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[Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment of a multi-part essay called "Questions from a Clergyman". Click here to read from the beginning.]
“Most Christians believe the prophecy of the coming of the Spirit of Truth fulfilled at , when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the disciples causing even those of different lands to understand their words. Why don’t Baha'is believe this event fulfilled that prophecy?”
This question arose during a series of Cult Nights held by a local pastor (Dan) in my home town. Because I had pondered it so deeply in my own spiritual search, I looked forward to answering this question and Christ’s prophecy regarding the Spirit of Truth.
I was raised with the same understanding Pastor Dan had -- that the event in which the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to teach people of different nations fulfilled Christ’s words about the coming Spirit of Truth. However, when I sat down to compare the two passages of Scripture, my view was challenged.
Here’s the text of Christ’s prophecy:
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. - John 16:12-15.
To provide context, Christ (in John 16:7) identifies this Spirit of Truth as a Helper, Comforter or Counselor -- a title also used in Isaiah 9:6:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Christian theologians explain this as a prophecy of Christ's second coming, and point out that it refers to a Person, not a disembodied spirit. Christ, the “Counselor”, refers to the Spirit of Truth as “another Counselor”.
Christ prophesies this Spirit of Truth will fulfill certain tasks:
- Guide the believers to all truth
- Speak on God's behalf
- Show them future events (prophesy)
- Glorify Christ
- Show Christ's teachings to the believers, explaining those things He said they could not understand
Does the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost match the above points? Let’s look at the text of the passage:
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. - Acts 2:2-6.
This describes none of the things that Christ says the Spirit of Truth will do, nor do the disciples relate it to Christ’s prophecy. There is no prophetic utterance, and no revelation of a fuller truth.
Also, if the Spirit of Truth is the Counselor referred to in Isaiah, then He will manifest in the second advent of Christ. Clearly, the manifestation of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost had nothing to do with governments, kingdoms, prophecy, or a further revelation of Christ’s teachings.
The Apostle Paul’s writings make it clear he did not feel the disciples had been granted any fuller measure of knowledge:
For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. ... For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. - 1 Corinthians 13:9-12.
He says this long after the events of Pentecost. Clearly, Paul did not feel they had been shown all truth, or seen the things that were to come.
The century has dawned when the Spirit of Truth can reveal these verities to mankind, proclaim that very Word, establish the real foundations of Christianity and deliver the nations and peoples from the bondage of forms and imitations. The cause of discord, prejudice and animosity will be removed, the basis of love and amity be established. Therefore, all of you must strive with heart and soul in order that enmity may disappear entirely and that strife and hatred pass away absolutely from the midst of the human world. You must listen to the admonition of this Spirit of Truth. You must follow the example and footprints of Jesus Christ. Read the Gospels... Consider how kind Jesus Christ was, that even upon the cross He prayed for His oppressors. We must follow His example. - Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 41.
Read the next article in the series: Sacrifice and Resurrection
Read the previous article in the series: End of the World?