The Holy Spirit and the Future

The Rapture

This current period, sometimes called “the Church age,” began on the Day of Pentecost, when believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit. In this present era, the Spirit permanently indwells each individual who trusts Christ as Savior. At the Rapture, which is the next great event in God’s program, the Church will be complete, and will be removed from this world. Those who have died will be raised, and they, together with those still alive, will be changed and caught up, to “ever be with the Lord” (1Co 15:51-54; 1Th 4:13-18).

Paul writes: “And now ye know what withholdeth that he [the ‘man of sin,’ v3] might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed” (2Th 2:6-8).[1] The italicized words (“what” and “he”) indicate that there are, respectively, something and someone, the departure of which and of whom will remove the current restraint to the manifestation of that wicked one in Tribulation days. The simplest explanation of this statement consistent with other Scriptures is that the “he” is the Holy Spirit, and the “what” is His indwelling presence in the Church, which will no longer be on the earth after the Rapture.

The Tribulation

However, that does not mean that the Holy Spirit will be totally absent from the earth, only that He will not be present in the sense that He currently is, indwelling the Church. All through the Old Testament, we read of the Spirit’s active involvement in this world, and many Scriptures show His presence and activity on earth while the Lord Jesus was here; yet this is fully compatible with the Lord’s reference to the Spirit’s coming after His own departure (e.g., Joh 14:16,17; 16:7-15). Hence, there is every reason to believe that, after the Rapture, the work of the Holy Spirit will continue as it has done throughout history. Indeed, it must be so, for when the Rapture has just taken place, not a single believer will be left on earth, and at that point there will be no saved person to preach the gospel; yet we read of many believers coming out of the Tribulation (e.g., Rev 7:9-17), and unquestionably the Holy Spirit will be instrumental in their conversion, as He has always been.

As the Tribulation comes toward its close, climaxing in the return of the Lord Jesus to earth, there will be a powerful manifestation of the Holy Spirit, prophesied by Joel: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh …. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call” (2:28-32). While this prophecy speaks in part of what took place on the Day of Pentecost (as the quotation by Peter in Acts chapter 2 shows), clearly that did not exhaust its fulfilment, for it contains references to events that will accompany the Lord’s return in glory (as can be demonstrated by comparing this prophecy with Scriptures such as Matthew 24:29,30). So, just as there was a mighty outpouring of the Spirit shortly after the Lord Jesus left the world, there will be another one right before He returns to it.

The Manifestation

On Christ’s return, the nation of Israel will see Him, turn to Him, be saved, and come under the blessings of the New Covenant. In 2 Corinthians 3:6-11, Paul contrasts this covenant with the covenant inaugurated at Sinai, of which he uses the terms “the letter,” “ministration of death,” and “ministration of condemnation.” Concerning the New Covenant, his corresponding phrases are “the Spirit,” “ministration of the Spirit,” and “ministration of righteousness.” The vast difference between the two covenants is summarised in his statement: “The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.” Thus, in that day, the Holy Spirit will bring Israel into the good of the New Covenant, which was established in the blood of the Lord Jesus (Luk 22:20), and the nation will come to know the indescribable blessing that we already enjoy: “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Jer 31:31-34; Heb 8:8-13; 10:15-18).

The Millennium

Then will commence the millennial kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, described in many Scriptures, none of which is more clear or beautiful than Isaiah chapter 11. Verse 2 demonstrates beyond doubt the role of the Holy Spirit in that one-thousand-year reign: “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” The blessed result of this will be that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (v9).

The Eternal State

Finally, when “the first heaven and the first earth” have “passed away” (Rev 21:1), there will be “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2Pe 3:13). The Scriptures do not give us many details about that state (which is unsurprising, since it will far transcend what language can describe). However, we can be sure that the Holy Spirit will still be active in a precious ministry in which He is already engaged, a work that can never be exhausted, instructing us more and more in the counsels and ways of God, and delighting our hearts with the glories of His blessed Son. But, unlike now, it will be impossible then for anyone to “tempt” (Act 5:9), or “resist” (7:51), or “grieve” (Eph 4:30) or “quench” (1Th 5:19) the Spirit. How glorious that will be for us to enjoy unbroken, eternal communion with Divine Persons, when God (the triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit) will be “all in all” (1Co 15:28)!

To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The God whom Heaven and earth adore,
From men and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore!

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.