To understand this, first we need to learn about the geographic settings and climate of Israel in relation to rain.
Geographical Settings of Israel
Israel has low rainfall and its soil is mainly composed of limestone and sandstone, so it is not easy to even find water underground. This is why the historical sites of Israel include many reservoirs which were used to collect rainwater for drinking, and Bible history also shows that the patriarchs like Abraham had to dig wells wherever they went and there were quarrels over water. Thus, rain was directly correlated with the livelihood of the people in Israel, their survival was threatened when it did not rain.
Dt 11:14-17 . . . I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains [“the first rain and the latter rain,” KJV], . . . I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. . . . he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain . . . and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you.
If we know that water has been such an extremely precious commodity in Israel, we are able to deeply understand the importance of the words of Jesus who said, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst” (Jn 4:14), and the words of the Spirit and the Bride who have come as the Saviors in this last age and say, “Take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev 22:17).
Climate of Israel
Israel’s climate is characterized by two distinct seasons: a rainy winter period from November to March (or from mid-October until mid-April of the following year), and a dry summer season which extends from May to September. Spring and autumn are short—April is spring, and October is autumn.
It rains relatively frequently during the winter rainy season. After two or three weeks of rain, the hills and fields come alive. Then farmers plow the fields and sow seeds. On the other hand, during the summer dry season, there is very little rain. The scorching heat of the sun dries up the soil and causes plants to wither, and the fields and hills turn reddish brown.
Farming and Rain
The rain that falls in October and November when the rainy season starts is the autumn rain [“the former rain”]; and the rain which falls in March and April when the rainy season ends is the spring rain [“the latter rain”].
The former rain should fall enough to yield a good harvest for the year. Since there is no rain during the dry season and the land is in an extremely arid condition, it is impossible to cultivate farmland unless it rains. That is why farmers earnestly wait for the former rain while getting ready to farm for the year. Looking at the land which is parched with the burning heat of the sun, they anxiously wait for the rain (Jas 5:7).
The latter rain, also called the “rain in the springtime” (Zec 10:1), is a timely rain because it is absolutely needed for a good harvest.
The former and latter rain, which comes at the right time for farming in Israel, is a blessing from God. So most of the rain recorded in the Bible figuratively represents God’s grace and blessings (Dt 32:2; Eze 34:26; Ps 65:19).
Spiritual Farming and the Rain of the Holy Spirit
Physical farming in Israel, which was controlled by rain, represents the gospel work of God spiritually (Mt 13:24-30; 36-40). The two special rains in the farming season―the former rain and the latter rain―represent the Holy Spirit that God gives His people for spiritual farming.
Joel 2:23 . . . O people of Zion . . . He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before [the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month, KJV].
The Holy Spirit of the Former Rain and the Holy Spirit of the Latter Rain
The prophecy of the former rain was fulfilled by Jesus 2,000 years ago; on the day of Pentecost, Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit upon His disciples who had all joined together in Jerusalem constantly in prayer for ten days, after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Then the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit occurred in the early Church; 3,000 people repented in a day, and from then on even more souls were saved.
Ac 2:1-47 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. . . . All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit . . . Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
The prophecy of the latter rain coming down at the harvest time is to be fulfilled through the great work of the Holy Spirit which God pours out on us for the gospel work of gathering God’s people, who are represented as the wheat, from the ends of the earth, in this spiritual harvest time.
Mt 24:30-31 . . . They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
The Holy Spirit of the latter rain, which is granted at the time of spiritual harvest, is poured out upon those who come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.
Zec 14:16-17 Then the survivors . . . will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, they will have no rain.
Now is the age of the Feast of Tabernacles―the spiritual fruiting season―when we should diligently ask Elohim, who rule and manage all things, to give us the Holy Spirit of the latter rain. Those who come to Jerusalem and ask for Her grace will be clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit of the latter rain, which is seven times more powerful than the former rain given at the time of Jesus’ first coming (Isa 30:26). As gospel workers, we should accomplish the amazing work of the Holy Spirit by preaching the gospel boldly, being clothed with the abundant grace of the Holy Spirit that Heavenly Father and Mother pour out on us.
Jn 7:37-39 On the last and greatest day of the Feast (of the Tabernacles), Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. . . .
Rev 22:17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, ‘Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.