From the book——


Surprising Symbols

Why symbols? One reason the Bible abounds in symbols is that it was written in the East where language was picturesque and people saw mirrors of spiritual truths in natural objects. Another more obvious reason may be that God, because of his infinity, had to express himself in speech that finite minds can understand in order to make clear and plain his being, revelation, and purpose.

Ancient of Days. Daniel repeats this name of grandeur three times to stress the importance of his vision (Dan. 7:9, 13, 22). His narrative describes a central throne shaped like a chariot with wheels as burning fire upon which the Judge sat, whose name was the "Ancient of Days." The prophet had been outlining the nature of four succeeding empires and then presents Jehovah in contrast to earthly kings—not only as enduring, but as Judge of the whole world. The Hebrew word used here for ancient means "advanced in age." Literally, the phrase "Ancient of Days" implies "a very old man"—the attribute of age expressing the majestic figure of the Judge. "God . . . abideth of old" (Ps. 55:19 kjv).

Ezekiel saw on a throne "the likeness as the appearance of a man" (1:26 kjv). This same prophet refers to "ancients of the house of Israel" (8:12 kjv; see also Jer. 19:1). Above the fleeting phases of life sits one who remains eternally the same (Pss. 90:1-3; 102:24—27). Hair as white and pure as wool symbolizes its owner as one who is holy and revered, and coincides with John's vision of the glorified Jesus whose head and hair was "white like wool, as white as snow" (Rev. 1:14).

Dazzling white raiment and beautiful white hair suggest the eternal being before whom an innumerable host stands in awe and adoration. These are characteristics of Christ, "the same yesterday, today, and forever." When Christ the Son of man appears crowned and with a sickle to reap the harvest of earth, he is depicted as one sitting on a cloud, and in this character he bears the attributes and moral glories of the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7: f 3; Rev. 1:13-14; 14:14).

The sun. God is the source of light and life. No more graphic symbol is used in Scripture to illustrate all that God is in himself. "For Jehovah God is a sun" (Ps. 84: fl asv). "The sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings" (Mai. 4:2 rsv). If it were not for the sun, all the world would perish in darkness. Just as the natural sun is king of the planets; its creator is king over all humanity. Without his provision of heat and light, we could not exist.

Crown and diadem—God in his sovereignty and radiance. Isaiah says that "Jehovah of hosts (Jehovah-Sabaoth)" shall become "a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty" unto the remnant of his people (28:5 asv). Jehovah is known for his luster and loveliness. "How great is His beauty" (Zech. 9:17 kjv). A "crown of glory" is fitting for him who is the "King of Glory," and whose righteousness is "glorious" (2 Cor. 3:9-11). Truly he is incomparable! The wonder is that he waits to make us the recipients of all that he is in himself. Jesus prayed that his God-given glory might adorn our lives (John 17:22).

Wall of fire. The prophet Zechariah gives us the most forceful symbol of our God: "For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her" (2:5 kjv). A "wall" is frequently used in Scripture as being symbolic of protective forces around us. Here the prophet presents the Lord as a "wall of fire" around his own. Many trials and tribulations threatened to overtake the children of Israel between the days of Zechariah and the coming of Christ. Even while Jerusalem is hemmed in on every side by enemies, God has not forgotten his promise to shield Jerusalem. With the surrounding fire of God's presence comes the promise "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper" (Isa. 54:17 kjv).

Refiner, purifier. "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver" (3:3), says Malachi of God's sanctifying work. God takes his time to make us holy. Patiently he sits at the crucible of our lives and separates out all that is alien to his holy mind and will. Note the double process of a silversmith. First, he is the refiner, tempering the heat so that all the impurities in the silver are forced to surface. Second, the refiner becomes the purifier as he skims the surface and removes all the dross. When does the silversmith know when his silver is thoroughly refined and purified? When he can see his own reflection on the surface.

The Rock. Symbols in Scripture were written by those who lived in Eastern lands, and they described God in terms of what was most familiar to them. Mountains surrounded Jerusalem with refreshing shade and shelter, offering travelers relief from the scorching heat of the desert sun. Prophets and psalmists, then, familiar with the protection of rocks, would know God as their Rock more so than Westerners.

An ancient Hebrew legend states that God had two bags of rocks when he made the world. He scattered the contents of one bag over the entire earth—but all the other rocks in the other bag he dropped on the small area of the Holy Land.

The Rock reveals God in his strength and stability. The original word for rock is also translated as "strength." "O Lord my strength" (Ps. 19:14 kjv). The Old Testament frequently refers to rock as a symbol of God's strength and stability. The psalmists especially loved this metaphor for God: "He is my Rock" (Ps. 92:15). This figure of speech reveals God in his permanence and unchangeable character.

Rock of Ages. Isaiah describes God as "the Rock eternal" (26:4). As Moses rebuked Israel for her idolatry, he spoke these words, "Of the Rock that begat thee thou are unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee" (Deut. 32:18 kjv). In fact, in this chapter Moses speaks of the Rock four times:

"The Rock of his salvation" (32:15 kjv)—the source of grace

"The Rock that begat thee" (32:18 kjv)—the source of life

"Their Rock had sold them" (32:30)—the source of ownership

"Their rock is not like our Rock" (32:31)—the source of perfection

Cover/canopy—God as our protector and comforter. In 2 Kings 16:18, King Ahaz removed the "covert" (kjv) or "the covered way"(asv). Opinions differ on the word's meaning. But possible explanations include a gallery belonging to the temple, the place where the king stood or sat during the Sabbath services, a public place for teaching, or the way by which the priest entered the sanctuary on the Sabbath. The word itself, from which we take cover or canopy, means a shelter of any kind (Isa. 4:6). It is used as a hiding place (Job 38:40); a place of secrecy (1 Sam. 25:20; Isa. 16:4); a den, or lair (Jer. 25:38). Applied to God, the symbol is a comforting picture of his protection and loving care of those who rest in his presence, "I long to . . . take refuge in the shelter of your wings" (Ps. 6i:4).

City of Refuge—God is our haven from the enemy. The original Hebrew words for refuge are translated: "high tower," "shelter," and "hope" (Pss. 9:9 asv; 61:3 kjv; Jer. 17:17 kjv). "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deut. 33:27 kjv). This promise emphasizes a double safety for the saints. Not only is the everlasting God our refuge, but his everlasting arms are around us.

Refuge. The first reference to refuge in Scripture is in connection with the "six cities of refuge" that Joshua set up as places of asylum to protect those who had shed blood accidentally. These asylums of safety were appointed by God (Isa. 26:1). At every crossroad on the east and west of Jordan was marked an appointed protection (Isa. 30:21). "Then the Lord said to Moses:. . . ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, select some towns to be your cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone accidentally may flee’” (Num. 35:9-11). Likewise God is our only safety from the avenger. In him we are secure from the judgment of the law.

Fortress—God as our defense against the foe. "Jehovah is my…. fortress" (Ps. 18:2 asv). In times of war and conflict, the image of a fortress, often high up and inaccessible, provided perfect safety from enemies and persecutors. The names Strong Tower and High Tower as applied to God express a similar provision and purpose (Ps. 61:3; 144:2). Some thirteen times in the Psalms, God is exalted as our fortress or high tower. The writer exults in, the protecting care and power of God: "I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, . . . my high tower" (Ps. 18:1-2).

The shield is the most ancient and universal weapon of defense and was made in two varieties. The large shield, worn by heavily armed artillery, adapted to the form of the human body. It was made in an oval shape or in the shape of a door, hence the Greek name for shield, meaning "a door." Then there was the light, round buckler, like those the men of Benjamin carried (2 Chron. 14:8). The two kinds are often mentioned together (Ps. 35:2; Ezek. 23:24). Solomon boasted of having two hundred shields of beaten gold, and three hundred bucklers of beaten gold made to hang in the forest house at Lebanon (1 Kings 10:16-17).

Shield of faith. While instructing us to put on the whole armor of God, Paul spoke of faith as the large Greek-Roman shield, able to quench the fiery darts of hellish forces. A shield not only warded off sword thrusts or objects hurled at it but actually stood between the soldier and his foe. God is the preserver and protector of his children; our shield stands between the enemy and ourselves.

Husband. First, God is our maker. "All things were made by him." But Jehovah is also a husband. Hosea depicts Israel as the wife of Jehovah and illustrates her unfaithfulness as she went after other lovers. God is shown as the divine husband striving to win back his faithless wife by wooing her back from all her evil wanderings. Yet there is another side of God's role of husband spoken through Jeremiah: "Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me" (49:11 kjv).

Governor. As we consider the worn, torn condition of our world today, it does not appear that God is ruling as its governor. Yet in the present tense, the psalmist writes about him who "doeth according to his will among the inhabitants of the earth." "For the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the governor [asv gives "ruler"] among the nations" (Ps. 22:28 kjv). The term governor, from the original meaning "to rule," is the same word used for Joseph whom Pharaoh appointed governor over all Egypt (Gen. 42:6). God alone is the perfect governor. He alone holds the divine right to govern the nations.

Redeemer. The word redeem first appears in Scripture in connection with Jacob's blessing of his son Joseph, where the verb is written in the present tense, "The angel who has redeemed me from all evil" (Gen. 48:16 nasb). Gael, the Hebrew term for "redeem," came to be used as the nearest blood relative, whose duty it was to avenge a murder. Jacob, however, used it in a broader sense as a deliverer or savior (see Exod. 6:6; Isa. 59:20).

"Redemption" implies freedom and an entire change of state or condition and therefore differs from "purchase," which describes a simple exchange of owners. Though a slave may be purchased, it does not necessarily mean he or she is delivered from slavery. When God speaks of his redemption of Israel, however, he makes possible both a change of masters and condition. "In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed" (Exod. 15:13).

King. Kings and kingdoms dominate the Bible as is seen by the fact that the term king occurs some 2,400 times, and kingdom some 350 times. Fascinated by the pomp and splendor of surrounding kings with their courts and palaces, Israel became dissatisfied with serving and obeying an invisible deity. She wanted a visible, authoritative human king to lead her (1 Sam. 8:6). The Israelites' request (or demand) meant that the people had not actually rejected Samuel, who acted as God's representative, but as Jehovah said, "They have rejected me as their king" (1 Sam. 8:7).

"Earthly kings come and go, but God is an everlasting king" (Jer. 10:10). He is "the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God," worthy of "honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen" (1 Tim. 1:17).

A symbol of Christ in the Old Testament. God said to Moses, "Thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink" (Exod. 17:6 kjv). At the cross, the Rock of Ages was smitten, and at Pentecost, water flowed out of it through the giving of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 10:4).

Salt, Oil, and Wine

Salt. Ancient Hebrews had an unlimited supply of salt. They formed brine pits called "salt-pans" along the Dead Sea's flat coastal area. The sun evaporated the water in the pits, leaving behind an abundant supply of mineral salts. Salt was the chief economic product of the ancient world, and the Hebrews used it in a variety of ways: for flavoring foods, preserving fish, curing meat, and pickling olives and vegetables.

Jesus used salt to give flavor and preserve other substances (Matt. 5:13; Mark 9:50). All who have accepted the Holy Spirit through salvation are to be used by him to preserve the earth from corruption, to season its blandness, to heal, and to freshen. We are the salt of the earth because of the Spirit's indwelling.

Salt for seasoning flavor. From ancient times, salt has been recognized as one of the most important elements in the seasoning of food. Job was asked by Eliphaz, "Is tasteless food eaten without salt?" (Job 6:6). May even our "conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt" (Col. 4:6). The role of the Holy Spirit within our lives is to keep the gospel message savory.

Salt for healing. In Bible lands, infants were rubbed with salt to ensure good health before swaddling. And salt was believed to have been an antidote for tooth decay. Salt was an ingredient in the sacred anointing oil and ritual sacrifices symbolizing God's perpetual covenant with Israel (Num. 18:19). Salt purifies as does the work of the Holy Spirit. Here it serves as a symbol for inner healing as well as physical healing.

Salt for preservation. Without refrigeration, people of ancient Bible lands relied on salt to preserve their meats from rotting. Likewise all who are born again by the Holy Spirit are to be used by him to preserve the earth from corruption. We are the salt of the earth, because the Holy Spirit dwelling in us is holy.

Oil was a main item in every Jewish household. The olive, native only to the lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea, was the most important tree cultivated in the Holy Land. A single large olive tree in biblical times provided an entire family with all of the oil it needed—as much as half a ton a year.

The use of oil for anointing is beautifully symbolic of the manifold ministry of the Holy Spirit. Many accounts of anointing are presented in the Bible, each carrying different meanings of the custom as a way of showing courtesy, respect, even devotion; for healing purposes; and as a symbol of the pouring out of God's Spirit. "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power" that he might do good and heal all those under the power of evil (Acts 10:38).

Oil for healing. "Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord" (James 5:14). Oil not only acts as a healing agent for the body, it also symbolizes the quiet work of the Spirit who alone can heal our bruised hearts.

Oil for illumination. Jesus called his disciples "lights," or lamps. The indwelling Spirit as oil enabled them to shine and maintain an effective witness in dark days. Light comes from within, as does spiritual illumination made possible by the Spirit. This is not to be confused with what men call "the light of reason," which can keep them in darkness as far as spiritual truth is concerned (see Ps. 119:105).

Wine. When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, a crowd gathered, and some made fun of the apostles, thinking they were drunk. But Peter stood up and addressed the crowd saying, "These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning!" (Acts 2:15). Such was the effect of the Holy Spirit. Their spiritual exhilaration and joy and their amazing display of linguistic power was mistaken for drunkenness. "Do not get drunk on wine. . . . Instead, be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18). The more deeply and repeatedly we drink of him, the more capacity we have and the more we will desire.

Seed (1 John 3:9). In the fullness of time, Jesus came as the seed of a woman—the seed implanted within her by the Holy Spirit when he overshadowed her, making her the mother of our Lord (Luke 1:31, 35): "to thy seed, which is Christ" (Gal. 3:16 kjv). The Scripture, which reveals him, is also likened unto a seed (Luke 8:5). Peter calls it imperishable seed (1 Peter 1:23).

Seal. Like his Master, Jesus, Paul knew how to use what was around him to illustrate divine truth. His numerous military metaphors, for example, reflect his long and close association with the Roman army. While at Ephesus, a prosperous maritime city in the apostle's day, Paul came to know of its extensive timber trade and noticed that when the great logs and planks were brought in and sold, they were then sealed with burnt-in marks indicating ownership.

A seal for the completion of a transaction. Under ancient Jewish law, when an agreement was completed and the price paid, a seal was applied to the contract to make it definite and binding (Jer. 32:9-10). The moment a person is reborn in the Spirit, he or she is sealed with the Spirit, and because he is the Seal, he cannot be broken. With this Seal, we are no longer our own. We now have the divine stamp upon us, which marks us as divine property until the day of final redemption (Rom. 8:23).

A seal communicated the image of its originator. In ages past, an imprinted design of a seal would be pressed into melted wax (such as a monogram or recognized symbol) and often implied a finished transaction when applied to documents. It is said of Jesus, "him hath God the Father sealed" (John 6:27 kjv), and he was "the express image of his person" wax bore the image of the seal. (Heb. 1:3 kjv), just as the Earnest or deposit (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14). Earnest generally means a deposit paid by a purchaser to give validity to a contract. Paul used the symbol in this sense: "Who hath . . . given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" (2 Cor. 1:22 kjv). The Spirit is our pledge, the deposit on our complete inheritance. The symbol of the earnest, relative to the Holy Spirit, is used by Paul three times in connection with the believer's redemption-inheritance.

Our English word earnest. "Arrabon, originally meant earnest—money deposited by the purchaser and forfeited if the purchase was not complete, and was probably a Phoenician word, introduced into Greece. In general, the word came to mean a pledge of any sort. In the New Testament it is used only of that which is assured by God to believers: It is said that the Holy Spirit is the Divine pledge of all their future blessedness, particularly of their eternal inheritance. (See Gen. 38:17, 20, 25.) In modern Greek, Arrabona is an engagement ring."—W. E. Vine

Clothing. The phrase "came upon" literally means, "the Spirit of Jehovah clothed himself with Gideon" (Judg. 6:34 asv margin). Clothing as a verb is frequently used in a figurative sense (see Isa. 61:10). Endued implies "clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). The Spirit's empowerment is likened to an act of clothing or covering. Often the Spirit cast himself like a mantle around those he sought to use for a specific purpose. Acting in free sovereignty, he came upon men. "He came upon [clothed himself with] Gideon" (Judg. 6:34). "He came upon [clothed himself with] Amasai" (1 Chron. 12:18). "He came upon [clothed himself with] Zechariah" (2 Chron. 24:20).

Some symbols are drawn from natural life. What a perfect reflection of the spiritual is the natural! How gracious of God it is to convey heavenly truth through the media of natural elements we are accustomed to. In this way infinity enlightens our finite understanding. The emblems used to convey the Spirit's attributes and activities are as windows allowing light to reach our minds so that we can more readily understand the things of the Spirit.

Wind. In the original text, spirit means wind or breath. That' the Holy Spirit is the secret of all life and vitality is evident from this forceful symbol describing his activity. As the natural wind is air in motion, so in the spiritual realm, the Spirit is God in action.

Breath. Just as God breathed upon Adam and he became a living soul (Gen. 2:7), the new creation in Christ is birthed by the breath of the Holy Spirit. "And with that he [Jesus] breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'"(John 20:22). Job emphasizes this same truth in the phrase, "The breath [wind] of theAlmighty. . . gives him understanding" (Job 32:8; see also 33:4). In his prophecy of Israel, Ezekiel also prayed to the Spirit, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live" (37:9).

Just as the wind is invisible, unpredictable, and out of human control, yet powerful in its effects, it is a fitting symbol of the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit. While speaking to Nico-demus, Jesus said, "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit" (John 3:8).

The wind's forces. At times wind comes with hurricane force, yet it can become as soft as a whisper upon one's cheek. The hard, cruel jailer in the Book of Acts needed the Spirit's power in great magnitude (Acts 16:25-31). But no cyclone experience was necessary for Lydia, whose heart silently opened to the Lord in Acts 16:14.

A mighty wind. Luke describes the coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost "as of a rushing mighty wind" (Acts 2:2  kjv) . Rushing suggests the irresistible action of the Spirit and speaks of power. The Spirit who came to impart power to witness (Acts 1:8) is all powerful in himself (Micah 3:8).

Acting as a sudden and mighty wind, the Spirit can control and do as he deems best with those he desires to use. "God's ways are as mysterious as the pathway of the wind [Spirit]," says Solomon (Eccles. 11:5 ). "The Wind of God," the Spirit is often found  in vehement action, as is illustrated in the following passages:       

"The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven" (Ezek.8:3).

"Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the gate of the house of the Lord" (Ezek. 11:1).

"Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon me" (Ezek. 11:5).
"The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip . . . was found at

Azotus" (Acts 8:39-40 asv).

Water is one of the most common symbols used to describe not only the varied ministry of the Holy Spirit but also the Holy Scriptures. The symbol of water is easy to understand and was used in several passages of Scripture for cleansing (Ezek. 36:25-27); life, fertility, beauty (Ezek. 47:1-12); and joy (Isa. 12:3). We could not live without water or rain. "Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst" (John 4:14).

Living Water. Clean water is one of the necessities of life, and in his conversation with the woman at the well, Jesus sought to show her how the Holy Spirit, as a well of water within her, provided not only clean water but Living Water. He was her only source of spiritual life and refreshment. As Living Water, the presence of the Spirit in the heart quenches thirst and produces life. He alone satisfies the soul's deepest thirst.

Rivers or streams. Rivers or "streams of living water. ... By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive" (John 7:37-39). Written in plural form—rivers, streams—our Lord's prophecy indicates the variety and abundance of the Spirit's activities. Consider the diversity of his dealings with us. Many rivers and streams cover the earth, yet no two are alike.

Floods. Just as water flooded the earth with judgment in Noah's day, a deluge of the Spirit is just as able to engulf the earth with blessing. The flood not only symbolized destruction, but it can stand for the lavish and bountiful supply of the Spirit.

Rain. "May he come down like rain"(Ps. 72:6 nasb). Absence of rain means famine, scarcity, and ruin as many arid countries experience. The church is certainly suffering from spiritual famine and is in need of the abundance of rain. May he send upon her the latter rains of the Spirit for he alone can transform the desert causing it to blossom as the rose (Isa. 35:1; Joel 2:23).

Springs. "Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a V spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14). Springs are not only reservoirs of pure, fresh water, but the source of great rivers. Said the psalmist, "All my springs are in thee" (Ps. 87:7), and this is true of the Spirit, who is our "secret source of every precious thing." In Christ we have an unending source of supply—a Spring that never ceases to flow.

Dew. "I will be like the dew" (Hosea 14:5). The Anglican ) Book of Common Prayer has a request for "the continual dew of Thy blessing," and this is what the Spirit waits to bestow upon every believer. Shakespeare has a phrase about "morning roses newly washed with dew." Secretly, unnoticed through the night and early morning, the dew descends upon the earth. So also the Holy Spirit    comes quietly and rests upon us.

The Spirit's fire (Isa. 4:4; Acts 2:3). Twice John the Baptist  said of Jesus, "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16). The Spirit is the fire, as symbolized when he came upon the disciples at Pentecost as "cloven tongues like as of fire" (Acts 2:3 kjv; see also Luke 12:49; Rev. 4:5). The symbol of fire is also used to portray the holy presence and character of God (Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29) and also of the Word itself  (Jer. 5:14; 20:9; 23:29).

Fire consumes what is combustible and tests what is not. It cleanses that which neither air nor water can cleanse.

Fire gives light. As fire, the Spirit is the source of spiritual illumination and knowledge. He enlightens the eyes of our understanding (Eph. 1:17-18; Heb. 6:4).

Fire purifies. As fire, the Spirit exercises his power to purify, to judge and consume all impurity, and burn within us all that is not in conformity with his holy will (Lev. 10:2; Mai. 3:2-3).

Fire gives heat. "I am warm; I see the fire," said the writer'' of Isaiah (44:16). How quickly fire can warm—symbolizing the Spirit's power to shed God's love that warms cold hearts (Rom. 5:5)

Fire gives life and warmth. Somehow the church at Ephesus had lost this warmth (Rev. 2:4).

Fire gives power. In the life and service of the believer, the Holy Spirit is a driving power. He is the fire in the boiler, the energizing influence in our witness (see Lev. 9:24; 10:2; Acts 2:3M).

"Came mightily upon." Akin to clothing is the strong verbiage about the Spirit who "came mightily upon" certain leaders. Literally the phrase implies that he attacked men, and as a greater force, compelled those he arrested to accomplish his task. As the Omnipotent One, he "came mightily upon" Samson (Judg. 14:6, 19; 15:14kjv), "came mightily upon [Saul]" (1 Sam. 10:6, asv), and "came mightily upon David" (1 Sam. 16:13 asv).

"Upon." Further, there is the softer, milder term upon, expressing a temporary divine covering. Many illustrations of this action of the Spirit can be found in Scripture (e.g., Num. 11:17; 24:2; 1 Sam. 19:20, 23; Isa. 59:21; 60:1). Another gentle term is that of rest, used in connection with the mantling of the Spirit, and is associated with his dovelike character. The Spirit "rested on" the seventy elders (Num. 11:25-26), rested upon Elisha (2 Kings 2:15), and rested upon the Messiah (Isa. 11:2).

Seven. Representing perfection, the number seven is symbolic of the Holy Spirit in the perfection of deity, and also in the perfection of his mission. He is spoken of as having:

"seven eyes" (Zech. 3:9; 4:10; Rev. 5:6), symbolizing possession of perfect insight, knowledge, and understanding.

"seven horns" (Rev. 5:6). Horns symbolize power, and the Spirit is perfect in power and authority.

"seven spirits" (Rev. 1:4). We see here perfection of manifestation, as well as perfect obedience to the divine will.

"seven lamps of fire" (Rev. 1:12-13). Symbolic of divine holiness, these lamps suggest the Spirit's holiness.

As the sevenfold Spirit, he is intimately associated with the seven churches, and is revealed as having a separate message and ministry for each of the churches (Revelation 2-3).

A dove represents the Spirit's gentleness, tenderness, peace, beauty, innocence, patience, and sincerity. When Jesus was initiated into his public ministry, "the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove" (Luke 3:22). Such semblance proclaimed two things, namely, the Spirit's own nature and the loving, quiet, gentle, mission Jesus was to undertake—one of sacrifice. Six characteristics of the dove given in the Bible are applicable to the Spirit.

Swift in flight—wings like a dove (Ps. 55:6)

Beautiful—wings of a dove covered with silver (Ps. 68:13)

Constant in love—the eyes of doves (Song of Sol. 5:12)

Mournful—mourn like doves (Isa. 59:11)

Gentle—harmless as doves (Matt. 10:16)

Particular—"The dove found no rest for the sole of her foot" (Gen. 8:9 kjv).

Porter/doorkeeper. Scripture is rich in many direct, evident, and unmistakable symbols of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. There are also implied symbols. The occupation of the porter is one of these implied designations of the Spirit. The Greek word our Lord used for porter was thyroros, the one who opens doors. Some scholars believe the porter Jesus spoke of was a reference to John the Baptist, who as Christ's forerunner came opening the door of the ministry of Jesus, or in other words, prepared his way (Mark 1:1-8). The Holy Spirit, however, was the divine forerunner of Jesus, and opened the door for his entrance into the world.

Paraclete/counselor. As a favorite designation for the Spirit, Christ used this symbol at least four times. As a paraclete, the Holy Spirit is an abiding counselor (John 14:16); he came as the gift of the Father (John 14:26); he is represented as the gift of the Son (John 15:26); and he came as Christ's gift at the time of ascension (John 16:7). Because the Greek language is pliable and gives one word several meanings, we have three words for paraclete: comforter, advocate, and helper.

Comforter. As such the Spirit is present and involved with our trials and sufferings. "Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit" (Acts 9:31). The New American Standard Bible translates the rest of this verse "going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase."

Augustine once wrote, "The Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost descended into the temple of His Apostles, which He had prepared for Himself, as a shower of sanctification and a perpetual Comforter. ... He is our sweetest Comforter."

Advocate/intercessor. "We have an advocate with the Father" (1 John 2:1 kjv). This term, which John applied to Jesus as our intercessor in heaven, and which Jesus himself used while on earth (Luke 22:31-32), is the same word translated "paraclete." It is a term representing a pleader who comes forward in favor of, and as the representative of, another. This idea is present in our two advocates. The Holy Spirit advocates, Christ pleads his cause for the believer (Rom. 8:26-27), and in heaven Christ intercedes for the believer (Heb. 7:25).


Helper. "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness" (Rom. 8:26). Helper is another word resident in the original "paraclete." Among the gifts of the Spirit is the help of the Helper himself. Paul obtained help from the Holy Spirit to continue his arduous labors (Acts 26:22). All believers can find in the Spirit the "grace to help us in our time of need" (Heb. 4:16).


Witness. Our Lord said of the Spirit, "He will testify about me" (John 15:26), and testify is the same word for witness in the original text. Throughout Scripture the Spirit is before us as a true and faithful witness for God the Father and the Son. Witness is related to an old English word, witan, meaning "to know." Paul proved the Holy Spirit to be a perfect witness in such passages as: "The Spirit Himself bears witness" (Rom. 8:16 nasb) and "My conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 9:1 nrsv). As a witness, the Spirit's testimony is always in harmony with his own just and righteous nature. He witnesses in and to the believer in at least three ways: to our pardon, to our adoption, and to our sanctification.

Witness to our pardon. As sinners we are lost, and in the court of divine justice we are guilty of breaking the laws of God. But by pleading the saving grace of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven of our crime. The Spirit enters and stands as the witness of our divine pardon, assuring us that we are no longer under condemnation (Rom. 5:1; 8:1).

Witness to our adoption. The Holy Spirit witnesses with our spirits that we are the sons of God. From the court of justice, we have been pardoned and acquitted. We can now be adopted into the family of God. The Holy Spirit acts as our continued witness to our adoption as children and heirs of an eternal inheritance (Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 4:6).


Witness to our sanctification. The indwelling Spirit is not only the evidence of our sonship, he is also the source of our holiness. Pardoned in court, we become children in the Father's house, and then holy ones serving in his temple. One reason why the Spirit is called holy is because it is his mission to empower us to live in holiness (2 Tim. 1:14).

Finger. Early church fathers spoke of the Holy Spirit as "the Finger of the Hand Divine." In Scripture, "the finger of God" and "the hand of God" are symbolic of his omnipotence and of divine authorship, visible in all God's works. The finger of God has five uses: as the Spirit of God, for writing the Law of God, as the judgment of God, as the power of God, and on the saints of God.

Finger—the Spirit of God. Combining what Matthew and Luke have to say about our Lord's miracle of casting out demons, we discover that the Holy Spirit is the finger of God: "I drive out demons by the Spirit of God" (Matt. 12:28). "I with the finger of God cast out devils" (Luke 11:20 kjv). "Finger," as Christ's title for the Spirit of Power, describes him accomplishing the purpose of God.

Finger—writing the Law of God. "Written with the finger of God" upon the two tablets of stone were etched the Ten Commandments (Exod. 31:18; Deut. 9:10). Jesus named the Spirit "the finger of God," hence the implication that he was associated with God in the framing and writing of divine truth. Also, while human fingers actually penned the Scriptures as a whole, they were under the direct control of the divine finger (2 Peter 1:21; 1 Peter 1:11).    

Finger—the judgment of God. Two references to the divine finger are associated with judgment. First, when the magicians, in spite of their impressive enchantments, could no longer produce the same plagues with which God smote the Egyptians, they confessed to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God" (Exod. 8:19). The second illustration of divine fingers being connected with judgment is found during the feast of Belshazzar, who shrank with fear as he saw "the fingers of a human hand" write out on the palace wall the drunken king's condemnation (Dan. 5:5, 24).

Finger—the power of God. Our first glimpse of the Spirit in Scripture is that of the Creator-Spirit (Gen. 1:2). David, a great lover of nature, considered the brilliant heavens God's masterpiece. He exclaimed, "O Lord, Our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! . . . When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers" (Ps. 8:1, 3a). The creative power of the Holy Spirit, the finger of God, still writes on the hearts of humanity as we are transformed into new creations in Christ Jesus (John 3:6-8; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15).

Finger—on the saints of God. To ancient Orientals, fingers were essential in conversation because they could indicate what their mouths dared not utter in respect to concern or grave insult. Referring to a wicked person who plots evil, Solomon wrote, "motions with his fingers" (Prov. 6:13). Isaiah also speaks of "the pointing finger and malicious talk" (Isa. 58:9). But Paul writes to the Corinthians in his second letter, reminding them that as a Christian church they were "a letter from Christ. . . written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God" (2 Cor. 3:3). The Spirit writes upon the hearts of believers the laws of God (Heb. 8:10; 10:16).

Circumcision. God made a covenant with Abraham that brought with it a promise of unparalleled blessing. The sign of the covenant was circumcision. Every male of Abraham's descendants was to enter the covenant with the outward sign of circumcision. This rite was the key to releasing God's blessing to each subsequent generation, foreshadowing the "circumcision of the heart," when a person submits his or her life to the Lord Jesus Christ and receives the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.