The question of whether the Holy Spirit will be present during the tribulation period is an important one for Christians seeking to understand end times prophecy. The tribulation refers to a 7-year period of intense suffering and turmoil that will come upon the earth prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ. During this time, God will pour out His wrath upon an unbelieving world.
While the tribulation will be a time of great darkness and evil, Scripture indicates that the Holy Spirit will continue His work upon the earth even through this bleak period. Here is an overview of biblical evidence that the Holy Spirit will remain present and active during the tribulation:
The Role of the Holy Spirit
First, it is important to understand the ongoing role of the Holy Spirit on earth. Jesus promised His disciples that after His ascension, the Father would send the Holy Spirit to be their Helper and Comforter (John 14:16-17). The giving of the Spirit would empower them to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). This was fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).
The Holy Spirit has many roles, including convicting people of sin (John 16:8), guiding believers into truth (John 16:13), producing spiritual fruit in their lives (Galatians 5:22-23), granting spiritual gifts for ministry (1 Corinthians 12:4-11), and empowering them for service (Acts 1:8). None of these crucial ministries of the Spirit were intended to end until Christ’s return.
The Holy Spirit in Revelation
The book of Revelation reveals that the Holy Spirit will continue His work during the tribulation period right up until Jesus returns. For example:
– Revelation 11:11 speaks of the two witnesses who will prophesy and perform miracles for 1,260 days before being killed by the beast. Clearly, the Holy Spirit will empower and embolden these faithful evangelists just as He did the apostles.
– Revelation 14:12 describes the perseverance of the saints who keep God’s commands and remain faithful to Jesus. Remaining steadfast in such extreme persecution would only be possible through the inner strengthening of the Holy Spirit.
– In Revelation 22:17, at the end of the tribulation right before Christ’s return, the Spirit and the bride continue to say “Come!” inviting sinners to take of the water of life, which is salvation through Jesus.
This indicates that the Holy Spirit will still be present on earth, drawing people to salvation even in the final hours before Jesus’ return.
The Restrainer Must be Removed
2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 teaches that the antichrist, or man of lawlessness, will not be revealed until the one who is restraining him is taken out of the way. Most scholars understand the restraining force to be the Holy Spirit working through the Church. Some therefore argue that the Holy Spirit must be removed from the earth in order for the Antichrist to rise to power and initiate the judgments of the tribulation.
However, this passage can also support the Holy Spirit remaining on earth, but simply lifting the restraint upon evil that allows the man of lawlessness to ascend. The Holy Spirit is powerful enough both to restrain and to remain present. Therefore, other Scriptures should be weighed when interpreting this passage.
Overall, the consistent work and ministry of the Spirit found throughout Revelation supports that He will still be present on earth during the tribulation, continuing to minister despite the rise of evil.
The Holy Spirit and Believers During the Tribulation
During the tribulation, many souls will come to faith in Christ, whether through the efforts of the two witnesses and 144,000 Jewish evangelists or directly through the conviction of the Holy Spirit (Revelation 7:9-14). The Holy Spirit will surely be actively drawing people to salvation.
New believers will need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to provide wisdom, strength, and empowerment to face persecution and possible martyrdom. Without the Spirit’s help, endurance and perseverance would be impossible.
In addition, the book of Revelation presents several pairs of witnesses/prophets who will prophecy during the tribulation: the two witnesses (Revelation 11), the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (Revelation 7), even perhaps the angel preaching the eternal gospel (Revelation 14:6-7). For these prophets to speak God’s word, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit will be vital.
Parallels to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
The pattern of the Holy Spirit ministering despite the presence of widespread rebellion and judgment can also be seen in the Old Testament.
– In Genesis 6:3, God says His Spirit will not always strive with men, in the context of announcing coming judgment via the Flood. And yet the Holy Spirit came upon Noah to preach righteousness (2 Peter 2:5) and apparently ministered through other believers like Methuselah up until the Flood came.
– Similarly, in the rebellious generations between Moses and Jesus, the Holy Spirit is seen inspiring prophets and kings despite seasons of idolatry and sin among God’s people.
This pattern indicates that the Holy Spirit can and will continue to minister in periods of judgment, even severe judgment upon the earth.
Implications of the Holy Spirit’s Presence
Understanding that the Holy Spirit will continue ministering during the tribulation period offers several important encouragements:
– For those who come to Christ after the rapture of the church, the Holy Spirit will provide comfort, strength, courage, and empowerment for ministry. New believers will not be left alone even though the church has departed.
– The ongoing work of the Spirit affirms God’s mercy – He continues reaching out to bring people to salvation even in the midst of pouring out wrath.
– For believers today, it gives confidence that God will sustain His people through even the most difficult times of persecution or trial as we rely on the Spirit’s empowerment.
– God’s activity through the Spirit proves that He remains sovereign over the earth even when evil reigns. The tribulation does not signify that Satan has conquered or that God has abandoned mankind.
– The Holy Spirit’s proclamation of the gospel and testimony to Christ points to the certainty that Jesus will return just as He promised to defeat evil and establish His righteous kingdom.
So in summary, biblical evidence overwhelmingly supports that the Holy Spirit will remain present and active on earth during the tribulation, empowering believers, drawing unbelievers to salvation, and sustaining God’s witnesses until the return of Christ.
A Promise of the Spirit’s Help
One encouraging Scripture for all believers facing trials is Jesus’ promise to disciples in Matthew 10:19-20:
“But when they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19-20 ESV)
No matter what persecutions or trials Christians may face before Christ’s return – even in the end times tribulation – they can have confidence that the Holy Spirit will empower and strengthen them to boldly proclaim the gospel and glorify Christ even in the darkest times.
The Holy Spirit’s endless power and abiding presence will accompany believers through every season of the Christian life until they are finally delivered into the glorious presence of Christ forever. In light of the Spirit’s comfort now and hope for the future, believers can proclaim with the apostle John:
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV)