FIRE. “And tongues, like flames of fire” (Acts 2:3) was the second symbol associated with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
John answered them all, “I baptize you with water, but One is coming who is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to untie the strap of His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16).
Some commentators identify “fire” in this passage with “tongues, like flames of fire” at Pentecost. Others identify “fire” with the judgment at Christ’s Second Advent and the Holy Spirit with His First Advent.
“Tongues, like flames of fire” symbolizes the purifying, penetrating, energizing and transforming effect of the Holy Spirit in those baptized (identified) with Him. Additionally, fire is symbolic in Scripture of:
1. Yahweh’s presence (Exodus 3:2)
2. Yahweh’s approval (Leviticus 9:24; 1 Kings 18:38-39; 2 Chronicles 7:1)
3. Yahweh’s protection (Exodus 13:21; Zechariah 2:5)
4. Yahweh’s refining (Malachi 3:3; 1 Peter 1:7)
5. Yahweh’s Word (Jeremiah 5:14; 20:9)
6. Yahweh’s judgment (Leviticus 10:2)
Ultimately, the unbelieving Jews were judged by fire with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70. Judging from the above symbolic uses of fire, the appearance of “tongues, like blazing fire” denote Yahweh’s presence, approval, protection, refining, and sanctifying for ministry at Pentecost.
BREATH. The Hebrew xwr (ruwach) and Greek pneuma (pneuma) are sometimes translated “breath.”
Then the LORD God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).
The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4).
Here “breath” (hmvn neshamah) is paralleled with Spirit (xwr ruwach) of God. Symbolically, breath represents the Spirit of God, who give life to man.
Breath is used as a metaphor for the inspiration of Scripture in the NT.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
“Inspired” (yeopneustov theopneustos) is a compound, which means “God-breathed.” Since the inspiration of Scripture is associated with the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Peter 1:20-21), “God-breathed” appears to be a symbol or metaphor for the Holy Spirit. Therefore, God’s Spirit breathes life into His Word and the soul of man.
DOVE. The first time “dove” occurs in the Bible occurs after the Flood. Prior to sending out a dove, Noah had sent out a raven to find if the water had receded.
After 40 days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made, and he sent out a raven. It went back and forth until the waters had dried up from the earth (Genesis 8:7).
The dark bird sailed across the desolation, and his heart felt at home there, for he was a carrion eater, and felt at home among the carrion. The evidence of death and judgment should have been a repulsive and horrible sight, but the raven was made for it. Something in its dark heart loved it, because it lived on it. The raven illustrates what the world is like today. Apart from new birth from the Spirit of God in our life, the best the world has to offer is a humanitarian society based on humanistic ideas. Absent the presence of God in man, the human race is depraved and corrupt, and awaits the wrath of God; such was the post-Flood world (Genesis 6:5-7).
Then he sent out a dove to see whether the water on the earth’s surface had gone down, but the dove found no resting place for her foot. She returned to him in the ark because water covered the surface of the whole earth. He reached out and brought her into the ark to himself. So Noah waited seven more days and sent out the dove from the ark again. When the dove came to him at evening, there was a plucked olive leaf in her beak. So Noah knew that the water on the earth’s surface had gone down. After he had waited another seven days, he sent out the dove, but she did not return to him again (Genesis 8:8-12).
“When the dove came to him at evening, there was a plucked olive leaf in her beak.” The olive leaf was a symbol of peace the wrath of God had abated with the water. Imagine, Noah taking the dove into his hands, longing to receive a sign of peace and rest from the turmoil and havoc that raged on his world for over a year.
At the baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit chose to manifest Himself as a dove, which so characterized His nature that would be manifested in the Son of God and those who would become His disciples.
After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on Him.
And there came a voice from heaven: This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him! (Matthew 3:16-17; cf. Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32).
Doves are characterized by:
- Simplicity (Matthew 10:16)
- Lovely faces (Song of Songs 2:14)
- Softness of eyes (Song of Songs 1:15)
- Sweetness of voice (Song of Songs 2:14)
- Beauty (Psalms 68:13)
- Purity (Luke 2:22-24)
- Peace (Genesis 8)
- Rest (Psalms 55:6)
These characteristics of the Holy Spirit were manifested in the Prince of Peace, who invited others
into His gentleness and peace.
All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves (Matthew 11:29).
CLOTHING. Jesus pictured the Holy Spirit as the believer’s clothing.
I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49 NIV).
The symbol of clothing indicates the outward character; it is the covering of human weakness with power from on high. The use of clothing as a figure to reveal spiritual truth is found frequently in Scripture.
1. The immortal body—“clothed with a heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:3)
2. The new man created in righteousness and purity of the truth (Ephesians 4:24)
3. The full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17)
4. The new man, who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of his Creator (Colossians 3:10-14)
5. The armor of faith, hope and love (1 Thessalonians 5:8)
6. The fine linen of righteousness (Revelation 19:8)
The power of the Holy Spirit, linen of righteousness and immortality are clothing that God puts on us. The other spiritual garments we put on ourselves.