The "Latter Rain" Revival Movement Part VI

The "Latter Rain" Revival Movement<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Part VI
by Thomas Ice
      This is my final installment on the "latter rain" revival movement.  Thus, I will bring to an end my discussion on the Ephesians 5:25-27 passage and then call attention to the negative implications that this doctrine has upon pretribulationism and Bible prophecy in general.
Key Theological Concepts and Passages
A Perfect Church?
     In my previous article, I demonstrated that restorationists teach that the church must reach a level of experiential perfection before the return of Christ is possible.  They believe that Christ may not return until this is achieved.  The means that they believe bring about this perfection is an end-time outpouring of the Holy Spirit, resulting in a "latter rain" revival.  This revival will be the vehicle for perfecting the existing church and, in turn, lead to the quick conversion of millions to Christ.  The key to the revival will be the unity of the church.  Some of these beliefs are alleged to come from Ephesians 5:25-27.  I will complete an examination of that passage.
     In a nutshell, the Bible here describes the believer's legal standing before God, as won on our behalf through Christ's work on the cross.  On the other hand, Restorationist (mis)apply this text as something which the believer and the Church must grow into and become in our current experience.  I will now examine reasons why this passage should be interpreted positionally.  First, verse 25 is grounding Paul's admonition on the basis of Christ's giving of Himself sacrificially on the cross.  Within the context of this passage it is a clear reference of something that can only apply to the believer's legal standing before God.  Because Christ's giving of Himself on behalf of Believers is a summary of His gracious provision to the church for her salvation.
     Second, in verse 26, the passive participle "having cleansed," speaks of action which occurs simultaneously with the action of the verb (gave), to which it is related to in verse 25.  This means that the cleansing is related to Christ's giving of Himself on the cross-a positional and not experiential sense.  In other words, this is something that happens at justification (the moment one becomes a true Christian) and not at sanctification (the process of living the Christian life after initial faith in Christ).
     Third, the vocabulary words used in this passage are terms that are employed throughout the Bible to describe positional salvation or justification, not the process of living the Christian life or sanctification.  "Cleanse" refers to ceremonial washings within the Old Testament temple ritual that depict justification, not sanctification.  This same Greek word is used to describe positional salvation (justification) in John 15:3 when Jesus said, "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you."  "Washing of water with the word" is also a positional phrase descriptive of becoming a Christian, not being a Christian (cf. Titus 3:5).
     Fourth, the terms in verse 27, having no "spot" or "wrinkle," and that believers should be "holy" and "blameless," in this context, like the previous terms, refers to a Believer's legal standing earned by Christ in His death on the cross.  They do not speak of a current process like sanctification, as would be required for the restorationist view to have merit.  For the restorationist interpretation to be possible, this part of the passage should have used language that speaks of sanctification, which it does not.
     Fifth, when will these things be accomplished for the church?  As Lenski says, "the words indicate the final perfection of holiness at the last day."[i]  It is a future perfection to which Paul speaks.  Commentator John Eadie concludes and summarizes, after examining the meaning of this passage from the original Greek text, the following:
Such, then, is to be the ultimate perfection and destiny of the church. . . .
We have already said that the presentation is not contemporary with the consecration, but is posterior to it, and does not finally and formally take place on earth.  The "church" we understand in its full significance, as the whole company of the redeemed, personified and represented as a spiritual Spouse.  The presentation belongs therefore to the period of the second coming, . . .
The church as it now is, and as it has always been, has many spots and wrinkles upon it.  But perfection is secured by a process of continuous and successful operation, and shall be ultimately enjoyed.[ii]
     This would mean that the body of Christ is being perfected when a new individual believes the Gospel and God applies the finished work of Christ to their account.  When the last person believes, then the rapture will occur, because the Body of Christ will have been made complete.  Up in heaven, the resurrected and glorified bride, who has made herself ready (Rev. 19:1-10), will be presented to Christ in experiential perfection at the marriage supper of the Lamb.  The Church will not experience perfection before the resurrection, even though legally she is made perfect by the work of Christ.  This experience of perfection, up in heaven, will take place during the same time that the supposed "latter rain" outpouring of the Holy Spirit is said to fall upon the Church.
Theological Implications
     For those following this series, you should be able to see by now that terms like "latter rain" and "Joel's army" from Joel 2 do not in any way, shape, or form refer to the Church.  Instead they refer to God's program for Israel.  Thus, it cannot refer in any way to the church.  In fact, one of the purposes of the tribulation will be that God will purge out the rebels (unbelieving Israel) from the remnant (Ezek. 20:38) so that "all Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:26) by the time of Christ's second coming.  These passages, taken in their contexts, refer to God's program for Israel and not the Church.
     Such misinterpretation leads to ram, cram, and jamming God's plan for Israel into the Church.  This causes those who do such things to not only distort God's plan for Israel during the tribulation, but to also miss the focus for the Church, which is Christ's any-moment return at the rapture.  It is not surprising that as more Evangelicals focus upon a revival theology, that their gaze is taken away from the Blessed Hope (Titus 3:5).  John teaches that it is just such a hope "fixed on Him [that] purifies himself, just as He [Jesus] is pure" (1 John 3:3b).
     Since the Church will be taken out before the tribulation of Daniel's 70th week begins (the pretrib rapture), which I believe, then one cannot believe in a theology of restoration and latter rain.  The pretrib position teaches that the Church is raptured, not restored.  Other views of the rapture (partial, midtrib, pre-wrath, and posttrib), all mix God's program for Israel and the Church into the tribulation, thus allowing for the possibility, but not the necessity, of some form of latter rain/restoration teachings.  This is one of the main reasons why so many Charismatic leaders appear to increasingly pepper their sermons with anti-rapture statements.  They realize that one cannot be looking both for a great "latter rain" revival and an any-moment return of Christ at the rapture.  If a revival is necessary, then there is something that has to happen before Christ could return, and the rapture would have to wait until after this has convened.
     I have meet people who say that they believe in both an any-moment rapture and the necessity of an end-time revival.  This is logically impossible as noted above.  If any thing has to happen before the rapture, then it is logically impossible that the rapture is imminent.  Yet, even after asking those who hold this position for an explanation that would resolve this clear conflict, they cannot verbalize one.  They are usually quick to tell me that God can to things that appear impossible to us and continue believing two contradictory views.  The impossible things that God does in history do not relate to resolving contradictions, but refers to Him accomplishing things that a finite, fallen human being lacks the ability to perform.  God never has or will accomplish things that contradict His Word.  Instead, He performs His will in His own time in His way.  So this is not an instance of a both/and, but of an either/or.  Either the pretrib rapture is true or it is not.  Or, either an end-time "latter rain" revival is true or it is not.  Fish or cut bait, but you cannot do both.
     Many have been exposed to bits and pieces of "latter rain" revival teachings through a whole host of vehicles.  For example, the Vineyard churches (founded by the late John Wimber) have been advocating a "latter rain" revival teachings since at least February 1989 when Paul Cain taught these things at their annual conference in Anaheim, California.  The "latter rain" revival doctrines have been disseminated to many others through Vineyard influenced events such as "The Praise March," or "The March for Jesus," and the well-know and well-attended "Promise Keepers."  The end-time "latter rain" revival doctrines are being disseminated through music on the radio and at various Christian events.  These teachings are quite evident on Christian radio and television.  Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) has an over abundance of "latter rain" revival advocates, although they rarely call it that.  They primarily just speak of the coming revival and sometimes bash belief in the rapture.  There are dozens of books, the last ten years, that advocate similar themes.
     An increasing number of Evangelical leaders and participants in these events are adopting "latter rain" revival ideas, some in bits and pieces rather than the whole cloth.  Some are adopting pieces such as belief in an end-time revival and the requirement of experiential unity in order to effect such a revival.  Such views are increasingly widespread and undermine the biblical teaching of pretribulationism.

     I believe that one of the major reasons why a significant segment of Evangelicals are moving away from pretribulationism is due to the increasing popularity of "latter rain" revival teachings.  To buy into such categories naturally causes an antagonism to pretribulationism and its accompanying doctrines.  I believe that many Evangelicals have been exposed to the teachings of both pretribulationism and "latter rain" revival teachings and have not reached the point of sorting out the differences so that they may come down on one side or the other.  The purpose of this series is to explain the rise and development of these teachings so that anyone, pro or con, might see them as a whole and not just absorb bits and pieces from one and wonder why their theology on these matters seem confused.  I want to clarify positions so that Believers can make an informed choice.  Hopefully, falling on the side of biblical truth and the pretrib rapture.
     As I noted in earlier articles, the New Testament does not say even one word about a revival for the church at any time let alone about an end-time "latter rain" revival.  I also noted that God is free to sovereignly send a revival at any time He pleases, but that there are no formulas or conditions in the New Testament that will bring His blessing.  The New Testament does warn in dozens of passages about the threat of apostate doctrine and behavior that Believers are to beware of.  Finally, the New Testament does teach Believers "to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1:10).  Jesus Himself is our hope.  The hope, like a betrothed bride, who longs to see and be with her groom because she loves him (and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, 1 Pet. 1:8).  Maranatha!

[i] R. C. H. Lenski, Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (Columbus, OH:  The Wartburg Press, 1946), p. 637.

[ii] John Eadie, Commentary on The Epistle to The Ephesians, (Minneapolis: James and Klock Christian Publishing Co., 1977 reprint, 1883 original publication), pp. 422-23.

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