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

The Holy Spirit warned His workers of prison and hardship, He prevented them from preaching in certain areas, and He told them what to say when they were under examination. A specific eschatological incident is recorded for Stephen, who physically saw Jesus seated in Glory at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55). In his speech to the bystanders at Pentecost, Peter makes a clear eschatological statement when he says “1He (Jesus) must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:21). Through the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of God was being extended beyond Jerusalem, to people all throughout the earth, and all throughout time. Christopher Rowland comments on the lack of explicit references to the Holy Spirit and end times in the book of Acts. He writes, “The first Christians were affirming, for them, that the future hope was already in the process of fulfillment and was not merely an item of faith still to be realized at some time in the future”[11].

Paul’s writings reveal aspects of the Holy Spirit’s role in the end times.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “the last Adam became the life-giving Spirit” (1 Cor 14:45). What Paul asserts, here, is a direct relationship between the exalted Christ and the Holy Spirit, which reflects a unity or oneness between both persons of the Trinity, stemming from Jesus resurrection.  This is written in the context of the need for the Corinthians (and all Christians) to have spiritual understanding. Paul writes, “God revealed these things to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches out everything, even the depths of God’s own self” (1 Cor 2:10-16). Paul explains that this is the Holy Spirit from God Himself. Richard B. Gaffin Jr. in commenting on Paul’s writing on this subject asserts that God’s human creations are spiritual beings, and that God’s intention is for community with His creatures, in the full spiritual sense. He continues that eternal life with God is humanity’s destiny. He concludes that the achievement of this end is the work of the Holy Spirit[12].  Paul is fully in accord with the writer of Hebrews, who says that the powers associated with the Holy Spirit, are “the powers of the age to come” (Heb 6:4-5).

Paul also writes of another key role of the Holy Spirit: bringing about Christ-like holiness. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul alludes to the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which followers are encouraged to emulate, which together with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, comprise the characteristics of Christ. To demonstrate these characteristics is to glorify Jesus in the world. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22).  Gifts of the Holy Spirit are given for the common good of the believing community. They include wisdom, knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing, leadership and mercy. All these gifts are the work of the same Holy Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines (1 Cor 12:7-11, Roms 12:6-8)[13].

People who respond to the intimacy of the Holy Spirit should demonstrate both the fruits and a range of the gifts[14] and these are indicative of their relationship with the Father and Son. The indwelling and prompting of the Holy Spirit are necessary to emulate the holiness implicit within the fruits and gifts. In corroboration, Clark Pinnock writes, “Though we are called to imitate Christ, we are also called to manifest the energies of the Spirit”. Again, “Perhaps the place where the Spirit is seen is in the faces of believers as they grow in grace and holiness”[15]. Such Spirit-inspired holiness described here, outworks in building and extending God’s eternal kingdom. It is also expressed by living within the eternal boundaries of His kingdom; becoming imitators of Jesus; knowing and doing the Father’s will, and honouring Jesus in everything. Such behaviour is timeless. “Thy kingdom; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-13) is as relevant in the end times as it was for the first believers.

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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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