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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