“I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1:8
This verse brings an eruption of countless of references from the Hebrew Scriptures, like a blast of truth from the past. To begin with, John the Baptist mentions the Holy Spirit who the Jewish people of the time knew as the Shekinah Glory. They were expecting the Shekinah at the time of the Messianic era with the Messiah’s coming.
The word Shekinah comes from the word mishkan meaning to dwell. It is the same root as the word for Tabernacle or Temple. This was the place where God dwelt. Some 500 years after the Holy Spirit departed from the first Temple, John the Baptist prophesied that He was coming back, but not to dwell in a building made with hands but rather living inside the person. It would start with Yeshua and then continue on in all those individuals who believe in Yeshua. The Hebrew Scriptures not only associated the coming of the Holy Spirit with a new era but also with pouring of water just as John does. This connection is made numerous times in the Hebrew Bible as in Ezekiel 36:25–27: Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean… I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes. Here, the water is associated with the coming of the Spirit.
In the Targum on Ezekiel, that is, in the Aramaic Bible which they used to read in the first century, for the words “put a new spirit within you”, they wrote, “And the Holy Spirit will I put deep inside of you.” I find it so interesting that they use the words Holy Spirit, like John does here. The term Holy Spirit is only mentioned three times in the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures. It is found in Psalm 51:11 and twice in Isaiah 63, verses 10 and 11. By the time we come to the first century, we know the term Holy Spirit became more popular, because we see it in the Talmudic writings as well as in the Dead Sea scrolls of the Qumran community. They all expected Him at this time. Here John tells the people of Israel that the time had now come, that this new era had now begun, and he introduces it with a water baptism.
Pouring out the Spirit
The promise of the coming of the Rouach Ha Kodesh, or the Holy Spirit, is directly connected with the Second Coming of the Messiah. We can see this in the well-known prophecy of Zechariah 12:10 when the Lord prophesied the coming of the Messiah. I will POUR OUT on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced. The word for “pour out” in the Hebrew שָׁפַך shaphach, is the same used in the pouring out of blood in the sacrifices (Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 4:25,30). But here it is the Spirit who is being poured out onto the people, for their salvation and internal cleansing.
Baptism is Jewish!
So when John spoke of baptism, it was a very Jewish thing. We tend to see this ceremony as a new one, foreign to the Hebrew Scriptures. But the link between water and the Spirit runs throughout the Bible beginning with creation. In the first verse of Genesis, after God created the world, it became tohu ve bohu, that is formless and void. Then the whole earth was covered with water. And who is first to appear in the scene as hovering over the waters?
Right in the same verse we read, “and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” Soon after, we see a resurrection of the earth as the waters are gathered together so that dry land would then appear. The same motif is seen in baptism. As the water covered the earth, the Spirit comes, hovers over it, the earth appears, and new life with it. At the time of John the Baptist, the Israelites knew to make this connection. Look at what the Talmud says about this verse:
‘And the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters’ (Genesis 1:2)—like a dove that hovers over her young without actually touching them.” b. Hag. 2:1, IV.33.C Already in Judaism, the dove symbolized the Holy Spirit. Soon we will see a dove coming onto Yeshua at His baptism. Early believers understood the motif of the dove as the presence of the Spirit of the Messiah. They noticed that the Greek word for dove, peristera, has a numerical value of 801.
You can obtain the number 801 when you add together the numerical value of the word alpha, which is one, and the word omega, which is 800. So “dove” with a numerical value of 801 symbolizes the eternal Spirit of the Messiah. All these things made baptism a very important ceremony to the early believers. They called baptism a “sacramentum,” which is the Latin word for the Roman soldier’s oath of absolute devotion and obedience to his general.
The Lord’s Covenant Promises
The mention of the Holy Spirit, just before the Messiah appears, is an answer to the unconditional promises of God to Israel and to the whole world. How? Every promise of God had to be done through Messiah, and through His Spirit otherwise it would not work. Because it could not depend on man, the Lord had to come down, and His Spirit as well. What we see here happening in Mark 1:8 is the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy in Jeremiah 31: 30, 33
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,
“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
It is only possible through the Holy Spirit. The moment the Lord makes the law come alive in their hearts, is when the Ruach Ha Kodesh will indwell the hearts and minds of the believers to guide them through their journey here on earth and to guide them toward their eternal abode.