A Theological Pilgrimage: Chapter 10
By Dr. J. Rodman Williams
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15 | 16 | Conclusion
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THE HOLY SPIRIT AND ESCHATOLOGY
This article on "The Holy Spirit and Eschatology" was written
just following the last session of a seminar on eschatology. For almost
three months a dozen graduate students met twice a week to study and
reflect upon the whole range of matters having to do with eschatology,
or the "last things." As their leader I told them at our final
meeting of my commitment to write an article on "The Holy Spirit
and Eschatology," and asked them for their suggestions. The seminar
had not really focused on the Holy Spirit as such: it dealt much more
with matters as Jesus Christ our "blessed hope," the kingdom,
eternal life, and so on. However, the seminar members were quick to
express a number of ideas concerning the Holy Spirit and eschatology.
So I shall summarize some of these, along with a few additional reflections.
For brevity these will be listed under several headings.
1. The Holy Spirit leads us into understanding.
The whole area of eschatology is one of the most difficult to comprehend.
Despite the Bible being the infallible word of God, there are many difficulties
in apprehending its teachings about things yet to come. This is apparent
from the fact that there are many schools of interpretation and, despite
intended adherence to the Scriptures, they frequently differ quite radically
from one another. The word accordingly needs the Spirit for comprehension-
-and only those who earnestly seek the illumination of the Holy Spirit
can make genuine progress in understanding. Too often eschatology has
become a matter of words alone- -arguments from selected biblical texts,
predetermined theological positions- -with little or no attention to
the urgent need for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It should be recalled
constantly that Jesus said, "When the Spirit of truth [the Holy
Spirit] comes, he will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13).
Without Him the word profits nothing.
2. The Holy Spirit intensifies our yearning for the Lord to return.
The New Testament speaks of "awaiting our blessed hope, the
appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ"
(Titus 2:13), and "waiting for and hastening (or 'earnestly desiring')
the coming of the day of God" (2 Peter 3:12). This has continued
to be the stance of true believers in Christ who, grateful for the salvation
He has wrought, look forward to His return in glory. This very anticipation
is vastly brightened by the presence of the Holy Spirit- -who is none
other than the Spirit of Jesus- -making us all the more eager to behold
our Lord in glory. It is not because Jesus is absent now that we yearn
for His coming (or that Satan is Lord- -Jesus is Lord!) but just because
He is so fully present in the Spirit that we yearn all the more
to behold Him in His glorious body. The Spirit-filled Christian above
others cries out continually, "Come, Lord Jesus!"
3. The Holy Spirit's outpouring signalizes the ushering in of the
The "last days" began almost 2000 years ago at Pentecost
when the Holy Spirit was first poured out. The apostle Peter announced
that what had happened to the 120 who were "filled with the Holy
Spirit" (Acts 2:4) was the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy
that "in the last days...I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh"
(Acts 2:17; cf. Joel 2:28). However, this was only the beginning of
fulfillment, for the outpouring was limited to Jerusalem and Jews dwelling
there. Of course this soon spread beyond Jerusalem and the Jewish people
(e.g., Acts 8, 10, and 19). However, at no time in the history of the
church has there been such a universal outpouring of the Holy Spirit
as in our time- -as is evidenced by the worldwide Pentecostal/charismatic
movement. In a sense far beyond the original Pentecost this outpouring
is "upon all flesh," and therefore may well herald the culminating
of the ages in the final advent of Jesus Christ.
4. The Holy Spirit alone can make effective the proclamation of the
Gospel to all nations.
According to our Lord Jesus it is this universal preaching of the
gospel that precedes His final coming: "This gospel of the kingdom
will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations;
and then the end will come" (Matt. 24:14). It is important to realize
that the chief mission of the church as it contemplates the end- -time
should be that of bearing testimony to the whole world about Christ-
-that is, to complete the missionary task. Strategies, programs, human
devices are all insufficient, especially in this time of increasing
secularism. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can energize the witness
in such fashion as to break through the barriers. Perhaps never before
in the history of the church is it quite so necessary for the believer
to be "baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:5), for only
that supernatural power is sufficient to deal with the godlessness of
5. The Holy Spirit gives the Christian in the "end times"
the courage and wisdom to endure whatever persecution that may come.
In the Book of Acts it is clear that one of the results of being
Spirit-filled was boldness to stand firm in witnessing to the gospel:
"they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of
God with boldness" (Acts 4:31). Regardless of persecution they
continued to preach about Jesus as the Christ. Further, Jesus Himself
had said that to the very end all who followed Him would endure persecutions;
nevertheless "when they bring you to trial and deliver you up,
do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is
given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit"
(Mark 13:11). This persecution will intensify just before the Lord returns,
and the believer trusting in his own wisdom is sure to fail. But he
who relies on the Holy Spirit- -regardless of what may come at the end-
-will find wisdom and courage that none can stand against.
6. The Holy Spirit is the power of God that alone can cope with the
demonic spirits that multiply their activity in the last days.
According to Scripture, "In later times some will depart from
the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons"
(1 Tim. 4:1). Hence, we are to "test the spirits to see whether
they are of God" (1 John 4:1). As the time of the end rushes to
its climax and "the spirit of antichrist" (1 John 4:3) more
and more emerges, the believer's reliance on the Holy Spirit to perceive
and combat the false spirit- -and not to be carried away by its vain
pretenses- -is all the more imperative. The devil, knowing his time
is short, is today multiplying his activity, and, being a counterfeit,
is having his own counter-Pentecost, pouring out his evil spirits (witness
the rise of the occult, witchcraft, Satan worship, and so on). Therefore,
without the promise and power of the Holy Spirit the Christian cannot
possibly stand against all this wicked onslaught. But in that power
the believer can discern the vicious dimensions of evil, rebuke and
overcome it in the name of Jesus Christ, and win the victory! Praise
the name of the Lord!
7. The Holy Spirit is the sanctifier who prepares the believer for
the coming of the Lord.
The true believer in Jesus Christ constantly looks forward to the
Lord's return in glory, and in so anticipating that return he wants
to be prepared. So does Paul pray: "May the God of peace himself
sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound
and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess.
5:23). There are those who are very keen about the coming of the Lord,
the Rapture, and other eschatological events, but who unfortunately
seldom seem to think about their state of preparedness. The apostle
John urges that we "abide in him, so that when he appears we may
have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming"
(1 John 2:28). It is the Holy Spirit who prepares us, purifies us, molds
us, enables us more and more to die to sin and live to righteousness,
and to be like Jesus at His coming. We need, in the power of the Holy
Spirit, to "strive...for the holiness without which no one will
see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). Are we really concerned about growth
in holiness, being more like Jesus so that when he appears we shall
not be ashamed?
8. The Holy Spirit enlivens our mortal bodies so that with the coming
of the Lord we shall be raised from the dead.
One of the great empirical facts of the Christian life is that every
true believer is indwelt by God's Spirit. When we become children of
God by faith, the Holy Spirit becomes the inner reality of our being-
-"because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our
hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'" (Gal. 4:6). It is this same indwelling
Spirit that will some day move upon these mortal remains of ours and
bring life immortal to them. As the apostle Paul says, "If the
Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised
Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also
through his Spirit which dwells in you" (Rom. 8:11). So when the
Lord comes back and the summons goes forth for the dead in Christ to
be raised, the great event will occur by the inward power of the Holy
Spirit. Thus will the natural or physical body become a spiritual body
(a body transformed by the Holy Spirit), the perishable become imperishable,
and the mortal put on immortality. Praise be to God for the victory
forever and ever! Amen.
A final word: the Holy Spirit up to the very end is ever seeking to
bring people into life eternal. Thus read the beautiful words of invitation
in the last few verses of the Bible, "The Spirit and the Bride
say, 'Come.' And let him who hears say, 'Come.' And let him who is thirsty
come, let him who desires take the water of life without price"
(Rev. 22:17). The Holy Spirit unceasingly invites people to new life
in Christ. He will be sending forth that invitation until the day Jesus
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15 | 16 | Conclusion
Content Copyright 2003 by J. Rodman Williams,
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