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The Former and the Latter Rain – An Indication of the Lord’s Return

James 5:7 – Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. (KJV)

James talks about a spiritual work that must happen before the Lord’s coming. The spiritual work that James refers to is called “the precious fruit of the earth” or a harvest of souls. Notice that the harvest James mentions is not just a harvest in North America or Central and South America but a worldwide harvest. That means there must be a harvest in every nation before the Lord returns.

James prefaces his comments about the coming of the Lord with the word “patience.” Patience is not a common Christian virtue. Most Christians, including myself, look forward to the Lord coming in our lifetime. I am sure that every preceding generation felt the same way. As we continue reading this verse, James mentions patience a second time, only this time James adds emphasis – “…and hath long patience for it….” God not only has patience, but He also has LONG PATIENCE FOR THE HARVEST.

We need to adopt the same attitude our Heavenly Father has. Why? Because our Heavenly Father is waiting for every person to have an opportunity to hear the Gospel. We are instructed in God’s Word to consider others before ourselves. That means that our motivation to pray, give, evangelize, and have patience for the Gospel to work should come from a heart of love and compassion for the world.

2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (KJV)

The Century English Version says – “The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.” (CEV)

From the natural standpoint, it seems God is very slow in keeping His promises. That is because we see through a glass darkly or only see those things that affect our lives. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:18 – While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

It is human nature to focus on natural things, look at what is happening in the world, and interpret the Bible by those events. The Holy Spirit, through Paul, encourages every believer to consider the things that are not seen with the physical eye. Those things are spiritual in nature.

Despite what is happening in the world, God continues to carry out His plan through the Church. God is looking at the world and will return when He is satisfied that the spiritual work of the harvest is completed, but not until then.

At the end of this verse, James adds one more statement in connection with the return of the Lord and the spiritual harvest He is waiting for. Notice the words, “…until He receive the early and the latter rain.”

The word rain in the bible often refers to a work of the Holy Spirit. We can see that in Hosea 6:3 – Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth. Then again, in Zechariah 10:1 – Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field.

Notice Zechariah says, in the time of the latter rain, we are to ask of the Lord, or we could say, pray to the Lord for rain or for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to fall on the seed. Why? The seed will not grow without water. Jesus said in Luke 8:11, “..the seed is the Word of God.” The Word of God is the spiritual seed that must be sown in the hearts of man. However, there must also be a work of the Holy Spirit that makes that seed grow and produce fruit. James clearly states that there must be a harvest before the return of the Lord. Before that harvest is reaped, a former and latter rain must be connected to that harvest. Both “rains” are necessary for the seed to grow and produce a mature and plentiful crop.

Some individuals connect the latter rain to an end-time outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will culminate with all the gifts of the Spirit in manifestation and a coming together of every previous revival into one last revival.

Unfortunately, we all tend to interpret what God will do in these last days from the perspective of what we desire. Remember, James said God is waiting for the precious fruit of the EARTH – many times, God is moving in other nations of the world, and we are unaware of it. Regardless of what we want God to do, God will continue to respond to individuals who are open and receptive to the Gospel until He is satisfied that the harvest has been reaped. Every Christian can become involved in harvesting the precious fruit of the earth. We need seed planters, those willing to preach and teach the Gospel (1 Cor. 3:6). We need individuals to water that seed through prayer. (Zech. 10:1). And, we need individuals willing to harvest the crop. (Matt. 9:37-38)

The World Map, above, is courtesy of “The Joshua Project,” a Christian organization based in Colorado Springs, which seeks to coordinate the work of missionary organizations to track the ethnic groups of the world with the fewest followers of evangelical Christianity. (

The map is color-coded to make it easier for you to see which countries have not yet been reached with the Gospel, or we could say, those nations that have not yet had a significant harvest. We encourage you to pray for these nations. Always remember that effective prayer is a prayer that the Holy Spirit directs. (Eph. 6:18 & Romans 8:26). Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you pray for the harvest in these nations. You can also click the image to download it as a .pdf for easy future reference as you pray.


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