Throughout the Bible, we see several different symbols of the Holy Spirit. Each one gives us an insight into His nature. In the previous post we saw that the Holy Spirit is a person- meaning that He is personal, not just an “it” or “force” or “energy.” We also established that He is God- equal with the Father and the Son.
What are some of the symbols that the Bible uses for the Holy Spirit?
“‘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” (John 7:38-39). Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would be like rivers of living water flowing through the heart of the believer. Water is a symbol of life. It is also a symbol of refreshing and a symbol of cleansing.
In the Old Testament oil was used to anoint priests, prophets, and kings. In the New Testament we see that Jesus was anointed “with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10: 38). Jesus Himself, quoting Isaiah 61, claimed that He was anointed with the Spirit of the Lord to fulfill His mission of preaching the good news and healing the sick. Oil represents empowerment and the healing presence of God.
There are several times in the Bible where the Holy Spirit is compared or contrasted to wine. For example, Paul said “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Wine, as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, represents joy.
“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” (Acts 2:3-4). Fire is often associated with the presence of God in the Bible. It symbolizes power, cleansing, and holiness.
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). Although you cannot see wind, you can discern its presence by watching its effect on its surroundings (for example, leaves rustling). It is the same with the Holy Spirit. You cannot see Him with your physical eyes, but when He manifests Himself you can discern His presence.
When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove (see John 1:32). The dove is a symbol of gentleness and purity. Sometimes the Spirit comes like a rushing wind or a powerful fire, but sometimes He comes as a gentle dove.
As you can see, the Holy Spirit is portrayed in many different ways throughout the Bible. But always remember; these are only symbols. He is a person and He is God. Let us seek to be filled continually with the Spirit and to grow in fellowship with Him!