Everyone knows that many kinds of spirits are mentioned in the Bible. We speak of the Holy Spirit, but God is also a Spirit and they that worship him "must worship him in spirit and in truth." There are spirits of men, evil spirits and angels called "ministering spirits". There are spiritual attitudes, gifts and actions and to make matters even more complicated, the word for spirit is also the word for "wind"! The Bible admonishes us to test the spirits, to see if they be of God. Jesus cast out evil spirits.
There is of course only one Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity, but the Bible also speaks of "spirits" (plural) of God. In Revelation, John speaks several times of the "seven spirits of God", probably in reference to Isaiah 11:1-2, a prophecy concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many Christians don't notice the plurality of sprits mentioned here.
The Golden Seven-Armed Candelabrum (Menorah)
In order to understand how the Old Testament Jews and even New Testament Christians understood this text, we must first become familiar with the Menorah of the Jewish temple. This seven armed candelabrum is described explicitly in Exodus 25:31-40; 37:17-24 and Lev. 24:1-4. Probably no other aspect of the temple is described in such detail. God even showed Moses a model of what it should look like on Mount Horeb.
This simple drawing shows the basic form without all the elaborate details. The entire candelabrum has one central pillar which supports three pairs of arms, supplying them with pure olive oil. Oil is a symbol of the Spirit of God in the Bible. The Jewish Christians certainly must have had this picture in their minds when John spoke of the "Seven Spirits of God" in Revelation 1:4; 2:1; 3:1; 4:5; and 5:6 (also see Hebrews 12:9).
THE CENTRAL PILLAR: "the Spirit of the Lord" - Jesus Christ, the Messiah
As we read this text carefully, it becomes clear that the "Branch" represents the promised Messiah, on whom "the Spirit of the LORD shall rest" (see John 15:5). The central Pillar therefore represents the Messiah, or Jesus Christ, who brought us salvation and gave us the Holy Spirit. The term here is singular, although our text goes on to mention six spirits of God (or three pairs). Old Testament Jews anticipated the Messiah and rightfully expected that he would bring them salvation. Unfortunately most Jews rejected him when he did appear. Only a few, including the aged Simeon and Hanna, rejoiced in the birth of the "Comforter". The three pairs are:
1. "Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding"
2. "Spirit of Counsel and Might"
3. "Spirit of Knowledge and of the Fear of the LORD"
Note that the seven Lamps are on an equal level, so that all burn with equal intensity. (Exodus 25:31-40)
THE FIRST PAIR: "Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding"
These are inseparable. Both capabilities are only possible through the Holy Spirit. This pair is often found in the New Testament. "For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." (I Cor.1:19); For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; (Col.1:9); "Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six". Revelation 13:18; For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit..." (I Cor.12:8); "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him" (Eph.1:17); "...in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Col.2:3)
"The Spirit of Wisdom" (capability to recognize Truth)
JESUS: "The child grew in wisdom". Matthew 12:42 states that his wisdom was greater than that of Salomon. The people were astounded at the wisdom of his teachings.
CHRISTIANS: "For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist." (Luke 21:15). In Acts 6:10 we find an example.
UNBELIEVERS: People of this world are not capable of recognizing God's truth. Paul described the vast differences between worldly and godly wisdom in I Cor. 2:6-16. Pilate asked Jesus in John18:38 "What is truth?". His question remains unanswered for all who do not believe on him. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life..." (John 14:6). In verse 17 Jesus speaks of the "Spirit of truth, which the world can not receive."
"The Spirit of Understanding " (capability to understand Truth)
"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:26); Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, (Luke 24:45); Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. (I Cor.14:20); and revelation in the knowledge of him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, (Eph.1:17-18);That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; (Col.2:2); "And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life." (I John 5:20)
THE SECOND PAIR: "Spirit of Counsel and Might"
This pair too belongs together. The spirit of might without counsel and vice versa are dangerous.
"The Spirit of counsel " (leading of the Holy Spirit)
In the last days, people will be without counsel, "Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:, who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." (Romans 1:31-2) "like children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Eph. 4:14)
"Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain" (Psalm 127:1-2); "Without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5);
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works....Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (II Tim. 3:16-17 and 4:2-5).
"The Spirit of might" (empowering of the Holy Spirit)
The first Christians were characterized by fearlessness and courage. "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus... And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word... And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness." (Acts 4:13, 29 & 31)
Paul wrote to the Philippians, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4,13)
"And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us..." (Eph.3,19-20)
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2.Tim.1,7)
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, satan offered him all the power of this world. Jesus refused and came out of this experience filled with the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:6,14 and 32). In Luke 10:19 he gave his disciples this same power over their enemies. At Pentecost all Christians received this power.
THE THIRD PAIR: "Spirit of Knowledge and of the Fear of the LORD"
Here too, we dare not separate these two spirits. Knowledge without fear of God leads to pride. Fear of God without knowledge that we are his beloved children leads to timidity and fearfulness.
"The Spirit of Knowledge" (knowing of a certainty! This is faith in action!)
"Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered." (Luke 11:52)
"And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient" (Romans 1:28)
We can know that we are Children of God. "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." (Romans 8,15-17)
We can know that we are brothers as sisters in Christ -- belong to His body; his church "God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (I Cor. 1:9-10) "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." (I Thess. 1:4) "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." (I John 3:14)
We can know of our calling or mission: "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:13-16)
"The spirit of the fear of the Lord" (Recognition of God's holiness and our own insignificance)
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands." (Psalm 111:10 and 112:1)
Seven Dispensations - God's Plan for this World
Many Christians reject dispensational teaching as being non-biblical. I find that there are many things which are not actually in the Bible, yet are quite helpful in understanding scriptures. Chapter and verse divisions are "not biblical", but we all use them and find them quite helpful. I have difficulty with the versions of some dispensational teachers, so I have developed my own. I would never contend that this is a biblical teaching!
THE FIRST (OUTER) PAIR: CREATION AND HEAVEN
1. Created for fellowship with God
2. Eternally saved for fellowship with God
Can you see the Parallel to Isa.11:1-2 ? ("Spirit of wisdom and of understanding")
"Wisdom" is a synonym for God's Word in Proverbs (Proverbs 8:22-31) and "Understanding" is synonymous to "Faith" (Proverbs 9, esp. v. 6). Proverbs 3:19 reads: "The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens." See also: John 1:1-14; Hebrews 12:2
THE SECOND PAIR: CONSCIENCE AND JUDGMENT
Can you see the Parallel to Isa.11:1-2 ? ("Spirit of Counsel and of might")
Moses, Samuel, Gideon and other spirit endowed men of God enjoy close fellowship with God and attempt to convince others to seek his fellowship. Most everyone determines to do what is right in his own eyes rather than seek God's counsel. The age of conscience is coupled with the age of judgment. God allows man to suffer at the hands of the enemy until he screams for help (Judges 6:7-34). In the end times, men who reject God, are turned over to terrible times of judgment of an almighty God.
Both dispensations are represented in the temptation of Christ:
1. Satan offered Jesus all the power of this world, if he would only worship him (Luke 4:6). We read in the book of Judges that Israel rejected God as ruler and insisted upon a king like the heathen nations (I Sam.8).
2. Jesus refused satan's offer and sought counsel in the scriptures. He came out of his time of temptation in the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14). He also gave his disciples power over their enemies (Luke 10:19).
THE THIRD PAIR: LAW AND GRACE
1. Law and God's chosen People
2. Grace and the Elect (church)
Can you again see the Parallel to Isa.11:1-2 ? (Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord)
Man can have knowledge of the Law, but he is unable to fulfill it. Only Christ fulfilled the law. All who fear God are saved by grace, not by works of the law! In Christ and only in Christ are knowledge and grace united to bring us salvation. Knowledge or recognition of truth results in three other areas of knowledge:
We know that we are children of God (Romans 8:14-17 and 31-39)
We know that we belong to each other in Christ's church (John 13:35)
We know of our commission -- the salvation of the lost (Matthew 18:11 and II Cor.4:3).
The author of Hebrews compares the situation in these two dispensations in chapter 12, concluding with the words, "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire."
THE MIDDLE COLUMN: JESUS CHRIST
God became flesh and lived among men. His crucifixion and resurrection mark the center of all history. Jesus in the central pillar of all history, the "author and finisher of the faith" (Hebrews 12:2).
Ralph V. Harvey