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© Rosemary Bardsley 2009


A. The promise of the Spirit

The Old Testament looked forward to an era of the Spirit in which the Spirit of God would come and indwell those who believe in him.

What is anticipated or promised in these verses?

What is the anticipated impact of the Spirit of God?

Isaiah 32:15a



Isaiah 44:3b



Ezekiel 11:19



Ezekiel 36:26,27




Ezekiel 37:14



Joel 2:28 -29





The New Testament also refers to this anticipation of the Spirit in the following:

  • Luke 11:13 – where Jesus refers to the Father’s will to give the Spirit to those who ask him.
  • John 7:39 – where John explains Jesus’ words in verse 38 as a reference to the reception of the Spirit which would occur only after Jesus’ ascension and glorification.
  • John 14 – 16 – where Jesus gave extensive teaching on the promised Spirit
  • [possibly] John 20:22 – where Jesus breathed on his disciples and said ‘receive the Holy Spirit’
  • Acts 1:4-5 – where Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for ‘the gift my Father promised’ which he had already spoken of to them, and he told them that in a few days time they would, in contrast to John’s baptism with water, be ‘baptized with the Holy Spirit’
  • Acts 1:7 – where Jesus referred to the coming of the Holy Spirit as a time when the disciples would ‘receive power’ and would then be his witnesses


B. Christ’s promise to send the Holy Spirit – John 14 - 16

The Holy Spirit is Christ’s gift to his church. In John 14 to 16 Jesus Christ promised that when he returned to his Father he and his Father together would send the Spirit to indwell those who believe in Christ, and be with them forever.

From your study of John 14 - 16:

List the words and phrases that refer to a decisive giving, sending, or coming of the Spirit



















 These words of Christ point clearly to the deliberate divine Trinitarian initiative in the out-pouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and in the on-going, presence of the Spirit in genuine believers from that day onwards


C. The Day of Pentecost – Acts 2

The Old Testament anticipations of the Spirit, and this promise of Christ to send the Spirit, were fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, when Christ poured out his Spirit from heaven upon the church – that small group of true believers who were at his command waiting in Jerusalem for him to do what he had promised.

Acts 1:4: ‘… he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 

The outpouring of the Spirit from heaven on the Day of Pentecost is a one-off, never-to-be-repeated fulfilment of the prophetic symbolism embedded in the Feast of Pentecost, in the same way that the crucifixion of Christ on the Passover day is a one-off, never-to-be-repeated fulfilment of the prophetic symbolism embedded in the Passover Feast. Just as the Crucifixion could only happen at Passover, so the out-pouring of the Spirit could only happen at Pentecost.

The fulfilment had to coincide with the prophetic symbol:

Prophetic Symbol




First Fruits         


Feast of Weeks        

Fifty days                  

Day of Pentecost/First Fruits

Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

The salvation God gives us in his Son is not complete with just the crucifixion, but requires the whole Incarnation/Crucifixion/Resurrection/Outpouring of the Spirit combination. The work of Christ is not complete until the Spirit is given. And the Spirit could not be given until Pentecost.

Passover / “Feast of Unleavened Bread” = Crucifixion of Christ

Prophetic symbol: Exodus 11:1 – 12:30; Leviticus 23:4-8

A perfect lamb or kid is killed. Its blood is painted on the sides and lintel of the doorway.

All yeast [symbol of sin] is removed from the house, and bread without yeast is eaten.

Because of the blood of the Passover lamb the death of the firstborn is avoided.

Answer these questions about the fulfilment of the Passover in the death of Christ:

Who died?

Was he perfect or imperfect?

Was his blood shed?

Read 1Peter 2:24. In what way is sin removed?

Whose death is avoided by the death of Christ, the Passover Lamb? [John 3:16]


Firstfruits [of barley harvest] = Resurrection of Christ

Prophetic symbol: Leviticus 23:9-14

The first sheaf of grain harvested was offered to the Lord

Lamb without defect offered to the Lord


What do these verses teach about the fulfilment of the symbolism of the Firstfruits in the resurrection of Christ?

1Corinthians 15:20:

1Corinthians 15:23:


Feast of Pentecost/Feast of Weeks/Firstfruits [of wheat harvest]  = Outpouring of the Spirit

Prophetic symbol: Exodus 34:22a; Leviticus 23:15-22

The firstfruits of the wheat harvest offered to the Lord 50 days after the firstfruits of the barley harvest.


How does Paul refer to the fulfilment of this in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit?

Romans 8:23:


This unique outpouring of the Spirit had to occur on the Day of Pentecost. This is the significance of the statement in Acts 2:1 ‘When the Day of Pentecost came’ [NIV], where ‘came’ [in the Greek, sumplerousthai] has the meaning ‘was fulfilled’ or ‘was fully come’ or ‘was completed’. On this Day of Pentecost all of the symbolism contained in all previous Pentecosts is brought to its final completion, its goal, its purpose. Here, on this day is the reality, the culmination, the final and ultimate expression of its purpose and meaning.

From this day on the Holy Spirit is present in the true church corporately and each believer individually; from this day on the Holy Spirit empowers and equips the church to be worldwide witnesses of Jesus Christ [Acts 1:8].

C.1 Biblical explanations of the coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost

The apostles have recorded for us their God-inspired explanation of the coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost [note: we are not at this point looking at the audible and visible evidence of that coming]:

  • Peter, in Acts 2:16-21 taught that it was the out pouring of the Spirit predicted by Joel 2:28-32. In 2:33 Peter explains that the resurrected and exalted Jesus ‘received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out’ what the Jews were seeing and hearing. 
  • Having finished his message and stirred his hearers to conviction concerning the true identity of Jesus Christ, Peter promised them that if they repented they would, along with forgiveness, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit because God’s promise is to them and their children, and all who were afar off, that is, for all whom the Lord will call [verse 38,39].
  • In Acts 5:32 Peter explained [1] that the Holy Spirit is witness to the death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, and [2] that the Holy Spirit is given by God ‘to those who obey him’, which, in context, means to all who obey God’s command to repent and believe in his Son.
  • In reporting the conversion of Cornelius and his household Peter described their baptism with the Holy Spirit: ‘the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”. So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to oppose God?’ [Acts 11:15-17] This report led the Jews to conclude: ‘ “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” ‘ [11:18]. Later, at the Council of Jerusalem, Peter again referred to this incident: ‘ “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.” ‘ [Acts 15:7-9].
  • From these reports we discover that Peter and the early church understood the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost as:
    • The baptism in/with/by the Spirit mentioned by John the Baptist and by Jesus
    • A gift of God given to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ
    • Evidence of the genuine repentance that results in spiritual life
    • Evidence of God’s equal acceptance of the Gentiles on the basis of faith
    • Fulfilment of God’s promise
  • Paul, in Galatians 3:14, although not referring back to Pentecost, does refer to ‘the promise of the Spirit’ which comes to the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, by faith. Interestingly in this verse, Paul also refers to ‘the blessing given to Abraham’ coming to the Gentiles.

C.2 The audible and visible phenomena that accompanied the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost

The audible and visible phenomena that accompanied the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost are secondary to the main event that occurred on that day, at which we have looked briefly in A. to C.1.

These phenomena were:

  • A sound like a violent wind, which filled the house where the disciples were gathered [2:2]
  • Something that looked like tongues of fire resting on each one of them [2:3]
  • The apostles spoke in languages which they had not learned, but which were recognized and understood, without interpretation, by Jews from various countries [2:4-12]. [Some teachers believe that the people who spoke in languages in Acts 2 were the 120 believers referred to in Acts 1:15. However that fact that Acts 2 indicates that those who spoke in languages were all ‘Galileans’ (verse 7) would indicate that it is more likely that only the twelve apostles referred to in Acts 1:23-26 spoke in languages in Acts 2.]  

It is important here to note several facts:

  • That nowhere in the prophecies which promised the outpouring of the Spirit are any of these phenomena mentioned: no tongues of fire, no rushing wind, no speaking in languages.
  • That in the promises of Christ to send the Spirit in John 14 – 16 there is no mention of speaking of languages, no mention of the sound like a rushing wind, and no mention of tongues of fire.
  • That in the verses anticipating Christ baptizing with the Spirit there is also no mention of the sound like wind or of languages. There are two verses referring to Christ baptizing with ‘fire’, but we cannot automatically assume that this is a reference to the tongues of fire on the Day of Pentecost, as ‘fire’ is commonly a biblical symbol for judgment.

There appears to be only one prophecy in which speaking in other languages is predicted, and this prophecy is not about the outpouring of the Spirit, but about God’s exposure of and judgment on the unbelief of Israel. This is Isaiah 28:11-12, which is quoted by Paul in 1Corinthians 14:21 in reference to the gift languages.

4. Summary: what happened at Pentecost?

On the Day of Pentecost following the crucifixion, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus Christ several things occurred simultaneously:

  • The prophetic symbolism of the Feast of Pentecost was fulfilled. This is a one-off, never-to-be-repeated event. By this symbolism embedded in the concept of ‘firstfruits’, the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer is understood as God’s guarantee of complete and eternal blessedness [read Romans 8:22-25 for the Holy Spirit as ‘firstfruits’ in this sense]. In addition, just as this firstfruits of the wheat harvest indicated the end and culmination of the 50 days ‘feast of weeks’, so the out-pouring of the Spirit indicates the completion of God’s plan of salvation. With this out-pouring of the Spirit God’s plan of salvation is made complete with its last and final component.
  • Jesus Christ poured out the Spirit in fulfilment of the Old Testament written prophecies of the indwelling Spirit and in keeping with his own promises given to his disciples. This is the same one-off event as the previous dot point, viewed from a different perspective. 
  • This one-off event initiated and implemented the ‘new’ era of the Spirit in which every believer, both Jew and Gentile, from this time forward, is indwelt by the Spirit of God as an essential part of the multi-faceted salvation obtained through the death of God’s Son. 
  • This outpouring of the Spirit of God in fulfilment of prophetic symbolism, written prophecies and the promises of Christ was accompanied by audible and visible signs.  
  • The apostles were ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’; this enabled them, on this occasion, to speak in other languages [Acts 2:4]. This kind of empowerment by the Spirit is not limited to the Day of Pentecost. It happened on several occasions in both the Old and New Testaments where people were empowered to do things or to speak boldly, in ways they were not able to by their own strength or ability. [See Study 7 for further on being ‘filled with the Spirit’.] The fact that this occurred on the Day of Pentecost ought not to confuse us into thinking that this was the ‘main thing’ about Pentecost.  

Because of the strong fulfilment element concerning the events of the Day of Pentecost we should not expect any repetition of these events, particularly those in the first four dot-points, any more than we expect a repetition of the fulfilment of the Passover in the death of Christ.

From this point on, all true believers are indwelt by the Spirit of God. From this point on the saving work of God is complete. This saving work of God embraced all of the events regarding Jesus Christ – from his incarnation to this out-pouring of his Spirit, by which he comes to live in those who believe in him: incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, glorification, out-pouring of the Spirit – this is the complete salvation package, sealed and guaranteed by that final gift of the Spirit.