This article was first published on Calvary University's website by the author on February 8, 2017. Some of the article's points have been revised for clarity from the initial publication.
Recently, many have discussed how the world desperately needs revival and how this phenomenon appears to be happening. In April of 2016, a Christian news source told a story that reported that West Virginia was experiencing a revival. The writer even stated that this revival could prompt “end times events” like those 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.”
An 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 what she called the “8-8-8 God Speaking” plan. From August 1st-8th of 2016, a person could go online and hear Scripture read in over 900 languages (which is pretty impressive!). Her motive for this project, explained by a reporter, was described as follows:
"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 groups among Christianity that assert revival would not only be a return to God’s word but would be marked by the return “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 to 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)."
Presently there have been several revivals that have taken place on college campuses across the country. One website reported that a revival broke out on the campus of Texas A&M in February. Western Kentucky University, a secular university, had several hundred students gather to share their testimonies, sing hymns, and worship music. This activity on other college campuses originated from what had been dubbed the Ashbury Revival. Ashbury is a Christian university in Kentucky with a history of these revivals breaking out on its campus. The present-day revival occurred on February 8, 2023, when a group met for chapel services on campus to sing and pray. Zak Meerkreebs, who was the speaker for that day at the close of his teaching, asked God to revive them with His love. Those who were present had sensed what they called "an unspeakable peace in the room as the day continued, many students heard about what was taking place in the auditorium and decided to join. Soon many students got involved, in addition to staff and faculty. The revival continued on campus until February 23rd, when the school president decided to end these services due to the strain it placed on the locals in the area and the mental fatigue it had on the students. Throughout the Ashbury revival, the conversation about what constitutes the elements of a revival was sparked throughout Evangelical Christianity among local churches, college campuses, and social media. Some were very critical of the activities of the Asbury revival, saying that it was nothing more than a product of social media hype and fervor. Others were critical of those who were skeptical of the activity of what occurred at Ashbury.
So what constitutes a revival in the biblically? Before we explore the qualities of revival, the actual word revival must be investigated. The root word for the English word revival originates from the word revive. The prefix re means “again,” and vive derives from the Latin word revivere, meaning “to live.” So, the word revive means “to live again.” However, the word revive can be used in many different contexts. However, 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 definition of a revival can be found in His written word. This type of reviving involves renewing the mind or bringing back one's state or memories. In short, a revival in Christianity could be a meeting or gathering that involves the quickening, or an awakening, of the conscience (or mind) to God's word. With this explanation of revival, the qualities can be observed below.
1. Revival from a biblical outlook involves the proper preaching of God's word: A quality of revival can be observed in the historical account of the book of Nehemiah (chap. 8:1-18). The general context is that the nation of Israel was returning to the land after being in captivity for 70 years in Babylon. Ezra, a scribe who was highly trained in the Law of Moses, desired the people to remember what God had given to them-the Law of Moses. This historical account detailed that Ezra stood at a wooden podium made for this purpose (vs. 1-4). Ezra spoke the entire Law of Moses to all of Israel. At the same time, they sat listening attentively (v. 7). In the Greek Scriptures, Peter, on the day of Pentecost, instructed the Jewish people that the Hebrew Scriptures spoke that Jesus was the Messiah sent by God, to be crucified, resurrected, and ascended to the right hand of God the Father (Acts 2:14-36). In the historical account of the book of Nehemiah, Ezra read through the entire Law of Moses to the nation of Israel. Peter told all of the specifics of the nature and works of Jesus to the audience at Pentecost. These two examples mentioned that revival (the awakening of the mind) has instruction from God's word in context.
2. Revival from a biblical outlook involves the accurate explanation of God's word: In the historical account of Nehemiah, as Ezra read the Law of Moses before Israel, the elders translated what Ezra read so those who listened understood what was being read to them (v. 8). The Hebrew word that is translated "translated" is the Hebrew word בִּין (pronounced bene). The leaders of Israel explained the Law of Moses adequately to the nation so that they all would have the same understanding of the Law of Moses. In the Greek Scriptures, Jesus told the disciples before He sent them out that 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 to teach (Matt. 28:18-20). In the historical account of the book of Acts, the disciples of the early church continually "devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching" (Acts 2:42). As the apostles taught the believers, pointing to the Hebrew Scriptures to demonstrate that Jesus was the Messiah clearly. Revival from a biblical worldview is a proclamation of the truth and an accurate explanation of the truth so that all can understand and be edified.
3. Revival from a biblical outlook involves conviction from the message, and a reconsidering of one's philosophy as it pertains to God and His word: Once more in the historical account of Nehemiah chapter 8:1-18, the entire nation of Israel, after the Law was read, and explained adequately to them, they had confessed their sin as a nation before the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Neh. 9:2) that their descendants had violated the Law of Moses. They had seen in the historical account of their Israelite history the grace and the long-suffering of God and their rebellion against Him (Neh. 9:6-38). In the Greek Scriptures, several verses highlight this truth. Peter, when proclaiming to the Jews that Christ was crucified, they were "pierced to the heart." In other words, their thinking was impacted by what they heard concerning the message (Acts 2:37). In this economy; there was the active work of the Holy Spirit through the apostles by the message they spoke and wrote that convicted and made a person aware of their unbelief (Jn. 16:7-8). True revival has the characteristics of conviction of the message that highlights a person's unbelief of who Jesus is and what He accomplished and a reconsideration of the presented information.
4. Revival from a biblical outlook is qualitative rather than quantitative: From the historical account in the book of Nehemiah, There were entire groups of people who recognized the holiness of God and repented of their sins as a national people. Israel was called to change thier mind by Ezra, who read the Law of Moses to them (Neh. 8:8), which came from thier understanding and recognition of God's Law. At the start of the church, the Lord daily added to the number of those who were being saved from their sins from the wrath of God by reconsidering who Christ is through the inspired message of the apostles (Acts 2:47). In addition, some individuals had also been revived in their conscience concerning the merciful works of God. One example is the Ethiopian eunuch, whom Philip instructed while the Ethiopians read a portion of the Hebrew Scriptures, which pointed to Christ (Acts 8:25-33). The Ethiopian eunuch received the message concerning Jesus Christ and, shortly after that, was immersed, identifying with the message of Philip (Acts 8:34-39a). Another similar instance was during Paul's preaching in the city of Thyratira. The historical account is recorded that the Lord opened up the heart of a woman named Lydia, who understood the message of what Paul was teaching and believed in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:14-15). The qualities of revival are relegated to a large group of people and one person.
5. Revival from a biblical outlook is continual activity, not just a static one-time event: Revival should not be described as an event, or an experience at a specific time in a particular arena, tent, conference center, or stadium. According to a biblical perspective, revival seems to continue throughout a person's life because a believer's mind is constantly transformed through the word of God, according to God's grace and mercy (Rom. 12:1-2). Christians are instructed to constantly be filled in their spiritual nature with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, which underscores God's word (Eph. 5:18-21), and to operate by this new spiritual nature, which results in a believer exhibiting conduct that is aligned with the word of God (c.f., Gal. 5:16-26). A believer is to have the word of Christ dwell in them richly (Col. 3:16). Peter instructed the believers that they ought to "grow and the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18) and to meet with believers often to encourage others, and be encouraged by others (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. However, it occurs regularly in a person's life who has received the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus and is committed to studying God's word.
Regarding the word revival, we, as believers who hold to a Biblical worldview, ought to be cautious about how we use this word. A revival, according to Scripture, has proper preaching, proper presentation, and explanation of God's word to the audience. In addition, a revival can occur not only in the consciences of a group of people but also in one person. Finally, a revival is not just a one-time event, an emotional experience, or even a return to the "sign" gifts of the early church. However, it is an ongoing practice of the Christian life, as one constantly meditates on God's word and is filled in their new nature with doctrine and aligning their conduct with it. 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…