A Peculiar Person

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

A Peculiar Person, Audio Version

In Acts 1:15, Luke mentions that about 120 disciples were gathered in Jerusalem. They were waiting for what was to come. Before he left, Jesus had given them clear instructions. He had told them to say put in Jerusalem and wait for it. Stay and wait. Wait for the capital-P promise. Wait for the Promise to arrive. So they stayed. And they waited. They waited for days and days. They waited patiently for the Promise. Like children eager for Christmas morning, they waited until the Day of Pentecost for the Promise.

On the morning of Pentecost the Promise arrived, in person. A person arrived dramatically that morning, the Promised Person. The Promise was and is a person. The Promise is a particular person, but a person unlike any other you’ve ever encountered. The Promise is a peculiar person. 

Okay, I have to get a bit technical here. Hang in there, please. Person can potentially be a misperceived at this point. It can possibly be a misleading pointer. Given your probable preconceptions, the word person could be perplexing. But it is the proper word, nonetheless. It is the word I have to use. The Promise is definitely a person, but is not a human being. The Promise is a person because he is truly an individual entity. He is himself. He is a living, identifiable entity. He has personal integrity. He is a cognizant, relational, identifiable, unique, and peculiar person. But he is not a human being. 

As we talk about the Promise, we have to be careful to explain what we mean, even in the use of common words. I need explain what I mean by it and he here. Rather than the pronoun it, I use the pronoun he because I need you to understand that the Promise is actually a person. He is a person, as opposed to an energy field or impersonal force. The English language poses a problem here, though, because it offers us only two gender specific pronouns. The Promise-person really should not be assigned a gender, because “he” has no gender. Some other languages do have pronouns that are not gender specific. It would be easier to meaningfully talk about a genderless person using a pronoun from those languages. But since I am using English here, I will stick with the pronoun he, just to impress the concept of personhood. He is a person. 

Yes, I agree. It can be quite confusing to talk about a non-human, non-gendered entity. I readily admit that. What kind of person is this? What kind of entity is this? Is he some kind an extra-terrestrial? Am I talking about ET? Do I need to phone home?

Well, yes, he is an extra-terrestrial. But no, he is not an outer space alien. Yes, he does come from way beyond. But no, he does not travel in a flying saucer. He does not need an exterior mode of transportation. He is able just to arrive and depart on will, wherever and anywhere.     

Unlike other persons, this Promise-person is not contained spatially to a body. This Promise-person can repeatedly divide himself, without any damage done, and without any loss of integrity, potency, or personality. Somewhat like water, he can fragment and disperse himself. He can also re-condense himself. He can contract, expand, disperse, and regather at will. He is person, but a peculiar person without a body. He is just not limited, in terms of space and dimension — unless he voluntarily chooses to be limited.  

Since these spatial characteristics are so freakishly beyond our usual categories of what it means to be a person, we have no choice but to resort to analogies. If we wish to talk meaningfully about him, we have to use analogies. We must say he is like this thing or like that. Like, like, like — we will use a lots of likes. For example, the Promise is somewhat like water. And the Promise is a lot like fire. We necessarily resort to symbols and analogies when we talk about him. We have no choice but to do so. He is just so peculiar, so different. He is a much different person than us. He is different than what is normal and natural to us. He is a peculiar person. He is incomparable; but we have to use comparisons. He is an incomparable, peculiar, supernatural person. In fact, he’s God.        

The fact that we necessarily use symbols to talk about the Promise will be important to keep in mind when I return to my direct discussion of symbolism in the Book of Revelation. Fire is the most frequent symbol for the Promised Holy Spirit in the Book of Revelation. Remember that.  

As implied previously, the Promise simply has no physical limitations. He can pass through any physical barrier. He can limit himself to physical space, if he chooses. He can confine himself, disperse himself, concentrate himself, retract himself, expand himself. He can and does operate within physical dimensions. But they pose no problem to him. He is not limited by any physical barrier. This has huge implications for us as Christians. 

The Promise voluntarily confines himself to willing human beings. He indwells individuals. If a human being recognizes the truth about who Jesus is, and submits to Jesus’ authority, the Promise takes up residence within him or her. The Promise indwells the Christian. The Christian thereby becomes a temple of sorts. A temple of the Holy Spirit. A supernatural entity dwells here within.

As strange as all this may sound, it is very real. And it is powerful. The same entity— the same Spirit — that raised Christ from the dead indwells you and hangs out within you, 24/7. Consider the implications. Consider the possibilities. Consider both the implications and possibilities, for there are many. 

On the condition of your recognition of and submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, you have a limitless source of life-giving power available to you, all the time — through the rest of your mortal life, and beyond. Much of the New Testament serves as a users’ handbook for accessing and maximizing the Promise’s power. If you wish to make full use of your resident Promise and his power, go familiarize yourself personally with the handbook, and also join a group of people who are committed to the same. And then go make use of the Promise.

You Lost on Jeopardy

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

You Lost on Bible Jeopardy, Audio Version

Over the next few days, I will focus directly on the Day of Pentecost. It will seem like I’m straying very, very far from the Book of Revelation. Really, though, I’m not. I have Revelation in mind here and somewhat in view; and in the end, I assure you, I will circle back. 

If you were a contestant on Bible Jeopardy, you might face the following answer: “These three phenomena accompanied the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.” Being the quick-witted game show whiz that you are, you might ponder momentarily and then offer a question like, “What are a loud rushing wind, head-top flaming tongues of fire, and about one hundred twenty disciples spontaneously speaking in unlearned foreign languages?” After which, you would be congratulated on your correct answer… question, I mean. Way to go, you!

Although you are first-time contestant on Bible Jeopardy, at this point you’re feeling more confident. You decide to stick with the same category, that being, The Day of Pentecost. The answer presented to you next is this: “The Fiery Revelation of the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Sinai.” Now you feel confused. You are absolutely certain that the category is still The Day of Pentecost. But this answer does not make any sense to you. What does the Day of Pentecost have to do with the Fiery Revelation of the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Sinai? You stand there, silent and befuddled, until you hear a triple beep. Beep, beep, beep. Sorry, you failed to respond in time. You lost on Bible Jeopardy. And then he reads the question…  

“What is the original meaning of Pentecost?” Good question. What exactly was the original meaning of Pentecost? Here’s the answer: The original meaning and occasion of Pentecost was the divine revelation of the Law, otherwise known as the Torah, to Moses the Man of God at Mt. Sinai. 

In all likelihood, the reason you were confused about the matter is because you were raised a Christian, and not a Jew. Christians correctly associate the Day of Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jews associate Pentecost with the Fiery Revelation of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Both Christians and Jews are correct on their respective points. It is about the divine gift of the Torah. And it is about the divine gift of the Holy Spirit. As a Christian, you’re not wrong about the coming of the Holy Spirit; but you probably have never heard anything about the original meaning, occasion, and focus of Pentecost. Now, though, you have. 

You might also want to remember the coincidental timing of the seminal Old Testament and New Testament events. They both happened on the same calendar day, the Day of Pentecost. That coincidental timing means that for the first Christians the Holy Spirit and the Torah were always theologically associated. We should make the same association. The Torah and the Spirit should alway be associated with each other. The two have something in common. But given their differences, the two are also to be distinguished from each other. They are similar but different. This association-yet-distinction point is worth repeating and remembering. Torah, Spirit: Similar, Different. Torah, Spirit: Similar, Different. Torah, Spirit: Similar, Different. Got it. 

But how? How exactly are the two similar and how are they different? 

A key similarity is that they are both a means of divine communication. Back at Sinai, God appeared in fire and communicated to the leaders of Israel directly. At Sinai, God gave his people a record of what he said in the instructive written words of the Torah. Similarly, on the New Testament Day of Pentecost, God also appeared in fire and communicated to his people directly. On Pentecost, the resurrected Christ fulfilled his Father’s promise and gave the instructive Holy Spirit to his people. 

A trio of key differences that separate the Spirit from the Torah is location, duration, and identification. The Torah is an external written record of long-past divine communication, whereas the Spirit resides internally. The Spirit indwells individual Christians, even now, communicating daily. The Holy Spirit lives and speaks continually within each one of God’s people and among all of them.

Therefore, as Christians we should aspire to cultivate our attentiveness to the Holy Spirit who indwells us and wishes to communicate with us. Indeed, as we do cultivate our attentiveness to the Holy Spirit, we will be increasingly effective in ministry. We will thereby make ourselves useful to God. And we should want that and aspire to that. 

In summary, then, on Pentecost in the Old Testament, God gave his people a good gift, whereas on Pentecost in the New Testament, God gave his people an even better gift.