Summary: Published February 2023: Some prophecies contain peculiar patterns which have hidden meanings. It becomes important to discover their significance. Often the pattern is a group of seven – a septenary. Then it becomes clear the seven can often be divided into four and three. But the Holy Spirit always has a reason for everything He brings forth in God’s word, and these divisions will not be the exception. We’ll be very direct in our discussion, sharing only what God has impressed upon us about these patterns.


The number seven is frequently used in prophetic passages, where it always carries a double meaning. The first and often the less significant is that we count in the group from one to seven. The group has seven individual parts. More important is the seven together as the group. This carries with it the idea of completion and perfection. The seven are viewed as the complete whole regarding the general prophetic topic being addressed. In Scripture, this perfection may refer to something good or evil. I’ve discussed the use of numbers in prophecy in a previous article linked here:

In prophecy we often find the septenary divided into four and three. However, this isn’t always the case for all groupings of seven. For example, in the first chapter of the Revelation we read this greeting:


Revelation 1:4 (NKJV)

John, to the seven churches which are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,


The seven Spirits is a reference to the one Holy Spirit. The throne is that of divine government.  The seven Spirits speaks of the plentitude of divine power utilized by the Holy Spirit in carrying out God’s purposes in His government of the earth. A similar understanding should be applied to the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne in chapter four (Rev. 4:5) and the “seven horns and seven eyes” of the Lamb in chapter five (Rev. 5:6). It is all about the perfection of power employed by the Holy Spirit in executing God’s government of the earth from the throne in heaven above.

We may be able to connect Isaiah’s description of the various energies of the Spirit found in the Man, Christ Jesus, as reigning over the future millennial earth (Isa. 11:1-5), with these prophetic symbols representing the Holy Spirit in the Revelation; the “seven horns and seven eyes” in chapter five seem to be a valid match to the character of the Isaiah passage – both refer to Jesus Christ possessing the power and intelligence of the Spirit for the purpose of governing. But all our examples speak more of the perfection/completeness of the Spirit for government than being able to divide the seven into smaller groups.

That isn’t the case with the seven seals binding the book in God’s hand, which only the slain Lamb was worthy to open (Rev. 5:5-7) – they easily divide into groups of four and three (Rev. 6). The first four are marked differently from the last three by the involvement of the horse and riders, and the call of the living creatures introducing them. We may say they correspond to the introductory events the Lord describes in His prophecy given to His disciples (Matt. 24:4-8). Then we might agree that Matt. 24:9-14 describes things which could result in what we see in the 5th seal (Rev. 6:9-11). And I wouldn’t object to connecting the opening of the 6th seal (Rev. 6:12-17) with the “abomination of desolation” the Lord mentions in Matt. 24:15 spoken of by the prophet Daniel (Dan. 12:11).

Our initial reaction to the opening of the 7th seal may be unremarkable (Rev. 8:1) – we get silence in heaven for about half an hour. But we need to remember that the 7th seal is the final one which permits the opening of the book, allowing the prophetic content hidden inside to be revealed. This content is the seven trumpets. They divulge some of the events of the last 3½ years of the tribulation. At their end, the sounding of the 7th trumpet results in the earthly millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ (Rev. 11:15) and proceeds on to the judgment of the dead at the great white throne (Rev. 11:17-18). The trumpets are another septenary series easily divided into four and three – the final three are the woe judgments (Rev. 8:13).

Another prophetic series of seven are the parables referring to the “kingdom of heaven” in Matthew thirteen. At the least it would take an entire article to detail all the types and symbols found in them. But the division of the group is again four and three:


The first four: the Sower, the wheat and tares, the mustard seed, the leaven.

  • These were the parables spoken in public with the multitudes present.
  • All four refer to the time of the Christian dispensation
  • In various ways, all four reveal the mixture of evil in Christendom – the corporate body responsible for the testimony of God during the dispensation. All four show the success of the work of Satan. All four predict the failure of man when given care/responsibility for the work of God in the dispensation.


The last three: the hidden treasure in the field, the pearl of great price, the dragnet.

  • These three parables were spoken in private to the disciples, along with the interpretation of the wheat and tares parable. They all emphasize what will be after the Christian dispensation is over.
  • These three show the counsels of God concerning the kingdom of heaven – the end results of God’s sovereign work of grace and judgment. The hidden treasure in the field is the end-time Jewish remnant (Rev. 7:1-8). The pearl of great price is the church, the body of Christ (Eph. 5:25-27). The dragnet is the judgment of the Gentiles when Christ returns to this world and is equivalent to the separation of the sheep and goats (Matt. 25:31-33). The saved sheep can be seen here (Rev. 7:9-10).
  • A bonus in the Lord’s private conversation in the house with His disciples (Matt. 13:36) is the interpretation of the wheat and tares parable. This gives us additional understandings beyond the scope of the parable itself, beyond the Christian dispensation. A significant part of God’s counsels is the revelation that the kingdom of heaven ends up as two separate kingdoms: the Father’s kingdom in the heavens occupied by the raptured saints (Matt. 13:43); the Son of Man’s kingdom on the earth occupied by the Jewish remnant and the saved Gentiles (Matt. 13:41-42).


The last septenary I would point out is the seven churches along with their corresponding messages found in Revelation two and three. We see Jesus Christ standing amid seven golden lampstands in chapter one, ready to judge the responsibility represented by the light-bearing lamps. But here, the general picture prophetically portrayed is far more than seven local churches in Asia minor in the first century. Each church, in its details, represents the general character of Christendom, in its own distinct epoch, as the church on earth passes through its history. Christendom is the church at large in its outward profession; the total time of her history is what is known as the Christian dispensation (all can see that from the day of Pentecost to the present, nearly 2000 years have passed).


  1. Ephesus: Rev. 2:1-7; this is the state of Christendom in the first century when John was on Patmos. Inwardly she had lost her first love and the long road of decline begins. Although Jesus does commend her good works, He nevertheless threatens removal of her lamp. She must repent and return to the original place she had at Pentecost, which, in fact, she never does.


  1. Smyrna: Rev. 2:8-11; this is the time of the well-known persecutions of the saints in the 2nd and 3rd centuries by the Roman empire, particularly the Great Persecution of emperor Diocletian in the early part of the 4th century. Also, at this time the church’s guard was dropped to the spread of the doctrinal leaven of Judaizing the Christian faith (the teachings of the “so called” church fathers).


  1. Pergamos: Rev. 2:12-17; Emperor Constantine makes Christianity the favored religion of the Roman empire and the church is now protected by the world (4th century). Very soon, Christendom would invite the world inside. Also, at this time a superior ruling class (clergy) is established to oversee and control the masses of commoners (laity).


  1. Thyatira: Rev. 2:18-29; the first three churches are a straight-line progression of decline resulting in Thyatira. In prophetic language the woman always refers to an established religious state – Jezebel stands for Roman Catholicism. This was established in the 6th century and continues today. She has been the dominatrix of Christendom for the last 1400 years. She is full of idolatry, evil, and corruption. The Roman church is the most complete display of the judaizing of Christianity.


  1. Sardis: Rev. 3:1-6; The Protestant Reformation started with the publication of Luther’s Ninety-five Theses in 1517. Even though the Lord’s message to Sardis has some hints at a new beginning, this church doesn’t represent this work of God’s sovereign grace. What it represents is the state churches which came about by the hands of men after the Reformation – Church of England, Church of Scotland, Lutheranism (state churches of Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Denmark), etc. These have a reputation of being alive, but the Lord says they are spiritually dead – the spiritual result of water baptizing civilians to declare them members of the state church. It is the world uniting with Protestantism.


  1. Philadelphia: Rev. 3:7-13; This church has all the characteristics of the brethren movement started in Ireland and England in the mid-1800s. It would eventually spread through Europe, America, and Australia. These individuals were strong in understanding God’s word and practicing it in their lives. They knew Jesus Christ and passionately followed Him in their walk. They rediscovered the doctrine of the rapture as the believer’s proper Christian hope, and the imminency connected to it in Scripture as the best motivation for living a holy life, separated from the world. They reclaimed the doctrine of the body of Christ, the true church (love of the brethren). This was the faithful remnant church.


  1. Laodicea: Rev. 3:14-22; This represents a state in which everything good in Philadelphia has been watered-down and compromised. It is as if the dead coldness of Sardis has thoroughly mixed with the revival heat of Philadelphia to produce this nauseous lukewarmness. Self-satisfaction and complacency have forced the Lord Himself to be outside this state. He is the Faithful Witness who rejects Christendom as a false witness for Him on the earth. Christendom’s lampstand, threatened by the Lord early in her history (Ephesus), is removed with the development of Laodicea. This is the present-day condition of modern Protestantism. It represents the final development of Christendom in its history on the earth.


So much more could be said about what the seven churches and their messages represent. My intention here was to quickly paint a broad picture of this prophetic septenary. With just the minimal understandings provided above, we now may better see how the group forms the familiar pattern of four and three.


The first four churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira

  • Christendom’s early centuries of history resulted in the development of Roman Catholicism (Jezebel in Thyatira). The first three states sequentially exist and disappear until the Roman church has been fully developed.

The last three churches: Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea

  • This is the Protestant arm of our timeline. It develops after the Reformation (1517). It is an off shoot of Thyatira, but most of us well know that Romanism survived the Reformation basically unscathed. The last three churches are three different states of Protestantism according to their revealed characteristics.


This prophecy of seven churches also has an obvious three and four pattern.


The first three churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos

  • These three no longer exist. The Ephesus condition progressed to that of Smyrna; Smyrna developed into Pergamos; eventually Pergamos ripened into Thyatira. The first three disappear and only the fourth remains and continues.

The last four churches: Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea

  • These four states make up the whole of Christendom today. Certainly, Thyatira makes up the greatest percentage of this corporate body.
  • When Laodicea developed, it did not replace Philadelphia, which would continue to the end. Likewise, even though Philadelphia developed after Sardis and came out of Sardis, it did not replace her. The same is true for Sardis emerging from Thyatira after the Reformation. Although there was progression in the last four, it wasn’t the type of progression which eliminated the previous state (as in the first three churches).
  • These four will go on to the end as is indicated by the Lord in His message to each.
    1. The corporate body represented in Thyatira – Jezebel, those who commit adultery with her, those who accept her doctrine, and the children she births – is promised nothing but judgment/condemnation. The Roman church will meet its end in the future great tribulation (Rev. 2:20-23). The Lord keeps a small remnant and encourages them to hold on until He comes (Rev. 2:24-25).
    2. The spiritually dead body of Sardis will be dealt with like the world – “I will come upon you as a thief…” (Rev. 3:3). Again, the Lord keeps a remnant who have managed to not defile their garments among the dead of Sardis (Rev. 3:4).
    3. Philadelphia is the faithful remnant church. They have learned to properly wait for the Lord they love, His coming for them – “…you have kept My patience…” Jesus will keep them “…from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” The world’s trial is the future tribulation; the rapture, before the tribulation, is how He will keep them out of it.
    4. Laodicea is the last form of Protestantism; it is the last developed state of Christendom in the Christian dispensation. The Lord says, “…I will spew you out of My mouth.” He leaves no doubt as to what He will do.