Is there really a hearing/seeing theme in Revelation?
I agree that it would not be reasonable to establish a seeing/hearing principle merely on the basis of one clear example. However, I am aware of four possible hear/see combinations in Revelation and I believe that it is possible to show the hear/see principle in all four instances. The question is: Is what John hears about the same as what he sees?
THE LION AND THE LAMB
In Revelation 5:5-6, he heard about a lion but saw a lamb. It is accepted that the lion and the lamb are both symbols of Jesus Christ. But He is not a lion and a lamb at the same time. He allowed Himself to be led like a lamb to the slaughter, but He will return as a lion. Consequently, the referents in these hear/see combinations are not exactly the same but are different perspectives of the same thing.
THE BRIDE AND THE CITY
In Revelation 21:9-10, an angel told John that he will show him “the bride, the wife of the Lamb,” but then John saw “the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” For the following reasons, I would propose that the bride and the “Jerusalem” in these verses are symbols of the same reality, namely, of God's eternal people:
“Bride” is a familiar symbol for God’s people (Matt 25:10; Mark 2:19; Rev 22:17).
Revelation 21:2 makes a connection between the city and the bride when it says that the “new Jerusalem” is “made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.”
There are two women opposing one another in Revelation. The one is “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev 21:9). The other one is Babylon, the great, the mother of harlots (Rev 17:5) and she is also both a woman and a city (Rev 17:18).
The New Jerusalem is not a literal city. It is a symbol of something. The following are some of the indications of what it symbolizes:
(a) The names of the 12 tribes are written on its 12 gates, meaning
that only true Israelites will be allowed in (Rev 21:12).
(b) The names of the 12 apostles are written on its 12 foundations,
meaning that it is built on the Christian message (Rev 21:14).
(c) It is 12,000 furlongs in length and in width and in height (Rev
21:16). These are not literal measurements. 12 in the number of God’s
people. The triplication of 12 symbolizes the eternal perfection of
(d) Its wall is 144 cubits thick. Both the 144,000 sons of Israel (Rev
7:4) and this 144 cubits-wall are symbols using military language to
reflect the spiritual invincibility of God’s people (cf. Rev
14:4-5). In other words, never again will they be tempted into sin.
For these reasons, both the bride and the New Jerusalem are symbols of different aspects of God’s people:
"Bride" emphasizes His love for His people.
A city is not a collection of buildings; it is a collection of people
and their things. His great city is a fortress of truth for the whole
world to behold. It symbolizes God's people as united with the perfect
bond of peace, which is love.
THE WATER, THE BEAST, AND THE SEVEN HEADS
In Revelation 17:1, 3, John first hears that the harlot sits on “many waters” but then he sees that she sits on a beast with seven heads and ten horns. She also sits on the seven heads of the beast (Rev 17:9). For the following reasons, I propose that the “many waters” and the beast and the seven heads are different symbols of the same reality, namely, the people of the world who refuse to repent:
(A) THE WATERS ARE THE PEOPLE.
The “many waters” are explicitly identified as the people who support the harlot Babylon (Rev 17:15). They are the false worshipers; the killers of God’s people (Rev 18:24) who refuse to repent (e.g., Rev 2:5, 21; 9:20; 16:9).
(B) THE BEAST IS THE SEVEN HEADS.
The beast has seven consecutive heads (Rev 17:9), symbolizing the seven phases of the beast (not the seven hills of Rome!). In other words, the beast is the sum of the seven heads. Interpreted as such, the beast and its heads are different symbols of the same thing.
(C) THE SEVEN HEADS ARE THE PEOPLE.
The seven heads are identified as “kings” (Rev 17:9-10). In Revelation, “kings” are associated with people. For example, the following is one of the verses in Revelation that use four words as synonyms to refer to all people in the world:
“You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and
tongues and kings” (Rev 11:11; cf. Rev 6:15; 17:2; 18:3; 19:18-19;
Both the seven heads (seven kings) and the “many waters,” therefore, are symbols of the people of the world who live in rebellion against God. And since the beast is the sum of the seven heads, it is another symbol of the same reality.
These three things are not exactly the same, but different perspectives of the same thing; similar to the lion and the lamb. While the “many waters” seems to symbolize the mass of peoples of the world, the beast with its seven heads divides them into ages.
THE 144,000 AND THE INNUMERABLE MULTITUDE
John hears about 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel (on earth) but then sees an innumerable multitude “from every nation and all tribes” standing before God’s throne (Rev 7:4, 9). The 144,000 and the innumerable multitude seem to be complete opposites. However, in another article, I argue that the 144,000 Jews are a symbol of the perfection of the remnant of God’s people after the end of the persecution described in Revelation 13.
To understand the relationship between these two groups, we need to understand the sequence of events:
The sixth seal, at the end of the previous chapter, began with the
signs of Christ’s return (Rev 6:12-15; cf. Matt 24:29) and ends with
Judgment Day (Rev 6:15-17). The sealing (Rev 7:1-8), logically, must
be completed before the sixth seal.
After all of God's people have been sealed, the four winds of destruction will be released
At the end of Revelation 6, the great multitude hiding in the
mountains “from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from
the wrath of the Lamb” asks: “The great day of their wrath has come, and
who is able to stand” (Rev 6:15-17)? A few verses later, we see the
innumerable multitude from all nations “standing before the throne and
before the Lamb” (Rev 7:9). The innumerable multitude, therefore, is
the answer to the question at the end of Revelation 6. The great multitude hiding in the mountains and the innumerable multitude before the throne, by implication, describe the two classes of people at the same point in history, namely, on Judgment Day.
Therefore, we see the following sequence of events:
1. THE SEALING
While the four winds are being held back, God’s people are sealed =
144,000 (Rev 7:3).
2. THE FOUR WINDS
As soon as all of God’s people are sealed, the four winds of
destruction are released (Rev 7:3). These winds have been interpreted
as equivalent to the seven last plagues (Rev 16). During those
plagues, the people still refuse to repent (Rev 16:9, 11, 21). These four winds or seven plagues may also be the same as the first part of the sixth seal; the signs of Christ’s return (Rev 6:12-15).
3. JUDGMENT DAY
But, at a point in time, something changes and the people realize that
they are lost. Then the great multitude hides from God in the
mountains (Rev 6:15-17). At the same time (I propose), the innumerable
multitude of God’s people stand before His throne (Rev 7:9). This is
Judgment Day, and Christ has made a separation between the sheep and the
So, are the 144,000 the same as the Innumerable Multitude standing before the throne? Yes, argued as follows:
The 144,000 describe God’s people AT THE END OF THE SEALING; when the
four winds are released.
Since the seal of God implies that NONE of them will fall away during
the four winds, the 144,000 also describe God’s people when the four
winds are completed.
But that is also when the innumerable multitude describes God’s people.
I would like to conclude that there really is a hearing/seeing theme in Revelation but I would not like to use it to prove anything. I would like to do it the other way round: Since the 144,000 are the same as the innumerable multitude, there is a hearing/seeing theme.