Why is the phrase the first rain and the latter rain used in the Bible, and what significance did the first rain and the latter rain had, and what significance does the first rain and the latter rain have for us living in the last days? For the expression the first rain also the former rain and the early rain are used.
First, let’s look at the historical reason why the expressions the first and the latter rain are used in the Bible. After all, it is not a superfluous word in the Bible, so they must have or have had a practical meaning for people both in Moses’ time in the time of the apostles and in our time.
The agriculture in the Middle East has always been dependent on rain. The early rain causes the seed to germinate, while the latter rain has been necessary for the crop to mature before harvest. The early rains fall in the autumn and make the dry, hard soil after the summer drought soft and moist, so it is possible to plough and sow. Without the early rains, the seed cannot germinate and grow: 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], Joel 2,23.
The latter rain means literally the rain that falls in the spring, at the end of the rainy season, just before the corn is ripe. This rain is absolutely necessary for the grain to mature before harvesting, without the latter rain, therefore, the fruit cannot mature for harvesting: Neither say they in their heart, let us now fear the LORD our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest, Jeremiah 5,24.
Therefore, both the early rain and the latter rain is important and necessary for the harvest, and one of them cannot fulfill its task if the other is absent: Then shall we know, [if] we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto usas the rain, as the latter [and] former rain unto the earth, Hosea 6,3.
What is the symbolic meaning of this?
The Bible gives us several indications that the Lord Himself uses the early rain and the latter rain in a symbolic way to illustrate particular aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost, it was to anoint the disciples and enable them to preach the gospel in a powerful way, and this experience can be compared with the latter rain. At the same time, we learn that before the Spirit was poured out, certain conditions had to be fulfilled before God could fill the disciples with the Holy Spirit. Some of the conditions are found in Leviticus 26,1-4: Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up [any] image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I [am] the LORD your God. ye shall keep my sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I [am] the LORD. If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And some of the conditions we find in Acts 1,14; 2,1 where it is said that we as a church must be in one accord in prayer and supplication, and to be in the same place with one accord.
It is obvious that all who belong to the church of God in the end times cannot be in the same place, so this must be understood in a spiritual sense. We must all be in the same place spiritually, and then be united in prayer, invocation and have a united mind.
The Lord also met His people in the Old Testament times to give them the early rain and the latter rain, but as we see from Deuteronomy 11,13-14, one of the conditions was that they had to keep all the commandments of God, another condition was that they loved the Lord of all his heart: And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, That I will give [you] the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.
In the Acts we find a quote from the prophet Joel in the speech that Peter gave in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost in the year 31, just after the apostles had received the Holy Spirit: But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy, Acts 2,16-18.
Both the early rain and the latter rain is given under certain conditions, and Joel 2,23 tells us that it is the Lord who will give us the former rain and the latter rain. This verse shows directly back to Leviticus 26,1-4 and points to Acts 1,14 and 2,1, where the conditions are listed, and a promise of blessing is given (Leviticus). Let’s look at what these four verses tell us. The conditions are: a) not make idols b) not make graven images or rear up standing image c) not make images of stone to bow down unto d) keep God´s sabbath e) reverence God´s sanctuary f) keep God´s statutes and commandments g) be united in prayer and invocation h) have a united mind.
Then follows the promise that God will give us rain in due season: That I will give [you] the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, Deuteronomy 11,14.
What is the early rain, and how can it have anything to do with us?
God himself says that he will give us the early rain and the latter rain in the right time. Such as the early rains in Old Testament times literally made the earth soft and moist and ready to receive the seed and cause it to germinate, so the early rain works upon everyone who receives Jesus as their Saviour.
Before a conversion can take place, the gospel must be sown, but it cannot germinate if the heart is dry, therefore the Holy Spirit comes with the early rain so that the seed that is sown can germinate, root, and grow. The soil on which the seed is sown must be treated so that it is soft and moist when the seed is sown so it can germinate.
Who receives the early rain?
The early rain is given to every human being because God is just, and because God wants everyone to be saved: 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, Matthew 5,45.
God has in his wisdom given all the people of the world the same opportunity. We have all been given the early rain to be prepared for salvation in Jesus Christ. But it is not until we allow the seed that is sown in our hearts to sprout, root and grow that God will give us latter rain so that we can preach the gospel and prepare for Jesus’ second coming.
What is late rain, when does it fall, who receives it and why?
In Joel 3,1-2 it is said that in the last days God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh. So he makes no difference to people, but I will come back to that in a moment. Joel 3,1-2 is a central prophecy about the early rain and the late 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 at Pentecost when the Spirit fell upon the disciples. It is also quite right, but the outpouring or the latter rain would not have been mentioned as a future event that will follow the end-time signs we find in several of the books of the Bible, as in Matthew 24,7.29; Revelation 6,12-13, and here in Joel 3,3-5, if there is no similar revival in the end times as well. For it was a revival that occurred in Jerusalem at that time. A revival caused by the spiritual outpouring or the latter rain that fell over the apostles. I think it’s wise to keep in mind the end-time signs that Joel includes in the verses 3 to 5 in chapter 3: 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.
When God pours out His Spirit, both men and women will prophesy, the young will see visions and the old will dream. This is a prior notice that things will soon happen. 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 will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood (Acts 2,20) before the Day of the Lord comes. The Day of the Lord is the return of Jesus and the last day of the earth’s history as we know it today. These signs are given to man so that they who hear Gods voice can repent, for as it continues in the prophecy, 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 early church was established and up to the second coming of Christ, and what he saw was no merry story. Chapter 6 concludes in verse 17, asking the following question after John had seen all the misery that would hit God’s faithful remnant. For the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?
The answer to the question comes in what we call chapter 7 and that says that it is the 144,000 that shall be able to stand. But why only the 144,000? This is those who live according to the Lord’s pleasure and adhere to what God requires of us in Leviticus 26,1-4 (see above) where God says … a) not make idols b) not make graven images or rear up standing image c) not make images of stone to bow down unto d) keep God´s sabbath e) reverence God´s sanctuary f) keep God´s statutes and commandments g) be united in prayer and invocation h) have a united mind. Revelation 14,4 describes them as follows: These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth … … and that all the way to the scaffold if so must be!
However, what will cause the latter rain to fall is a series of end-time events. Several of the prophecies concerning the end-time will be fulfilled. The first three of the last ten plagues will be a reality, a worldwide Sunday law, or a set of Sunday laws, will be implemented and this will initiate the tribulation period where God’s faithful remnant will be persecuted in a way the world has never seen before. All those who live during this time must choose which side they will be on and which commandments they will keep. Will they choose God and the Ten Commandments of God or choose the Pope and his ten commandments?
The choice each one makes will follow them into eternity. Those who choose the Pope’s ten commandments take the mark of the beast, while those who choose Gods Ten Commandments are those Revelation describes this way: … they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (14,12) and they follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth (14,4) and they keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (12,17) and the testimony of Jesus Christ is the spirit of prophecy (19,10).
It is these who make up the group called the 144,000 and who, when the time comes, are sealed with the seal of the living God. These are the saints, the little remnant of God, and when they have been marked with the seal of God, they are beyond the reach of the devil, 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 in spite of 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 power for the last time and 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 door of grace will be closed, and everyone’s fate is settled.
When the latter rains fall just before Jesus leaves the most holy in the heavenly temple, it is to give power to his faithful people, the faithful remnant, and to give power to the proclamation of the message of the three angels and the loud cry. As fearless as the apostles were on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, and without fearing the consequences of not conforming to the princes of the world, God’s faithful remnant will stand up and proclaim the message of the three angels and the loud cry, and until the door of mercy closes, people will come out of Babylon (Revelation 18,4) and be saved.