Images of the Holy Spirit

These images appear in Scripture, and they reveal the Spirit’s personhood. Images help us understand him better.

Let’s begin with the images and symbols.

1.. Clothing

It comes from the verb Greek enduō, which means “to clothe.” The Spirit will come and endue us with power (Luke 24:49).

2.. Dove

He came on Christ “as a dove” (Matt. 3:16), “like a dove” Mark 1:10), “in bodily form like a dove” (Luke 3:22), and “as a dove” (John 1:32). The Spirit was not a dove, but came in that imagery.

The dove descends out of heaven from the presence of God, indicating that the Spirit came from the Father.

3.. Pledge

The Spirit comes into your heart as a pledge (Greek arrobōn). It can mean “first installment, down payment, deposit.” It is part of the payment. This enables the purchaser to claim the legality of the item. So the Father claims us because he has sent his Spirit as an arrobōn into our hearts. It obligates him to make further payment. Our ultimate redemption will take place in heaven.

The arrobōn is a symbol or image of the Holy Spirit and guarantees our salvation all the way to heaven.

4.. Fire

Fire speaks of purity and approval and the presence of God (Lev. 9:24; 1 Kings 18:38-39; Mal. 3:3). The Spirit descended on the 120 in the upper room and appeared as tongues fire—not actual tongues (Acts 2:3)! Fire also symbolizes the judgment of God (Lev. 10:12). However, it is not as though Pentecost symbolizes judgment, except when it marked a dividing line between the old way under the New Covenant and the new way in the New Covenant.

5.. Oil

The Old Testament shows that priests and kings were anointed with oil and served as a type of the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Zech. 4:1-14). In that passage the high priest Joshua and the governor Zerubbabel were anointed and strengthened by the Spirit—through the oil—to complete to rebuilding of the temple in 515 B.C. The lampstand enjoyed a constant flow of oil (v. 2). Then comes the famous verse, quoted often by Renewalists: “‘Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit’ says the Lord.”

Here is a quick reference for the ministry of the Spirit as symbolized by oil.

Spirit given for ministry (Exod. 40:9-16 and Acts 1:8)

Spirit illuminates (Exod. 27:20-21; 1 John 2:20)

Spirit cleanses and sanctifies (Lev. 8:30; 14:7; and Rom. 8:2-3)

6.. Seal

The Holy Spirit is symbolized by a seal of the believer (1 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30). The Roman soldiers sealed the stone that covered the tomb of Christ. It also sealed or marked papyri documents, to indicate the sender’s approval and authenticity and authority. So God seals us with the Spirit, which authenticates God’s activity and authority in our hearts.

7.. Water

From the believers’ innermost being flows rivers of living water (John 7:39). Water as a symbol of the Spirit indicates eternal life (John 4:14; 7:37-39). Water symbolizes a reception of the Holy Spirit (Ezek. 36:25-27; John 7:39).

8.. Wind

The Greek noun for “wind” and “spirit” is pneuma. From this linguistic fact wind has come to symbolize the Spirit. The wind seems to go where it wills, so the Spirit is also depicted as sovereign (John 3:8).

So how does this post imagery lead me to grow deeper in the Spirit?

They reveal the Spirit’s character and ministry. One verse comes to mind:

“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and they should pray for him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” Jas. 5:14).

Oil was more than medicine. In fact, it is difficult to see how putting oil on the body, like the forehead, could work as medicine. It was the symbol of the Holy Spirit. Let’s trust that the Spirit is communicated in that way.

Water: when you are baptized, yes, it is a symbol of the grave, and you die to your old self, when you go in the water, but you come out a new person in Christ. You are seated in the heavenly places because of new life in Christ (Eph. 2:6). Water also symbolizes the Spirit flowing through your (John 7:39). Let the Spirit touch you and fill you and then flow out from you to be a blessing for others.


Do I Really Know God? He Is Spirit

The Spirit in the Old Testament

The Spirit’s Deity and Divine Attributes

The Personhood of the Spirit

Titles of the Holy Spirit

Images of the Holy Spirit

The Spirit in the Life of Christ

The Spirit in the Church and Believers


Works Cited

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