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Will the Holy Spirit be present during the tribulation?

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Sometimes, when people read 2 Thessalonians 2:7, they question whether the Holy Spirit will be present during the tribulation. That verse says, “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). The next verse says that, when the restraining force is removed, “the lawless one” (the Antichrist) will be revealed. So, the question is, if the one holding back the forces of evil is the Holy Spirit, and He is “taken out of the way,” then is He no longer present after that time (i.e., during the tribulation)?

We believe the restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 is indeed the Holy Spirit—or the Holy Spirit working through the New Testament church. In our current age, one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is the restraint of evil. But there is coming a time when the Spirit will no longer hold back the looming flood of lawlessness. We believe this will occur when the church is removed from the world at the rapture. After that time, the Antichrist’s path to power will be unobstructed, and God’s judgment can be unleashed on a rebellious world (see Revelation 6—16).

However, just because the Spirit ceases to restrain the march of evil in the world does not mean He is absent. On the contrary, we believe that the Spirit will be present on the earth during the tribulation. We say this for several reasons:

• The Holy Spirit, being God, is omnipresent. He is everywhere at all times, so He must be in the world during the tribulation. There is no “Spirit-free zone” in the whole of creation.

• Salvation is the Spirit’s work in the human heart; without Him, no one is saved (see John 3:5–8). If the Spirit were not present during the tribulation, no one could be saved. But the fact is that many will be saved during the tribulation—a numberless throng will “come out of the great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14). So, the Spirit is obviously at work during that time.

• The Holy Spirit is the one who empowers Christian witnesses and makes their message effective (see Acts 1:8). During the tribulation, there will be plenty of preaching: “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). In order for the preaching during the tribulation to have any effect whatsoever, the Spirit must be involved.

• The tribulation will be a time of refining and restoration for Israel, a process that necessitates the Spirit. God promised Israel, “For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you. . . . You will be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36:24–28).

During the tribulation, the Holy Spirit will modify His work to some extent—He will no longer inhibit evil to the degree He now does, and the result will be an unprecedented time of wickedness on earth. But the Spirit will not take a leave of absence. There will still be evangelists to empower and people to save, and that means the Spirit’s presence will still be required.

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Will the Holy Spirit be present during the tribulation?
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This page last updated: March 14, 2024