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In Revelation, we see God along with the "Seven Spirits before his throne".

Revelations 1:4 (NIV)
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,

We see it again later in Revelations:

Revelations 5:6 (NIV) Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

Who/what are these seven spirits? How are they "before the throne" and also "part of the lamb"? (Or are these seven different spirits?)

I'm seeking the answers from the doctrine that Revelations should not be taken literally--that it is somewhat metaphorical. I presume these seven spirits to be a metaphor, but for what?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The seven spirits referenced in Revelations may refer to the spirits mentioned in Isaiah 11.

  1. Spirit of the Lord
  2. Spirit of wisdom
  3. Spirit of understanding
  4. Spirit of counsel
  5. Spirit of might
  6. Spirit of knowledge
  7. Spirit of fear of the LORD

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
   from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
   the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
   the Spirit of counsel and of might,
   the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD

It may also refer to the seven qualities mentioned in 2 Peter 1:5-7.

  1. goodness
  2. knowledge
  3. self-control
  4. perseverence
  5. godliness
  6. mutual affection
  7. love

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.

As is the case with a lot of Revelations, I take the different references to the seven spirits of God as figurative representations of the spirits. I do not believe there are physical manifestations of His spirit.

I believe the 7 spirits represent communicable attributes of God. When they are sent out over the earth, we will receive these attributes fully.

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@Richard I really should read the entire question before answering. >< I'll have to update. –  a_hardin Oct 3 '11 at 18:51
@Richard I've updated my answer. Hopefully I've answered all your questions. –  a_hardin Oct 3 '11 at 19:18
While I don't agree with the interpretation, my own research is showing that these are the main two beliefs regarding these spirits. As such, I'll mark this correct since my own beliefs are a bit of a stretch. ;) –  Richard Oct 3 '11 at 21:33
@Richard could you post an answer with your beliefs? I'm always interested in learning how others interpret scripture. –  a_hardin Oct 3 '11 at 21:51
Unfortunately, I'm not sure what it means. Usually when I ask a question, I already have an answer in mind. This is an exception to that. I do believe that it is symbolic (being like the "seven horns" in V. 5:6) rather than a literal number. However, that's about all I can say I definitely believe. –  Richard Oct 6 '11 at 13:38

You asked for an exegesis, which I don't feel anyone has provided here. I've completed an exegesis on this question and written a little over 3,000 words on the results. I will summarize those results here and provide a link to my Bible study article: "The seven spirits of God ARE the seven lamps of fire (people filled with the Holy Spirit), the seven horns (kings that have yet to receive the kingdom) and the seven eyes (those who see) on the Cornerstone (Christ). The seven angels oversee and are the celestial messengers to the seven earthly churches. The seven churches (lampstands) make up the perfected One Church (the glorified Menorah before the Throne), who is the Wife, the Bride of Christ. This glorified Menorah may very well represent the saints who’ve gone before us. We, as lamps of the seven earthly lampstands, are filled with His oil and burn with the Fire of His Spirit, commissioned to go out into all the earth to spread the gospel! Jesus keeps our wicks trimmed, lamps filled and fire continually burning."

Here is the link for those who would like to see what the Bible shows us on this subject: http://judahsdaughter.hubpages.com/_ui1xcnn62gpk/hub/The-Seven-Spirits-of-God

May our LORD, Jesus Christ, be praised.

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Welcome to Christianity.Se! I really appreciate the thoughtful summary, the detailed work on the exegesis, and the good sense to link! Bravo! I look forward to seeing more. –  Affable Geek Mar 25 '12 at 2:50

Christians of a Christian group that is known as "Local churches" or "Recovery" hold the view interpreting these seven spirits as nothing less than the Spirit of God Himself.

They make this case by putting together the following four verses:

Rev 1:4 + Rev. 4:5 + Rev. 5:6 + Zech. 4:2

In Rev. 1:4 and 5 the seven spirits that are in front of the throne of God are ranked among the Triune God – the grace is equally coming “from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come” (which is interpreted as God the Father), from “the seven spirits” (which is interpreted as the Holy Spirit), and “from Jesus Christ” (the Son):

John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. (Rev. 1:4-5 KJV)

In Revelation 4:5 there is another mention of the Seven Spirits of God that are identified with seven lamps likewise located in front of the throne:

And out of the throne preceded lightnings and thunders and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. (Rev. 4:5 KJV)

It is believed that the seven Spirits of God here are the ones mentioned in Rev. 1:4.

In Rev. 5:6 there is another mention of the seven Spirits of God, which are now identified with seven eyes of the Lamb:

And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. (Rev. 5:6 KJV)

It is believed that these seven Spirits of God are the ones mentioned in Rev. 1:4 and Rev 4:5.

The fact that the seven Spirits of God are identified with Lamb’s eyes, which may be distinct from the Lamb, but are hardly separable from Him, is taken as another indication that the seven Spirits of God are nothing less than the Third Person of the Trinity, i.e. the Holy Spirit – He is also distinct from the Son, however, He is not separated from the Son.

Thus, the seven Spirits of God are interpreted as the Spirit of God.

The fact that the Spirit of God is represented here as seven spirits and as seven lamps is explained as the Spirit of God being shown here more in His functioning/work/operation, rather than in His essence. The similarity with a lampstand which is mentioned in the book of Zechariah is brought up as a supporting point:

And said unto me, What do you see? And I said, I have looked, and behold a lampstand, all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and its seven lamps thereon (Zech. 4:2 KJV)

Though there are seven lamps on the lampstand, there is still only one golden lampstand (which is understood as a prototype of the Holy Spirit), which functions by means of seven lamps on it burning at the same time.

The fact that the seven Spirits of God are spoken of in Revelation 5:6 as the ones sent forth into all the earth is taken as another point supporting the idea of the Holy Spirit being shown here with a primary emphasis on His functioning/work/operation, rather than on His essence or nature.

The functioning of the Spirit as seven Spirits of God or as seven shining lamps is believed to be especially needed for the Church since it had entered into the dark age of degradation of the Church, which is believed to have started around the time when all the Christians of Asia turned away from apostle Paul (2 Tim. 1:15)

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