Many claim there is a hearing/seeing theme in the book of Revelation, where John hears something, then sees something (or the other way around), and that both what he sees and hears have the same referent. The classic example is Revelation 5:5,6, where one of the elders tells John to look at a lion, and then sees a lamb. That both the lion and the lamb refer to Christ is sufficiently clear.

Many scholars use this hearing/seeing principle to identify referents throughout Revelation. For example, some scholars identify the 144,000 with the Great Multitude (Rev 7), because John hears the number 144,000, and then sees a great multitude. Some identify the new heavens and new earth with the New Jerusalem (Rev 21), appealing to the fact that one is seen and one is heard. (New Jerusalem is actually seen, but see Beale.)

However, it seems the only clear example ever appealed to for such a hearing/seeing principle is Rev 5:5,6. The identifications in Rev 7 and 21 are very disputable and rest on this hearing/seeing principle already existing. They cannot, in my view, be used to establish such a principle. At most, they demonstrate that John often sees something and then hears something, not necessarily that what he sees and hears are in fact the same thing.

Is it reasonable to establish a seeing/hearing principle merely on the basis of one clear example, namely Rev 5:5,6?

Are there other examples of hearing and seeing that clearly have the same referent and might lend credibility to such a hearing/seeing principle?

  • You say, "two symbols or visions are juxtaposed, one heard and one seen", but John doesn't HEAR a vision. What he does hear, is an instruction to BEHOLD a lion, but when he looks, he BEHOLDS a lamb. So, we are really looking for instances where John is told to behold a certain thing, but then is shown something other than he would expect.
    – enegue
    Commented Dec 24, 2016 at 5:42
  • @enegue I adjusted the language in my question, hopefully clearer now. Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 14:21
  • @למה זה תשאל לשמ ''a voice or sound, noise'' or simply 'speech' which is 'heard' in many places in scriptures signifies 'deeds' NOT narrated in the account but are the reason for the things said. E.g in Job 21:14 , the wicked 'say' to God the things, but some don't even believe there's a God to start with, indicating that their 'deeds' are the 'speech' which 'says' to God 'depart, we desire not to know your ways. In the case of Mal 1:12-13, no Israelite, no Israelite who 'sacrifices' would ever utter words written in these verses against God. Yet their 'deeds' before God 'say', even 'worse'
    – Ted O
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 13:31
  • As to the seeing, God gives understanding for the 'signs' that He 'makes' in scriptures or in visions through what is written elsewhere in the same scriptures. There's NO symbol in REVELATION that isn't mentioned elsewhere in the writtings, including some relegated to, or simply rejected as 'extra biblical'
    – Ted O
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 13:35

4 Answers 4


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?


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.


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:

  1. “Bride” is a familiar symbol for God’s people (Matt 25:10; Mark 2:19; Rev 22:17).

  2. 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.”

  3. 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).

  4. 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 God’s people.

(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.


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:


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).


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.


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; 21:24).


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.


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:


While the four winds are being held back, God’s people are sealed = 144,000 (Rev 7:3).


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).


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 goats.


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.

  • He is not a lion and a lamb at the same time. Hmm, an interesting thought. However he is both the form of God and of a servant at the same time. Could he not be the Lamb and the Lion eternally - ie, He is both all the time as a reminder of what he has accomplished. Would you have a verse in mind to support the initial idea? +1
    – Steve
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 6:11
  • @steveowen Yes, He is the Lamb and the Lion eternally but "Lamb" is both an IDENTIFICATION of Christ and a specific ROLE that Christ had when He was on earth. In the context of Revelation 5, which I understand to be His enthronement after His ascension, I think the emphasis of the description "lamb" is on that role rather than on identification. The same could be said of "lion." He is always the “lion” but His enthronement emphases that role. My feeling is that the referents in these hear/see combinations are not exactly the same but different perspectives of the same thing.
    – Andries
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 9:38
  1. 5 And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. 6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.
    -- Revelation 5:5-6 (KJV)

    John is exhorted to behold the LION OF JUDAH, but when he looks he beholds a SLAIN LAMB.

    Implication: the SLAIN LAMB == the LION OF JUDAH

    This, then, is the model for what I believe the OP requires, i.e. John is being exhorted/instructed to behold a certain thing, but then is shown something other than he would expect.

  2. 9 And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. 10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 Having the glory of God: and her light [was] like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
    -- Revelation 21:9-11 (KJV)

    John is beckoned by an angel to come and see THE LAMB'S WIFE, but when carried away to a mountain top, he is shown THE NEW JERUSALEM.

    Implication: the NEW JERUSALEM == the LAMB'S WIFE

  3. 1 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: 2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
    3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
    -- Revelation 17:1-3 (KJV)

    John is beckoned by an angel to come and see THE JUDGMENT OF THE GREAT WHORE SITTING ON MANY WATERS, but when carried away into the wilderness he is shown A WOMAN SITTING ON A SCARLET COLOURED BEAST.

    Implication: the SCARLET BEAST arose from the MANY WATERS (Revelation 13:1)

Pretty well everything John witnessed in his vision would have been unexpected, but these examples fit the model as it was defined by the OP.

At this time I am unable to find an example in regard to the 144,000 that fits the model. I am still looking for other examples, though, and will add any that are found.

  • Those are good examples. What I'm primarly interested in is whether it can be sustained that the hearing/seeing model implies identification. If so, then the lamb's wife is the New Jerusalem (example 2), and the many waters are the scarlet coloured beast (example 3). Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 14:31
  • @enegue, when you say you're unable to find an example in regard to the 144,000 do you mean one that fits the example when describing the 144,000? Or an example that is similar to the description of the 144,000? Commented May 1, 2018 at 5:39

Some answers already covered many of these, but one that was missing was the "hearing" the genealogy/census of the 144,000 (cf. Numbers chapter 1 for an example of a census), but seeing a multitude "which no man could number" from every nation and speaking every tongue.

Genealogies are very important in Ancient cultures--their identities are found in their familial lines. So when John hears the 144,000, he hears Israel "receiving the kingdom of God" again (cf., The disciples' question to Jesus about Israel receiving the kingdom in Acts 1).

When John hears this, he hears that what his people have hoped for is coming to pass. When he "looks," he sees an innumerable number of people from all walks of life receiving the kingdom:

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Revelation 7:13-17

So the "hear/see" motif is present here as well, and is reminiscent of Romans 9, where it is the children of the promise of Abraham, not just his physical descendants, who are regarded as "offspring"


The theme throughout the Bible is hearing , seeing, walking, as symbols of being drawn to, understanding and living. Or it's opposite: deaf, blind and lame.

John was drawn to the lion as a sheep who hears the voice of a shepherd, without understanding the words. He understood the works of the lamb.

The words light and lion are puns in Hebrew, suggesting that the lion is like God's holiness. It is also a pun to skin. Adam was covered with something like God's holiness.

The word said/word is a pun to lamb. Only modern vowels separate them. When God said: Let there be light., He created light by the lamb. God's Holiness is revealed by the lamb at the cross.The lamb created light.

  • Not sure what needs sourced. Details?
    – Bob Jones
    Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 23:46

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