When I was in graduate school in 1977, I met a conference president at a church nearby and had a chance to talk with him after potluck. I asked him some questions.
The questioning went something like this:
Q: What makes the final generation the final generation that did not make the final generation out of any previous generation? How will the final generation be different from any other?
A: They will have put away all their sins.
Q: Why will the final generation have put away all their sins and not so any generation before them?
A: They pray more, study more and worship more.
Q: Why do they pray more, study more and worship more?
A: They try harder.
Q: Why does the final generation try harder?
A: . . .
He didn’t answer me to my satisfaction, nor did I think I had the correct answer either. I asked these questions because I needed to know. I was not trying to put him in a corner. I believed the answer why the final generation becomes the final generation is tantamount to entering the final stages of God’s plan for that generation. I thought something was missing; I was searching for it.
So, why will the last generation become the last generation and not any generation before it? Is something missing? I believe we need the latter rain, but what will bring that about? I had heard that we will not receive it until we are completely without sin, so I tried very hard to get rid of all the sin in my life. I’m not the person I was when I started on my Christian journey, but I have not attained perfection.
Adam and Eve were sent out of Eden because of only one sin, and we will not enter paradise with even one sin remaining, so how will we attain perfection? I have listened to many presentations on the latter rain which have told me that the latter rain does not change the character; there is no character development under the latter rain.
Since the Bible does not say much about the latter rain, I would like to present one Ellen White quotation. Contrary to what many say, this quotation tells me there IS spiritual growth under the latter rain. It can be found in Testimonies to Ministers in the chapter, “Pray for the Latter Rain” page 506:
The Lord employs these operations of nature to represent the work of the Holy Spirit. As the dew and the rain are given first to cause the seed to germinate, and then to ripen the harvest, so the Holy Spirit is given to carry forward, from one stage to another, the process of spiritual growth. The ripening of the grain represents the completion of the work of God's grace in the soul. By the power of the Holy Spirit the moral image of God is to be perfected in the character. We are to be wholly transformed into the likeness of Christ. (Bold supplied)
In spite of all the times I have heard or read otherwise, this clearly tells me there is spiritual development under the latter rain. Shouldn’t we be seeking these showers of righteousness, of course not leaving out the work of the former rain? We need both.
Ellen White states concerning the former rain, “But unless the former rain has fallen, there will be no life; the green blade will not spring up. Unless the early showers have done their work, the latter rain can bring no seed to perfection” (Testimonies to Minister, 506).
In the same article, Ellen White calls the latter rain “perfecting latter rain.” Are we to be perfect before the latter rain comes, or is it to perfect us? Sister White tells us we must be living up to the light we have and daily advancing,
But there must be no neglect of the grace represented by the former rain. Only those who are living up to the light they have will receive greater light. Unless we are daily advancing in the exemplification of the active Christian virtues, we shall not recognize the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain. It may be falling on hearts all around us, but we shall not discern or receive it. Testimonies to Minister, 507 (Bold supplied)
It is not something that we earn, but a gift from God. In the last days the third angel’s message is justification by faith. Aren’t we by faith to know that God accepts in the judgment through the life and death of Jesus (justification by faith) and is waiting to give us the latter rain?
We should not be asking ourselves if we are ready for Jesus to come, because the answer will be “no.” Instead, we should be asking if we are ready for the perfecting, sealing latter rain. This answer should be “yes,” because we are accepted (justified) by faith alone. With this confidence, we should go forward into the judgment to receive the autumn showers.
What will make the last generation the last generation that was not so with any previous generation? I believe it is the latter rain, brought about by faith in the justifying life and death of Jesus. We are not to attempt to enter by faith with Jesus into the most holy place because we are perfect (totally sanctified), but because we are perfect in Christ, trusting in justification by faith. When we enter we will receive the perfecting showers, not because we are already perfect, but because we are living up to the light we have, daily advancing. Then “. . . He will finish the work, and cut [it] short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth" (Romans 9:28).
When we apply justification by faith to the message of the third angel and enter into the holy of holies by trusting in the justifying grace of God, we will have all our remaining sinfulness taken from us by the perfecting showers of the latter rain. When we understand this as we should, we will have “sweet love, joy and peace.” (Early Writings, 56)