What Is True Revival?

What Is True Revival?

What is true revival? It is not generic spirituality, mere emotionalism, or utopian idealism. True revival is marked by a rediscovery of the word of God, a restored sense of the fear of God, a return to God through confession and repentance, a renewed spiritual commitment as God’s people, and, finally, a reformation of true piety. 

Given the fact that I have not attended or watched any of the services, and that we have yet to determine the long-term fruit of these events, the only responsible answer is, “I don’t know.” Certainly, we ought to hope that this is a powerful moving of the Holy Spirit and be grateful for every good report we hear. At the same time, it is not quenching the Spirit to ask clarifying questions, and, in general, to wait and see whether—in looking back months and years from now—sinners have been truly converted, lives have been lastingly transformed, and churches have been made fuller by the events of these days.

The point of this post is not to talk about Asbury, but to talk about the Bible. While the Bible doesn’t use the word “revival,” it does detail instances in the lives of God’s people where sudden and surprising change takes place. Whether we call it an “awakening” or “renewal” or “reformation” or “revival,” there have been times throughout history—including biblical history—where the God who normally works by ordinary days (Zech 4:10) has chosen to work in extraordinary ways.

Perhaps the clearest and most comprehensive example of a biblical “revival” came during the reign of King Josiah. The year was 640 B.C. (or thereabouts), and Judah was in bad shape.  After some good years with King Hezekiah, the nation had declined with fifty-five years under the wicked King Manasseh. The next two years under King Amon were hardly better: “And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as Manasseh his father had done. He walked in all the way in which his father walked and served the idols that his father served and worshiped them” (2 Kings 21:20-21).

The country looked bleak. God’s people were languishing. There wasn’t much to cheer about. But God, by a sovereign, surprising work of his Spirit, brought reformation and breathed new life into his people. The God-given renewal in Judah, like all true revival, was marked by several distinguishing characteristics.

Let me mention five.

The first and most important mark in revival is a rediscovery of the word of God (2 Kings 22:1-2, 8-10).

Can you imagine this scene? Someone on your church staff comes up from the boiler room, “Pastor, you are not going to believe this. I found a Bible down there! Remember hundreds of years ago when we used to read the Bible? Well, I found one! And I have to tell you, I think we’re in big trouble. I’ve been looking at God’s commandments for us, and we are way off.” That’s essentially what happened in Josiah’s day. It was the rediscovery of the book of the law that sparked revival in the land.

  • 2 Kings 22:13 “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”
  • 2 Kings 23:3 “And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after he Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book.”
  • 2 Kings 23:24-25 “Moreover, Josiah put away the mediums and the necromancers and the household gods and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might establish the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord. Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.”
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