The Holy Spirit in the Lives of People before the Day of Pentecost

The Holy Spirit in the Lives of People before the Day of Pentecost: Study Guide

July 14, 2019

Daniel L. Segraves, Teacher

[1] As the opening books of the New Testament continue the flow of revelation begun in the Hebrew Scriptures, the work of the Holy Spirit remains much like that seen throughout the Old Testament. Specifically, as it relates to the anticipation of the coming Messiah, the Spirit was still at work to foretell and prepare His way.

[2] As Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, performed his priestly duties in the days of Herod, an angel of the Lord appeared to him with these words: “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:13-17). 

[3] But for the space of time between the testaments, we could imagine here that we are still reading from the Hebrew Scriptures. An angel of the Lord appears speaking prophetic words that ultimately point to the Messiah. A barren woman would have a special son whose name was determined before his birth. There would be restrictions on what this son could drink, and he would be filled with the Holy Spirit before he was born.[1]

[4] After Mary received her visit from the angel Gabriel, she traveled to visit Elizabeth. This was about three months before the birth of John. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, “the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41). We can’t be certain, but it seems reasonable to think that John and his mother were both filled with the Spirit at the same time. John would not be the only one ever to leap upon being filled with the Spirit! 

[5] As so often happened in the days before this, as recorded in the Old Testament, when Elizabeth was filled with the Spirit, she “spoke out with a loud voice” (Luke 1:42). Her Spirit-empowered words blessed Mary and the baby Jesus in her womb. They also identified Mary’s baby as the Lord, which, for a devout Jewish woman meant Jesus was, in some miraculous way, Yahweh (Lord) Himself. (See Luke 1:42-43.)

[6] After John’s birth, Zacharias “was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied,” linking the birth of John with Old Testament messianic prophecy (Luke 1:67). (See Luke 1:76; Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1.)

[7] When Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for His circumcision, Simeon, a just and devout man, was “waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple” (Luke 2:25-27). As did Zacharias, Simeon spoke prophetic words linking Jesus with messianic prophecy. (See Luke 2:29-32; Isaiah 52:10.)

[8] As it relates to the work of the Spirit in the lives of people, nothing is new here in comparison to the Old Testament. People are filled with the Holy Spirit, they speak Spirit empowered words, and they are led by the Spirit. But a major advance in the work of the Spirit is pending. It begins to unfold in the next lesson as we look ahead to the Day of Pentecost.


As the New Testament begins, the work of the Spirit is much as it was in the Old Testament.

[1] See Genesis 15:2-4; 18:9-15; 21:1-7; Numbers 6:2-3; Judges 13:3-7, 24-25; II Kings 2:15; Malachi 4:5-6.

(c) 2019 by Daniel L. Segraves[archive]