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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Identity of the Holy Spirit

Don Stewart :: Who Are the Seven Spirits?

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Who Are the Seven Spirits?

The Identity of the Holy Spirit – Question 20

A number of times in the Book of Revelation there is a reference to the “seven Spirits.” They can be listed as follows.

The Seven Spirits Introduced

In the introduction to the Book of Revelation, we first read of the seven spirits. John wrote.

John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne (Revelation 1:4 TNIV).

Here the greeting comes from the “seven spirits.”

Jesus Has the Seven Spirits

In chapter three we again read of the “seven spirits of God.” In this instance we are told that Jesus has the seven spirits as well as the seven stars.

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1 NRSV).

Thus, in some sense, Jesus has these spirits.

The Seven Spirits Are Linked with Fiery Torches

Later it says the spirits are torches. We read the following.

From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and thunder. Burning before the throne were seven fiery torches, which are the seven spirits of God (Revelation 4:5 HCSB). In this case, the seven spirits are said to be seven torches.

The Slaughtered Lamb Has These Spirits

Finally, we read of the slaughtered lamb, Jesus Christ, having these spirits.

Then I saw one like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth (Revelation 5:6 HCSB).

These are the various passages in the Book of Revelation which mention the seven spirits of God. Who are these “spirits?”

In attempting to answer this question it is important that we make a number of observations. We will begin with what we know for certain.

1. There Is Only One Holy Spirit

First, we emphasize that the Bible teaches there is only one Holy Spirit. Paul wrote the following to the Corinthians.

But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11 NASB).

To this verse many others could be added. The united testimony of Scripture is that there is only one Spirit of God, one Holy Spirit.

2. They Are Different Ministries of the One Spirit

Consequently, if the expression “seven spirits” refers to the Holy Spirit, it does not mean that there are seven different spirits or that the Holy Spirit is somehow divided into seven different parts.

What then do these seven spirits refer to? It could refer to the different ways the Spirit of God expresses Himself. Some see an explanation of the seven spirits in the Book of Isaiah. At the beginning of chapter eleven we read the following.

And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD (Isaiah 11:2 NLT).

In this passage Isaiah speaks of the Spirit of the Lord and different aspects of His ministry. The Spirit is mentioned in seven different ways in this verse. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Lord. He is also the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and the Spirit of the fear of the Lord.

Therefore, if this interpretation is correct, the “seven spirits” are not different spirits but may refer to the complex ministry of the one Holy Spirit.

3. The Number Seven Refers to Completeness

There is another point that needs to be considered. The number seven in Scripture often refers to completeness. For example, the creation of the world occurred in six days with God resting upon the seventh. Consequently, Israel was told to work for six days and to rest on the seventh because this was the pattern set by creation. Moses wrote.

Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20:9-11 NIV).

Seven days completes the creation and work week. In the same manner the reference to the seven Spirit refers to the completeness of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit – not the fact that there are seven distinct spirits.

In sum, whatever we conclude about the exact identity of the seven spirits mentioned in the Book of Revelation we do know that there is only one Holy Spirit.

Summary – Question 20
Who Are the Seven Spirits?

In the Book of Revelation, we find a few occasions where the “seven spirits” are mentioned. The identity of these spirits is not explained. Whatever the correct answer may be we know that there is only one Holy Spirit. Thus, we cannot divide Him into seven parts.

There have a number of suggestions as to the identity of these seven spirits. They include the following.

The seven Spirits referred to in the Book of Revelation may refer to the various ministries of the one Holy Spirit. We find that seven specific features of the Holy Spirit are mentioned in the Book of Isaiah. Therefore, this could be a reference to varied ministry of the Holy Spirit.

It is also possible that the number seven is used symbolically for the completeness of the Holy Spirit. The number seven is used with reference to completeness in both the creation account as well as the work week for humans. God worked six days and then ceased working on the seventh. Humans work six days and rest on the seventh. It is possible the number seven with respect to the spirits has this same idea of completeness.

In sum, there are a couple of possible solutions to this question as to the identity of the seven spirits though we may not know which of them is the correct answer.

What Is the "Name" of the Holy Spirit? ← Prior Section
Is There a Counterfeit Holy Spirit? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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