I Beg to Differ: Part 2

Latter Day Rain for the Church?

After much consideration and careful analysis, I am convinced that the Biblical term “latter rain” is not reflective of God’s dealing with the Gentile Church, but instead is a prophetic promise relating to the repentance and spiritual restoration of natural Israel.

At the first advent the Lord Jesus “came unto his own”, but His own — the nation of Israel — rejected Him because of their unbelief. (Jn. 1:11). Paul declared that “blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Romans 11:20-25). The “fulness of the Gentiles” depicts the conclusion of the Church Age. James quoted the prophetic promise of Israel’s spiritual restoration, as it is recorded in Amos 9:11-12, and also showed how God is visiting the Gentiles during the Church Age, “to take out of them a people for his name.” The Lord will then return to rebuild the “tabernacle of David, which is fallen down”. (Acts 15:13-16). It is this reconciliation between God and the physical nation of Israel that is described in scripture as the “latter rain”. Consider the following scriptures: Hosea 5:15, 6:1-4, Zech. 10:1, Joel 2:23 and James 5:7.

Hosea seems to prophetically describe Israel’s rejection of Christ at His first coming, and then their repentance and acceptance of Him at His return. This blessed return of the Lord to Israel is likened unto “the former and latter rain”.

Matthew 23:37-39 records the Lord’s lamentation over Jerusalem: “…thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together…Behold, your house is left unto you desolate…till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

Scripture clearly states that as Israel repents for their rejection of Christ, and turns to God, Jesus will return to bless the nation with a great outpouring of God’s Spirit. (Zech. 12:10-11, Ps. 79 & Ps. 80). This is the “latter rain” for Israel. The context and timeframe of Joel 2:23 and Zechariah 10:1 are specifically pointing to the nation of Israel, and not the Church. Although the Church is classified by some as the ‘spiritual Israel of God’ during the period of Israel’s “blindness in part”, it is poor exegesis to spiritualize the literal Old Testament prophecies that relate to natural Israel. (Gal. 6:16).

Galatians 6:16 is not only referring to the Gentiles, but also to the converted Jews. A careful scrutiny of other translations will reveal two categories of individuals mentioned in this verse. One was the converted Jew, and the other was the converted Gentile. It did not matter whether one was circumcised (Jew) or uncircumcised (Gentile). Becoming a “new creature” was the most important achievement. (vs. 15). So, every Gentile that walked “according to this rule, peace on them and mercy, [and] even upon the Israel of God.” (See Wuest’s ‘Greek Studies of New Testament’ and Moffatt’s ‘Translation of the Scriptures’).

The other New Testament scripture that is often used to suggest that the latter rain is for the Gentile Church is found in James 5:7. I do agree that James is writing a New Testament epistle and was proclaiming the faith of our Lord Jesus. (Jas. 2:1). Yet, we should consider his style and his emphasis on faith accompanied by works as a message for converted Jews.

Unlike the Apostle Paul whose epistles were basically sent to Gentile Christians, James wrote to converted Jews who were struggling with the concept of conversion without works.

Was there a problem of comprehending the fact that faith did not eliminate the moral laws of God or human responsibility? (See James 2).

Were years of strict law keeping being challenged and condemned by extreme Gentile converts?

A surface reading of James chapter 2 may create an impression that James was contradicting the Apostle Paul’s message on justification by faith, and not by works. But remember that James was addressing a completely different group of Christians.

As James was writing to Christian Jews, their faith in Christ did not eliminate their hope in the promises God made to the Jews as a nation. They still cherished the promises made to Abraham and David, and looked forward to the literal establishment of God’s kingdom on the Earth. Was this not the identical desire of the apostles when they asked, “Lord wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).

Also, let us carefully consider the opening salutation of the epistle of James. “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” (Jas. 1:1).  It is clear that the letter of James was not written to the Gentiles but to the Jews. As such, his mention of “latter rain” was appropriate.

As we conclude these thoughts we need to consider a big question. Will the Church be empowered in the last days?

Scripture does show that although the Church (the “two witnesses” of Revelation 11:3 and “the woman” of Revelation 12:1) will not receive the former or the latter rain, it will still receive a great outpouring of God’s Spirit prior to its conclusion.

This outpouring of God’s Spirit upon the Church appears to transpire concurrent with His outpouring on the Jews, and therefore, can easily be mistaken as one and the same. However, a careful study of the scriptures regarding this prophecy will reveal two distinct outpourings. Joel 2:28 outlines the outpouring on Israel, while verse 29 highlights the Church. (Acts 2:17-18).

As a minister, my understanding of these areas of scripture is of absolute necessity for two basic reasons. The first is that I do not present to the Church a misguided hope. The second is that because of a misunderstanding of prophecy, I could find myself associating with and becoming a part of the deceived.

Miracle-working Last Days Church?

Bible prophecies of the last days clearly state that the Church will not be one brimming with miracles and healings, but rather persecution and rejection.

Our study of the book of Revelation will reveal that there are basically two Churches. The first is that which is symbolically described as “the woman” of Revelation 12:1. She represents the Church which came out of the upper room and belongs to Christ, who is her Head. (Eph. 1:22, Col. 1:18, Eph. 5:23). This is the true Church that is subject to Christ, and is being sanctified from sin and the world. He cleanses it and eliminates all spiritual spots and blemishes so that it might be holy. (Eph. 5:24-27). Careful notice should be given to the fact that this woman — the Church which is about to deliver the man-child (Bride of Christ) — travails in birth just before her delivery. There is a face-to-face confrontation with the Devil prior to the rapture. (Rev. 12:4 & 9). Certainly, this scripture is in no way suggesting a Church that is converting the entire world or having miracle-working revivals.

A parallel scripture in Revelation 11:3 describes the Church as symbolic to “two witnesses” who are given power. This power to witness is accompanied by power to unleash judgment on the Earth. However, the witnesses prophecy in “sackcloth” and are eventually put out of existence. (v. 3). All other areas of scripture describe the latter days of the Church as days of persecution and rejection. However, the same is not said about the second Church — the whore of Revelation 17.

This apostate Church is symbolized as the “whore”, and the “beast” she rides on is civil government. She is wealthy, and her combined efforts with the beast intoxicate the masses of humanity: “…all the world wondered after the beast.” (Rev. 13:3-4; 17:1-2).

At this point it is important to note that in order to avoid deception, we must be able to differentiate between the true and false

Church. To do this, we must rely heavily on the word of God and the Holy Ghost.

My research of scripture relating to the end of the age seems to suggest a vast contrast between the commencement and the conclusion of the Church. While history records a miracle-working, fast-growing Early Church, prophecy cautions us to the fact that signs, wonders, wealth and numerical growth will be used by the apostate Church to deceive many in the last days.

In Matthew 24 and 25 our Lord warns His disciples against end-time deceptions. He showed that, “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Mt. 24:12). In verse 5 He warned about His very name being used as a tool for deception and that many will be deceived by signs and wonders. This deception will be so powerful that, “if it were possible”, even the very elect will be deceived.” (Mt. 24:11&24).

The Apostle Paul described this massive deception in these last days as the working of “the mystery of iniquity”. Concocted by Satan, this working of error will appear to be a great move of God’s Spirit, “with all power and signs and lying wonders”. Anyone who willingly sacrifices truth for miracles will be a prime candidate for deception. “…because they will receive not the love of the truth…God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie…that they all might be damned who believe not the truth.” (2 Thes. 2:7-12).

To avoid deception it is imperative that every child of God be made to understand the basic difference between God’s true Church and the harlot Church. We must not use wealth, miracles or numerical excellence as criteria to validate God’s work. Rather, it is truth (sound doctrine) and holiness that form the foundation on which God’s Church is built. Although numerical and material growth may sometimes add to the credibility of God’s work, they should never hold priority to truth. We may even have the Holy Ghost and speak with tongues, but it is the truth that sets us free. (Jn. 8:32).

Truth is of even greater importance to the sanctification of the Church in these last days. In fact, it is the key element that will distinguish the Body of Christ from Babylon. For the work of God to maintain its identity it is necessary that truth- or as Paul described it, “sound doctrine” — is never compromised. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers…and they shall turn away their ears from the truth…” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

Please be advised that this article is not intended to cast a negative reflection on Pentecostalism. I am Pentecostal and I am convinced that the Holy Ghost is an absolute necessity for spiritual growth. As Christians, we should seek after the gifts and fruit of the Spirit, but prophecy should not be ignored. Scripture foretells many in the last days saying, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?” Yet, they will all be rejected and labelled as workers of iniquity. (Matt. 7:21-23). It is possible to have all the gifts of the Spirit, yet still be rejected? (1 Cor. 13:1-3).

May God’s word lighten our path and His Spirit direct our steps as we advance further into this age of darkness.