In recent times, many have discussed how the world desperately needs revival, and how this phenomenon appeared to be happening. In April of last year, there was a story done by a Christian news source, which reported West Virginia was experiencing a revival. The writer even stated this revival could prompt “end times events” like those found in the Book of Revelation. Matt Hartley said of this event:
“This is not man-made, charismatic, hyper spiritual…This is the presence of God that is overwhelming us, that is being released upon hungry people that are tired of just stagnant Christianity and “safe” church.”
Another event that occurred the previous year, which supported the idea of revival among Christianity was put on by author, and speaker, Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham, who promoted the “8-8-8 God Speaking” plan. From August 1st to August 8th one could go online and hear Scripture read in over 900 languages (which is pretty impressive). Her motive for this project, explained by a reporter, is described below:
Lotz said the event is hoped to ignite revival, which she describes… as “an outpouring of God’s Spirit, where God’s people wake up.”
There are also individuals, and groups, among Christianity that assert revival would not only be a return to God’s word, but a return of the “sign” gifts found in the early church (i.e., tongues, interpretation of tongues, miracles, prophecy, etc.). Some are even of the perspective that Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States, would be indifferent from such charismatic revivals from detractors, as Larry Sparks comments:
I love the fact that Trump is evangelically un-biased. In other words, he will not fight you over cessationism (discontinuation of miracles and the gifts of the Spirit) or continuationism. He will not argue for or against the continuation of the power of the Holy Spirit. He will not look upon the charismatic, Spirit-empowered community with a suspicious eye, the way that perhaps a more pastoral candidate would (who might come with theological baggage).
So what constitutes a true revival? The qualities of a true revival can found in His written word.
Before we explore the qualities of revival it is imperative the actual word revival be defined. The root word for revival comes from the word revive. The prefix re meaning “again,” and vive, which derives from the Old French word vivere, meaning “to live.” So, the word revive literally means “to live again.” However, the word revive, in various contexts, has many definitions. Yet, there is one definition that is relevant when discussing the topic of Christian revival, which is noted below:
[Revive is defined] to quicken or renew the mind; bring back.
revive. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/revive (accessed: February 5, 2017).
This type of reviving involves the renewing of the mind, or a bringing back of one’s state, or memories. In short, revival among Christianity, is a meeting, or gathering, which involves the quickening, or an awakening, of the conscience (or mind) to God’s word. With this particular definition above the qualities of true revival can be observed.
1. True revival involves proper preaching God’s word: This quality can be found in the book of Nehemiah (chap. 9:1-38), where Ezra, a scribe who was highly trained in the Law of Moses, stood at a wooden podium that was made for this purpose (vs. 1-5). It was at the wooden podium where Ezra spoke the Law to all of Israel, while they sat attentively listening to Ezra (v. 7). In similar fashion, Peter, on the day of Pentecost, gave the first sermon to the Jewish people pointing from the Old Testament that Jesus was Messiah sent by God, to be crucified (Acts 2:14-36). A true revival has with it true preaching from God’s word in context.
2. True revival involves proper explanation of God’s word: In the account of Nehemiah, as Ezra read the Law of Moses before Israel, the elders translated (the word in Biblical Hebrew literally means “explained”) what Ezra read so those who listened understood what was being read to them (v. 8). True revival involves a proper explanation of God’s word, so there is proper understanding of what is being proclaimed. In another instance, this is what Jesus told the disciples concerning the Great Commission. They were to go out into all the world, and make disciples of all nations. The disciples were also to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teach all that Jesus commanded them (Matt. 28:18-20). In the same manner, the disciples of the early church continually “devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching”(Acts 2:42). True revival is not just a proclamation of the truth, but also a proper explanation of the truth that is proclaimed, so all understand, and are edified.
3. True revival involves conviction, confession of sin, and repentance: In Nehemiah chapter 9:1-37, the entire nation of Israel, after the Law was read, and explained properly to them, confessed their sin before the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (v. 2). They had seen in the historical account of their Israelite history the grace and the long-suffering of God, and their rebellion against Him (vs. 9-38). In the New Testament, there are also several verses that highlight this truth. Jesus explained to His disciples it is not what goes into the body that makes mankind unclean, but what comes out of mankind’s corrupt heart that makes mankind unclean (Matt. 15:15-20). Peter, when proclaiming to the Jews that Christ was crucified at their hands they were “pierced to the heart,” showing contrition by what they heard (Acts 2:37). Paul reminded the churches in Ephesus that all men were born “dead in trespasses and sins,” and were by nature children of wrath like all of mankind (Eph. 2:1-3). In this dispensation there is the active work of the Holy Spirit, in conjunction with God’s word that convicts, and illumines, one’s conscience of their sin and unbelief (Jn. 16:7-8). True revival has the characteristics of conviction, confession of sin, and repentance.
4. True revival is qualitative rather than quantitative: There were whole groups of people whom recognized the holiness of God, and repented of their sins. The entire nation of Israel was called to repentance by Ezra, who read the Law to them (Neh. 8:8). At the start of the church, the Lord daily added to the number of those who being saved from their sins, and the wrath of God, by repentance (Acts 2:47). However, there were also examples of individuals who had also been revived in their conscience concerning the merciful works of God. One example is the Ethiopian eunuch, who Philip instructed while the Ethiopian was reading a portion of the Old Testament, which pointed to Christ (Acts 8:25-33). The Ethiopian eunuch received Christ Jesus, and shortly thereafter was baptized (Acts 8:34-39a). Another similar instance was during Paul’s preaching in Thyratira. The Lord opened up the heart of a woman named Lydia, who understood the message of what Paul was teaching, and believed in Christ Jesus (Acts 16:14-15). True revival is not just relegated to a large group of people, but also can happen to one person.
5. True revival is progressive, not just static: True revival is not only an event, or experience that takes place at a certain time in a certain arena, tent, conference center, or stadium. True revival continues throughout a person’s life, because their mind is being constantly transformed by the Holy Spirit, though the word of God, according to God’s grace and mercy (Rom. 12:1-2). Christians are commanded by Jesus to abide in Him constantly, so they may bear much fruit (Jn. 15:4-9). Christians are commanded to consistently be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), and to walk by the Spirit, which results in a believer exhibiting the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-26). A believer is to have the word of Christ dwell in them richly (Col. 3:16), and to meet with saints often to encourage, and be encouraged (Heb. 10:25). Revival is not just a one time event at a specific location, nor is revival a mystical experience that brings a believer “close” to God, but it occurs regularly in a persons life who has received the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus, and is dedicated to studying God’s word.
When it comes to the word revival, we as believers who hold to a Biblical worldview must be cautious how we use and define this word. A true revival, according to Scripture, has proper preaching, proper explanation of God’s word, the confession of sins, and repentance to the gospel. A revival can occur in the consciences of a group of people, or in the conscience of one person. Finally, a true revival is not just a one-time event, or an exclusively emotional experience, or even a return to the “sign” gifts of the early church, but it is a progressive practice of the Christian life, as one meditates constantly on God’s word, and is filled with the Holy Spirit. Let us be a people when we discuss the concept of revival to do so with what God has revealed in Scripture, and not from opinions, logical presuppositions, or theological positions.
Until next time…
Soli Deo Gloria!