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John 1:33 (NASB):

I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.'

What is this verse directly referring to, when talking about Jesus baptizing in the Holy Spirit? Is this referring to the future baptism of the Spirit that will come at Pentecost in Acts, or is it referring to Jesus baptizing His followers in the Holy Spirit before His death and resurrection? I think the directness of this sentence (Jesus actively baptizing in the Holy Spirit) makes me wonder if He baptized those with the Holy Spirit pre-Pentecost.

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  • Hi Gremosa, it seems to me that you would like to know about the Holy Spirit prior to Jesus sending Him. This article may give you the understanding that you seek, it teaches the difference between the Holy Spirit before and after Jesus' ascension: neverthirsty.org/bible-qa/qa-archives/question/…
    – user35803
    Mar 24, 2021 at 22:06
  • It is also important to understand that spirits are something that people can have within them, even more than just one spirit. in Jesus' ministry He cast out many unclean spirits. What these spirits can do in a person is a great topic to understand. It is also good to understand how the Holy Spirit communicates to people from within them and His gifts to people.
    – user35803
    Mar 24, 2021 at 22:13
  • @snoopy - The link you provided quotes Num 11:25 where it is said, "the LORD came down in the cloud, and spoke to him [Moses], and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders". This clearly shows that the Spirit is a power of God, that can even be apportioned differently to different people. Certainly not a person. Jul 19, 2021 at 7:49

5 Answers 5

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It is talking about Jesus after His ressurrection and ascension sending the Holy Spirit from heaven to those who believe.

And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven. Luke 24:49

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. Acts 10:44

Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:17

It is Jesus who sends the Spirit (i.e, baptizes).

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  • How do you know this? It could refer to this, but it could refer to something else.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 25, 2021 at 0:20
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I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.' John 1:33

And so we read that John was given a witness to this promised event so he would know who is the one God had sent. We only need to read in context to see the connections. John was 'preparing the way' (John 1:23) for someone who would follow him - he was doing so without knowing exactly who was going to follow, but understood it was of God.

And I knew him not, but so that He would be revealed to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” 32And John testified, saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and it remained upon Him. 33And I knew him not, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34And I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” John 1:31-34

This isn't about John 'not recognising' Jesus - as if he was disguising himself. John didn't know who Jesus was - God had to point him out and confirm His chosen one with the sign of the dove.

This passage simply describes the matter of Jesus being given the Holy Spirit at his baptism by his God and Father. This is in preparation for the first of the temptations with the devil, and then to begin his ministry.

Jesus would baptise with the spirit at some later event and this hints vaguely of that time but is intended primarily to differentiate between John's baptism of water and Jesus' of the spirit. Other than that, this verse speak nothing more about the time or significance of the better baptism.

Jesus would give the spirit to those he had prepared to begin the church after his resurrection. It is only after he is risen and exalted with new spirit life that he could give them this provision of the Father.

Therefore, since He has been exalted at the right hand of God, and has received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, He has poured out this which you both see and hear. Acts 2:33

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  • This passage [John 1:31-34] simply describes the matter of Jesus being given the Holy Spirit at his baptism by his God and Father. No, this passage simply describes how God indicated to John that Jesus is the Son of God, empowered with His Holy Spirit. Jul 19, 2021 at 18:02
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John does not know anything about Luke's Pentecost, so he provides his own:

[Jhn 20:19-24 NASB20] [19] Now when it was evening on that day, the first [day] of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were [together] due to fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, "Peace [be] to you." [20] And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. [21] So Jesus said to them again, "Peace [be] to you; just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." [22] And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. [23] "If you forgive the sins of any, [their sins] have been forgiven them; if you retain the [sins] of any, they have been retained." [24] But Thomas, one of the twelve, who was called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

Notice that there is no command for the disciples to remain in Jerusalem, as we see in Acts. So clearly he refers to his own version because Luke-Acts' version was still decades away. And as NT authors are wont to do, they copy from one another, make it distinct and then testify solemnly that this gospel is the actual-factual one, and to ignore the others. But the Catholics, inspired by astrology, insisted on four gospels.

John is claiming that the reason he is fulfilling that role is for the salvation of the Northern Kingdom, Israel.

[Jhn 1:29-34 NASB20] [29] The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! [30] "This is He in behalf of whom I said, 'After me is coming a Man who has proved to be my superior, because He existed before me.' [31] "And I did not recognize Him, but so that He would be revealed to Israel, I came baptizing in water." [32] And John testified, saying, "I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. [33] "And I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.' [34] "And I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God."

The Judeans had no dealings with the assimilated Northerners:

[Jhn 4:9-14 NASB20] [9] So the Samaritan woman said to Him, "How [is it that] You, [though] You are a Jew, are asking me for a drink, [though] I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) [10] Jesus replied to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is saying to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." [11] She said to Him, "Sir, You have no bucket and the well is deep; where then do You get [this] living water? [12] "You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well and drank of it himself, and his sons and his cattle?" [13] Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again; [14] but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty; but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life."

This is why his ministry is always among the lost sheep of the house of Israel, not in Jerusalem. Just like Jesus. The entire earthly ministry of Jesus was to fulfill all prophecy, and in particular, to resurrect the United Kingdom (not Britain):

[Jer 50:6 NASB20] [6] "My people have become lost sheep; Their shepherds have led them astray. They have made them turn aside [on] the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill, They have forgotten their resting place. [Mat 10:6 NASB20] [6] but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [Mat 15:24 NASB20] [24] But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." [Mat 18:12 NASB20] [12] "What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains, and go and search for the one that is lost? [Luk 15:4, 6 NASB20] [4] "What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the [other] ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? ... [6] "And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost!'

There is an interesting ambiguity in the Greek:

[Mar 1:3 NASB20] [3] THE VOICE OF ONE CALLING OUT IN THE WILDERNESS, 'PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'"

Is it "the voice of one calling out" or, "calling, out in the wilderness"? John seems to take "calling, out in the wilderness" very seriously.

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Identifying Jesus
The passage in context is the narrator's arrangement of two separate events. The first (1:29-31) is a response to seeing Jesus. The second (1:32-34) is the Baptist's witness of Jesus' mission:

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
(John 1 ESV)

Each part is consists of an identification and a corresponding action. The combination has been arranged chiastically forming a complete witness from the Baptist about Jesus:

The Lamb of the God [ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ]
  who takes away the sin of the world
    the Spirit descends and abides [τὸ πνεῦμα καταβαῖνον καὶ μένον]
  baptizes with Holy Spirit [ὁ βαπτίζων ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ]
The Son of the God [ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ]

One of the main points is the Spirit both descends and abides. Taken literally, John is making the point all of Jesus' ministry after His baptism was done with the Spirit who abides, or remains with Jesus. The Spirit, τὸ πνεῦμα is not called holy, ἅγιος, but the use of the article, the Spirit can be taken as cataphoric. The Spirit is πνεύματι ἁγίῳ.

Spirit Holy
The phrase Holy Spirit is found three times in John's Gospel:

I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ (1:33)
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (14:26)
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (20:22)

English translations have the in all three but the article is only present in the second:

1:33   πνεύματι ἁγίῳ - Spirit Holy
14:26  τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον - the Spirit the Holy
20:22  πνεῦμα ἅγιον - Spirit Holy 

When the presence of the article is given weight in these three, the second is unique and the first and last complement one another. The Baptist says Jesus will baptize with (the) Spirit Holy; after the resurrection Jesus breathes on the disciples telling them receive (the) Spirit Holy.

Adding what Jesus told the disciples at the Last Supper speaks of another action: the Father will send the Spirit the Holy in Jesus' name. This will also come with an action, the Spirit the Holy will teach the disciples all things and bring to their remembrance all that Jesus said to them.

Summary
At the baptism of Jesus John saw the Spirit, which was identified simply as the Spirit, which remained on Jesus. There is no mention of receiving the Holy Spirit as the disciples will experience after the crucifixion and resurrection.

The words of the Baptist were fulfilled when Jesus breathed on them and the disciples received the Holy Spirit. I would conclude the words Jesus spoke at the Last Supper were fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. So the disciples experienced an internal receiving of the Holy Spirit from Jesus and external receiving on Pentecost, who the Father sent in Jesus' name.

A meaning of ἅγιος is to be separate. The omission in 1:33, the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him is a Trinitarian construction. Jesus is equal with the Father, so the Spirit is not separate despite being on Jesus. Likewise, the Spirit is also God and so is not separate, despite being away from the Father. On the other hand, once Jesus returns to the Father, the Spirit with which baptism occurs is described using the word ἅγιος. This too is a Trinitarian construction. The Holy Spirit is separate from the Father and the Son while it is with the children of God on the earth.

Finally, there is no corresponding event where, like the disciples, Jesus receives the Holy Spirit. I would conclude the omission confirms the co-equal nature of Son and Spirit. That is, there is no need for the Son of God to receive the Holy Spirit internally. All that is necessary is for the Spirit to abide externally on Jesus so John may identify the Lamb of God who will take away the sin of the world who is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and who is the Son of God.

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John the Forerunner refers here to the perfect, full-scale baptism in Holy Spirit, that came in the Pentecost and after that in any event of baptism with invocation of all the Hypostases of the Trinity (Matthew 28:19).

Yes, before the Pentecost the Lord shared a portion of the infinite grace of the Holy Spirit to the disciples, with which they were authorized to do a specific task of remitting sins (John 20:22); as also the specific authority to expel unclean spirits was given to them by the Lord through a portion of grace of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10:1); and moreover even before the Pentecost the Holy Spirit mysteriously still worked in and enlightened the disciples, teaching them that Christ was not pair to prophets, but the Son of God and thus equal to God (Matthew 16:17), as, furthermore, He worked in the pre-New Testament prophets (cf. Acts 1:16). However all the above mentioned was not that full-scale bestowal of the Holy Spirit that first and unprecedented way happened only in the Pentecost and that enabled the disciples to go and preach the Gospel without fear to all the world.

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