Reading: Revelation 4-5; 1:4-6; 4:5; 5:6.
I want you to notice just one or two features of these passages. There are several things which form a necessary background to what we have in our hearts for this chapter.
I want you first of all to notice that there are two statements here: "I was in the Spirit..." you notice that first in Rev. 1:10 and then in Rev. 4:2. In both cases "Spirit" is spelt, or should be spelt, with a capital 'S' - "I was in the Spirit". It does not mean 'I was spiritualised', but 'I was in the Spirit', and that is an important thing to remember. We will refer to it again presently.
Then we have here two presentations of the Lord Jesus. In chapter one you notice that the Lord Jesus is presented in those wonderful features, "I am the Alpha and Omega" and then later into the chapter "One like unto the Son of Man clothed with a garment down to the foot, girt about the breasts with a golden girdle. His head and His hair were white like wool..." etc., and then in chapter four a coming forth of a revelation or presentation of the Lord Jesus. Two presentations of Him come to the apostle when in the Spirit, and then there are two references to the seven Spirits of God, really there are three, you might notice this again, Rev. 1:4: "And from the seven Spirits that are before His throne"; Rev. 4:5: "Seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God"; then in Rev. 5:6 again, "A Lamb standing as though it had been slain having seven horns and seven eyes which are the seven Spirits of God". Three times that phrase occurs.
And then finally, for this preliminary word, we take note that there are two different periods referred to. In chapter one, and from chapter one to the end of chapter three, you have that dispensation when the Lord Jesus is dealing with the assemblies. Chapter three sees the close of that period and chapter four brings in His administration with regard to those who dwell upon the earth. Two different periods dealing with two different sets of people. Now, those things are important to have by us as we take the great principles which come out in connection with the seven Spirits of God.
You will notice first of all a reference to the Holy Spirit, "I was in the Spirit" and then through those three chapters again and again you have reference to the Holy Spirit, "What the Spirit saith to the churches", and then in the second period, the new conditions, "I was in the Spirit", but you have there nothing further said about the direct activity of the Holy Spirit. But there is a double reference to the seven Spirits of God. You will see that this is of very great importance, for what it amounts to is this: that the Holy Spirit has been operating in relation to the mind of God. He has been at work seeking to bring about a state of things which represent God's thought, God's mind, God's will. And then the Spirit brings the apostle up into the presence of the throne where the Lord Jesus is enthroned and beginning His administrative activity. And as the Spirit brings the apostle up there to that position to see this administrative work commencing, it is as though the seven Spirits of God are revealed as representing that mind of God in Christ. And the Spirit shows how the administration is related to that fully established mind of God in Christ as represented by the seven Spirits of God. And what the apostle now sees is what it is the Holy Spirit has been working towards and how that is the standard of the Divine administration from that point onwards.
It is as though God had set a standard, the Holy Spirit had been working towards that, that was His function; that was His object. And now that standard is there and the administration begins in relation to that standard and everything is decided according to how it approximates to that standard. That standard is an active administrative standard of testing, judging and interrogating according to God's mind in Christ as suggested by the seven Spirits of God. The seven Spirits of God imply administrative activities of God in relation to the Lord Jesus.
In the two passages, the two periods, you have a presentation of the Lord Jesus. The one presentation is concerning the churches and in relation to that there are the seven Spirits. The second presentation is in relation to those that dwell on the earth, to the inhabitants of the earth. It is the Lord Jesus in view in both cases and you have the seven Spirits operating in relation to Him in both cases. And the operation is just this, those seven Spirits which are linked with the Lord Jesus in His position of exaltation and glory and administration, represent the complete and full-orbed spiritual perfections of the Lord Jesus.
You notice that you have here different symbolisms of the seven Spirits. You see that in the first passage you have "And from the seven Spirits that are before His throne"; in the second passage, chapter 4, you have "Seven lamps of fire burning before the throne", in the third passage you have "A Lamb having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits". This is the Lord Jesus. Now, we know that seven is the number or spiritual completeness or perfection. This Lamb has seven horns: the perfect strength of the Lord Jesus, for the horns always symbolise strength or power - the perfection of spiritual strength in Him. Seven eyes: the perfection of spiritual vision, or apprehension, or discernment, or knowledge. Seven lamps: the perfection of spiritual holiness; the fire that burns to refine, to purify, to produce what is holy.
These seven Spirits in all their typology are related to the Person who is there in administrative position and capacity, and the Holy Spirit has been working towards that standard as represented by the Lord Jesus. Now everything is going to be determined according to that standard; that is the administration. The standard is the Lord Jesus in the sum total of His spiritual perfections, not the spiritual perfections of God as God, but the spiritual perfections which have been brought to that state of perfection through suffering, through testing, through trial. It is again as representative Man who was made perfect through suffering, and God has brought One to that administrative position in virtue of what He is spiritually.
You notice the cry went out, "Who is able to take the book and unlock the seals?" and there was not found one in heaven who could do it but, "I looked and behold, the Lamb in the midst of the throne as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, and He came and took the book and opened..." and then everything started singing, "Thou art worthy". What was the worthiness of the Lord Jesus to take the book of administration in the throne? It was the worthiness of what He was, or His own spiritual virtue, in virtue of what He is spiritually through suffering. That is God's standard. Administration is according to God's standard as realised and represented in the Person of the Lord Jesus there in the throne, brought to a certain state of spiritual perfection through sufferings.
Now, that is the basis of all God's dealings with man. The first is with the church, or churches, and the other is with the residue of men. Put it simply, on what basis will God judge? On what basis will the throne administrate? On the basis of what the Lord Jesus is as a representation of God's thought spiritually. Everything will be tested by God having reached and realised a spiritual standard in a glorified Man. He has got that standard realised there in that Person in the throne, and He is going to test all men by that Man, and that is the realisation of the word declared by the apostle in Acts 17, "God hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man, Himself Man, Jesus Christ". But I am not thinking of Jesus as God in this position, it is Jesus as Son of Man in the Revelation. It is the Son of Man, "I, Jesus..." it is Jesus as the Son of Man. And for men Christ Jesus has reached that position along the line of trial, testing, and fires of suffering. He has been made perfect through suffering and now God is going to test every man according to the standard of His own Son, according to the standard of that Man, Himself Man, Jesus Christ. What is going to be the basis of our judgment? It is what the Lord Jesus is towards which the Holy Spirit came to work. He came to work in you and me to bring us to that standard, to bring us up to that level, to develop in us (yes, through suffering, through trial) the spiritual perfections of the Lord Jesus and we are going to stand and be judged according to that standard of what is in Christ.
You see, we all come short - oh, but we have not got there yet. The question for us at the moment is, "Is the Holy Spirit able now by our permission and consent, obedience, cooperation and faith, able now to do all that He can do at this moment?" Not tomorrow, or the future, or the past, the thing is the Holy Spirit having free way in us now. And we have only got to consider today; when tomorrow comes we will have to consider tomorrow. We will take it one day at a time, that the Holy Spirit has His way fully in us hour by hour, moment by moment, day by day and when we have spent all our moments and hours and days, we will not yet have arrived, but if the Holy Spirit has been having His way, in the twinkling of an eye He can complete the work of conformity to the image of His Son.
This is the matter for our consideration and that, you see, is the standard of the administration. The churches are, as it were, brought before that standard, the Lord Jesus is presented in that, in those spiritual perfections symbolised as you noticed. The Spirit is speaking to the churches in relation to that standard, to the revelation of God's mind in Christ, and the constant appeal is, "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith", for what the Spirit is saying is in relation to God's standard. If we fall short of God's standard by our own interruption of the work of the Spirit, then our candlestick is set aside, our testimony becomes obscured, our place of standing before God in acceptance becomes eclipsed and the Lord has to judge. "Repent", "Consider from whence thou art fallen", "Do the first works." This is the administration of Him who is in the midst of the lampstands working by His Spirit in relation to what He is in Himself spiritually. And then in the next dispensation, for in that new dispensation it is to John "the things that are"; chapter 4:1, "the things which shall be afterwards", but the standard is still the same because God made it possible for every man and woman in this world to be conformed to the image of His Son.
God has sent His Spirit not for a few, but for all. "I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh", there is universality of the activity of the Holy Spirit. There is not the remotest corner of this world to which you can go, but the Holy Spirit operates there. He has come that all men might be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ, and eventually all men will be judged, not by whether they were more or less good or bad, not as to whether they committed more sins than other people, as to whether they were better than other people, but according to God's standard in Jesus Christ. That standard is being worked towards by the Holy Spirit. Now, that standard, we have said, is represented in active spiritual forces, or elements, by the seven Spirits; the seven Spirits related to the Lord Jesus for time in His throne, in His position. The seven Spirits represent certain spiritual elements and features of the Lord Jesus.
The Spirit of Life.
You take lamps, fire, or the horns (the power), or the eyes (the vision), and trace through the Word of God and you will find that Life takes those features. Life is represented by fire, power is the power of resurrection life (the horns); vision, apprehension is a mark of Life. The same applies to every other feature, but we will confine ourselves to the very simple statement of truth that firstly, of the seven Spirits you have the Spirit of Life.
How is the Lord Jesus presented first of all in His active capacity in the book of Revelation? "I am He that liveth, I became dead, but behold, I am alive for evermore." "I am the Living One." The Book of the Revelation closes with the throne and the river of the water of Life issued from it. Life is the first feature of Christ in His exalted and glorified position, Life. "I am come that they might have life and that they might have it abundantly." "I am the Life" and how much we might gather up of Life in relation to the Lord Jesus! We are seen to be dead in trespasses and sins, dead so far as our relationship to God is concerned, so far as our relationship to God's things is concerned, so far as our relationship to heaven is concerned. We are dead... doubly dead because of sin which carries death with it, and dead by the Cross of the Lord Jesus by which God has legally committed the whole race to death in the death of Christ. Dead. And until we have been born of the Spirit we do not have Life, the Spirit of Life in Christ, and we are going to be first of all dealt with in the administrative activities of the throne on the basis of whether we possess Life, that Life, and then as to how far that Life is in us. For we must recognise that different believers possess very different measures of Divine Life.
There are some people who are saved, you must not dispute it, they have had a transaction with the Lord, but where is the Life? I do not mean the kind of conduct, but that glorious Divine Life in them expressing itself as Life will express itself. When you get Life, you know you have got it, and other people know you have got it. When the saints at the beginning received the Spirit of Life in Christ, everybody knew it and you never for one moment would have had to say to any one of those believers, "That habit of yours, you have to give it up". The things would have dropped off, fallen away, left them. The old things passed away and all things were new. It was the Life that shed the old things. Today there are so many believers, but oh, the clinging of the old habits, indulgences, interests. Life is not shedding the old thing at all; there is not enough Life there to do it. Firstly it is as to whether we have Life.
Here is the challenge right at the beginning: first of all, have you got Life? And you close the book of the Revelation with that issue, "And whosoever was not found written in the Lamb's book of Life...". Are you quite sure that you are in the book of Life, or the book of the living ones? And then what about the measure of Life? Is Life more abundant in you? Is there Life triumphant, is it the Life of resurrection which is a horn of power, which is an eye of vision and perception? You know, the more Divine Life we receive by the Holy Spirit from the Lord Jesus, the more discernment we have. The spiritual eye grows dim when the spiritual Life wanes; spiritual discernment and apprehension grows keen as the Life increases. It is the eye of the seven Spirits, and oh, for the fire of zeal and passion and burning like the burning lamp of the seven Spirits - Life! It is not going to be some merely legal code by which we are judged, but according to our living spiritual state. The seven Spirits are active laws in relation to what Christ is and the active laws of the seven Spirits first demand the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ.
Now that, of course, ought to occupy the whole evening and whole conference, but one mentions it. Let us test ourselves before the throne, even now, may it not be that the churches are standing before the bar of the Lord now and He has to say, "Thou hast a name to live and thou art dead" and the judgment is we have not got Life, and we have not got the measure of Life we ought to have. Let us test it personally.
First of all, have we received in new birth, by regeneration, by an act of the Holy Spirit a transaction with God, have we received the gift of God which is eternal Life in Jesus Christ our Lord? If you have got it you know it. Shall I say, if you have got HIM who is Life, you will know it, and if you do not know it, you ought to go to the Lord in a very serious state of uncertainty and ask the Lord about this thing, "With all my religious profession and church-going I am not sure I have got Him resident within who is Life". Get that settled. And if you are sure you are the Lord's, what about the measure of Life? For there are increasing measures of Divine Life and the Lord would have us filled with the Spirit of Life.
Then as to the seven Spirits in relation to the Lord Jesus,
The Spirit of Holiness.
This is an active principle, an active virtue and feature in the Person of Jesus Christ, the glorified Son of Man. The Holy Spirit has been here as the Spirit of Holiness to work towards that standard. Now we are going to be judged according to how we measure up to the Spirit of Holiness. God has reached His standard of holiness in the Lord Jesus for man, the Holy Spirit has come to reach that standard in the Lord Jesus in every other believer. The administrative activity of that throne will be in relation to what God has in Christ, and what the Holy Spirit has come to do in us in the matter of practical holiness.
We were speaking in the previous chapter much about our sanctification by the Spirit - spirit, soul and body - wholly the Lord's. Let us remember that we have to stand before God's standard in the Lord Jesus and not be judged by any other law than what God made possible in the coming of the Holy Spirit. You see, what God requires, He makes possible. He is righteous, He is just, and God has never laid a demand upon any man without providing for the accomplishing or attainment of that demand. And when God says, "Be ye holy for I am holy" He gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him, in order to be holy and to fulfil His own requirements.
The question is: are we walking in holiness? Is the Holy Spirit being freely able to work holiness in us or are we checking it? It is not a matter of the position we have reached, more or less, it is the matter of whether the Holy Spirit is having His way in this holiness matter now. He can complete the holiness in a moment, but that is not our concern. Our concern is, have we today been abandoned to the Spirit of holiness? Have we, with every touch of the Spirit of holiness upon our conscience making us know that something was, or is wrong, displeasing the Lord, something is out of harmony with this life, have we gone to the Lord and cleared that up? I am not talking about being sinlessly perfect. "If any man say that he hath no sin he deceiveth himself but if we sin we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and if we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us." God has provided a place and a way for instantaneous dealing with sins that believers commit and that is yielding to the Holy Spirit. No one will think they can presume upon that and think lightly of sin.
The matter of holiness is God's standard and God requires that we shall yield to the conviction about sin and the Holy Spirit will always lead us to the Cross and to the blood to clear up sin, but immediately we begin to treat sin lightly because we have an Advocate with God, He will give us a bad time and let us have a period of terrible suffering. We will not get through easily. But if in travail of soul we come in grief and penitence before Him, humbling ourselves, the Holy Spirit will apply the blood and give us peace, and we are not likely to do that again easily. We have yielded to the Spirit of holiness, and God is working towards His Standard, the Lord Jesus, and we all have to be tested by that Standard.
One other thing of the seven, and that is,
The Spirit of Truth.
You notice the Lord Jesus comes in in all these features in the twofold presentation. He is there as Life, the Living One; He is there as Holiness, His hair is white as white wool He is crowned with holiness and purity, He is a purged One as representing man; and then you notice He is presented in the third place as the Faithful and True Witness, and of the seven Spirits the third is the Spirit of Truth. And you notice the Holy Spirit working personally in relation to the seven Spirits is the Spirit of Truth.
The seven Spirits are the administrative agents, the Holy Spirit is the One working towards the Standard by which they will administrate. The Spirit of Truth is the Holy Spirit working towards the Standard in the Lord Jesus who is the Truth: "I am the truth". And this book of Revelation has much to say about the truth. As it closes on the question of Life in the Lamb's book of Life, it also closes on the question of holiness, "Let him that is holy be holy still, him that is unclean be unclean still". The question of holiness comes in as the ultimate issue of the book of Revelation. Then the question of truth and the issue at the end of the book is the same standard, or issue as at the beginning of the book: the Christ, the true Witness. The end of the book: "everything that maketh a lie". The Standard at the end is Christ as the Truth.
I am not speaking just about true things, things said being true things, although that may be included. And I am not just thinking about veracity, the thing can be relied upon as being a fact, as being true in that sense. I am thinking of the spiritual thing, not just doctrine stated, or things which are established because they are true, but I am thinking of spiritual nature. The river of water of Life with which the book of Revelation closes is clear as crystal, and everything in this book is jasper: clear, transparent. The Lord Jesus is that. There is not a shadow of duplicity, suspicion or hypocrisy, doubtfulness or deceitfulness about Him. There is not the slightest film of unreality or insincerity about the Lord Jesus. He is true, He is clear, He is transparent, He is jasper. He can stand before God, the searching eyes of God can go through Him and find nothing in Him that is not absolutely transparently clear and true and pure.
You remember the priests of old, when they took the sacrifice to slay it and go through all its inwards examining them to find, if they could, any flaw, anything that was not absolutely without blemish, and the finding of one spot or blemish meant that the whole of that sacrifice had to be put aside and rejected because that sacrifice was intended to be a representation of the Lord Jesus offered to God. And no sacrifices were offered on Jewish altars, when that priesthood was clean, that could not pass the most careful scrutiny to find a flaw; if they could find anything that was not absolutely clean, the whole thing had to be rejected. It was Christ in view and He was offered to God and acceptable to God. That is the Standard towards which the Holy Spirit has come to work in the believer, and that is the Standard according to which we are measured.