Question of the Week: Jesus and the Holy Spirit

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On 3/22/2018, The Mentionables received this question from Seth F:

"Why did Christ have to leave earth in order for the holy spirit to come to earth?"

Here are the answers from the team:

This answer is from Mentionable Team Member Joel Furches

The verse to which this alludes is, no doubt, John 16:7, which states “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (ESV)

One thing to note up front is that Jesus says that he will send the Holy Spirit to them. This is not a simple cause-and-effect. Jesus chooses to send the Holy Spirit when he leaves. Doubtless the Spirit is at least capable of acting on earth at the same time that Jesus is present – such as it did for John the Baptist.

The question may actually have the chain of cause and effect backward. More likely, the Holy Spirit came because Jesus had to leave earth.

Jesus’ ascension to heaven was inevitable. Firstly, it was evident throughout the prophetic texts of the Old Testament that – once victorious – the Son would sit down at the right hand of the Father in order to receive his reward. Moreover, the Messiah clearly had two comings in prophecy: one to redeem and the other to judge.

The model for the Holy Spirit coming upon a person throughout scripture involved being chosen by God for service. Throughout scripture, the Holy Spirit only descends on one of three kinds of people: prophets, priests and kings. Once anointed and cleansed by Jesus’ blood, believers are, as Paul puts it, a “royal priesthood.”

In Christ’s first coming, he came as a priest, offering the perfect sacrifice for the remission of sins. In his second arrival, he will come as conqueror and king – at which point he establishes his kingdom upon the earth. Thus the cycle is complete, but his representatives on earth – the Christians – are not left without God’s presence and inspiration upon their lives because Christ has, as John 16:7 suggests, sent his Spirit upon them.