“For the children of Israel are servants to Me; they are My servants who I brought out of the land of Egypt… Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins” (Leviticus 26:21).
“…Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues…” (Revelation 18:4).
Those who are familiar with the Book of Revelation know that the number “seven” appears regularly in this book. John wrote letters to seven churches in Asia (Rev. 1:4, 11). One like the Son of Man stood in the midst of seven golden lampstands with seven stars in His hand (Rev. 1:12-13, 16). There were seven lamps of fire before God’s throne (Rev. 4:5) and seven Spirits of God (Rev. 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6). A scroll was sealed with seven seals. Seven thunders said things that weren’t written down (Rev. 10:3-4). The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes (Rev. 5:6), and the dragon and the beast both had seven heads (Rev. 12:3; 13:1; 17:3, 7). There are seven mountains and seven kings (Rev. 17:9-10).
Michael Rusten, my former study mentor at The University of Northwestern (Saint Paul, Minnesota), included the following chart in his 2008 work, “Charts for Understanding How the Bible Fits Together”:
Perhaps most famously, the Book of Revelation features seven seals (Rev. 5:1-5; 6:1-17; 8:1-2), seven trumpets (Rev. 8:2; 8:6-9:21; 11:15-19), and seven bowls (Rev. 15:6-16:21; 17:1, 21:9).
Why is it significant that these judgments came in sets of seven?
“Babylon the great” (Revelation 17:5) was the recipient of these judgments (Rev. 16:19; 18:2-8). Babylon was also known as “the great harlot” (Rev. 17:1) and the “great city” (Rev. 17:18), which was first identified as the place “where also our Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8), i.e, Jerusalem. Babylon was responsible for the bloodshed of the saints, prophets, and apostles (Rev. 16:4-7, 17:6, 18:20, 18:24). This is the same bloodshed which Jesus said the religious leaders of Israel would be held responsible and judged for in His own generation (Matthew 23:29-36).
In Deuteronomy 32:20, 29 God spoke of “the latter end” of Israel (see also Deut. 31:29), when there would be “a perverse and crooked generation…children in whom is no faith” (Deut. 32:5, 20; see also Matthew 17:17, Luke 18:8, and Philippians 2:14-15). Upon that generation He would “avenge the blood of His servants” (Deut. 32:43). In Leviticus 26, God repeatedly warned that Israel would one day receive seven-fold judgments:
“And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins” (Lev. 26:18).
“Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins” (Lev. 26:21).
“And if by these things you are not reformed by Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you, and I will punish you yet seven times for your sins” (Lev. 26:23-24).
“And after all this, if you do not obey Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I will also walk contrary to you in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins” (Lev. 26:27-28).
God called this the vengeance of His covenant (Lev. 26:25). Revelation is a book about covenants, a book about the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant. My post, “Echoes of Mount Sinai in the Book of Revelation,” details how the covenant imagery of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) is present at the opening of the seventh seal, the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and the pouring out of the seventh bowl.
Interestingly, when Josephus described the spoils of war that the Romans took from Jerusalem in 70 AD, he wrote, “…These lamps were in number seven, and represented the dignity of the number seven among the Jews” (Wars 7.5.5).
Why did the judgments in the Book of Revelation come in the form of seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls? These were the seven-fold plagues that God promised would come upon Israel in her latter days:
“…I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins” (Leviticus 26:21).
“…Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues… Therefore her plagues will come in one day…” (Revelation 18:4, 8).
These plagues were poured out during the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 AD in fulfillment of what God promised in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, 32. The seven seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments of the Book of Revelation have nothing to do with our future and they were never intended for the entire planet. They were for the final generation of Israel, the crooked and perverse generation of Jesus’ own day. The apostles, prophets, and all of heaven rejoiced when this was accomplished (Revelation 18:20).