God’s Plan of Salvation
The central theme of the entire Bible is God’s plan of salvation which he brings to fulfillment through his Son, Jesus Christ. This plan, which was foreknown by God before the creation of the world and foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament, is to bring about a family of children who will live in intimate fellowship with God as their Father and share in the glory of his goodness forever. The working out of this plan of salvation is the thread which ties the whole Bible together from beginning to end. It brings unity to its diversity and meaning to its action and thought. The Gospel of John summarizes this plan in words that are known by many the world over:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
The Bible consistently teaches that there are only two possibilities for the final destiny of man: to receive “eternal life” or to “perish.” Since man is mortal – subject to death (Rom. 1:23; Rom. 5:12; Heb. 9:27), he has no hope for a life that lasts forever apart from receiving the gift of eternal life from God, who alone is immortal (Rom. 1:23; 1 Tim. 6:16).
For those who reject God’s way of salvation, Jesus Christ (John 14:6), the final end or destiny will be to perish after the final judgment. For those, however, who accept Christ there will be a very different destiny – eternal life. For the believer in Christ, this eternal life begins in the present life with the “firstfruits of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:23), and will be brought to its final completion in the paradise of the kingdom of God after Christ’s second coming (I Cor. 15:20-28).
Defining the Terms
In the Bible the terms “salvation,” “eternal life” and “kingdom of God” are closely related to each other and are often used as almost interchangeable expressions (cp. Luke 18:18-30; John 3:1-18).
The word “salvation” is a comprehensive term. It includes the idea of deliverance from something as well as the result of that deliverance. When speaking of the eternal salvation of man it refers to being saved from sin, its consequences, and the final condemnation of the ungodly at the last judgment. As a result, instead of being condemned to perish, the believer in Christ will receive the gift of eternal life. Biblically, the term “eternal life” refers to “the life of the coming age.”
The Bible speaks of this present period of time in which we live as the “present evil age” (Gal. 1:4). It is influenced for the most part by the “god of this age,” Satan, and his spiritual kingdom of darkness (II Cor. 4:4; Eph. 6:10-12; I John 5:19). Though God is still ultimately sovereign over all (Psalm 103:19), the Bible teaches that this world is fundamentally in rebellion against God (Eph. 2:1-3). After Christ’s second coming, however, God’s enemies will be destroyed and a new age will be ushered in – the age of the kingdom of God. In this new coming age God’s righteous and loving rule will be established “on earth as it is in heaven” for God’s kingdom will finally have “come” (Matt 6:9-10). This kingdom will be a “paradise” (Rev. 2:7) consisting of “a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (II Pet. 2 . 3:13; Rev. 21:1ff). It will be everlasting in duration and those who live within it will have the “eternal life” of the coming age. This eternal life will be a life that is “immortal” and “imperishable” (I Cor. 15:53-54), for it will be life in a kingdom whose origin is “not of this world” (John 18:36) – a paradise where all of God’s people will enjoy forever “the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).
He can be grieved: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30).
Each of the emotions and acts we have listed are characteristics of a person.The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force, like gravity or magnetism. He is aperson, with all the attributes of personality. But not only is He a person; He isdivine as well.
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A DIVINE PERSON: HE IS GOD
Throughout the Bible it is clear that the Holy Spirit is God Himself. This is seenin the attributes that are given to the Holy Spirit in Scripture, for example.Without exception these attributes are those of God Himself.
He is eternal: this means that there never was a time when He was not. “Howmuch more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offeredHimself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works toserve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14).
He is all-powerful: “And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spiritwill come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; andfor that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35).
He is everywhere present (that is, omnipresent) at the same time: “Where canI go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence?” (Ps. 139:7).
He is all-knowing (that is, omniscient): “For to us God revealed them throughthe Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For whoamong men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which isin him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:10–11).
All of the essential aspects of deity belong tothe Holy Spirit. We can say of Him exactly what was said of Jesus Christ in theancient Nicene Creed: He is very God of very God! So we bow before Him; weworship Him; we accord Him every response Scripture requires of ourrelationship to Almighty God.
Who is the Holy Spirit? He is God!
“Air! Air—this invisible envelopment in which we live and move, this substance so immaterial that we can move our hands through it as though it hadno reality at all. But the power it possesses! How great, how terrible!’’
We have seen something of the nature and personality of the Holy Spirit. Nowwe must catch a vision of His distinctive work in each of the great ages of time.But first, to place it in perspective, we must see how the Triune God is at workin every age.The elements of mystery in this make it difficult for the human mind tocomprehend fully. Simultaneously the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit havedifferent functions to perform that are distinctive to each.
For instance, it was not the Father or the Holy Spirit who died on the cross of Calvary. It was God the Son.
We need to understand such facts, especially when we think of this presentage and the work of God in it.As we study the Bible, the work of God the Father is especially emphasized inthe Old Testament. The work of God the Son is emphasized in the Gospels.From the day of Pentecost until the present, however, the emphasis is on thework of God the Holy Spirit. And yet the Bible also tells us God the Holy Spirithas been at work throughout history, from the beginning of the world.