When one examines history, it seems that mankind has always had a ‘fixation” of sorts with the number “3”. Instances of this can often be found in our old colloquial sayings such as, “Two is company, three is a crowd”, “He’s three sheets to the wind” or, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”
Another example of our fascination with the number 3 can be found in the common saying, “The 3rd time is the charm”. This saying denotes that often-times one’s efforts are not successful until they have been attempted 3 times, which directly implies that the number 3 represents “completeness”.
The “3rd time is the charm” is said to have originated in print in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Letters to R.H. Horne”, written in 1839. Here we find Browning writing, “The luck of the 3rd adventure, is proverbial”. By declaring that the “success” of one’s endeavors after the 3rd attempt is “proverbial”, implies that the idiom had been around for quite some time. To this day, “The 3rd time is the charm” remains one of the most popular expressions incorporating the number “3”.
The idea that the number 3 indicates a sense of completeness however does not originate in old English folklore. Its roots go much farther back than that. For Holy Scripture is found to be replete with the concept that, “completeness is characterized by the number 3”.
The Holy Trinity, God in 3 Persons
Even before the beginning of time with the Creation of the Universe, we find the Eternal God-Head existing in 3 distinct Personages: The Father, Son (Word), and Holy Spirit (I John 5:7). How a single entity, God, can exist with 3 distinct Personages is a mystery that has puzzled great thinkers and numerous theologians throughout the ages. There is an old adage that states, “He who denies the Trinity shall lose his soul, and he who seeks to understand the Trinity shall lose his mind.”
In that the Trinitarian God Head was complete with 3 distinct Personages before the Creation of the Universe, it would therefore follow that this Godhead would also ordain that numerous aspects of the Physical Universe and other facets of Creation would also find their “completeness”, when characterized in 3 distinct parts.
God the Father, the Planner and Architect of the Universe
In God’s Word we are told that God the Father is the Master Planner of Creation, for all things are said to be “of” Him, while God the Son is said to be the implementer of that said Plan, for all things are stated to be, “through” Him (I Corinthians 8:6).
At the onset of the Creation, we find God the Father: Designing a Physical Universe that was comprised of 3 parts: time, space, and matter, with matter viewed within 3 dimensions: height, width, and depth.
We also find that God constructed the very fabric of matter itself to exist in one of 3 different states: solid, liquid, and gaseous.
The Universe itself is visualized in 3 primary colors: red, yellow, and blue; and 3 secondary colors: orange, green, and violet.
Scripture mentions that there were 3 trees in the Garden of Eden that God the Father had designed for mankind: the Tree of life, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:9), and the Fig Tree (Genesis 3:7).
In the outworking of human history, which was pre-determined by God the Father (Acts 2:23, 15:18), we find God the Father ordaining that there would be 3 righteous patriarchs before the Flood: Able, Enoch, and Noah, and 3 righteous patriarchs after the Flood: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In that man himself was created to possess 3 parts: body, soul, and spirit, God the Father also determined that there would be 3 races or subgroups of mankind, with each subgroup having a particular “bent” that would enable them to best provide for the development of these 3 parts of man. World history has shown that the particular needs of man’s spirit have been provided for through the efforts of the Semitic Race, for all religious revelation (both true and false) has come to man through the efforts of the Semitic peoples. The physical needs of man’s body have largely been met through the efforts of the Hamitic Race evidenced by the fact that all of basic technology has been provided for all of mankind by this particular race, and lastly, the needs of man’s soul or intellect have largely been met by the Japhetic Race, due to their development of all of the philosophical systems of the world.
God the Son, Creator and Redeemer of the Universe
After God the Father had ordained and planned the necessary events of human history, then the 2nd Person of the Trinity, Jehovah, stepped in and began to implement this Plan, beginning with the Creation of the Physical Universe (Genesis 1:1). After this we find Jehovah, who we now know as Jesus Christ, performing all of the visible interactions of the Godhead with mankind in the Old Testament record, “for no man hath seen God the Father at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared Him” (John 1:18).
When it came time for Him to be Incarnated as the Unique Person of the Universe, a being both Divine and Human, we again find the ways of God being accomplished in “3’s” throughout the course of Jesus’ life here on Earth:
3 gifts were brought to Him at His birth: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
3 days was Jesus separated from His parents as a child while He was teaching in the Temple.
3 years was the length of His ministry.
3 people were raised from the dead by Jesus during the course of His ministry.
3 witnesses were with Him at His Transfiguration: Peter, John, and …
3 times did Jesus pray in the Garden of Gethsemane.
3 times did Peter deny Jesus.
3 authorities rejected Jesus, and allowed for Him to be crucified: the religious authorities,
Herod, and Pilate.
3 crosses were present at Calvary.
3 inscriptions were on Jesus’ cross written in 3 different languages.
3 hours of darkness covered the earth during the Crucifixion.
3 p.m. was the time of Jesus’ death, for He died in the 9th hour (Luke 23:44-46).
3 days was Jesus in the lower parts of the earth, just as Jonah had been 3 days in belly of the
3 times did Jesus meet with His disciples after His resurrection from the dead.
3 times did Jesus allow Peter to reaffirm Him after His resurrection.
These are just some of the numerous examples of how the Godhead has incorporated the usage of the number 3 in order to establish a sense of completeness in both the Universe and in the outworking of human history.
In the Eternal State, the believer will once again be blessed by the complete fulness of experience denoted by the number 3. For we are told that in the Eternal State, we will encounter 3 new and rewarding realities in our visual, auditory, and emotional experiences:
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart
of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” I Corinthians 2:9
This should prompt us all to recognize the fact that in all things concerning and pertaining to the ways of God, “The 3rd time is indeed the charm.”
Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20).