John 20:22

"And when He had said this, He breathed on them,
and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost"

What is the significance of this reception of the Holy Spirit
given the fact that the Day of Pentecost
would not take place for a number of weeks?

William MacDonald, in his Believer's Bible Commentary, says the following:

Others state that there was a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at this time.  This seems unlikely in view of such statements as Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4,5,8, where the coming of the Holy Spirit was still spoken of as future.  It is clear from John 7:39 that the Spirit could not come in His fullness until Jesus was glorified, that is, until He had gone back to heaven [p. 1568].

So then, what was the significance of the John 20:22 event?   Before Pentecost believers were still living under the old economy; in many ways it was still a pre-Christian era.  Keep in mind that in Old Testament times the Holy Spirit would come upon men for special purposes and for special enablement.  For example, the Holy Spirit came upon Samson to enable him to perform superhuman feats (Judges 14:6,19).  The Holy Spirit came upon Saul to equip him to serve as King over all Israel (1 Samuel 10:6). Many other examples could be cited.  In the case of the disciples on this resurrection day, the Lord Jesus gave them the Spirit to empower them in their present need.

So it would be incorrect to say that Pentecost came early for these disciples.  Pentecost was a future event that they would wait for with eager anticipation, and they would fully participate in the event when it happened.  But after the resurrection and prior to Pentecost, they had some unique needs, and through the Person of the Holy Spirit, God provided for them in a special way.  God removed their unbelief and their misapprehensions.  They were able to worship and were filled with joy (Luke 24:52).  They continued "with one accord in prayer and supplication" (Acts 1:14; compare Eph. 4:3).  The Spirit guided Peter so that he had a clear understanding of Old Testament prophecy (Acts 1:20).  God was enabling and supplying their needs even before Pentecost.   But the full outpouring of the Spirit, including the baptism of the Spirit and the permanent indwelling of the Spirit would take place at Pentecost (Acts chapter 2).


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