In today's post we want to consider the subject of "revival". To "revive" something means to bring back to life what seemed almost dead. Throughout the history of the Bible, we see at least roughly twenty-five instances of God moving in and through His people to stir them to seek Him. The great reference tool "Nave's Complete Word Study Topical Bible" lists the following Biblical references that speak about the topic of revival.1
1. Revival under the leadership of Joshua. Joshua 5:2-9
2. Under Elijah. 1 Kings 18:17-40
3. Under Joash and Jehoida. 2 Kings 11:1-12:21; 2 Chronicles 23:1-24:27
4. Under Hezekiah. 2 Kings 18:1-7; 2 Chronicles 29:1-31:21
5. Under Josiah. 2 Kings 22:1-23:37; 2 Chronicles 34:1-35:27
6. Under Asa. 2 Chronicles 14:2-5; 15:1-14
7. Under Manasseh. 2 Chronicles 33:12-19
8. In Ninevah. Jonah 3:4-10
9. At Pentecost and post-Pentecostal times. Acts 2:1-42, 47-47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 9:35; 11:20-21; 12:24; 14:1; 19:17-20.
H.L Wilmington's "The Complete Book of Bible Lists" references more references to revivals in addition to what we observed from Nave's listing above.2
10. Under Jacob. Genesis 35:1-4
11. Under Samuel. 1 Samuel 7:3-6
12. Under Moses. Exodus 14:31-15:21
13. Under David. 1 Chronicles 15:25-28; 16:1-43; 29:10-25
14. Under Solomon. 2 Chronicles 7:1-3
15. Under Jehoshaphat. 2 Chronicles 19.
16. Under Jehu. 2 Kings 10:15-28
17. Under Jehoida. 2 Kings 11:17-20
18. Under Ezra. Ezra 9-10
19. Under Nehemiah ]. Nehemiah 13
20. Under Esther. Esther 9:17-22
21. Under John the Baptist. Luke 3:2-18
22. Under Jesus. John 4:28-32
23. Under Phillip. Acts 8:5-12
The above lists do not include revival in the lives of individuals, nor the first reference to revival at the end of Genesis 4. I encourage readers to take time to study each of the above Scriptures to grasp the conditions, seasons, and reasons of revival. I have found that when I have studied the flow of revival through Biblical history, my own heart is prompted to seek God at a deeper level.
Revival leaders of the past help us define revival.
Let me list some thoughts on revival by Godly leaders who demonstrated fidelity to the scripture and whose ministries have been used by God to spark revival. The following thoughts can enable us to grasp better what revival is meant to be.
1. Elmer Towns was for years Dean of the School of religion at Liberty University. He writes:
"An evangelical revival is an extraordinary work of God in which Christians repent of their sins as they become intensely aware of His presence in their midst, and they manifest a positive response to God, resulting in both a deepening of their individual and corporate experience with God, and an increased concern to win others to Christ."3
2. Leonard Ravenhill, one of the greatest writers on the subject of revival, notes:
"Our request concerning revival must be that God be glorified ; afterwards, not before, will come our request for sinners to be saved and a believing that the heavens will be rent. God's conditions will be met."4
3. Steven Olford, famed Baptist Pastor of times past, writes the following about revival:
"Revival is that strange and Sovereign work of God in in which He visits His own people, restoring, reanimating and releasing them into the fullness of His blessing. Such a Divine intervention will issue in evangelism though, in the first instance, it is a work of God in the church and amongst individual believers. Once we understand the nature of heaven sent revival, we shall be able to think, pray and speak intelligently of such times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19)." 5
4. Martin Lloyd Jones, one of the premier preachers of the 20th century, writes on the cost of revival:
"May He (God) so reveal His own glory and holiness to us. May He reveal unto us our utter impotence and hopelessness. May we see these things in such a way that we shall cease from men and look only unto the living God. And then there is no question but that He will hear us and He will manifest His glory and power."6
Jesus issues an awakening call to His church.
In seven letters we find from Jesus to the seven churches in the opening chapters of the Book of Revelation, one stands out as His plea for His church to experience revival. We read in Revelation 3:1-2
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God."
In the remainder of today's post we want to consider more about what revival is and Jesus' prescription to A.W.A.K.E His church from her slumber. As you read Jesus' letter to the church at Sardis, you can use the acrostic A.W.A.K.E to describe what it takes to be a revived people of God for His glory.
Almighty Holy Spirit. Revelation 3:1
Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be sent in His name by the Father. The "seven spirits" mentioned is in reference to the seven-fold nature of the Holy Spirit, described in Isaiah 11:2 and mentioned in Revelation 1:4 and 4:5. In order for revival to take place, the Sovereign God in the Person of the Spirit must come down and blow fresh wind into the sails of faith. Unless we hoist the sails of faith up into the air on the mast of prayer, no revival will occur. Revival is undoubtedly a Sovereign work of God. The remaining elements of Jesus' prescription of revival has to do with the Christ-follower.
Work on Neglected Areas. Revelation 3:1b-2
We read in Revelation 3:1b-2 "Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God." The word translated "awake" comes from the root word meaning “rise from the dead”. This was a deadening sleep that Sardis and all slumbering churches or Christians need to awake. It starts with an attitude of confession before God that we have neglected what we know we ought to do. That confession must quickly lead to caring for those areas that are about to die. Often we neglect Bible reading, prayer, witnessing, giving, love. Whatever we know to do, and yet fail to do, to us it is sin (see James 4:17)
Apply what you know. Revelation 3:3
Revelation 3:3 reads: "So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it." Often as Christians we cry out to God for more light. The problem is that we are not living out the current light we already have. Application of truth involves the mind (remember), the heart (received, heard), and the hands (keep it). Once we have walked out the current level of understanding, only then will God grant us further light and great opportunities for Him (compare Matthew 25:21; Luke 19:17).
Keep a repentant mindset. Revelation 3:3b-4
Jesus then says in Revelation 3:3-4 "...and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you." Repentance means I have turned away from my sin and have run into the arms of Jesus. Repentance is the twin of faith. Just as we are to exercise growing faith in the Lord, so too with repentance. We should ever be cultivating a growing hatred of sin, so as to ever run into the arms of Jesus. Then finally...
Emphasize Jesus and His word. Revelation 3:4-6
Revival is not an end, but a means to a great end - continual pressing onward and upward in the Lord. The "garments" of righteousness spoken of here in Revelation is in reference to the credited righteousness of Jesus Christ we receive at salvation (called justification), from whence springs our practical righteousness (sanctification). Seven times in Revelation we find reference to "white robes" given to the saints, and all seven are connected to Christ and His righteousness as being the basis for the believer's practical righteousness (compare Revelation 3:5,18; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9, 13; 19:14). The scriptures once again are alluded to in 3:6 as the source from whence we hear what the "Spirit is saying to the churches."
True revival begins and ends with God. As much as revival is conditioned upon the humbling of ourselves, praying, seeking God's face and turning from our wicked ways (2 Chronicles 7:14), yet its source and fruit all stems from the Spirit of God, who Proceeds from the Father in the name of the Son.
1. Nave's Complete Word Study Topical Bible. AMG Publishers. Page 1418.
2. H.L. Wilmington. The Complete Book of Bible Lists. Tyndale. Pages 292-294
3. Elmer Towns & Douglas Porter. The Ten Greatest Revivals Ever - From Pentecost to the Present. Vine Books. 2000. Page 16
4. Leonard Ravenhill. Revival Praying. Bethany Fellowship. 1979. Page 145
5. Steven Olford. The Heart Cry for Revival. Fleming Revell. 1962. Page 16.
6. Martin Lloyd-Jones. Revival. Crossway Books. 1987. Page 131.