FOR many years God's people have longed and prayed for the latter rain. Indeed, every thoughtful Adventist is well aware that in spite of the unremitting efforts of a consecrated ministry and the unwearying sacrifices of a faithful laity, our total resources in both men and means are still woefully inadequate for the swift accomplishment of a world task.
Our Lord, however, has made it plain that while He is pleased to use our meager abilities wonderfully to the salvation of souls, yet the grand consummation of His great work on earth will only be effected by the mighty and unprecedented outpouring of His Holy Spirit upon us. Thus with increasing eagerness we look forward to the blessed empowering of the latter rain.
In this connection there is surely renewed inspiration and enlightenment in reviewing the book of Acts. For there we have the account of the epochal descent of the former rain and its transforming and revitalizing effect upon both ministry and members. It may well be that in some major respects the pattern set by the former rain will be even more wonderfully and majestically repeated when the time of the second Pentecost is "fully come."
The book of Acts has often been very appropriately styled the "Acts of the Holy Spirit," for much more than being the account of the work of the apostles, it is the stirring story of the mighty accomplishments of the promised Comforter.
Such a conception was, in fact, intimated by our Lord Himself when He promised the disciples, "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" (Acts 1:5), and, "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you" (verse 8).
Just ten days after the saddening ascent of their Lord came the gladdening descent of the Spirit. There was a visible and fiery manifestation upon each of them. Local interest was immediately aroused and the gospel's widespread proclamation was foreshadowed by the gifts of linguistic ability, Peter declaring that all this was simply the fulfillment of Joel's prediction concerning the Spirit.
The dread sovereignty of the Spirit was further seen when Ananias and his wife died in the presence of the church because they had dared "to lie to the Holy Ghost"; shortly after which the saintly Stephen reproached the infuriated Sanhedrin with their inherited sin in always resisting the Holy Ghost.
Later, the Holy Spirit confirms the growing work among the once-despised Samaritans, transports Philip to the eunuch, brings Peter into contact with Cornelius, commands the ordination of Paul and Barnabas, and Himself initiates their preaching mission.
Indeed James makes it very clear that the whole evangelistic and doctrinal program of the early church was closely under the direction and supervision of the Comforter. For, when announcing certain considered conclusions, he declares, "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us" (Acts 15:28).
Lastly, in the travels and ministry of Paul, the presence and power of the Spirit is no less evident. It seems that the zealous apostle was planning to advance into Asia and Bithynia, but was definitely prevented by the Spirit from going to either place. Instead, he was directed into Macedonia. (See Acts 16:6, 7, 10-12.)
Such, very briefly, is the inspired record of the bestowal and effects of the former rain. It should ever be remembered, however, that wonderful as the Holy Spirit's power and program were, all was subordinate to, though ever in close cooperation with, the glorious grace and heavenly majesty of the risen Saviour.
It was Jesus Himself who first received the promise of the Spirit's fuller manifestation from the Father. And it was from Him, equally with the Father, that the Spirit came. For Peter declares of his Lord that He is now "by the right hand of God exalted, ... he [Christ] hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear" (Acts 2:33).
Further, it was in the ever-powerful name of Jesus Christ that the cripple at the Temple gate was made healthy and strong. The early church, as she increased in numbers, increased also in the understanding that her risen Master was now far exalted above all earthly powers to be her Prince and Saviour (Acts 5:31).
The Lord also showed Himself ready to bridge the awful gap between heaven and earth in order personally to comfort the dying Stephen and to convert the fanatical Saul. He also gave His own guidance to Ananias of Damascus, His cleansing to Aeneas, and His instructions concerning His wider purpose to Peter. He appeared again to the discouraged Paul at Corinth, promising him that Rome itself should erelong hear his testimony.
It becomes evident therefore that while the former rain furnished the early church with a greatly increased power to witness, the very burden of that witness was the now-exalted place and power, the majesty and divinity, of the crucified Saviour. Our Lord's essential leadership of His church was in no way replaced, but rather strengthened and confirmed by the fuller manifestation of the Spirit. The Son of man was seen ever more clearly to be enthroned "in the midst of the seven candlesticks," leading, supervising, correcting, and encouraging all His church's efforts for Him.
t is not unreasonable to assume that similar though far greater results will attend the promised descent of the latter rain. Indeed, may we not in some small measure be preparing the way for the latter rain as we increasingly make ours a Christ-centered message? Not Christ centered in the sense of merely tagging on to our teachings a popular catch phrase. But Christ centered in very truth, as we rethink our sermons and refashion our presentations until the glorious Saviour becomes their vital strength and pivot—His radiant personality ever providing the sublime effulgence of our message to a dying world.
Ellen G. White declares that in these latter times "Christ is again to be revealed in His fulness by the Holy Spirit's power." —Christ's Object Lessons, p. 121.
That Christ may again be revealed through our humble efforts in all His fullness should be our constant endeavor and prayer. For surely then the second Pentecost will fully come, and the work in all the world will be triumphantly finished.