And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people. (Exodus 13:21-22)
We often think of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, in New Testament terms. However, we have an abundance of evidence of His work in the Old Testament beginning with the first chapter of Genesis where He energizes Creation. Pharaoh recognized the Spirit of God in Joseph, and He filled certain men to endow them with wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and skill in all manner of workmanship. The Spirit of God showed up at the completion of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and later in the dedication of Solomon’s Temple. Other examples could be cited, but these should suffice to make the point.
Before the Wilderness Tabernacle was completed, the Spirit of God manifested in the pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to lead the way for the children of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud reminds us of the cloud that filled the Tabernacle, and the later Temple. The cloud represented the presence of God with His people. Jesus said that God is a spirit. Therefore, God cannot be seen; however, He manifests through His Son. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). In like manner He manifests through His Holy Spirit.
In the Old Testament, God made His presence visible by a pillar of cloud by day and by a pillar of fire at night. The Holy Spirit filled the Tabernacle (mishkân, a residence; dwelling place) and later the Temple. This same manifestation was repeated in the New Testament; only the temples were of flesh, not stone.
A week after Jesus’ ascension, the disciples, about 120 of them, were gathered in the Upper Room. Jesus had promised that “ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8), and they waited and “were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). This time the Holy Spirit came, not as a cloud, but as “a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2). And the pillar of fire came and “appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:3-4). The Spirit of God was no longer restricted to one individual or to a tent or stone edifice, but He filled 120 temples of flesh and bone equipped to carry His message to all the world in a way that a stationary building cannot.
Paul reminds us, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). The same Spirit that accompanied the children of Israel in the wilderness and filled the Tabernacle and the Temple in the Old Testament, is the same Spirit that fills the heart of every true believer. Therefore, Paul warns, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:17). There is something to consider!