We have been studying the great future event of the return or second coming of the Holy Spirit. He first came or was sent at the feast of Pentecost in Acts 2, and yet Scripture makes it clear that He will be sent again in the future, when the Spirit will be poured out on all flesh.
During His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus proclaimed both the first and the second comings of the Holy Spirit. In regards to His first coming, let us consider John 14:16-17.
16. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17. the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
The word translated “Helper” is the Greek word for a “Paraclete,” parakletos. While we do not use “paraclete” much in modern English, it is recognized as an English word at dictionary.reference.com, which defines it as an “advocate or intercessor.” The idea of the Greek word is of “one who comes alongside to help.” The Lord had been this up to now to His disciples, but as He is speaking in John 14 He is about to leave them, and so now He will pray the Father that He will send the Holy Spirit to abide with them for the outflow and be the advocate or intercessor for them. He defines this Spirit as “the Spirit of truth.” The world cannot receive this Spirit, for it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but the disciples know Him since they know the Lord Jesus, Who dwelt with them already. Yet when He sent the Spirit as their Paraclete, He would be in them.
The event the Lord Jesus sets forth here is what I call the first coming of the Holy Spirit, the one that took place at Pentecost in Acts 2. The second coming of the Holy Spirit, the one we are calling His “return,” the Lord proclaimed in John 16:7-11.
7. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9. of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10. of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11. of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
The first verse here again sets forth the first coming of the Spirit. The Lord assures them that it is truly advantageous to them that He goes away, for if He does not, the Paraclete will not come to them, but since He is departing, He will send the Paraclete. This is what the Lord did at Pentecost, as we discussed above.
Notice what the Lord says next. He tells them something the Helper will do “when He has come.” This did not take place at His first sending at Pentecost, then, but was to take place at some time thereafter. What He will do is convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. The word “world” here is the Greek word kosmos, which is related to our English word cosmos, spelled with a “c” instead of a “k.” We define the “cosmos” as the universe consisting of the stars and planets and other heavenly bodies. Yet the idea of the Greek word is of an orderly system or arrangement. Certainly the heavens are such an orderly system, but this word is used in the Bible to consider the world as a system, order, or arrangement upon earth. The world under consideration here is the orderly system of Adamkind on earth.
Now if we will think about this carefully, we will realize that the Holy Spirit never did this work in the past. It is true that He has brought certain people who believed in Christ to a realization of the truth of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Yet a few, select believers being convicted of this is not the same as the world being convicted of it. Again we must not take the strong and magnificent statements of the Bible and water them down to the point where they are all but meaningless. When the world is convicted of these things, it will have a profound effect upon it. It will not be at all like a few people coming to faith in Christ.
Moreover, we cannot say that even all believers have the same convictions regarding these things. Even now, we would have trouble all agreeing on what sin is. Would all Christians today, or even all true believers, agree on what should be done about homosexuality and the “homosexual agenda”? Do all Christians agree on pacifism, and whether or not it is right for a believer to be a soldier? No, we do not all agree on what is and is not sin. Nor do we all agree on what righteousness is. I once dated a young lady whom I believe was a true and sincere believer in Jesus Christ. I liked and respected her and her parents very much, and yet they believed that it was righteousness for all believers to speak in tongues, and I did not believe that. Ultimately, that disagreement ended our relationship. And we do not all agree on what proper judgment regarding certain situations would be. How many churches have broken up over disagreements on how to set themselves in order? What the criteria for a board member should be, what church discipline should be like, what ordinances should be done and how they should be done…people who are true believers cannot agree on these things. Though we insist that all believers do have the seal of the Holy Spirit, we will have to admit that He is not even convicting all true believers regarding exactly what is sin, exactly what is righteousness, and exactly what is judgment. So if He is not doing this for even believers, we surely must admit that He is not doing this for the world!
The Lord’s words will not fall to the ground, however. Someday, the whole world will be convicted regarding these things by the Holy Spirit. He will convict them regarding sin because they do not believe in Jesus Christ. He will convict them regarding righteousness because Christ went to His Father and we can no longer see Him to observe a model of what righteousness is like. He will convict them regarding judgment because the Ruler of this world, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, will have been judged and set in His proper place at last as the standard against which everything else will be measured. When will the Spirit do this great thing and bring this conviction upon the world? This will be when He pours out His Spirit upon all flesh.
Thus from the Lord’s words we can learn both of the first and of the second comings of the Holy Spirit. Another great place to discover truth regarding the pouring out of the Spirit at His return and the great things that will take place then is in the Psalms. In many ways the Psalms are the song book of the kingdom of God, and they tell us many things about God’s glorious plans for the future and what that time will be like. First, let us consider the truth taught in Psalm 22:26-28.
26. The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
Those who seek Him will praise the LORD.
Let your heart live forever!
27. All the ends of the world
Shall remember and turn to the LORD,
And all the families of the nations
Shall worship before You.
28. For the kingdom is the LORD’s,
And He rules over the nations.
The “poor” are those who are humble and who submit to God. This passage declares a time when all such will eat and be satisfied. I do not believe that this has only to do with food, but it has to do with all the glorious things that will be true when God’s kingdom comes. The blessed conditions that will exist then will be “eaten up” and experienced to the full by all who are submissive to God. The result is that those who seek the LORD will praise Him, for now they will have found Him and experienced the goodness of His government. Moreover they will be able to experience these things perpetually, for their heart lives forever. “Your heart” lives perpetually because death itself is under the control of the kingdom, and God’s people will not experience death throughout it. No heart disease, heart attacks, or any such things will take place to end the life of any person in God’s kingdom.
Then it speaks of the ends of the world. Some have made fun of the Bible because of this, as if God thought the earth was a square. Yet an “end of the world” is not the edge of a square earth, as if you could walk to a place where you could pitch off the side. Rather, imagine you are in a remote village out in a jungle somewhere. If you would go to the very edge of that village, you would have come to a place where the world of men comes to an end. If you would take one more step, you would be in the jungle, in the wild, and out of the world of men altogether. You would have come to an end of the world. So the ends of the world are not the edges of the world, but are the most remote places.
All the ends of the world shall remember. The Hebrew word for “remember” is zakar, and it can mean to have something brought to your mind that was not there before. This is what happens when the Holy Spirit convicts the world as Christ said He will do in John 16:7-11. People even in the most remote places will suddenly have something imprinted on their minds regarding God, something that many of them did not know before.
This will result in people all over the world, even in the most remote places, turning to God. To “turn” here means to turn around. It does not necessarily mean that they will be converted to Him, or will submit to Him, or will agree to serve Him. What it does mean is that even those who were facing directly away from God and who were paying no attention to Him whatsoever will suddenly turn towards Him to notice Him and to consider Him. The result of this is that all the families of the nations shall worship before Him. The “families” are the different types of people on the earth. The concept of “race” is not a Biblical one. The Bible does not speak of races, but of different families of people, families that grew into nations. The so-called “racial characteristics” are really family traits, according to God’s Word. So this is telling us that all different kinds of people from all different nations will end up worshipping the LORD because of the knowledge of Him He gives them by bringing it to their minds.
When will all these things take place? This all comes about because the kingdom is the LORD’s, and He governs among the nations. And what causes all this to happen? These are all actions of the Holy Spirit when He is poured out on all flesh. These things have nothing to do with the second coming of Jesus Christ. Instead, they have to do with the return of the Holy Spirit.
Another Psalm that tells us much about the glories that will be present on earth when the Spirit is poured out on all flesh is Psalm 46:4-10.
4. There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
5. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
6. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
7. The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
8. Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
9. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
10. Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
This passage mentions a river that makes glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. While the bringing of life-giving water is a happy thing for those who lack it, this is talking about something much more important than this. This river is not speaking of water, but of God Himself flowing out. Moreover it is not one flow or a single river, but rather it divides into streams, like a river does at a delta. This is at a time when God is in the midst of His city, so that she shall not be moved. Certainly no such thing can be said of Jerusalem today, which experiences the turmoil of division between Jews, Muslims, and Christians! Moreover Yahweh will help His city, just at the break of dawn. What dawn is this? I believe it is no other dawn than the dawning of God’s great kingdom on earth.
Now we are presented with a picture of what things will be like then. The nations are in turmoil, and the governments are unstable. Everything is in a time of flux and trouble. This is true of the day in which we live, for certainly we know that this world’s culture of sin and death, the order of things that is after the ways of Satan rather than the ways of God, results in much turmoil, and much instability among the nations and their governments. Yet perhaps there will be a special trouble going on at this time. There could be a hint here that something particularly bad will be going on right when God decides to step in, though of course until it comes we cannot know for certain what that bad thing might be.
How does God end this turmoil and instability? Not by the second coming of Christ in flaming fire and judgment, as II Thessalonians 1 describes it, but rather by uttering His voice. Christ does not have to come back in fire and sword to get the victory in the earth. All He has to do is to speak from heaven, to pour out His Spirit on all flesh, to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and suddenly all the turmoil will be hushed and all people will turn toward Him. The result of this is that Yahweh of hosts will be with His people of Israel, and the God of Jacob will be their refuge. Whatever part Israel will play in the turmoil at that time, when Yahweh steps in, they will be in danger no longer.
Now the Psalmist calls upon us to come and behold the works of the LORD, the glorious things that He will do when that day comes and He speaks. First he tells us that He makes desolations of many things on earth. This might not sound so good, for “desolations” sounds at first glance like something bad. Yet consider how this world would be greatly improved if certain things were made desolate. For example, consider if things that have to do with sin were made desolate. Suppose the pornography industry were suddenly made desolate, with no one making it, no one buying it, and no one looking at it? Would that not be a great thing? And consider if things having to do with sickness and death were made desolate. Suppose sickness were gone, so hospitals and all health care industries were made desolate. Suppose deaths ceased, so mortuary services were suddenly made desolate. Would not this be a great blessing to the world, not a curse?
We do not have to guess that such things are meant, for the passage gives us a specific example of what it is talking about. It tells us that Yahweh makes wars to cease to the most remote parts of the earth. This will make desolate things like army bases and war colleges. Yet what a great thing it will be to have the engines of war suddenly desolate! At the same time He will break the bow and cut the spear in two and burn the chariot in the fire. This is not to say that the bow and the spear and the chariot will be the common instruments of war at that future time, for we have already moved long past these. Yet certainly a gun is an evolution of a bow, a missile is an advance on a spear, and a tank is an improvement on a chariot. Thus we can understand this to mean that Yahweh will destroy the instruments of war from off the earth at that time, whatever they may be when this takes place. This will result in the end of war and the making of war. What a great thing that will be! These are the kinds of things He will make desolate, but the earth itself He will not make desolate.
Next, we have words that might be the very words He will speak when He utters His voice and the earth melts. He commands all the earth to be still and know that He is God. He promises that He will be exalted among the nations, and that He will be exalted on the earth. Do we believe this promise? Do we trust that God will someday bring His kingdom to earth, even as He has promised He will do? For He will bring in that kingdom, and He will do it by speaking to the world through His Spirit.
The next Psalm we will consider is a very important one for setting forth just how it is that the kingdom of God begins, and again illustrates the reality of it being done through the Spirit breaking into and speaking to the minds of all people. That Psalm is Psalm 64:1-10.
1. Hear my voice, O God, in my meditation;
Preserve my life from fear of the enemy.
2. Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
From the rebellion of the workers of iniquity,
3. Who sharpen their tongue like a sword,
And bend their bows to shoot their arrows—bitter words,
4. That they may shoot in secret at the blameless;
Suddenly they shoot at him and do not fear.
5. They encourage themselves in an evil matter;
They talk of laying snares secretly;
They say, “Who will see them?”
6. They devise iniquities:
“We have perfected a shrewd scheme.”
Both the inward thought and the heart of man are deep.
7. But God shall shoot at them with an arrow;
Suddenly they shall be wounded.
8. So He will make them stumble over their own tongue;
All who see them shall flee away.
9. All men shall fear,
And shall declare the work of God;
For they shall wisely consider His doing.
10. The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and trust in Him.
And all the upright in heart shall glory.
Here David calls upon God to hear his voice in his meditation and to preserve his life from fear of the enemy. The wicked are secretly plotting, and the workers of iniquity are rebelling. Their method of attack is not with sword and bow, but they sharpen their tongues like a sword and shoot bitter words like arrows. They shoot their words at the blameless, not fearing any reprisal for their bold attack. Moreover they do not do this alone. They encourage each other in evil matters and discuss together how to lay secret snares, believing that no one will see them. They invent new iniquities, they perfect their shrewd schemes. Their inward thoughts and hearts are deeply engaged in wickedness. In this entire description, we see a situation described that sets forth wicked men like we see them on every hand today. Surely we can see the plots of the wicked, and how they are coming to fruition in our society and world! What can anyone do about this? What will God do about it?
David has an answer for us. He tells us God shoots at them with an arrow. What arrow? What does this mean? We do not have to wonder, for we have already had the arrows of the wicked defined for us above. Their arrows are bitter words. So God’s arrow will be a word as well. Surely this must be the same word as we have read about before. It is the same as when the Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. It is the same as when all the ends of the earth have something brought to their mind and turn to the LORD. God tells them to be still and know that He is God. This is His arrow shot against them. God will speak, and it will change the world, and it is not a slow change over time. Rather He suddenly wounds evil men. This word will plunge unexpectedly into the world and will bring a complete turnaround among men.
The result is that they stumble over their own tongue. The idea here is that they give themselves a tongue lashing. Remember that the ones David is speaking of are the very same wicked who plotted and schemed and worked so much evil in the previous verses. These same people will turn their words against themselves after they are wounded by God’s arrow. This will cause all men to flee away, or perhaps better translated, will cause them to shake their heads at them. What has happened to those who formerly were bold in their wickedness? What has brought them to their place of self-condemnation and self-censure? There is nothing that could bring such men to this except the Spirit of God!
What will be the result of all this? All men shall fear the LORD. How could they help but respect Him after He shows such power with a word? Yet we would point out that fearing and respecting God does not save anyone, though it certainly will be a welcome change! And then all shall declare His work. Everyone will talking about His work He has just done in shooting this arrow and will be considering it. What will this result in? What will God do next? What is the meaning of it all? Suddenly the earth will be buzzing about God, rather than about the many silly and shallow things people talk about today. At this turn of events the righteous shall rejoice and be glad in Jehovah! Surely there will be much to rejoice in in all this. At this is just the beginning! So the righteous will trust in Him, knowing that what comes next will be just as glorious, and even more. All the upright in heart will glory in what has happened, and in the great change God will have made in the world. So when does all this happen? When God acts to send His truth into the world. And that truth will be sent by a word, carried by the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon all flesh.
Next we will consider Psalm 74:20-23.
20. Have respect to the covenant;
For the dark places of the earth are full of the haunts of cruelty.
21. Oh, do not let the oppressed return ashamed!
Let the poor and needy praise Your name.
22. Arise, O God, plead Your own cause;
Remember how the foolish man reproaches You daily.
23. Do not forget the voice of Your enemies;
The tumult of those who rise up against You increases continually.
In this portion we have a prayer by Asaph. Yet remember that this is not just Asaph’s prayer, for he is writing by inspiration of God. I believe that any prayer in the Bible, since it is also God’s prayer, becomes a prophecy, not just of what God wants to do, but of what God WILL do. This can be called the “prayer/prophecy principle.” So in this prayer we see a reality of what God is yet going to do on earth.
Asaph calls upon God to have respect to the covenant. This refers to God’s covenant with Israel, which in our world seems to have been long since forgotten. The dark places of the earth are full of the haunts of cruelty. We see such dark dwelling places everywhere. All we have to do is to think about the places where women and children are abused, where girls are kidnapped and forced into prostitution, where crimes are carried out, where terrorists plot and scheme, and we know that there are indeed such dark places, such habitations of cruelty upon the earth. Yet Asaph calls upon God to not let this continue, to not allow the oppressed to return from calling on Him ashamed! Instead, do a work that will cause the poor and needy to praise His name.
Then, he calls upon God to arise. This does not mean to get up from a prone position, but it means to go into action. He desires Him to plead His Own cause. In our day when God is silent, many are bold to speak against Him, and those who love Him are forced to plead His cause for Him, though most are ill-equipped to do it. We try to plead for God, often with poor results. Even the best of us cannot plead for Him as He can. So Asaph calls upon God to go into action and to plead His Own case. He reminds Him how the foolish reproach God daily, the voice of His enemies speaks against Him, and the noise of those who go into action against Him increases continually. The only answer, the best answer, to all this is for God to act on His Own behalf.
Once again, this passage is a prayer. Yet since this prayer is given by inspiration, we can know that this is what God wants to do as well. And not only does God want to do it, but God will do it. God will someday go into action and plead for Himself. He will someday speak on His Own behalf. When He does this, it will be by means of His arrow, His word, shot into the world. It will convict the world. And it will be done through the Spirit poured out on all flesh.
Another great verse from the Psalms speaking of this light from heaven, this word God sends into the world through the Spirit, is Psalm 76:8.
8. You caused judgment to be heard from heaven;
The earth feared and was still,
This verse is in the past tense, yet this is an example of an important Biblical principle: that God often speaks of those things that are not as if they were, or, as the New King James puts it in Romans 4:17, “calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” This does not mean that God says untrue things, but rather that God speaks of things that do not yet exist as if they already did. He speaks of things that have not yet taken place as if they had already taken place and were in the past. That is what God is doing here. He is speaking of what is going to happen in the future as if we were already beyond it and looking back on it from the future.
What God will do is to cause men to hear judgment from heaven. We have a mixed-up idea of judgment today, and often think of it as if it were punishment. Yet this speaks not of punishment, but of truth. God’s judgment is His righteous order, an order that is sorely lacking from this messed-up world we live in. Yet when that future day comes that God speaks from heaven and convicts the world of judgment, as John 16:11 says, the earth will hear and respect God and be still. This matches with what we have already seen in multiple other passages. It speaks of this future time when God will act, when God will speak, and when the Spirit will be poured out on all to convict them of the truth.