Spiritual Significance of Numbers 17 & 153 :: By Randy Nettles

The number 17 is the 7th prime number behind 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, and 13. A prime number is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. The number 2 is the only positive natural prime number. 13 is the 6th prime number, so it partakes of the significance of the number 6 and is an intensified expression of it.

Likewise, the number 17 partakes of and intensifies the significance of the number 7, which represents spiritual perfection. 17 is also the sum of two of God’s perfect numbers, 7 and 10. 17 is also 7 + 7 + 3, whereas 3 (another of God’s perfect numbers) is the number for divine perfection, 7 is the number for spiritual perfection, and 10 is the number for ordinal perfection. See God’s Perfect Number: Part 1 :: By Randy Nettles :: Rapture Ready.

The number 17 is very significant in the Bible. According to Genesis 7:10-11, the great flood of Noah’s day began on the 17th day of the second month. Genesis 8:4 says the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat on the 17th day of the seventh month. Genesis 37 tells the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers when he was 17 years old. Jacob (Israel) lived in the land of Egypt for 17 years before he died. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, reigned in Jerusalem as the king of Judah for 17 years.

The following information regarding the number 17 is from E.W. Bullinger’s book entitled Number in Scripture.

“The number 17 is the combination or sum of two perfect numbers – 7 and 10. 7 is the number of spiritual perfection and 10 of ordinal perfection. Contrasted together, the significance of these two numbers is clear; and when united in the number 17, we have a union of their respective meanings, viz., spiritual perfection, plus ordinal perfection, or the perfection of spiritual order.

We see a beautiful illustration in Romans 8:35-39, which concludes the first great division of that all-important Epistle, and sums up the blessings of those who are dead and risen in Christ. First, we have a series of seven, then a series of ten. The ‘seven’ are marked off by being put in the form of a question, while the ‘ten’ are given as the answer to it. The question is:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall (1) Tribulation, (2) Or distress, (3) Or persecution, (4) Or famine, (5) Or nakedness, (6) Or peril, (7) Or sword? As it is written, For Your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 

“For I am persuaded, that (1) Neither death, (2) Nor life, (3) Nor angels, (4) Nor principalities, (5) Nor things present, (6) Nor things to come, (7) Nor powers, (8) Nor height, (9) Nor depth, (10) Nor any other creature, shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

Also, In Hebrews 12:18-24, the contrast is made between the old dispensation (the Law) and the new dispensation (new covenant of grace): 

“You come not (1) Unto the mount that might be touched, (2) And that burned with fire, (3) Nor unto blackness, (4) And tempest, (5) And tempest, (6) And the sound of a trumpet, (7) And the voice of words…

“But you are come (1) Unto Mount Zion, (2) And unto the city of the living God, (3) The heavenly Jerusalem, (4) And to an innumerable company of angels, (5) To the general assembly, (6) And the church of the firstborn which are written in heaven, (7) And to God the judge of all, (8) And to the spirits of just men made perfect, (9) And to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, (10) And to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.”

Here again, the blessings of the New Covenant are seen to be higher than those of the Old, both in number and in importance. The Old were spiritual (7), but the latter are more so, for they are doubly the manifestation of Divine grace, ten, or 2 x 5.”

I would like to add to Mr. Bullinger’s work by pointing out the significance of the number 17 concerning Jesus’ resurrection on the 17th day of Nisan (on the Feast of the Lord known as Firstfruits). You might say that the countdown to Jesus’ death began on Nisan 1, the day after the new moon conjunction of spring. Ten days later, Jesus rode into Jerusalem as the Jew’s king (but was rejected as such), fulfilling Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, your King comes unto you: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”

The last seven days of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, from Nisan 11 to Nisan 17, were spent in Jerusalem. He was crucified on Nisan 14 and was resurrected on Nisan 17.

Jesus Christ is the first fruits of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Thus, the number 17 represents victory and overcoming the enemy, as in death and the grave. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Pity is hidden from My eyes” (Hosea 13:14). “For when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is the holiest day of the year for Judaism. It occurs on the 10th day of the 7th month of Tishri. Leviticus 16:29-31 describes this holy day for the Jews. “This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day, the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever.”

This was a temporary atonement for the Jews, as they would have to repeat the sacrifices and rituals every year. Of course, when Jesus died on the cross for all mankind, His “new covenant” and sacrifice replaced the “old covenant” of the Law and the sacrifices of bulls and goats. His was a one-time sacrifice. His blood covers us from our sins permanently, as He is the Son of God and the Son of man.

23 Books in the Bible have at least 17 chapters. Although the original manuscripts of the Bible were written without chapters and verses, I believe God orchestrated certain chapters and verses (when they were eventually added) to coincide with the spiritual significance of the event that was being portrayed in that particular book. I wrote about this in Judgment and the Number 19 :: By Randy Nettles – Rapture Ready regarding the number 19 representing judgment. “Many books of the Bible talk about judgment and divine judgment from God. Interestingly, in numerous instances, chapter 19 of these books is the one that deals with this prevalent subject of the Bible.” I gave 15 examples of this phenomenon.

Likewise, the same can be said about the number 17 and how it represents victory and overcoming. This is not the case with chapter 17 of every Book of the Bible that contains 17 chapters, but there are quite a few that do ring true. This warrants further study, but I will just list a few examples.

In Genesis 17, God appeared to Abram (when he was 99 years old) and confirmed His everlasting covenant with Abram and his descendants (through Isaac) regarding the land of Canaan. The sign of the covenant for Abram and his male descendants was circumcision. This is when God changed Abram and Sarai’s names to Abraham and Sarah. The story of David and Goliath is told in 1 Samuel 17 where a young boy defeated a mighty warrior giant by the providence of God Almighty. What a great victory over overwhelming odds! David went on to become Israel’s greatest king. In the Millennium Kingdom, David will be a prince under King Jesus, according to Ezekiel 37:25.

In 1 Kings 17, Elijah brings a widow’s young child back to life by praying to the LORD and his belief that it would happen. “Then the Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived” (1 Kings 17:22). The Davidic covenant is established in 1 Chronicles 17:11-13. “And it shall be, when your days are fulfilled, when you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up your seed after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever.”

The destruction of Damascus, Syria, by Israeli forces is foretold in Isaiah 17. “Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap…. The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. And behold at evening tide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us” (Isaiah 17:1,13-14).

In Matthew 16:28, Jesus tells his disciples, “There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” This certainly came true in a very short time, as described in Matthew 17:1 (the next verse after Matthew 16:28) where Jesus led Peter, James, and John up into a high mountain, and they witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah:

“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.

“Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!  And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, Arise, and do not be afraid. When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead” (Matthew 17:1-9).

Jesus showed the three disciples a vision of the LORD “coming in His kingdom” that will occur in the future. This is the second time the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” about Jesus. The first time was in Matthew 3:17 after John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.  And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (John 3:16-17).

Jesus’ ministry began after this baptism. I believe this is when Jesus’ “spiritual kingdom of heaven” began. The vision the three apostles saw was the future event of the “physical kingdom of heaven” beginning. They saw Jesus “coming in His kingdom” in a vision, and one day, they will be resurrected and translated into their new spiritual bodies and will experience this magnificent event in a much more profound way. They will be witnesses to Jesus being anointed as King of Israel and the Earth. On that day, the Father will once again say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Peter, James, and John, and the other disciples will reside with Moses, Elijah, and all the other resurrected Jewish saints on the new (fresh) earth.

The supernatural event known as the Rapture is given in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. Verse 17 says, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” What a victory (and overcoming) over death and the grave the LORD has given to those who love Him!

It’s interesting that John 1:1-2, “In (the) beginning was the Word, and the Word was with (the) God, and God was the Word,” contains 17 words and 51 (17 x 3) letters in the Greek language. These two verses have an isopsephy (gematria) numeric value of 3617. Here is what it looks like in the Greek alphabet (Yes, it looks like Greek to me, also):

εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος.

In the Hebrew Torah, the words “ḇə-nê- hā-’ĕ-lō-hîm” (the sons of God) have a gematria value of 153. There are five times this term is used in the Old Testament, always referring to angels. There are five times in the Greek New Testament when the words “huioi Theou” (sons of God ) are used, always referring to Christians. However, this New Testament “sons of God” gematria does not equal 153.

The factors of 153 are 1, 3, 9, 17, 51, and 153. Three years ago, I wrote an article, The Great Catch: Part I :: By Randy Nettles – Rapture Ready, regarding the 153 fish caught by seven of Jesus’ disciples after Jesus had been resurrected. This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples, according to the Book of John. They had fished all night and caught nothing. “But when the morning had come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, Children, have you any food?” (John 21:4-5).

Jesus then told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat and they would find some fish. They did as this “stranger” told them and were not able to draw the net back into the boat for the multitude of fish. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was the first to recognize that it was Jesus they had been talking to. He exclaimed, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he jumped into the water and swam to shore. The rest of the disciples came in the little boat, dragging the net with fish. “Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken” (John 21:11).

The question is raised, does this number (153) have any spiritual significance? Let’s examine this verse regarding a great catch of fish by Jesus’ disciples. 153 is the product of 9 x 17 (or 3 x 51). The Greek isopsephy (gematria) numeric value of John 21:11 is 17,340 or 17 x 1020. 1020 = 17 x 6 x 10. You could say these numbers are symbolic of man’s (#6) victory (#17) in a perfect manner (#10). Also, the Greek words “τὸ δίκτυον” (the net) have a numeric value of 1224, which is 8 x 153. 8 is the biblical number for new beginnings. The Greek isopsephy (gematria) for ‘Jesus’ is 888.

In my article, I wrote, “There have been many theories given throughout the ages regarding the number of fish that were caught that day. Saint Jerome, the fourth-century historian and theologian, theorized that the 153 fish caught by Jesus’ disciples represented all the species of fish. The fish represented all the races of man, and there was not enough room within the Church to contain them all. Augustine also believed that this multitude of fish represented all kinds of men being saved by the gospel net.

Augustine and Gregory the Great used mathematics and (biblical) numerology to try and solve the hypothetical meaning. They both agreed that the number 17 was the main number involved in the breakdown of 153. Gregory simply multiplies 17 by 3 and again by 3 (17 x 9), and thus arrives at 153. Augustine, on the other hand, uses addition and takes the sum of all the digits up to and including 17 amounting to exactly 153.

Once again, 153 is also the product of 9 x 17. If we add the individual digits (1 + 5 + 3), we end up with 9. If we add the cube of each of the individual digits (1 x 1 x 1) + (5 x 5 x 5) + (3 x 3 x 3), the result is 1 plus 125 plus 27 or 153. The number 17 is the 7th prime number and is the sum of 7 and 10, two of the perfect numbers of God. So the number 17 represents the perfection of spiritual order, as does 153.

A fairly recent theory regarding the number 153 was given by Lieutenant Colonel F. Roberts, who deduced that the multitudes who received direct blessing from Christ numbered exactly 153 individual cases. For more information on these miracles by Jesus go to Meaning of the Number 153 in the Bible (biblestudy.org).

Although many theologians believe the number 153 has a spiritual meaning, others believe it was simply a great catch of fish supernaturally supplied by Jesus and the Holy Spirit and that the number has no specific symbolic meaning. They believe that Peter or one of the other disciples decided to count them because they were curious as to the exact number, as it was such a great catch. It could just as easily have been 152 or 154 fish.

I like Gregory’s reckoning as 9 x 17 = 153, whereas nine is the biblical number for judgment and 17 is the number for victory. Could the number 153 have anything to do with the Rapture where the “sons of God” are caught in “the net” of the Great Fisherman and are transported to a different environment? The Rapture is a type of judgment where believers will be “taken up” to be with God, while the unbelievers will remain on the earth trying to survive the seven years of hell known as the Tribulation.

In The Great Catch: Part II :: By Randy Nettles – Rapture Ready, I wrote, “When the Rapture occurs, it will be the greatest catch of souls ever in the history of mankind. This supernatural event will be the end of the church age as we know it, for Christians who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth. The Holy Spirit’s role regarding mankind will change after the Rapture.”

Here is how the late Bible teacher, Jack Kelley, explains it:

“After the rapture, the Holy Spirit will be released to resume His original role on Earth, which is to draw people to the Lord. He’ll do this in a way that’s more like His Old Testament ministry than His ministry during the Church Age. For example, after the rapture, He’ll no longer be sealed within believers but will be with them as long as they’re being faithful.

In Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit was with believers, and from time to time, came upon them in power but was not sealed within them like He is with the Church (Ephes. 1:13-14). Jesus explained this changing role to the disciples in John 14:17. He said, “You know Him for He lives with you and will be in you.” He had been with them all along but was sealed within them on the night of the Lord’s resurrection (John 20:22).” {1}

Romans 11:25 says that when the “fullness of the Gentiles” has come in, then Israel’s blindness will be removed. Many Bible scholars believe the “fullness of the Gentiles” is a reference to the rapture of the Church, which will contain a specific number of members known only to God. When that full number has been reached, we’ll be taken from earth to our place in the “Father’s house” to be with the Lord (John 14:1-3). The removal of Israel’s blindness will begin when the Jews officially renew their Old Testament relationship with God (perhaps after the Gog Magog war) and build the third Temple in Jerusalem. This will mark the beginning of Daniel’s 70th Week and, according to Paul, will occur after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

What is the number of this “fullness of the Gentiles”? No human knows, but the number will be huge. Consider that the world’s population is currently at approximately 8.1 billion people. It is estimated that there are 2 – 2.5 billion Christians in the world today. That is approximately 24.7 – 31% of the world’s population. I believe this percentage is greatly exaggerated, as many of these so-called “Christians” are Christians in name only.

Let’s use the number 17 in this equation and say Christians account for 17% of the world’s population. That would be 1,377,000,000 people that would disappear on the day and hour of the Rapture. If 18.89% of the world’s population are true Christ worshipers, then that would mean approximately 1,530,090,000 would be raptured. That is approximately 153 x 10^7. If you believe this number of Christians to be raptured is still too high, you need to remember that all the young babies/children and those who don’t have the mental capacity to make a qualified decision for Christ will also be included in the Rapture (IMO).

This great number of souls only accounts for the living believers being taken up but doesn’t take into consideration the dead in Christ. They will be resurrected with a new heavenly body and will meet the living believers (who are translated also) in the air where Jesus will be. The dead in Christ consists of all those believers who have died since Sivan 7, 3793 AM on the Jewish calendar and May 24, 33 AD on the Julian calendar (IMO), on the day of Pentecost, and up until the moment of the Rapture.

The living and dead in Christ, who will gather to the Lord in the air at the Rapture, will be an astronomical multitude of souls. They will come from every nation, race, color, age, Christian denomination, and ethnicity. This multitude will include males and females, rich and poor, young and old, free and slaves from every age and background you can imagine. It will also be the greatest family reunion of all time, as we will see loved ones and family members who have passed on (there will also be a great number we haven’t met yet).

The one thing every one of the raptured saints has in common is this: “They obeyed the Lord their God and believed in the One He sent.” All of the redeemed will have new spiritual bodies made for eternity. Jesus Christ will then take his betrothed bride, the Church, to their new home in heaven, the New Jerusalem, and we will be with the Lord forever.

Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Randy Nettles



{1} The Post Rapture Holy Spirit – Grace thru faith




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