When Christ left His little family of TV disciples, it was with the promise that another Comforter" would come as His successor. But together with this promise were words of caution: "And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49).
The promise of "another Comforter" signifies that Jesus Himself was the first, the original Comforter. And that, indeed, He had been. He had defended and encouraged His disciples. He had stood by them. He had taught and enlightened them. He had given them examples of unselfish devotion to a great cause. He had shown them how to live.
The promise implied the need of Peter, James, John, the other disciples, and every follower of Jesus to this time. There is a lack in sin-prone men that only the indwelling Spirit can supply. Human beings are weak to resist the temptations of their archenemy, Satan. They are ignorant of his delusions. How often he sets upon them unawares, taking them off guard, and they fall victim to his subtlety.
How Have Men Endured?
Illustrative of this is the way Satan tried Job. The patriarch was offering a burnt sacrifice in behalf of his sons and daughters when a messenger brought word that the Sabaeans had stolen the oxen and asses. Another followed saying, "The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep." Immediately came news that the Chaldeans had stolen the herd of camels. And if that was not enough, another came saying the wind had blown down the house and killed all his sons and daughters. Later Job lost his health and the support of his wife.
Jesus knew that until the very time of His second coming, as persecution and multiple trials set upon the people of God, they would need the inward strength and courage of the Holy Spirit. Their feeble and frail human natures must be fortified by that divine power that proceeds from the Father. How have men and women endured the dungeon, the rack, the stake? Certainly not by human will and strength alone. That other Comforter stood by them.
he disciples came to realize the benefits and blessings, as well as the high privilege of receiving the promised Spirit. They saw they could not perform the great commission of proclaiming the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all the world without the inspiration and power of the Spirit of God.
"The Holy Spirit was the highest of all gifts that He could solicit from His Father for the exaltation of His people. The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail. The power of evil had been strengthening for centuries, and the submission of men to this satanic captivity was amazing. Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power. It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world's Redeemer. It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure. Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon His church."—The Desire of Ages, p. 671
Christ Makes Request
"I will pray the Father," promised Christ, "and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you" (John 14:1618).
There was nothing in all heaven—not the temple or the angels that would benefit the disciples as would the Holy Spirit. Christ would make special request of the Father that when He was glorified the Spirit would be given—poured out in the fullness of divine power. This was a request of a Son to His Father, and the answer was of the Father to His Son. This was a prayer of a Son on an equality with His Father.
However, Jesus did not make the request at the time of His unparalleled prayer in John 17. Why? Because His ministry was not yet finished, His death on the cross not yet an accomplished fact. He was not yet glorified: "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)" (John 7:38, 39).
Still another reason why Jesus could not ask for the Holy Spirit at that time was that the disciples were not prepared to receive the Spirit. Their hearts were unsubdued by divine love. They were filled with a spirit of greed and self-aggrandizement as was evidenced that last night in the upper room. Yet those same animosity-filled disciples, after the ascension, returned to that very upper room, uniting in prayer for the fulfillment of the promise:
"These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren" (Acts 1:14).
"I Will Come to You"
The disciples thought that death would be the separating factor, separating them forever from their Lord, but not so. Christ promised otherwise: I will not leave you desolate orphans. I will come to you. How would He come? The Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father, in the name of Jesus, would bring both the presence of the Father and the Son to His people. John 14:23 tells us: "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."
Actually, the Spirit would bring the presence and influence of Christ nearer to the disciples than when He was with them by the seaside in Galilee. The Spirit would be "with" them and "in" them, and His influence would be the predominant factor in their lives as was seen on the day of Pentecost when they spoke in tongues and three thousand were converted in a day.
By the indwelling Spirit every disciple of Christ could have the comfort of His continual presence. Men of the world would not have this comfort. Said Jesus: "Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more." While the world would not see Jesus, His disciples would: "But ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also" (verse 19).
Speaking again of the Spirit, this time as "the Spirit of truth," Jesus declared an intimacy not yet known: "But ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (verse 17). The Spirit would bring to them each, though widely separated, the abiding presence of the Man of the cross. By this means Christ would abide within them—in heart and mind, in conscience and will.
"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:20).
Admittedly, this is a mighty mystery. But that is no reason for doubt and unbelief. We are surrounded by mysteries. Who understands how dead food eaten today, tomorrow is living brain and body tissue, walking around and talking? Who can explain the germination of the seed? By what means does the migratory bird find his unerring way over hundreds and thousands of miles of trackless forest, and desert and ocean?
Six or Seven Million Christians
The Holy Spirit fell upon the believers at Pentecost in hitherto unknown force and power. This was a new thing under the sun. Peter and the rest of the disciples, including the holy women, had just ended a ten-day prayer meeting, between the ascension and the Feast of Pentecost, in which they supplicated the throne of God for the outpouring of the Spirit.
Suddenly the house was shaken, and the sound of a mighty wind was heard. Their prayers were answered. Jesus' promise was fulfilled. The visual manifestation was as of tongues of fire resting upon each of them. The auditory manifestation was that visiting Jews from many different nations heard the gospel in their native-born languages.
The effectual manifestation was that three thousand were convicted, converted, and baptized that day. Many other thousands were baptized at a later time. The Spirit did His work so well that it is estimated that thirty years after Pentecost there were between 6 and 7 million Christians.
Yet, Pentecost was not the beginning of the Spirit's work. We find Him at work in the creation of this world: "The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" (Gen. 1:2). Before the Flood He strove with men. Saith the Lord: "My spirit shall not always strive with man" (Gen. 6:3). He gave Samson his unparalleled physical strength: "The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he rent him [the lion] as he would have rent a kid" (Judges 14:6). The Spirit of the Lord was with Othniel as he judged Israel, and went out to make war (chap. 3:10). The Spirit was upon Gideon (chap. 6:34). Joshua was a man "in whom is the spirit" (Num. 27:18).
"During the patriarchal age, the influence of the Holy Spirit had often been revealed in a marked manner, but never in its fullness. Now, in obedience to the word of the Saviour, the disciples offered their supplications for this gift, and in heaven Christ added His intercession. He claimed the gift of the Spirit, that He might pour it upon His people."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 37.
It is this indwelling gift and power from above that gives the heaven-bound traveler victory over sin. Heaven cannot be obtained without the victory, and the victory cannot be had without the Spirit. Thus, we see the indispensability of the Spirit in God's plan for saving the lost.
When the life is completely surrendered to the control of the Spirit, He is able to save to the uttermost." Then, as is told us in Hebrews 13:21, the Spirit will "make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ." Can we wonder, then, that the Lord has told us: "Ask ye of the Lord rain [the Holy Spirit] in the time of the latter rain" (Zech. 10:1)?