Where Is the Holy Spirit During the Tribulation?

Manfred E. Kober, Th.D.

Based on 2 Thessalonians 2:4, some believe the Holy Spirit will be gone during the seven-year Tribulation. The passage teaches that the one who now hinders evil in the world will be taken out of the way.

Whoever holds back Satan and evil must be more powerful than the Devil. The reference is most likely to the Holy Spirit, whose restraining ministry was removed at the time of the flood (Gen. 6:3), so that evil could take its full course, followed by divine judgment.

1. The Removal of the Restrainer

In this present dispensation of grace, the Holy Spirit restrains evil, in part through the indwelling of believers. As a barrier to evil, He functions similarly to a railroad barrier. When at a railroad crossing the barrier is lifted to allow the traffic to proceed, the barrier is still there but does not function as at other times. Thus, when the rapture occurs and the Church meets the Savior in the air (1. Thess. 4:13-18), several ministries of that Holy Spirit will cease. He will not be totally gone inasmuch as several operations of the Spirit are predicted or implied for the Tribulation. Moreover, as the third person in the Trinity, He is omnipresent.

2. Ministries Distinct to the Church

The Church began on the Day of Pentecost with a visitation of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). The Church ends at the rapture with translation of the living saints and the resurrection of the dead in Christ (1. Thess. 4:13-18). Until the rapture, God is gathering out from the Gentiles a people for His name (Acts 15:14) and combines them with an elect Jewish remnant (Rom. 11:5; Eph. 2:11-22) into a new body called the Church. (Col.1:24-27). This great task is accomplished by the Holy Spirit who baptizes each believer into this body—the Church (1. Cor. 12:13). At the rapture this baptism ceases. Presently, the Spirit’s indwelling of Church age believers is universal and permanent (John 14:16-17). In the Old Testament it was temporary and partial. Apparently during the Tribulation the Spirit’s ministry to the saints will be like His limited ministry in the Old Testament.

3. Ministries During the Tribulation

a. The redemption of the Witnesses.

After the disappearance of all believers from earth, the Lord will redeem and seal 144,000 witnesses, 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel (Rev. 7:4-8). Since it is the Holy Spirit who regenerates (John 3:5-8) and seals (Eph. 4:30) in this dispensation, it is reasonable to assume that the 144,000 witnesses are redeemed and sealed by the Holy Spirit as well.

b. Power for Witnessing.

All genuine Tribulation saints will be fervent witnesses for the Savior, unafraid of persecution and martyrdom (Mat. 24:14) just as the Holy Spirit filled disciples were empowered in Christ’s time (Mat. 10: 19-20).

c. Regeneration of the Gentiles.

Despite unprecedented satanic activity on earth, vast numbers of people from every nation, kindred, tribe and tongue will be saved during the Tribulation. This is primarily a result of the witness of the 144,000 (Rev. 7:9-17) and the angel whose ministry involves every area of this planet (Rev. 14:6). It is sound scriptural inference that the Holy Spirit who redeems individuals in Old Testament times, in the church age and in the Millennial Kingdom, will also regenerate the evangelized Gentiles of the Tribulation.

d. The Ministry of the Two Witnesses.

In Revelation 11 two unnamed witnesses are mentioned who will minister for 3 ½ years in Jerusalem. Their Spirit-given power is reminiscent of the ministry of Moses and Elijah. Their miraculous enablement is foreshadowed by Spirit’s ministry to Zerubbabel and Joshuah the high priest (Rev. 11:4; Zech. 4:6).

e. The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

While the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), there will be an even greater outpouring in the final days of the Tribulation, as predicted
in Joel 2:28-32. A large segment of the Jewish people will be saved as a result of this unique ministry of the Spirit. The Spirit will open their eyes to the Messiah even while He returns as Savior and Sovereign (Zech. 12:10).


This present age is rightly called “dispensation of the Holy Spirit.” He works in a way uncommon to other ages to a unique body of believers, the Bride of Christ, comprised of Jews and Gentiles.

When the Savior summons His Bride to her heavenly home in the rapture (John 14:1-6), the Holy Spirit will still be active on earth, ministering to those left behind, like He did in a variety of ways to individuals throughout history, He will still bring individuals to salvation, as He sets them apart and enables them to trust in Christ who alone can save (2. Thess. 2:13).

© Manfred E Kober

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