The seven spirits of God are actually associated with the seven lamps of fire and later in John's revelation, to the Lamb's seven horns and seven eyes, see Rev, 5:6. We would appear to be talking about spiritual angels here, as opposed to say: the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The same angels, it would seem, that sent salutations, along with God and Jesus, to the seven churches in Asia, see Rev, 1:4,5. Now, given the association with the seven lamps of fire, could these angels be the self same angels that are later given the seven bowls of the wrath of God, by one of the "four living creatures", see Rev, 15. They are seen standing on a sea of glass, similar to that mentioned in Rev, 4:6, the very next verse to the verse now in question, after all??


5 Answers 5


The seven spirits of God are mentioned in the beginning of the book, Revelation 1:4-5 and then mentioned again as before the throne, Revelation 4:5-6.

The first mention is immediately followed by the letters to the seven churches which are represented, in vision, as lampstands, that is to say as vessels which contain (presumably) oil and are lit to create a fire and a light.

Then, the second mention is followed by large portions of the visionary book which deals extensively with the activity (from heaven to earth) of seven angels.

I suggest that both activities, that of the Holy Spirit come from Christ to enliven and invigorate and enlighten the seven churches and that of the Spirit of God, in might, energising the angelic powers are demonstrated by the naming of 'seven Spirits' in the beginning of the book and in depicting in vision seven lamps burning before the throne.

Seven lampstands burn on earth, sending their light throughout the earth as a burning witness and testimony to the risen Christ.

And seven lamps burn before the throne in heaven as a multitude which no man can number worships God and the Lamb.

One Spirit, seen in diversity, in both earth (within the church) and in heaven (before the throne).

One Divine Spirit, burning in diverse activity, activates angelic judgment from Christ upon the throne of God and also energises the body of Christ in a fiery testimony, again as from Christ seated on the throne of his Father.

  • Hmmm! I see thoughtful, spiritually infused, and carefully chosen words and good sentence structure here, which may, or may not, have got to the "nitty gritty". We, as you already know, differ on what constitutes "spiritually infused" but that's by the way here. I'm not sure that your: "And seven lamps burn before the throne in heaven as a multitude ....." is a correct assumption, given the neuter aspect. I need to think about this some more but need to leave right now. I'll get back to you later. Feb 5, 2023 at 17:27
  • Sorry, I knew I shouldn't have tried to rush the above. The neuter aspect doesn't apply to the seven lamps but rather the seven spirits of God, which would appear to be a demonstration of angelic power, for the use thereof, hence the neuter aspect. These seven spirits of God then presumably become the seven bowls of God's wrath, to be poured out into the earth by the seven stars/angels, at Christ's fiery direction. Although, no one can really know for sure. Thank you for this. It's now an upvote from me. Feb 6, 2023 at 1:00

In the book of the Revelation, angels are angels are angels. They are distinct from humans. They are distinct from God. They are distinct from the Lamb. They are distinct from the Holy Spirit. And that is the case throughout the entire New Testament.

This means that when you state, "We would appear to be talking about spiritual angels here..." the response has to be, "No, we are not talking about spiritual angels here." Well, at least, not until scriptural proof can be offered for such a claim. Then it could be considered. But that bald statement has no foundation upon which to rest. Consider what the verses in question actually state.

"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. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne were four living creatures full of eyes before and behind." Revelation 4:5-6

Chapter 4 discloses the vision of the Lord God Almighty on the throne set in heaven, and the things that pertain to that throne. John is enabled to ascend in the Spirit through a door opened in heaven. The first three verses depict the throne, the Lord God Almighty seated on that throne, the rainbow, and the 24 crowned elders seated on thrones around God's throne. Then we get to the two verses in question. At no point are angels mentioned. It is not until chapter 5 verse 2 that a particular angel is mentioned. This means that the context of chapter 4 has nothing to do with angels.

Here is one explanation revealing the significance of the 7 lamps of burning fire:

"In the tabernacle under the old covenant the seven branched menorah, or candlestick, burned with seven lamps of fire before the vail, before the holy of holies, in which the ark of the covenant, covered by the kippurim, or - so-called - mercy seat, contained the two stone tablets of the law. Above this covering, the glory of the Lord appeared.

Likewise in the new testament, John testifies, 'And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man,' Rev. 1:12,13... The Holy Ghost, who dwelt among the children of Israel, now dwells within the ecclesia or church of God, here represented by the seven golden candlesticks. He also appears in his infinite divinity as the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne. It is he who dwells within the assembly, where they that have an ear to hear what the Spirit saith, find that he throughly purges away all their tin and all their dross, making them to become as gold like glass.

As he is within the saints severally gathered in the seven assemblies, so he is before the throne of God Almighty... He is the sevenfold - perfect in himself and in all his interior operations - I say, he is the sevenfold Spirit, sent forth into each of the seven churches, yet in a mystery abiding before the throne of God. To this, all who would overcome must become conformed... the overcomers are purged of the flesh, both of the fleshly mind, the will, and the affections, to be purified by heavenly fire in conformity to the Lord, whereunto they were predestined. The Holy Ghost personally identifies himself with each church, and identifies each church with himself, whilst at the same time in the flames of his perfection sanctifying and uniting all in his one person." The revelation of Jesus Christ, pp. 99-100, John Metcalfe, http://www.johnmetcalfepublishingtrust.co.uk/contact_us.htm

The number seven is highly symbolic, especially in the book of the Revelation, signifying heavenly perfection. This points to the heavenly perfection of this burning Spirit of God, who is as the fire that purges gold till it is so refined, and so free from dross or any kind of contamination, that it appears as like a sea of glass, like crystal, before the throne of God in heaven. This is who is being depicted in mystical language, in Revelation 4:5-6.

  • I wrote some notes for comment, but then after reading Dan's A. decided to comment there first. Anyway, here are my thoughts: Angels are indeed distinct from humans, God and the so called HS. But to my mind, and not just mine, the lamb, in his pre existence to being the lamb, may well have been, not only the Word, but also the Archangel Michael, the chief angel. Jesus as the ... 7 lamps of fire burning before the throne, I see as a stretch by JM. Likewise as regards Jesus being the sevenfold spirit - sent to the churches... tbc... Feb 4, 2023 at 20:09
  • .... continuing on... JM's idea that the saints were to be conformed, transfigured from the fleshly aspects as it were, and then purified by heavenly fire is somewhat misleading, as they had to already have been changed (from the earthly to the spiritual) just to have been able to enter heaven in the first place. I also don't like his sea of glass analogy. The number 7 is highly symbolic and whether one can be justified in conflating the 7 stars in Jesus' right hand, which we are told do represent angels, with the 7 spirits of God, could very well be just conjecture. Although ... Feb 4, 2023 at 20:38

The seven lamps of Rev. 4:5 appear to be related (whether consciously by the author or not) to the seven lamps in the prophet Zechariah's spiritual vision of a menorah in the heavenly realm.

“I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” (Zech. 4:2-3)

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In John's description of his own vision, there are seven separate bowls rather than one bowl feeding seven channels of oil into the seven lamps. But the vision is similar enough to be more than coincidental. The two olive trees of Zechariah also seem to be related to the two olive trees of Revelation 11:4. However in Zechariah they rather clearly symbolize two contemporary figures (the governor Zerubbabel who was a descendant of David and thus a candidate for anointed king; and Joshua, the high priest, who would likewise be an 'anointed one.') In Revelation they symbolize two unnamed future "witnesses" who will prophecy during the time of tribulation. In John's vision, as the OP suggests, the oil in the bowls, as well as the flames that it feeds, is related to God's wrath. In Zechariah it seems to relate both to the physical flames that will be rekindled in the rebuilt Temple and also to the anointing of the future kind and high priest.

So we may conclude at least that in the Book of Revelation the vision of the seven-branched menorah suggests God's wrathful judgment, while in Zechariah it present a hope for the immediate restoration of the Temple under the leadership of two anointed leaders. In Revelation the New Jerusalem does not have a Temple and it will be Christ himself who is the lamp, not a menorah.

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. (Rev. 21:22-23)

Nevertheless, in the early chapters of the book we are told:

The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. (Rev. 3:12)

I have attempted only a partial answer, since the Book of Revelation is highly symbolic and open to so many opinions. I hope this will be helpful to readers in interpreting these passages even if it does not directly answer the question.

  • This partial answer is, indeed, helpful, even though it does not directly address the Q. I hope nobody downvotes it for that reason. One up from me!
    – Anne
    Feb 4, 2023 at 17:01
  • I was aware of the conflation with Zechariah, where I see the 7 lamps with 7 spouts being identified with the eyes of the Lord, which range to and fro throughout the earth, which would seem to suggest, then at least, angelic usage/affirmation by God's spirit; the top stone; Jesus himself, and therefore NOT the HS, as, if I'm not mistaken, you also seem to imply ... and also to the anointing of the future kind and high priest. Thank you for, as the OP suggests ... is related to God's wrath. Christ himself, will indeed be the lamp, rather than a menorah, in the New Jerusalem. + 1. Feb 4, 2023 at 19:43

My own preferred explanation, as used in my book, is as follows; "The number 'seven', in Revelation, is almost a label meaning "belonging to God". So here is 'the seven-fold Spirit', or 'the Spirit belonging to God'. That is, the Holy Spirit."

In ch1 vv4-5, the effect of this interpretation is that the Holy Spirit is associated with the Father ("who was and who is and who is to come") and with the Son ("Jesus Christ the faithful witness") in the offering of grace and peace. It becomes a fully trinitarian offer.

In ch4 v5 the effect of this interpretation is that the Holy Spirit is found in the throne-room of God, along with the Son the Lamb, who appears later in the scene.

In ch5 v6, the effect of this interpretation is a reminder that the Son, the Lamb of God, was endowed with the Holy Spirit at the baptism in the Jordan, when the Spirit descended upon him "like a dove" (Mark ch1 v10).

In the same verse, the same principle of interpretation allows us to understand the seven horns of the Lamb as "the power of God", since horns appear all the way through the Old Testament as a symbol of power.

Incidentally, I understand the "sea of glass" as the firmament, seen from above, so it is associated with God's throne as a whole. There are parallels elswhere in scripture. The mobile throne in Ezekiel is on "the likeness of a firmament" (Ezekiel ch1 v22, RSV). The elders at Sinai see under their God's feet "as it were a pavement of sapphire stones" (Exodus ch24 v10), which I understand in the same way as the firmament in the Ezekiel vision. It gives them a s sense of being in the true throne-room of God.

  • With me not being a trinitarian, I cannot hold with this Holy Spirit explanation. The explanation of the horns I can go along with. Completeness of power is being conveyed I feel, for sure. I can also go along with the "firmament" analogy for the "sea of glass". I like that a lot. Because of your "HS" view, however, this obviously precludes you from contemplating on the seven bowls of the wrath of God idea, but thanks for responding. Feb 3, 2023 at 21:28
  • @Nigel J The symbolism of Revelation is not really subject to proof. We can only lay a tentative hold on what seems to work best. If angels are flames. that does not prove that all flames are angels. Feb 4, 2023 at 8:35
  • But please consider also my observations on ch1 vv4-5 Feb 4, 2023 at 9:08
  • Point taken.Comments deleted, but see my answer also.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 5, 2023 at 15:20

“And from the seven spirits who are before His throne.”

There is no justification for the capitalization of "spirits". This is not a description of the nature of God.

This statement cannot be understood apart from 4:5 which reads

“And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God;”

The seven spirits which are the seven lamps of fire that burn before to throne are the seven churches to whom this revelation is sent (verse 20),

“As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

Their position is “before” the throne.

The significance of “before the throne” could be for the purpose of judgment, particularly since we will see this judgment of the fidelity of these seven churches weighed in the balances in chapters two and three.

Since this is found in the body of the salutation, “before the throne” could also simply represent the position that the church holds as those who belong to God hence the expression “which are the seven spirits of God;” ('Which are' – ἃ – nominative neuter plural).

  • It is pleasing to me that you, a trinitarian, agree that the word "spirits" should not be capitalized, thus implying a non appreciation of the unnamed spiritual personage of the so called Godhead here. However, you conflating the "lampstands", churches per se, in Rev, 1:20 with the "lamps" and "spirits" in the v. in question, would seem to be at odds with the Salutation in Rev, 1:4, where the "seven churches" are distinctive from the "seven spirits". I do find it interesting, though, that the rel' pronoun (an NNP), implying "which/that", is associated with the "seven spirits". Feb 5, 2023 at 15:12

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