What are the seven churches in Asia and seven spirits before the throne in Revelation 1:4?
Revelation 1:4 is part of the apostle John’s introduction to the book of Revelation.
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 . . . (NASB) Rev. 1:4
He is writing to the seven churches which are in Asia. They were located in the country we now call Turkey.
Some believe the churches represent the spiritual condition of the church down through time. But there is no reason to believe that is true since other letters were written to real people and to real churches. For example, Ephesians was written to the Christians at Ephesus, Corinthians to Corinth, Romans to Rome, Colossians to Colassae. Paul the Apostle also asked that Colossians be sent to Laodicea (Col. 4:16). Books were even written to individuals such as Philemon as well as to groups of people such as Christian Jews (Hebrews) and to the twelve tribes of Israel (James). The apostle was simply naming the churches he was sending the letter to.
The Seven Spirits
The seven spirits refer to the Holy Spirit in the fullness of His ministry both to us and to Christ. The number seven is frequently used in scripture to speak of perfection. So here in Revelation we will see the Holy Spirit in all of His fullness and power.
The phrase ‘seven spirits” occurs three more times in Revelation (3:1; 4:5; and 5:6). Each time we learn something more about the Holy Spirit. In Revelation 4:5 He is between the twenty-four elders and God the Father. There He is pictured as seven lamps of fire. In Acts 2:3 we saw Him as “tongues as of fire.”
And around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. And from the throne proceeded 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; and before the throne there was, as it were, a sea of glass like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. (NASB) Rev. 4:4-6
The next time we see the phrase we are reminded of another character of the Holy Spirit. In Revelation 5:6 we find Him between the twenty-four elders and the throne of God again, but this time He is resting on the Lamb of God – Jesus.
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. Rev. 4:6
The seven eyes and seven horns are on the Lamb. This is what we saw in Acts 2:3, “tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.” This reminds us that the Holy Spirit and Jesus ministered together while Jesus was here on earth.
The seven churches were literal churches to which Revelation was sent. The phrase “seven spirits” is a wonderful way of referring to the Holy Spirit in all of His power and wonder.