Reflections on Revelation #177

Day 177

“2 Leave out the courtyard which is outside the temple and do not measure it, because it has been given to the nations; and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” REV.11:2,3. (NASB)

Maths was one of my favourite and best subjects when I was at school. A maths teacher who was struggling with his faith once asked me what my best proof for the existence of God was. After pondering it for a day or 2 I pointed him to the mathematical order of the universe. Through mathematics, we explore a reality that already exists. The prime numbers (numbers that can only be divided by themselves and by one like 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 and so on), for example, have always been “there,” even before we had noticed their existence. But where have they been? They are part of the fundamental structure of the universe, at a deeper level beyond its physical reality. In other words, there is more to the universe than objects that can be handled and observed. There are hints that fundamental principles, like mathematics, truth, and beauty have a reality beyond what human beings can observe and label. If the mathematicians are right, why can’t there also be a God who transcends everything that science can observe and experiment with?

This insight (which was not mine) is fascinating when you realize that God’s self-revelation in the Apocalypse is full of numbers, two of which are visible in the above text. 42 months, 1260 days, 5 months, ten days, and a time, times and a half a time include some strange and unusual ways of describing the passage of time. There are crowds ranging in size from 144,000 to 200,000,000. In addition to these numbers, there is repeated use of basic numbers such as three, four, six, seven, ten, twelve, and 24. Rightly understood, the books of Revelation and of nature are both witnesses to the same God, a God of order in the midst of chaos, a God of maths, mercy, and justice, a God of both love and wrath.

I have been teaching Year 8 English students how to appropriate Fairy Tales into a modern context. E.g. The Cinderella story has been repeatedly re-told. The symbols and imagery in Revelation have all been appropriated from the OT. The prophecies from Daniel and Revelation are like cartoon narratives using beasts and animals. We are about to see how the beasts of Rev 13 are appropriated from Daniel’s visions. Another thing I teach students is how a fairy tale often has similar features, e.g. 3s and 7s. Apocalyptic literature, like Revelation, also has the features of common numbers that run like golden threads through the narratives.

God’s created universe, amidst all its other wonders, contains the beauty of mathematics. The universe operates according to the connections and patterns in mathematical laws. We also noted (because our text raised the subject) that numbers and mathematics figure heavily in the apocalyptic writings. The number 1260 is variously represented as 42 months, 3 ½ years and a times, times, and dividing of times. This time period is mentioned 7 times in the books of Daniel and Revelation. If God repeats something 7 times it must be significant. 3 ½ (1260 days) is a broken 7 and represents a time of trouble. It was the time of Elijah’s drought (in years), it was the length of Jesus’ ministry. He was crucified in the midst of the final week of Daniel’s 7-year probationary period for the Jewish nation (Dan 9: 24 -27). This prophecy of Daniel is probably the greatest prophecy in scripture because it is mathematical proof that Jesus was the awaited Messiah; pointing to the exact year of His crucifixion that would bring an end to the ceremonial law of Holy Days (the 7 Sabbaths that were shadows of the cross) and sacrifices. (Dan 9: 24). Combined with the Hebrew Ceremonial calendar, which was also prophetic, we have the year, the month, the day, and the exact time of Jesus Crucifixion, predicted Centuries before it happened.

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