The Latter Rain
was a post-World War II movement within Pentecostal Christianity
which remains controversial to this day.
For clarification in discussion of the Latter Rain a distinction should be made between:
- The Latter Rain Revival (1948-1952)
- The Latter Rain Movement (1952-1960s)
- Those influenced by the Latter Rain.
Origin and influences
The Latter Rain Movement had its beginnings in the years following World War II
. It was contemporary with the evangelical awakening that was occurring with Billy Graham
at the forefront, as well as the Healing Revival with Oral Roberts
, Jack Coe
, and William Branham
. William Branham is often erroneously considered the founder of the Latter Rain because those who started it were inspired by attending one of his meetings. Rather, several leaders of Sharon Orphanage, a small Pentecostal orphanage in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, were inspired to look for a deeper dimension of Christianity after visiting Branham's meeting, and they began to fast and pray in search of it. Later that year, revival events occurred. News quickly swept across Canada and the United States, influencing many Pentecostal believers.
As the revival itself died down after a few years, those who had been changed by the doctrine formed various groups which became known as "The Latter Rain" (Movement). The Latter Rain heavily emphasized relational networks over organizational structure. In addition, association with the Latter Rain has become somewhat of a pejorative label, therefore many ministers who were influenced in some way by it are reluctant to make this well known, or choose to emphasize their lack of any formal involvement. Much of the movement, along with elements of the Healing revival, slowly dissolved into parts of the larger Charismatic movement.
For these reasons, history may never know the breadth of its influence. Latter Rain emphases are some of the most noticeable difference between Pentecostals and Charismatics as delineated, for example, by the Assemblies of God in their 2000 position paper on End Time Revival.
Latter Rain proponents saw Pentecostalism as very dry in the post-war period, and in danger of slipping into a dry or mental formalism like many of their evangelical peers. Latter Rain doctrines addressed this formalism with a series of doctrinal and practical changes.
These changes made the Latter Rain Movement distinct from the Pentecostal context from which it arose, and church life in Latter Rain influenced churches significantly different from traditional Pentecostal ones.
The Latter Rain brought in a new focus on the spiritual elements of Christianity including personal prophecy, and typological interpretation of Scripture, the restoration of the Five-fold ministry and a different eschatological emphasis. Many of the doctrinal emphases which later emerged, were outlined in seed form in George Warnock's "Feast of Tabernacles," which is the primary foundational text for the movement.
The Latter Rain broke with the dispensationalism
which had become entrenched in the ranks of Pentecostalism. Dispensationalism tended to be pessimistic in its outlook whereas the Latter Rain emphasized a victorious eschatological outlook. Rather than attempting to simply save a few souls before rise of the anti-Christ, the Latter Rain emphasized the Church as overcoming and victorious in the fact that the church would come into "full stature" as taught by Apostle Paul.
The term "Latter Rain" stems from Bible passages as Jeremiah 3:3, 5:23-25, Joel 2:23, Hosea 6:3, Zechariah 10:1, and James 5:7. The idea of a "Latter Rain" was not new to the movement. In fact, it was present from the earliest days of Pentecostalism, which believed that the return of speaking in tongues and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit marked the "Latter Rain" of God's Spirit, and that these were signs of the coming end of history. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost had been the "former rain" that established the Church, but the current "move" of the Spirit was the "latter rain" that would bring the Church's work to completion, and culminate in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which was and is imminent.
A major feature of the expected latter rain would be the "Manifestation of the Sons of God." The Latter Rain movement taught that as the end of the age approached, that the "overcomers" would arise within the Church. There was debate among various branches as to the nature and extent of this manifestation. These Manifest Sons of God, ones who have come into the full stature of Jesus Christ would receive the spirit without measure. They would be as Jesus was when He was on earth, they would receive a number of divine gifts, including the ability to change their physical location, to speak any language through the Holy Spirit, and would be able to perform divine healings and other miracles. They would complete the work of God restoring man's rightful position as was originally mandated in Genesis, and at last by coming into the full stature of Christ usher in the millennial reign of Christ. Extreme versions of this spoke of Jesus as a "pattern" Son and applied (Ps. 82:6) "ye are gods," to this coming company of believers.
"The Sacrifice of Praise" and the restoration of the "Tabernacle of David" were important themes within the Latter Rain. Dancing, lifting of hands and spontaneous praise are marks of this movement. An effort was made to show the wrong of many Christians that deny the imperative form on these verbs.
A major theme of the Latter Rain was "unity" among the believers, in the church service, in the geographic region, and at large. They taught that God saw the church organized not into denominational camps, but along geographical lines as in the book of Acts. One church, but in different locations. They expected that in the coming last days, the various Christian denominations would dissolve, and the true church would coalesce into city wide churches under the leadership of the newly-restored apostles and prophets.
The Latter Rain taught that there would be a restoration of the five ministerial roles mentioned in Ephesians 4:11: (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher). It was believed that the foundational roles of apostle and prophet had been lost after the time of the first apostles due to the Dark Ages, but that God was restoring these ministries in the present day. These ideas are part of the "prophetic movement" and "New Apostolic Reformation".
Unlike Pentecostals who traditionally held that the baptism of the Holy Spirit
usually comes after prolonged "tarrying" or waiting for the Spirit, the Latter Rain movement taught that the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit
can be imparted on one believer by another through the laying on of hands
The movement itself should be distinguished from those whom it ultimately influenced. Some branches of the movement ultimately led to cult like groups, some parts of the movement remained orthodox, and other parts of the movement moderated the doctrine and ultimately had positive effects on the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches at large.
During the early years, some of the most ardent critics of the Latter Rain and its theology came from within Pentecostalism, particularly the Assemblies of God. In 1949 the Assemblies of God condemned the doctrine of the 'Latter Rain Movement'. The General Council of the Assemblies of God, following the leadership of its superintendent E. S. Williams, stated that Pre-tribulation Rapture represented correct eschatology and they rejected the Latter Rain practice of personal prophecy accompanied by the laying on of hands, as well as the Manifest Sons of God Doctrine. One noted Assemblies of God leader, Stanley Frodsham, left the Assemblies in favor of the Latter Rain, noting the experiential similarities with Azusa Street. The stand of the other Pentecostal denominations ultimately led to the withdrawal, under pressure, of Elim Fellowship founder Ivan Q. Spencer from inter-Pentecostal fellowship.
Modern criticism of the Latter Rain, however, is primarily among Fundamentalists, as is evidenced by the hosts of websites critical of the movement. Such sites use association with the Latter Rain as a way of discrediting modern Charismatics.. Some identify the roots of more recent Charismatic trends such as Kingdom Now theology, the Kansas City Prophets including Paul Cain and the New Apostolic Reformation including C. Peter Wagner as being rooted in the Latter Rain. While there are some doctrinal parallels, the historical connections have not been well demonstrated. The Modern charismatic movement, while clearly influenced by some Latter Rain ideals such as the fivefold ministry and the "laying on of hands" generally rejects the more extreme elements of Latter Rain theology.
A small and controversial offshoot of the Latter Rain is the "Reconciliation" movement, especially those who believe in Manifest Sonship theology. Reconciliation (also called ultimate or universal reconciliation) is a doctrine of Christian Universalism focusing on God's plan to save the whole world through the atoning sacrifice of Christ. According to this tradition, the Manifest Sons of God are expected to reign on earth during a coming millennial age until ultimately every human being will be restored to harmony with God.
The following list includes some representative leaders of various branches, both past and present but is not exhaustive.
- Reg Layzell - founder of Glad Tidings church and author and influence of such books as The Key of David and Unto Perfection.
- George Warnock (who had been Ern Baxter's secretary), wrote "The Feast of Tabernacles" (1951) which became very influential not only for its view of the feasts but for its approach to the Scriptures. One identifiable mark of those influenced by the Latter Rain is their spiritual hermeneutic.
- George Hawtin and his brother Ern Hawtin, were key in the early spread of the movement. They traveled widely, and as they traveled the spirit and influence of the Latter Rain caught on.
- A. Earl Lee from southern California was one of the fathers of the movement in Southern California. He had previously been involved with Aimee Semple McPherson.
- Sister Myrtle Beall and her family ran what is now known as Bethesda Christian Church north of Detroit. This was one of the first major churches to embrace the Latter Rain, and became the center of much activity.
- James Watt, one of the original elders at the Sharon Orphanage and school, and the first to move in the distinctive "Heavenly Choir"
- J. Preston Eby was an early proponent who resigned under pressure from the Pentecostal Holiness Church in 1956 because his Latter Rain Beliefs no longer were in step with the PHC.
- Thomas Wyatt, a pastor from Portland Oregon hosted the North Battleford men at a pastor's conference thus enabling the spread of the doctrine.
Ministers Fellowship International
Ministers Fellowship International (MFI), is founder of Portland Bible College
and is the most prominent direct descendant of the Latter Rain movement, and also one of the most theologically mainstream.
- Portland Bible College in Portland, Oregon is a leading institution in the Latter rain tradition. Many of the books used by Latter Rain churches are textbooks created for Portland Bible College written by its original teachers books such as Present Day Truths by Dick Iverson and many by Kevin Conner.
- City Bible Publishing carries many contemporary books that define the movement. The Tabernacle of David by Kevin Conner & Present Day Truths are classics on Worship and Restoration.
Their leadership includes many of the significant players from the early years of the movement.
The following movements have generated controversy as documented on FactNet, a well-known website for people hurt by religious groups. It has numerous complaints for each.
- Sam Fife and "The Move". also known as "Endtime Body-Christian Ministries"
- Maranatha Campus Ministries, an outreach to college and university campuses,which derived its ideals from the Shepherding movement. It dissolved in 1989, and many of its leaders regrouped later in the 1990s to form what is now Every Nation.
- John Robert Stevens and his movement "The Walk" had Latter Rain roots. Royal Cronquist was another well known leader in this group. Like others influenced by the movement Stevens later distanced himself from the Latter Rain. Influential charismatic Author Francis Frangipane came out of Stevens' ministry, leaving before it turned in what he viewed as a negative direction.
- Assembly of the Body of Christ (ABC)
- John Gavazzoni, Kenneth Greatorex, Gary Sigler, and Robert Torango are Latter Rain-inspired Charismatic Christians who teach Universal Reconciliation and Sonship (a version of the ancient Christian doctrines of apocatastasis and theosis).
- Bishop Bill Hamon from Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Hamon has been very influential in the Charismatic movement, including being featured numerous times in Charisma Magazine. Hamon's book The Eternal Church outlines the movement, noting his presence
- Dr. Kelley Varner from West Virginia has a teaching ministry which is Latter Rain influenced and has published a number of books to this effect.
- Charles Schmitt, pastor of the large Immanuel's Church in Silver Spring, MD, and founder of the Body of Christ movement, spent time in the Latter Rain.
- Bill Britton one of the primary proponents of the Manifest Sons of God doctrine.
- Paul N. Grubb and his wife Lura of Faith Temple in Memphis. Grubb was also a sonship proponent
- Wade Taylor co-founder of Pincrest Bible School (along with Bill Britton) in upstate New York.
- Robin McMillan, pastor of the lead fellowship of Rick Joyner's MorningStar Ministries, was mentored by Wade Taylor. MorningStar which itself is very reflective of a Latter Rain ideal.
- Glenn Ewing and his son Robert Ewing from Waco, Texas. Among others, the Ewings trained Jim Laffoon, leading prophet for Every Nation.
Other Movements and Institutions
- Elim Fellowship and its college Elim Bible Institute in New York were the focus of much Latter Rain activity.
- Destiny Image Publications, founded by Don Nori, who was a prophet in a Latter Rain church before founding the publishing house. Prints titles by Joyner, Hamon, Taylor and others.
- The Independent Assemblies of God, International, led by A. W. Rasmussen.
- Church of the Living God
- Body of Christ Movement
Attempt to be Neutral