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It is the aim of this work to demonstrate that, while the Holy Spirit was present and working in the Old Testament and in the life of Christ, at Pentecost He inaugurated the church during which He would be present in each believer to empower them to live for God and advance His mission.     Research for information on Pentecost was obtained through the compiling of commentaries, theology books, and journal articles. These came from the Jerry Falwell Library online. Out of the ten sources used in the work, two are commentaries, two are theological books, four sources are specific to the discussion of the Holy Spirit, one is an article, and another covers the book of Acts through Revelation. Primarily Acts 2 will be looked at in relation to Pentecost as well as various other verses from the Old Testament and New Testament.

Before Pentecost

            Bearing in mind that Pentecost is the time in which the Holy Spirit fell on God’s people and ushered in an era of which He would be present in each believer, the Paraclete was active even before this time. Perhaps more times then not many believers when thinking about the Holy Spirit view Him as being active in the New Testament, specifically from Pentecost on. However, this view is erroneous because He was present and active in the Old Testament, as well.

The Holy Spirit in the OT

            The Holy Spirit being the third person of the Trinity has always existed. Therefore, He was not only active in the New Testament, but in the Old Testament as well. Wright affirms this when he says, “The Spirit of God, relegated by some people to his grand entrance on the day of Pentecost, actually appears in the second verse of the Bible.”[1] However, it can be difficult to identify the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament since He is not referred to as the “Holy Spirit” but usually identified as the “Spirit of God.”[2] In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was creative, empowering, prophetic, anointing, and coming.[3]

As aforementioned, the Spirit was involved in the creation act. In addition to this, He empowered individuals in the Old Testament to do what He wanted done, He gave inspiration for all of the writing of Scripture included the Old Testament, He was involved in the anointing of certain individuals that were chosen and called to do what God wanted them to do.[4] And last but not least, the Holy Spirit is coming. He is already here but will come more fully. Wright notes, based on Joel 2:28-32, that this will be universal, cosmic, and saving.[5] He expounds on this idea more when he says,

"When the Spirit came at Pentecost, then, he came with a great deal of expectation hanging on his coming. In this chapter we have seen how the prophets of Israel looked forward to transformation at every level when the Spirit would come, according to God’s promise. There would be change at cosmic, ecological, international, moral, spiritual and personal levels. We have to acknowledge, in relation to all this, that there is an “already . . . but not yet” about the fulfilment of these Spirit prophecies, just as there is about the kingdom of God as preached and inaugurated by Jesus. The kingdom has come, but not yet in all its fullness. The Spirit has come, but not yet with all that was promised. What we do see, most certainly, is the work of the Spirit in drawing people to repentance, forgiveness and restoration, just as Joel (and indeed Jesus) said he would."[6]

Holy Spirit in the Life of Christ

The metaphysics of the union between the three persons of the Godhead is a mystery that no human in this life will ever be able to fully comprehend. On this issue Issler states, “In light of the Trinity’s mutual indwelling in each other (technically called, perichoresis, “You are in me, and I am in you,” John 17:21), in some way God’s trinitarian presence is mysteriously and uniquely mediated through the person of the Holy Spirit.”[7] So, while it is not possible to ascertain the details as to exactly how the persons in the Trinity interrelate to one another, it appears that the third person of the Trinity, the Spirit, is the means through which it is accomplished.

On the point at which the Holy Spirit began His relationship with Jesus, Issler says, “A common misconception is that Jesus’ relationship with the Spirit only began at his baptism, when Jesus was especially anointed for his messianic ministry. Quite the contrary, the Holy Spirit had been a constant companion of Jesus since his conception.”[8] As proof of this Issler notes how Jesus became strong in spirit in Luke 1:80 and His time at the temple when he was twelve and astounded the teachers with his insight and answers.[9] However, Kostenberger seems to indicate that the Paraclete’s initial appearance in the life of Christ came during His baptism. He makes no mention of the Spirit in Christ’s life prior to this event. However, he does say that the Spirit’s anointing of Jesus demonstrates His filial relationship to the Father, as well as represent that the eschatological age has arrived in Jesus.[10] Moreover, the Spirit that descended on Jesus remained with Jesus.[11] Hence forth the Spirit would remain. And this same Spirit would be poured out onto God’s people after the glorification (death, resurrection, and ascension) of Jesus.[12]

            It is conceivable that Jesus was indwelled with the Holy Spirit prior to His baptism. Not just conceived by the Paraclete and then indwelled at baptism. Circumstantial evidence seems to indicate a strong likelihood of it. The two main pieces of evidence are Luke 2:40 and Luke 1:15. In Luke 1:15 an angel of the Lord told Zechariah that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit before he was born. Logically speaking, if John had the Paraclete prior to birth than obviously Jesus, who is infinitely greater, also had the Spirit in Him prior to birth. Luke 2:40 indirectly indicates that Jesus must have had the Spirit in Him since he was filled with wisdom and had God’s grace on Him. Erickson states that, “It is noteworthy that there is no evidence of growth of the Holy Spirit’s presence in Jesus’ life. There is no series of experiences of the coming of the Holy Spirit, just the conception and the baptism. What there does seem to be is a growing implementation of the Spirit’s presence.”[13] What is known is that with the Holy Spirit in Christ, He was active throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry. He led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, equipped Him for His ministry, through Him [Spirit] Jesus performed miracles, and He was active in the death and resurrection of Jesus.[14]


            As previously stated the Holy Spirit would be sent upon God’s people after the glorification of Jesus. Now, with Jesus glorified and seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, the Spirit is sent. Kostenberger concisely delineates the circumstances at which point the Spirit will be poured out onto God’s people when he states “It is the ‘glorification’ of the Christ through his death, resurrection and ascension that is the great hinge upon which his messianic work turns. The Spirit will flow to all who believe in Jesus only after he is glorified. The cross, resurrection and ascension constitute the great turning point of redemptive history. “After these events are fulfilled, the age of the Spirit will dawn.”[15]

            “The scene shifts to the day of Pentecost ( πεντηκοστή , pentēkostē ) as the 120 disciples are gathered together in one place .”[16] Historically, the Feast of Pentecost became a traditional day for the Jews on which Moses received the law at Mount Sinai and it also celebrated the wheat harvest.[17] Now, this Pentecost would take on a whole new meaning. Blomberg makes an astute observation which sums up the whole of the occasion when he says,

Acts 2 introduces us to a momentous event, the significance of which can scarcely be overestimated. Pentecost completes the sequence of events that began with Christ’s death, included his resurrection and ascension, and now provides the opportunity for God to bestow his Spirit upon all his people. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came upon certain Israelites temporarily for special acts of power and service; now he will permanently live within all believers. The occasion is a harvest festival celebrated fifty days after the Passover (Lev. 23:15– 22). Already during the period between the Testaments, Jews had decided this festival marked the time of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai (Jub. 1:1). It was fitting, then, that just as the first covenant was established with signs and wonders, so too the new covenant would be heralded with dramatic events. Moreover, though God confused the languages of earth’s inhabitants at the tower of Babel (Gen. 11), here he begins to undo that confusion.[18]

            Pentecost was a transformative event in the history of the church, really the history of the world. In Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit, Pinnock discusses some of the most significant aspects of Pentecost. They are:

  1. Good Friday and Easter Sunday were completed.

  2. It offered the Spirit a unique opportunity to work freely.

  3. The church received the Holy Spirit and became a continuation of Jesus’ ministry.

  4. A broken world began to heal.

  5. The world began to move from alienation to divine life.[19]

Kostenberger mentions another monumentally important component of Pentecost when he proclaims “the role of the Spirit plays in relation to the disciples is analogous to the role he played in relation to Jesus during his earthly ministry.”[20] He further explains this profound and awe-inspiring truth when he says, “The Spirit, along with the Father, remained with/indwelled Jesus ([John] 1:32; 10:38; 14:10-11); the Spirit, along with the Father and Jesus, remains with/indwells the disciples ([John] 14:16-17, 20-23).”[21] Thus, the thrust of what he is saying is that the Triune God lives in believers.


What happened?

            In a purely metaphysical sense, it is not possible to ascertain exactly how the phenomenon happened. Since God is spirit and transcends humans, His ways are unfathomable to the human psyche in understanding the intricacies or mechanisms that bring about the phenomenon. Blomberg concurs when he states, “It is unclear what literally happened as the Spirit descended on the disciples (vv. 1– 4).”[22] On the phenomenon, based on the text of Acts, Blomberg offers,

"Luke uses similes to explain that there came a sound “like” rushing wind (the same word as for spirit in Hebrew and Greek) and tongues “as” of fire (the sign of divine judgment in the Old Testament). Miraculously, all of the Jewish visitors from other parts of the empire whose indigenous languages would have been other than Greek could now hear the apostles speaking in those tongues (vv. 5– 12)."[23]

            Bock also offers a number of insights that should be looked at to gain a deeper understanding. His observations are as follows:

  1. Luke portrays the event to provide some visualization to it. And because he described the fire as coming from heaven it made its supernatural origin obvious.[24]

  2. The Spirit divided up into bits of flames which spread to each disciple. It compares to a spreading fire.[25]

  3. The imagery of the spreading of the Holy Spirit like fire “suggests the power of God’s presence.”[26]

  4. This event indicates a theophany due to the fire imagery. “Heaven and divine presence come powerfully to the earth to indwell God’s people”[27]

  5. The disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in other languages.[28]

  6. The filling of the Paraclete in Acts 2:4 is similar to the baptizing of the Spirit in 1:5 and 11:16.[29]

Significance of the Spirit Coming on Pentecost

On this point Bock offers extensive insight as to the potential reason why the Holy Spirit was sent on this particular day. God never does anything accidentally, nor is anything just a coincidence. He has everything planned. And this applies to the Spirit and Pentecost, as well.

Pentecost was “also known as ‘Feast of Weeks’ or ‘Day of Firstfruits.’”[30] It also occurs “fifteen days after the first Sabbath after Passover.”[31] Additionally, Jewish pilgrims would travel from afar to Jerusalem because it was one of three annual feasts.[32] This also would account for all of the nationalities that are present in verses 9-11.[33] Moreover, Bock states “It appears that in Judaism it was believed that on this day significant things had taken place in the past. It is possible the Jewish book of Jubilees sees Pentecost and the giving of the law as having fallen on the same day.”[34] He goes on to say that if this is so then “the day Jesus distributed the Holy Spirit was also the day some Jews believed the law came to Israel.”[35] If this is as Bock posits then Jesus sent the Holy Spirit on the same day that the law in the past was sent on.

Result of Pentecost

            Not only did Pentecost usher in a new era of the Spirit where He would indwell the believer to live a life that is pleasing to God and to carry on the mission of Jesus, He also inaugurated the church. This occurred on the day of Pentecost when He came down as tongues of fire and rested on each of the disciples. On this phenomenon Bock and Pelikan comment. Bock seems to indicate a preference in understanding that Acts 2:4 is referring to a manifestation of supernatural ability on behalf of the disciples to speak in the vernacular languages that those present would be able to understand.[36] Though, Pelikan seems to view the phenomenon as an exhibition of glossolalia or an ecstatic utterance.[37] However, as Erickson astutely notes that there is no “evidence of ecstatic phenomena in Jesus’ life or any teaching of his on the subject.”[38] While Bock and Pelikan  are at odds as to exactly how to understand the event, the result is the same. The Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to speak words that were intelligible to the hearers in attendance so that they could comprehend the wonders of God. Bock, explaining the role of this phenomenon in Pentecost, says:

"In sum, the descent of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost comes with indications that God has acted. In a variety of languages that match the nationalities of Diaspora Jews living in Jerusalem, it includes the praise of God’s mighty acts. As it takes place, no one can figure out how Galileans can speak such a variety of languages. God is taking the initiative to enable his people to explain what has taken place through Jesus."[39]

This brings matters to the next point. Those in attendance for Pentecost were Jewish pilgrims from every corner of the known world, they were the Diaspora.[40] It is after the falling of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and them speaking in the languages of the Diaspora Jews that Peter, the primus inter pares, stood up and gave his famous speech in Acts 2:14-39. “This speech is one of the most important theological declarations in the NT. It highlights who Jesus is and explains how one can know what God was doing through him.”[41] And as Acts 2:41 states “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Thus, the Paraclete inaugurated the church at that time. And as Erickson elaborates, “he has continued to populate the church.”[42]

Role of the Holy Spirit Nowadays

As has been previously established, the Holy Spirit was at work in the Old Testament, in the life of Christ, and throughout the New Testament, though in a more profound and open way from Pentecost on. But, His work has never ceased. He continues to be active to this present day. In summation as to how the Spirit is currently at work today Keener offers an overview,

"Although building on what came before, Pentecost ushered in something new. The experience of Pentecost in Acts 2 echoes many earlier biblical themes and particularly echoes Jesus’s experience of the Spirit in Luke’s Gospel. Nevertheless, it simultaneously signifies something new: the last-days outpouring of God’s Spirit prophetically empowering all God’s people for ministry. No longer was prophetic empowerment restricted to only some prophets in Israel; now it was for all God’s people, and for a mission to all peoples. The Spirit would be poured out on all flesh, so that all Jesus’s followers, Jew and Gentile, would be empowered to share in that mission (1:8; 2:17– 18, 38– 39)."[43]

Hence, the Spirit was not only sent for the personal empowerment of the believer to live for God, but also empowerment to carry forward the presence of Christ and His mission. His mission, the missio dei, would be continued through the church which has now been indwelled by the Spirit. And this indwelling would be not only collectively but individually as well.

Holy Spirit in the Life of Believers

“Some confusion may arise as to which Trinitarian Person actually abides in believers,” according to Issler.[44] He goes on to delineate the confusion by pointing out John 14:16-18 and Matt 28:19 as evidence. He claims that “Scripture teaches that each member of the Trinity abides in us: God, the Father abides in us (e.g., John14:23; 1 John 4:15); God, the Son abides in us (e.g., John 14:23; 15:4); God, the Spirit abides in us (e.g., John 14:16-17).”[45] This agrees with what was previously mentioned by Kostenberger in the section on Pentecost. Thus, it is not only the Spirit that lives within the believer, but the three persons of the Godhead.

Though for the sake of this section the scope will be limited to looking at the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. Prior to Him working in a believer He draws pre-Christians to Christ by convincing the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement. Jesus said this in John 16:7b-8, “Unless I go away, the Advocate [Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I go I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement.” Without the Paraclete doing this work conversion would not be possible.[46] For those that respond positively to Him and His drawing He begins the work of regeneration in the new believer. On this aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit Erickson writes, “Regenerations is the miraculous transformation of the individual and implantation of spiritual energy.”[47] He continues, “this transformation [cannot] even be comprehended by the human intellect.”[48] In sum, upon a pre-Christian responding to accept Christ as their Savior, the Spirit regenerates, indwells, baptizes, and seals the individual.[49]

The initial indwelling of the believer by the Holy Spirit is just the beginning work of Him in their life. On the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer, Thiessen offers a wonderfully succinct and well thought out list of items as a response.

  1. He fills. Throughout the course of the believer’s life he needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He needs to be controlled by the Spirit.

  2. He guides. The believer is commanded to walk in and be led by the Paraclete.

  3. He empowers. There is an inner war being waged in every believer. It is the flesh against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. The indwelled Spirit holds the key to victory.

  4. He teaches. It is the Holy Spirit, the one that inspired the writing of Scripture, that will illuminate the minds of believers to understand Scripture. “Jesus promised the coming of the Spirit to guide them into truth (John 14:26; 16:13).”[50]

Something that has not been mentioned thus far, and Thiessen also failed to discuss, is that the Holy Spirit also endows each believer with spiritual gifts for the edification of the church. These gifts are found in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. They are serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, mercy, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, discerning of spirits, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, and helps. In addition to this, He also gives the church certain people that are gifts to it. According to Ephesians 4:11, they are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.


            The Holy Spirit, though commonly associated with His arrival at Pentecost and onward, has indeed been active from the very beginning. From Genesis 1:2, where it says that the Spirit of God [Paraclete] was hovering over the waters, throughout the Old Testament, Pentecost, the entirety of the New Testament, and today, He has and always will be active. However, the way in which He works now in believers is different than the way He worked pre-Pentecost. Prior to Pentecost, though He came upon certain individuals to perform tasks that God wanted to be done, now he indwells every believer perpetually.

            Pentecost was a monumental moment in the history of the world. After the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, He sent the Spirit. The Spirit would now indwell the church. And because of this the church would be the continuation of the presence of Christ and His mission. Moreover, the Holy Spirit would not only be collectively present in the church [body of Christ] but also individually in each believer. He will fill, empower, guide, and teach them. He will conform them to the image of Christ. Additionally, He will imbue each believer with spiritual gifts as He so chooses to be used within the corporate body for the edification of the church. In sum, “His role is to conform believers’ interest in the Son, and thus in the Father as well, and to continue the mission given by the Father to the Son through the church in the world.”[51] And He does all of this to give glory to the Father through the Son.[52]


Blomberg, Craig L. From Pentecost to Patmos: An Introduction to Acts Through Revelation.      Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2006. Accessed October 8, 2018. ProQuest           Ebook  Central.

Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI:     Baker Academic, 2007. Accessed October 8, 2018.ProQuest Ebook Central.

Erickson, Millard. Introducing Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.

Issler, K. “The Spiritual Formation of Jesus: The Significance of the Holy Spirit in Jesus'   Life.” Christian Education Journal, 4 (2), 5. (2000) Retrieved from    

Keener, Craig S. Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost. Grand Rapids,            MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016. Accessed October 10, 2018.       ProQuest Ebook Central.

Kostenberger, Andreas J. and Scott R. Swain. Father, Son, and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008.

Lea, Thomas D. and David Alan Black. The New Testament: Its Background and Message.         Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003.

Pelikan, Jaroslav. Acts. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible Series. Grand Rapids, MI:     Brazos Press, 2006. Accessed October 8, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Pinnock, Clark H. Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit. Downers Grove, IL:            InterVarsity Press, 2009. Accessed October 8, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Thiessen, Henry C. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing,      1979.

Wright, Christopher J. H. Knowing the Holy Spirit Through the Old Testament. Downers Grove,          IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006. Accessed October 8, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central.

[1]. Christopher J. H. Wright. Knowing the Holy Spirit Through the Old Testament (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 13.

[2]. Millard J. Erickson. Introducing Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 276.          

[3]. Wright, 13, 35, 63, 87, 121.

[4]. Ibid., 13, 36, 38, 40, 63, 87, 121.

[5]. Ibid., 150.

[6]. Ibid., 156.

[7]. K. Issler. “The Spiritual Formation of Jesus: The Significance of the Holy Spirit in Jesus' Life.” Christian Education Journal, 4 (2), 5. (2000), 11.

[8]. Ibid., 11.

[9]. Ibid., 12.

[10]. Andreas J. Kostenberger and Scott R. Swain. Father, Son, and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 137.

[11]. Ibid., 137.

[12]. Ibid., 137, 141-142.

[13]. Erickson, 278.

[14]. Henry C. Thiessen. Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1979), 254.  

[15]. Kostenberger, 142.

[16]. Darrell L. Bock. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 92.

[17]. Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black. The New Testament: Its Background and Message (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), 292.

[18]. Craig L. Blomberg. From Pentecost to Patmos: An Introduction to Acts Through Revelation (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2006), 26.   

[19]. Clark H. Pinnock. Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 114, 116, 118.  

[20]. Kostenberger, 146.

[21]. Ibid., 146.

[22]. Blomberg, 27.

[23]. Ibid., 27.

[24]. Bock, 96.

[25]. Ibid., 98.

[26]. Ibid.

[27]. Ibid.

[28]. Ibid.

[29]. Ibid., 99.

[30]. Bock, 95.

[31]. Ibid.

[32]. Ibid.

[33]. Ibid.

[34]. Ibid.

[35]. Ibid., 96.  

[36]. Bock, 101.

[37]. Jaroslav Pelikan. Acts. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible Series. (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2006), 52.

[38]. Erickson, 278.  

[39]. Bock, 106.

[40]. Ibid., 100.

[41]. Ibid., 108.

[42]. Erickson, 344.  

[43]. Craig S. Keener. Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016), 54.  

[44]. Issler, 10.  

[45]. Ibid.

[46]. Erickson, 279.

[47]. Ibid.

[48]. Ibid.

[49]. Thiessen, 255.

[50]. Thiessen, 255-256.  

[51]. Kostenberger, 148.

[52]. John 14:13.

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