The "Latter Rain" Revival Movement Repackaged: Understanding Their Mystical, Metaphysical, Transformation<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
by Thomas Ice
In our previous issue, I began a series on a significant influence within Evangelicalism called "latter rain" theology. I began tracing its history and development and will continue in this installment. I hope to show that this theology distorts God's plan for history when they claim a latter day glory that is meant for Israel and not the church. I also hope to show that "latter rain" teachings confuse the current church age and the tribulation.
In the last installment, I was providing a historical rundown on restoration movements in general. I had surveyed the origins of Pentecostalism and how it was born out of a "latter rain" theology. This began to wane in the 1920's as Pentecostals adopted some of the tenants of fundamentalism, especially dispensationalism.
New Order of the Latter Rain
The late 1940s saw a reemergence of "latter rain" teachings at Sharon Orphanage and Schools in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada, among Pentecostals. George Hawtin and P. G. Hunt were key figures in North Battleford, who along with others, launched a movement characterized by the following distinctives:
(1) William Branham, who exercised the laying on of hands in his healing ministry; (2) healing evangelist Franklin Hall's emphasis on fasting and prayer; (3) the church government format in use by the Independent Assemblies of God, which stressed the autonomy of the local church; and (4) the emphasis on the "new thing" of Isaiah 43:19.[i]
As the movement continued to develop it spawned a large collection of teachings, terms, and vocabulary for communicating "latter rain" thought. While many of the following terms have true biblical significance, I want to list some of the words and phrases often associated with "latter rain" doctrine so that readers will be able to discern whether a given phrase is used in a "latter rain" context.
Feast of Tabernacles Tabernacle of Moses
Tabernacle of David Revival churches
Present day truths Five-fold ministry
Manifested sons of God Spiritual Israel
Bride company New breed
Joel's army Elijah Company
Many-membered man child Jezebel spirit
Birthing in the spirit Overcomers
Covering Joshua Generation
New thing Omega Army
The latter rain movement has created quite a stir among Pentecostals. At the 1949 General Council of the Assemblies of God meeting in Seattle, Washington, a resolution was adopted disapproving of the practices of the "latter rain" movement.
RESOLVED, That we disapprove of those extreme teachings and practices which, being unfounded Scripturally, serve only to break fellowship of like precious faith and tend to confusion and division among the members of the Body of Christ, and be it hereby known that this 23rd General Council disapproves of the so-called, "New Order of the Latter Rain", to wit:
1. The overemphasis relative to imparting, identifying, bestowing or confirming gifts by the laying on of hands and prophesy.
2. The erroneous teaching that the church is built upon the foundation of present day apostles and prophets.
3. The extreme teaching as advocated by the "new order" regarding the confession of sin to man and deliverance as practiced, which claims prerogatives to human agency which belong only to Christ.
4. The erroneous teaching concerning the impartation of the gift of languages as special equipment for missionary service.
5. The extreme and unscriptural practice imparting or imposing personal leading by the means of utterance.
6. Such other wrestings and distortions of Scripture, interpretations which are in opposition to teachings and practices generally accepted among us.[ii]
"Latter rain" teachings are also said to have made significant inroads into the Charismatic movement of the 1960s and '70s. Some of the "beliefs and practices of the Latter Rain that found their way into the Charismatic renewal were the 'foundational ministries' of Ephesians 4:11, tabernacle teaching, the feast of Tabernacles, and the 'foundational truths' of Hebrews 6:1-2."[iii] Vehicles within the Charismatic movement favoring "latter rain" distinctives included Logos Journal and the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International headed by Demos Shakarian.
Third Time's The Charm
The 1980s saw a third wave of "latter rain" teachings within the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. However, this time the latter rain/restoration teachings are not content to merely sit back and be a part of only a spiritual revival, without the power displays of "signs, wonders, and miracles." Today's blend wants power, dominion, health and wealth, and socio-political change. The contemporary onslaught of "latter rain" teaching has virtually taken over today's Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. As we stand on the threshold of the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Pentecostal/latter rain movement, it is, without a doubt, the strongest influence within Evangelicalism.
Typical of a contemporary "latter rain" event was the "Take It By Force Conference" in Phoenix, August 1-4, 1989, sponsored by an organization called "The Forceful Men." A six-page, full-color ad announcing the conference was run in the May, 1989 issue of Charisma. The militant tone was set when the copy announced that "God is raising up a new generation to shake this world, a Joshua generation, '. . . invade, conquer and possess the land.'" The main section of the ad displayed across the top four famous Pentecostal events, implying that the Take It By Force conference would have continuity with them. One of the events listed was the latter rain revival in 1948 at North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada. The ad said concerning North Battleford: "God promised that He would restore everything that the church had lost." Typical "latter rain" belief.
Until recently, "latter rain" formulation was placing great stress upon their prophecy that Christ will return around a.d. 2000, thus making the 1990s the time when the Church will come together and experience the great end-time harvest. "Latter rain" teaches that the maturity of the Church will be accomplished through the restoration of the gifted men mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. This viewpoint, received as a new, prophetic revelation and not based on interpretation of the text, believes that the 1950s saw the restoration of evangelists; the 1960s the pastor; the 1970s the teacher; the 1980s the prophet; and the 1990s will see a revived office of apostles. The result of this supposed return to first century Christianity will reap the following result:
The restoration of the apostle to full recognition and authority will bring the Church to maturity, unity, and proper Church structure. Signs and wonders will be wrought which will cause the world to look to the Church for answers and miracles needed. Whole nations will turn to God. The Church will become glorious and victorious and cause the glory of the Lord to fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. When all five-fold ministries are fully restored, all the saints are moving in their membership ministry, and the Church is unified and perfected, when Jesus can return and set up His Kingdom and establish His eternal reign with His Bride/Church. Planet Earth will be purified to become the headquarters for Jesus and His Church to rule and reign over His vast domain forever and ever and ever forevermore. Amen![iv]
This version of restoration/latter rain appears to be a blend of postmillennialism and premillennialism. Some postmillennialists have taught that the kingdom will dominate planet earth when a majority of the population is converted and the church is perfected. Bill Hamon has taken that postmillennial idea and placed it within a non-dispensational premillennial framework. Hamon's type of premillennialism sees the church age ending in victory, not apostasy, as dispensationalism believes. After all, "latter rain" Pentecostalism is the end-time perfection of the church to which things are building. At least, that's what they say.
How does this blend look? When talking about the current role and destiny of the church, Restorationists speak of her eventual victory before Christ returns. This is a postmillennial concept. However, when speaking about future events such as the second coming, they are premillennial. Thus, they hold to a form of postmillennialism wrapped within the overall framework and vocabulary of non-dispensational premillennialism, which is extremely vocal in their objection to the pretribulational rapture.
Restorationist Rick Godwin typifies this aggressive blend of a postmillennial view of a current victorious and glorious church coupled with anti-rapture rhetoric.
The Lord is going to have a "Glorious Church" before He returns. . . . The Glorious Church is to be a mighty army of over-comers through whom God reveals and demonstrates Himself to man. . . . We are to be an army on the offensive, taking the fight to the enemy, instead of sitting around waiting for the Rapture. We are not instructed to "Hold the Fort"-we are to TAKE THE LAND! . . . Over infatuation with the Rapture produces a stagnant and sterile people. The OVERCOMER doesn't care WHEN Jesus comes-He is simply "occupying until He comes." (emphasis in original)[v]
"Latter rain" advocate, Rick Joyner says,
This is the hour when the church will arise as never before to aggressively attack every stronghold of the enemy. A divine militancy is coming upon the church that will strike gripping fear into the heart of every power of darkness. . . .
The church will not abandon the world in defeat, fleeing when her light is needed the most. She is about to rise to her full spiritual stature.[vi]
Increasingly, many are adopting this mentality of victory, coupled with anti-rapture oratory.
An Uneasy Marriage
Perhaps by now you are asking that question that would naturally arise at this point: "If Pentecostalism has such a rich and obvious history of 'latter rain' teaching, then why do they also have a rich history of many who object to such teachings?" In fact, virtually all of the material I have read over the past few years raising objections and warning people about restoration/latter rain doctrine and practice have come from Pentecostals themselves. Why is this?
It is not unusual within any movement as large and diverse as Pentecostalism that rival camps of thought would arise. In addition to the "latter rain" influence, dispensationalism has also added its imprint upon Pentecostalism. While it may be true, that these two systems are antithetical to one another in many ways, it is nevertheless a fact that both have had great popularity and influence at various times within Pentecostalism. Based upon current trends it seems obvious that the overall movement is clearly moving away from dispensationalism. This was clearly illustrated to Robert Dean and I when we had a four-hour discussion with three leaders from the Kansas City Fellowship of Churches in the early 1990's. They informed us that out of approximately 45 staff members, not one currently held to the pretrib rapture. Very likely, almost all had held the view a few years earlier.
Early Pentecostalism was born out of a motivation and vision for restoring to the church apostolic power lost over the years. Now she was to experience her latter-day glory and victory by going out in a blaze of glory and success. On the other hand, dispensationalism was born in England in the early 1800s bemoaning the latter-day apostasy and ruin of the church. These two major streams within Pentecostalism have radically different views of the church and the end times.
The latter rain teaching came out of the Wesleyan-Holiness desire for both individual (sanctification) and corporate (eschatological) perfection. This is why early perfectionist teachers like Wesley, Finney, and Mahan were all postmillennial and social activists. Revivalism was gaged by both personal and public change or perfection. It follows then that one who believes in personal perfection should also believe that public perfection is equally possible. Those who believe the latter are postmillennialists. After all, if God has given the Holy Spirit in this age to do either, then why not the other? If God can perfect individuals, then why not society?
However, as the 1800s turned into the 1900s, social change was increasingly linked with Darwin's theory of evolution. The evolutionary rationale was then used to attack the Bible itself. To most English-speaking Christians it certainly appeared that society was not being perfected, instead it was in decline. Critics of the Bible said that one needed a PhD from Europe before the Bible could be organized and understood. It was into this climate that dispensationalism was introduced into America and to many Bible believing Christians it made much more sense of the world than did liberalism.
Dispensationalism, in contrast to Holiness teaching, taught that the world and the church (visible) was not being perfected, instead it was in apostasy and heading toward judgment. God is currently in the process of calling out the remnant through the preaching of the gospel. Christian social change would not be permanent, leading to the establishment of Christ's kingdom. Instead a cataclysmic intervention was needed (Christ's second coming), if society was to be transformed. Another emphasis was that the common man could understand the Bible without the enlightened help of a liberal education, once he understood God's overall plan for mankind as administered through the dispensations. Thus, dispensational theology made a lot of sense to both Pentecostal and evangelical believers during this time.
In the 1920s dispensationalism began to have a great influence within Pentecostalism. Pentecostal Huibert Zegwaart has noted that "Many of the early Pentecostals came from dispensationalist circles."[vii] Donald Dayton said that the form of Pentecostal eschatology, "namely dispensationalism, is quite accidental; it happened to be the form of eschatology the early Pentecostals brought along from their former denominations."[viii] Thus, denominations like the Assemblies of God moved away from doctrines like the "latter rain" teaching and generated official positions against those teachings.
As we enter the new millennium, dispensational influence, for a lot of reasons, is on the decline within both Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism as well. Thus, things like the pretrib rapture (once considered orthodoxy within Pentecostalism) are likewise on the decline. At the same time such "latter rain" teachings as the present glory and victory of the church before the second coming (a form of postmillennialism) are rapidly gaining popularity.
The attractiveness of the perfection of the church teachings within "latter rain" theology is making a comeback within the church at the same time that concepts of perfection are increasingly popular within secular society as well. "Techno-mysticism," in the form of self-help and New Age teachings proclaim the mystical perfectibility of the individual as well as society. Thus, people today are predisposed toward, not a moral perfection as heralded 100 years ago, but rather a mystical, metaphysical transformation which could happen in an instant of time.
The Pentecostal/Charismatic movement has a tradition of both latter rain/restoration teachings as well as a dispensational stream. However, at many points, these are contradictory teachings which appear to be on a collision course. Either the church age is going to end with perfection and revival of the church or it will decline into apostasy, preparing the way for the church to become the harlot of Revelation during the tribulation.
(To Be Continued . . .)
[i] Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), p. 532.
[ii] Robert Crabtree, "New Wave Theology," (privately printed paper, 1987), pp. 19-20.
[iii] Dictionary, p. 534.
[iv] Bill Hamon, "God's Wave of Restoration for the 1980's," Thy Kingdom Come, Aug., 1987, p. 11.
[v] "Vision of the Eagle's Nest Christian Fellowship," in Tape and Book Catalog, July, 1990, p. 6.
[vi] Rick Joyner, Mobilizing the Army of God (Springdale PA: Whitaker House), p. 143-44.
[vii] Huibert Zegwaart, "Apocalyptic Eschatology and Pentecostalism: The Relevance of John's Millennium for Today," Pneuma (Vol. 10, No. 1; Spring 1988), p. 4.
[viii] Donald Dayton cited in Zegwaart, "Apocalyptic Eschatology," p. 4.
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