In the first chapter of Revelation, “grace. . . and peace” is sent from three different sources: from God (“the one who is, and who was, and who is to come”), from “Jesus Christ,” and from “the seven spirits before [God’s] throne” (1:4-5). And who are the “seven spirits?” That‘s the question.
The customary answer is, “The Holy Spirit, of course.” The Trinity is expected because “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” is such a well- known ecclesiastical expression. However, the three-fold designation, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” occurs only once in the entire Bible (Matt 28:19). The question is, to understand a Biblical word or phrase shall we turn to theology or context?
The view that the “seven spirits” is a symbolic representation of the Holy Spirit (seven being a number of completeness) normally turns to the LXX rendering of Isa 11:2 for support. But the MT has three couplets of two virtues each for a total of six, not seven. The NIV refers to these six virtues as wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and fear of the Lord. Not a convincing exegetical base. The argument that it would be improper to bracket anyone less with the Father and the Son is weakened by passages such as Luke 9:26 and 1 Tim 5:21 where “holy/elect angels” are found to serve that purpose.
So who are the seven spirits? What we do know is that they join the Father and the Son in expressing grace and peace to the churches, they are under the control of the Son, they are torches of fire burning before the throne, and they are the horns and eyes of the Lamb, sent out into all the earth. The conclusion to which I came in my commentary on Revelation is that they are best understood as “part of a heavenly entourage that has a special ministry in connection with the Lamb” (p. 48).
The larger point that I want to support is that in biblical matters, it is wise to begin with what is said rather than with the theological structure we are building. If there is any “trumping” to be done, let it be what God has said.