Thursday, June 12, 2008

On Peopling Heaven?

There are a few enigmatic numbers in the Bible. Most are easily explained - three, ten, twelve, and a thousand come to mind. And then there is the number 153. An odd number, in more than one way. We read this number in the living object lesson Jesus uses after his resurrection - his last miracle while on earth. We read this in John's Gospel:

John 21:
3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.
5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.
6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.
7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.
8 And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.
9 As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.
10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.
11 Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.
12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.
13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.
14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

This number, it turns out is what some math whiz types call a "triangular" number. This comes from building a two dimensional pyramid (triangle) with one at the top and a progression of "blocks" of one additional each per level. The number is the summation of 1 through level n, where in is the base level. Each "side" of the triangle would have the same number of blocks. This example, using zero's, shows a triangle of ten, each "side" having four "blocks"

0 0
0 0 0
0 0 0 0

The formula for a summation is:

Sum (1 - n) = n * (n+1) / 2

For four (4) levels we have the sum of 1 through 4 = 4 * 5 / 2 = 10. The sum of 1 through 17 is 153. [ 17 * 18 / 2 = 17 * 9 = 153]

Those who try to make something out of this "parable" usually equate this catch with the future "catch" of people "from the sea" of nations. Perhaps even indicating 153 people groups. This is possible. Especially since another number, identified as the "number of man" is ALSO a triangular number. 666 is the sum of 1 through 36:

36 * 37 / 2 = 18 * 37 = 666

And so, we have a number representing mankind, and a smaller number representing those saved out of that number. The smaller number is just under 23% of the larger one. This agrees with the parable of the sower where one fourth of the seeds produce fruitful plants.

If we look for another number to represent the saved, we look no further than two chapters in the same source that gives us the "666" - The book of Revelation. That number is the total from the twelve tribes - twelve thousand from each, or 144,000. Since it can be demonstrated the number 144 is a number of redemption, and that "thousands" is a way of indicating multitudes, this number symbolically states "redeemed multitudes." However, perhaps John was actually just seeing the "leading edge" of this multitude - the "last level," so to speak. If this 144,000 was meant to be the "base" of a triangular number we would have 10,368,072,000 (10.3 Billion). A handsome "multitude" of ALL the saved throughout the ages.

If we take the 23% as a proportion of ALL the people that have ever lived, then we have a larger number of 45,078,573,913 (a little over 45 Billion) from which the 10.3 Billion came. This figure represents the doubling of the population on an average of about every 180 years. I arrived at this by estimating the powers of two. 2 to the tenth power is approximately 1,000. 2 to the twentieth power is approximately 1,000,000. And to the 30th power, we reach 1,000,000,000. Every power after that doubles the number 31st = 2 billion, 33rd = 8 billion, 35th = 32 billion. The final doubling would far exceed our number, so we divide 6000 by 35 to come to about 170, and then add a little! Clear as mud?

Graphically, or perhaps more accurately, symbolically, this is what that looks like:

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