We discussed in our last message that, even though we call two events Christ’s “first coming” and His “second coming” or return, these are not the only times Christ has actually appeared on earth. In the same way, when we speak of the “return of the Holy Spirit,” we do not mean to imply that the Spirit has only been sent twice, or even that He is not active on earth now. The fact is that the Holy Spirit has been active upon earth since the very beginning. The first time we read of the Spirit is in Genesis 1:2.
2. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
In the first appearance of the Holy Spirit in Scripture, He brought light to the world. Bringing light is one of the Spirit’s activities, and one of the reasons for which God sends Him. This brings us to an important principle about the Holy Spirit that we need to learn: when God sends Him, He always accomplishes exactly what God sent Him to accomplish, and nothing more nor less. Some people seem to have the idea that the Spirit always does the same thing when He comes upon people. Some think, for example, that when the Spirit comes upon anyone, that that person will always speak with tongues. Others think that when the Spirit comes, He will always make a person a flaming witness or a powerful speaker. Yet the Spirit can do many things when He comes upon people. He is not limited to only doing certain things. For a clear example of this, consider Exodus 31:1-5.
1. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2. “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 3. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, 4. to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, 5. in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship.
In this passage, we see that the Holy Spirit of God came upon Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. He came upon him to fill him with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge in many different kinds of workmanship. The Spirit gave him the ability to design artistic works. He gave him the skill to be a master worker in gold. He gave him the skill to be a master worker in silver. He gave him the skill to be a master worker in bronze. He gave him the skill to be a master at cutting jewels for setting, to be a master woodcarver, and to be a master in any other kind of workmanship in which he would need skill and ability. Remember that in Egypt the Israelites had been manual laborers who made bricks. Consider too that any one of these skills might have taken a lifetime to truly master, and we can see that the miracle the Spirit worked upon Bezaleel was a great one indeed. Yet such a miracle was needed if the masterful work of God’s tabernacle was to be completed. Therefore, the Spirit came upon Bezaleel to make him a skilled worker, and for no other reason. This should dismiss from our minds forever the idea that the Holy Spirit filling a person always has to do with speaking or witnessing.
In I Samuel 19:18-24, we see another example of the Holy Spirit coming upon people for a very different purpose than what we might usually think He would do.
18. So David fled and escaped, and went to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and stayed in Naioth. 19. Now it was told Saul, saying, “Take note, David is at Naioth in Ramah!” 20. Then Saul sent messengers to take David. And when they saw the group of prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as leader over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. 21. And when Saul was told, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. Then Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also. 22. Then he also went to Ramah, and came to the great well that is at Sechu. So he asked, and said, “Where are Samuel and David?”
And someone said, “Indeed they are at Naioth in Ramah.” 23. So he went there to Naioth in Ramah. Then the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. 24. And he also stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
Here Saul, in his hatred for David and his attempt to foil the plans of God to set David on the throne after him, sent messengers, probably ungodly men in his employ, to arrest him and bring him back to Saul for execution. Yet God did not allow Saul’s wicked plan to succeed. Instead, the Holy Spirit of God came upon Saul’s messengers. He caused them, instead of arresting David, to prophesy along with David and Samuel and not to harm either one of them. Twice more Saul sent messengers to arrest David, and twice more the Spirit did the same thing. Finally Saul went to arrest David himself, and the same thing happened to him. He not only prophesied before Samuel, but he also stripped off his royal robes, humbling himself before the power of the Spirit of God.
So this is what happened to Saul and his men, even as they worked against God and attempted to carry out a wicked purpose. This teaches us again that the Spirit may be sent for any purpose upon which God wishes to send Him. Most of us would probably tend to think that the Spirit only fills God’s people, and so anyone who is filled with the Spirit is saved. Yet here we see that the Spirit might just as easily be sent upon God’s enemies in order to stop them from carrying out their wicked purposes. Saul and his men were certainly not saved by this experience, nor did this happen to them because they were saved. Thus we cannot even say that the Spirit will only come upon saved people. Certainly, if the Spirit is someday going to be poured out on all flesh, He will have to be poured out on the righteous and the wicked alike for this to be accomplished. This does not mean that all men on earth will be instantly saved when this happens. That will not be the purpose for which He is sent.
Another interesting sending of the Spirit is in the story of Balaam in Numbers 22:26-30.
26. Then the Angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. 27. And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam’s anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff.
28. Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?”
29. And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!”
30. So the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?”
And he said, “No.”
Though the Spirit is not mentioned by name here, there can be little doubt but that it was God’s Spirit Who caused Balaam’s donkey to talk. Therefore, we see that the Spirit does not have to only come upon human beings, members of Adam’s race. He can come upon animals as well. In fact, when the Spirit is poured out on all flesh, this very well might include animal flesh. We know that the animal kingdom will be greatly changed for the better in the kingdom of God. This is made clear in Isaiah 11:6-9.
6. “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
7. The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
9. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea.
There can be no doubt when we read this that animals will be changed to behave very differently when God’s government comes to earth at last. How will such a massive change in the instincts and behaviors of animals be accomplished? How else than by the Holy Spirit being poured out upon them? So animals too can be filled with the Spirit, and probably will be in the coming kingdom of God.
These are many things that the Holy Spirit has done when He came upon men and animals in the past. Yet what does the Spirit do when He comes upon men today? God reveals through Paul that when He sends His Spirit today, He comes as a seal upon the heart every time a person believes in and is placed in Christ. This is the truth expressed in Ephesians 1:13-14.
13. In Whom [that is, in Christ] you also have hoped in advance, upon hearing this word of the truth, the good message of your salvation, in Whom even upon believing, you were sealed with the Spirit of the promise, the Holy One, 14. Who is the earnest of our full portion, in relation to the redemption of that which has been purchased for the extolling of His glory. (The Resultant Version)
Here we learn that after we hoped in advance in Christ, which happened when we heard the word of truth, the good message of our salvation, then, upon believing, we were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. This seal is the guarantee of our inheritance, or better the earnest (or down-payment) of our full portion in relation to the redemption of that which has been purchased for us. Christ purchased much for us on the cross that we have not received yet. Until we do receive it, we have received the Spirit as a seal as our guarantee or earnest of our full portion yet to be received. Thus we too have the Spirit, and have Him in this special way.
In all these things, the Spirit was sent, and when He came He accomplished exactly what God intended for Him to accomplish, and the results were just what God wished to have happen. So when God pours out of His Spirit upon all flesh in the future, does this mean He must pour Him out as He does today, sealing all flesh as belonging to God? When the Spirit is poured out on all flesh, does this mean all flesh will be saved? Most certainly not! God will accomplish what He wants to accomplish with His Spirit at that time, which will be to enlighten every person on earth. This enlightenment will come upon all, but the results of that enlightenment will not be the same for all. Some will be greatly blessed as a result of the pouring out of the Spirit, while some will be severely punished. Yet the Spirit will be poured on all, and all will receive power from Him.
Now let us consider some passages that have to do with the return of the Holy Spirit. The first passage we will consider is Ezekiel 36:24-28.
24. For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. 28. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.
Adonai Jehovah is speaking here to the “house of Israel,” as we can see from verse 22. God tells them that He will gather Israel from among all nations, gather them out of all countries, and will bring them into their own land. Then He will sprinkle clean water on them, and they will be clean. Some, in their eagerness to promote a ritual they are enamored with, have related this sprinkling to infant baptism, yet this has nothing to do with any water ritual performed by churches today. This sprinkling of clean water is the Holy Spirit being poured upon them. His is the power that takes a filthy and idolatrous people and makes them clean.
From the LORD they receive a new heart and a new spirit. To the Hebrew mindset, the “heart” is not the seat of emotions, as we think of it in the English figure. Instead, the “heart” is the innermost being, the “real you deep down inside.” In the past, it was as if Israel had a heart of stone, hard and unyielding to the actions and entreaties of Yahweh. At the cores of their beings they were stubborn and rebellious against Him. Yet in this future day He will give them a heart of flesh, one that is soft and yielding to His commandments and His will. Thus Israel will be changed from the inside out, and they will be a new people from then on.
Finally, the LORD puts His Spirit within them. This is what will be needed to keep them on the new path He has set them on. From now on, Jehovah will no longer merely be influencing His people from without, but He will also be influencing them from within, and the results is that then they will walk in His statutes and keep His judgments and do them. Jehovah will be pleased with them, and they will dwell safely at last in the land He gave their forefathers, the land of Canaan. They will finally be His people, the people He always wanted them to be, and He will be their God. This glorious situation never happened in the past, and Israel has never been this way in their relationship with God. Yet someday this will be true, and God will bring all these things to pass. I believe that all these things are things that will happen to God’s people of Israel when the Spirit is poured out upon all flesh.
Next let us consider another passage from the latter chapters of Ezekiel, this time Ezekiel 37:14.
14. “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it,” says the LORD.
This is the final and glorious conclusion of the interpretation of the vision of the valley of dry bones. After they are raised from the dead as verse 13 declares, the LORD promises that He will put His Spirit in them and place them back in their own land. This resurrected and restored people will then know that what the LORD spoke in Ezekiel long ago He has performed. Critical to this event is the reality here that the Holy Spirit is put within them, and that is part and parcel of the Holy Spirit being poured upon them.
Next we will consider Ezekiel 39:27-29.
27. “When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and I am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations, 28. then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. 29. And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,” says the Lord GOD.
These verses take place when Israel is brought back from the peoples and gathered out of their enemies’ lands to be returned to their own land. The amazing restoration of the historical people of God will cause the LORD to be set apart in the sight of many nations. Moreover it will have a deep effect on Israel as well, as they will now realize that He is Jehovah their God, the One Who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also has now brought them back to their land and left none of them captive any longer. Notice the universality of this. There is no way that the wandering back of a few Jews to their historical land, as has happened in our day, can qualify as fulfilling this. When God does this, it will be a complete work, not a partial one. All Israel will be brought back!
The Lord then promises that He will not hide His face from them anymore. He did that when He allowed Assyria and Babylon to destroy them and lead them into captivity in the first place. He has continued to do it now in the dispensation of grace, when all His works are done in secret and Christ Himself is hid in God, as Colossians 3:3 proclaims. Yet in that day, He will no longer be hidden. And the means of His revelation at that time He makes plain. He will have revealed Himself, for He will have poured out His Spirit on the house of Israel.
In these three passages is revealed a special blessing for Israel when the Spirit is poured out. But this is not to be the fullness of what will take place when the Spirit is poured out. We know that this blessing extends beyond Israel, for it stands written that the Spirit will also be poured out upon all flesh. Israel certainly must be included in this, but this promise is not exclusive to them. Therefore we must look further, for the promise of the Spirit being poured out extends beyond what we have learned from these three passages.
Next we will consider the truth taught in Isaiah 32:13-16.
13. On the land of my people will come up thorns and briers,
Yes, on all the happy homes in the joyous city;
14. Because the palaces will be forsaken,
The bustling city will be deserted.
The forts and towers will become lairs forever,
A joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks—
15. Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
And the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
And the fruitful field is counted as a forest.
16. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
And righteousness remain in the fruitful field.
This passage speaks of the desolation of the land of Israel. Thorns and briars come up upon the land of God’s people, and all the happy homes in the joyous city are ruined. The great houses are forsaken and the bustling cities are deserted. The forts and towers become lairs of wild animals, dwelt in by wild donkeys and converted to pastures for wandering shepherds. This describes the condition of Israel through much of its history since the Babylonian captivity. Yes, there was a return to the land under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Yes, there has been a return in recent days aided by the United States. Yet the land has never again become “the land of Israel,” where all God’s people dwell and His presence is among them.
When will this sad condition for Israel come to an end? When will the long wandering of the people in lands not their own be completed? Israel’s desolation will continue until the Spirit is poured out upon them from on high. Then the wilderness will become a fruitful field. Then the fruitful field will be counted like a forest for the greatness of its produce. This is the condition, not just of a restored land and people, but of a land blessed by God in His kingdom.
Moreover at this time justice will dwell in the wilderness. We must understand that this is an unlikely place for justice to be. We in our society perhaps have a tendency to think of crime as taking place much more in urban environments than in rural ones. Yet consider what Arthur Conan Doyle wrote in “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes.” Holmes expresses to Watson the idea that the country always makes him think of crime.
“Good heavens!” I cried. “Who would associate crime with these dear old homesteads?”
“They always fill me with a certain horror. It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.”
“You horrify me!”
“But the reason is very obvious. The pressure of public opinion can do in the town what the law cannot accomplish. There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard’s blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbours, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.”
There certainly is an amount of truth to this. The setting of a city means that there are those nearby to notice when crime is being committed, and there are the engines of justice nearby to protect against it. In the country, on the other hand, the arm of the law may be far removed, and crime may be carried on unnoticed. In fact, God recognizes this in the law when it comes to the rape of a betrothed virgin, as we read in Deuteronomy 22:23-27.
23. “If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, 24. then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out in the city, and the man because he humbled his neighbor’s wife; so you shall put away the evil from among you.
25. “But if a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. 26. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this matter. 27. For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young woman cried out, but there was no one to save her.
To understand this, we need to realize that a betrothed couple were considered legally bound at the time, though they had not yet come together as husband and wife. Therefore, God declared that a woman who cheated on her husband in the city was to die with the man who had relations with her, since she could have cried out and been heard, and yet she did not. On the other hand, a woman in the country was not to die with the man, since there if she cried out no one could hear her, and so a rape was not her fault. Thus even God recognizes that justice is harder to be achieved in the country. And yet when the Spirit is poured out, He will bring justice to the entire earth. His power is just as near in the country as it is in the city. Justice will dwell there, and no one can find some isolated place where he can carry out a wicked plan without being noticed. So both in the wilderness and the fruitful field there will be justice.
Notice this does not say that Israel will remain a wilderness until Jesus Christ comes back. This is what many people imagine: that the return of Christ will bring about God’s restoration of Israel and the start of His blessings upon them. Yet that is not what this passage proclaims. The blessings of the Kingdom of God do not come in at Christ’s return, but at the pouring out of the Spirit. His return is the one we are looking for to bring God’s kingdom to earth.