The Early and Latter Rain
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Many years ago, under the direction of the Lord, I selected the song “Lest We Forget,” as a theme song for our radio ministry. I hoped and prayed that it might be the testimony of my life, that always the Cross would be the center of my ministry, and I would remember that I was not my own; I was bought with a price. My heart is very full this morning. Many of you know that a long time ago, when I recognized the hurt that was in the world and the hurt in the hearts of men, I asked God to give me a tender heart. Sometimes I think He overdid it, because I cry a lot. I make that word of explanation, because even as I speak to you, it catches in my voice, and tears are running down my cheeks. It's not part of an act. It's simply because God did a little more, I think, than I intended for Him to do when I asked Him to give me a tender heart. My heart has been deeply touched throughout this whole year as family and friends and loved ones elsewhere have attempted to make this a year that would honor our Lord Jesus Christ, a year of Jubilee.

Someone said last night, “You didn't say anything at the banquet.” I said, “I don't think I could have.” And I don't think I can say anything this morning except to say thank you. Thank you for standing by. Thank you for praying. Thank you for encouraging my heart. Thank you to my family. In these days when many parents are bearing great burdens because their children are not all that they hoped they would be, I have to humble myself before God and thank Him for what He has done for me through my children.

These fifty years were certainly not planned or expected. When I came here in 1939, I had no idea I would be here in 1989. My children have told me that after their mother went to be with the Lord, when they were going through some letters that I had written to her, they found one in which I said, “Honey, anybody who stays in this part of the country has to be out of their mind.” But God has a way of picking you up and putting you down where He wants you to be.

I would like to say as a word of encouragement to you young people, don't fret if you don't know what God wants you to do right now. He'll let you know in due time. Go as far as you can on the road that's before you; and if you stay sensitive to God and the Holy Spirit, you will hear the voice that Isaiah spoke of, a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk ye in it.” Follow His directions and you will never make a mistake.

I have had preachers say to me sincerely, “You have no idea what I have given up to serve the Lord. You have no idea what it's cost me.” And then they would pause, expecting me to say something similar. I would always say, “Well, I don't want to sound prudish, and I don't want to have a better-than-thou attitude, but I have to say in all honesty that I haven't given anything up for the Lord. I was nothing, and in His mercy and in His grace, He gave me riches far greater than anything that could be interpreted in material terms.”

Old Dr. Bob Jones, and we use that term lovingly because at the time that I was connected with Bob Jones University, Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., the founder of the school, was there. We referred to him as “Old Dr. Bob” to differentiate between the other Bobs who were there. I remember one time, in his own inimitable way of presenting things, he held up an imaginary sheaf of coupons which people spoke of in that day in relation to investments. And he said, “I would rather know that I was in the will of God and see the results of that than to clip coupons for million dollar bonds.” I've never forgotten that. All of this has been brought fresh home to me during this year, and particularly during this weekend. What I have heard and seen, and the encouragement that has refreshed my soul, I thank you for. I thank God for His great mercies that are never ending.

An Extension of Days

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of James, chapter 5. The message that I want to bring to you today is not the last message that I expect to bring. It is the last message of our so-called “Jubilee Year.” But let us think on it, if we may, as the first message of a new era. God has been gracious, and a fifty year Jubilee has occurred, and as in the days of Israel a new era begins.

I know not what the Lord may have in store for me during this new era, but some of you will remember that back in 1984 it appeared that I had a call from God to come home to Heaven. I was very sure of that, and those who cared for me medically were convinced of it, and loved ones were prepared for it. And then, the Lord said, “No, I don't want you now.” I remember saying to one of the doctors, after I had been in the hospital and I was ready to go, as I said to those who cared for me, “Thank you for being here. Thank you for being here when you were needed.” This one individual, tears in his eyes, said, “Well, I appreciate that, but you'd better mark it down and remember it. The only reason you are going home tomorrow to your home on Buffalo Gap Road instead of your home in Heaven, the only reason is God didn't want you to come home.” I thank God today that He gave me an extension of days. And as I realized that God was pleased to extend my days for however long, I became increasingly impressed with the imminency of the Lord's return.

Now, I have always believed, as you know, and have taught the truth concerning the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; but I say, I have been very much impressed that the time cannot be much longer. In the light of that, I did what I suppose some folk would consider a very foolish thing to do. I said, “Lord, since it's out of my hands and you won't let me come home, I've got a request of you. Let me live, if it can please you, until the year two thousand. Let me live, if it can please you, until the year two thousand.” I am well aware of the fact that our times are in His hand. I am well aware of the fact that He can bring our life to termination when it pleases Him. But I know by experience to which I've just referred, He can extend our days, and I know from the study of the Word of God that He has done that for others when it pleased Him. And I have asked Him to do that particular thing.

A Time Schedule

The reason is suggested in James, chapter 5. If you have your Bibles open there, notice with me what James has to say, beginning with verse 7:

James 5

7Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman [farmer] waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

If you are thinking, you are probably saying to yourself, “I don't see anything about two thousand years in that verse.” I don't either, but I do know that it has pleased God down through the ages to operate on a schedule of one thousand year periods, and time would not permit us to go into detail about that, but we offer just a brief survey to verify what I am saying to you.

From the creation of man to the call of Abraham, two big events, was approximately a thousand years, or more than a thousand years–maybe two thousand years. Some people think so. Then from the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD to the coming of the Lord has almost been two thousand years. I don't think it is a great thing to say that the Lord operates on thousand-year periods, and we have not only those few things I suggested to you, but even other things in the Word of God that would verify that fact. The thing that interests me even more, to encourage my thinking, is that the Bible does have a time schedule.

Read when you have time the book of Daniel, chapter 9, and recall that there in Daniel, chapter 9, God very explicitly said what time the Lord Jesus Christ would come to the earth, even to the exact day. This matter of a thousand years being related to a day and a day to a thousand years is emphasized in prophetic truth more than once. You are familiar with what is recorded in Hosea, chapter 5, the last verse, and the first two verses of Hosea, chapter 6. The Lord Jesus Christ is recorded as saying there to the nation of Israel, “I am going to go away to my place at the right hand of the throne of God, and there I will stay until the nation of Israel looks me in the face and says, 'We have rejected you, and we acknowledge that as sin'.”

That's the end of chapter 5. Chapter 6 begins with the Spirit of God going on to say that they will do exactly that, for after two days they will acknowledge their sin, and then the third day there will be such blessing as Israel has never known. Here is another illustration of what I'm suggesting to you. God thinks and operates in this manner. You are familiar with what is recorded in the second epistle of Peter, chapter 3, where individuals were saying to Peter, “You talk about the Lord coming back. Where is the promise of His coming?” Peter reminded them that “the Lord was not slack concerning His promises, but He was long suffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” And then he said (don't forget this), “One day with the Lord is as a thousand years.”

Time of the Lord's Return

Now listen closely to me. There has been much heresy taught trying to prove that a thousand years is one day and one day is a thousand years. That is not my purpose. My purpose is to illustrate to you that there is a principle in the Word of God that teaches that God operates on certain units of time. With that thought in mind, without attempting to build a doctrine on it, without attempting to be insistent on the time of the coming of the Lord, I'm going to suggest to you this day that I believe we are approaching the end of the two thousand year period that began with the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why I want to live, if God is pleased, until the year two thousand, because between now and then there are going to be some exciting times; there are going to be some trying times, but there's going to be a climax of the Lord Jesus Christ coming in the air for His Church. I don't want to miss that!

Patient Waiting for the Lord's Return

That's the reason God brought to my attention, as I sought His mind concerning what I might think with you about this morning, this portion in James, chapter 5: “Be patient therefore brethren unto the coming of the Lord.” This message of patience is reiterated constantly throughout the Word of God. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, prayed along this line. He said, “I am praying that the Lord will direct your heart into the patient waiting for Christ.” Two things he had in mind there. One was, “Don't ever forget that there is a lamp shining.” Peter went on to say, “It's a lamp shining in a dark place.” Don't ever forget that lamp is shining. Keep it glowing and keep your eyes on it, but as you wait, be patient. I ask God to direct you into the patient waiting of Christ.

The Lord Jesus Christ, while He was here, speaking of these days that are going to occur just before He actually returns– this time literally to the earth, not just in the air, but the application is there–said, “There's one way that you can have the victory as you wait on the coming of the Lord, and that is this: In patience possess ye your souls.” Keep things under control through the patient waiting for Christ.

Now some translations of these various verses use the word “endurance” for “patience.” There's nothing wrong with that, but I don't like it because endurance to me always speaks of “hanging on just by the skin of your teeth” and saying , “I'll look for Jesus if it kills me, but I'll look for Him no matter what.” That's not what God had in mind. I like the word “patience” as it is in the King James text. I like it because patience is described in the Word of God as a passive activity. That may seem almost like a contradiction. How can you be passively active? You can be passive in the sense that you're not all stirred up every minute because of what conditions are. You're not stirred up every minute wondering what's going to happen and if you're going to be able to bear it. You know that the Savior has things in His hand, and at the proper time He is going to come and deliver us out of this situation.

What does He expect us to do? Well, in this passage of Scripture to which I have called to your attention from James, chapter 5, I notice that James brings to our attention three suggestions. He says we should pursue, we should perceive, and we should prepare. So my Jubilee message, the final message of the Jubilee year, and perhaps the first message from my lips in a new era, is simply this: The Lord is coming. Be patient as you wait for His coming, but three things are necessary if you, in patience, are going to be able to possess your souls.

Pursue the Task

I have used the word “pursue” to describe the first thing. Did you notice what we read back there in James, chapter 5? We read that the farmer farms patiently as he waits for the early and latter rains. Now the early and latter rains were very important in Israel. It was more important than an occasional rain here in West Texas, as grateful as we are for every drop of water. But the farmer knew that he could not have a crop unless the early rain came. At that time he broke the ground and sowed the seed and tilled the soil. But he knew he could not reap the harvest until the latter rain came, and the latter rain came around March and April.

Do you get the thrust of the verse? The farmer was not saying, “Well, I don't know whether it's going to rain the early rain, so I'll just wait around until it does.” Then it's too late to plow. And after he had plowed and prepared the ground, he could have said, “Well, we don't know whether that latter rain will come. Some years it never has, so what's the use?” And the Spirit of God says through the Apostle James, “A farmer in Israel who knows what's going on is going to plant. He is going to pursue the task that God has given him whether there is any indication of blessing or not.”

Redeeming the Time

Other portions of the Word of God have emphasized this to the extent that I think we should be recognizing the importance of it. For example, Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians and again in his letter to the Colossians, says, “Redeem the time, because the days are evil.” Another translation of that phrase, “redeem the time, because the days are evil,” is “buy up the opportunities.” It's a trade phrase. If you see a bargain, go after it. If you see a chance to make a good sale, don't dilly-dally. Get it done. Redeem the time.

Did you notice that he said, “redeem the time, because the days are evil.” There are opportunities all around us, and I'm afraid that too often too many of us as believers bemoan the times in which we live, particularly when we get down the road a little bit. We'll say, “You know, things have never been this bad.” Some folk say, “Boy, I wouldn't have wanted to raise my kids in a day like this.” Times do change. The days are evil, but we don't spend our time, as we patiently wait for the Lord, bemoaning the times. We spend our time redeeming the opportunities that are set before us.

He said the same thing in Colossians. Redeem the time, walking circumspectly toward those who are without. Be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you for the hope that is within you. Let your conversation be seasoned with salt and grace. All of that, without any further exposition, emphasizes the fact that the chief occupation of those of us who by the grace of God are still here in the end of the age, is to take advantage of the opportunities. I like the emphasis of redeeming the time being translated “buying up the opportunities.”

Do you remember the parable of the ten pounds? The Lord Jesus Christ distributed the pounds, and then He said to the individuals to whom He distributed those pounds, “Occupy till I come.” Farther down in the chapter, when He asks for a report from these men who had supposed to be using the pounds that He had given them when he said, “Occupy till I come,” He called them in and He said, “I want to know how you have traded with the pounds that I have given you.” That word “trade” there is the very same Greek word that is translated “occupy” in the earlier part of the chapter.

Why am I emphasizing this? Because I think that so many of us become so involved in spiritual things we forget that we are living in a very practical world. We are quite content to have our fellowship one with another and do what we do because we like to do it, and we don't seem to be as burdened as we ought to be for those who are without. I say to you that when James encourages you and me to be patient until the coming of the Lord, James is saying to you and to me, “In the days that we have left…”; and if I am right about the year two thousand, there's not very much time. But whether the Lord comes in the year two thousand, before the year two thousand, or after the year two thousand, the manner of life that we all ought to develop is the manner of pursuing every opportunity that will accomplish God's purpose and bring about His glory.

Perception of the Time

There's something else in this verse. I said there were three words. One of them is “pursue,” and the second one is “perceive.” Did you notice when we read that verse that we were told that the farmer waits for the early and the latter rain and makes his preparations accordingly? That's the reason I've used the word “perceive,” because he's a weather watcher. Every believer ought to be a weather watcher. The Lord Jesus Christ said to the people of His day, “I'm amazed. I'm surprised that you're able to discern the signs of the sky, but you're not able to discern the signs that are related to the end of the age and the coming of Christ.” We need to be–we must be–weather watchers. That is suggested by the farmer. Even though he pursues his work until the early and the latter rain comes, he doesn't know for sure when it's going to come, except approximately, but he keeps watching. And when he sees the cloud in the sky that indicates the latter rain is coming, he begins to make the preparation that is needed for the coming rain. He perceives.

Example of Elijah

I've always been interested in the story of Elijah and his servant. You recall that Elijah stood before Ahab and said to him “Ahab, it's not going rain for three years according to my word.” Ahab said, “That's crazy.” Elijah said, “Well, you may think so.” Well, it didn't rain for three years, and Ahab almost believed. And then Elijah said, “Ahab, I have another message for you. You're out here in your summer palace, and between here and where you ought to be, there's a deep valley. Well, I'm going to tell you that it's going to rain. And it's going to rain at my word. And if you know what's good for you, you'll pack up and get on down there to higher ground.” Ahab laughed. He wasn't concerned. Elijah said, “Well, I'm going to go pray.” You remember that he went to pray.

I always liked the way he prayed. You know, sometimes folk say, “Just pray about it and leave it with the Lord.” Well, that's good to a point, but Elijah didn't. He said to his servant, “I want you to help me in my prayer.” What did he do? Did he say, “Kneel down here beside me and say, 'Amen.'?” No! He said, “You get up there on that mountain, and when you see anything that indicates that this rain for which I'm praying is coming, you come and tell me.” You remember the story. The servant went up on the mountain, and he'd run down and say, “Elijah, nothing happened.” Elijah would say, “Go back.” And he kept on praying. “Go back.” And then the servant came down and said, “Well, I don't have much more to tell you than I did before, but I saw in the sky [and I've always loved this] a cloud the size of a man's hand.” Well, the servant said just about what you and I would say, “But what's that?” And Elijah said, “Well, you'd better tell Ahab to 'git'.” And he himself said, “Thank you, Lord.” He himself had on a long robe, and–this has always been funny to me–He took that long robe, and he wound it around his waist, and then he took off with his bony legs down through the valley, and he said, “Now Ahab can get drowned if he wants to, but I'm not going to.” Ahab, with all of his horses was late, but Elijah got there, because he had developed the habit of perception, of knowing when things are going to happen.

I say to you today that we are a privileged people to be able to perceive that the latter rain is about to begin. I believe we've seen that cloud in the sky the size of a man's hand, and it could be interpreted in many ways; but I never watch the news when there's anything about the Middle East that I am not reminded that over fifty years ago when I began to preach the Word of God and I said that the whole world someday would see the two prophets lying in the streets of Jerusalem dead, I had to say, “I don't know how it can be done, and I don't know how I could believe it can be done; but God says it, so I accept it.” You can hardly turn your television set on any day without looking right into the center of the streets of Jerusalem where these prophets will someday lie and rise from the dead and go back to Heaven.

Prepare for His Coming

Now, surely, we must be approaching the end of the day. The cloud of a man's hand has been seen in the sky, and we should be preparing. That's my last word. I said that we should be pursuing what God has in mind for us to do. We should be perceiving the time, and we should be preparing. There are a lot of ways you can prepare for the coming of the Lord, and each of you may have individual things that you need to do, but I would suggest to you that you'd better stay prayed up and kept up. Remember when the Lord Jesus Christ was talking about the fact that He was coming back? He wasn't speaking about the Rapture of the Church such as I refer to today, which is the next event on God's prophetic program; but He was speaking about when the Lord Jesus Christ actually comes to the earth and His feet stand upon the Mount of Olives. What He said about that applies to this; and He said, “When you see the signs of those things begin, don't go back home and get some clean clothes. Don't go back home and pack your suitcase. Take off! Because there isn't going to be time.” And I say to you today that we must be prepared because the time is here, and the Lord is coming.

I suggest to you two words in our text here in James, chapter 5, which suggest the kind of preparation that at least is spoken of in this particular portion of the Word. One of them might be called a positive suggestion, and one of them might be considered a negative suggestion. The Lord Jesus Christ through the Apostle James, emphasized that when the Lord Jesus Christ was coming back, it would be necessary for everybody who really believed that truth to be doing something that will stand you in good stead.

Remain Stedfast

In verse 8:

James 5

8Be ye also patient; establish your hearts…:

What James said that day, I re-emphasize today. It is an absolute essential for those of us who are living in the end of the age, and perhaps see this glorious event related to the year two thousand, to establish our hearts. Now did you notice what it said? You, as an individual, must establish your hearts. The word “establish”, or “stablish,” is a translation of the Greek word, stay-rid-zo , which means “to brace yourself.” It means “to make a new resolution.” Oh God, no matter how bad things get and what may happen, I will stand. And having done all, I will stand! It speaks of steadfastness. It doesn't cost us much, now does it, to exercise our Christian testimony? I don't think too many of us have suffered anything because of that. We haven't even been made fun of to any great extent, but the hour is coming and now is when things are going to be rougher than they've ever been; and God said, in the light of that, “Establish your heart.”

Do you know what he said just after that? “The Lord, the Judge, is at the door,” and literally that means that His hand is on the doorknob, and He's ready to turn the knob. Haven't you sometimes looked at a door when you hear a little noise, and you see the doorknob turning so slowly, and you say, “Well, somebody's going to be in here in a minute.” And it all depends on whether you're afraid or whether you're expecting someone or not, but sure enough the doorknob is turned, and there is the person. James said, “In the period of time in which I am speaking, this is what is going to happen. He is at the door. Be ready! Establish your hearts! Be steadfast! Don't let anything sway you! Stay true to the testimony!” That's positive.

Concerning Judgment

Then he said something that is related to the negative. I suppose that it hits nearly all of us. You'll notice in the verse 9:

James 5

9Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

What's he saying? Grudge not one against another? Sometimes that word is translated “complain.” Sometimes it's translated “murmur.” Grudge not, murmur not against another. Some translations say, in the second statement there, “because you probably have faults of your own,” and oh, that is true! But the significant thing to me is what is in the statement that I believe conveys the real message of the story: “Lest ye be condemned, the judge standeth at the door.” Because immediately after the coming of the Lord, the next event in prophecy is the Judgment Seat of Christ. I have said to you before that I have a different opinion of the Judgment Seat of Christ than many. Many folk think of the Judgment Seat of Christ as a great Christmas tree, where there'll be a present hanging on the tree for everyone, and the Lord Jesus will say, “Well, I'm so glad you're here. Here's a present for you. Here's a present for you.”

We all think about rewards. Thank God there are rewards, but I would like to say to you, in the light of this passage and others that we don't have time to look at today, that we need to straighten up our lives, quit complaining, quit criticizing, quit doing anything for which we are going to have to give an account at the Judgment Seat of Christ; for I believe that at the Judgment Seat of Christ we are going to have to give an account for all of this bitterness and hatred that is unconfessed and complaining that has not been taken care of, and it won't be a good thing.

Folk who take issue with me on this subject usually say, “But there can't be any sorrow in Heaven. Everything's happy there. Nobody could be sad.” That's right, but it's an important thing to notice, if you look at the chronology of the Scriptures, that when it is recorded that God will wipe away all tears from eyes, that event occurs after the Judgment Seat of Christ. I believe that some of us who stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ, because we have not taken care of things as we ought to, are going to be grieved.

Conclusion

“Be sure that you receive a full reward,” says the Apostle John. So my exhortation to you today, as the last message of an era and the beginning of another, is wait for the Lord Jesus Christ and rest upon the promise of His Word that is given in the Hebrew letter, “Though he tarry, wait for him, he will come, he will not tarry.” I am going to live whatever years are left to me in the light of a living, vital hope of the coming of the Lord. I find in my heart the words, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

Prayer

We are grateful, Father, for this opportunity of sharing the Word once again and grateful, Father, for the privilege of sharing it on this particular occasion when we recognize Thy great faithfulness. We ask, our Father, that our hearts might be kept in tune to You, that we might be looking for the latter rain which cannot be far off; and may we be, when the Lord comes waiting expectantly and joyously, but busily. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.


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