The Seven Spirits of God

The opening salutation in Revelation is from God, Jesus Christ, and the “seven spirits of God,” and the last phrase is unique to this book in the Bible. But the idea of God having “seven spirits” creates theological difficulties since elsewhere Scripture stresses God’s oneness. Moreover, in the book, the “Spirit” always speaks in the singular, never the plural number.

For example, each of the letters to the “seven churches” concludes with the exhortation to “hear what THE Spirit is saying to the churches,” singular. To the saints who “die in the Lord,” the “Spirit says, that they may rest from their labors.” And to Jesus, both the Spirit and the “Bride say, Come!

Nowhere in the book do the “seven spirits” speak collectively or in the plural number, and nowhere does it apply plural pronouns to the Spirit of God when he speaks or acts - (Revelation 14:13, 22:17).

We should exercise caution before reading doctrinal ideas about the nature of the Holy Spirit into the book of Revelation that were not developed until two or three centuries after John recorded his visions. It is far better to seek insight from the book itself.

(Revelation 1:4-5) - “John, to the seven churches in Asia: Grace and peace to you from Him who is, and who was, and who is coming, and from the Seven Spirits which are before his throne.”


John saw the “seven spirits… before His throne.” However close they are to the throne and the one Who sits upon it, they are distinct from Him; they are not identical with the one “who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty.”

Moreover, while John deliberately violates Greek syntax when he applies nominative and genitive case pronouns to God (e.g., “from He who is,” rather than “from him who is”), the clause, “from the seven spirits,” is grammatically correct and each word is in the genitive case, plural number, and neuter gender.

If John believed the “seven spirits” refers to the Spirit of God, why would he not also force the clause to conform grammatically to the nominative case and singular number in his description of God? Why is God “He” but the seven spirits are “they”?

These factors create difficulties if we assume the clause refers to the Spirit of God, and that the “seven spirits” are identical with Him. Moreover, since the “spirits” are “before the throne,” they are subservient to the “One Who sits on” it.

And while Jesus now “sits on his Father’s throne,” the same is never said of the “seven spirits.” In short, however close they are to God, they are distinct from Him.


Other than in Revelation, there are no explicit references to the “seven spirits of God” elsewhere in Scripture. Isaiah did prophesy that the “Spirit of Yahweh” would rest upon the Messiah - “And the Spirit of Yahweh 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 Yahweh.

However, Isaiah’s references to the Spirit are all in the singular number – “the Spirit of Yahweh” - and he lists SIX attributes organized into three pairs, and NOT seven spirits or attributes (e.g., the “spirit,” singular, “of wisdom and understanding”).

Furthermore, Revelation makes no use of the passage from Isaiah, except, perhaps, for the mention of “wisdom.” There are no indications that the passage in Isaiah lies behind John’s reference to the “seven spirits of God” - (Isaiah 11:1-2).


The “seven spirits” are referred to again in the letter to the “messenger” of the church at Sardis, and Jesus now possesses them: “These things saith he that has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars.” Here, they are associated with the “seven stars” that are identified as the “seven messengers” or “angels” of the “churches.” And the “churches of Asia” are represented by the “seven lampstands” among which Jesus is seen standing - (Revelation 1:20, 3:1).

The “seven spirits” are found also in chapter 5 as part of the vision of the “throne” at the center of the universe - “And out of the throne proceed flashes of lightning and voices and claps of thunder, and seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God” - (Revelation 4:4-5).

What John saw were seven “lamps” or “torches” (Greek - lampas), and they were interpreted as the “seven spirits of God.” The term lampas refers to the actual lights or flames that were placed on lampstands. Most likely, the “seven lamps” refer to the lights that sat on each of the “seven lampstands” in the book’s opening vision.

In the ancient Tabernacle of Israel, the gold-plated seven-branched lampstand stood lit before the “holy of holies” where the “mercy-seat” was housed, the “throne” of Yahweh - (Exodus 25:31-37, 26:35, 27:20, Revelation 1:12-20).

The “seven spirits” are described once more in the description of the “slain Lamb” who was found “worthy” to open the “sealed scroll”:

  • And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth” - (Revelation 5:6).


This explains how and when Jesus came into possession of the “seven spirits” as described in his letter to Sardis. And his use of them explains his full knowledge of the “works” of that and other churches.

As the “Lamb” who “overcame” through his sacrificial death, he now has all authority and “power” over the Cosmos, and the “seven spirits” are his “seven eyes sent out into the earth.”

The last clause alludes to a passage in Zechariah when the prophet saw the seven-branched golden lampstand with “seven lamps” that were fed oil continuously by two “olive trees,” and the latter image represented the “two anointed ones that stand before the Lord of the whole earth.” In that vision, the “seven lamps” represent the “seven eyes of Yahweh that run to and fro through all the earth” - (Zechariah 4:1-10).

The reference to the “two olive trees” is alluded to again in the vision of the “Two Witnesses” who are identified as the “two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” The “Witnesses” are sent to “prophesy over many peoples and nations and tongues and kings” for the “twelve hundred and sixty days.” And since elsewhere in the book “lampstands” represent churches, the “Two Witnesses” must in some capacity symbolize churches - (Revelation 10:31, 11:3-4). 

In the book’s visions, the “seven spirits” are possessed by and serve the “Lamb,” and pictorially and verbally, they are associated with the “seven churches” and their “seven messengers.”

The churches are represented by “lampstands,” and the “messengers” by “stars” and “lamps,” that is, by fiery “torches.” The function of the “seven spirits” is to “run to and fro through the earth,” to keep watch over things for the “Lamb,” and that would certainly include the “seven churches.”

The “seven spirits” are not identical to the “seven churches” since they send “greetings” to the assemblies. And while Revelation never makes the identification explicit, most probably, the “seven spirits” are the “seven messengers” or “angels” of the “churches of Asia.”

Thus, they send “greetings” to the churches along with God and Jesus since they are called to watch over them. Whether they are “angels” or human beings assigned to each church is a separate question.


Destruction of Babylon

The Little Horn