Study to Understand the Scriptures
Last week, I left you with a question about Acts 2, verse 33. That verse says; “Therefore, having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit..” My question was; What exactly is “the promise of the Holy Spirit” that Jesus received from God the Father, after He was exalted?
Before we answer that question, we need to review the other verse that we studied last week. And that is John 7, verse 39.
That verse says; “But this He spoke of the Spirit, which those who believe in Him, were to receive. For the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not glorified yet.”
Jesus had said, in verse 38; “He who believes in Me, as the scripture said; From his innermost being, shall flow rivers of living water.” And then verse 39 says; “But this He spoke of the Spirit..”
“Rivers of living water”, in our innermost being, refers to the eternal life that our spirit is blessed with, when we’re saved.
Jesus used the same analogy in John 4:14; “But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst. But the water that I shall give him, shall become in him a WELL of water, springing up to eternal life.” So this verse comes right out and says it; The “water” that Jesus gives, is eternal life.
John 3, verse 36; “He who believes in the Son, has eternal life. But he who does NOT obey the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
So then, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life..” And John 7:38 says; “He who believes in Me.. From his inner most being shall flow rivers of living water.”
As we listen to these verses, it becomes more than evident, that what we receive, when we believe in Jesus, (and when we obey Jesus) is eternal life.
So Jesus is clearly talking about eternal life. And John 7, verse 39 says; “But this He spoke of the Spirit.” Now here’s something that’s important to understand. How exactly, is a reference to eternal life, equated with “speaking of the Spirit”?
Jesus gives us the answer, in John 6:63; “It is the Spirit giving the life. The flesh profits nothing. the WORDS that I have spoken to you, are SPIRIT and are LIFE.”
Therefore, when Jesus spoke the words about “rivers of living water”, He spoke of the Spirit.
In Revelation chapter 22, John was shown a vision of heaven. And it says in verse 1; “And he showed me a river of the water of LIFE, bright as crystal, coming from the throne of God, and of the Lamb.” The “river of the water of life”, refers to the Spirit of God, and the eternal life that the spirit gives us. And it says, the “river” is coming FROM the throne of God and Christ. That word “from”, doesn’t just mean from that direction, or from that vicinity. It means “OUT from”. Eternal life comes “out from” the throne of God and of Christ. Of course the “throne” isn’t a literal throne. The “throne of God” represents the “dominion of God and of Christ”. The Father and the Son have ALL dominion, and so eternal life, comes “out from” the Father and the Son, and their dominion.
In Acts 2, verse 38, the eternal life that the Spirit gives, is spoken of as the “gift of the Holy Spirit”. The apostle Peter was speaking to people who had come to believe in Jesus. And so Peter now tells them to OBEY Jesus. He said; “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the GIFT of the Holy Spirit.” In other words, “you shall receive the promise of eternal life”.
“From his innermost being, shall flow rivers of living water”. And that speaks of the Spirit, which gives the life.
Now let’s take John 7, verse 39, one step further; “But this He spoke of the Spirit, which those who believe in Him were to receive..” What do we receive when we believe in Jesus? We receive the promise of eternal life, that’s what the scriptures say. Acts 2, verse 39, says; “For the PROMISE is for you, and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the lord our God shall call to Himself.”
This point, is as important as any point, that’s associated with our salvation. Eternal life is a PROMISE for the future! We do NOT “possess” eternal life during this lifetime. Just like Abraham and all the other faithful people, mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11, they did not POSSESS eternal life, while they lived their physical life.
Hebrews chapter 11, is the chapter on faith! It talks of Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham. And it says in verse 13; “All these died in faith, WITHOUT receiving the PROMISES, but having SEEN them, and having WELCOMED them from a DISTANCE..” (the KJ says; “Having embraced them afar off”) They welcomed, and embraced the promise of eternal life, but they did it “from a distance”, so to speak, and from “afar off”, because the eternal life only exists in heaven, not on earth.
The reason that some verses speak of eternal life, as if we had it right now, is that when God promises something, it’s as good as done! That’s why it says in Hebrews 6, verse 19; “This HOPE, (that’s what eternal life is) This HOPE, we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and one which enters within the veil.” In other words, one that gives us entrance into heaven itself! That’s what “within the veil” means.
And the reason it’s called a “hope”, is because we don’t possess it now, but rather, we look forward to it, and we welcome it, just like Abraham and all the others did. Considering all that the bible says about the HOPE of eternal life, and the Promise of eternal life, and the fact that we will receive the reward of eternal life on the last day, it is an inevitable conclusion, that it is impossible to actually possess eternal life, while we live within the confines of time. Time, and eternity, stand in contrast to one another.
Ourselves, along with all of the physical creation, are governed and restricted, by time. Even when our spirits, are separated from our physical bodies at death, our spirits are still “restricted” to the realm of hades. And hades will exist, until the end of time. So then until time is dissolved, we cannot possess eternal life. But we CAN possess, and DO possess, the promise, and the hope of eternal life.
And the reason that the “hope” is so sure and steadfast, is that when God promises something, it’s as good as done. The only thing that can mess it up, is us! If we stop being faithful, then WE mess it up, and WE lose our hope.
Now, once again, let’s go back to John 7:39; “But this He spoke of the Spirit, which those who believe in Him were to receive; For the Spirit was not given yet, because Jesus was not glorified yet.”
Remember, Jesus is speaking about the eternal life, which the Spirit gives, which those who believe in Him were to receive. However, “the Spirit was not given yet, because Jesus was not glorified yet.” Another way to say that, would be; “The eternal LIFE was not given yet..” The Spirit gives the life. The Spirit IS the life. And so “the life was not given yet, because Jesus was not glorified yet.”
Last week we learned that the glorification being referred to here, was the same glorification that Jesus prayed for in John 17, verse 5; “And now, glorify Thou Me, together with Thyself Father, with the glory that I had with Thee, before the world was.” That’s the glory Jesus had in heaven, before coming to this earth as a man.
And Jesus was glorified again, “together with the Father” when He ascended BACK to heaven, forty days after His resurrection. When Jesus ascended back to heaven, is when He began to reign in His kingdom.
Those who were given, the gift of the Spirit, which is the promise of eternal life, were those who were forgiven of their sins. And when they were forgiven of their sins, they were added to the kingdom, right? Well, they couldn’t be added to the kingdom before it was established, and it wasn’t established, until Jesus was glorified together with the Father in heaven.
Remember Daniel 7, verses 13 & 14; “..One like the Son of Man was coming. And He came up to the Ancient of Days, and he was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, and GLORY, and a kingdom..”
And so, “..The Spirit was not given yet, because Jesus was not glorified yet.” But on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit WAS given, when the promise of eternal life was made.
And that brings us to the second verse that we talked about last week, and that is Acts 2, verse 33; “Therefore, having been exalted by the right hand of God, and having received from the Father, the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.”
The phrase “the right hand of God”, is a figurative expression that means.. “the power of God”. It’s just like the phrase, “my right hand man”. Your “right hand man”, is the man who gets things done! So then in the same way, “the right hand of God” is that which gets things done. It’s the power of God!
In Acts chapter 2, the apostle Peter was preaching “Jesus”. And he said in verse 32; “This JESUS, God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.” Then he said in verse 33; “Therefore, having been EXALTED by the power of God..”
The word “exalt”, not only means to raise up, but it specifically means.. “to raise up high”! So Jesus wasn’t just raised from the grave, but He was EXALTED as both Lord and Christ. (verse 36)
Now listen to the next part of verse 33; “Therefore, having been exalted by the power of God, AND, having received from the Father, the promise of the Holy Spirit..”
Once again, the bible makes it clear, that the “promise of the Holy Spirit”, is eternal life. Remember, John 6:63 says; “It is the Spirit, giving the life.” And 1 John 2:25 says; “And this is the promise that He has promised, eternal life.” So then Jesus “received from the Father”, that which had been promised. Jesus received eternal life.
Now you’ve got questions in your mind.. Does that make sense.. that Jesus received eternal life? I thought Jesus was the “Word”. And I thought the Word was God. And I thought both the Word, and God, are eternal. So then, how did Jesus receive eternal life from the Father, when He ascended back to heaven?
We need one more passage of scripture, to help us understand this. Philippians 2, verses 6 & 7. Here’s what it says; “..Who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God, a thing to be held on to, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”
Christ was equal with God, and since He was “equal”, He was also eternal. But, although He existed in that eternal form, “He emptied Himself”, the scripture says. When Christ “emptied Himself”, what did He empty Himself of? One thing that He emptied Himself of, was the “form of God”. He gave up that form, and took on another form, the form of a man.
Another thing that He emptied Himself of, was the inability of being tempted by evil. James 1, verse 13 says; “..For God cannot be tempted by evil..” But we know that Christ was tempted by evil. Hebrews 4, verse 15 tells us; “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things, just as we are, yet without sin.”
And what else did Christ empty Himself of, when He was “made in the likeness of men.” Christ evidently emptied Himself of eternal life. Christ really did become just like us. We cannot possess eternal life, while we live in our physical bodies, and within the realm of time. And evidently, Christ didn’t possess eternal life either, while HE lived within this realm of time. But Jesus ascended OUT of this realm, and back into eternity, in heaven.
It may sound a little odd, that Jesus wouldn’t ALWAYS possess eternal life, but listen again very closely to Acts 2, verse 33; “..and having received from the Father, the promise of the Holy Spirit..”
The bible makes it abundantly clear, that the promise of the Holy Spirit, is eternal life. But I want you to consider two more words in that verse, that will make this easier to understand.
First, I want to explain to you what the word “received” means. The word “received” is a verb. It denotes action on the part of the one receiving. Someone can “give” something, but you don’t always have to “receive” it do you? You could always refuse to receive, what someone tries to give you.
That’s exactly how it is with salvation, isn’t it? God has given the free gift of salvation, to everyone! But not everyone is willing to receive it. You could say that God has “laid down” the gift of salvation, but it’s up to us, to “pick up” that gift, and take it unto ourselves. And that is exactly the meaning of Acts 2, verse 38, when it says; “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will RECEIVE the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
God has “laid down” the gift of salvation, which is the gift of eternal life. And when we follow His commands, to repent and be baptized, we are “picking up” that gift, and taking it unto ourselves. We are RECEIVING the gift, by obeying God.
Now let’s take this a step further. In the Greek language, there are many “forms” of the same word. In the case of the word “received”, there is one form of the word that means “I received”, and another form of the word that means “we received”, and yet another form that means “they received”. So instead of adding the words, I, or We, or They, like we would do.. In the Greek, they simply spell the word a little differently, to express the appropriate meaning.
Now, in Acts 2, verse 33, when it speaks of Jesus, and says; “having RECEIVED from the Father”, there is yet another specific spelling, and another specific meaning to the word “received”. The specific meaning in this verse is; “to receive back again”. In other words, Jesus was getting back, something that He had previously, already had.
And so this verse is saying; “Therefore, having been exalted by the power of God, and having received back again from the Father, eternal life..” Jesus once had eternal life with the Father, when He existed in the “form of God”. But then He emptied Himself and took on the form of a bond-servant. But when Jesus ascended back to heaven, He put OFF the form of a bond-servant, and once again took on the “form of God”. And when He did that, He also received back again, eternal life, “from the Father”.
Now, just one more word. The word “from”, as in “from the Father”. “From” comes from the word “para” which means.. “in the presence of, and along side of, with an emphasis on the closeness, and nearness of that relationship”.
To me, that is significant! Jesus was exalted by the power of God, to the highest position possible, and at that time, He took up the eternal life which He had already previously had, in the presence of, and alongside of, the Father in heaven. So then, just like in the beginning, the Word was once again WITH God, and was once again, FULLY God!
I hope that this lesson will cause us to more fully appreciate, what Jesus did for us. He truly “emptied Himself”, so that we could be saved. 2 Corinthians 9, verse 15 says; “Thanks be to God, for His indescribable gift.”