Series: Great Doctrine

Anyone who has ever seriously looked at the Bible could not but be impressed by the use of certain numbers in the Bible.  There are certain digits, certain numerics that undoubtedly have tremendous meaning and symbolism as God uses them in the Book.  Now this is not a peculiar or a different thing.  From the dawn of time, from the beginning of civilization, from the first recorded inscriptions we have of the beginning of civilization, you will find that thing common among men:  the use of numbers for the meaning of some great symbolism.

In the Bible, for example, the number seven is used in almost six hundred passages.  A thing like that is not just by accident.  It is not just coincident.  It is purposely used.  There is a meaning.  There is a symbol; the number seven.

When these archaeologists dig up those ancient cuneiform inscriptions of the ancient Sumerian civilization, back there even before Babylon was built, in the cities that were constructed in the Mesopotamian Valley, the cradle of civilization, when they dig up those inscriptions, there they find that same thing.  Like the number seven – back there it was used to symbolize the highest fullness of power, the greatest plentitude.  For example, in Babylonia, the seven-storied towers of the city represented the entire universe, the fullness of all creation.

Now when we turn to the Bible we see that number seven used to indicate fullness, completion, perfection, plentitude.  Seven is the perfect number.  For example, turn in the Book of the Revelation to the first chapter and the fourth verse:

John to the seven churches which are in Asia:  Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before His throne;

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.

[Revelation 1:4-5]

Now before I mention that “seven” there, look at the “three” that you have:  “John to the seven churches which are in Asia:  Grace unto you, and peace” [Revelation 1:4], now look at it, “from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come” [Revelation 1:4], those three.

All right, look at it again, “From Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth” [Revelation 1:5]; your three again.  That’s the number of God; but we are not taking that this morning.  We’re talking about the number seven; and as the introduction we are saying that in the Bible it means perfection, its plentitude, its fullness.

Now look at that, “the seven Spirits which are before His throne” [Revelation 1:4].  We do not know of any seven Spirits, the seven Holy Spirits; we know of one Holy Spirit of God.  Well, why does it use the word seven?  Because seven means the fullness, the plentitude, it is used for the entity and the totality.

Now turn again to the third chapter of the Book of the Revelation, and the first verse.  There you have it again, “Unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars” [Revelation 3:1]; the seven Spirits of God; talking about the Holy Spirit, and it refers to the fullness, the plentitude, the totality, the entity.  It refers to the pervasiveness, the everywhereness of the Spirit of God; “the seven Spirits of God.”  That is, it is a symbolic number.  It is a mystical number.

All right, now just once again before we proceed: turn to the fifth chapter of the Revelation and the sixth verse.  Now you’re going to have a description of Jesus, and it’s going to be contained in that word, seven.  Revelation 5, the fifth chapter, and the sixth verse:

And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain –

now that’s the Lord Jesus –

stood a Lamb as it had been slain –

that’s the symbol of the Lord Jesus; but look how He is described –

stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

[Revelation 5:6]

Well, that word seven – Jesus described as “a Lamb as it had been slain” – and He has seven horns, and He has seven eyes [Revelation 5:6]; well, those are symbols.  They are mystical numbers.  Now the horn of course is a symbol of His kingly rulership; He is a king.  Seven horns, He is the King of all of God’s creation[Colossians 1:15-17], He is the King of kings, He is the Lord over all lords, seven [Revelation 19:16].  And He has seven eyes [Revelation 5:6].

And then John gives you the meaning of the symbol there:  “seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God” [Revelation 5:6], and then as I told you, they mean the entirety, the totality, the all pervasiveness, “which are sent forth into all the earth” [Revelation 5:6].  There’s no place where God doesn’t see.  There are not any recesses, even into the inmost of our hearts, into which God does not peer.  The seven Spirits of God [Revelation 5:6], that is, the Holy Spirit of Jesus, everywhere.  Everywhere in the day, in the night, in the dark as in the light; now that’s the use of your word “seven.”

Now may I just by review, may I carry through the Bible just here, there, and there, just a little of this number seven?  The Bible says that Enoch was the seventh from Adam [Jude 1:14].  The Book says that when Noah entered into the ark, he stayed in there, and there were seven days of grace before the Flood came [Genesis 7:1410].  In telling the story it says that in the seventh month the ark rested on Mt. Ararat [Genesis 8:4].  It says Jacob worked for Rachel seven years [Genesis 29:2027-28].

Down there in the land of Egypt Pharaoh had a dream [Genesis 41:1-417-24].  And Joseph said, “The seven lean kine and the seven lean ears are seven years of famine.”   They were to have a total famine.  Then he said, “The seven fat kind and the seven fat ears are seven years of plenty,” worlds of plenty [Genesis 41:25-30].  Then when they gathered and went out of Egypt, and came to Jericho, the Book says there were seven priests with seven trumpets, who led the children of Israel seven times around Jericho, and the walls fell [Joshua 6:13-20].

It says that Samson had seven locks of hair [Judges 16:1319].  It says that when Solomon built the temple, that he constructed it in seven years [1 Kings 6:138].  And when the Feast of Dedication was held, it was held for seven days [John 10:22].  When you went on the inside of that temple, you found a seven branched lampstand, a golden candlestick, really “lampstand” [Exodus 25:31-40].  And on the great Day of Atonement, the High Priest sprinkled the mercy seat seven times with blood of atonement [Leviticus 16:14].

The Book says that when Elisha told Naaman to go down to wash for his leprosy, that Naaman was instructed to dip himself seven times in the waters of the Jordan River [2 Kings 5:9-10].  The Book says that Job had seven sons [Job 1:2]; and when his friends came to see him, they sat in silence seven days and seven nights, so great was Job’s affliction [Job 2:13].

Now let’s go to the New Testament – that’s just a little one, two, three; there are hundreds of them just like that.  Now when we come to the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew told seven parables of the kingdom of heaven [Matthew 13:1-52], and in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew He pronounced seven woes upon the Pharisees [Matthew 23:13-29].  From the cross there were seven sayings of the Lord Jesus [Matthew 27:46Luke 23:344346John 19:26-30].

When you move over into the story of the church, there were seven men full of faith and of good report who were chosen to minister the temporal affairs of the church [Acts 6:3].  And when you come to the Book of the Revelation, if I could name the Apocalypse some other name, I could well call it “The Book of Sevens.”  There are seven churches in Asia, and a letter is addressed to the seven angels of the seven churches in Asia [Revelation 2:1812183:1714].

And the book opens with the Lord Jesus walking in the midst of the seven branched lampstand [Revelation 1:12-13].  And there is delivered into the hands of the Lamb, there is delivered a seven-sealed book [Revelation 5:1].  And each one of those seven seals is opened by this Lamb that has seven horns and seven eyes[Revelation 5:5-6].  And when those seven seals are opened [Revelation 6:1-178:1], there are seven angels that sound seven trumpets [Revelation 8:2-11:19].  Then there are seven angels which pour out seven golden vials, or golden bowls [Revelation 15:1-16:21].  There is a dragon with seven heads.  There’s a beast with seven heads[Revelation 13:1].  There’s a woman on a scarlet beast [Revelation 17:3], and it’s a representative of the city built on seven hills [Revelation 17:9].  I say the whole book is constructed around seven.

Now anybody could say, “That is just accident; that’s just coincident.”  Oh, no!  There is great numerical symbolism in the Bible and the reason why that the Revelation is a book of sevens is because it is a book of finality; it is a book of consummation; it is a book of the fullness of all the ages that are yet to come.  That word “seven” represents the perfection, the completion, the fullness, the plentitude, the entity, the totality of God and what God does.

Now, let’s turn to the next number; for I have used the number seven in order to emphasize the next number.  The other number that I have time to speak of this morning is the number six.  That is an interesting number because six is the number of man.  It’s a symbol in the Bible of man, the number six.  For one reason that I think the Spirit chose it is that six stops short of seven; it stops short of perfection, it stops short of completion, of fullness, of plentitude.  The man is always short.  He comes short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23].  He never measures up quite.  The number of a man is six.  It stops short of the fullness and plentitude of Almighty God.

Now look at man.  He was created on the sixth day [Genesis 1:26-28].  There was appointed unto him to labor six days [Exodus 20:8-11]; a Hebrew slave was to serve six years [Exodus 21:2].  The land was to be planted six years, and on the seventh it rested [Leviticus 25:4].  In the Book of Daniel, and the third chapter, it says that Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits [Daniel 3:1].  How high was it?  Threescore, that’d be sixty, isn’t that right?  The height of it was sixty cubits; and the breadth thereof six cubits [Daniel 3:1].  He made an image, a golden image; and the dimensions of it are in that word “six,” sixty cubits high, and six cubits broad.  Now, in the Book of the Revelation, you have the image of the beast.  In the thirteenth chapter of the book, this beast that:

Doeth great wonders . . .

And deceiveth them that live on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do . . .

And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed . . .

And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

[Revelation 13:13-17]

“Now here is wisdom,” now look at this, “Now here is wisdom.  Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of man; and his number is six hundred threescore,” how many is threescore?  Sixty.  “And his number is six hundred sixty and six [Revelation 13:18].  And his number is 6-6-6″ [Revelation 13:18].  Among other things, what the Bible is doing here is to show you by symbol, among other things, how completely short of the will and the glory of God is this deification of man.

Now when I was preparing this address this morning, just came into my soul – – but I’m going to do something else – – came into my soul, I wanted to stop right there and point out to you that a sure sign of the anti-God, and the anti-Christ, and the anti-Spirit is this: the deification of man and the dethroning of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of Man! [Matthew 24:5].

Whenever you see that process starting – – and I can just see it, I can see it develop in men and in institutions before my very own eyes, in my own little brief lifetime; men beginning to dethrone the Lord Jesus, to humanize the Lord Jesus, just make Him another man, a good man, a fine man, a superlative man, a magnificent man, but just a good man.  And then they deify man himself; talk of his great abilities, and his great achievements, and what great things he’s going to do – – that’s according to the revelation of the Book.  The number of this man deified is 6-6-6 [Revelation 13:18]; short, short, falling short [Romans 3:23].

Now this is what I want to do this morning, I want to show you how if you pay attention to these things, how you have a marvelous opportunity to understand the secret hidden, wealth and riches to be found in the Word of God.  Now I want all of you to turn to John, the second chapter of John.  We’re going to exegete a passage, and we’re going to do it on the basis of this number; the second chapter of the Gospel of John.  We’re going to exegete.  We’re going to read this chapter, and see what he means, see what he’s talking about.  All right, you ready?  The second chapter of the Gospel of John:

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:

And both Jesus was called, and His disciples, to the marriage.

And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto Him, They have no wine.

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee?  Mine hour is not yet come.

His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.

Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water.  And they filled them up to the brim.

And He saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast.  And they bare it.

When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants who drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,

And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse:  but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him.

[John 2:1-11]

Now let’s exegete that passage: it says there in the eleventh verse, “This beginning of,” and you have it translated “miracles” [John 2:11]; the word “miracle” is not used in the Gospel of John.  The word “miracle” is used many times in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and elsewhere in the Bible; but it is never used one time in the Gospel of John, not once.  The Greek word “miracle,” dunamis, or tera is used many times elsewhere, but in the Gospel of John, he always uses the word semeion, your “semaphore” comes from that, “sign.”  Over there in the last verse of the twentieth chapter of John, he says, “And there are many other signs that Jesus did, which are not written in this book; But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” [John 20:30-31].

Now, John chose seven signs in the Lord Jesus; and that’s the way the Gospel of John is put together.  There are seven of those signs, translated here “a miracle.”  But they’re not miracles, not in the sense they are just marvelous things that Jesus did; but they are things that Jesus did and what He did were signs, that is, they had a mystic meaning.  There was something other than just what you saw on the surface.

So the first sign that John chooses is this one of turning the water into wine [John 2:1-11].  Now our problem and our trouble about reading the Bible is this:  we just read that story and we say, “What a wonderful miracle, to take water and turn it into wine.”  It refers to that not at all.  John’s not even thinking about that.  He’s not even referring to that.  And he didn’t write it down because of that.  That was nothing.  That was nothing.

What he did was, he told this story because there is a sign in it.  There is a mystic meaning in what Jesus did.  Well, what is that mystic meaning?  Well, if you know what I’m talking about this morning, you’ll understand it.  So let’s look at it.

“There were there,” now look at it in the sixth verse, “there were there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece” [John 2:6].  Now a firkin would be about nine or ten gallons.  So to make it come out even, let’s say a firkin is ten gallons.  Now those were great big stone hollowed out, great big stone – – and brother there’s enough rocks in Palestine for God’s creation – – great big stones hollowed out.  And each one of those great, big, hollowed out stones would hold about thirty gallons.  Each one of them would hold about thirty gallons.  And there were six of them there, six of those great big stones, each one of which would hold about thirty gallons.

And what they were used for was for purposes of lustration; they used them to bathe themselves, mostly to wash their feet, to bathe their feet.  A fellow would sit down on the side of that thirty gallon, big stone water container, and put his feet in there and bathe his feet and wash his feet.

If you’ve ever been to the Muslim world, before they go into the temple, they all wash their feet.  They wash their hands to the elbows and wash their foreheads.  Then they go in and worship.  Well, according to the manner of Jew’s purifications, why, those great big stone jars were there, and all of the guests, when they came into the house, they sat on the side of one of those jars, big stone hollowed out things, put their feet in there, washed their feet, and bathed their feet; and then went into the wedding feast.

Now the Lord Jesus said, “You go out there from the cistern,” or “from the well, and fill up those six great big containers” [John 2:7], that represented the ritual, the law, the purification, the rites, the ceremonies of the Jews, “fill them up, fill them up.”  And so the servants went out to the cistern and drew out and filled those great big stone basins for washing feet, filled them up full of water [John 2:7].

“Then Jesus saith, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast” [John 2:8].  And every time I’ve ever heard anybody teach this lesson, why, they say the Lord Jesus filled up those great big stone jars full of water, then they drew out of those stone jars and carried to the governor of the feast, and the Lord Jesus turned it into wine.  Well, I’d say that was a poor thing to drink out of, wouldn’t you?

Those great big stones there, where everybody’d been washing his feet, and they draw out of those great big stone jars, and carry to the governor for them to drink it?  Ooh!  It just doesn’t sound good to me to begin with; there’s something wrong with that.  And then there’s another thing that’s wrong with it:  that meant that Jesus sure was getting in the wine business.  There were six of those things, and each one of them would hold thirty gallons.  That meant that He made that day six times three, six times three, eighteen, a hundred, that’s a hundred eighty gallons of wine.  Good night!

Boy, what a set up, what a set up!  But everybody teaches it that way, that I’ve ever heard them teach it.  Everybody I’ve ever heard, fill up those waterpots, those great big stone jars where you wash your feet, and then draw out of those stone jars and bear to the governor of the feast one hundred eighty gallons!  Brother, they were really in the business, weren’t they?

Now listen, there’s not anything of that in here, nothing; doesn’t even refer to that!  The Lord Jesus said to those servants:  “Now you draw out of the cistern,” or, “out of the well, draw out and fill up these great stone foot washing basins” [John 2:7].  Then He says, “Now draw out, and instead of pouring it into those basins, bear it to the governor of the feast.  Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast” [John 2:8].  And so those servants were drawing water and filling those big basins.  Then they drew out of the cistern and carried that last drawing out to the governor of the feast [John 2:7-8].

And somewhere between the drawing out of the cistern and by the time it reached the hand of the governor of the feast, it turned into wine [John 2:9-10].  And John says, “This beginning of signs” [John 2:11], that is a sign.  What is that sign, John?  This is the sign.  The number of a man is six.  The number of the work of a man is six, six, the sign of unfulfillment, the sign of shortcoming, the sign of incompleteness.  All of the rites, and ceremonies, and laws, and rituals of the old covenant could never suffice to save the man [Hebrews 10:4] because that salvation depended upon his keeping the law, his keeping the rites, his keeping the rituals, his keeping the commandments, all of those things back there, the Lord God said to the man, “Do this and thou shalt live” [Deuteronomy 4:1]; six.

But he never did keep the law.  He never did keep the commandments.  He never did observe the rituals and the ceremonies of God.  He was always short, always short.  His number is six.  There were there at that feast six waterpots [John 2:6], and they represented the dereliction and the lostness of man, falling short of the great commandments and laws of God [Romans 7:15-20].  Jesus came to keep those laws for us, to fulfill those commandments in our behalf [Matthew 5:17].

He came to fulfill all righteousness [Matthew 3:15].  Not a jot, not a tittle of the least word and commandment of God shall fall to the ground [Matthew 5:18].  But the Lord Jesus keeps it all.  And our righteousness is an imputed righteousness, not a personal righteousness [Philippians 3:9].  I haven’t kept the commandments.  I have fallen short.  “All of us have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23].  Six is our number, six.

“There were six waterpots there, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews” [John 2:6].  It represented all of the Old Testament, all of the commandments, all of the rituals, all of the ceremonies.  And the Lord Jesus came to fulfill every jot and every tittle [Matthew 5:17-18].  And He said, “Take the water and fill all six of them, clear to the brim, all six of them” [John 2:6-7].  Every commandment of man kept, every ritual and its meaning fulfilled, all of it, clear to the brim.

Then having fulfilled the old law, and the old testament, and the old ritual, and the old ceremony, every type, every one of them, having fulfilled it all, clear to the top and running over, then He says, “The new wine in the new bottle, the new garment, the new day, the new grace, the new gospel, the new hope, the new salvation; Bear now to the governor of the feast, behold all is fulfilled” [John 2:8].  Every commandment of God in Christ has been kept!  Every word has been obeyed!  Every jot and every tittle just as God commanded, He did it [Matthew 5:17-18].

And now we have a new gospel, and a new hope, and a new invitation, and a new door, a new heaven, a new earth, a new creation.  “If any man be in Christ; all things are new” [2 Corinthians 5:17].  That’s what John saw there.  That’s what he looked at.  And he says, “This beginning of signs did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him” [John 2:11].

Well, marvelous thing to take that Book and say, “Lord, open our minds and help us to understand.  And open our eyes, and help us to see.  And open our hearts and help us to believe the wondrous things in Thy law and in Thy Word.”  And that’s why we love to come to church – opening the Book and reading herein the wonderful, marvelous revelation of the things of Christ.

And always, closing with that appeal; our number, God says, is six.  We can’t save ourselves, always short, always short [Romans 3:23].  Our righteousnesses, says God, “is as filthy rags” [Isaiah 64:6]; our number is six.  We never quite measure up, however we try.  If from now on could be perfect, what of from now back?  Never, never quite reach that mark.  Our number is six, just short of seven, the fullness of God.

But Jesus has kept it for us.  He is our righteousness [1 Corinthians 1:30].  Not that I am lovely, but He is lovely.  Not that I am good, but He is good.  Not that we’re righteous [2 Corinthians 5:21], but He is righteous.  Not that we have kept the law, but He has [Matthew 5:17-18].  Not that we fulfill those types and rituals, but He has, clear to the top and running over [Romans 10:4].

And now, by faith we have an imputed righteousness [Romans 3:22].  We have a justification.  That is, we stand before God, not that we are perfect, but that God justifies us, that is, He deals with us as though we were perfect; justified; justified [Romans 5:18].  Before God, He looks upon us as His own Son, who kept every commandment.  We have an imputed righteousness, it’s by faith in Jesus Christ [Romans 4:24-25].  And that’s the reason you don’t work for your salvation.  “It is a gift of God” [Ephesians 2:8-9].  And what works we do, we do out of love for the Lord.  “Look what He has done for me.  O Christ, how could I ever do enough in return?”  That’s the spirit of the Christian.  I must stop.

That song this morning you’re going to sing, to me so pretty, and while we sing it, while we sing it, somebody you, give his heart to the Lord or put your life with us in the church, while we sing the song, you come and stand by me.  Anywhere, a family you, or one somebody you, while we sing the song, all of us staying here until the benediction, we have the service early so we can.  Don’t you like that song?  That’s one of the new ones in the book, and I love it.  Used to sing it as a boy, “We Shall See the King Someday,” one of the prettiest songs in the book, “We Shall See the King Someday.”  While we sing that song, would you come, while we stand and sing?

For more sermons by W.A Criswell, please visit www.wacriswell.com

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About The Author

W. A. Criswell was born December 19, 1909 in Eldorado, Oklahoma. He received his B.A. from Baylor University, and his Th.M. and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served for fifty years as senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, for many years the largest church in the Southern Baptist Convention. As founder and chancellor of the Criswell College, Dr. Criswell gave his later years to preparing young preachers to preach the Word of God. Dr. Criswell went to be with the Lord January 10, 2002. His ministry continues through the messages he preached and the lives he touched during his seventy-five years of pastoral service. Over 4000 of these messages with notes, outlines, audio and video are available through the Criswell Sermon Library at www.wacriswell.com. The Sermon Library is a ministry of the W.A. Criswell Foundation, Inc. to assist pastors and lay people in sermon preparation.

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