Trinity in understanding many of the different characters in this story?
3. How do you explain the perennial fascination with 666 and the antichrist?
4. Read, Rev. 14:6-8. Babylon is a way of describing Rome, but also any power that sets itself up to draw people away from God. Where do you see Babylon-like and antichrist powers at work today?
5. What are some of the specific ways the church can bear witness against such powers for the benefit of the world?
6. What are some practical ways Christians who are not poor or persecuted can develop a greater connection with those who are?

All of these questions, except #2, are taken straight from Michael Gorman’s book. I like them so much I wanted to include them in our group discussion.

1. Read through Revelation again, with this “Plot Line,” and Character List in mind. How does it change the way you read it?
2. Depending on your answers to #5 and 6 above, which one of the things you listed, could you consider integrating into your life?

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