God’s holy days tell a story more dramatic and exciting than any work of fiction ever dreamed by man! And we are living right in the middle of that story.
No holy day illustrates this fact better than the day of Pentecost. But to understand where we are today, we need to go back to the beginning of the story.
God’s Power in Creation
1. What did the great Creator God—Elohim—do in the first verse of the Bible? Genesis 1:1.How did God accomplish this mighty task of creating the universe? Jeremiah 32:17. What was this “great power”? Genesis 1:2.
Verse 1 describes Elohim completing a successful creation project. Verse 2 paints a different picture. The Earth is in total chaos: shapeless, formless, empty, void. As Herbert W. Armstrong taught, this was possibly millions or billions of years later, after a cataclysmic, universe-destroying spiritual war between God’s forces and Satan’s forces.
And here is the Spirit of the great God—a tremendous spiritual power—about to completely transform this desolate wilderness. The verse reads as though this Spirit were sitting there awaiting orders from God. It’s a colorful picture.
2. How did God create? Verse 3.
What a tremendous display of God’s power. He spoke, and it was done! But how? In Mystery of the Ages, Mr. Armstrong likened the Holy Spirit to electricity. He talked about Henry Ford, the “maker of the Ford car,” who used thousands of workers, working at machines powered by electricity, to actually do the work of making them. “In the same manner, God the Father is Creator. But He ‘created all things by Jesus Christ.’ Jesus is the Word. It is written, ‘He spake, and it was done’ (Psalm 33:9). God tells Christ what to do (John 8:28-29). Jesus then speaks, as the workman, and the Holy Spirit is the power that responds and does what Jesus commands.”
The creation of light was just the first step.
3. What else did God create during creation week? Genesis 1:9, 11, 14-15, 20-21, 24.
These were not small jobs! If the Holy Spirit is like electricity, it is no little electrical generator. This is a tremendous power at God’s command.
4. Can you clearly see how much power God has by looking at the creation? Romans 1:20. Was all that thinking, planning and complex detail put into action—living reality—by the power of the Holy Spirit? Psalm 104:30.
Mr. Armstrong explained God’s creative process in Mystery of the Ages: “By your eyesight you can see something across the room, or see to the sun or even to stars that are many times the size of our sun, only much farther distant. … In like manner, God can project His Spirit to any place regardless of distance, but through His Spirit God is able to act on such objects or to change it as He wills.”
Genesis 1, beginning in verse 2, describes the re-creation of the Earth. Before this, using the Holy Spirit, God had created the angels. He had created Michael and Gabriel and Lucifer. Using the Holy Spirit, He had created the universe. Then, He had watched everything destroyed by the angelic rebellion.
5. With this re-creation, was God doing something quite different? Genesis 1:26-27.
This time, God was re-creating Himself. God made man in His own image and likeness because He wanted more God beings who could exhibit His own righteous character in His Family. He wanted children who could be trusted with that same universe-creating power of the Holy Spirit, never to misuse it—who could expand the joy of His God Family life throughout the universe.
To complete such a mighty job requires the mighty power of God!
However, power in the wrong hands corrupts. Thus, right use of absolute power requires absolute righteousness! Mankind needed the same character that God Himself has.
6. With this in mind, how did God create man? Genesis 2:7.
God made man mortal. He knew we would have to be put through a training period before we could be trusted with eternal life and supernatural power. This way, if a person chose to rebel, God could just allow him to die and return to the dust of the ground.
But make no mistake: God wanted man to become a full-fledged God being! He wanted to give His children all the power He possesses! That is why He created man.
1. Does Scripture show that God put within man a human spirit that distinguishes man from every other creature? Job 32:8; Zechariah 12:1; 1 Corinthians 2:11.
Mr. Armstrong wrote in The Incredible Human Potential, “To make it possible to bridge the gap—or to make the transition of mankind, composed wholly of matter, into spirit beings in God’s Kingdom, then to be composed wholly of spirit, and at the same time to give man a mind like God’s—God put a spirit in each human.”
2. When we receive the Holy Spirit, do we become children of God? Romans 8:16.
As mortal human beings, we are incomplete. In fact, until we actually become spirit beings—part of the God Family and filled with the power of God without measure—we are an incomplete creation. That is what every person who has ever lived is intended for. This mortal body is just a step in a process.
Let’s continue with the story.
3. What did God plant in the Garden of Eden? Genesis 2:8-9.
The tree of life represented the Holy Spirit. At this point, God was offering it to Adam and Eve. But God also allowed Satan into the Garden. God wanted to test man before giving him eternal life. Man had to grapple with human nature and build character. Sadly, Satan succeeded in convincing Adam and Eve to go their own way.
4. What fascinating development occurred at this point? Genesis 3:22-24.
God had created man to need the Holy Spirit—yet here He cut him off from it!
This is how God sets the scene for the entire Bible. We have a race of beings, only half-complete, now given free rein to run loose on the Earth—and not even having access to the one thing that could complete them!
This event was a super-important juncture in history! From this point, God could prophesy what would happen to mankind. He knew that mankind, now free to multiply and create nations and civilizations, governments and education systems—having only the human spirit, dominated by human nature, and left to itself—was doomed to fail! He knew people wouldn’t be able to keep His law. He knew that the carnal nation of Israel would fall away from Him. He knew in the last days that perilous times would come (2 Timothy 3:1)—that unless He came back and intervened, man would annihilate himself (Matthew 24:21-22).
But God also had supreme confidence in something else. He also knew that, if He placed within certain men just a small measure of the Holy Spirit—the awesome power with which He had created the universe—then He could have a channel of communication with those individuals. He could help them follow His spiritual law. He could guide them, rear them as His own children, teach them, help them to overcome and master their human nature. He knew the Holy Spirit could combine with their human spirit, and all the things that were impossible before would be possible!
Just as with the material creation—where all the thinking and planning, all the complex detail in God’s mind—was put into living reality by the power of the Holy Spirit, so would it be with the spiritual creation—the creation of the sons of God. It would all be made possible by the power of God! Through the Holy Spirit, God would have the Family He yearned for.
That is the beginning of an incredible story. Today, we in God’s Church are living right in the middle of this same story. And on the day of Pentecost, we focus on exactly where we are in the story.
A Heart to Obey
1. After Adam’s failure, did man immediately begin to mess things up, just as God knew he would? Genesis 6:5-6.
God Himself had to cut man off from the Holy Spirit. He knew conditions would get bad—but it still grieved Him to see what man was doing to himself!
2. Even though He knew the Israelites lacked the capacity to obey His spiritual law, did God still long for a people with the heart to obey—who had a complete heart? Deuteronomy 5:29.
God knew exactly what mankind needed to be able to obey: They needed a submissive and childlike heart, governed and led by the Holy Spirit.
3. What promise does God make in Ezekiel 36:26-27? Does that promise apply to everyone? Joel 2:28.
The promise of the Holy Spirit did not just end with Israel. It was God’s intention all along to give the Holy Spirit to all flesh! God is overflowing with anticipation for the day that all mankind will possess the Holy Spirit!
So, the question logically follows: Why did God cut man off from it?
A Select Few
God didn’t just leave man completely to himself through the millennia of the Old Testament times. He called out a tiny, select few—maybe one or two in a generation, maybe a handful—and gave them the ingredient they lacked: the Holy Spirit. Those few God then used for His purposes.
1. Who were a few of these people? Hebrews 11:4-13, 16.
These people had successful spiritual lives! Even amid evil times, even struggling against their own sinful nature, they were able to overcome.
Understand: Though God gave them spiritual power, He forced nothing on them. These individuals yielded to the guidance of the power of God.
2. Did Joseph have God’s Spirit in him? Genesis 41:38.
Joseph was a true success. He obeyed God. He was given the supernatural ability to interpret dreams. He prospered in every way. Even the pharaoh could see God’s Spirit in him.
3. Did Moses have God’s Spirit? Numbers 11:16-17, 25-26.
Moses clearly possessed God’s Spirit. He was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the first five books of the Bible. On at least two occasions, he fasted for 40 days—impossible without God’s power. Here in Numbers 11, God temporarily gave that same Spirit to 70 elders who served under him—and suddenly, they all began prophesying!
4. Are there other Old Testament examples of people with the Holy Spirit? Judges 6:34; 14:6; 1 Samuel 16:13; 2 Peter 1:21.
During this time, God was being extremely selective. These were just a few people among tens and hundreds of thousands. However, these people still provided proof that the Holy Spirit worked! Fleshly man could undergo the process of becoming a spiritual creation. One by one, God was actually calling out and preparing these individuals for life in the God Family. He was getting them ready to responsibly assume all the power that He Himself has!
Look at the big picture of the Bible—the main thread of the story—and you see this dominant theme: 1) a world cut off from God; 2) a tiny few individuals whom God worked with and who struggled and fought and, ultimately, with the power of the Holy Spirit, were spiritual successes.
And as we will see, there are also some God specially selected and worked with who have failed.
Christ: Spirit Without Measure
1. What was the culmination of this period of God’s utmost selectiveness with the Holy Spirit? Isaiah 11:1-2.
Here is a prophecy of a mortal man who would use the Holy Spirit perfectly. Jesus Christ fulfilled this prophecy, in part, during His first coming; He will completely fulfill it at His return.
Look at what this power of God is capable of producing in the life of a human being! Isaiah describes what power a human being can have with the Spirit of God.
2. In the final years of His physical life, did Christ perform numerous supernatural miracles? Matthew 14:15-21; Matthew 20:32-34; Mark 4:36-39; John 11:41-44; John 21:5-6. What was perhaps the most amazing of the miracles of Christ’s life? Hebrews 4:15.
Christ kept God’s physical and spiritual laws perfectly. Yet, powerful as He was, Christ said in John 5:30: “I can of mine own self do nothing”! His miracles and obedience were not done by His own power. They were done through God’s power in Him (John 14:10). The Father dwelled in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.
3. Did Jesus Christ have the Holy Spirit without measure? John 3:34.
That is what each of us is striving to have.
Christ Promised the Holy Spirit
1. During one of His sermons, did Jesus reaffirm what the prophets of old had said—that the Holy Spirit would one day be made available to all flesh? John 7:37-39.
The Holy Spirit wasn’t yet come to the main congregation of God’s people. In the Old Testament, only a few leaders received it. Once Christ was resurrected, however, the Holy Spirit filled the entire body of believers.
This Last Great Day message is also a prophecy that at the second resurrection, following the Millennium, anyone who sincerely desires it will receive the Holy Spirit liberally!
2. Did Christ promise the Holy Spirit to His disciples, even though it wasn’t generally available before His resurrection? John 16:7. Did He promise the same thing again just before His ascension? Acts 1:4-5, 8.
Let’s now look at the fulfillment of that promise.
New Testament Church Begins
1. When was Christ’s promise fulfilled? Acts 2:1-4. Did this fulfill the prophecy from Joel 2:28? Acts 2:17.
It happened on Pentecost, a.d. 31. This had never happened before! These people were filled with God’s power. This awe-inspiring display of divine power heralded the beginning of the time when all who would seek the Holy Spirit could receive it—the beginning step of the spiritual creation of the whole of mankind.
2. Did a large group of people receive the Holy Spirit? Acts 1:15; 2:41.
Initially, about 120 brethren received the Holy Spirit, and by the end of Acts 2, that number multiplied to a few thousand. That is far more than had ever possessed the Holy Spirit before, but it was still a pretty small number compared to the rest of the world.
Why was God still keeping the bulk of humanity cut off from His Spirit? Most professing Christians don’t know why. Most “Christians” don’t know how it would ever serve God’s purpose to obscure spiritual truth from someone.
Possessing God’s Power
During Christ’s ministry, the disciples were spiritually weak. They fought with each other. They couldn’t stay awake with Christ on His last night. When the soldiers came to take Christ, they fled in fear. Once Christ was taken prisoner, Peter denied three times that he had even seen Christ.
1. Did a change come over these men once they were given God’s power? Mark 6:7, 13; 16:20; Acts 2:14; 5:12-15; 9:36-41.
After they received the Holy Spirit, the disciples preached boldly and convincingly—even when their lives were in danger. They healed people. Peter became so powerful, even those in his shadow were healed. They cast out demons. Acts 9 shows Peter even raised Tabitha from the dead. These ordinary mortal men were able to perform many of the same miracles that Christ did!
The apostles only received a small portion of the Holy Spirit compared to Jesus Christ, who had it without measure. They still were not complete. But look at what the Holy Spirit did through them! God’s power is so awesome, even a little bit can dramatically change our lives!
2. Was the power of the New Testament Church in the 20th century also quite impressive? Isaiah 40:3; Zechariah 4:6-9.
With his own hands, Mr. Armstrong started and finished the Philadelphian era. He exhibited tremendous fruits over the course of his ministry. How did he do it? He used God’s power!
As majestic as his works were, however, at the end of his life, Mr. Armstrong said he hoped he was 51 percent righteous. He knew he wasn’t yet a complete creation! He was a work in progress.
Is that discouraging? No—what an encouragement. Look at what God was able to do through the original apostles! Look at what God was able to do through Mr. Armstrong—even with just a small measure of the Holy Spirit.
And God has given you access to that same power. Our physical creation was just the first step of our creation.
When does the second step begin? Acts 2:38; Ephesians 1:13-14.
When God’s people respond to His calling, and when they repent and are baptized, God implants within them a tiny portion of the Holy Spirit to begin that second step—the spiritual part of their creation. But notice: It is just the earnest—a tiny down payment. The portion of the Spirit the Christian receives is merely God’s guarantee that they will receive the fullness of that Spirit later. Because of the seriousness of that decision, we must reach full maturity before being baptized. This is why God’s true Church does not baptize children or teenagers (some churches even baptize infants!). But God’s Holy Spirit can and does lead you young people even though you have not yet received the indwelling portion of the Spirit God gives at baptism. You have access to God’s power!
What does it mean to be a complete spiritual creation? It means having God’s perfect character. That is something God can’t just give us—not even if He suddenly filled us head to toe with the Holy Spirit! We will only be a complete spiritual creation if we allow God to develop His character in us. This involves countless choices of right over wrong on the part of each individual. The Holy Spirit is the power that fuels that process.
As Mr. Armstrong wrote in The Incredible Human Potential: “The Holy Spirit will open one’s mind to understand God’s instruction on how to live, but it will not force one to live God’s way—it will not pull or push one. Each Christian must take his own initiative, though God’s Spirit will give him help, faith and power. But it is ‘as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God’ (Romans 8:14).”
Now we are beginning to get the answer to our question: Why did God cut mankind off?
Decently and In Order
Let’s return to the electricity analogy. Electricity can be used to do amazing things—powering whole cities or rooms of powerful computer equipment. But it can also be a deadly power if it is misused.
What would happen if God suddenly poured out His power onto people who didn’t have the character to use it? Of and by itself, the Holy Spirit does not impart righteousness. As Mr. Armstrong said, the Holy Spirit will lead us, but it never forces, pulls or pushes us to do anything. If it were suddenly given in full measure to unrighteous people, you can be sure the Earth would again become tohu and bohu—full of chaos. Looking at Earth today, it’s clear mankind can mess things up enough without such tremendous spirit power.
The fact is, human beings need to be taught and instructed little by little. Within those He has specially chosen, God implants the tiniest portion of His great power. He uses that Spirit to work with us, and we demonstrate to Him an increasing ability to yield to it. He guides and nurtures us, so we will develop the character to follow Him perfectly—to perform good works using the power of His Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:10).
What God is creating in spirit-begotten, spirit-directed humans is the supreme masterpiece of all His works of creation. The physical creation is merely a means to this end: the spiritual creation of human beings into God beings! Ordinary dust-of-the-ground human beings, mortals who live and die in 70 or 80 years, are being implanted with the Holy Spirit, transformed through the process of conversion, developing God’s perfect character through trials, tests, experience and obedience, overcoming and growing spiritually—maturing, practicing in using that spiritual power—until one day, God will be able to invest complete confidence in us, giving us the Holy Spirit without measure—and translating us from flesh into spirit-born sons of God!
1. Again, why is the Holy Spirit given only to the firstfruits now? Ephesians 1:13.
When we receive it at baptism, the Holy Spirit seals us, but that doesn’t mean we have made it. The “seal” only refers to God’s end of our salvation. “[T]he seal can be ‘broken’ or left in doubt—by our actions,” writes Mr. Flurry in Malachi’s Message to God’s Church Today. “It’s not guaranteed—yet.”
As magnificent a power as the Holy Spirit is, it will not overrule our human nature. Once Adam sinned and God cut off access to the Holy Spirit, God could prophesy what a failure man would be. But even though God knew the Holy Spirit was the only way for man to succeed, He also knew that a great many of those given the Holy Spirit would also fail.
2. Did God repeatedly prophesy that many who had the Holy Spirit would still be overcome by their human nature? Matthew 24:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 10.
As powerful as the Holy Spirit is, it is not powerful enough of itself to give God the spirit-born Family that He passionately yearns for! God cannot just pour out His Spirit and expect everything to work out.
That fantastic, universe-creating power of God—the Spirit that instantly responded when God commanded “Let there be light”—the power that re-created the whole Earth in just seven days—is absolutely helpless to fulfill God’s earnest desire and to create real, spirit-born sons. That is, unless it is matched with our total cooperation!
Righteous character is the supreme creation of all because it is the hardest creation—and the most precious.
A major reason why God established the Church is to nurture us along in this difficult process of character development.
God established a government structure, with apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and deacons (Ephesians 4:11-13). He’s given us all sorts of tools—His Word to study, literature to aid our understanding, fellowship with other spirit-begotten brethren.
On top of that, God has given those who are baptized the heart to obey. Using the power of the Holy Spirit, God is writing His law in their hearts even now. He’s using His Church—men like Peter, Paul, John, Mr. Armstrong, Mr. Flurry, the ministry—to perfect us, to turn our hearts to Him. The Church is here to help us—so God can complete this supreme spiritual creation in us.
3. So why are we the only ones, out of all the people in the world, who understand Pentecost? Why are we here, and they aren’t? 1 Corinthians 14:40.
Because when the time comes to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, God knows that He will need help in beginning this spiritual creation in the rest of humanity. He knows there must be an organized government and educational structure, staffed by at least thousands of God beings who have succeeded—who have bridged the gap and made the transition from flesh to spirit!
God’s people are learning to use this power today so that when the time comes to pour out that Spirit on all flesh, we will be ready—ready to teach and help people go through the very process we are going through today.
The Holy Spirit in Prophecy
Pentecost marks a major milestone in God’s master plan. And just as Pentecost would be impossible without the festivals that precede it, none of the fall holy days would be possible without Pentecost! Christ cannot return on the Feast of Trumpets without His Bride to accompany Him. The worldwide education program in the Millennium cannot take place without spirit-born educators who are there to assist Jesus Christ. God can’t give His Spirit to all flesh—He can’t complete man’s spiritual creation—until we, the firstfruits, have been perfected, harvested and prepared to assist Him.
1. Again, what does God plan to do with the Holy Spirit? Isaiah 11:9; Ezekiel 39:28-29; 47:3-5, 9, 12; John 7:37-39; Revelation 22:17.
God will give the Israelites—and all mankind—what they lacked for 6,000 years. He will shower them with attention, and educate them in how to keep the law they couldn’t keep before. The tree of life will again be made available to the nations! Mankind will no longer be cut off. And just as Christ prophesied, the living water of God’s Holy Spirit will be given freely to all who seek it.
Rejoice in the feast of the firstfruits! Celebrate our part in this story. And work to make sure you are part of that firstfruits harvest, so you can help God share His spiritual power with the world!