Can a church lose the Holy Spirit? Can they watch him walk right out the door? The sad answer is “absolutely,” for in the vision of Ezekiel, the Holy Spirit is presented as exiting his Temple for good.
God had given careful instructions to Moses and Solomon regarding construction of the Tabernacle and Temple. There was to be an outer court, an inner court, and an inner sanctum. This inner sanctuary was to be called the “Holy of Holies” and it was especially sacred space. It could only be frequented once a year by the High Priest. Even then, the High Priest had to wear a chain around his ankle so his corpse could be pulled from the Holy of Holies if God was not pleased with his worship. Within this hallowed space, the High Priest could find the Ark of the Covenant, and at times the visible Shekinah Glory of God. One can only imagine how much comfort the Church of Israel enjoyed when the priest exited the tent and reminded the people afresh that the Almighty God was still taking residence in their church and nation.
However, God is not one who dwells long in the midst of rank wickedness. Either he exercises his sovereign might and mercy, and change the spiritual temperature of the room, or he allows men to pursue their own deprave interests. When he does so, he exits the premises which is exactly what we see in Ezekiel 10 and 11.
Ezekiel 10:4 And the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub to the threshold of the house, and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the Lord.
Ezekiel 10:18–19 Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the Lord, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.
Ezekiel 11:22–23 Then the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them. And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city.
In Ezekiel’s vision, the Shekinah Glory of God journeyed from the Holy of Holies, to the church door, to the outer eastern gate, and eventually to the mountains. He forsook his earthly Temple, and sadly, Israel didn’t skip a beat. The Church of Israel carried on life and worship as usual, not realizing the Holy Spirit had vacated the neighborhood.
Contemplating on this passage leads me to ask you two questions:
First, how does it go with your church? In a sermon I once heard Warren Wiersbe ask, “If the Holy Spirit left your church, how long would it take for you to notice?” Without the Holy Spirit, one may still enjoy impressive buildings, stately ministers and sensational worship. Without the Holy Spirit, attendance, giving and notoriety can still increase. Without the Holy Spirit, the church may appear to be a golden and beautiful house of God, but inside it will be spiritually impotent. So how would you know if the Holy Spirit was actively present in your house of worship? I believe your church would be “fruited” by the Holy Spirit. It would be characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5) I believe your church would be transformed by the preached Word of God. The unrighteous would repent or be repulsed. The converted would repent, reform and rejoice. Either way, the Holy Spirit would do something dramatic through the Word of God, for it will not return void. I believe your church, unless providentially hindered, would grow in quality and quantity. Like the church in Acts 16:5; the church would “be strengthened in the faith and increase in numbers daily.” Writing this makes me wonder where the Holy Spirit is in my church. Am I the problem? Is their sin in the camp? Or is all OK and he is teaching us patience until he pours out his next dose of revival fire? In Ezekiel’s day, the Holy Spirit was leaving the church he personally designed. I have no doubt that he has departed, or is departing from many assemblies of worship today. Oh, I don’t want this; do you? May God not write Ichabod on the doors of our churches. (1 Samuel 4:1-21)
But enough about the visible corporate church; how does it go with your soul? If you are a believer, the Holy Spirit has taken up residence within you. Forever you are his tabernacle. Forever you are his Temple. He will never leave you nor forsake you; this is his promise to you. However, you must “walk, live and keep in step” with the Spirit. (Galatians 5) You should daily “fan into flame” the gift of God. (2 Timothy 1:6) And in your manner of living life, you must be careful not to grieve or quench the Spirit that dwells within. (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19) So perhaps the question to ask ourselves at this point is, “If the Holy Spirit within me were grieved or quenched, how long would it take for me to notice?” How long could I maintain an outward form of religion, while being cold and lifeless on the inside? Would I be desperate to experience fellowship again, or would I carry on as usual.
Perhaps our prayer today should be, “Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me. Melt me. Mold me. Fill me. Use me. Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.”