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[JPT 14 (1999) 27-47]

HERMENEUTICAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE SPIRIT


IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Kobus de Smidt
*
PO Box 39543,
Moreleta Park, Pretoria, South Africa, 0044
email: dsmidt-jc@acaleph.vista.ac.za
1. Introduction: The Qualitative Involvement
of the Spirit in Revelation
The general Christian biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit is compre-
hensive (cf. Heyns 1978: 291; Mller 1997: 1). The Holy Spirit is the
Spirit of the Father and the Son. The Spirit expresses unity between the
Father and the Son. Through the Spirit there exists a relationship
between God and humankind. The Spirit creates unity among believers
(cf. Mller 1997: 146). He is equal in power and dignity to God the
Father and God the Son. The works of the Spirit have, inter alia, to do
with the salvation of humankind, namely the church, the communion of
believers, forgiveness, the resurrection of the body, and eternal life. He
is the comforter and teacher of the saints, the generator and caretaker of
the universal church. He reaches people through the faithful church, and
performs other similar functions.
In later New Testament writings we observe a reduced awareness of
the involvement of the Spirit; it is more formalized, more institutional-
ized (Bauckham 1980: 66). There are no detailed theologies, though
they may be assumed. The involvement of the Spirit is more evident in
everyday activities (Dunn 1982: 705; Van der Watt 1989: 407).
The prominent role of the Spirit is an important characteristic of the
* Kobus de Smidt (DTh, University of South Africa) is head of the Depart-
ment of Religious Studies at Vista University in Pretoria. He also pastors the
Hateld Assembly of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa in Pretoria.
28 Journal of Pentecostal Theology 14 (1999)
book of Revelation, where an interesting emphasis on the doctrine of
the Holy Spirit is expressed. In Revelation the author creates (Rev.
1.11) and uses the concepts Spirit and Spirit of the Lord in various
combinations. In every case the Holy Spirit is meant, although he is
never called by this name (Morris 1989: 49). The references to the con-
cept Spirit (singular or plural) are one of the links between the letters,
the foregoing and the subsequent parts of the book (de Smidt 1994:
232).
The term pneu` ma is found in the following texts: Rev. 1.4, 10; 2.7,
11, 17, 29; 3.1, 6, 13, 22; 4.2, 5; 5.6; 11.11; 13.15; 14.13; 16.1-3, 14;
17.3; 18.2; 19.10; 21.10; 22.6, 17. Some scholars do not accept, as a
matter of course, that the term refers to the Spirit in every instance (cf.
Engelbrecht 1987: 6; Mounce 1992: 2).
In Revelation the Spirit, in harmony with God and the Lamb, is
actively engaged as the mediator of the revelation of John. He gave
John a vision (1.10). This vision was in coram Spiritu and of an all-
embracing nature. We can deduce, therefore, that the Holy Spirit does
not play an insignicant role in Revelation.
In addition, the author received a mission. This entailed, inter alia,
the written communication of his vision to the early Christians (1.11). It
was precisely in the fullment of this, his mission, that the Spirit ren-
dered the author creative and dynamic.
Quantitatively the Spirit is not prominent in Revelation, but he is
qualitatively active throughout (cf. Coetzee 1988: 289). In the saluta-
tion (1.14), the blessing is bestowed by the seven spirits before his
throne. This expression also occurs in 1.4; 3.1; 4.5 and 5.6, and places
Revelation in a pneumatological perspective.
In Revelation several aspects of the work of the Spirit are all very
clearly brought to light.
2. Hermeneutical Perspectives on the Work of the Spirit
a. A Phenomenological Perspective
In Rev. 1.11 the Spirit revealed himself phenomenologically through
the author. The author received a vision (1.1). He had an extraordinary
experience which is expressed by the term ejn pneuvmati, in the Spirit.
This occurs four times in Revelation, namely in 1.10; 4.2; 17.3 and
21.10 (Bauckham 1980: 66). Johns inaugural vision is introduced by
means of the words ejgonovmhn ejn pneuvmati (1.10). These have vari-
DE SMIDTSpirit in the Book of Revelation 29
ously been translated as I was in the Spirit (Bruce 1973: 339) and
The Spirit took control of me (Engelbrecht 1987: 5).
John relates (1.10) that he had been in the Spirit on the Lords day
and that he had then heard a loud voice. In 4.2 the expression is
repeated. According to 17.3, an angel transported John to a desert in the
Spirit. Something similar is mentioned in 21.10, where John states that
an angel took him, in the Spirit, to a great and very high mountain
(Bruce 1973: 339; Engelbrecht 1987: 15).
Late Jewish and Christian writings make it clear that the best under-
standing of this phrase in the Spirit is in the Spirits control. We do
not know exactly what this experience entailed. It has various connota-
tions. Aune (1986: 83) mentions that the experience is peculiar to apoc-
alypses in that the vision is narrated while all but brief references to the
preparatory ritual procedures are generally omitted (cf. Bauckham
1980: 66). The phenomenological aspects are not mentioned; no par-
ticular mode of the Spirits operation is specied. Dunns (1982: 10)
opinion is that it is difcult, especially for those of us who are rational-
ists, to enter sympathetically into the world of thoughts and experiences
of our ancestors. We cannot reconstruct this experience two millennia
after the fact (Jeske 1985: 50). This emphasizes the fact that apocalyptic
narrative is the antithesis of rational religion. The apocalyptist is the
visionary par excellence. The non-rational and the ecstatic played
important roles in early Christianity (Dunn 1982: 9), although of course
the non-rational was not irrational and the ecstasy was not insanity
(Dunn 1982: 9). Visions were enjoyed by all the prominent gures,
including Peter, Stephen, Philip and Paul (Dunn 1982: 10).
Throughout the Bible the Holy Spirit is depicted as illuminator,
energizer and enabler (Williams 1996: 155). For John to be in the
Spirit meant, phenomenologically, that the Spirit enabled him to see
into heaven in a conscious state (1.10; 4). The Spirit drew aside the thin
veil between the physical and spiritual worlds for the seer and displayed
to him, in a unique state of visionary consciousness, the spiritual world
from his location in the physical world (de Smidt 1994: 239). After
preliminary instruction in respect of each of the seven churches, John
was somehow transported by the Spirit into the heavenly throne room
(Rev. 4). Phenomenologically, he was lifted through the agency of the
Spirit beyond the elements of space and time and into the world of
eternity (cf. Barclay 1976: 43; Meeks 1986: 144). The Spirit enabled
30 Journal of Pentecostal Theology 14 (1999)
the author of Revelation to give a literary expression to this phenomen-
ological experience.
Thompson (1990: 8, 56) regards concepts such as going up, open-
ing and Spirit as transformational symbols: there is a dimension to
heaven which cannot be perceived by the natural eye, but which
becomes visible through transformational symbols (1.9; 3.22; 1.10;
4.1). The author is transformed into the Spirit, a transformation hom-
ologous to being brought into heaven (cf. de Smidt 1994: 237).
Through this enablement of the Spirit, Johns readers enter Gods
alternative world. Eternal things are anticipated by the author through
the Spirit. To be in the Spirit is possible only through the intervention
of the Holy Spirit. It was the Spirits task to prepare a persons spirit for
the divine visions he or she was to receive (du Preez 1974: 2). The
authors experience was unique but comprehensible in terms of early
Christian usage (Bauckham 1980: 67; Engelbrecht 1987: 16). The work
of the Spirit may thus be summarized as prophetic-cum-visionary.
The expression ejn pneuvmati accordingly symbolizes a unique state of
personal visionary consciousness (for a critical view of ecstasy see de
Smidt 1994: 234-35). At the same time it is also a symbol of reception
(Jeske 1985: 463). The vision John imparts to his readers, he has
received from the exalted Christ through the Spirit.
Phenomenologically, the Spirit can, according to Revelation, both
use and full human consciousness. The author experienced a suspen-
sion of his normal consciousness (Bauckham 1980: 68). His accus-
tomed sensory experience was replaced by visions and auditions
granted him by the Spirit (cf. de Smidt 1994: 235).
b. A Literary Perspective
The author received a mission (1.11), and the Spirit revealed and
reveals himself in a literary manner through the author. This is sug-
gested by the literary purpose of ejn pneuvmati (Jeske 1985: 458). In the
New Testament this formula is found with a range of associations. The
author of Revelation borrowed it from his sources but applied it in a
new literary context (Jeske 1985: 454, 456). The formula has strategic
importance and implications for the broader structure of the writing: for
instance, the strategic placing of the formula in Revelation (1.10; 4.2;
17.3; 21.10; Jeske 1985: 463; cf. du Rand 1991b: 311; 1993: 309).
The Spirit speaks to the author in the language of his own Jewish
heritage (Thompson 1990: 5). The Spirit therefore incorporates the
authors understanding. But the Spirit also renders the author creative
DE SMIDTSpirit in the Book of Revelation 31
and dynamic, thus enabling him to full his mission and communicate
his vision. Under the guidance of the Spirit, the author, in the throes of
his visionary experience, retains the freedom of his individuality
(Bauckham 1980: 68). The Spirit makes the author responsible for writ-
ing down the Apocalypse (1.11). The formula ej n pneuv mati thus
becomes a symbol of prophetic responsibility (Jeske 1985: 463).
According to Jeske (1985: 458), the author was familiar with the
writings of Paul and the models Paul applied in his itinerant ministry in
order to stay in contact with his distant congregations. As an itinerant
prophet, the authors greatest problem was his physical distance from
his sphere of inuence. Like Paul, the prophetic speaker became an
author and his hearers, readers (Jeske 1985: 457). The language he uses
is that of prophetic discourse.
Under the guidance of the Spirit the author casts his vision in the
mould of a specic genre: an apocalypse (cf. Mounce 1990: 18; Cloete
and Smit 1992: 56; de Smidt 1994: 230). His creativity is illustrated by
the fact that he incorporates elements, inter alia, of epistolary art, nar-
rative, prophetic writings and the principles of rhetoric. His literary end
product is, then, an apocalyptic and prophetic, yet pastorally reassuring
document with unique stylistic characteristics. This document is sent
out to the congregations (cf. Botha 1988: 13; Puskas 1989: 51; du Rand
1991b: 287; Wall 1991: 12; Carson 1992: 479; de Smidt 1994: 230).
The author uses the well-known rhetorical principles of his times (du
Toit 1992: 470; de Smidt 1994: 231). By using the principle of ethos (a
persuasion tool), the author attempts to present a positive image of him-
self to his readers (1.9). In this regard the formula ejn pneuvmati is a
symbol of identication (cf. Jeske 1985: 463). The author uses this code
and the principle of ethos to convince his readers, from whom he is
separated, of the legitimacy of his prophetic message. The logos prin-
ciple contained the requirements for logical deliberation. This appears
from the structuring of Revelation (cf. du Rand 1990: 358). The pathos
principle appeals to the readers emotions (e.g. 1.3-4; cf. du Toit 1992:
470). He uses these principles in a rhetorical, historical situation. The
Spirit renders him creative so that he can lead his readers to an under-
standing and acceptance of their crisis or transition situation (Botha
1988: 13; Schssler Fiorenza 1989: 181; du Rand 1990: 582).
The logos aspect in particular is carefully developed. With the aid of
apocalyptic symbols (symbols were important in the logos aspect) and
images, the author, among other things, executes a quantum leap and
32 Journal of Pentecostal Theology 14 (1999)
creates a symbolic universe (Vorster 1986: 159; Schssler Fiorenza
1989: 6). He uses, for example, an old metaphor, the city of Jerusalem,
to depict eternity (21.9). The author creates a conceptual world in
which his readers, the aggrieved Christians of Asia Minor, can nd
encouragement and experience a positive sense of resignation. In order
to create this symbolic universe, the author, through the Spirit, uses,
among others, the concept ejn pneuvmati (de Smidt 1993: 231).
Du Rand (1991b: 311; 1993: 309) indicates that the formula ej n
pneuvmati was functional in the structuring of Revelation and points to
the importance of contrast. This formula contrasts the earth and the
heavens (1.10; 4.12); the desert (17.1, 3) and the high mountain (21.10);
Christs deeds in the church and in the cosmos (cf. 4.1). The fall of
Babylon (17.3) is contrasted with the destination of the bride (church)
in 21.10, etc.
Blevins (1980: 394) is of the opinion that John did his writing in Asia
Minor, the very heart of Greek culture. Blevins (1980: 395) indicates
clear similarities between Revelation, the theatre in Ephesus and the
Greek tragedies. According to him, Revelation is a literary work in
which John made use of Greek forms and motifs to communicate his
message clearly to his readers. It is not, however, literary ction (Visser
1975: 25). Hendriksen (1952: 40) refers to Revelation as Gods audio-
visual presentation.
Among the most important stylistic characteristics of Revelation are
the authors use of anthropomorphisms and metaphors. Texts which are
of importance in this regard are 1.4; 3.1; 4.5 and 5.6. In these, reference
is made to the seven spirits and the seven eyes of the seven spirits
(cf. Bauckham 1980: 75; 1993: 162; de Smidt 1994: 241; 1995: 160-65;
Fekkes 1994: 108).
The seven eyes of the Spirit (5.6) is an anthropomorphism. The
Bible, and specically the author of Revelation, describes Gods deeds
anthropomorphicallyin other words, as if he were in human form.
This is proof of the inadequacy of human discourse on the subject of
God, because God is essentially hidden. We should, however, recall
that the oriental person of Johns day expressed him/herself more visu-
ally and less abstractly than his/her modern Western counterpart (de
Smidt 1995: 165).
Much more could be said about the literary perspective of the for-
mula ej n pneuv mati. As the inspiration of the authors narrative, the
Spirit seeks to reveal himself to the early Christians through Johns dis-
DE SMIDTSpirit in the Book of Revelation 33
tinctive stylistic approach. The Spirit thus reveals himself ejn pneuvmati
in a literary manner. This suggests the wholeness of life within the
believing community of Asia Minor with which God continued to
communicate (cf. Wall 1991: 57).
The stylistic characteristics probably have their roots in the Old Tes-
tament and apocalyptic writings, in particular. This presupposes that the
author uses language and symbols which were already known to the
community he is addressing. Just as every community has its inside
jokes, this one had its inside metaphors, which helped to give it a
sense of separate identity.
But with these stylistic techniques, the Spirit shows that he is by his
very nature involved in, and concerned with, the congregations and the
world. He has a living relationship with humankind and the world. He
is the life-generating Spirit, and awakens the believers spiritual life
through human language. In this regard Revelation may also be called a
book with a supremely human orientation.
The idea that the Spirit took control of a human being, and was then
instrumental in revealing divine truths and the will of God to him in
literary terms, underlines the fact that neither the prophet nor the Chris-
tian community had become robots. The prophet was used within the
scope of his human capabilities and shortcomings (de Smidt 1995:
164).
c. A Social Perspective
The concept ej n pneuv mati may, as a symbol of relationship, also be
interpreted from a sociological perspective. The Spirit thus also reveals
himself in the socio-historical milieu in which Revelation made sense to
its original readers (for a discussion of the socio-historical circum-
stances of Revelation, cf. de Smidt 1994: 29).
At the command of the Spirit, the author addresses, towards the end
of the rst century, a prophetic-cum-pastoral letter to the congregations
on the coast of South-West Asia. Sociologically speaking, the letter
contains a sociology of conict (e.g. 1.9; 13.16; 14.8). The author is
severe in his condemnation of the prevailing social order. The reason
for this was that Christians were experiencing social deprivation in
many areas (e.g. 1.9). Ethnically, culturally and spiritually they had
been largely displaced and this had, in turn, led to social tension (e.g.
11.7-9). The Christians had come to regard themselves as a liminal,
marginal community. Their structural attributes formed an antithesis to
34 Journal of Pentecostal Theology 14 (1999)
the surrounding social structures of the rst century (e.g. 2.6; de Smidt
1995: 159).
By means of the pastoral letter, the author through the Spirit
strengthens and nurtures the communitas of Christians. The author pro-
vides his readers with a steady anchor: the Spirit is involved in their
communitas (cf. 1.10; 4.2; 5.6, etc.). The Spirit gives them the strength
they need to resist Satanic confrontations from without and within (3.1).
They do experience social deprivation, but the specic depiction of the
Spirit reveals to them those Christ-centred values which bolster them
inwardly. In addition, the Spirit shows them that they are not in fact a
liminal, marginal community. Through his Spirit, God has established
his kingdom in their midst: they are therefore Gods community ej n
pneuvmati.
d. A Congregational Perspective
The work of the Spirit in Revelation is aimed at the life of the congre-
gation, the communitas (Jeske 1985: 458). To be ejn pneuvmati is a sym-
bolic code for participation in the community of the Spirit.
The author of Revelation expresses the closest possible union
between the Spirit and the congregations when he links both Spirit and
congregations to the burning lampstand in the Old Testament tabernacle
(1.12, 13; du Preez 1971: 50). It is clear from Revelation that the Spirit
is intimately connected with the salvation, the sanctication, the wor-
ship, the discipleship, the witness, the prayer life and the unity of the
congregations and, by implication, of the church (cf. du Preez 1971: 48;
Potgieter 1984: 3).
The term seven spirits in the salutation (1.4) could also be a symbol
of the various manifestations of the Spirit which were localized in each
of the seven congregations (Jeske 1985: 462). The fact that the author
of Revelation works throughout with Old Testament motifs makes it
probable that his scriptural background may be found in Isa. 11.1-2,
where the Spirit manifests in a sevenfold manner as the Spirit (1) of the
Lord, (2) of wisdom, (3) of understanding, (4)of counsel, (5) of power,
(6) of knowledge, and (7) of the fear of the Lord (Coetzee 1988: 289).
The Spirit in Relation to the Salvation of the Congregation. The saluta-
tion (1.4-5a) probably reects the structure of the tabernacle in the
desert (cf. Exod. 25.22-31; Zech. 4.1-1; Rev. 4; 5.6; du Preez 1971: 49-
50). The author of Revelation adapts the symbolism in his own manner.
DE SMIDTSpirit in the Book of Revelation 35
In the salutation (1.4), the blessing is bestowed by the seven spirits
before his throne. This expression puts the salvation of the congrega-
tion in a pneumatological perspective.
The Spirit is included in the salutation in the closest possible working
relationship with the Father and the Son (Coetzee 1988: 289). With the
Father and the Son, the Spirit is the giver of grace and peace. Grace and
peace (1.4) both refer to the salvation which was accomplished by
Christ (du Preez 1971: 50-51). Grace is Gods unmerited, forgiving
mercy. Peace is the all-embracing fruit of Gods grace. It is only
through the Spirit that the elements of grace and peace enter and ll the
lives of Gods elect.
Revelation 22.17 is an especially noteworthy call to the faithless:
whosoever is thirsty should drink of the water of life before it is too
late. This urgent vertical cry of the believers through the Spirit, Come,
Lord Jesus, echoes forth horizontally into the world, taking the form of
an urgent plea: Come, O sinner, come before the Lord comes. Since
this is one of the last words addressed by God to the congregations
(22.17), it accordingly has much urgency as far as the salvation of the
world is concerned (du Preez 1971: 53).
There is also an extraordinary relationship between the speaking
Jesus and the speaking Spirit in the seven letters. Each letter com-
mences with an introduction by Jesus himself and concludes with a call
to recognize the authority of the Spirit (e.g. 2.8, 11, 18, 29).
The Spirit and the Sanctication of the Congregations. The congrega-
tions with which the Spirit is united are identied by golden lampstands
and white clothes, implying holiness (1.12; 4.4). The Spirit, with whom
the congregations are united, is identied by seven burning lamps of
re (4.5), implying burning holiness and purity (1.12; 11.1). In Revela-
tion 2 and 3, ve of the seven congregations are warned by the Spirit
against all manners of sin (du Preez 1971: 51). Nowhere in Revelation
is the Spirit called the Holy Spirit, but the holiness which salvation
implies is stressed in different ways.
The Spirit and Worship. The formula ejn pneuvmati also has a liturgical
meaning (Jeske 1985: 463). Being ejn pneuvmati in one of the seven
churches of Asia Minor on the Lords day is to be in koinonia rst with
the Spirit who addresses them and also with other believers in their
struggle (1.9, 10).
36 Journal of Pentecostal Theology 14 (1999)
In this regard Thompson (1990: 72) denes prophetic revelation in
Revelation. The prophet is one who, enlightened by the Spirit, reveals
Gods hand in history both to Gods people and those who have an ear
to listen (1.10; 2.7). In the Bible, prophecy is never a matter of mere
clairvoyance or of forecasting the future (Coetzee 1988: 295). In
Revelation it centres more on the already, the now and the not yet
of Gods deeds.
The seer received his visions on the Lords day (1.10)in sacro
temporethe day of worship in the early church. Aune (1986: 89) and
Thompson (1990: 72) are of the opinion that one of the liturgical func-
tions of Revelation was to evoke a new actualization of the original
revelatory experience of the seer. According to Paul, prophetic revela-
tion is both received and proclaimed in the context of worship (1 Cor.
14.26, 32). All prophets should be allowed to present their revelation,
so that all of their people may both learn and be comforted. The prophet
may employ any one of several forms of worship: a prayer, a hymn, a
revelation or even a teaching. The important thing is that the service
should be orderly and controlled. True prophets, even when they are in
the Spirit, have control in this regard. The close connection between
worship and prophetic revelation in Revelation possibly conforms to
what Paul says in 1 Corinthians in reference to several of these aspects
(Thompson 1990: 72).
One of the characteristics of Spirit-inspired prophecy is that it is satu-
rated with a number of glorious outbursts of praise to God (e.g. 4.8, 11;
5.9, 10, 12, 13; 7.10, 12; 11.5, 17-18; 15.3-4; 19.1-8). Indeed, the grace
of the Spirit in the life of Gods people makes them an irrepressible
singing communitas under all circumstances (cf. Wall 1991: 47).
Revelation is a letter intended to be read in the assembly of the
believers (1.3). It also takes into account, especially in 22.17 (Whoever
is thirsty, let him come), the presence in the service of those who are
still interested outsiders. Whosoever hears the congregations prayers
and praises to God should also be moved to pray; and whosoever is
thirsty should drink of the water of life before it is too late. What a
witnessing power is revealed in a divine service where people worship
and are lled with the Spirit of God! The direct vertical act of worship-
ping God has immediate and far-reaching horizontal effects.
Revelation 22.17 takes place within the context of a congregation at
worship and summarizes wonderfully and urgently that which may be
termed the kingdom task of the congregation; their worship and praise
DE SMIDTSpirit in the Book of Revelation 37
of God, their witness in the world, their prayers for the world (du Preez
1971: 53).
The Spirit and Discipleship. Adams (Wall 1991: 47) has identied
categories pertaining to discipleship in Revelation which demonstrate
the authors pastoral concern. The text references disclose a direct rela-
tion between the work of the Spirit and the functioning of discipleship.
The characteristics of discipleship are found in the various exhorta-
tions to the rst readers. These occur throughout the book: (1) hear (i.e.
obey and repent in the light of) the Word of the Lord (2.17; 3.22; 22.17;
cf. 1.3; 3.3); (2) endure suffering (2.17; 3.21; 14.10, 12; cf. 1.9; 2.2;
7.4; 12.11; 13.10); (3) be faithful to the point of death (2.10; 11.3;
14.13; cf. 12.11; 20.4); (4) understand the signicance of names as
marks of true identity (2.17; cf. 14.1, 9; 20.4); (5) afrm publicly the
apostolic denition of orthodoxy, especially afrmation by the commu-
nitys teachers (2.4, 5, 11; cf. 2.2, 15, 20); (6) undergo self-evaluation
leading to correction and repentance (2.21, 22, 29; 3.3, 6, 19, 22; cf.
2.5, 16; 9.20, 21; 16.9, 11); (7) witness the gospel publicly by overcom-
ing evil and living for God, which is orthopraxy (2.7, 11, 17, 26, 29;
3.4-6, 15-22; 5.5-6; 15.2; 17.3, 14; 21.7; cf. 12.11; 14.4; 18.4; 22.11,
14); and (8) worship God and Gods lamb publicly (4.8, 11, 15; 15.6, 9-
10; 11.5, 17; 15.3; cf. 1.17; 5.12-13; 7.10; 11.15; 16.5; 19.1, 5-6).
In virtually all these text references, the Spirit is involved with disci-
pleship in the congregations.
The Spirit and the Witness of the Congregations in the World. In 5.6
there is an image of the crucied but resurrected Lord, with perfect
power (seven horns) and perfect sight (seven eyes). The author says the
seven eyes of the Lamb are at the same time the seven spirits sent out
into all the earth. The spirits are sent out. The verb is ajpestagevnoi,
from which the word apostle is derived, and the form of the word
suggests that the Spirit is still active in the world (cf. 2 Chron. 16.9).
The seven eyes in Rev. 5.6 symbolize the watchful, active operation of
Gods Spirit poured forth through the death and victory of the Lamb.
As the eyes of the Lamb, the Spirit has a mission to all the earth (du
Preez 1971: 52).
But the Spirit is sent into the world through the congregations. The
author of Revelation links the Spirit and the congregations closely
together in the Old Testament symbol of the golden lampstand with its
38 Journal of Pentecostal Theology 14 (1999)
seven lamps of re (1.12; 5.6; 11.4). Its lamps, made of beaten gold,
burn throughout the night. They are fuelled with pure oil of crushed
olives in order that they may produce a pure light. Du Preez (1971: 52)
sees this as a symbol of Gods people, witnesses for him in the world
because they are lled with the Spirit of him who was crushed to death
but who, for the very reason that he was willing to be the sacricial
Lamb, became the peoples pure Lamp (21.23; du Preez 1971: 52).
The prophetic task of the congregations, to witness the Lamb, is fur-
ther worked out in the relation of the Spirit (5.6) and the two witnesses
in 11.3. In the biblical image, two witnesses represent a powerful and
legitimate act of witness. This is also a symbol of the prophetic
preaching of the congregations. The Spirit therefore renders the victory
of the Lamb and the preaching of the congregations both credible and
powerful. The witnessing of the sacriced Lamb who was victorious is
universal. The Spirit grants the congregations (church) the power to
prophesy (11.3; cf. de Smidt 1995: 163).
From this it is clear that the witnessing task of both the congregations
and the disciples includes the spontaneous witness of a Spirit-lled life
as well as the deliberate act of witness through the proclamation of a
Spirit-lled word (du Preez 1971: 52).
For various scholars the phrase in 19.10 (for the testimony of Jesus
is the spirit of prophecy) is a crux interpretum (cf. Bruce 1973: 337;
Ford 1975: 284; Morris 1989: 222; de Smidt 1994: 242). Two compo-
nents of the text are of particular importance, namely the testimony of
Jesus and the spirit of prophecy.
The expression the testimony of Jesus refers to Jesus himself as the
faithful witness (1.5; 3.14). This testimony includes the truth that Jesus
himself revealed. In this case the whole of Revelation is the truth
revealed to the people (22.16, 20; cf. de Smidt 1983: 108, 132; 1994:
242). This presupposes that Jesus and the truth he proclaimed, and
specically as it appears in Revelation, had become the responsibility
of the Spirit and the believers. They were obliged to tell of Jesus and
proclaim his truth. This is both proclamation and parenesis.
A dynamic translation of the spirit of prophecy could possibly be:
the Spirit that gave the prophecy. The Spirit was therefore instrumen-
tal in conveying to the congregations the truth which Jesus had
revealed. The whole of Revelation could be regarded as a speaking of
the Spirit (14.13; du Preez 1974: 2; cf. Coetzee 1988: 292).
The double witness of the believers with a Spirit-lled life and a
DE SMIDTSpirit in the Book of Revelation 39
Spirit-lled word should be proclaimed to a sinful and essentially
antagonistic world. The author of Revelation clearly shows that wit-
nessing implies suffering in one form or another (1.9). But to be Spirit-
lled means to possess witnessing zeal under all circumstances. When
the community of the Spirit neglects this task, it grieves the Spirit, who
was sent into the world for the sake of the world (du Preez 1971: 53).
The horizontal role of the Spirit, which is the congregations task, is to
engage actively in a worldwide witnessing task (22.17).
The Spirit and the Unity of the Congregation. The Spirit (5.6) actively
concerns himself with the unity of the congregations, in other words, of
Christianity itself (de Smidt 1994: 74). In Revelation there are powerful
images of the unity of Christianity (du Preez 1991: 4).
In 5.6 John sees the Lamb standing in the centre of the throne of
God and encircled by 24 elders. This is an image of the community of
the Spirit (the church), with the throne of God and the Lamb at its
centre. Christianity in its diversity is united around the victorious Lamb.
The elders (Christianity in its entirety) sing as if from one mouth the
praises of the Lamb (5.9-10). He has ransomed them from every tribe
and language and nation and dedicated them to God. Christ is also
encircled by seven golden lamps, the seven congregations in Asia
Minor which represent the entire church on earth (1.20).
The unity of Christianity remains of real interest to the Spirit (du
Preez 1991: 4; de Smidt 1995: 174).
The Spirit and the Omega-Point Prayer in the Congregations. The con-
gregations have a vertical task: prayer, in which the Spirit takes the
initiative. The Spirit and sincere prayer are often intimately linked in
the Scriptures. He is and remains forever the bearer of the prayers of the
believers (Coetzee 1988: 293). This prayer is directed to Christ. On two
occasions in Revelation 22 the Bridegroom says: I come quickly
(22.7, 12; cf. 1.7, 3.11). In answer to this assurance, just as in the
instance of v. 20, the Bride offers her ardent prayer, moved by the
Spirit: Even so, come, Lord Jesus (du Preez 1971: 53).
The verb come is written in a form (present imperative) which
includes not only the Lords nal coming, but all his comings through
the ages, with their consummation in the nal coming. It can also mean,
proceed with thy work of coming. But come as a matter of urgency
(du Preez 1971: 54).
The conclusion may thus be drawn that the Spirit is also the bearer of
40 Journal of Pentecostal Theology 14 (1999)
the most glorious nal eschatological prayer. It is likewise a sigh amid
great tribulation (cf. 7.14; 22). But this is not the sigh of the despon-
dent, but that of the yearning Bride who joyfully awaits the advent of
her bridegroom.
The same Spirit who sympathetically prays with the Bride in times of
social and spiritual deprivation (3.10), prays for the adventbut also
promises the congregations that the grace of the Lord Jesus is with
Gods people (22.21). The Bible concludes with this prayer, which has
simultaneously a Spirit-lled and a joyful tone (Coetzee 1988: 293).
The Spirit as the Life-Generating Spirit. Throughout Revelation the
Spirit is the life-generating Spirit (3.1). He summons to life the congre-
gations which are spiritually moribund (3.1; 2; 6; cf. Ezek. 37.1-14).
The Spirit then demands the obedience of the seven congregations
(2.11; 3.6). This is followed by the promise of victory and the inheri-
tance of eternal life with God and Christ (e.g. 2.17, 26; 3.5, 21).
The Spirit and the Covenant. In the trinitarian salutation (1.14), the rst
person mentioned is God the Father, the second person the Spirit and
the third person Jesus Christ. The trinitarian order according to Revela-
tion is therefore: Father, Holy Spirit, Son. The place the Spirit occupies
in the salutation as well as the work he does (sending grace and peace)
puts him on an equal footing and in a close working relationship with
the Father and the Son. The Spirit, according to Revelation, occupies a
hierarchically important place (Coetzee 1988: 289). Du Preez (1971:
49) is convinced that the reason for this unusual trinitarian order is to be
found in the fact that this salutation is based on the structure of the
covenant tabernacle in the desert, with its most holy part, its holy part,
and its court. The author sees covenant grace and peace owing forth
from the most holy place, where the mercy seat resembles the throne of
God the Father (the name of God here is the great covenant name of
God, cf. Exod. 3.14-15; 25.22). Then, with the same tabernacle struc-
ture in mind, the grace and peace ow forth from the holy place, where
the lampstand with its burning candles (Exod. 25.27) resembles the
Holy Spirit, cf. Rev. 4.5. Eventually the author sees grace and peace
owing forth from the court, where the different offerings had to be
brought and the laver of bronze stood lled with waterall resembling
the covenant work of atonement through Jesus Christ (Exod. 40.28-33).
The Holy Spirit is thus active in the covenant work of atonement (du
Preez 1971: 50).
DE SMIDTSpirit in the Book of Revelation 41
The Spirit is invariably more closely qualied as the Spirit who is
before the throne of God (4.2, 5; 5.6; cf. de Smidt 1995: 168). This is
a key motif in Revelation and is indicative of a strong relation between
the Spirit and the covenant number (7), and the Spirit and the kingdom
of God. The number seven is an Old Testament covenant number and
occurs more frequently in Revelation than anywhere else in the Scrip-
tures. It is a sign of Gods covenant relation with humanity and espe-
cially with the seven congregations (the church). Where the Spirit in
Revelation is linked with the covenant number seven, he is clearly
represented by Gods great gift of the last days (cf. du Preez 1971: 50;
Coetzee 1988: 291).
The seven golden lampstands in Revelation are clearly connected
with the Spirit (1.12; 4.5). The seven lampstands symbolize the
covenant people of God. At the time when the author wrote this, there
were more congregations in the area than the seven specically men-
tioned (e.g. Colossae: Morris 1989: 48). But in order to highlight the
covenant number seven (1.10, 20) only seven were chosen. In other
words, the seven congregations of Asia, represented by the seven
golden lampstands, represent Gods covenant people not only in those
seven Asian congregations, but his people from all nations and all
times. The union between the Spirit and the congregations means cove-
nant communion, that is, communion between the covenant God and
his covenant people (cf. du Preez 1971: 50).
The sincere bond between the Spirit and the covenant also emerges
from Rev. 4.2-6, where the sign of the covenant, in the form of a rain-
bow, is linked to the throne and the Spirit (4.2-6; cf. Ezek. 1.13-19; 26-
28; Coetzee 1988: 292).
The throne-Spirit-kingship link is clear from 1.4-10 and its parallels.
Besides the term throne, kingdom/kingship occurs three times (cf.
1.5c, 6a, 9b), plus the kingly term Pantocrator (v. 8), and the Spirit
twice (vv. 4c, 2a).
In Revelation the working of the Spirit is thus placed in a strong
covenant and kingdom perspective.
e. A Metaphorical (Anthropomorphic) Circumscription of the Spirit: A
Possible Interpretation of the Seven Spirits, Seven Eyes and Seven
Horns
The Origin of the Metaphor. The expression seven spirits is found in
Rev. 1.4; 3.1; 4.5 and 5.6 (Bauckham 1993: 150; de Smidt 1995: 160,
42 Journal of Pentecostal Theology 14 (1999)
165). It is a symbol of the Spirit of God. This symbol was possibly used
by the author of Revelation on the grounds of his exegesis of Zech. 4.1-
4 (for a detailed description and alternative views of Zechariahs vision
and alternative interpretations see Bauckham 1993: 163; de Smidt
1994: 241; 1995: 160-64; Fekkes 1994: 108). The number seven is a
symbolic indication of the plenitude of the Holy Spirit. The lampstand
motif (Zech. 4.2, 3; Rev. 1.12; 4; 5.6; 11.4) articulates the transcenden-
tal and immanent work of the Spirit in a unique manner. In Zech. 4.2
the lampstand is a representation of God himself. The seven lamp wicks
are symbolic of the Spirit and the eyes of the Lord. There were also two
witnesses who were fed from the bowl of olive oil; they are symbolic of
the messengers of God (de Smidt 1995: 161, 163).
Relation of the Spirit with God and the Lamb (Trinity). In the
(trinitarian) salutation (1.1-10) the Spirit is mentioned second, and not
third. The Spirit is therefore in the closest interactive working relation-
ships with the Father and the Son.
Besides the Spirits relation with the throne of God (5.5, 6), there is
the close relation of the Spirit with the Lamb. The vision of the throne
features the Lamb standing before the throne. He has seven horns and
seven eyes. The seven eyes are also the seven spirits of God who were
sent out over the earth. The relation is so intimate that God, the Lamb
and the Spirit are sometimes referred to as collateral terms (Bring
1987: 265).
The author sees the Spirit throughout as the equivalent of God and
the Lamb. God, the Lamb and the Spirit are seated on the throne. The
Spirit is also the Spirit of God and of the Lamb. The eyes of the Spirit
are also the eyes of God and of the Lamb. The message of God is also
that of the Lamb and of the Spirit (cf. 1.1-2; 3.21; 4.5; 5.6; 7; 9-10;
11.3-13; 17; 22.1, 3). This means that God rules the congregations of
the universe through the Lamb (Christ events) and the Spirit. Gods
omnipotence is manifested through the Lamb and the Spirit. This takes
place because the Lamb was sacriced (Bring 1987: 266; de Smidt
1995: 171).
The Spirit: The Eyes and Power of God in Every Believer. Revelation 5
is the story of the Lambs implied ascent to the throne in the throne
chamber. The sacriced Lamb indicates the oblatory Lamb, the central-
ity of the cross of Jesus, where he ransomed humanity for God with his
DE SMIDTSpirit in the Book of Revelation 43
blood and made them a kingdom of priests of God (5.9-10, cf. de
Villiers 1987: 130; de Smidt 1995: 168). Little is said of his death and
resurrection or his life and teachings in Revelation (Guthrie 1981: 69;
Bring 1987: 265), but the eschatological process of the death, resur-
rection, ascent to the throne and the salvation of Gods people is initi-
ated by the power of the Spirit. Early Christians interpreted this
eschatological process as the rst day of the new creation, the eighth
day. This was the day of their hope, of which Rev. 21.5 was the nal
goal (cf. Moltmann 1990: 100, 105; de Smidt 1995: 160).
The Spirit is identied with eyes, the eyes of God, the Lamb and the
believers (5.6). He sees the entire cosmos. Nothing escapes him. He is
the Spirit of perception (the Deus praesens). He is also identied with
the eyes of every individual believer (5.6). Through the Spirit, John is
able to perceive the exigency in the seven congregations (cf. Collins
1984: 77; Bring 1987: 265; de Smidt 1995: 165).
In order to strengthen the image of the Lamb, the author links the
image of the seven horns to that of the seven eyes (5.6). These are
symbols of power and victory. In Revelation, the Spirit is the power of
the Lamb with which he defeats the power of the beast and the dragon
(2.1; 12.3; 17.12-13). This indicates the ability of the Lamb to act
forcefully through the Spirit whenever and wherever he wishes to do
so.
1
To summarize, it appears that the Spirit, the congregations and the
believers are sent by God and the Lamb to proclaim the victory of the
Lamb. The Lamb perceives everything precisely as it is. He does this
through the Spirit (seven Spirits), a reference to the plenitude of the one
Spirit of God which was poured out on the believers on the Day of
Pentecost. He would dwell forever in their midst and work through
them over the entire earth. He works intently in the world in his capac-
ity as the eyes of the Lamb. He likewise does so through the eyes of
those in whose midst he dwells (Hughes 1990: 80; du Preez 1991: 4; de
Smidt 1995: 165).
f. A Psychological and Physiological Perspective
Researchers are of the opinion that, as a result of stress and various
other factors, people can develop an alternate consciousness (Pilch
1. For the Spirit (equivalent to the seven spirits) who is sent out over the whole
earth to proclaim the victory of the Lamb through the prophetic ministry of the
congregations (the two witnesses), see de Smidt 1995: 163.
44 Journal of Pentecostal Theology 14 (1999)
1993: 232-42). In this condition sensations, perceptions, cognition and
emotions are altered. It is characterized by changes in sensing, perceiv-
ing, thinking and feeling. It modies the relationship of the individual
to self, body, sense or identity, and to the environment of time, space
and other people.
Like modern people, John and his readers also experienced stress.
According to some researchers (Pilch 1993: 232-42) John could also
have developed an alternate consciousness. The visions in Revelation
may then be understood as psychological symptoms rather than real
ecstatic experiences and spirit-guided journeys.
Criticism of this theory is based on the fact that Johns experience
was both a spiritual and a physical experience; he experienced a unique,
personal state of visionary consciousness under the guidance of the
Spirit (cf. de Smidt 1994: 238). He did not lose his usual sense of
physical and mental identity: he retained the freedom of his
individuality. Similarly, guided by the Spirit to use their unique
abilities, Michelangelo communicated by means of the visual arts and
Mozart shared his vision with us by means of music.
g. The Spirit as Interpreter of History through the Author
It is Brings (1987: 261) point of view that the author of Revelation is,
through the Spirit, an interpreter of the history of his times. Through the
Spirit he provides his readers with the theological meaning of their
difcult times (the reign of Domitian) as an integral part of Gods
saving acts (2.10).
The goal and climax of the mighty acts of God is Christ (1.12-19;
Bring 1987: 264). Christ was confronted and killed by the same
Roman authority which confronted the faithful. But Christ was victori-
ous (20.4). In this way readers are able to make theological sense of the
difcult events they themselves experience: there is victory in Christ
(1.17, 18; 3.5; cf. de Smidt 1995: 165-74; 1994: 236; Geyser 1995:
654).
3. Conclusion
The pneumatological perspective on Revelation lends meaning to the
all-containing vision. Although quantitatively the Spirit is seldom men-
tioned, his deeds in Revelation are qualitatively active: so much so that
Revelation was realized in coram Spiritu.
DE SMIDTSpirit in the Book of Revelation 45
The Spirit granted John a vision, uplifting the gossamer veil between
the transcendental and the immanent. A God-inspired paradigm shift of
sense, perception and understanding took place. In the course of
fullling his mission, the Spirit renders the author creative. In this
manner the Spirit involves himself in various ways with the congrega-
tions. In coram Spiritu the author also interprets the wholeness and
entirety of the life that God continues to mediate through the Spirit
within the believing community.
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