The Holy Spirit and the Church Dispensation
What's the big deal about Pentecost?
At the Passover, Jesus was preparing his disciples for his departure, promising them another
Comforter (John 14:16). Whereas the Holy Spirit had already been with believers in the
Jewish dispensation, and had even indwelt individuals for special events as a TDY agent, now in
the Church dispensation the Holy Spirit would be in the believers, not only in individuals
for special occasions, but in all believers, and not temporarily but forever.
A condition of the Holy Spirit's coming was Jesus' departure. "Now I am going to him who sent
me", Jesus said. ... "Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you
the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not
come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." - John 16:5-7.
When did Jesus go? Some would argue that he went at his death:
But there are no time constraints in the eternal realm after death, so there is no conflict here
with our linear perception of time.
- Jesus told the penitent thief on the cross, "Today you will be with me in paradise". -
- Peter wrote that Jesus went and preached to the spirits in prison "who disobeyed long ago
when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built". - 1 Peter
Some would argue that Jesus went at the Resurrection. But he was seen by many after the
Resurrection, so he was not "gone" then.
We submit that Jesus left and went to the Father at the Ascension.
- Jesus told Mary Magdalene in the garden, just after she recognized him, "Do not hold on
to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father." - John 20:17.
- He appeared to two of his followers who were walking to the town of Emmaus, about seven
miles from Jerusalem. That gave Jesus about two hours to explain to them "beginning with Moses
and all the Prophets ... what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." - Luke 24:13-35.
- He appeared to the frightened disciples in the Upper Room behind locked doors, not once, but
a second time for Doubting Thomas' sake (John 20:24-28), and even ate in front of them. "A ghost does not have
flesh and bones, as you see I have." - Luke24:36-44.
- He cooked a breakfast of fish and bread on the shore of Lake Galilee, and caused the miraculous
catch of 153 fish. "This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was
raised from the dead," John wrote. - John 21:1-14.
- The Apostle Paul wrote, "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised
on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom
are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the
apostles ..." 1 Corinthians 15:3-7.
What day did Jesus Ascend into heaven? We know that the Holy Spirit would not come to
indwell the believers until Jesus left. We may be able to bracket the time, approximately:
- "When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.
While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshipped him
and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising
God." - Luke 24:50-53.
- Luke continues the story as he begins Acts: "In my former book, Theophilus [i.e.
"Lover of God"], I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was
taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles
he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing
proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke
about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, 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'". Luke 1:1-5.
- Jesus continued, "...you will receive power when the Holy Spirit
comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to
the ends of the earth." After he had said this, he was taken up before their eyes, and a
cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going,
when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee", they said, "why do
you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven,
will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven". - Acts 1:7-11.
So the most likely day of his ascension would have been the last of the forty days that Luke said
Jesus was seen by his disciples, i.e. P+43, leaving "a few days" until the
coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Those few days were most likely a time of crisis and disillusionment
for the disciples, bringing the soul-searching questions like "Was it all a big mistake?"
- Passover day (P) - Jesus was crucified.
- The Resurrection = P+3
- Luke said he appeared to his followers over a period of forty days = P+43
- The last possible day = P+49, because:
- Pentecost = P+50.
The Holy Spirit finally arrived, with a Bang, like when the ripe thistle bloom explodes,
showering seeds far and wide. And those frightened, disillusioned men were
empowered with boldness to spread the word. - Acts 2:1-4.
- Believers now had a permanent, full-time Holy Spirit (not a TDY one) to be their
companion, helper and protector.
- He now was in them, not merely with them. - 2 Corinthians 3:16.
- He indwelled a whole class of people, the believers, not merely individuals.
- Now in the Christian Dispensation, He would be with the believers forever, just as
Jesus had promised.
Next Week: A Simplified Model of the Trinity, to introduce the unique role of each Person of