Biblical Research & Education Resources
Blaine Robison, M.A., M.R.E.
Revelation: A Book of Seven
Numbers in brackets link to notes at the end of the article.
The Hebrew character of Revelation is also reflected in the frequent occurrence of the cardinal number seven, multiples of seven, and the quantity of seven or multiples of seven in various series of things. Even the structure of the book is arranged in sevens. There is little doubt that the number seven represents completeness or perfection. The word “seven” occurs 88 times in the New Testament and of those, 55 are in Revelation alone. In Revelation the word “seventh” occurs 5 times. The only word that occurs more frequently than the word “seven” in Revelation is the word “God.”
The frequency of seven may have legal import. The Hebrew word for swear is identical to the feminine form of the word for “seven” and there is evidence in ancient literature that it was not uncommon to seal an agreement by the number “seven.” (See 10:4C for a biblical example.) This “sevenness,” therefore, represents God’s sworn testimony that the book of Revelation perfectly and truthfully discloses His will for the future, that His prophecy about the end is complete and nothing should be added or taken away (22:18-19). Specific examples of Revelation’s sevenness include:
In addition to specific elements of “seven” the basic structure of Revelation is organized around thematic elements of “seven.”
I. The Man of Seven (1:1-20). The introduction to Revelation contains John’s account of meeting Jesus, whose appearance is awesome and overwhelming. John identifies seven characteristics of the Messiah’s majesty (head, eyes, mouth, chest, feet, right hand and robe), as well as His appearance with seven stars and seven lampstands. The Man of Seven concludes the meeting with a command to write letters or messages to seven messengers or overseers and their congregations.
II. The Seven Letters (2:1 – 3:22). Each letter is addressed to the overseer of the congregation, although the constant refrain “he that has an ear” indicates that the content pertains to the whole Body of the Messiah. Five of the seven letters contain words of praise for personal conduct and service and similarly five of the seven letters confront a problem in the congregation. Yet, in the midst of so much censure and warnings, Jesus offered encouragement and challenge to His faithful disciples. All the letters promise a prize to those who overcome the world, the flesh and the devil.
III. The Book of Seven Judgments (Ch. 4:1 – 5:14). In John’s visit to heaven he was shown a special book containing the decrees of God about the future, indeed, the very last days of the earth. The book consists of a series of sevens – seals, trumpets, and bowls.
a. The Seven Seals. The book has seven seals, which, when opened, reveal four riders from heaven dealing out catastrophe, the tribulation martyrs, the prelude to the Day of the Lord, and the seven trumpets of judgment (6:1-8:1).
b. The Seven Trumpets. The trumpet judgments strongly resemble the story of the plagues on Egypt in the time of Moses (8:2 –9:21; 11:15-19; cf. Ex 7-11). The first trumpet brings hail and fire from an undesignated source, three trumpets bring about calamities that originate in outer space, the fifth trumpet opens the bottomless pit to unleash pit locusts on the earth, the sixth trumpet releases a demonic army that commits wholesale slaughter and the seventh trumpet announces the anticipation of the reign of Christ.
c. The Seven Bowls. The seven angels who blew the seven trumpets of judgment pour out God’s wrath using special bowls (16:1-21). The bowl calamities cause boils, turn the sea and fresh water sources into blood, increase heat from the sun to scorch mankind, impose a painful darkness, dry up the Euphrates, and finally shake the earth with a cataclysmic earthquake.
IV. The Book of Seven Blessings. The word “blessed” occurs seven times in Revelation (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14). While not specifically enumerated the close of Revelation presents seven wonderful blessings that every believer anticipates: the Second Coming, the marriage supper of the Lamb, the resurrection, the reign of the Messiah and the saints, the end of death and eternal rest, fulfillment of all prophecy and joy of restored access to the tree of life.
Copyright © 2006 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.