What is the early rain, and how can it have anything to do with us?
First, let us look at when the early rain fell. We can set a date for when this rain fell, and according to Ellen G. White, the early rain fell on the day of Pentecost in the year 31, which according to the Jewish calendar was the sixth day of the third month, Sivan. The following three quotations are from Last Days Events.
In obedience to Christ’s command, they [the disciples] waited in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father—the outpouring of the Spirit. They did not wait in idleness. The record says that they were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God, (see Luke 24:53), (184.1).
As the disciples waited for the fulfilment of the promise, they humbled their hearts in true repentance and confessed their unbelief…. The disciples prayed with intense earnestness for a fitness to meet men and in their daily intercourse to speak words that would lead sinners to Christ. Putting away all differences, all desire for the supremacy, they came close together in Christian fellowship, (184.2).
It was after the disciples had come into perfect unity, when they were no longer striving for the highest place that the Spirit was poured out, (184.3).
The early rain is therefore the Holy Spirit who was given to God’s faithful congregation on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem in the year 31 AD. God has promised us that the Spirit will be with His faithful remnant until the last day.
Here, too, we can put the whole thing into a typological framework. The type is, as we know the agriculture in the Middle East. As summer is a dry season in the Middle East, the soil becomes dry and hard. Therefore, the early rain is necessary to make the soil soft and moist enough to receive the seed so that it can germinate. The antitype is the spiritual meaning of this. The heart of the natural man is dry and hard, and it is not receptive to the word of God. People therefore need the early rain to soften the hard hearts and make people receptive to the gospel.
In the same way that the early rain affected the dry agricultural land in the Middle East, the early rain also affects everyone who accepts Jesus as their saviour. Because before a conversion can take place, the gospel must be sown, but it cannot sprout if the heart is hard and dry. Therefore, the Holy Spirit comes with the early rain so that when the seed is sown, everything is ready for the seed to germinate, take root and grow. The soil on which the seed is sown must therefore be treated so that it is soft and moist when the seed is sown so that it germinates.
Who receives the early rain?
The early rain is given to all people because God is just, and because God wants everyone to be saved. In Matthew 5:45 Jesus says. That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Joel says that God’s spirit will be poured out upon all flesh (Joel 3:1).
God, in his wisdom, has made it so that he allows all people all over the world to have the same opportunity. We have been given the early rain to prepare for salvation in Jesus Christ. But it is not until we allow the seed that is planted in our hearts to germinate, take root and grow up that God will give us the latter rain so that we can preach the gospel and prepare for Jesus’ return.
What is the early rain, when does it fall, who receives it and why?
In Psalm 84:6-8 we read. Blessed [is] the man whose strength [is] in thee; in whose heart [are] the ways [of them]. [Who] passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools. They go from strength to strength, [every one of them] in Zion appeareth before God.
Many believe that the valley of Baka is the same as the Refaim Valley. It was here that King David won a complete victory over the Philistines after receiving divine guidance, (see 2 Samuel 5:17-25 and 1 Chronicles 14:8-12). Therefore God, in his wisdom, has made it so that he allows all people all over the world to have the same opportunity. We have been given the early rain to prepare us for the salvation in Jesus Christ that comes through the preaching. However, it is not until a time after we allow the seed that is sown in our hearts to take root and grow up that God will give us the latter rain.
When the disciples were gathered on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem in the year 31, the early rain fell on the congregation. Ellen G. White writes in Christs Object Lessons. These scenes are to be repeated, and with greater power. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was the former rain, but the latter rain will be more abundant. The Spirit awaits our demand and reception. Christ is again to be revealed in His fullness by the Holy Spirit’s power. Men will discern the value of the precious pearl, and with the apostle Paul they will say, “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, (121.1).
In The Desire of Ages, Ellen G. White writes about what we should preach, we should preach God’s word, pure and unadulterated, not what she calls human speculation. By this, she means preaching that is not based on the words of the Bible, but interpretations that the individual who preaches the false message draws from his own chest and his own imagination. The Bible is a wonderful book because it interprets and explains itself when we study it prayerfully and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. She says. “Instead of man’s speculations, let the word of God be preached. Let Christians put away their dissensions, and give themselves to God for the saving of the lost. Let them in faith ask for the blessing, and it will come. The outpouring of the Spirit in apostolic days was the “former rain”, and glorious was the result. But the “latter rain” will be more abundant”, (827.2).
In other words, the early rain fulfils two purposes. Firstly, the early rain should prepare the heart to receive Christ as saviour. This is the same as when the real rain soaks the soil so that the seed can germinate. Secondly, it is to prepare the individual Christians for the task that lies before them.
But because we are largely lacking in sanctification and godliness, we do not reach the standard that God demands of his people who are to preach the end-time message. We need to humble ourselves before God, get down on our knees, be willing to learn and study the Bible – not just read it like any other book, but also examine the whole Bible to find out what God expects of us, and requires of us. Ellen G. White says in Testimony Treasures, vol. 2 this. Not one of us will ever receive the seal of God while our characters have one spot or stain upon them. It is left with us to remedy the defects in our characters, to cleanse the soul temple of every defilement. Then the latter rain will fall upon us as the early rain fell upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost, (69.1).
In Testimony Treasures, vol. 3 Ellen G. White says. Let Christians put away all dissension and give themselves to God for the saving of the lost, (211.3). If we encourage discord in any way, we will be lost. How then does this fit in with the strife that is about to tear God’s end-time church to shreds? Our leaders at all levels, both local and central, must climb down from the high pedestal they have placed themselves on, put aside all disputes and come together in the same place in a spiritual sense and be of one mind before the church as a whole will get the early rain. As long as there is strife, they are not in the same place spiritually.
Church leaders wonder why there is no growth worldwide. This growth does not occur because they are more concerned with being right about the ordination of women than seeking unity and consensus. They stand in the middle of the world’s largest jungle, and do not see the forest for the trees. Ellen White says in Testimony Treasures, vol. 3. Let them ask in faith for the promised blessing, and it will come, (211.3). And I add that we must also spiritually be in the place where the apostles were in Jerusalem when the early rain was poured out on them on the day of Pentecost. Ellen G. White continues in Testimony Treasures, vol. 3 with this, where she also quotes Zechariah. The outpouring of the Spirit in the days of the apostles was the former rain, and glorious was the result. But the latter rain will be more abundant. What is the promise to those living in these last days? (211.3). Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even today do I declare [that] I will render double unto thee, (Zechariah 9:12). 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 everyone grass in the field, (Zechariah 10:1).
As individual members, we can get both the early rain and the late rain, but as a denomination, our disagreements are too great and cast dark shadows over the congregation. It is therefore an illusion to believe that the blessing we hope for will be poured out on our church community if we do not put away all disagreements.
What is the latter rain, when does it fall, who receives it and why?
Now it is probably not the case that the spiritual early rain and the latter rain have their own special eras, but they overlap each other as the literal early rain and the latter rain did in the Middle East. In order for what was sown and planted to ripen, the late rains had to come. This is also the case with the spiritual latter rain; it must fall upon God’s faithful remnant to ripen them for the harvest. In other words, we cannot manage without one of the two. We must first be given the early rain in order to even have an opportunity to receive Christ as our saviour, and when that is done we are still dependent on the early rain to prepare ourselves for the task God has intended for us, for finally, to give us the latter rain to prepare us for the harvest.
When we look at what happened in Jerusalem and what the spirit of prophecy says about this, we see that Jesus’ disciples, and all those gathered in the upper room, received the early rain. We can assume that all these had received the early rain to be able to accept Christ as their saviour before the day of Pentecost, and on the day of Pentecost Ellen G. White says that they received the early rain to prepare them to preach the gospel.
In the end times, God has a special people who will preach the message of the three angels, and this will lead to a great revival. This revival will be greater than the revival that happened in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. In connection with this, Ellen G. White says the following. Today you are to give yourselves to God that he may make of you vessels unto honour, and meet for his service. Today you are to give yourself to God, that you may be emptied of self, emptied of envy, jealousy, evil-surmising, strife, everything that shall be dishonouring to God. Today you are to have your vessel purified that it may be ready for the heavenly dew, ready for the showers of the latter rain; for the latter rain will come, and the blessing of God will fill every soul that is purified from every defilement. It is our work today to yield our souls to Christ, that we may be fitted for the time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord fitted for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (The Review and Herald March 22, 1892, paragraph 13).
In Joel 3:1-2 it is said that in the last days God will pour out his Spirit upon all flesh. God makes no difference between people, but I’ll come back to that in a little while. Joel 3:1-2 is a central prophecy about the early rain and the latter rain: 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.
Now many will probably say that Joel 3:1-2 was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit fell on the disciples. It is quite right. But the outpouring of the Spirit or the latter rain would not have been mentioned as a future event that will follow the end-time signs that we find in several of the Bible’s books, e.g. in Matthew 24:7; 24:29; Revelation 6:12-13, and in Joel 3:3-5, if a similar revival does not take place in the end times as well. Because there was a revival that happened in Jerusalem at the time, a revival caused by the outpouring of the Spirit or the early rain that fell on the apostles.
I think it is wise to keep in mind the end-time signs that Joel brings up in the following verses. Joel 3:3-5 tell us. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. And it shall come to pass, [that] whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.
There is also another aspect of the latter rain that I have already mentioned. The latter rain is to prepare God’s faithful remnant for the coming events. Revelation chapter 6 ends with a question in verse 17: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
To be able to stand against all the seductions that the fallen churches will preach, we have to have the help of the Holy Spirit. We must have divine help to be able to distinguish between truth and lies when Satan will manifest himself as an angel of light. Then we must be firmly rooted in the teachings of Christ so that we do not allow ourselves to fall. The whole world and the fallen churches will see God’s faithful remnant in the end times as a bunch of fools, opportunists and heretics who will not follow all the others, and who eventually will be persecuted for their faith.
When God pours out his Spirit, or the latter rain, both men and women will prophesy, young men will see visions and the old will dream. This is a foreshadowing that big things will happen soon. Jesus’ return is just around the corner. It is still possible to repent, but soon the door of grace will be closed.
The prophecy says that the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood before the day of the Lord comes. The Lord’s Day is the return of Jesus and the last day in the history of the earth, as we know it today. These signs are given to people so that those who hear God’s voice will be able to repent, because as it is further stated in the prophecy, [that] whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered.
When John saw the vision of the seven seals in Revelation chapter 6, he saw the church’s history from the founding of the early church until the return of Jesus, and what he saw was not a happy story. The chapter ends as stated in verse 17 and asks the following question after John had seen all the misery that would befall God’s faithful remnant, «who shall be able to stand?«
The answer to the question comes in what we call chapter 7, which tells us that only the 144,000 can stand. But why only the 144,000?
Because it is these, who live the gospel, please the Lord, and adhere to what God requires of us in Leviticus 26:1-4 and Acts 1:14, 2:1 (see above) where God says…
… that we should not make idols …
… that we should not set up graven images or a standing image…
… that we should not set up image of stone to bow down unto it …
… that we should keep God’s Sabbath and reverence for God’s sanctuary …
… that we follow God’s laws …
… that we keep God’s commandments …
… that we continue with one accord in prayer and supplication …
… that we are in the same place (spiritually).
Revelation 14:4 describes them like this: These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth … and I add: even to the scaffold if it must be!
However, what will lead to the outpouring of the latter rain is a series of end-time events. Several of the prophecies concerning the end times will be fulfilled. The first three of the last ten plagues will be a reality and soon a worldwide a Sunday law, or a set of Sunday laws in whatever packaging they will be given, will be implemented and this will end the tribulation period where God’s faithful remnant will be persecuted in a way the world never seen before.
All those living during this time must choose which side they will be on and which commandments they will keep. Will they choose God and God’s Ten Commandments, or will they choose the Pope and the Pope’s Ten Commandments?
The choice each individual makes here will follow them into eternity. Those who choose the pope’s ten commandments take the mark of the beast, while those who choose God’s ten commandments are those who Revelation 14,12 describes as follows: they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And they follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth (Revelation 14:4), and they keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:17), which is the spirit of prophecy, (Revelation 19:10).
It is these who make up the group called the 144,000 and who, when the time is right, will be sealed with the seal of the living God. These are the saints, God’s little remnant, and when they have been marked with God’s seal they are beyond the devil’s reach, or as it says in Psalm 91.7: A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; [but] it shall not come nigh thee.
But despite this great tribulation, God will hold back the nations so that the three angels’ message (Revelation 14:6-11) can be preached with fullness and anointing for the last time and then together with the loud cry (Revelation 18:1-4). These messages will be preached until Jesus returns, and many will repent in the last days, until Jesus leaves the heavenly temple. Then the mercy door closes, and everyone’s fate is decided.
When the latter rain falls around the time before the seven last plagues begin to fall, and just before Jesus leaves the most holy place in the heavenly temple, it is to give power to his faithful people, the little remnant, and to give power to the preaching of the three angels’ messages and the loud cry. As fearless as the apostles were on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, and without fearing the consequences of not submitting to the princes of the world. God’s little remnant will stand forth and proclaim the message of the three angels with the loud cry, and right up until the door of mercy is closed, people will come out of Babylon (Revelation 18:4) and be saved.
The preparation is also linked to the Shaking that will shake the church in the end times. In Testimony Treasures, vol. 1, Ellen G. White tells of a vision she had. Said the angel: God will bring His work closer and closer to test and prove every one of His people. Some are willing to receive one point; but God brings them to another testing point, they shrink from it and stand back, because they find that it strikes directly at some cherished idol. Here they have opportunity to see what is in their hearts that shuts out Jesus. They prize something higher than the truth, and their hearts are not prepared to receive Jesus. Individuals are tested and proved a length of time to see if they will sacrifice their idols and heed the counsel of the True Witness. If any will not be purified through obeying the truth, and overcome their selfishness, their pride, and evil passions, the angels of God have the charge: They are joined to their idols, let them alone, and they pass on to their work, leaving these with their sinful traits unsubdued, to the control of evil angels. Those who come up to every point, and stand every test, and overcome, be the price what it may, have heeded the counsel of the True Witness, and they will receive the latter rain, and thus be fitted for translation, (64.3).
When God’s end-time people are filled with the Holy Spirit through the latter rain, they will go out and preach the three angels’ messages as described in Revelation 14:6-11. This threefold message focuses on God as Creator, and that He and no one else should have all the honour and worship. Then it is told that Babylon, which is behind the false system, the false religion, the false Sabbath, has fallen because she—Babylon—has given false teachings to the world. Finally, there is a warning about the consequences of not leaving Babylon in favour of the God of heaven, and in Revelation 18:4 where we find God’s last call to a rebellious humanity.
Ellen G. White says in Early Writings. I was pointed down to the time when the third angel’s message was closing. The power of God had rested upon His people; they had accomplished their work and were prepared for the trying hour before them. They had received the latter rain, or refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and the living testimony had been revived. The last great warning had sounded everywhere, and it had stirred up and enraged the inhabitants of the earth who would not receive the message, (279.1).
And 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. Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment is come, and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice. If any man worship the beast and his image and receive [his] mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation, and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever, and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. (Revelation 14:6-11).
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues, (Revelation 18:4).
This must happen before the culmination comes, because no one who does not have their relationship with God in order will be allowed to participate in the last stage. Only those who wholeheartedly preach the word of God, and who do not hesitate to go where the Lord tells them to go, will be allowed to participate in the closing work. It is a great honour and a great privilege to be allowed to do this, and their reward will be immeasurable. They will be sealed with the seal of the living God to be able to stand firm in the last hours when the world seems to be crumbling around them because of all the enmity and hatred shown by the wicked to God’s faithful little remnant. This stubborn group that will not submit to what is called the «common good» will be tried to be eradicated from the face of the earth. But like Elijah who fought against all the Baal prophets and Asherah prophets and won, so God’s little remnant will also win a great victory in the end (see 1 Kings 18).
Ellen G. White says this in The Great Controversy: When the third angel’s message closes, mercy no longer pleads for the guilty inhabitants of the earth. The people of God have accomplished their work. They have received the latter rain, the refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and they are prepared for the trying hour before them. Angels are hastening to and fro in heaven. An angel returning from the earth announces that his work is done; the final test has been brought upon the world, and all who have proved themselves loyal to the divine precepts have received the seal of the living God, (613.2).