Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Revelation: Sabbath and Jubilee

When we try to understand the Biblical book of Revelation, we are plunged into rich symbols and intriguing mysteries. I’m sure this depth and interpretive enigma is more than just part of the book’s appeal, but also part of its design. Part of the message we are supposed to understand is the fact that there are mysteries too great for us, beauties we have not yet imagined, realities we have not yet grasped. The book of Revelation keeps us honest in our pretensions to have neatly analyzed all there is to understand about The Ancient of Days.

But sometimes there is a hint, in all those rich symbols, of things we have already understood – or have already had explained to us. One symbol used repeatedly in Revelation is the number 7. As often as the book repeats the number 7, the book’s goal must include fixing that number firmly in our mind in the picture of the end of all things. So what does the number 7 mean?

The Bible has already told us many things using the number 7 as the reminder or key. In the beginning of the Bible, the number 7 is tied to the completion of a good work, to the fullness of time. It is linked to the time of rest. In the ancient ceremonial laws of the Torah, holy time is often counted in sevens. Each seventh day is designated as a time of holiness, a time which is blessed. The first feast of the year lasts for seven days. Seven times seven days come before the next major holy day. The next major holy days – including the Day of Atonement – fall in the seventh month of the calendar, so that seven is the number associated with forgiveness and atonement. Every seventh year was a year of rest for the people and the land. After seven times seven years there was ordained a Year of Jubilee when debts are forgiven, those in bondage are released, and lost inheritances are restored to their former owners. In the prophet Daniel, seventy times seven years is the fullness of time before Messiah comes. In Jesus’ teaching, seventy times seven times is associated with forgiveness of sins.

So the number 7, one of the main symbols of Revelation, is known to us. Seven has long been the favored number for the fullness of time, for blessing, and for rest. It is the number designating the time for things to be restored to how they were meant to be. Seven is the number assigned to the time for the forgiveness of sins, the cancellation of debts, and the release of those in bondage. Seven has been the number for the time when those who lost their homes and inheritance came back home, restored to what was once their own by God’s decree that that’s the way it should be. “Seven” has always been God’s promise for the blessing he has stored up for the fullness of time.

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