FF Chong—London, UK
There are two distinct climate conditions in
Palestine. For six months, from May to October, no rain falls and the whole
land becomes dry and parched. After that comes the rainy season, from late October
to April. This season may be divided into three parts: the former rain (early
or autumn rain), the winter rain (with torrential downpours), and the latter
rain (or spring rain). The first and third periods of the rainy
season are mentioned quite commonly in the Old Testament. If we dig deeper into
the spiritual significance of these biblical references to rain, we can better
understand the special relationship between God and His church. One hundred
years after the True Jesus Church was established by the onset of the latter
rain of the Holy Spirit, let us revisit how Gods Spirit works in His church.
IMPORTANCE OF WATER (RAIN)
Water is a
precious life gift from God. Its very existence highlights God's creative
mastery: it brings balance to all ecosystems; it is a vital source of life; all
living things rely on it for survival, growth and procreation; and most
importantly, it reveals to us the underlying story of Gods eternal love for
humanity since the creation.
Divine Control over Rain
The Bible teaches us that God used rain to cultivate His people. For
example, the Law of Moses states that rainfall directly correlated with the
Israelites' obedience (Deut 11:14). God promised to cause a drought whenever
the Israelites persisted in their sins, leaving the land infertile, in order to
break their pride (Lev 26:19V20). Later, Elijah pronounced God's judgment upon
Ahab for the grievous sin he had wilfully committed, proclaiming a drought for
three years and six months (1 Kgs 17:1, 7; Jas 5:17V18). And in Jeremiahs time,
God withheld the harvest rain because of the peoples transgressions (Jer
Clearly, mans reliance on rain shows us that, physically, we need
water and, spiritually, it is our duty is to obey God (Lev 26:4).
Growth and Rain
The growth and fertility of a field are closely connected to the
amount of rain it receives. From a biblical perspective, this also has a
spiritual dimension. Ezekiel's message, in chapter 34, discloses that God will
make a covenant of peace with His people. Showers of rain are to follow,
resulting in the trees bearing fruit (Ezek 34:26V27). These showers go beyond
natural cycles of rainfall because they are initiated by God and directly
correspond to His covenant with the people. Therefore, when studying rain in
the Bible, we see an intimate relationship between rain and the spiritual
growth or decline of Gods people.
Rain is Given to Zion Alone
We see, then, that rainfall patterns are not just a result of the
remarkable power of Mother Nature. The rainy sub-seasons of Palestine, as
presented in the Old Testament prophecies, reveal a deeper truth: that Gods
Spirit would descend upon man to personally develop and expand His work,
namely, by establishing His church on earth.
The Bible teaches us that God will pour out His rain twice in human
history. By analyzing the message of Joel (Joel 2:23), we see that God has set
His own schedule of when to give rain to Zion. It is important to note that the
focus is on Zion, not the physical nation of Israel, indicating a spiritual
teaching. The intention of the Lord is clear: the downpour of the Holy Spirit
in two periods of time—the former rain and the latter rain.
The period of the former rain commenced when the Spirit descended at
Pentecost to establish the church on earth—the spiritual Zion (Heb 12:22; 1
Pet 2:6; Acts 2). But before God built up His church, several events had to be
accomplished first. These include Gods manifestation in the flesh as Jesus Christ,
His sacrifice, resurrection and imparting of the gospel to the disciples. After
Jesus ascension, the Spirit came in two separate time periods: the first,
during the time of the apostles (Acts 2:1, Joel 2:28), known as the early or
former rain; and the latter rain, which established the end-time true
church—the True Jesus Church—and will continue until the final harvest.
WITHHOLDS HIS RAIN
In Psalm 46, God
states that He would provide a plentiful environment for the city to flourish:
God would plant, grow and sustain both crops and cattle. It is clear from these
verses that the survival of the city was dependent upon the presence of God,
who kept the city safe from the tumultuous storms of the world and ensured its
continuous survival (Ps 46:4V6).
However, in Psalm
107, the same city is turned into a wasteland because the people were wicked in
God's sight (Ps 107:34). Physically, God withheld the rain for a long period of
time, resulting in a dry and fruitless land. Spiritually speaking, God withdrew
His Spirit from the people, who continued to practice wickedness.
paints a vivid picture using the metaphor of the fruitful vine, representing
the land, and the city, representing the people (Isa 32:12V14). Again, the city
and fruitful vine are in a state of desolation, with thorns, briers and
scorpions running amuck. The chaos and barrenness of the land point to the
wickedness of the people: their godless behavior, corrupt ways and pagan
rebellion. Isaiah depicts the destruction of Gods people as being identical to
briers and thorns being consumed by fire (Isa 9:18V19). Those who are cursed
not only live without the Spirit of God, but are also dead spiritually.
It is the Spirit Who Restores
Whilst this is very depressing, Isaiah also confirms a
transformation made only possible by the coming of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah
32:15 describes the order formed from devastation, and prophesies the coming of
the Spirit in two phases in human history—the first phase transforms the
wilderness into a fruitful field, and the second sees the fruitful field
flourish into a forest.
Similarly, in Psalm 107, God reverses the barrenness of the land to
make it fruitful once again:
He turns a wilderness into pools of
And dry land
There He makes the hungry dwell,
That they may establish a city or a
And sow fields and plant vineyards,
That they may
yield a fruitful harvest. (Ps 107:35V37)
God shows His mercy by stating He will restore the land, by pouring
down His Spirit from on high (Isa 32:15a).
The Period of Drought after the Apostolic
In the Old Testament period, the two main reasons why God withheld
rain from His people were idolatry and the blatant disregard of His commands—in
other words, they were not a nation governed by His truth (Deut 11:16ff; Jer
3:2V3; 14:2V6). These transgressions foreshadow the failings of the apostolic
church. Judging from the epistles to the Galatians and the Colossians, as well
as the Book of Revelation, the apostolic church had become idolatrous and
exposed to heretical attacks, causing confusion amongst the believers and the
departure of Gods Spirit.
Paul also writes of future generations defecting from the church's
true teachings, where the wicked would be exalted. We saw this happen after the
demise of the apostles. As God withheld His Spirit, the church degraded into a
secular organization. Unbiblical practices were incorporated into the church,
blending human and pagan beliefs with the pure beliefs that the apostles once taught
with great conviction.
The Spirit Continued to Work
Although Gods Spirit departed from the church as it grew corrupt, He
continued to work quietly and assuredly. The canonization and subsequent
translations of the Bible, for example, points towards the work of the Holy
Spirit (see Jn 5:17). On countless occasions, Satan-instigated leaders tried to
destroy the Scriptures, to no avail. The perfect word of God has been kept
intact in mysterious ways throughout the generations. However, one thing is certain:
during this period, the Holy Spirit did not work in men in the same way as when
the apostles were alive.
CULTIVATES HIS RESTORED VINEYARD
To strengthen our
understanding of the Spirit's work and presence, we can study the restoration
of the vineyard in Isaiah. The vineyard represents the nation of Israel at the
time, which God had planted. However, this vineyard brought forth wild grapes
(Isa 5:1V7). As mentioned above, the emergence of briers and thorns represents
the corruption and rebellion of the Israelites (Isa 32:13; Mic 7:3V4; Ezek
2:6). This caused God to withhold His rain and allow the vineyard to be laid
waste (Isa 5:6). But God would not allow the briers and thorns to remain
indefinitely—He states that he will burn them completely (Isa 27:4).
The vineyard also
represents the apostolic church, which became corrupted by false teachings and
human traditions, leading to God withholding His Spirit from her. This is why
the fight to destroy briers and thorns is depicted in such a dramatic fashion.
Within the restored vineyard—the True Jesus Church—prompt eradication of briers
and thorns is the only way. The challenge is that their growth can be subtle,
but fast. By the time they were noticed in the first vineyard, the damage had
already been done. Hence, the Light of Israel—God Himself—will be a fire and a
flame, to consume briers and thorns in a single day (Isa 10:17f). This means
that God will battle against corruption constantly, keeping watch over His
restored vineyard night and day (Isa 27:3V4).
emphasizes the need to deal swiftly with heresies in the True Jesus Church.
Since her establishment, the church has always corrected unbiblical teachings.
Therefore, to allow wrong teachings to fester within the church will cause
great damage. The Lord wishes for no harm to come to the vineyard, for He loves
it and will water it at every moment, with great effort (Isa 27:3). God's mercy
and restorative purging will take place when the church is willing to rely on
the Spirit completely (Isa 32:15).
Relying on the
Spirit to cultivate the restored vineyard means relying on Gods word, which is
also represented by rain in the Scriptures (Isa 55:8V11). Gods words
(promises), once spoken, are not spoken in vain. When rain falls, it nurtures
the land, and God's words produce a similar soul-reviving effect in our lives.
The true church
will only grow when she holds fast to Gods words and His nurturing presence,
which is also described as rain falling on grass before it is cut. It is like a
shower that waters the earth (Ps 72:6; Hos 6:3). The result is that the
righteous will flourish with abundance of peace (Ps 72:7). In a spiritual
sense, the presence of the Spirit causes growth and instills life in the
church, drawing souls to the household of God.
In light of man's
wicked behavior, and the corruption within the history of Christianity, God
planned two time-periods where the Spirit would establish His church. At the
same time, God has reserved the harvesting work for those who belong to Him, at
the time of the latter rain (which is now). God's plan is perfect and
mysterious; it will run its course in such a way that, unless blessed with
spiritual enlightenment, we may never understand.
highlight God's mercy and compassion on us and, as we are in the period of the
latter rain, we should participate in the harvesting work. This is the duty of
the True Jesus Church, the highest mountain of God, confirmed by the presence
of the Holy Spirit. As we mark the centennial of the church established by the
latter rain, let us continue to pray for the completion of the Spirits
restoration and revival work.