“Who were once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good work of God, and the powers of the world to come” (Hebrews 6:5)
Apostle Paul links the Holy Spirit to enlightenment in conformity with His gifts and since He is a gift from the Father in heaven operating in conjunction with His will, He displays the ‘good work of God’. When God’s kingdom is established on the ‘renewed earth’ heavenly powers will be then working in those who are chosen and blessed to be the residents of the ‘New Jerusalem’ and these powers are today available and working in the believers through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Apostle John is transported to heaven to be made a witness to the events connected to the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth and this movement is an act of the heavenly powers “of the world to come”. Phillip is similarly moved by the Holy Spirit from the desert after baptizing the Ethiopian man and is then found in Azotus (Acts 8:39-40). It is through the exercising of these powers made available to believers that God prepares the Church to be one day ready to be the “Bride” of the Son. Our Lord has listed out special blessings to ‘those who overcome’ through the messages to the seven churches (Revelation 2-3) and without the hand of God upholding us it is impossible for anyone to overcome the temptations of Satan. Our Lord Himself taught us to pray “Do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). How do we expect God to answer this prayer but through the power of the Holy Spirit? To deny the availability of these gifts and powers of the Holy Spirit is to deny the presence and influence of God on His Church.
Why is dove chosen as a symbol of the Holy Spirit? – I will reiterate that Divine presence cannot be limited to the arrival or display of a specific sign and dove is one of such signals. However the significance of each such sign cannot be negated also. The first mention of the dove in Scripture is during the great outpouring of water on the earth to destroy everything during Noah’s Ark and the two birds released by him after the ark had settled on the mount Ararat (Genesis 8:4). The first bird released is a raven; an unclean bird- for its eating habits and it flies here and there but did not return in to the ark. It could rest on a floating carcass and feed on it to live and did not need the safety of the ark to survive. Noah became aware that the raven had found food in the dead floating on the waters but no permanent resting place and the waters had not yet receded, till the raven flew out and did not return. He then sent the dove but this bird returned into the ark having found no suitable place to rest. The second time the dove brought back an olive branch into the ark and Noah could then visualize three things- firstly, God’s wrath had subsided and the waters had receded to allow life to begin afresh on the earth. Secondly, olive branch represents purity and anointing of God since olive oil is used to anoint kings, priests and prophets. The fall of man had been caused through the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the olive branch represents the ‘tree of life’ our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom new life starts and through Him we receive the Holy Spirit.
Characteristics of a dove – The dove as compared to the raven is a gentle bird, harmless in nature that feeds on small insects and seeds. Its traits resemble those of the Holy Spirit and probably that is the reason that “the heavens were opened to Him (when Jesus came out of the water after baptism by John the Baptist), and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him” (Matthew 3:16). Some of the important points of similarity in the two are:
- White Color – White color represents purity or righteousness in the Scripture and it contains all the colors of the spectrum of light and it stimulates all the cone cells of the eye. In a similar manner the Holy Spirit is the righteousness of God stimulating all the faculties of a man through imparting spiritual of gifts.
- A dove handles its offspring gently in love and guides them on in life. The Holy Spirit reveals Christ to the believers and gently transforms us into His Divine image through mild persuasion without forcing His will on us.
- When the dove or its offspring are attacked, it never retaliates but cries out in genuine anguish and suffering and the Holy Spirit makes intercession for the believers, who do not know how to pray, with groaning representing depth of Divine care and love for the believers. The Holy Spirit empowers the believers to “offer the other cheek” and forgive even the enemies who harm us, rather than acting in revenge.
- The Holy Spirit, like a dove gets, offended by strange and unfamiliar acts of an individual that are not in conformity with God’s Word and when thus vexed/grieved, He would withdraw His presence from that person. A dove may visit the same spot twice after being upset and never return thereafter.
- A dove has nine main feathers on its two wings depicting the nine gifts and nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. Without the evidence of the fruits of the Spirit being in evidence, the life of a Christian is out of balance like a dove flying in the air using only one wing.
- The Holy Spirit leads us towards a life of holiness and righteousness discarding sinful activities like a dove not eating dead and rotten things.
The Three trips of the dove from Noah’s ark – The three times that Noah sent the dove from the ark to assess the state of the earth are said to represent the three dispensations of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit descended on certain chosen few to empower them for a specific assignment. Bezalel and Oholiab were specially anointed by God and “given skill and ability to carry put all the work of constructing the sanctuary” (Exodus 36:1) through His Spirit. The Holy Spirit then remained over a person during the period of the special anointing only. The second time, the dove returned with an olive branch in its mouth depicting the commencement of new life after the devastation of the flood. In a similar manner Lord Jesus came to the earth and became the first man on whom the Holy Spirit visibly descended to empower Him for His ministry. The Messiah brought new life for the believers in fellowship with God through forgiveness and salvation available through His sacrifice on the cross. The third time did not return to the ark and with this information Noah could open the doors of the ark to release all animals and birds to restart life afresh after offering sacrifices to the Lord. It is presumed that the Holy Spirit will provide the believers warning about the “Lord’s coming in clouds” to receive His people to Himself just before His coming in glory to establish His millennial rule. Thereafter since God the Father and His Son will establish their throne on the earth, the Holy Spirit will no longer dwell in man as it was in the Garden of Eden.
Does the Olive branch in the dove’s mouth carry a specific meaning? – The earth was covered with water after the flood and the dove when sent for the second time returned with an olive branch/leaf in its mouth. There must have been many plants that would have produced leaves after the waters receded but the dove chose only olive tree to alight upon and to carry back to Noah. Olive oil was later designated by God to be used for anointing of the chosen people in the Old Testament. The use of its mouth to carry this message by the dove is presumed to represent the use of mouth by the believers to declare God’s blessings/warnings to the people through prophesying, teaching and singing Psalms/hymns. During the creation process every act of God starts with a spoken command and use of authority by the believers has to be exercised in “Jesus name” through spoken words only. Divine authority or power of the Holy Spirit is not bound by any symbol but is released through the Word of God spoken in faith.
Holy Spirit and wind – Man was created from the dust and then God breathed into him His ‘ruach’ or His spirit in the form of wind/air. After His resurrection the Lord “breathed on the disciples saying “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22) thus leading them into the “New Birth” mentioned to Nicodemus earlier in the Gospel. Prophet Ezekiel was transported by the Holy Spirit to the ‘valley of dry bones’ and commanded to prophesy His Word to them. The dry bones got together to form shapes but became alive only when the Prophet under directions of God commanded “the breath from the four winds” to enter them. The Holy Spirit breathes new life into the believers and transforms our dead lives filled with sin into the likeness of Christ.
Holy Spirit and water – Nicodemus was specifically informed by the Lord that “unless a man is born of water and spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Water is to be the purifying agent for removal of sins thus cleansing the heart and spirit of man through the power of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist used water to cleanse the Jews of their sins through baptism to “prepare the way for the Lord” to baptize them with the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel declares the prophetic promise of God (Ezekiel 36:25-27) to the Israelites to firstly, cleanse them of their impurities by using ‘pure water; then replacing their spirit with a new spirit and then finally to change their hearts of stone through His Spirit’s power into hearts of flesh. Water represents the physical cleansing of the sinful flesh during baptism and the spiritual changes in the believers through the Holy Spirit anointing.
Circumcision and Holy Spirit – In the early Church a dispute was raised by the Jewish converts about the necessity of circumcision before being baptized into the Lord. The issue was finally settled after the first religious convention to decide the matter and Apostle Paul’s view was upheld which was in line with the prophecy of Ezekiel about changing the hearts of Israelites from one of stone to one of flesh through renewing effect of His Spirit. Moses also commanded the Israelites to ‘circumcise their hearts’ (Deuteronomy 10:16) and Apostle Paul refers to this as “an inward transformation in the spirit” (Romans 2:29). By human efforts it is impossible for anyone to undergo this change and this transformation is only brought about by the Holy Spirit and God “Puts His law within them and writes it in their hearts and minds” (Jeremiah 31:33).
Holy Spirit and rivers of living water – Lord Jesus laid a condition for the filling of the Holy Spirit that “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of is heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). This blessing was thus available to only those who believe in the Lord as their Savior and the blessing amounts to complete fulfillment of the heart, soul and spirit of that person. This filling with Divine grace and spiritual blessings is of such magnitude that the individual “shall never thirst again” but will become a source of blessing and comforting for innumerable others. This is like a great original source gets opened inside and this is the result of belonging to the Lord Jesus who Himself is the source of satisfaction for the soul.
The indwelling Holy Spirit is the coming and living in of Lord Jesus inside the believers’ heart and the result is “You shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (Isaiah 58:11). Apostle John witnesses the “river of living waters” flowing out from under the throne of the Father and the Son in ‘New Jerusalem’ (Revelation 22:1). With the coming of the Holy Spirit in a believer the throne of God is established in the heart and blessings flow out to others.
We get the Holy Spirit and He being the Spirit of God the Father and the Son brings the Holy Trinity into us to make us also a source of great blessing to others. The coming of this ‘Comforter’ into us brings in the completed work of Lord Jesus in His life, His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension to glory by bringing in the “the things freely given to us by God in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 2:12). What was implied in the Old Testament gets fulfilled in the New Testament through ‘the prayer and blessing of the Risen Lord’.
The coming of the Holy Spirit changed the whole being of the disciples completely making them warriors of Christ from the fear filled cowards who had deserted Him. This power is available to all believers today as it was then on Pentecost Day. “Being filled with the Spirit is simply this – having my whole nature yielded to His power. When the whole soul is yielded to the Holy Spirit, God Himself will fill it” – Andrew Murray.
The key to this is in our hands!!