For over 6,000 years, man has succumbed to Satan’s temptations to break God’s eternal law, thus becoming subject to death, as we read in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin [is] death.” Satan hates God’s Law. He has made the claim that only a very few are obeying God’s Law in keeping the Sabbath, but even they will give up the Sabbath when faced by the coming crisis. This is why he will enforce Sunday worship, which God’s Word teaches us is the mark of the beast.
A worldwide law will enforce Sunday worship with a death penalty to those who do not obey. Thus, Satan claims that no man will keep God’s Law. But God has a plan for this last generation that will be living on this earth. Those whose names are left in the Lamb’s book of life after the investigative judgment are to be taken to heaven without experiencing death. The 144,000 will prove to the universe that God’s Law can be kept no matter what terrible persecutions Satan, through his agents, can inflict upon these saints during what God calls a “time of trouble, such as never was.” Daniel 12:1.
God proclaims of these 144,000, “Here is the patience of the saints, here [are] they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12.
To refresh our memories, in the first part of this article, we noted that out of the tense end-time trials and tribulations there will be developed 144,000 living saints whose characters will have become more Christlike than that of any other generation of saints throughout the history of the world. Their characters will reveal that they have “gained the victory over evil so that they would rather die than sin.” The Great Controversy, 425.
The Latter Rain
What will make this possible? God has a great blessing reserved to pour out upon His last-generation church¾a blessing that has not been previously manifested because it has not been needed. In the end time, however, it becomes a necessity. It is called the latter rain. God knew that the last generation would need an extra supply of the grace of the Holy Spirit to prepare them to pass through the time of Jacob’s trouble and to meet Christ at His coming.
We read about this blessing in Joel 2:23, 24: “Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first [month]. And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.”
Besides empowering this last generation to proclaim the loud cry to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, which will be a last-day accomplishment, the latter rain performs something for the saints themselves. This work of grace for the saints may be likened to the ripening of the grain for the harvest, and this certainly will be harvest time for God’s church. In the Scripture just quoted from Joel 2:24, it explains that, when the latter rain falls, the threshing floor shall be full of wheat.
But let us keep in mind that it is absolutely necessary that these living saints receive both the early and the latter rain. “If we do not progress, if we do not place ourselves in an attitude to receive both the former and the latter rain, we shall lose our souls, and the responsibility will lie at our own door.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 508.
Ellen White further explained: “The ripening of the grain represents the completion of the work of God’s grace in the soul. By the power of the Holy Spirit the moral image of God is to be perfected in the character. We are to be wholly transformed into the likeness of Christ.
Former Rain Necessary
“The latter rain, ripening earth’s harvest, represents the spiritual grace that prepares the church for the coming of the Son of man. But unless the former rain has fallen, there will be no life; the green blade will not spring up. Unless the early showers have done their work, the latter rain can bring no seed to perfection.” Ibid., 506.
The latter rain will accomplish in the saints an even further work of character refinement or perfection. Not only will this prepare the church for the coming of Christ, as stated in the previous quotation, but, also, in Testimonies, vol. 1, 353, we read, “It is the latter rain which revives and strengthens them to pass through the time of trouble.” So, it is no wonder that God, through His prophet Zechariah, stated, “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.” Zechariah 10:1. What a beautiful promise! But many of our people seem to be waiting for the latter rain to accomplish their victory over sin. We are forewarned that they are making a terrible mistake. This is not the purpose of the latter rain.
Prior preparation must be made before the latter rain can fall upon any one of us. “Many have in a great measure failed to receive the former rain. They have not obtained all the benefits that God has thus provided for them. They expect that the lack will be supplied by the latter rain. When the richest abundance of grace shall be bestowed, they intend to open their hearts to receive it. They are making a terrible mistake. The work that God has begun in the human heart in giving His light and knowledge must be continually going forward. Every individual must realize his own necessity. The heart must be emptied of every defilement and cleansed for the indwelling of the Spirit. It was by the confession and forsaking of sin, by earnest prayer and consecration of themselves to God, that the early disciples prepared for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. The same work, only in greater degree, must be done now.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 507.
Ellen White makes this very important statement: “Today you are to have your vessel purified that it may be ready for the heavenly dew, ready for the showers of the latter rain; for the latter rain will come, and the blessing of God will fill every soul that is purified from every defilement. It is our work today to yield our souls to Christ, that we may be fitted for the time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord¾fitted for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Selected Messages, Book 1,191.
Perhaps the first work of the latter rain will be to seal the saints of God in their foreheads. However, notice this quote, “Not one of us will ever receive the seal of God while our characters have one spot or stain upon them. It is left with us to remedy the defects in our characters, to cleanse the soul temple of every defilement. Then the latter rain will fall upon us as the early rain fell upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 214.
Please note again the counsel that every defilement must be washed away in the blood of the Lamb. It is then, and not until then, that the latter rain will fall upon God’s people. It is then, and not until then, that God’s people will receive the seal of the living God. “Will this seal be put upon the impure in mind, the fornicator, the adulterer, the man who covets his neighbor’s wife? Let your souls answer the question, Does my character correspond to the qualifications essential that I may receive a passport to the mansions Christ has prepared for those who are fitted for them? Holiness must be inwrought in our character.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 446.
Again, this cutting truth comes loud and clear. Ellen White tells us, “Those who receive the seal of the living God must reflect the image of Jesus fully.” Early Writings, 71. I trust this alarming truth is awakening your heart as it has mine; for before the seal is placed upon the living saints, all must appear before the judgment seat of God to receive their award according to their works.
Time of Judgment
When does the final separation of the wheat and the tares begin? “The time of the judgment is a most solemn period, when the Lord gathers His own from among the tares.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 238. We are also told, “The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul. The mark of the beast will be urged upon us. . . . In this time the gold [that is, His own] will be separated from the dross [that is, the tares] in the church.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 81.
When God’s people are faced with the papal Sunday test, the Sunday sabbath test, the final separation of the wheat and the tares will take place. Those who pass this test will be sealed with the seal of the living God, and all who fail will receive the mark of the beast. It is by their own choice that their eternal destiny will be decided.
This is why it is said of those who decide to be faithful commandment keepers, “Their names are retained in the Lamb’s book of life, enrolled among the faithful of all ages. They have resisted the wiles of the deceiver; they have not been turned from their loyalty by the dragon’s roar. Now they are eternally secure from the tempter’s devices.” Can you just picture this precious experience, as “holy angels, unseen, were passing to and fro placing upon them the seal of the living God”? Testimonies, vol. 5, 475.
Now, let us inquire as to what the seal of God is and how the saints are blessed by receiving it. After the saints are sealed, their characters will “remain” as sinless as they were at the time of their sealing. Ellen White tells us, “When the decree goes forth [that is, the Sunday law] and the stamp is impressed [that is, the seal] their character will remain pure and spotless for eternity.” Ibid., 216. How amazing that is! God does have a plan.
The seal of God is an indelible mark that the angels can read, but man cannot. “And even after the saints are sealed with the seal of the living God, His elect will have trials individually. Personal afflictions will come; but the furnace is closely watched by an eye that will not suffer the gold to be consumed. The indelible mark of God is upon them. God can plead that His own name is written there. The Lord has shut them in. Their destination is inscribed—‘God, New Jerusalem.’ They are God’s property, His possession.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 446.
You know, when you read and hear things like this, do you not feel like saying, Amen? “The sealing is a pledge from God of perfect security to His chosen ones (Exodus 31:13-17). Sealing indicates you are God’s chosen. He has appropriated you to Himself. As the sealed of God we are Christ’s purchased possession, and no one shall pluck us out of His hands.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, 225. Oh, how marvelous!
It is self-evident that when God’s people are faced with the seal or the mark of the beast that the reception of either the seal of God or the mark of the beast indicates that their names have come up in the investigative judgment, their destiny has been decided. Their individual probations have been closed. Note, also, that they must make the same preparation for the close of their probations as do those who die in the Lord; that is, in regard to sinning and defilement in their lives.
The latter rain does not fall upon them until after they have made this preparation. So, other than the tense end-time persecutions that favor character maturity, in which they live, the last generation of God’s people will have no more advantage before their probation closes than do those who die in the Lord. All mankind must make their preparation under the former rain. That is such an important point that I must repeat it. All mankind must make their preparation under the former rain, and that time is now.
Symbolic or Literal
As we ponder these observations that I have made of the experiences, the achievements, and the blessings of the 144,000, let us answer a question that is so often asked:
Is the term, the 144,000, a symbolic or a literal number? The answer: No one knows. We cannot speculate.
Here is some counsel from the Lord’s messenger on this subject: “Another question upon which we had some conversation was in regard to the elect of God that the Lord would have a certain number, and when that number was made up then probation would cease. These are questions you or I have no right to talk about. The Lord Jesus will receive all who come unto Him. He died for the ungodly and every man who will come, may come.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 315.
“Certain conditions are to be complied with on the part of man, and if he refuses to comply with the conditions, he cannot become the elect of God. If he will comply he is a child of God, and Christ says if he will continue in faithfulness, steadfast and immovable in his obedience, He will not blot out his name out of the book of life but will confess his name before His Father and before His angels. God would have us think and talk and present to others those truths which are plainly revealed, and all have naught to do with these subjects of speculation, for they have no special reference to the salvation of our souls.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 2, 149.
We must ever keep in mind that that which has been revealed is all about which we need to be concerned. “It is not His will that they [His people] should get into controversy over questions which will not help them spiritually, such as, Who is to compose the hundred and forty-four thousand. This those who are the elect of God will in a short time know without question.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 174. That is amazing! And, so, with this, let us rest satisfied.
To be continued . . .
For over 60 years Pastor Lawrence Nelson served as an evangelist and minister for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Of that time, he served 13 years as the director of evangelism for youth at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Upon retirement from the General Conference, he continued to pastor, but when, as a result of his stand for truth, he was denied the opportunity to continue his pastorate, he started Keep the Faith Audio Tape Ministry, recording his sermons and making them available to individuals. Before his retirement from this ministry in 2004, over 18,000 audio tapes were being sent around the world each month.