The History and Future of the Present Revival - Part 7 View Part 1Last Sunday morning in one of our services, I polled those attending by asking the following questions:
There were roughly a thousand people in that service. The following are the approximate results to these questions:
- How many had come to the Lord through a revival?
- How many had come to the Lord through a crusade or evangelistic campaign?
- How many had come to the Lord through Christian television?
- How many had come to the Lord through the witness of a friend or relative?
I have now asked these questions to many Christian audiences, churches, and conferences, and the results have always been basically the same in a category.
- 3 people
- 7 – 8 people
- 4 – 5 people
- All the rest
The first conclusion we can draw from this is that the most powerful evangelistic force in the world is an encouraged church. When the church is encouraged, individual believers share their faith with their friends and relatives, and that is the most effective evangelism that exists, by far.
I have heard many Christians say that if people are not getting saved, then we cannot call something a true revival. Others contend that it is not a true revival unless society is reformed. I tend to agree with both of these statements; though I think we must look at the results over a long period of time to see them accurately. If a revival does nothing but revive the church, it has accomplished much. Souls being saved will result in a far greater magnitude than if we try to steer the revival to make it an evangelistic campaign. Society will likewise be far more impacted by the salt that has regained its savor than by just trying to steer a revival into a political machine, which is what happened to the Second Great Awakening, resulting in the Civil War.
Had the Awakening not been steered into becoming a political force, it is likely that the social transformation resulting from the Civil War may have been accomplished without the cost of a half a million young lives, not to mention the economic devastation and long-term social wounds to the country. It would take far more space than we have in a Special Bulletin to establish this, but we should be very wary of those who seek to steer the zeal of a revival into a political movement. We will accomplish far more politically and socially if we simply allow revivals to do what they are supposed to do. That being said, it is more than a right—it is a responsibility for Christians to be engaged politically since they are given this opportunity in a democracy. However, revivals are not being given to us to be used in direct political action, but they should have indirect results that align a city, state, or nation with righteousness.
The word "revival" comes from the term to "revive." This can mean anything from helping to bring life back into the church, to raising the church from the dead. This can happen on many different levels from waking up sleeping churches, to resurrecting those that had no life at all in them but are being kept on a spiritual life support. This can also be for a single congregation or such a sweeping move that it impacts the church in a region, nation, or even the international body of Christ.
When revival comes it is desperately needed, and it is the grace of God being given to us for what we need. We should embrace it and ride the waves as far as they will take us. However, we should also keep in mind that they are not the end of the move of God but the beginning. Once the church has been revived, she has much work to do. If she will get about her business and stay on track, she should not need to be revived again.
Because of the nature of what revivals are sent to accomplish, they can be one of the most exciting experiences we can have in this life. For this reason, many get hooked on the revival atmosphere and never want to leave it. That is very understandable. However, going on to maturity usually demands that we leave it at some point. It is not an atmosphere that we should be seeking, rather closeness to God. A revival atmosphere is usually a combination of the presence of the Lord and a lot of energy from people. This is right for the revival, but we must recognize that human excitement can be contagious too. It is great to see Christians excited again, but this excitement must translate into us being obedient to the will of God in our lives.
We should keep in mind that some of the greatest moves of God in history, which had the most long-term or lasting fruit, did not begin with a revival, and never really experienced what would fit our definition of revival today. One such group would be the Moravians, who possibly more than any other movement in church history, had more lasting fruit and even the widest impact on the body of Christ and society as a whole. Though they did experience what was called "the Moravian Pentecost," when the Spirit fell on them "like on the Day of Pentecost," they regularly labored in some of the most difficult fields in the world and saw scant fruit directly from their labors compared to other moves of God at the time. However, they planted the seeds that became the First and Second Great Awakenings, modern missions, and the great prayer movements over the last few hundred years, including those being birthed in our own times. That's a lot of fruit!
Vance Havner compared revivals to a great department store sale. This sale will get most of the press and excitement, but this is not the basic business of the store, which is the day-to-day faithful merchandising of its products. Likewise, revivals get most of the press in the church, and they are exciting and needed when they come, but overall, they are but a small fraction of the true work of the church. When the sale is over, the store does not close, and when the revival has moved on, we need to learn to do the same, while not losing the momentum the revival created.
That being said, we are presently in a time of revival, and it is just beginning. We are still a long way from even seeing the peak of this revival. Some prophetic words have come from those I consider trustworthy that this revival will last for three years. That would actually be a long time for a revival, but the revival is not the end of the matter. If we transition right into the next phase, the work of God will not stop but go both higher and deeper. It will change, but it will need to just as an infant needs to change constantly until he is a mature adult.
Going to "High Orbit"
If transitions are accomplished with wisdom and strategy, revivals will not give us the sense that we are leaving something behind, rather the sense of going to something, not from something. To make these transitions with wisdom and strategy, we need to begin by letting the revival do its full work, without being prematurely stopped or cut off.
Years ago we were repeatedly shown in dreams, visions, and words that our ministry was compared to a rocket being launched. That metaphor proved to be accurate and very helpful through the stages we have passed through. It also applies to what is now coming upon the whole body of Christ.
Just like the first stage of a rocket, the "booster" needs to burn off all of its fuel in order for the rocket to get to the place where the next stage can take over. Revival may just be the first stage, but we will not make it into the orbit to which we are called if it is cut short or the next stage fires prematurely.
If the first stage, reviving and encouraging the church, accomplishes its purpose, the next stage, the salvation of the lost, will be far greater than if we start to overly focus on doing stage 2 now. Currently and probably for the next two or three years, this will be the most important job we can do—encouraging the church. Again, there is not a more powerful, effective evangelistic force in the world than an encouraged church.
It is hard to be encouraged if you are sick or oppressed by the devil with some affliction. That is why the emphasis on healing, miracles, and deliverance for the church is so crucial at this time. In due time, the church should be healed and we can move on, and those who were healed should be healers for the lost.
Likewise, we need to see the stage 2 of this rocket burn for its entire term before stage 3 can fire and take us to the orbit to which we are called. Stage 3 is the transformation of society. It is crucial for us to get to this stage at the right speed and altitude because this is a major purpose of what is now unfolding.
The last trumpet or message of God in the Book of Revelation is "our God reigns" (see Revelation 19:6), or the gospel of the kingdom. That gospel has not been preached since the first century, and it must be preached throughout the world before the Lord will come. The church is being prepared to preach that gospel and to do it from a position of living in the power of the kingdom. We are being prepared to prepare the way for the Lord.
He is coming, and He is coming to establish His kingdom on the earth so that His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. As we see in Isaiah 40, the way we prepare the way for the Lord is to build a highway. The highway of God is the "higher way" that leads to Him. There is much that needs to be said about this highway and the gospel of the kingdom, which we will be said in time. For now, we need to understand the present purpose of God to receive the full benefit from it.
As stated, if we try to prematurely jettison stage 1 so that we can fire stage 2 of this rocket before we have reached the needed speed and altitude, we will fall far short of accomplishing our purpose. This is likewise true for the transition between stage 2 and stage 3. Many people are being prepared for stage 2 and 3, and it is understandable for them to want to get on with their job, but they will not truly be ready nor will the church until the proper time.
It is understandable that those who have been prepared for each stage feel that their stage is the most important and what the whole thing is really about. That is a pretty narrow and limited view of what is really happening, but it is understandable since we all "see in part" and "know in part" (see I Corinthians 13:9). Few Christians can see beyond their part, and no one sees it all except the Lord.
We should also keep in mind that this metaphor of a rocket being launched breaks down like all such prophetic types and metaphors if we try to make them perfectly mirror what is happening. If stage 2 started firing while stage 1 was still burning with a rocket, it would destroy the whole rocket. Stage 1 has to be fully jettisoned before stage 2 can fire, and the same for the next stage. In this move of God, we can expect some to start firing stage 2, which is evangelism, long before stage 1 is finished. Some may rightly start firing stage 3, which is the reformation of society, even before stage 1 is finished. These are principles not laws. Principles have exceptions, but laws do not. If we try to make a principle into a law, this legalism will not leave room for true life.
In a general timing, we can expect most of the church to be in stage 1, reviving and waking up the church, getting her healed from her wounds and afflictions for about three years. Then there will likely be a transition time between the stages where stage 2 starts to burn more and stage 1 fades out, at least as far as being the main emphasis of the church. Even so, stage 1 imparted healing, miracles, deliverance, and faith in God for great things and will continue to be an integral and major part of church life from now on. All that is accomplished by stage 1 will continue on into orbit as a basic part of the vehicle. However, what we are now calling revival and what is causing revival will be normal church life. Miracles far beyond what we are seeing now are going to be commonplace.
As stage 1 of this move of God continues to burn, we can expect to go higher and faster. By higher, I mean greater miracles and by faster, we can expect them to happen faster. If we continue on course and make it to the orbit to which we are called, this will all be normal church life from now on.
I have known a number of astronauts, and they have all remarked about the incredible shaking that takes place during a launch. Those who experience it for the first time may think it is so great that there is no way for the rocket to hold together. What is happening now really is the launching of something significant, and we, too, can expect the whole church to be shaken by it, even to the point where many will wonder if the church might just fly apart. It won't, but we need this shaking. As we are told in Hebrews 12, everything that can be shaken will, so what is from God will remain. We can be sure that everything that is from God will survive the shaking.
Using the metaphor of being launched like a rocket, this move of God has barely left the launch pad and has a long way to go before stage 1 is finished. The shaking will likely get much more violent and remain that way through the stage 1. It will lessen some after the main booster has completed its burn, but it will not be over until we are finally in the assigned orbit.
A lot of the shaking will come from persecution, most of which will come from religious people. Historically, the worst persecution of emerging moves of God came from the leaders of the previous moves of God. This great tragedy has undoubtedly nullified much of the fruit accomplished by these leaders and even helped prepare for the coming move that they persecute. This tragedy has rarely been avoided because pride comes before a fall, and those who get used in great ways have rarely been able to escape the most deadly trap of pride, which is easily salted with jealousy. We are told that it was because of envy that Jesus was crucified (see Mark 15:10), and this is still true. As we do to the least of His people, we are doing it to Him. As we persecute or resist even the least of His messengers, we are doing it to Him.
When this happens it should not surprise us because sadly it is the pattern. Even so, the Lord uses this great shaking that comes to purify those who will go forward with Him. When persecution of a move of God comes from one that we esteem because of their previous great leadership, it can be even more confusing and discouraging, but this has been the pattern in both Scripture and history, and it should not surprise us. A warning about this is given in Daniel 11:33-35:
And those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder, for many days.
Now when they fall they will be granted a little help, and many will join with them in hypocrisy.
And some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge, and make them pure, until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time.
This has in fact been the pattern in almost every revival, movement, or reformation of the church. If we would learn from history, maybe we would not be doomed to keep repeating it. I will address some of these examples, at least briefly, in future Special Bulletins.
For now, tighten your seatbelts. We are in for the ride of our lives! Getting there may not be easy, but being there will be worth it.