Adopted and Adapted from Don Stewart:
How did the Holy Spirit Work during the Old Testament Period
? And Chuck Smith:
The Holy Spirit: Restrainer of Evil
There are those who believe the Holy Spirit did not work in the same manner during the Old Testament age as He does today. Although it has been the same Holy Spirit all along, His methods have changed from age to age. They contend that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament was not universal to every believer, but was available only to certain believers.
There are no direct statements in the Old Testament about the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the believer.
Thus it is difficult to arrive at any conclusion about the work of the Holy Spirit during the Old Testament period.
I. Different ‘Indwelling’ than That of NT
There is no promise in the Old Testament to the believer that he will be indwelt with the Holy Spirit.
And the Lord said to Moses:
“Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom
the Spirit, lay your hand on him”
This verse seems to indicate that the Holy Spirit is not to be found in everyone. By stating that the Holy Spirit is in Joshua, it infers He is not universally given.
The Spirit is said to have come upon other individuals
, such as Othniel: “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he judged Israel.” (
The reason this view-that only certain individuals were indwelt with the Holy Spirit – is held is based upon an understanding of a statement made by Jesus:
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.” (
This verse is interpreted to mean that the Holy Spirit was only with believers during Old Testament times but now dwells within each believer in the New Testament age
Not only was the Spirit limited to certain individuals; the extent of the indwelling was limited.
He could leave an individual after He had indwelt them. The life of Saul serves as an example:
When they came to there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them (
1 Samuel 10:10
But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, a distressing Spirit from the Lord troubled him (
1 Samuel 16:14
Yet there is a another way to understand this difficult passage and the Old Testament references to the Holy Spirit. It is possible that the references to the Holy Spirit being upon Joshua and others refer to a “special anointing” and not the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The Old Testament records the Holy Spirit giving special ability to certain individuals:
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all
of workmanship” (
The Second of Two Major divisions I will deal with as it relates to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament has to do with His work as a restraining Force.
The Holy Spirits ministry to the world has existed from the beginning of time as a restraining influence. This is as true today as it was during the Old Testament period. The Holy Spirits influence kept sin from running entirely rampant.
– verb (used with object)
1.to hold back from action; keep in check or under control; repress:
to restrain one’s temper.
2.to deprive of liberty, as by arrest or the like.
3.to limit or hamper the activity, growth, or effect of:
2 Thessalonians 2:
“And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time.”
: What is keeping the devil or evil to completely destroy everything everywhere at all times in all places? The Holy Spirit!
But how, then, will he “be taken out of the way” (v. 7) when the church leaves the earth in the Rapture?
He will not be removed in a complete sense but in His unique ministry of restraining lawlessness through God’s people (see a parallel in
He will leave in the distinctive sense in which He came at Pentecost. Just as He was active in saving people before Acts 2, so He will be active during the Day of the Lord (see, for example,
). But He will cease His restraining ministry through the church, since it will no longer exist on earth due to its having been raptured earlier.
The removal of the restrainer at the Rapture of the church must therefore precede the Day of the Lord—a truth confirmed by many other passages in the New Testament (e.g.,
1 Thes. 5:9
In the context of 2 Thessalonians 2, the readers should have known that they were not in the Tribulation period because the Rapture had not yet occurred.
We may conclude that the Old Testament teaches the following regarding the Holy Spirit:
The Bible does not give a comprehensive picture about the work of the Holy Spirit during the Old Testament period.
Some people believe the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit could leave those whom He did indwell.
It seems more plausible that the leaving of the Holy Spirits was the leaving of the Spirits anointing rather than His indwelling.
During the Old Testament period the Holy Spirit gave some believers special skills to perform certain tasks.
With regard to the unbelieving world, the Holy Spirit acted as a restraining influence.
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