The Nature of Revival
by Winkie Pratney
History. Hear that word and what do you think? Dull facts? Dead people? Useless dates? Eminently forgettable events? But the great need of the Church of the 1990's is a sense of both her history and her destiny. How do you "boldly go where no man has gone before" unless you first know where you really are and where you've come from?
The past is full of treasure. To slightly restate another's maxim, Christians who learn from revival history will be compelled to want to repeat it. Our study of history is not intended to be a study about our past at all. It is part of the record of the awesome life and deeds of anotherone who transcends our small and often shabby little human story-an infinite person who reaches time after time into lives just like yours or mine, making them memorable, giving them the greatness of a reflected glory. Indeed, the very word "history" came from the merging of the words "his story."
History links yesterday's Bible records with tomorrow's headlines in ongoing accounts of ordinary lives moved by an extraordinary God. He who called and empowered those who changed the world before is alive today, and forevermore; He can surely do it again. John's Gospel said it best: "This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent." The Church's secret to her past power is also her present hope of survival, and ultimate triumph.
More Than History
One of the problems with describing what God has done in history is that He is still alive and writing it. That reality has embarrassing consequences for you and I! For one thing, He is always around to contradict our interpretations of such history. For another, history isn't finished until He steps in personally to put the final "Amen" on the whole thing.
Godauthorized revival is the critical need of the hour and the hope of this country. We had better understand something about this thing called revival and know how to call on God concerning it if the bright, hopeful young of the Western world in the 1990's are going to spiritually survive and triumph in the next millennium.
Over the past thirty years of my travels in the Western world, I have met many hundreds of thousands of young people. I have spoken to many of them on the subject of revival, and challenged them to pray and give themselves to God for revival-and I have even been privileged to participate from time to time in some small, but real, awakenings.
Recently the need for a general awakening in the West, particularly in Great Britain, the Pacific and North America, has become critical. Yet with so much past material available for study and so much obvious desire across the nation for revival, there is an appalling lack of understanding on the subject. For instance, if you get a chance to speak to a larger group of Christians, try this little survey:
How many of you know we need a revival? Almost everyone raises his hand here. The knowledge of this fact hardly takes scholarship or devotion.
How many of you want a revival? Again, a majority opinion in church groups. According to George Gallup, Jr., in the eighties, around 80 percent of the country wanted a revival. Even the lost know we need one!
How many of you know what a revival is? The number drops off alarmingly now. Here is something we all want and we all need, but we don't have a clue as to what it is!
How many of you have ever experienced a real revival? And here, very few, if any, ever respond. "And there arose another generation after them: which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel" (Judges 2:10 KJV). Bevan Jones once said, "Never let a generation grow up without that knowledge of Divine things which may contain the germ of national revival in years to come."
Old Testament Definitions Of Revival
The closest biblical word to "revival" is "revive" or "reviving," from the Hebrew word chayah (khawyaw)a primitive root meaning to live (figurative or literal). This word (Strong's Concordance, 2421) is also translated: make alive, nourish up, preserve alive, quicken, recover, repair, restore, or be whole, keep alive, preserve, save, save alive, and make whole.
The first four times, this word is translated "revived" in the Authorized version. All deal with four increasing levels of death:
(1) Jacob: Old Man with a Lost Dream. "And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived" (Genesis 45:27).
(2) Samson: Young Man with a Near-death Vision. "But God crave an hollow place that [was] in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore he called the name thereof Enhakkore, which [is] in Lehi unto this day" (Judges 15:19).
(3) Elijah: Restoration of a Woman's Newlydead Child. "And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived" (I Kings 17:22).
(4) Elisha's Bones: A Group of Servants Burying a Corpse. "And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band [of men]; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet" (II Kings 13:21).
All these groups of people are listed as the recipients of revival in the prophecy of Joel 2:2829: "Your sons and daughters (children) shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit" (KJV).
The prophet Habakkuk uses this Hebrew word in his heartbroken cry, "Oh Lord, revive thy work; in the midst of the years. . .remember mercy!" (Habakkuk 3:2 KJV). Yet revival is not magic. As the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states: "In contrast to the ancient near East where men sought to link themselves with forces of life ... by magical recitations .. . by appropriate magical ritual, in the Old Testament life is decided by a right relationship to the righteous standards of the Word of God" (page 280). That is why Charles Finney could succinctly define revival as "nothing more or less than a new beginning of obedience to the Word of God."
Revival is not arbitrary. It is not mystical. It is, as far as men are concerned, a heartfelt return to love and faith in the living and written Word. Dr. Wilbur Smith notes seven "outstanding revivals" in the Old Testament in addition to the one under Jonah. They are the one in Jacob's household (Genesis 35:115); under Asa (II Chronicles 15:115); Jehoash (II Kings 11, 12; II Chronicles 23, 24); Hezekiah (II Kings 18:47; II Chronicles 29:31); and Josiah (II Kings 22, 23; II Chronicles 34,35). There are two revivals after the Exile under Zerubbabel (Ezra 5,6), in which Haggai and Zechariah play a prominent part, and, finally, a revival in Nehemiah's time in which Ezra was the outstanding figure (Nehemiah 9; also 12:4447).
Smith summarizes nine outstanding characteristics of these major revivals:
They occurred in a day of deep moral darkness and national depression.
They began in the heart of one consecrated servant of God who became the energizing power behind them; the agent used of God to quicken and lead the nation back to faith in and obedience to Him.
Each revival rested on the Word of God, and most were the result of preaching and proclaiming God's law with power.
All resulted in a return to the worship of Jehovah.
Each witnessed the destruction of idols where they existed.
In each revival there was a recorded separation from sin.
In every revival they returned to offering blood sacrifices.
Almost all recorded revivals show a restoration of great joy and gladness.
Each revival was followed by a period of great national prosperity (Fischer, Reviving Revivals, pp. 6364).
New Testament Definitions Of Revival
The Greek equivalent of the Old Testament word for "revive" is only used five times in the New Testament. Why is it not more of a New Testament word? For the simple reason that New Testament Christianity is revival. This Greek word anazao is not only used for the restoration of the prodigal son (Luke 15:24, 32), the resurrection of Christ (Romans 14:9), and the physical resurrection of the dead in the last days (Revelation 20:5), but also for the deadly effect of sin (Romans 7:9). Evil as well as righteousness can have a revival; there can be an unholy uprising as well as a holy outpouring.
Another equivalent New Testament word is used by Paul in II Timothy 1:6, "Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee...." This is the Greek word anazopureo, (Strong's Concordance, 329) to "fan into flame, to revive." Some prefer the term "spiritual awakening" to "revival," like the promise fulfilled in Acts 2:17. This may refer to individual quickening, but revival, as we shall use and define it, both includes and transcends this.
Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines the word "revive" as a:
"Return, recall or recovery to life from death or apparent death, as the revival of a drowned person." Revival brings back to life something once living that is either now dead or seemingly dead.
"Return or recall to activity from a state of languor, as the revival of spirits." Revival brings a holy shock to apathy and carelessness. Isaiah calls for God to show His power: "Oh that you would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence. . . to make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at your Presence! When You did awesome things for which we did not look, You came down" (Isaiah. 64:13; 63:1015 NKJV).
"Recall, return or recovery from a state of neglect, oblivion, obscurity or depression, as the revival of letters or learning." Revival restores truth and recalls to obedience that which has been forgotten. Invariably as either its cause or result, it is associated with reformation of doctrine and preaching.
"Renewed and more active attention to religion; an awakening of men to their spiritual concerns." Revival accomplishes what our best spiritual efforts cannot. "Revival is necessary to counteract spiritual decline and to create spiritual momentum... in revival, the church dormant becomes the church militant."
"To renew in the mind or memory, to recall; to recover from a state of neglect or depression."
"To comfort; to quicken; to refresh with joy or hope" ("Wilt Thou not Thyself revive us again?" Psalm 85:6). Revival means to reanimate, renew, awaken, reinvigorate, restore, to make the church whole and happy in God again.
Revival is more than big meetings, religious excitement, a quickening of the saints, being filled with the Holy Spirit, or great harvests of souls. One or all of these may exist without revival.
Vance Havner defined revival as "a work of God's Spirit among His own people ... what we call revival is simply New Testament Christianity, the saints getting back to normal" (Hearts Afire, pp. 103104).
Some think that revival is only a supernatural show of unusual events, terrifying manifestations in special times and seasons. Others view it as a steady, continuous work of God from a genuine, Spiritanointed Church functioning as it is supposed to. Both models are valid, but often the first is needed to produce a genuine example of the second.
Martyn LloydJones said, "The essence of revival is that the Holy Spirit comes down upon a number of people together; upon a whole church, a number of churches, districts or perhaps a whole country. It is a visitation or outpouring of the Holy Spirit God has come down among them" (Revival, p. 100).
True revival is marked by powerful and often widespread outpourings of the Spirit. Many times preaching has to cease because the hearers are prostrate or because the voice of the preacher is drowned by cries for mercy. "The Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the Word" (Acts 10:44). Jonathan Edward's soninlaw, David Brainerd, who prayed in the snow until it melted around him and was stained by his blood as he coughed away his life with T.B., prevailed in prayer for revival among the American Indians. Before he died he described in his journal how it finally began in 1745:
The power of God seemed to descend on the assembly like a rushing mighty wind and with an astonishing energy bore all down before it. I stood amazed at the influence that seized the audience almost universally and could compare it to nothing more aptly than the irresistible force of a mighty torrent... Almost all persons of all ages were bowed down with concern together and scarce one was able to withstand the shock of the astonishing operation (Edwards, The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, pp. 142143).
Brian Edward's states: "Someone has described revival as 'the top blowing off' and that is very true. But the top does not blow off before the bottom has fallen out" (Revival. A People Saturated With God, p. 130).
Arthur Wallis, in his classic study In the Day of Thy Power, points out the word is determined by its usage. It had historical consistency of meaning up until recent years, where (especially in America) it began to take on a lesser, more limited sense. Nevertheless, he says: "Numerous writings on the subject preserved confirm that revival is Divine intervention in the normal course of spiritual things. It is God revealing Himself to man in awful holiness and irresistible power. It is such a manifest working of God that human personalities are overshadowed and human programs abandoned. It is man retiring into the background because God has taken the field. It is the Lord... working in extraordinary power on saint and sinner" (p. 20).
J. Edwin Orr, a prolific writer and eminent authority of both scholarship and experience in the subject, defined a spiritual awakening as "a movement of the Holy Spirit bringing about a revival of New Testament Christianity in the Church of Christ and its related community. It may significantly change an individual, a group of believers, a congregation, a city, a country or even eventually the world but it accomplishes the reviving of the Church, the awakening of the masses and the movement of uninstructed peoples towards the Christian faith; the revived church by many or few is moved to engage in evangelism, teaching and social action" (The Eager Feet, p. vii).
A.W. Tozer defined revival as that which "changes the moral climate of a community." Revival is essentially a manifestation of God; it has a stamp of deity on it that even the unregenerate and uninitiated are quick to recognize. Duncan Campbell described it as a "community saturated with God." Revival must of necessity make an impact on the community, and this is one means by which we may distinguish it from the more usual operations of the Holy Spirit" (Wallis, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 23).
John Dawson points out, however, that the "community" of the twentieth century is different from that of previous ages; modern communities are "linked vocational villages of communication," not necessarily communities linked geographically. A revival in the eighteenth century affected your neighbor who probably did live next door; a revival that affects your neighbor in the twentieth century may touch "neighbors" who live hundreds or even thousands of miles away and are linked not by geographic location but by common vocation and communication.
Revival is what the church first experiences; evangelism is what she then engages in. Revival is periodic; evangelism is continuous. Revival cannot last; evangelism must not stop. Do we want a revival? Do we really? James Burns, writing in Revival, Their Laws and Leaders, said in 1909:
To the church, a revival means humiliation, a bitter knowledge of unworthiness and an open and humiliating confession of sin on the part of her ministers and people. It is not the easy and glorious thing many think it to be, who imagine it fills pews and reinstates the church in power and authority.
It comes to scorch before it heals; it comes to condemn ministers and people for their unfaithful witness, for their selfish living, for their neglect of the cross, and to call them to daily renunciation, to an evangelical poverty and to a deep and daily consecration. That is why a revival has ever been unpopular with large numbers within the church. Because it says nothing to them of power such as they have learned to love, or of ease, or of success; it accuses them of sin, it tells them they are dead, it calls them to awake, to renounce the world and to follow Christ.
We can see in the studies of four of the exceptional men of the first and second Great Awakenings some of the characteristics of the lives of revivalists. We can look on these two centuries as illustrations of the New Testament model of revival, but how can we summarize the dominant features of such a New Testament pattern?
Charles Finney may have said it best: "The antecedents, accompaniments and results of revivals are always substantially the same as in the case of Pentecost." Albert Barnes said: "That day which shall convince the great body of professing Christians of the reality and desirability of revivals will constitute a new era in the history of religion and will precede manifestations of power like that of Pentecost." Arthur Wallis, keying off the Scriptural record of the second chapter of Acts, and quoting extensively from that "Prince of Revivalists" Charles Finney, gave an outstanding outline of a true revival's characteristics, here excerpted and partly amplified.
Allowing God to Move
Divine Sovereignty. Implicit in the phrase, "When the day of Pentecost was fully come" (Acts 2:1), is the fact that every genuine revival is clearly stamped with the hallmark of God's sovereignty. Consider the timing, the significance of the day, the nations all divinely ordered there.
God times every outpouring, a kairos related to a thousand other plans He alone can coordinate. Finney, speaking of the 1859 revival, mentions this sovereignty: "When I was in Boston ... a gentleman stated he had come from Nebraska and had found prayer meetings established throughout all the vast extent of country over which he had travelled. Think of that-a vast region of 2,000 miles, along which the hands of the people of God were lifted up to God in prayer! From North to South till you come within the slave territory, a great and mighty prayer went up to God that He would come down and take the people in hand and convert souls; and He heard and everybody stood astounded."
Likewise in the Welsh Revival: "The outpouring of the Spirit came dramatically with precision in the second week in November 1904 on the same day-both in the North and the South." Zechariah 10:1 says, "Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain...."
Spiritual Preparation. "All together in one place... with one accord continued steadfast in prayer" (Acts 1:14). The two essential conditions of revival are unity and prayer. Revival has two foundation stones: "the preparedness of man and the sovereignty of God" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 60). The Word and history teach us that an attitude of indifference and fatalism must be abandoned before revival can be expected.
If the blessing comes, then we may be sure someone has met the conditions and paid the price. Yet we cannot have revival as if God is at our beck and call. "Thy people [offer themselves] willingly in the day of Thy power" (Psalm 110:3 KJV). (Also see Ezekiel 36:3337; Mark 6:5,6; Deuteronomy 11:13,1617).
Martyn LloydJones said: "Our essential trouble is that we are content with a very superficial and preliminary knowledge of God, His being, His cause... we spend our lives in busy activism . . . instead of realizing our own failure, (that) we are not attracting anybody to Christ and that they probably see nothing in us that makes them desire to come to Him...The inevitable and constant preliminary to revival has always been a thirst for God, a thirst, a living thirst for a knowledge of the living God and a longing and a burning desire to see Him acting, manifesting Himself and His power, rising and scattering His enemies... The thirst for God and the longing for the exhibition of His glory are the essential preliminaries to revival (Martyr LloydJones: Revival, pp. 9091).
Expect the Unexpected
Suddenness. "And suddenly there came" (Acts 2:2). Revival is a Divine attack on society. In revival, God's work may be sudden and unexpected; often even believers are caught unaware, while fear and astonishment grip unbelievers' hearts: "There was nothing, humanly speaking, to account for what happened. Quite suddenly, upon one and another came an overwhelming sense of the reality and awfulness of His Presence and of eternal things. Life, death and eternity seemed suddenly laid bare" (Joseph Kemp of Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh 1905).
Finney said: "They would wake up all of a sudden, like a man just rubbing his eyes open and running around the room pushing things over and wondering where all this excitement came from. But though few knew it, you may be sure there had been somebody on the watchtower constant in prayer until the blessing came" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 62).
Revival is God springing a convicting surprise on His creation: "I have declared the former things from the beginning, and they went forth out of My mouth and I shewed them; I did them suddenly and they came to pass... and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them" (Isaiah 48:3; 42:9 KJV). The effect of the sudden working of the Spirit in revival is very striking in the conviction of sinners. Often, without any preparatory concern or even thought for spiritual things, a sinner will be suddenly seized with an overwhelming conviction of sin.
Although the people in Broughshane, U1ster, of 1859 were expecting revival, says Paisley, they were still "taken by surprise, so sudden, so powerful and extraordinary were the manifestations of the Spirit's Presence... about one thousand people were suddenly, sensibly and powerfully impressed and awakened."
The modern horror movie shock tactic of sudden confrontation with the unexpected is a perverted, cheap copy of a holy original-the awesome fear of the Lord. Suddenness is a divine shock tactic to remind men of their spiritual vulnerability. "But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly they shall be wounded ... and all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider his doing" (Psalm 64:7,9 KJV).
John Shearer, in Old Time Revivals, writes of a farmer returning from market in Ulster at Ballymena in 1859: "His mind wholly intent upon the day's bargain, he pauses, takes out some money and begins to count it. Suddenly, an awful presence envelopes him. In a moment his only thought is that he is a sinner standing on the brink of hell. His silver is scattered, and he falls on the dust of the highway crying out for mercy."
Wholly of God
Spontaneous Working. "There came from heaven" (Acts 2:2). Revival is the result of divine, not human impulse. It cannot be worked up. Fulfilled conditions do not provide the motive force of revival. Revival, like salvation and healing, is an act of divine mercy. Like salvation, too, its grounds are God's grace though its conditions are repentance and the prayer of faith. Acts 3:19 says: "...seasons of refreshing ... from the presence of the Lord."
"A movement bears this mark of spontaneity when men cannot account for what has taken place in terms of personalities, organizations, meetings, preachings, or any other consecrated activity; and when the work continues unabated without any human control" (Authur Wallis, In the Day of Thy Power, p.63). As soon as a movement becomes controlled or organized, it has ceased to be spontaneous-it is no longer a revival.
The course of the 1904 revival has been outlined thus: "God began to work; then the Devil began to work in opposition; then God began to work all the harder; then man began to work and the revival came to an end" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 65).
GodConsciousness. The spirit of revival is the consciousness of God. Men were "pricked in their heart" (Acts 2:37). "Fear came on every soul" (Acts 2:43). "The effects of such manifestations of God are twofold; men are made aware both of His power and His holiness. This manifestation... was intensely personal" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 66). It is God moving in power and holiness toward you; God coming for you and calling your name!
Here is an outstanding feature of revival; it is easy to see why it results in overwhelming conviction, both among the saved and the lost whenever there is unjudged sin. At such times man is conscious that God is there; He seems to deal with him alone, until he is oblivious of all but his own soul in the agonizing grip of a holy God. If these facts are borne in mind, the extraordinary effects of past revivals will not seem incredible.
A Divine Terror
The ruthless logic of Jonathan Edward's famous discourse "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" could not have produced the effect it did had not God been in the midst of the congregation. "When they went into the meeting house the appearance of the assembly was thoughtless and vain; the people scarcely conducted themselves with common decency," recorded Trumbull, who goes on to describe the effects of the sermon: "The assembly appeared bowed with an awful conviction of their sin and danger. There was such a breathing of distress and weeping that the preacher was obliged to speak to the people and desire silence that he might be heard" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 67). Conant says, "Many of the hearers were seen unconsciously holding themselves up against the pillars and the sides of the pews as though they already felt themselves sliding into the pit" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 67).
Finney at the village schoolhouse near Antwerp, New York, describes such conviction: "An awful solemnity seemed to settle upon the people; the congregation began to fall from their seats in every direction and cry for mercy. If I had a sword in each hand, I could not have cut them down as fast as they fell. I was obliged to stop preaching." "Did you ever witness two hundred sinners with one accord in one place weeping?" asked Asa Nettleton. "The scene is beyond description. . . I felt as though I was standing on the verge of the eternal world; while the floor under my feet was shaken by the trembling of anxious souls in view of a judgment to come" (Thornton, God Sent Revival, pp. 9192).
A Chain Reaction
Sometimes the manifested presence of God creates a divine "radiation zone"; all coming within that expanding spiral of tangible power are brought under awesome conviction. During the 1859 revival, no town in Ulster was more deeply stirred than Coleraine. A schoolboy in class became so troubled about his soul that the schoolmaster sent him home. An older boy, a Christian, went with him and before they had gone far, led him to Christ. Returning at once to school, this new convert testified to his teacher: "Oh, I am so happy! I have the Lord Jesus in my heart." These artless words had an astonishing effect; boy after boy rose and silently left the room. Going outside, the teacher found these boys all on their knees, ranged along the wall of the playground. Very soon their silent prayer became a bitter cry; it was heard by another class inside and pierced their hearts. They fell on their knees, and their cry for mercy was heard in turn by a girls' class above. In a few moments, everyone in the whole school was on their knees! Neighbors and passersby came flocking in, and all as they crossed the threshold came under the same convicting power. Every room was filled with men, women, and children seeking God (Orr, The Second Evangelical Awakening, p. 44).
During the same 1859 revival in America, ships entered a definite zone of heavenly influence as they drew near port. Ship after ship arrived with the same talk of sudden conviction and conversion. A captain and an entire crew of thirty men found Christ at
sea and arrived at port rejoicing. This overwhelming sense of God bringing deep conviction of sin is perhaps the outstanding feature of true revival. Its manifestation is not always the same; to cleansed hearts, it is heaven; to convicted hearts, it is hell.
A Need for the Spirit
Anointed Vessels. "They were all filled with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:4) There is a fresh emphasis on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. "With those stirrings of the Spirit that are the precursor of revival, there is born in many such hearts a wholesome dissatisfaction with that vague and mystic view of being filled with the Spirit that leaves one in the dark as to what it is, how it comes and whether or not one has received it" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 69). Finney again says, "Many times great numbers of persons in a community will be clothed with this power, when the very atmosphere of the whole place seems to be charged with the life of God. Strangers coming into it and passing through the place will be instantly smitten with conviction of sin and in many instances converted to Christ" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 71).
Supernatural Manifestation. "They began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4 NAS). The most ordinary conversion of a sinner is a supernatural work, but it is not manifestly so. Revival features conversions that are, in the eyes of men, manifestly supernatural and that can be accounted for in no other way. It produces in the hearts and minds of observers the reaction described here: "They were all amazed and were in doubt, saying one to another, 'What meaneth this?"' (Acts 2:12 KJV).
Revival always seems to bring a return to apostolic Christianity. Never is the church nearer to the spirit and power of the first century than in times of revival. In times of spiritual blessing, the gifts are more especially manifest. Spurgeon noted "If you read the story of the Reformation, or the later story . . . of Whitefield and Wesley, you are struck with the singular spirit that went with the preachers. The world said they were mad; the caricaturists drew them as being fanatical beyond all endurance; but there it was, their zeal was their power. Of course the world scoffed at that of which it was afraid. The world fears enthusiasm, the sacred enthusiasm kindled by the thought of the ruin of men and by the desire to pluck the firebrands from the flame, the enthusiasm which believes in the Holy Ghost, which believes God is still present with His church to do wonders" (Spurgeon, Sermons On Revival, p. 15).
"Dislike of enthusiasm," said D.M. LloydJones, "is to quench the Spirit. Those ... familiar with the history of the Church, and in particular the history of revivals, will know this charge of enthusiasm is one always brought against people most active in a period of revival" (Lloyd-Jones, Revival, p. 72).
Under the Power of the Spirit
Crying out and falling down under the awesome presence of the Holy Spirit was common in the WesleyWhitefield revivals. Lady Huntingdon wrote to Whitefield, advising him not to remove the people as it had been done, as it seemed to bring a damper on the meeting. "You are making a mistake. Don't be wiser than God. Let them cry; it will do a great deal more good than your preaching" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 75).
This seems a natural reaction of people in Scripture who had a divine "close encounter of the fourth kind"-the invading sense of God's convicting power. "And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead" (Rev. 1: 17 KJV). Wesley recorded in his journals on July, 1739:
He (Whitefield) had opportunity of informing himself better; no sooner had he begun. . . to invite all sinners to believe in Christ than four persons sunk down close to him, almost in the same moment. One of them lay without sense or motion. A second trembled exceedingly. The third had strong convulsions all over his body, but made no noise unless by groans. The fourth, equally convulsed, called upon God with strong cries and tears. From this time, I trust, we shall allow God to carry on His own work in the way that pleases Him.
A Terrifying Blessing
Sometimes this sense of identification with the hurt of God is awesome and terrifying. An observer of the Welsh Revival, David Matthews, said of Evan Roberts:
Mr. Roberts had an experience which I believe was never repeated. . . Prayer was the keynote of his tireless life. No action taken or engagement entered into was done without definitely committing the matter to God in prayer. His soul appeared to be saturated through and through with the spirit of prayer... He asked God to give him a taste of Gethsemane.
... I am a living witness of the incident, that the prayer was answered in a terrifying way. Falling on the floor of the pulpit he moaned like one mortally wounded, while his tears flowed incessantly. His fine physical frame shook under crushing soulanguish. No one was allowed to touch him... The majority of us were petrified with fear in the presence of such uncontrollable grief. What did it mean? ... When Evan Roberts stood before the congregation again, his face seemed transfigured. It was patent to all he had passed through an experience that was extremely costly. No one who witnessed that scene would vote for a repetition. One wonders whether such a hallowed scene should be chronicled (Matthews, I Saw The Welsh Revival. p. 41).
The Work of the Outpoured Spirit
Divine Magnetism. "And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together" (Acts 2:6 NAS). During the Lewis Awakening, in the village of Arnol, there was no response in the first few meetings:
At the close of an evening meeting, a time of prayer was convened in a house. As one man was praying, all present became aware that the prayer was heard and that the Spirit of God was being poured out on the village. They left the house to discover the villagers also were leaving their cottages and making their way, as though drawn by some unseen force, to one point in the village. There they assembled and waited. When Duncan Campbell commenced to preach, the word took immediate effect. In a few days, that small community had been swept by the Spirit of God and many souls truly converted.
The evangelist often complains that unconverted, pleasureloving masses will not come to hear the Gospel and that large sums are spent on publicity and advertising. But where normal means are failing to achieve the necessary end, where natural means do not succeed, we must look to the supernatural. "How long halt ye between two opinions?" Elijah asked, but "the people answered him not a word" (I Kings 18:21 KJV). But when God answered by fire, instantly the people were on their faces. What the strivings of man cannot achieve is but the work of a moment to the outpoured Spirit.
Apostolic Preaching. "Peter... lifted up his voice, and said unto them" (Acts 2:14 KJV). Although many souls are saved in revival apart from preaching, such times are nearly always characterized by a powerful proclamation of truth. Sometimes the outpouring has come by preaching; sometimes the preaching has come by the outpouring.
There is a rugged grandeur about the apostolic preacher which recalls the fearless prophet of Old Testament days. They were clothed with the same power and impelled by the same boldness for their torches were lit from the same holy fire... The primary aim is to lead souls to repentance... There is so much emphasis today on believing, receiving, deciding and so on, and so little on the vital step of repenting... The men dealt faithfully with the question of sin that the conscience might be aroused (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 82).
It was a precept of Wesley to his evangelists in unfolding their message, to speak first in general of the love of God to man; then, with all possible energy so as to search the conscience to its depths, to preach the law of holiness; and then, and not till then, to uplift the glories of the gospel of pardon and of life. Intentionally or not, his directions follow the lines of the epistle to the Romans (Bishop Hadley Moule on Romans).
Finney had a fixed principle in dealing with souls: Never tell a man how to get right with God until he can no longer look him in the face. John Nelson records of Wesley at Moorfields, "His countenance struck such an awful dread upon me before I heard him speak that it made my heart beat like the pendulum of a clock; and when he did speak, I thought his whole discourse was aimed at me" (Pollock, Wesley, p. 154).
The realm of apostolic preaching may be divided into four categories: spontaneous preaching, anointed preaching, fearless preaching, and Christcentered preaching. All of these are vital elements in any Spirit-led revival and have been evidenced throughout history.
"For some twelve years," said Finney, "in my earliest ministry I wrote not a word; and was commonly obliged to preach without any preparation whatever, except what I got in prayer. Often I went into the pulpit without knowing upon what text I should speak or a word that I should say. I depended on the occasion and the Holy Spirit to suggest the text and to open up the whole subject to my mind; and certainly in no part of my ministry have I preached with greater success or power. If I did not preach from inspiration I didn't know how I did preach. It was a common experience with me ... that the subject would open up to my mind in a manner that was surprising to myself. It seemed that I could see with intuitive clearness just what I ought to say, and whole platoons of thoughts, words and illustrations came to me as fast as I could deliver them" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 84).
"The very characteristic of the New Testament Church was this spontaneity, this living quality, this vivacity. But as you fall away from the Spirit and his influence, everything becomes formal" (Lloyd-Jones, Revival p. 76). In the Evan Mills revival, Finney recalls:
The Spirit of God came upon me with such power that it was like opening a battery upon them. For more than an hour, the Word of God came through me to them in such a manner that I could see was carrying all before it. It was a fire and a hammer breaking the rock, and as the sword that was piercing ... I saw a general conviction was spreading over the whole audience." Far from encouraging laziness, such a manner of preaching demands incessant prayerfulness and constant meditation and feeding on the Word. (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 84)
Preaching with Unction
Anointed Vessels. "The promise... which you both see and hear" (Acts 2:33 NAS). Anointed preaching is "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" so that faith does not stand "on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (see I Corinthians 2:45).
One said of Savoronala, the great Italian reformer: "Nature had withheld from him almost all the gifts of the orator," yet "when we read of his intense and enrapt communion with God, his unconquerable persistence in seeking the power of the Highest till his thoughts and affections were so absorbed in God ... those who looked in his cell saw his upturned face as it had been the Face of an angel." His preaching was so pathetic, melting, resistless the reporter lays down his pen with this apology written under the last line "Such sorrow and weeping came upon me that I could go no further" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 85).
"They began to speak the word of God with boldness" (Acts 4:31 NAS). Supernatural boldness in preaching is the result of God's anointing. It was noted of Gilbert Tennant,(a contemporary of Jonathan Edwards, and mightily used in the New England Revival) that: "He seemed to have no regard to please the eyes of his hearers with agreeable gesture, nor their ears with delivery, nor their fancy with language; but to aim directly at their hearts and consciences, to lay open their ruinous delusions, show them their numerous secret, hypocritical shifts in religion and drive them out of every deceitful refuge wherein they had made themselves easy with the form of godliness without the power... His preaching was frequently both terrible and searching" (Princes' Christian History). "Fearless preaching is calculated to produce conviction or stir up the most bitter animosity. It usually does both" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 86).
"Jesus ... by the right hand of God exalted" (Acts 2:3233 KJV). In the thirty years following the outpouring of the Spirit on the Moravian congregation at Herrnhut (1727), their evangelists, with a motto of "To win for the Lamb that was slain the reward of His suffering," had carried the gospel not only to nearly every country in Europe but also to many pagan races in North and South America, Asia, and Africa.
Dr. Warnek, a German historian of Protestant missions, wrote, "This small church in twenty years called into being more missions than the whole evangelical church has done in two centuries" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 88). More than a hundred missionaries went forth from this village community in twentyfive years.
And there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls (Acts 2:41 KJV).
Many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of men came to be about 5,000 (Acts 4:4 KJV).
And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women (Acts 5:14 KJV).
And the number of the disciples multiplied ... greatly; and a great company of priests were obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7 KJV).
If these records were not part of inspired Scripture, we might think them exaggerated; yet down through the years there have been seasons of revival numerically comparable to Pentecost. An estimated 30,000 souls were converted through Whitefield's revivals in America. In the Second Great Awakening, Dr. Henry Ward Beecher remarked to Charles Finney, "This is the greatest revival of religion that has been since the world began." One hundred thousand were converted that year in the United States. At the peak of the great 1857 revival, conversions numbered fifty thousand a week, and over the whole U.S. there could not have been less than five hundred thousand conversions, according to Finney's conservative estimate in 1859, when the revival was still spreading. "A similar movement began in the United Kingdom affecting every county in Ulster, Scotland, Wales, and England, adding a million accessions to the evangelical churches" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 90). The 1904 revival touched almost five million people in two years. The closing years of this century have witnessed even more massive ingatherings.
Whole Communities Come to the Lord
Far more significant is the proportion of a community affected. Of the New England revival (18th century), Conant commented "... at least 50,000 souls were added to the churches of New England out of a population of about 250,000. A fact sufficient to revolutionize, as indeed it did, the religious and moral character and to determine the destiny of the country" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 90). Of the Northhampton, Massachusetts, (1735) revival, Edwards wrote, "There was scarcely a single person in the town either old or young that was left unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world.. . souls did, as it were, come by flocks to Jesus Christ" (Edwards, Works, p. 91).
Finney wrote of the revival in Rome, New York, "As the work proceeded it gathered in nearly the whole population." Of the 1858 revival in Stockholm, Sweden, "At least two hundred thousand persons have been awakened out of a population not exceeding three million" (Edwards, Works, p. 91).
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and prayers (Acts 2:42 KJV).
As faith and spirituality decline, the power of the Spirit is gradually withdrawn. Soon it becomes necessary to substitute human arrangements worked without the Spirit's power for the divine arrangements dependent on that power... How simple were the channels along which the rivers of that first outpouring flowed! When the Spirit of God is poured out again it will be seen that nothing more is needed (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, pp. 9495).
In a return to the simple methods of the first century, many are surprised to discover they not only still work, but they still work the best.
The Steel Punch
Revival is a divine attack on society. Have you ever seen a karate champion break a stack of bricks with his hand, or a straw driven into a piece of hardwood by the violence of a tornado? Immense power concentrated in one small spot creates breakthroughs previously thought impossible.
Israel's recapture of the Golan Heights from an entrenched Syria is a modern classic of military victory. The Syrian army was dug into three consecutive trenches in the top of the hill; they had planted over a million landmines between their position and Israel's position. Russian advisors had assured Syria their position was unassailable. While Israel's Air Force strafed the enemy trenches to minimize Syrian troop groundfire, Israeli farmers drove tractors in a straight line up the side of the hill. Driving directly behind each exploded tractor, another took its place, ploughing the ruins out of the way. Followed by Israeli troops, they cut a straight single line up the side of the hill. They called it "The Steel Punch;" Israel took the Golan Heights.
Wallis notes the wellknown military principle known as concentration of force: "a commander husbands his reserves, concentrates them at a strategic point for a vital blow at the crucial moment. A powerful thrust like this may accomplish what routine patrolling, skirmishing or harassing tactics could never effect" (In the Day of Thy Power, p. 4550). He likens this to an ancient reservoir fed by a mountain stream supplying a village community with water. One day the wall collapses. The waters root up large trees, carry boulders like playthings, and destroy houses and bridges and all that lies in their path.
What had before been ignored or taken for granted now becomes an object of awe, wonder and fear. People from far and near who never went near, now hurry to see this great sight. In picture language this is revival; in fact, it is the sort of picture language that Scripture uses to convey the irresistible power of God. Often in the period just preceding the movement, the stream of power and blessing has been unusually low. The people of God and work of God have been "in great affliction and reproach," despised or ignored by those around them. In response to the burdened prayer of a remnant, God has been quietly "heaping the flood." "So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west and his glory from the rising of the sun, for He will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the Lord drives" (Isaiah 59:19 NAS) (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 4).
The Purpose of Revival
Arthur Wallis was mightily used of the Lord to further the work of the Holy Spirit towards revival, especially in New Zealand. His classic study on revival, In the Day of Thy Power, often quoted and excerpted from sections of this study, was condensed and reissued as Rain from Heaven (Bethany Press, 1981). In the section called "This Is the Purpose," Wallis further analyzes why God works in history by means of revivals.
God is our Creator; so we will not forget His reality or drift easily into deism, He still periodically alters human history by sudden, mighty moves of His spirit. P. V. Jenness said:
"The world of mankind has not advanced by evolution but revolution, by violent upheavals in society. Eden, the Flood, Exodus, [and the] Captivity era are O.T. examples, Pentecost the conspicuous [New] Testament example." The Renaissance and Protestant Reformation in the fifteenth century changed the whole thought and life of Europe. Modern history dates from them (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 45).
The great missionary advance of the nineteenth century took momentum from the widespread revivals that blessed America and Britain during those years; much of the evangelistic explosion in many Third World countries today can be directly traced to revivals. "Revival is Divine military strategy; first to counteract spiritual decline, and then to create spiritual momentum" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 45).
Who Is Affected?
The Saints. "The quickening of saints is the root; the saving of sinners is the fruit. To see the primary effect of revival look to the church. Revival marks the awakening of the Church; when asleep one is out of touch with the world of reality. The Church asleep is out of touch with the world of spiritual reality and needs to be awakened" (Walks, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 49). Scripture says: "Knowing the season, it is high time for you to awaken out of sleep; for now is salvation nearer to us than when we first believed..." (Romans 13:11).
Here is the primary effect of revival-the Church awakes, casts off the works of darkness, and puts on the armor of light. She puts on strength, "Awake, awake; put on thy strength, Oh Zion" Isaiah 52:1a KJV), and holiness, "put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city" (Isaiah 52:1b). The church asleep is not only denuded of power but also holiness. Holiness is not optional but obligatory. If there is no revival of righteousness, there is no revival at all. It is characteristic of revivals that sins, long hindering blessing, are exposed, confessed, and forgiven; relationships wrecked by pride, envy, and evil speaking are wonderfully restored.
Jonathan Edwards wrote: "Abundance has been lately done making up differences, confessing faults one to another and making restitution; probably more within these two years than in the thirty years before" (Wallis, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 50).
The Sinners. "Whenever there comes this awful sense of God's presence stealing over the hearts of men, the fountains of the great deep are broken up. Gone is the voice of the sinner who inwardly debates whether or not he will patronize the Son of God" (Wallis, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 51).
The Godhead. "It is the usual thing that men of the world should treat their Creator with indifference or contempt
As for the Comforter
how seldom is that gracious unseen Presence truly recognized, relied upon or given His rightful place in the Church which He established. How often is He grieved and hindered because the people of God prefer human organization and the methods of the world to that which costs more than money to secure---His own gracious presence and power
Revival has its repercussions even in the realms of the Triune God. It is a time when the rights of humanity give way to the rights of the Deity" (Wallis, In the Day of Thy Power, p. 52, 55).
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