We Finally Know the Truth About Why the Holy Spirit Was Delayed Until Pentecost

Why was the Holy Spirit not given until Jesus was glorified? To begin, let’s

set the scene.

Picture the day of Pentecost, days after the Passover when Christ was

crucified. The disciples are gathered together in Jerusalem, still reeling

from the death, resurrection, and ascension of their lord.

Suddenly, the Spirit of God descends on them with power appearing as tongues

of fire resting on each one.

They are immediately filled and begin declaring the wonders of God.

In many languages, the spirit has come.

What a contrast this is to the activity of the Spirit before this moment.

Yes, the Spirit was present in the Old Testament, empowering certain

individuals for service.

We think of David’s plea, do not take your Holy Spirit from me, or the

Spirit rushing upon Samson to perform feats of strength.

Occasionally the Spirit would come upon groups, such as the elders who

prophesied when the Spirit rested upon them.

But this was nothing compared to the new, widespread activity of the Spirit

from Pentecost onward.

No longer was the spirit reserved only for certain offices, like prophets,

priests, and kings.

Now he was poured out on all believers, regardless of gender, age, or social

status. We see the apostles performing miracles, the body exercising

spiritual gifts, both men and women prophesying all by the enabling of the

Holy Spirit.

Truly, something dramatic has happened to unleash the activity of the third

person of the Trinity in a way not seen before.

This prompts our question, why was there such a difference before and after

the glorification of Jesus? Why did Jesus say it was to the

disciples’advantage that he left so the Spirit could come? To unpack this

mystery, we will progress in the following steps.

First, we will survey the more limited work of the Spirit in the Old

Testament. Second, we will clarify the identity and role of the Holy Spirit.

Third, we will examine what changed through the glorification of Jesus to

unleash the Spirit.

And fourth, we will portray the dramatic coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.

The activity of the Spirit before Jesus.

Let’s begin by looking at the activity of the Holy Spirit before the days of

Jesus’earthly ministry.

As mentioned, the Spirit was certainly present and active in the Old

Testament, but his working was mostly limited to empowering certain

individuals for special service.

For example, the Spirit rushed upon David at his anointing by Samuel and

then later departed from King Saul when he rebelled against God.

The spirit enabled prophets like Ezekiel to prophesy the Spirit, even

empowered craftsmen like Bezalel to have supernatural skill.

Occasionally the spirit would come upon groups, as when the elders

prophesied after the spirit rested upon them.

But this selective activity of the Spirit stands in stark contrast to what

happens after Jesus’s glorification.

The spirit did not indwell each and every Old Testament believer.

His enabling power was not widely dispersed to all God’s people.

Yes, the spirit was present, but his activity was extremely limited compared

to after Pentecost.

In fact, for much of Israel’s history, we see a depressing picture of

spiritual deadness, rebellion, and false religion.

Despite having the law and the prophets, most of the nation languished in

idolatry and injustice.

Where was the vibrant spiritual life produced by the spirit of God? Why did

the law prove powerless to produce true heart obedience? The answer is that

without the internal renewing work of the Spirit, even God’s holy law could

not enable his people to walk in his ways.

Mere external commandments could not transform hard hearts.

Just as a body without the spirit is dead, so Israel often seemed lifeless

and disobedient without the quickening of the Spirit.

This limited activity of the Old Testament spirit prompts our question, why

could he not be given fully until Jesus was glorified? What change that

unleashed such a dramatic new work at Pentecost? We must understand the

identity and role of the spirit himself to make sense of this mystery.

The identity and role of the Holy Spirit.

So who is this spirit? In many places, the Bible clarifies for us that

despite the diverse workings of the triune God, there is only one Holy

Spirit. When Peter confronts ananias, he says, why has Satan filled your

heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? You have not lied to men, but to God.

The spirit is equated with God himself.

Paul says in one corinthians twelve, the same spirit, the same Lord, the

same God who empowers them all in everyone.

The Spirit is one with the Lord Jesus and with God the Father.

This means the spirit is not some impersonal force or agent separate from

the Godhead.

He is, in fact, the very presence of God himself, active in our world.

Why does this matter? Because it means the Holy Spirit proceeds from both

the Father and the Son to accomplish the work of redemption.

Jesus reveals this close relationship when he calls him the Spirit of truth,

who proceeds from the Father.

The Spirit eternally exists with the Father and the Son.

And what’s more, the spirit has been sent by the Son to bring us into the

truth. That’s why Romans eight says, the Holy Spirit is both the Spirit of

God and also the Spirit of Christ.

This role of the Spirit is critical to understand.

As the nicene creed puts it, the Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Why is this significant? Because it shows the Holy Spirit is the active

power of God by whom the Son accomplishes the work of creation and

redemption. We see this vividly in the incarnation.

Matthew one tells us Mary conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit overshadowed her to form the embryo of the Son in her womb.

The spirit was the active agent of the Godhead, enabling the incarnation.

But why was this necessary? For the Son to become one of us, he had to set

aside the glory he enjoyed from eternity with the Father.

Though still retaining his divine nature, Christ veiled it under full

humanity. The eternal word became flesh and dwelled among us.

Jesus laid aside the continuous, full exercise of his divine attributes,

submitting himself to the weakness of the human condition.

But the plan of redemption required the Son to who was made like us, to be

exalted again to glory through obedient suffering.

Christ had to fulfill all righteousness on our behalf, die for our sins,

rise victorious over the grave, and ascend to the Father’s right hand.

Why? So that as man’s representative, he could be glorified as head over all

things for his body, the church.

This glorification is critical.

Remember that the spirit’s role is to bring about the work of redemption

through the Son.

For the spirit to be fully given, the Son had to finish his work and be

glorified as the exalted God man reigning over creation.

The requirement of glorification.

This brings us to the necessity of the Son’s glorification for the spirit to

be fully given.

Let’s explore this in more depth.

First, we must understand the depth of glory that Jesus laid aside at the

incarnation. Paul captures this in Philippians two when he says, christ

being in very nature, God, did not consider equality with God something to

be used to his own advantage.

Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.

Being made in human likeness, the eternal word enjoyed the full glory and

adoration that comes with being the second person of the Godhead.

Yet he willingly emptied himself of the continuous outward display and

exercise of this divine glory, taking on the humility of a servant

constrained in bodily form.

The incarnation did not mean Christ surrendered his divine nature.

He remained fully God, but it did entail availing of that glory in taking on

human limitations.

Second, for the spirit to fully proceed through the Son, the Son had to be

glorified again in his humanity.

Why? Because redemption requires not just the incarnate life, but the

exalted glorified life of Christ.

For Christ to live, die, rise, ascend and reign as the God man.

He had to attain his original glory again as the crucified and risen

conqueror. Remember, the spirit’s role is to bring about the Son’s work.

All the redemptive work of Christ is applied by the Spirit, whether his

life, death, or exaltation.

But for the spirit to bring these to bear on us, Christ had to attain the

full glory capable of redeeming and transforming people.

His glorification enables our glorification.

This explains Jesus’words.

When the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.

He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will

make known to you.

All that belongs to the Father is mine.

That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known

to you.

John to to do you see the sequence? Jesus pours out the spirit from

the Father on us only after being himself glorified.

His finished work of redemption, proven by the resurrection and ascension,

become the foundation for the Spirit’s full activity in applying salvation.

Just as the incarnation was the means for atonement, the glorification is

the means for the spirit’s outpouring.

Third, this glorification happened through the resurrection and ascension.

At the cross, Christ announced, it is finished.

His atoning work was completed, and the Father approved this by raising him

from the dead and seating him at his right hand.

Jesus said in John five, and now, Father, glorify me in your presence

with the glory I had with you before the world began.

The Father answered this prayer by exalting Christ back to heavenly glory.

We see this dramatically in Philippians .

Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that

is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in

heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue acknowledge that

Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Why is Jesus exalted? Because his obedient mission is accomplished.

The suffering servant who was made like us is now crowned in glory as

conquering king and heavenly high priest.

Seated with supreme authority.

The God man rules over all creation for the sake of his body, the church.

This glorification enables Christ to send his spirit to apply the benefits

of his finished work.

Having conquered sin and death, he now rules and distributes the spoils and

the first fruits of this is sending his spirit into our hearts to transform

us into his image, the Spirit unleashed at Pentecost.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, the stage was now set for the outpouring of

the Spirit.

Christ had finished his mission, been raised to life, and exalted to the

highest place.

As the God man reigning in heaven, he could send his spirit in power upon

his waiting people.

No longer was the spirit’s activity limited and selective as it was under

the old covenant.

Now Christ could pour out the spirit in fullness on all his people.

And that is exactly what we see in acts two at the feast of Pentecost.

Remember, this was days after Passover when Jesus was crucified as the

final sacrifice for sins.

Just as God came down to meet Moses on Mount Sinai at Pentecost to give the

old law, now he would meet his people to give his spirit to write his law on

their hearts.

The disciples were all gathered together in one place, waiting as Jesus had

commanded them.

Suddenly the sound of a violent wind roared from heaven and filled the

house. What looked like tongues of fire came down and rested on each of

them. And immediately they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began

speaking in other tongues.

The curse of Babel was reversed as the gospel was proclaimed in all the

languages of the world.

Peter stood up and preached the first christian sermon proclaiming Jesus as

both Lord and Christ.

people were added to their number that day.

These new converts immediately devoted themselves to the apostles teaching

to fellowship, breaking bread and prayer.

They began meeting from house to house, sharing possessions, worshipping and

taking the Lord’s supper.

What an incredible testimony to the powerful activity of the spirit,

indwelling and transforming God’s people.

This was no mere external keeping of rules.

As Ezekiel foretold.

God had put his spirit within them to move them to follow his decrees.

They were filled with resurrection power, bearing spiritual fruit that only

comes from the spirit.

Consider the diversity of gifts on display, tongues teaching, preaching,

prayer, prophecy, generosity, hospitality, mercy and evangelism.

This fulfilling of the law by love was proof that the new covenant had come.

No longer was godliness confined to a few charismatic leaders.

The same spirit that empowered Jesus was now freely working in all his

people, young and old, men and women, slaves and free.

As Peter declared, the pouring out of the Spirit was evidence that Jesus was

exalted to God’s right hand as Lord and Messiah, the ascended Christ, had

received the promised Holy Spirit from the Father and poured him out on the

church. The same spirit who raised Jesus from the dead was quickening dead

hearts with resurrection life.

What Old Testament saints longed for had arrived.

The Spirit inside obeying from the heart.

In closing, let’s recap the key truths we’ve explored.

First, the Holy Spirit was present in the Old Testament, but his activity

was limited compared to after Jesus’glorification.

The Spirit empowered some for service but did not indwell and transform all

believers. Second, the Holy Spirit is God himself, who proceeds from the

Father and Son to accomplish redemption.

This required the incarnation and glorification of Christ the Son.

Third, for the Spirit to fully progress through the Son, the Son had to be

glorified in his humanity through his finished work of redemption.

This happened at the resurrection and ascension.

Finally, this glorification enabled Christ to pour out his spirit on his

waiting people at Pentecost.

No longer was the spirit’s work selective.

Now he could freely work through all believers.

In summary, the Holy Spirit could not be fully given until Jesus was

glorified, because the Spirit’s role is to bring about the Son’s redemptive

work. The incarnate life, atoning death, and heavenly exaltation of the God

man form the foundation for the Spirit’s outpouring.

Just as Jesus had to accomplish his mission first, so the Spirit could only

be unleashed in fullness after his glorification.

May God grant us eyes to see the wonder of the Spirit’s work in greater

measure because of what Christ has accomplished.

Let us walk daily in the power of the ascended Christ by the Holy Spirit

within us, and may the Spirit glorify our Lord by conforming us to his image

until we see him face to face.

Come ho, Holy Spirit, amen.

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