The "Latter Rain" Revival Movement Part III

The "Latter Rain" Revival Movement<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Part III
by Thomas Ice
 
      What is at stake in our examination of the "latter rain" teachings is the issue of God's plan and purpose for the current Church Age in which we live and how it relates to the yet future tribulation.  I believe the Bible teaches that the Church Age is a distinct time in which God is calling out from among the Gentiles a people (Acts 15:14-18), who are combined into one new man with the Jewish remnant of this age (Eph. 2-3).  Does the Bible teach that the course of the Church Age will include a time of restoration, revival, or a "latter rain" revival?  No!  Thus, the need to examine these teachings and contrast them with what the Bible does teach.
     In previous issues I have probed into the nature and development of "latter rain"/restoration teachings.  This article will begin a comparison of these teachings and interpretations of the Bible to see if they are supported by God's Word.  This involves an interaction with some of their foundational doctrines as well as an examination of key passages from Scripture.  It is my contention that while many within these traditions use words and phrases from the Bible, they are not used in the way in which God has intended in Scripture.  I believe at many crucial points they mishandle God's Word.
 
Key Theological Concepts and Passages
Restoration
     "Latter rain" teachers say that the church began at a high point and then began a path of decline.  Around a.d. 1200 the decline bottomed out and began upward progress toward the full restoration which they teach we are on the verge of seeing in our day.  The first question that comes to my mind is what passages from the Bible teach this?
     Many passages teach that God's program for Israel includes a time of decline, scattering, regathering, and restoration (Deut. 4:25-31; 30:1-10).  However, no such pattern is stated concerning God's plan for the Church.
     The parables of Matthew 13 speak of the interadvent age between Christ's two comings and describe it as a time of preaching (sowing) the gospel yielding varied responses (mostly rejection).  These parables indicate that the growth of Christendom will start out small and become large.  However, nothing is said in this passage about the spiritual qualities during this time, unless, leaven implies the growth and spread of apostasy.  The New Testament is silent regarding a restoration for the Church.
     Acts 3:21 is a major passage to which Restorationist point in an attempt to give Scriptural support to their views.  Acts 3:19-21 says, "Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time."  Restorationist Dick Iverson says of this passage, "These are times when God will give the Church that which was lost."[1]   Instead, Iverson should have said, "These are times when God will give Israel that which was lost."  If this refers to Israel and not the church then Iverson is wrong.  It is clear from the context that Peter is speaking to Israel and not the church.  It is the remnant within Israel that believed in Jesus as their Messiah and made up the church.  He could not be speaking to the church since they were the ones who were repenting and returning to the Lord.
     If a father were to give a large amount of money to one of his two children and he wrote a letter to inform the child of his gift, which was intercepted and read by the second child, it would not follow that the second child could rightly claim the treasure merely by reading the first child's mail.  So it is with the Bible.  Scripture written to and referencing Israel are meant for Israel, even though another party may read them and gain insight and appreciation for their common father.  Letters addressed to the church speak of things the Father has for her and not Israel.  Therefore, it is important, especially when examining prophetic passages, to know to whom He is addressing.
     Now let us look at some specific points from this passage so that we might come to understand it in its intended context.  First, as in his Acts 2 sermon, Peter is speaking to a Jewish audience whom he has accused of crucifying Christ.  Notice the terms he used in verses 13-15 to heap guilt upon Israel:  "you delivered up and disowned," "but you disowned," "but  [you] put to death the Prince of life."  In verse 17 Peter told the Jewish crowd that they had "acted in ignorance," which set the stage for his call for them to repent and accept Jesus as their Messiah and the Messiah of Israel.  Then, after they accept Jesus as Messiah (Zech. 12:10), their promised Millennial Kingdom would be established, called by Peter in this passage the "times of refreshing."
     Second, another confirmation that Peter is talking about Israel's Kingdom is seen in the noun "restoration" (3:21).  The same word is used as a verb in Acts 1:6 when the disciples kept asking Jesus before His ascension, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?"  Even after forty days of the Lord "speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3), His disciples were wondering about the timing of the arrival of Israel's kingdom.  Notice, the Lord's teaching did not change their basic view of the kingdom, instead their questions revolve around the timing of the kingdom.  As the reader follows the flow of the context in the early chapters of Acts, it is clear that this is the same concern Peter is addressing to the group in chapter three.  He proclaims that the condition for the coming of the kingdom is to accept Jesus as Israel's Messiah, something that will take place at the end of the tribulation period.
     Third, the Old Testament did not predict the Church, but it did predict the coming of the Messianic kingdom.  The New Testament clearly reveals that the church was a mystery (secret) in Old Testament times.  This is not merely the logical conclusion of applying the literal hermeneutic and observing that the Church is not foreseen in the Old Testament.  Instead, passages explicitly declare this.  Romans 16:25-26, "according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets."  Ephesians 3:1-9, "you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit . . ." (4-5)  ". . . to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God" (9).  Colossians 1:24-28, "which is the church . . ." "the mystery which has been hidden from the {past} ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints" (26).  These passages tell us that the current age was a mystery during Old Testament times.  Therefore, how could references to Old Testament passages and events be predictive of God's plan for the Church?  They cannot!  Once again, restoration/"latter rain" teachers are (mis)applying passages which refer to Israel and wrongly linking them to the Church.  This results in the twisting and distortion of Scripture.
     In a desperate attempt to support their views of the restoration of the church, Restorationists sometimes present a study of the word "restore" from the Bible.[2]  The result of these studies demonstrate that there is not one passage that even comes close to supporting their thesis of a last days restoration for the church.  Many passages speak of Israel's restoration, but not a single passage speaks of a time of restoration of the church.
     Another problem that arises from confusing God's plan for Israel with that of the Church in Acts 3:21 is stated by Dick Iverson.
 
We notice also that Christ cannot return until all that the prophets spoke be fulfilled.  Many people think that Christ could come at any minute.  He could come for them any minute, but He will not come for the Church until all be fulfilled.  In fact, the heavens MUST retain Him against that time, for when He returns He is coming for a fully restored Church-a Church that is glorious, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing.[3]
 
Earl Paulk of Atlanta, takes a similar position in his book Held In The Heavens Until. . .[4]  Iverson is correct if this passage refers to the church, but he is woefully wrong if it refers to God's plan for Israel instead; as it does.  Error built upon error multiplies error and causes one to miss what the passage is actually teaching.  Acts 3:21 is only one of many passages which speak of a precondition for the second coming in relation to Israel (cf. Zech. 12:10; Matt. 23:37-39), however, there are no passages relating to any preconditions for the rapture of the church as Restorationists suppose.
     Since there are no passages in the Bible supporting a restoration of the church, what does the New Testament teach about the course of the current age?  It teaches that this age will be a time in which the Gospel is to be preached by believers throughout the age.  God will be saving some through faith in Christ as the gospel is preached.  However, it will also be a time of persecution for believers (John 15:18-24; 16:32-33) and increasing apostasy of Christendom (2 Tim. 3:13), during which time believers are encouraged to remain faithful to Christ regardless of the trends and pressures (2 Tim. 3:14).
     Apart from a few exceptions, the church age is not a time of prophetic fulfillment.  Instead, prophecy will be fulfilled after the rapture, in relation to God's dealing with the nation of Israel in the seven-year tribulation.  The current church age, in which believers live today, does not have a specific prophetic countdown or timetable, as does Israel and her 70 weeks of years prophecy (Daniel 9:14-27).  The New Testament does, however, provide general traits that characterize the church age in the following major passages:  Matthew 13; Revelation 2-3; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 4:3-4; James 5:1-8; 2 Peter 2:1-22; 3:3-6; Jude 1-25.  Even though specific prophecy is not given concerning the present church age, these passages do paint a general picture of the course of this age.  All indicate that apostasy will characterize Christendom during the time when this age ends with the rapture.
     On the other hand, a specific outline of Israel's history was given at the time of the birth of the nation (about 1400 b.c.).  God told Moses in Deuteronomy 4:15-40 that when the nation arrived in their promised land that they would disobey the Lord and be disciplined by being scattered throughout the Gentile nations.  Then one day they would be gathered out from the peoples of the world and be restored to their ancient land and would be blessed.  This would happen "in the latter days," declares the Lord, when "you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice" (4:30).  Restoration is for Israel during the tribulation, not for the church.
 
     (To Be Continued . . .)

Endnotes
 


[1] Dick Iverson, Present Day Truths, (Portland:  Bible Temple Publishing, 1975), p. 52.

[2] An example of this can be found in Nate Krupp's book The Church Triumphant:  At the End of the Age (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 1988), pp. 227-29.

[3] Iverson, Present Day Truths, p. 53.

[4] Earl Paulk, Held In The Heavens Until . . . God's Strategy For Planet Earth (Atlanta:  K Dimension Publishers, 1985),.

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