Let us begin with the first place in the Scriptures that the phrase “The Seven Spirits of God” (or The Sevenfold Spirit of God) occurs. That is Rev 1:4, “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;”
This is the typical first century Greek salutation of a letter. The letter is from John to the churches in Asia. Roman Asia was not the same as present day Asia. Modern Asia is a continent. Roman Asia was a province or state. It was approximately the western third of modern Turkey.
He which is, and which was, and which is to come is the eternal God, Yehovah (Exo 3:14; Psa 90:2, Psa 102:25-27; Isa 41:4, Isa 57:15; Mic 5:2). Who or what are these seven Spirits also known as the Sevenfold Spirit of God? Some say that the seven Spirits are the angels who are the messengers of each of the seven churches in Asia. In this verse, they are around the throne of God. There are two subjects to this verse and the next. One is to whom is this revelation addressed? The other is from whom is it sent?
The Revelation is sent to the seven churches in Asia. It was sent from the Eternal of Days or God the Father. It was sent from the seven Spirits before the throne or, better yet, from the sevenfold Spirit of God. And, in v. 5, it was sent from Jesus Christ, or God the Son. The Revelation of Jesus Christ was sent via John to the seven churches in Asia from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, or the Three Persons of the Godhead. He is One God who reveals Himself to us in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the triune or triumvirate God, Elohim in the Hebrew, which is the plural of Eloah, or God. From the beginning He has been known as Elohim (plural) and not Eloah (singular). (Gen. 1:1)
God the Father’s name in the Hebrew as we see it first in Genesis 2:4, is יהוה. This is known as the Tetragrammaton. The pronunciation of that Name has been debated. Technically it is made up of the consonants YHVH. However, each consonant is also a consonantal vowel, that is, they can each have a vowel sound. Thus the pronunciation has been difficult to discern. It has been pronounced Ya’-ha-vey, Je-ho’-vah, Yah’-weh, Yah’-veh, and others. Of late, the pronunciation Yahweh has become popular in evangelical circles. In this commentary, I choose to spell it Yehovah instead of the traditional Jehovah, because there is no single letter that corresponds to J in Hebrew, and the first letter of the Tetragrammaton is י, yod, whose consonant sound is just like the English consonant ‘Y’.
It was to the angels or messengers of the seven churches that Jesus sent seven messages. The Revelation is from the seven Spirits to the seven churches. So these seven Spirits cannot be the seven messengers of the seven churches.
Further evidence is gained from a reading of the other verses in Revelation where the seven Spirits are mentioned.
(Rev 3:1) And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
Here the seven Spirits belong to God. Jesus has told John to write these things to the messenger (angel, anggelos, messenger–Strong’s 32) of the church at Sardis. The words John is to write come from “He that hath the seven Spirits of God,” that is Christ.
(Rev 4:5) And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
Here again, the seven Spirits are of God.
(Rev 5:6) 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.
This verse nails it. The seven Spirits of God are sent out into all the earth. This sevenfold Spirit is the Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit. The seven horns and seven eyes of the lamb slain (Christ) are symbolic of the seven Spirits of God. The horn represents strength and the eye represents sight or knowledge. Seven horns represent divinely perfect strength; seven eyes signify divinely perfect sight or knowledge. The Spirit, being the Spirit of God, is perfect in strength and perfect in knowledge. He is omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing). So the horns and eyes represent God’s omniscience and omnipotence. Of course, in the Lamb slain is seen in the triune god: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (see also Zec 3:9 & Zec 4:10).
The Spirit’s sight is sevenfold. Not only does that mean the Spirit is omniscient, but the Holy Spirit is also omnipresent. He is present at all times at all places. No matter where you go in the universe or out of the universe, you cannot hide or get away from the Spirit of God (Psalm 139:7-10). Seven is a number that signifies Divine Perfection. The Holy Spirit, being God, is Divinely Perfect. He is present throughout the universe, and that is what the seven Spirits or the sevenfold Spirit of God means. Seven in its several forms is used over 600 times in the King James Bible.
There are two other points to make about the seven Spirits of God. In Rabbinic teachings, the Holy Spirit has seven attributes or characteristics. They are faith, righteousness, justice, loving-kindness, mercy, truth, and peace. These seven qualities serve before the Throne of Yehovah. In fact, let me quote from the Talmud:
“Seven qualities avail before the Throne of Glory: faith, righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, mercy, truth, and peace (ARN xxxvi)“…from Everyman’s Talmud, A. Cohen (New York: Schocken Books, 1949, 1975) p.74
The early church and Roman Catholicism maintain that Isaiah listed the seven Spirits of God in Isaiah 11:2-3a. They are the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, piety, and the Spirit of the fear of the Lord:
We read of these in the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Douay-Rheims Bible. Most other translations leave out piety. In the Hebrew the fear of the LORD is written twice. The Septuagint translators rendered the first instance as piety, which is one definition of the Hebrew word יראה, yirah; fear, terror, respect, reverence, and piety1. Here are those readings:
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord (Isa XI:2-3a, Douay Rheims).
Και αναπαυσεται επ’ αυτον πνευμα του θεου πνευμα σοφιας και συνεσεως πνευμα βουλης και ισχυος πνευμα γνωσεως και ευσεβειας εμπλησει αυτον πνευμα φοβου θεου (Isa XI:2-3a Septuagint).
Et requiescet super eum spiritus Domini spiritus sapientiae et intellectus spiritus consilii et fortitudinis spiritus scientiae et pietatis et replebit eum spiritus timoris Domini (Isa XI:2-3a Vulgate).
In conclusion, the Seven Spirits of God simply represent the omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence of the Holy Spirit. He is God, the Third Person of the Trinity and he is all-knowing, all-powerful, and present everywhere. As the Psalmist explains,
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold,
You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
(Psalm 139:7-10 NASB)