In Revelation 1:4, we are told for the first time that there are seven spirits of God standing before his throne. Two chapters later, in Revelation 3:1, the Lord Jesus Christ reveals that he is the one who possesses these seven spirits of God. Who or what are these seven spirits? Does the Bible ever say?
Careful study of God’s word helps us discover that what Revelation reveals to us about these spirits was foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament. First of all, let’s look at what Revelation says about it–
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. [Revelation 4:5]
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. [Revelation 5:6]
John tells us that in his vision the seven spirits are like lamps of fire burning, that they are like seven horns and seven eyes on the Lamb, who of course is the Lord. Why are there seven? Because seven is God’s number of completeness and rest (see Genesis 2:2). Lamps of fire are symbolic of spiritual revelation (Psalm 119:105), spiritual discernment (Daniel 10:6), the Holy Spirit, and the word of God (Jeremiah 20:9). Horns are symbolic of spiritual power and strength, and eyes are symbolic of spiritual vision and insight. These spirits symbolized in the lamps, horns, and eyes are not only before God’s throne, but they are sent throughout the earth and have the power to cleanse the sins of mankind (see Zechariah 3:9, 4:10).
Jesus, of course, possesses everything these objects symbolize because he is God. A study of the Old Testament tells us what these seven spirits are by naming them in Isaiah 11–
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. [Isaiah 11:1-5]
This rod and branch coming out of Jesse’s family is Jesus Christ and he possesses the following seven spirits:
Spirit #1: The spirit of the Lord: When the Spirit of the Lord is with an individual, he gives them strength to overcome enemies (Judges 14:6; Isaiah 59:19), he gives them prophecies (1 Samuel 10:6), he gives them the ability to preach (2 Samuel 23:2; Isaiah 61:1), and he gives them visions (Ezekiel 37:1; Joel 2:28-29).
Spirit #2: The spirit of wisdom: Having the spirit of wisdom means that a person possesses the ability to apply knowledge in the correct manner to please God. For instance, when Job’s wife told him to curse God and die, Job had the knowledge that God is a just God who had the power to deliver him if he prayed. So he applied that knowledge by blessing God and he lived. God even blessed him with more than he had lost.
Spirit #3: The spirit of understanding: A person reflects this type of spirit when they can foresee the results of their actions before they even act, in order to do God’s will. They also have discernment into the intentions of other people’s actions or sayings. This is why Solomon asked God to “[g]ive therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad…” [1 Kings 3:9, emphasis mine].
Spirit #4: The spirit of counsel: When someone has this spirit, they know how to give godly advice to those who need it, whether or not the person asks for that advice. In order for them to give godly advice, they realize the importance of listening to God. “The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations,” [Psalm 33:11]. Furthermore, “[e]very purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war,” [Proverbs 20:18]. How a person handles godly counsel can make or break one’s personal life and make or break a nation.
Spirit #5: The spirit of might: Might refers to physical, mental, or spiritual strength supplied by God that is used to bring about impressive results. This was displayed in Samson, David and his mighty men of valor, and Jesus when he worked his miracles or rebuked hypocrisy in Israel. It can still be displayed today when believers allow themselves to be used by the Holy Spirit by standing firm on God’s word.
Spirit #6: The spirit of knowledge: Real knowledge begins when one fears the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). It is only then that God shares with those who seek him all of the awe-inspiring things he wants them to know. Godly knowledge supplies a person with the information needed to determine what God likes or doesn’t like. When a person uses this information wisely, then God can bless them by expanding that knowledge and sharing certain secrets with them. Having this knowledge forms the basis for making a correct judgment at the correct time and acting, when necessary, based on that knowledge.
Spirit #7: The spirit of the fear of the Lord: Having the fear of the Lord is not only the beginning of knowledge, but is the beginning of wisdom, also [Proverbs 9:10]. This fear is essentially a reverence and respect for God, acknowledging that he has the power to build up and tear down, to plant or to pluck up, to bless or to curse, to reward righteousness and punish evil. Perfect love may indeed cast out fear if that fear is a sense of dread, but when that fear is a perfect fear in reverence for God, it welcomes a love for God. When a person truly fears the Lord, they are much more concerned about what pleases God than they are about what pleases people.
These seven spirits are basically one Spirit–the Holy Spirit. He manifests himself in these seven general ways. Since God’s Spirit goes throughout the whole Earth, he has made himself available to those who humble themselves before God and repent. Although these seven spirits are displayed in believers all over the world, we believers only have a portion of these traits. Only Christ has the full measure of all of them, “for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him,” [John 3:34].