On the Spirit of Glory

On the Spirit of Glory

On the Spirit of Glory.

THE HOLY SPIRIT: The eternal life-giving Third Person of the Holy Trinity; the intimate bond of divine love and truth shared by God the Father and God the Son; the dynamic power of God offered to every human being on earth; the supernatural Presence in the Community of God who is personal without being material; the invisible creative force with divine intelligence who truly knows the mind of God from the inside; the Spirit of God who thus has all knowledge and is present everywhere in the universe; the sacred energy streaming forth from the Father and the Son, pouring love into our hearts (Romans 5:5), producing virtuous qualities in us (Galatians 5:22-23), and gradually transforming each believer into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).

God’s eternal Spirit was present at creation, of course, “brooding like a bird over the watery abyss.” (Gen. 1:1, MSG). No surprise there. All three Persons of God existed together eternally before creation began, and they will be intimate spiritual companions forever after the world’s recreation as well. At creation, the Spirit was like a mother bird hatching an egg, bringing beauty and order out of nothingness and chaos, waiting to take us under His wing.

Because the Triune God is united and inseparable, the Father and the Son is everywhere the Spirit us. If the Spirit dwells in us and alongside us, so does the Father and the Son. If the Father and the Son have promised to make a home in us, the Spirit is right there as well, arm-in-arm in their Trinitarian Presence, establishing a dwelling place in us. Since we are welcomed inside the relationship of the Trinity, the Spirit helps make that happen. Since we are adopted into God’s family as His children, we can be sure the Spirit was a part of that process. We can be assured the Spirit will work to sustain us in the Trinitarian circle and fellowship.

St. Paul’s Trinitarian blessing that closes his second letter to the Corinthians contains an interesting observation concerning the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14). After praying for them to be blessed in the grace of Jesus Christ and the love of God, Paul completes the blessing by praying that they would experience the “koinonia” of the Holy Spirit. Koinonia is another rich Greek biblical term, meaning communion, participation in, companionship, intimate partnership with, deep fellowship with. We are not only joined into the community of the Trinity through the Spirit, but we are plugged into a profound fellowship with other believers as well. There would be no communion with other people were it not for the source of all communion, the intimate unity of the triune God. We are one with other believers only because of our oneness with the Trinity. Believers are welcomed into the relationship of the Trinity, and through that spiritual source of oneness we have the possibility of intimate fellowship with fellow believers. The Holy Spirit dwells within us, along with the Father and the Son, and thus we are able to live inside the Trinity while the Trinity lives within us and we live within the community of believers. The Holy Spirit, our true Companion, our intimate Friend “who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

“Dear friends, don’t regard as strange the fiery ordeal occurring among you to test you, as if something extraordinary were happening to you. Rather, to the extent that you share the fellowship of the Messiah’s sufferings, rejoice; so that you will rejoice even more when His Shekinah glory is revealed. If you are being insulted because you bear the name of the Messiah, how blessed you are! For the Spirit of the Shekinah, that is, the Spirit of God, is resting on you!” (1 Peter 4:12-14; from The Complete Jewish Bible, translated by Dr. David Stern).

Let us tiptoe into deep waters, into a tremendous mystery within this particular title of the Holy Spirit. There are so many inspiring aspects to this title, the Spirit of Glory, that we might as well take our time wading in. God’s glory can be described as the weighty, majestic, and fiery presence of God on the earth when He wants to localize Himself. God’s glory is what He looks like when He chooses to make an appearance. God is indeed everywhere, but apparently there are those times when He wants to appear on earth. The Jewish scholars between the Testament periods developed a wonderful word, for “dwells”, Shekinah, which sums up for them, and us, God’s personal, divine presence on earth. So these two terms, Shekinah and glory, have come to mean much the same thing, and the two terms are often spoken as Shekinah glory, both terms together. And now the Holy Spirit comes to mind. When we see Shekinah glory, the fire of the Holy Spirit inevitably appears as well, in the midst of the glory, as a part of the glory. Since God is a “consuming fire,” (Deut. 4:24), it is not surprising that fire usually demonstrates God’s presence. All three of these spiritual realities, God’s glory, Shekinah glory, and the fiery Spirit, seem more or less indivisible. I’m not sure how one would separate one from the other, even if we wanted to do so. All three have to do with God’s localized presence, with God settling in and making a dwelling place.

Shekinah literally means “the One who dwells, settles in, resides, makes Himself at home.” God has made His intentions known right from the start in the Garden of Eden… When He exiled Adam and Eve, God exiled Himself and stayed with them. There are too many passages to count that discuss how God wants to be in our midst, to live among us, to walk with us. The prophetic word in Leviticus 26:12 is straight from the heart of the Lord… “I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be my people.” One of the important prophetic titles of Messiah Jesus is Emmanuel (Greek spelling of the Hebrew Immanuel): Emmanu-El; literal meaning in Hebrew is “With us, God;” it is often translated as “With us is God,” “God with us,” or “God is with us.” The name Emmanuel speaks of the eternal reality that our Creator has a strong desire to be in our midst, dwelling with us. Emmanuel is a promise that implies the ongoing, permanent presence of God with us. Miraculously, our heavenly God is with us, His earthly people. God the Father is the first Emmanuel, exiling Himself from the Garden after they sinned against Him. Creator God hasn’t left the side of humanity ever since. God the Son continued the same quality of the Godhead, the next Emmanuel in line, when he took on flesh and became incarnate and was with us through thick and thin, through life and death and then life again. The third and final divine Emmanel is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love shared by the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit was called the “paraclete” by Jesus, that Greek term meaning “called to come alongside” us. Thus, there is this astounding with-ness to the Trinity that assures us of God’s everlasting presence with us. We need never feel alone as we have believers with us who extend God’s presence through their ministries to us.

The supernatural power of God’s presence has an understandable effect on nature. Shekinah Glory bursts the earth at its seams. Nature doesn’t seem prepared for God’s glory and seems to sometimes have a difficult time managing something so otherworldly. After all, God’s glory is weightier than the universe, it has more substance to it than the entire world. Even a sliver of Shekinah glory sends the earth into turmoil. Isaiah asks for God’s presence and what it would take for Him to make an appearance in Isaiah 64:1: “Tear the heavens apart and come down!” Or perhaps you like the way David puts it in Psalm 144:5: “Bend your sky, O Lord, and come down.” One dramatic example is described when God’s glory made an appearance on Mt. Sinai… “Mt. Sinai was enveloped in smoke, because Yahweh descended onto it in fire. The smoke went up like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain shook violently, as the sound of the heavenly shofar grew louder and louder; All the people experienced the thunder, the lightning, the sound of the shofar, and the smoking on the mountain; To the people of Israel, the glory of the Lord looked like a raging fire on the top of the mountain.” (Ex.19:18 and 24:17). The heavenly fire from the Holy Spirit was a fearful and awesome part of Shekinah. God’s glory, the Shekinah, the Holy Spirit. What a fearful package of uncreated light from the essence of God Himself. The Spirit of Glory is one way of putting it. Another translator says: “The Spirit of the Shekinah, the Spirit of God.” Another put it this way: “The Shekinah glory of the Spirit.

There are many fiery Shekinah moments in the Scriptures. Sometimes the “dwelling” of God is momentary, of short duration. In these cases, the fire of the Holy Spirit is present for a particular purpose, there one minute and then gone the next. Other times God’s presence is intended to remain for a time, a reminder that God promises to eventually be with us eternally, that He will be present with us in His Shekinah glory forever.

(1.)  Shekinah glory illuminated the uncreated world with God’s presence, before there was any natural light from the sun or moon (Gen. 1);

(2.)  Shekinah glory lit the flaming sword of the cherubim that miraculously turned in every direction,  guarding the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3);

(3.)  Shekinah glory was there at Yahweh’s “signing” of the Abrahamic Covenant, with a flaming torch and smoking oven from heaven (Gen. 15:17-18);

(4.)  Shekinah glory was there at the burning bush with Moses, and the Angel of Yahweh speaking from within the bush which was never consumed ((Ex. 3);

(5.)  Shekinah glory was present in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, to provide protection, guidance, and an assurance of God’s presence during their wilderness journey (Ex. 24, 33, 40).

(6.)  Shekinah glory descended powerfully on Mt. Sinai at God’s giving of the Law of Moses. See the description of the Glory’s effects in the paragraph above (Ex. 19, 20, 24);

(7.)  Shekinah glory was present with Moses when Moses asked to see God’s glory, and the Lord passed before Moses and declared His character and essence (Ex. 33-34);

(8.)  Shekinah glory came down from heaven onto the altars to confirm the sacrificial system in the Tent of Meeting before the people and their leaders (Lev. 9).

(9.)  Shekinah glory descended into the Holy of Holies and filled it, dwelling over the Mercy Seat and between the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant, the dwelling place for God during the journey (Ex. 40:34).

(10.)  Shekinah glory came upon the two disobedient sons of Aaron in the Tabernacle and executed them for their unholy “strange fire” after a warning not to do so (Lev. 10:1-3);

(11.)  Shekinah glory came down and filled Solomon’s Temple with his Presence at the Dedication ceremony, leaving the people awestruck at the power of the Holy Spirit (Ex. 13 and 19, and 1 Kings 8, 1 Chron. 7);

(12.)  Shekinah glory was represented by the Holy Spirit in the passage about the Refiner’s Fire that will cleanse and purify God’s people (Malachi 3:2-3);

(13.) Shekinah glory was seen in a quick fashion in Gideon’s calling (Judges 6:21), David’s claiming the threshing floor for the future site of the Temple (1 Chron. 21:27), and on Mt. Carmel with Elijah calling down the fires of God to defeat the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18);

(14. Shekinah glory was mentioned in many heavenly visions throughout the Hebrew Bible, including the vision of Isaiah 4:5 in which the heavenly fire of God’s presence will protect and illuminate Jerusalem with a canopy of heavenly fire; Ezekiel’s vision in Ezek. 1 in which he saw what looked like fiery coals burning like torches, and fire flashing with brilliance like lightning; and Daniel’s vision in Dan. 7 in which he witnessed the Ancient of Days sitting on a throne of fiery flames and wheels of burning fire, and a stream of fire flowed from the Ancient One’s presence. The Holy Spirit was alive and well during all these spectacular visions.

All of these passages that involved fire and Shekinah glory in the Hebrew Bible were vital to the story of the Faith before Christ, and are actually anticipating and pointing to the Shekinah fire fulfillment in the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the arrival of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. God’s presence was an important chapter before Jesus, but it now becomes intensely personal. Jesus is Shekinah incarnate. Jesus is Shekinah glory in the flesh, spiritually full of the fire of the Spirit. In the face of Christ, we see the muted version of God’s glory, shekinah in the minor key, because we wouldn’t be able to manage an appearance of His glory in its fullness. The Son of God is the spiritual radiance of God’s Shekinah presence. Christ is the permanent dwelling place of God’s glory, which is gloriously multiplied by the personal presence of the Holy Spirit in every believer’s life (Col. 2:9; John 14:9; Heb. 1:3; 1 John 3:2).

The earthly appearances of God’s Shekinah glory and the fire of the Holy Spirit were still witnessed in the New Testament:

(1.)  The shepherds in the countryside, spending the night in the fields as usual guarding their flocks, suddenly were filled with fear at the Shekinah glory shining all around them. The Angel of God was with this bright light, and the shepherds were understandably terrified. The Angel calmed the fears of the shepherds, and all of a sudden once again something heavenly happened… There ws a vast army of angels filling the sky and praising God! (Luke 2:8-14);

(2.)  John the Baptist foretold that Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Luke 3:16-17). John’s words were fulfilled at Pentecost, when the Spirit descended to a gathered group of believers and appeared as tongues of fire, flames lighting on each believer present. (Acts 2:1-4). The fire of God, the Spirit of Glory, had come, flames from the ancient pillar of fire, and the world has never been the same. The fires of Christ’s Spirit was kindled, and the fire raged around the world. Jesus said that He came to set the world on fire, and He was true to His word through the Holy Spirit. Those first Christian believers were baptized with fire, and the fire will never be snuffed out. Luke mentions that these little fires were separated, which seems to imply there could have been one pillar of fire that broke off into separate pieces. These individual flames of fire revealed that the mighty God was present upon them in the form of the Holy Spirit. This was a display of God’s real presence, a tangible manifestation, not a mere symbol. This Pentecost fire is a redeeming fire, not a destructive one. It signaled God’s purifying presence on the disciples’ lives. The Pentecost fire does not burn or consume, instead it illuminates and enlightens, it fills, it kindles the heart and sets it aflame. These Pentecost fires are divine and reveal the holiness of God. Could it be these tongues of fire are flames that split off from the very same, in substance, pillar of fire that guided the Israelites throughout the wilderness?

(3.)  Peter, James and John were privileged to snatch a peak of what the Shekinah glory can look like in the Person of Jesus. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus’ body and clothing turned bright, dazzling white with light. There was a dense cloud that was somehow lighted from within. And to confirm God’s holy presence in this glory being witnessed, the Father spoke from the cloud about believing in Jesus His Son and listening only to Him. The Transfiguration was an historic moment in the gospel story, and is repeated in Matt. 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9. Here we find the eternal appearance of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, filled with Shekinah glory from heaven, the true nature and essence of Christ.

(4.)  St. Paul (known at this time as Saul) was on his merry way to Damascus to persecute some more Christians, and suddenly there was the Shekinah glory of God shining down upon him on the road. This intense light from heaven was all around him, he couldn’t get away from it. And then Jesus spoke from the middle of the light, and asked Saul why he was persecuting Jesus. Paul asked, who really are you? And Jesus confirmed it was Him and that he wanted Paul to get further instructions in town. Paul became blind because of this incident, and His sight was restored by a believer in Damascus. The rest is history, how Saul became Paul and kick-started the Christian faith as we know it today. (Acts 9:3; 22:11; 26:13).

(5.). There is even more of a personal indwelling of the Shekinah Spirit of Glory. When the Holy Spirit dwells in each of us, He makes Himself at home, permanently. The early Christians started adopting Shekinah as the way of describing God’s presence in us through the Holy Spirit, and many Bible translations have continued that tradition. “Just as God’s presence rested in the Temple, the Spirit of Shekinah now rests on us, since our bodies are now the Temple of the Spirit of Glory who lives in us.” (1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Peter4:14).   “Now ‘the Lord’ in this text means the Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us, with faces unveiled, see in a mirror the glory of the Lord, and we are being changed into His very image, from one degree of glory to the next, by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). “For it is the God who once said, ‘Let shine out of darkness,’ who has made His light shine in our hearts, the light of the knowledge of God’s glory shining in the face of the Messiah Jesus.” (2 Corinthians 4:6). 

(6.)  There will be no sunlight in heaven, no artificial light or natural light. There will only be supernatural light in the New Jerusalem. As it turns out, Shekinah glory through the Holy Spirit will provide all the light we will ever need. “The city has no need for the sun or moon to shine on it, because God’s Shekinah gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.” (Revelation 21:23-24). 

“Who is this King of Glory? The Lord, strong and mighty! The Lord, mighty in battle! Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts – He is the glorious King! (Psalm 24:8-10).