“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, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev 1:4-6) The seven spirits are mentioned in Isaiah 11:1-5. In Hebrew understanding, this stems from creation language, where God made the world in seven days. “Seven” speaks of God’s care and restorative purposes for the creation. This care is his wisdom, understanding and knowledge, by which creation was first formed, and by which it shall be reformed.
These seven spirits are said to rest upon the Messiah and the purpose is so that he might bring righteousness to the world. This righteousness is to judge mercifully the cause of the poor, widow and meek of earth. It is a counter-cultural kingdom to the forms of government we see in the world, that do not care for those in need. Christ turns things upside down, so the least and the weakest are served. This is his judgement and his wisdom upon which new creation is formed. This is a threat to the powers of Jerusalem and Rome in John’s day.
The result of Messiah’s righteousness in our hearts is a restored earth: God’s love which formed creation in the beginning, triumphs over sin and refashions the creation through his people. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb… They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6, 9)
This is the Hebrew vision John is invoking in the opening of Revelation. John says that Christ is bringing creation into resurrection, so that he might rule over the powers of this world.
And how does he do this? Through the gospel. He frees us from the power of our sins, restores us to our Adamic priesthood over the creation and through his renewed people takes dominion over the violence and self-centredness that destroyed the world.
What a wonderful vision with which to begin the Revelation.
Despite the horrific judgements that are to follow, we see that the seven spirits of God are overseeing the renewing of his creation.
God’s purpose in these judgements is not the destruction of the world, but its restoration and flourishment. The Revelation isn’t a vision about escape from the world to heaven, but rather of heaven coming into this world, through the people of God, for the world’s transformation. To the Hebrew reader, there would have been no doubt about this meaning from the text.