God's Spirit Before the Church Era

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God's Spirit Before the Church Era

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When is God’s Spirit first mentioned in the Bible?

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2 Genesis 1:1-2 1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.
American King James Version×
, New International Version).

In its first chapter the Bible introduces us to powerful effects of God’s Spirit. The subsequent verses then describe God, with the power of His Spirit, fashioning the heavens and earth and all that is in them. “By His Spirit He adorned the heavens …” (Job 26:13 Job 26:13By his spirit he has garnished the heavens; his hand has formed the crooked serpent.
American King James Version×
).

God then made mankind “in His own image” (Genesis 1:26-28 Genesis 1:26-28 26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
American King James Version×
). He placed the first man and woman in the Garden of Eden, where they could have eaten of the tree of life (Genesis 2:9 Genesis 2:9And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the middle of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
American King James Version×
).

Christ taught that “life”—eternal life—is available only through God’s Spirit (John 6:63 John 6:63It is the spirit that vivifies; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.
American King James Version×
). Paul explained that, “if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit [which] dwells in you” (Romans 8:11 Romans 8:11But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.
American King James Version×
).

Therefore the tree of life represents the life-giving power of God’s Spirit.

Adam and Eve, of course, had the opportunity to make another choice. And, to their detriment, they chose the other tree. As a result of Satan’s persuasion, they chose the fruit of the tree that represented only knowledge of right and wrong—”the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”—rather than the power to subdue and control human nature as represented by the fruit of the tree of life (Genesis 2:16-17 Genesis 2:16-17 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.
American King James Version×
; Genesis 3:6 Genesis 3:6And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her; and he did eat.
American King James Version×
). Tragically, they did not understand that knowledge alone—especially knowledge acquired primarily through human experience—is not enough.

So with Adam and Eve the history of human beings began without the active presence of God in their lives; they lacked the power and help of His Spirit.

By the time of Noah how had Adam’s and Eve’s choice affected their descendants?

“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Genesis 6:11-12 Genesis 6:11-12 11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God looked on the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way on the earth.
American King James Version×
).

Human beings without God’s Spirit cannot control their own fleshly nature. Such control requires more than knowledge alone. It requires help from God through His Spirit. But not until Jesus had died to pay for humanity’s sins would God again begin offering His Spirit to all who would come to Him in a spirit of repentance.

How did God usually communicate with mankind after Satan deceived Adam and Eve?

“… Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21 2 Peter 1:20-21 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×
, New American Standard Version).

Though humanity as a whole had no access to the Holy Spirit, God did give His Spirit to certain chosen servants who spoke for Him. God also inspired His messages through them to be recorded for us today in the pages of the Bible.

Did mankind listen to these prophetic messengers inspired by God’s Spirit?

“Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the LORD; and they testified against them, but they would not listen” (2 Chronicles 24:19 2 Chronicles 24:19Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again to the LORD; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear.
American King James Version×
; compare Genesis 6:5 Genesis 6:5And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
American King James Version×
; Nehemiah 9:26 Nehemiah 9:26Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against you, and cast your law behind their backs, and slew your prophets which testified against them to turn them to you, and they worked great provocations.
American King James Version×
).

Then, as today, most people ignored the warnings of God’s messengers. Similarly, most people today choose to ignore those same warnings written in Scripture. Human attitudes toward God’s Word haven’t changed.

What was God’s conclusion concerning humanity as He began to use Noah?

“Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years’ ” (Genesis 6:3 Genesis 6:3And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Resistance to anything He tried to teach humans was so intense by the time of Noah that God decided to give humanity only 120 more years before He would destroy all but Noah’s family. That destruction came through what has come to be known as Noah’s Flood.

After the Flood God called and used Abraham. In the succeeding years He used Abraham’s son, grandson and great-grandson. Then, generations later, He began working with the nation of Israel, which He began through some of Abraham’s descendants.

Did God communicate with Israel through His Spirit in His prophets?

“You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct [the people of Israel], and did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness, they lacked nothing …” (Nehemiah 9:20-21 Nehemiah 9:20-21 20 You gave also your good spirit to instruct them, and withheld not your manna from their mouth, and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Yes, forty years did you sustain them in the wilderness, so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.
American King James Version×
; compare Nehemiah 9:30 Nehemiah 9:30Yet many years did you forbear them, and testified against them by your spirit in your prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gave you them into the hand of the people of the lands.
American King James Version×
).

So overwhelming was the task of trying to lead the people of Israel that Moses, even though he was the only man at that time who had the Holy Spirit, complained to God, “I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me” (Numbers 11:14 Numbers 11:14I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.
American King James Version×
).

“So the LORD said to Moses: ‘Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone’ ” (Numbers 11:16-17 Numbers 11:16-17 16 And the LORD said to Moses, Gather to me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them to the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with you. 17 And I will come down and talk with you there: and I will take of the spirit which is on you, and will put it on them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you bear it not yourself alone.
American King James Version×
).

This is the largest group of people mentioned in the Old Testament to receive God’s Spirit at the same time. God gave the chief leaders in Israel some of the same spiritual help and the divine power He had given Moses so they could help guide the new nation. This occurred during the 40 years of the Israelites’ wandering in the wilderness, before they entered the Promised Land.

After the days of Moses, did God continue giving His Spirit to leaders and prophets in Israel?

“The Spirit of the LORD came upon [Othniel], and he judged Israel” (Judges 3:10 Judges 3:10And the Spirit of the LORD came on him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim.
American King James Version×
).

As time went on, God gave His Spirit to other leaders of Israel. Among them were Gideon, Jephthah, Saul and David (Judges 6:34 Judges 6:34But the Spirit of the LORD came on Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him.
American King James Version×
; Judges 11:29 Judges 11:29Then the Spirit of the LORD came on Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over to the children of Ammon.
American King James Version×
; 1 Samuel 11:6 1 Samuel 11:6And the Spirit of God came on Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly.
American King James Version×
; 1 Samuel 16:13-14 1 Samuel 16:13-14 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the middle of his brothers: and the Spirit of the LORD came on David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. 14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.
American King James Version×
). But, apart from a few exceptions, the people never returned to God with all their hearts. Ultimately their rebellion against Him and rejection of His ways were so great that most of them were taken into captivity at the hands of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires.

Does God explain why He finally sent all of the tribes of Israel into captivity?

“But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus … I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they had not known” (Zechariah 7:11-14 Zechariah 7:11-14 11 But they refused to listen, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. 12 Yes, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts has sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. 13 Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, said the LORD of hosts: 14 But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.
American King James Version×
).

After the Israelites demonstrated by their long history of disobedience that the guidance from leaders and prophets filled with God’s Spirit would not change their hearts, God began revealing His plans for the then-distant future.