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The Former and Latter Rain
By David A. DePra
Today’s modern charismatic movement is generally claiming that their movement is the, "latter rain" – the promise of God to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. Many in that movement claim that what happened in the first century, more specifically in Acts 2, was the, "former rain." But what is happening today, according to these folks, is the, "latter rain." Bible verses are provided to try to substantiate that the worldwide charismatic movement is this great outpouring promised by God, called, "the latter rain."
Was Acts 2, "the former rain?" Are we today in, "the latter rain?" The answer to both questions is NO. But to get there we need to discuss a few things.
Only ONE Movement
First of all, whether the charismatic movement seems to fit the promise of God for a, "latter rain," is actually quite irrelevant. Indeed, even if we could find a movement that seemed to fit exactly what God has promised along ANY line, the fact that it did seem to fit the promises would not be the test. Why?
Because something is not of God because I think it fits prophetic fulfillment. Something is of God – of His Holy Spirit – if it carries the earmarks of God and His Spirit. For example, in John, chapter 14 through 16, we find at least EIGHT things – according to Jesus Christ – that the, "Comforter," would do when He came. Well, He DID come in Acts 2. Thus, any outpouring of the Holy Spirit, any great revival attributed to the Holy Spirit, and certainly, any end-time, latter rain outpouring of the Spirit, would bear the characteristics of what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do when He came.
Can we see this? The Holy Spirit is going to do what Jesus said He would do. He is going to be doing that, not only in the church, but in individuals in whom HE DWELLS. That is why those verses, and many others in the NT, are THERE – God wants us to understand what He will be doing by His Spirit in the church age. Therefore, I repeat – any, "movement of God," or great outpouring, is going to be characterized by the things Jesus said the Spirit would do.
This is not maybe, or perhaps. It is not MY theory. It is what the Word of God says. We are to TEST the spirits to see whether they are of God, and if we cannot use what Jesus said the Comforter would do when He came in John 14 through 16, what can we use?
Jesus clearly stated that the Holy Spirit, before His ascension, HAD NOT BEEN GIVEN. He also stated that until He ascended, the Spirit COULD NOT come. (John 16:7) So the outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 2 is the promise of the Father fulfilled – for the first and only time. It was something that never happened before, and changed everything. It actually BEGAN much.
What did Acts 2 begin? The following:
1—The INDWELLING of the Holy Spirit, which is CHRIST IN US. (John 14:7)
2—The new birth, which is the result of the indwelling of Christ in us.
3—The Body of Christ, the church – to be witnesses unto Christ.
4—The outworking of the New Covenant made possible by Christ’s redemptive work.
5—The last days. (Acts 2:16-17)
6—The gifts of the Spirit.
I could list a few other things. But those things began in Acts 2. None of them had existed before – except in shadow and type. They couldn’t have, because Christ needed to live, die, be raised, and ascend. Until He did, the Spirit could not be given, and thus, Christ could not dwell in us through the Spirit.
Now, having seen this, I want to get back to the point: What the Spirit was promised to do when He came. I’ll list them in the order given in John:
1—He will dwell IN YOU. (John 14:7)
2—Teach you all things about Christ. (Jn. 14:26)
3—Bring into your remembrance (i.e., apply to practical living) all things of Christ. (Jn. 14:26)
4—Testify or witness to Christ. (i.e., show what is of Him or not; reveal Him to us.) (Jn. 15:26)
5—Guide us into all Truth. (Jn. 16:13)
6—Show us things to come. (i.e., not simply prophetic events, but show us ETERNAL things.) (Jn. 16:13)
7—Glorify Jesus Christ. (i.e., make HIM known in Truth.) (Jn. 16:14)
8—Convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
We could add to this list the fruit of the Spirit, freedom in Christ, and certainly the possibility of miracles. We might add the fact that Jesus also said that anyone who was His disciple would pick up their cross daily. But when everything is said and done, this is what Jesus Christ Himself said the Spirit would do when He came. Therefore, and this is the whole point, any supposed MOVE of God – which is by His Spirit – will be doing these things.
Now, can we see why I said that looking in the Bible and deciding whether a movement was of God based on the fact that I think it fulfills a prophecy is a bad idea? Absolutely. The way to see whether a move is of God IS TO SEE IF IT IS MOVING THE WAY GOD MOVES – and we have just read how God moves; what His Spirit does. Any other question is secondary at best.
And so we come to the question: Is the charismatic movement generally characterized by what Jesus said would characterize the workings of the Spirit? These are the folks, remember, who claim to have the fullness of the Spirit, and who claim to be involved in the greatest working of the Spirit of all ages? Does the charismatic movement look like Jesus said a work of God needs to look?
Well, does this movement focus on TRUTH – sound teaching and a revelation of Jesus Christ to the individual? Is this movement a living witness to the resurrection Christ – to His holiness, Truth, and love?
Not that I see. What I see, especially on television, is a movement that is focused on self-perpetuation. It seems that 75% of what they do amounts to raising money. I see a movement that is focused on signs, wonders, and miracles – which Jesus said NEVER to seek after, lest we commit spiritual adultery. I see a movement that has become known for claiming unsubstantiated miracles, incredibly wealthy ministers, and more than a few crackpots. I also continually see and hear them mock the necessity for sound doctrine, and call anyone who questions them, "heresy hunters."
All of this, of course, is the result of them thinking that they are IT, and have IT, and that God is with them in IT. And once you step over the line and think that there is an IT, you are in trouble. There is no IT. There is just HIM. And us.
We need to get one thing straight. Since Acts 2, God has never had ANY new movements. Ever. Not a one. There are NO new revelations, or brand new works of God. God has only ever had ONE movement – and it was that one that began in that upper room in Acts 2. Every other move of God after that was either a CONTINUATION of that move, a RESTORATION of that move, or a MANIFESTATION of that move. There was only ONE coming of the Comforter!!!
We really see this in the word, "revival." People talk about a great, "end-time revival." A REVIVAL, by definition, is a return to the place from which you have fallen. It is not something NEW that God is doing. It is God returning us to what He has ALWAYS BEEN DOING! Oh, if only we could see this.
THIS is THAT
Let’s read just one passage from Acts 2. After the Comforter came in Acts 2, there was a commotion, and a big crowd gathered. They wanted to know what was going on. They asked the apostles, "What does this mean?" (Acts 2:12) Peter stood up and gave them the answer.
Now, before I quote his words, let’s make absolutely sure we understand the question Peter is answering. He is answering their question, "What does this mean?" – in other words, what has happened here, today? I’m sure the crowds had no frame of reference for the coming of the Comforter that day, but it is in reference to the coming of the Comforter that they are asking this question. Thus, Peter’s answer is going to tell them that the Comforter HAS come, and what it means. Let’s read:
But this is thatwhich was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, I will 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 2:16-17)
Note the words, "But this is that…." Peter is saying to the crowds, "Do you want to know what has happened here today? THIS – what has happened – is THAT which was prophesied by Joel." Then he quoted the OT prophecy from Joel.
So Peter is stating directly that the coming of the Comforter in Acts 2, the event that they were asking about, was the fulfillment of the prophecy from Joel. Nothing could be more clear.
But what I want us to see is that if that is so – if the coming of the Comforter in Acts 2 was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel -- then we can be finished looking for a fulfillment. It isn’t going to BE fulfilled in our present, or in our future. No. It was fulfilled in Acts 2, and continues right on until today.
Have we recognized that THE LAST DAYS, according to the Bible, began that day, in Acts 2. Peter, quoting Joel, said so. You will notice that Peter had no problem saying that THE LAST DAYS were upon him. That’s right. Read Acts 2:17. The prophecy that Peter says is being fulfilled right at that moment was to be fulfilled in THE LAST DAYS. This should not be surprising. Hebrews 1:2 says, "In THESE last days." The fact is, the LAST DAYS started when Jesus ascended as Lord of all.
We still have to talk about the former and latter rains. But hopefully, we are seeing that Acts 2 began, not only the last days, but the ONE and ONLY coming of the Comforter. Hopefully, we are seeing that, yes, God can do things, and bring revival, and raise up things for His purpose. But none of it is a NEW thing. Everything God has ever done since Acts 2 has been a continuation, manifestation, or restoration, of what He began in Acts 2. There are no NEW movements. There is only the ONE purpose of God through Jesus Christ.
In addition, we have hopefully seen that what God does accomplish through the continuation of this ONE coming of the Comforter is the revelation of Jesus Christ to His people. The coming of the Comforter is about Truth, holiness, repentance, and Jesus Christ.
In contrast, the coming of the Comforter is NOT primarily about signs, wonders, and miracles – as the focus. The Bible makes provision for those, but as things that TESTIFY to Jesus Christ and the Truth. How likely do you and I think that it is that God will work miracles through the ministry of someone who teaches grave heresy and error? He won’t. Thus, if you want to know whether the miracles are real, look at the teaching. If the Holy Spirit is in it, the teaching will be TRUTH, and glorify Christ – which is what Jesus said the Spirit will do.
The Former and Latter Rains
God gave Israel THREE harvest seasons each year, which corresponded directly to three Holy Day seasons. The barley harvest corresponded to Passover season, and occurred in late March/early April. This continued until the wheat harvest began on the day of Pentecost, about early June. That began the second season. The wheat harvest continued until the feast of trumpets, when the fruit harvest began. This was late September or early October. There were other harvests within those three, but those three harvest seasons, with the Holy Days that go with them, were a big part of Israel’s worship life. They were God-ordained.
Now, it has been recognized that the harvest seasons and Holy Days are a blueprint of God’s redemptive plan. Christ is our Passover, and He died on the exact day of Passover, and rose on the exact day of first fruits during that Holy Day season. The coming of the Comforter happened on the exact day of Pentecost, which began the church age, or in spiritual type, the wheat harvest. This extends until the feast of trumpets, which ends the wheat harvest, and is the Holy Day that stands for the second coming of Jesus. Sure. That day will end the church age because the church will be gathered, as a harvest, to meet the Lord. But in case you haven’t noticed, there is YET ANOTHER HARVEST – after Jesus comes. And if you understand that harvest equal salvation of souls, you will see that there is more to the plan of God than perhaps our theology has explained. But I leave that there. We must move on to the former and latter rains.
It is vital to see these harvests and Holy Day symbolism for us to understand the former and latter rains. The former rain occurs AFTER all three harvests – usually late October. This is the opposite of what we might have expected. The reason it is called the former rain is because it occurs in anticipation of the NEXT harvest season. It is therefore PRIOR to it, and therefore the FORMER rain. The seeds are already being planted in the ground and the former rain enables them to begin to sprout and get ready to grow. The latter rain occurs about the same time as Passover season (March/April), and matures the crops that will now begin to be harvested during the three harvest seasons.
Now, here’s the point: The LATTER rain corresponds to the entire church age. The LATTER rain occurs during Passover season and nourishes the crops through Pentecost and through the fall harvest. Get that. The latter rain doesn’t happen at the end of the wheat harvest, which corresponds to the church age. No. It occurs at the beginning of it and applies to the entire wheat harvest, and even applies to the fruit harvest.
This is vital to see. Those claiming a latter rain movement for the end time church are wrong. They say that the former rain was Acts 2. And the latter rain is now. But no. The former rain was not Acts 2. The latter rain was Acts 2, and it is STILL RAINING. And it will continue to rain with the latter rain through the time Jesus comes.
Ok. But when did the former rain occur – spiritually? It was the Old Testament. The former rain was all of the seeds of Truth and redemption that God planted through His dealings with people before Christ. Just like the former rain literally occurs BEFORE anything actually begins to grow and be harvested, so it is spiritually. It is only when Jesus comes, and is ascended, that the latter rain is possible. Then the real harvest seasons can happen.
What the Bible Says
We don’t want to base conclusions merely upon a harvest season scheme, although that is certainly persuasive and part of what God has revealed to us so that we do get these things straight. All we need to do to prove the point is show from the Bible that the LATTER RAIN is the church age, rather than just an end-time outpouring. We have already seen that Peter quoted Joel’s promise of a great outpouring and applied it to THAT DAY – when the Spirit came and began the church age. But that same passage Peter quoted contains a reference to the former and latter rain – it occurs just before the section Peter quoted.
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. And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed. And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: (Joel 2:23-28)
This passage, as we have seen was clearly fulfilled, according to Peter, by Acts 2. This prophecy is one of REDEMPTION. In it, God promises the former rain and latter rain in the first month – which is a symbol of God doing a quick work, and one that comes to fruition quickly. Clearly, if you read the passage, there is NO WARRANT at all for doing anything with it outside of what Peter himself did with it, and certainly NO WARRANT for making it mean that Acts 2 was the former rain, and the end time revival the latter rain.
And end time revival would be wonderful. But it would mean, not signs and wonders, not emotionalism, not people jumping around like idiots, not self-appointed apostles and prophets, not a continual stream of unsubstantiated miracles, and not a tiresome focus on money. End time revival, if it were real, would begin with REPENTANCE among God’s people for their irreverence towards the things of God, and would bring back into focus the Person of Jesus Christ. End time revival would include a great influx of teaching about the reality of CHRIST IN US, and what God’s purpose is for each of us. An end time revival that was initiated by the Holy Spirit would bear the earmarks of everything Jesus said the Comforter would do when He came.
The fact is, unless a movement is doing what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do, it is not OF the Holy Spirit. What could be more plain? But what people do is completely bypass what the Bible says, and assume that all of the theatrics and supposed miracles prove that something is of God. The Bible tells us that this is a trap. And millions are falling for it right now.
True revival is nothing more than a return to what God has always been doing since Acts 2. It is a return to Jesus Christ as Lord, and a return to the purpose of God in making the church, and the individuals in it, a living epistle unto Him. We are to preach the gospel in Truth, without compromise. That is what God wants, and anything else is not revival, not a movement of God, and not a former rain, latter rain, or any rain.
The former rain was everything God did to reveal Himself before Christ. The latter rain was made possible by Jesus Christ, and began in Acts 2. It has been raining ever since. We don’t need ANOTHER latter rain, or outpouring. The church has done very little with the one that has been going on for two thousand years.
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