“Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
We’ve been talking for a few days about Paul’s thoughts on life after death now. We’ve talked in particular about this sense of eternality that dwells in the hearts of people. We’ve also talked about the fact that we only gain any substance for this otherwise empty hope in Christ. Apart from Him, we don’t have anything to go on but wishful thinking that plays itself out in a variety of mostly ultimately harmful ways. In Christ, though, things get very much more solid. The reason for this is the Spirit.
Now, as a concept, the Holy Spirit is generally by far the least understood member of the Trinity. We can conceptualize God the Father. Most of our popular conceptualizations aren’t right, but at least He makes sense to us. Getting our minds around Jesus is even easier. But the Spirit is someone entirely more challenging.
If you want to think about it this way, the Spirit is the doer of the Trinity. The Father thinks up plans, the Son oversees those plans, but the Spirit is the one who makes them happen. He is the one who comes into our hearts to take up residence and gradually shape us to more and more fully reflect the character of Christ.
More to the point, as Paul says here, He is the down payment from the Father on the eternity and life we have waiting for us in Christ. He comes into our hearts and fans that nagging sense that there is more than this world into a burning desire and a driving passion. More than that, He gives us a taste of that eternity to give fresh legs to our hope so it can run us all the way up to the point that we receive it in full.
And how does this taste, this down payment come? It comes in our experience of what life in the kingdom of God will be like when it is finally and fully here. If you want to get even more concrete than that, think about the fruit of the Spirit Paul wrote about to the believers in Galatia.
It comes when we experience God’s peace that passes all understanding in the midst of a situation that seems like it should bring only chaos to our lives. It comes when we give and receive real, unconditional, unearned love. It comes when our hearts burst with joy in spite of a full plate of life’s difficulties sitting before us. It comes when we realize the freedom of comfortably doing life at someone else’s pace—that is patience.
We could keep going, but I think the point is clear. When you are in Christ and you experience all these fruits of the Spirit, you are experiencing a taste of what life will be like in Heaven.
Last night we had a party at my folks’ house with dozens of family members ahead of my grandma’s funeral in the morning. That in itself was a taste of the heavenly reunion we anticipate on the day of Christ’s return. There was food aplenty and it all looked and smelled delicious. At one point before the eating began, I snuck a little sample of some of the barbecue chicken. Wow was it good! I later heaped my plate with it, but that little taste is what gave me the confidence the real meal was going to be so delightful. That’s what we get in and with the Spirit.
As you journey, if you do not know Christ, your nagging sense of eternity seems to be pointing you somewhere, but you’re just not sure as to what. Once you receive Him, there will be more substance to that sense as it grows into a full-blown hope. Then, all of life will become a sampling of the life that is to come leaving you not just ready for it, but telling everyone else around you how good it will be. This is the gift of the Spirit. Receive it and live.