When the angel appeared to the young carpenter named Joseph, he quoted from Isaiah, written seven hundred years before: “See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us’ ” (Matthew 1:23, CSB).
Jesus was the Immanuel. God with us!
At the conclusion of His earthy ministry, Jesus promised His disciples that He would not abandon them. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you do know him, because he remains with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you” (John 14:16–18, CSB).
He commissioned His first followers and then guaranteed, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, CSB). Jesus ascended to Heaven leaving His Spirit to abide with us... in us.
Jesus’ promise of His indwelling presence was perfectly fulfilled at Pentecost. “When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. They saw tongues like flames of fire that separated and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1–4, CSB).
They heard it. A gushing and gusting gale. “A violent rushing wind from heaven.”
They felt it. “It filled the whole house where they were staying.”
They saw it. “Flames of fire... rested on each of them.”
Fire was a symbol of God’s presence. It was a fire that caught Moses’ attention at Horeb. A dessert bush was burning, but it wasn’t being consumed. Moving closer to see this freakish display, the eighty-year-old shepherd was stopped in his tracks. “Moses! Moses! ... Do not come closer ... Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:4–5, CSB). Fire symbolized God’s presence. Moses was not alone. God came near!
As the emancipated slaves exited Egypt, “The Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to lead them on their way during the day and in a pillar of fire to give them light at night, so that they could travel day or night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night never left its place in front of the people” (Exodus 13:21–22, CSB). Fire symbolized God’s presence. They weren’t alone. God came near.
At Pentecost, the fire that rested on each disciple symbolized God’s presence. They weren’t alone. We aren’t either. The Abiding Savior and Sustainer is Immanuel, the One who is always infinitely nigh!