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The Holy Ghost Dove - Why?
January 4, 2017, 10:39 AM

Excerpt from my soon to be released book - The Purpose and Work of the Holy Ghost:

John the Baptist, cousin of the Lord Jesus, did not know who the Messiah would be. However, God had told John, “…upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost” (John 1:33, KJV). From this we can conclude, that what John heard and saw was a private revelation to confirm to him the Word of God, and the identity of the Messiah. The revelation was never intended to establish a triune concept of the Godhead.

Notice the following comparisons of the same event:

  • “…and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove…” (Matthew 3:16, KJV)
  • “…the Spirit like a dove descending…” (Mark 1:10, KJV)
  • “…the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove…” (Luke 3:22, KJV)

It is from these passages of scripture that some consider the Holy Ghost to be a ‘third person’ of the Godhead. Of course, there is a tremendous difference between the shape of a bird and the shape of a person.  It is understood that there are not many Spirits of God but rather an unfolding revelation of how THE Spirit of God operates His sovereign will in various ways. None of the gospel writers were present when Jesus was baptized. However, all recorded the story as it was related to them and it is likely that Matthew, John, and Mark heard the story straight from the mouth of Jesus. [1]

However, the scriptures state that the Holy Ghost was “…like a dove...” It was not a dove: rather the Spirit of God took on a “…bodily shape like a dove...” so that John the Baptist would see the sign upon Jesus Christ, as He was being baptized.

For comparison, the scripture states that the day after John baptized Jesus, “…John seeth Jesus…and saith, Behold the Lamb of God…” (John 1:29, KJV). Few, if any, believe that John the Baptist saw a literal lamb walking down the road. It is understood, that John was speaking of Jesus and linking Jesus’ ultimate human destiny to be the sinless and spotless sacrificial Lamb [2] for all humanity, and to simultaneously fulfill the Old Covenant’s laws and judgments for sin.[3]

Why? Why did God choose the appearance of a dove to manifest His Spirit upon the man, Jesus Christ? [4] No one knows for sure but there is room for opinions so long as they do not pervert the truth of God’s sacred Word!

We do know the Lord God purposefully chose the animal type that would forever be linked with His Spirit. He did not choose the fox for its cunning, the cheetah for its swiftness, the lion for its power, or the peacock for its beauty. No, God Almighty chose the lowly dove with which to associate His Holy Ghost.

The first mention of a dove is recorded in Genesis chapter eight, after God had judged the wickedness of the ancient world with the Great Flood.[5] Noah released the dove three times. The dove found no place to rest during its first flight. When it returned from its second flight, it had an olive leaf in its beak.

The olive leaf merits some discussion. The olive leaf is symbolic of new life, hope, and peace, as is the Holy Ghost.[6] When the olive is crushed, olive oil is produced. The olive is a type of Christ, who was crushed at Gethsemane. And the oil is a type of the Holy Ghost, poured out on the Day of Pentecost. [7]

Throughout the Bible, the anointing oil was poured upon God’s chosen vessels. The anointing oil of the Spirit is also upon every believer. [8] In addition, the scripture instructs the New Testament believers to anoint the sick with oil during prayers for healing of the body and the mind.[9]

Pardon the road trip - let’s get back to the Dove. On its third and final flight, the dove did not return. This indicated that the dove had found a place of rest other than the ark, and that the earth was ready for humanity to live upon it once again.

Now, the characteristics of the dove merit consideration. Doves are not carnivorous and constantly move their wings except when they are gliding to rest upon a certain place. Doves are most generally pictured as white in color, and within the scriptures, the color white most frequently represents purity and or holiness.[10]  A dove cries easily when it is harassed or in great danger, and the Christian believer intercedes for both personal needs and those of others through the power of the Holy Ghost [11]in times of distress and indecision. The dove is known as a harmless creature. Likewise, the saints have been instructed by Jesus to be harmless as a dove.[12]

 So, it can be inferred in a very credible sense that the Holy Ghost was momentarily manifested in the form of a dove for three significant reasons:

  1. A visible sign to and for John the Baptist
  2. To reveal the character of the Spirit upon and within Jesus Christ
  3. To reveal how the Holy Ghost was to influence future New Covenant believers


End Notes:

[1] Early Christian authors such as Papias, Irenaeus (author of the Muratorian Canon), Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and Jerome, were unanimous in attributing this gospel to a "Mark" who was a close associate of the Apostle Peter (“Gospel of Mark.” 10 Nov. 2015. Web. Accessed 28 Sep. 2016.

[2]…You know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:18-19, KJV)

[3] Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil (Matthew 5:17, KJV)

[4] Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you… Acts 2:22 (KJV). The phrasing of this verse does not allow for a trinitarian or even “twinitarian” theology. Peter, in speaking to monotheistic Jews, was establishing the fact that the man, Christ Jesus, was the incarnation of the Mighty Spirit of God that they claimed to serve and love.

[5] The world was judged once by water, but the second judgment will be that of fire. (see 2 Peter 3:1-10).

[6] For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Romans 14:17, KJV).

[7] …the Holy Ghost…Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior (Titus 3:5-6, KJV).

[8] …hath anointed us, is God. Who hath also sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts (2 Corinthians 1:21-22, KJV).

[9] Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church: and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord (James 5:14, KJV).

[10] …they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy (Revelation 3:4, KJV). Another meaning for the word ‘white’ in the text is to be bright or shining which denotes glory. An alternate consideration is the white of leprosy as evidence by Miriam (Numbers 12:10-12).

[11]…for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26, KJV)

[12]…be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16, KJV). That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God… (Philippians 2:15, KJV)


01-06-2017 at 2:02 PM
Russell Frazier
Read the transcript, all I can say is wow! I will definitely everyone of my Bible school students purchase this book.
01-04-2017 at 12:27 PM
Rick McGuffey
I enjoyed reading this excerpt and wait with anticipation for the final book. Joseph Savala's works just keep getting better... and they started out really good!
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