The Latter Rain, also known as the New Order or New Order of 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.
The Latter Rain Movement had its beginnings in the years following World War II and 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, and 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, the term 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.
This should not be confused with earlier movements or ideas within Pentecostalism including the The Latter Rain Assemblies in South Africa, begun in 1927.
Latter Rain Revival (1948-1952)
The late 1940s was a time of deep spiritual hunger among Pentecostals. Pentecostals were concerned about the declining operation of the gifts of the Spirit once so evident in the early 20th century. In response to this spiritual hunger, about 70 students gathered in October 1947 in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, to begin the first term of the newly formed Sharon Bible College. Most were first year students, but some were second and third year students from the Pentecostal Bible College in Saskatoon. The students worked hard by day to prepare the buildings for classes and gathered for prayer in the evenings, which included intercessory prayer, prophecy and fasting. Some fasted between three and forty days. At this time the school consisted of three buildings at the North Battleford airport.On February 11, 1948, there was a prophecy about an open door which God had set before the students and was asking them to enter in. Following this came a prophecy that this open door is the doorway into the gifts and ministries in the Body of Christ. Thomas Holdcroft continues:
In extended chapel services for four days… the procedure emerged of calling out members of the audience and imparting a spiritual gift to them by the laying on of hands accompanied by a suitable prophecy. The authorization and direction of these activities was a series of vocal prophetic utterances by both students and their teachers.
In the spring of 1948, on the Easter weekend, special services were held which the school called the "Feast of Pentecost". Many people who had heard of the revivals in North Battleford attended these services. This led to what is considered the first "Camp Meeting" in July 1948 which began drawing large crowds.The teachings from this revival came to be known as "Latter Rain" and quickly spread throughout Canada, the United States and around the world. However, the excitement was hampered when opposition arose in late spring of 1948 and fear prevented some from embracing the teachings and practices of the movement. Resolution #7 of the 1949 General Council of the Assemblies of God made the following declaration:
Bill Britton expounds that,We disapprove of those extreme teachings and practices, which being unfounded scripturally, serve only to break fellowship of like precious faith and tend to confusion and division among members of the Body of Christ, and be it hereby known that this 23rd General Council disapproves of the so-called 'New Order of the Latter Rain'...
in the restoration of the last days, we find certain men whose names are linked with the principles that were being revealed in their day... when we come to the time of the so-called "Latter Rain" revival of 1948-49 and the early 50's, the doctrine of "laying on of hands" (with prophecy) springs up, and we see ministries emerging into the national limelight as George and Ernie Hawtin, Myrtle Beal, Winston Nunes, Omar Johnson and many others.
Latter Rain proponents saw Pentecostalism as spiritually 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 a new focus on the spiritual elements of Christianity including personal prophecy, 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 the 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 the Apostle Paul.
The term Latter Rain stems from Bible passages such 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 Pentecostals. It was present from the earliest days of Pentecostalism, which believed that the reappearance 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" or "Joel's Army". The Latter Rain movement taught that as the end of the age approached, 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 and 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 by coming into the full stature of Christ would usher in his millennial reign. Extreme versions of this spoke of Jesus as a "pattern" Son and applied "ye are gods" (Psalms 82:6) 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 error 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, the geographic region and at large. They taught that God saw the Church organized not into denominations 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 General Council of the Assemblies of God, following the leadership of its General Superintendent E. S. Williams, stated that pre-tribulation rapture represented correct eschatology, and it 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 the Azusa Street Revival. 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.
- Maria Fraser founded the Latter Rain Assemblies in South Africa (Blourokkies).
- Reg Layzell founded 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 biblical 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 to the early spread of the movement. They traveled widely, and as they traveled the influence of the Latter Rain caught on.
- A. Earl Lee was one of the fathers of the movement in southern California. He had previously been involved with Aimee Semple McPherson.
- Myrtle Beall and her family ran what is now known as Bethesda Christian Church north of Detroit, Michigan. 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 were not approved of by the church.
- 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 the most prominent direct descendant of the Latter Rain movement and one of the most theologically mainstream. It founded Portland Bible College in Portland, Oregon, which 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 and written by its original teachers. These books include 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 and Present Day Truths are classics on worship and restoration.
MFI's leadership includes many of the significant players from the early years of the movement.
- Dick Iverson, founder of City Bible Church, formerly Bible Temple, and Portland Bible College, is apostolic overseer of Ministers Fellowship International.
- Kevin Conner is a very influential Bible teacher who came out of the Latter Rain and who has taken the best of these new ideas and blended them with the more traditional hermeneutics. His approach has influenced such leading ministers as T.D. Jakes and others.
- David Schoch was a leader associated with this branch of the Latter Rain and was an honorary member of the apostolic board of MFI until his death in July 2007. The church he led is now known as City At the Cross in Long Beach, California.
- Violet Kitely founded Shiloh Christian Fellowship in Oakland, California. Her son, David Kitely, is also an honorary member of the MFI leadership.
- 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.
- The Living Word Fellowship or "The Walk", founded by John Robert Stevens, has Latter Rain roots. Royal Cronquist was another well known leader in this group. Like others influenced by Latter Rain, Stevens later distanced himself from the movement. Influential charismatic author Francis Frangipane came out of Stevens' ministry, leaving before it turned in what he viewed as a negative direction. A 1985 documentary by Anthony Cox negatively portrays his experiences with the Living Word Fellowship.
- Assembly of the Body of Christ (ABC)
- Bishop Bill Hamon of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, has been 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 of Richlands, North Carolina, had a teaching ministry which was Latter Rain influenced and has published a number of books to this effect.
- 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). Gavazzoni and Greatorex are leaders of Greater Emmanuel International Ministries. Sigler runs a large website called Kingdom Resources. Torango leads a church and evangelistic ministry in Tennessee.
- Tony Salmon, of West Virginia, is founder and vice president of Kingdom Ministries. Salmon has been an active proponent of and spokesman for the teachings of sonship and reconciliation.
- Charles Schmitt, pastor of the Immanuel's Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, and founder of the Body of Christ movement, spent time in the Latter Rain.
- Bill Britton is an author and teacher on sonship.
- Paul N. Grubb and his wife, Lura, of Faith Temple in Memphis, Tennesse, were also sonship proponents.
- Wade Taylor co-founder (along with Bill Britton) of Pinecrest Bible Training Center in Salisbury Center, New York.
- Robin McMillan, pastor of the lead fellowship of Rick Joyner's MorningStar Ministries, was mentored by Wade Taylor. MorningStar itself is very reflective of a Latter Rain ideal.
- Glenn Ewing and his son, Robert Ewing, of Waco, Texas, 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 Varner,Joyner, Hamon and others.
- The Independent Assemblies of God, International, organized by A. W. Rasmussen.
- Church of the Living God
- Body of Christ Movement
- Joel's Church of Love
- The Rainmakers (band)
- ↑ Riss, Richard (1987). Latter Rain: The Latter Rain Movement of 1948. Honeycomb Visual Productions. p. 11.
- ↑ Assemblies of God Position Paper on End Time revival
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Schmitt, Charles P. (2002). "Floods Upon the Dry Ground", Shippensburg, PA: Revival Press.
- ↑ Nichol, John Thomas (1966) "Pentecostalism", New York: Harper & Row.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Wanagas, Edwald A. (2000). "The Revival & Outpouring of the Holy Spirit: Things I Have Seen and Heard", North Battleford: Sharon Children's Homes and Schools.
- ↑ Warnock, George H. (1978) "The Feast of Tabernacles", North Battleford: Sharon Schools
- ↑ Holdcroft, L. Thomas (1980), "The New Order of the Latter Rain", Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 2 (2): 48
- ↑ Hawtin, George R. (1948). "Local Church Government", North Battleford:Sharon Star
- ↑ Bill Britton, Dimensions of Truth
- ↑ Minutes of the General Council of the Assemblies of God, Resolution 7: "The New Order of the Latter Rain."
- ↑ For an example, see "The Latter Rain Revival" by Barbara Aho at watch.pair.com.
- ↑ Sigler.org and Greater-emmanuel.org are websites with many links to ministries that teach both Reconciliation and Sonship doctrines.
- ↑ See Hearingthetruthofgod.com: THE “SECOND” COMING “?” by J. Preston Eby, THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SONS OF GOD, and THE COMING AGE OF MIRACLES by Bill Britton. Leaders in this tradition include John Gavazzoni, Kenneth Greatorex, Gary Sigler, and Robert Torango.
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 14.2 MFI Leadership Page
- ↑ Jakes citing Conner
- ↑ Latter Rain Reformation summary paper
- ↑ Riss, Richard (1987). Latter Rain: The Latter Rain Movement of 1948. Honeycomb Visual Productions. p. 142.
- ↑ People Magazine 2/3/1986
- ↑ Charisma Profile Article. Sept 2004..
- ↑ Hamon, Bill (2001). The Eternal Church. Destiny Image. pp. 225–238. ISBN 0-7684-2176-4.
- ↑ Kelley Varner Ministries
- ↑ Greater-emmanuel.org
- ↑ Sigler.org
- ↑ Thehouseofthelord.com
- ↑ Kingdom Ministries
- ↑ Nori Bio on Destiny Image
- Sharon Star Publication, Sharon Schools, North Battleford
- This site is completely based on Latter Rain teachings with links to others.
- A collection of teachings by men associated with the Latter Rain
- Summary of the Latter Rain based on primary sources
- The Latter Rain Page
- Apologetics Index article on Latter Rain teachings
- Apologetics Index on Manifest Sons of God teachings
- "Assemblies of God and the Latter Rain Heresy". Christian-witness.org.
Attempt to be Neutral
- University of Virginia, New Religious Movements Project - article on Latter Rain movement
- SpiritLed Woman Magazine - article on Latter Rain Movement
Hollenweger, Walter (1972). The Pentecostals. London: SCM.