Approximately four hundred years of prophetic silence had passed in Israel since Malachi, the last chronological and canonical prophet, received his revelation from God by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Four hundred years had passed since the last filling with the Holy Spirit of any person in the written record.
These were four hundred years of political struggle and spiritual darkness for the people of Israel.
During the inter-testamental period, the religiosity of the Jews grew steadily in empty orthodox Mosaic practice in a way that was not pleasing to God. Despite this long and dark spiritual age, the prophecy given to Isaiah begins to come to fruition through the work of the Holy Spirit:
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” Isaiah 9:2
The dark period referenced by Isaiah comes to an end with a series of amazing events under the sovereign control of God through the work of the Holy Spirit.
It was a rare and well noted event in the Old Testament for a person to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but in the period surrounding Jesus’s birth, the Holy Spirit began a special work that eventually culminated in the age of the Church.
First and foremost, the Holy Spirit takes on an active role in the coming of Jesus into our world by conceiving Him in a supernatural way in Mary’s womb.
We then have special prophetic messages being delivered from God via Gabriel to Zechariah and Mary.
Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesies about “my Lord” when she meets Mary who is pregnant with baby Jesus. Baby John is filled with the Holy Spirit while in her womb as foretold by Gabriel.
It is also fascinating to note how an unborn baby “leapt for joy.” Being filled with the Holy Spirit and being able to feel joy are important characteristics of a person. This is one of the reasons why we believe that an unborn baby is a person, and life begins at conception.
Zechariah undergoes the miracle of regaining his speech, is filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophecies about the coming of the Messiah and the work of his son John.
We see the filling and guidance of the Holy Spirit with respect to Simeon and Anna when they see baby Jesus at the temple.
The Spirit also pours out the gift of knowledge on Jesus as a child when He teaches in the temple, and Jesus becomes “full of the Holy Spirit” in His ministry.
All these aspects of the vast work of the Holy Spirit herald the transition from a dark age into an age of light, the Messianic age, and ultimately the Church age when the Spirit is poured out onto the followers of Christ without measure in the baptism and the filling with the Holy Spirit.
Unlike in the OT era, we now have a special privilege to be able to access an abundance of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. What used to be a rare and very selective event, the filling with the Spirit has now become accessible to all born-again believers. All glory belongs to God-the Holy Spirit for the work He does in us!