I teach a Sunday school class. We are teaching the children from ages 4-10 on the temple. We are using only the King James Bible. We want to put into their words of what the latter and former rain is, and how it is also applied in their lives through Jesus.
Some have taught that the phrase “latter and former rain” has two different meanings in scripture. One meaning is literal and another is spiritual. We will look at both.
Literal Meaning. The phrase the “former and latter” rains occurs multiple times in the Bible. Jeremiah 5:24; Daniel 11:29; Hosea 6:3; Joel 2:23; and Haggai 2:9 in the King James Version Bible (KJV) are just a few examples. Jeremiah 5:24 teaches that God gives us rain.
. . . Let us now fear the LORD our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season . . . (KJV) Jer. 5:24
We also find a variation of the phrase in James 5:7
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. (KJV) James 5:7
The phrase “former and latter rain” refers to the early and late rains. The former or early rain occurred in October or November. The latter or late rain occurred in March or April. Crops were planted in October or November and harvested sometime after March and April. If we compare Zechariah 10:1 in both the King James Version and the New American Standard Bibles, we discover that the phrase is talking about rain.
Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field. (KJV) Zechariah 10:1
Ask rain from the LORD at the time of the spring rain – The LORD who makes the storm clouds; And He will give them showers of rain, vegetation in the field to each man. (NASB) Zechariah 10:1
These passages refer to God’s provision and grace in meeting our needs. God takes care of those who follow Him and those who do not. He cares for the ungrateful (Luke 6:35) and those who are thankful.
Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (NASB) Matthew 6:31-33
Spiritual Meaning. Joel 2:23 is sometimes taught as having a spiritual meaning.
So rejoice, O sons of Zion, and be glad in the LORD your God; for He has given you the early rain for your vindication. and He has poured down for you the rain, the early and latter rain as before. (NASB) Joel 2:23
Some have taught that the “early rain” in Joel 2:23 refers to the first Pentecost and the “latter rain” refers to a future Pentecost when the Holy Spirit will be poured out in an unusual way. As a result revival will occur, and many will believe in God. But the passage does not say that. Some have said that this interpretation will be known only to those who “exhibit the gifts of the spirit.” Unfortunately, that could be said about any passage in scripture. We must remember that God did not give us a mystery Bible with secret meanings. The Apostles Paul and Peter told us that we can know the truth by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor.2:11-14) and by hard study (2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Peter 3:15-16). According to the Apostles Peter and John, the meaning of the Bible is not left to a few individuals who have secret insight into scripture (2 Peter 1:20; 1 John 2:20).
The book of Joel deals with the future. Chapters 1 and 2 talk about the future Day of The Lord (Joel 1:15; 2:1). We are told that sometime in the future the land of Israel will be under siege from two armies: one in the north and one in the south (Joel 2:20). Joel 2:19 reveals that God has promised to save Israel at some future time when they repent and return to Him. Joel 2:21-27 describes God’s future response to their repentance. The pastures will become green; the trees will grow and bear fruit. The grains will flourish, and they will have plenty to eat. Verse 23 says that God will restore the early and later rains. He is talking about literal rain. But it is a result of God’s blessing on Israel. It is not a reference to another Pentecost.
Joel 2:28-32 describes the coming of the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ second coming.
It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions . . . I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the LORD has said, Even among the survivors whom the LORD calls. (NASB) Joel 2:28-32
The coming of the Holy Spirit has been partially fulfilled (Acts 2:17-20), but its complete fulfillment will occur at Jesus’ second coming and in the Kingdom. The signs of the return of Jesus and the Holy Spirit will be a ‘fireworks” display in the sky. Jesus returns at the future battle of Armageddon in the Valley of Jehoshaphat which is described in Joel 3.
The term former and latter rain refers to water falling from the sky, but may the Lord rain down on you showers of blessing.