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Revelation’s visions often put the Son with the Father, but the Holy Spirit is generally absent. For example:

Receiving the Book of Revelation

“God” gave the visions of Revelation to “Jesus Christ” and Jesus gave it to His angel to give to John (Rev 1:1). The Holy Spirit is absent from this sequence. There-after, Revelation itself is referred to as “the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev 1:2).

Worship

Both “Him Who sits on the Throne, and … The Lamb” are praised and worshiped (Rev 5:13-14; 7:10) but the Holy Spirit is never praised or worshiped.

In Revelation 4, the Holy Spirit is present in the throne room, described as “before the throne” (Rev 4:5) but the beings in the throne room ignore the Holy Spirit and “give glory and honor and thanks (only) to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever” (Rev 4:9-10).

In Revelation 5, as Jesus enters the throne room, the Holy Spirit departs “sent out into all the earth” (Rev 5:6). Now, while the Holy Spirit was not praised previously, both “Him Who sits on the Throne, and … The Lamb” are praised (Rev 5:13).

On the Throne

Jesus sat down with His Father on His throne (Rev 3:21; 12:5) but the Holy Spirit never sits on the throne. Rather, the Holy Spirit is “before His throne” (Rev 1:4; 4:5); apparently subordinate to “God who sits on the throne” (Rev 19:4).

God’s People

The saved are described as “first fruits to God and to the Lamb” (Rev 14:4); “a kingdom, priests to His God (Jesus’ God) and Father” (Rev 1:6); With His blood, Jesus has “made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God” (Rev 5:9-10). No Holy Spirit involvement.

Christian Faith

“The seal of the living God,” which is put on the foreheads of God’s servants (Rev 7:2-3), is “His (the Lamb’s) Name and the Name of His Father” (Rev 14:1).

Christian faith is often portrayed as consisting of two parts, referring to God and Jesus; e.g.:

  • “The word of GOD and the testimony of JESUS” (Rev 1:9; cf. Rev 6:9);
  • “The commandments of GOD and … faith in JESUS” (Rev 14:12);
  • “The commandments of GOD and ... the testimony of JESUS” (Rev 12:17);
  • “Their testimony of JESUS and … the word of GOD” (Rev 20:4).

Apparently, faith in the Holy Spirit is not required.

Christ’s Victory

Through Christ’s death, “the kingdom of our GOD and the authority of HIS CHRIST have come” (Rev 12:10). No Holy Spirit.

Judgment Day

On Judgment Day, while the saved will stand “before THE THRONE (representing the Father) and before the LAMB” (Rev 7:9), the lost will attempt to hide “from the presence of Him Who sits on the Throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev 6:16-17). The saved do not stand before the Holy Spirit and the lost do not hide from the Holy Spirit.

On that day, Jesus will tread “the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty” (19:15).

The New Earth

On the new earth, “He Who sits on the Throne will spread His tabernacle over them” and “The Lamb … will be their shepherd” (Rev 7:16-17). No Holy Spirit.

The “kingdom of the world … (will) become the kingdom of OUR LORD and of HIS CHRIST” (Rev 11:15).

“The Lord GOD THE ALMIGHTY and the LAMB are” the temple of the New Jerusalem. (Rev 21:22).

“The glory of GOD has illumined it, and its lamp is the LAMB” (Rev 21:23),

“A river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of GOD and of the LAMB” (Rev 22:1; cf. Rev 22:3). In other words, only God and the Lamb will sit on the throne; no Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

In Revelation 1:4-5, John mentions the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in a triadic passage but that is not part of the visions of Revelation. It is part of John’s own introduction to and context setting for the book.

From a Trinitarian perspective, in which the Holy Spirit is a third Person; co-equal with the Father, how does one explain the absence of the Holy Spirit from key moments in the visions of the Book of Revelation?

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  • Is this question scoped to those who believe Trinitarianism was a belief extant in the 1st century church, or Trinitarians who believe this was revelation which developed gradually and unevenly in the Church? Sep 12, 2022 at 5:03
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    @OneGodtheFather I would say the question is scoped for anybody who believes that the Holy Spirit is a third Person; co-equal with the Father. I do not believe that any person informed of the development of the Trinity doctrine would believe that Trinitarianism was a belief extant in the 1st century church.
    – Andries
    Sep 12, 2022 at 5:16
  • "I do not believe that any person informed of the development of the Trinity doctrine would believe that Trinitarianism was a belief extant in the 1st century church" That is not what I've seen here among some Trinitarians. Some seem to believe in a 'hidden revelation' such that by the time of the NT being written down, everyone was on the same page as Trinitarians (and it just wasn't explicitly mentioned or discussed until the trouble-maker Arius came along). It doesn't fit with the theological historical record we have, I know, but this is the state of things. Sep 12, 2022 at 16:12

7 Answers 7

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Subordinate can mean "under the authority of" or it can mean "of lesser value or importance". In this answer I hope to demonstrate that the latter of these two is reasonably impossible and that the former is properly Trinitarian.

If the Word of God goes forth and accomplishes all that it was sent to accomplish, then it is easy to see the Word as subordinate in the former sense. If that Word represents not only the expression but also the actual rational mind of God then it is easy to understand that such subordination does not preclude ontological sameness: There can be no discrepancy between who God is and what God thinks and says (He is not divided).

The Spirit of God is that by which He accomplishes all of His will; the action of God. The power that He exerts in His action is then subordinate in the same sense as His Word and possesses like ontological sameness as the Word: There can be no discrepancy between who God is and what God does (He is not divided).

Each of these are solid starting points to develop a trinitarian theology wherein an infinite, eternal God shares infinite, eternal, ontological sameness with His Word and His Spirit both of whom go forth in subordination and accomplish His will. The Trinity proper is not in defense in this question, and it is well treated elsewhere, but the ontological sameness of God and God's action (Spirit) provides a good basis to answer the question at hand.

Why does the Book of Revelation allocate such a subordinate role to the Holy Spirit?

Nowhere in Scripture is it the Holy Spirit's role or intention to be the center of attention. The Holy Spirit testifies always of the Lord Jesus Christ, both in the Church and in the world:

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: - John 15:26

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. - John 16:7-11

For this reason it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit is not specifically mentioned at each and every instance of action or influence throughout Scripture. Understanding that, at the very most basic level, all of the sovereign plans of God throughout creative and redemptive history are wrought through His Spirit should allow us to perceive and understand the Spirit's presence regardless of specific mention:

And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. - Zechariah 4:1-6

This is Zechariah's vision of the "true" Church called out from every tribe, tongue, and people and it comes to be by the Spirit of the Lord of Hosts. This Church was in view in the very act of creation as Paul indicates in Ephesians when he reveals the union of Adam and Eve as a type of Christ and the Church. Revelation, being an apocryphal account of the consummation of Zechariah's vision, is no less brought to pass by the same Spirit.

One may ask after a Scriptural demonstration that the Spirit is a "third person" of the Trinity (there is no shortage of words applied here) but a lack of overt mention of the Spirit in any particular book does not constitute a subordinate (read as less important) role since everything that the Father and Son accomplish is done by and in the Spirit.

It is also very important to notice that the entirety of the revelation that John passed down to us in written form was given to him while he was 'in the Spirit':

I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. - Revelation 1:9-11

So, rather than the Spirit being absent, the Spirit is the very medium within which the revelation was given. It is not the desire of the Spirit to garner worship toward any other than the Lord Jesus Christ and, through Him, the Father. The apparent absence of overt mention of the Spirit in the book of Revelation, especially in scenes depicting worship of God and of the Lamb, is actually good proof that the Spirit is present and accomplishing the will of God.

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The claim that the Book of Revelation "allocates a subordinate role to the Holy Spirit" is quite astonishing, given the sixteen times the Spirit of God is detailed in that book. It might be easy to miss some of those points, but surely not all of them? Yet you are full of quotes about Christ and the Father, which really has no bearing on flagging up the many mentions of the Holy Spirit in that last book of the Bible. Or perhaps if the focus has been so concentrated on Christ and the Father, the assumption has been made that the Holy Spirit "is generally absent".

All Christians know that the role of the Holy Spirit, after Christ returned to heaven, was to come to Earth to lift Christ up to humanity, to point to Christ, not self, to indwell, teach, and comfort Christians (John 15:26 & 14:17 & 26). That, in itself, explains Revelation 1:9 & 20:4. But if that is not believed, nothing in the the Bible about the Holy Spirit will seem to be terribly important, or significant.

Simply writing down in a list everything in Revelation about the Holy Spirit should alert seekers to the vitally important role of the Holy Spirit.

I am not going to do that here, because that is basic homework one would expect the OP to have done before posting a question. Obviously, a lot of homework has been done here, but it needs to be homework seeking out all the sixteen mentions of the Holy Spirit, then collating all that information to see just how important that role is.

It is difficult to give a trinitarian answer to the question at the bottom - the last one, that is, namely: From a Trinitarian perspective, in which the Holy Spirit is a third Person; co-equal with the Father, how does one explain the absence of the Holy Spirit from key moments in the visions of the Book of Revelation? The reason why it is difficult (perhaps even pointless) is that the main question at the top makes an adamant claim, that the Book of Revelation DOES allocate a subordinate role to the Holy Spirit. A trinitarian just cannot see that. They attach equal import to all sixteen statements in it about the Holy Spirit as to statements about the Father and the Son. Only a non-trinitarian reads Revelation with the idea of subordination as a determining factor.

That is why delving into many statements about the Father and the Son actually skews the question/s about the Holy Spirit. Had your top question read, "Does the Book of Revelation allocate a subordinate role to the Holy Spirit?", trinitarians would reply, "No it does not" and then delve into the immense significance of those sixteen statements about the Holy Spirit. That is why I have written what I have written.

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    This is a comment on my question; not an answer.
    – Andries
    Oct 5, 2023 at 11:03
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    Up-voted +1. An excellent and definitive answer to a very vague and ill-researched question.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 12, 2023 at 9:29
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The Book of Revelation is not an overtly trinitarian work in the sense that it never mentions the three persons of Trinity as such. (The reference in 1:4-5 is not to the Holy Spirit but the "seven spirits who are before his throne.") That is not to say that its author would deny the existence of the Trinity. But the Trinity as such only does not play an overt role in this particular scripture.

Why is the Trinity never overtly mentioned? The answer might be phrased as another question: "Why does it need to be?" The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in several other NT scriptures such as Galatians, Colossians, I Timothy and Philemon. Neither is the Holy Spirit worshiped as such in these and other NT writings. For that matter several scriptures do not speak of Jesus as the object of worship. So the absence of the term and the Spirit's apparently subordinate role should not be particularly problematic for believers in the Trinity. This is especially so if one accepts that John of Patmos is the same writer as John the Apostle. After all, the HS is not mentioned in several Pauline epistles, but it is definitely spoken of in others.

However, there is reason to doubt that John of Patmos and John the Apostle are the some person. The other works by "John" have a remarkable unity of language and theology, especially focused the importance of love, rebirth and the sacraments. But these concepts are not emphasized in the Book of Revelation. It is full of apocalyptic visions and dire warnings. Forgiveness is hard to find. The saints even pray for vengeance against their persecutors: '“O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” (6:10) This is a stark contrast to the attitude of John's Gospel:

he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.” (John 20:22-23)

Indeed, the word "forgive" cannot be found in the Book of Revelation. Neither can the word "mercy." The absence of the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity in Revelation can be explained by similar absences in other NT scriptures. But the seeming absence of the fruits of the Spirit is harder to explain.

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The presence of the Holy Spirit in Revelation is pervasive. Three times it mentions "the seven spirits of God", such as here:

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. (Revelation 5:6)

Collectively, these seven spirits describe the sevenfold nature of the Holy Spirit. They are a delegation of the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus, who is the one who said he would send the comforter. The seven spirits each manifest the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit in a different way, and are described in Isaiah:

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 (Isaiah 11:2)

Numerologically, each member of the Trinity is most closely associated with a distinct number:

  1. The Son is two (2). Jesus has two natures, human and divine. As the Word, he is divided into Old and New Testaments. As to his visits, he comes twice, first as suffering servant, second as conquering Messiah.

  2. The Father is three (3). In Revelation, the Father is "him who is, and who was, and who is to come". He represents eternity, all time, past, present and future. The Father also is supreme over the Trinity.

  3. The Holy Spirit is seven (7). In addition to the seven spirits, the number seven dominates the structure of Revelation, with seven churches, seals, trumpets, bowls, thunders, and more.

So when you see the number seven in Revelation, the Holy Spirit is at work.

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Mike Borden has provided a biblical response to the suggestion that Revelation allocates a subordinate role to the Holy Spirit:

Nowhere in Scripture is it the Holy Spirit's role or intention to be the center of attention. The Holy Spirit testifies always of the Lord Jesus Christ, both in the Church and in the world... For this reason it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit is not specifically mentioned at each and every instance of action or influence throughout Scripture... It is not the desire of the Spirit to garner worship toward any other than the Lord Jesus Christ and, through Him, the Father. The apparent absence of overt mention of the Spirit in the book of Revelation, especially in scenes depicting worship of God and of the Lamb, is actually good proof that the Spirit is present and accomplishing the will of God.

Revelation is a book of angelic activity, showing what Christ Jesus will do in the future by his angels. That is the focus of our attention. At the outset, the readers of the Revelation of Jesus Christ are advised to hear what the Spirit has to say to them (Revelation 2:7).

The name of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Revelation, by whom the Son communicates with his servants, occurs 19 times in 22 chapters, and of these, four refer to Him as ‘the seven Spirits’:

The seven Spirits which are before the throne – Revelation 1:4

He that has the seven Spirits of God – Revelation 3:1 The seven lamps of fire burning before the throne which are the seven Spirits of God – Revelation 4:5

The seven eyes of the Lamb, which are the seven Spirits of God – Revelation 5:6

And let us not overlook Revelation 22:17: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come’"

The Holy Spirit has not been allocated a subordinate role. The Holy Spirit accomplishes the will of God the Father and points others to God the Son. The Holy Spirit was there in the beginning at creation and will be there at the awful Day of the Lord, when Christ Jesus returns in judgment. Significantly, the Holy Spirit is not absent in the Revelation of Jesus Christ. We do well to heed his word (Revelation 2:7) and accept his invitation to come (Revelation 22:17).

As Mike Borden pointed out in his answer “a lack of overt mention of the Spirit in any particular book does not constitute a subordinate (read as less important) role since everything that the Father and Son accomplish is done by and in the Spirit.”

I agree with his most recent edit where he says “rather than the Spirit being absent, the Spirit is the very medium within which the revelation was given.”

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The Holy Spirit was already present on earth completing the works of salvation when John received this vision.

The Holy Spirit has access to things that are sealed and only God has access to. I will start with the example where they asked Jesus to tell them when his second coming will be, Jesus stopped them and said he didn't know, not even the angels but The Father.

The Holy Spirit might have known because it is written
1 Corinthians 2:10

But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.

The second coming is a secret withheld from the son but the Holy Spirit can search for it

Also do not think from a hierarchical point of view when addressing the Godhead because it is a mystery.

Scripture says the Holy Spirit is the greatest by virtue of sinning against him, sin against One who sits on the Great White Throne is forgiven men, also sinning against the Son but sinning against the Holy Spirit makes you guilty of an eternal sin and you will not be forgiven while scripture says this, it also says the Father is greater than all so this subject is a mystery and should be approached carefully.

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The Spirit is in us in Revelation’s vision.

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

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    This slightly modified answer still does not address the question. Please take our Tour to find out what we look for in well-researched answers: christianity.stackexchange.com/tour
    – Lesley
    Sep 30, 2023 at 13:12

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