In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the disciples at Pentecost.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 2:1-4 (NIV)

On Resurrection Sunday, when Jesus first appeared to the disciples, we are told “that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven'” (John 20:22-23 NIV).

Was the Holy Spirit given out on Resurrection Sunday? What does it mean to “receive the Holy Spirit” if not?

A key to understanding whether or not the Holy Spirit was given in John 20:22-23 is that Jesus had to be glorified first.

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

John 14:28 (NIV)

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

John 16:7 (NIV)

Jesus had to die and return to God before the Holy Spirit could be sent by God. Otherwise, the Holy Spirit couldn’t be sent. In John 20:22-23, Jesus had not yet returned to God as revealed in John 20:17.

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”

John 20:17 (NIV)

Therefore, in John 20:22-23, the Holy Spirit wasn’t given because Jesus hadn’t ascended yet. What happened in John 20:22-23 is something that’s happened before in the Bible. Let’s see what that “something” is in the case of David.

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah (emphasis added).

1 Samuel 16:13 (KJV)

The Spirit of the Lord came upon David. Still, he was not indwelt with the Holy Spirit because Jesus hadn’t been glorified yet (cf. John 7:39). Many people in the Old Testament had the Spirit come upon them without dwelling within them. We know that saved people cannot have the Holy Spirit taken from them. However, this wasn’t the case before Jesus was glorified. As evidenced by this verse in Psalm 51.

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Psalm 51:11 (NIV)

We also see evidence it can be taken away, as in the case of Saul.

Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.

1 Samuel 16:14 (NIV)

It wasn’t just in the Old Testament that the Spirit was given. John the Baptist was given the Holy Spirit before he was born.

For he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.

Luke 1:15 (NIV)

It was the angel of the Lord speaking to Zacharias here about John. Therefore, in this context, the filling of the Holy Spirit is from a Hebraic scriptural standpoint. Not a Christian standpoint since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Therefore, the disciples in John 20:22-23 were not indwelt with the Holy Spirit. I’d say they were given strength by the Spirit to do what they needed to do until the time of Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit would come upon them and dwell within them.