Monday, January 19, 2015

The Seven Spirits of Revelation

Revelation 1:4

John to the seven churches that 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 . . . 

Revelation 4:5
From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God . . .

Revelation 5:6
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

Comparing Revelation 1:4, 4:5, and 5:6 with Zechariah 3:9 and 4:10, we get the strong impression that the expression "seven spirits" is symbolic of the omniscience of God. In the contexts of both Zechariah and Revelation, the culmination of God's plan of salvation and judgment are in view.  God sees all and will judge righteously. 

Other commentators see this expression as referring to the Holy Spirit in "his seven-fold . . . energy" (Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown) or to the "all perfect Spirit" (Barnes).  Gill also sees the person of the Holy Spirit in His completeness.  Mounce, on the other hand, sees the seven spirits as seven angelic beings, but Barnes argues convincingly against that interpretation. (See Barnes’ Notes) 

I do not disagree with JFB, Barnes or Gill in principle; I just see the context emphasizing the omniscience of God, The Holy Spirit, in the context of the end time judgments.  Beale adds the attribute of omnipotence based on the "seven horns" of the Lamb (5:6) and 2 Chronicles 16:9a: For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. The attribute of omnipotence is certainly represented by the "seven horns," but it is paired with, not equal to, omniscience in both this passage and 2 Chron. 16:9.

Note: Scripture citations are from the English Standard Version.

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