Seven: Holiness, sanctification, purpose, and being set apart for a purpose (whether good or evil)
Christianity frequently teaches that the meaning of the number seven is completion. This is not correct. The number seven relates to "rest" and "holiness". The best example of this is the many places that the number seven is used in regard to the Shabbat (the Sabbath day). The primary idea of the Shabbat is rest and holiness. Please note that there is also an etymological connection between the concept of holiness and sanctification. In several passages of Scripture, one reads that HaShem has sanctified the seventh day or He has made it holy. In addition to this, work is forbidden on the Shabbat. In fact, both Biblically and traditionally, the Shabbat is seen as a day of rest.
Finally, the number seven can relate to perfection. Obviously there is an association between holiness and perfection.
What is the Scriptural basis for those who teach that the number seven relates to completion? These scholars also refer to the Shabbat. In the book of Genesis, one reads,
"The heavens and the earth were finished (completed) and all their hosts. And God completed on the seventh day His work which He did and He ceased on the seventh day from all His work which He did." Genesis 2:1-2
There certainly seems to be a Biblical basis for associating the number seven with completion. However, in the next verse it is stated,
"And God blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it (literally made it Holy) for in it, He ceased (rested) from all His work which God created to do." Genesis 2:3
Now we have two concepts related to seven, completion and holiness. When one examines the number seven in additional passages, the concept of holiness (sanctification) and perfection appear much more frequently. Before looking at a few such passages, let us refer to an additional verse that relates the number to completion. In Revelation 10:7, one reads that in the days of the seventh angel, the mystery of God should be finished (completed). The word which is translated finished or completed is the Greek word τελέω which has great theological significance. There are two well-known passages where this word appears. One is found in Romans chapter 10. Here the word in question is in the form of a noun. Although it is frequently translated as the "end", it is important for the reader to know that within this word there is the idea of "goal", "purpose", or "objective". The verse from Romans reads literally,
"For an end of Torah (is) Messiah for righteousness, for everyone who believes.” Romans 10:4
It is significant that there is no definite article (the) prior to the word "end". If the proper interpretation is that Yeshua brings an end to the Law, then the verse should state, "For the end of the Torah is Messiah…." Most English translations insert the definite article which the Greek text does not have. It is awkward to state, "an end". In actuality, Messiah did not bring an end to the Law; the Torah commandments continued to be practiced by the followers of Messiah (see Paul in Acts 21:20-24). The proper translation for this verse when understanding the fuller meaning of the word τελos is,
"For an objective of the Law is Messiah; for righteousness for everyone who believes."
The objective or purpose of the Law is not solely that people would turn to faith in Messiah. Naturally there are many purposes contained in the Torah. However, the Law reveals our unrighteousness and causes us to seek redemption by means of the Messiah. Although the Torah defines what is righteous (and unrighteous), it is only Yeshua Who can bring about righteousness in a person. Of course as the end of the verse states, Messiah only mediates righteousness for the one who believes.
The other passage that contains the word τελέω is John 19:30. In this verse,Yeshua is on the tree and knowing all things have been accomplished, He said, "It is finished". The emphasis of this statement is not that His work of redemption is complete, although this is true. Rather, this work was done in a perfect manner. Holiness is also related to purpose. It is very important for the Biblical student to understand that Holiness is always related to a purpose. As was briefly mentioned earlier, there is a strong relationship between the terms holiness and sanctification. In fact, both in Greek and in Hebrew the word sanctification is derived from the word holy. Hence, when Yeshua cried out, "It is finished”, He is referring to the work that God the Father had set Him apart (sanctified Him) to do.
When considering another verse which has the number seven, the matter becomes clearer. Yeshua fed a multitude of 4,000 people from the seven loaves and few fishes. This is of course different from the feeding of the five thousand. After the multitude had eaten and were satisfied, the reader is told that seven full baskets were taken up. What is the meaning of the number seven in this passage? First, the number 4,000 (the number four, a thousand times) relates to the world. In examining the passage, perhaps a case could be made for asserting that Yeshua had come for the whole (complete) world. However, when taking into account the context of this section, another interpretation seems to fit better. Yeshua, in the previous paragraph, had healed the lame, deaf, blind, and the maimed. The emphasis is not simply that He had made them whole, but these are said to have glorified the God of Israel. In other words, these who were incapable of worshiping God, were now able to do so. The point is that Yeshua did not come to simply minister to the entire (complete) world, but to make the world holy, that is to sanctify the world according to His purposes. Likewise, when in the book of Revelation the seven spirits are mentioned or the seven menorahs, the idea is not completion, but holiness and sanctification.
When the number ten is studied, it will be demonstrated that the concept of completion is much better applied to this number, rather than seven.
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