Remembering that the New Testament (NT) is the Old Testament (OT) revealed, we continue the theme from Parts I and II of this series, that we must look to the OT for the signs and original meanings in Revelation. The code of Revelation is the OT.
Part II of this series discussed the nature symbols and signs of the “earth,” “sea,” “heaven,” “earthquakes,” etc. Briefly, this Part III will explore the colors and numbers used in the book.
The characters of the drama of Revelation are clothed in colors that symbolize their assigned roles in the persecutions, tribulations, and judgment of Jerusalem, Judea, and Rome.
1. White – occurs 17 times in Revelation – stands for purity, cleanliness, and righteousness. Rev. 6:2 where Christ is seated on a white horse to go out to battle.
Is. 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
See also Psa. 51:7; Ecc. 9:8; Dan. 7:9; 12:10, Rev. 1:14; 2:17; 3:4-5, 18; etc.
2. Red – Rev. 6:4; 12:3 – bloodshed, sinful, sign of war and battle. Again, see Is. 1:18.
Is. 63:2-3, “ 2 Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? 3 I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.”
The wine press is the symbol of war and battle. See also 2 Kings 3:22; Nahum 2:3.
3. Scarlet – Rev. 17:3-4; 18:12, 16 – sign of royalty; also of sinfulness.
Lam. 4:5, “ They that did feed delicately are desolate in the streets: they that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills.”
The priests garments in Ex. 28: 5 had colors of gold, blue, purple and scarlet. See Is. 1:18; Dan. 5:7, 16, 29, Nah. 2:3; Matt. 27:28.
4. Pale – Rev. 6:8 – ebbing life, lifeless, or an aura of death.
Jer. 30:6, “Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness?”
See also Isa. 29:22
5. Emerald – Rev. 4:3, 21:19 – transparent, precious stone, glowing – In Rev. 4:3, the rainbow around the throne of God, signifying the rainbow covenant and promise of God to Noah.
Also one of the stones designated for one of the tribes of Israel on the breastplate of judgment worn by the high priest in Ex. 28:16-21. Also, one of the stones of the foundation of the city of new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:19).
6. Purple – Rev. 17:4; 18:12, 16 – usually of royalty; denotes pomp, richness, luxury.
Esther 8:15, “ And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple: and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad.”
See Judges 8:26; Song of Solomon 7:5; Ez. 27:7, 16; Mark 15:17; Luke 16:19.
7. Sapphire – Rev. 21:19 – the appearance of the throne of God; symbolizing the beauty of the city of the new Jerusalem in heaven; beautiful splendor.
Ex. 24:10, “And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.”
Another of the stones on the breastplate of judgment which stood for one of the tribes of Israel. Ex. 28:18; 39:11. Again, another of the stones of the foundation of new Jerusalem.
Ez. 1:26, “And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.”
See also Song of Solomon 5:14; Ez. 10:1; 28:13.
8. Black – Rev. 6:5, 12 – mourning, darkness, and judgment unto death.
Job 3:5, “ Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.”
Is. 50:3, “ I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.”
Jer. 4:28, ” For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black; because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it.”
See also Jer. 8:21; 14:2; Lam. 4:8; 5:10; Joel 2:6; Zech. 6:2; Jude 1:13.
Rev. 6:5, “ And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.“
Balances are scales, symbols of weighing and judging.
9. Green – 8:7; 9:4 – newness, fresh growth, life, goodness, divine grace. Rev. 9:4 restrains the locust army of Rome from harming any green thing, but only those that are not sealed with God. The inference is that the green refers to the spiritually living souls that are sealed of God.
Psa. 23:2, “ He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”
Psa. 52:8, ” But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.”
Jer. 17:7-8, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”
2 Kings 19:26. “ Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded; they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the house tops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up.”
The numbers in Revelation must be determined from context / subject matter of the scriptures, and from OT prophesy previously defined. A few are literal, but most are symbolic and metaphorical.
10. Two – Rev. 11:3-4, 10. Two witnesses, two olive trees, two candlesticks, two prophets
Many believe these may have been Peter and Paul, but if we are to stay with the rule that the OT is the key to Revelation, then I believe the origin of these two witnesses must be found there, and they are more likely to have been representative of the two witnesses of Zech. 4:14.
The two anointed ones that stood by the Lord at the return from Babylonian captivity were Joshua, the high priest, and Zerubbabel, the head of the tribe of Judah. The two anointed ones corresponding in the new covenant of Revelation’s prophesy would be the High Priest of the new covenant church, that is Christ, and collectively His apostles/prophets who were the head of the new covenant church. Both of whom testified of God’s word, and of the gospel of Christ. (See Rev. 20:4)
They were arrayed in sackcloth in v. 3, which meant they were mourning. They had the authority to smite the land with every plague in v. 6, and they finished their testimony as the beast (Nero) came up out of the bottomless pit in v. 7.
This means that these two witnesses were operating during the same 42 months of the of the war with Rome ending with the siege of Jerusalem. See discussion below, and Foy E Wallace’s Book of Revelation, pp 218-221 here.
Deu. 19:15, “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.”
Heb 10:28, “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses”:
Rev. 1:16; 2:12 – two edged sword – the word of God.
Psa. 149:6-7, “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand; 7 To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people;”
Heb. 4:12, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
11. Three and one-half days (3-1/2) – Rev. 11:9, 11 – the symbolic version of the literal 3-1/2 years of Daniel’s time, times, and a half. It corresponds to the 1260 days, or the 42 months that the outer court would be trampled underfoot of the gentiles (Rome) (Rev.11:2-3). The last half of the last week of Dan.9:24.
The determining scripture is from Daniel 12:7 where the angel answers Daniel’s question of what would be the end of “these wonders”:
“… that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.”
Daniel’s desire was to know what was going to happen to his people… the Jews. Gabriel told him in Daniel 9:24…
“ Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy”
No matter what other judgment God was going to bring upon the Romans, the seventy weeks (sevens) were specifically talking about Daniel’s people and Daniel’s holy city… the Jews and Jerusalem. Rome was not the holy city, nor had the Roman’s been the holy people of God. This prophesy only concerned Jerusalem and the Jews.
As the end of that prophesy was foretold to be when the power of the holy people (Jews) was scattered, then the end of that prophesy is bookmarked as the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. And, all of the things listed in Dan. 9:24 were to happen within that 70 weeks, and no later than Sept. A.D. 70.
That included the reconciliation of the people to God through Christ, the everlasting righteousness of His kingdom and His church, sealing up vision and prophesy, and the anointing of Christ as the most Holy, and High Priest. (See previous post “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9” at the right margin.)
Knowing the end mark was A.D. 70 we can count backwards to determine the 3-1/2 years, 42 months, or 1260 days of the prophesy.
The Judean war with Rome began in 66 AD and lasted until the destruction of the temple and the city in Sept 70 A.D; 3-1/2 years. This war was the last of the final seven year period of the 70th week of Daniel; or symbolically the last 3-1/2 days of the last week.
While there are several overlapping 3-1/2 year (1260 day) periods of events before this war, the beginning of the 70th week has to be before the Messiah was cut off, and that corresponds to Christ’s 3-1/2 year ministry ending with His crucifixion.
So the interval between the cutting off of the Messiah and the scattering of the Jews in A.D. 70 was a testing period of 40 years in order to preach the gospel to “all the world”… their world of Jerusalem and the lost sheep of the house of Israel throughout those lands.
Paul said that the gospel had been preached to “every creature under heaven” when he wrote the letter to the Colossians in about 62 A.D. (Col. 1:23)
Keep in mind the symbolic use of “heaven” in prophesy… the ruling authority and powers of the governing nations under judgment… Judea and Rome, and the surrounding areas were the “heavens” where Paul and the apostles preached. See Part II of this series, and the post at the right, “Heaven and Earth Have Passed Away.”
The 3-1/2 days symbolizes the period of the testimony of the two witnesses, lying dead in the street…. meaning their deaths continued to preach and testify to the people…and then were resurrected to ascend to the Father. Ez. 37:9-11; Rev. 11:11.
12. Five months – Rev. 9:5, 10. Literally 5 months…from 14 Nisan (Passover) to Tishri…. or 14 April to about 8 or 10 Sept. A.D. 70… the length of the siege of Jerusalem.
13. Seven – the perfect completeness of God’s creation, and God’s word. The number is used about 735 times in the Bible.
Rev. 1:4, 11, 12, 13; 16, 20. The seven churches, seven spirits, seven angels, seven golden candlesticks, seven stars – all defined in verse 20:
“ The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.”
Rev. 4:5, “And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.”
The seven seals of Rev. 5:1, 5 are the seven judgments of wrath that were to be set loose upon the Jews and the world governments for crucifying Christ, and persecuting His church.
Ex. 15:26, “And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee.”
The implied threat was also present with the stated promise; that if they did not keep His commandments He would bring the plagues of Egypt against them. See. Rev. 15:1-7.
Lev. 26:15-18, “ And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant: 16I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you. 18 And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.”
Rev. 8, and 10 have seven angels with seven trumpets and seven thunders; these were messengers and agents of God that would announce and carry forth the judgments of God.
The number 7,000 in Rev.11:13 is a symbol of God’s completed judgment on those within the land, and not necessarily a literal 7,000 men. Remember that “earthquakes” in God’s prophesy are symbolic for shaking the nations and mean the overthrow of nations and ruling powers.
The seven horns of the beast on Rev. 12:3, and 13:1 were the seven heads / kings of the Roman empire: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba and his successors who were eventually replaced by Vespasian. The persecutions of the churches would begin under Nero (the sixth king) and continue throughout the war with Rome. More on this under “The Beast of Revelation” at the right margin.
14. Ten days – Rev. 2:10 – a number symbolizing / signifying completeness, fullness of time, perfection. Used in the OT to denote a small period of time, until something was complete or finished. A small testing period.
Dan. 1:12, “ Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.”
Also in Gen. 24:55; Num. 14:22; Job 19:3; Acts 25:6.
Used in Rev. 2:10 for a time of trial and tribulation – “that you may be tried” – for some of the church at Smyrna, signifying that they could endure it, even unto death. It is possible that these ten days might have been literal days, but it is too speculative, and there is nothing to tell us for certain. It is best thought of as a perfected but limited time of testing.
15. Twelve – Rev. 21:1, 14; 22:2 are references to the twelve apostles. Rev. 21:12, 16, and 21 refer to the twelve tribes of Israel. Both denoting entirety of the new church, and the new city Jerusalem in all of those sealed for God.
Ex. 24:4, “And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.”
In the old Exodus church and assembly, the pillars were the twelve tribes of Israel. Under Christ’s new covenant church and assembly, the foundations are the twelve apostles.
16. Twenty-four elders – Rev. 4:4, 10; 5:8, 14; 11:16; 19:4. Elders, presbyter; of the old covenant Sanhedrin council. Under the heavenly new covenant, the twelve patriarchs (twelve sons of Israel) of the old exodus church, and the twelve apostles who were the patriarchs of the new testament church of Christ; the complete joining of old and new in the new covenant church of the new Jerusalem, the heavenly Sanhedrin council of which Christ is the High Priest. They are seated on twenty-four seats that surround the throne of God.
Also, possibly a reference to the twenty-four priestly courses serving in the house of God during the year. (I Chron. 24:7-19)
1 Chron. 23:4, speaking of the priestly courses of the Levites serving God under Solomon’s reign:
“ Of which, twenty and four thousand were to set forward the work of the house of the Lord; and six thousand were officers and judges:”
I Chron. 27:1, “ Now the children of Israel after their number, to wit, the chief fathers and captains of thousands and hundreds, and their officers that served the king in any matter of the courses, which came in and went out month by month throughout all the months of the year, of every course were twenty and four thousand.”
17. Forty-two months – Rev. 11:2; 13:5 – A literal 42 months! Determined from Daniel 9:27 as the remainder of the last week, the last 3-1/2 years of the 70th week:
“… and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”
The desolate, and to make desolate are references to cities and nations that were completely and utterly destroyed. See Gen. 47:19; Ex. 23:29; Lev. 26:22, 33 -35; Job 15:28; Psa. 69:25; Isa. 1:7; 6:11 among many others.
Jerusalem was made desolate at her destruction at the hands of the Roman army in A.D. 70..
Matt. 23:37-38, “ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”
Rev. 18:19, “And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.”
The great city of Revelation 11:8, 14:8; 16:19; Chapters 17 & 18 was Jerusalem, just as it was in Jer. 22:8, Lam. 1:1. See the “Whore of Babylon” at the right margin.
18. One Hundred Forty-four Cubits – Rev. 21:17 – again 12 x 12 – a squared number, it is symbolic of perfect completeness, meant to convey the majesty and greatness of God’s spiritual city for all of the saved. It is not literal.
19. Six Hundred and Sixty-Six (666) – Rev. 13:18; the anti-Christ. A specific man – “for it is the number of a man“ – one that came up out of the beast… “of the beast”. The beast was Rome, the seven heads were seven kings (Rev. 17: 10), and the sixth one was ruling when Revelation was written. The seven kings were Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula (Caius), Claudius, then Nero (#6), followed by Galba who would reign no more than 6 months.
The number of the man – Nero Caesar in Hebrew was “nrwn qsr” and has the value, in order of the letters of 50 + 200 + 6 + 50 + 100 + 60 + 200 = 666.
Eventually, after the year of four Caesars in A.D. 69, Vespasian of the Flavian line would become the 10th “king”, and could also be viewed as the 7th head since the reign of the three rebel Caesars were so short and so quickly ended.
20. A Thousand Years – Rev. 20:2, 4 – the number 1,000 symbolizes perfectness, completeness, fullness of time. But, context of the scripture determines when it is literal, and when it is symbolic. For instance:
Ex. 38:25, “ And the silver of them that were numbered of the congregation was an hundred talents, and a thousand seven hundred and threescore and fifteen shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary:” Here it was used literally for a counting of the people’s silver.
Deu. 7:9, “Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;”….. but, here symbolically noting complete, and perfect fulfillment, always, never ceasing.
Except for Rev. 11:3, 12:6, the number “thousand” is used symbolically in Revelation.
There are two periods of a thousand years in Rev. 20. The dragon was bound for a thousand years in v.2. Then the martyrs reigned in heaven with Christ for a different thousand years in v.4. Both represent a period of time that was fully perfected, which God considered complete. They are not a literal thousand years!
We know they are a different period of time because the dragon was loosed in v.3 to begin his persecution of the saints. The martyrs became martyrs because of the persecuting dragon, so their reign with Christ was a result of the dragon’s loosening.
The martyrs, being martyrs, by definition had been killed, and were therefore not living on earth. Their reign with Christ was in heaven, and was not simultaneous with the dragon’s binding period. Never does v. 4 speak of a reign of Christ on earth. See previous post, “The Thousand Year Reign of Rev. 20 -….” for more information.
Rev. 11:3, and 12:6 are the 1260 days, the same as 42 months, and the same as 3-1/2 years as discussed above and next.
21. One Thousand Two hundred and three score days (1260) – Rev. 11:3, 12:6; Literally 1260 days. The same period as the 42 months, and 3-1/2 years determined from Dan. 9:24-27. See discussion under those two numbers above.
Also the period of time that the first century church, depicted as the woman of Rev. 12:6 would be sheltered by God. Claudius was most helpful to the first century Christians, allowing the practice of the religio lecita, the protection of the Roman law to the church, to keep them from harm thereby withholding the persecution which Nero would unleash.
Claudius was most probably the angel of Rev. 7:2 who instructed the four angels at the corners of the “earth” – possibly the Roman procurators of Judea – to hold back the winds until the 144,000 of God were sealed.
Paul indicated this checking behavior in II Thess. 2:7. Claudius was poisoned by his wife Agrippina, Nero’s mother, in Oct. of AD 54. This cleared the path for her son Nero to take the throne and become the man of iniquity and “that Wicked” that would be revealed in II Thess. 2:7-8.
22. One Thousand Six Hundred Furlongs – Rev. 14:20 – approx. 200 miles –
“And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.”
Remember Is. 63:2-3 discussed under the color “red” above. The blood of the war (the winepress) waged by the Roman army was carried out all around the province of Judea, and in all of Palestine outside the city of Jerusalem before they even laid siege to Jerusalem. The war raged for 3-1/2 years, while the final siege of Jerusalem was the last 5 months of the war.
So, the blood of the wine press, the war extended beyond Jerusalem for the entire length of Palestine. The vision conveys the horror of this slaughter, a symbolic picture of the Roman horses wading through the blood up to their bridles.
23. Twelve Thousand – 7, the sealed of God, those baptized into Christ. those protected and armed of God. Twelve for all of the tribes of Israel, and a thousand for completeness, perfectness.
Num. 31:5, “So there were delivered out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand of every tribe, twelve thousand armed for war.”
Jud. 21:10, ” And the congregation sent thither twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children.”
Rev. 21: 16…Twelve thousand furlongs, the measure of the perfectly complete city of God, the new Jerusalem, the new church. Approx. 1500 cubic miles, but it is not meant to be literal. The vision is symbolic for the perfection of the spiritual church, meant to fill the entire earth, with room for all of God’s people; it wants for nothing.
All those that are in Christ are in the new covenant house of Israel. See previous post for “God’s Definitions – Part I: The House of Israel.”
24. The 144,000 – 7:4; 14:1, 3. Twelve squared is a symbol of completeness, multiplied further by the other symbol of complete fullness – 1,000. A very strong symbol of completeness and perfection.
The twelve thousand of each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The complete remnant of the tribes of Israel sealed and devoted to Christ in the new covenant church… the virgins of the bridegroom, who obeyed the gospel call to be baptized into Christ.. those sealed for God.
Rev. 7:4-8. (Gal. 3:27, Mark 16:16, ) These were faced with the persecution, the great tribulation prophesied by Dan. 12:1-2, and Matt. 24:6-22. Many would become the martyrs depicted under the altar in Rev. 6:10, and again raised to reign with Christ in heaven in Rev. 20:4.
This Part III of The Signs of Revelation has covered much by just discussing the symbols and signs of the colors and numbers. By identifying as many of the symbols as possible from the OT, the hope is that we may more surely understand the meaning of the visions as they occur in Revelation. There are so many overlapping and parallel visions in this prophesy that we may never know for certain all of them.
There are more OT scriptures that could be referenced. But, there are enough listed here to define the indicators and signs. We can know, therefore, the time period of the prophesy’s fulfillment was the first century A.D; the subjects of the judgments were the persecuting and unbelieving Jews and their gentile agents in Rome; that the judgment of God was carried out, and that Christ is the victor.
Part IV of the Signs of Revelation will begin to discuss some of the events and people.
Source: KJV. All bold emphasis is mine. See more posts at the right for deeper discussion on some of these topics.
Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation by David Chilton