As we discussed in Part I of this series, many are claiming revival is taking place across the U.S. on certain colleges campuses (if you have not read Part I click here). In addition to these reports of the beginnings of revival, the movie “The Jesus Revolution” which chronicles the first year and half of “Jesus People Movement (or Hippie Revival) of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, has heightened Christian excitement.
Therefore, we must look to the word of God to understand the true nature of revival, understanding the dire condition in the saints which necessitates this kind of movement from God. That last statement, must be the cornerstone of understanding revival.
Revival is God decided, God ordained and brought about when He sees fit. Revival cannot be cajoled, or teased out of God by spiritual exercise, although it has often begun when only a few sincere lovers of God are made aware, by God of the poor spiritual condition of the saints, and begin to cry out to Him.
We see this throughout the Old Testament historical books and prophets, especially in one passage that gets thrown about often, in dealing with revival. The passage is usually used out of its context.
“If a people who are called by my name…”
2 Chronicles 7:13-16 13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.
In the first place, this passage deals primarily with Israel. This does not mean that we cannot glean truth from it concerning the church of Jesus Christ, but it does means that the promise of healing the land, deals with the geography of Canaan, where Israel resided in Old Testament times.
This is important, for often with Christians in America who quote this text improperly, it creates expectation where God did not promise. Remember II Chronicles 7:14 is not a guarantee to Israel anymore either, because the place God’s ears are attentive too, the Temple, has not been around since 70 AD.
It is hubris to suppose we can bend this passage to mean the LORD will restore us to the Christians Utopia we often claim America was founded to be. History reveals that although there were good moral nominal Christians present at the founding of this country, there were few what we would call evangelicals.
The U.S governance, was not founded as a Judeo/Christian state, but one that incorporated ideas such as Roman federalism and Greek democracy–British, Greek and Jewish aspects of law and education, and the idea French egalitarianism.
So what can we glean from II Chronicles 7:13-16 about the condition necessitating revival and revival itself?
First, we understand that in the people disregarding God’s law and commands, their practice becomes hypocritical. As they go through the motions, they move further from love for God, as seen in obedience, toward doing that which is right in their own sight. In their coldness towards God, they incorporate the world around them and its system into their lives, rather than trusting in the Lord with all their heart.
In this, they sin against God and forget Him, except when they desire blessing or deliverance from some trouble. They begin to die spiritually. God, in His mercy chastens them through drought, famine, pestilence, war from foreign enemies and other tribulation. This is for the purpose of revealing their condition, which grows worse, as they have moved away from God’s heart.
This occurred multiple times over the 490 years Israel was in the land, after the Exodus. Their pattern was to fall away into sin, only to find tribulation upon them, which leads them to cry out to God. It was this of falling into spiritual deadness or sleep, then awakening to recognize their sin, which led to the Jewish people being in captivity for 70 years.
Perhaps one of the most well know and out of context quoted passages of the Old Testaments prophets, is a result of the need for revival, which placed the Jews in circumstances that led to their reviving, in Babylon.
Jeremiah 29:10-14 10 For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.
You’ll notice this is not a passage to be quoted when trying to evangelize someone, but specifically about the Jewish people, who did not enjoy their captivity. The Lord is declaring this punishment is redemptive, not punitive; it is to turn them back to search for Him with their whole heart. Only then would He listen and bring them back from where they had been scattered.
When Israel did come back, they had what was necessary for a true revival… Godly sorrow, which works repentance.
In chronicling the relaying of the foundation of the temple, after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, Ezra testifies…
Ezra 3:11-13 Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off.
Note the condition necessary for revival, is God’s people, either Israel in the Old Testament or Christians in the New Testament period, being cold, hypocritical, spiritually lethargic and insensitive to God’s conviction and at or near spiritual death (a coma like state).
We must remember that this condition requires sorrow first leading to repentance (II Corinthians 7:10). What hinders revival is the saints, who often believe they do not need revival, but the nation around them that is vexing to them. Consider Jonah.
The Book of Jonah
Many will look to the book of Jonah as a representation of revival based on how the Ninevites responded to the preaching of Jonah (Jonah 3:1-10). Although their response reveals the potential impact of a true biblical revival, remember that revival deals with the reviving of God’s people. Evangelism is a wonderful product of the church awakening in revival.
In Jonah where was the revival most necessary? In the heart of the prophet Himself. Remember that Jonah fled from God, because He knew the outcome if the hated Ninevites repented: God’s mercy.
He knew this, as a prophet of God, because of merciful the LORD was to Jonah’s own wayward people, he at times had to call back to God. But Jonah, was self-righteous about his own people being far superior to these pagans. In this his heart was hardened and although walking with the title of prophet and “serving the LORD”, he had left his First Love, by boarding a ship to Tarshish.
heck out what he reports, once the LORD chastises him by putting the prophet in a living prison of a great fish.
Jonah 2:1-9 1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly. 2 And he said: “I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, and He answered me. “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice. 3 For You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the floods surrounded me; all Your billows and Your waves passed over me. 4 Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight; yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ 5 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; weeds were wrapped around my head. 6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever; yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God. 7 “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple.
Interestingly, Jonah’s word acknowledge that God had placed him in his living hell, in the great fish, but for a purpose. To remember that YHWH is merciful and salvation. In the midst of this tribulation, he would “yet look again toward Your holy temple“. Sounds a lot like what the LORD declared would happen, if the sinning saints would humble themselves, pray and seek His face and turning from their wicked ways.
We tend to look at Jonah with feelings of understanding for our desire not to walk in God’s will, rather than seeing what he did as wicked. He knowingly disobeyed God and refused to speak to the wicked to save his life (Ezekiel 3:18).
What leads to the church needing revived. Well like Jonah, years of self-righteousness, where we minister and live our lives our way, rather than being led by Him, and filled with His heart and holiness.
Remember a revived heart, or even one partially awakened through pain, as Jonah’s, can lead to massive salvation in the lost. Remember Philip, who did not need revived because he was alive, filled with and led by the Holy Spirit, who preached in Samaria.
The results were multitudes coming to faith in Christ, being set free from demons, and receiving healing in Christ’s name, to the degree that character of that once pagan city was joy (Acts 8:4-8). With Jonah, we do not know if he fully repented and was revived, but praise God it was enough for thousands to avoid judgment.
Ephesus a Fellowship in Danger of Remaining Asleep
In the new testament, the church of Ephesus reveals a pattern withdrawal from our first love, which leads to a need of revival. From Revelation 2:1-8 we see Ephesus were the church that left its First Love; which is Christ. From this chapter in the Revelation, we can glean, that they left their First Love, through the business of good ministry, where doing ministry was seen as loving God.
This is a fallacy and the Holy Spirit addresses this 40 years prior, when Paul was inspired to write the epistle to the Ephesians. This was a very good church, but, as they were slow to come to the Baptism of the Spirit (read Acts 19:1-11), they were still struggling to hold to the One, who enables us to be “being filled”… Jesus Christ our Lord and First Love.
You will recall that the Holy Spirit speaks to them about the responsibilities of spouses in marriage, as a living example of Christ’s love for His church and His Bride’s love for Him. Yet, this was the message, because they had already begun to turn from their First Love. The results were poor behavior between them, that at times resembled their former gentile lives (read all of Ephesians 4).
Into this context we read…
Ephesians 5:8-21 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14
Therefore He says:
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”
15See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit
When considering revival in the church of Jesus Christ, we must understand the idea of being asleep spiritually; a result of leaving our First Love. From the passage above we that this leads to walking in a way where we fall into various avoidable traps and temptations (not circumspectly)–where we waste time, and are clueless as to what is God’s will.
These are signs that we are asleep and in need of revival. In this faculty, we begin turn on each other. We become insensitive to a lack of God’s presence among us.
When the church arrives at this point, it begins to look for political saviors, rather than focus on the blessed hope, for the purpose of enduring in hope till He comes for us. Also the church looks for a way to pay for its overhead, rather than focus on making disciples. The unwritten plan is let us work to get people into our building, rather than going out to be light in the world.
Rather, than calling out to God in repentance of our carnal lives, we call on god to restore our land to a Christian Utopia that has never existed and will not this side of Christ’s return.
Revival is most often the painful process of waking out of a spiritual coma, where we need to relearn to seek Him, rather than our will and desire–where we need to relearn to pray and be led by the Holy Spirit–where we need to relearn to obey God’s word rather than redefine or reject its precepts–where we refocus on Christ alone–where we walk away from all that is contrary to those things just mentioned.