What is revival?
This is the key question.
You can’t really talk about revival, work towards revival, or begin to “think revival” if we can’t agree on what we mean. To some, “revival” may stir up notions of intense spiritual emotionalism, while others imagine large tent meetings featuring loud preaching from a wooden pulpit at center stage. Some see it as a far-and-away idealistic notion that is often mentioned yet never seems to materialize. And yet there are those who have lived through actual historic revivals, and that touch of God has never departed from their memories or their everyday lives. So, what is revival?
Let’s start with a definition.
Revival, at its most basic, carries with it the notion of something that was dead coming back to life. The verb “revive” is defined as “to restore to life or consciousness” or “to give new strength or energy”.
Someone is revived when, after falling into a deep pool and taking in water and almost drowning, they are rescued and given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until they cough up the water and start to breath once again. Another person is revived when, after falling into a deep coma after a car accident and written off as brain-dead, they suddenly open their eyes and begin to talk and move again.
Spiritual revival happens when someone or a group of people are spiritually awakened and recommitted to God in response to His moving very tangibly and clearly in their midst. It is God nudging and calling out to a slumbering and comatose church to finally wake up.It is a supernatural event that cannot be conjured up by emotions or sheer willpower or new resolutions. It is God-initiated and God-empowered as God moves tangibly and pours out His Spirit powerfully upon people.
Now, we can talk about revival legitimately happening at various levels (for example, at a personal level or at a group level). It is powerful when an individual encounters God and is personally revived, and there is great excitement when a local church is ignited with revival fire.Yet, when we talk about historic revival, we are describing revival that impacts a whole city or region (possibly nationally or globally) at a particular point in time. The character and destiny of nations are changed through these times of revival.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Let me be upfront. As a Christian, I believe that God truly exists. And I believe He is so good that He has not left us to wander this life on our own. He speaks to and reveals Himself to people throughout the ages. One of the most powerful ways He does so is through the Bible, the Word of God. The Bible shows us God’s plans and His heart and His great work of salvation through Jesus Christ. And it also tells us a thing or two about revival.
So where does it talk about revival? Now, there is no one Bible book or prophet that details and discusses the concept of revival directly or in an academic way. But it would be a mistake to assume that the idea and descriptions of revivals are non-existent or unimportant.
Here are verses that reveal God’s desire for revival:
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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
- 2 Chronicles 7:17
For this is what the high and exalted One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.
- Isaiah 57:15
Here are some that show the heart of God’s people for revival:
Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?
- Psalm 85:6
Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name.
- Psalm 80:18
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
- Psalm 51:10
Not only do verses in the Word point to this key idea, but God has also demonstrated in the Bible how He uses revival throughout the history of Israel and the other nations of the world. He is the God who specializes in restoring life to what was once dead. We’ll look at those stories in an upcoming post...