Did you know the word revival isn’t in the Bible? The word revive is 27 times depending on the translation you use. Most often found in the Psalms (10 times in Psalm 119 alone) its use describes a refreshing of the spirit of a person usually a single individual. Revival is a noun referring to the event if which something is revived. Revive in both the Greek and Hebrew is defined as follows – to recover life, to live again, to flourish again, to live, to breathe freely, to be refreshed.
Webster’s defines revival as – an act or instance of reviving: the state of being revived: as renewed attention to or interest in something, a new presentation or publication of something old, a period of renewed religious interest: an often highly emotional evangelistic meeting or series of meetings. A restoration of force, validity, or effect.
The most standard use of the word revive is to bring back to life or to restore life. This becomes very problematic when referring to the church as we so often do. First of all, what is the meaning of life in the church? There would be a myriad of definitions based on what church you are talking about or what part of what era or religious movement one refers, thus no common definition or understanding. Secondly, to be brought back to life, one first has to be alive which means that whatever we are trying to pray for would only apply to those who were already brought to life, which in the spiritual sense would mean to be saved, or born-again as Jesus shared with Nicodemus. Thus revival only applies to Christians, those born-again whether in the church or otherwise.
It is clear that the, term “revival” can only be applied to a living soul, or to that which once lived. To be revived is a blessing which can only be enjoyed by those who have some degree of life. Those who have no spiritual life are not, and cannot be, in the strictest sense of the term, the subjects of a revival. Many blessings may come to the unconverted in consequence of a revival among Christians, but the revival itself has to do only with those who already possess spiritual life. There must be vitality in some degree before there can be a quickening of vitality, or, in other words, a revival.
A true revival is to be looked for in the church of God. Only in the river of gracious life can the pearl of revival be found. It has been said that a revival must begin with God’s people; this is very true, but it is not all the truth, for the revival itself must end as well as begin there. The results of the revival will extend to the outside world, but the revival, strictly speaking, must be within the circle of life, and must therefore essentially be enjoyed by the possessors of vital godliness, and by them only. Is not this quite a different view of revival from that; which is common in society; but is it not manifestly the correct one?
C. H. Spurgeon What is Revival?, December 1866
What are we really seeking when we pray for revival? Typically what we mean is an outpouring of the Spirit of God with power. Many would equate what we desire over our churches, cities and the nations as equivalent to what was happening during the ministry of Jesus or the day of Pentecost. The power of God was evident, people were healed, set free, resources manifested supernaturally, signs and wonders were performed. Many of the people to whom these events happened, however, were not followers of Christ until later. In fact, as discussed in Why Repent, many were brought to faith in Christ because of such events including Peter.
Is it not true that what we are really looking for is the evidence of our faith lived out practically causing transformational change in our world? In short – fruit, the fruits that were evident in the ministry of Jesus and in the early church; healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, etc.
Spurgeon continues in his article:
Who thinks of reviving the noonday sun, the ocean at its flood, or the year at its prime? The tree planted by the rivers of water loaded with fruit needs not excite our anxiety for its revival, for its fruitfulness and beauty charm every one. Such should be the constant condition of the sons of God. Feeding and lying down in green pastures and led by the still waters they ought not always to be crying, “my leanness, my leanness, woe unto me.”
The English origins of the word revival date back to 1645. It is not a term in our language that has been around long compared to the church. It was also not part of the language of either Jesus or the early church. One may argue that because the church in the New Testament was brand new it did not need to be revived. I would contend a different point though, simply that revival is the wrong word to use.
What we see described in the New Testament, throughout the Gospels and on into Acts was a culture that was established through the ministry of Jesus and continued by His disciples. This culture was one that demonstrated and taught the good news of the kingdom and thus could more accurately be described as kingdom culture. A culture that pulled down the perfection of heaven; healings, freedom from oppression, supernatural multiplication of resources, and gave access to and manifestation of it on earth resulting in widespread repentance and radical transformation.
This is why Jesus, when He taught us to pray in Matthew 6:10, said to pray like this:
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.”
Some may feel this is semantics, however, I believe it is critically important to be accurate in exactly what we are asking God for. If we are needing a refreshing of our spirits, let’s ask for that but not characterize it as the ultimate Christian pursuit. Jesus said we are to “…seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” so let’s pray and ask for that exactly like He taught us to and like He did.
One final thought, revival, herein the act of reviving, is restoring of what once existed, or recovery of what once was. Since Jesus said, “…greater works than I have done, you will do also…” should we not expect this and not limit our future legacy to reviving what we have already seen and experienced in the church thus far? To bring back to life is to reach into the past and pull forward something that existed before. What if the best is yet to come? What if the church, by praying for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, creates a kingdom culture that has never been seen or experienced? The perfection of the kingdom of heaven awaits us, it is part of the destiny of the church, so let’s pray for it now, as Jesus taught us and let’s live it, truly, life to the fullest.
On earth as is it…