What are the “seven spirits”? To answer this question, Greg explores the way that Revelation employs numbers to convey truths, with seven referring to completeness or perfection. The seven spirits implies the perfect giving of the Holy Spirit, God’s presence, just as God completely poured himself out in the Incarnation.
In this sermon, Greg addresses the significance of the “seven spirits of God.” The first thing we need to understand is the role that numbers play in Revelation. They are never only about numbers. The numbers are also symbols. For instance, the number two signifies witness, three refers to perfection, four is about the earth, ten is about fullness and twelve pertains to the people of God. In addition, when the numbers are multiples of each other, they signify an amplified meaning. Thus, the meaning of 144,000 refers to the innumerable people that are included in God’s kingdom, not a limited number that are chosen to rule and exclude others.
The strategic use of numbers is deeply embedded into the text of Revelation. For instance, the title “Lord God Almighty” is used seven times. This is a reference to God’s infinite power. “Christ” is used seven times, and Jesus is mentioned 14 times. The Holy Spirit is also named 14 times. There are many other such names and titles that are used in multiples of seven. This is a way of building deeper meaning into the text.
One example of this is the seven spirits. Some claim that these are seven angels, but it is more likely that this is a reference to the Holy Spirit. A crucial verse for understanding the nature of the seven spirits is Revelation 5:6: “Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, with seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”
The Spirit has seven horns and seven eyes, which refers to the fullness of his power sent into the world. Just as God poured out his totality in Jesus, so also he is pouring out the ultimate reality of the divine power through the Spirit. The totality of divine power and discernment is being sent into the world and the world orientation of the Holy Spirit’s work in Revelation is emphasized by the fact that the seven spirits are mentioned four times. This divine power is not that of worldly might but is the power of the slain Lamb, of self-sacrificial love.
Paul makes this argument in Colossians 1:19-20: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” Jesus accomplished this on Calvary, but now the Holy Spirit is roaming the world, seeking to apply this reconciling victory where ever possible. Our job is to partner with the Spirit in his reconciling work. We do not do this as the world does it, with power and might. We do this in the cruciform power, displayed through small acts of service that make a difference, one act at a time.
This leads to the question: Since God gave his “seven,” his perfect completeness, how are we giving our “seven,” our complete selves, to him?
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