What does “the Spirit was not yet” in John 7:39 refer to?
But this He said concerning the Spirit, whom those who believed into Him were about to receive; for the Spirit was not yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. John 7:39
What does it mean that “the Spirit was not yet” in John 7:39?
It’s a question few Bible readers would ever consider asking. That’s because few Bible translations render the text of John 7:39 this way.
Most Bible translators feel the need to supply the word given. But if you check the original Greek text or go to the Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible you’ll find the word given is not there.
Then you may ask, “What difference does it make?” A lot.
That’s because hidden beneath this mysterious text is a crucial point of truth concerning “the Spirit.”
Now let’s consider the mystery of “the Spirit was not yet before Jesus was glorified” and unlock its meaning for our enjoyment of Christ.
“The Spirit was not yet” is the mystery that unlocks our enjoyment of Christ
Knowing what it means that “the Spirit was not yet before Jesus was glorified” opens a door to a wealth of spiritual experience. According to its context it was such a Spirit that was needed in order for the Lord’s thirsty believers to have rivers of living water flowing out of their innermost being (John 7:37-39).
This mystery of “the Spirit was not yet” being due to a limiting understanding of the divine Trinity
Confusing God’s eternal essence with His economy.
Theologians often have a hard time with John 7:39 because essentially, that is, according to God’s existence, the Father, the Son and the Spirit are all eternal. Hebrews 9:14 says,
“Jesus offered Himself to God through the eternal Spirit.”
So if the Spirit is eternal, how can you say “the Spirit was not yet before Jesus was glorified.” Hence it makes sense to add the word given.
But don’t be so quick. Is there something we’re missing here?
Yes, it’s the economic aspect of the Trinity.
Most believers only know that the Father, Son and Spirit are all God, all eternal and all coexist…and this is correct essentially. We can say such a Triune God is immutable, unchanging in His Godhead. That is correct.
The mystery of “the Spirit was not yet” in John 7:39 being related to God economy
God’s economy is simply God’s plan to dispense Himself into His chosen, redeemed people. In His economy God took some definite steps to dispense Himself, in His Trinity, into us to gain many sons to form the Body of Christ.
In God’s economy, He passed through some processes to get into us.
Was not Christ’s incarnation a process?
John 1:1-2 clearly tell us that our Lord was the eternal Word, who was God from eternity…not just part of God, and not becoming God at a later time.
Then, verse 14 says,
“The Word became flesh.”
For God to “become flesh” definitely indicates a process.
As such, Colossians 2:9 could say of Christ, “for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”
In His economy, the entire Godhead is pleased to dwell in Christ with a physical body.
Were not Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection processes?
This incarnated Word lived a human life for 33 ½ years, and became the Lamb of God to take away our sins (John 1:29).
Christ went to the cross willingly to accomplish a full redemption for us all. But death could not hold Him. So after three days He rose from the grave victorious over death and Hades (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
Jesus, who “had not yet been glorified” in John 7:39, died and resurrected. His resurrection was His glorification (Luke 24:26). This glorified Jesus can now enter into us as “the Spirit.”
Speaking in the context of Christ’s resurrection, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:45b,
The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.
For Christ, as a man in the flesh, the last Adam, to become a life-giving Spirit in resurrection was a great process! Our Lord became a life-giving Spirit so that He could enter into us to be our life!
But does this mean that there are two Spirits—the eternal Spirit of God and the life-giving Spirit who was Christ in His resurrection?
No, it means that the Spirit after Christ’s resurrection, has been compounded with all the elements of Christ’s eternal divinity, genuine, perfect humanity and completed processes.
“The Spirit” is the issue of Christ’s processes
“The Spirit” is not just another term for the Holy Spirit, but a particular title for the Spirit of God after all Christ’s processes (Gal. 3:2, 5).
He is no longer just the Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit. He is “the Spirit”–the Spirit of the glorified Jesus, the consummated Spirit (Phil. 1:19).
The Spirit of God is still there. The Holy Spirit is still there. But into this divine Spirit as the base were added all the elements of Christ’s Person and work–Christ’s humanity, human living, death and resurrection. All that Christ is, is now in “the Spirit.” It is in this way that Christ can live in us (Gal. 2:20).
It is like the compound ointment referred to in Exodus 30:23-25. Olive oil, signifying the Spirit of God, was the base. To this oil, four precious spices were added to make a holy anointing ointment.
The spices added to the oil signify all the elements of Christ’s Person and work. To stick to the point, we’ll need to save those awesome details for another post.
“The Spirit” became a drink for us to receive and enjoy
The blending of many ingredients is a wonderful picture. It’s like a smoothie with various fruits and vegetables added to pure water or milk to make a delicious and nutritious drink.
“The Spirit” promised in John 7:39 is such an enriched, consummated Spirit that we can now drink to quench our spiritual thirst and supply us inwardly with divine life.
It is “the Spirit,” this life-giving drink coming into us with all the elements of Christ’s Person and work that enables us to live the Christian life.
Such a Spirit is now available to be received by us. In fact, 1 Corinthians 12:13 says that we,
“Were all given to drink one Spirit.”
But how can we drink the Spirit?
Go back to verse 3 of the same chapter,
“No one can say Jesus is Lord! except in the Holy Spirit.”
Just call on Him, “Jesus is Lord! O Lord Jesus! ” …and see how rich He becomes to you (Rom. 10:12).
Just drink Him and enjoy Him!
Out of your innermost being will flow rivers of living water!
If you’ve been helped by reading this post, please take a moment to confirm with a short comment.
References and Further Reading:
- For more enrichment of the point of this post you may want to read The Crystallization-study of the Epistle to the Romans, Message 13 by Witness Lee. You can read it online at ministrybooks.org .
- The Holy Bible Recovery Version also has a helpful footnote, note 1, on “the Spirit” in John 7:39
- Here are a couple of hymns to strengthen the point of this post:
About Tom Smith
Hi. My name is Tom Smith. I'm the writer behind Holding to Truth in Love, and I love the Lord Jesus and His life-giving Word. Please feel free to send me an e-mail through the contact page if you have any questions. I hope you'd take a moment to subscribe to the Holding to Truth blog. Then you'll be sure not to miss a post. Thanks!