Sunday, April 27, 2014

Former and Latter Rains and Restoration of the Gifts of the Spirit

In this book, Charles Matism talks about the former and the latter rain. He establishes a pattern in the Bible of 1) Redemption and New Creation (the Former rain), and 2) Judgment (the latter rain). He then says that the New Testament times was the former and the end times are the latter. But is it possible that the latter could come at the time of judgment - like at the same time as everyone shall bow and every tongue confess?

Do the latter rains refer to a restoration of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit?


The early rains, latter rains, and all rains in-between make up one season. The season occurred when Israel was restored before Christ, and may occur again during the Tribulation because former rains follow Israel's repentance. I believe the latter rains represent not judgment, but harvest and/or preparation for dry season.

Former Rains and Latter Rains -- One Season

Penn and the Tea-costals spread the idea that the former and latter rains symbolize early and end-time outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the former and latter rains become mysterious symbols in Bible eschatology.

However, that does not agree at all with Middle Eastern meteorology.

The Middle East, like many regions, has a dry season (summer) and a wet season (winter). The first rains of the wet season are called the former or early rains. The last rains of the wet season are called the latter rains.

The wet season is one continuous season. This is why, figuratively, separating the reference into separate first and second Pentecosts is so wrong.

Let me illustrate the error of Penn and the Tea-costals. Suppose you have a flat ridge that runs north and south. It would be correct to speak of the north end of the ridge and the south end of the ridge. However, Penn looks at one end and calls it North Mountain. Then he looks at the other end and calls it South Mountain. Penn tells the Tea-costals about this, and they think the ridge is two separate mountains with a big gap between them.
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 of the Hebrew year]. (KJV) Joel 2:23
Following the hot, dry summer, the early rains bring refreshment and soften the earth so farmers can break up the hardened soil and plant seeds. Note the word "moderately." Rains that came too lightly provided little relief. Rains that came heavily caused flooding. God gave just the right amount.
Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field. (KJV) Zechariah 10:1
The latter rains precede the time of harvest and determine how much water will be available during the dry season. Light rains brought drought and heavy rains damaged crops and caused floods. Again, the Lord blesses by giving "showers."

They Shall Beat Their Precipitations into Prophecies

If we separate the early and latter rains into separate symbols, then we need first to put them in context by realizing that the dry season represents a time of testing, refining, and judgment. We also need to take the rainy season as a unit and realize that it represents a time -- a season -- of blessing.

In this model that considers the whole year rather than a pair of snapshots, the early rains typify the return of blessings and renewed activity of the Holy Spirit following the repentance and holiness that testing and judgment teach.

The latter rains represent the preparation for harvest. They also represent provision for God's people during times of testing and correction, when the Holy Spirit acts more subtly.

Also note that Joel 2:23 is surrounded by a description of what follows a good spring rain: verdant pastures, trees and vines bearing fruit, and abundant wheat, grape, and olive harvests. Although verse 23 could be symbolic, it primarily means literal rain. You know. Drops of water falling from clouds.

No difference exists between the early, middle, and latter rains themselves except that one flows into the next. Unless you live in the mountains where it snows, rain is rain. You don't get Pentecostal Blessings at the early rain and Restoration Blessings at the latter rain. You get a continuous Church Age or Age of the Gentiles. The Church does not need to pass through infancy at its beginning and later return to its infancy before the Rapture.

Restorationism... of Context

Penn puts a lot of faith in his interpretation of Joel 2:23, so let's consider its context. Joel 2:1-11 describes a time when a great armed threat comes against Israel. In verses 12-17, God commands Israel to repent. In verses 18-27, God promises rescue if Israel obeys the call to repent. Then comes verse 28.
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: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. (KJV) Joel 2:28-29
The events in Joel 2:28-29 describe what happened at Pentecost and in the book of Acts. God poured out His Spirit not only upon judges, prophets, and kings, as before, but upon all races, both sexes, and all social classes. But note the keywords: "And it shall come to pass afterward...." If former rain and latter rain symbolized an age, as Penn and the Tea-costals claim, it happened before Pentecost.

If former and latter rains symbolize an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, it seems likely that the former rains correlated to the events surrounding Christ's birth (Mary and Joseph's dream, Elizabeth's prophecy, prophesies at the Temple), and possibly Christ's ministry, were the former rains; and the events in the Apostolic age were the latter rains. Pentecost would have been the pinnacle of that.

If verses 28-29 describe the First Century and 30-31 describe the Tribulation, couldn't the rains happen again? Yes. Much of prophecy iterates.

However, the blessings of verses 18-27 follow the repentance of verses 12-17. Israel has yet to repent. We expect that Israel will continue rebellion against Messiah and will bow to Christ only during the Tribulation. If the rains symbolize anything like a second Pentecost, it will have to happen during or after the Tribulation.

Raining on Charismatics' Party

The former and latter rains probably refer to precipitation. If they do mean outpourings of the Holy Spirit, they happened a long ago and are not yet repeating.

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