In recent times we have celebrated three significant biblical festivals, known as the Latter Rain feasts, or the Fall feasts. The three Latter Rain feasts are: The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), The Feast of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). In the Bible we read of God instructing Moses regarding seven major (Early and Latter Rain) feasts within Leviticus chapter 23, where the Lord refers to them as ‘His feasts’ (Leviticus 23:2). All of God’s feasts are symbolic, containing deeper meaning beyond the literal celebration. You can read more about the symbolic meaning of the seven major feasts, and how they highlight the first and second coming of Jesus here . For the purpose of this text, we will be exploring the symbolic and spiritual meaning and significance of rain; as well exploring whether Jesus is coming back as literal rain, and how we need rain to produce spiritual fruit.
Naturally we understand rain to be one of the primary sources of freshwater in the world. Rain is the result of water vapor rising into the atmosphere, cooling, condensing, and once heavy enough, releasing from clouds in the form of droplets. (1) But what is rain according to scripture? In Deuteronomy 32:2, Moses refers to teaching (or doctrine) as rain, ‘Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, as raindrops on the tender herb, and as showers on the grass.’ . The prophet Hosea says ‘Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, Like the latter and former rain to the earth.’ (Hosea 6:3) Here we read Hosea referring to the knowledge of the Lord as rain, that will come to the earth, the earth being symbolic of us (see Genesis 2:7). Through these Scriptures, we understand that rain is symbolic of teaching, doctrine, and the knowledge of the Lord (alike), helping us see how the Latter Rains are speaking of something far deeper than literal rain being poured out.
Origen, one of the most prolific writers of the Early Church, explains the spiritual significance of rain:
Therefore, Moses and the Lawgiver himself teaches us what this rain is. For he himself says in Deuteronomy, “Consider, O heaven, and I will speak and let the earth hear the words from my mouth; let my speech be awaited like rain.” Are these my words? Do we pervert violently the meaning of divine law by arguments of rhetoric? Is it not Moses who says that it is “rain” of which he speaks? He says, “Let my speech be awaited like rain and my words descend as dew, as a storm upon the grass and as snow upon the hay.” Listen diligently, hearer, lest you think we do violence to the divine Scripture when, teaching the Church, we say that either water or rainstorms or other things which seem to be said physically are to be understood spiritually. Hear how Moses now calls the word of the Law “rain,” now “dew,” now “snow.” And just as Moses uses varied and diverse [expressions] in speaking by the grace of the manifold wisdom of God, so also Isaiah when he says, “Hear, 0 heaven, and perceive with ears, o earth, because the Lord has spoken.” But also each one of the Prophets when he could open his mouth brings a rain storm “upon the face of the earth,” that is, upon the ears and hearts of the hearers.
Above, we can see that the Early Church understood that Scripture contains a deeper (spiritual) meaning beyond its face value, just as Paul articulated in Hebrews, where he refers to the law as ‘a shadow of good things to come’ (Hebrews 10:1); a shadow being a mere outline of the true substance of a thing. Origen explains that rain is symbolic of the Law of Moses, which the Lord wants to inscribe on our minds and hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). He also points out that the prophets, when teaching, were bringing storms of rain to those who had open hearts and wanted to hear.
But our earth, that is, our heart, receives blessings if it receives “the rain” of the doctrine of the Law “which frequently comes upon it” and brings forth the fruit of works. But if it does not have a spiritual work, but “thorns and thistles,” that is, cares of the world or the desires of pleasures and riches, “it is false and near to the curse, whose end will be burning.” For that reason, each one of the hearers when he assembles to hear, receives “the shower” of the word of God; and if he indeed brings forth the fruit of a good work, he will obtain “a blessing.” But if he disdains the received word of God and frequently neglects to hear it and to subject himself to the care and passion of secular affairs, then one who would suffocate the word “with thorns” he will procure “a curse” for a blessing and find instead of the blessing “an end in burning.” (2)
As outlined above, Origen is referring to the parable of the sower (See Matthew 13:1-9, 18-22), in which a sower sows seeds into different types of grounds. He highlights the correlation between the seed, being the word of God (Luke 8:11), and the Law (rain) and how spiritual works are necessary in cultivating these seeds. On the contrary, the ‘cares of this world’ (Matthew 13:22), prevent the rains of God’s word from bringing forth His blessing.
Today, many denominations disregard the Law of Moses, excusing it as only having been for Moses’ time, or done away with, at Jesus’ coming. However, if this be the case, why did Jesus tell us He came not to do away with the Law, but to fulfill it? (Matthew 5:17). ‘Fulfill,’ in Hebrew, is the word pleroo and means “to cause God’s will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be.” (3) When Jesus walked on this earth, the New Testament had not yet been written, so He only taught from the Old Testament; the correct interpretation of the Law. An Early Church Father, Irenaeus, explains below how Jesus did not annul the law, as follows:
And that the Lord did not abrogate [do away with] the natural [precepts] of the law, by which man is justified, which also those who were justified by faith, and who pleased God, did observe previous to the giving of the law, but that He extended and fulfilled them, is shown from His words. “For,” He remarks, “it has been said to them of old time, Do not commit adultery. But I say unto you, That every one who hath looked upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Mat_5:27-28) And again: “It has been said, Thou shalt not kill. But I say unto you, Every one who is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment.” (Mat_5:21-22) (4)
Irenaeus understood that Jesus did not do away with the Law, rather He taught the deeper, spiritual meaning of the Law. Jesus took the precepts of the Law to higher level of understanding, by explaining how to fulfil them, not only in the natural sense, but also in an inward, more personal, sense. This higher (or deeper) level understanding of the Law is referred to as the spiritual sense according to the Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 3:6) and the Early Church. Origen stated, “the whole law is spiritual”. (5)
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul states there is a veil (a covering) over the Old Testament and the Law, causing blindness of mind (2 Corinthians 3:14-15). Later in his epistle to the Hebrews, he explains that the veil is symbolic of the flesh (Hebrews 10:20). In Hebraic understanding, flesh denotes human-like, carnal, or sinful understanding of scripture. (6) So, the veil is symbolic of a man’s way of understanding God’s Word, that does not go beyond (deeper than) its literal interpretation. Paul writes to the church of Corinth, ‘Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away’ (2 Corinthians 3:16). Turning to the Lord signifies: repentance, the love of wisdom and righteousness, and obedience to God. (7) Thus, through a desire to understand God’s Word at a deeper level, and by our obedience to Him, we experience a removal of the veil- a revelation of something once hidden, that has now become known to us. The word ‘revelation’ consists of two Greek words: apo – “to remove” or “destroy” (8) and kalupto – “the veil” (9). From this, it is clear to see that having a revelation is about the removal of our human nature, and a fleshly way of understanding God’s Word. Therefore, we can now see that rain is symbolic of the revelation of Scripture.
Jesus only spoke and taught in symbolic teachings, known as parables, to the crowds (Mark 4:34), but in private explained the deeper meanings to His disciples (Mark 4:10-11). A parable is “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” (10) As well as the Law and the Old Testament, Jesus’ parables were veiled too. “Parables were repositories of truths not then understood, even when plainly told (Luk_18:34), but afterward comprehended in their manifold significance, when the Spirit brought all Jesus’ words to their remembrance. The veil was so transparent as to allow the spiritual easily to see the truth underneath; the unspiritual saw only the sacred drapery of the parable in which He wrapped the pearl so as not to cast it before swine.” (11) Therefore, all of Scripture has a hidden meaning, needing to be unveiled, or revealed.
How do the Latter Rains correlate with producing fruit spiritually?
Just as in the natural sense how rain, when it penetrates good soil, containing seed, brings forth vegetation, so too will the rain of God’s Word produce vegetation (fruit) in us (the earth) when we are faithful in following His Word (“The Lord God formed man from the dust of the earth” (Genesis 2:7)). James writes, ‘Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.’ (James 5:7). Without rain, an apple seed, for example, does not germinate and thus grow into a fruit-bearing plant. Thus, without the revelation of God’s Word, we are unable to produce fruit, these being the fruits of the Spirit, His nature (Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 5:9, Hebrews 13:5). Matthew’s Gospel tells us that there are two types of trees; one bearing good fruit, and another bearing bad fruit, of which the latter will be thrown into the fire to be destroyed (Matthew 7:17-19). The Book of Jude explains that those without fruit are likened to clouds without water, meaning these are people without the true spiritual understanding of the Law of Moses: ‘These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots’. (Jude 1:12)
Rain is water, and we are cleansed by the “Washing of the Word” (Ephesians 5:26) – this washing is symbolic, it is the rains of the Word of God, understanding spiritually the Law of Moses, and all Scripture, which cleanses us, and grows us into His image. Without understanding and prophetically seeing how rain is the spiritual doctrine; the revelation of the Word of God, we cannot grow and produce the fruit of Spirit. Matthew stated “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). In order to bear the nature of God (as we are made in His likeness, Genesis 1:27) we must be washed in the revelation of His Word, so we can truly turn back to God.
1. “What Is Rain?”. Earth.Com, 2020, https://www.earth.com/earthpedia-articles/rain/.
2. Origen- Leviticus Homily 16, pages 264-265
3. Thayer’s Greek definitions: Fulfill (G4137)
4. Irenaeus- Against Heresies, Book IV, Chap. XIII
5. Origen- Spirit and Fire, Chap. Mystery, pg. 89
6. Thayer’s Greek definitions: Flesh (G4561)
7. Thayer’s Greek definitions: Turn (G1994)
8. Thayer’s Greek definitions: From (destroy/remove) (G575)
9. Thayer’s Greek definitions: Covering (veil) (G2572)
10. Thayer’s Greek definitions: Parable (G3850)
11. Fausset’s Bible Dictionary: Parable
All scripture references from The Holy Bible: New King James Version: NKJV. Thomas Nelson, 2010.