The Holy Spirit, past present and future

The Holy Spirit in three tenses

A dove coming to rest on an outstretched hand against a background of blue sky and doves in flight.

A lot of teaching in Christianity comes in three tenses: Past, present and future. Take Salvation,  we can say that we have been saved (either when we made a commitment to Jesus, when we were baptised or 2,000 years ago at the annunciation/crucifixion/ascension &mdash: choose your theology), we are being saved now as we live as a Christian and we will be saved when Jesus Christ returns at the end of the age.

Then there’s those difficult passages in the Bible. The book of Hebrews is particularly time-twisting.

again he appoints a certain day, “Today”, saying through David so long afterwards, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
Hebrews 4:7

An event at the time of Moses was spoken about as “Today by David, and still applied now in the writer, David’s future.

4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
Hebrews 6:4–6

There are not a succession of crucifixions of Jesus Christ. It is a once and for all time event. You cannot crucify Jesus again. The sins we commit now and in the future, including the good things we fail to do, are being dealt with now and in the future by an event thousands of years ago. Our sins, including the ones we have not done, are the sins that God came to earth and dies for.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.
Hebrews 13:8

Jesus became bound by time for a cohort while, about 33 years, but he is fully God from eternity past to eternity in the future. We as humans are bound by the constraints of time, God is not. God operates outside of time.

God is outside time

The Holy Spirit is part of the Godhead, the fullness of God is in her. Although she indwells believers in God she, like the other members of the Godhead, is not constrained by time. Different tenses are used for the Spirit.

Spirit be with you

The Holy Spirit who was been present in creation can walk alongside us in our lives. The Spirit is not part of who I am the Spirit is always something other, alien to the human condition. The Holy Spirit can work on things outside of me, on things around me. The Holy Spirit is unlimited by the things you or I can do.

Spirit be in you

The indwelling Spirit works within us. This is what the apostle Paul meant by the fruit of the Spirit. They grow in us by the double action of the work of the Spirit and we humans responding to this in the way we act. We become more like God by the Spirit and also by acting more like God. The Spirit becomes the mark of our lives is we live according to the Spirit. This is how God acts in our lives, with our cooperation. One of the first things I heard when I became involved in Charismatic renewal in the 1970s was that the Holy Spirit is a gentleman and will not do anything in our lives without our approval*.

Spirit come to you

But even when we have the Holy Spirit within us there are those times when the Holy Spirit gives us direct advice, and when we cooperate we become conduits for the Holy Spirit to flow through. This happened it the Bible when the Spirit told the church in Antioch to send Barnabas and Saul aside as missionaries. (Acts 13:2). I have only been aware of this in my life a handful of times, and each time I was surprised that I could be the one chosen. It seems the Spirit used those who are available when those best suited for the task are not available.

A question. Are you available for the Holy Spirit to use you?


*This does not detract from the word for Spirit in Hebrew being feminine.


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3 thoughts on “The Holy Spirit, past present and future

    1. Hi John.

      Thank you for replying. We do not have a neuter personal pronoun in English. The rise of ‘it’ would imply that the Holy Spirit is not personal, So that leaves us with either ‘he’ or ‘she’, ‘him’ or ‘her’ etc. The Holy Spirit is neuter in New Testament Greek, which does not help, but linguistically feminine in Hebrew. That’s reason one for my choice.

      Reason two is that the Bible is clear that both male and female humans are made in the image of God, and using exclusively male pronouns for God masks this. That is why I think that using a feminine pronoun for the Holy Spirit suits her the best.

  1. I truly hope and pray that I am available. The promptings are generally subtle and gentle and so a willingness to respond is needed. It makes me wonder how many promptings I’ve let pass. Opportunities missed.

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