As Desiree and I worked on The Holy Spirit of the Bible, a central message began to take form: the Holy Spirit hasn’t changed. He is the same Spirit that was at work as far back as the Old Testament takes us. This is particularly significant for Christians to understand who dismiss the complete work of the Holy Spirit because of confusion over Acts 2 and Pentecost.
I was reminded of this reality once again today as I read Numbers 11. Moses is exhausted, frustrated and burned out as he faces the reality of leading the children of Israel. As Moses brings his frustration to the LORD, God responds by offering to Moses to “take some of the Spirit that is upon him” and distribute it upon the Elders of the 12 tribes. Look at what happens as the Spirit of God, very early on in the Bible, falls on His people:
“…it came to pass, that when the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied.” Some sources state that this was a one-time occurrence. Other biblical texts state that they prophesied and “continued to do so.” The point is that the Spirit of God behaved here as He did elsewhere in the Old Testament, as well as in Acts 2, as well as in the rest of the New Testament, as well as He does today. God has not changed, nor has Jesus’s intent for us through His Holy Spirit.
Interestingly, the people’s response to this activity of the Holy Spirit resembles what it often looks like today:
Eldad and Medad, two of the Elders on whom the Spirit had fallen, were prophesying out among the people. “Then Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moses from his youth, said, ‘Moses, my lord, restrain them.’ But Moses said to him, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!'” Numbers 11:25-29
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14:1-5, reiterates the same exact sentiment when he states, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy…One who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. Now, I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy…”
Many Christians believe that a transition happened after the first century, once the last of the disciples(turned apostles) died off, and that the Holy Spirit stopped being needed in the capacity Jesus told us we would need Him. The Bible, however, doesn’t indicate at all that such a transition would happen.
If there is any sort of transition identified in Scripture, it is between the Old and New Testaments, where Jesus changed how we interact with God. If there is any sort of delineator in the Bible between God’s former and current approach, it is hinged upon the work of Jesus Christ.
And while this, THE transition of all history, does change the access we have to the Spirit of God, it does not change Him, His attributes, or His behaviors as recorded in the Bible.