The Promised Outpouring From the Son of GodIn our last post, we examined the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit onto the Son of God, effectively anointing Him and publicly inaugurating His ministry. In our Lord’s earthly ministry, standing as He does in the offices of prophet, priest, and King, He too prophetically promises the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, though now the Spirit is to proceed from Himself to His offspring, beginning with His disciples. In doing so, Jesus picks up on the Old Testament prophecies concerning the outpouring of the Spirit from not only Joel, but Isaiah 32:15; 44:1-5 and especially several passages from the prophecy of Ezekiel.
In Ezekiel 36:27 the context is the Lord detailing promises of the New Covenant, which as we know is inaugurated through the shed blood of Jesus followed by His subsequent resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father (Luke 22:20). Much like the prophecy from Joel as we have seen, here in this passage from Ezekiel 36 there is the intertwining of curse reversal and material restoration along with spiritual promises, such as the gift of the Holy Spirit:
22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29 And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. 30 I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. 32 It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. Ezekiel 36:22-32Again in Ezekiel 37:11-14 there is the promise of restoration to the land, which was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as the promised gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Finally from Ezekiel in the last chapter before the mysterious details of the temple (Ezekiel 39:29), the Lord again promises divine restoration along with the outpouring of His Spirit on the House of Israel. While we noted with Joel that there was a prophetic perspective that allows for multiple layers of fulfillment, we must also keep that in mind when reading the prophecies of Ezekiel specifically with reference to restoration and the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Turning now to the life and ministry of our Lord we find an overwhelming emphasis on the promise of the Holy Spirit specifically during the last week before His crucifixion. As we’ve seen, Jesus’ ministry effectively begins at His baptism. Here, in a passage we looked at last time from John 1:29-34, we read of John the baptizer observing the Spirit descending on our Lord at His baptism and then prophesying of this relationship with the procession of the Spirit from the Lord, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” After this we read about the familiar encounter with Nicodemas and our Lord’s teaching on the necessity of Sprit-rebirth over an against any attempts of the flesh to earn salvation (John 3:1-15). In this passage there is an interesting dynamic being described between the Spirit-water and the Spirit-wind. The former is likely a reference, not specifically to the outward cleansing of baptism, rather to the inward cleansing of a conscience sprinkled clean, as in our passage last time from Ezekiel 36:25. This relationship between the Spirit and water is further enhanced for us in the next chapter of John where Jesus fittingly is talking to the woman at the well describing to her the necessity and significance of living water (John 4:7-14). Further developing the imagery of Spirit and water, as well as bringing forward the collective Old Testament teaching of the promised Spirit, John 7:37-39 brings both themes together and forms a bridge from the Old Testament promised outpouring on Christ to the New Testament promise of outpouring on believers:
37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39Key for us from this passage is to understand how something new was to happen with respect to the giving of the Spirit. In verse 39, the passage clearly states that the Spirit had not yet been given. The promise of the Spirit from the Old Testament prophets and again here by our Lord did not negate the work of the Spirit prior to Christ, but it was meant to describe something new, something different, something significantly more that had not happened before. Those who hold to one-to-one covenantal continuity must deal with this fact. The Spirit was not promised to those who were circumcised. Rather, as a New Covenant promise the Spirit is only for those who believe, symbolized, testified, and witnessed by their baptism. Again in verse 39 from above we find John commenting on our Lord’s word that the Spirit was to be received by those who believe, those who have faith in Christ, and that the expected fulfillment of this promise would be after the death, resurrection, and glorification of Christ.
With this transitional passage before us, we next note a significant increase in our Lord’s teaching on the promised Spirit, specifically during the last week of His life. The first of these occurs in John 14:15-31. Here again we see the Trinitarian nature of the coming Spirit as Jesus promises to intercede on behalf of His disciples (and all believers) to the Father for Him to give the Spirit, referred to as another Helper, Advocate, Counselor. Later in this same passage the Spirit, or Helper, is said by our Lord to be a teacher in order to bring to the disciples remembrance the things that they had seen Jesus do and heard Him teach. In Jesus’ absence, the promised presence of the Spirit was to be a comfort to the disciples ensuring that they had the peace of our Lord in the face of a turbulent world.
Finally, the culminating passage on the promise of the Spirit proceeding from Christ to believers comes as our Lord transitions from the setting of the last supper with His disciples to His betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. In John 16:4-15 we read of the final promise of the Holy Spirit at the ascension of our Lord framed in terms of equality between the Spirit and the Lord. Jesus did not leave a gap or a hole in the coverage, as it were, when He was to leave His disciples. Instead, he promised an equivalent replacement by means of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). After the describing the ministry of the Spirit in John 16:8-11, Jesus affirms that just as with His own ministry in which He spoke with the authority from the Father, so too would the Spirit operate with the authority of the Father.
With this overview of the promised outpouring of the Spirit from Christ to His offspring (believers), we are now left to ask “When would these things that Jesus spoke of come to fulfillment?” We’ve seen references that this would occur at His ascension and in the next post this is where our focus will shift.
Soli Deo Gloria