|A43 : by Tony Garland |
The seven spirits of God are explicitly mentioned in the following passages:
John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne . . . (Rev. 1:4)
And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, 'These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.' (Rev. 3:1)
And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire [were] burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. (Rev. 4:5)
And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. (Rev. 5:6)
From these passages, we learn several things about the seven spirits:
- The seven spirits are before His throne, that is, they have immediate and full access to God the Father who sits on the Throne (Rev. 1:4). This indicates that whatever the spirits discern is fully known by the Father. This speaks of the access and service which the Holy Spirit has to the Father within the Godhead.
- Jesus has the seven Spirits of God and they are connected with His insight into the activities of the church at Sardis (Rev. 3:1). Again, we see the omniscient piercing gaze provided by the seven spirits. This gaze takes in all sin—nothing escapes the purview of the spirits.
- They are described as seven lamps of fire burning before the throne. Fire generally represents judgment, such as John the Baptist mentions in connection with baptism by fire which nonbelievers will undergo (Mat. 3:11; Luke 3:16). The spirits are associated with fire because their omniscient gaze uncovers even the darkest, deepest, "hidden" sins and lays them bare ready for eventual judgment.
- The seven spirits are said to be seven eyes possessed by Jesus, the slain Lamb (Rev. 5:6). I believe this to be another reference to the omniscience of Jesus—His ability to see everything that transpires in the world and down through history. Thus, His ability to perfectly judge all sin.
The reason the description of the seven spirits is confusing is because, on the one hand, the spirits seem to be independent of both the Father (on the throne) and the Son (Jesus). Yet, on the other hand, they are also indicative of the omniscience of both Father and Son. This seeming contradiction—independence and interdependence—reflects a deep Biblical truth: the tri-unity (Trinity) of God. Like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is God. Like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is a person.
I believe another implicit reference to the seven spirits can be found in the opening verses of Isaiah 11:1
There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD (1) shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom (2) and understanding (3), The Spirit of counsel (4) and might (5), The Spirit of knowledge (6) and of the fear of the LORD (7). His delight [is] in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; . . . (Isa. 11:1-3).
Of interest to our discussion here, the seven spirits resting upon Messiah Jesus (Messiah meaning "anointed one") are associated with His task of the Righteous Judge: He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears. I believe this is a reference to what John is shown in the Book of Revelation, His eyes like a flame of fire . . . These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, . . . (Rev. 1:14; 2:18). His eyes are piercing eyes of judgment which see by virtue of the seven spirits, the fullness of the attributes of the Holy Spirit.
We also note that seven is the number of completeness or fullness, even when referring to spirits (Mat. 12:45; Luke 8:2; 11:26).
In conclusion, the seven spirits refer to the full attributes of the Holy Spirit Who Himself is God and yet works together with the other members of the Trinity to bring about an all-seeing omniscience by which perfect unswerving judgment will be brought to pass at the end of history.
For additional study:
1 - Some hold that the grammar of this verse designates only six aspects of the Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord encompassing the other six. But this would seem to contradict the New Testament passages cited above and the construction of the seven-branched menorah (Ex. 25:37 cf. Rev. 4:5), a type or model of the Holy Spirit.