God's Promise of a New Era
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Did God promise a Spirit-filled descendant of David would lead and judge His people?
"A shoot [Christ] will come up from the stump of Jesse [father of King David]; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD—and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth ... Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist" (Isaiah 11:1-5, NIV).
How does God propose to change the human heart?
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then ... you shall be My people, and I will be your God" (Ezekiel 36:26-28; compare Isaiah 59:20-21).
God's Spirit is not a substitute for the knowledge of right and wrong that comes from God's commandments and laws. Rather, through His Spirit God supplies the power we need to obey His Word and do His will.
Has God promised to make His Spirit available to everyone?
"And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh ..." (Joel 2:28).
God has a long-range plan for changing human nature and reopening the door for all of humanity to receive His Spirit. The door was closed when Adam and Eve rejected Him and chose the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That door is the key to that change. It is also the key to a new relationship people can have with God—by repenting and accepting the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus the Messiah, for the forgiveness of sin.
Is God committed to bringing these universal changes to pass?
"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah ... I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
God has committed Himself to make His Spirit available to all the tribes of Israel—to a future restored nation of all the descendants of Abraham through His grandson Jacob. At that time He will use their example to teach all other nations how to repent so they also can receive the Holy Spirit.
"So this is what the Lord GOD says: Now I will bring the people of Jacob back from captivity, and I will have mercy on the whole nation of Israel. I will not let them dishonor me. The people will forget their shame and how they rejected me when they live again in safety on their own land with no one to make them afraid. I will bring the people back from other lands and gather them from the lands of their enemies.
"So I will use my people to show many nations that I am holy. Then my people will know that I am the LORD their God, because I sent them into captivity among the nations, but then I brought them back to their own land, leaving no one behind. I will not turn away from them anymore, because I will put my Spirit into the people of Israel, says the Lord GOD" (Ezekiel 39:25-29, NCV).
How will the new Israel, a people led by God's Spirit, influence other nations?
"Many people shall come and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).
As the fruits of God's Spirit—such as harmony, cooperation and concern for others—multiply within the newly reconstituted Israel, other nations will see these results and want to share them. They will come to Jerusalem seeking guidance. "In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you'" (Zechariah 8:23). This, of course, will occur only after Jesus' second coming.
What had to precede God's making His Spirit available to all human beings?
"Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, 'Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.' Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious ... You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God ..." (1 Peter 2:6-10).
God first had to send Jesus as His Son, as a human being, to become mankind's Redeemer and Savior. Jesus had to die to make possible the forgiveness of sin so the Holy Spirit could go to all who would repent. Then He had to establish His Church (Matthew 16:18) so He would have a "royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9) trained and ready to assist Him in teaching God's ways to man when He returns to establish His Kingdom. That is why God is now, through the power of His Spirit, converting and training "His own special people" as members of the Church Jesus established.
Was Jesus' birth related to God's plans for Jacob's descendants that has not yet come to pass?
"The angel said to her, 'Don't be afraid, Mary; God has shown you his grace. Listen! You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of King David, his ancestor. He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end'" (Luke 1:30-33, NCV).
Did the Holy Spirit have a powerful role in Jesus' birth and mission?
"The angel said to Mary, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you. For this reason the baby will be holy and will be called the Son of God'" (Luke 1:35, NCV).
"The One whom God sent speaks the words of God, because God gives him the Spirit fully. The Father loves the Son and has given him power over everything" (John 3:34-35, NCV).
The four accounts of Jesus' life and work—the four Gospels—attribute His divine powers to the power of the Holy Spirit. For example, when He was "led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil" (Matthew 4:1) and had successfully resisted the temptations (Matthew 4:3-11), "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah" (Luke 4:14-17).
Did Jesus apply Isaiah's prophecies to His mission?
"And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 'The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.' Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing'" (Luke 4:17-21; compare Isaiah 61:1-2).
Jesus announced the beginning of His ministry as a physical human being at the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth on a Sabbath day. He did this by reading a prophecy pertaining to the Messiah from Isaiah 61:1-2. He then confirmed that He was the One of whom Isaiah had prophesied. He confirmed that He had been anointed by God as the Messiah with the Holy Spirit and that this Spirit was empowering him to begin His ministry of proclaiming the gospel.
Jesus, however, read only the portion of Isaiah's prophecy that applied to His first coming. The same prophecy also describes what He will do when He returns: "He has sent me to comfort all those who are sad and to help the sorrowing people of Jerusalem. I will give them a crown to replace their ashes, and the oil of gladness to replace their sorrow, and clothes of praise to replace their spirit of sadness. Then they will be called Trees of Goodness, trees planted by the LORD to show his greatness. They will rebuild the old ruins ..." (Isaiah 61:3-4, NCV).
What God began at that time in Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is only the beginning of what He will accomplish through His Spirit. In the book of Revelation Jesus is quoted as saying, "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star" (Revelation 22:16). John, the writer of Revelation, continues: "And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17).
This message, from the last chapter of the Bible, invites everyone to partake of God's Spirit and enjoy its fruit. Only its fruit can satisfy the spiritual thirst and longings of all human beings. The work of preparing mankind to receive God's Spirit began at Jesus' first coming.
Let's see how God is using His Spirit to prepare the few He is calling to be the light of the world now and in the future—kings and priests assisting Jesus in converting the whole world.