Throughout the Bible we read of the early and latter rain. In Deut. 11:14 God promises Israel that, if they observe His commandments, He will give them the rain of their land in due season, the first rain and the latter rain. Job declares that, in the days of his prosperity, men respected him, “they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain” (Job 29:23). Proverbs 16:15 tells us: “In the light of the king’s countenance is life; and his favor is as a cloud of the latter rain.”
Jeremiah lamented, “the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain” (3:3). He charges that rebellious Israel no longer says “let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season” (5:24). These rains fell in Palestine, the first at sowing-time, about November or December, the second about March or April to mature the ground for harvest. They are, therefore, the rain of sowing-time and the rain of harvest. And more than passing significance attaches to the frequent mention of them.
More important passages in this connection we find in the minor prophets. In Hosea 6:3 we read: “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 us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” In Joel 2:23 we find, “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 former rain and the latter rain in the first month.” Zech. 10:1 tells us: “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 every one grass in the field.”
Now these three prophets dealt with future blessings to come to Israel nationally after her long dispersion. All predict a kingdom age when the Jews, restored to their land and returned to their God, shall enjoy both material and spiritual blessing from the Lord. It is in Joel that we find that wonderful promise of the outpouring of the Spirit (2:28-33). This passage was quoted by Peter in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:16-21). But there are some verses in that prophecy that seem to reach beyond Pentecost: “And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come.”
There are prophesied two mighty outpourings of the Holy Spirit. The first came at Pentecost. It is God’s early rain. At the end of the present age when Israel is regathered and restored to the land there will be a mighty effusion of His Spirit upon them. That is His latter rain. The first was the sowing-time rain when the Gospel first went forth. The second comes at the time of harvest. So Joel 2:28-32 becomes clear when viewed in the light of double reference, a principle without which much prophecy is confusing.
Finally, James admonishes us: “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain.” Both rains must have fallen, the Pentecost outpouring upon the church and the outpouring of “the spirit of grace and supplications” upon Israel (Zech 12:10) before the world-harvest is complete. While this may not be the first and literal explanation of the verse, as a spiritual application it is most precious. God first gathers His church, then Israel, but both make the full harvest.
©2003 Used by permission of the author. Michael C. Catt, Havner’s Reflections on Prophecy, pg. 5-7. Book is available through The Source @ 229-431-9330.