Most serious Bible students know the kingdom of God (his church) was established by Christ on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). The establishment of the kingdom of God was the fulfillment of several Old Testament prophecies (cf. Isa. 2:1-4; Dan. 2:44; Joel 2:28-32).
There is a problem that exists in the minds of many sincere brethren about the difference between how entry was first made into the kingdom and how we enter the kingdom today. There is definitely a difference between kingdom entry of the converts of John the Baptist, including the apostles, along with the Samaritans (Acts 8), Cornelius and his household and near friends (Acts 10), and the twelve disciples at Ephesus (Acts 19) and our entry today. Why does this difference exist?
Since Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, there has only been one way into the kingdom. Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). On Pentecost day the Holy Spirit came upon the 120 disciples of John, which included the apostles (Acts 2:1-4). But these had been “born of water” when they were baptized by John (John 3:23). Their baptism was “for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4). Though “born of water” and “for the remission of sins,” they were not yet in the kingdom. What allowed them to enter the kingdom? It was their baptism in the Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). And their baptism in Spirit was accompanied by the miraculous — their speaking in languages they had never learned. The miracle of “tongue speaking” was the empirical evidence of God’s acceptance of them into his kingdom. Clearly, there was a time-lapse between their baptism by John and their being baptized in the Spirit. So, when the first ethnic group (Jews) entered the kingdom, a time-lapse existed, but no such time-lapse exists today.
The second group to enter the kingdom on Pentecost (Acts 2) were the 3,000 (Acts 2:41). In their case, there was no time-lapse between their baptism in water and in Spirit. Why? Since Jews (converts of John, including the apostles) had already entered the kingdom, there was no need for a time-lapse; their baptism consisted of two elements: water and Spirit (John 3:5). The time-lapse between the baptism in water and Spirit occurred only when a new ethnic group entered the kingdom, and in each case there were miracles associated with their entry into the kingdom.
When the second ethnic group (the Samaritans) entered the kingdom, there was also a time-lapse. Philip the evangelist had gone down to Samaria and preached Christ to them, but they were baptized only in the name of Jesus (Acts 8:16). But under the Great Commission, baptism was to be administered in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). When the apostles in Jerusalem learned the Samaritans had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to the Samaritans, who laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17). So, again, we have a time-lapse between the Samaritans’ baptism in water and their baptism in the Holy Spirit.
In the case of Cornelius, his household and near friends, there was also a time-lapse between their receiving the Spirit and their baptism in water (Acts 10:44-48). After having received Holy Spirit baptism, these Gentiles began to speak in tongues (Acts 10:46). Why did the Spirit fall upon these Gentiles before they were baptized in water? He did so because Cornelius, his household and near friends were righteous Gentiles. God’s Spirit cannot dwell in the hearts of those who are practicing sinners, and it is explicitly said of Cornelius that he was a righteous man (Acts 10:22, NASB).
The case of the twelve disciples at Ephesus who had received John’s baptism also involved a time-lapse. These disciples had not heard of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2). When Paul explained that John’s converts were to believe on Christ, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:4-5). Then Paul laid his hands on them, they received the Holy Spirit, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:6). With this event at Ephesus, the necessity for a time-lapse between water and Spirit baptism ceased because all ethnic groups (Jews, Samaritans, and full Gentiles) had entered the kingdom.
So far we have discussed what happened back then when various ethnic groups were entering the kingdom. What is the case now with men and women who obey the gospel? There is no time-lapse. When a penitent, having confessed, alien sinner is baptized for the remission of his sins, while in the water, his spirit is immersed in Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5-6). There is now only one baptism (Eph. 4:5), but it consist of two elements: water and Spirit (John 3:3). Think about it.