Incarnation and the Latter Rain

THE latter rain will never fall upon the church except as members are prepared to receive it. Reception of the Spirit at any level of experience always represents relationships based upon personal decisions. Many talk "about the Holy Spirit, yet receive no benefit. . .

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

THE latter rain will never fall upon the church except as members are prepared to receive it. Reception of the Spirit at any level of experience always represents relationships based upon personal decisions. Many talk "about the Holy Spirit, yet receive no benefit. They do not surrender the soul to be guided and controlled by the divine agencies. . . . They want to manage themselves. This is why they do not receive the heavenly gift."1 "Christ must have the entire management of will and action"2 before He can pour His Spirit upon us. "Those who are distrustful of self, who are humbling themselves before God . . . are receiving the heavenly mold and preparing for the seal of God in their foreheads." 3 When this preparation is complete, "then the latter rain will fall upon us." 4

Cod requires and waits to honor self-surrender based upon deep and genuine repentance. "The class who do not feel grieved over their own spiritual declension, nor mourn over the sins of others, will be left without the seal of God." 5 But this experience demands a true knowledge of self. "We must have a knowledge of ourselves . . . that will result in contrition. . . . We must know our real condition. . . . We must feel the pain of our wounds, or we should not desire healing." 6 But how can we achieve this degree of self-understanding? "In one way only can a true knowledge of self be obtained. We must behold Christ. It is ignorance of Him that makes men so uplifted in their own righteousness." 7

Fallen man was held captive by the deceptive power of Satan, who in declaring his independence from God sought to usurp His throne by instigating a rebellion against His benevolent rule, charging God with selfish authoritarianism and injustice. To secure the allegiance of the universe and to save man, the deceiver must be unmasked and God's self-sacrificing character be revealed. For this purpose Christ, fully conscious of His divinity, stepped down from the coveted throne and exchanged His royal robes for the garb of humanity. Entering His earthly existence as a helpless infant, He grew up in the very domain claimed by His archenemy, refusing even that form and comliness which commends itself to the honor of men, to be despised and rejected by the degraded race He came to save.

Three Steps in Humility

Two distinct steps in the path way of humility are here noted.8 God first became man and accepted the liabilities of a nature characterized for four thousand years by independence and self-centeredness. Then, as man, refusing to exercise the prerogatives and powers of innate divinity, Christ proceeded to condemn sin in that nature by dying utterly to its every self-assertive demand.9 "And being recognized as truly human. He humbled Himself and even stooped to die." 10 The wilderness temptation and Gethsemane bear silent testimony to the reality of the cross in every experience of His life and are symbols of an entire life of total dependence upon His Father to supply every need and to direct every decision.

Important insights are contained in Christ's statement, "No man taketh it [life] from me, but I lay it down of myself." 11 First, since divinity cannot die, Christ must be speaking of the death of His human nature. Second, Calvary was but the final step in a lifelong death to the natural demands of an acquired nature. Finally, this experience represents absolute and willing dependence upon His Father, and subjection to His authority, for He concludes, "This commandment have I received of my Father." The anguished cry, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt," 12 is but the climax of this cradle-to-calvary experience.

The Incarnation is calculated to produce a repentance that be comes deeper with every renewed contemplation of the sin that caused it and the love that motivated it. It also exemplifies the experience of death to self and dependence upon divine wisdom and power that Christ intends to demonstrate before the universe through the lives of reclaimed rebels. The second Adam, who Him self wrested the victory lost by the first Adam, designs, before concluding His priestly ministry, to re-enact that experience through His remnant people. This gives deep and inner significance to the latter rain. In speaking of the "full and final display" of His righteousness through His people, Ellen G. White comments, "Christ looks upon His people in their purity and perfection as ... the supplement of His glory." 13

The Saviour was deeply anxious for His disciples to understand for what purpose His divinity was united to humanity.. . .God was manifested in Him that He might be manifested in them. Jesus revealed no qualities, and exercised no powers, that men may not have through faith in Him. His perfect humanity is that which all His followers may possess, if they will be in subjection to God as He was. 14

Christ's seeming advantage in facing temptation without a single character defect was offset by the additional complexity of His temptations. Our problem in facing temptation is to realize and remember our inherent inability to overcome except as we depend fully upon Him. But He retained the very power that brought the worlds into existence, being capable of destroying the tempter himself with but a word. His great temptation was to exercise that power in stead of relying totally and only upon the decision of His Father to release Him, in His own time and manner, from the torture of temptation. The significance and reality of His temptations are alluded to by the writer to the Hebrews, when he says, "For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted." 15 He later reiterates, "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered." 16

So completely did Christ divest Himself of the exercise of His divine prerogatives that even upon His triumphant return to heaven He maintains His self-imposed submission and waits while the Father confers upon Him "a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, . . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." 17 Final evidence of incarnate humility is the fact that He receives this universal adoration "to the glory of Cod the Father." 18

By reascending the throne in human form, Christ, in a final eternal act of humility, completes His revelation of Him whose universal demand of obedience springs from the depths of self-sacrificing love and demonstrates the only way in which a creature could be either independent or equal to God—He must also be the Creator. Only the self-existent One can experience independence without self-destruction. Dependent by nature, the creature is incapable of experiencing equality with the One upon whom he must depend for his very existence.

In the Laodicean message, however, we find an amazing sequel to this fantastic demonstration. Enthroned with His Father, the God-man now offers to share that throne with His adopted brothers, on the sole condition of willing renunciation of the spirit of independence and the desire for self-exaltation. Through Christ reclaimed man may become even closer to God than was Lucifer.

Before returning to grant man this blood-bought inheritance God intends to augment His glory by a final and full display of His character in the lives of those who once responded to the will of His arch enemy. As soon as God's people are prepared for that demonstration the latter rain will fall, putting them in the spotlight of the world. Recognizing the Spirit's work, Christ's "other sheep" will join in this glorious exhibit. During the time of Jacob's trouble that fol lows, their loyalty and total dependence will be unmistakenly proved. The remnant, who no longer have the external evidence of the Spirit, face the whole demonic world with only the evidence of faith to assure them of the presence and protection of God. This experience will stand as irrefutable evidence of God's unlimited power to save, and will form an argument justifying God's decision to receive the millions whose life span did not include the full end to which their faith was leading.

Only continual, heart-searching examination of the straight testimony of the True Witness in the light of His incarnation can prepare us forth at wonderful exhibition that God has long waited to present. "Pride and self-worship cannot flourish in the soul that keeps fresh in memory the scenes of Calvary. He who beholds the Saviour's matchless love will be elevated in thought, purified in heart, trans formed in character." 19 The Spirit now stands ready to guide us in a study of the Laodicean message, which is "designed to arouse the people of God, . . . 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." 20


FOOTNOTES

1. The Desire of Ages, p. 672.

2. Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 219.

3. Ibid., p. 216.

4. Ibid., p. 214.

5. Ibid., p. 211.

6. Christ's Object Lessons, p. 158.

7. Ibid., p. 159.

8. Phil. 2:6-8.

9. John 5:30.

10. Phil. 2:8 (Weymouth).

11. John 10:18.

12. Matt. 26:39.

13. Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing (1956), p. 89.

14. The Desire of Ages, p. 664.

15. Heb. 2:18.

16. Heb. 5:8.

17. Phil. 2:9-11.

18. ls Phil. 2:11 (last part).

19. The Desire of Ages, p. 661.

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


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

March 1973

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