The Bible often uses numbers to speak of literal quantities or increments of time. It also uses numbers to represent something much deeper. This latter usage is known as “imagery.” When numbers are used in such an instance they represent something spiritual rather than something literal.
For instance, the number seven in the Bible conveys God’s perfection. In creation, God rested from His work on the “seventh day.” The many judgments spoken of in Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28, and in the Book of Revelation are all based on series of sevens. When Peter asked Jesus how often a person should forgive another for their trespasses, Peter asked if “seven times” was sufficient. Jesus responded that the number should be “seven times seventy” (Matthew 18:21-22). Not only did Jesus use the number “seven” in His answer, but He also used it in relation to the number ten. Ten is a number that biblically represents “completion” or “perfection.” Jesus’ answer equates to the number 490 (7×70=490). Anyone knowing Bible prophecy knows that 490 is the same number of years Daniel said would transpire before the generation that saw the Messiah would receive judgment for their rebellion against His Covenant (see Daniel 9:24-27). This judgment is the same mentioned in Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28, Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, and in the Book of Revelation, and it did transpire within that same generation as prophesied. These are but a few examples of the Bible’s usage of ‘seven’ as imagery of “perfection” or “completion.”
Similarly, the numbers “two” and “three” are also used as a literal number that represents spiritual imagery. Here are a few examples of this:
(Deuteronomy 17:6 ESV) On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.
(Matthew 18:16 ESV) But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
(2 Corinthians 13:1 ESV) This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses
(1 Timothy 5:19 ESV) Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
“Two” is the number of “witness,” and the “three” is the number of a “fully established testimony.” To the ancient Hebraic mind, such witness is the minimum testimony needed to establish guilt or judgment. Jesus used this rule when saying that He would back any judgment decided within the Church if it were agreed upon by “two or three” elders (see Matthew 18:20). The usage of the number ‘two’ to prove the credibility of a witness is also what propelled Jesus to send out His disciples in pairs of two (see Luke 10:1). Such witness is also why Paul mentioned the names of other ministers in effort to prove the accountability of his apostleship.
Jesus Christ is the scope and design of the Bible (See John 5:39; Galatians 3:24), He is the One whose testimony is the spirit of prophecy (See Revelation 9:10), and He is the one to whom we must look to properly interpret the prophecies found within the pages of our Bible (See John 14:6; Hebrews 1:2, Hebrews 12:2). Jesus came to fulfill all the promises of reconciliation for mankind as first promised in Genesis 3:15. Though the “two or three witnesses” speaks of judicial matters, Jesus’ coming to fulfill these prophecies was also established by three witnesses (see Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1). These witnesses are found in the heavenly voice’s statement at the Mount of Transfiguration (see Matthew 7:1-9). As the voice of God spoke at this meeting, the apostles saw Elijah (who represented the prophets), Moses (who represented the Law), and Jesus (who was the heir to the throne of the Psalmist King David). Matthew recorded that this is what occurred there: “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5).
To the Jewish mind these words meant something more than just a heavenly vocal exchange between God and man, for found within this proclamation are three snippets of scriptures that reference the three divisions of the Old Testament (the Psalms, the Prophets, and the Law). Used together these three statements stand as a witness to establish the validity of Jesus Christ’s ministry.
The first of these is when the voice said, “My Son.” This statement refers to a Messianic prophecy found in the Psalms that says, “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee” (Psalms 2:7). In the New Testament this statement was applied to Jesus in Acts 13:33: “God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.”
Similarly, “Well pleased” refers to the Prophets, for Isaiah 42:1 says, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth [well pleased]; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” The book of Matthew applies this prophecy to Jesus: “Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall show judgment to the Gentiles” (Matthew 12:18).
The commanded to, “Listen to Him,” is from the Law and refers to the coming one whom Moses said was to lead the people of God. This is found in Deuteronomy 18:15: “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; [Listen]” In Acts 7:37, Luke records this prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus Christ: “This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.”
The Bible confirms that the Mount of Transfiguration took place so Peter, James, and John could better understand that Jesus is the promised One in the Law, Psalms, and Prophets. As the voice of God spoke at this meeting, He confirmed that Jesus was the One who fulfilled the biblical prophecies regarding the Messiah. Later, the disciples used these three witnesses to confirm that Jesus being the prophesied Savior (see Matthew 17:9). Such a witness enabled the believers to later testify to others that Jesus truly is the Christ. The awareness of these Old Testament witnesses helped empower the early Church to evangelize their world.
Copyright © 2011 TK Burk. All Rights Reserved.