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 (Manna 84: TJC at 100 – The Grace That Has Brought Us Here)
Rain In Zion
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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). [1]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.

THE 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 5:24V25).

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 timethe former rain and the latter rain.

The period of the former rain commenced when the Spirit descended at Pentecost to establish the church on earththe 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 churchthe True Jesus Churchand will continue until the final harvest.

GOD 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.

Equally, Isaiah 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 historythe 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 water,

And dry land into watersprings.

There He makes the hungry dwell,

That they may establish a city or a dwelling place,

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 Church

In the Old Testament period, the two main reasons why God withheld rain from His people were idolatry and the blatant disregard of His commandsin 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.

GOD 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 indefinitelyHe 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 vineyardthe True Jesus Churchprompt 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 IsraelGod Himselfwill 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).

This analogy 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.

CONCLUSION

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.

These teachings 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.



[1]  There are various Hebrew words used to denote the three parts of the rainy season:

1. Yoreh (Hos 6:3) or Moreh (Joel 2:23) denotes the former or the early rain

The "early" or "former" rains commence in autumn, in late October or early November.

2. Melqosh means the latter rain" (Prov 16:1, 5)

The "latter" or spring rains fall in March and April, after the coldest months of January and February have passed.

3. Geshem or Matar means "the rains" (Gen 7:12; Ezra 10:9)

Both terms are used in a very general sense. But the former has a more specific usage, to denote the heavy, even violent, rain that comes down in the winter.

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Author: FF Chong
Publisher: True Jesus Church
Date: 12/08/2017
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