What Is Revival?

by Geoff Waugh

Geoff Waugh

Geoff Waugh

Millions of people believe in Jesus today. He is alive and well. He changes those who give their lives to Him. People who once ignored Him now live for Him. Many who only knew His name as a swear word or as a religious chant now love Him.

This change happens when people believe in God. God gives His Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, to His people. God empowers His people by His Spirit. That’s what He did in Israel’s history, in Jesus’ life, in the early Church, and through the centuries till now. And He still does.

The Spirit of God may come suddenly and powerfully as at Sinai with Moses, at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem with Solomon, at Pentecost with the early Church, and at the home of Cornelius, the Roman centurion. Sometimes the Spirit of the Lord comes upon individuals, who then spark a powerful move of God’s Spirit among the people. Such visitations of God’s Spirit often cause revival, and those revivals bring profound change. Thousands become Christians. Crime rates drop. Justice and righteousness prevail.

Millions of Christians now pray earnestly for such a revival.

Selwyn Hughes notes:

In all the years that I have been a Christian I have never witnessed such a burden and expectancy for revival as I do at this moment among the true people of God. Wherever I go I meet prayerful Christians whose spirit witnesses with my own that a mighty Holy Spirit revival is on the way. The 1960s and 1970s were characterized by the word “renewal”. Then in the eighties, the word began slowly losing currency, and another appeared to take its place—revival. And why? Because great and wonderful though renewal is, many are beginning to see that there are greater things in our Father’s storehouse, and slowly but surely their faith is rising to a flash point (Hughes 1990, 7).

Revival is not welcomed by everyone, however, because it involves humility, awareness of our unworthiness, confession of sin, repentance, restitution, seeking and offering forgiveness, and following Christ wholeheartedly. It then impacts society with conviction, godliness, justice, peace, and righteousness. Some people do not want that, especially if revival is accompanied by people being overwhelmed, which often happens.

One of the best explanations of revival that I have found is from Arthur Wallis, in his classic book, In the Day of Thy Power. Wallis observes:

Numerous writings…confirm that revival is divine intervention in the normal course of spiritual things. It is God revealing Himself to man in awesome holiness and irresistible power. It is such a manifest working of God that human personalities are overshadowed and human programs abandoned. It is man retiring into the background because God has taken the field. It is the Lord…working in extraordinary power on saint and sinner.

… Revival must of necessity make an impact on the community and this is one means by which we may distinguish it from the more usual operations of the Holy Spirit (Wallis l956, 20, 23).

Edwin Orr, historian of revivals, distinguishes between revivals, which primarily affect churches and their surrounding community, and wide-scale awakenings, which affect the whole of society.

According to Orr:

A spiritual awakening is a movement of the Holy Spirit bringing about a revival of New Testament Christianity in the Church of Christ and its related community. … It accomplishes the reviving of the Church, the awakening of the masses and the movements of uninstructed people toward the Christian faith; the revived church by many or few is moved to engage in evangelism, teaching and social action (Orr 1973, vii-viii).

As individuals and churches are renewed, they prepare the way for revival in the land. A spiritual awakening touches the community when God’s Spirit moves in power, and often this awakening begins in people who are earnestly praying for and expecting revival. “Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?” (Ps. 85:6 NKJ)

© Geoff Waugh. Used by permission