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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Both Hank and Chris have asked questions about experiencing the Spirit.  I will do my best to explain what “experiences” can be attributed to the Spirit.  Notice that I said “can be.”  As I’ve mentioned earlier, scientific certainty here does not fit my mental categories about the Spirit.  So these thoughts are offered as a reflection upon the Bible’s description of the Experience of the Spirit, not necessarily as something about which I have concrete descriptive events to put forward.

Paul takes a different route in defining a Christian than I would have taken.  In Romans 8:14, Paul writes that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”  I would have said “sons of God are led by the Spirit.”  Also, in Romans 8:9 Paul says “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”  I would have said “those who belong to Christ also have the Spirit of Christ.”  My definition is an epistemological one; truth therefore experience.  Paul’s is an experiential one; experience therefore truth.  Herein is the difference between me and Paul.  For me, everything is so cerebral (and you will see that in this post), but Paul was not scared of speaking of the experience of God just as much as the fact and truth of God.  This is why it is so tough for me to speak of something as an experience.  Yet, through hindsight, I do believe that I can now speak of somethings as actual experiences (though not in the sense of altered states or consciousnesses).  And those experiences are informed by scripture.

I see a sort of spectrum of experiences of the Spirit as outlined in the New Testament, ranging from the visible and dramatic, to the internal and subtle.  I will explain them in a kind of descending order, commenting on one which I no longer believe transpires.

Charismatic Phenomena

1 Corinthians details the charismatic gifts of the Spirit as experienced by individual Christians.  This is obviously the most dramatic, visible and verifiable experience of the Spirit.  Out of the 5 or so experiences I am going to list, this is the only one which I do not currently believe transpires today.  This will not come as a surprise to many of you.  However, what may come as a surprise is that my disbelief in such is not textually or exegetically based, but rather simply that I have never seen or experienced such.  What I mean is that the typical verses used to say that people no longer speak prophetically, for example, are not necessarily appropriate.  I will say more if someone requests so.  I have just never seen or experieced such nor do I know any people who have.  What do I make of this situation.  It could be that I just don’t get out much.  But I doubt that because I am surrounded by lots of Christians.  It could be that I and the Christians I know are simply turned off to the idea and thus not even susceptible to such.  But again I doubt that because, just speaking for myself, I would fully welcome any one of the charismatic gifts.  What I’m left with is some broadly based theological rationale as to why they are no longer necessary.  I must content myself with this until I have some evidence to move me in the other direction.  Chris (a commenter on my blog) has spoken of such things.  Maybe I should take his word for it.  Maybe I should ask for a video or some medical transcripts documenting the healing.  Then again, am I a sign seeker?  So for Chris (and this isn’t sarcasm), if you wouldn’t mind driving to Peoria and taking care of my eight year bout with intense stomach issues, please know that I am more than open to the offer of healing. 

You see, my skepticism about others performing miracles is not to be equated with a belief that God doesn’t or can’t.  I am fully convinced that God can and does do wonderful things which nature cannot explain.  I just question whether or not his people can still raise the dead and restore missing limbs.

 

Strong Emotional Experiences

Moving along the spectrum, it appears to me that there some strong emotional experiences which can be attribtued to the Spirit.

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:5)

You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit (1 Thes. 1:6)

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.[a] And by him we cry, “Abba,[b] Father.” 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children (Romans 8:15-16)

Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[a] Father.” (Gal. 4:6)

Love, joy and the intense cry of Father all seem to be strong emotional experiences directly related to the Spirit.

 

Deep Conviction

because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake (1 Thes. 1:5)

 

Intellectual Illumination

 12Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Co. 3:12-16)

Really the whole chapter should be studied for some information about the ministry of the Spirit.  The point being made here is that because of the Spirit and Christ, new understandings are made possible.

17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[a] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (Eph. 1:17)

14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph. 3:14-20).

 

Moral Energy

9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Co. 6:9-11)

 

This list is not intended to be exhaustive, but it is a good sampling of the types of experiences which can be attributed to the Spirit.  Also, I have essentially let the passages stand on there own without much comment.  I can say more about each if anyone desires.

 

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As I’ve mentioned before, one common conception of the Holy Spirit among some churches of Christ is that His role was to help people perform miracles in the first century, confirm the deity of Jesus and then give us the New Testament before retiring to heaven for a sabbatical (except maybe to serve as an occasional prayer partner).  You’ll notice that this description of the Spirit’s role is primarily past tense.  However, many have become increasingly suspicious of this understanding of the Spirit.  I’m not sure about anyone else, but my move away from this understanding was prompted by the Bible’s use of present and future tense words to describe the Spirit’s role.  Recall the crucial and fundamental role the Spirit would play in the Messianic Age.  The N.T. declares that age to be a present reality awaiting a final consummation.  This is the dominant framework in which the Holy Spirit must be understood.  Any discussion that focuses primarily on personal piety or on past activity misses the eschatological nature of His role.  To borrow a couple words from Gordon Fee, the Spirit was conceived of in the New Testament as the certain evidence that new creation had been inaugurated and the absolute guarantee of its final consummation.  Thus, the “already/not yet” language of so many eschatological terms (salvation, redemption, adoption, inheritance, etc.).  A quick examination of three of Paul’s unique metaphors for the Spirit bears this out. 

THE SPIRIT AS DOWN PAYMENT

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Co. 1:21-22).

Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Co. 5:5).

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a depositguaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory (Eph. 1:13-14).

The word translated “deposit” is the Greek arrabon.  This metaphor only occurs three times in the N.T., all in Paul and all in reference to the Holy Spirit.  It is a technical term for the first installment of a total amount due (as attested by the Greek commercial papyri).  So you buy something in the agora or obtain hired services from someone and the funds used to secure the sale or service are referred to as the arrabon.  When the deposit serves in this capacity it establishes a contract and also guarantees its future fulfillment.  This is precisely the role the Spirit plays in the life of the believer.  The Spirit is the fundamental reason that Christians have assurance.  Yet we would miss the totality of the metaphor if we failed to emphasize that the party receiving the “down payment” is also under obligation to fulfill his part of the agreement.  I believe in Paul’s thought world the human end of the bargain would be described as “faith” or “loyal allegiance.”  In other words, the continual willingness to be led by that same Spirit which guarantees the future. 

THE SPIRIT AS FIRSTFRUITS

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:22-23).

Perhaps no other passage in Paul is as explicit as this one when it comes to his “already/not yet” understanding of eschatology.  Any good farmer knows that the firstfruit of the crop serves to guarantee the rest of the harvest.  Paul’s understanding is that the Spirit is just that; the firstfruit–the guarantee of what is to come.  But how can Paul speak of awaiting adoption?  He has just previously in the same chapter spoken of believers as “sons” having received adoption.  Again, the Spirit solves the dilemma.  We have in some sense received the adoption and have become heirs through the Spirit; yet we await the consummation and total inheritance which also involves the Spirit (1 Co. 15–the whole chapter).

Paul uses very similar language to refer to Jesus as the “firstfruit” of the eventual harvest; namely, the resurrection.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him (1 Co. 15:20-23).

Very similar ideas emerge.  Jesus’ resurrection guarantees yours and mine.  Thus, Paul can speaking of “having been raised with Christ” and then turn around in the next breath and speak of the hope of being raised. 

THE SPIRIT AS SEAL

The notion of the Spirit as a “seal” has been mentioned in passing above in 2 Co. 1:21-22 and Eph. 1:13.  Fee writes, “When used literally, a ‘seal’ usually referred to a stamped impression in wax, denoting ownership and authenticity, and carrying with it the protection of the owner” (God’s Empowering Presence, 807).  This is the only metaphor of the three which is not inherently future oriented.  It speaks to the present reality of the Christian’s assurance through the Spirit.  But Paul is not shy about making this term serve his future oriented purposes.  Eph. 4:30 speaks of the Spirit “with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”  Even here Paul has kept his focus where it always is–The present experience of the believer as a foretaste and shadowing of the future glory to be revealed.

CONCLUSION

These three metaphors were enough to convince me some time ago that I better not minimize the Spirit’s role lest He minimize my future inheritance!  The New Testament’s (and the old for that matter) witness is decidedly in favor of a present and future task for the Spirit.  Why some are afraid of this I do not understand.  For Paul it is to have the opposite effect–assurance!  Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.

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In the previous posts in this series I have briefly outlined a basic Jewish understanding of the Spirit’s role in God’s new age. To sum it up, the basic belief was that whenever God poured out His Spirit upon all men, that would indicate that God’s new age had arrived; that the long drought of the Spirit had come to an end, that God had renewed His covenant with His people, that God’s presence was with them in an extraordinary way, and that the Gentiles had finally been included in God’s people. So far so good. What is it that we find when we come to the New Testament? We find an amazing convergence of events and ideas that allow Paul and others to affirm that God’s promises had indeed been fulfilled.

THE DROUGHT OF THE SPIRIT HAD ENDED

In a passionate sermon to the crowd on Pentecost Peter declared in response to the outpouring of God’s Spirit:

“Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
 17” ‘In the last days, God says,
      I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
   Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
      your young men will see visions,
      your old men will dream dreams.
 18Even on my servants, both men and women,
      I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
      and they will prophesy.
 19I will show wonders in the heaven above
      and signs on the earth below,
      blood and fire and billows of smoke.
 20The sun will be turned to darkness
      and the moon to blood
      before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
 21And everyone who calls
      on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Indeed the drought had ended.  Jesus declared during his ministry during the final day of the feast of Tabernacles:

If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as[c] the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39  (And John’s addition)By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

This theme resonates throughout the remainder of the New Testament.  Notice all the instances in which Paul echoes this agricultural language in His references to the Holy Spirit:

  • And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:5)
  • He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3:5
  • For we were all baptized by[a] one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Co. 12:13)

 

GOD’S PRESENCE WAS RESTORED

The sense of God’s abiding presence which was characteristic of the Wilderness Wandering and Tabernacle period was restored through the presence of God’s Spirit.

  • Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? (1 Co. 3:16)
  • Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own (1 Co. 6:19)
  • For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Eph. 2:18-22)

 

GOD’S COVENANT WAS RENEWED

I simply quote the entirety of 2 Corinthians 3 which makes the point quite clearly:

 1Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. 3You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

 4Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. 5Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.            

7Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, 8will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

 12Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

 

I plan on now exploring some other important aspects regarding the Holy Spirit in some future posts.  By the way, has anyone else picked up on the idea that the Holy Spirit’s role is a little larger than giving us the Bible?  Just curious.

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Israel was always cognizant of the special presence of God among them.  God dwelt among them when they travelled in the wilderness and God took up residence in the Tabernacle.  This was by God’s design and at least in my mind indicates the primary way in which God wants to dwell; i.e., he wants to go with His people wherever they go.  However, Israel chooses to localize God and put Him in a box by constructing a temple.  God plays their game and grants their wish.  He had gone from being the God who went with them everywhere, to the God who must be gone to.  But the point is the same, that God chooses to dwell with His people.  Isaiah is the prophet who most forcefully expresses this dwelling in terms of the Holy Spirit.

10 Yet they rebelled
       and grieved his Holy Spirit.
       So he turned and became their enemy
       and he himself fought against them.

 11 Then his people recalled [a] the days of old,
       the days of Moses and his people—
       where is he who brought them through the sea,
       with the shepherd of his flock?
       Where is he who set
       his Holy Spirit among them
,

 12 who sent his glorious arm of power
       to be at Moses’ right hand,
       who divided the waters before them,
       to gain for himself everlasting renown,

 13 who led them through the depths?
       Like a horse in open country,
       they did not stumble;

 14 like cattle that go down to the plain,
       they were given rest by the Spirit of the LORD.
      
This is how you guided your people
       to make for yourself a glorious name
.”
(Isaiah 63:10-14)

Though Israel was blessed with this presence (and consequently abused it), they were also made to experience it’s loss.  Ezekiel 10 vividly portrays the departure of God’s glory from the temple.  Subsequent passages within Ezekiel’s work will reassure Israel that God’s presence will return to the people.  Ezekiel intentionally links this return of God’s presence with the bestowal of His Spirit (see all the Ezekiel passages referenced thus far in this short series).  He says in 37:27, “I will dwell among them and they shall be my people.”

The longing.  The hope.  The painful awareness that things are not as they should be.  Israel was a people desperate for God’s gracious action; his glorious new age; his awaited Messiah.  Ah how they longed for God’s future.  Oh that God might end the drought, that he might bless all people (though this hope was not readily embraced), that he might renew his covenant and restore his presence.  What a beautiful foundation for the message of the cross.  And the most shocking thing to me–the foundational role of the Holy Spirit in all that was to transpire.  A Person whom I have heard so little about. 

Next we will quickly note the obvious ways in which the New Testament picks up on these themes.

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new-covenant1

 

 

In addition to the pouring out of God’s Spirit on a dry and thirsty land and the radical inclusion of Gentiles into the people of God, Israel expected a renewal of the the covenant that God had made with them. 

 

 

 

Hear Jeremiah:

31 “The time is coming,” declares the LORD,
       “when I will make a new covenant
       with the house of Israel
       and with the house of Judah.

 32 It will not be like the covenant
       I made with their forefathers
       when I took them by the hand
       to lead them out of Egypt,
       because they broke my covenant,
       though I was a husband to them, ”
       declares the LORD.

 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
       after that time,” declares the LORD.
       “I will put my law in their minds
       and write it on their hearts.
       I will be their God,
       and they will be my people.

 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
       or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’
       because they will all know me,
       from the least of them to the greatest,”
       declares the LORD.
       “For I will forgive their wickedness
       and will remember their sins no more.”
(Jer. 31:31-34)

The prophet clearly indicates that the reason for the new covenant had nothing to do with some inherent deficiency with the first, but rather with the deficiency of the people.  Consequently, the new covenant will be one in which the people are moved by God to keep his laws–laws which are written on the heart.  Though Jeremiah does not mention the Spirit explicitly, Ezekiel emphasizes His role dramatically. 

26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.(Ezek. 36:26-27)

The drought of the Spirit.  The inclusion of Gentiles.  The renewed covenant.  Most of you are already thinking of New Testament passages.  But before we move forward, we must consider one more foundational hope–God’s restored presence among the people.

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       “And afterward, brotherhood1
       I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
       Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
       your old men will dream dreams,
       your young men will see visions.

       Even on my servants, both men and women,
       I will pour out my Spirit in those days
(Joel 2:28-29).

Jews who were well versed in the Old Testament were consciously aware that God had great things in store for the Gentiles.  Indeed, Abraham had been told that blessings would flow through him to all people (Jews and Gentiles).  So again, to follow the present line of thinking in Jewish eschatology, whenever the Spirit was poured out upon all people, a Jew would be able to affirm that God’s new age had indeed arrived.  This may be the world’s shortest post, but I simply highlight this brief point to show yet another aspect of Israel’s hope.  Next we will consider the third basic foundation for their eschatology; namely, the renewal of God’s covenant.

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droughtTHE DROUGHT OF THE SPIRIT

Many Jews at the time of Jesus believed themselves to be living through a drought of God’s Spirit.  The common belief was that the prophetic Spirit had been removed from Israel.  A note from history will suffice to substantiate this claim.  After Judas Maccabeus reconsecrated the Temple after the Maccabean revolt, they did not know what to do with the stones from their desecrated altar (upon which unclean animals had been offered).  Their response was to put them “in a convenient place on the temple hill UNTIL A PROPHET SHOULD COME to tell them what to do with them” (1 Macc. 4:46).  Now, I do not claim to know whether or not and to what extent God was still exercising His influence through prophets.  It appears to me, in agreement with the basic Jewish claim, that God had refrained from doing so on the same scale as He had in the past.  Whether or not this is absolute, I cannot say.  Josephus, for example, speaks of prophetic activity among the Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls also speak of the experience of the Spirit among the Qumran community.  What I do know is that there was eager expectation that God would bring an end to this drought by pouring out His Spirit upon His people.

Consider a few examples from the Old Testament:

  • God says to His people in exile, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek. 36:25-27).
  • The famous “Valley of Dry Bones” in Ezekiel portrays the end of the drought dramatically.  “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”  I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”  4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath [a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’ ” 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.  9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ ” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. 11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’ “
  • 14 The fortress will be abandoned,  the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever,  the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks, 15 till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field,  and the fertile field seems like a forest. 16 Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field. 17 The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. 18 My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. 19 Though hail flattens the forest and the city is leveled completely, 20 how blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, 
    and letting your cattle and donkeys range free
    ” (Is. 32:14-20).
  • See also especially Ezek. 39:29; Is. 44:3-4; Joel 2:28

The major interpretive dilemma here is that many of these promises seem to look forward to Israel’s reconstitution as a people in their homeland–a feat which God was to accomplish very soon (a total of 70 years to be exact).  I must confess my own inadequacies on some of these questions, but at the same time believe I can point to some clues that will go a long way toward solving some of them (again, only some of them).  But I’m running ahead of myself.  For now I simply want to trace the expectation and hope at the time of Christ as rooted in Israel’s scriptures, especially in relation to the role of God’s Spirit.  Next we will consider the radical notion of Gentile acceptability as part of the new age expectation.

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