The Spirit Bears Witness With Our Spirit
“The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.”—ROM. 8:16.
1-3. What events made Pentecost a special day, and how did those events fulfill what the Scriptures had foretold? (See opening picture.)
IT WAS early Sunday morning, about nine o’clock. This particular Sunday was special for those in Jerusalem. It was a festival day; it was also a sabbath. The regular morning sacrifices had no doubt already been offered at the temple. Now excitement filled the air as the high priest prepared to present the wave offering of two leavened loaves of new grain. (Lev. 23:15-20) This offering marked the start of the wheat harvest. The year was 33 C.E., and it was the day of Pentecost.
2 While all these things were taking place in the temple area, something of far greater importance was about to occur, not at the temple, but in an upper room in the city. A group of about 120 Christians were gathered together, “persisting in prayer.” (Acts 1:13-15) What was about to happen to them was closely related to the actions of the high priest every Pentecost, and it also fulfilled a prophecy uttered by the prophet Joel about 800 years prior to that day. (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-21) What could possibly happen that would be of such great importance?
3 Read Acts 2:2-4. God’s holy spirit was poured out on that group of Christians who were gathered in the upper room. (Acts 1:8) They started to prophesy, or bear witness, concerning the wonderful things they had seen and heard. To a multitude that soon gathered, the apostle Peter explained the significance of what had happened. Then he told his audience: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit.” Altogether about 3,000 accepted the invitation that day, were baptized, and received the promised holy spirit.—Acts 2:37, 38, 41.
4. (a) Why should we be interested in what happened at Pentecost? (b) What other important event may have happened on the same day many years earlier? (See endnote.)
4 Why is Pentecost 33 C.E. so important to us? Certainly not because of what happened at the temple in Jerusalem. Rather, because Jesus Christ, as the great High Priest, fulfilled that prophetic pattern. The high priest offered two symbolic loaves to Jehovah on that day. The leavened loaves offered at the temple represented the anointed disciples who were taken from sinful mankind to become God’s adopted sons. Thus the way was opened up for some “firstfruits” from mankind eventually to go to heaven and be included in the Kingdom that will bring countless blessings to the rest of obedient mankind. (Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 2:9) So whether it is our hope to make our home in heaven with Jesus or to live forever on a paradise earth, our lives are deeply affected by the events of that day!
HOW THE ANOINTING PROCESS WORKS
5. How do we know that not all those who are anointed receive their anointing in exactly the same way?
5 If you were one of the disciples who had what appeared to be a tongue of fire rest on his head, you would never forget that day. There would be no question in your mind that you were anointed by holy spirit, especially if you also received the miraculous gift of speaking in a foreign language. (Acts 2:6-12) But do all those who are anointed by holy spirit receive their anointing in the same spectacular manner as that first group of about 120 disciples did? No. The rest of those who were present in Jerusalem that day received their anointing at their baptism. (Acts 2:38) There was no tongue as if of fire above their heads. Furthermore, not all anointed Christians receive their anointing at their baptism. The Samaritans received their anointing by holy spirit sometime after their baptism. (Acts 8:14-17) On the other hand, in an exceptional instance, Cornelius and his household were anointed by holy spirit even before they were baptized.—Acts 10:44-48.
6. What do all anointed ones receive, and how does this affect them?
6 So not all are anointed in exactly the same manner. Some may have had a rather sudden realization of their calling, while others experienced a more gradual realization. However, no matter how this anointing takes place, each one has what the apostle Paul described: “After you believed, you were sealed by means of him with the promised holy spirit, which is a token in advance of our inheritance.” (Eph. 1:13, 14) This special operation of holy spirit becomes like a down payment, a guarantee (or, a pledge) of what is to come. An anointed Christian gains an inner conviction because of this token that he or she has received.—Read 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22; 5:5.
7. What must each anointed Christian do to receive his reward in heaven?
7 Does the Christian who receives this token have a guaranteed future in heaven? No. That person is sure of his invitation. But whether he finally receives his reward in heaven or not depends on his proving faithful to his calling. Peter explained it this way: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and choosing sure for yourselves, for if you keep on doing these things, you will by no means ever fail. In fact, in this way you will be richly granted entrance into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:10, 11) Each anointed Christian must, therefore, struggle to remain faithful. If he does not, his heavenly calling, or invitation, will be of no value to him.—Heb. 3:1; Rev. 2:10.
HOW DOES SOMEONE KNOW?
8, 9. (a) Why is it difficult for most people to understand what happens when someone is anointed? (b) How does a person know that he has been invited to go to heaven?
8 The vast majority of God’s servants today may find this anointing process difficult to comprehend, and rightly so. It is not something that they experience. God’s original purpose was for mankind to live forever here on earth. (Gen. 1:28; Ps. 37:29) The selection of some to go to heaven to rule as kings and priests is not the norm. It is an exceptional arrangement. This calling causes a profound change in the thinking, outlook, and hope of a person when he is anointed.—Read Ephesians 1:18.
9 But how does a person know that he has the heavenly calling, that he has, in fact, received this special token? The answer is clearly seen in Paul’s words to the anointed brothers in Rome, who were “called to be holy ones.” He told them: “You did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: ‘Abba, Father!’ The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Rom. 1:7; 8:15, 16) Simply put, by means of his holy spirit, God makes it clear to that person that he is invited to become a future heir in the Kingdom arrangement.—1 Thess. 2:12.
10. What does 1 John 2:27 mean when it says that an anointed Christian does not need someone else to teach him?
10 Those who have received this special invitation from God do not need another witness from any other source. They do not need someone else to verify what has happened to them. Jehovah leaves no doubt whatsoever in their minds and hearts. The apostle John tells such anointed Christians: “You have an anointing from the holy one, and all of you have knowledge.” He further states: “As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to be teaching you; but the anointing from him is teaching you about all things and is true and is no lie. Just as it has taught you, remain in union with him.” (1 John 2:20, 27) These ones need spiritual instruction just like everyone else. But they do not need anyone to validate their anointing. The most powerful force in the universe has given them this conviction!
EXPERIENCING THE “NEW BIRTH”
11, 12. What might an anointed Christian wonder, but what does he never doubt?
11 When the holy spirit imparts this conviction, the Christian who is anointed undergoes tremendous changes. Jesus referred to this inner process as being “born again,” or being “born from above.” (John 3:3, 5; ftn.) He explained further: “Do not be amazed because I told you: You people must be born again. The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who has been born from the spirit.” (John 3:7, 8) Clearly, it is impossible to explain fully this personal calling to those who have not experienced it.
12 Those who have been invited in such a manner may wonder: ‘Why have I been selected? Why me and not someone else?’ They may even question their own worthiness. But they do not question the fact that they have been invited. Their hearts are bursting with joy and appreciation. They feel much as did Peter when he said under inspiration: “Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you.” (1 Pet. 1:3, 4) When anointed ones read those words, they know without any doubt whatsoever that their heavenly Father is speaking to them personally.
13. How does the way a person thinks change when he is anointed by holy spirit, and what causes this change?
13 Before receiving this personal witness from God’s spirit, these Christians cherished an earthly hope. They longed for the time when Jehovah would cleanse this earth, and they wanted to be part of that blessed future. Perhaps they even pictured themselves welcoming back their loved ones from the grave. They looked forward to living in the homes that they built and eating the fruitage of trees that they planted. (Isa. 65:21-23) Why did their thinking change? They did not become dissatisfied with that hope. They did not change their mind because of emotional stress or turmoil. They did not give up on this earth, as if they suddenly felt that they would find living forever on earth to be tiresome or boring; nor did they merely want to explore some new frontier in heaven. Rather, they changed because of the operation of God’s spirit that not only called, or invited, them but also changed their thinking and hope.
14. How do anointed ones feel about their life here on earth?
14 Should we conclude, then, that these anointed ones want to die? Paul was inspired to answer this way: “In fact, we who are in this tent groan, being weighed down, because we do not want to put this one off, but we want to put the other on, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Cor. 5:4) They have not lost interest in this life, wanting it to end quickly. On the contrary, they are eager to use each day in Jehovah’s service together with friends and relatives. Yet, no matter what they are doing, they cannot help but remember the glorious hope that they have for the future.—1 Cor. 15:53; 2 Pet. 1:4; 1 John 3:2, 3; Rev. 20:6.
HAVE YOU BEEN CALLED?
15. What does not prove that a person has been anointed by holy spirit?
15 Perhaps you are wondering if you have received this wonderful invitation. If you think that you might have, ponder some important questions. Do you feel that you have more than average zeal in the ministry? Are you a keen student of God’s Word who loves to delve into “the deep things of God”? (1 Cor. 2:10) Have you seen Jehovah’s special blessing on your ministry? Do you have a burning desire to do Jehovah’s will? Do you have a deep inner feeling of responsibility to help others spiritually? Have you seen proof that Jehovah has personally intervened in your life? If you answer these questions with a resounding yes, does this mean that you now have the heavenly calling? No, it does not. Why not? Because these are not unique feelings experienced only by those who have the heavenly calling. Jehovah’s spirit works with equal force in those who have the hope of living forever on earth. In fact, if you are wondering whether you have received the heavenly calling, that would in itself indicate that you have not received it. Those called by Jehovah do not wonder whether they have been invited or not! They know!
16. How do we know that not all those who have received God’s spirit have been invited to go to heaven?
16 Throughout the Scriptures, we see many examples of men of faith who were deeply moved by holy spirit; yet they did not have the hope of living in heaven. John the Baptist was one such person. Jesus highly praised him but stated that John would not be included in the heavenly Kingdom. (Matt. 11:10, 11) David was likewise moved by holy spirit. (1 Sam. 16:13) He was a man of great spiritual depth and was even inspired to write sections of the Bible. (Mark 12:36) Still, at Pentecost, Peter said of David that he “did not ascend to the heavens.” (Acts 2:34) Holy spirit worked mightily in such ones, but it did not give them the special witness that they had been selected for heavenly life. That did not mean that they were in some way unworthy or deficient. It simply meant that Jehovah would resurrect them to life on a paradise earth.—John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15.
17, 18. (a) What reward do most of God’s servants look forward to today? (b) What questions will we consider in the next article?
17 The vast majority of God’s servants today do not have this heavenly calling. They entertain the same hope as did David, John the Baptist, and other faithful men and women of old. Like Abraham, they look forward to living as subjects under the Kingdom arrangement. (Heb. 11:10) Only a remnant of those selected for heavenly life remains here on earth in this time of the end. (Rev. 12:17) This means that the majority of the 144,000 chosen ones have already died faithfully.
18 So, then, how should those with an earthly hope view anyone who claims to have the heavenly hope? If someone in your congregation starts to partake of the emblems at the Lord’s Evening Meal, how should you react? Should you be concerned with any increase in the number of those who claim to have the heavenly calling? These questions will be answered in the next article.
^  (paragraph 4) Pentecost possibly corresponded to the time when the Law was given at Sinai. (Ex. 19:1) If that is the case, then just as Moses was used to bring Israel into the Law covenant on that day, so Jesus Christ now brought a new nation, spiritual Israel, into the new covenant on the same day.
^  (paragraph 11) For further explanation of what it means to be born again, see The Watchtower, April 1, 2009, pp. 3-11.