The deity of the Holy Spirit

This is another in a series of excerpts from What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity, published by High Street Press (visit highstreet.press).

In the last column, we examined the biblical evidence for the personhood of the Holy Spirit; that is, the Spirit is a He, not an it. Once the Spirit’s personality is established, His deity is a logical, and biblically faithful, next step. So, what do we see the Spirit doing that only God can do?

For starters, the Holy Spirit creates. Genesis 1:2 records, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” The Hebrew verb translated “was hovering,” used also in Deuteronomy 32:11, suggests that the Spirit of God was watching over His creation just as a bird watches over its young. Further, creatures come into being when God sends His Spirit (Ps. 104:30).

In addition, the Spirit demonstrates omniscience and omnipresence, displaying qualities that establish Him as co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son. 

Of the Spirit’s omniscience, Paul writes, “Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, since the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except his spirit within him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:10-11). 

Of the Spirit’s omnipresence, the psalmist asks, “Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there” (Ps. 139:7-8).

What’s more, the Spirit shares a divine name, symbolic of divine presence, with the other members of the triune Godhead. Before Jesus ascends into heaven, He commands His followers, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

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Does the Bible teach purgatory?

Save us from the fire

This is the sixth in a series of excerpts from “What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

Do some Christians undergo purification from the stain of sin between death and entrance into heaven? Many who answer yes to that question embrace the doctrine of purgatory, which became official Roman Catholic dogma in A.D. 1438.

Simply stated, purgatory is a place or state of suffering where the dead bound for heaven achieve the holiness necessary to enter into the presence of God.

It should be noted, according to Catholic teaching, that some saints go directly to heaven upon death, needing no purification, while those who die in the state of unrepented mortal sin find themselves at once, and eternally, in hell. All those in purgatory ultimately make it to heaven.

Preparation for heaven

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”

The Pocket Catholic Dictionary puts it this way: “The souls of those who have died in the state of grace suffer for a time in purging that prepares them to enter heaven. The purpose of purgatory is to cleanse one of imperfections, venial sins, and faults, and to remit or do away with the temporal punishment due to mortal sins that have been forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance. It is an intermediate state in which the departed souls can atone for unforgiven sins before receiving their final reward.”

The amount of time one spends in purgatory depends on the degree of purging needed. Some proponents of purgatory, however, argue that because the afterlife is experienced outside the element of time, purgatory should be seen as a state or dimension rather than as a place.

Indeed, Catholic theologians speak of the great diversity of purgatorial suffering in both its intensity and duration.

Even so, the question for evangelical Christians is: Does the Bible support the doctrine of purgatory?

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A look into Tartarus

This is the fifth in a series of excerpts from “What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

If Sheol or Hades is the temporary abode of deceased people, is there a transitory place of punishment for some demons?

It seems the answer is yes, in a place the New Testament refers to as Tartarus.

Tartarus is mentioned only once, in 2 Peter 2:4. Many translations render it “hell,” including the King James Version and the New American Standard Bible, while others, like the English Standard Version and the New International Version, provide footnotes linking the English word “hell” to the Greek name Tartarus.

The Holman Christian Standard Bible simply transliterates the Greek word in this passage, which reads: “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but threw them down into Tartarus and delivered them to be kept in chains of darkness until judgment …”

A footnote in the HCSB reads: “Tartarus is a Greek name for a subterranean place of divine punishment lower than Hades.”

In the apocryphal Book of 1 Enoch (20:2), Tartarus is used as a place where fallen angels are punished, an interpretation Peter affirms.

So, Tartarus seems to be a place separate from Sheol, the Hebrew term for the abode of the dead; Hades, roughly the Greek equivalent of Sheol; and Gehenna, the lake of fire created for the Devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41) where wicked people also spend eternity (Rev. 20:15).

Ancient Greeks regarded Tartarus as a place where rebellious gods and other wicked ones are punished. Peter refers to Tartarus as the abode of certain fallen angels.

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Gehenna and the afterlife

Save us from the fire

This is the fourth in a series of excerpts from “What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

The ultimate destiny of the wicked is the same habitation created for Satan and his demons – a place in English we call “hell,” and a place Jesus and the New Testament writers describe variously as Gehenna, “outer darkness,” “eternal fire,” “eternal punishment,” “lake of fire,” and “the second death.”

While Sheol and Hades generally depict the temporary abode of the dead, Gehenna and its associated terms describe the place of everlasting future punishment for those whose names are not written in the book of life (Rev. 20:15).

The term Gehenna is derived from the Valley of Hinnom. Located southwest of Jerusalem, this steep, rocky valley is the scene of human sacrifices to pagan deities (2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6) and is declared the “Valley of Slaughter” by Jeremiah (Jer. 7:31-34).

The picture of a place where fires are never quenched and worms never stop feasting on corpses became to the Jewish mind an appropriate representation of the ultimate fate of idol worshipers.

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The personhood of the Holy Spirit

This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” published by the MBC’s High Street Press and available through Amazon and other booksellers.

The Bible reveals both the personhood and deity of the Holy Spirit. In this column, we focus on the Spirit as a person, for without personhood the Spirit cannot be divine. In the next column, we show from Scripture how this person possesses all the attributes of deity.

One of the clearest demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s personality is His use of personal pronouns in reference to Himself. Two examples make this plain:

Acts 10:19-20 – “While Peter was thinking about the vision, the Spirit told him, ‘Three men are here looking for you. Get up, go downstairs, and go with them with no doubts at all, because I have sent them.’”

Acts 13:1-2 – “Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’”

Note that the Holy Spirit speaks personally to Peter as well as to believers in the Antioch church. These are actions of a sentient being, not an impersonal force.

Jesus also uses personal pronouns to speak of the Holy Spirit, telling His followers: 

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-14).

According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit arrives, guides, discerns the truth, hears and speaks, discloses future events, testifies about Jesus, and glorifies Him – all demonstrations of personhood.

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