"This Age" and the "Coming Age"
Jesus spoke of this world and that world. It is written in Luke 20:34-35.
"This world" is the present time when all the activities of mortal life
dominate the scene -- "that world" is the world to come when Jesus returns
to rule the earth in righteousness, assisted by his faithful servants,
raised to life at this coming and made immortal like himself. This much
is revealed in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; 2 Peter 3:13;
1 Corinthians 15:22-23,50-57; 1 John 3:2; Matthew 19:27-28; Revelation 4:9.
It is plain therefore when it is written in Hebrews 6:5 that some have
tasted of the "powers of the world to come" that it is talking about the
holy spirit. If there was a doubt, verse 4 spells it out.
When that power is exercised directly by God wonderful things happen.
To name just two that concern us so much; Jesus was conceived by the holy
spirit (Luke 1:35). and the scriptures were written by men moved by the holy
spirit (2 Peter 1:21).
Jesus Christ was given the holy spirit without measure by God and
he used it wisely to perform miracles (Matthew 11:4-5). In Jesus' case
the preaching of the Gospel must be counted as a work of the holy spirit
since he also was a holy one moved by the holy spirit to "bring to light
life and immortality" 2 Timothy 1:10. and the doctrine he taught was not
his own but from his Father (John 7:16).
Many of the first century disciples received the holy spirit and it was
mostly used wisely and then amazing things happened. Acts 2:4. But
sometimes they used it for display and created confusion.
1 Corinthians 14:26-33.
A Deposit Guaranteeing our Inheritance
Paul call this possession of the holy spirit "a deposit guaranteeing
our inheritance" Ephesians 1:13-14. It was a guarantee of something to
be received at a later date. The later date is the resurrection when
natural bodies are raised as spiritual bodies 1 Corinthians 15:44. Jesus
said that to enter the kingdom of God a man must be born of water (baptism)
and the spirit (raised at the resurrection to a spiritual body). This
being born of the spirit, a spiritual body is the adoption for which the
faithful groan and wait. Even those who had "a deposit guaranteeing their
inheritance", or "the firstfruits of the Spirit", groaned. (Romans 8:23).
The important point is to realise that in the day of our Lord's return
when the faithful are given immortality and the powers of "that world" are
possessed fully it will be all joy and gladness because it will be our
nature as immortals to always use that power at the command of God and
to his glory. Psalm 16:11 captures the picture. But, as possessed by the
disciples of the first century, it was a mixed blessing sometimes entailing
problems and responsibilities not easy to carry. It did not itself confer
moral strength or a more righteous character. The classic example of this
is the case of the Lord Jesus Christ himself when tempted in the wilderness.
Fresh from his baptism and receiving the holy spirit accompanied by
public approval by his Father, he is led by the same spirit into the
wilderness to be tempted and it is the newly acquired power to turn stones
into bread that constitutes the first temptation. The strength to meet
this temptation must come from God (as every good and perfect gift does)
but not by the possessing of a miracle working power. The help this time
comes from something God did by the holy spirit years before Jesus was
born. By the spirit God moved men to write the Bible. God's word. The
written word. Over the years of his growing up Jesus had eagerly and
ceaselessly soaked up that word and now he had that moral strength and
righteous character that comes from it. Here was the strength to overcome
the temptation... This was the character of God and Jesus had taken it on
so that it was his character. To what extent we recognise this character
in Christ and make it our own, to that extent we benefit from the same
power by which he overcame every temptation. Jesus referred to it as
spirit when he rebuked James and John for their militant attitude ...
In Romans 8:9 Paul acknowledges both the source of the character of God
and Jesus as our example. A man may or may not have been given a taste
of the powers of the world to come, but what he must have, to be accepted
by Jesus Christ in the day of judgement is that character of which Jesus
himself is the perfect example.
The Spirit of Today
Our time has seen men and women struggling to obtain, claiming to have,
fighting over, giving contradictory accounts of, making false claims for
and generally bringing into disrepute the holy spirit, while seeming not
to know or realise that it would not help them to enter the kingdom of God
if they had it. And all the time the energy this used is taking away from
reading and studying the written word.
Do we know what kind of spirit we are of? (Luke 9:55) On that will depend our
acceptance at the hand of Jesus when he sits to judge. To be accepted
depends on our being born of the holy spirit -- not a foretaste, not the
guarantee, not the firstfruits, but the gift in full, to be exercised in
joy and gladness in the beauty of holiness to the glory of God.