The imagery with the associated meanings of the “sevens” that John saw and wrote about in the first five books of Revelation had to overwhelm the apostle. He was given these pictures in his vision meant to convey the glory and majesty of God. Seven is the number of completeness – of God – so it is no surprise that He would show John many instances of His fullness and perfection. Look at all the sevens portrayed:
- 7 stars (Revelation 1:20)
- 7 lampstands (Revelation 1:20)
- 7 churches (Revelation 1:20)
- 7 seals (Revelation 5:1)
- 7 horns (Revelation 5:6)
- 7 eyes (Revelation 5:6)
- 7 torches (Revelation 4:5)
- 7 spirits (Revelation 1:4, 5:6)
In many places where symbols are used in the Bible, we’re told what they mean. The 7 stars are representative of the angels which oversee the churches to whom John’s letter is written. They could actually be the spiritual entities tasked with superintending those churches, or their pastors. I tend toward the supernatural explanation that they are the spiritual beings given authority over the churches because pastors would come and go over the years, but those same spiritual entities would remain through the ages.
The 7 lampstands are the 7 churches themselves outlined in Revelation 2-3: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. It’s interesting to note that only two of these churches, those in Smyrna and Philadelphia, retained their witness and the complete approval of the Lord. That means that the angels over the other churches effectively failed to complete their assignments.
The 7 seals attached to the scroll given to the Lamb are the Seal Judgments that will be unleashed upon the unbelieving world as this scene is fulfilled at some not-too-distant time in the future. The calling of John into heaven is generally acknowledged by those who hold to the pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine to represent how the church will be called by the Lord into heaven prior to all these subsequent things taking place.
This timing is crucial to a proper understanding of the prophetic nature of all that will occur. Initially Jesus, as the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8) appears to John, this takes place on Patmos, i.e. in the physical realm. However, we see in Revelation 4:1 that after the Lord delivers the message to the churches which John writes down, his servant is taken up into heaven:
After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
The use of the term after this – meta tauta in the Greek – indicates a subsequent event from that which preceded it. John is then told following his translation into heaven that the many scenes he’ll be shown take place in the future. He is no longer on the earth in the symbology depicted when these things happen. John is representative of the church, i.e. the Bride of Christ, that has been snatched into heaven away from the wrath of God coming upon the earth as the Seals are opened. He witnessed these awful judgments – as will we – but he had no part in them.
John then sees the following in Revelation 5:6:
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
In this writing of Revelation, we’re not told specifically what the 7 horns are, however, we do see horns depicted throughout Scripture. They can mean power, authority, or victory. They are often shown surrounding the altar of God that people cling to for His help.
Likewise the 7 eyes are not interpreted directly. We encounter many creatures with numerous eyes throughout (particularly) the Old Testament. The creatures with their many eyes see in every direction. They are indicative of omniscience, i.e. all-seeing and all-knowing.
The Lamb who appears with the 7 horns and 7 eyes is Jesus, i.e. God Himself, who is victorious and sovereign, and who sees everything that goes on in the world. with all understanding.
We’re told the 7 torches are the 7 spirits of God. But what are those spirits? Isaiah 11:2 gives us this knowledge in speaking about Jesus (the stump of Jesse), the Son of God:
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
Thus, the 7 spirits are:
- The Spirit of the Lord (Himself)
- The fear of the Lord
The Lamb of God has all these characteristics. They comprise who He is. Just as God is love, so is the 2nd Person of the Trinity love incarnate. He is also the bodily representation of these virtues which go throughout the earth.
Because of the comprehensive understanding that Christ has of mankind, He has all knowledge by which to judge the unbelieving world that remains following the Rapture of those who have believed and been delivered from their sin, guilt, and shame by His blood. This cannot be said of those who continue to reside on earth once the redeemed are removed.
This is so important. It goes directly to the character of God and the promises He has made to those who love Him. It also speaks of His justice. The Tribulation is a time of intense punishment for those who have chosen to live their lives apart from God. What purpose does it serve making true believers endure this extreme judgment? Jesus has already taken our chastisement upon Himself as Isaiah 53:5 assures us:
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
Would a loving God, a caring Bridegroom, allow His beautiful Bride to be tortured? Seriously? Wouldn’t such a Person do everything possible to keep her from such harm? This is exactly the point of the Rapture. Christ protects us from the time of trial that is coming upon the whole world (Revelation 3:10). This is why He speaks to the faithful church of Philadelphia in this manner. It’s why Paul tells the church in 1 Thessalonians 4:18:
Therefore encourage one another with these words.
What possible encouragement could Paul offer to these believers if they were destined to go through the most horrible time in the history of the earth?
Through the book of Revelation and the faithful writing of John, we are given the vision of the horrors to come upon those who reject God. We are shown how we as believers will be saved. And truly glorious: God gives us a glimpse of the amazing future when He rules upon the earth and all creation glorifies Him!