It's a great question, and something we must all have wondered at one point or another in our lives. I was talking to my junior, Tricia, an amazing love-filled sister in Christ, and she posed me that question. Why doesn't God part the Red Sea or do the whole throw-down-your-staff-and-it'll-become-a-serpent thing anymore? Why is the Old Testament full of these crazy miracles that we find hard to fathom now? If God is the God of yesterday, today and forever, why has the magnitude of His miracles changed?
I used to think it was because in this day and age, the amount of faith we have proportional to our doubt when it comes to this kind of things is.......not exactly in our favour, or God's. Like, when Jesus went back to his hometown, he couldn't perform many miracles there simply because of their unbelief - our faith determines how much God is able to give us. But as I was talking to Tricia I realised something else.
In the Old Testament, God Himself was shown to personally interact and be with the people, like, directly connecting with them here on Earth. But when Jesus came, God didn't have that kind of direct contact with us anymore. It was the time of Jesus! There was only one instance where God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit appeared all together: when Jesus was water-baptised. And then, before Jesus ascended into Heaven, he said "Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). In Acts 1:4-8, it's "He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father...'you shall be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now'...'you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you'.
Jesus explains that the Holy Spirit couldn't come to baptise all believers until He died in John 16:7-15: "...if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you... when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth...". In John 14:26, it says "the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name".
So in the Old Testament, it was the age of God's direct contact with men here on Earth. While Jesus was alive, it was the age of Jesus here on Earth. And now, we are in the age of the Holy Spirit. Each time is different and has their own pros and cons.
When Jesus was here, he didn't part the red sea or turn a staff into a snake, but He did multiply food, turn water into wine, and healed a gazillion people. And then He gave His disciples the authority to cast out demons and heal the sick.
Now, in the era of the Holy Spirit, we also don't part the red sea or do crazy things, and we haven't seen insane food multiplication. Oh well. But we have more than that! In those days, you had to be super darn blessed to have seen, heard or had contact with God or Jesus directly. It seems like a lot of people did, but that's only because we're reading about the lives of those special people in the Bible. The other 99.99999% of the people on Earth never had that privilege of direct contact with God / Jesus.
With the Holy Spirit, all believers, from all the countries in the world, are able to experience God. I mean, here in Singapore, if it was still the time of Jesus, I'd never get to witness and experience those healing miracles and deliverances and slaying and everything. But because the Holy Spirit isn't limited by geography and is poured out freely for all who thirst and willingly receive, we have dramatic healings taking place among our church and our own friends; all disciples have the authority to heal the sick and cast out demons; we are all able to experience God moving mightily within ourselves.
To me, the God-given encounters are essential to my faith. I mean, if we only read about God in the Bible and believe without having had any real inner encounter with God, it could simply be a philosophy. Something people came up with to put the city in order. A 'paper gospel'; meaningless and dead. But because you feel the stirring of the Holy Spirit right inside you, because you know when His voice is there and you can speak in Tongues and experience wonderful things of God, you know He is alive. More than a doctrine, but a relationship that's so alive. And although I haven't seen the parting of a sea or the dramatic multiplication of loaves and fish, I'm thankful I'm leaving in the age of the Holy Spirit.
So, why couldn't the Holy Spirit be given to all until Jesus was ressurected?
John 7:39 "...for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."
I don't think my church has spoken about this explicitly yet, but from what I gather, I've come to a conclusion that I find makes sense. The Holy Spirit is something holy, and a holy Spirit can't dwell inside a body that is unclean, tarnished by the stain of sin. After all, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit!
Before Jesus died on the cross, there wasn't a perfect sacrifice to redeem our imperfect selves. When Jesus died, His perfect blood was able to erase the condemnation of our bodies for our imperfection. After Jesus died and His righteous blood was offered to us, when people called on His name and believed that He was our Redeemer, the perfect blood was able to erase the penalty of our shortcomings, so that we could now put on Jesus's blood and be considered righteous, just like Jesus was.
And it's only when we're considered righteous and without blemish that we are pure enough for a Holy Spirit to be able to take residence in our human souls.
Colossians 1:21-22 "And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight..."
I hope this makes sense! :)
Just to add on, in case you go one step further to wonder what I wondered (and if you didn't, you should, and I'm giving it to you here): if the Holy Spirit only came after Jesus was ressurected, does it mean that the prophecies and psalms and books written before the age of the Holy Spirit were not God-inspired, or prompted by the Holy Spirit?
That was the main question that kept me doubting everything I just posted, but thankfully, my church brought that up.
Before the death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit influenced certain selected individuals to accomplish God's purposes from time to time - it was only given to a very small handful, and wasn't a permanent indwelling; He came only as He was needed.
After Jesus was resurrected and His blood was able to make us pure, the Holy Spirit could be given to all believers as a personal, permanent indwelling.
:) Cheers! Can't wait to see how much I'll learn and gain in the next 27 weeks.