Even though the Spirit of God shows up here and there throughout the Old Testament, starting of course already in Genesis 1:2, continuing on occasion through the narratives and in the prophets, it is not really a central narrational or theological theme. That contrasts with the New Testament. Here the Spirit of God is enormously important, on every level.
The historical reason for that is that the earliest Christians believed that with the death and resurrection of Jesus they had entered into the End of the Ages. They were living at the end times. As we have seen, the resurrection of the dead – when God raised bodies back to live, some to face judgment and others to be given an eternal reward – was to transpire at the end of this age; in the Bible this future resurrection was first spoken of explicitly in Daniel 12:1-3, the last chapter of the final book of the Hebrew Bible to be written. But the idea of a future resurrection became a widely accepted theological notion in the two hundred years before Jesus and was adopted by a wide range of Jews in Israel in Jesus’ day, including the Essenes, the Pharisees, John the Baptist, Jesus and his followers.
And so, when Jesus’ disciples came to think he had been raised from the dead, their natural conclusion was that the resurrection had now started. It was soon to come to fruition. They were in the end of time. And one of the passages of Scripture that they turned to that could explain what would happen at the end of Time was Joel 2:28-32 (because of quirks of translation, this is Joel 3:1-5 in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament).
Joel does not speak about a future resurrection, but it does describe future events and part of his description proved central to the early Christians’ understanding of themselves in relationship to the Spirit. As with all the prophets, for Joel, the future was not the distant future to come hundreds or thousands of years later (say, in 33 CE or 2021). It was his nation’s own future. Joel indicates that when this (near) future comes, God would “pour out his Spirit on all people” and they would “prophesy…see visions… and dream dreams.” This was taken by the early Christians to refer to what had already happened to them. God had sent his spirit upon them in fulfilment of Scripture, and the Spirit was revealing God’s will to them here at the end of time through prophecies, visions, and dreams.
I’ll explain how the early Christians understood that in
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