The Spirits of God, Christ, Angels and Humans
The word spirit or the words translated spirit are used hundreds of times throughout the Bible. Therefore, there is no lack of scriptural references to assist us in getting a clear understanding of its meanings. The fundamental challenge that many people overlook, that results in confusion, is the fact that the word spirit is used to refer to several different things. To take a meaning that is intended for one thing and apply it to something else will cause the intended sense to be missed. The challenge of one word having more than one meaning is not unique to the word spirit. It is a normal occurrence with many other words and the approach to understanding the sense of their usages is the same. It is the context of the usage that helps us to understand the intended meaning. This study explores the different meanings of the word spirit and ultimately seeks to shed light on the matter of who or what is the Holy Spirit.
In the Bible, God, Christ, angels and humans are all referred to as spirit beings. Of God, the Bible says: “God is a spirit” (John 4:24). It also says that Jesus Christ is a spirit: “The first Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45). Angels are also spirits: “Are they not all ministering spirits” (Heb. 1:14); holy angels are referred to as ministering spirits that have been sent by God to minister to those who are heirs of salvation and generally to execute God’s will (Ps. 104:4; Heb. 1:7,14); evil angels are referred to as unclean spirits, evil spirits, lying spirits, demons or devils (eg. 1 Kings 22:19-23; Acts 19:13-16; Mark 3:11; Acts 3:22,23; Acts 5:6-15; Jude 6,7). Man is also referred to as a spirit: “That which is born of the spirit is spirit” (John 3:6); “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1-5); “he went and preached unto the spirits in prison” (1 Pet. 3: 18-21).
The word that is translated “Ghost”, as in “Holy Ghost”, in the New Testament – pneuma, is the same word that is translated “Spirit”, “spirit” or “spirits” depending on the translators’ opinion of what they thought was being referred to. The word that is similarly used in the Old testament – ruach, is also translated “Spirit”, “spirit” or “spirits”. If the preceding adjective is “evil” or “unclean” and it is thought that a plurality of personalities is being referred to, then the word is translated “spirits”. This causes one to understand immediately that reference is being made to fallen angels as evil spirits or unclean spirits. If the reference is to holy beings and there is a clear plurality implied as in the case of “four” (Zech. 6:5) or “seven” (Rev. 1:4; compare with Rev. 8:2), the word is translated “spirits” which allows for an understanding that these “spirits” are holy angels.
But in some other cases when the adjective is “holy” and it seems to be referring to one being, the word is translated “Ghost” or “Spirit” and the first letter of the adjective is capitalized to render the expression “Holy Ghost” or “Holy Spirit”. This translation has helped to foster the popular notion that there is a third divine personality of worshipful status. The concept of a third divine personality results in the glaring anomaly that in some instances where it would have been expected that the supposed third divine personality should have been mentioned, instead the expected reference is entirely missing and in its place is a reference to angels (eg. Luke 9:26: “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels”; also 1 Tim. 5:21: “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels”). Further, it creates the inexplicable spectacle of a divine personality that is sent and has no authority to say anything of himself (John 16:13: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak”).
It is interesting also that Paul always brought greetings from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son but not from the Holy Spirit (eg. Eph. 1:2: “Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” – no mention of any other; likewise, Phil. 1:2; Col.1:2; 1 Thess.1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; Philemon 1:3; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor.1:2). John does the same (2 John 1:3). Jesus also said that no man knows the Son, but the Father, and no man knows the Father but the Son and he to whom the Son will reveal Him (Luke 10:22). The idea of a third divine personality is entirely excluded.
The question therefore is: When the Bible speaks of spirit in personal terms, what evidence can be produced that it is someone else other than God, Christ, angels or man that is being referred to?
Notwithstanding the fact that God, Christ, angels and humans are all spirit beings, they are also personal beings.
None would doubt that Jesus Christ is a personal physical being – after He was resurrected He showed His disciples His hands and feet and told them to touch Him to prove that it was He himself – a person (Luke 24:39).
The Father also has a shape and form. Man was made in His image (Gen. 1:26). The Father was seen in heaven seated on a throne (Dan. 7:9) and the Son of Man (Jesus Christ) coming to Him (Dan. 7:13); Stephen also saw heaven opened and the Son of Man (Jesus Christ) standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56); John the Revelator saw God in heaven also sitting on a throne with millions of angels around the throne (Rev. 4:2, 8-11; 5:11); Ezekiel saw God on His throne and His appearance was “the appearance of a man” (Eze. 1:26). Man, a personal being, was made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26), after His likeness. When Moses and Daniel saw God, they saw someone with physical features like what man has: face (which Moses was not allowed to see – Ex. 33:20), hand and back parts (Ex. 33:20-23), head, hair, feet (Ex. 24:9-11; Dan. 7:9). Jesus who is described as the express image of His Father’s person (Heb.1:3) and the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15) was seen before His incarnation (Dan. 10:5,6; 12:7) and after His resurrection (Rev. 1:12-15), having human-looking features like what God is described with.
The angels are also personal physical beings. In answer to Daniel’s prayer, an angel came and talked with Daniel, telling him that he was delayed with the prince of the kingdom of Persia for 21 days and when he is through talking with Daniel he would go back to the prince of Persia (Dan. 10:12,13,20). On more than one occasion the angel Gabriel appeared to Daniel, talked with him and even touched him (Dan. 8:16-18; 9:21). Gabriel also appeared to Mary (Luke 1:26, 27). Angels are described as looking like humans and having wings with which they fly (Isa. 6:1,2,6; Eze. 10:5,20-22).
Without question, man is clearly a physical personal being. The difference between man and other spirit beings is that man has a terrestrial body, whereas other beings have celestial bodies – “But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.” (1 Cor. 15:38-40).
Christ had a glorious body like His Father before He came to earth. But He put off that glorious body and took on a human body; that is, He became flesh – “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6, 7); “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. 2:14).
Having been resurrected from the dead, Christ now has a glorious body like the bodies that we will get at His Second Coming – “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (Phil. 3:20, 21).
It is critical for it to be understood that Christ is in Heaven at this time, interceding for us before his Father and an innumerable company of angels – “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” (Rev. 3:5). When His intercessory work on our behalf is finished, He will return to take us to be with Him (John 14:1-3). An angel told Mary “He is not here: for he is risen” (Matt. 28:6). And Christ later appeared to Mary and told her “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father” (John 20:17). It is evident that after His resurrection, Jesus was not present everywhere at the same time. He now has a body like the ones that we will get when He returns the second time. In His glorious body, Christ is not everywhere, and neither will we be everywhere at the same time, in the glorified bodies like His, that we will have.
Jesus is the “express image” of His Father’s person (Heb. 1:3). We also, were made in God’s image, after His likeness. When God sees us, He sees an image of Himself. This is a part of the reason that God loves us so much – all of us. Hence, God and Christ were willing to make such a sacrifice to save us; and we will be exalted even above angels in the New Earth. God and Christ will make their dwelling on earth with us, in a real world where we will be able to see them and interact with them as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden – “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” (Rev. 21:22); “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads” (Rev. 22:3, 4).
The notion that God and Christ are everywhere inside of people is a form of pantheism and it leads to a complete distortion of the reality of the relationship and interaction that we, as free moral agents – beings with minds of our own, can have with God, Christ and the angels.
All living beings have a spirit
Although God, Christ, angels and humans are said to be spirit beings, they are also said to have their own spirit.
The spirit of man is said to be a part of him: “what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11). Man’s spirit is unique to him and so is God’s spirit unique to God. The spirit of God is described as a part of God: “I will pour out of my spirit” (Acts 2:17). The spirit of Christ in the prophets is described as “it”: “the spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand” (1 Pet. 1:11). The spirit of Christ is spoken of as the spirit of God: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9) – Note: the word “dwell” is the same as is used in Rom. 7:17 in relation to sin. So, the spirit of Christ in us is not a living being inside of us but rather Christ’s attributes, like the “mind” of Christ that we are called upon to have – “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:5).
Living creatures called cherubims (angels) are described as having a spirit: “for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels” (Eze. 1:20, 21); “I knew that they were cherubims” (Eze. 10:20). It is to be noted that beasts are also said to have a spirit: “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (Ecc. 3:21).
Other meanings of Spirit
We have already seen that spirit can refer to the whole person and it can also refer to the inner being of the person. Based on the usages of the word spirit other meanings include breath – “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26); “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it” (Ecc. 12:7). The word spirit is also used to mean personality, mind, disposition, countenance or character – “And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled” (Gen. 41:8); “Why is thy spirit so sad?” (1 Kings 21:4, 5); “be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).
Power, as in the means of causing things to be done, is also conveyed by the word spirit – “And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand” (Judg. 14:6); “And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy” (1 Sam. 10:6); “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18).
God in you – How?
Given the various ways in which the word spirit is used, what then does it mean for the spirit of God to be in someone? Some such expressions are: “Spirit of God dwell in you” (Rom. 8:9) – the same word for dwell (oikeo) is used in relation to sin: “no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (Rom. 7:17); “by his spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:11); “I will dwell in them” 2 Cor. 6:16) – the same word dwell (translated from the word enoikeo) is used in Col. 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you” and in 2 Tim. 1:5: “unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois”. God’s spirit, in the sense of something dwelling in us, is God’s mind or character. This is made possible by us receiving and believing his word – “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63).
God, Christ, the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Christ being in us could not mean that the whole Person is in us because of the following reasons:
- The whole Person is omnipotent, omniscient, immortal, and divine – which we are not. If the whole Person is in us, then we must likewise be omnipotent, and all that God is.
- The whole Person cannot be in one of us and be in someone else at the same time. The part that is in one must be a different part from what is in another, even if similar in quality. Further yet, the divine quality cannot be in us in totality as we would then be like God Himself in every particular – power, wisdom and all.
- The Bible is clear that God and Christ are in heaven and heaven is neither everywhere nor inside an individual – “Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16, 45); “Our Father which art in heaven” (Luke 11:2); “Then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive” (2 Chron. 6:30); “And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left” (1 Kings 22:19). Jesus went back to heaven and promises to return – “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3). Jesus even likened His departure to a man traveling to a far country to receive a kingdom – “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his servants, and delivereth unto them his goods”; “After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them” (Matt. 25:14, 19); “He said therefore, a certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return” (Luke 19:12).
Since it is clearly not the whole person that is in us, it must be aspects of God that may include: life (or breath), personality (character or attributes) or power (abilities). The spirit is “poured out” by measure (Acts 2:17) – hence we are not omnipotent, omniscient, immortal or other attributes that are unique to God. Christ has God’s spirit (attributes) without measure – “God giveth not the spirit by measure unto him” (John 3:34, 35).
Lucifer wants to be worshipped
Lucifer wanted to be like the Most High – “I will be like the most High.” (Isa. 14:12-14). The heavenly Council was between two – The Creator and His Son – “the counsel of peace shall be between them both” (Zech. 6: 13); “All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” (Luke 10:22).
Lucifer’s ambition caused him to rebel against the Most High and he was consequently put out of heaven – “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” (Isa. 14:12-14; See also Eze. 28:12-19; Rev. 12:7-9).
From the earliest days, idolatry centred on the worship of three – Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz who were called by different names in different cultures. The concept of worship being given to three was common to many pagan religions (eg. Hindu – Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva; Egyptian – Isis, Horus, Set). Obviously, Lucifer has not given up the idea of being worshipped as a third deity.
Apart from direct idolatry as in pagan religions, Lucifer applies deception to achieve the same objective among professed Christians by leading people to believe that God is three-in-one, a concept that is not found anywhere in the Bible. Through the concept of a triune god, professing Christians are drawn to accept the concept of worshipping the “Holy Ghost” which is perceived as a third divine personality. Through this means Lucifer accepts the worship and adoration being given and even makes himself the focus. In other cases, he gains control of the minds of persons who open themselves to receive his controlling influence which they think is the “Spirit” of God “filling” them – thus bringing professing Christians to the same place of worshipping him as do pagans, notwithstanding their professed belief in the Most High and His Son Jesus Christ.
From the information gathered we can conclude the following: God is a personal being of whom Christ is the image and likeness. Man is also made in the same image and likeness. Nowhere is God represented as being a mysterious immaterial essence without body or parts; neither is God’s spirit separate from God Himself. God is a spirit and so are Jesus Christ, angels and human beings – real, literal persons. God is in heaven, a real, literal place that is not everywhere. The spirit of God is either God Himself or an aspect of Him. When the Bible speaks of spirit in personal terms, as in the various references to the Holy Ghost, it is referring to no other than God Himself, Christ, angels or one of God’s representatives. The Christian’s hope is to one day be united with God and Christ in Person and see them face to face (1 Cor.13:12) and live with them throughout eternity in a real and literal, material new earth (Rev. 21:1-4, 22-25).
Satan’s studied purpose is to be worshipped like the Creator. He seeks to achieve this through deception. By creating confusion in people’s minds concerning the reality of God, Christ, angels and man as personal beings, he can weave himself into the spiritualized mix of uncertainty (which is often described as a mystery), thereby deceiving people into worshipping and interacting with him and his host of fallen angels without their realizing it. “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matt. 24:4);
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).
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Thank you for making a response to my previous question made in another post (http://www.thecommandmentsofgodandthefaithofjesus.com/2017/01/29/different-meanings-holy-spirit/).
Before I mention my disagreements, I must say that I am thankful that we agree that God and all living things are material entities; having their own body. This important truth builds a fortified wall against spiritualism.
However, I have a few significant problems with your understanding of the term “spirit”.
1. The details of the word “spirit”.
2. You do not clearly distinguish between a “spirit being”/”supernatural being” and the “spirit of (in) a being”.
3. You seem to reject the greater extent of what the Spirit of God is; in terms of God’s Presence (Omnipresence) and God’s Person(-ality).
4. I fear that you may be merging the personality of God and Christ with that of angels.
1.Similarly to the English language, there are singular and plural forms of words in the languages from the original texts that the Bible was written from. The Bible translators took note of these when making their translations. Therefore, when the term is translated “spirits” it means that in the original language, a plural term was used. Just doing an interlinear examination of the passage would reveal this.
Hebrews 1:7 “And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits[plural Greek term “pneumata”], and his ministers a flame of fire.”
This is the same for the Old Testament Psalms 104:4 (with the Hebrew “ru-ho-wut”) from which this verse is a quotation.
Luke 4:18 “The Spirit[Greek singular “pneuma”] of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor…”
The singular equivalent (with the Hebrew “ru-ah”) is used in the Old Testament Isaiah 61:1 from which this is quoted.)
2.A human should not rightly be called a “spirit”/”spirit being”, unless they are glorified. It is necessary for one to have a “spiritual body”(supernatural body) before they can be called a “spirit” (spirit/supernatural being). Currently we are mortals/”living souls”, like the 1st Adam, but when Jesus returns we will be glorified into “spirits”, like Jesus now is.
1 Corinthians 15:44-46 “It is sown a *natural body*; it is raised a SPIRITUAL BODY. There is a *natural body*, and there is a SPIRITUAL BODY. (45) And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living *soul*; the last Adam was made a quickening SPIRIT. (46) Howbeit that was not first which is SPIRITUAL, but that which is *natural*; and AFTERWARD that which is SPIRITUAL.”
You also mentioned the “spirits in prison” in 1 Peter 3:19 as proof that humans now are “spirits”. I must disagree because Peter was referring to the spirits of the Antediluvian people; not man as an entire being.
1 Peter 3:19 Worldwide English (New Testament) (WE) “His spirit went and gave his message to *people’s spirits* who were in prison.”
3.You described God as “The whole Person is omnipotent, omniscient, immortal, and divine…”. I am wondering why you did not also describe God as “Omnipresent”. This is also one of God’s very important attributes, and Jesus’ by extension.
It is true that humans will not be omnipresent when we receive a glorified body like Jesus’. However, Jesus could be described as having been glorified to a greater extent than any other human will. This God-level glorification was described in John 17:5 and also in (I hope you do not use these verses to describe angels) Rev 3:1 & 5:6.
These passages show that Jesus is Omnipresent in His own Divine abilities and the humanity that He still now posses does not hinder His restored Divine abilities. Therefore Jesus could say to His disciples that He would not send an angel as their “another Comforter” (John 14:16) but He said “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:18). Jesus “…is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.” (Ephesians 4:10).
Another serious point about the Holy Spirit is that it is the life of God. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we do not merely get the “sentiment” which was also in Christ (Phil 2:5) but the “mind of Christ”(1 Cor 2:16); Jesus’ consciousness comes to us! The spirit of a being is far more than just attributes but it is the personality and life in that individual. We get God’s salvific life and as such we can rightly be called sons of God. This is a supernaturally intimate union with God and a Christian. God puts part of Himself inside us. This is far from pantheism! This is the gospel (1 John 4:13)!
(Romans 8:10 “And if CHRIST BE IN YOU, the body is dead because of sin; but the SPIRIT IS LIFE because of *righteousness*.”
Romans 8:16 “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:”)
This is the entire purpose of believing that Jesus is the Son of God; to get life.
John 20:31 “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the *Son of God*; and that *believing* ye might *HAVE LIFE* through his name. ”
4.My final concern is your teaching that the Holy Spirit can sometimes refer to angels. I fear that this is very destructive. Not only is it correct that there are no Divine Intelligences besides the Father and the Son, also there is no other intelligence as the Holy Spirit besides the Father and the Son. There is no 3rd intelligence as the Holy Spirit.
I admit that you do not teach this: but many people have it in the back of their mind that the Holy Spirit is God based on Acts 5:3-4. It is therefore, not a far step to conclude that angels must also be God; at least when they function as the Holy Spirit.
You described my view very well when you said: “To some people it is blasphemous to think of the “Spirit of truth” as an angel.” http://www.thecommandmentsofgodandthefaithofjesus.com/2017/01/29/different-meanings-holy-spirit/
There was actually a letter of admonition written by Sis. Ellen White about a Seventh-day Adventist in her day teaching that the Holy Spirit can mean an angel. I will not post the letter here since my comment is already too long but I will leave the link below. Pay key attention to the 1st paragraph, and parag/pages 13-17.
I have noted your concerns and will address the four (4) points that you have raised.
1. The details of the word “spirit”: Yes, there are plural and singular words in the original languages; however, that does not negate the general point that the words “ruach” and “pneuma” are translated as both “spirit” and “spirits”. According to Young’s Analytical Concordance, “spirit” in Gen. 1:2 and “spirits” in Ps. 104:4 and Zech. 6:5 are all translations of the word “ruach”. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance says the same thing (Strong’s – word # 7307 is the word for these references). Similarly, according to Young’s Analytical Concordance, “spirit” in John 14:17 and “spirits” in Heb. 1:7, 14 and Rev. 1:4 are all translations of the word “pneuma”. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance says the same thing (Strong’s – word # 4151 is the word for these references). My understanding of your point is that these words (“ruach” and “pneuma”) are not the actual words that are in the original text, but variations of them (such as “ru-ho-wut” and “pneumata”), which are either singular or plural. This is not my understanding as the experts who wrote the two concordances that I have quoted, present these as the actual words; and I accept that. If you have evidence that the actual words in the original text are not these, but variations of them, I think the onus is on you to present that evidence.
2. The distinction between a “spirit being” and the “spirit of a being”: I think the distinction is clearly made – God, Christ, angels and humans are all spirit beings because they all have spirits, even though they have different bodies. Some beings have terrestrial (or fleshly) bodies, while others have celestial (or spiritual) bodies (1 Cor. 15:38-49). The fact that one has a fleshly body does not detract from one’s identity as a spirit being. The body can be changed but the real person is the “inner man”, which is one’s spirit – which is unique to each individual.
3. God’s omnipresence: The Bible teaches that God is in heaven. It does not teach that God is everywhere at the same time. He is omnipresent by virtue of His omniscience and by virtue of His representatives (messengers or angels). James White explains it in his book Personality of God. Please consider his arguments, which I have reproduced below.
Personality of God by James White:
“OBJ. – God is everywhere. Proof. Psalm 139:1-8. He is as much in every place as in any one place.
ANS. – 1. God is everywhere by virtue of his omniscience, as will be seen by the very words of David referred to above. Verses 1-6. “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine uprising; thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is high; I cannot attain unto it.”
2. God is everywhere by virtue of his Spirit, which is his representative, and is manifested wherever he pleases, as will be seen by the very words the objector claims, referred to above. Verses 7-10. “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”
God is in heaven. This we are taught in the Lord’s prayer. “Our Father which art in heaven.” Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2. But if God is as much in every place as he is in any one place, then heaven is also as much in every place as it is in any one place, and the idea of going to heaven is all a mistake. We are all in heaven; and the Lord’s prayer, according to this foggy theology simply means, Our Father which art everywhere, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is everywhere.
Again, Bible readers have believed that Enoch and Elijah were really taken up to God in heaven. But if God and heaven be as much in every place as in any one place, this is all a mistake. They were not translated. And all that is said about the chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and the attending whirlwind to take Elijah up into heaven, was a useless parade. They only evaporated, and a misty vapor passed through the entire universe. This is all of Enoch and Elijah that the mind can possibly grasp, admitting that God and heaven are no more in any one place than in every place. But it is said of Elijah that he “went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” 2 Kings 2:11. And of Enoch it is said that he “walked with God, and was not, for God took him.” Genesis 5:24.
Jesus is said to be on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Hebrews 1:3. “So, then, after the Lord had spoken unto them he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.” Mark 16:19. But if heaven be everywhere, and God everywhere, then Christ’s ascension up to heaven, at the Father’s right hand, simply means that he went everywhere! He was only taken up where the cloud hid him from the gaze of his disciples, and then evaporated and went everywhere! So that instead of the lovely Jesus, so beautifully described in both Testaments, we have only a sort of essence dispersed through the entire universe. And in harmony with this rarified theology, Christ’s second advent, or his return, would be the condensation of this essence to some locality, say the mount of Olivet! Christ arose from the dead with a physical form. “He is not here,” said the angel, “for he is risen as he said.” Matthew 28:6.
“And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail! And they came and held him by the feet, and they worshiped him.” Verse 9.
“Behold my hands and my feet,” said Jesus to those who stood in doubt of his resurrection, “that it is I myself. Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and of an honey-comb, and he took it and did eat before them.” Luke 24:39-43.
After Jesus addressed his disciples on the mount of Olivet, he was taken up from them, and a cloud received him out of their sight. “And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel, which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11. J. W.”
I consider James White’s arguments Biblically sound and I accept them. Interestingly, Sister Ellen G. white says that she was shown that we should allow the pioneers to speak by reproducing their writings (Selected Messages Book 1, pp. 206, 207; Counsels to Writers and Editors, pp. 31, 32).
4. The Holy Spirit being identified with angels: there is abundant evidence that the term Holy Spirit is used in reference to spiritual gifts as well as to Christ’s representative who is sent to dispense those spiritual gifts. A comparison of the early rain outpouring of spiritual gifts at Pentecost by the Comforter and the latter rain outpouring of similar gifts, more extensively, brought about by the mighty angel of Rev. 18 helps to illustrate. I have elaborated on that in another article that I have recently posted entitled “The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts”, which I would invite you to consider.
You referred to a letter that Sister Ellen G. White wrote to one Brother Chapman and stated that Brother Chapman was saying that the Holy Spirit can mean an angel. To be more accurate, Brother Chapman, according to Ellen G. White’s letter, was teaching that the Holy Spirit is the angel Gabriel. Ellen G. White told him that his view was speculative and unscriptural. Indeed, the Bible does not teach that, and neither is that view being advanced here. She admonished him to come into harmony with his brethren on the matter and not seek to bring in any new idea regarding that subject. This was in 1891, when the stated belief of the church, as presented in the 1889 Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, was that the Holy Spirit was God’s representative. This was before Kellogg sought to bring in errors concerning the Holy Spirit and the personality of God that she later had to refute.
At that time, when she wrote to Brother Chapman, she said “silence is golden” and indeed it would have been “golden” to remain silent on the matter of who or what is the Holy Spirit, at that time, but certainly not later when clearly erroneous views were being pressed upon the church regarding the matter. It certainly would not be “golden” now, either, to remain silent when the Trinitarian view, which the pioneers rejected, is now being actively promoted within the church and many who profess to reject the Trinitarian view are promoting virtually the same thing that Kellogg was trying to introduce into the church. Here is a sample of what Kellogg was saying:
“God the Father sits upon his throne in heaven where God the Son is also; while God’s life, or Spirit or presence is the all-pervading power which is carrying out the will of God in all the universe” (Letter from JH Kellogg to GI Butler dated October 25, 1903).
“The question may arise in the mind of some one, How do we know that God is in us? We are perhaps too prone to think of God as in heaven, or in some definite place, and only omnipresent in an accommodated or figurative sense. Let us ask the question, “Where is God?” – (Presentation “God in Man” made by JH Kellogg at the 32nd Session of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists on Feb. 15, 1897 at Lincoln, Nebraska and published in the General Conference Daily Bulletin of Feb. 18, 1897, Vol. 7. – No. 5).
The popular view that has been embraced by many who have rightly rejected the Trinity, has unfortunately been tainted by popular error that is common among professed Christians, New Agers and pagans alike. A few web postings from a variety of these groups illustrate:
The late Bishop Tony Palmer who sought to bring Protestants and Catholics together expressed it like this:
“It’s the glory that glues us together, not the doctrines. It’s the glory. If you accept that Christ is living in me and the presence of God is in me and the presence of God is in you, that’s all we need; because God will sort out all our doctrines when we get upstairs. Therefore Christian unity is the basis of our credibility; because Jesus said: until they’re one, they’ll not believe – the world will not believe – as they should – until we are one.“ – Bishop Tony Palmer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5TwrG8B3ME).
Ellen G. White, referring to the Holy Spirit as the “golden oil” of Zech. 4 has made it abundantly clear that the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth, who empty the “golden oil” of divine light, love and power out of themselves, having received it from God to dispense to God’s people, are angels. Here are the references:
“Read and study the fourth chapter of Zechariah. The two olive trees empty the golden oil out of themselves through the golden pipes into the golden bowl from which the lamps of the sanctuary are fed. The golden oil represents the Holy Spirit. With this oil God’s ministers are to be constantly supplied, that they, in turn, may impart it to church. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” The Review and Herald, December 22, 1904. TM 188.2
“The oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Spirit is represented in the prophecy of Zechariah. “The angel that talked with me came again,” he says, “and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, and said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof; and two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof…. And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? … Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” Zechariah 4:1-14. COL 406.3
“From the two olive trees the golden oil was emptied through the golden pipes into the bowl of the candlestick, and thence into the golden lamps that gave light to the sanctuary. So from the holy ones that stand in God’s presence His Spirit is imparted to the human instrumentalities who are consecrated to His service. The mission of the two anointed ones is to communicate to God’s people that heavenly grace which alone can make His word a lamp to the feet and a light to the path. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6. COL 408.15
“In this vision the two olive trees which stand before God are represented as emptying the golden oil out of themselves through golden tubes into the bowl of the candlestick. From this the lamps of the sanctuary are fed, that they may give a bright, continuous light. So from the anointed ones that stand in God’s presence the fullness of divine light and love and power is imparted to His people, that they may impart to others light and joy and refreshing. Those who are thus enriched are to enrich others with the treasure of God’s love.” PK 594.1
[Note: His Spirit is called heavenly grace and the fullness of divine light and love and power]
“And when these angels empty from themselves the golden oil of truth into the heart of him who is teaching the word, then the application of the truth will be a solemn, serious matter. The angel messengers will expel sin from the heart, unless the door of the heart is padlocked and Christ is refused admission. Christ will withdraw Himself from those who persist in refusing the heavenly blessings that are so freely offered them.” TM 337.2
“The anointed ones standing by the Lord of the whole earth have the position once given to Satan as covering cherub. By the holy beings surrounding His throne, the Lord keeps up a constant communication with the inhabitants of the earth.”—The Review and Herald, July 20, 1897. TA 150
I have quoted these references, since you mentioned Ellen G. White’s letter to Brother Chapman. But please notice that my primary exposition of the matter rests squarely on scripture.
Thanks for your quick response.
I will clarify on some of your responses my points.
1. You wanted me to provide proof for the different forms of the general Hebrew and Greek terms shown in the Strong’s Dictionary. You would need to use more than just the Strong’s Concordance and Dictionary to see the exact form of the term used in a Bible passage.
It would look very ugly for me to type it here in the comments field that is why I had not put it in before. If you do an internet search on “interlinear Bible” you can easily find the tool that I am speaking of. Here is such a website: http://biblehub.com/interlinear/
I will type of some of the information that would be seen from the interlinear examination of the Bible verses which I quoted before. The English will be outside and the English pronunciations of Hebrew or Greek will be in parentheses.
And(kai) as to(pros) indeed(men) the(tous) angels(angelous) he says(legei), The [One](HO) making(poiōn) the(tous) angels(angelous) of him(autou) winds(pneumata), and(kai) the(tous) ministers(leitourgous) of him(autou) of fire(pyros), a flame(phloga);
:a flaming(lō·hêṭ.)- fire(’êš) his minsiters(mə·šā·rə·ṯāw,)- spirits(rū·ḥō·wṯ;) his angels(mal·’ā·ḵāw) Who makes(‘ō·śeh)
[The] Spirit(Pneuma) of [the] Lord [is](Kyriou) upon(ep’) me(eme), of which(hou) because(heineken) he has anointed(echrisen) me(me) to preach good news(euangelisasthai) to [the] poor(ptōchois)…
me(’ō·ṯî) [is] the LORD(Yah·weh) has anointed(mā·šaḥ) because(ya·‘an) on me(‘ā·lāy;) GOD(Yah·weh) of the LORD(’ă·ḏō·nāy) The Spirit(rū·aḥ)…
2. I think that we will just have to agree to disagree here.
3. I completely agree with Br. James White. What I am saying is not that God’s Spirit is persistently everywhere, like Mr. Kellogg, but that God’s Spirit can be selectively anywhere. God is Omnipresent by His Spirit because His Spirit can go anywhere that He wants It to be. Indeed It isn’t everywhere; if It was that would be pantheism. It one of God’s inherent divine abilities for Him to represent Himself wherever He pleases by His Omnipresent Spirit. He is His own representative by His Spirit.
Where I do not agree is your meaning of the term “Spirit of God”. I disagree that the representative spoken of can ever mean an angel. Neither did Br. James White say that the Spirit of God was an angels(s).
This is what Adventists generally believed about the Holy Spirit in Br. Chapman’s day:
It is in the 1st paragraph of the letter, “…the Holy Ghost… being the Spirit of God, which is Christ…”.
IS THE HOLY GHOST A PERSON? J. W. W. asks: ” Are we to understand that the Holy Ghost
is a person, the same as the Father and the Son? Some claim that it is, others that it is not.”
ANS. —The terms ” Holy Ghost,” are a harsh and repulsive translation. It should be ” Holy Spirit” (hagion pneuma) in every instance. This Spirit is the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Christ; the Spirit being the same whether it is spoken of as pertaining to God or Christ. But respecting this Spirit, the Bible uses expressions which cannot be harmonized with the idea that it is a person like the Father and the Son. Rather it is shown to be a divine influence from them both, the medium which represents their presence and by which they have knowledge and power through all the universe, when not personally present. Christ is a person, now officiating as priest in the sanctuary in heaven; and yet he says that wherever two or three are gathered in his name, he is there in the midst. Matt. 18: 20. How?—Not personally, but by his Spirit…
(Uriah Smith, Review & Herald, Oct 28, 1890, vol. 67, No. 42, page 664)
To put it plainly, the Holy Spirit is a representative that is not a different Person from The Father and Jesus but is the medium of their own influence and presence.
4. I agree that God uses the angels to minister to mankind on Earth (Heb 1:14). However, I believe that Zechariah and the other Bible passages are saying that God uses the angels to pass the anointing(Holy Spirit) onto people on Earth. Not that the angels are the anointing (Holy Spirit) themselves.
We have no need to be sceptical of all supernatural things. Christianity must involve supernatural things. What we must be careful of is that the supernatural things that we embrace are Biblically sound. What the evangelicals and Tony Palmer embrace is a third, immaterial intelligence as the Holy Spirit which mystically lives inside them. This is unbiblical. Instead the scriptures teach that part of the Father and the Son are supernaturally inside of a Christian; Their Holy Spirit or Life (Romans 8:10).
It is also supernatural to think that dead people can be raised back to life. Should we, like the Sadducees (Matt 22:23-33), reject this Biblical truth as well because it is contrary to reason? – No that is where faith comes in. It takes hold of the Biblical and godly supernatural.
We need to realise that the New Covenant makes God embrace mankind closer than when Jesus walked the Earth. Literally “…Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27). If God is not omnipresent by His Spirit, then He is Personally far off from us. Even a Trinitarian has a closer personal relationship with God than we would.
I leave you to consider what David says about the relationship to having the Holy Spirit in him and salvation:
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. (12) Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
I have noted your responses and would make the following comments regarding your four general points:
1. You may be right in saying that the original languages do differentiate between “spirit” and “spirits” in the instances that you have cited. That does not seem to be the case, however, in every instance. A case in point is Rev. 1:4, where the translation “from the seven spirits” is in the text (NIV), but in the footnote it has “Or the sevenfold Spirit”. Clearly, the translators could not make up their minds whether it should be “spirits” or “Spirit”.
2. You’ll agree for us to disagree on this point, but I am not sure what is your basis for rejecting the perspective that I have given.
3. If you agree with Br. James White, you are acknowledging that God is not omnipresent in the sense of being everywhere at the same time. Yes, we are agreed that God can go anywhere He likes at any time. But that is different from saying that He is everywhere at the same time.
You disagree with the view that the “Spirit of God” could ever mean an angel. I am not sure what is your basis for such disagreement. In the case of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, “the angel of the Lord” in Acts 8:26 is the same as “the Spirit of the Lord” in Acts 8:39. Furthermore, the term “the angel of the Lord” was used to refer to “an angel” who appeared to Elijah as he slept under a juniper tree (1 Kings 19:5, 7) and the term “the angel of the Lord” was also used to refer to God Himself when He appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3:2; Mark 12:26). Obviously, the terms “spirit of the Lord”, “Spirit of God” and “angel of the Lord” are not exclusive terms as to who they refer to. It is the context that tells us who is being referred to.
You quoted Bro. Chapman and Uriah Smith to make the point that “the Holy Spirit is a representative that is not a different Person from The Father and Jesus”. Apart from that being a very unusual way to understand who a representative is, the official “Fundamental Principles” that was published in the 1889 Seventh-day Adventist Year Book did not suggest that. So, even if Bro. Chapman and Uriah Smith held such views, it was certainly not presented as official teaching of the pioneers.
4. Your response, “Not that the angels are the anointing (Holy Spirit) themselves” presents an idea that I have not advanced. As indicated in my article, “The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts”, on this website, my perspective is that “the term Holy Spirit may refer to the spiritual gifts [divine light, love and power] that we receive and that remain in us or it may refer to Christ’s representative (or messenger – angel) who dispenses the gifts to us.” It is not that the spiritual gift and the dispenser of the gift are one and the same, but rather that the term “Holy Spirit” has different meanings and we should not confuse the meanings or treat the term as having only one meaning.
Thanks for your responses.
I stand corrected when I made my 4th point. I misunderstood you. You apply the term “Spirit of the Lord” more broadly than I had thought.
My fundamental disagreement with you is that your application of the meaning of “spirit” is too ambiguous. You do make many distinctions as to how the scriptures use the term but you apply it to too many things. I still believe that you apply the term too broadly (more broadly than the scriptures do) and it leaves room for misapplication and misinterpretation of the scriptures. I have already raised those concerns in previous comments.
I don’t see the need for you or me to re-explain what we have already said. Thank you for your time and for sharing your views.
May you keep studying and grow in the knowledge and love of God and of Christ.
I note your view that I have applied the term “spirit” too broadly. However, I have simply looked up the word in a concordance and considered the many different ways in which it is used throughout the Bible. So, I would consider the wide range of applications as originating in the Bible itself rather than being an innovation on my part.
I have suggested however, that the many uses can be grouped into two broad categories: 1. In reference to a person – whether God Himself, Christ, or another being (who is not of God-status) and 2. something that God has inside of Him that He gives us in measure – which would include the “spirit of wisdom”, “understanding”, “knowledge” (Isa. 11:2) and “the spirit of life” itself (Rev. 11:11). Everyone has a measure of God’s spirit, but to be saved, we must have a greater measure of God’s spirit than that which applies by virtue of us being alive. The greater measure includes “the spirit of meekness” (1 Cor. 4:21), and “the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:2); “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7).
The cardinal mistakes that must be avoided are: 1. Worshipping a being called the Holy Spirit, who is neither God Himself nor Christ – for which there is no Biblical precedent and 2. Opening ourselves to be possessed by another intelligence, so that we are directed by another mind apart from our own. God requires us to have our minds aligned with His – by us receiving light, love and power from Him – not replaced by His or another person’s mind.
With thanks! Valuable information!