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The Holy Spirit’s Role in the End Times: A Pneumatological View of Eschatology, by Bernie Townsend

So the Old and New Testaments  suggest that all of humanity has a restoration promise. Due to Adam’s disobedience in the Garden and subsequent banishment and curse (Gen 3:1-24) sin has entered creation.  This has resulted in a state of incompleteness and separation from God’s presence in all of life. Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and all creation are included in God’s plan for restoration (Eph 1, Rom 8:11). This restoration will be fully realised in the new heavens and new earth in which all of God’s eternal purposes are fulfilled (in the eternal Kingdom of God). The Holy Spirit is fully involved in this great plan of restoration.

Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit would have an essential role in the end part of this process: the end times. He said that the Holy Spirit would be available to His followers after He left the earth in His resurrected state (John 7:38-39, Acts 1:8).  He would send the Holy Spirit to empower followers to share the gospel so that His creation could enjoy relationship with Himself (John 14:1-4, 12-13, 17:13-26).  Without the Holy Spirit no-one can be aware of God’s eternal plan. (John 3:3-8, Rev 21:1-5, 22).  Followers, for their part, have a responsibility to hear, understand, and obey the Holy Spirit. The initial part of this response is to request the Holy Spirit to indwell[8] as the Holy Spirit will not force Himself on anybody. What He offers is intimacy with Himself, a relationship arising from a surrendered heart. From this position, the Holy Spirit then outworks His holiness and leads believers through the journey of eternal transformation.[9] Early church theologian, Simeon the Monk (949 AD) makes this point clearly when he writes “who, if he has the grace of the Spirit in his heart, does not posses, dwelling in him, the revered Trinity which enlightens him?”.[10]

When He spoke to a Jewish teacher, Nicodemus, Jesus was quite adamant that in order to understand and respond to things of a spiritual nature, he needed to be born of the Holy Spirit. He taught, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God, unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:5-6). In this statement, Jesus is setting the basic foundation for coming to know and experience the Holy Spirit, and be prepared for Christian living and the end times.

Further, Jesus defines the specific role of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of guiltabout sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:7-11).  He convicts followers of sin (that they are going the wrong way), then He leads them to repentance of their sins, and empowers them in living in a new way which leads to holiness. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would guide those who follow Him into all truth (John 16:13). He would be like a counsellor, teaching followers all things, and recall to their minds all that Jesus has said to them. The Holy Spirit would also reveal what was yet to come (John 14:26 and 16:13). These attributes are all the more necessary in the end times.

The Book of Acts reveals aspects of the Holy Spirit’s role in the end times.

The role of the Holy Spirit in the end times is not mentioned explicitly in Luke’s writings about the story of the birth and development of the early church. There is some explicit evidence of the Holy Spirit’s role in the end times; however, the implicit evidence is more compelling. His role of indwelling new Christians, teaching, advising, guiding them in their missionary travels, and bringing them into relationship with the resurrected Jesus was viewed as preparation for and inclusion in the end times. The Holy Spirit is mentioned 32 times in the twenty-eight chapters of Acts, which alone indicates the extent of His role in the new way of life. He comes upon the apostles at Pentecost; prepares them for the work of the gospel, sets them apart, baptises and empowers them and uses them to spread the gospel throughout the known world. These are multiplied through thousands of converts, both Jews and Gentiles.

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About the Author: Bernie Townsend, MTh (Laidlaw College, New Zealand), is a retired public servant with significant years of service in finance and financial systems. He is the author of The Life and Works of Octavius Hadfield, a Kapiti Missionary: From a Christian Perspective, a Basic Missiological Primer (2011).

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