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Revelation 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;

Revelation 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.

Does God have 14 Spirits? (seven Spirits before His throne and seven Spirits on the earth as stated in the above two verses)?

4 Answers 4

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This is one of the points in Revelation where literalism can be a real stumbling-block. So often, we need to look for the theological intent of the symbolism.

I propose treating "seven" here not as a literal number, but, in effect, as an adjective meaning "belonging to God". Then "seven spirits" would indicate "the Spirit belonging to God"; or indeed "the Holy Spirit".

In ch1 vv4-5, the Father and the Son are jointly mentioned in the greeting, so it would be appropriate that "the seven spirits who are before his throne" should be a reference to the remaining member of the Trinity.

In ch5, we gain nothing by understanding "seven horns and seven eyes" as a literal picture. But "horns" are a standard Old Testament image indicating power. So I would take "seven horns and seven eyes" as a symbolic presentation of the doctrinal statement that the Lamb has been endowed with "the power of God" and "the Spirit of God". We know this already from the gospel, because the Sprit of God was seen "descending like a dove and alighting on him" (Matthew ch3 v16), and Jesus himself said later "It is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons" (Matthew ch12 v28).

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No, it's seven.

Location and setting

This is a good question, and it shows that you are paying attention to details. If you keep looking attentively, you'll find that these are two segments from the same longer passage in the same setting, both describing seven spirits in the same place: near "the throne" (τοῦ θρόνου).

Greek

Both times, it is "the seven spirits" (τῶν ἑπτὰ πνευμάτων - 1:4 genitive plural; τὰ ἑπτὰ πνεύματα - 5:6 nominative plural). It's not "seven spirits" nor "seven other spirits" nor "seven more spirits", but "the seven spirits". This definite article adds a bit of clarification in the Greek.

Generally speaking, we can't always be sure whether there was a definite article in Greek just by reading English because sometimes Greek uses the article for the same purposes, sometimes for other purposes. In this situation, Greek uses the definite article "the" (τοῦ genitive singular, τῶν genitive plural,τὰ nominative plural) almost exactly the same as we would use "the" in English.

Literature

Not to condescend, because this is a good question, but it is good to look at how literature works. To conclude that there are fourteen spirits because "the" seven are mentioned in the same place twice would be similar to saying that a boy has two mothers simply because he said, "my mother," in two separate sentences. It might not seem that simple, but when we become familiar with the passage—probably just by reading it a lot, though Greek can help—it really is that simple.

Great question! I hope that is helpful to understand not just this passage, but Greek articles and literature in general as well.


As a side note on how that relates to the idea of "the [singular] Holy Spirit", that would be a separate question—how to read these passages in light of each other. For example, Revelation could give a closer look at different aspects of the same Holy Spirit, or something like that, but that's not our purpose here. For this question of whether Revelation is telling us "seven" or "fourteen", the answer is a clear "seven" given twice.

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As mentioned earlier, the seven is perhaps not literal but prophetic language like the 144,000. It is likely that the number will not round exactly to the thousands (see also Exodus tribe counts).

What may be helpful is to think of God (omnipresent) as being both in Heaven, and everywhere else at the same time. He is not shut out anywhere, but presents himself (and is perceived as) walking with Adam and Eve, or sitting on the throne in heaven. He allows us to learn about Him in a way that we can comprehend. I hope this helps.

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John is acting as mouthpiece for the resurrected Lord. He is addressing the seven servants of the seven churches, in whom each is known and identified by the Lord. “from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come”. The term-“from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;” is not attributed to the Lord Himself, who is one Lord and one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4-6) but rather the seven servants who are the “seven servants as spirits before the throne of God, in whom God is or has assessed to be worthy of instruction and admonition by whom the Lord has inspired John to “write” and Epistle to the seven servants as mortals. Note: ‘which is to come refers to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ because by John’s time, the Lord was already crucified and resurrected. The object lesson to remember here is that God the Father and God the Son are not constrained by “chronology” or time, therefore Past, Present and Future is always before them. They can see all things before them all in a future event as well as the present. God does not have seven Spirits as assumed by many, as He is not an author or confusion or a God of multiplicities concerning His identity. The ambiguity is not with God but with man.

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