Baptism by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament

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27. The Age of the Saints

Many interpreters who are ignorant of the Orthodox faith tend to place the "age to come" somewhere in the indiscernible future.  For the Orthodox Christian, however, this is not the case. The "age to come" (the age of saints) IS PRESENT!  With sanctification, man is transposed from the present age into the "age to come", without needing to wait for the Lord's Coming, because to him, the Lord is already present !
But let us examine how this can be happening:
In Genesis 2:1-3 it says:

«And the heavens and the earth and all their surroundings were completed. And God completed His works which He had made, on the sixth day, and He ceased on the seventh day from all His works which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it; for on that day He reposed from all His works which He had begun to make."

Man had indeed been fashioned during the 6th day of creation, along with the rest of material creation. However, even though God's material work had finished, His purpose was not yet fulfilled!  His intention was to "make" man into "His image and His likeness"; but when He fashioned man on the 6th day of creation, He made man ONLY "in His image".  The "likeness of Him" was something of the future, as is apparent in Genesis 1:26-27. In there, on the 6th day of creation, is where the "first, anthropological narration" of the Holy Bible ends.  The "second anthropological narration" however, goes much further.  According to the description in Genesis 2:7, as soon as God gave man the "breath" of the Holy Spirit, man was changed, from an "inanimate (=lacking the Holy Spirit) soul", into a "living soul", "in the likeness" of God.  He is still not perfect, however, he is on the course towards perfection; God places him in "Paradise" (the "garden of Eden').  From that moment, ADAM ENTERS INTO THE REPOSE OF GOD!
But let us examine for a moment what this "repose" of God is about.
In his Epistle to Hebrews, the Apostle Paul expounds the matter of "repose", by explaining the verse in Psalm 94 (95 in the Masoretic version), 7-11. In there, the Holy Spirit had spoken (among other things) of the Israelites who had sinned and who as a result wandered for 40 years in the desert until all of them had died:

«...Today, if you should hear His voice, listen to it; do not harden your hearts as (was done) in the embitterment... in the desert: 'when your fathers had offended Me, tested Me and saw my works. Forty years did I impose on that generation and said: they are forever deceived in the heart; they did not learn My ways; thus I swore in My wrath whether they should enter into My repose'..."      

The Apostle therefore, in his Epistle to Hebrews (3:7, 4:11), explains that "repose" was not simply a matter of those Israelites inheriting the Promised Land, but that the Promised Land was symbolic of God's "repose". Specifically, in verse 4:3-11 it says:

"We enter into the repose, we who believe, just as He had said: ' I have sworn in My wrath whether they should enter into My repose...', even though His works since the beginning of the world were completed.  He furthermore spoke of the seventh (day) thus:  '...and God on the seventh day did cease from all His works..' and on this (matter) again: '...whether they should enter into My repose...'.  Therefore, because it remains for some to enter into it and (because) those who were previously evangelized did not enter because of  unruliness, He again ordained a day - "today" - saying in David after such a long time, as it is said: ', if you should hear His voice, listen to it; do not harden your hearts...'.  If Jesus had "reposed" them, He would not have spoken of another "day" afterwards;  therefore there remains to be a Sabbath for the people of God.  For the one who enters into His repose, He will repose him from his works, just as God reposed from His own (works).  Let us therefore strive to enter into that repose, lest we fall into the same example of unruliness.

The apostle therefore, after clarifying that it still remains for "some" to enter into the repose of God (given that those Israelites hadn't entered it) and after explaining that the "Promised Land" was not the ultimate repose, he mentions David in verse 7.  He says there that if the repose was in fact the one that Joshua had led the Israelites into, he would not have written the word "today" after so many years, during the time of David.  Consequently, since David was referring to another "repose", "there yet remains to be a Sabbath for the people of God". And in verse 11, he urges the Christians to "strive to enter into that repose of God".

According to the author of Hebrews, therefore, the term "repose" is not something that has ended, nor is it something that pertains to God alone. It pertains to all Christians, according also to verse 14:13 in the Book of Revelation:

"...blessed are the deceased in the Lord, who die henceforth. Yes, says the Spirit, so that they may repose from their labours, and their works shall follow them..."

Thus, even from the 1st century - when those words were written - those who are asleep in the Lord (Christians) enter into the "repose" of God, and they finally rest from their labours, they way that God rested from His.
Let us go back to Adam for a moment, and recall what God had told him after he committed his sin:
«...accursed be the earth in your labours; in sorrows shall you eat from it, for all the days of your life.  It will sprout thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the grass of the field; in the sweat of your face will you eat your bread, until you have returned to the earth, from whence you were taken..."  [Genesis 3:17-19].
According to these words, when Adam was in "Paradise" (the "Garden of Eden"), he was in "the repose of God".  The "repose of God" was the "ceasing" from all of His works, in which Adam had participated.  So, what exactly did that labour with Adam's sweat imply? Naturally, it was THE OPPOSITE of God's repose from His works!  It meant that he would have to work hard; he would receive the opposite to what the "deceased hereafter" would, since they would "repose from their labours" (Revelation 14:13).  We are referring to Adam's departure from the repose of God, which he enjoyed while he was still in the state of "the likeness of". This was his Fall, from the 7th day of creation.
It is the same repose which Lamech had hoped for, when he prophetically named his son "Noah":
"...and he named the name of his son 'Noah", saying:  'This one shall bring us repose from our labours and from the sorrows of our hands, and from the earth, which the Lord God had cursed'..."   (Genesis 5:29).
Lamech knew that in spite of God's curse upon the earth, repose still continued to exist!  He thus prophesied that Noah would have a role in that Divine plan for the righteous to enter into the "repose of God".
Here we encounter the important element of Time and the relationship between the days of creation. If Adam with his sinning had removed himself from the 7th day of creation, then in which day did he find himself?
It is significant, that of the seven days of creation mentioned in Genesis, the only one that hasn't ended is the 7th!  In all the preceding days, we notice that it says: "...and it became evening, and it became morning, of the ___th day" (Genesis 1: 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31).  But for the 7th day, the passage in Zechariah 14:6,7 mentions that it never ends; that it is the never-setting day of the Lord:  "...and on that day there shall be no light and cold and ice; it shall be one day, and that day shall be known to the Lord, and there will not be a day and a night, and towards the evening there will be light."
The indirect reference of this passage to the days of creation of Genesis is clear:  This verse is intentionally counterposed against the six first days of creation, all of which had "an evening and a morning"; but here it states that "towards the evening there will be light."  This is the day of the Lord and His Saints, as apparent in the precedent passage, Zechariah 14:5:  "...and my Lord God shall arrive, and all the saints along with Him..."
But how can we know that he is speaking here of the 7th day, and not of the 8th day of creation, which certain Fathers refer to? (For example, the works of Saint Gregory Palamas, EPE vol.10, p.362... On this, see "The Revelation of God" by Hierotheos Vlachos, p.108-110).
The answer is that he mentions both these days simultaneously, because the "7th day" and the "8th day" are one and the same!  However, we do need to clarify this remark:
Let us - as an example - take the week.  The Israelites began the week on the 1st day and reached the 7th - which was the Sabbath.  On that day they did no work, because that day was a model of the 7th day of God's Creation, during which He "reposed" and which had been "sanctified" by Him.  [Exodus 20:8-11]
During the Christian era, Sunday* was designated as the 7th day because it was the day on which the Lord was resurrected and as such, had acquired the value of a day of salvation ("repose") for mankind.  Thus, apart from being the first day of the week, Sunday is also the day of repose for Christians - in other words, it is the 7th day or the Sabbath day (of rest)!  However at the same time it is the day that follows the Sabbath, which is the culmination of the week; in other words, the 8th!  In other words, it depends on how one measures it. It can be regarded as the 1st, the 7th or the 8th day of the week. But how can that happen to the 7th day of creation?
Well, it has to do with the way that we perceive Time. And in God's creative plan, Time can be perceived in two different ways:  1. Linear Time and 2. (the more Christianically-oriented) Crucifixional Time.
Linear Time is the perception of consecutive events -  in the order of their occurrence. According to Linear Time, following the 6 days of Creation was the 7th day (of repose), during which Adam had lapsed.  But this aspect renders the 7th day of creation a unique event, which cannot be repeated inasmuch as Time moves linearly; people thereafter look towards the "age to come", to another, new day of repose, which will replace the 7th - just as Sunday had replaced the Sabbath of the Jews.  Certain Fathers have named this day the "8th" and have related it to the day of the Lord. 
This perception is not erroneous; it is the usual concept of Time, the way that we perceive it, humanly.  However, there is another, more accurate way to perceive it:  Crucifixional Time.  This is the (Christianically) more accurate way to perceive the Divine Plan.  According to this concept, events do not necessarily move in a linear manner; instead, the "days" of creation can be aligned with - and alternate - in the History of mankind.  And this is the most fitting way to perceive the Divine Plan, not only because it relates to the Time-less status of God, but also because it is not necessary to accept an 8th day within God's Creative "Week", given that (as we have noted earlier) the 7th day is never-setting!
So, how can we describe God's Creative Week, on the basis of the Crucifixional perception of Time?  According to this concept, the never-setting and sanctified 7th day of the Lord does not change, despite our linear perception of Time.  We consider it very important that, immediately after expounding all that pertains to the 7th day of the Lord's repose, Genesis 2:4 summarizes the 6 previous days into one, when it says:   "This is the book of the origin of heaven and earth, when it occurred, on the day that God created the heavens and the earth..."
And even though creation was previously described in 6 days, suddenly they are all unified and are presented as one, uniform period of Time - and are furthermore set apart from the 7th day.  This we believe occurs because the 7th day bisects the remaining days of creation in a cruciform way and does not substitute them chronologically, because this is a "superior" form of Time, which pertains to saints.  While all the other creations until that time were living along linear Time, Adam suddenly got a "taste" of something far superior. By receiving the Holy Spirit, he was elevated to another kind of Time: the "repose of God".
After his fall, Adam relapsed into the old, linear form of Time where the people up until the advent of the Lord Jesus Christ continued to live. The advent of Christ incarnate was when the door to the "repose of God" re-opened.  This is beautifully described by Matthew, at the beginning of his Gospel.  In verses 1:1-7, Matthew groups the names of the forefathers of the Lord Jesus Christ into three groups, each containing 14 mentions : 
(1) Abraham --> (2) Isaac --> (3) Jacob --> (4) Judas --> (5) Phares  --> (6) Esrom --> (7) Aram -->
(8) Aminadab --> (9) Naasson --> (10) Salmon --> (11) Booz --> (12) Obed --> (13) Jesse  (up to 14 - David the king)
(1) David the King --> (2) Solomon --> (3) Roboam --> (4) Abia --> (5) Asa --> (6) Josaphat --> (7) Joram -->
(8) Ozias --> (9) Joatham --> (10) Achaz --> (11) Ezekias --> (12) Manasses --> (13) Amon --> (13) Josias --> (up to 14 Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon) 
(1) Jechonias -->(2)Salathiel --> (3) Zorobabel --> (4) Abiud --> (5) Eliakim --> (6) Azor --> (7) Sadoc -->
(8) Achim --> (9) Eliud --> (10) Eleazar --> (11) Matthan --> (12) Jacob --> (13) Joseph the betrothed of Mary, of whom was born (14) Jesus Christ
"So all the generations from Abraham up to David are fourteen generations; and from David up until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon until Christ are fourteen generations."
These three groups however are comprised of 6 lots of heptads (7s), which represent the 6 (linear) Creation weeks, corresponding also to the 6 Creation "days". Then, at the end of these 6 Creation weeks, the name of our Lord Jesus Christ makes its appearance. This is because THAT is the point where human nature becomes deified and is elevated, through Jesus Christ, into the 7th Creation period - of the "repose of God".
Thereafter, "...blessed are the deceased in the Lord, who die henceforth. Yes, says the Spirit, so that they may repose from their labours, and their works shall follow them..." (Revelation 14:13).  Those saved saints partake of the Paradise that Adam lost and had thereafter lapsed into linear Time. And while for ordinary people Time moves linearly, in a higher dimension of Time the saints partake of the eternal "repose of God".
The mention of this parallel "dimension" of Time appears in various forms in the Holy Bible, such as in Ephesians 1:4: "...just as He had chosen within Himself, before the foundation of the world, that you be saints and immaculate before Him..."
We believe that the above words are rendered in the best possible way, in the Orthodox article by Professor V. Bakouros with the title "Christmas: The celebration of the person", which was hosted in the magazine Trito Mahti, issue No.66, p.22,23, where he wrote among other things:
"...'Paradise' was in reality another kind of 'Time' (if this expression could ever define qualities that shatter the mind's abilities)... To accurately perceive the upheaval that the human choice of the Fall wrought on Creation, one example suffices:  The creation of the World took place in six "days" - complete and consecutive. Man was created during the last "day"; however, his Paradisiacal communication with God did not occur primarily on the 6th "day", but on the 7th.  Sadly, this explicitly blessed, 7th day was convulsed by the Fall - the "original sin" - and we can state (rather boldly) that this day was left stranded, in mid-air, without succession!  By exploiting its God-given freedom and choosing autonomy, human volition disrupted the dimensions of Creation and impacted human Time into Creation's Time form - that is, the linear succession of acts, or in other words...History!  Given that God respected that free choice of mankind, He would not have resorted to any other method of approaching His creation but one:  to enter that human Time form Himself, as an (historical) event. 
Man had absented himself from that divine Creation, and was thereafter living in a creation of his own!
Of course this divine entrance (into History) had understandably disrupted the historical flow of events, and it grafted into human Time a new constant: it made it incline towards a course that would guide man back to his original "cradle" - Creation - from which he has been absent since the Fall, as we shall see further down.  An imperative presupposition was of course that those who are in that "fallen" Time form must freely choose the new life proposal and strive to unite their rebelled volition with God's Providence. In that way, the aim of History can become the original purpose of Creation, from which mankind had wittingly alienated itself - albeit warned in advance by God... As such, the Incarnation of God was not a supernatural event; it was a "natural" one, inasmuch as it restored the world to the state that constitutes its "natural" dimension, before Man's intervention which had created an "unnatural" reality.  Of course because of our finite intellect, we sense this reality as a permanent one.  The incarnation of God gave an essential -in the literal sense of the word- content to "History", that human creation which has no "essence" to it, since it was not generated as a work of God but is basically something superficial, an illusion of a "covert" reality..."
(The above excerpt was granted by the kind courtesy of the professor and the magazine)
The sanctification therefore of mankind by the Grace of God restores him to the "repose of God", where all those who were created "in the likeness of" are found.
*Sunday: In Greek, Κυριακή, deriv. from Κύριος (=Lord), hence "day of the Lord"



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Article published in English on: 19-10-2010.

Last update: 19-10-2010.