In John 7:38, Christ spoke of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the apostle John added in verse 39: “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom [better: which] those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
We need to understand the context. The New Testament Church would begin on the Day of Pentecost in 31 A.D., when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the early apostles and other true believers. Jesus had promised His disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit after His departure (John 16:7; 20:22). He again confirmed this promise after His resurrection, but before His ascension to heaven (Acts 1:8). When the Holy Spirit was given to His disciples on the Day of Pentecost, it was Jesus who poured out that gift from the Father, after He had been exalted to the right hand of God (Acts 2:33).
Christ’s glorification and His ascension to heaven were necessary BEFORE the Holy Spirit could be given to His disciples. While He was alive as a human being, He told His disciples that He was WITH them, but He also said that there would come the time when He would be IN them. He referred, first, to His presence as a Man who was WITH them, but in the future, to the gift of His Holy Spirit which would dwell IN them (John 14:17). But in order for Christ to dwell IN His disciples (John 14:18; Galatians 2:20), through the Holy Spirit, He had to be first glorified with the glory which He had BEFORE He became a human being (John 17:5). As a mere human being, He could not live IN somebody else. That could only happen after He became again a glorified being.
When a true disciple of Christ receives God’s Holy Spirit, it is the Spirit of the Father AND the Son which emanates from both glorified God beings, and which dwells in the disciple (John 14:23; Romans 8:11, 14-17; Romans 8:9, second part; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19).
When Christ was here on earth as a Man, it was the Holy Spirit of God the FATHER that dwelled in Him. He did His mighty works because of the Father’s Spirit in Him (Acts 10:36-38; John 14:10-11). When He became a human being in the womb of Mary through the power of the Father’s Holy Spirit, He ceased to be a glorified being. He became flesh–He changed into flesh (John 1:14). With that change, His Holy Spirit–the Spirit emanating from the glorified God being called the Son, the second Member of the God Family–no longer existed! Rather, it was the Holy Spirit of the Father which was within Him, without measure, from His inception; and which was with and in Him throughout His human life. And we read that God the Father, through His Spirit, resurrected Christ from the dead (compare again Romans 8:11).
Christ was resurrected as a glorified God being, and from then on, His Holy Spirit emanated from Him again in the same way as it did prior to His human conception. That is why the apostle John said, in John 7:39, that the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. It was not only the Holy Spirit of the Father, but also of the Son, which would be given to true disciples AFTER Christ’s glorification.
We explain in more detail in our free booklet, “Is God a Trinity?”, on pages 11 and 12, that a better translation of John 7:39 is: “… for there was no Spirit yet,” or, even, “the Holy Spirit did not exist yet.” The context of that statement is the Holy Spirit OF CHRIST, and that Spirit did not exist yet, as long as Christ was a human being and not yet glorified. We explain in the above-mentioned booklet that only a GLORIFIED God being can give His Holy Spirit to others. For Christ to bestow His Holy Spirit on others, He needed to be glorified first. Christ makes this clear, when He said in John 16:7: “…if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him [better: it] to you.”
It is correct, of course, that the disciples did mighty works with the help of the power of the Holy Spirit–but that was the Holy Spirit of the Father. Even though the Father’s Holy Spirit was not IN them, it was WITH them. John 14:17 indicates that while Christ was here on earth as a Man, His disciples had help from God’s Holy Spirit, when they healed or cast out demons. Luke 2:25-27 proves as well that at that time, some people were led by the Holy Spirit of the Father–and that the Holy Spirit was “upon” them–but it was not yet IN them.
What John’s statement in John 7:39 means, then, is that in New Testament times, nobody who was born after Christ’s conception as a human being would receive the Holy Spirit until after Christ’s glorious resurrection. We read that John the Baptist had God’s Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb–but he was conceived six months BEFORE Christ’s human conception. One might ask what happened to the Holy Spirit emanating from Christ, which was dwelling in John the Baptist, when Jesus became a human being. But we need to remember that the Holy Spirit emanates from both God the Father AND Jesus Christ, and the Bible teaches that it is ONE; that is, it is the SAME Spirit, as God the Father and Jesus Christ are ONE in mind, goal, purpose and action.
Even though, upon Christ’s becoming a Man, the Spirit of Christ ceased to exist as emanating from the glorified Son–the second member and God being within the “Godhead” or Family of God. But the Spirit of the Father continued to dwell IN John the Baptist. However, as is pointed out herein, once Christ became flesh and blood, the Holy Spirit would not be given henceforth to human beings until after Christ’s glorification.
We also read that the Holy Spirit had been given to selected individuals in Old Testament times, such as Abraham, Moses, David and others. Again, this was the case because Jesus Christ was a glorified GOD being before His conception and birth as a Man, and so the Holy Spirit emanating from the Father AND the Son could be and was given in Old Testament times (Psalm 51:11). That it was ALSO the Holy Spirit of Christ that was IN some of the ancients–and not just the Spirit of the Father–is proven in 1 Peter 1:10-11, which says that “the Spirit of Christ… was IN them…”
We would also like to point out that, beginning with the establishment of the New Testament Church on the Day of Pentecost, God usually does not give anyone of His Holy Spirit, unless the person repents; believes in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice, as well as the gospel message of the Kingdom of God; is baptized by being fully immersed under water, as an outward sign of repentance and the burial of his old carnal nature; and a minister of God places his hands on the person (“laying on of hands”), thereby sanctifying him or setting him aside for a holy purpose; and prays to the Father, in Christ’s name, for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Even though one exception is recorded in the case of Cornelius (who received the Holy Spirit first and was subsequently baptized), there is NO PROMISE that God would grant His Holy Spirit to anyone today unless the required order, as described above, is complied with. This was not the case in Old Testament times, however. We do NOT read that any of those select few to whom God gave His Holy Spirit were first baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. But the fact that God dealt differently, procedurally speaking, with His disciples in Old Testament times should not prompt us to think that we are “free” today to ignore the requirements which God has clearly set forth for us, in order to be granted the gift of the Holy Spirit. For more information, please read our free booklet, “Baptism–A Requirement for Salvation?”
We should also emphasize that everyone who dies, while the Holy Spirit dwells within him, WILL be resurrected to immortal and eternal life, in the First Resurrection. This is true, regardless of whether he lived in Old or New Testament times. To reiterate, a person who dies “in Christ” will be in the First Resurrection, irrespective of how long the Holy Spirit has been dwelling in the person. Someone who dies after having been a true Christian for many decades, will be in the same First Resurrection to eternal life as someone who might have had the Holy Spirit for only a relatively short time. What is of decisive importance is that the Holy Spirit dwells in the person at the time of his or her death. Remember that Christ said that the first will be last and the last will be first (compare Matthew 20:1-16).
Of course, the fact that a newly converted person will be in the First Resurrection does not necessarily mean that his reward for overcoming his carnal nature, the evil world and Satan the devil will be the same as the reward for someone who overcame for many years. But both will be in the First Resurrection, and even the duration of having been “converted” might not be determinative for the greatness of the reward. Once God gives His Holy Spirit to a person, who may subsequently and shortly thereafter die as a converted true Christian, he or she HAS qualified in God’s eyes to be in the First Resurrection. Otherwise, God would not have let him or her die.
True Christians do not die because of time and chance! We must realize that God looks at the heart of a person, and when a person dies, while God’s Holy Spirit dwells in him or her, then he or she WILL BE in the First Resurrection, and God gives him or her the reward which God deems just, as He knows the end from the beginning and as He is judging the heart, zeal, desire and commitment of the person and the obedient actions flowing from a Christian attitude. This does not mean, of course, that we should delay baptism, so that we can continue for a while to “enjoy” forbidden sinful pleasures, thinking that as long as we get baptized just prior to our death, we will be “safe.” We can’t fool God, and we will reap what we sow. Playing games with God will not “get us” into His kingdom.
This brings up the question of the thief on the cross, who asked Christ to remember him when He would come into His Kingdom (Luke 23:42). The meaning of the entire episode is fully discussed in our free booklet, “Jesus Christ–a Great Mystery,” on pages 70-72, under the headline, “Did the Thief Go to Paradise on the Day of his Death?” We explain therein that Jesus promised the thief to be in Paradise when it would be established here on earth; when the city of “The New Jerusalem” would descend from heaven to this earth; after Christ’s return and after the First Resurrection to eternal life AND the Second Resurrection or the Great White Throne Judgment. For more information on the First and Second Resurrections, please read our free booklet, “Is That in the Bible? The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation!”, chapter 22, “The Resurrections,” pages 125-135.
Considering what was explained in this Q&A, we conclude that the thief was not promised to be in the First Resurrection, but that he was reassured that he would be in the Second Resurrection. Christ promised him that his imminent death on the cross did not end it all for him, and that he would have an opportunity to fully accept God’s way of life in the Great White Throne Judgment–and Christ also assured him that he WOULD qualify and BE in Paradise, here on earth, in the future. That he was not promised eternal life in the First Resurrection is evident from the fact that the Holy Spirit would not be given UNTIL after Christ’s glorification. At the time of Christ’s resurrection three days and three nights after His burial, the thief who died together with Christ, was in his grave, waiting for his resurrection to physical life in the Second Resurrection.
In conclusion, God has promised that His gift of the Holy Spirit would dwell in obedient Christians. As the Holy Spirit emanates from the Father and the Son, the Man Jesus Christ had to be glorified so that the Holy Spirit of the Father AND the Son could be bestowed on human beings. ONLY in the case of Jesus Christ–the “only-begotten Son”–was it sufficient that “just” the Spirit of the Father would be given to the human Jesus Christ. In every other case, it is the Spirit of the Father AND of the Son which is bestowed on a true Christian–and this fact explains the requirement that BOTH the Father AND the Son are glorified Spirit God Beings in order for Them to give to man of Their Holy Spirit.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link