Meaning of Numbers: Number One Third
What is the possible prophetic meaning of one third (1/3 or 33%)? How does the greatest concentration of this number in the Bible reveal its startling and profound symbolism?
A unique repetition of the number one third is found in Revelation 8. In this prophetic chapter, within only six verses (7 to 12), the word "third" (part of a whole or 1/3) is recorded eleven times in the King James translation. The last verse in this set contains this rational fractional designation five times! It is utilized two additional times in chapter 9 with its final appearance in chapter 12.
The prophetic number 1/3
The "great day of His wrath" (Revelation 6:17), known as the Day of the Lord, begins when the seventh seal is opened (Revelation 8:1). This seal represents seven angels, each with a trumpet, that when blown brings God's judgment on Babylon and punishment to humans who worship the Beast.
The first two trumpets bring death to one third of earth's trees and destroy the same percentage of ships. 33% of ocean water will also turn into blood, killing the same amount of all marine-based life (Revelation 8:7 - 9). Trumpet three causes a "great star" named Wormwood to strike a third of earth's rivers and fresh water sources. It will poison these sources of drinkable water and bring death to countless people (verses 10 - 11).
Trumpet four causes the heavens we take for granted (the sun, moon and stars) to darken by one third. This 33% decrease means the earth will receive less light during both its day and night portions (Revelation 8:12). Man's punishment for sin, however, is not over!
The sounding of the sixth trumpet heralds the freeing of powerful spirits who will gather an army that numbers 200 million. This army will cause the death of one third of all humans (Revelation 9:15, 18).
Why is it used?
Why is one third used thirteen times, from Revelation 8:7 to 9:18, to delineate God's punishment on man? The answer is found in the fourteenth and last time this fraction is used in the book. Note that fourteen, which is twice the spiritually perfect number 7, in this case likely represents a perfect and complete revealing of God's righteous judgment.
And his tail (of a great red dragon representing the devil, verse 3) swept away a third of the stars of heaven (formerly righteous angels), and cast them to the earth (which Jesus witnessed, Luke 10:18) . . . (Revelation 12:4).
Lucifer, after he rebelled against God, deceived one third of all angelic beings into believing the same lies he possessed. The deceptions he promulgated brought chaos and spiritual misery to the angels (now demons) who identify him, not the Eternal, as their leader (Revelation 12:7).
God will soon physically punish humans in thirds in the hope they will choose to repent and avoid the same spiritual condemnation as 1/3 of the angels. A never-before or after level of trials and troubles (Matthew 24:21) must be brought upon man in order to get his attention, since he will possess a uniquely hard and unrepentant heart in the End Time (Revelation 9:6, 20 - 21).
Non-prophetic number 1/3
King David had to flee Jerusalem when Absalom, one of his sons, led a revolt which sought to take his throne by force (2Samuel 15). He divided his forces into thirds, after leaving the capital, for the inevitable battle that would ensue (18:1 - 8). Absalom's forces were ultimately defeated and Absalom himself was killed by David's military commander Joab.
Those Jews who returned to Jerusalem, after their Babylonian captivity, agreed to pay a third of a shekel yearly for the service of God's temple (Nehemiah 10:32). This amount was likely reduced from the half-shekel temple tax required of all men twenty and above (Exodus 30:11 - 16) due to the poverty experienced by those recently set free.
More info on Biblical Meaning of one third
God, wanting to underscore the wrath Jerusalem would experience due to her unrepented evil, had Ezekiel perform several highly symbolic actions (Ezekiel 5). After cutting, with a sword, all the hair off his head, he divided his locks into thirds.
One pile of hair was burned, symbolizing 33% of those in the capital dying by plague or famine during King Nebuchadnezzar's siege (Ezekiel 5:2, 12). Another pile was chopped into pieces, representing the people dying by the sword. The last one third was scattered to the wind, symbolizing those who survived all the horrors would be taken captive and live in fear.
Zechariah 13 offers a prophecy, which may be fulfilled in the End Time, where one third of the people will be spiritually purified through various trials and survive the calamities that come upon them. The remaining individuals will perish (verses 8 - 9).