The Holy Spirit #12: The Holy Spirit as Down-payment on Our Inheritance
This is the final article in this series on the Holy Spirit. And I saved this one for last on purpose. In this article we will talk about the most wonderful thing of all about the Holy Spirit’s ministry. I believe that this truth has the potential of rearranging your whole world.
We have examined the role of the Holy Spirit bringing us to rebirth, promoting Jesus Christ in our hearts, sanctifying our souls (producing the fruits of the Spirit in us), leading us to do that which is righteous and Christ-like and away from that which is of the flesh, and moving us to care about and reach out to others in the love of Christ. We have seen Him as our Helper, our Paraclete, as the Spirit of power for ministry, and as the Spirit of adoption, moving us to cry out "Abba, Father" to God. In this article all of the other themes come together in the concept of the giving of the Holy Spirit as God’s down-payment on our inheritance.
The Great Day of the Lord
The great day is coming when Christ will return and renew all things. There will be a new heavens and a new earth. We will receive new bodies in that great resurrection. Here is how Revelation 21:1-5 and 22:3-5 describe it:
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’ And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’"
"And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever."
On that day we will have no more sin, no more pain, no more confusion. The hope of Christianity is not in this world, but in that world to come. Part of the message of Christianity is that we must endure this world in the joy that there is a far greater world coming.
This is our inheritance. Christ has acquired it and when it is time, we will inherit it. This is the hope that fuels our lives every day:
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." (Ephesians 1:18)
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1Peter 1:3-5; Cf. Col.1:12; 3:24)
But there are indications in the NT that this state is not just something future that we wait for but also something present that we taste even in our lives here on earth. Notice the italicized part of Ephesians 2:1-7:
"You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Cf. Romans 6:3-11; Colossians 3:3)
The Holy Spirit as Down-payment on our Inheritance
This advance-showing of the glories of heaven, this taste-before-it’s-time, this glimpse of heaven before its great cosmic unveiling is the final, and in a sense the ultimate, ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers today. The Bible teaches us that through the Spirit’s work, we have already begun to participate in the reality of heaven. Just as a father might choose to give a piece of the inheritance to his child beforehand, so our heavenly Father has chosen to give us a portion of our inheritance before the great day of the consummation of our hope. The Bible tells us that this great work of God to create all things new begins not at the sound of the trumpet on the last day, but actually began at Pentecost when, by the power of His Holy Spirit, God created a new humanity, a new race of men, a new Israel, a new Jerusalem. And now at conversion, for each of us, this great work of creating all things new, this great transition into the state of final glory, begins. And the Spirit’s presence and work in our lives is God’s great signal that this work of recreation has begun in the here and now, and also God’s great guarantee that the rest of our inheritance is on its way.
There are three main ways that the NT expresses this reality:
the Holy Spirit as guarantee,
the Holy Spirit as firstfruits, and
the Holy Spirit as seal.
The Holy Spirit as Guarantee
Here are three verses which speak of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of the things to come:
2Cor. 1:22 "[God] who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee."
2 Cor. 5:5 "Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee."
Eph. 1:13-14 "In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory."
The language being used in these verses is the language of the marketplace. A guarantee refers to a down payment, a pledge, a portion of the purchase price for something given in pledge that the rest of the payment is coming, it is your word of honor that the transaction will be completed.
For believers, the Holy Spirit is the first part of our inheritance. The joy of the Holy Spirit, the peace that passes understanding, the love of the Spirit, all the fruits of the Spirit, and all the effects of the Spirit’s ministry in our lives are an early taste of what heaven will be like.
The Holy Spirit as First Fruits
This the language of the farm. First fruits refers to the beginning of the harvest, the first harvested part of the crop. In this image the last day is the great day of harvest (e.g. Matthew 3:12; 13:36-43; Mark 4:29; Rev.14:14-19). But we receive a little bit of the harvest now – ahead of time – to help us look forward to the full harvest at the end, when our bodies themselves will be redeemed:
"we ... who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body." (Romans 8:23)
Today we groan within ourselves because we have only the beginning of the harvest, and we long for the rest as well. This groaning is the Spirit’s ministry in us – whereby He moves us to groan longingly for our full redemption on the last day. God has given His Spirit to us in order that He might produce in us a longing for the rest of our inheritance. Once we have tasted of the heavenly gift we will crave more of it. The present possession of the Holy Spirit makes us certain that we shall one day reap the fullness of the harvest. (By the way, Pentecost was the OT festival of firstfruits, when the worshipers would offer the first fruits of their harvest to God. Now it has become the day of God offering His first fruits to us.)
The Holy Spirit as Seal
This is the language of designating ownership. At that time in history most everyone who owned anything possessed a seal, which was a marker, by which an owner would put his mark of ownership upon his possessions, including his beasts and his slaves. The purpose of the mark was to guard against theft.
"Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge." (2Cor.1:21-22)
"In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph.1:13)
"Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." (Eph.4:30; cf. Rev. 9:4)
What does it means to be sealed? It means that this person has been set aside by God with His special seal to show that this one belongs to Him, and that He will return to get him. It is the equivalent of God’s name being put on something to designate that it is His. A seal is like a brand on an animal. It is a mark of ownership. It is a claim. The Holy Spirit is God’s mark upon His people, His signature, His sign that "this one is Mine, and no one can snatch him out of My hand."
The Holy Spirit is more than just our Helper while we walk through this difficult life. The Holy Spirit is God’s sign of a much better life to come. The Spirit’s work in us – giving us an appetite for the things of Christ, moving us to look to God as our daddy, transforming us into the image of Christ, creating in us a distaste for the things of the flesh, filling us with love for our brothers and sisters in Christ – this work is a precursor, a harbinger, a foretaste of a glorious existence that far outshines anything we could ever even imagine in this world. The work that will be done in that day — whereby we are made perfect and pure and completely joyful and perfectly loving, when all of our earthly imperfections fall away and we are transformed into a glorious bride prepared for Christ, clean and fully sanctified, holy and blameless, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing — this work has already begun! It’s already begun! The work of God making all things new has already begun! We have already been partially resurrected! The new birth is the resurrection of our souls by the Holy Spirit’s power. And the process is continuing by the Spirit’s work in us. And all this is a sign that the rest of the job will also be completed.
"Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
We have already seen in our study of the Holy Spirit that Christ in us is synonymous with the Holy Spirit in us. So saying "Christ in you, the hope of glory" is the same as saying "the Holy Spirit in you, the hope of glory." And glory here is a way of referring to heaven. So... the Holy Spirit in us is our hope of heaven!
Not only this, but Paul says that this is the riches of the glory of the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints. Christ in us through the Holy Spirit is the great secret of the new covenant! It is the essence of the gospel! It is the first taste of heaven! Having the Holy Spirit is the first step toward heaven, the first step toward that state of bliss and glory that God moves His people to long for with groanings deep within, the first step toward that state we were created to exist in, which is our fulfillment, our completion, and our consummation.
There is a glorious state that awaits believers. And the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is the first little taste of that which is to come. There is a time coming when our whole lives will be lived in the Spirit, when we will be "of the Spirit" body and soul. And we anxiously await that day. But to help us await that day, God has given us a little taste of it now, so we might have hope and so we might long for the rest of it.
The new age has already been initiated in the coming of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The Christian life today is a life of anticipation. It is a life of transition. The state we live in is a short-term state. The new has begun, but hasn’t been completed. The old is about to pass away but has not passed away yet. The age to come is the age of the fullness of the Holy Spirit. But that age has already begun in small measure. In a sense the future has broken in upon the present. The power of the future age (the Holy Spirit) has been introduced before the great day when the age to come comes. But even now some of the powers and blessings and privileges of that age have come upon us in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When a person receives the Holy Spirit he becomes a participant in a new mode of existence, a mode of existence that really belongs to the future, and not to this present age. We have become partakers of "the powers of the age to come." (Heb.6:5) But what the Spirit gives to us now is only a foretaste of the far greater blessings which are to come. We live on the earth, but it’s as if we already have one foot in heaven.
No longer can we treat this world as if it is our home. Our time left here is so short. And a whole new mode of existence is just around the corner. In fact, the first rumblings of it can already be felt, in the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives.