“I just read the October 2003 issue of the Present Truth newsletter. That was one of the best articles I have read on the Holy Spirit. I have a question on something you said in the article. On page 3, under the heading of ‘The Promised Comforter,’ at the end of the 3rd paragraph, the last sentence says, ‘They all died without receiving the promise of the Comforter that Jesus spoke about in John 14 and Acts 1.’ I always thought that the promise made to the patriarchs, or maybe I just mean Abraham, was the promise of a Heavenly Canaan. Where in the Old Testament does God promise the mighty men and women of faith the Comforter?”
I am glad you enjoyed the article on the Holy Spirit. You asked a very good question concerning it. You are right that God promised the heavenly Canaan to Abraham and others. That is brought out in Hebrews 11:13-16. Here it talks about Abraham not receiving the promises. Yet, in Hebrews 11:39 and 40, the Bible tells us that the great men of old did not receive THE promise. This is talking about a particular promise. The Bible continues by saying, “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:40) Here we are told that God has provided something better for us than He did for the great men of old, and it is spoken of in connection with becoming perfect. This could not be referring to the heavenly Canaan, for Abraham will partake of that promise just as fully as will we.
The first and greatest promise that God gave is found in Genesis 3:15, where it says, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Here is a promise of the coming of Christ and His victory over the wicked one. Paul expressed it this way, “Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus.” (Acts 13:23) Yet, this promise would be only sufficient to save us from past sins, and ineffective to give us the victory over present sins unless Christ would come to live His righteous life within us. This was Paul’s experience, for he said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” (Galatians 2:20) So, in connection with the promise of God to send Christ to save us from our sins, is the promise that He would live His righteous life in us to bring us to perfection. God said, “I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:27)
There are many places in the Old Testament where God promised to give us His Spirit. The most notable is Joel 2:28, 29, where Joel prophesied of the coming of the Comforter. On the day of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed that the coming of the Comforter was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. He said, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” ( Acts 2:16, 17)
God spoke through Solomon, when he wrote of the gift of the Spirit, saying, “Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” (Proverbs 1:23) Isaiah prophesied, “Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest.” (Isaiah 32:15) God said, through Isaiah, “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” (Isaiah 44:3)
As you can see, God promised to give His Spirit to His people, and Joel’s prophecy was not fulfilled until the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out upon the disciples. Therefore, the great men of old, did not receive this promise. Please do not get me wrong, they had the Spirit of God living in them, but it was not in the same way that we can have it today, as was explained in the October, 2003 issue of Present Truth.
I hope this helps to answer your question.