The Holy Spirit comes to apply the finished work of redemption to the souls of those for whom Christ died and rose again. The work of the Spirit, post the resurrection of Jesus, is a work of glorifying the risen and reigning glorified Son.
I well remember many discussion with friends, as a young Christian, about the precise relationship between the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament era and the work of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament era. Many have suggested that only prophets, priests and kings received the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament economy. Some have gone so far as to suggest that the Holy Spirit came temporarily upon God’s anointed office bearers in the Old Covenant. In essence, the insistence is that the Spirit of God did not indwell believers from the fall to Pentecost. But, is this really what the Scriptures teach?
Clearly, the Holy Spirit was at work in the hearts and lives of his people prior to Christ coming into the world and prior to his ascension to glory. Apart from the Holy Spirit, no Old Testament believer could have had his or her heart regenerated. In John 3, Jesus speaks of regeneration as being “born of the Spirit.” He then reminds Nicodemus (the teacher of Israel) that he should have known about the regenerating work of the Spirit from the Old Testament. For anyone to have the application of the prospective work of redemption in the Old Testament era, they had to have the eternal Spirit–by whom “Christ offered himself…as a perfect sacrifice to God” (Heb. 9:14)–working in his or her heart. The same Spirit who worked in the hearts of Old Testament believers was the eternal Spirit who was present at the cross with Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice to God. For a believer to be regenerated, justified, sanctified, adopted and ultimately glorified, he or she must have the Holy Spirit at work in his or her heart. The Westminster Confession of Faith summarizes this point so well when it states, “They who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation” (WCF 3.6).
There is also the work of the Spirit in the theocracy. The Spirit worked in the leaders of Old Covenant Israel at certain times and for specific purposes. The Scripture speaks of Him “breaking in upon” or “coming upon” prophets, priests and kings at special redemptive-historical moments. B.B. Warfield has noted in his article, “The Spirit of God in the Old Testament, “These representations concerning the official theocratic Spirit culminate in Isaiah’s prophetic descriptions of the Spirit-endowed Messiah.” The temporality of the coming of the Spirit upon the spiritual leaders in Israel, in order to enable them to carry out the special function of the office, intimated that a final Prophet, Priest and King was yet to come. The Spirit knit Christ together in the womb of the virgin. The Spirit descended on Him at His baptism–anointing Him at the inauguration of His public Messianic ministry. The Spirit was at work in Jesus at every step of His ministry–even unto His offering of Himself up to the Father on the cross (Heb. 9:14) and in His rising from the dead (Rom. 8:11).