Monday, June 9, 2014

Does James teach the Latter Day Rain doctrine?

One verse often cited to attempt to prove the doctrine of the Latter Day Rain (that is, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our modern day, leading to the soon-to-be second coming of Christ) is found in the epistle of James:
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. [James 5:7; KJV]
The usual explanation by those who appeal to this verse is that the "early" rain was in the days of the apostles, and the "latter" rain is in our modern times, preparing us for the "coming of the Lord." One example of this:
4. They Received the Holy Ghost and Spoke in Tongues During the Early Rain
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 (James 5:7). At Pentecost the early rain fell: But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel (Acts 2:16). And…I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28). In the early rain during the early church period, EVERY GIFT AND FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT WAS MANIFESTED IN THE CHURCH until the nine gifts and the nine fruits of the Spirit hung as eighteen perfect apples upon the perfect tree. The Early Church is our pattern today. THE EARLY CHURCH HAD THE HOLY GHOST BAPTISM WITH THE EVIDENCE OF SPEAKING WITH OTHER TONGUES. [Ernest Angley; 30 Bible Teachings Why You Must Have the Holy Ghost to Make the Rapture; source; emphases in original]
Is this a correct understanding of James 5:7? Let's read the full context of it (verse 7 is in bold):
5:1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! 4 Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. 5 You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you. 7 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. 10 As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. [James 5:1-11; NASB]
James spends verses 1-6 discussing the corruption of the rich who abuse their power and resources to oppress their workers and fellow man. Of course, wealth itself isn't bad, and James isn't condoning a kind of communist-like "sharing of the wealth," but he is speaking out against those who would use their wealth to make themselves superior to another man. The "therefore" in verse 7 demonstrates that James is making a concluding, continuous thought from the previous verses - in other words, it isn't coming out of isolation. In light of the corruption of the wealthy and powerful, James tells his "brethren" (most likely the poorer, oppressed Christians) to be patient until "the coming of the Lord," when these wrongs shall be made right.

James then makes a metaphor in regards to patience. He compares the patience of Christians to a farmer who "waits for the precious produce of the soil," until it "gets the early and the late rains." These "early" and "late" rains, however, are referring to literal rains: the "early" rains during the planting season, which were in October and November; and the "late rains" just before the harvesting season. Both rains took some time to happen, and would sometimes last quite a while, but the farmers waited and would bear with them, knowing that they would in the end receive their produce. James goes on from verses 8-11 to encourage the believers to be patient like a farmer would be.

A few things to note from this...

First, the focus of James is not on an "early" or "latter" rain, but on patience and endurance. That is, we endure our present sufferings because we know a day will come when all suffering will end. James mentions rain to briefly bring up a metaphor, but the larger point was in regards to a farmer's patience for rain, and hence we too must be patient for the coming of God.

Second, we should remember that those who uphold the Latter Day Rain doctrine believe that both the rain and the so-called "harvest of souls" are both happening now. However, in the context of James 5:7, this "late rain" spoken of happened before the harvest. If the Latter Day Rain doctrine really functioned as James 5:7 described it, then you would have the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, perhaps several months of inactivity, and then the great revivals would be breaking out.

Third, there is absolutely nothing here speaking about the end times. As was pointed out before, James is using a brief metaphor regarding the patience of farmers to speak of the patience of Christians. He was not telling the Christians to look for a "later rain" of the Holy Spirit, but to be patient like farmers who await the changing of the seasons. It would have been especially silly for James to tell Christians to show patience in regards to the "early" rain if he and his contemporaries lived during the time period of the "early" rain.

In the end, what we learn is that this verse from James does not teach the Latter Day Rain doctrine.

To be fair, it should be noted that there are some who uphold a kind of "latter day rain" belief in the end times, but who likewise recognize that James 5:7 is not speaking about this doctrine (such as David Guzik, to cite an example). They, too, recognize that James is merely speaking of a metaphor for farming, not attempting to create eschatological doctrine.