The Dove Has Landed


At different times throughout history a clamor has gone up among believers for the Holy Spirit to come down. With great exercise of heart, fervent prayer and confession of sin, individuals and groups looked to God for a new fulfillment of 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 and Isaiah 64:1… and asked for a new Pentecost.

What happened in a run down building on Azusa Street, Los Angeles, California, one century ago, seemed to be the answer to prayer – a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit…

However, as in all things spiritual, it is imperative that the Biblical perspectives and the Biblical context are not lost from sight!

Who is He?

The Holy Spirit is, of course, part of the Trinity, the third person – the Father being the first person and the Son being the second. In the case of the Son most cults cast doubt on the fact that He is God, whereas, in the case of the Holy Spirit, many like to deny or doubt the fact that He is a person. He may be dubbed ‘the power of God’, or the ‘divine influence’ or ‘God’s active force’, or something to that effect. But the serious Bible reader will soon be completely reassured about the Holy Spirit’s “personality”, finding that He ‘knows’, ‘hears’, ‘speaks’, teaches’, ‘testifies’, ‘reminds’, ‘helps’, etc.

In Genesis we are told that the Holy Spirit was involved in the work of Creation; in the New Testament we find him involved in the work of Redemption. Our Lord calls him the “Comforter” or “Counselor”. Chapters like John 16 and Romans 8 give us much wonderful information about him. In a word, his mission is to manifest and glorify the Lord Jesus. As He was “poured out” on the believers in Jerusalem, on the Jewish feast day of Pentecost, and the Lord Jesus was glorified, the “ekklesia”, the church of the redeemed, was ‘born’.

That is how the Lord himself had said it would be: “‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (Jn. 7:37-39).

Two comings

But did you realize that the New Testament describes another, previous, coming of the Holy Spirit? This ‘first coming’ is found in the Gospels – the second one, of course, is in Acts of the Apostles. When He came on the Day of Pentecost there were wondrous signs of wind and fire, but at the Holy Spirit’s ‘first coming’ nothing so awesome happened.

It occurs when Jesus comes up out of the river, just having been baptized by John the Baptist: “the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon him” (Lk. 3:22). It was a truly unique moment, and all four Gospels give the story right at the beginning of their accounts. All three persons of the Trinity are in evidence – the Holy Spirit descends on the Son, and from the open heavens sounds the voice of the Father: “You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased.”

Even at this early stage it is immediately evident that the Holy Spirit does not call attention to himself. John the Baptist exclaims: “I did not know him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God” (Jn. 1:33-34). His mission was, and is, to call attention to Christ, to manifest him, to draw people to him (Jn. 16:13-15).

Even in John’s very words the three persons of the Trinity are present. And the Holy Spirit is mentioned specifically as the One who makes it possible to ‘recognize’ the Son. Furthermore as the One who was going to be the ‘element’ with whom, or in whom, the Son would be baptizing.

The Wind and the Fire

On the day of Pentecost there was ‘wind and fire’, but when the Spirit came the first time, these phenomena were absent. He came as a ‘dove’ at the Lord’s baptism.

But, even if no one heard the ‘wind’, or saw the ‘fire’, they were present in what John the Baptist prophesied: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand, and He will thoroughly clean out his threshing floor, and gather his wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Mt. 3:11-12).

Contrasting his own water baptism with the happenings at Pentecost, John describes that new ‘baptism’ as a wind and fire baptism. The word ‘wind’ is not mentioned in the English of these verses, but it must be born in mind that the Greek for spirit (pneuma) is also translated as ‘wind’, breath’, and ‘air’. His listeners heard him speak about another baptism that would not be in water but in ‘holy wind and fire’. A little later Jesus himself spoke to Nicodemus about that ‘wind’ (Jn. 3:8).

From the above words we discover that John was a master of dramatic illustration. Every Jew knew how a farmer, after the harvest when the wheat had been threshed, would ‘throw it all to the wind’, and how the wind would carry off the chaff, while the heavier grain would fall to the ground in a heap. The ‘winnowing fan’ is what the farmer used for this job. Neither was it a secret that later the chaff, piled up at some distance, would be set on fire. John’s listeners could see it all happening before their minds’ eyes. John was putting them on notice about that special day of Pentecost.

 A forgotten aspect?

Have you ever looked at Pentecost in that way, i.e. in the way in which we are told to look at it? Heard any sermons about the ‘holy wind’ (the Holy Spirit) that radically separates the ‘chaff’ from the ‘wheat’; and about the ‘fire’ that burns up the ‘chaff’? That ‘holy wind and fire’ were the burden of John’s solemn prophecy. He spoke about the divine Baptizer and his sovereign work, baptizing in those elements, when Pentecost would arrive. John may not have realized how near or how far in the future this would be – but we now know that it happened less than four years later.

In John 7 we have another prophecy about Pentecost, the one uttered by Jesus about the ‘living water’ – the Holy Spirit being ‘poured out’. That prophecy did not cancel out John’s earlier prophecy. Both prophecies were wonderfully fulfilled! What was said about ‘the holy wind and fire’ was just as true and valid as the Savior’s words about the ‘living water’. It may be religiously correct or convenient to omit the ‘wind and fire’ aspect of Pentecost in our day and age. However, to attempt to do so would be to hinder and stunt God’s work of Pentecost – both in individual lives and in congregations.

John the Baptist teaches us that the Holy Spirit’s mission is to separate the chaff from the wheat in the believers’ lives, and then to destroy it! It is a remarkable prophecy in Matthew 3 and Luke 3 – one that is still being fulfilled today, because Pentecost is still with us today.

Tongues of Fire

The “rushing mighty wind” and the “tongues of fire” were, undoubtedly, given as a powerful reminder to the 120 of the reality of John the Baptist’s prophecy. It all happened just as John had said in regards to the ‘threshing floor’: the separation of grain and chaff – achieved by the ‘holy wind’ (into which they were now being baptized), and the burning up of the useless chaff.

But what do the ‘tongues of fire’ tell us in particular? As you observe a fire, where is it those ‘tongues’ appear? Invariably you will see them at the top of the fire. In other words, the Pentecost tongues of fire on the 120 were evidence of a fire that was (invisibly) raging further down, in these men and women’s hearts!

These were men and women who, in the Holy Spirit’s hands, were going to be further prepared, thoroughly prepared, for the service of their Lord and King, for the functioning as members of his body. As far as we know, none of them retreated. None of them said that such radical treatment and training was just a bit too much of a good thing..; that things were getting out of hand..; that all they had bargained for was to be honourable pew-warmers – the John 6:66 syndrome. Unless, of course, Ananias and Sapphira of chapter 5 were already among them. This married couple had drunk from the ‘living water’, but when it came to it, they shrank from the fierce ‘wind and fire’.

And isn’t that what through the centuries, and very much in our own day and age, has always cut across the Lord’s wonderful purposes with our lives – that sad lack of commitment to HIM – come wind, come fire?

The Lamb

In John 1 when the Holy Spirit came for the first time, descending upon Jesus as a dove, we find some important details. In verses 29 and 35 John speaks about the Lamb of God, and right there, sandwiched in between, we find the story of the ‘dove’ which descended on the Lamb.

The significance of the expression “the Lamb of God” was clear enough to the Jews. They were fully familiar with the requirement of sacrificing a lamb for atonement. They knew this had been done right from the time that Abel sacrificed in Genesis 4; they remembered that later Abraham had done so on Mount Moriah, and that, later still, on the night of redemption from Egypt, the blood of a lamb was shed in every Israelite family, providing instant salvation.

The announcement of the Lamb of God now walking among them, after long centuries of waiting for him, should have rung, not a bell.., rather a thousand bells, in many hearts and minds, even if the full implications – their Messiah having to be “led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Is. 53:7) – might not be hitting home just yet.

The Dove

The question naturally arises, ‘If they were aware of the significance of the lamb, what did they make of the dove?’ Was that dove special to them for some Scriptural reason? It is true that David, Solomon and others sang about the ‘dove’ in their writings, but there was another more powerful connection. When the dove descended and ‘remained’ on Jesus, minds would instantly turn to Genesis 8, only four chapters after Abel’s lamb. It is the first time a dove is mentioned – i.e. five times in all. Even most Gentiles nowadays, without realizing it, honor Noah’s dove as the most popular and worldwide symbol of peace.

The ark, with eight human beings on board and numerous animals, had, after many months of drifting, come to rest near the top of the Ararat mountain range. The unimaginable magnitude of the flood’s worldwide upheaval was slowly coming to its conclusion. Some more time passed and Noah could make out the tops of the mountains around the ark. Finally, as the waters receded even more, Noah opened a window to let out both a raven and a dove. It was an important test for him – he needed to know what was going on in the outside world.

The raven, an omnivore, never came back, not even for its mate. It had found plenty to eat, presumably stuff that was floating around. The dove did come back and pretty soon. Why? It “found no resting place for the sole of its foot”!

The Sole of its Foot

A week passed and Noah opened the window once more for the dove. That evening it came back with a “freshly picked olive leaf” in its beak. Noah thus realized that things were progressing. The dove had been able to briefly land on an olive branch and pick that leaf for him. Another week and the dove flew again. This third time it did not return – in other words, it had at last found a resting place for the sole of its foot.

How could John the Baptist and the other Jews present, who knew their Scriptures, not remember the dove from the ark when they saw this other ‘dove’ descending upon the Lord Jesus? John’s words seem to clearly indicate that he realized what God was doing. He had been told: “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, this is He…!” A dove is very easily frightened away – it will not easily remain. But this dove remained, i.e. on the Son of Man, on the Father’s Beloved, it had found the permanent ‘resting place for the sole of its foot’. John exclaimed: “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon him!” The dove had landed!

Olive Leaves and Olives

The olive tree with its olives that are such a marvelous source of oil for food, healing, light and even anointing, is a picture of “new creation” (e.g. Ps. 52:8; 128:3). After the universal devastation of the ‘first’ creation, Noah’s dove was looking for a ‘new’ creation. It kept on going to and fro, but there was nothing… – only stuff that is good enough for ravens. Then during the second flight it found something – not much use really, but it was a powerful sign of hope and new life: the “freshly picked olive leaf”!

God’s ‘dove’ may be compared to God’s eyes – like his eyes, the dove goes “to and fro throughout the whole earth” to look for “those whose heart is loyal to him” (2 Chr. 16:9; Zech. 4:10).

As Genesis 9 deals with the immediate aftermath of the Flood, so chapter 10 gives us a summary of all Noah’s descendants. Then, in Genesis 11 the tower-of-Babel-obstinacy-and-rebellion occur and things look bleak indeed – real ‘raven stuff’. But God’s ‘dove’ was flying and hovering and searching. And right there where the remains of the tower must still have been standing, in this same chapter 11, the ‘dove’ finds an ‘olive leaf’ – Abram and Sarai in Ur of the Chaldeans!

From their Bible biography, and that of their descendants, we must conclude, that at the most there were some ‘olive leaves’ gleaned by the ‘dove’ – no remaining place was found for the dove’s feet, and no remaining fruit. When later Jesus speaks of Israel, i.e. of all Abraham’s descendants through Isaac and Jacob, He calls them frankly: “an evil (and wicked, and faithless) and adulterous (and perverse, and sinful) generation”, as recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke. And, of course, that is what they were – neither better nor worse than any other nation (Dt. 7:6-8). Even so, in spite of all that, something was ‘sprouting’! Right through the Old Testament, and into the Gospels, from Abraham to the thief on the cross, we discover that the Holy Spirit did find some real evidence of life – some lovely ‘fresh olive leaves’.

The Anointed One

It is no accident that ‘olive oil’ is forever associated with the Messiah (i.e. the Christ) – the name means “Anointed One”. In the Old Testament prophets, priests and kings were anointed with olive oil. Christ, our Prophet, Priest and King, is the Anointed One of God. No wonder then that on him the ‘Dove’ should alight AND “remain”, as John was told He would, and as John saw it happening before his eyes. He is the “olive tree” with abundance of fruit, not just leaves.

A lot is made these days of all kinds of ‘anointings’, but the New Testament is silent on the subject. What do we find? We find that all those who belong to the Anointed One – Christians belonging to the Christ – are ‘anointed in Christ’, and because of Christ (2 Cor. 1:20-22; 1 Jn. 2:20, 27). If I have truly believed in God’s Anointed One, then I have been received into him. If I am in the Anointed One, then his “anointing” is on me – continuously. There is no merit of mine in this, of prayer and fasting, of laying-on of hands, or whatever. It is the grace of God that has received me into the Anointed One – I have become a Christ-one, a Christian. “If anyone is in Christ (in the Anointed One), he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).


Time to return to where we started. One hundred and twenty disciples had a mighty experience – it had to do with living water, with holy wind and with devouring fire. Foreign languages suddenly were the vehicle through which all these followers of the Messiah testified of “the wonderful works of God”, “as the Spirit gave them utterance”.

Many centuries earlier, at the tower of Babel, in the great city of mighty Nimrod, utter confusion had set in when suddenly the immense multitude started to speak in different languages – when they found they couldn’t understand each other anymore. It was God’s way of dispersing them. On that day the different races were born. Wherever they went, “over the face of all the earth”, each group took with them, not only a new and authentic language – each group also had an account, a tradition, of recent happenings. There were those who went on the ‘long march’ east, already speaking the ancient Chinese as they left the plains of Shinar. They may have been the first ones ever to start writing down their words. Even today that ancient Chinese (not the modern variety), fragments of which have come down to our days, testifies in its pictorially written language of the universal flood, of the ark, of the eight people on board, and of much more.

Now, on the day of Pentecost, we get the other part of the story. In some 17 different languages, perhaps many more, the thousands of folks from all around the Mediterranean Sea, totally spellbound, receive the wonderful Gospel of life in Christ, in hearts where death reigned supreme; of hope and joy, where hopelessness and despair were unavoidable; and of order where Babel’s confusion held sway.

Paul, going back to what God had said in Isaiah, gives the reason behind the “foreign languages” (1 Cor. 14:21-22): they are “a sign, not to those who believe but to (the) unbelievers (of Israel)”. This, of course, is very clear on the day of Pentecost, but in the same light we find that it also holds true in Acts 10 (+11) and 19.

Mirror Image

‘Babel’ occurred because, unlike Noah’s dove, God’s dove could not find a resting place for the sole of its feet. Dispersion, a multitude of foreign languages, innumerable wars and untold suffering all followed.

Pentecost occurred because the ‘dove’ had found its ‘resting place’ – God’s Son, the Anointed One, had come to give his life for the world and to rise from the grave victoriously as the “new man”.

At Pentecost, and from that moment onwards, every single true believer in Christ finds in him his new identity and eternal life, and, in contrast to the Babel dispersion, true and wonderful unity in Christ. Races, cultures, social levels, languages, even gender, which are obviously not dissolved in this present dispensation, are, nevertheless, truly and totally superseded in Christ (Gal. 3:26-28). It is the wind and the fire of Pentecost which blow away and burn up all the chaff of differences, inequalities, divisions, etc., etc. – that is when the individual believer allows the Holy Spirit to do so!

The tragedy of the Corinthian Christians, who made so much of supernatural phenomena, is that they were reluctant, very reluctant, to give their wholehearted “yes” to the “wind and fire” of Pentecost… With their proverbial “envy, strife, and divisions”, don’t they, in reality, remind us more of ‘Babel’ than of ‘Pentecost’..?

Fruit of the Spirit

dove.h1The Holy Spirit provides all the gifts necessary for the building of his church on earth. The gifts are very important, but after Paul has made that very clear, he goes on to show the Corinthians “a more excellent way”. He was talking of the fruit of the Spirit which is: “love” (1 Cor. 13). To the Galatian Christians, who were producing plenty of ‘leaves’, but no ‘fruit’ to speak of, he says: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-26).

That is the perfect fruit – produced by the Holy Spirit and looked for by the Holy Spirit. The ‘dove’ found it in the Son of Man. There was no “chaff” in his life to be blown away and burned.

As we surrender to Christ, and allow the Holy Spirit to do his radical work, the fruit will appear – in our daily lives! That is what the Holy Spirit came for, not only to manifest Christ to us, but to manifest Christ in us and through us!

Yes! The Spirit has come!! And He has been here for nearly 2000 years. The Dove has landed! And in Christ, we are partakers of the Person and the Work and the Fruit of the Holy Spirit! Pentecost is living experience today!