Skip links

The Seven Spirits

What or who are the “seven Spirits” before God’s throne in Revelation?

John the revelator, in his opening remarks, greets the seven churches of Asia in the name of “Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:4). While it is clear that both God the Father and God the Son are present here, what isn’t immediately obvious are the “seven Spirits” before God’s throne. What or who are these Spirits?

“The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:2

Interestingly, the expression “seven Spirits” occurs four times in Revelation (1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6) and while some identify them as angels, most scholars see it as a reference to the Holy Spirit.[1] This is based on several clues. For one thing, equating the seven spirits with the Holy Spirit would be the most natural understanding of Revelation 1:4 because it makes all three Persons of the Godhead present. Second, while these seven Spirits could conceivably be angels, they certainly could not be the angels of the seven churches of Asia, since those are listed separately and in addition to the seven spirits in Revelation 1:4.[2] But third, and most important, Revelation is not the first occurrence of the sevenfold Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 11:2, for example, could very well be alluding to this very thing. Speaking of the future Messiah, the prophet declares that, “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” Since the number seven in the Bible symbolizes the complete and perfect work of God (cf. Genesis 2:2-3), it is no surprise that the Messiah was also to be endowed completely and perfectly with the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Although some do consider this interpretation of Isaiah 11:2 to be rather speculative, Zechariah leaves us little room for doubt regarding the identification of this seven-faceted Spirit. Indeed, in Zechariah 3:9, this post-exilic prophet proclaims: “‘For behold, the stone that I have laid before [the high priest] Joshua: Upon the stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave its inscription,’ Says the Lord of hosts, ‘And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.’” “Here we have the perfect oversight, the providential care of God the Holy Spirit represented by the seven eyes engraved on the “stone” (probably a large gemstone) set before the high priest,” observed Old Testament scholar Gleason Archer.[3] These eyes also appear in Zechariah 4:10: “For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the Lord, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”

Therefore, based upon the rest of Scripture, it seems that the “seven Spirits” before God’s throne in Revelation is indeed an image of the Holy Spirit of God.

 

Ryan Hembree | December 18, 2020 – 5:00 PM EST


[1] J. Daniel Hays, J. Scott Duvall, and C. Marvin Pate, Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy and End Times, Seven Spirits of God.
[2] Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Who are the seven spirits before God’s throne in Revelation 1:4?
[3] Ibid.