Revelation and Inspiration
Instruction, Illumination, and Affirmation
The Spirit of truth (John 14:17, 26; 15:26; 16:7, 13; 1 John 4:6; 5:7) has been actively engaged in every aspect of mediating God’s Word, as illustrated below:
|God Giving||Believers Receiving|
Christ taught his disciples that God’s Spirit was the Paraclete, the divine friend who would do whatever was necessary to forward the best interest of God through the apostles. Since Christ had discipled these men to bear witness of him and lead others to a knowledge of the truth, then in Christ’s absence, the Paraclete would come alongside the apostles to equip and exhort them to continue teaching what Christ had taught (John 14:16, 26), to help the disciples bear witness of Christ (John 15:26–27), and to help the disciples convict the world with their message of truth (John 16:7–11). In all four of these passages in John’s Gospel, the Greek term paraklētos is best translated “Helper.” In every instance, as the immediate contexts of these verses show, John’s emphasis is on the Paraclete helping the disciples specifically to know and remember and preach the truth about Christ. The first five chapters of Acts further confirm that the Paraclete came and helped the disciples to know the truth and to declare it with power (Acts 1:8; 2:4, 33; 4:8, 31; 5:32).
This work of the Spirit with the apostles lays the foundation of the Holy Spirit’s ministry with relation to Scripture. Paul spoke of this aspect of the Spirit’s ministry in 1 Corinthians 2:10–16, addressing the Spirit’s work of revelation and inspiration (2:10–11), instruction (2:12–13), and illumination, affirmation, and utilization (2:14–16).
Revelation and Inspiration
The term revelation generally refers to the divine disclosure, whether by general or special means, of what was previously unknowable to humans (1 Cor. 2:10–11). Inspiration applies only to the written Word of God, whereby the Holy Spirit protects God’s revelation through human writers from error in order to provide a completely true and trustworthy writing, down to the very words used (2 Tim. 3:16–17). Peter further explained inspiration by stating that the prophecy of Scripture was made not by an act of human will but rather by men who were directed by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20–21). John was in the Spirit (Rev. 1:10) when he received inspired revelation from the seven spirits (Rev. 1:4), an idiom that refers to the Holy Spirit using the number of perfection (seven), which speaks of the Spirit’s fullness (see Rev. 4:5; 5:6).
The Holy Spirit’s role in revelation finds confirmation from many who spoke on behalf of God:
Prophets, during and after the exodus (Neh. 9:20, 30; Isa. 63:11, 14; Hag. 2:5)
David (2 Sam. 23:2)
Ezekiel (Ezek. 3:24, 27)
Micah (Mic. 3:8)
Zechariah (Zech. 7:12)
Simeon (Luke 2:26)
Christ’s disciples (Matt. 10:20; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12)
Agabus (Acts 11:28)
Paul (1 Cor. 2:10)
Peter (1 Pet. 1:10–12)
Similar testimony from others confirms that the Holy Spirit gave aid not only in revelation but also in inspiration:
Isaiah (Isa. 59:21)
John (John 16:13; Rev. 1:4, 10)
Paul (Eph. 3:5)
At times, the biblical writers speak specifically of scriptural texts that were both revealed and inspired by the Holy Spirit:
Matthew (Matt. 22:43; Mark 12:36, citing Ps. 110:1)
Luke (Acts 1:16, 20, citing Pss. 41:9; 69:25; 109:8)
Luke (Acts 4:25–26, citing Ps. 2:1–2)
Luke (Acts 28:25–27, citing Isa. 6:9–10)
Paul (1 Tim. 4:1, possibly citing Matt. 7:15; 24:24)
Author of Hebrews (Heb. 3:7–11, citing Ps. 95:7–11)
Author of Hebrews (Heb. 9:1–8, citing Exodus 25–26)
Author of Hebrews (Heb. 10:15–17, citing Jer. 31:33–34)
John (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 14:13, general examples)
Instruction, Illumination, and Affirmation
Nehemiah wrote, “You gave your good Spirit to instruct them” (Neh. 9:20). Paul testified, “We impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:13). John encouraged his readers, “You have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing [see ‘the Holy One,’ 1 John 2:20] teaches you about everything …” (1 John 2:27; see also 1 Cor. 2:14–16). Paul prayed for the Ephesians that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know …” (Eph. 1:17–18).
Of all the chapters in the Bible, Psalm 119 most frequently mentions the human need for divine instruction. On nine occasions, the psalmist urgently asks, “Teach me your statutes” (Ps. 119:12, 26, 33, 64, 66, 68, 108, 124, 135). It can be assumed that he looked to the Holy Spirit for instruction. What Christ did for the disciples in opening their minds to understand the Scripture (Luke 24:45), the Holy Spirit does for Christians.
Illumination can refer either to one’s salvation (2 Cor. 4:4, 6; see Acts 26:18; Heb. 6:4) or to a believer’s need for greater understanding of or enlightenment regarding the Bible. The psalmist who prayed for the Holy Spirit to teach also asked for illumination: “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Ps. 119:18; see also 119:18, 27, 34, 73, 125, 144, 169; Eph. 1:18). Then he testified to the benefit of illumination: “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Ps. 119:130).
While Holy Spirit illumination is indispensably helpful, there are certain things that it is not and certain things that it cannot do. These limitations remind believers not to expect what Scripture does not promise:
1. Illumination does not function outside God’s Word (Ps. 119:18; Luke 24:45).
2. Illumination does not guarantee that every Christian will agree doctrinally, because the human element can cause false doctrine (Gal. 2:11–21).
3. Illumination does not mean that everything about God is knowable (Deut. 29:29).
4. Illumination does not render the need for human teachers unnecessary (Eph. 4:11; 1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 4:2).
5. Illumination is not a substitute for dedicated, personal Bible study (2 Tim. 2:15).
6. Illumination is not a one-time experience (2 Tim. 2:15).
In addition to instructing and illuminating the Christian, the Holy Spirit also bears witness to the believer that Scripture is truthful and trustworthy. At least three New Testament texts speak to this aspect of the Spirit’s ministry in regard to God’s Word (Acts 5:32; Heb. 10:15; 1 John 5:6). By far the most stellar and unimpeachable witness to the Bible is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17).
Not only is the Holy Spirit involved in the delivery and teaching aspects of Scripture (1 Cor. 2:4–5; 1 Thess. 1:5), but he also empowers believers in their obedience. The very similar outcomes from letting the word of Christ dwell in a believer (Col. 3:16–17) and from letting the Holy Spirit control the believer’s life (Eph. 5:18–20) illustrate that, in addition to the intellectual side of knowing Scripture, the Holy Spirit is equally involved in energizing the volition of believers in obeying Scripture.
The Spirit also provides Christians with and helps them employ spiritual weaponry in battling the spiritual darkness of Satan and demons. A vital part of the Christian’s armament is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). So whether it involves walking in the way of Christ or fighting for the glory of Christ, the inseparable connection of the Holy Spirit with Scripture propels the believer onward to victory.
Daniel’s Seventieth Week
Relatively speaking, Scripture says very little about the Spirit’s role in prophetic matters. What follows is a summary of what is written.
People of all kinds will be converted during Daniel’s seventieth week (Rev. 6:9–11; 7:9–17; 14:6) and Christ’s millennial kingdom (Isa. 25:9; 44:2–5; Jer. 24:6–7; Ezek. 36:25–31). From Adam and Eve to the last person who is saved, everyone will have been made alive spiritually by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1–15).
It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that every believer, from the first (1 Thess. 4:13–18) to the last (Rev. 20:5–6), will be resurrected from the grave (Rom. 1:4; 8:11, 23).
Daniel’s Seventieth Week
Christ recited Isaiah 61:1–2a in the synagogue at Nazareth, claiming that he was fulfilling what he read at that time. He will later fulfill Isaiah 61:2b–3 at his second coming. In both cases, the Holy Spirit is the One who empowers him (see Luke 4:17–21).
The Holy Spirit will execute God’s will in the judgment of the nations (Isa. 34:8–16, esp. 34:16). God’s work at that time will be empowered by the Holy Spirit (Zech. 4:3–6; cf. 4:11–14; Rev. 11:3–4).
A restrainer is spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2:6. Numerous suggestions have been made as to the identity of the restrainer: (1) the Roman Empire, (2) human government, (3) the Jewish state, (4) gospel preaching, (5) the binding of Satan, (6) angels, (7) the providence of God, (8) some prophetic person like Elijah or Paul, (9) the church, or (10) the Holy Spirit.
The lawless one mentioned in this passage is empowered by Satan (2 Thess. 2:9; see Rev. 13:2, 4), so the question is, who or what is powerful enough to severely restrain Satan’s influence over thousands of years? In reviewing the alternatives, the Holy Spirit seems most likely. Early in Scripture, the Holy Spirit exercised that kind of ministry (Gen. 6:3), and there is no reason to believe that he has relinquished it (see John 16:8–11; Acts 7:51). Only God has the power to effectively control Satan and his delegated evil (cf. Jude 9, where Michael the archangel defers to God in a conflict with Satan). How the Holy Spirit restrains is not mentioned, although it could possibly be through a combination of means such as human government (Rom. 13:1–7) and true believers, that is, the church.
Isaiah wrote of Christ’s millennial reign and the restoration of Israel to the promised Davidic kingdom (Isa. 11:2–16; see 2 Sam. 7:10–17). During that time, when Christ rules, the Holy Spirit will enable him (Isa. 11:2). Isaiah described the overall purpose of Christ’s millennial ministry (Isa. 42:1–4).
About the nation of Israel, the Bible makes three kinds of general references to the Holy Spirit. First, God will “pour out” his Spirit on the nation (Isa. 32:15; 44:3; Ezek. 39:29; Joel 2:28–29; Zech. 12:10). Second, God promises to put his Spirit “within them” (Ezek. 11:19; 36:26–27; 37:14). Third, God says that his Spirit will be “upon them” (Isa. 59:21). As such, the Spirit will gather Israel back to the land at the God-chosen time in the future (Isa. 34:16).
Scripture does not specifically mention the Holy Spirit in relation to eternity future. However, the deity of the Spirit and the triunity of God ensure that God the Holy Spirit will continue to work in perfect harmony with God the Father and God the Son forever.
Our great heavenly Father,
blessed Son, and eternal Spirit,
we come to worship You—God in three Persons,
one in essence,
perfect in every way,
the only true God.
Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the redemption our heavenly Father
has furnished for us in Christ the Son
and applied to us by the Holy Spirit.
Undeserving though we are, You have welcomed us
into Your everlasting Kingdom,
so that we might be partakers of Your unspeakable glory.
Again, Father, we thank You that in the fullness of Your grace,
You have loved us and sent Your only begotten Son to redeem us.
Lord Jesus, though existing eternally in the form of God,
You did not count that as something to be clung to.
You humbled Yourself, took on the form of a servant,
and were made in the likeness of men.
As a man You became a servant, being obedient to the Father’s will—
even unto death on the cross.
That one sacrifice atoned for our sins forever
and provided us with a covering such as we needed—
the spotless garment of Your perfect righteousness.
Holy Spirit, You too have loved us everlastingly,
and now You make Your permanent abode in our hearts,
letting your life and power flow through us,
producing abundant fruit and conforming
us to the image of Christ.
O God—one God yet three Persons—we praise You and thank You
for mercy so undeserved and for grace beyond measure.
Your lovingkindness is inexhaustible;
Your mercies endure forever;
Your faithfulness extends to all generations;
Your glory is seen in all Your works;
and Your steadfast love is our song.
We come to You, the triune God,
enthroned in our lives,
presiding over the universe,
and we humbly ask for You to strengthen us where we are weak,
beginning with our acts of worship.
You who spoke the universe into existence with but a word
are the One who has shone in our hearts
to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Christ.
How we thank You again for commanding salvation on our behalf!
Lord, we come before You in prayer to bring You our praise.
Set our lives in order before You,
and renew our commitment to love and obedience,
usefulness and faithfulness.
Be honored through our lives, we pray,
in the name of Christ. Amen.
“Come, Thou Almighty King”
Come, Thou Almighty King,
Help us Thy name to sing,
Help us to praise.
O’er all victorious,
Come, and reign over us,
Ancient of Days.
Come, Thou Incarnate Word,
Gird on Thy mighty sword;
Our prayer attend.
Come, and Thy people bless,
And give Thy word success.
Spirit of holiness,
On us descend.
Come, Holy Comforter,
Thy sacred witness bear
In this glad hour.
Thou, who Almighty art,
Now rule in ev’ry heart
And ne’er from us depart,
Spirit of pow’r.
To Thee, great One in Three,
Eternal praises be,
Thy sov’reign majesty
May we in glory see,
And to eternity
Love and adore. Amen.
 MacArthur, J., & Mayhue, R., eds. (2017). Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (pp. 387–394). Crossway.