Before we close out our study of the return of the Holy Spirit, there is one question that may need to be answered for some of my readers. I have been speaking of the return of the Holy Spirit. Yet there are others who speak of something similar, a second sending of the Holy Spirit, and yet who connect it with the charismatic revival of modern days. This idea is often called the “latter rain,” and consists of the idea that the Holy Spirit that was sent at Pentecost returned in the manifestation of the charismatic gifts that started around 1901 at the beginning of the Pentecostal movement. So we will consider this question before we close our study. How does the second coming of the Holy Spirit relate to the “latter rain” idea that many set forth, especially in the charismatic movement?
The idea that is set forth by those who claim to be a part of this “latter rain” experience is that the “former rain” was the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and throughout the Acts period, while the “latter rain” is the pouring out of the Holy Spirit that is being experienced now by those in the charismatic and Pentecostal movements. They claim this idea is found in Scripture, so we will examine the evidence found there. The phrase “latter rain” occurs in eight passages in the Scriptures, so it will be a simple matter to consider them all.
Deuteronomy 11:14. then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil.
This passage commands Israel to love and obey the LORD their God. If they do, He will give them the rains they need for their crops. This includes both the early rain and the latter rain. These would be the two rainy seasons that the crops in Israel would take advantage of.
Proverbs 16:15. In the light of the king’s face is life,
And his favor is like a cloud of the latter rain.
A cloud of the latter rain was a very good thing, because it was what was needed to keep the plants alive and bring in the crops. The farmers of Israel must have been happy and relieved every time they saw the clouds of the latter rain forming. So would one feel to whom the king’s favor was extended.
Jeremiah 3:2. “Lift up your eyes to the desolate heights and see:
Where have you not lain with men?
By the road you have sat for them
Like an Arabian in the wilderness;
And you have polluted the land
With your harlotries and your wickedness.
3. Therefore the showers have been withheld,
And there has been no latter rain.
You have had a harlot’s forehead;
You refuse to be ashamed.
Yahweh argues with Judah that they have polluted His land with harlotries and wickedness. Because of this, He reveals, the showers have been withheld, and there has been no latter rain. Withholding the rains was one of the things Yahweh had threatened to do to them if they did not follow His commands and worshipped other gods than Him.
Jeremiah 5:24. They do not say in their heart,
“Let us now fear the LORD our God,
Who gives rain, both the former and the latter, in its season.
He reserves for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.”
25 Your iniquities have turned these things away,
And your sins have withheld good from you.
Judah did not say in their inner beings that they should respect the LORD their God Who gave them the former and latter rain in their season and reserved for them the appointed weeks of their harvest. It was because of this unwillingness to fear Him that these good things were now being withheld from the land.
Hosea 6:3. Let us know,
Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD.
His going forth is established as the morning;
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the latter and former rain to the earth.
If there is a passage here that seems like it may be talking about the charismatic idea of the latter rain, it is this one, for it speaks of the LORD coming to them like the latter and former rain. However, there is nothing here than would connect this to the Holy Spirit, to Pentecost, or to the charismatic movement. We might as well say that this is referring to the first and second comings of Jesus Christ. The reference is certainly not a clear one. He might rather be saying that if they pursue the LORD, He will come to them and do good, just like the latter and former rains do good to the crops. The two rains might simply be incidental. There is no clear proof of anything here.
Joel 2:23. Be glad then, you children of Zion,
And rejoice in the LORD your God;
For He has given you the former rain faithfully,
And He will cause the rain to come down for you—
The former rain,
And the latter rain in the first month.
This does seem to be speaking of the kingdom of God to come, but there is no particular reason to think it is referring to anything except that Jehovah their God will send the rains without fail to water their crops at that time.
Zechariah 10:1. Ask the LORD for rain
In the time of the latter rain.
The LORD will make flashing clouds;
He will give them showers of rain,
Grass in the field for everyone.
This calls on the people of Israel to ask Jehovah for rain in the time of the latter rain. If this is symbolic for the Holy Spirit, it is not plain that this is so from the passage.
James 5:7. Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. 8. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
James, speaking prophetically of the time of the tribulation, urges his brothers to be patient until the parousia of the Lord. He uses as an example the farmer waiting for the precious fruit of the earth. He must wait patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. So they must be patient and establish their hearts until the parousia of the Lord comes, for it is at hand. There does not seem to be anything here that is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. This is talking about the coming parousia, and the patience that is necessary to wait for it.
So we have considered all the passages in Scripture that speak of the “latter rain.” It is not clear in any of these passages that the “latter rain” is connected with the Holy Spirit. It seems to literally be talking about rain in most of these passages. If the early and latter rain are used symbolically or compared to something, the symbol or comparison is usually clear from the passage, and does not seem to be saying anything about the Holy Spirit.
Yet we know that God is a flow-er, and in the government of God, He flows out to His people. This could be described as a rain, and so it is possible that Pentecost was the “former rain,” and the second coming of the Holy Spirit is the “latter rain.” However, as we have seen throughout this study, the second coming of the Holy Spirit is the Spirit being poured out upon “all flesh.” If the “latter rain” does have to do with the Holy Spirit, this is what it would have to do with, not the Holy Spirit just coming upon a few believers in the charismatic and Pentecostal movements.
What exactly the charismatics and Pentecostals are experiencing can be debated. I have discussed this issue in my article on “Speaking in Tongues.” But whatever it is, it is not the second coming of the Holy Spirit. And since the latter rain is upon the “children of Zion,” in other words, Israelites, what these people are experiencing today cannot be the “latter rain” either. If the “latter rain” is talking about something besides actual rain, it would be the second coming of the Holy Spirit that brings in the government of God, not anything that is happening today.
So with this brief look at the “latter rain” concept, we close out our study of the return of the Holy Spirit. The bottom line is that the return of the Holy Spirit is Him giving knowledge of the truth to all people upon earth at once, in order to begin His government upon earth. This event will have far-reaching consequences. Once it has taken place, this world will never be the same again. May God speed the day!