The Holy Spirit
in the End Times
The nature and
role of the Holy Spirit in
preparation for the return of Jesus
Dr. David R. Reagan
hundred years ago, as the 20th Century began, the Holy
Spirit was not alive and well in the Church. Christendom was in
bondage to the theology of Deism which held that miracles had
ceased, all aspects of the supernatural (such as angels and demons)
had been laid to rest, and that God was a grand old man in the
sky, best identified as "The Great I Was."
A Deceptive Doctrine
The Church had been deceived into adopting
a theological argument which had the effect of stifling and quenching
the Holy Spirit. The argument was based on a statement in 1 Corinthians
13:10 ó ". . . when the perfect comes, the partial [prophecy,
tongues, and knowledge] will be done away." It was argued
that the "perfect" was the completion of the perfect,
inerrant Word of God. Thus, it was argued, all supernatural gifts
of the Spirit, as well as other manifestations of the supernatural,
ended with the completion of the New Testament canon around 95
To this was added the argument that gifts
of the Spirit could only be passed along to others by the Apostles
through the laying on of hands. Therefore, when the last Apostle
died (John in about 95 AD), the gifts ceased.
The arguments were so neat. But they were
full of holes. For one thing, they flew in the face of experience.
Throughout Church history, there is abundant evidence of spiritual
gifts being experienced on the part of the small minority who
continued to believe in them. There had also been major outbreaks
of the supernatural, as in the camp meetings on the American frontier
in the early 1800's.
The argument revolving around 1 Corinthians
13:10 was faulty because it denied the contextual meaning of the
word "perfect." In context, the word refers to the return
of Jesus. This is made clear in verse 12: "For now we see
in a mirror dimly, but then [when the perfect comes] face to face;
now I know in part, but then I shall know fully . . ." The
argument also overlooked the clear teaching of 1 Corinthians 1:7
that all the gifts of the Spirit will continue to be operative
until Jesus returns: ". . . you are not lacking in any gift,
awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Finally, the argument about the Apostles
passing the gifts along to others was a sham because it attempted
to convert the gifts of the Spirit into gifts of the Apostles.
The Apostles may have been able to lay their hands on people and
pray for them to receive certain gifts, but the gifts came from
the Holy Spirit, not from the Apostles. Furthermore, every believer
receives at least one supernatural gift of the Spirit at the time
of his or her salvation (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Paul put it this
way: "To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit
for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12:7).
An Important Prophecy
The anti-Holy Spirit mentality of the Church
in 1900 also ignored the clear teaching of Bible prophecy that
the end times would be characterized by a great outpouring of
Godís Spirit. The key passage is found in Joel 2:28-29:
It will come about after
That I will pour out My Spirit on all
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
The Churchís position in 1900 was that this
prophecy had been fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost in 31 AD and
was no longer applicable. It was argued that the "last days"
began at Pentecost when the Church was established (Hebrews 1:2
and 1 Peter 1:20). Also, it was pointed out that the Apostles
themselves quoted this passage from Joel when they were asked
what was going on as they began "to speak with other tongues"
More Flawed Arguments
But again, these arguments about Joel 2:28-29
ignored the context of the passage. Note that the passage beings
with the words, "It will come about after this . ."
After what? If you back up and read verses 18 through 27 you will
see that the chapter is talking about the regathering and resettlement
of the Jews in the land of Israel ó something that did not occur
until the 20th Century.
Also, the preceding verses speak of the
outpouring of the Spirit symbolically as the "early and latter
rain," referring to the two rainy seasons of Israel. In other
words, the prophet was saying there will be two great outpourings
of the Spirit. The "early rain" was at Pentecost and
continued throughout the early history of the Church, as recorded
in the book of Acts. The "latter rain" would immediately
precede the return of the Messiah in judgment. This is made clear
again by the passage itself in verses 30-31: "And I will
display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire, and
columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the
moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord
comes." This is classic language about the Second Coming
of the Messiah.
Yes, the Bible speaks of the Church Age
as the last days: "He [Jesus] was foreknown before the foundation
of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake
of you" (1 Peter 1:20). But it also speaks of the Lordís
return as the last days when it says Christians are being protected
"by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready
to be revealed in the last time . . . at the revelation of Jesus
Christ" (1 Peter 1:5, 7).
We have been in the "last times"
since the Day of Pentecost. We are now in the latter part of the
Joel 2:28-29 was fulfilled in part on the
Day of Pentecost. Its total fulfillment was yet future in 1900,
awaiting the "latter rain" that would be one of the
signs of the Lordís soon return.
A Move of God
The Church had its jaw set against the Holy
Spirit as the 20th Century began. But God was ready
to burst on the scene with a great move of the Spirit in order
to prepare the way for the return of His Son. That move began
at a poverty-stricken school in Topeka, Kansas in January 1901
when a student named Agnes Ozman received the gift of tongues.
A year later a great Holy Spirit revival broke out in the English
area of Wales, led by a remarkable young man named Evan Roberts.
Then, in 1906, the Spirit fell with great power on a home meeting
in Los Angeles led by a black preacher named William J. Seymour.
At Seymourís meeting, spiritual gifts were
manifested, spectacular healings occurred, people were "slain
in the Spirit," and sinners were saved. The meeting grew
quickly and had to be moved to a dilapidated building on Azusa
Street. It continued for almost four years, with preaching every
day, three times a day!
The Azusa Street meeting gave birth to the
Pentecostal Movement. The latter rain had begun. But it was only
a sprinkle in terms of its impact on Christendom at large. The
Pentecostals were written off as "Holy Rollers," and
their religion was considered appropriate only for the superstitious
and uneducated. But they were paving the way for a rediscovery
of the Spirit.
The Latter Rain
The latter rain did not become a downpour
until after the regathering of the Jewish people to the land of
Israel (1900 - 1945) and the re-establishment of the state (May
14, 1948). Then, just as Joel had prophesied, the heavens opened
and the downpour began ó first, with the anointing of Billy Grahamís
ministry in 1949 and then with the emergence of the Charismatic
Movement in the 1950's and 60's.
Today, much of Christendom is caught up
in the Third Wave Movement that grew out of the Charismatic Movement
in the 1970's and 80's. It is made up of churches that fully recognize
the ministry of the Holy Spirit, including the significance of
Spirit-led worship, the continuing validity of spiritual gifts,
the reality of spiritual warfare, and the importance of a Spirit-filled
life in winning that warfare. However, unlike the Pentecostals
and Charismatics, the Third Wave Movement does not put an emphasis
on the gift of tongues as the sign of having been baptized in
Confusion About the Spirit
The 20th Century has been the
century of the rediscovery of the Holy Spirit. Yet, widespread
ignorance and confusion about the Holy Spirit still characterizes
the Church. A 1997 poll by the Barna Research Group showed that
only 40% of Americans believe in the existence of the Holy Spirit
(as opposed to 90% who believe in the existence of God). But what
was even more stunning was the response of "born-again Christians."
More than 5 out of 10 born-again Christians (55%) agreed that
the Holy Spirit is a symbol of Godís presence or power but not
a living entity! It appears that Christians have been brainwashed
into believing that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal power like
"The Force" in Star Wars.
Why is there so much continuing confusion
about the Spirit? I think it relates in part to the self-effacing
role of the Spirit. As we will see, one of the primary roles of
the Spirit is to point people to Jesus as Savior and Lord. He
does not draw attention to Himself. He works behind the scenes.
Another factor relates to the many symbols that are used of the
Spirit in Scripture ó things like wind, rain, and fire. These
symbols seem to communicate an impersonal force.
Our Creator God has been revealed to us
as our Father. That is a concept we can grasp. Jesus took on a
human body and lived among us. We have biographies of Him by eye
witnesses. But for most people, the Holy Spirit is a shadowy entity
difficult to grasp. Trying to get hold of the concept for many
is like trying to nail jello to a wall.
The Identity of the Spirit
So, letís look for a moment at the identify
of the Holy Spirit. The first thing you need to keep in mind is
that the Spirit is never referred to as an "it." The
Spirit is not an inanimate object. The Spirit is not, for example,
the Bible, as some contend. The Spirit is intimately related to
the Bible because it was the Spirit who inspired the biblical
writers (2 Timothy 3:16), but the Bible is the "sword of
the Spirit," not the Spirit Himself (Ephesians 6:17). The
Spirit works through the Bible to draw people to Jesus, although
the work of the Spirit is not confined to the testimony of the
Scriptures. The Spirit can witness directly to our spirits (Romans
The Holy Spirit is a person. The Spirit
is always referred to directly in the Scriptures as "He."
Referring to the Spirit, Jesus told His disciples that when He
left, He would send a "Helper." ("Paracletos"
in Greek, meaning a helper or intercessor.) Jesus added, "And
He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and
righteousness, and judgment" (John 16:7-8). To Jesus, the
Holy Spirit was "He" not "it."
The Bible says the Holy Spirit can be lied
to (Acts 5:3-4). It also says the Holy Spirit can be quenched
(1 Thessalonians 5:19) and grieved (Ephesians 4:30). These are
characteristics of a personality. You cannot lie to a chair, or
quench a wall, or grieve a light fixture.
The Holy Spirit is the supernatural presence
of God in the world today. Paul put it this way: "The Lord
is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:17). Luke stated that the
Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of Jesus" (Acts 16:6-7).
Peter equated the Holy Spirit with God the Father when he told
Ananias and Sapphira that they had lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts
5:3) and then added, "You have not lied to men but to God"
(Acts 5:4). Remember that old axiom in geometry: "Things
equal to the same thing are equal to each other."
The Holy Spirit is one of the three persons
who constitute the One God. Thatís the reason we are told to be
baptized "in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy
Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). As such He is co-equal to Jesus
and the Father, but He plays a different role.
The Work of the Spirit
This brings us to the work of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit has two roles ó one toward the unbeliever and
another within the believer. With regard to the unbeliever, the
Holy Spirit is the Fatherís Evangelist. With regard to the believer,
He is the Fatherís Potter. Letís consider these two roles in detail.
Jesus summarized the work of the Spirit
regarding unbelievers. He said that the Holy Spirit would "convict
the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment"
(John 16:8). Specifically, the Spirit convicts unbelievers of
their sinfulness, impresses upon them the righteousness of Jesus,
and points them to the judgment of Satan (John 16:9-11). The Bible
makes it clear that no person can come to Jesus apart from the
testimony of the Holy Spirit. Jesus put it this way: "No
one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him"
(John 6:44). And how does the Father draw unbelievers to Jesus?
Through the Holy Spirit who bears witness of Jesus as the Fatherís
only begotten Son (John 15:26 and 1 John 5:7).
When a person responds to the witness of
the Spirit by accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, he is "born-again"
(John 3:3), and the Father gives that person a very special birthday
present ó the Holy Spirit! Thatís right, the Holy Spirit ceases
to be on the outside drawing the person to Jesus. Instead, He
moves inside the person and takes up residence within him (Romans
8:9). And when He does so, His role changes.
The Spirit in the Believer
Within the believer, the Holy Spirit is
the Fatherís Potter. His role is to shape each believer into the
image of Jesus (Romans 8: 29 and Galatians 4:19), a process which
the Bible refers to as sanctification (Romans 6:22 and 2 Thessalonians
2:13). The Spirit does this by first of all gifting us. Each person,
when he or she is born- again, is given at least one gift of the
Spirit, and sometimes more than one (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). And
if we are good stewards of our gifts, using them to advance the
Lordís kingdom, we may be given additional gifts during our spiritual
walk with the Lord.
The Spirit also accomplishes His work of
sanctification by guiding us (Romans 8:14), comforting us (Acts
9:31), strengthening us (Philippians 4:13 and 1 John 4:4), praying
for us (Romans 8:26-27), encouraging us (Romans 15:5), defending
us (Luke 12:11-12), and illuminating us as we study the Word (1
The work of sanctification is life long.
It continues until we die or we are raptured to meet the Lord
in the sky. The Holy Spirit wants to fine tune us into the image
of Jesus because the Father is interested in nothing less than
perfection in our lives (James 1:4 and 1 Peter 1:13-16). Yes,
He is a God of grace who will accept us in all our imperfections,
but He desires that we be perfected (Matthew 5:48).
Think of it this way ó when a child takes
his first step, his father rejoices. But no father is going to
be satisfied with that one step. He will not be satisfied until
the child can walk and then run without falling. For this reason,
Christians are commanded to "be filled with the Spirit"
Are you filled with the Spirit? Have you
been baptized in the Spirit? Are you walking in the power of the
Spirit? Do you know what these terms mean? For more information,