ELLEN WHITE AND THE LATTER RAIN
Latter Rain Theology
The Terminology Employed: The Agricultural Heritage
In Palestine during agricultural times such as the times of the Bible prophets, the farmer would prepare the field for the sowing of the seed, plant the seed, and wait for the rain to cause the seed to sprout. During the course of time during which the sprouted seeds were growing into a mature state rain continued to fall periodically, but just before the actual harvesting could begin a special rain fell which served to bring the crop to the final degree of maturity required for the farmer to realize a successful reward from his work.
The first rain, which sprouted the sown seeds, was known as the former rain or the early rain; the rain which fell just prior to the harvesting was known as the latter rain. These two rains were used by the Hebrew prophets as a figure to foretell “the bestowal of spiritual grace in extraordinary measure upon God’s church,” Ellen White writes. (Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1962), p. 506, (hereinafter referred to as T.M.); Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View Calif.: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1962), p. 54, (hereinafter referred to as A.A.).) She also says that “the Lord employs these operations of nature to represent the work of the Holy Spirit.” (White, T.M., p. 506. See also Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1962), p. ix. (Hereinafter referred to as G.C.))
This means that for Ellen White, the rain symbol for the work of the Holy Spirit as He bestows spiritual grace is extraordinary measure upon God’s people has its roots in the agricultural phenomena of rains which come in their season and which produce a particular result – which symbol comes to use by way of the Hebrew prophets. (See Deut 11:14; Joel 2:23; Zech 10:1; Job 29:23; Prov 16:15; Jer 3:3; Jer 5:24; Hos 6:3; Ps 84:6(7). Note: This early association of the physical rain and the work of the Holy Spirit does not imply that the concept is obsolete, for seed is still planted, and harvests are still reaped, only when the proper rains have fallen.)
The Historical Application of the Agricultural Figures
Mrs. White writes that the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit recorded in Acts 2 marked the beginning of the early, or former, rain phase of the work of the Holy Spirit – the bestowal of spiritual grace in extraordinary measure upon God’s church that the early rain of Palestine as a symbol represented. (White, A.A., p. 54.)
However, she also writes that the Acts 2 Pentecostal experience was only a partial fulfillment of the key “rain” prophecy – Joel 2; which scripture is nevertheless applicable to those events. (White, G.C., p. ix. Joel 2:23 reads: 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.) The latter rain portion of the Palestinian rain symbol of Joel 2 will only be experienced when the events of Pentecost are repeated, with greater power. (Francis D. Nichol, ed., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1957), 6:1055. (Hereinafter referred to SDABC.)) This “manifestation of divine grace” (White, G.C., p. ix) which will “attend the closing work of the gospel” (Ibid.) is to occur just prior to the second coming of Jesus as the Great Harvester, (See Rev 14:14-16.) in connection with specific eschatological developments, (These will be studied in the section titled, “Latter Rain Eschatology.”) and fulfills completely Joel’s prophecy.
This means that it is the event of a Pentecost-repeated, only with greater power, which fulfills for Ellen White Joel’s latter rain prophecy. (White, A.A., p. 55. Note: Zech 10:1 and Joel 2:23 are here quoted.)
Therefore we can assume that because the Pentecost experience was a definite and historically definable experience occurring at a particular time and under particular circumstances that the event of a Pentecost-repeated — only with greater power — will have a historical time for its occurrence as a fulfillment of a particular Scripture. This conclusion is, of course, the result of the fact that the rain figures used in the symbol we are studying are only meaningfully identifiable in connection with the element of time.
The Spiritual Application of the Agricultural Symbol in Principle
The latter rain theology of Ellen White is always related to the agricultural phenomena which is its matrix. The natural events are always, in the details of their occurrence, the measure by which correct latter rain theology is monitored. This means that the spiritual early rain must precede the spiritual latter rain, not only historically but existentially. Each individual must have an early rain experience before he can be benefitted by a latter rain experience; (White, T.M., p. 507.) for just as if the early rain did not fall in Palestine there would be no crop to be brought to maturity by the latter rain, so in the Christian life, if the bestowal of grace which causes spiritual life to spring forth and produce fruit in good works (White, A.A., p. 284) that is portrayed by the Holy Spirit’s early rain work has not occurred, there will be no spiritual product to be brought to maturity when the spiritual grace of the Holy Spirit’s latter rain work is bestowed. (White, T.M., pp. 399, 506.)
Because of this integral relationship between the early rain and the latter rain in their literal, historical, and existential phase, we will precede our study of the latter rain doctrine with a study of the early rain in both its spiritual, historical, and existential applications, trusting the literal early rain’s relationship to the literal latter rain is already sufficiently clear as to require no further explanation. (cf. p. 1)
The Historical Bestowal of the Grace Symbolized by the Early Rain Figure
Its time. The bestowal of the spiritual grace symbolized by the early rain figure upon God’s church by the Holy Spirit, occurred on the day of Pentecost and is recorded in Acts 2 (White, A.A., p. 54.) according to E.G. White. Mrs. White explains that the reason for the Holy Spirit’s not making this bestowal earlier was because “the Spirit had been waiting for the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.” (Nichol, SDABC. 6:1066.) She also says that the reason it wasn’t later was because “when Christ passed within the heavenly gates, He was enthroned amidst the adoration of the angels. As soon as this ceremony was completed, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in rich currents. . . .” (White, A.A., pp. 38, 39. For a study of the literalcy here implied see the section “Mrs. White’s Theological Context.”) This means that the outpouring which occurred on the day of Pentecost was
Heaven’s communication that the Redeemer’s inauguration was accomplished. According to His promise He had sent the Holy Spirit from heaven to His followers as a token that He had, as priest and king received all authority in heaven and on earth, and was the Anointed One over His people. (White, A.A., p. 39.)
He we see that for Ellen White the Pentecost ‘rain’ work of the Holy Spirit was accomplished when certain criteria were met—the first criteria being a completion of one phase of Christ’s work of redemption. However there is another criteria that she presents—the readiness of the apostles to receive the gift to be bestowed.
The disciples’ preparation. The coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples was the fulfillment of the promise Christ has made to them. Not only had He promised they would receive the Holy Spirit, but He had commanded them not to leave Jerusalem until they received the promised blessing, for they were to receive power, after the Holy Spirit was poured out, and they were to be witnesses unto Jesus (That Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah was the central issue, while the way of salvation was the central message.) in all parts of the earth. (See Acts 1:4-8.) However such a promise was not without condition—and to meet these conditions the disciples made preparation, Mrs. White says. This same quality of preparation she says is a necessary prerequisite for receiving the latter rain. Therefore we will quote at some length Mrs. White’s description of the apostle’s preparation. She writes,
It was by confession and forsaking of sin, by earnest prayer and consecration of themselves to God, that the early disciples prepared for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. (White, T.M., p. 507)
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. (White, A.A., p. 36.)
Putting away all differences, all desire for the supremacy, they came close together in Christian fellowship. They drew nearer and nearer to God. (Ibid.)
These days of preparation where days of deep heart searching. The disciples felt there spiritual need and cried to the Lord for the holy unction that was to fit them for the work of soul saving They did not ask for a blessing for themselves merely. They were weighted with the burden of the salvation of souls. They realized that the gospel was to be carried to the world and they claimed the power that Christ had promised. (Ibid., p. 37)
To describe the disciples preparation in this way means that the disciples preparation began with faith in the promise they had received, and that that faith was accompanied by, a willingness to obey, and a desire to be receivers of the promise in order that they might do with effectiveness and propriety the work they have been commissioned to do.
Such presentation, when accompanied with a teaching that the latter rain recipient must make a preparation similar to the disciples preparation, means that the necessary preparation, for one who desires today to receive the Holy Spirit’s rain work, is belief in God’s word, and obedience to God’s expressed will, for Ellen White. (This is the basic motif in all of Ellen White’s theological works, and in one we will meet very often as we study her teaching regarding the Holy Spirit’s works which occur in connection with the rain figure.)
The method of the original spiritual early rain bestowal. When we speak of the method of the original bestowal we do not mean Mrs. White tells how the Holy Spirit does the work He does. Rather, it is our intent here to present the various events that combined to make the Pentecost experience of Acts 2 as Mrs. White describes them, for as we have noted, these Acts 2 experiences are the spiritual early rain’s beginning for Ellen White.
As we have noted, for Mrs. White the early rain Pentecost was synchronized with other events. She also presents it as coming in conjunction with some supernatural manifestations. When the disciples’ preparation is presented by Mrs. White these elements are still present. The following list summarizes her description of the preparation that was prescribed for the disciples.
The disciples were told of the Holy Spirit and promised that He would come. (White, A.A., pp. 39, 45.) Christ prepared the disciples for the promised event, for John records that before His ascension Jesus breathed on them, and said to them, receive the Holy Ghost. (John 20:22. Mrs. White comments on this prepatory event by writing that “the breath of God must be breathed into the soul before it can be filled with power.” Ellen G. White, “Our Work,” Pacific Union Recorder, Sept. 10, 1903, p. 1.) The disciples were given a commission and told where to be to receive the promised Holy Spirit. (Cf. Matt 28:19, 20; Acts 1:4.) They were told what was to be the result of their reception of the Holy Spirit—they would be witnesses with power in all the earth. (Acts 1:8.) Certain events were to take place first—the disciples were to make personal preparation including asking for the promised event and Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and inauguration were to be accomplished. (See p. 3.)
Another element of the Acts 2 Pentecost that we must note is the description Mrs. White gives of the actual bestowal of the Holy Spirit. She writes in part that “On the Day of Pentecost the Infinite One revealed Himself in power to the church. By His Holy Spirit He descended from the heights of heaven as a rushing mighty wind. . . .” (White, 7T, p. 31. Note: To study the work of Christ here implied is beyond the scope of this thesis.) The sound of this rushing mighty wind “filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.” (Nichol, SDABC, 6:1055.) The result was that the assembled ones were all “filled with the Holy Ghost” and began to speak with other tongues. (White, A.A., p. 30. Note: The Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit should not be interpreted as meaning the Holy Spirit had not been active in the work of redeeming men from sin prior to Pentecost. See White, A.A., pp. 53, 54.)
Here we see that the original method of bestowing the spiritual grace that was promised by the early rain figure used by the Hebrew prophets, and which was to come in extraordinary measure upon the Church, was a combination of faith in a promise, action in harmony with that faith, and a patient waiting for the desired result; which result, when it came, came on all who were together waiting and seeking, in the proper place; and it came with supernatural manifestations, at the time, when the message the sought-for-blessing received carried, was appropriate.
The results of the Pentecost early rain. We have already referred to one result of the Pentecost experience; the disciples “began to speak with other tongues.” (White, A.A., p. 39.) Mrs. White says that the reason the Holy Spirit assumed the form of tongues of fire on the occasion of the Pentecost outpouring was that the tongues of fire were an emblem of the gift then bestowed on the disciples, which gift “enabled them to speak with fluency languages with which they have heretofore been unacquainted.” (Ibid.) This gift of tongues enabled them to speak “all the languages then spoken.” (Ibid. p. 40.) With this gift the disciples could speak “with accuracy the languages of those for whom they were laboring.” (Ibid.) Not only was their language accurate, but from this time on the language of the disciples was pure and simple, “whether they spoke in their native tongue or in a foreign language.” (Ibid.)
Mrs. White points out that “this miraculous gift was a strong evidence to the world that their commission bore the signet of Heaven.” (Ibid.) She also says that the “appearance of fire signified the fervent zeal with which the apostles (The Holy Spirit was poured out on all the disciples who were assembled together, Mrs. White writes, but the apostles were given a special responsibility. See White, 7T, p. 31; A.A., p. 39; and Nichol, SDABC, 6:1055.) would labor and the power that would attend their work.” (White, A.A., p. 39.)
Great as this result was, there are other results described by Mrs. White. She writes that as the disciples and apostles understood the imparted gift,
their hearts were surcharged with a benevolence so full, so deep, so far-reaching, that it impelled them to go to the ends of the earth testifying, God forbid that we should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ellen G. White, MS 62, 1902 quoted in Ellen G. White, That I May Know Him (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1964), p. 344. (Hereinafter referred to as K.H.))
The disciples now sought to help others to have the faith they enjoyed and their proclamations of the gospel were “filled with the power of the spirit . . .” (Ibid. See also White, A.A., p. 22) and thoughts were converted. (White, A.A., p. 22. Note: The Harvest principle is still being followed here for Mrs. White writes that Christ had sown the seed during His ministry that here spring into life. See MS 85, 1903, quoted in Nichol SDABC, 6:1055.)
We also read that the Pentecost bestowal of spiritual grace brought the disciples “the heavenly illumination.” This gift enabled the receiver to understand “the teachings of the sacred word” and “the truths they could not understand while Christ was with them. . . .” The result was that the disciples and apostles accepted the teachings of the Scriptures “with a faith and assurance that they had never before known. . . .” (White, A.A., p. 45, 46.)
Another result of the bestowal of the Holy Spirit Mrs. White describes was that even the physical appearance of the receiver of the gifts was modified for they had the peace of Christ shining from their faces. “They had consecrated their lives to Him for service, and their features bore evidence of the surrender they had made.” (Ibid., p. 46.)
These results were able to be realized because under Christ’s training the “disciples had been led to feel their need of the Spirit,” (Ibid., p. 45) and under the Holy Spirit’s teaching “they received the final qualification and went forth to their lifework.” (Ibid.) The final result of Pentecost was that “Those who believed Christ were sealed by the Holy Spirit.” (Ellen G. White, MS 85, 1903, quoted in Nichol, SDABC, 6:1055. This sealing was sealing them for their work. A.A., p. 30. Note: For a discussion of the meaning of being sealed by the Holy Spirit in Mrs. White’s works see p. 56. n. 4.)
This means that, for Mrs. White, what can be done by the exercise of faith in response to God’s promises can be seen in the work that was accomplished on the day of Pentecost.
However, Mrs. White also states, those who at Pentecost were recipients of the special gifts then bestowed were “not thereby freed from further temptation and trial.” (White, A.A., p. 49.) In the experience of the daily living as they tried to live out the Pentecostal in-take.
As they witnessed for truth and righteousness they were repeatedly assailed by the enemy of all truth, who sought to rob them of their Christian experience. They were compelled to strive with all their God-given powers to reach the measure of the stature of men and women in Christ Jesus. Daily they prayed for fresh supplies of grace, that they might reach higher and still higher toward perfection. (Ibid. Note: For a study of grace in Mrs. White’s works see p. 53.)
Summary of the results of Pentecost. The results of the Pentecost early rain can be summarized as follows:
- Spiritual grace was bestowed in extraordinary measure upon God’s church.
- The gift of speaking all foreign languages properly was imparted.
- The disciples realized a great gratitude to God and a strong desire to share their faith.
- “The heavenly illumination” was given to the believers. This gift gave them understanding of the truths they could not understand while Christ was with them, and resulted in their accepting the teachings of Scripture with a faith and assurance they had never known before.
- The disciples’ physical appearances reflected their relationship with Jesus.
- The disciples received their final qualification for their lifework.
- Those who then believed in Christ were sealed by the Holy Spirit.
- Negatively; the Pentecost experience left the disciples free; it did not guarantee their future salvation by removing further temptations and trials. They still had to strive and daily seek fresh supplies of grace to continually grow.
Conclusion; or, the conditions under which the Pentecost early rain occurred. The bestowal of the spiritual grace realized at Pentecost came as the result of a conditional promise made by God to His people; it also came as a result of their faithful and appropriate response to that promise, when the time was right, and it came to the place where they were when they obeyed their instructions. The promised spiritual early rain also came with such physical manifestations as made it clear that the promised blessing had been imparted—and it brought with it the gifts which were necessary for the disciples if they were to fulfill the commission which was associated with their promise of the giving of the Holy Spirit. But the key to the reception of the Holy Spirit, and the indispensible condition for the spiritual early rain to be realized was the previously successful, preparatory and redemptive work of Christ.
However, with this condition having been met, Mrs. White writes that as a result of the spiritual grace given in fulfillment of the promise
Under the Holy Spirit’s working even the weakest, by exercising faith in god, learned to improve their entrusted powers and to become sanctified, refined, and ennobled. As in humility they submitted to the molding influence of the Holy Spirit, they received of the fullness of the Godhead and were fashioned in the likeness of the divine. (White, A.A., p. 50.)
The Existential Bestowal of the Grace symbolized by the Early Rain Figure (We are using this terminology to refer to the early rain grace experience, received from the Holy Spirit, that each individual who had lived since the Act 2 Pentecost occurred, and who desires to be a living follower of Christ must experience, according to the teaching of Ellen White.)
A Necessary experience. We have seen that for Mrs. White, when Christ’s earthly work was successfully accomplished the indispensible condition had been met, not only for the Early Church to receive the spiritual grace bestowed by the Holy Spirit, but for all who should choose to follow Christ to receive the spiritual grace bestowed by the Holy Spirit under the rain figure, which grace, when it is received, causes the awakening of spiritual life.
This awakening it is necessary for the Christian to experience if he is to be able to progress in the Christian life. The progress is itself apparently a series of awakenings to fuller dimensions of Christian truth and practice, for Mrs. White, for she writes that
at no point in our experienced can we dispense with the assistance of that which enables us to make the first start. The blessings received under the former rain are needful to us to the end. (White, T.M., p. 507. Note: There is no indication by Mrs. White that the existential bestowal of the early rain in each individual’s life will be accompanied by the supernatural manifestations that accompanied the early rain inaugural outpouring. The general recurrence of the physical phenomena is only presented as being closely linked with the bestowal of the latter rain.
This means that the early rain grace is not able to be replaced by the latter rain grace in the spiritual realm, just as the early rain cannot be replaced by the latter rain in the natural realm of the physical world, from which the spiritual rain figure is drawn; the spiritual early rain does a work which the spiritual latter rain cannot do. Notice the following:
Unless the former rain has fallen, there will be no life; the green blade will not spring up. Unless the early showers have done their work, the latter rain can bring no seed to perfection.
There is to be “first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” There must be a constant development of Christian virtue, a constant advancement in Christian experience. (White, T.M., p. 506)
This experience, Mrs. White adds, people should see “with intensity of desire.” (Ibid.) They are not to trust that in the natural course of events rain will fall. (Ibid., pp. 506, 507)
Purpose, results, and significance of the existential early rain. This means that for Ellen White the purpose of the spiritual early rain bestowed by the Holy Spirit on the individual is to awaken him to spiritual life and to be continually awakening new spiritual developments in him. The early rain is realized by all people who seek for it with intensity of desire, and results in bringing about a condition that enables one to progress to ever fuller stages of usefulness. (Note: “All that the apostles did, every church member today is to do. And we are to work with as much more fervor, to be accompanied by the Holy Spirit in as much greater measure, as the increase of wickedness demands a more decided call to repentance.” White, 7T, p. 33.) Whereas the early rain bestowal of grace can only be realized in answer to an earnest request, (See White, T.M., pp. 506, 509.) the reception of the early rain grace signifies that one has understood enough of the Gospel story, and accepted the conditions it imposes, to ask for the promised blessing.
The Latter Rain: A Sequel to the Early Rain
The relationship between the early rain and the latter rain. When the early rain grace has been bestowed, the one who has received that work of the Holy Spirit has been enabled by it to grow as a Christian, as we have seen. But Mrs. White lists two other effects the early rain grace work of the Holy Spirit produces; the early rain receiver is enabled to recognize the manifestations of the Holy Spirit as the latter rain work is accomplished, and he is also able to receive the latter rain. (White, T.M., p. 506; Ellen G. White, Early Writings (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1945), p. 71. (Hereinafter referred to as E.W.))
The relationship between the two rains as works of grace is so inter-related to Mrs. White, that she writes that to neglect the grace represented by the early rain means that the latter rain may be “falling on hearts all around us, but we shall not discern or receive it.” (White, T.M., pp. 506, 507.)
Here Mrs. White is teaching that the latter rain is not only to follow the early rain in the spiritual realm as in the natural, but, as in the natural realm, where no early rain has occurred, the latter rain is not affective, as we have seen her do in the other contexts.
Mrs. White also emphasizes the connection between the two rains when she describes the latter rain bestowal of grace as “the time when the events of the day of Pentecost shall be repeated. . . .” (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, July 20, 1886; quoted in Nichol, SDABC, 6:1055.) However this repetition is not only a replay for Mrs. White also says that Pentecost shall be repeated “with even greater power than on that occasion.” (Ibid. Note: This repetition is seen as fulfilling Rev. 18.)
This means that in the writings of Ellen White the relationship between the two ‘rains’ is one of interdependence; the early rain grace bringing to life the product the latter rain grace brings to readiness for harvesting.
Where the latter rain is bestowed. Mrs. White lists “the convocations of the church, as in campmeetings, the assemblies of the home church, and all occasions where there is personal labor for souls, . . .” (White, T.M., p. 508) as “God’s appointed opportunities for giving the early and the latter rain.” (Ibid.)
Conditions for receiving the latter rain. There are different conditions that Mrs. White sets forth which must be met if the latter rain grace is to be bestowed. The first one we have already noted; the early rain grace must have been previously bestowed. (See above, p. 25) The next condition is that latter rain grace bestowal must be asked for. (White, T.M., p. 509; cf. Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, November 19, 1908, quoted in Nichol, SDABC, 4:1178.) This asking must be in the right time (White, A.A., p. 55. Note: for a discussion of the time of the latter rain see below p. 33.) and petitioners must “improve every opportunity of placing ourselves in the channel of blessing.” (White, T.M., p. 508.)
Another condition is that described by Mrs. White as being “to cleanse the soul temple of every defilement.” (White, 5T, p. 214. Note: It may be that Mrs. White’s description of the cleansing of the soul temple occurs in E.W., p. 71, where she writes, “I saw that none could share the ‘refreshing’ [a synonym for the latter rain?] unless they obtain the victory over every besetment, over pride, selfishness, love of the world, and over every wrong word and action. . . . Let all remember that God is holy and that none but holy beings can ever dwell in His presence.” See also Review and Herald, Nov. 19, 1908, quoted in Nichol, SDABC, 4:1178; and Review and Herald, Mar. 22, 1892, quoted in Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, 2 vol. (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1958), 1:191. (Hereinafter referred to as S.M.)) When these conditions are met “the latter rain will fall upon us as the early rain fell upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost,” (White, 5T, p. 214.) Mrs. White writes.
The last condition listed is perhaps an all inclusive condition (See Ellen G. White, Evangelism (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1946), p. 698. (Hereinafter referred to as Ev.): “When we bring our hearts into unity with Christ, and our lives into harmony with His work, the Spirit that fell on the disciples on the day of Pentecost will fall on us.”) for Mrs. White says that “only those who are living up to the light they have will receive greater light.” (White, T.M., p. 507. See also letter 151, 1897, quoted in Nichol, SDABC, 7:984.)
This means of course that if the latter rain grace is to be bestowed the one on whom this gift is to come will not only be acquainted with the Gospel, but he will be acting in harmony with the knowledge he possesses. (See Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Mar. 22, 1892, quoted in White, S.M., 1:199.)
This means that for Mrs. White the conditions for receiving the latter rain by those who desire it are in principles the same as the requirements for the disciples receiving the early rain. (For our analysis see pp. 16ff.)
Results following the bestowal of the latter rain grace. There are a number of results which Mrs. White discusses as being the product of the bestowal of the latter rain grace by the Holy Spirit. For the sake of clarity we will group them in two categories; the results that are seen in the life of the church, and the results that are more particularly realized in the life of the individual.
Picking up the analogy from nature, Mrs. White writes that the ripening of the grain represents the completion of the work of God’s grace in the soul. (White, T.M., p. 506.) Other results in the individual include the perfecting of the moral image of God in the character, (Ibid.) a total transformation into the likeness of Christ, (ibid.) a strengthening process that enables one “to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord,” (White, E.W., 71, 86.) the strengthening of the personal initiative, (See White, S.M., 2:58, 59.) and a fitting up for translation. (White, 1T, p. 187.)
Regarding the effects of the bestowal of the latter rain grace on the church, Mrs. White writes that there will be a revival of “primitive godliness,” (White, G.C., p. 464.) that the church is by this work of the Holy Spirit prepared for the coming of the son of man, (White, T.M., p. 506.) and that many people will “separate themselves from those churches in which the love of this world has supplanted love for God and His word.” (White, G.C., p .464.)
These effects Mrs. White says will be similar to that work which “the Lord did through His delegated messengers after the Day of Pentecost . . .” (White, 7T, p. 33) and will include the working of miracles (White, G.C., p. 612.) and the gift of tongues—or speaking foreign languages one has not studied. (cf. Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, July 20 1886; quoted in Nichol, SDABC, 6:1055. “Then as at the Pentecostal season, the people will hear the truth spoken to them, every man in his own tongue.”)
She also writes that the latter rain bestowal of grace, while similar to the early rain bestowal at Pentecost, is to be distinguished by the “more abundant” outpouring of the rain work of the Holy Spirit, (Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1941), p. 121. (Hereinafter referred to as C.O.L.) and that it is for a different purpose—the early rain coming at the “opening” of the gospel to caused the “upspringing of the precious seed” while the latter rain comes at the close of the gospel “for the ripening of the harvest.” (White, G.C., p.611. Note: Whereas Rev 14 shows the harvest to include the activities of God toward the wicked, the results of the bestowal of the latter rain by the Holy Spirit, may produce a world in which every individual is ready for God’s acts of judgment which follow the closing of the gospel dispensation—for it may be that the latter rain ripens the tares as well as the wheat, but we have not found Mrs. White speaking to this point.)
Who can receive the latter rain. Mrs. White often writes of the kind of people who are to receive the latter rain. The emphases she has include the following points:
Those who will receive the latter rain will have already received the early rain and appreciated it. (White. T.M., p. 399.) They will thus be those who have made “the needful preparation,” (White, E.W., p. 71.) by placing themselves “in an attitude to receive . . . the latter rain,” (White, T.M., p. 508.) and by living in harmony with their knowledge of the teaching of Scripture, for “only those who are living up to the light they have will receive greater light.” (Ibid. p. 507.)
This means that they are among those who “come to God in faith” and who “claim all that He has promised” (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, June 4, 1889. Quoted in Nichol, SDABC, 6:1055.) asking for the latter rain, (White, T.M., pp. 506, 509.) and working “in harmony with one another and with heaven.” (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Jan 13, 1910. Quoted in Ellen G. White, Faith I Live By (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1973, p. 332. (Hereinafter referred to as F.L.B.)) They “sincerely desire to serve God,” cleansing “the soul temple from every defilement,” maintaining a “close connection” with God, (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, July 20, 1886. Quoted in Nichol, SDABC, 6:1055. For a description of the soul cleansing work see p. 27, f.n. 7.) and yielding themselves “fully to the Lord and to His service.” (White, A.A., p. 49.)
These people confess their sins and humble their hearts before God, (White, 8T, p. 105.) bringing their hearts “into unity with Christ” and their “lives into harmony with His work.” (White, Ev., p. 698.)
This means that they “obtain the victory over every besetment, over pride, selfishness, love of the world, and over every wrong word and action,” (White, E.W., p. 71.) opening the door of the heart to Jesus, and closing every means of entrance to Satan.” (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Nov. 19, 1908; quoted in Nichol, SDABC, 4:1177.) They are those who attend the meetings of the church, and who do personal labor for souls. (White, T.M., p. 507.)
This means that those who receive the latter rain, for Ellen White, are those who cooperate (To cooperate with God Mrs. White says results in revealing “to the world the principles of righteousness.” See Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Mar. 26, 1889; quoted in F.L.B., p. 249.) with God in a trust relation.
God leads His people on, step by step, He brings them up to different points calculated to manifest what is in the heart. . . . Some are willing to receive one point; but when 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. . . . Those who come up to every point, and stand every test, and overcome, be the price what it may, have needed the counsel of the True Witness, and they will receive the latter rain. . . . (White, 7T, p. 187.)
The time of the latter rain. Mrs. White does not state when the latter rain will be given – if one is thinking of time as a date. However she does write that the present time is the time for the latter rain and that it is therefore appropriate to ask for it. She also discusses the time of the latter rain as regards its relative position to specific eschatological events. (For a study of the eschatology of the latter rain see “The Latter Rain Eschatological context,” p. 52ff.) The following quotations will illustrate her treatment of this question:
Let us, with contrite hearts, pray most earnestly that now, in the time of the latter rain, the showers of grace may fall upon us. (White, T.M., p. 509.)
I have no specific time of which to speak when the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will take place – when the mighty angel will come down from heaven, and unite with the third angel in closing up the work for this work . . . our only safety is in being ready for the refreshing, having our lamps trimmed and burning. (White, S.M., 1:192. (Emphasis added.))
The Latter Rain and Some Other Aspects of the Holy Spirit’s Work in Mrs. White’s Materials
The anointing and baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is not unusual to find a writer who equates the gift of tongues that occurred on the day of Pentecost with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Such a writer often next proceeds to identify the glossalolia of the pentecostal movement today with the tongues gift of the apostolic Pentecost and then states that today’s glossalolia is part of the latter rain. However Mrs. White’s presentation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is somewhat different; therefore we will review it here.
To clearly identify Mrs. White’s presentation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit we will need to consider it along with two other concepts: the anointing of the Holy Spirit and the baptism of the Holy Spirit with fire.
The fullest occurrence we have been able to locate of this complete phrase in the works of Mrs. White occurs in the book Medical Ministry. ((Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1963), p. 203. (Hereinafter referred to as M.M.) See also Australasian Union Conference Record, April 16, 1906, p. 14. Note: This phrase only rarely occurs in the works of Mrs. White. (Also D.A., p. 233.)) We will quote this developed statement in full.
As long as we are here in this world, we are on the test and trial. We will be held accountable not only for the working out of our own salvation, but for the influence for good or evil that we exert on other souls.
He who is meek (For Mrs. White’s understanding of the word ‘meek’, see the contextual definition that occurs in Ellen G. White, Australasian Union conference Record, Jan. 15, 1906, p. 1.) in spirit, who is purest and most childlike, will be made strong for the battle. He will be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man. He who feels his weakness, and wrestles with God as did Jacob, and like this servant of old cries, “I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me,” will go forth with the fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit. The atmosphere of heaven will surround him. His influence will be a positive force in favor of the religion of Christ. . . .
The wrestling of Jacob, referred to in the above quotation, Mrs. White explains occurred when “Jacob in the great crisis of his life, turned aside to pray.” (Ellen G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1956), p. 144. (Hereinafter referred to as M.B.)) She also says that
He was filled with one overmastering purpose—to seek for transformation the character. But while he was pleading with God, an enemy, as he supposed, placed his hand upon him, and all night he wrestled for his life. But the purpose of his soul was not changed by the peril of life itself. (Ibid.)
In these two passages Mrs. White sets forth the anointing of the Holy Spirit as being necessary because of our responsibility for our own salvation and for our influence on others. (See White, M.M., p. 203.)
Mrs. White also presents the anointing of the Holy Spirit as being available to anyone who, like Jacob seeks with one overmastering purpose for transformation of character with such intensity that he will pursue his seeking even at the peril of life. (See white, M.B., p. 144.)
The results of such seeking, Mrs. White writes, are that the seeker will go forth with the fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit. This means that he will go from his seeking, his communion with God, strengthened in the inner man; the atmosphere of heaven will surround him, and his influence will be a positive force in favor of the religion of Christ. (See White, M.M., p. 203.)
In contrast to this anointing of the Holy Spirit analysis is Mrs. White’s presentation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (For another author’s presentation of this topic see Arthur White, “Ellen G. White and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” in Review and Herald, April 19, 1973, pp. 8-10.) This phrase, unlike the ‘anointing of the Holy Spirit’ phrase, occurs a number of times in Mrs. White’s materials, but one occurrence is of far greater importance than the others for our study because it lends itself, like the anointing of the Holy Spirit phrase, to a contextual analysis. This passage reads as follows:
Christ was continually receiving from the Father that He might communicate to us. . . . Not for Himself, but for others, He lived and thought and prayed. From hours spent with God He came forth morning by morning, to bring the light of heaven to men. Daily He received a fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit. In the early hours of the new day the Lord awakened Him from His slumbers, and His soul and His lips were anointed with grace, that He might impart to others. His words were given Him fresh from the heavenly courts, words that He might speak in season to the weary and oppressed. (White, C.O.L., p. 139.)
Here Mrs. White presents the baptism of the Holy Spirit as being an experience that was repeated daily in the life of Christ. She also presents it as being given because of the purpose of His life—service for others, and in connection with personal prayer. The effects of the baptism of the Holy Spirit here is that soul (Note: contrary to popular Adventist declarations, man is a three part being to Mrs. White. See Ellen G. White, Fundamentals of Christian Education (Nashville: Southern Publishing Association, 1923), p. 57 (hereinafter referred to as F.Ch.Ed.): “The nature of man is threefold, . . .”) and lips are anointed with grace in order that a heavenly blessing might be imparted to others.
This means that in the writings of Mrs. White the anointing of the Holy Spirit brings character transformation while the baptism of the Holy Spirit makes one a carrier of a heavenly blessing to the needy.
Finally, to conclude this section, the baptism of the Holy Spirit with fire, a phrase that occurs rarely in the usage of Mrs. White, is apparently a work of the Holy Spirit that brings conviction to the heart of the hearer when the gospel is shared. (See Ellen G. White, MS 109, 1897, quoted in Nichol, SDABC, 4:1180, and Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Feb. 3, 1903, quoted in Nichol, SDABC, 4:1180.)
In Mrs. White’s works the Pentecost early rain, the historical early rain, gave the disciples their final qualification for their life work. This gift not only made them able to impart to others with appropriate acts and deeds, it also gave them the gift of tongues—a gift which Christ is not recorded as employing. Therefore it is not to be seen as an exact duplicate of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (This evaluation is apparently also that of Arthur L. White who writes of “Ellen G. White and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” (Review and Herald, April 19, 1973, pp. 8-10) without referring to the latter rain.) which Christ received daily prior to the day of Pentecost—though the Pentecost experience was a baptism of the Holy Spirit. (The differences show that the Holy Spirit gives the gifts that are needed by the recipient—the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a static experience where everyone receives the same blessing regardless of his personal need and work. Neither does Mrs. White’s presentation of the anointing of the Holy Spirit reflect the Pentecost experience, the anointing description being rather a description of the experience similar to the experience of the disciples that Mrs. White describes and present as being their work of preparing for the early rain, or Pentecost experience.
So also the baptism of the Holy Spirit with fire is apparently an essential experience, but it is not a synonym for a Pentecost early rain work.
The Pentecost early rain—a baptism of the Holy Spirit—is to be distinguished from these other works of the Holy Spirit as coming experientially after the anointing of the Holy Spirit—the preparatory personal work for the early rain experience—and being distinguished from the latter rain as being a precursor to it.
The existential early rain is an awakening process that occurs repeatedly in the soul, bringing progressively increasing insights as the Christian lives daily life. It is complemented by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, which anointing gives victories in character development, while the baptism of the Holy Spirit makes the awakening and overcoming Christian useful in service for God.
The latter rain is distinguished from these other works of the Holy Spirit by the fact that whereas the early rain is a continuing process of awakenings, and the anointing is repeated whenever a seeker for victory finds another victory is needed; and while the baptism of the Holy Spirit is available as a repeated experience every new morning, the latter rain comes at a historical point that is eschatologically timed, and brings final and complete results to the above processes. This is possible because the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the early and latter rain works of the Holy Spirit are all aspects of the work of grace in the soul realized through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
The anointing gives grace to the soul that produces an atmosphere and character, the baptism gives grace that one imparts in appropriate service, the early rain grace causes a progressive spiritual awakening, while the latter rain grace brings the growth in grace to completion.
These works of the Holy Spirit did not begin at Pentecost, rather, they have existed through the times of the Old Testament. Isaiah speaks of the anointing of the Holy Spirit and Mrs. White says Christ was baptized of the Holy Spirit daily. What is new at Pentecost is (1) the amount of the blessing bestowed and the miraculous signs that accompanied the bestowal; (2) the function of the timing of the bestowal; it showed Christ’s inauguration was complete and it gave Heaven’s approval to the disciples teaching that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah, in whom salvation was to be realized. Finally, the Pentecost experience was new in that it came on the church (Throughout the Old Testament there are persons on whom the Holy Spirit comes with power, but there is never a power filled church.) bringing about the rapid and power-filled proclamation of the Gospel to the world, while the repetition of the granting of the grace, that causes spiritual life to spring up, through the years since Pentecost shows the constancy of God’s concern and His closeness to those who seek to be effective representatives of the Gospel story (The presence of Christians through the centuries is the evidence of the granting of that grace without which there can be no springing up of spiritual life, in the works of Mrs. White.)—when the blessing is sought it comes, until the whole process culminates in the bestowal of the grace represented by the latter rain figure.
This means that in the works of Mrs. White the rain work of the Holy Spirit is always a gift given progressively by God to a cooperating individual that enables him to do the work God gives him to do, today, and that makes him able to be ready for the events to transpire as the conflict between good and evil closes.
Sanctification. Just as there are writers who identify the baptism of the Holy Spirit that occurred in connection with the day of Pentecost with the latter rain, so there are writers who identify the latter rain, or baptism of the Holy Spirit with sanctification. However in the works of Mrs. White the latter rain and sanctification are to be distinguished.
For Mrs. White sanctification is closely related to justification (Ellen G. White, MS 21, 1891, quoted in Nichol, SDABC, 6:1072.) and is preceded by it. (Ellen G. White, MS 113, 1902, quoted in Nichol, SDABC, 7:908.) It is the work not “of a moment, an hour, a day, but of a lifetime;” (White, A.A., p. 560.) it is imparted righteousness, (Ellen G. White, Messages to Young People (Nashville: Southern Publishing Association, 1930), p. 35. (Hereinafter referred to as M.Y.P.)) a “fitness for heaven.” (Ibid.) The knowledge of God’s will “advances the work of sanctification,” (White, F.Ch.Ed., p. 137.) while “your soul’s sanctification and righteousness will result from faith in the Word of God, which leads to obedience of its commands,” (Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, Sept. 5, 1895, quoted in F.L.B, p. 21.) for “true sanctification will be evidenced by a conscientious regard for all the commandments of God. . . .” (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Oct. 5, 1886; quoted in Nichol, SDABC, 7:908.)
From these comments by Mrs. White it is clear that sanctification is not associated with any particular eschatology nor is it a repeated Pentecost. Rather sanctification is closely linked with justification, and as such is a part of every successful Christian’s life—it is not an experience that is only available to those who have already cleansed “the soul temple,” (See p. 31 and p. 29, f.n. no. 1 for an explanation from Mrs. White of this phrase.) it is rather a part of the process by which the “soul temple” is cleansed.
Summary. The ‘rain’ work described by Ellen White that God does through the Holy Spirit is a process that is accomplished by the bestowal of spiritual grace in extraordinary measure upon the soul. It has three effects; it brings conviction to the heart of one who hears the gospel story, it prepares people for useful service, and it brings to completion the transformation of character the redemptive process includes.
It occurs over a period of time, having both historical and experiential aspects, and it divisible into two separate, but not disconnected phases—the early and the latter rain. It is also coordinated with both subjective and objective developments. The subjective are the elements of personal preparedness and cooperation with God, while the objective are the developments in the conflict between God and Satan which God makes transitional in bringing the great conflict between sin and righteousness to a close. (For a brief discussion of these see pp. 52ff., the latter rain eschatological context.)
The reliability and validity of anyone’s personal experience of these dynamic works of God through the Holy Spirit must be checked by the doctrines of Sacred Scripture and obedience to the ten commandments of God, (These commandments are all the teachings of the gospel in a general sense; but this phrase often points to the ten commandments of Exodus 20 in the usage of Mrs. White, Because their content is not variable they bring unity to all who follow them; hence all true recipients of the ‘rain’ experience will be unity. See Mrs. White’s numerous comments regarding John 17.) because Satan seeks to produce a counterfeit ‘rain’ work. (For a discussion of this concept see pp. 52ff., the latter rain eschatology, and pp. 47ff., the theological context of Ellen White. Also note the following: “The enemy of souls desires to hinder this work [the ‘rain’ work of the Holy Spirit]; and before the time for such a movement shall come, he will endeavor to prevent it by introducing a counterfeit. In those churches which he can bring under his deceptive power, he will make it appear that God’s special blessing is poured out; there will be manifest what is thought to be great religious interest. White, G.C., p. 464.) Emotion and miracles, however are not to be criteria by which anyone tests the genuineness of a rain experience. (The following descriptions explain the reason for this judgment. “Men under the influence of evil spirits will work miracles. They will make people sick by casting their spell upon them, and will then remove the spell, leading other to say that those who were sick have been miraculously healed. This Satan has done again and again.” Letter 259, 1903; quoted in White, S.M., 2:53. In another letter appearing in the same book on pp. 48-49 Mrs. White writes again. “Let none cherish the idea that special providences or miraculous manifestations are to be proof of a genuineness of their work or of the ideas they advocate. If we keep these things before the people, they will produce an evil effect, an unhealthful emotion. The genuine working of the Holy Spirit on human hearts is promised, to give efficiency through the Word. Christ has declared the Word to be spirit and life. . . . “Satan will work in a most subtle manner to introduce human inventions clothed with angel garments. But the . . . Bible will never be superseded by miraculous manifestations. The truth must be studied, it must be searched for as hidden treasure. Wonderful illuminations will not be given aside from the Word, or to take the place of it. Cling to the Word, receive the engrafted Word, which will make men wise unto salvation. . . . “We shall encounter false claims; false prophets will arise; there will be false dreams and false visions; but preach the Word, be not drawn away from the voice of God in His Word. Let nothing divert the mind. The wonderful, the marvelous, will be represented and presented. Through satanic delusions, wonderful miracles, the claims of human agents will be urged. Beware of all this. “Christ has given warning so that none need accept falsehood for truth. The only channel through which the Spirit operates is that of truth. . . . Our faith and hope are founded, not in feeling, but in God.” Letter 12, 1894. “Those who do not accept the Word of God just as it reads, will be snared in his [Satan’s] trap.” MS 43, 1907; S.M., 2:52.)
The early rain relates to the latter rain as that which goes before to prepare for increased amounts of the same, for Mrs. White, as we have seen, writes that the blessings received by the apostles at Pentecost are still available to earnest seekers today. This early rain experience, which brings with it power to work for God against the forces of evil, changes to a greater outpouring of grace, with a greater demonstration of God’s power, when the historical aspect of the rain experience symbolized by the latter rain figure occurs. This increase of power is the result, Mrs. White says, of two developments; the increase of evil since Pentecost, and the arrival of the time of the closing of human probation.
This means that in the writings of Mrs. White the latter rain has as its function the completing of the work begun under the early rain figure.
Negatively, the rain work of the Holy Spirit is not a guarantee of one’s salvation, (There is no guarantee, only evidence, in Mrs. White’s description of God’s relationship and purposes for man.) and it is not an objective proof of one’s sanctification. (These are facets of salvation which are available to individuals during probationary time apart from the controlling influence of the developing eschatology.)
It is rather the agency by which man’s growth in the Christian pattern set by Christ is realized without ever taking away man’s freedom to return to the doing of evil.
The Latter Rain Eschatology of Ellen White—A Summarical Study
Introduction. To summarize the latter rain eschatology of Ellen White we will study eschatological concepts she employs which inter-act with the latter rain teaching she presents. Where it is practically possible we will be presenting each of these concepts in the chronological order which their inter-relatedness sets forth. However our primary concern at this stage of our study will be with presenting an accurate analysis of the various terminology she employs rather than with solving questions of chronology.
The eschatology that surrounds the latter rain doctrine is a series of events that begins with a renewed proclamation of the Gospel, which proclamation eschalates to a world-wide “Loud Cry,” and which is accompanied by an ever intensifying world-wide opposition; which proclamation and opposition conclude with a second coming of Christ, its associated judgment, and destruction of the rejecters of the Gospel message—whether they heard it during the “loud cry” or at another period of history during which they lived—and the translation of heaven of those who have been granted that reward. These live in heaven for the thousand years which ends with the final judgment of the wicked and their final punishment and destruction, and the re-creation of the earth into the eternal home of the saved. However the millennium and its associated eschatology are not an immediate part of the latter rain and its eschatology. The primary latter rain eschatology concludes with the joy of those who live through to see Jesus come—and who are accepted by Him as His. (This is not the experience of all who profess to be His followers according to Ellen White; see White, 4T, pp. 384-387.)
This basic motif in the works of Mrs. White is that the crucial acts that make salvation possible are all God’s acts; but the acts that determine which individuals receive which rewards are the decisions and acts of will done by people in response to the providences of God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
As an illustration of this theme we will cite from an article Mrs. White wrote about judgment in connection with the second coming.
In the day of final reckoning, Christ does not present before men the great work he has done for them in giving his life for their redemption. He presents before them the faithful work they have done for him. What surpassing love is this! He even mentions the work of the heathen, who have no intelligent knowledge of the law of the Lord, but who have done the very things the law required, because they have heeded the voice speaking to them in the things of nature. When the Holy Spirit implants Christ’s Spirit in the heart of the savage, and he befriends God’s servants, the quickening of the hearts sympathy is contrary to his nature, contrary to his education. The grace of God, working upon the darkened mind, has softened the savage nature untaught by the wisdom of men. And these uneducated heathen, in all their cruelty, are regarded in a more favorable light than are those who have had great light and evidence, but who have rejected the mercy and reproof of God.
Christ implants his grace in the heart of the savage, and ministers to the necessity of the missionary, even before he has heard or comprehended the words of truth and life. Behold that crowd collected about God’s servant to harm him! But the Lord is working upon the heart and mind of perhaps one man to plead in behalf of His servant; and when the war council has determined the destruction of the Christian’s life, the intercession of that savage turns the decision, and his life is spared. O, the love that goes forth to the savage for this one act! To such Christ says, in the judgment: “I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Ellen G. White, “Upon the Throne of His Glory,” Review and Herald, Sept. 20, 1898.)
The theological context of Ellen White. David Noel Freedman, in “The Real Story of the Ebla Tablets” writes that
Even to talk about the possible historicity of the stories of Genesis and the figures who play leading roles in them is to jeopardize one’s standing in the profession and to lay oneself open to the charges of pseudo-scholarship. Nevertheless, there have been outstanding scholars in the past who held these peculiar positions, and I do not hesitate to identify myself with this viewpoint and as an adherent of that school of thought. . . . (Biblical Archeologist 41: 4 (Dec. 1979):144.)
Freedman continues to develop this article by saying that in the light of the present evidence that conclusions of an earlier age must be re-examined, in light of the fact that there have always been “outstanding scholars” who championed the “peculiar positions,” and in light of the fact that the contemporary evidence is such as to point to a need for re-evaluation. (For the entire article see pp. 143-164.)
When one looks at the theological context of Ellen White one finds her advocating an understanding of Scripture and its stories that has almost unanimously been rejected by academic theologians, but not one that they do not have an awareness of, and which, in fact, is recognized as having been quite influential at the time.
Specifically, the theological context of Ellen White is one in which the eschatological figures of Scripture very often represent a reality. In addition, the realities she sees as being portrayed by the figures are not unique concepts written of only by her. She rather selects from the multitudes of possibilities that the history of theological interpretation affords. The concepts found in her works are not generated by her, but rather she writes seeking to draw her readers to an understanding of the thought context that makes the gospel story intelligible.
For example, the rain figure we are studying represents for Ellen White a work of the Holy Spirit that changes those people who receive it—giving them new interests and abilities.
While this figure of rain as a symbol for the Holy Spirit is not widely treated among academic theologians in this context, it is known and referred to.
Walter Eichrodt, for example, in his Theology of the Old Testament writes as follows:
By a parallel development the spirit’s operation is no longer regarded as something occurring in fits and starts in individual events, only to disappear once more. Because the new life is a life in God’s presence, so, too, the power of the divine nature, the spirit, exerts a permanent influence on man. It rests on God’s chosen instruments, or is set within their hearts, or penetrates them as the rain penetrates the earth, creating in them a constant association with God, and therewith the power to fashion their lives according to his will. (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1967), 2:59. See also George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975), p. 285.)
However for Mrs. White this concept of a personal work being done by the Holy Spirit, under the rain figure, is not something that was developed, as for Dr. Eichrodt, (See Eichrodt, op. cit., pp. 60, 61.) but represents a reality of the result of a real work by a very real Holy Spirit.
The reason for this particular figure being employed in this way by Mrs. White is twofold; first, Mrs. White says the Hebrew prophets used the figure thus, (White, A.A., p. 54.) as Dr. Eichrodt has also pointed out, and because the entire Biblical story is a story of reality to Mrs. White.
God is real, heaven is real, and nature is the revealer of God—properly understood.
Notice the following statements:
Regarding the Godhead Mrs. White writes that there are three living persons in the Heavenly trio; (White, Ev., p. 615.) “The Lord Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, existed from eternity, a distinct person, yet one with the Father.” (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, April 5, 1906, p. 8, quoted in Questions on Doctrine (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1957, p. 644.) The Father and the Son “are one in purpose, in mind, in character, but not in person.” (White, 8T, p. 269.) Christ and the father are “of one substance, possessing the same attributes.” (Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, Nov. 27, 1893, p. 64; quoted in Questions on Doctrine, p. 641.)
Again we find this formula is not unique to Mrs. White; “One in essence, three in persons” is the Pope’s formula. (“The Two Aspects of Pentecost,“ OR, May 30-31, 1977; quoted in Edward O’Conner, Pope Paul and the Spirit (Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press, 1978), p. 242; see also p. 224.)
Not only is God real to Mrs. White, but what He has done is to be understood in the light of what He is doing today; the acts of God become a present continuum as she presents them. God’s acts are not limited to the past or to the future, but they are a present reality to man whenever he lives.
In Old Testament times Israel under Ahab erred when
The people forgot that the hills and valleys, the streams and fountains, were in the hand of the living God, that He controlled the sun, the clouds of heaven, and all the powers of nature. (Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1943), p. 116. (Hereinafter referred to as P.K.))
Today God is in immediate connection with the works He has made for
It is through his [God’s] power that summer and winter, seedtime and harvest, day and night, follow each other in their regular succession. It is by His word that vegetation flourishes, that leaves appear, and the flowers bloom. Every good thing we have, each ray of sunshine and shower of rain, every morsel of food, every moments of life, is a gift of love. (White, M.B., p. 75.)
This means that “next to the Bible, nature is the great lesson book.” (Ellen G. White, Australasian Union Conference Record, 2:6, Special No, 10 (July 31, 1899):12. Note: “Not a drop of rain falls, not a ray of light is shed upon our unthankful world, but it testifies to God’s long forbearance and His great love.” Ibid., 3:6, June 1, 1900.) “We are to learn from nature.” (Australasian Union Conference Record, 3:1 (Jan. 1, 1900):1. Note: “In the plan of redemption there are mysteries that the human mind cannot fathom, many things that human wisdom cannot explain; but nature can teach us much concerning the mystery of godliness. Every shrub, every tree bearing fruit, all vegetation, has lessons for our study. In the growth of the seed are to be read the mysteries of the kingdom of God. . . . The teachings in God’s great book of nature bear testimony to the truth of the written word.” 8T, p. 326.)
Not only is God real and the source of nature’s activities, but the salvific works He plans—the eschatological concepts—represent a reality that will occur. For example, in Testimonies, vol, 2, p. 355, Mrs. White writes, “We believe without a doubt that Christ is soon coming. This is not a fable to us; it is a reality.”
In this context of the reality of the Biblical story man is seen as being a personal work of God that was spoiled by sin, but offered redemption. “When Adam came from the Creator’s hand, he bore, in his physical, mental, and spiritual nature, a likeness to his Maker.” (Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1952), p. 15. (Hereinafter referred to as Ed.)
The result of the eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is manifest in every man’s experience. There is in his nature a bent to evil, a force which, unaided, he cannot resist. (Ibid., p. 29.)
When man transgressed the divine law, his nature became evil, and he was in harmony, and not at variance, with Satan. There exits naturally no enmity between sinful man and the originator of sin. Both became evil through apostasy. (White, G.C., p. 505.)
But, “It is the purpose of redemption, not only to blot out sin, but to give back to man those spiritual gifts lost because of sin’s dwarfing power.” (White, C.O.L., p. 266.)
Not only are God, man, the effects of sin and redemption real, but Satan (See white, E.W., pp. 152, 153.) and the future life are real, (Ellen G. White, MS 92, 1903; quoted in Nichol, SDABC, 7:982.) as is the conflict between God and Satan that the origin of evil has caused. (See for example the book The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan.
Through this theological context of the biblical figures as portrayers of reality there runs an eschatology that deals with the development of the sin-problem in stages. These eschatological developments are also seen as being real—one of them being the latter rain figure which we are studying.
The latter rain eschatological context. For our study, basic to the eschatology one finds being set forth by Mrs. White, are two premises: (A third premise is beyond the scope of our study: that the eschatology presented accurately portrays the Biblical position.) (1) the figures represent reality, and (2) the nature of man is capable of change. This second premise is the heart of the latter rain study, for in Ellen White’s materials man can and must enter into a relationship with God that brings about a progressive change in man that is so complete he can accurately be described as a reborn and new-creature. Man is here seen as hand-crafted product (see i.e., White, Ed., p. 15.) made by God that was ruined by sin, but still being loved by His Maker, who, as soon as the fall of man occurs, (White, E.W., pp. 149, 160.) set into action a plan of restoration that develops men gradually into the creatures they would have been had Adam never fallen.
This restoration process is controlled externally by the choices of man, both as a group and as an individual, (“When the laborers have an abiding Christ in their own souls, when all selfishness is dead, when there is no rivalry, no strife for the supremacy, when oneness exists, when they sanctify themselves, so that love for one another is seen and felt, then the showers of the grace of the Holy Spirit will just as surely come upon them as that God’s promise will never fail in one jot or tittle. But when the work of others is discounted, that the workers may show their own superiority, they prove that their own work does not bear the signature it should, God cannot bless them.” Ellen G. White, MS 24, 1896. “When we have entire, whole-hearted consecration to the service of Christ, God will recognize the fact by an outpouring of His Spirit without measure; but this will not be while the largest portion of the church are not laborers together with God.” Ellen G. White, Letter 31, 1894. “Years ago the time came from the Holy Spirit to descend in a special manner upon God’s earnest, self-sacrificing workers. . . . It will be given to us when our hearts are prepared to receive it.” Ellen G. White, MS 2, 1899.) and by the developments of the great controversy that lead to the final full and complete vindication of God from any responsibility or contribution to the sin problem by all of God’s created beings, including Satan himself. (White, G.C., p. 670.)
Internally the restoration process is determined by the amount of grace that man’s daily cooperation with God, or lack of it, enables him to benefit from.
Grace is here not only an attitude of God’s toward sinful beings (White, Signs of the Times, Dec. 19, 1892.) but it is “as real as the air which circulates around the globe.” (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1956), p. 68 (hereinafter referred to as S.C.). Note: That grace is real, in addition to being an attitude of God’s, is not a concept generated by Ellen White. Edward O’Conner, for example, says the “reality of created grace” is one of the issues that Roman Catholicism has defended. See op. cit., p. 61.) It is given through certain channels or “means of grace.” (Cf. Ellen G. White, Letter 102, 1894, “The living water will flow in God’s own channels,” and Letter 33, 1895 (quoted in Ellen G. White, My Life Today [Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1952], p. 313 [hereinafter referred to as M.L.T.]) The means of grace are said to include the following: (1) home religion; (2) prayer by the contrite; (3) growing in grace; (4) growth in knowledge; (5) constant cultivation of truth; (6) drawing nigh to God; (7) dependence on God; (8) giving oneself to God’s service; (9) believing and loving truth; (10) being sanctified by truth.)
To Ellen White how much spiritual growth an individual realizes depends on his choices, the circumstances of his life, and the eschatological developments that are occurring at the time in which he lives.
The eschatological developments that immediately surround the latter rain figure include such events as are represented by the following terminology:
- The Loud Cry
- The Third Angel
- The Mark of the Beast
- The Seal of God
- The Shaking Time
- The Close of Probation
- The Seven Last Plagues
- The Time of Jacob’s Trouble
- The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
- The Life Eternal
The element common to all of these events is that they are so designed as to progressively bring all people to a point of making a decision for or against Christ (For a similar evaluation by a leading Adventist writer see Edward Heppenstall, “Joel, the Prophet Who Announced the Day of the Lord,” Review and Herald, April 8, 1971, p. 10.) under the threat of ruin and death as the result of a decision for Christ that will include a commitment to obey God’s will as expressed in the Gospel and in the ten commandments of Exodus 20. The Old and New Testaments are a continuum for Mrs. White, with non disjuncture.
This result from this commitment motif is realized in the world as the proclamation of the Gospel to all men living on the earth at the time the respective eschatological symbols become a present, rather than future, reality under the figure of the loud cry (The “loud cry” is a terminology that is used to describe a work of Gospel proclamation at a particular eschatological time. Mrs. White describes this event as follows: “During the loud cry, the church, aided by the providential interpositions of her exalted Lord, will diffuse the knowledge of salvation so abundantly that light will be communicated to every city and town. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of salvation. So abundantly will the renewing Spirit of God have crowned with success the intensely active agencies, that the light of present truth will be seen flashing everywhere.” What, Ev., p. 694.) and the third angel (The “third angel” terminology is taken from Rev. 14:1-6, and is connected with the loud cry by way of repetition. The third angel of Rev. 14:1-6 began to ‘sound’ in connection with the events of the 1840s (see Damsteegt, p. 85). The ‘loud cry’ and the ‘third angel’, when associated together, means that the message of the third angel of Rev. 18:1-6 will be repeated in a way appropriate to meet the prophecy of Rev. 18:1. Mrs. White describes this event as follows: “As foretold in the eighteenth of Revelation, the third angel’s message is to be proclaimed with great power by those who give the final warning against the beast and his image: ‘I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. 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. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.’ Revelation 18:1-6. “This is the message given by God to be sounded forth in the loud cry of the third angel.” “Those whose faith and zeal are proportionate to their knowledge of the truth will reveal their loyalty to God by communicating the truth, in all its saving, sanctifying power, to those with whom they associate. Their lives of holiness and unselfish service will be in conformity with the vital principles of the kingdom of heaven.” 8T, p. 118.) causes an agitation and separation between those who choose to obey God and those who choose not to obey because of threatened ruin. (The threatened ruin (see white, G.C., p. 607 for a brief description) attached to the issues of the conflict is sufficient to cause all people to choose one side or the other. No one is neutral. Mrs. White describes the two groups as follows: “The worshipers of God will be especially distinguished by their regard for the fourth commandment—since this is the sing of His creative power and the witness to His claim upon man’s reverence and homage. The wicked will be distinguished by their efforts to tear down the Creator’s memorial, to exalt the institution of Rome. In the issue of the contest all Christendom will be divided into two great classes—those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and those who worship the beast and his image and receive his mark. Although church and state will unite their power to compel ‘all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond’ (Rev. 13:16), to receive the mark of the beast, yet the people of God will not receive it.” White, S.M., 2:55.) It is realized in the Seventh-day Adventist Church as the direct proclamation of Rev. 3:15-17 is proclaimed—according to Mrs. White. Note the following: “Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this will cause a shaking among God’s people.” (In Mrs. White’s works the ‘shaking time’ phraseology occurs repeatedly. (See i.e.: 1T,pp. 181-183; 6T, p. 332; E.W., pp. 271, 270; S.M., 1:180; T.M., p. 112; Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts, 4 vols. [Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1860], 2:284 [hereinafter referred to as S.G.], etc) This experience, combined with “the latter rain,” and “the loud cry of the third angel” produces a pure church. (See: White, 1T, p. 183.) This result is realized as truth and error confront each other within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Such an experience can’t be seen as a counterpart to the Seal of God—Mark of the Beach however for it serves as a prepatory event for the greater conflict between the two forces of Good and Evil.) These events lead into the marking of men according to which side of the obedience-to-God’s-law issue they place themselves; (cf. White, 5T, p. 81) those who choose to obey whatever the result receive the seal of God, (The “seal of God” phrase occurs in Mrs. White’s works very often and includes a number of contexts. The following emphases are related to our study: A. “The seal of God’s law is found in the fourth commandment” of the ten commandments recorded in Ex. 20. Signs of the Times, June 14, 1910. Which “those who would have the seal of God in their foreheads must keep.” MS 27, 1899 (Nichol, SDABC, 7:970). B. “The sealing as a process is a “settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually,” so that one can’t be moved. This process proceeds the shaking time (see footnote 2, p. 56). See MS 173, 1902 (B.C., 4:1161). Therefore one’s “own course of action” determines whether or not one receives the seal (5T, p. 214). See also Ellen G. White, Sons and Daughters of God (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1955), p. 370. (Hereinafter referred to as S.D.) C. The seal as a mark affixed is presented as being impressed (1) just before the time of trouble (B.C., 7:968). (2) After a decision not to receive the mark of the beast (Letter 11, 189; B.C., 7:976). (3) Before the close of probation (see E.W., pp. 279-281; G.C., p. 613). D. The seal is received only by those “who are without spot before God” (5T, p. 216), and who “hear the word of God and do it with exactitude” (MS 20, 1899; F.L.B., p. 288). E. Results of seal being affixed: (1) Character is no longer capable of change (5T, p. 216). (2) Means one who is to be saved (B.C., 7:969). (3) Identifies those who are Christ’s at His second coming. (This concept is not a new concept—see G. W. H. Lampe, The Seal of the Spirit [London: S.P.C.K., 1951], p. 253.)) while those who choose not to obey receive the mark of the beast. (The mark of the beast is the opposite of the seal of God in Mrs. White’s works. Whereas the seal of God is associated with the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath of Exodus 20:8-11, the mark of the beast is associated with the observance of the first day of the week as a Sabbath (8T, p. 117). However, Mrs. White writes, “Sunday keeping is not yet the mark of the beast, and will not be until the decree goes forth causing men to worship this idol sabbath” (B.C., 7:977). This decree will come about, Mrs. White writes, when “Protestantism shall give the hand of fellowship to the Roman power. Then there will be a law against the Sabbath of God’s creation. . . .” (Review and Herald, Mar. 9, 1886; B.C., 7:910). Prior to this law Sunday observance is not the mark of the beast, Mrs. White says. Note the following explanation. (Here, as in the rest of our research, Mrs. White’s concepts we find to develop along an eschatological highway that has as its base a theodicy that is the key to understanding her presentation.)” “But Christians of past generations observed the Sunday, supposing that in so doing they were keeping the Bible Sabbath; and there are now true Christians in every church, not excepting the Roman Catholic communion, who honestly believe that Sunday is the Sabbath of divine appointment. God accepts their sincerity of purpose and their integrity before Him. But when Sunday observance shall be enforced by law, and the world shall be enlightened concerning the obligation of the true Sabbath, then whoever shall transgress the command of God, to obey a precept which has no higher authority than that of Rome, will thereby honor popery above God. He is paying homage to Rome, and to the power which enforces the institution ordained by Rome. He is worshiping the beast and his image. As men then reject the institution which God has declared to be the sign of His authority, the honor in its stead that which Rome has chosen as the token of her supremacy, they will thereby accept the sign of allegiance to Rome—‘the mark of the beast.’ And it is not until the issue is thus plainly set before the people, and they are brought to choose between the commandments of God and the commandments of men, that those who continue in transgression will received ‘the mark of the beast.’” (G.C., p. 449).) When all have chosen, probation—the time in which men have an opportunity to choose to obey God—comes to an end, or closes. (Note: In connection with the concepts of men and nations having periods of probationary time allotted to them Mrs. White has written some comments that are not only easy to understand, but that are quite famous among Seventh-day Adventists. We quote them here: “In the annals of human history the growth of nations, the rise and fall of empires, appear as dependent on the will and prowess of man. The shaping of events seems, to a great degree, to be determined by his power, ambition, and caprice. But in the Word of God the curtain is drawn aside, and we behold, behind, above, and through all the play and counterplay of human interests and power and passions, and agencies of the all-merciful One, silently, patiently working out the counsels of His own will. . . .” “Amidst the strife and tumult of nations, He that sitteth above the cherubim still guides the affairs of the earth. . . . To every nation and to every individual. . . God has assigned a place in His great plan. . . . Men and nations are being measured by the plummet in the hand of Him who makes no mistake. All are by their own choice deciding their destiny, and God is overruling all for the accomplishment of His purpose.” (Ed. 173).” “With unerring accuracy the Infinite One still keeps an account with all nations. While His mercy is tendered, with calls to repentance, this account will remain open; but when the figures reach a certain amount which God has fixed, the ministry of His wrath commences. The account is closed. Divine patience ceases. There is no more pleading of mercy in their behalf. . . . The crisis is fast approaching. The rapidly swelling figures show that the time for God’s visitation has about come.” (White, 5T, pp. 208, 209. See also G.C., pp. 613, 614.)) Then the seven last plagues, (The “seven last plagues” terminology comes from Revelation. Mrs. White presents these symbols as having a literal fulfillment after the time of probation has closed (E.W., p. 52). She says that they are poured out only on the recipients of the Mark of the Beast (E.W., p. 65. Also see fn. #1, p. 57), and are interpreted by their recipients as being judgments of God poured out on them because of the presence on earth of those who keep the seventh-day Sabbath in spite of laws forbidding observance of this Sabbath (E.W., p. 36; G.C., p. 615). The recipients of these “Most awful scorges that have ever been known to mortals” (G.C., p. 629), acting in harmony with their own understanding, seek to kill the bservers of the seventh-day Sabbath, and thus bring about a state eschatologically described in Mrs. White’s works as the time of trouble or the time of Jacob’s trouble (see fm. #1, p. 59). (Cf. White, E.W., pp. 36, 37).) the time of Jacob’s trouble (The “time of trouble” or more fully “the time of Jacob’s trouble” terminology is taken from the Old Testament story of Jacob at the brook Jabok. This terminology, like the other eschatological concepts we are reviewing occurs repeatedly in the works of Mrs. White. We encountered it in connection with the anointing of the Holy Spirit (see pp. 35, 36), and it occurs often in connection with the latter rain. It is a time of great personal struggle for those who have received the seal of God, Mrs. White says (see Review and Herald, May 27, 1862 (B.C., 7:984), and is successfully endured only by those who have received the latter rain (White, G.C., p. 613; cf E.W., pp. 86, 71), and who have used their probation time to overcome all acts of transgression of God’s law—the expression of His will (Review and Herald, March 14, 1912; K.H., p. 354). During this time of danger and trouble God protects His people (Letter 119, 1904; F.L.B, p. 340); see also Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets [Mountain view, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1958], p. 98 [hereinafter referred to as P.P.].) for the saints, and the second appearing of Christ (That this is a physical reality for Mrs. White see p. 50 note also the following as illustrative of Mrs. White’s concept and as a depiction of her meaning of “reality.” “In the time of trouble we all fled from the cities and villages, but were pursued by the wicked, who entered the houses of the saints with a sword. They raised the sword to kill us, but it broke, and fell as powerless as straw. Then we all cried day and night for deliverance, and the cry came up before God. The sun came up, and the moon stood still. The streams ceased to flow. Dark, heavy clouds came up and clashed against each other. But there was one clear place of settled glory, whence came the voice of God like many waters, which shook the heavens and the earth. The sky opened and shut and was in commotion. The mountains shook like a reed in the wind, and cast out ragged rocks all around. The sea boiled like a pot and cast out stones upon the land. And as God spoke the day and the hour of Jesus’ coming and delivered and everlasting covenant to His people, He spoke one sentence, and then paused, while the words were rolling through the earth. The Israel of God stood with their eyes fixed upward, listening to the words as they came from the mouth of Jehovah, and rolled through the earth like peals of loudest thunder. It was awfully solemn. And at the end of every sentence the saints shouted, ‘Glory! Alleluia!’ Their countenances were lighted up with the glory of God; and they shone with the glory, as did the face of Moses when he came down from Sinai. The wicked could not look on them for the glory. And when the never-ending blessing was pronounced on those who had honored God in keeping His Sabbath holy, there was a mighty shout of victory over the beast and over his image.” “Then commenced the jubilee, when the land should rest. I saw the pious slave rise in triumph and victory and shake off the coins that bound him, while his wicked master was in confusion and knew not what to do; for the wicked could not understand the words of the voice of God. Soon appeared the great white cloud. It looked more lovely than ever before. On it sat the Son of man. At first we did not see Jesus on the cloud, but as it drew near the earth we could behold His lovely person. This cloud, when it first appeared, was the sign of the Son of man in heaven. The voice of the Son of God called forth the sleeping saints, clothed with glorious immortality. The living saints were changed in a moment and were caught up with them into the cloudy chariot. It looked all over glorious as it rolled upward. On either side of the chariot were wings, and beneath it wheels. And as the chariot rolled upward, the wheels cried, ‘Holy,’ and the wings, as they moved, cried ‘Holy,’ and the retinue of holy angels around the cloud cried, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!’ And the saints in the cloud cried, ‘Glory! Alleluia!’ And the chariot rolled upward to the Holy City. Jesus threw open the gates of the golden city and led us in. Here we were made welcome, for we had kept the ‘commandments of God,’ and had a ‘right to the tree of life.’ E.W., P.P. 34, 35).) bring to a conclusion this part of the conflict between Satan and Christ. (See White, E.W., P.P. 36, 37, for a presentation of the themes we have reviewed here that shows many of the different terminology being used in relation to one another.)
The latter rain in eschatological perspective. The latter rain is, as we have seen, a work of grace performed by the Holy Spirit that enables men, who choose to serve Christ in obedience, to maintain their choice, even under duress, and to grow to perfection of character (Mrs. White distinguishes types of perfection, writing that “while we cannot claim perfection of the flesh, we may have Christian perfection of the soul.” (S.M., 2:32, 33.)) so that at the second appearing of Christ they are found to be like Him ready to go with Him to Heaven. There to live sinless lives in face to face communion with God. (Those who go to heaven, Mrs. White writes, “see the King in His beauty, and dwell in the presence of God and of pure, holy angels.” E.W., p. 67. See also MS 92, 1908 (B.C., 7:982), which reads in part “The people of God are privileged to hold open communion with the Father and the Son. . . . We shall see Him face to face, without a diming veil between.”)
This rain work of the Holy Spirit—or bestowal of spiritual grace (See pp. 12, 13)—occurs prior to the close of probation (See E.W., p. 71, and Review and Herald, May 27, 1892 (B.C., 7:984).) and brings to completion the preceding works of grace that occur in the soul (In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, in the Greek of the New Testament, and in the writings of Mrs. White man is a three part being (F.Ch.Ed., p. 57; see also 5T, p. 244), possessing a soul. This is a concept almost totally lost to Seventh-day Adventists today who teach man is a two part being; body and soul. The body—the dust—is united with the breath of life, and the two together form a “living soul”, it is said. For a brief presentation of this aspect of Adventist theology see Joseph Barnes, The Mind-body concept in the Thinking of Ellen G. White, Doctoral thesis, New York University, New York, 1965, p. 163; Francis D. Nichol, Answers to Objections (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1952), section IV. See also, for comparison, White, M.Y.P., p. 55; “The Lord Jesus acts through the Holy Spirit; for it is His representative. Through it He infuses spiritual life into the soul, quickening its energies for good, cleansing it from moral defilement, and giving it a fitness for His kingdom.” See also, Pacific Union Recorder, Aug. 1, 1901, p. 1: “A healthy soul in a healthy body makes a man or woman more precious than gold or silver. . . .” as man cooperates (“The Lord does not propose to perform for us either the willing or the doing. His grace is given to work in us to will and to do, but never as a substitute for our effort.” White, M.Y.P., p. 147.) with God. Therefore it is a work that comes after the other works of grace, and, whereas it also enables people to endure the struggles of Jacob’s time of trouble it is a work of grace that is not available outside of its particular eschatological setting.
The early rain grace, (see pp. 12, 13 for a discussion of this concept.) the baptism of the Holy Spirit grace, (See pp. 36-38.) that comes as one grows in sanctification, (See pp. 40-42.) have all been adequate at a different eschatological time, but at this particular eschatological point more is presented as being needed—and that need is met by the latter rain grace figure.
R. S. O. Stevens, Vicar of St. Paul’s Church in Birmingham, England writes of the beginning of his church that “this church was built to honour not God, but the great pioneers of our industrial world, whose memorial tablets line its walls.” (Leaflet, “St. Paul’s Church—The Church of Change.” (n.d.), p. 1.)
For Mrs. White the latter rain work and it’s eschatology is a direct opposite. Among those who receive the latter rain grace there is none to ascribe salvation to himself—all honor is ascribed to God, and the latter rain recipient never again dies or suffers; he lives with God forever.
The Central teaching of Mrs. White regarding the latter rain is that it brings the progressive work of grace in the soul to completion; and that the events and requirements which accompany the salvific process in men’s lives reveal the character of God to be a blending of justice, mercy, love, and righteousness, with omnipotence and omniscience.
The central purpose of the latter rain work is to give men the power to meet God’s will for them at a particular eschatological time.
The primary effect of the latter rain grace when it has been imparted is that the receiver is prepared for meeting Christ at His second coming without fault—ready for translation.
The controlling motif in the outworking of the latter rain scheme is the vindication of God from any responsibility for the existence or continuance of evil, while the ultimate result of the combined works of grace which are brought to completion by the latter rain grace is the full restoration of fallen man to the spiritual nature he had before the fall.