John 7:38-39

38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (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.)

Why was the Holy Spirit not given until Jesus was glorified?


7 Answers 7


It was the last day of the great feast (the 8th day of the Feast of Tabernacles and hence a high day Sabbath or annual Sabbath) that Jesus “stood and cried out” (John 7:37) this uttering!

It indeed is true that the Holy Spirit was not given to the Public from the time of the Incarnation of the Word to the time of His glorification. That is roughly 33 plus or minus years. (Once earlier I had checked this and verified it).

John the Baptist filled with Holy Spirit in the womb was before the birth of Jesus. Same with Elizabeth and Zachariah! The prophet Simon was already filled with the Holy Spirit. He was “righteous and devout” (Luke 2:25). This shows clearly that he had received the Holy Spirit before Jesus’ birth.

The only activity of the Holy Spirit during Jesus’ earthly life was between God the Father and the Son of God. One example is the time of Jesus’ baptism! Other than between them, the Holy Spirit was inactive with the public world! (I am ready to be corrected if wrong).

So the question remains; why was the Holy Spirit not given to the world until Jesus was glorified?

The answer is simple (in my understanding):

There is only “one Spirit” (Eph 4:4; 2:18); “same Spirit” (1 Cor 12:4). There is noanother Spirit” (2 Cor 11:4).

Yet the Scripture calls the same Spirit as the “Spirit of God” and the “Spirit of Christ” (Rom 8:9) interchangeably!

So, if there is only one Spirit (no another Spirit) and the “same Spirit” is called the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ, there is only one conclusion:

The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through Christ!

In fact the Scripture states that all things are from God the Father through Christ our Lord:

“but to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we by Him “ (1 Cor 8:6).

So Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as the Comforter “whom I will send to you from the Father” (John 15:26); because “all things which the Father has are Mine” (John 16:15). “And all My things are Yours (Father’s), and Yours are Mine” (John 17:10).

Thus it becomes clear that since God the Father creates and interacts with the humanity only through Jesus Christ, it was necessary for Jesus to be glorified so that the Holy Spirit can proceed through Him into the world! Since Holy Spirit is Spirit, to proceed through Christ, Christ needed to be Spirit. "The Lord is the Spirit" (2 Cor 3:17) after the Glorification!

This is why Jesus said:

"for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7).

This is what John is witnessing in 7:38-39.

  • @ Nephesh Roi. Jn.16:7 what do you think this might impart?
    – RHPclass79
    Dec 31, 2023 at 6:39
  • @RHPclass79 – Jn. 16:7, ‘I will send the Comforter’ “from the Father” (Jn. 15:26). It says the same thing as I said in my answer. Dec 31, 2023 at 7:43
  • @ Nephesh Roi. Yes and a well built question and answer needs scriptural support and evidence.. All your post needed was that scripture and I would have given you the check mark.
    – RHPclass79
    Dec 31, 2023 at 13:28
  • One last comment though. There seems to be an exclusive nature here, that the Holy Spirit CANNOT come until the Glorification. I find this a mystery since with God all things are possible. That verse in the. KJV says " if I go not away, the Comforter WILL NOT come!
    – RHPclass79
    Dec 31, 2023 at 13:42
  • @RHPclass79 – I have updated my answer as per your advice. Usually I give essential Scriptural support for short answers; not comprehensive support as it takes time and space. Dec 31, 2023 at 16:57

Note so fast. The Holy Spirit appears numerous times in the Bible before Pentecost.

In the OT the Holy Spirit is described many times in the following ways:

  • Involved in creation, Gen 1;2 (compare Deut 32:10, 11), Ps 104:30
  • Empowering leaders such as Saul, 1 Sam 10:10, 19:21-24; Joseph, Gen 41:38; Othniel, Judg 3:10; Gideon, Judg 6:27-30, 34:7; Jephthah, Judg 11:29-32; Samson, Judg 13:24, 14:6, 19, 15:14; 70 leaders, Num 11:17, 26, 29; Joshua, Num 27:18; Elisha, 2 Kings 2:9, 15, etc.
  • Inspiring craftsmen like Bazaleel, Ex 31:3, 35:31
  • Inspiring prophets like Ezekiel, Eze 11;24; Balaam, Num 24:2; Azariah, 2 Chron 15:1-7; Zechariah, 2 Chron 24:20; Elijah, 1 Kings 18:12, 2 Kings 2:16; etc.
  • Involved in the everyday lives of ordinary people to make them Godly, Isa 63:10, 11, Ps 51:11, Gen 6:3, Neh 9:30, Zech 7:12, Ps 106:33, 41, Joel 2:28.
  • The Spirit is given personal and divine attributes: “good” (Ps 143:11); “generous” (Ps 51:12); facilitating what might and power cannot (Zech 4:6); grieved by human rebellion (Isa 63:10); etc.
  • Involved in final judgement: Isa 4:4, 32:15, 42:1, 44:3, 48:20, Prov 1:23, etc.
  • The active Holy Spirit is mentioned several times in the OT such as Ps 51:11, Isa 63:10, 11. See also Judges 3:10, 6:34, 11:29, 14:19, 1 Sam 10:6, 16:13, 14, 1 Kings 18:12, 2 Chron 20:14, Isa 11:2, 61:1, 63:14, Eze 11:5, 37:1, Micah 2:7, 3:8, etc.

Even in the NT before Pentecost (Acts 2) the Holy Spirit was active in several places such as the

  • The conception of Jesus in Mary, Matt 1:18, 20, Luke 1:35
  • John the Baptist would be filled with the Holy Spirit, Luke 1:15
  • Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit, Luke 1:41
  • Zechariah filled with the Holy Spirit, Luke 1:67
  • The prophet Simeon instructed by the Holy Spirit, Luke, 2:25-27

So what did Jesus mean in John 7:38, 39??? Was not the Holy Spirit active before Jesus' glorification?

Yes and No.

As documented above, the Holy Spirit was certainly active before Jesus' glorification; but at Pentecost the Holy Spirit was given with new power to enable the huge work of evangelizing the world in order to fulfil the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 which Peter quotes in Acts 2:17-21 -

‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on My menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and glorious Day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

  • This is a fantastic compilation of scriptures on the Holy Ghost in the Old Testament, +1 Dec 31, 2023 at 3:35
  • But is the Holy Spirit mentioned between descending like a dove on Jesus and Acts 2?
    – trlkly
    Jan 2 at 18:07
  • @trlkly - yes, many times. Check out a good concordance.
    – Dottard
    Jan 2 at 20:07
  • @Dottard You misunderstand. I was asking because I think it would be important to cover in your Answer.
    – trlkly
    Jan 3 at 1:35
  • 2
    @trlkly - see Mark 1:12, Luke 4:1, 14, 18, 10:21, John 20:22.
    – Dottard
    Jan 3 at 2:24

The Spirit was not given because the new covenant was not cut yet.

Jeremiah 31:31-34:

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make [cut] a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make [cut] with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Ezekiel 36:16-28:

Again the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions. Their conduct was like a woman’s monthly uncleanness in my sight. So I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols. I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the LORD’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.’ I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone. “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes. “’For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

The Spirit was promised as a result of the new covenant. It was cut by Jesus when He was crucified.

Luke 22:19-20:

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

  • 1
    I agree. Although the Holy Spirit was very active before, as H T R and Dottard said, the general out-pouring on believers could only occur, and did only occur, after the ascension. After cutting the new covenant, after His blood from that had been poured on heaven’s altar and accepted by Father God (disclosure, I’m Trinitarian), and His triumphant seating as Lord on the heavenly throne at God’s right hand. At that point all authority was give to Him, and He poured out the Holy Spirit in abundance as never before.
    – Rachel
    Jan 17 at 22:58

The answer necessarily depends on one's theological opinion -- or more precisely one's pneumatological opinion. If we start at the beginning, the term Holy Spirit is used throughout the Hebrew Bible to refer to God's spirit. But it is also thought of in Jewish tradition as something God created.

Although the Holy Spirit is often named instead of God, yet it was conceived as being something distinct. The Spirit was among the ten things that were created on the first day (Ḥag. 12a, b). Though the nature of the Holy Spirit is really nowhere described, the name indicates that it was conceived as a kind of wind that became manifest through noise and light.

The term Shekhinah is also mentioned as synonymous with the Holy Spirit. As the Shekhinah, the Holy Spirit dwelt among humans long before Jesus came. Interestingly in Jewish mystical literature it is thought of as a feminine presence. Contemporary Jewish literature sometimes calls her "She Who Dwells Within."

The Shekinah is often referred to instead of the Holy Spirit. It is said of the former, as of the Holy Spirit, that it rests upon a person...The majestic presence or manifestation of God which has descended to "dwell" among men.

Thus, while Christian tradition sees the Holy Spirit as an integral part of the Holy Trinity, Jewish tradition understands it a a creation of God that dwells with human beings from very ancient times. Even as one of the persons of the Trinity, it was not necessarily given only after Jesus' glorification. Many prophets were inspired by the Holy Spirit. In the NT, John the Baptist was said to be full of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15), Jesus baptized people with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8), and both Elizabeth and Zechariah were with filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41,67). The list continues in @Dottard's answer.

Conclusion: In the final analysis, the OP's question cannot be answered except as a matter of opinion - or by the explanation: "because the Gospel said so." If so, the term Holy Spirit in John 7:38-39 seems to have a different meaning than the way it is used elsewhere.

  • Good answer, + 1. I myself am with Irenaeus and Jewish tradition when it comes to the pneumatology of it all, my own answer being in tune with same. Dec 31, 2023 at 7:56

Why was the Holy Spirit not given until Jesus was glorified?

A fundamental condition had been given in Hebrew 9:16-17 NIV;

16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.

The Greek word for 'will' is the same as the word for 'covenant'. This suggests that the new covenant is effective with the death of Christ. We can further examine the words by Jesus in John 16:7-11 NIV;

7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

In John 12:47, Jesus said, "If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world". Jesus' first coming was to save the world through His gospel. His second coming is to judge the world, according to John 16:8, by the witness from the Holy Spirit to those who do not believe in Jesus. Therefore, the Holy Spirit came after Jesus was glorified.

  • @ Vincent Wong. Vincent please take a look at your conclusion . I changed a few words for clarity. See what you think.
    – RHPclass79
    Dec 31, 2023 at 5:36
  • @RHPclass79 - Thank you for your input. In my opinion, the edit does not match the meaning of John 16:8. I edit my last paragraph to improve its clarity. Dec 31, 2023 at 15:26

John 14:17 “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive; because it neither sees him nor knows him; but you know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you”.

When the crucifixion of the flesh gets understood and incorporated in a person’s life, then Jesus has been glorified in that person and the Holy Spirit comes and makes his abode in that person making her/him Holy.


Why was the Holy Spirit not given until Jesus was glorified?

I have taken the following from "The Ryrie Study Bible, NASB," 1978 edition, which is Ryrie's footnote to John 7:39:-

... was not yet given... Though the Spirit had been active in the world from the beginning (Gen, 1:2), the epoch of the Spirit, in which He would indwell God's people, empowering and energizing them, would not begin until the day of Pentecost (see 14:26; 15:26; 16:7)

I have quoted the above extract word for word, wherein the word Spirit is capitalized, but I myself, am not a believer in the personification of the Spirit. Please note the following link, in which I gave an answer to the question of whether Jesus was to be seen as a Paraclete, which goes to the heart of the OP's question:- John 14:16, was Jesus a Paraclete?

  • @RHPclass79 - Your lack of even a comment surprises me. I guess you didn't like my non-trinitarian stance. Did you even check out my long standing answer that I alluded to? Dec 31, 2023 at 16:43

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