Early and Latter Rain
Water in the Bible is emblematic of the Holy Spirit. Jesus called it "living" water when in converse with the Sychar woman. It is "holy" water in Numbers 5:17, but if the woman was guilty it was changed to "bitter" water. It was the "water of purifying" in Numbers 8:7, or in the Revised Version, the "water of expiation" (atonement).
Said Jesus, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath 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).
When Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan and came into the land of Canaan, they came into a well-watered, well-favored land. In Goshen of Egypt they had been forced to irrigate their farms and gardens. "But," said the Lord, "the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven" (Deut. 11:11).
There were two seasons of the year in which the rain fell abundantly. In the latter part of October and early November (the Hebrew month of Heshwan) came the early rains.
The second downpour came in the spring in the latter part of March and the first part of April (the Hebrew month of Nisan). The October-November rains were called the early rain, and the March-April rains were called the latter rain.
Represents Work of Holy Spirit
"In the East the former rain falls at the sowing-time. It is necessary in order that the seed may germinate. Under the influence of the fertilizing showers, the tender shoot springs up. The latter rain, falling near the close of the season, ripens the grain, and prepares it for the sickle. The Lord employs these operations of nature to represent the work of the Holy Spirit. As the dew and the rain are given first to cause the seed to germinate, and then to ripen the harvest, so the Holy Spirit is given to carry forward, from one stage to another, the process of spiritual growth. The ripening of the grain represents the completion of the work of God's grace in the soul. By the power of the Holy Spirit the moral image of God is to be perfected in the character. We are to be wholly transformed into the likeness of Christ."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 506.
Canaan was the land of the Hittites, the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, and the Hivites. This was the land "flowing with milk and honey" (Ex. 3:8). It was "a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and promegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey" (Deut. 8:8). God gave His people the land and blessed them in it, but it was on conditions of obedience:
"Thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him. . . . Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day" (verses 6, 11).
With the passing of time, when the people forgot God, the "early" and "latter" rains were delayed or did not fall. The people came to recognize this as due to their sins. Thus when the rain did not fall they would declare periods of fasting, which sometimes continued for several weeks until the rains came.
Two Great Visitations
The two periodic seasons of rain in the land of Canaan symbolized the two great visitations of the Holy Spirit—one at the beginning of the gospel dispensation, and the other at its close. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the former rain. This was given at Jerusalem. The stage was perfectly set. It was the Feast of Pentecost, and "devout men, out of every nation under heaven" were there. The visitors from some eighteen different nations were astonished at what they saw, what they heard, and what they experienced under the Spirit's power. Peter stood up and told the people this was the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy that God would in the last days "pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 2:17).
Made courageous by the Holy Spirit, the coward of the crucifixion told the people they had crucified the Lord of glory, even Jesus the Son of God. When the people heard this they were "pricked in their heart" by the Holy Spirit, and cried out: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Peter's reply is for all generations: "Re pent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (verses 37, 38).
That very day three thousand were converted and baptized. The Spirit continued His work and other thousands were baptized. "The word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7). So great was the Spirit's grace and power that Paul, near the close of his ministry, wrote to the Colossians and said, "the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister" (Col. 1:23).
"The Spirit came upon the waiting, praying disciples with a fulness that reached every heart. The Infinite One revealed Himself in power to His church. . . . The sword of the Spirit, newly edged with power and bathed in the lightnings of heaven, cut its way through unbelief. Thousands were converted in a day."— The Acts of the Apostles, p. 38.
Words Made Powerful
Under the power of the Spirit the words of Peter and the other apostles became powerful instruments to convict the hearts of men for their wickedness in crucifying Jesus. This was the "early" rain, the "former" rain, and tremendous were the results of it; but the outpouring of the Spirit in the "latter" rain will be even greater. Millions embraced the faith of Jesus during the early outpouring, but multiple millions will be converted during the latter rain.
Now Is the Time
We are now living in the time of the "latter rain." Showers are falling in a few places on earth, but generally this is not so. Generally, "as a people, ... we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain."—ELLEN G.WHITE, in Review and Herald, March 11, 1890, p. 146. As the original disciples prayed for the fulfillment of the promised Spirit, so are we invited to pray: "Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain" (Zech. 10:1).
The Spirit was given in Pentecostal power in answer to prayer, together with confession of sin and dedication of life. The Spirit will be given in "latter rain" power in response to exactly the same conditions. There is nothing that we need so much as Pentecostal power in this hour. We talk of "finishing the work," and yet we are no more able to finish it than the early disciples were to begin the work without the Holy Spirit's power.
God will give the "latter rain" as He did the "former," but we must seek for it. "Do not rest satisfied that in the ordinary course of the season, rain will fall. Ask for it. The growth and perfection of the seed rests not with the husbandman. God alone can ripen the harvest. But man's co-operation is required. God's work for us demands the action of our mind, the exercise of our faith."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 508.
Camp meetings, workers' meetings, general laymen's meetings, and assemblies of local church leaders provide an unexcelled opportunity to unitedly seek God for the outpuring of the "latter rain." It will be given. God has promised that, but meekness humility, and earnestness must characterize the supplicants.
He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Ps. 126:6).
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the "latter rain" brings to an end the long By drought since the cessation of power at about the close of the first century. True, as in Canaan, there were showers at different times and places between the "former" and "latter" rains. Notwithstanding the times in which we are living, God's people seem oblivious to their great need.
The message of God to the Laodiceans is designed to arouse them to their wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" condition. The Lord's advice largely goes unheeded: "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see" (Rev. 3:17, 18).
When the people of God come to the place of persistent prayer, the place where Peter, James, John, and the rest of the apostolic company came after the ascension, the "latter rain" will fall and multitudes will be converted. Joel 2:23 promises both the former rain and the latter: "Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month."
"The latter rain, ripening earth's harvest, represents the spiritual grace that prepares the church for the coming of the Son of man. But unless the former rain has fallen, there will be no life; the green blade will not spring up. Unless the early showers have done their work, the latter rain can bring no seed to perfection. . . .
"Only those who are living up to the light they have will receive greater light. Unless we are daily advancing in the exemplification of the active Christian virtues, we shall not recognize the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain." —Ibid., pp. 506, 507.
Let God's people abandon their indifference concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in final, last-day power. These are not times when Christians can risk carelessness. To relax our efforts in spiritual growth will prove fatal. To fail in faith and prayer in such a time as this is to fail of gaining heaven.
Christ warned: "Watch and pray." "Watch unto prayer."
(To be continued)
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