Question: In what sense did the disciples receive the holy spirit before the Day of Pentecost, as stated in John 20: 22.
Answer: John 20: 22 reads, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost [Spirit].”
Toward the beginning of our Lord’s ministry He selected His twelve Apostles and gave them of His spirit, His power, so that they could go forth and exercise that power in His name, to cure diseases, cast out devils and do many wonderful works (Matthew 10: 1) (Mark 3: 14, 15) (Luke 9: 1, 2). Later Jesus appointed the Seventy and gave them the same power (Luke 10: 1, 9).
John 20: 22, on the other hand, took place after Jesus’ resurrection. In this instance, there may have been a communication of a measure of power at that time, or it may have been a forceful way of telling His Apostles that in a few days they would receive the power, the holy spirit, in a special way, after He had ascended up to heaven to appear in the presence of God for them. At any rate, it should not be confused with the operation of the holy spirit at Pentecost.