The “seven spirits of God” are mentioned several times in the book of Revelation:
• Revelation 1:4–5, “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, and from Jesus Christ . . .”
• Revelation 3:1, “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God . . .”
• Revelation 4:5, “From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God.”
• Revelation 5:6, “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.”
The identity of “the seven spirits” is not explicit in the passage, but arriving at the proper interpretation is fairly straightforward. The “seven spirits” cannot be seven angelic beings such as seraphim or cherubim because of the context of Revelation 1:4. John says that “grace and peace” are coming to the churches from three sources: “him who is, and who was, and who is to come” (verse 4), “the seven spirits before the throne” (verse 4), and “Jesus Christ” (verse 5). This is a depiction of the Trinity: grace and peace are given by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the three co-equal Persons of the Godhead.
In Revelation 3:1 Jesus “holds” the seven spirits of God. In John 15:26, Jesus “sends” the Holy Spirit from the Father. Both passages suggest the superordinate role of the Son and the subordinate role of the Spirit.
In Revelation 4:5 the seven spirits of God are symbolized as seven burning lamps that are before God’s throne. This picture agrees with Zechariah’s vision in which he sees the Holy Spirit symbolized as “a solid gold lampstand . . . with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it” (Zechariah 4:2).
In Revelation 5:6 the seven spirits are the “seven eyes” of the Lamb, and they are “sent out into all the earth.” The seven eyes speak of the Spirit’s (and the Lamb’s) omniscience, and the fact that He is sent into all the earth speaks of His omnipresence.
Once we identify the “seven spirits” as the Holy Spirit, the question remains, why are there “seven” of Him? The Bible, and especially the book of Revelation, uses the number seven to refer to perfection and completion. John’s vision includes a picture of the perfect and complete Holy Spirit.
Isaiah 11:2 also references the Holy Spirit using a seven-fold description: “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.” The prophecy is that the Messiah would be empowered not by seven individual spirits but by the One Spirit, described seven ways:
1) The Spirit of the LORD
2) The Spirit of wisdom
3) The Spirit of understanding
4) The Spirit of counsel
5) The Spirit of power
6) The Spirit of knowledge
7) The Spirit of the fear of the Lord
The “seven spirits of God” in the book of Revelation are thus a reference to the Holy Spirit in the perfection of His manifold ministry.