Continuity and Discontinuity: Covenant Theology in Light of Pentecost

The Problem

When it comes to covenant theology, the great debate tends to be over continuity and discontinuity. Because covenant theology is about how God relates to (literally is in relationship with) human beings the debate is worth our attention. Those who stress continuity do so out of concern for the unity of God, the unity of the Triune God’s one plan of redemption, and the unity of God’s relationship to fallen/redeemed human beings. If sin is sin and all are sinners, there must be a common remedy for a restored relationship with God. Those who stress discontinuity, on the other hand, seem to want to account for the progressive language used in regards to the covenants found in Scripture. If the New Covenant is new, for example, then shouldn’t there be something new about it? Every good system of covenant theology is attempting to balance healthy biblical theology with appropriate theological synthesis. And that is what makes Pentecost such a helpful case study.

Pentecost, in a unique way, forces us to deal with biblical theology and to carefully draw systematic conclusions. Pentecost makes us ask important questions about both the history of salvation and the order of salvation. We must do justice both to how God’s redemptive plan unfolds and how God applies this redemption to particular persons—at all times and in all places.

There are some who stress covenantal continuity, and so seem to downplay the newness of the New Covenant. This leads them to also downplay the significance of Pentecost. But on the other hand, there are those who stress covenantal discontinuity and use Pentecost as proof that a radical shift has occurred. And the change is generally expressed in this basic way: before Pentecost the Holy Spirit did not indwell anyone, but after Pentecost the way was opened up for the Spirit to live inside of believers.

In the first section of this article, I will give a theological interpretation of Pentecost which will be framed through the lens of the Covenant of Redemption. I will be giving this account of Pentecost from the perspective of 1689 Federalism, which I will seek to argue in favor of under subsequent sections. Then, in the second section, I will draw out some of the main reasons that a correct interpretation of Pentecost is so important. In the third section, we will deal with specific texts of Scripture that demonstrate that the Bible does in fact teach that saints were filled with the Holy Spirit prior to Pentecost. In the fourth section, I will examine Abraham Kuyper, who demonstrates a masterful synthesis between Biblical and Systematic Theology, while delivering helpful illustrations. Kuyper represents the continuity in salvation that the Reformed tradition has most usually stressed, but he also points us in the right direction with regard to the discontinuity that arrived with Pentecost. And in the final section before the conclusion, I will frame my textual and theological arguments about Pentecost under the only covenantal system which coherently makes sense of these conclusions: 1689 Federalism.

My aim in this paper is to argue that Pentecost is most coherently understood through the system of covenant theology which has been named 1689 Federalism. I will seek to prove that 1689 Federalism holds the appropriate tension of continuity and discontinuity which allows us to engage in healthy biblical theology while also employing sound theological synthesis. To state the position clearly, only 1689 Federalism allows us to coherently affirm both that the Holy Spirit did in fact indwell Old Testament saints (continuity) and to affirm that there was a radical change that occurred when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost (discontinuity).

1. What is the relationship between Covenant and Pentecost?

It is not the intention of this piece to explore all of the facets of covenant theology, 1689 Federalism, or the Pentecost event.[1] My intention is simply to show that 1689 Federalism gives the most coherent covenantal structure to make sense of Pentecost. But it will serve us well throughout the rest of this paper to connect some specific links between Pentecost and covenant. In particular it is helpful to view Pentecost through the lens of the Covenant of Redemption.

The Covenant of Redemption is the contract of the gospel from the side of the Triune God.[2] While it is true that we must assert the inseparable operations of God in all of His works, there is an appropriation of specific acts, pledges, and rewards within God for the accomplishment of redemption. The Father promises exaltation and obedience of the nations to the Son. The Son promises to accomplish the work necessary to redeem a people. And the Spirit promises to empower the Son to accomplish redemption and to draw in all that the Father has given Him.

So, at Pentecost we see the Father’s faithfulness in the Covenant of Redemption. This is how we know that Christ has been exalted. We cannot see with our eyes that God has exalted Christ and seated Him at His right hand. So when the Spirit comes, it is the visible sign that the King of the Kingdom has been crowned.[3] The ingathering of people at Pentecost, this first group of Spirit baptized believers, is the first fruits of the promised harvest.[4] The Kingdom of Christ is now established because the Father Has exalted the triumphant Son.[5] Pentecost is proof that the Father has been faithful in the Covenant of Redemption.

And also at Pentecost we see the Son’s fulfillment of the Covenant of Redemption. Jesus, the Spirit anointed man, has done all that is necessary to redeem a people for Himself. The reason that the Father shows Himself faithful in all of His promises to the Son is because the Son has become obedient, and completed the work given Him by the Father.[6] The New Covenant of Grace, which Old Testament saints participated in according to promise, has now arrived with formal substance.[7] Christ mediates His completed covenant to His people, and thus it is covenanted to them as a relationship of grace.[8] The New Covenant in His blood and the New Creation in His resurrection break into history as His Spirit descends from King Jesus into the citizens of His Kingdom. Pentecost is confirmation that the Son has fulfilled all the work necessary in the Covenant of Redemption in order that The New Covenant of Grace would pass from shadow to substance, from promise to fulfillment.[9]

Finally, at Pentecost, we see the Spirit’s function in the Covenant of Redemption. The Spirit comes to anoint, the Spirit comes to create, the Spirit comes to ingather, and the Spirit comes to empower.[10] The Spirit anoints the church on behalf of the exalted anointed One. Christ ascends so that His economical S/spiritual experience would descend upon a people.[11] And who are these people? The Spirit creates a body (uniting in a visible church those who had only been members of an invisible and disjointed church) which finds its life in Christ, the Head.[12] The same Spirit who had anointed Christ to fulfill the Covenant of Redemption has now been poured out upon the formally established church to anoint the body to carry out the mission of the Head. Pentecost ushers in a new order, not one of soteriological newness, but one of ecclesiological and missiological newness.[13] The obedience of the nations promised to the Son, will be accomplished by the Spirit of the Father and the Son. Pentecost marks the eschaton, and the eschaton is the age of Christ, the age of the mission of Christ, and the age of the church of Christ—each given life and power by the Spirit of Christ.[14] Pentecost is the revelation of the function of the Spirit in the Covenant of Redemption. The promised Spirit is given to Christ on behalf of His accomplished work.[15] The Spirit is given from Christ to unite and empower His people.[16] And the Spirit gathers the nations to Christ on behalf of the promise of the Father. Thus Pentecost displays the faithfulness of the Father, the fulfillment of the Son, and the function of the Spirit in the Covenant of Redemption.

2. Why does this matter?

The Soteriological Reason: One reason that interpreting Pentecost correctly matters is that it has bearing on what we believe is necessary for salvation. If it is true that there is no salvation outside of faith in Jesus shouldn’t it also be true that there is no salvation outside of indwelling of the Holy Spirit? If we are eager to maintain that Christ is the object of saving faith, then we must be just as eager to maintain the necessity of the Spirit’s presence in generating and maintaining saving faith.[17] Aren’t we just as dependent in salvation upon the work of the Spirit as we are on the work of Christ? Isn’t this (unknowingly) what people assert when they say things like, “in the Old Testament time they couldn’t obey the law because they did not possess the Spirit?” We should agree in principle! But then add, “but what about those who did obey the law in the time of the Old Testament?”[18]

How was Joseph so, like-Christ? How was Daniel so obedient? How did Ezra set his heart to study, do, and teach the law? They must have been indwelt by the Spirit precisely because one cannot obey God without Him or exercise faith in Christ without Him.[19] We cannot maintain a universal standard of sin, guilt, and judgment, and not at the same time maintain a universal standard of salvation. We cannot maintain that obedience must be empowered by the Spirit in the time of the New Testament, and not also assert that obedience was empowered by the Spirit in the time of the Old Testament. If faith in Christ is necessary, then the presence of the Spirit must be necessary as well.[20]

The Christological Reason: A second reason that interpreting Pentecost correctly matters is that it draws out our view of Jesus. Pentecost especially highlights the humanity of Jesus. There would be no pouring out the Spirit upon all flesh if Jesus had not become like His brothers in every way. The Spirit who is poured out in Acts is the same Spirit who anointed Jesus in Luke.[21] The significance of Pentecost must be linked to the ascension of the risen Christ—the bodily, human Christ. Sinclair Ferguson, assessing and analyzing John Owen’s work on the Holy Spirit states, “…because of this intimate fellowship between the Spirit and the incarnate Son, the identity in which the Spirit comes to the church and the believer is defined by his intimate relationship to the life of the incarnate Saviour. The Spirit is able to take from what is Christ’s and make it known to us, because he has been dynamically active in Christ’s incarnate life and ministry…He is therefore able to bring to believers, from the now-exalted Christ, all the riches of the grace embodied in his humanity.”[22] The same Spirit who sanctified and served Christ according to His humanity is the Spirit that is sent. This keeps us honest about who Jesus is and what it means that He is the Messiah, the anointed one. The reason that Pentecost does not happen until after the ascension is because at the ascension The Last Adam became a life-giving spirit—He receives (you might even say achieves) the fullness of the Spirit in order that He might pour out the Spirit in fullness.[23]    

The Ecclesiological Reason: Another reason that getting Pentecost right matters is that Pentecost is all about the church. The inauguration of The New Covenant coincides with the inauguration of the church—and the inauguration of the New Creation and the inauguration of the Kingdom of Christ.[24] Jesus is both federal head and economic head—He represents His people in the covenant and He is the vitality of His body, the church.[25] How? In both cases—through the Spirit. Just as The New Covenant of Grace (though formerly participated in as individuals by faith during the time of the Old Testament) was formally ratified, coinciding with this, the Church (though formerly invisible and disjointed during the time of the Old Testament) was formally birthed as an organic unity, the body of Christ. Members of the church had existed in isolation, but not in an organized, visible, and unified manner.[26] Until the Head had ascended, the body was not birthed.

The ratification of the covenant brought with it the inauguration of the visible church. As Robert Peterson expresses, “Pentecost was Jesus’s unrepeatable redemptive-historical act. There he as Mediator publicly heralded the new covenant. As risen Lord he publicly began the new creation. As the Christ he publicly gave the Spirit to his church, thereby constituting it as the new community.”[27] The radical shift of Pentecost was that the resurrected Head of the church created, for the first time, an organized community united through the one baptism of His Spirit.[28] Not one member of this new community was not filled with the Spirit, something that could never have been said about a constituted group of people before.[29] The body of Christ are those united to the Head by virtue of the one baptism of the Spirit.[30]

And it is this ecclesiological dimension in particular that brings The Covenant of Redemption to the foreground. When discussing, “The pledge of the Father,” in The Covenant of Redemption, Geerhardus Vos makes this statement about what the accomplishment of the Son achieved, “That through His exaltation and in His ascension, when He brought His perfect sacrifice into the heavenly sanctuary, He would be able on behalf of the Father to send the Holy Spirit in a special manner for the formation of the body of His people.”[31] Christ accomplished redemption and what was one of the pledges from the Father? To be able to pour out the Spirit for the formation of the body of Christ.[32] The radical shift of Pentecost is one where the church moved from shadow to substance.[33] And if there was no body of Christ before He ascended as the Head, then there was no previous administration of The Covenant of Grace in the life of a united body of people.[34]

The Missiological Reason: A final reason that interpreting Pentecost correctly matters is that it sheds specific light on the mission of Christ, and thus the mission of the church. Viewed from the side of Jesus, Pentecost is the first fruits of the Father fulfilling His promise to the Son of obedience from the nations—to the Jew first and then to the Gentile.[35] And then this comes full circle: the economic Spirit in the life of Christ becomes the economic Spirit in the life of the church.[36] Both saints in the Old Testament time and saints in the New Testament time are indwelt by the Spirit, but something changes in the economy of the Spirit. As J.V. Fesko writes, “The Spirit was not totally absent prior to His outpouring at Pentecost, but His presence was geared towards preparing the way for the Son’s mission. Once the Son accomplished His mission, the Spirit’s mission would formally begin.”[37] The change is about the Spirit’s economic relationship to Christ, not about how salvation is applied.[38]

The reason we must understand the Christological and ecclesiological angles of Pentecost is so that it keeps us from making the mistake with regard to the soteriological angle. The transition of Pentecost is not from non-indwelling to indwelling, rather the transition is from the Spirit of the promised Christ to the Spirit of the exalted Christ. The economy of the Spirit has changed, both with regards to His function in the Covenant of Redemption as it pertains to the eschaton and with regards to His shape (if you will) after anointing and ascending with Christ. As Sinclair Ferguson asserts, “With respect to his economic ministry to us, the Spirit has been ‘imprinted’ with the character of Jesus.”[39] The radical shift is not from non-indwelling salvation to indwelling salvation, rather it is how the Spirit’s life in Christ—the exalted man—has been poured out into the body.[40]

The reason that this is missiological is that the new community has also been swept up into the Spirit’s new economy with regard to His function in the Covenant of Redemption.[41] Pentecost was simply the first fruits of the rest of the harvest—a harvest pledged to the Son by the Father, on the basis of His finished work, which is now being carried out by the Spirit who indwells the body of the anointed one. This means God’s people have been eschatologically oriented toward mission and economically equipped for mission.[42] That is why Jesus was so adamant that they wait to pursue the mission. It was not because they didn’t already possess the Spirit, but because the economic shift hadn’t occurred (both with regards to the time of ingathering and with regards to Christ Himself receiving the fullness of the Spirit.)[43] To fulfill the mission of the church, they did not just need the Spirit of the Son (the Spirit of the promised Christ), they needed the Spirit of Christ (the Christ who had actually come, lived, died, risen, and ascended as the anointed one). The rest of the harvest would be drawn in through the witness of the new community, but it belonged to the Spirit—the Spirit of Christ—to empower the church to accomplish this task.[44]

3. Does Scripture Teach Non-Indwelling Pre-Pentecost?

If the Holy Spirit could not or did not indwell believers prior to Pentecost, then we should expect to never find an instance where the Scriptures tell us that He did. This, however, is not the case. A few Old Testament texts will be considered to shed light on this, and then Luke chapter 1 will be briefly examined to prove the point.

In Genesis 41, Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream. When Pharaoh realizes what has just happened the text says in verses 37-38, “This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. And Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?’” Now obviously Pharaoh is the one speaking, but Moses is the one writing—and more fundamentally Moses is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And with the context of the Pentateuch in mind, God dwelling in the midst of His people, it ought to send an alarm bell off in our heads as we read this. But I admit, all this is merely an instance where the Spirit of God is said to be in someone, and the speaker in the narrative is Pharaoh.

Our second occurrence also appears in the Pentateuch, but this time it is explicitly YHWH speaking to Moses in Numbers 27:18, “So the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.’” Remember, the argument that the Spirit does not indwell until after Pentecost only works if there are no known cases of it in the Bible. Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Himself, clearly has a category for Old Testament saints being indwelt by the Spirit.

And the last occurrence, not surprisingly comes in the book of Daniel. It is not surprising because Joseph and Daniel are such similar characters. Daniel 5:11a says, “There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods.” Both in the case of Joseph and Daniel, the context must determine the rendering of the english translation. That last phrase could be translated, “…in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God,” and there is a footnote in the ESV showing that. But if you trace the Biblical Theological landscape of the lives of Joseph and Daniel, it is not surprising to see these two men who are each operating in the graces, fruit, and gifts of the Spirit are labeled by others as being indwelt by the Spirit.

But, if the meager Old Testament evidence is not enough, we turn to Luke chapter 1. We must remember that the same author who penned Acts chapter 2 also penned Luke chapter 1. If Luke intended for us to interpret Pentecost with the view that the newness was to be found in a transition from non-indwelling to indwelling, then we would be shocked if somewhere in the Gospel of Luke we were told that someone was indwelt by the Spirit. And yet, that is exactly what we find—and in the very first chapter! Speaking of John the Baptist, in Luke 1:15b, we read, “And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” John the Baptist, Luke tells us, was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. The same exact statement that Luke makes here about John the Baptist is what he says occurred on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:4a, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…” If Luke was concerned about us getting confused about the indwelling of the Spirit related to Pentecost, it would have been very sloppy to use this same terminology the way he does. And we must again remember, that Luke was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and He does not do sloppy!

This proves a continuity that covenant theology seeks to maintain. Salvation by grace and indwelling of the Spirit of God are coterminous. Because the Bible does in fact tell us that people were filled with the Spirit pre-Pentecost, we must assume that whatever discontinuity exists is not in relation to a transition from non-indwelling to indwelling.

4. So What Difference Does Pentecost Make?

One of the clearest expressions of an appropriate reading of Pentecost with reference to the tension between continuity and discontinuity is to be found in The Work of the Holy Spirit by Abraham Kuyper. This extended treatment will show his carefully thinking about the issue. He begins with some questions, of which I will state two, “How shall we explain the fact that while the Holy Spirit was poured out only on Pentecost, the saints of the Old Covenant were already partakers of His gifts? … How could the apostles—having already confessed the good confession, forsaking all, following Jesus, and upon whom He had breathed, saying, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost’—receive the Holy Spirit only on the tenth day after the ascension?” With these questions, we see that Kuyper is precisely dealing with the tension at hand. And this is the first conclusion that he draws, “Scripture evidently seeks to impress us with the two facts, that the Holy Spirit came only on the day of Pentecost, and that the same Spirit had wrought already for centuries in the Church of the Old Covenant.”[45] He doesn’t solve the tension with this conclusion, but he states an initial answer.

Kuyper then moves to give an express statement of continuity with regards to soteriology. He writes, “But in the Old Testament there was also an inward operation in believers. Believing Israelites were saved. Hence they must have received saving grace. And since saving grace is out of the question without an inward working of the Holy Spirit, it follows that He was the Worker of faith in Abraham as well as in ourselves.”[46] This is precisely why interpreting Pentecost correctly from a soteriological perspective is so important. The only way to explain the graces of the Spirit in the lives of Old Testament saints is by the presence of the Spirit. Without this assertion, we leave open the belief that we are capable of these graces—the same graces which are necessary for salvation and life with God in the New Covenant—apart from the Spirit’s renewing work in our lives.

So, with this strong statement of continuity, how will we solve the tension? Kuyper admits, “We have spoken so far of the work of the Holy Spirit upon individual persons, which was sufficient to explain that work in the days of the Old Testament. But when we come to the day of Pentecost, this no longer suffices. For His particular operation, on and after that day, consists in the extending of His operation to a company of men organically united.” In other words, the great difference is how Pentecost relates to ecclesiology. The radical shift is that before Pentecost the indwelling of the Spirit was only experienced by individuals, but after Pentecost, the Spirit of God organized, constituted, and baptized a company of men. The same Spirit who hovered over the waters at creation, and overshadowed Mary at the birth of Christ, now came to rest over the gathered company at Pentecost, giving birth to the body of Christ.[47]

Kuyper recognizes that Old Testament saints were members of the church, but he also acknowledges that they were not organically or formerly united as one body. He continues:

“The Word of God expresses this by teaching that the elect constitute one body, of which all are members, one being a foot, another an eye, and another an ear, etc.—a representation that conveys the idea that the elect mutually sustain the relation of a vital, organic, and spiritual union. And this is not merely outwardly, by mutual love, but much more through a vital communion with is theirs by virtue of their spiritual origin…This spiritual union of the elect did not exist among Israel, nor could it exist during their time. There was a union of love, but not a spiritual and vital fellowship that sprang from the root of life. This spiritual union of the elect was made possible only by the incarnation of the Son of God…Only then the perfect Man was given, who on the one hand could be the temple of the Holy Ghost without hindrance, and on the other unite the spirits of the elect into one body. And when, by His ascension and sitting down at the right hand of God, this had become a fact, when thus the elect had become one body, it was perfectly natural that from the Head the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was imparted to two whole body. And thus the Holy Spirit was poured out into the body of the Lord, His elect, the Church.”[48]

The church, which had been formerly invisible and disjointed, was for the first time in history, publicly united.[49] Israel might have been a church, but Israel was not the church. There had been members of the church under the Old Covenant (by virtue of the promised New Covenant of Grace revealed in the Old Covenant), but at Pentecost the visible church was birthed. And every single member was baptized into one Spirit.[50]

But then Kuyper asks a subsequent question, “Since the Holy Spirit imparted saving grace to men before and after Pentecost, what is the difference caused by that descent of the Holy Spirit?”[51] With this question he will go on to illustrate the point, clarify the ecclesiological significance, and begin to press the missiological importance. The answer he gives begins:

“When householders collect (water) each in his own cistern, it comes down for every family separately; but when, as in modern city life, every house is supplied from the city reservoir, by means of mains and water-pipes, there is no more need of pumps and private cisterns…When the work is completed the water is allowed to run through the system of mains and pipes into every house. It might then be said that on that day the water was poured out into the city…The mild showers of the Holy Spirit descended upon Israel of old in drops of saving grace; but in such a manner only that each gathered of the heavenly rain for himself, to quench the thirst of each heart separately. So it is continued until the coming of Christ…Formerly isolation, every man for himself; now organic union of all the members under their one Head: this is the difference between the days before and after Pentecost. The essential fact of Pentecost consisted in this, that on that day the Holy Spirit entered for the first time into the organic body of the Church, and individuals came to drink, not each by himself, but all together in organic union.”[52]

There is real and vital continuity with regard to the soteriological angle of Pentecost. But there is also a radical ecclesiological shift that comes about because of the Christological fact. This was the birth of the church, not with regard to invisible membership, but with regard to organized formality. If the members of the church are those who belong to the Covenant of Grace, then this was the first formal body constituted under The Covenant of Grace. This is what the book of Hebrews means when it says, “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”[53] What Old Testament saints had experienced as shadow, the newly baptized church had experienced as substance.  

Kuyper is doing high-level Biblical and Systematic theology, drawing together threads and synthesis which make plain some very difficult concepts. This view of Pentecost is precisely the continuity that does not sever the indwelling of the Spirit from soteriology at any point in redemptive history. And this view of Pentecost is precisely the honest discontinuity that the history of salvation forces upon us. The question is whether a two administrations view of the Covenant of Grace makes coherent sense of what happens at Pentecost. And that is what makes Pentecost such a helpful case study for testing our covenantal system.

5. How Does 1689 Federalism Make the Most Sense of Pentecost?

So, what makes 1689 Federalism the covenantal system which makes the most sense of Pentecost? There are a few things. 1689 Federalism maintains that salvation of all the elect, from all ages, includes the indwelling of the Spirit by virtue of The New Covenant of Grace. As Samuel Renihan says in his book The Mystery of Christ, which is an expression of 1689 Federalism, “The benefits of this covenantal sacrifice were enjoyed throughout history, but the legal establishment of it took place ‘at the end of the ages’ (Hebrews 9:25-26).”[54] Included in these benefits were/are being indwelt by the Spirit of God. And as he writes even more clearly in another place, “So, though there was a progressive history of revelation, there was a fundamental unchanging continuity of salvific benefits.”[55] Individual salvation is not what experienced a radical shift on the day of Pentecost. This is an essential continuity.[56]

But what makes 1689 Federalism poised to handle the tension of discontinuity? It is what Renihan calls two-level typology.[57] He explains, “Thus the Old Covenant and the New, though closely connected through typology, were not the same thing. They were not one in substance. And their differences could not be reduced to external administrational changes. Both the Baptists and the paedobaptists affirmed that the Old Testament is full of typology and described the Old Covenant as such. But for some, typology was not about something other and greater, it was about two phases of the same thing. So circumcision and baptism are two outward forms of the same thing. Passover and the Lord’s Supper are two outward forms of the same thing. Israel and the church are two outward forms of the same thing.”[58] The key to understanding 1689 Federalism is found in the word, other. And the key to understanding Pentecost is found in that word, other, as well. While the two administrations view of the Covenant of Grace holds continuity with regards to soteriology appropriately, it cannot hold the burden of the discontinuity of Pentecost and remain consistent.

There were those who experienced benefits of the New Covenant before the death and resurrection of Christ, but the reason they experienced them was not by virtue of a prior administration–it was by virtue of the promise embedded providentially in prior covenants.[59] God chose to reveal the promise through prior covenants, but those covenants cannot be another administration of the Covenant of Grace because Israel is not synonymous with the church.[60] As Kuyper argued above, how could it be otherwise, since the body of Christ had not been organically united to and in the ascended Head, Jesus. Israel is not the church and Pentecost proves that. The reason that Pentecost gives trouble for the two administrations view is because the context of any covenant is always kingdom. And the only administration, in substance form, of the Covenant of Grace is the New Covenant which governs the Kingdom inaugurated at Pentecost.

So with two level typology in mind, the Old Covenant is not the New Covenant in substance and Israel is not the church in substance either.[61] The ecclesiological shift that Pentecost makes demonstrates that the Old Covenant cannot be another administration of the Covenant of Grace because there was no formal body of Christ for the Covenant to be administered upon. Individuals enjoyed the Covenant of Grace according to promise, but they did not receive its fullness in substance.[62] The problem is not in acknowledging that grace was previously administered, it is in asserting that the Old Covenant itself was a gracious administration.[63] The question becomes, upon what organized body was the Covenant of Grace administered? And the answer 1689 Federalism gives is, until the day of Pentecost, there was none.


1689 Federalism keeps us from using Pentecost to devalue the necessity of Holy Spirit indwelling for salvation because it holds fast to the truth that all saints (both Old and New) were saved in the same way. This includes both the New Covenant of Grace which salvation is bound within and the presence of God’s grace in the Person of the Holy Spirit. This continuity is vital.

This interpretation of Pentecost also highlights the historio saludis as it pertains to Jesus Christ as the anointed one. The life of Jesus was important for more than just His obedience, Christ was also transitioning the economy of the Spirit. He lived a Spirit filled life and a Spirit anointed life so that He could mediate His S/spiritual experience to His people. This means that the church is now constituted as the body of Christ—the anointed members of the anointed one. Those saved by promise in the time of the Old Testament were in-dwelt by the same Spirit, but experienced a different economy of the Spirit (the Spirit was not yet the Spirit of Christ) and lived in a different environment of the Spirit (the body of Christ had not yet been baptized collectively into the Spirit of Christ). Now that the anointed one is ascended, as Head, He pours out the Spirit, and by this we mean His experience of the Spirit, into His body. It is the same Holy Spirit, but the Spirit is now the Spirit of Christ (the anointed one) and not merely the Spirit of the Son (He who “proceeds from the Father and the Son”[64]).

Pentecost, then, highlights the Father’s faithfulness in the Covenant of Redemption, the Son’s fulfillment of the Covenant of Redemption, and the Spirit’s functionality in the Covenant of Redemption. The Father is faithful because He gives the Son a body and delivers to the Son a harvest (of which Pentecost is the first fruits). The Son displays fulfillment because it is only after He lives as the anointed one, dies, rises, and ascends (showing a completed work) that the pledge from the Father is delivered. And the Spirit takes up a new function through the fulfillment of the Covenant of Redemption (transitioning from His work in and through Christ Himself to applying the pattern of Christ in the body of Christ.) He unites the body of the anointed one through indwelling (the same indwelling, but now with different function and a patterned imprint after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus) and He carries forth the mission of the church, who in the power of the Spirit, draw in the harvest—promised by the Father, bought by the Son, and gathered by the Spirit.

1689 Federalism maintains that Pentecost does not mean that a different salvation takes place with regard to individual sinners. Thus indwelling of the Spirit, which is necessary for all salvation, is upheld in the lives of all the saints past, present, and future (the soteriological angle). It highlights the importance of the history of salvation, that Christ became the man of the Spirit and upon His exaltation became a life-giving spirit (the Christological angle). It allows for both participation of Old Testament saints in the Covenant of Grace (according to promise and not substance), and the radical shift which takes place on the day of Pentecost. The Kingdom of Christ was inaugurated and the body of Christ was born, this was an epochal defining moment. The church was formally united because the covenant was formally ratified. The body of Christ burst onto the scene because the Head of the body had poured out His Spirit from on high. The birth of the church, the first fruits of the harvest, is proof that the Covenant of Redemption is fulfilled and the Covenant of Grace is mediated to His people (the ecclesiological angle). The body of Christ has now been endowed with the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit of the anointed one has anointed His people. And this anointing is economical. The Spirit of Christ has been poured out upon the body of Christ in order to give power. The Spirit is drawing in the harvest through the church as King Jesus reigns from the right hand of God, exercising His complete authority (the missiological angle).

[1] See London Lyceum episodes 42, 99, 101, 104, & 106 for extensive treatment.

[2] Ephesians 1:3-14 spells out the Triune accomplishment of redemption and Ephesians 3:11 tells us, “This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord…”

[3] Acts 2:32 tells us that the resurrection was verified by eyewitness testimony, and then Acts 2:33 tells us that the coronation and session of Christ were verified by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

[4] In Leviticus 23:9-14 we learn about Pentecost, the Feast of Firstfruits. This feast was filled with typological significance and providentially was the perfect context for the outpouring of the Spirit. In the same way that we more fully understand the death of Christ because it providentially fell on Passover, we more fully understand the outpouring of the Spirit because it providentially fell on Pentecost.

[5] 2 Samuel 7:12-13

[6] Psalm 2:8

[7] As I mentioned in the introduction, I am presenting this view of Pentecost from the perspective of 1689 Federalism. In section 4 & 5 I will seek to argue out some of these distinctives.

[8] Luke 22:29

[9] Galatians 3:23-26

[10] Acts 2:1-4

[11] Galatians 4:6 displays how the experience of Christ becomes the experience of the believer through the Spirit.

[12] Ephesians 4:4-6

[13] Acts 1:4-5

[14] When Peter quotes Joel in Acts 2:17, he demonstrates that Pentecost is a sign of “the last days.”

[15] Notice how in Acts 2:33 says, “…having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit…” The one who received the promise of the Holy Spirit in this verse is Jesus.

[16] Acts 1:8

[17] 2 Corinthians 3:5-6

[18] John 6:63

[19] Galatians 3:3

[20] 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

[21] Luke 4:18

[22] Sinclair Ferguson, Some Pastors and Teachers: Reflecting a Biblical Vision of What Every Minister Is Called to Be (Banner of Truth, 2017), 252.

[23] Notice how in 1 Corinthians 15:45, “…a life-giving spirit…” is what Jesus became. This is an economical rather than an ontological statement.

[24] Ephesians 4:8-16

[25] Colossians 1:18

[26] Galatians 3:7-9

[27] Robert A. Peterson, Salvation Accomplished by the Son (Crossway, 2011), 226.

[28] Mark 1:8

[29] Acts 2:4, 38-39

[30] When we get to section 4 & 5, this will precisely be what I argue creates the discontinuity of Pentecost. This is what makes 1689 Federalism unique within the Reformed views of covenant theology.

[31] Geerhardus J. Vos, Reformed Dogmatics (Single Volume Edition) , vol. 2. (Lexham Press, 2020), 304.

[32] John 16:7

[33] In Ephesians 2:11-22 we have a magnificent passage about the church. What advantage did Israel have? They possessed the covenants of promise. Those who experienced salvation by grace did so on the basis of what was promised in the New Covenant. Once the cornerstone was put in place, the house of the Spirit was ready to be built. Before this, individuals had access to the Father through the Spirit, but not as a common structure growing into a temple of the Lord. It was not until after the covenants of promise gave way to the New Covenant that Christ the cornerstone was set in place and the individual stones were joined together into a unified structure–the Church.

[34] By connecting the church to the idea of the body of Christ, we see the difficulty of asserting that there was a visible church before the ascension of Christ. Before the body can be united, the Head must ascend. In section 4 we will see that Kuyper gives thorough explanation and evidence for this position.

[35] Psalm 110

[36] John 20:22-23

[37] J. V. Fesko, The Trinity and The Covenant of Redemption (Christian Focus Publications, 2016), Kindle, 281.

[38] It is passages like John 14:16-17 which both support this view and also appear troubling for this view. Sinclair Ferguson explains it like this, “…during the days of his humiliation, the Spirit of Christ was on Christ, and therefore, and in this sense, ‘with’ the disciples. He would now indwell them in his identity as the Spirit of the exalted Saviour. He who was ‘with’ them in Christ’s presence would then be ‘in’ them as the Spirit of the incarnate and exalted Christ.” (Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Holy Spirit (IVP Academic, 1997), 68.) To see Ferguson’s entire argument, which is too long to quote here, read all of page 68.

[39] Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Holy Spirit (IVP Academic, 1997), 55.

[40] Romans 8:14-17 & John 14:26

[41] 2 Corinthians 5:20

[42] Matthew 28:18-20

[43] Matthew 15:24

[44] Luke 24:45-49

[45] Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1956), 112-113.

[46] Kuyper, 119.

[47] Genesis 1:2, Luke 1:35, Acts 2:3

[48] Kuyper, 120-121.

[49] Samuel Renihan, who’s work will be examined further below, writes, “In this way, the church may have begun outwardly after the death of Christ, above all at Pentecost. But inwardly, its people began long before.” (Samuel D. Renihan, The Mystery of Christ, His Covenant, and His Kingdom (Founders Press, 2019), 192.) Renihan’s emphasis is in a slightly different place than Kuyper (above), but he is expressing the view of 1689 Federalism which fits with Kuyper’s analysis.

[50] This is why Vos saw this as an aspect of the Covenant of Redemption, “He would be able on behalf of the Father to send the Holy Spirit in a special manner for the formation of the body of His people.” See footnote 30 above.

[51] Kuyper, 123-124.

[52] Kuyper, 123-124.

[53] Hebrews 11:39-40

[54] Samuel D. Renihan, The Mystery of Christ, His Covenant, and His Kingdom (Founders Press, 2019), 161.

[55] Renihan, 21.

[56] On this, the 1689 Federalism view shares the same law-gospel thread running throughout all of redemptive history with the Two Administrations view.

[57] The two levels means that the type had a real function, but that it’s anti-type which it pointed forward to is “other” in function. Hence, the type is to be understood on two levels. The example Renihan gives is the OT sacrificial system. Three things are true about them, 1) They served their own purpose in the Mosaic system, 2) They reflect the sacrifice of Christ, & 3) There is a clear break between the purpose they served and the purpose the sacrifice of Christ served.

[58] Renihan, 38-39.

[59] Galatians 3:13-14

[60] Romans 2:28-29

[61] Hebrews 8:6-13

[62] Romans 3:1-2

[63] 2 Corinthians 3:14-18

[64] Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed


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