Three Life, Resurrection, Completeness, the Trinity

The number three appears in the book of Revelation in association with the doxological triad (Rev. Rev. 4:8+; cf. Isa. Isa. 6:3), the amount of grain sold for a set price during famine conditions (Rev. Rev. 6:6+), the remaining trumpet judgments to be sounded (Rev. Rev. 8:13+), the number of plagues by which a third of mankind is killed (Rev. Rev. 9:18+), the amount of time during which the two witnesses lie dead before their resurrection (Rev. Rev. 11:9+, Rev. 11:11+), the number of demonic spirits associated with the “unholy trinity” (Rev. Rev. 16:13+),1 the division of Jerusalem by the great earthquake (Rev. Rev. 16:19+), and the number of gates on each side of the wall of the New Jerusalem (Rev. Rev. 21:13+).

In association with the number three, we observe that in the six days of creation, God pronounces the work of each day as “good” with the exception of day two (Gen. Gen. 1:6-8). It appears that the pronouncement expected for day two is held until the third day. Thus, the third day is pronounced “good” twice (Gen. Gen. 1:10, Gen. 1:12). Some have called the third day, the “day of double blessing.” It appears that our attention is drawn to the third day and it is pronounced as “doubly” good because the third day is the day on which life first appears. 2 Not only does life first appear on day three of creation week, but Jesus is raised on the third day.3 The raising of the two witnesses on the third day (Rev. Rev. 11:11+) correlates with this association of life or resurrection with day three.

Yet in the book of Revelation, the majority of the appearances of three seem to connote completeness, much like the way leaven (sin) works its way completely through the three measures of meal (Mtt. Mat. 13:33; Luke Luke 13:21).4 This would seem to be the case in Revelation Rev. 8:13+ where the final three woes are set apart as being of special significance. Here again, three denoting completeness or thoroughness.5 The complete eternality of God is expressed as the One “who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev. Rev. 1:8+), indicating His complete oversight of events within the domain of time.

Another significant use of three is in reference to the Trinity (Rev. Rev. 16:13+). For example, the threefold repetition of “Holy” in Revelation Rev. 4:8+ may refer to each of the persons of the Trinity (or as some have observed, merely be a Semitic artifact—a triplet denoting intensity , cf. Eze. Eze. 21:27; Jer. Jer. 22:29).6 The thrice repetition of six as the number of the Beast (Rev. Rev. 13:18+) signifies the mimic of the true Trinity by the “unholy trinity” consisting of the beast from the sea (Rev. Rev. 13:1+), beast from the earth (Rev. Rev. 13:11+), and Satan (the dragon, Rev. Rev. 13:4+). Three unclean spirits like frogs come out of this unholy trinity and perform signs to gather the kings of the earth and all the world to do battle against God (Rev. Rev. 16:13-14+). Here there seems to be a reference to completeness as well as triunity—they lead the entire world in opposing God.7


1 Satan, the Beast, the False Prophet.

2 Inanimate life such as grass and trees was created on the third day. The animated “living creatures” (שֶׁרֶץ נֶפֶשׁ [šereṣ nep̄eš] ) were not created until days five and six.

3 Mat. 27:63-64 which says: ‘We remember that impostor said, while He was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day.’ ”—Graham W. Scroggie, A Guide to the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1995, 1948), 569-570. Mat. 16:21; Mark Mark 8:31; Luke Luke 9:22). . . . Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb on the evening of the day of preparation (Friday), the day before the Sabbath (Mtt. Mat. 27:62; Mat. 28:1; Mark Mark 15:42; Luke Luke 23:54, Luke 23:56; John John 19:31, John 19:42). The women returned home and rested on the Sabbath (Saturday, Luke Luke 23:56). Early on the first day of the week (Sunday), they went to the tomb (Mtt. Mat. 28:1; Mark Mark 16:1-2; Luke Luke 24:1; John John 20:1) which was empty. Furthermore, on the same day He arose from the grave, Jesus walked with two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke Luke 24:13), and they told Him that their Master was crucified and ‘now it is the third day since this occurred’ (Luke Luke 24:21). . . . The most frequent reference to Jesus’ resurrection is that it occurred on the third day (not the fourth day) (Mtt. Mat. 16:21; Mat. 17:23; Mat. 20:19; Mat. 27:64; Luke Luke 9:22; Luke 18:33; Luke 24:7, Luke 24:21, Luke 24:46; Acts Acts 10:40; 1Cor. 1Cor. 15:4). . . . There are four passages (Mtt. Mat. 27:63; Mark Mark 8:31; Mark 9:31; Mark 10:34) which speak of Christ’s resurrection as occurring ‘after three days,’ but this is speaking of the same time period as on ‘the third day’. . . The three Markan passages are paralleled by one or two of the other Synoptic Gospels, and in each case the other Synoptic does not use ‘after three days’ as Mark does but ‘on the third day’ (Mark Mark 8:31 = Mtt. Mat. 16:21 / Luke Luke 9:22; Mark Mark 9:31 = Mtt Mat. 17:23; Mark Mark 10:34 = Mtt. Mat. 20:19 / Luke Luke 18:33).”—Harold Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1977), 71-72.

4 “The threes of the Bible represent triads of completeness.”—Walter L. Wilson, A Dictionary of Bible Types (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), 419.

5Three denotes divine perfection; Seven denotes spiritual perfection; Ten denotes ordinal perfection; and Twelve denotes governmental perfection.”—E. W. Bullinger, Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1967), 107.

6 “In the cry of the four living creatures (‘Holy, holy, holy,’ Rev. Rev. 4:8+) Hindson sees an indication of the Trinity (59) rather than an emphatic Semitic triplet. What kind of threefold existence would he find in triplets like ‘a ruin, a ruin, a ruin’ (Eze. Eze. 21:27) or ‘land, land, land’ (Jer. Jer. 22:29)?”—William D. Barrick, “Review of ‘The Book of Revelation’ by Hindson,” in Richard L. Mayhue, ed., The Master’s Seminary Journal, vol. 13 no. 2 (Sun Valley, CA: The Master’s Seminary, Fall 2002), 284.

7 Not every individual, but individuals from every nation, tongue, tribe, and region.