Bridging the Spirit to the Next Generation
Rabbi Elliot Klayman is, like Noach, an ish tzadik, tamim bedorotav, “a righteous man, blameless in his generation.” All who know him will join in attesting that this righteous man is attentive to the needs and sufferings of others, and always involved in protecting, preserving, and passing on to coming generations the spiritual patrimony he holds dear.
Because Elliot is a strong bridge between the generations, a worthy exemplar for all of us, what you are about to read is designed to disciple those of the next generation in an area crucial to our continuity and vitality, that is, the presence of the Ruach working in our midst as an inheritance for God’s people. By design this chapter is unadorned with scholarly footnotes and citations. Instead, it is a direct consideration for new believers in Yeshua of what Scripture has to say about the Spirit’s role in our lives individually and as congregations.
While my hope is that some of us who have been around a long time will also find something here from which to learn, my main focus mirrors that of Elliot, to help the next generation. May such be the will of the Holy One, Blessed be He.
Yeshua Points Us to the Presence of the Spirit
Yeshua’s last meal with his followers prior to his horrifying crucifixion presented his final opportunity to give directions to them and to us about how to get to the great God Feast at the end of time. Always the master teacher, Yeshua connects the meal they are eating that night with that feast:
And he said to them, “I have really wanted so much to celebrate this Seder with you before I die! For I tell you, it is certain that I will not celebrate it again until it is given its full meaning in the Kingdom of God.” Then, taking a cup of wine, he made the b’rakhah and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on, I will not drink the ‘fruit of the vine’ until the Kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:15–18)
In a sense this Last Supper was just hors d’oeuvres pointing to the Kingdom that is coming. And what’s even more exciting is that he shares with us the resources we will need to get there in style.
Enter the Ruach HaKodesh—The Divine Presence
We find the notes from this meeting gathered for us in John’s Besorah (The Gospel of John), chapters thirteen to seventeen. We learn that Yeshua promised a remarkable intimacy with God through his Spirit, whom he was going to be sending to be with them forever. He described this intimacy as a kind of a union between them and the Divine Being. And he explicitly includes us in the equation when he prays this to the Father:
I pray not only for these, but also for those who will trust in me because of their word, that they may all be one. Just as you, Father, are united with me and I with you, I pray that they may be united with us, so that the world may believe that you sent me. The glory which you have given to me, I have given to them; so that they may be one, just as we are one—I united with them and you with me, so that they may be completely one, and the world thus realize that you sent me, and that you have loved them just as you have loved me. (John 17:20–23)
When we read this, we should all do a double-take. This is beyond extraordinary. Yeshua is praying for us that we might experience a union with the Father comparable to that which he himself experienced. This is so extraordinary that many people miss it. But there it is. Just thinking about it bends the mind.
In this orientation seminar, Yeshua prepared his followers for the transition between having him with them and knowing he is gone. He tells them, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow later” (John 13:36).
We are living in a different kind of transition, between this age and the Age to Come (Eph 1:21). Now that Yeshua has died and risen, and ascended to the Father’s side from where he poured forth the Divine Presence, the Age to Come and the Present Age are overlapping. Theologians call this living between the already and the not-yet. We are experiencing a foretaste, but not the fullness, of the Age to Come, also called the Age of the Spirit.
Luke spoke of this present age as a period when the times of the gentiles are being fulfilled, and at last Jerusalem will no longer be trodden down by the gentiles, changing back and forth in the hands of non-Israel nations which have played football with the Holy Land for thousands of years (Luke 21:24). Paul wrote that the fullness of the gentiles is beginning to give way to the fullness of Israel (Rom 11:25–27). In Luke’s Book of Acts, he describes this time of transition as a time when the Age to Come has broken through into this present age. We are even now already standing in the vestibule of the Age to Come, getting a taste of the Age of the Spirit. The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that we have already experienced the powers of the Age to Come (Heb 6:5) and Paul says we are those “upon whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor 10:11). Yeshua’s upper room discourse reminds us that all of this has extraordinary implications for us now. And he richly tells his followers and us about what it means that, after his resurrection, he will be sending the Spirit to be with them, and with us, forever. More bending of the mind.
Through his death, resurrection, ascension to being enthroned in the Father’s presence, and his sending forth of the Spirit, Yeshua has launched this Age of the Spirit, this growing realization of the Age to Come, the time of ultimate consummation. This is how God’s entire agenda for Israel and the nations moves into hyper-drive. On that very special Shavuot known as the Day of Pentecost, Peter put it this way: “He has been exalted to the right hand of God; has received from the Father what he promised, namely, the Ruach HaKodesh; and has poured out this gift, which you are both seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:33).
Living Between the Already and the Not-Yet
Let’s compare living between the already and the not-yet to living between D-Day and V-Day, two landmarks in WWII. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, the Allied forces landed at Normandy. At that point, the eventual vanquishing of the Nazi beast was assured. While victory was assured that day, the war would not officially be over for almost a year, that is, until May 8, 1945, V-Day, when victory in Europe was declared.
Similarly, in Yeshua’s great battle with the forces of darkness in this present evil age, we are living between D-Day and V-Day, the already and the not-yet. Yeshua’s death, resurrection, ascension, and pouring out of the Spirit is D-Day. The defeat of the forces of darkness, sin, and death and decay is guaranteed. But as with WWII, we are left with a mopping-up operation. Our not-yet V-Day won’t arrive until Yeshua returns. Meanwhile, we live between the already and the not-yet. In the meantime, God supplies us with the resources of the Spirit, experiencing a foretaste of the Age to Come. This coming of the Spirit is detectable. It is not just a doctrine but an experienced reality—“what you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33).
The Divine Presence as an Experienced Reality, Even for You
Repeatedly Scripture portrays the coming of the Spirit as life-giving and transformational. This was foreshadowed in the Tanakh, and after Pentecost it is surprising that there are even many followers of Yeshua for whom this is very much out of focus. Let’s look at some examples from the Tanakh first.
Samuel was an early and pivotal prophet in the history of Israel. He was the one whom God used to anoint with oil, and therefore authorize, Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David. This anointing was symbolic of being empowered by the Divine Presence. When Samuel anoints a bewildered Saul as the destined first king of Israel, he tells him where to go from there and mentions some people he will meet along the way. But notice what he says about the experiential dimension of the coming of the Spirit:
You will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place, preceded by lutes, tambourines, flutes and lyres; and they will be prophesying [speaking in a manner that betokens the presence of the Spirit]. Then the Spirit of Adonai will fall on you; you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man! When these signs come over you, just do whatever you feel like doing, because God is with you. Then you are to go down ahead of me to Gilgal, and there I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and present sacrifices as peace offerings. Wait there seven days, until I come to you and tell you what to do.” As it happened, as soon as he had turned his back to leave Sh’mu’el, God gave him another heart; and all those signs took place that day. (1 Sam 10:5b–8)
Earlier, while Israel was in the wilderness, something similar happened to a whole group of people. Moses felt he needed a cadre of people to share with him the burdens of leading Israel. God answered this need by directing him to select seventy leaders whom God would equip to help Moses lead the people. Here it the account of what happened. Notice what it says about the Spirit, and about what Moses wished for that day:
Then he collected seventy of the leaders of the people and placed them all around the tent. Adonai came down in the cloud, spoke to him, took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy leaders. When the Spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied—then but not afterwards.
There were two men who stayed in the camp, one named Eldad and the other Medad, and the Spirit came to rest on them. They were among those listed to go out to the tent, but they hadn’t done so, and they prophesied in the camp. A young man ran and told Moshe, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!” Y’hoshua, the son of Nun, who from his youth up had been Moshe’s assistant, answered, “My lord, Moshe, stop them!” But Moshe replied, “Are you so zealous to protect me? I wish all of Adonai’s people were prophets! I wish Adonai would put his Spirit on all of them!” (Num 11:24–29, emphasis added)
We are living in the day when God is responding to this wish, this prayer of Moses. Now is the time when the Divine Spirit is poured out on all of Adonai’s people. In Acts, chapter two, fifty days after the crucifixion of Yeshua, the Divine Presence came upon his followers like a mighty rushing wind, and crowds gathered, attracted by the clamor. Many assumed Yeshua’s followers were all drunk because they saw them strongly affected by the Spirit, and heard them speaking in languages they had never learned (quite a manifestation)! Peter explains:
These people aren’t drunk, as you suppose—it’s only nine in the morning. No, this is what was spoken about through the prophet Yo’el:
‘In the Last Days,
I will pour out from my Spirit upon everyone.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my slaves, both men and women,
will I pour out from my Spirit in those days;
and they will prophesy.’ ” (Acts 2:15–18)
Moses had expressed his wish that the Spirit would rest on all Israel. The prophets later predicted it. And through Yeshua it all came to pass.
Yeshua called this experienced reality of the Spirit “living water” (John 4:16), the opposite of stagnant water, but rather, water on the move, pure and life-giving. He further says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!” (John 7:38). Notice what he says about the scope of this promise. It is for whoever trusts in him, and it is no trickle of the Spirit, no schpritz. It is rivers of living water flowing out of our inmost being. Does it get any better than this? And if this is not a promised experiential reality, I don’t know what is!
Peter amplifies the universal availability of this resource for all of Yeshua’s people when he says, “Turn from sin, return to God, and each of you be immersed on the authority of Yeshua the Messiah into forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh! For the promise is for you, for your children, and for those far away — as many as Adonai our God may call!” (Acts 2:37–38).
Notice—for you, for your children, for those who are far away, as many as Adonai our God may call. The promise is universal for all of Yeshua’s people!
This was an old promise, of which the prophets spoke extensively. It is not just a fulfilled promise, though. Peter says “the gift is for you and your children.” Yeshua also refers to the presence of the Spirit as a gift: “So if you, even though you are bad, know how to give your children gifts that are good, how much more will the Father keep giving the Ruach HaKodesh from heaven to those who keep asking him!” (Luke 11:13).
So we are talking about a promise, a gift, something given to all of Yeshua’s people, something for which we should be continually asking, a reality from which we are meant to drink deeply. Radical transformation. Who would say no?
The Divine Presence: Who Needs It?
Scripture makes clear that without this dynamism, something vital is missing. This must be what happened in Acts 19, when Paul arrived in Ephesus and met twelve disciples who had learned about the message of Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist). Notice the question Paul asks them, and ask yourself, “What prompted him to ask that unusual question?”
While Apollos was in Corinth, Sha’ul completed his travels through the inland country and arrived at Ephesus, where he found a few talmidim. He asked them, “Did you receive the Ruach HaKodesh when you came to trust?” “No,” they said to him, “we have never even heard that there is such a thing as the Ruach HaKodesh.” “In that case,” he said, “into what were you immersed?” “The immersion of Yochanan,” they answered. Sha’ul said, “Yochanan practiced an immersion in connection with turning from sin to God; but he told the people to put their trust in the one who would come after him, that is, in Yeshua.” On hearing this, they were immersed into the name of the Lord Yeshua; and when Sha’ul placed his hands on them, the Ruach HaKodesh came upon them; so that they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. In all, there were about twelve of these men. (Acts 19:1–7)
Apparently, Paul noticed there was something about these disciples that didn’t quite ring true—they seemed to be missing something—that is, the Ruach HaKodesh. Notice that Paul considers the coming of the Spirit to be crucial—not an added frill but standard equipment! That is why he immerses them in Yeshua’s Name and lays hands on them and “the Ruach HaKodesh came upon them; so that they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.” Again, as is often the case with the coming of the Spirit, there is a transformation of the speaking faculties: prophetic speech—weighty words from God—and sometimes speaking in tongues.
Some will argue that this is a narrative passage and that therefore one cannot draw authoritative teaching from it. That’s an important issue, and worth considering. But for the time being notice two things. First, throughout the Scriptures, God instructs his people through narrative stories, from the very first page—the story of creation—to the last, the story of the new creation. And far from dismissing narrative as a source of divine guidance, Paul himself writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living; thus anyone who belongs to God may be fully equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16–17).
Of course we all know that Paul was one of the major crafters of how Yeshua-faith was to be lived out this side of the Resurrection. That’s why we mustn’t miss how he himself stresses this coming of the Spirit as a life-giving transformative reality. For him this is a given, and so he is even a little matter-of-fact when he refers to the dynamic presence of the Spirt. In one of his earliest letters, to Galatia (in modern Turkey), he asks his disciples, “I want to know from you just this one thing: did you receive the Spirit by legalistic observance of Torah commands or by trusting in what you heard and being faithful to it?” (Gal 3:2). He is referring to receiving the Spirit as something he could point back to as a recognizable event they all shared. And he asks them, how did that (the coming of the Spirit) happen for you? It was memorable experiential reality. In his Second Letter to the Corinthians (in modern Greece) he describes this encounter with the Spirit in a rich cluster of terms: “Moreover, it is God who sets both us and you in firm union with the Messiah; he has anointed us, put his seal on us, and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee for the future.” When you have a guarantee, you already have something that points toward something greater you will have later. The Greek term here is arabon which is also translated “earnest” or “down-payment.” Paul uses this term to indicate that the Corinthians are already experiencing something that serves to assure them of a greater something coming in the future. So let’s get clear on the main point: the prevailing assumption in the Newer Covenant is that the coming of the Spirit is an experienced reality.
We need to be careful to not react to these things passively, taking all of this for granted. No. Scripture admonishes us to be active seekers of the realities we have described here, and to be radically engaged with them and the transformational opportunities they provide. That is why Yeshua can say, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37), and “how much more will the Father keep giving the Ruach HaKodesh from heaven to those who keep asking him!” (Luke 11:13b, emphasis added). And on the Day of Pentecost, the crowds realized that the coming of the Spirit called for a response on their part, which is why they said, “Brothers what shall we do?”
By now it is clear that we are living in times of transition. Through Yeshua, the Age to Come has broken through. We are living in the overlap between the world as we know it, and the world as it will be in the Great Renewal God is preparing.
Five Arenas Where We Encounter the Ruach HaKodesh
These are strange new things, I know. To get some sort of grasp of what we are talking about as it involves integrating the Presence of the Spirit into our lives, it helps to see things in terms of these five dimensions, or arenas:
The Ruach Present
The Spirit of God is present throughout all of Creation. We see this from the very beginning of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was unformed and void, darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the water” (Gen 1:1–2). The Spirit is always everywhere present. David contemplates that and says. “Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I lie down in Sh’ol, you are there” (Psa 139:7–8). This is the Spirit conceived of spatially in relation to everything in the time-space continuum. The fancy word for this is “omnipresence.”
The Ruach Prior
This is the Spirit at work in our lives even before we knew it. When we look back over how we got to a spiritual breakthrough, just about all of us who have you have come to Yeshua-faith can see how God was drawing and preparing us for that outcome long before we were aware it was happening. This is the Ruach prior. Yeshua put it this way: “No one can come to me unless the Father — the One who sent me — draws him” (John 6:44). It is the work of this Ruach prior that takes us when we are still very wet behind the ears and immerses us into the supernatural realities that await us. So, Paul says: “It was by one Spirit that we were all immersed into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free; and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Cor 12:13).
The Ruach Within
This is the Spirit alive in us. The Spirit that hovered over creation, the Spirit that drew us and immersed us into one body—one diverse faith community—the Spirit which we were given to drink—the actual Spirit of Messiah—his essential self—that Spirit lives inside of us. There are many passages that speak of this deep, significant reality. It is not easy for us to wrap our minds around such a profound paradigm shift, but just look at this startling passage as a for-instance.
But you, you do not identify with your old nature but with the Spirit — provided the Spirit of God is living inside you, for anyone who doesn’t have the Spirit of the Messiah doesn’t belong to him. However, if the Messiah is in you, then, on the one hand, the body is dead because of sin; but, on the other hand, the Spirit is giving life because God considers you righteous. And if the Spirit of the One who raised Yeshua from the dead is living in you, then the One who raised the Messiah Yeshua from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you. (Rom 8:9–11)
Go ahead: read that three times slowly. Then try and wrap your mind around what it says. It’s all rather amazing, but this is at the heart of what has happened for us, to us, and in us through what Messiah accomplished. And at the very least, this opens to us new vistas of intimate relationship with God, experiencing the Ruach within. This includes:
- The Spirit’s work of transformation—Regenerating, making us spiritually alive in ways we didn’t know before.
- Illumination, guidance into truth—Making the truth of God come alive for us in ways we could not grasp before. Yeshua mentions this more than once in his Upper Room Discourse, as for example when he says, “the Counselor, the Ruach HaKodesh, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything; that is, he will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).
- The Fruit of the Spirit, transformed character that displays in us the Tzelem Elohim—the Divine Image. We read about this in Galatians:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self control. Nothing in the Torah stands against such things. Moreover, those who belong to the Messiah Yeshua have put their old nature to death on the stake, along with its passions and desires. Since it is through the Spirit that we have Life, let it also be through the Spirit that we order our lives day by day. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Gal 5:22–26)
The Ruach Upon
Here we move from divine indwelling to empowerment. In the account of King Saul’s early experiences, and that of the seventy elders whom God empowered to work with Moses, we have seen how the Tanakh foreshadows the Spirit filling all of God’s people and enhancing their abilities. For example, when the Tabernacle in the wilderness was being built, the Divine Presence filled Bezalel the artisan with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge in how to work with various media. The same is true of other artisans involved in the project (Exod 31:1–11). And then of course the Spirit also filled Samson with strength. We all know something of that story!
Sometimes Scripture speaks of the Spirit clothing people (the Hebrew root is labash), but it can be argued that actually it is the Spirit who is clothed with the people! The Spirit so inhabits the people that, for a brief time, the Ruach wears the people like a garment. This verb for “clothing” is used of the Spirit in Judges 6:34, in 1 Chronicles 12:18 and in 2 Chronicles 24:20. It is interesting to see how different translators translate the verb. Some say the Spirit of God took control of someone, or clothed someone, or came on/upon someone, or took possession of someone, or enveloped him or her. We have to be truly fascinated, however, by the idea of the Spirit either clothing the person, or even the Spirit putting on the person as a garment. This reveals that the Divine Presence wants to have an intimate partnership with us.
A final note: these incidents in the Tanakh were situational and episodic, reserved for special people with special roles. The phenomenon came and went in different circumstances. Now, as we have seen, since the Day of Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit, as well as his empowering work, is for all of God’s people.
Another verb used to describe this reality is tzalach, usually translated as “rush/rushed upon.” The Spirit is perceived to be rushing upon someone. Again, the verb is used episodically—the Spirit does this for a purpose and at certain times. This is not something ongoing, but occasional. But this phenomenon should be more frequent and more widely distributed in our day, not less so, because we are living this side of the resurrection and ascension of Messiah. We are experiencing the dawning of the Age of the Spirit.
There is precedent in the Tanakh for leaders and key figures having dramatic encounters with the Spirit, but now, because we are living in the Age of the Spirit, such dramatic empowerments and encounters may occur for any and all of us. This is the new normal for the people of God.
The Ruach Among
The promised gift of the Spirit is not limited to the individual’s experience. Although as individuals our privileges and experiences will be great, the presence of the promised Spirit functions especially as a gift to the community of God’s people. The Spirit transforms our relationships, and when the community gathers our worship is transformational too. This will result in a certain beauty and boldness in how we interface with the wider world. The Spirit comes among us bestowing gifts, enhanced abilities that bring spiritual growth and benefit for the sake of the community. And he enriches the community for the sake of the world. Paul connects this with the resurrection of our Messiah, saying,
Each one of us, however, has been given grace to be measured by the Messiah’s bounty. This is why it says,
“After he went up into the heights,
he led captivity captive
and he gave gifts to mankind.” (Eph 4:7–8)
Tying This All Together
We have seen therefore these five dimensions, five arenas where the Divine Presence operates, bringing blessing and enrichment:
There is so much more that remains to be said in each of these areas, but our intention has already been met, to present an introductory overview. Despite the limitations of our information thus far, here are some suggestions for more deeply experiencing the benefits we have been examining together.
1) Thirst. “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). Begin with praying that God will make you really thirsty for what he wants to give you. Pray for thirst.
2) Repent. That is, reconsider whether your way of living has been toward God or away from him. Has it been an effort at obedience or an expression of autonomy? Do your attitudes toward God’s truth, his authority in your life, and about the claims of Yeshua need to be revised in your life? How? When?
3) Be immersed. Fully identify with Yeshua, who in his immersion at the Jordan, his death, and his resurrection so fully identified with all of us.
4) Surrender. Present yourself to God as his servant. Turn over the keys to the car of your life.
5) Seek more. Intensely desire a greater depth of encounter/experience with and usefulness to the Ruach HaKodesh, this sense of conjoined being, such that you might be clothed with the Ruach and the Ruach might clothe himself with you.
6) Ask continually. Always be asking God for the gift that he promised.
7) Trust. Believe that you have obtained what you asked for, because that’s the kind of God we have, and after all, he promised.
8) Influence others. In the community setting where you nurture your Yeshua-faith, see what influence you can be in encouraging learning and experimentation in the areas we have outlined here.
Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD, is a spiritual entrepreneur whose currency is not money but ideas birthing projects that advance the cause of the Good News of Yeshua in the Jewish world. Father of Messianic Jewish music, founding member of Jews for Jesus, co-founder of Messianic Jewish Theological Institute, and founder of Hashivenu, he is a trained missiologist writing, thinking, teaching, and working on Messianic Jewish community formation. He serves as Rabbi Emeritus of Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue, and as the Director of Interfaithfulness, “Building Bridges Where History Builds Walls.” He and his wife Naomi have three grown children.