The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost
fulfilled an age-old promise of God
Before His ascension, Jesus told His apostles: Behold, I
send the promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of
Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high (Luke
24:49). And being assembled together with them, He
commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for
the promise of the Father, 'which,' He said, 'you have heard from
Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized
with the Holy Spirit not many days from now' (Acts 1:4, 5).
Within a few days the apostles would receive special power
when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit.
The approaching fulfillment of this promise was announced
by John the Baptist.
I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and
He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me
to baptize with water said to me, 'Upon whom you see the Spirit
descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with
the Holy Spirit' (John 1:32, 33).
I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is
coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will
baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fan
is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His threshing floor,
and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn
with unquenchable fire (Luke 3:16, 17). [See also Matthew 3:11
and Mark 1:7, 8.]
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was promised in the Old Testament.
In about 750 BC God revealed through Isaiah: 'The
Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from
transgression in Jacob,' says the LORD. 'As for Me,' says the
LORD, 'this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you,
and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart
from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor
from the mouth of your descendant's descendants,' says the
LORD, 'from this time and forevermore' (Isaiah 59:20, 21).
God's Spirit would be upon the people of the New Covenant
Isaiah said desolation would continue until the Spirit is
poured upon us from on high (Isaiah 32:15). God told His
righteous one (Jeshurun) not to fear: For I will pour water on
him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My
Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring
Also through Ezekiel, God said He would pour out His Spirit.
Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit
within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give
them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep
My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I
will be their God (Ezekiel 11:19, 20). [See also Ezekiel 36:26,
'And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall
have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,' says the Lord
GOD (Ezekiel 39:29).
This promise was for all mankind: And it shall come to pass
afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and
your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams,
your young men shall see visions; and also on My menservants
and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days
(Joel 2:28, 29).
On Pentecost this promise was fulfilled.
Two things happened that day that are often confused: (1)
the apostles received power, (2) the Spirit was poured out on all
The apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were
all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a
sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the
whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to
them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak
with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-
This passage describes the outpouring of the Spirit on the
apostles. 'They' refers to the apostles, mentioned in the last verse
of chapter one. The apostles were Galileans, and according to
verse seven all those who spoke in languages were Galileans.
Verse fourteen states that Peter stood up with the eleven.
The baptism with the Spirit gave the apostles the divine
guidance and power needed to establish the church of Christ. The
mighty signs and the ability to be understood in many languages
proved that they brought a message from God.
Later, the first Gentile converts were also baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Peter gave this report of the conversion of Cornelius and his
household: And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon
them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word
of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but
you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If therefore God gave
them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord
Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God (Acts 11:15-
Peter's statement as upon us at the beginning indicates
that this was not an ordinary conversion.
'Them' refers to the Gentiles and 'us' refers to the Jews.
The purpose of this outpouring of the Holy Spirit was to
prove to the Jews that Gentiles could become Christians. This is
evident from the response of the Jewish Christians: When they
heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God,
saying, 'Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to
life' (Acts 11:18). They understood that this outpouring was for
all Gentiles and not only for the household of Cornelius. Like
Pentecost, this was a one-time occurrence with eternal
Later, Peter refers back to this occasion as the time when
God gave the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles: And when there had
been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: 'Men and
brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us,
that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel
and believe. So, God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them,
by giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did to us, and made no
distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith
No other instances of baptism with the Holy Spirit are found
in the New Testament.
The baptism with the Holy Spirit served to usher in the
kingdom of God, first for the Jews and then for the Gentiles. In
the first case, the apostles were empowered. In the second case,
God confirmed that the Gentiles could enter the kingdom with 'no
On Pentecost the Spirit was poured out on all flesh.
Under the old covenant certain people were filled with the
Holy Spirit but the Spirit was not available to every believer. Even
during the ministry of Jesus, the Spirit had not yet come: 'He
who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will
flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke concerning the
Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy
Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified
(John 7:38, 39).
The Spirit could not come until Jesus was glorified. That is
why Peter said on Pentecost: Therefore being exalted to the right
hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of
the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear
The apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit on
Pentecost. But something else happened as well. The Holy Spirit
was poured out on all flesh: And it shall come to pass in the
last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh
What does this mean? Did all people on earth receive the
Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost? Assuredly not. But because
the Spirit came on Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit became
available to all. Since that day, the water of life can be obtained
by anyone who comes to Christ: And the Spirit and the bride
say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And let him who
thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life
freely (Revelation 22:17).
Although he did not fully understand it himself, Peter
proclaimed on Pentecost that the promise was also for the
Gentiles: For the promise is to you and to your children, and to
all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call (Acts
2:39). From a comparison of Isaiah 57:19 with Ephesians 2:11,
17 we know that those who are afar off are the Gentiles.
But this was difficult for Jews to accept, even for Peter. Thus
God confirmed it by pouring out the Holy Spirit on the first Gentile
converts (Acts 11:15-17; 15:7-9).
Since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the gift
of the Holy Spirit is available to all who repent and are baptized in
the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38, 39). The
outpouring on the household of Cornelius verified that the gift of
the Holy Spirit is also available to Gentiles (Acts 11:18).
Since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit continues to be with us, as
Jesus promised: And I will pray the Father, and He will give you
another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the
Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither
sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with
you and will be in you (John 14:16, 17).
This is why, after the conversion of Cornelius, the Holy Spirit
was never poured out again as on Pentecost. The Spirit has come
and is with us forever (John 14:16)!
When some people now ask God to pour out the Holy Spirit
as on the Day of Pentecost, that is something like asking God to
raise Jesus from the dead! He is already risen, He has already
ascended to the Father, and He has already poured out the Holy
Spirit on all flesh!
What is the gift of the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is given to each Christian: And by this we
know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us
(1 John 3:24). By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in
us, because He has given us of His Spirit (1 John 4:13).
For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.
Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who
has also given us His Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:7, 8).
God has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a
guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:22). Now He who has prepared us
for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a
guarantee (2 Corinthians 5:5). This is the basis of our hope:
Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been
poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us
The gift of the Holy Spirit received by all Christians may not
be confused with the 'gifts' (plural) of the Holy Spirit received by
certain Christians in the first century through the laying on of the
apostles' hands (Acts 5:12; 8:18; 2 Timothy 1:6).
Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit does not enable us to
perform signs such as speaking in a language we have not
learned or raising the dead.
It does mean that we have 'living water' within us (John
7:37-39). We have 'the comfort of the Holy Spirit' (Acts 9:31).
We are 'strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner
man' (Ephesians 3:16).
How do we receive this promise?
Since Pentecost the Spirit is available to all. But how do I
receive the Spirit?
When the hearers on Pentecost asked Peter what they
should do, he did not say that they should ask God to pour out
the Spirit on them as he poured it out on the apostles!
Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you
be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins;
and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is
to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many
as the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:38, 39). At baptism we
receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Nor do we read that the 3000 baptized on the Day of
Pentecost spoke in tongues or did signs and wonders.
After Pentecost the signs and wonders were done through
the hands of the apostles. Then fear came upon every soul, and
many wonders and signs were done through the apostles (Acts
2:43). And through the hands of the apostles many signs and
wonders were done among the people (Acts 5:12).
Others, who performed signs later, received that ability
through the hands of the apostles by the laying on of their
hands: Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles'
hands the Holy Spirit was given (Acts 8:18). [See also Acts 6:6;
19:6; 2 Timothy 1:6.]
The 3000 did receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when they
repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the
forgiveness of their sins! [See also Acts 5:32; Romans 5:5; 1
Corinthians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; 1
John 3:24; 4:13.]
Paul explains how we receive the Spirit: But when the
kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,
not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according
to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration
and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us
abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:4-6). The
Spirit is poured out on us at baptism, 'the washing of
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body -
whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free - and have all
been made to drink of one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).
When we hear the good news of salvation through Christ,
when we believe in Him as the risen Son of God, when we repent
of our sins, and when we are baptized into the body of Christ, we
receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians
9:15). Since the outpouring on Pentecost, the gift of the Holy
Spirit is available to all through Christ. For the promise is to you
and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the
Lord our God will call (Acts 2:39). Amen.
The Scripture quotations in this article are from The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.