Laodicea and the Latter Rain

YEARS come and go, decades pass into history, and still the long-sought harvest rain does not fall. Where is the latter-rain promise? What has happened to the prayers of our fathers? Will our own prayers never be effectual? Have we preached a message in vain? The answer lies in the heart of the Laodicean message . . .

-Pastor of a district in Connecticut at the time this article was written

YEARS come and go, decades pass into history, and still the long-sought harvest rain does not fall. Where is the latter-rain promise? What has happened to the prayers of our fathers? Will our own prayers never be effectual? Have we preached a message in vain? The answer lies in the heart of the Laodicean message, a message whose purpose is to call the remnant to the latter rain; dormant because it can only live and move and have its being in the hearts and lives of people who truly understand, and who fully submit to its operation. 1

The True Witness pictures a people who, with false allusions, await the latter rain while spiritually unprepared for the fulfillment of even the fulness of the early rain promise.2 Two conditions are specified demand and reception. The latter demands special consideration, for it is "according to our capacity to receive" 3 that He responds to our demand. "The heart must be emptied of every defilement, and cleansed for the indwelling of the Spirit." 4

We have been trying to accomplish this objective, but more is involved than the decision or effort to rid ourselves of thoughts and motives that pollute the heart and deform the life. Christ's parable of the empty house and the seven devils reveals the necessity of overcoming evil with good. Satanic influences must be removed by continual confrontation with God's own Spirit, who only awaits our under standing decision, to enter and cleanse the heart by instilling His own pure motives.

Christ now offers Laodicea a threefold early rain gift.5 Brokenhearted, He remains at the heart's door pleading for entrance, for this gift, designed to prepare the heart to receive the latter rain, must be delivered personally. The independent heart is bound by chains of selfishness that can only be dissolved by the power of Christ's own presence. This alone can free man to experience "the faith that works by love and purifies the soul." Receiving Him, we receive the self-sacrificing love that must penetrate the depths of our motives, so transforming our psyche as to reproduce His thoughts in our minds and thus His Righteousness in our experience. The Spirit, by which He enters, will so bathe our spiritual eyes with healing ointment that we will clearly perceive God's will and recognize every perversion, however subtle.

Why haven't we received this long-offered and eagerly sought gift? Surely not because we have been ignorant of it, nor because efforts have not been put forth to secure it. There seems to be a twofold cause-and-effect reason. Man's perspective is largely determined by his unconscious motivation. This means that he usually sees what his mind is prepared to see. As yet, we have been unwilling to pay the price demanded by the reception of such a precious gift, and thus we have not understood its inner demands. Conversely, our failure to understand its tremendous significance, including the freedom-releasing power, keeps us unwilling to pay the price.

The latter rain's delay stems from self-satisfaction, which both causes and results from an inadequate conception of the nature of sin and of righteousness. But God foresaw this emergency and revealed its solution two thousand years ago. The Laodicean message was "designed to arouse the people of God, to discover to them their backslidings, and lead to zealous repentance, that they might be favored with the presence of Jesus, and be fitted for the loud cry of the third angel."6 He then chose to lay bare the cutting edge of this "straight testimony" through the counsels of His messenger, Ellen G. White. The urgency of comprehending the nature of sin, as well as of righteousness, can be seen in the emphasis she places upon the origin of sin and the fall of man in portraying God's purpose for the human race. A summary of the principles involved may help clarify why we do not yet have the capacity for receiving the latter rain.

Independence and Self-exaltation Block the Channel

"Ye shall be as gods," 7 promised the one who designed to establish his own throne and "be like the most High." 8 The basic sin principle involves the desire of a creature to exercise the prerogatives of his Creator. Sin originated when Lucifer, created to occupy the highest position any creature was capable of filling, became dissatisfied with directing heavenly beings in fulfillment of God's will and aspired to an independent rule governed by his own will. If Lucifer's ambition could have benefitted him and the heavenly beings, God would Himself have initiated the change of status. Knowing the chaos and destruction that must result, however, and being unable to persuade him to repent, Love demanded his removal from his position of influence. His spirit of independence and the grasping for a position that he was constitutionally incapable of filling, so changed the character of the one who stood next to God that he was no longer fit for the companionship of heavenly beings and thus had to be expelled from heaven.

That Lucifer gained control of this planet was the result of man's own decision. Being in the image of God and holding dominion over all the earth, man was, nevertheless, a dependent creature. It was to symbolize that dependence and permit man to exercise the power of choice that God reserved one tree for Himself. Had Adam obeyed God, Satan could never have made this earth his home, for only at the tree was he permitted access to man.9 Invasion of other planets was only prevented by total boycott of the respective trees, the eating of whose fruit symbolized the experiential knowledge of evil. Far from making sovereign his own will, man's declaration of independence placed him under a new master, who promptly seized his dominion by enslaving his will. Too late did man come to understand the blessed freedom that had accompanied loyal dependence upon God.

The exercise of reason and will, faculties distinguishing him from the animal kingdom, must be guaranteed by the One upon whom he chose to depend. God's satisfaction derives from love relation ships with rational beings whose service is prompted by love. But Lucifer, whose rebellion against God is a rebellion against love, finds his fiendish delight only from absolute domination of his subjects. Love relationships and freedom of will, representing as they do the character of God and His government, are special objects of his hate and destructive power.

Violation of two fundamental principles characterizing all intelligent creatures, dependence on God and self-sacrificing love, so perverted man's once-perfect nature that he lost his capacity to govern even his own life. To restore that lost dominion by removing man's spirit of independence and self-exaltation, God has committed Himself and every resource of heaven. Through the latter rain and the subsequent time of Jacob's trouble, He intends to demonstrate before the entire universe the complete and willing submission of redeemed man to His sovereignty. Satan's charge of tyranny will be forever dispelled, and God will be fully justified in restoring man to his Edenic dominion.

When the remnant wholly repudiates the principle of sin and in faith claims Christ's power over it, the latter rain will fall. The essence of sin is not evil behavior, but a state of mind characterized by the desire for independence and self-exaltation. Sin's abhorrent character stems more from its root than from its fruit. Overt or gross sins are not mentioned in the indictment of Laodicea. Failure to submit fully to the authority of God's word, failure to trust entirely to the power of His presence, marks the church as being "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Our inability to receive the latter rain is traced to our independence, failure to open fully the heart's door to receive our Lord in its innermost recesses as Master. The full and final display of God's character in His people demands total surrender to His will and entire dependence upon His power. "The soul must be delivered from all that is opposed to loyalty to God" 10 before the fall of the latter rain.

In 1897 Ellen G. White wrote, "It is the time of the latter rain." 11 Four years later she sadly stated, "We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, . . . but . . . His people should not add sin to sin by charging God with the consequence of their own wrong course of action." 12

Acknowledgement of our responsibility for the more than seventy-year delay is necessary, but it will not in itself produce the latter rain. We must over come self-centered tendencies to evil, which are continually stimulated by a pervasive society whose chief gods science, intellectualism, and materialism encourage independence and pride. That church members are so often more concerned with position and influence than with service and responsibility reflects a very serious problem. When gospel workers speak openly and unblushingly about promotion and prestige; when ministers, teachers, and doctors are disturbed over their relative influence within the church, how can any of us experience the humble dependence that is essential to the falling of the latter rain?

Our hope is found in the Laodicean message. The requisite repentance-based humility is a divine gift now being urgently and longingly offered. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous there fore, and repent." 13 We must prayerfully examine all that His messenger has revealed concerning our condition and His great purpose. We must submit to the authority of His Word, claiming His power to demonstrate the principles of His character within our lives. In doing so, the "straight testimony" that reveals independence and selfishness in even our best efforts, need not depress us. The disquieting voice of conscience can and should elicit grateful praise, for it evidences His purpose to restore in us His image and represents His offer of the necessary gift of repentance. To reveal adequately the root of sin, He must permit the growing apostasy within the church to exhibit more clearly its fruits, while longingly entreating us to accept His solution to the sin problem by submitting to Him in total dependence. Through the continuance of this choice, the capacity to receive the Spirit becomes unlimited. As we then demand the showers of the latter rain He is free to reveal in us the full power of His presence that will "finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness." 14


FOOTNOTES

1. See Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 260.

2. See Testimonies to Ministers, p. 506.

3. The Desire of Ages, p. 672.

4. Testimonies to Ministers, p. 507.

5. Rev. 3:18.

6. Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, p. 224.

7. Gen. 3:5.

8. Isa. 14:14.

9. Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 53.

10. The Desire of Ages, p. 330.

11. Testimonies to Ministers, p. 512.

12. Evangelism, p. 696.

13. Rev. 3:19.

14. Rom. 9:28.

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-Pastor of a district in Connecticut at the time this article was written

February 1973

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