“The Emblems of the Holy Spirit” Series:
The Holy Spirit as Former and Latter Rain
Bible Teaching By
Copyright © 2004
1 Praise waiteth for Thee, O God, in Sion:
and unto thee shall the vow be performed.
2 O thou that hearest prayer,
unto Thee shall all flesh come.
3 Iniquities prevail against me:
as for our transgressions, Thou shalt purge them away.
4 Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest,
and causest to approach unto Thee,
that he may dwell in Thy courts:
we shall be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house,
even of Thy holy temple.
5 By terrible things in righteousness wilt Thou answer us,
O God of our salvation;
Who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth,
and of them that are afar off upon the sea:
6 Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains;
being girded with power:
7 Which stilleth the noise of the seas,
the noise of their waves,
and the tumult of the people.
8 They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at Thy tokens:
Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice.
9 Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it:
Thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God,
which is full of water:
Thou preparest them corn,
when Thou hast so provided for it.
10 Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly:
Thou settlest the furrows thereof:
Thou makest it soft with showers:
Thou blessest the springing thereof.
11 Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness;
and Thy paths drop fatness.
12 They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness:
and the little hills rejoice on every side.
13 The pastures are clothed with flocks;
the valleys also are covered over with corn;
they shout for joy, they also sing.
ather, we ask You that You will speak again to us. We are all thanking You for Your love and care for every one of us. It’s so good, Father, to know that we are under Your protection and YOur guidance, and that we can truthfully say that good things have happened to us, and You have blessed us. Father, we leave ourselves in Your hands—such safe, almighty, comforting and loving hands. We ask You, Lord, that according to our need, because our needs vary, that You will minister to us. We have not come merely to be entertained intellectually or to receive further knowledge about the Bible. We recognize it could be a vain thing, merely to have our heads filled with further knowledge of the Bible. But, Lord, we want You to come and minister to us in such a personal way that our lives may be changed and that we may grow up into Jesus more rapidly, more really—a greater stature. Please, Lord, when these services are over, make us to feel that we have been in the Presence of God and have received, not as Moses received, a temporary anointing, but a permanent one. For Jesus’ sake. Amen
Let me draw your attention to a verse in Joel:
- 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 caterpiller, 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.
Now let’s look at a further reference from the Epistle of James. James is speaking about patience, and farming, and he says:
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
I want to speak to you about the Holy Spirit as early and latter rain, with a special reference to the latter rain. “He hath given you the former rain moderately,” that is, in due season, “and He will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain and the latter rain, in the first month” (Joel 2:23).
Watching for Antichrist or Being Like Christ?
Now there are many different opinions about revival. And there are those who actually preach that there can be no revival before Jesus comes. They say that conditions are such that no revival can happen. They are so certain that they have the right interpretation of prophecy because they have worked it out very cleverly. They say that what we should be looking for now is the antichrist and not revival.
The only scriptures that I know on the subject keep us looking for Jesus. I strongly deprecate the sort of prophecy-mongering that keeps our eyes constantly looking for an antichrist. And I especially deprecate the fixing of an antichrist, such as has been done in my short time. There are those in America who are absolutely certain that Henry Kissinger was to be the antichrist. Well don’t tell him so! Poor man, he has had enough worries on his mind as it is. And others, of course, are quite certain that John Kennedy was the antichrist. There was quite a large book written declaring that Don Juan Carlos, who has mounted the throne of Spain, will be the antichrist. And in my time, of course, it was “quite clear” that Hitler was the antichrist. In fact you worked that out like you worked the name Kissinger out. It comes to 6-6-6. If you know how to manipulate Kissinger’s name, it comes quite clearly to 6-6-6. And if you knew how to do it with Hitler (I’ve done it myself), it comes to 6-6-6. But to some then before him, it was perfectly clear who the antichrist was, it was Mussolini, because he was raising up the old Roman Empire. And before him, it was Prince Louis Napoleon. (My father had a book on the subject.) And before then, of course, it was Napoleon Bonaparte. Quite clearly he was making the old Roman Empire come back again, that is, the Holy Roman Empire, in Europe. So that’s how we go on and on and on.
The subtle design of Satan in all this is to get people far more concerned about prophecy than about being like Jesus. Now the Holy Ghost doesn’t draw us to the contemplation of prophecy. I’ll say it again: The Holy Ghost does not draw us to the contemplation of prophecy to fill our heads with knowledge of how all these things are going to be worked out. The Holy Spirit draws us to the contemplation of prophecy only to remind us that of the day and the hour of the Lord’s coming, none of us know, so we had better be ready when He does come. What the Holy Ghost does impress upon us concerning prophecy is that we should be ready! Watch therefore!
The three last parables of Jesus were on this very subject. The three last parables that Jesus ever gave to His disciples, before He went to the cross, were:
- “The Parable of the Ten Virgins” [Matthew 25:1-10];
- “The Parable of the Talents” [verses 14-30]; and
- “The Parable of the Judgment of the Nations” [verses 31-46].
The first parable, the one about the ten virgins, is given that we should be watchful. “Watch, therefore, for ye know not the hour nor the day of His coming” [verse 13].
The point of the second parable, the one concerning the talents, is that you are to be faithful in what God gives you to do.
And the third parable, the one about the Judgment of the Nations, where they are judged according as to how they have dealt with “little ones,” and whether they have taken care of the little ones and the weary ones, and the stricken ones, and the ones that had no food and clothes, and the ones that were sick, and the ones that were in prison—it is according to how they have dealt with those that they are judged. This is the word of the Lord to be merciful. That is to be our state—to be full of mercy and truth.
So the Holy Spirit is deeply interested in you knowing something about prophecy, but only in order that you should be faithful, and that you should be watchful, and that you should be merciful; for they are the three tests of the genuine Christian—not whether you know who the antichrist is. In that sense I want to talk to you about this prophecy of the Latter Rain. Not that we might be able to have a deeper, greater mental knowledge of certain facts concerning the possible coming of the Lord Jesus in our time, an event which is very probable; but in order that we might be prepared for that with a quality of life. “He has given you the former rain and He will give you the latter rain” [Joel 2:23].
Former and Latter Rain
Thus our focus will be on the Holy Spirit as former and latter rain. I have asked you the question, “Do you really expect revival?” And some say “no” because it doesn’t match in with their conception of prophecy. And others of us say “yes!” because it matches what we inwardly feel and know the mind of the Holy Spirit is. God is a God of revival. He loves to revive His people. God is not a God of dying and of death; God is a God of life. “I am come that they might have life, and might have it more abundantly” [John 10:10].
This passage of Scripture “He has given you the former rain moderately and He will give you the latter rain abundantly” [Joel 2:23] really fits in with our conception that God will revive His people. Now what is the “former and latter rain”? In this part of the world—Northern Washington State—we don’t have former and latter rain. It rains all the time! But in Palestine, where this word was written, they have very definite signs and times of rain. What David mentions in Psalm 65 is really describing for you the Former and the Latter rain. So in Psalm 65, let me remind you, this is how the former rain is characterized:
9 Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it:
Thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God,
which is full of water:
Thou preparest them corn,
when Thou hast so provided for it.
10 Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly:
Thou settlest the furrows thereof:
Thou makest it soft with showers:
Thou blessest the springing thereof.
That is the former rain. It is given by God to soften the hard clods of soil that have been made so hard through the long dry period, and God softens them with former rain. The seed is sown at that period. So God by the former rain, and by the moisture in the earth, springs the corn. “Thou blessest the springing thereof” (verse 10d). “Thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it” (verse 9d,e).
As there was in Bible days, there is a season still in Israel when God sends former rain. It comes usually at the end of our year, and is in order to soften the soil and to spring the corn, so that it can begin to grow.
“Thou waterest the ridges thereof…Thou makest it soft with showers.” Have you ever noticed the difference between human watering and God’s sprinkling with rain? There is a remarkable difference. Horticultural science knows the difference. When you have watering by the ordinary, mechanical means, there isn’t the same response on the part of the land. The remarkable thing is, that before a rain, after a dry period, the earth opens its mouth. That’s what the Bible says, it opens its mouth to receive the rain. It is, as it were, as though the pores are opened. The earth is longing for rain. And it opens itself, as it were, to receive it. Now we are not talking about conjecture. We are talking about a fact of horticultural science, that before the rain the earth, as it were, opens its pores to receive it. The earth desires rain—as the scripture says here—“Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God” [verse 9].
The Principle of Desire
If you looked in the margin of the King James Version, it says: “Thou visitest the earth after thou hast made it to desire rain” [verse 9, kjv margin]. Thou visitest the earth with rain, after thou has made it to desire it. God makes things to desire. One of the great principles that God works upon is that He “satisfies the desire of every living thing” [Psalm 145:16]. That is why if you have no desire for salvation, you’ll never get it. If you have no desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit, He will never come. He only satisfies desire.
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” [Matthew 5:6]. You can talk to a reluctant family about righteousness, and they will never, ever want \ it. You can talk to a reluctant church about holiness, and if you are a good speaker, and you illustrate it with good illustrations, they will say it’s a good sermon, a good address, a good talk; and they will go home and forget all about it. They have no desire. It’s desire that is the heart of the matter.
Thou fillest the hungry with good things, and the rich thou hast sent empty away.
I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.
The Lord does not give the Holy Spirit to non-thirsty people. We have to thirst for Him. And some of you dear folks, mothers and fathers, who have been praying for your children, would do very well to alter your prayers. Instead of constantly praying the Lord will save them, when they have no desire of being saved, instead of asking the Lord to create in them salvation, why don’t you ask the Lord, first, to create in them desire for salvation? Oh, now we’re getting to the root of the thing. “He satisfies the desire of every living thing” [Psalm 145:16]. This is a tremendous principle, the great principle of desire. It comes right out in the Jewish people. It says in the Scriptures, that Pilate gave to them the one whom they desired. Peter says that: “You desired a murderer, rather than the Prince of Life” [Acts 3:14]. That’s an awful thing to desire. God gave them their desire; they got their murderer. They also got murder as well. What people, tell me, in the history of the world, have been murdered, and murdered, and murdered again more continually than the Jews? They got their desire. When they were in the wilderness, God gave them their desire. They desired flesh. They said, “Our soul loatheth this light bread that comes down from heaven [Numbers 21:5], angels food [Psalm 78:25ff]. “We remember the fleshpots of Egypt” [Exodus 16:3]. And the Bible says that they desired flesh so God gave it to them, but gave them leanness in their souls [Psalm 106:15].
If you keep pressing God, He will give you your desire. But you’ll get leanness in your soul. You’d better ask the Lord to cleanse your desire and create a pure desire; then God will do it. Change your prayers, then, Mothers! Change your prayers, Fathers! Change your prayers, Husband, or Wife, or Son, or Daughter! Change your prayers to asking God to create desire for righteousness in your children, desire for salvation, desire to be filled with the Holy Ghost. And then God can do it. He will not do anything against desire. So here the Scripture says that “Thou visitest the earth with water when thou hast made it to desire it” [verse 9, kjv margin]. The earth desires rain. He satisfies the longing soul.
God’s Dry Spell
Now those showers then spring the corn, and the corn begins to grow. So that early saturation at last passes away. The rains have ceased. Now the corn has been established; its roots have gone down. It is drawing in whatever moisture there is, from the drying soil and from the atmosphere. The stalk is there. The stalk is formed. And that dryness causes that stalk not to be soft, but to be hard. One of these days examine a wheat stalk. (When the Bible speaks about “corn,” it doesn’t mean corn as you think of it. It means wheat, in every case. When the Bible speaks of corn, please don’t think of Indian corn, that is, maize. Think of wheat. That’s what the Bible says. The Bible knows nothing about Indian corn at all. It only knows about wheat, or barley, or those grains.) So you have to examine a wheat stalk. And you’ll find that the stalk has knots all up the stem. They are God’s wonderful provision to keep the stalk erect. If a wheat stalk hasn’t got those knots, it would bend over and the grain would be lost because it would be laying on the ground. But how does God make those knots, and how does God make that stalk strong? By a dry period. If the farmer has continual rain, he looks with despair upon his wheat fields, because he knows that the stalk will be so thin, so mushy, so green, that it will fall over. It may be strong and big in appearance, but it’s thin, it has no strength in it, and the slightest wind makes it bend and droop and the farmer’s wheat is lost.
There are periods in our lives when God often brings dryness on our souls. You’ll go through a time of heartache, a time when things seem to go wrong, a time even when it seems that the Lord has left you. You have no more of that great consciousness of His abiding. There are people that will tell you that the Lord will give you joy, joy, joy, joy, joy, all day and every day. And if not, something has gone wrong—you’ve been a sinner, so you’d better repent, or else you’re not working things up properly. I would like to denounce that false theory. Dear precious people of God, He will often bring you through times of dryness spiritually and sorrow in order to make you strong. Much glory on your soul, and many happy meetings, and much clapping of hands and joy in the Lord will make you weak. But chastisement will make you strong. And that’s why the Lord brings you through it. It’s not a sign the Lord has abandoned you; rather, it’s a sign that the Lord loves you when He chastens you and brings you through a dry and hard period. That’s what God does in nature. That’s why, out in the Middle East, God does this, giving the former and the latter rain. In between former and latter rain there is a dry period when God is forming the stalk and making it strong.
Then afterwards comes the latter rain, about April time, before the harvest. God sends the latter rain in order that there may be an abundant harvest, for that rich, latter rain plumps the ear and gives you full ears of corn. Then God sends the sunshine to ripen it.
So in Psalm 65, the first portion speaks of Former Rain: “Thou visitest the earth. Thou waterest the ridges thereof. Thou makest it soft with showers.” Then verse 11 brings in the Latter Rain. “Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness.” That is the latter rain, when God crowns the harvest year with His goodness.
- Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.
- They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side.
- The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.
That’s the latter rain which gives an abundant harvest.
Have you ever heard a field of wheat singing? When you see a field of ripe wheat, it sings! It typifies the Holy Spirit coming upon His people. As the wind passes over the wheat field, all the heads bow in unison. And they start singing. You listen, if ever you have the privilege of being in a large wheat field, to the singing of ripe wheat. How it rustles and sings! But it will only do it, you see, when it’s in good, full ear. It doesn’t sing when the ear isn’t formed. It sings when the ear is formed. That is what David is speaking about. The Bible is a much more simple book than ever you thought, but you have to have a simple attitude, that is, a clean, pure, trustful attitude to see the glory and the beauty of it. You also have to know something about the world you live in—Nature. The “Book of Nature” is another book besides the Bible, and just as true as the Bible. It will teach you many a precious lesson, if only you can see it. Most people on earth can’t read or write, but everyone can see the book of Nature. And God has not hidden Himself, He has revealed Himself.1 So this latter rain plumps the ear and gives an abundant harvest.
God Restores the Former and Latter Rains
Now what happened to the Former and Latter Rains in Palestine after the time of Jesus? The Romans caused terrible depredations in the land after the two Jewish revolts, the first one in AD 70 and the other in about a.d. 130. In the first Jewish revolt, Jerusalem was completely destroyed, the Temple destroyed, and many Jews were sold into captivity (those who weren’t among the millions who died). In the second Jewish revolt, about a.d. 130, a gigantic man named Bar Cocheba (“son of a Star”) led the Jewish people in revolt against the Romans. False prophets prophesied they would have an abundant victory. But in the end it resulted in the annihilation of the Jewish people as a people, and the scattering of Jews throughout the then known world. That was the final scattering. All Jews were banned from Jerusalem and the name of the city was changed to Aelia Capitolina—the Capitol of Jove. The very name of Jove, the father of the Roman gods, was put upon Jerusalem. And at that time Jerusalem ceased to be the center for the Jewish people.
Now because of those wars, and the cutting down of trees, and later the coming of the Saracens, who conquered Palestine, and then the Turks, the land came into an awful, dry period for many, many centuries. And because the people were taken away from it, agriculture practically ceased. Because there was insufficient grass for the cattle, and because the people were poor, they kept goats. When trees did sprout, the goats nibbled them and kept them low and short. So Palestine was deforested. There were very few trees in Palestine. And the former and the latter rain ceased. So for centuries and centuries, this which the Bible reveals did not happen in Palestine. It was almost a barren land, with only tiny little places that were cultivated.
Then God worked His miracle. After the First World War, God opened Palestine for Israel. God used that awful war to open Palestine, and the Jews began to go back again. The Zionist movement was formed. Chaim Weizmann, the great Jewish chemist, who did so much for the Allies in the First World War, was asked by Prime Minister Balfour of England what reward they could give him for his magnificent, scientific, chemical discoveries. There was a time when the Allies were baffled concerning explosives—and Chaim Weizmann opened up to them a wonderful, new field which enabled them to carry on the war; otherwise they would have had to close down on it. The government considered that he deserved the highest possible reward. In reply, he chose nothing for himself. He said, “Do something for my people, the Jews.” And then Arthur Balfour issued the statement that it was the wish of his Majesty’s government in Britain that a home for the Jewish people should be opened in Palestine. And there were successive governments that attempted to do that, against constant opposition, of course.
So for hundreds of years these rains had ceased, but then the Jews began to go back. And then when the Jews went back to repopulate the land, they planted forests. In their high intelligence and their wisdom, they planted forests, huge forests, with millions of trees—the Balfour forests, the George the Fifth forests. In fact, at the present day, you can make a subscription to the Zionist Movement, and they will pass it on to Palestine, to the kibbutzim, and a tree will be planted in your name. Isn’t that thrilling! I’m glad I have two. I’m not advertising it because I subscribed to them, but I’m glad to have a certificate that says a tree was planted in my name, on one or two occasions. So that I had a hand in reforesting Palestine. It brought the former rains back. So the former rains began. In our time God sent the former rains back to Palestine. But wonder of wonders, as the reforestation continued, another wonderful thing happened. I remember reading a letter from a correspondent in Palestine that was published in the Herald of His Coming that announced the truth that the latter rains had begun. So in Palestine at the present time, the old, former and latter rains have come back again. God has fulfilled His word. The people have gone back. And God has given the former and the latter rain. This is a very wonderful fulfillment of prophecy. “I have given you the former rain moderately, I will give you the latter rain abundantly” [Joel 2:23]. Do you not see a spiritual significance in this—that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh?
The Key to Prophecy: “This Is That”
Earlier I stated that I strongly deprecate what I call prophecy mongering. There are people who read endless books on fancy views of prophecy, all of them telling you what is going to take place. But you see, that’s not God’s way. God’s key to prophecy is not “This is going to be that.” God’s key to prophecy is “This is that.” God doesn’t tell you what is going to happen, in detail, to fulfill a certain prophecy. What God does reveal to His watching and spiritual people is the fulfillment of that prophecy when it takes place. That’s true all the way through the scriptures. “This is that,” [Acts 2:16] so Peter could announce by the inner witness of the Spirit, which is the only reliable witness. Not by mental calculation, but by the witness of the Spirit he knew that “This is that” when the Holy Ghost came down at Pentecost. When Simeon and Anna came into the Temple and saw that Baby, [Luke 2:25-38] by the witness of the Spirit they knew “This is that” which God had promised, and they announced, “This is the Messiah.” Now this is God’s way.
When Daniel knew that seventy years had passed, God witnessed to him it was time for Israel—the Jews—to go back to Palestine. And he announced it. “I understood by books,” Daniel said, the time had come, that is, by Jeremiah’s writings [Daniel 9:1-2]. Seventy years were accomplished upon God’s people. When seventy years were fulfilled, the Holy Ghost witnessed to him that the seventy years were up, and that it was time for them to go back. By Daniel’s intercession and prayers, Nehemiah and Ezra went back to the Holy Land and restored the Temple and built up Jerusalem, as God said should be done [verse 3ff]. “This is that” is the key to prophecy—not all these many, many books, exciting books which say, “This is going to be that.”
So we can truthfully say that God has fulfilled His word because the latter rains, as the former rains, are coming down today. “This is that” which was prophesied by the Lord. We are close to the time when the Son of Man shall reap His harvest. And latter rain always comes before the harvest. We can say that original Pentecost was former rain. There has been a long, dry period in between. Then the latter rains began. When did latter rain begin? I suggest it began at the time of the Reformation. And we have had showers, and showers, ever since, what we call revivals. I believe that God is going to give us an abundant, glory shower of latter rain before Jesus’ coming, to prepare the Church for her home-going. There has got to be an abundant harvest, because the latter rain plumps the ear. And the Lord is not going to be the loser in this tremendous battle between sin and righteousness. It is not going to be that the Devil is going to have the vast majority that he has been the means of damning in everlasting punishment. I believe that God is going to have an everlasting victory. And the number of redeemed, in the end, will show you that Calvary was not in vain. God has not snatched a handful out of the burning and saved only a few because He hadn’t got the power to save any more, and the Devil has such power he is able to rob God of Calvary’s victory. Never! Calvary will be proved an everlasting victory and the number of those whom God has saved in the end will be, as the Scripture declares, a great multitude, which no man can number [Revelation 7:9; cf. Genesis 13:16].
And don’t you try and tell me how God is going to do it, because you don’t know. And don’t ask me, because I don’t know! I am prepared to believe the Bible. But there aren’t very many people that do. They usually are prepared to believe what they can see in the Bible that fits in with their own private interpretation of Scripture.
The Great Harvest Chapter
It says in that very precious chapter, Revelation chapter 14, the great harvest chapter:
- And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.
- And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps:
- And they sung as it were a new song, and none could learn that song, but the hundred and forty four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins.
- These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
Numbers in Revelation are not actual numbers; rather, they are typical numbers, for the whole book is a book of symbols. So don’t quote some symbols to suit your argument, as if they were fact, when they are symbolical. It would be wonderful if you and I could come to the book of Revelation without preconceived ideas and really believe that God wants us to read it and to understand it. These things are “hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed unto babes” [Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21]. Not “they never have been defiled” but “they are not defiled.” There’s a big difference. I hope you can see it. I remember a woman said to me once, “Are you married?” I almost said, “Yes, thanks.” But she said, “Are you married? Then you won’t be amongst the 144,000 then.” Isn’t that foolish? That would cut poor Peter out, wouldn’t it? Peter couldn’t be amongst the 144,000 because the poor fellow was married. I think he was a hero for being married, not the reverse.
Don’t you see, dear brothers and sisters, that if we are not very careful we can look at things with a fleshly mind? It doesn’t say, “These have never been defiled.” It says something far sweeter: “These are NOT defiled.” When the Lord really saves you and blots your sin out, and gives you a pure heart, the past is gone. You are really a new creature. “Old things are passed away” [2 Corinthians 5:17]. And God has blotted them out, and completely annihilated the things that you did and made you a new creature when you are born of God by the Holy Spirit. You are NOT the person you were before! Then you can walk in white with your Lord. Then you can keep company with Him. Then you can lift up your face without spot. Then you can take up your cross and follow Him. In that case you are not defiled, but once you were. And you can be one of the typical people who follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth [Revelation 14:4].
Revelation 14:4 also speaks of “the firstfruits unto God and the Lamb.” Israel was not allowed to reap their harvest until they had first offered God the firstfruits. That is why we still have “harvest homes,” that is, harvest festivals. It’s a good thing to have in the church. It’s lovely to see God’s people bring their harvest, and put it around and make the place look beautiful, and acknowledge publicly that God has fed them and God has provided and God has given the harvest. Excellent! It’s just typical of the old Feast of Firstfruits that the Jews used to have. But they only could reap their harvest, let me remind you, when they had offered that firstfruit—that which was their best—to God. The firstfruits are offered in harvest time to God. God reaps the firstfruits first.
The General Harvest
Then comes the general harvest. Verse 6 says:
“Then I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.”
“The everlasting Gospel.” There is only one Gospel. There isn’t the Gospel of Salvation and then there is another Gospel called the Everlasting Gospel and another gospel called the Gospel of the Kingdom. There is only one Gospel, and “if I or an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel, let him be anathema” [1 Corinthians 16:22]. And then you see, the Lord Himself appears in verse 14.
- I looked, and beheld a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man [that’s the Christ] having on his head a golden crown, in his hand a sharp sickle.
- Another angel came out of the temple, and said, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
- And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
That’s the general harvest of His people. He reaps His own people. He gathers His own people.
The Final Reaping
Then finally there comes another reaping:
- And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
- And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
- And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
- And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.
Two angels now appear on the scene. The first comes out of the heavenly temple holding a sharp sickle (verse 17). From the heavenly altar a second angel appears, and he orders the first angel to “Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe” (verse 18). The first angel thrusts in his sickle to the earth (verse 19) and gathers the vine of the earth—not the corn, not the wheat, but the vine—and casts it into the winepress of the wrath of God, and blood comes out. That’s the grapes of wrath. That’s the final reaping. That’s the doom of the wicked. The time of reaping of the Lord Jesus is coming. And that inner witness that the Holy Ghost gives you that the time is drawing nigh, that inner witness is a safe witness. It’s far safer than reading books about the subject. We have books that go back hundreds of years which “proved” that the time of the coming of the Lord would be in the authors’ lifetimes. It’s passed on. And foolish people have been saying that the coming of the Lord has been drawing nigh all down the ages. Yes, but don’t let that deceive you. The Lord will come. The Lord must come. And that inner drawing of the Holy Ghost that makes you only want to please Him is a more wonderful sign than any book you could possibly read. These are the days of the last showers of the latter rain. That is why God has proved it to you in Palestine, by the Jews going back—and He said they would go back—and then God restoring it to prosperity.
Needed: Latter Rain Revival
Williston Walker, the historian, quotes a wise church historian named Heussi.2 It’s important. He says that in 50 a.d. in the early church, one was a member of the church, one was a Christian, who had these three marks:
- He was baptized in the Name of Jesus for the remission of his sins in water;
- He was baptized in the Holy Spirit; and,
- He called Jesus Lord.
That was the sign of the ordinary early church Christian just about the days of the Apostles. They were baptized in water in the Name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of sins, acknowledging Christ as Lord by being baptized in water for remission of sins; and baptized in the Holy Ghost—real, true experience of New Birth Christianity. And the third one, where Jesus was Lord in everything, meant you were a sanctified Christian.
See how things have changed. We’ve lost the
present throughout the universe everywhere, but specially present by indwelling3 of the Holy Ghost. We acknowledge Him as inspiring the Bible. We feel that He occasionally inspires the preacher. We feel also that the choruses and hymns that we sing—oh, we say we really feel moved by the Spirit when we sing those choruses. But what we have lost is the personal presence of the Holy Ghost in the midst of His people, ruling and governing and directing us. No longer do we know anything about it. In fact no longer do we expect it. That is what we call the immanence—the nearness, the indwelling—amongst His people. And that is what happens in revival. And that is what God means by latter rain. For that’s what Joel says: He will restore that latter rain and I will come in the midst of you. I will dwell in the midst. Now the Lord Jesus is Lord of His church. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, is Lord in His church. We acknowledge Him as Lord of His church, the Christ, and sitting on the right hand of God. And we know His loving, deep, personal interest, in every one of us in the Church. But what do we know today of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, being in our midst as Lord in the church? Very, very little.
We long for and need revival. It’s the latter rain. As the word of the Lord says: “I will give you the latter rain…
And the floor shall be full of wheat. And the vat shall overflow with wine and oil….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.
The Danger of Revival
I get ashamed sometimes when I lay hands on the sick and they don’t recover. The Lord said they would. I get ashamed at the lack of results from my preaching. So I need to see—and we need to see—the Holy Spirit come back to His people in glorious revival power. In the days of the early church the Lord could announce, “I am He that walketh in the midst of the seven golden lampstands” [Revelation 2:1]. But He doesn’t walk in our midst today. Perhaps it’s just as well He doesn’t. If He did, Ananias and Sapphira would drop dead again for lying to the Holy Ghost [Acts 5:1-11]. I’ve preached in churches that I know lie to the Holy Ghost, and there are many church members that lie to the Holy Ghost. In fact, if God began to make inquisition of truth, where would we stand? So be careful when you pray that the Holy Ghost will come back in immanence. There will be more funerals when He comes back. Literally so. It’s a serious thing. It’s reality. But He won’t walk amongst us unless He can walk in truth. And when He comes back, He has to remove all the clutter and the untruth that we’ve filled His church up with.
In Revelation the Lord walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands. Because He did that, He could say, “I will remove your lampstand from its place” [Revelation 2:5]. And He did it! He said to the very church at Ephesus… well, have you ever read the Ephesian epistle? Of course you have. What a wonderful church that seems to be; but all the time Paul is calling them back to love. Later Jesus says to the Ephesians, “You’re right in your doctrine. And you know those who are possessors of truth and those who don’t live it. Oh, you know that. You’ve sorted all that out. But you’ve left your first love. And because of that I will remove your lampstand from its place. And today there is no church at Ephesus at all. There is one at Smyrna, interestingly enough, but not one at Ephesus, because the Lord does what He says.
We want the Lord to come back and give us abundant showers of latter rain, but it means the immanence, the personal attention and standing of the Holy Ghost.
My last word to you is the promise of the Lord given in Psalm 72:6—“He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass.” What is the grass that God is referring to? It’s what Isaiah says in chapter 40:6. When the voice said, “Cry,” he said, “What shall I cry?” And God said, “Cry, ‘All flesh is grass.’” Now link that, please, with Psalm 72:6: He will come down like showers upon the mown grass, the grass that’s cut down. What is the grass that’s cut down? It’s when we are willing to be cut down to size, when our “PUFF” has gone, when we are truly humble. It is when the Lord brings us down in humility, when we can walk before the Lord in humility, not in pomp and pride, and not with boastfulness of our abilities. It is when all our own righteousness is as filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6] and when we realize that we have no power within ourselves to help ourselves. It is when we realize that any good that we do must be done by the Lord Jesus through us and in spite of us, and that we are unprofitable servants even when we have done what He has told us to do [Luke 17:10]. That’s the Lord cutting us down to size. That’s the Lord coming down on the mown grass. He has promised to send the latter rain, His glorious latter rain of Holy Ghost anointing upon mown grass.
Now are you willing? Surely the people is grass, says Isaiah, surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, and the flower fadeth, when the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it [Isaiah 40:6-8]. So as you know, you can either be withered by the Spirit of God or you can be humble and the Spirit of God will come upon you as refreshing and latter rain.
“Judgment must begin at the house of God” [1 Peter 4:17]. We who long for the Second Coming of Jesus are also asking for judgment on the church. When the Lord Jesus comes, He comes in judgment as well as in mercy. So only those people who are walking in holiness and righteousness have any right—have any sense!—in asking the Lord to come quickly. Get your house in order. Get things right with God. Ask Him to give you a pure heart. Ask Him that you may be humble and cut down. And if the Lord removes you from position and gives you a humble sphere, would you please accept it with gratitude, because it means the Lord can use you then. The Lord loves to get little nothings and use them. He loves to announce that a worm shall thresh the mountains. Fancy a worm threshing the mountains!
Fear not, thou worm Jacob…thou shall thresh the mountains, and beat them small…
But it’s only God’s worms that can do it. Ask the Lord to make you humble. Desire humility and the Lord will do it. And then God says that He will bless you. He will bless the humble souls. God will bless the humble souls.
Blest are the humble souls that see
Their emptiness and poverty.
Treasures of grace to them are given
And crowns of joy laid up in heaven.
Blest are the men of broken heart
Who mourn for sin with inward smart.
They shall be divinely fed
On living streams and living bread.
Are the Humble Souls that See
Isaac Watts’ rendition of the Beatitudes]
It’s what God wants you to pray and ask for, in the words of that dear man of God, Isaac Watts.
“…But for the Showers We Plead”
So you can see that God says, “I will pour out My Spirit, in the last days, on all flesh.” He began it at Pentecost. But that was only a minor beginning. Before the Lord Jesus comes back, the Holy Ghost is going to come to the church in immanence, in power, and is going to prepare the church for the coming of the Lord Jesus. And then will come that Blessed One to reap His harvest, having abundantly refreshed the church, and filled those ears of corn, and prepared for a most abundant and glorious harvest home. What a harvest home it will be!
O then what raptured greetings on Canaan’s happy shore;
What knitting severed friendships up, where partings are no more!
Then eyes with joy shall sparkle, that brimmed with tears of late;
Orphans no longer fatherless, nor widows desolate.
Thousand Times Ten Thousand
by Henry Alford]
And as the Lord leads you on, you will find that “the things of the earth will grow strangely dim.”4 You’ll be able to drop them out of your hands without regret, because you are looking for the coming of the Blessed One, The Most High, the Lord God. And He shall reign on the earth. And He shall reign for ever and ever. And I’m glad to remind you that the saints of the Most High shall possess the kingdom. And the Lord says, “Fear not, little flock. It’s your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Amen.
Dear Father, thank You. Thank You for the blessing of the Lord that maketh rich. Thank you for this wonderful, refreshing latter rain. Oh, and for us in this church: grant that we may be abundantly saturated with the latter rain of the Holy Ghost. And Lord, prepare us for Your coming. Oh, make us more concerned about holiness than reading the signs of the times. Lord, we fear that Thy people are running after the ways of the world, in monthly prognosticating. True, they do it from the Bible and not from horoscopes. But it’s the same principle. It’s the same thing. It’s the same unhealthy interest in trying to see around the corner. Oh, that they may walk with their Beloved in the present, in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life. “Lord, let this be my portion” is the prayer of each one of us. Let this be my portion: that I may walk with You on this earth, so that when You come, it will still just be a continued walk with You. Father, hear us for Jesus sake. Amen.
(Many thanks to Lawrence R. Carlson for the original transcription.)
The Holy Spirit as Former and
1 In this context, consider the words of Romans 1:19-20. Also consider the entirety of Psalm 19 where David juxtaposes the "book of Nature" (as Pastor Gutteridge calls it) in verses 1-6 with God’s written revelation in vv. 7-12.
2 This quote is from Williston Walker’s A History of the Christian Church. In the 1918 edition, the quote from Heussi can be found on page 60, the footnote there indicating that the source is page 44 of Heussi’s Kompendium der Kirchengeschichte.
3 When we speak of God’s immanence theologically, we mean His permanent presence throughout the universe everywhere, with special reference to the intimacy of His indwelling. Note the difference between immanent and imminent; that latter word means simply ready to take place, likely to happen in the near future, or impending.