In the prophetic parable of the ten virgins, we notice an unusual encounter between the “wise virgins” and the “foolish virgins” in which the foolish virgins recognize, not only that they are running out of oil (the apparent presence of the Holy Spirit); but that the wise virgins obviously have an abundant manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
The conflict between Charismatic believers and traditional non-Charismatic believers over the manifestation of certain gifts of the Spirit has not generated this open, church-wide recognition of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, this must be a future event that represents a significant change in the status quo.
But, what is this event taking place among the wise virgins and recognizable to, but apparently unobtainable by, the foolish virgins?
I have been deeply interested in the accounts of the underground church in China related to me by Jim Hester, an RN and missionary whose medical work with special needs orphans in China brought him into contact with, and subsequent interaction with the underground church there.
Under Chairman Mao, the church was heavily persecuted, and most of the founding fathers of the church in China are now martyred or imprisoned. But the faith is spreading rapidly in China these days in many of the same ways that the early church spread in the Book of Acts, and it is accompanied by many supernatural signs and wonders, including the raising of the dead.
Jim is filled with joy as he relates the evangelical zeal, love, and unity of the persecuted underground church. At the same time, he is deeply grieved by the condition of the church in America, including the condition of those denominations and fellowships of the Charismatic movement because of our obvious immaturity, division and strife, and the fact that we are not corporately manifesting the fullness or the unity and glory of Christ in the world.
Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus fits our current condition in that we are divided and blown around by winds of doctrine and by deceptions of men who are themselves deceived. The future condition of the “wise virgin” type of church during the end time tribulation (as manifested in part by the persecuted underground church in China and other places around the world is prophetically described as follows:
“His intention was the perfecting and the full equipping of the saints (that they should do) the work of ministering toward building up Christ’s body (the church); (that it might develop) until we all attain oneness in the faith and in the comprehension of the knowledge of the Son of God, that (we might arrive) at really mature manhood: the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ and the completeness found in Him” (Eph 4:12-13, Amplified).
Like Jim, I am deeply grieved over the current condition of the church in America and the western developed nations; but I have the hope given to me by the Lord in His revelation of the meaning of the parable of the ten virgins and the application of the latter rains outpouring of the Spirit on the “wise virgins” after the church is awakened.
As I studied and meditated on the events of the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the 120 upper room believers, my attention was drawn to the distinctions between an “early” and a “latter” rain and toward the fact that Joel’s prophecy initially appears to have nothing at all to do with the church.
Joel says, “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. And it shall come to pass afterward (in the last days) that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit” (Joe 2:23, 28-29).
[As we go on, keep in mind that the term, “the last days,” refers to the entire church age from the resurrection of Jesus to the day of the Lord.]
No one, apart from the specific revelation of the Spirit of Truth, would be able to discern the application of Joel’s prophecy to the church; but, after the outpouring of the Spirit on the 120 upper room believers, Peter revealed that application. Peter said, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days,’ saith God, ‘I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit’” (Act 2:16-18, quoting from Joe 2:28-29).
It is of great interest to me that this passage in Joel cannot possibly interpreted on its own as applying to the church; and what it presents is a paradox. Yet in the Book of Acts, we read Peter’s explanation to the crowd as he quoted from Joel’s prophecy with this introduction: “this is that which was spoken through the prophet Joel.” I do not believe Peter struggled with the paradox; but I also do not think he could have anticipated the application of this prophecy to the church prior to the outpouring on the day of Pentecost. It came to him as a direct revelation from the Spirit; and we know, therefore, that the prophecy concerning the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh is for the church as spiritual Israel.
So, we make the following observations from Joel’s prophecy as Peter related it to the church:
- The promise of the restoration of natural former and latter rains to literal Israel points to and illustrates an outpouring of the Spirit on spiritual Israel (the church) as both the former and the latter rains to bring in the complete harvest.
- “All flesh” does not mean all men and women whether believers or not because the outpouring began with only 120 in the upper room. Therefore, the inclusive “all” means both Jews and Gentiles who receive Christ in faith.
- We know by context that it is a progressive outpouring beginning on the day of Pentecost and continuing; first as the early rains, and then as the latter rains.
What this means, contrary to the opinion of many, is that there is no specific prophetic discontinuance of the outpouring from beginning to end; only a difference in the volume of the outpouring as it parallels the natural rainfall patterns in Israel. So, how do we account for the historical fact that there has been a drought of this outpouring on the church at large, and that the corporate church, in spite of the Charismatic renewal, has not generally manifested the signs of this outpouring of the Spirit, other than the gift of speaking and/or praying in tongues, either as a continuance of the early rains or as the heavy latter spring rains?
Our observation of historical reality demonstrates that wherever the church has been institutionalized by denominational bureaucracy, including charismatic denominational bureaucracy, it has also been hindered by “winds of doctrine” and by the deceptions of men who are themselves deceived. And, it is important to note that the institutionalization of the church is basically non-existent in the underground persecuted church wherever it is found in the world today.
If we examine the text of Joel’s prophecy carefully we will find that the promise of restoration covers two distinct time frames: first as distinct early seed germination rains, and secondly as distinct latter harvest producing rains. What are we to say then concerning this prophecy of early and latter rains? The context suggests that they concern both a natural restoration and a spiritual restoration. But the fulfillment of the prophecy related to the outpouring of the Spirit which began on the day of Pentecost, the day the church was born, will, by context, necessarily be fulfilled completely prior to the day of the Lord as an outpouring on the church.
|Early Rains||Latter Rains|
|Early seed germinating outpouring of the Spirit on the 120 upper room believers on the Day of Pentecost, the beginning of the church, The holy remnant of the Kingdom, spiritual Israel||The latter, harvest producing outpouring of the Spirit on spiritual Israel, the church, for the purpose of bringing in the final harvest of tribulation souls|
In Israel, the former or early rains come in November and December, preparing the soil and germinating the seed of grain crops like wheat and barley; and the latter rains which come in the spring of the year cause the crops to mature for harvest. The outpouring of the Spirit on the holy remnant of the Kingdom, the church, on the day of Pentecost is presented as an outpouring of the “early” fall rains for the purpose of germinating the seed of the newborn church of Jesus Christ (spiritual Israel). And, on that basis, we could expect an outpouring of the Holy Spirit as the “latter” spring rains to bring about the fullness of the harvest all the way through the tribulation to the last day resurrection.
James says, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord (the day the harvest will be complete). The farmer (the church) waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You, too, be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near” (Jam 5:7-8 NASB).
He tells us, through analogy, that the church, as the manifestation of Christ in the earth, is to keep a patient vigil over the land until it receives both the seed germinating early rains and the harvest producing latter rains, the heavy spring rains. What we have to read between the lines is that there is a period of lesser rainfall between the early seed germinating rains and the beginning of the latter harvest producing rains.
We believe that a limited outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost did, in fact, take place. But what about the restoration of the latter rains “as before,” the heavy rains that ripen the crop for harvest? James says the Lord is keeping a patient vigil over the land until it receives both the early and latter rains before He comes to meet both His living and dead saints in the clouds on “the last day.” Now, why is it that we can believe that the outpouring of the Spirit came upon the early church; but we have trouble believing that an outpouring of the Spirit as the “latter rains” could take place in our day?
There will be a holy remnant of “wise virgins” who will receive an outpouring of the Spirit as the latter, harvest producing rains, and who will overcome both the extreme deceptions and the extreme persecutions of the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, even though they are betrayed, imprisoned, tortured, and martyred for their faith. Yet they will overcome as an uncountable number from every nation, tribe, and tongue come to faith in Christ before his appearing.
Is this, then, something to fear? Or does your heart soar with the vision thus revealed by the Spirit to those upon whom the fulfillment of this prophecy will come?
So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain (the heavy, harvest producing rain) watering the earth. (Hos 6:3 NASB)
Arise, shine; for your light is come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you and his glory will appear upon you. (Isa 60:1-2 NASB)
By Jim Sayles (Cedar Park, TX)