VOL.III No.6     Nov.-Dec.1990

Copyright Biblical Awareness Ministries, 1990

Coming in out of the "Latter Rain": A Biblical Critique

                         Part II                                             

                       by Thomas Ice


   Image is often thought to be more important than

substance in today's positivistic atmosphere. It doesn't

matter if you are really rich, as long as you project an

image of wealth and success. Emphasis is on what you

appear to be, not what you really are in our subjective

world of polls and public opinion in the 1990s. This, "If-

you-believe-it-you-can-make-it-happen" mentality has also

exerted great influence upon contemporary Christians as

well. Too many are involved in an approach to Christian-

ity which believes that it is not as important to find out

what the Bible objectively says, so we can live by it, as

much as it is to use Scripture as a source to support

subjective and positive goals which we want for our lives

and the church as a whole.

    As believers in Christ, we must read God's Word in

 order to find out what He is telling us, not as a mirror

 which reflects our own thoughts. This is Paul's emphasis

 in 2 Timothy 2:15 where he charged Christian leaders to

 handle accurately the word of truth.

     In the previous issue (III:5) we probed into the

 nature and development of latter rain/restoration teach-

 ings. This issue will compare latter rain/restoration teach-

 ings and interpretations of the Bible to see if they are

 legitimately supported by God's Word. This involves an

 interaction with some of their foundational doctrines as

 well as an examination of key passages from Scripture. It

 is my contention that while they use many words and

 phrases from the Bible, they do not use them in the way

 God did in His Word. I believe at many crucial points they

 mishandle God's Word.



     Latter rain teachers say that the church began at a

 high point and then began a path of decline. Around AD.

 1200 the decline bottomed out and began upward progress

 toward the full restoration which they teach we are on the

 verge of seeing in our day. The first question that comes

 to my mind is what passages from the Bible teach this?

    Many passages teach that God's program for Israel

includes a time of decline, scattering, regathering, and

restoration (Deut. 4:25-31; 30:1-10). However, no such

pattern is stated concerning God's plan for the Church.

   The parables of Matthew 13 speak of the interad-

vent age between Christ's two comings and describe it as

a time of preaching (sowing) the gospel yielding varied

responses (mostly rejection). These parables indicate that

the growth of Christendom will start out small and become

large. However, nothing is said in this passage about the

spiritual qualities during this time unless leaven implies

the growth and spread of apostasy. The New Testament is

absolutely silent regarding a restoration for the Church.

    Acts 3:21 is a major passage to which restorationists

point in an attempt to give Scriptural support to their

views. Acts 3:19-21 says,"Repent therefore and return,

that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of

refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and

that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you,

whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of

all things about which God spoke by mouth of His holy

prophets from ancient time." Restorationist Dick Iverson

says of this passage, "These are times when God will give

the Church that which was lost." (Present Day Truths, p.

52) Instead Iverson should have said, "these are times

when God will give Israel that which was lost." If' this

refers to Israel and not the church then Iverson is wrong.

    If a father were to give a large amount of money to

one of his two children, then he wrote a letter to inform the

child of his gift which was intercepted and read by the

second child; it would not follow that the second child could

rightly claim the treasure merely by reading the first

child's mail. So it is with the Bible. Letters written to

Israel are meant for Israel, even though another party

may read them and gain insight and appreciation for their

common father. Letters addressed to the church speak of

things the father has for her and not Israel.  Therefore, it

is important, especially when examining prophetic pas-

sages, to know to whom it is written.

    Now let us look at some specific points from this

passage so that we might come to understand it in its

intended context. First, as in his Acts 2 sermon, Peter is

speaking to a Jewish audience whom he has accused of

crucifying Christ. Notice the terms he used in verses 13-

15 to heap guilt upon Israel: "you delivered up and

disowned," "but you disowned," "but [you] put to death the

Prince of life. " In verse 17 Peter told the Jewish crowd that

they had "acted in ignorance," which set the stage for his

call for them to repent and accept Jesus as their Messiah,

the Messiah of Israel. Then, after they accepted Jesus as

Messiah (Zech. 12:10), their promised Millennial Kingdom

would be established, called by Peter in this passage the

Times of refreshing. "

     Second, another confirmation that Peter is talking

 about Israel's Kingdom is seen in the noun "restoration"

 (3:21). The same word is used as a verb in Acts 1:6 when

 the disciples kept asking Jesus before His ascension,

 "Lord, is it at this tine You are restoring the kingdom to

 Israel?" Even after forty days of the Lord "speaking of the

 things concerning the Kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3), His

 disciples were wondering about the timing of the arrival of

 Israel's kingdom. Notice, the Lord's teaching did not

 change their basic view of the kingdom, instead their ques-

 tions revolve around the timing of the kingdom. As the

 reader follows the flow of the context in the early chapters

 of Acts, it is clear that this is the same concern Peter is

 addressing to the group in chapter three, as he proclaims

 that the condition for the coming of the kingdom is to

 accept Jesus as Israel's Messiah, something that will take

 place at the end of the tribulation period.

    Third, the Old Testament did not predict the Church,

 but it did predict the coming of the Messianic kingdom.

 The New Testament clearly reveals the church was a

 mystery (secret) in Old Testament times. This is not

 merely the logical conclusion of applying the literal herme-

 neutic and observing that the Church is not foreseen in the

 Old Testament. Instead, passages explicitly declare this.

 Romans 16:25-26, "according to the revelation of the mys-

 tery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now

 is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets."

 Ephesians 3:1-9, "you can understand my insight into the

 mystery of Christ which in other generations was not made

 known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His

holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit . . ." (4-5) " . . to

bring to light what is the administration of the mystery

which for ages has been hidden in God."(9). Colossians

1:24-28 "the mystery which has been hidden from the [past]

ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His

saints"(26). These passages tell us that the current age

was a mystery during Old Testament times. Therefore,

how could references to Old Testament passages and

events be predictive of God's plan for the Church? They

cannot! Once again, restoration/latter rain teachers are

(mis)applying passages which refer to Israel and wrongly

linking them to the Church.

     While there is a lot of "theologizing" about restora-

 tion for the church every time restorationists see the word

"restore" in the Bible, there is no Biblical basis whatsoever

to support their thesis of a last days restoration for the

Church. Israel will be restored, but the Church will be

raptured before the tribulation period, during which time

"all Israel will be saved."

    Another problem that arises from confusing God's

plan for Israel with th at of the Church in Acts 3:21 is stated

by Dick Iverson.

     We notice also that Christ cannot return until all

     that the prophets spoke be fulfilled. Many people

     think that Christ could come at any minute. He

     could come for them any minute, but; He will not

     come for the Church until all be fulfilled. In fact,

     the heavens MUST retain Him against that time,

     for when He returns He is coming for a fully re-

     stored Church--a Church that is glorious, not

     having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. (PDT, p.


(Earl Paulk has taken a similar position in his book Held

In The Heavens Until. . . ) Iverson is correct if this passage

refers to the Church, but he is woefully wrong if it refers to

God's plan for Israel instead, as it does. Error built upon

error multiplies error and causes one to miss what the

passage is actually teaching. Acts 3:21 is only one of many

passages which speak of a precondition for the second

coming in relation to Israel (6. Matt. 23:37-39), however,

there are no passages relating to any preconditions for the

rapture of the Church.

    Since there are no passages in the Bible supporting

a restoration of the Church, what does the New Testament

teach about the course of the current age? It teaches that

this age will be a time in which the Gospel is to be preached

by believers throughout the age and God will be saving

some through faith in Christ. However, it will also be a

time of persecution for believers (John 15:18-24; 16:32-33)

and increasing apostasy of Christendom (2 Tim. 3:13),

during which time believers are encouraged to remain

faithful to Christ regardless of the trends and pressures (2

Tim. 3:14).

    On the other hand, a specific outline of Israel's

history was given at the time of the birth of the nation (c.

1400 B.C.). God told Moses in Deuteronomy 4:15-40 that

when the nation arrived in their promised land that they

would disobey the Lord and be disciplined by being scat-

tered throughout the Gentile nations. Then one day they

would be gathered out from the peoples of the world and be

restored to their ancient land and would be blessed. This

would happen "in the latter days, " declares the Lord, when

"you will return to the LORD Your God and listen to His

voice"(4:30). Restoration is for Israel during the tribula-

tion, not for the Church.

Spiritual Israel

     Another common technique used by restoration-

ists and latter rain advocates is to say that the Church is

now spiritual Israel. They believe that they then have the

right to take the volumes of passages, often from the

prophets, and link them spiritually to the Church. There-

fore, Israel is finished in God's plan as a nation, while

inherits the promises made to Israel in some spiritual way.

Restorationist Rick Godwin is an example of this view.

          So we see in Abraham the birthing of two

     seeds: the nation of Israel physically and the

     spiritual nation of Israel--the Church. And if I

     hear one more person say, "Ahhh, there ain't no

     such thing as the spiritual Israel." I'm going to

     vomit all over'em. What are we reading? For God

     sake. Get rid of that Judaistic spirit after the flesh

     and we'll find out what the real Jew is! You'll find

     out God has never been and is not now a racist.

     Ever! The Church is. God isn't; never has been."

     ("The True Seed of Abraham," Tape G032788)

   Let's look at this matter more closely. The Church

is the spiritual seed of Abraham, but not spiritual Israel.

The Bible does say that "if you belong to Christ, then you

are Abraham's offspring" (Gal. 3:29). It does not say that

we are spiritual Israel. Was Abraham an Israelite? No,

but he was the father of Isaac, who was the father of Jacob

or Israel. Abraham represented blessing to both Jew and


    Too often those who want to replace physical Israel

with the Church do it by stretching the term "seed of

Abraham" to all of a sudden mean "spiritual Israel."

Charles Ryrie has noted that those who hold to a spiritual

Israel view "often argue that since the Church is the seed

of Abraham and Israel is the seed of Abraham, the Church

equals Israel." (Dispensationalism Today, p. 148) Ryrie

answers that view by clarifying the proper relationship of

the Church to the seed of Abraham by saying that "the

Church is a seed of Abraham, but this does not mean that

the Church is Israel."(p. 148) Ryrie notes the three ways

the Bible uses the term "seed of Abraham":

     (1) There is the natural seed, the physical descen-

     dants of Abraham-- . . . (Isa. 41:8). (2) There is

     Christ . . . (Gal. 3:16). (3) Christians are

     Abraham's seed--... (Gal. 3:29). (p. 148)

    Those who believe in a future destiny for physical

Israel do not deny that the Church is part of the spiritual

blessing flowing out of the Abrahamic Covenant through

Christ. However, we do not believe that the Bible teaches

that the Church replaces Israel, as do some. It is a both/

and situation, not an either/or choice.

    Paul makes it clear in Romans 15:27 that Gentiles

during the Church age "have shared in their (Israel's)

spiritual things." Therefore, as sharers, he does not mean

taker-overs; for we are not spiritual Israel. Who is spiri-

tual Israel?

    I think that the Bible uses the concept of spiritual

Israel to refer to physical Israelites or Jews who are

regenerate believers in Jesus as the Messiah, i.e., spiritual

(born again) Israel. Just as the term spiritual Gentile

would refer to a Gentile who has a relationship with God

through Jesus Christ.

   Paul is saying in Romans 2:28-29 when he states "he

is not a Jew who is one outwardly . . . but he is a Jew who

is one inwardly, " that just because one is a physical Jew

does not mean that He is a believer. There are two kinds

of Jews, those who do not know God through Christ but are

racial Jews (physical Jews) and those who are physical

Jews as well as spiritual Jews who know God through


    These spiritual Jews are the ones Paul is greeting as

he closes his letter to the Galatians, "peace and mercy be

upon them and upon the Israel of God"(6:16). After having

been so rough on the Judaizers, Israel after the flesh only,

he concludes with a greeting to those within the family of

God who are Jews, but are believing Jews; called in this

passage by Paul "the Israel of God." S. Lewis Johnson, in

an essay where he studies the meaning of the term "Israel

of God" concludes

     If there is an interpretation that totters on a

     tenuous foundation, it is the view that Paul equates

     the term "the Israel of God" with the believing

     church of Jews and Gentiles. To support it, the

     general usage of the term Israel in Paul, in the

     New Testament, and in the Scriptures as a whole

     is ignored.... If, as LaRondelle asserts, "Paul's

     benediction in Galatians 6:16 becomes, then, the

     chief witness in the New Testament in declaring

     that the universal church of Christ is the Israel of

     God, the seed of Abraham, the heir to Israel's

     covenant promise (cf. Gal. 3:29; 6:16)," then the

     doctrine that the church of Gentiles and Jews is

     the Israel of God rests on an illusion. It is a classic

     case of tendentious exegesis." ("Paul and The

     Israel of God': A Case-Study" in Essays in Honor of

     J. Dwight Pentecost, p. 195)

Apostasy or Revival?

    Another important area where restorationists and

latter rain advocates have missed the teaching of Scrip-

ture is in regard to the state of the Church as this age

draws to its end. Will it end in revival or will it sink

increasingly into apostasy? They fail to realize that the

Church, in its overall posture, cannot be characterized by

both revival and apostasy at the same time. This is an

either/or issue. Rick Godwin has said,

     The Lord is going to have a "Glorious Church"

     before He returns. . . . For years the belief was that

     we would never have another revival,... We

     utterly reject that line of thinking in light of clear

     Scripture. The Glorious Church is to be a mighty

     army of over-comers through whom God reveals

     and demonstrates Himself to man. ('Vision of the

     Eagle's Nest Christian Fellowship," in Tape and

     Book Catalog, July, 1990, page 6)

   The Bible does not teach that the Church will be this

mighty army of overcomers, in the way Godwin envisions.

Once again, his "support" is taken from passages which

refer to Israel and not the Church or verses referring to

believers during the tribulation period after the Church

has been removed.

    Let's look at what the words revival and apostasy

mean as used by Christians today. A revival includes

evangelist success but usually means more than that. It

is normally used to refer to the social and political change

which results from the changed lives of those converts to

Christ. On the other hand, apostasy does not refer to

 whether or not small or large numbers of individuals are

  coming to Christ; rather it is interested in the theological

  or doctrinal integrity of the Church. Therefore, a believer

  can always preach the gospel with confidence during the

  whole of the Church age, knowing that God will be at work

  bringing sinners to Himself up Until the very end.



   Matthew 12:14-37; 13:1-52; 15:12; 23:1-36; 24:10-28

   Mark 6:21-30

   Luke 8;13-18

   John 6:60-71; 8:31-59; 13:21-30; 15:18-27



   Acts 8:8-24; 13:4-12; 20:17-35


   Paul's Epistles

   Romans 1:18-32; 10; 16:16-17

   2 Corinthians 11:1-15 13:5

   Galatians 1:6-9; 5:1-12

   Philippians 3:2, 18-19

   Colossians 2:4-23

   2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

   1 Timothy 1:3-7; 4:1-3; 6:3-5

   2 Timothy 2:11-26; 3:1-14; 4:1-6

   Titus 1:10-16


   General Epistles

   Hebrews 2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:12-6:12; 10:26-31,


   1 Peter 3:19-20

   2 Peter 2:1-22; 3:3-10

   1 John 2:18-23

   2 John 9

   Jude 3-23



   Revelation 2:1-3:22; 4:1-5:14; 6:1-10:11,

             11:1-15:8; 16:1-18:24; 19:1-20:15

   *Incomplete listings

   The New Testament, especially the Epistles, clearly

teaches that the whole of the Church age is a time of

increasing apostasy within Christendom. In fact, so much

space is spent in the New Testament dealing with the issue

of apostasy that it has to be considered one of its major

themes. Apostasy constitutes the main theme of entire

books and chapters as well as paragraphs and verses in the

New Testament. Apostasy and its evil effects provide the

main message of such books as 2 Timothy, 2 Peter, and

Jude. Apostasy occupies a prominent place in such books

as Galatians, 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews, and Revelation.

Apostasy and apostates are set forth with varying degrees

of detail as to their character and conduct, influence and

teaching. Believers are warned to know how to recognize

them and Christian leaders are supposed to protect their

flocks from them and their unhealthy doctrine.

    Apostasy is doctrinal error, not how many will or will

not be saved, whether or not the economy will be good or

bad, or how moral or immoral society will be. When you

couple the tremendous amount of Scripture dealing with

the apostasy of the Church with the absence of language

speaking of the victory of the Church in the sense that the

restoration and latter rain advocates suggest, then there

is no basis for their view from the Word of God. Now, the

Bible does speak of individuals who are overcomers, but

that proves the point since they are contrasted with

apostates. In addition, the victory language in the New

Testament applies to individual believers, not the Church

as a whole. Notice the chart which lists the references to

apostasy in the New Testament.

    I am not rejoicing in the apostasy theme of the New

Testament, instead I must note this point in an effort to

call the Church away from apostasy. The sobering fact is

clear: either the restoration/latter rain movement is a

heaven sent revival from God or it is part of the end-time

apostasy preparing the way for the coming antichrist. It

cannot be both. You must decide! You cannot be neutral!

If it is the great revival then all true believers must join the

band wagon. If it is not, then all true believers should have

enough Biblical sense to come in out of the latter rain

apostasy. These are important issues.

Restoration of the Fivefold Ministries

    In our previous issue (III:5) we noted Bill Hamon's

explanation of the restoration of the fivefold ministries of

evangelists, pastors, teachers, apostles, and prophets in

the end-time (p. 5). This is said by restorationists to be

spoken of in Ephesians 4:11-16. Fellow latter rain advo-

cate, Rick Joyner, claims that he received the contents of

a book he wrote called The Harvest, as a revelation from

God on three different occasions. (p. 7) Joyner spoke about

the restoration of apostles and prophets to help prepare

the Church for the soon coming fullness of the latter rain.

He said,

          The next spiritual contraction will bring

     about the restoration and recognition of the

     PROPHETS. We will see the prophetic ministry

     become the primary focus of attention during the

     next few years as a much greater anointing comes

     upon this ministry than has been seen since Bib-

     lical times. (pp. 28-29)

          There will be another contraction during

     which a true APOSTOLIC authority will be re-

     stored and recognized within the advancing church.

     (P. 31)

    Their interpretation/revelation about the restora-

tion of the gifted men in Ephesians 4:11 is erroneous for a

number of reasons. The major objection is rather obvious

to anyone who would simply read the passage; the text

says nothing about a restoration of these ministries. Simply

put, the text does not speak of such an occurrence. They

have pulled this concept out of the thin air of their fertile


    Christ's giving of apostles and prophets to the Church

is said in Ephesians 2:20 to be something which is to be

foundational to the Church, not something given to each

generation of believers. The passage says, "having been

built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,

Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone. The picture

is that of a building process which is going on during the

entire period of the Church age; from Pentecost to the

rapture. This process can be described as taking place in

three stages.

    Phase one is the laying of the corner stone, which

describes the first century, nonrepeatable, work of Christ.

The rest of the building is supposed to orient itself in terms

of Christ the corner stone.

    Phase two is the foundation of the apostles and

prophets, which also occured in the first century and is

nonrepeatable. However,just as with Christ, even though

it is nonrepeatable, it does not mean that it is nonappli-

cable for today. Just as with a foundation in a physical

building, which once it is build it continues to be used, so

it is with the ministry of the apostles and prophets who

gave us the boundaries of the gospel and doctrine upon

which believers are being used of God to build Christ's

Church. Once the foundation is laid, you don't keep

redoing it each generation, instead you continue to build

upon it.

    Phase three is the superstructure of the rest of the

building which is built upon and in terms of the guidelines

laid out by the corner stone and the foundation. This work

will be completed at the rapture when the last person

destined to make-up the final component of the Body of

Christ believes. Then the Church will be complete.

    Within the framework of the Biblical picture of

Ephesians 2, to say that God is restoring apostles and

prophets implies that foundation which has been laid is

not complete and we have been building the house upon a

shaky foundation.

    Ephesians 3:5 echoes the thought of 2:20 when Paul

says concerning the mystery of Christ: "which in other

generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it

has now been revealed to His Holy apostles and prophets in

the Spirit." The emphasis is upon revelation received

during the time of Paul's writing, which implies that the

ministry of apostles and prophets was completed in the


    When we come to the Ephesians 4:11 use of apostles

and prophets, with evangelists, and pastors and teachers

we observe a division of labor employed in the building of

God's spiritual temple--the Church. Phase two, the foun-

dation, was completed during the apostolic age ending

around AD. 100 and those workmen left the scene, while

the fruit of their labor remains. That foundation was the

New Testament canon of Scripture. Phase three is en-

trusted with the task of building upon the sure foundation

of Christ and the apostles. This is why the bulk of labor

over the life of the project (the Church age) is done by the

 evangelist, and the pastor-teachers. They remain on site

 until the structure is complete at the rapture. This is why

 the Pastoral Epistles (l& 2 Timothy and Titus) stress the

 importance of following and protecting the fixed deposit of

 Apostolic faith by faithful men, so that it can be passed

 from generation of generation (2 Tim. 2:2). Therefore,

 evangelist, and pastor-teachers have never faded from the

 scene so that they have to be restored as latter rain

 advocates teach.

     The Holy Spirit has been using believers to win and

 disciple others for the last 2,000 years without interrup-

 tion as taught by restorationists. The Church is being

 perfected with the original doctrine contained in the New

 Testament and does not need an updated version of

 "Apostles' doctrine 2.1." The first edition did not have any

 glitches. Why would anyone want to bring the foundation

 crew back on the job when the roof is near completion,

 unless they want to improperly change the foundation.

 Yet to want to add to the foundation, when it has already

 been set is the desire and practice of false prophets and

 teachers. The believer who opens themselves up to "new

 revelation" is opening themselves up to deception. As Paul

 told Timothy, "Retain the standard of sound words which

 you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in

 Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells

 in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you" (2 Tim.


     This is the Church's calling in our day: to guard the

 foundation laid by Christ, and the apostles and prophets,

 while building upon that foundation the superstructure

 through evangelism and discipleship.

 A Perfect Church

     Rick Godwin has been described by Jack Taylor as

 "God's John Wayne to the Church!" (Tape and Book Cata-

 log, July, 1990, page 8) Probably a more accurate descrip-

 tion would be to liken Godwin to Rambo; John Wayne had

 manners and was a gentleman. Note Godwin's belief that

 the Church will be perfected before Christ's return:

          The Lord is going to have a "Glorious

     Church" before He returns. This thought encorm-

     passes the theme of personal and corporate purity,

     for Scripture says that His Church will be 'with-

     out spot, wrinkle or blemish." His Church will

     have Power followed by signs and wonders, for

     Scripture says," it will be a glorious church. (Vision

     of the Eagle's Nest Christian Fellowship," in Tape

     and Book Catalog, July, 1990, page 6)

   Ephesians 5:25-27 is the passage which latter rain/

restorationists use to say that the end-time Church will

have the restoration of apostolic power and unity which

will produce the greatest period of miracles and conver-

sions to Christ in all of history. However, they mishandle

this passage as they do many others. "Husbands, love your

wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave

Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having

cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He

might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having

no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be

holy and blameless" (Eph. 5:25-27).

    There is no question that this passage speaks of a

glorious church, without sport or wrinkle. But how does

the Bible use those terms? Do restorationists use them in

the same way the Bible does? I believe they do not. In a

nutshell, the Bible uses them to describe the believer's

legal standing before God as won on our behalf through

Christ's work on the cross. On the other hand, restoration-

ists (mis)apply it as something which the believer and the

Church can grow into and become in our current experi-


   God's plan of salvation is often discussed in terms of

one's covenantal standing before God. This is legal lan-

guage. When Adam fell, his sin was imputed or credited to

the legal bank account of every person born thereafter,

even though no one personally committed that sin (Rom.

5:12-21). Our legal standing (some call this positional

truth) forms the basis from which our experience follows.

Therefore, human beings sin experientially because they

are legally or positionally sinners. In the same way, Christ

had to first deal with the legal barrier of sin in winning

salvation for the Church as the basis for experiential

change in the life of the individual believer and the Church

as a whole. Positional standing in Christ is the basis upon

which the believer is to live his life experientially through


    When properly interpreting Scripture, one must be

familiar enough with the way the Bible uses various

terms. Often a decision must be made as to whether or not

a word or phrase is describing a positional truth or an

experiential aspect of salvation. The difference it makes in

the interpretation of Ephesians 5:25-27 is great. If these

are positional terms, then the perfection spoken of in this

passage is that earned by Christ through His saving work,

which is applied positionally to the believer, but will not be

experienced in its fullness until glorification at the time of

the resurrection. However, if these are taken experien-

tially as applying to our current time, then it is teaching

perfection of the individual believer as well corporate


   I will now examine reasons why this passage should

be interpreted positionally. First, verse 25 is grounding

Paul's admonition on the basis of Christ's giving of Himself

sacrificially on the cross. Certainly something that ap-

plies to the believer's legal standing before God.

    Second, the passive participle "having cleansed" in

verse 26 speaks of action which occurs simultaneously

with the action of the verb it is related to, "gave" in verse

25. Thus, the cleansing is related to Christ's giving of

Himself on the cross, a positional use and not experiential.

Third, the vocabulary used in this passage are terms

that are used throughout the Bible to describe positional

salvation or justification, not the process of living the

Christian life. "Cleanse" refers to ceremonial cleansing

within the Old Testament temple ritual depicting justifi-

cation. It is used to describe positional salvation in John

15:3 when Jesus said, "You are already clean because of

the word which I have spoken to you." "Washing of water

with the word" also is a positional phrase descriptive of

becoming a Christian, not being a Christian (cf. Titus 3:5).

Likewise, the terms in verse 27, having no "spot" or

"wrinkle," but that believers should be "holy" and "blame-

less" in this context refer to our legal standing earned by

Christ in His death on the cross, not a current progress.

    Therefore, the body of Christ is being perfected as

each person believes the Gospel and receives the finished

work of Christ to their account. When that last person

believes and the rapture occurs, then will the resurrected

and glorified bride be presented to Christ in experiential

perfection at the marriage supper of the Lamb. She will

not experience perfection before resurrection during the

some supposed latter rain outpouring of the Holy Spirit

upon the Church.


    Like many of my sermons, I have run out of time, in

this case, space, before I finished. But you should be able

to see by now that terms like "latter rain" and "Joel's army"

from Joel 2 do not in any way, shape, or form refer to the

Church. Instead they refer to God's program for Israel.

   In addition, if the Church will be taken out before the

tribulation of Daniel's 70th week begins (the pretrib rap-

ture), which I believe, then one cannot believe in a theology

of restoration and latter rain. The pretrib position teaches

that the Church is raptured, not restored. Other views of

the rapture (partial, midtrib, pre-wrath, and posttrib), all

mix God's program for Israel and the Church into the

tribulation, thus allowing for the possibility, but not the

necessity, of some form of latter rain/restoration teach-


    I want to conclude by saying that I think this move-

ment is extremely dangerous theologically and is restoring

the ancient heresy and practices of gnosticism, not true

Christianity. This is paving the way for the widespread

acceptance of false doctrine and the false signs, wonders,

and miracles which will be a trademark of antichrist

during the coming tribulation.

Tommy Ice is pastor of oak Hill Bible Church in

Austin, Texas. He has a B.A. in Bible and Greek

from Howard Payne University, and a Th.M. in

Historical Theology from Dallas Seminary.