(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) John 7:39.
Herein is a doctrine whereby believers can be thankful that they have a perfect bible. Perhaps one of the most perplexing doctrines for new believers is to understand how the Holy Ghost is received throughout the New Testament. Even mature Christians have trouble explaining the many diverse verses that describe people receiving the Holy Ghost. Usually their understanding is molded for them by whichever denomination they join and they just kind of squint when they see verses that don't meld with their denomination's take.
John the Baptist's mother Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost while pregnant (Luke 1:41). Her husband Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost before Jesus was ever born (Luke 1:67). The Holy Ghost revealed Jesus Christ to Simeon to prepare him to see Jesus Christ as a baby (Luke 2:25). None of that should be surprise since the Holy Ghost had been the force behind all bible prophecy in the Old Testament (2nd Peter 1:21).
It is evident therefore that what transpires later in the New Testament is different from the process by which men prophesied in the Old Testament and by which they prophesied as the New Testament unfolded. The relationship between the Holy Ghost and believers was fundamentally changed upon the glorification of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ privately imparted the Holy Ghost to the apostles by breathing on them. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, John 20:22. It is evident from the context that he privately imparted the Holy Ghost to these men in a limited sense for a specific reason. Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained, John 20:23. There is no living man with such power or authority today.
It is also evident that his breathing upon them the Holy Ghost was not a final act for them in that he commanded them to tarry at Jerusalem and await the promise of the Father. And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me, Acts 1:4. If the apostles already had the Holy Ghost, why would they need to tarry for the Father's gift? Because the relationship they had with the Holy Ghost was not yet complete and was not in the form by which the Holy Ghost would be distributed throughout the church.
In John 20:22, the Holy Ghost gave each apostle a one-on-one relationship with the Holy Ghost for a specific purpose. To understand the change in the relationship of the Holy Ghost and believers from the one-on-one relationship exhibited hitherto fore and what transpired after Acts 2, think of the internet in your home. In the early days of internet, a modem was used to pipe internet directly to the user's computer.
It was one-on-one relationship between the worldwide web and one computer that was duplicated in thousands of homes. Then came WiFi. The modem was no longer hooked directly to the computer but was instead hooked to a router. The internet suddenly was available throughout the house in a form that linked all devices in the house together.
Upon the resurrection and glorification of Jesus Christ, all believers were placed into his literal flesh and bone body in heaven. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit, 1st Corinthians 6:17. You can be sure that ever since the resurrection of Jesus Christ, his personal spirit is in his body and that his body sits at the right hand of the Father. You can be sure that if you are in Christ, you are one with that spirit and so are many other people.
You can also be sure that even though his body is physical with real flesh and real bones, and that he proved countless times that it is corporal, it is a spiritual body. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body, 1st Corinthians 15:44. It is through that spiritual structure that the Holy Ghost came in Acts Chapter 2. As the believers sat together in a local church setting which is the sure fire way of pleasing God, the promise of the Father was given to them. The Holy Ghost came upon them with many signs.
There were no unbelievers in that room. Acts chapter 2 is a unique happening in that men and women who were born again did not have the Holy Ghost. God changed that. What we will see by looking at each instance of believers receiving the Holy Ghost is that a set of circumstances existed in the Book of Acts which cannot exist today. In those days, there were believers who were born again but as our opening verse said, they could not receive the Holy Ghost because he had not yet been given. It took a miraculous gathering of the saints together into one place.
What about those who were born again prior to Pentecost but were not in the upper room? Such people were tracked down by the apostles and had hands laid on them to receive the Holy Ghost. The disciples who were believers in Acts 19 are a perfect example. They were baptized unto John's baptism which is evidence that John accepted their repentance. They could not have received the Holy Ghost at the time and they were unaware of the need to gather in the upper room. It took laying on of hands by an apostle for them to receive the Holy Ghost. There are no people alive today who were saved prior to Acts chapter 2 and therefore no people today who need such a laying on of hands.
That leaves us with the curious case of the Gentiles. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost, Acts 8: 14-17. When Gentiles first started receiving the word of God, it took intervention by the apostles, especially Peter to give them the Holy Ghost.
Peter had been given the keys to the Kingdom of heaven and it pleased the Lord to await for his arrival before unlocking the Holy Ghost for Gentiles. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, Matthew 16:19. The next time a Gentile was to receive Jesus Christ, Peter was amazed to see that he received the Holy Ghost automatically. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost, Acts 10:45. Duh, Peter, you unlocked it!
Once every person who had been saved prior to the cross had received the laying on of hands, or died before that could happen, and once Peter unlocked things for the Gentiles, no person ever again received Jesus Christ without receiving the Holy Ghost. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power, Colossians 2:9, 10. I know that there are those who will object to that based on their personal feelings backed up by scripture out of context. Ask them when they received the Father.
If God is parcelled out in steps, and you received Jesus first and the Holy Ghost afterwards, when did you receive the Father? After all, Paul did say that the Father is in us. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all, Ephesians 4:6. The simple and correct answer is that Jesus is a multivitamin. When you receive him, you receive the fullness of the Godhead. You receive the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.