And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God” (Revelation 4:5). Some commentators have concluded from this verse that the scenes of Revelation 4-7 do not represent the judgment of the Day of Atonement because in the ancient sanctuary the lamps were located in the Holy Place,[1] not the Most Holy Place where the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement took place. But it should not be surprising to find Holy Place imagery during the Day of Atonement since the earthly Day of Atonement services described in Leviticus 16 had much of the activity taking place in the Holy Place. The services began with sacrifices "at the door of the tabernace of meeting" (Leviticus 16:7). The priest offered a bull for himself and took some of the blood of that sacrifice into the Most Holy Place. He then came back out and offered a goat for the congregation and took its blood into the Most Holy Place. He took burning coals from the altar in the Holy Place, put them into a censer and went into the Most Holy Place to offer incense "before the Lord." And finally He came back out and performed the ceremony of the scapegoat. Thus the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement took place in both the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place.

Likewise the sanctuary scene of chapters four and five shows features of both rooms of the sanctuary; the lamps were found in the Holy Place, and the throne, which is the most prominent feature of chapter 4, was found in the Most Holy Place of the ancient santuary.[2] Chapter 4 begins with the statement that John saw "a door standing open in heaven," the door to the Most Holy Place, and with the door open John could see both the Holy and the Most Holy Place.[3]

Actually, the focus on rooms and furniture can result in a literalistic view of what is happening in heaven. But the book of Revelation is highly symbolic, and the Old Testament sanctuary imagery was God's way of conveying to finite human minds some conception of the incomprehensible heavenly realities. One of these realities that the two-room scene conveys is that even while the judgment of the "Day of Atonement" is being carried out, the "daily" intercessory minstry of Jesus (the lamps, the bread, and the incense) is still taking place—"He [Jesus] is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25).

The "seven lamps of fire…are the seven Spirits of God." Seven is the most frequently used number in the Book of Revelation (seven churches, seals, trumpets, thunders, plagues, stars, angels, etc.) and as in the rest of the Bible seven indicates fullness or completeness.[4] There is only one Holy Spirit (1Corinthians 12:13, Ephesians 2:18) but the Spirit manifests Himself in a multitude of ways.[5]

In Chapter 1 John saw seven lampstands, a very similar vision but with a much different meaning—Jesus told him that the "seven lampstands…are the seven churches" (Reveation 1:20). These two views show the close relationship between the church and the Spirit. A lampstand without a lamp gives no light at all (and the church without the Holy Spirit sheds darkness rather than light, as we saw in the tragic history of the church traced in chapters two and three). On the other hand, a lamp without a lampstand illuminates only a small part of the room. Jesus is "the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world" (John 1:9), but now that He is in heaven He has sent the Holy Spirit to bring His light to this darkened planet. But the Spirit does not operate in a vacuum; He generates the fruits and gifts of the Spirit in the lives of believers. God's people, His church, are the receptacles of the Holy Spirit, bringing the light of Jesus to the world. This is why Jesus said Jesus said “I am the light of the world,” (John 8:12) but in Mathew 5:4 He told His disciples, “you are the light of the world.” God's church has the essential role and privilege of lifting up Jesus to the world through the "seven Spirits of God" that fill and empower His followers.

Continue to next section: 4:6-8 FOUR LIVING CREATURES

[1] The furniture in the Holy Pace included the seven-branched lampstand the table of showbread and the golden altar of incense. In the Most Holy Place was the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat. In the courtyard was the brone altar of burnt offering and the laver for washing (Exodus 40:2-7).

[2] In order to explain the presence of the throne in the Holy Place some have suggested that the table of showbread with two stacks of bread symbolized the Father and the Son. Appendix 2 discusses the problems with this view.

[3] The door was not a narrow opening—it took up more than a third of the wall (Ezekiel 41:1-10), so there would be a good view of both rooms.

[4] For example, "Then I saw another sign in heaven…seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete" Revelation 15:1.

[5] Although the primary meaning of seven Spirits is the funess and completeness of the Holy Spirit the various roles of the Spirit cn be delineated, eg. the Spirit of Grace (Hebrews 10:29, Romans 8:15, 26), the Spirit of Instruction, Wisdom and Truth (John 14:16,17), 15:26), the Spirit of Power (Isaiah 11:2, 2 Timothy 1:7, Ephesians 3:16), the Spirit of Judgment and Refining (Isaiah 4:3,4, 28:6, Malachi 3:1-5) the Spirit of Life (Genesis 2:7, Romans 8:2), the Spirit of Prophecy (Revelation 19:10, Ephesians 1:17), the Spirit of Comfort and Encouragement (Acts 9:31, Isaiah 40:1,2, 49:13).