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Lessons from the Latter Rain Movement

Feb 14, 2014

Today is Valentine’s Day. On February 12-14, 1948 the Latter Rain outpouring of the Holy Spirit began at Sharon Bible School in North Battleford, Saskachewan (Canada). They were kind enough to share it with their southern friends here in USA.

On February 12, 1948 Ern Hawtin gave a long prophetic utterance for about half an hour in which the Spirit said (in part):

“If my people will reverence my name, my presence, and my house, I will begin to restore that which has been lost to the church… I will at this time restore the nine gifts of the Spirit to My Church, and they shall be restored by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.”

Such prophetic ministry was largely unknown at the time. This word was not without controversy, for Branham had already come under severe criticism by the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada for healing people by laying hands on the sick. The Pentecostal Assemblies believed that they should just pray for people without laying hands on them. Strangely enough, they seemed more concerned with methods than with results.

Another big controversy was that the Latter Rain movement produced people who received the gift of tongues in such a way that they could immediately speak foreign languages. By contrast, under Pentecost in the early 1900’s, any such word given in tongues, even if in a known language, would be given without the person’s understanding and would cease when the prophetic message ended. But under Latter Rain, it was as if the people spoke their native language, for they could speak it without an accent, and they never forgot it afterward. In James Watt’s book, Progress with God, he writes,

“This is not a passing event, for brother Taylor can speak Chinese at will. He holds street meetings for the Chinese every week. His language is so perfect, the Chinese cannot believe that he never learned the tongue.

“To the glory of God we wish to say that during the Vancouver meetings we laid hands especially on four missionaries bound for China and asked God to give them the language. In every case they broke out in Chinese and were understood by those in the room who understood the tongue. Seven or eight actually were understood in this tongue. Others were understood in Swedish, German, Dutch, and Hindustani.”

The Assemblies of God found fault with this and severely criticized the Latter Rain in their publications. In my view, they were simply jealous that a new movement seemed to outdo their “normal” gift of tongues. In the 1990’s, my friend Carl Petty, known as “Mr. Pentecost” in Minnesota, told me that the churches sent him to Kansas City many years ago to check out the Latter Rain meetings there. He returned with a report that this movement was of God and that the Pentecostal churches ought not to fight it, lest they be found fighting against God Himself. Carl was part of our local group from 1993 until his death in March of 1999. He is missed.

We should note that while tongues was the main identifying feature of the Pentecostal movement in the early 1900’s, and healing characterized the evangelistic movement in general, prophecy was the main feature of the Latter Rain movement.

After the prophecy above, the students of Sharon Bible College searched the Scriptures on February 13, and then on the 14th the Spirit of God fell upon that place. That was 66 years ago today. A few months later they had a camp meeting in July 1948. Ern Hawtin’s brother George described it this way in an editorial for The Sharon Star, August 1, 1948,

“Long lines of sick folk were ministered to by those who had received the gift of healing. After the first healing service one lady testified that when she was prayed for, a kidney which the doctors said was moved around to the front of her abdomen moved back into its proper position… Several factors were most outstanding throughout the camp meeting. First was the love and desire for the Word of God. People sat literally for hours to listen to Bible teaching…. Sometimes there was no song service, and sometimes no preaching, but the presence of God and the manifestation of the gifts of His Spirit gave us what our hearts had longed for.”

This, of course, is of interest to me, as I have long believed that Bible teaching is needed to sustain a revival and to ingrain the ways of God into the church and society at large. (Keep in mind that Bible study is just Bible study unless it is accompanied by revelation by the Holy Spirit.) There is no evidence that the divine law had become a revelation to them at that time, except for one very important law—the feast of Tabernacles.

At the camp meeting in July 1948, James Watt (who I met in 1994) casually mentioned at one of his Bible teaching sessions that the third feast of Israel (Tabernacles) had not yet been fulfilled. One of the men who heard this statement was George Warnock, and the seed was planted for his book published in July 1951, The Feast of Tabernacles. (David Weaver, our computer technician, spent a week with George some years ago.)

In my view, this book became one of the most important revelations coming out of the Latter Rain movement. I read it in the early 1980’s, and this formed an important part of my own development as well in my understanding of the feast days. It was an important piece of the revelation of the law, a foundation stone for an understanding of the rest of the laws, statutes, and judgments, which are the laws of creation and society.

The Latter Rain movement came in the context of a general rise of what was to become the Charismatic Movement of the 1960’s. In 1947 the revivalists of that period began to preach, including William Branham, Oral Roberts, Gordon Lindsay, and T. L. Osborn. Jack Coe, a healing evangelist, rented his first tent in 1947 to begin tent meetings. In one notable meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, there were 103 who were crippled, and 63 of them walked out of the meeting without their wheelchairs.

Branham’s ministry began in the Spring of 1946, and his meetings in Vancouver in 1947 sowed the seeds of the Latter Rain in 1948. Some of the people attending his Vancouver meetings had come from North Battleford, and this provided the spark for the Latter Rain outpouring a few months later on February 14, 1948.

Virtually all of the evangelists at the time considered this revival to be a sign of the end times. Their view was solidified by the establishment of the Israeli state, first by the United Nations passing the Palestinian Resolution on November 29, 1947 and then the independent state being declared in May, 1948. They were partially correct, but none of them understood what God was doing, nor did they receive the revelation of Scripture that was needed to know.

At the same time in 1947, turmoil and war was brewing in Korea, and the churches there began to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Fifty churches in Pyongyang (now the capital of North Korea) cooperated in gathering for prayer for a revival of what had been seen in Pentecost nearly 50 years earlier. As so often happens, God was preparing them spiritually for tribulation in the coming Korean War—or, if there was enough response, to prevent such war from happening.

The same had occurred in Pentecost in the early 1900’s, which, if it had been accepted more widely, had the potential of preventing the takeover by Mystery Babylon as well as World War 1. Likewise, the great revival on the island of Timor in Indonesia in 1965 prepared the people for a general persecution of the church, which followed the overthrow of President Soekarno. Soekarno was overthrown with the help of the CIA on account of the Green Hilton Agreement, which he had signed with President Kennedy in 1963 just nine days before Kennedy was shot. The two had conspired against Mystery Babylon to set America free from the Federal Reserve Bank, but were casualties of war.

If Christians had understood that their complacency and lukewarm relationship with Christ (as described in Rev. 3:15, 16) would bring about such dire consequences in the world, they might have been more diligent in seeking God. But this is the story of the Bible as seen in the history of Israel. We are no different in our generation, except that I believe we are now approaching a new day where God will pour out His Spirit in a world-wide movement that will alter the face of nations and change the course of history.

The Awakening in 1947-48 came to Hollywood in 1949, which changed the lives of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and other actors. Billy Graham emerged in the same year, popularized by J. Randolf Hearst, the Jewish newspaper magnate, after he spent three days personally talking with Billy Graham. After the three-day interview, he sent his famous telegraph to his editors, “Puff Graham.” It is doubtful if Graham ever really understood how presidents were to use him to make themselves appear to be Christians, and yet even so, God used him to bring a simple gospel to millions of people.

In 1949 and 1950 the Awakening spread to colleges. Some of the earliest colleges were located in China, until Communism took hold of that country in 1949 and afterward. In April 1949 revival came to Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, which soon affected the nearby St. Paul Bible College, where my wife and I attended 20 years later.

Word spread from Bethel College to Wheaton College, near Chicago, Illinois, and they too experienced an Awakening, along with many other colleges and churches throughout the country.

The Latter Rain movement in 1949 also received revelation about the manifestation of the sons of God. George Hawtin wrote an editorial describing this,

“A second Pentecost occurred in the Bible school at Edmonton, Alta. While classes were in session as usual, suddenly, without warning, a mighty wind swept through the building. Brother Crane was standing teaching the class, and was almost swept off his feet. The Spirit fell simultaneously upon the whole school and all began to prophesy together. This great demonstration was accompanied by a vision of the Manifestation of the Sons of God in the last days of this dispensation. This mighty army was seen conquering all before it. Sickness and disease were vanishing, and all evil spirits were seen scattered before the triumphant power of God’s people.”

Great as this revelation was, it exceeded their knowledge of the word, and so the revelation itself became one of the primary causes that ended the Latter Rain movement. Perhaps they needed a “thorn in the flesh” to ensure humility. As it turned out, they began to think of themselves exclusively as this army of overcomers, and soon people had to join their group in order to be an overcomer.

Nonetheless, the revelation itself was true, and I fully expect to see it fulfilled in the great outpouring that is about to hit the earth in our own time. Yet we must have the character of Christ and an understanding of the word in order to avoid the corrupting leaven that began to destroy the Latter Rain in 1949-50.

George Hawtin later wrote:

“As I look sadly in retrospect now, I can see with clearness that the great and blessed move of God was not two years old before the sectarian spirit began to show its ugly head…. It is true that we vociferously denied that we had become a sect… There was to be no fellowship with anybody who was not within the confines of our ever narrowing circle. We were the true church. We were the elect. We stood on the foundation and all other men stood on sinking sand. No man must cast out a devil unless he followed us. No teaching was worth the time it took to tell it unless it originated with us. We were the most spiritual people in the world. We were going to reign in the kingdom and even now we were beginning to reign. We had the gifts of the Spirit, and we were going to ‘call the shots’ in the tribulation… But we did not know that like Ephesus we had lost our first love, and must repent and do the first works over again….”

At a conference in Edmonton twenty years ago, I talked personally with Brother Hawtin and asked him how the Latter Rain movement died. He confirmed the report above, saying, “We were too full of ourselves.” Hawtin died about six months after our meeting.

These are important lessons to learn. We are expecting to see the final outpouring of the Holy Spirit soon, but if it comes with a warped view of Scripture, we might make the same mistakes that effectively ended all past movements of the Holy Spirit. The denominational spirit is probably the main leaven of the Pentecostal Age. The antidote is to understand the story of King Saul, the Old Testament type of the church under Pentecost. Humility is the added lesson of the Latter Rain movement.

Likewise, we can see and learn from the excesses of the Charismatic movement and the carnality seen so often in the Word of Faith movement. Rather than criticize them for their failings, however, we ought to learn from their mistakes and search for the answers from the Scriptures, asking for divine revelation to light our path.

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Category: Teachings
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones