As Jesus was approaching the fearful time of His betrayal and crucifixion, He desperately tried to forewarn His disciples of the coming crisis. On one occasion His urgent words to them were “Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.” But when the crisis actually came, Great Controversy tells us “The words which they needed to remember were banished from their minds; and when the time of trial came, it found them unprepared. The death of Jesus as fully destroyed their hopes as if he had not forewarned them" (594). Then it draws the analogy to our time when it states, “So in the prophecies, the future is opened before us as plainly as it was opened to the disciples by the words of Christ. The events connected with the close of probation and the work of preparation for the time of trouble, are clearly presented. But multitudes have no more understanding of these important truths than if they had never been revealed. Satan watches to catch away every impression that would make them wise unto salvation, and the time of trouble will find them unready.”
God’s people should know the times and seasons. Paul told the believers that the multitudes will be ignorant of the times and seasons, yet “ye brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief” (KJV 1 Thessalonians 5:4). We are given some definite clues regarding the procession of final events. In the following passage we find a peg in a sure place to establish the time sequence of the enforcement of Sunday, the sealing and the close of probation. In 7 Bible Commentary we read: “The Lord has shown me clearly that the image of the beast will be formed before probation closes; for it is to be the great test for the people of God, by which their eternal destiny will be decided. . . . [Revelation 13:11-17 quoted.] . . This is the test that the people of God must have before they are sealed. All who proved their loyalty to God by observing His law, and refusing to accept a spurious sabbath, will rank under the banner of the Lord God Jehovah, and will receive the seal of the living God. Those who yield the truth of heavenly origin and accept the Sunday sabbath, will receive the mark of the beast” (976).
The enforcement of Sunday is pinpointed as preceding the sealing and the close of probation. Enforcing the mark of the beast lights the fuse which triggers the chain reaction of final events. Another piece of the puzzle falls into place when we read this statement from Testimony to Ministers 234 which says, “The time of the judgment is a most solemn period, when the Lord gathers His own from among the tares. Those who have been members of the same family are separated. A mark is placed upon the righteous.” This tells us that the sealing or marking takes place at the judgment (Also see Testimonies to Ministers 445).
Then in 1 Selected Messages we find another piece to the puzzle. It shows that the judgment of the living will mark the close of probation for God’s professed people. “We are fast approaching the close of our probation. Let every soul inquire, How do I stand before God? We know not how soon our names may be taken into the lips of Christ, and our cases be finally decided” (White, 125). We now have the first part of a time frame. It shows that the mark of the beast test is followed by the judgment of the living where the saints are sealed, and probation is closed for those in the house of God who have failed the examination.
At this point we might ask where the latter rain and the loud cry fit into the picture? According to Ephesians 4:30, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. It was the former rain that sealed the apostles with the former rain seal. “Those who believed in Christ were sealed by the Holy Spirit ( White, 6 Bible Commentary 1055). Similarly, it will be the latter rain that will seal the 144,000 with the latter rain seal (See 6 Bible Commentary 1118). And it is the latter rain that will enable the saints to proclaim the loud cry message of Revelation 18. They will proclaim the fall of Babylon because she has “become the habitation of devils” and “her sins have reached unto heaven.” But when does that happen? 7 Bible Commentary 977 tells us that “The sins of the world will have reached unto heaven when the law of God is made void; when the Sabbath of the Lord is trampled in the dust, and men are compelled to accept in its stead an institution of the papacy through the strong hand of the law of the land.” Revelation 18:1-5 establishes the fact that the Sunday law comes before the latter rain-loud cry go forth because the loud cry proclaims that Babylon is completely fallen because she has enforced the mark of the beast. If we put all these clues together, we get the following sequence of last day events.
First, the image to the beast is set up—Sunday is enforced in the USA. This follows the terrible calamities and judgments that will be coming upon the earth at that time (See Great Controversy 589-590).
The enforcement of the mark of the beast causes a mighty sifting among God’s people. “The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul. The mark of the beast will be urged upon us. . . Chaff like a cloud will be borne away on the wind, even from places where we see only floors of rich wheat” (White , 5 Testimonies 81).
Next, the judgment of the living will begin with the house of God ( 1 Peter 4:17) after the Sunday law test.
“Now, when the great work of judging the living is about to begin, shall we allow unsanctified ambition to take possession of the heart and lead us to neglect the education required to meet the needs in this day of peril? In every case the great decision is to be made whether we shall receive the mark of the beast or his image, or the seal of the living God” (White, 6 Testimonies 130).
“Zechariah's vision of Joshua and the Angel applies with peculiar force to the experience of God's people in the closing up of the great day of atonement. The remnant church will be brought into great trial and distress. Those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus will feel the ire of the dragon and his hosts. . . All will be required to render obedience to human edicts in violation of the divine law" (White, 5 Testimonies 472-473).
The judgment determines who will be sealed by the Holy Spirit in latter rain power.
“The time of the judgment is a most solemn period, when the Lord gathers His own from among the tares. Those who have been members of the same family are separated. A mark is placed upon the righteous” (White, Testimony to Ministers 234).
At this time, probation closes for those who have known the truth.
“The time of God's destructive judgments is the time of mercy for those who have no opportunity to learn what is truth. Tenderly will the Lord look upon them. His heart of mercy is touched; His hand is still stretched out to save, while the door is closed to those who would not enter. Large numbers will be admitted who in these last days hear the truth for the first time” (White, 7 Bible Commentary 979).
When the loud cry has done its work and the sealing is finished, probation will finally be closed for all.
“An angel with a writer's inkhorn by his side returned from the earth and reported to Jesus that his work was done, and the saints were numbered and sealed. Then I saw Jesus, who had been ministering before the ark containing the ten commandments, throw down the censer. He raised His hands, and with a loud voice said, "It is done. . . " He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still" (White, Early Writings 279-280).
Someone might ask the question, What about the statement which says that “the loud cry of the third angel has already begun” (in 1888) and that “The third angel’s message is swelling into a loud cry." A careful reading of the statements that speak of the loud cry beginning in 1888 will reveal that what they had at that time was the beginning of the light whose glory would fill the earth. In 1 Selected Messages 363 we read, “This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth.” In other words, it was the ‘beginning’ of the light that was yet to come. It wasn’t the full message, but the preliminary to it. And the reason it never developed beyond the preliminary stage was due to the opposition to it. “The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world” (White, 1 Selected Messages 234-235).
Another point has to do with the outpouring of the latter rain. Many sincere people believe that the latter rain began to fall in 1888. But here again, a careful reading of the passages that speak about it will show that the latter rain was hanging over their heads, yet it was prevented from being poured out by the reaction to the messages of Jones and Waggoner. 1 Selected Messages 234-235 states, “By exciting that opposition Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. . . The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world.” A statement in 1 Selected Messages 191 appearing in the Review of 1892 indicates that the latter rain was still future. “Today you are to have your vessel purified that it may be ready for the heavenly dew, ready for the showers of the latter rain; for the latter rain will come, and the blessing of God will fill every soul that is purified from every defilement."
There are biblical reasons for believing that the loud cry has not yet taken place. When the loud cry goes forth, it declares that Babylon is fallen and that her sins have reached unto heaven. That doesn’t happen until she has enforced the mark of the beast. In 1888 there was a Sunday law bill being debated in the US congress, but it never became law. God evidently held it back because His people were not ready. However, had the message of 1888 been accepted, God would have allowed the final events to move forward and poured out the latter rain. The loud cry would have gone forth declaring, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen.”
Because Ellen White makes the statement in Testimonies to Ministers 507 that the latter rain “may be falling on hearts all around us, but we shall not discern or receive it,” some have assumed that the latter rain could be a quiet, unobtrusive event. Yet how was it when the former rain was poured out at Pentecost? Was it in small dribbles? Acts 2 states, “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.” Of course, not everyone living in Jerusalem at that time realized that the former rain was falling around them. Neither will everyone know when the latter will be falling around them. But it will be a powerful event. Ellen White wrote: “ I saw the latter rain was coming as [suddenly as] the midnight cry, and with ten times the power” (Spalding-Magan Collection 4).
The sealing latter rain is bestowed at the time of the judgment when sins are blotted out, according to Acts 3:19, but this doesn’t take place until the mark of the beast has been enforced. So we can know that the latter rain has not yet been poured out and that the loud cry has not yet gone forth. However, we should earnestly be preparing for it by allowing the former rain to do its work of purifying us from every besetment and sinful habit.