What does the number 3 mean in the Bible?

by | Aug 22, 2023 | Theology | 0 comments

With at least 467 mentions in the Bible, the number 3 is arguably one of the most common numbers in the Bible. The fact that it is used a lot in the Bible is a testament to its importance in Biblical numerology. Number 3 is also an important number in the Bible because it is the first of the four perfect numbers in the Bible. The other three are 7, 10, and 12. 

Number three symbolizes completeness (though not as much as 7 does). This meaning can be derived from two patterns in the Bible. First, we have 3 righteous patriarchs before the flood (Abel, Enoch, and Noah). After the flood, we also have three righteous patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.)

The number of completeness

The number 3 features prominently in the atonement story. The story begins in Gethsemane where Jesus took his disciples for prayer just after the last supper. When they arrived, he took 3 of the disciples (James, Peter, and John) and went further with them to the place where he prayed 3 times before he was betrayed by Judas and subsequently arrested (Mathew 26:36-44). 

Following his arrest, Jesus was tried and eventually sentenced to death by crucifixion. He was placed on the cross at 9.00 AM (3rd hour of the day) and he died at the 9th hour of the day (3:00 PM). while hanging on the cross, there was darkness over the land for 3 hours (from the 6th to the 9th hour). After the death of Christ, he was buried by Joseph of Arimathea and he was dead for a total of 3 days and nights (72 hours) after which he was resurrected on the 3rd day. 

The consistent use of the number 3 in the story of the atonement serves to demonstrate the completeness of God’s plan of salvation. Unlike the law of Moses which also provided for the redemption of sinners, the new covenant that came through Jesus offered a complete solution – where only one sacrifice was made and it was enough to take care of all sinners and all sin. 

But this pattern of 3 in God’s atonement plan began long before Jesus came. For instance, we have already seen how there were 3 righteous patriarchs before the flood. The third patriarch (Noah) was instructed to build an arch that would be used to save the righteous from the looming destruction. Jesus would later use the story of Noah as a metaphor for his return to the church. 

But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Mathew 24: 37-39

The feasts of the Lord in the Old Testament could also be categorized into 3 great periods. These are the Spring festivals (The feasts of the Passover and the Days of UNleavened bread) The Summer festivals (The Feast of Pentecost) and the Fall Festivals (Feast of Trumpets, Atonement and )

There are 3 great periods of God’s annual Feast days of worship. They are the spring festivals (Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread), the summer festival (Pentecost), and the fall festivals (Feasts of Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles).

The number of God 

The doctrine of the trinity was made popular in the early church as a way of distinguishing Christianity from the other religions that condoned the worship of more than one God. To avoid any confusion that arose from the concept of God, his son, and his spirit, the early church fathers made it clear that Christianity worshipped one God who appeared in 3 forms (hence the trinity). The trinity comprises God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. 

Abraham had a close encounter with the revelation of the Trinity when he was seated outside his tent and saw three men standing before him. He immediately discerned that to be a divine visitation (Genesis 18). Even though the word trinity is not used in the chapter, it is clear that the three visitors that came to Abraham were a typology of the trinity. 

The word trinity is not explicitly used in the Scriptures but there are many examples where the word Son, Holy Spirit, and Father are used interchangeably to denote that all the three members of the trinity were acting in perfect unison. Jesus often caused jitters by saying that he was one with God (John 10:30), something that the religious didn’t like because they thought it was blasphemy. They thought saw because they couldn’t reconcile the idea of the Trinity. 

In Acts 5, Apostle Peter demonstrates his understanding of the Trinity. When he was confronting Ananias and Saphira. He starts by asking Ananias why he lied to the Holy Spirit (5:3) then continued to explain that he had lied to God the Father (5:3). The sin of Ananias attracted judgment and he did. When the wife came to the temple 3 hours later, oblivious of what had happened, she continued with the lie and Peter told her that she was lying against the Spirit of the Lord (5:9) and she was also killed. 

Conclusion

For the most part, the number 3 symbolizes completeness. We see the pattern clearly in the prevalent use of the number 3 in the atonement. Jesus takes 3 disciples to the place of prayer where he prayed 3 times before he was arrested. He was then crucified at the 3rd hour and he died at 3:00 PM after darkness had engulfed the land for 3 hours. He then was in the grace for 3 days before he rose again from the dead. All these threes were used intentionally to emphasize the completeness of the work of the cross. However, 3 can also signify the Godhead which is comprised of the 3 persons of the trinity (God the father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit).

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About: Ronie

Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.
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Ronie

Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.

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