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Leaving aside the unique operation of the Spirit of God in the incarnation and ministry of the Son of God, we find the Holy Spirit active in the following ways in the pre-Pentecost New Testament era:

Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied [Luke 1:67]. The content of his ‘prophesying’ was explanatory and descriptive; it is predictive only in its reference to John’s future ministry and the immanent coming of the Messiah.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit [Luke 1:41] who revealed to her that Mary’s unborn child was ‘the Lord’.

John the Baptist - ‘he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from birth’ [Luke 1:15].

Simeon – ‘… the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ.’ [Luke 2:25-2].

The disciples - were instructed by Jesus not to worry about what to say if they were arrested and questioned, because the Holy Spirit would speak through them [Matthew 10:20 & Mark 13:11] or teach them what to say [Luke 12:12]. While Mark and Luke clearly include both pre- and post-Pentecost believers, the context of the Matthew reference seems to divide exactly at this point – the verses before it [10:5-16] giving instructions specific to the first disciples on their first mission, and the verses after if [10:21-42] having more general application to all who would follow Christ.

Regeneration – the Holy Spirit’s essential work of regeneration is identified and taught prior to the Pentecost events – for example, John 3:3-8; 6:63. This life giving work of the Spirit obviously does not wait till Pentecost. Already, even as Jesus was teaching, there were those who had received eternal life through the Word of Christ and the operation of the Spirit.

When we look at evidence above we realise that to a very large extent the Spirit of God in the Old Testament and pre-Pentecost New Testament years is identical in role and action, and in relationship with humans, as the Holy Spirit understood from the post-Pentecost perspective.

We find the following truths about the Holy Spirit both pre-Pentecost and post-Pentecost:

The Holy Spirit is God.
The Spirit is a person, not a force or power.
The Spirit is involved in creation and providence.
The Spirit is involved in judgment.
The Spirit empowers and equips.
The Spirit is a teacher.
The Spirit is involved in revelation and the Word of God.
The Spirit is the presence of God with people.
The Spirit is involved in the covenants.
The Spirit is intimately connected with and involve with the Messiah.
The Spirit is involved in para-normal experiences.

This should not surprise us because the Holy Spirit is, after all, God, and God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Who he is in the Old Testament is who he is in the New Testament and right through to the present.

But there is obviously something new in the relationship of the Spirit with believers after Pentecost. This new aspect was predicted in a number of Old Testament symbols and texts, and also, more specifically, in the promises Jesus Christ gave to his disciples in John 14 – 16. This new relationship with the Spirit does not negate any of the aspects and attitudes of the Spirit common to the Old and New Testaments, but is additional to them.

This difference exists because with the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ God’s eternal plan of salvation is implemented – all that was previously hidden and mysterious, clothed in prophetic symbol, anticipated in prophetic ritual, and proclaimed but not understood in prophetic word – all of this is now in place and is now knowable. What was before a hidden mystery is now open knowledge. What was before known only in physical symbol is now known as a spiritual reality.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2024