The Significance of the Number ‘7’ in the Book of Revelation


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 sealsSeven 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”:

The Number Seven in Revelation

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).

The Seven Seals:

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Revelations~ The Seven Trumpets:

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Seven Bowls of God's Wrath! Read more "Study of Revelation Chapters 15 and 16" http://www.raptureforums.com/Revelation/RevelationCh15and16.cfm:

(Source)

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).

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19 thoughts on “The Significance of the Number ‘7’ in the Book of Revelation

  1. i think it was in 135 that Hadrian plowed jersualem like a field, fulfilling prophecy
    this ended the attempt to rebuild the temple, it ended the bar kochba war; the jewsih nation was utterly defeated —the uprising against the roman hadrian ended in complete disaster—so i am thinking commenting on revelations one some how must come to grips with this end—–
    so i am thinking the times (Little season) etc would reflect the time between 70 and 135—and thus revelations closed out the complete destruction of the religious and politcial nation known as judah/Israel

    so it may not have anything directly connected to the sevens—but it certainly has meaning associated with the cleansing of the territories of the generation that would see the end

    waiting respectfully for the end of the story

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    • Hi William. Yes, I have actually been leaning strongly that way as well. I just haven’t posted on it yet. Indeed, when I look at Revelation 20:4 and see who the people are who reign with Christ for a thousand years I notice that they were beheaded and refused the mark of the beast. So that tells me that they didn’t begin reigning until sometime during the 60’s AD.

      I agree with you that the Simon Bar Kokhba revolt seems to line up with Revelation 20:7-10. I have more studying to do on what actually happened during that time (132 – 136 AD).

      It also stands out to me that when verse 10 says the devil was thrown into the lake of fire, it seems to show that the beast and the false prophet have already been there for a while:

      “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are…”

      This, to me, is further evidence that the 1000 years did not end in 70 AD. Instead, it appears, they began around (a little bit before) that time.

      Does Micah 3:12 also describe what happened at the end of the Bar Kokhba revolt?

      “Therefore because of you
      Zion shall be plowed like a field,
      Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins,
      And the mountain of the temple
      Like the bare hills of the forest.”

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      • William, I have a copy of “Josephus: The Complete Works,” translated by William Whiston. In Wars 7.2.2 (Wars of the Jews, Book 7, Chapter 2, Section 2) Josephus described the scene when one of the Zealot leaders, Simon Bar Giora, was captured by the Romans in 70 AD. Simon appealed to a Roman captain named Rufus, who interviewed him and reported his capture to Vespasian.

        Anyway, Whiston includes a footnote which says that the Talmud claims that Rufus fulfilled Micah 3:12 when he ploughed Jerusalem like a field in 70 AD and made Jerusalem become like heaps. It’s an interesting claim, in any case.

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  2. Hello Adam, I enjoy your blog. The “killing power” of the Law is a great place to start with non Preterists as the judgements of Revelation are penalties under the Law, the prophecies of Revelation can’t, in my opinion, be fulfilled again unless the Law is reactivated. This was part of Darby’s dilemma … get the church out, then return to “Jewish Time” etc.

    Should caution be exercised in connecting Post AD70 events like AD135 to Old Testament prophecy? It could be argued that Micah’s word was not a penalty of the Law, but I’m not sure how successfully.

    al

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    • Hi Al. Thank you for your comment, and I’m glad you enjoy this blog. I see what you’re saying. Maybe Micah wasn’t talking about what was going to happen in 135 AD. Maybe what he described in that verse actually happened in 586 BC when Judah was conquered by Babylon.

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      • bros; were talking literally here jersualem was plowed by hadrain, hadrian having come from england, he plowed the ground as if one is removing everything—in preparation for a new building——and i say it was Alia Capotolina
        so—-to my mind 135 marks the end of the judgment of israel—-and if you like settles the end of israel as a nation and now we go forward with both the people of faith and Pharisaical judaism

        it takes time to get things done, as you know rome wasnt built in a day; may even have some overlapping of events until things settle out and the future then becomes less opaque

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  3. Well, you certainly have me thinking on that one, my personal struggle has a lot to do with whether or not all prophecy is an Old Covenant innovation. As the deliniation between covenants includes the sense that we are no longer represented by man, prophets, kings, apostles etc I am hoping to understand how that works today. Thankfully my congregation is bearing with me on the journey.

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    • Clarke’s commentary is pretty insightful concerning what happened under Titus, whether Micah spoke of that or not. Thanks. What do you think about it?

      The more I look at Micah’s words, while keeping in mind when he wrote them (around 737 – 696 BC, scholars say), the more I think he must have been referring to Babylon’s conquering of Jerusalem. He denounced the injustice and perversion of “the heads of Jacob” in his own day, and said that they would cause Zion to be plowed and Jerusalem to become heaps of ruins. I don’t think I should have suggested that Micah was talking about the days of Simon Bar Kokhba.

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  4. to my mind the prophets dealing with nations and the daniel beasts as juda was under the judgment of god and god bringing to a close the divorce from which one aholabah—the prophies may entend all the way to 135—-huge amount of history between the prophesy and the end of aholabah—the rising and falling of the four beasts takes time thus very easy to see the prophesy extending to the complete end—ie 135

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  5. enjoying the comments; i am suggesting that from the above links that while Titus did jersualem in; the nationalistic impetus, the denial of the judgments of God lingered in the old macabean hearts the hope still lingered in many hearts and minds thus bar kochba set up and brought into being the last remanent of a nation, he was king for a short while, the temple being rebuilt, nationalistic flags flown, monies flowed into his movement, the nation being restored, then the final blow was struck hadrain the blood soaked avenger struck—- 12 legions of soldiers burned slaughtered someting like 1000 villages, the final battle at betar—-the destruction brought about the final despair—-smoldering ruins across the lands—-it was over—newness of the messianic covenant filled the earth, with deep grief and hope for the new now fills my thoughts

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  6. I’m enjoying your site. I would like to point out something that may have not been brought to your attention before. Jesus was not crucified ‘in Jerusalem.’ We just accept whatever someone says without proving it and there goes the neighborhood. It was unlawful to crucify anyone in Jerusalem. He was taken ‘outside the camp.’ The walls of Jerusalem were the perimeter of the city. A deep valley divided the city from the Mt of Olives. There were synagogues in almost every city of the Roman Empire at that time and when Jerusalem fell, the ‘cities of the nations fell.’ This, to me, seems to be including the synagogues in this ‘city’ metaphor, a religious city in opposition to God.

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    • Hi Anna. Thank you, and I’m glad you’re enjoying this site. I understand what you’re saying about the location of Jesus’ crucifixion. I think that Jerusalem was considered as both a city and a metropolis, similar to the way that larger cities in the US are defined as having both city limits and a metropolitan area (e.g. Cincinnati, where I’m at, has a population of about 315,000 within its city limits, but the Cincinnati metropolitan area has a population of about 2.2 million).

      The reason I’m using that analogy is because, despite Jesus being taken outside the camp, Scripture still says that He was killed “at Jerusalem”:

      “Then behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:30-31).

      Other passages which suggest that His death would take place at Jerusalem include Matthew 16:21, Matthew 20:18-19, Mark 10:33, and Luke 18:31.

      I appreciate your thoughts about the synagogues in various cities. That’s something to think about and explore for sure.

      Like

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