The Bible is filled with agricultural symbolism as a means of depicting God’s grand and glorious purpose for humanity (Matthew 13). God is in the business of growing things—a new crop of humans, to be exact (1 Corinthians 3:6-8).
Human beings, like a farmer’s crop, move through a growth process that culminates in a harvest of ripe produce. In agriculture there are a few specific stages involved in producing a good final harvest: the planting, the germination of the seed by the early rains, the maturation period, and finally the ripening period brought on by the last rains of the season, called “the latter rain.”
The “latter rain” is a biblical symbol for the final outpouring of the Holy Spirit, by which the corporate spiritual experience of God’s church will be brought to ripeness for the harvest (Joel 2:23-29). Rain is the stimulus and medium by which the nutrients in the soil are drawn up through the root system. In the realm of spiritual growth, the Holy Spirit is the rain agency.
…the Holy Spirit will not come to us as a nebulous or mysterious power…
OK, that’s a cool concept, but what is the latter rain in practical terms? A comparison of three biblical passages will give us clarity:
“Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, as raindrops on the tender herb, and as showers on the grass” (Deuteronomy 32:2).
“When the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26).
“The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us…. God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:5, 8).
The end-time outpouring of the Holy Spirit will not come to us as a nebulous or mysterious power, but rather in the form of unprecedented clarity regarding God’s love, which was put on display in Jesus. In other words, the Holy Spirit operates with one very specific goal, and that goal is to direct mental and emotional attention to the good news of God’s saving grace as manifested in the sacrifice of Christ. Once we understand this, we can know with certainty when we are encountering the activity of the Holy Spirit in God’s church (and when we’re not).