Who is the Comforter in John 14 — Is the Holy Spirit “another” person different than Christ?
Many understand the phrase, “another comforter” in John 14: 16 to mean someone other than Christ. In general, those who hold to some form of trinitarian teaching believes that the Holy Spirit or the “Comforter” as He is referred in John 14 is an entirely different individual not unlike how Christ and God the Father are two separate individuals. But is this true? Let’s take a look.
In John 14:15-18, Jesus said,
14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man loveth me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.
25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
We understand that "the Comforter which is the Holy Spirit” (v. 26) was NOT sent until Jesus was glorified. However, in John 14, Jesus, speaking of the Comforter, said, “but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you” (v. 17). Here we find a seeming contradiction since the Comforter could NOT be sent until Jesus Christ was glorified (John 7:39) and yet the disciples were told that they “know him” and that “he dwelleth with” them. Thus the “comforter” who is dwelling among them and the “comforter” who is yet to be sent are in one sense referring to the same “person” but in another sense different. Could it be that it is the same person but in a different capacity or in a different “form?”
Who was this Comforter that the disciples knew and was dwelling with them? In verses 25 and 26, Jesus echoes the same thought,
“These things have I spoken unto you, being YET PRESENT WITH YOU [or “dwelleth with you”]. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
Here Christ alludes again to the idea that Comforter that the disciples already knew and was “present” or dwelling with them is none other than Himself. It becomes even more clear for Jesus didn’t leave off in verse 17 but continues in the very next verse stating, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (v. 18) Thus, Jesus identifies Himself as the Comforter who “dwelleth with them" but will come again in a different manner to abide in them.
But notice how one of Jesus' disciples, Judas (not Iscariot) is confused in verse 22. He asks, “how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” Did you catch that? Please note that Judas was NOT necessarily confused as to the who but how — the manner in which Jesus will manifest Himself; he clearly understood who the Comforter is; he just did not understand how.
Five times in John 14 Christ has said that He will be our Comforter. The only thing the Apostles did not understand was HOW Christ could manifest Himself to them and not unto the world (v. 22).
V. 18 “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”
V. 20 “…and ye in me, and I in you.”
V. 21 “…I will love him, and will manifest MYSELF to him.”
V. 23 “WE will come unto him, and make OUR abode with him.”
V. 28 “Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you.”
It should be clear from the above texts that Jesus was identifying Himself as the Holy Spirit/Comforter. Not in His humanity but in a spiritual manifestation (divested of humanity), hence the designation, "another Comforter." As a man, Jesus dwelt with them physically. But as the Spirit, He would dwell in them, unseen by the world. And yet, most often, so much emphasis is given to the expression, "another", along with trinitarian bias, that the reader fails to notice what is plainly stated. Jesus is not only Emmanuel — God with us (Mt 1:23), when he was on earth physically, but he is still Emmanuel for He dwells with us and in us by His Spirit.
"We will come unto him"
In verse 23, Jesus says, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and WE [Father and the Son] will come unto him, and make OUR abode with him.” Because scripture tells us that Christ dwells in us while God dwells in Christ:
John 10:38 “But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the FATHER IS IN ME, and I in him."(compare 14:10,11)
John 17:23 "I IN THEM, AND THOU IN ME, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."
Therefore, when Christ comes to us as our Comforter, we can have fellowship with both the Father and the Son together. This is why John says in 1John 1:3, “...truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”-(No mention of the Holy Spirit as another being)
Notice the following statements by Ellen White:
“That Christ should manifest Himself to them, and yet be invisible to the world, was a mystery to the disciples. They could not understand the words of Christ in their spiritual sense. They were thinking of the outward, visible manifestation. They could not take in the fact that they could have the presence of Christ with them, and yet He be unseen by the world. They did not understand the meaning of a spiritual manifestation.” (Reflecting Christ, p. 129.2)
“The disciples still failed to understand Christ's words in their spiritual sense, and again He explained His meaning. By the Spirit, He [JESUS] said, He would manifest Himself to them. 'The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things.' No more will you say, I cannot comprehend. No longer will you see through a glass, darkly. You shall 'be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.' Ephesians 3:18, 19.” (Desire of Ages p. 669.4-670 p.1)
“Cumbered with humanity, Christ could not be in every place personally; therefore it was altogether for their advantage that he should leave them, go to his Father, and send the Holy Spirit to be his successor on earth. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS HIMSELF divested of the personality of humanity and independent thereof. HE WOULD REPRESENT HIMSELF AS PRESENT IN ALL PLACES BY HIS HOLY SPIRIT, AS THE OMNIPRESENT. 'But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall (although unseen by you), [This phrase was added by Ellen White.] teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you' [John 14:26]... 'Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will come not unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you' [John 16:7]." (Manuscript Releases, Vol. 14, p. 23.3)
Note: Notice the expression, “divested of personality of humanity.” To divest is to strip away or to get rid of something that the person previously possessed. The phrase can only be referred to Jesus who was and still is “cumbered with humanity.”
“It is not essential for you to know and be able to define just what the Holy Spirit is. Christ tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, and the Comforter is the Holy Ghost, 'the Spirit of truth, which the Father shall send in My name.' 'I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you' [John 14:16, 17]. This refers to the omnipresence of the Spirit of Christ, called the Comforter. Again Jesus says, 'I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth' [John 16:12, 13]." (Manuscript Releases, Vol. 14 p. 179.2}
The above statements clearly identify for us who the Comforter is. It is none other than Jesus Christ.
Jesus said that He would come to His disciples as another Comforter. This is quite appropriate since the Bible plainly tells us who the Comforter is.
We have an Advocate
The Greek word (παράκλητος paraklētos) translated “Comforter,” is used 5 times in the Bible-all by the same author (John). Four times the word is translated “Comforter” and the other time it is translated “Advocate.”
In 1John 2:1 clearly states WHO the Comforter is:
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an ADVOCATE [parakletos = Comforter] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” God has plainly revealed that Jesus Christ is our Comforter.
Is "ANOTHER" Comforter, whom Jesus said He would send in John 14:16, an entirely different person than Himself?
Many trinitarian brethrens often quote John 14:16 to suggest that “ANOTHER” (ἄλλος, ALLOS) COMFORTER cannot be Christ Himself but an entirely different person altogether.
John 14:16 (KJV) reads, "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you ANOTHER (G243 ἄλλος, ALLOS) Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever."
Let us now take a look at another passage in John 18 where John uses the same word (“another” allos) not unlike how Christ used it in John 14:16.
John 18:15-16 (KJV) "And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did ANOTHER (G243 ἄλλος ALLOS) DISCIPLE: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that OTHER (G243 ἄλλος ALLOS) disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter."
Please note that even though John wrote “ANOTHER DISCIPLE,” he was actually speaking of HIMSELF. We know it was John, for Ellen White wrote:
"Simon Peter had followed Jesus, AND SO HAD ANOTHER DISCIPLE. THAT DISCIPLE, JOHN, “was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter.” (Review and Herald, December 26, 1899, par. 3)
But didn't John used "another" to mean someone other than Peter thus "another" still denotes a different person other than Peter? Yes, it’s true that the term, “another” in John 18 does refer to someone other than Peter. But again what is noteworthy is the fact that John was speaking in the third person, referring himself as "another disciple.”
Similarly, what I would like to propose is that not unlike John 18, Jesus was also speaking in the third person in John 14.
Again, allos makes a distinction. In the case of John with Peter, the former is "allos" than Peter.
In the case of Jesus, the "allos" is the Comforter. However the distinction is not with another person, but with the form. The Comforter is indeed, literally a "third person" of Christ; it is Christ in His spirit, different than his physical self.
Thus, another Comforter is "different" than the Person (Christ) disciples had been with. The Comforter is still Christ Himself but would manifest in another form-in His Spirit, unseen, divested of personality of humanity and shall dwell in them.
On a side note, we find another usage of the word ANOTHER in 1 Samuel 10:6, where Samuel anointed Saul and said to him, “And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.” Now Saul was still Saul, yet after his experience, he was now ANOTHER man.
John is the ANOTHER DISCIPLE and Jesus is the ANOTHER COMFORTER, for He even tells us a few verses later, "I WILL COME TO YOU" and I believe He did and still does!
In fact, He came back as early as the day of His resurrection, and appeared in ANOTHER FORM to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus, and they did not recognize Him until supper time. “After that he appeared in ANOTHER FORM unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.” (Mark 16:12)
Furthermore, Jesus would often refer to Himself in the THIRD PERSON as though He was speaking of another being than Himself. Here are some examples:
"After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, 'Father, the hour has come; GLORIFY YOUR SON so that THE SON MAY GLORIFY YOU, since you have given HIM authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given HIM. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and JESUS CHRIST whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed" (John 17:1-5).
Note: Jesus speaks of Himself in the third person in verses 1 through 3, but then He changes His point of reference as He speaks in the first person from verse 4 onward. This pattern is similar to John chapter 14 in which He speaks of Himself in the third person regarding the ANOTHER COMFORTER in verse 16, but He follows that by stating “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you” in verse 18.
More examples of third person language referring to Himself:
“I tell you that HE will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the SON OF MAN cometh, shall HE find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)
“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen HIM, and it is HE that talketh with thee” (John 9:35-37).
To Nicodemus, Jesus said of Himself, “God sent his Son into the world that the world through HIM might be saved” (John 3:17).
To the woman at the well Jesus said, “If you knew who it is that says to you, Give me to drink, you would have asked of HIM, and HE would have given you living water” (John 4:10).
When confronting the leaders in the temple, Jesus announced, “The Son can do nothing of HIMSELF but what HE sees the Father do” (John 5:19).
The persistent confusion about what Jesus meant by this warning was partly due to this indirect third person reference to Himself. “HE shall be delivered unto the Gentiles…And they shall scourge and put HIM to death” (Luke 18:32, 33).
As Jesus walked to Emmaus He said to His unsuspecting traveling companions, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into HIS glory?” (Luke 24:26).
Let’s see what the Spirit of prophecy says regarding the Emmaus encounter.
“Thus Christ discoursed to His disciples, opening their minds that they might understand the Scriptures. The disciples were weary, but the conversation did not flag. Words of life and assurance fell from the Saviour's lips. But still their eyes were holden. As He told them of the overthrow of Jerusalem, they looked upon the doomed city with weeping. But little did they yet suspect who their traveling companion was. They did not think that the subject of their conversation was walking by their side; for CHRIST REFERRED TO HIMSELF AS THOUGH HE WERE ANOTHER PERSON." — Desire of Ages, 800.1
So when Ellen White spoke of the third person of the Godhead, could she be using Christ’s third person language to refer to Jesus Himself in ANOTHER form?
Jesus was no doubt the Comforter to His disciples when He was with them on earth, but having experienced humanity, He came back to them in His Spirit, which was divested of humanity, and dwelt in them. This makes HIM “another” Comforter. For He had said in John 14:17, “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth WITH you, and shall be IN you.” As a Comforter, He was with them physically, but as ANOTHER Comforter, He would be in them spiritually.
Ellen White affirms who the Comforter is
“Let them study the seventeenth of John, and learn how to pray and how to live the prayer of CHRIST. HE IS THE COMFORTER. He will abide in their hearts, making their joy full.” — E.G. White, RH, Jan 27, 1903
“As by faith we look to Jesus, our faith pierces the shadow, and we adore God for His wondrous love in giving JESUS THE COMFORTER.” — E.G. White, 19MR 297.3
“CHRIST is to be known by the blessed name of COMFORTER. “The Comforter,” said Christ to His disciples, “which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you, [John 14:26 quoted]” — E.G. White, Ms7-1902, Jan 26, 1902
“The SAVIOUR is our COMFORTER. This I have proved Him to be.” — E.G. White, 8MR 49.3
“There is NO COMFORTER LIKE CHRIST, so tender and so true. He is touched with the feelings of our infirmities. His Spirit speaks to the heart. . .” — E.G. White, RH, Oct. 26, 1897
“The nights are long and painful, but JESUS IS MY COMFORTER and my Hope.” — Ellen White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 19, page 296
“Christ is everything to those who receive Him. HE IS THEIR COMFORTER, their safety, their healthfulness. Apart from Christ there is no light at all.” — Ellen White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 21, page 372 also LHU 221.7
“He took upon His sinless nature our sinful nature, that He might know HOW TO SUCCOR those that are tempted.” — Medical Ministry pg. 181 (MM 181)
“But if the spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Jesus from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies BY HIS SPIRIT THAT DWELLETH IN YOU.” O how precious are these words to every bereaved soul. CHRIST IS OUR GUIDE AND COMFORTER, WHO COMFORTS US in all our tribulations. When He gives us a bitter draught to drink, He also holds a cup of blessing to our lips. He fills the heart with submission, with joy and peace in believing, and enables us to say submissively, “not my will, but thine, O Lord be done. The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” With this submission, hope is resurrected, and the hand of faith lays hold upon the hand of infinite power. “He that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His spirit that dwelleth in you.” — Letter 65a 1894
“The work of the Holy Spirit is immeasurably great. It is from this Source that power and efficiency come to the worker for God; and THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE COMFORTER, AS THE PERSONAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST TO THE SOUL.” — Ye Shall Receive Power, p. 177
For further study take a look at the following articles: