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Revelation Is Visual Prophecy: Time Is Fluid and Numbers Are Symbolic

Posted October 25, 2021
End Times

Revelation was given to John in a series of visions:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see.” (Rev. 1:10–11)

The fact that John was “in the Spirit,” and that God says to him, “Write what you see,” both point to the fact that what John is writing is direct revelation from God communicated through visions, making the book visionary prophecy (Rev. 22:16). As with the other visions, like Joseph’s dreams for instance (Gen. 37:1–11), much of what John sees is strange and needs interpretation.

Because it’s a vision, time is fluid, not strictly chronological. Like in a dream, time doesn’t work the same way as in the real world. Revelation is a visual picture of things, some of which are past, some of which are present, and some of which are future. Revelation is primarily a visual representation, making it more like scenes that switch around to different times to show different things rather than showing one long chronological story. And, as we’ve seen with the structure, there’s actually a lot of repetition in the book that operates like different chapters of a book or scenes of a movie. One chapter may talk about an event from the perspective of one or two characters, and another chapter will discuss the same event but from a different perspective or angle or talk about different parts of the event.

Revelation also employs numbers and images that were very familiar to 1st century Jews and Christians to get its message across. To understand the book of Revelation it is essential to have some knowledge of what these numbers and images represent.

Most people are familiar with some of these already (3 is the number for the triune God, 4 is the number for creation, 6 is the number for man, 7 is the number for perfection, 12 represents the tribes of Israel or the apostles, 1000 is a number for completeness. So when a number like 666 is used, it means always coming short of perfection, or a number like 144,000 is 12 squared times 1000, meaning a great multitude—everyone who’s meant to be included is, with no one left out).


Footnotes

Leah B.

Leah B. received a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry before turning to theology and receiving a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies. She writes and lives in California.