The Holy Spirit in Revelation 1-3Posted: Sat. Dec, 17 2016
Why all the fuss?
In our last blog, we started to compare and contrast the letters of Paul with the letters to the seven assemblies in Revelation 2 and 3.
Why? Because there is much confusion about how to interpret Revelation 2 and 3.
And because the English word “church” is found in chapters 1-3, most interpreters simply assume the material presented here is about us.
But that brings all of the judgments and warnings of those chapters to our doorstep.
So it really matters how we interpret these chapters in Revelation.
We came away from the last blog with the distinct impression that something very different is going on in Revelation than what is going in in Paul’s epistles.
Today we begin a more comprehensive look , subject by subject, to find out whether our first impression is accurate.
The seven Spirits of God
This week, we consider the person of God the Holy Spirit - how the Spirit is presented to the seven assemblies of Revelation 2 and 3.
"To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ' I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.
“The seven Spirits of God”. The Spirit is described this way in the book of Revelation, and in the Old Testament. But the Holy Spirit is never described this way in the letters of Paul - or in any other New Testament book besides Revelation.
Rapture, or Second Coming?
Let’s examine the other three passages in Revelation that include this expression “seven Spirits”.
The first occurrence is in chapter 1 of the book of Revelation:
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood — 6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father — to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.
The seven assemblies are told to behold our Lord coming with the clouds. Is this at the Rapture, or is this referring to the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ?
What comes next in verse 7 makes it clear that this is the Second Coming. Every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. All the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him.
Every eye will not see Him at the Rapture. It occurs in the blinking of an eye, and it is a private affair between the Lord and His body.
What’s more, there is no mourning described in connection with the Lord coming for us, at the Rapture. To the contrary, we are eagerly waiting for His appearance! (Php 3:21, 1TH 4:13-18)
I want you to think about that: Jesus comes for us, His body, at the Rapture. Yet, John tells these seven assemblies to behold Jesus at His Second Coming!
Heavenly, or earthly?
Let’s continue in Revelation 1:4-7.
The entire Trinity is described in verses 4-6.
Jesus is described as the ruler of the kings of the earth.
He is never described that way in the letters of Paul.
But He is described to these seven assemblies as ruling on the earth.
In Paul’s epistles, our Lord Jesus Christ is in heaven. We are to set our minds of the things above, NOT on the things of earth.
It is the nation of Israel who make up God’s earthly people.
God the Holy Spirit is manifested as the seven Spirits who are before the throne of God once again in chapter 4.
5 Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God;
Here the seven Spirits of God are also described as seven lamps of fire burning before the throne.
And the last time we find this expression “seven Spirits” is in chapter 5.
6 And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.
Here the seven Spirits of God are depicted as the seven eyes of the Lamb . And they are sent out into all the earth.
Again, the Spirit is never described as the “seven Spirits of God” in the epistles of Paul.
Seven Spirits in the Old Testament
But we DO find this depiction in the Old Testament.
1 Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 And He will delight in the fear of the Lord,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
4 But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
5 Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist.
This describes our Lord on earth at His Second Coming, when He gathers the remnant of Jewish believers as He establishes His earthly kingdom.
11 Then it will happen on that day that the Lord
Will again recover the second time with His hand
The remnant of His people, who will remain,
From Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath,
And from the islands of the sea.
12 And He will lift up a standard for the nations
And assemble the banished ones of Israel,
And will gather the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
And remember that the seven Spirits are also identified with the seven eyes of the Lamb.
We find those seven eyes back in chapters 3 and 4 the book of Zechariah.
Chapters 3-6 of Zechariah are a fascinating read side by side with the book of Revelation. I highly recommend you take the time to read them.
The seven eyes are associated in Zechariah with the events of the Second Coming of our Lord. And just like in Revelation 5:6, they are the eyes of the Lord, and they range to and fro throughout the earth.
To recap, this description of the Holy Spirit as the seven Spirits of God is used for the role of the Spirit in our Lord’s Second Coming.
This is our Lord Jesus Christ in His governmental office, ruler of the kings of the earth, sovereign over the whole earth as the King of Kings.
This is very meaningful for the nation of Israel, since they are promised the Messiah who will rule over the earth on the throne of David.
But our Lord Jesus Christ is not presented that way to us. He is presented as our Head, the head of the body, not ruler of the kings of the earth.
He who has an ear…
There are seven more places where the Spirit appears in Revelation 2 and 3, one time for each assembly.
In fact we have one identical sentence in each letter:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
“He who has an ear, let him hear”
This expression is also found later on in the book of Revelation, in chapter 13.
7 It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear. 10 If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.
The context is the worship of the beast by all who dwell on the earth during the Great Tribulation (the second half of Daniel’s 70th week). All of these people are overcome by the beast, either by being killed or taken captive.
Similar statements are also found in the Old Testament and in the gospels - and in one place in Paul’s letters.
Typical of these are the following passages:
2 And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, "You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all his servants and all his land; 3 the great trials which your eyes have seen, those great signs and wonders. 4 "Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.
20 "Declare this in the house of Jacob
And proclaim it in Judah, saying,
21 'Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people,
Who have eyes but do not see;
Who have ears but do not hear.
22 'Do you not fear Me?' declares the Lord.
'Do you not tremble in My presence?
For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea,
An eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it.
Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail;
Though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.
23 'But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart;
They have turned aside and departed.
. 41 " The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 " Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Paul quotes DEU 29:4 in the book of Romans. It’s very significant where in Romans he does that.
7 What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; 8 just as it is written,
"GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR,
EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT,
DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY."
Paul is speaking about Israel here. He is distinguishing between the Jewish remnant of believers and the rest of the people who have been hardened.
In fact, every one of these passages speak to the nation of Israel.
In every case, the words are spoken to a hard-hearted and rebellious people.
The takeaway? Other than the English word “church”, everything about how the Spirit is presented in Revelation 1-3 points to the nation of Israel and/or the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Nothing points to the church as Christ’s body, or to the Rapture.
Next time we will consider the ministry of the Spirit, both to the assemblies in Revelation and to the churches in Paul’s letters.
Until the next time, we’re all ….
In His grip,
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