Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Seven Spirits of God in John's Revelation

"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... 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 1:4, 4:5

In all the times I've read these passages, I have always stumbled over these references to the "seven spirits of God." "Seven spirits"? I only know one Holy Spirit. Paul says in Ephesians 4:4, "There is one body and one Spirit..." I couldn't figure out how to reconcile these two descriptions of the Spirit.

But today I looked at the pattern of sevens in the context of these verses. "Seven golden lampstands", in 1:12 and 1:20 (twice), "seven stars", in 1:16 and 1:20 (twice), both again in 2:1, "seven spirits and seven stars" in 3:1, "seven torches of fire" and "seven spirits" in 4:5. This isn't an exhaustive list of sevens in this section of Revelation, but these examples exhibit a pattern: they all refer to sources of light. This is why commentators connect the seven spirits to the Menorah in the Jewish temple. It was one central lampstand, but with seven branches - center, plus three to each side - each bearing a separate flame. Here lies the answer: the one Holy Spirit gives spiritual light as if by seven flames. Therefore, we could view the phrase "seven spirits" as equivalent to "the seven-aspected Spirit", or "the sevenfold Spirit". The emphasis is on magnification, not a count.

Look at Zechariah 4:1-6, especially verse 2, "And he said to me, 'What do you see?' I said, 'I see a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it.'" Here, we see in one place the alternation between the one-ness and the seven-ness of the lampstand, i.e., the Menorah. And the Lord explains that the lamp in the vision represents this truth (verse 6b), "Not by might, nor by power, but by Spirit, says the Lord of hosts." Thus, the seven-multiplying of the lamps is to symbolize the power, beyond any human agency, of the enlightenment by the Holy Spirit.

John 14:26, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." And 16:13, "When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth..."

No comments: