THE EARLY AND THE LATTER RAIN
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17).
Great Joy Promised
“Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice.” At the time Joel wrote these words there was little for the Children of Israel to rejoice about. They had departed from God, had forsaken the true worship, and His judgement had come upon them. The Babylonians had overrun the land of the Israelites and made them slaves. Their crops had dried up, and insects had eaten the little that did grow. But Joel was a prophet of the Lord; and through him God was proclaiming a new era, a time when prosperity would come again.
Imagine the change that was to come upon the land. God was going to send rain, and the fig tree that had dried up would bear fruit again; grapes would grow upon the vines again – so many that the vats would not contain the juice. God was going to restore to the people all that the canker-worms and caterpillars had eaten. Was that not something to rejoice about?
Some years ago we saw in our own land what happened when God withheld rain. A section of the Northern States became known as the Dust Bowl, and crops were destroyed. The people became destitute and left their farms that would no longer support them. The government considered many plans to bring water to that part of the country, but nothing was accomplished until God again sent rain. Now we read of fortunes being made in what was then the Dust Bowl. Rain has fallen and bumper crops have made the people rich. The Western part of our Country is said to be the richest, per capita, of any state in Nigeria. That shows us what happens when God keeps the rain from falling, and that it is in His hands to bring prosperity to the land.
The Early and Latter Natural Rain
Think of the eager expectation in the heart of Joel as he told the people of the joys before them! He believed the words of God, and could rejoice in faith.
In the beginning of Jewish history there had always been an early rain, which fell during the seedtime in the fall. There was some rain through the winter; and then, just before the harvest, about the first of April, heavy showers fell. This was called the latter rain, and prepared the grain for the harvest. But because of the sins of the Israelites, there had been little rain for many years. Now the promise was that the rains would fall again and bring new life to their land. How happy that should have made them!
Joel was speaking of another kind of rain, also. The people had been unhappy, because they had departed from God; but when the Spirit of God would be poured out there would be songs of praise from the hearts of those who received it. It was to be to everyone, not only the priests who in the day represented God to man and man to God. The promise was: “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: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.”
How Joel’s heart must have leaped as he thought about the great spiritual outpouring that was to come upon the people! Everyone, the old and young, the rich and poor, the men and women, would be able to share in the marvellous blessings. The Spirit that Joel was talking about was the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which was so wonderful that Peter tells us even the angels desired to look into it (I Peter:1:12).
Jesus’ Teaching about the Holy Ghost
For many years after Joel made his joyful declaration, the people continued to live in a dreary land, and the Spirit of God was not poured out upon them. Then one happy day Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and the hearts of people began to rejoice at His preaching. He told His disciples that His Kingdom was not of this world. He could not stay with them and be in every place in His human body, but after He had gone back to Heaven He would send them another Comforter, whom He called the Spirit of Truth. He would abide with them (each one individually) forever. He would be their Teacher, and would remind them of the things Jesus had told them.
When Jesus was about to be caught up into Heaven, as He stood with His disciples on Mount Olivet, He told them to return to Jerusalem and wait for the Promise of the Father, the baptism of the Holy Ghost. About one hundred and twenty obeyed Him. They tarried in the upper room, praying earnestly and being all of one accord, until the answer came. On the Day of Pentecost there was a sound as of a rushing mighty wind that filled the room where they were assembled, and the Spirit of God rested upon each one of them. They spoke in a different language than any they knew.
In the city at that time were people from all the lands about Palestine who had come to Jerusalem to keep the feast of Pentecost, and they heard the disciples speak in the languages of the foreigners. They were amazed that such poor, ignorant fishermen as some of the disciples were, should be able to speak in other tongues. But it was the Spirit of God speaking through them. That was the outward sign that they had been baptised with the Holy Ghost. Something more important than that happened at the same time: they received power to be witnesses! Jesus had said, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts:1:8). The baptism did not fall upon the people for their own enjoyment, but that they might be witnesses. They were blessed to be a blessing.
A new Peter now stood before the people. When Christ was to be crucified, Peter had been ashamed that he knew Him. When the angel told him that Jesus had risen from the dead, he wondered about it and could hardly believe it. But now he had received power, and was not afraid to stand before the Jews and accuse them of killing the divine Son of God. He told them that the disciples were not drunk, as some thought, but they had received the Spirit that Joel had prophesied about several hundred years before. Joel had said, “Rejoice.” And those who received the baptism could hardly contain their joy. It filled their being and overflowed. Peter was no longer ashamed of the Christ he had once denied. Twice in Joel’s prophecy God said, “And my people shall never be ashamed.” When the Spirit of God is in us we are not backward about telling people of Jesus who saved our souls and keeps us living above sin.
When the Spirit of God is on His people, that Spirit speaks conviction to the unsaved. Three thousand who heard Peter on the Day of Pentecost were convicted of their sins and asked what they should do to be saved. They believed all that Peter said, and obeyed his teaching, and rejoiced in the outpouring of the Spirit of God.
Some people believe that the baptism was poured out on the Day of Pentecost only for the founding of the Church and that it is not necessary for anyone else to have it. But that was not the teaching of Peter or of Paul. Several years after Pentecost we find Peter visiting the home of Cornelius, a Gentile, and he, too, received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The prophecy had been to all flesh. “For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (I Corinthians:12:13). Still later, when Paul was at Corinth, twelve persons received the baptism of the Holy Ghost ([Acts:19:1-41]).
This was the Early Rain. Joel had also spoken about a Latter Rain that would fall in the first month (the month of April according to the Jewish calendar). Peter had said that the promise was to the people at Pentecost, but also “to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts:2:39). There was going to come a time, then “afar off,” when the Latter Rain would be poured out.
The church went through the Dark Ages, and for many centuries very little spiritual rain fell upon the earth.-Neither did natural rain fall upon Palestine.-Most of the land became a desert.
Rain in Palestine
Then, about the year 1900, the mists began to fall on the Holy Land. Could it be possible that the desert would bloom again? By the time the spiritual Latter Rain fell in 1906, the natural rain was falling in abundance in Palestine, and their land was bringing forth much fine fruit. The produce of that country has won prizes at our world-fairs.
The dry sands of Palestine had thirsted for the rain; and in like manner the Christian people of the early nineteen hundred were thirsting for more of the Spirit of God.
Martin Luther had learned the truth that “the just shall live by faith.” He had given up trying to do penance for his sins, and had, through repentance toward God, been justified by faith. In spite of much persecution, he remained faithful to God’s call, and launched the Reformation.
Later John Wesley realised that the doctrine of Sanctification was for people today, just as Jesus had prayed: ”Sanctify them through thy truth: . . . Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (John:17:17-20). Sanctification was also called holiness. Many people accepted Wesley’s teaching; and after they had their sins forgiven at justification, they sought sanctification, and had the carnal nature taken out. When Adam sinned in the Garden he brought the nature of sin upon every man. We cannot help having the Adamic nature born in us, but we can be rid of it through sanctification, a second work of grace wrought by the Blood. Then the heart is a clean vessel prepared to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
There were many people in the world just before 1906 whose hearts were cleansed vessels, and they were praying earnestly that God would send the Holy Spirit and baptise them. Their hearts were as the dry soil that had been sown and was waiting for the rain to make the seed grow.
Groups of people met in different churches in all parts of the country to pray for the Latter Rain. Each church thought theirs would the one to receive the Promise, but it was not to come to any particular denomination. Upon the individual hearts that were pure and clean was the Spirit poured out.
The Latter Rain
On April 9, 1906, the first month according to the Jewish religious calendar, as Joel had prophesied, the Holy Spirit fell upon a humble band who had gathered to seek the Lord in a cottage on Bonnie Brae Street, Los Angeles. People received the baptism just as they did on the Day of Pentecost, and spoke in other tongues as the Spirit gave utterance. How they rejoiced that they had been counted worthy to receive this Gift from Above! Praises filled their hearts to over-flowing. Soon word came from other countries that the Holy Ghost had also fallen there upon the truly sanctified. Surely the land could be glad and rejoice, for God had poured out the Latter Rain.
Many people today profess to speak in tongues, but they do not have power to live clean lives, let alone be witnesses to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Satan has sent delusions upon the earth, and some people are believing a lie and are receiving a false baptism because they do not want to uncover the sins in their lives. The Holy Spirit, that gentle Dove which is easily grieved, will not come into an unclean vessel. He makes His abode only in the heart that is wholly sanctified.
For more than forty years the Rain has been falling. Wherever the Lord has found sanctified and consecrated hearts that are hungering for the Holy Spirit, He has sent the Comforter to abide. The Spirit is preparing a Bride for the Son of God who will soon come for His own. The baptism of the Holy Ghost is the wedding garment without which no one will be ready to attend the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
The Holy Spirit, the Oil of Joy, is burning in the hearts of the Bride of Christ. Everyone who makes the consecrations can enjoy this blessing from above. ”For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans:14:17).
1. What was the condition of the Israelites in Joel’s time?
2. What promise did he make?
3. When was the Holy Spirit first poured out, and what was the outpouring of the Spirit called?
4. When was the Latter Rain poured out?
5. Who is eligible to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost?
6. Who is the Bride of Christ?