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Why The Apostles Did Not Receive The Holy Spirit in John 20:22


In John 20:22 Jesus appeared to the 11 apostles who were hiding out behind locked doors.  He said, "Peace be to you."  He then breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit."  Did these 11 men receive God's Spirit into their very being when Jesus breathed on them?  I say "no, they didn't," and here is why. 


First of all, in John 16:7 Jesus told these men that the Holy Spirit could not come into their lives, that is, live inside of their bodies, until He returned to His Father.  He had not yet returned to His Father in John 20:22.  His return to His Father is seen in Acts 1:10. 


Secondly, in John 7:38 and 39 Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit who could not come into the lives of the believers until He was glorified.  Jesus Himself equated being glorified in John 17:1 to 5 as existing in perfect unity with His Father as was the case before He came to earth.  That was to take place after He returned to His Father 


Thirdly, in Acts 1:4 and 5 Jesus specifically told these men to stay in Jerusalem until they received into their lives the promised gift of the Father, who Peter in Acts 2:38 said was the Holy Spirit.  How could Jesus give the Holy Spirit to these men in John 20:22 and then a few days later tell these same men to wait until they received the Holy Spirit? 


It is not hard to figure out what happened in John 20:22.  The 11 apostles could not have received the Holy Spirit into their lives when Jesus breathed on them in John 20:22.  Jesus had not yet been glorified.  He had not yet returned to the Father, and, a few days after breathing on these men, He told them to wait until they would receive the Holy Spirit, which they did in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit was poured out on them. 


So what was John 20:22 all about?  I believe when Jesus breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit," this was a prophetic gesture that spoke to the day these men would actually receive the Spirit, which was in Acts 2. 


You might ask how I can turn Jesus' words and actions in John 20:22 into some kind of prophetic or symbolic gesture.  Well, He had done something similar just a few days earlier when at the Last Supper He took a piece of bread and said, "This is my body," and, when He took the cup of wine and said, "This is my blood."  It is obvious that the bread was not Jesus' literal body and the wine was not His literal blood.  These words were a prophetic symbolic gesture that pointed to the reality of His death on the cross.


Jesus' words and actions in John 20:22 must be taken in context of the whole book of John and of the whole earthly life of Jesus.  When you interpret John 20:22 apart from that, you misinterpret it.            



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