Christ was the supreme gift of God to the world. (John 3:16.) This was a universal gift of a universal Saviour. But the greatest gift of God to the church was the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him : but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless : I will come to you." John 14:16-18.
There was to be another gift—the Comforter and Advocate. "Another" means "one more; another person of the same kind." "If ye then, being human and evil, 'know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him ?' The Holy Spirit, the representative of Himself, is the greatest of all gifts. All 'good things' are comprised in this. The Creator Himself can give us nothing greater, nothing better."—Mount of Blessing, p. 189.
It is evident, therefore, that with the exception of the gift of Christ to the world, the Holy Spirit is God's greatest gift to His church. In fact, so great is this gift that with it come all "good things" needed by the church. "This promised blessing, if claimed by faith, would bring all other blessings in its train. . . . The power of God awaits their demand and reception."—Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 174, 175.
In his opening address to the delegates of the 1946 Autumn Council in Grand Rapids, J. L. McElhany said, "The finishing of God's work in all the earth is not tied to the budget. There is something far more important than money. The finishing of God's work is tied to the outpouring of God's Spirit in the latter rain. The crisis we face is a spiritual crisis. The thing of primary importance is the latter rain." During the same convention W. E. Nelson said, "I know you realize that we need money with which to carry on God's work, but I am fully convinced that the greatest need of all is a large measure of the Holy Spirit." Similar statements by other leaders led to the following action by the entire body :
"WHEREAS, In this Autumn Council special emphasis has been placed on our need of the power of the Spirit of God for the finishing of the work committed to us, which power is offered in its infinite plentitude in the outpouring of the latter rain;and,
"WHEREAS, We are told that 'this promised blessing, if claimed by faith, will bring all other blessings in its train,' and that the latter rain will be given only to those who make a certain definite preparation ; therefore,
"Resolved, That we earnestly appeal to every worker in this cause to study diligently and prayerfully the instruction given on this subject, and to seek not only to obtain the promised blessing, but to enlighten our people everywhere regarding this vital need, and that we all share in the great outpouring of Pentecostal power for the finishing of the work."
This, one of the most important actions ever taken by Seventh-day Adventist leaders, was unanimously voted in 1946 on the historic date of October 22. This resolution recognizes the fact that the gift of the Holy Spirit, in the Pentecostal fullness of the latter rain is the only hope of the finishing of the gospel commission, and that this blessing can never be realized without a definite, personal preparation on the order of the upper-room experience of the early church. For this reason an earnest appeal is made to every worker in this cause to make a diligent and prayerful study of the subject of the Holy Spirit in the light of the wealth of instruction given. The appeal is not only for workers to seek for the latter rain experience for themselves, but it is also for them to enlighten the church members everywhere regarding this vital need, so that they can share with the workers in this promised great outpouring of Pentecostal power for the finishing of the work.
The fact that this promised refreshing has not yet come gives evidence that this important appeal has never yet been taken as seriously as it should. Surely the time has come for this action to be carried out, so that the latter rain promise can be translated into a glad reality.
Every worker should read the sermon of T. E. Unruh given at the Autumn Council of 5947, and printed in THE MINISTRY for February, March, and April, 1948, and the series of four articles on "The Holy Spirit" by F. M. Wilcox in the Review and Herald of March 25, April 1, 8 and 15, 1948. These and other earnest appeals indicate a growing conviction on the part of our leaders everywhere that the supreme need of the present hour is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain.
Spirit of Prophecy Appeals
The following are only a few of the earnest appeals through the Spirit of prophecy for the church and its leaders to prepare and pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain fullness, as the only hope of a finished work:
"We should pray as earnestly for the descent of the Holy Spirit as the disciples prayed on the day of Pentecost. If they needed it at that time, we need it more to-day."—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 258.
"For the baptism of the Holy Spirit every worker should be breathing out his prayer to God. Companies should be gathered together to call upon God for special help."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 170.
"The church needs to be converted, and why should we not prostrate ourselves at the throne of grace, as representatives of the church, and from a broken heart and contrite spirit make earnest supplication that the Holy Spirit shall be poured out upon us from on high." —Ibid., p. 64.
"By prayer and confession of sin we must clear the King's highway. As we do this, the power of the Spirit will come upon us. We need the Pentecostal energy. This will come ; for the Lord has promised to send His Spirit as the all-conquering power."—Testimonies, vol. 8, pp. 297, 298.
"What we need is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Without this, we are no more fitted to go forth to the world than were the disciples after the crucifixion of their Lord."—Review and Herald, Feb. 18, 1890.
"It is all-essential for the Christian to understand the meaning of the promise of the Holy Spirit just prior to the coming of our Lord Jesus the second time. Talk of it, pray for it, preach concerning it ; for the Lord is more willing to give the Holy Spirit than parents are to give good gifts to their children."—Review and Herald, Nov. 15, 1892.
The Two Advents of the Spirit
We are called "Adventists," because we believe in the advent of Christ. Which advent? Both, for the second is impossible without the first, and the first would have been useless without the second. But the belief in the two advents of Christ must also include belief in the two advents of the Holy Spirit. The first advent of tile Spirit followed the first advent of Christ, which made the coming of the Spirit possible; and the second advent of the Spirit precedes the second advent of Christ, and makes that event possible.
The question is asked, "Hasn't the Holy Spirit always been in the world?" Yes, and so has Christ. His voice called all things into existence during creation week. He called Abraham, spoke to Moses at the burning bush, spoke the law from the summit of Sinai, and led the children of Israel out of Egypt. (See i Cor. 10:1-4.) Since His ascension He is with us "alway, even unto the end of the world." Nevertheless, there are two distinct advents of Christ.
The Holy Spirit has also been with God's people through all the ages. He is definitely mentioned eighty-eight times in twenty-two of the thirty-nine Old Testament books. He too was present and assisted in the work of creation. He preached through Noah to the antediluvian world; came upon Samson; clothed Himself with Gideon; turned Saul into another man ; dictated the songs of David, "the sweet singer of Israel"; and inspired all the holy prophets, who "spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." But in those days He was never able to manifest Himself in His fullness. This would be possible only in His two advents, known as the early and the latter rain.
"During the patriarchal age, the influence of the Holy Spirit had often been revealed in a marked manner, but never in its fulness."—Acts of the Apostles, p. 37. "It was as if for ages this influence had been held in restraint." —Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 31. Why? Because the plan of redemption had not been completed. "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture bath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given ; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)" John 7:37-39.
This definite advent of the Holy Spirit depended on the Calvary victory of Christ. The Scriptures make it clear that there are to be two great advents, visitations, manifestations, or outpourings of the Holy Spirit, which constitute a definite and important part of the plan of redemption, as much so as the two advents of the Son of God. The first advent of Christ and the first advent of the Holy Spirit are far in the past. The Second Advent of our Lord is near, and for that great event the church should be praying and preparing. This preparation includes a final warning message to the world "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." But before Christ can return, the church must experience the second advent of the Spirit in the latter rain. Without this endowment of power, she cannot complete her divinely appointed mission. Pentecost must be repeated, accompanied by Pentecostal results. For this heavenly visitation every worker and member of the great Second Advent Movement should fervently pray. In the one great gift all the needs of God's work will be supplied. This "greatest of all gifts" will "bring all other blessings in its train." How can we be satisfied with anything less than the fullness of the promised divine power?