While the words “Holy Spirit” do not appear in the book of Revelation, there is no other book that so unequivocally sets forth the deity, personality, and activity of the Holy Spirit of God as does this last book in the canon of Scripture. The key reference is the first mention where the Holy Spirit is linked with the other persons in the Godhead in the salutation of grace and peace that opens the book.
Rev 1:4-5, “Grace be unto you, and peace,”
1.”From Him which is, and which was, and which is to come;” (This is clearly God the Father).
2.”From the Seven Spirits which are before His throne; “(This is clearly God the Holy Spirit).
3.”From Jesus Christ who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten from the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth;” (This is clearly God the Son).
The Holy Spirit is presented in this symbolic way to show the fullness and completeness of His ministry in the ages to follow the return of the Lord Jesus to Glory. The background is found in Zech 4:1-10 where the seven lamps of testimony, in a dark age, require the oil direct from the olive trees. The olive trees are typical of Christ in his dual ministry as priest and prince, and He is the One who, in the gift of the Holy Spirit, supplies all that testimony requires. Complete provision, the Seven Spirits, is linked with absolute deity – before His throne -to provide the power for testimony on earth, since there is now a man in Glory.
There are three further references to the Holy Spirit under this figure, and they make clear the character of the His ministry upon earth both in the age of grace and in the tribulation period.
A. The Fulness of Divine Provision
The second reference to the Seven Spirits is, “And unto the angel of the church at Sardis write: these things saith He that hath the Seven Spirits of God and the seven stars” (Rev 3:1). Since the seven stars reflect the seven spiritual conditions seen in the seven churches, the clear implication is that there are divine resources in the hand of the Lord to meet every exigency.
This is made very clear by the statement repeated to each of the seven churches: “He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
The plural, “churches,” emphasizes that beyond the specific church first addressed there is a lesson for all churches existing at that particular time and, indeed, for churches down the whole period of church testimony. This recognizes that the seven churches reflect (a) the seven churches from the Roman province of Asia addressed by name and, (b) the spiritual conditions that can exist at any time and, (c) the stages in church history as they can now be viewed retrospectively.
The fullness of divine provision in the Holy Spirit is to be observed against the spiritual conditions revealed:
1. Ephesus A Fallen church – The danger – Cooling of Passion
2. Smyrna – A Fearful church – The difficulty – Cruelty of Persecution
3. Pergamum – A Faltering church The disaster – Compromise and Patronisation
4. Thyatira – A False church – The departure – Corruption and Pollution
5. Sardis – A Formal church – The deadness – Contentment and Profession
6. Philadelphia – A Feeble church The doubt -Conviction and Power
7. Laodicea – A Fashionable church – The denial – Complacency and church Poverty.
Yet the lending of an ear to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the various conditions would result in repentance and recovery. His divine provision in the Holy Spirit is more than adequate for every situation.
B. The Fullness of Divine Illumination
The next reference to the Seven Spirits is in Rev. 4:5, “And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the Seven Spirits of God.” John has been introduced into heaven and his spirit awed by the majesty of the throne and of the Throne Sitter. The blaze of jasper (scintillating diamond) and the encircling emerald rainbow set the scene for the appearance of the Lamb (5:6) and the taking of the seven-sealed book. This is the background scene for the action from chapter 4-16 which covers the seven year tribulation period on earth. The spiritual prepositions show how that throne is served. Round about the throne (in the horizontal plane) are the thrones of the twenty-four elders; out of the throne come the lightnings, thunderings, and voices that herald judgment. Before the throne are the seven lamps of fire burning, which are interpreted for us as the Seven Spirits of God. The lampstands (luchnia) which represented the churches in chapters 1-3 are, of course, oil dependant. The word lamps (lam pades) should be translated “torches” as the word speaks of self-sustaining lights. This is true of the Holy Spirit as a divine person, who will be the source of all illumination and especially in the dark period of the tribulation. This divine illumination is seen dramatically and symbolically in the four occasions when the words “in the Spirit” (en pneumati) are used with reference to John. He is given a particular vision and commanded to write what he had seen. The idea is illumination followed by communication to others.
These four occasions are:
1.1:10 “I was in the Spirit (en pneumati) on the Lord’s day and heard behind me…”
2. 4:2 “And immediately I was in the Spirit (en pneumati) into the wilderness…”
3. 17:3 “So He carried me away in the Spirit (en pneumati) into the wilderness…”
4. 21:10 “And He carried me away in the Spirit (en pneumati) to a great and high mountain.”
The expression, “in the Spirit” describes the exaltation and detachment of the human spirit brought about by the Holy Spirit, who enables divine communication to be made to men (see Eph 3:5 for the same expression). John is carried beyond the realm when the physical and natural senses dominate to be shown what is normally unseen. Thus, the Holy Spirit becomes the divine illuminator. Within the context of Revelation, the scenes to which these passages form the introduction, give divine illumination with respect to:
Scene 1, Christ and the churches, 1:10 -3:22
Scene 2, Christ and the cosmos, 4:1 -16:21
Scene 3, Christ in conquest, 17:1 – 19:10
Scene 4, Christ in consummation, 19:11 – 22:5
The fact that there is no article with the word “spirit” simply draws attention to the character
of the experience.
C. The Fullness of Divine Implementation
The final reference to the Seven Spirits is in Rev 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.” The third way in which the Holy Spirit is seen in action in this book is not merely as the One in whom there is divine provision and from whom there is divine illumination, but He is further seen as the One who oversees and implements the divine program during the tribulation period. This dramatic scene of the Throne, the Book, and the Lamb presents the action in heaven that allows the Kinsman-Redeemer as the Lamb once-slain, to take and open the Book, the title deeds of the earth. The opening of the seals initiates the action that clears the usurper from earth in anticipation of the establishment of His kingdom. The seven horns speak of divine omnipotence while the seven eyes speak of divine omniscience. These eyes are interpreted as the Seven Spirits of God which, in keeping with Zech 3:9, and more directly, Zech 4:10, speak of the sending forth of the Holy Spirit in the plenitude of His power and perception to implement the divine program at this tribulation time.
The working out of this is seen on three particular occasions in the book when the Spirit Himself acts or speaks directly:
1.”And after three days and a half, the Spirit of Life from God entered into them” Rev 11:11. While the Holy Spirit will have been at work even before the tribulation period begins in the salvation (and sealing) of the 144,000 from Israel and in the salvation of the innumerable number of other sinners (Rev 7), this work is not specifically mentioned. Now at this crisis, at the mid-point of the tribulation, the two witnesses have completed their 1260 days of testimony and, their divine protection withdrawn, they have been slain by the Beast. In contemptuous defiance of every rule of decency, he orders that the bodies must lie in the street of Jerusalem until the third day is over. No rumors of resurrection can be allowed to mar his triumph! Congratulations pour in from round the world to the Beast who has so successfully challenged God Himself. Now in the fourth day, the TV cameras of the world media still focus upon those dead bodies. It is at this point that the implementation of the divine program is indicated by the power displayed in the resurrection and rapture of these two witnesses. The secret is, “The Spirit of Life from God entered into them,” and they are raised and called up to heaven. Thus would God show, in this dramatic fashion, that even though men die under the Beast in their testimony for Christ in these terrible years, His Holy Spirit would raise them from the very grasp of death. This truth has already been declared in Rom 8:11, but in this action it is demonstrated in a public way. The Holy Spirit would implement divine power. While there is no article with “Spirit,” grammarians (Dean Alford in loc) will point out that the word “Spirit” (pneuma) does not require any article, and the context makes it plain that this can only be the Holy Spirit. In this we have a picture of resurrection.
2. “Yea,” saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them” Rev 14:13 . This word from the Spirit is added to an assurance given to John in connection with those saints who, having given Christ His place as Lord in defiance of the Beast, die in the last half of the tribulation. Notice the benediction (blessed) upon the persons (the dead who die in the Lord) and the particular period specified (from henceforth). The earth has no room for such, and they are put to death, but they are the blessed of heaven. The One charged with the implementation of the divine program first adds His assurance: “Yea,” says the Spirit, and then gives two further assurances concerning their present rest and their future reward in view of what they have endured in these days.
3. “And the Spirit and the Bride say “Come” (Rev 22:17). This is the last direct word from the Spirit as this book of Revelation and the canon of Scripture closes. He joins with the Bride (the church) in response to the unfolding of Christ as the “Bright and Morning Star,” to cry, “Come”. Thus the Holy Spirit is concerned with the promise of the Savior with regard to the church. This is not an evangelistic call to sinners, but the response of the church and the Spirit within the church to the coming of Christ. It is a plea for the rapture.