The best is yet to come!
In this article Arthur Wallis uses his own spiritual journey as an example and aid to his own conclusions regarding Renewal, Revival and Restoration. Whatever experiences of the Holy Spirit someone has, from receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit and experiencing his attendant gifts, or full-on revival where hundreds of churches are re-ignited in their passion for God and His Kingdom, and multitudes are swept into God’s family, the divine intention is always the same: to produce united, fully functional, Biblically modelled, loving, empowered and effective communities where each member operates in his Holy Spirit inspired gifting!
During the earlier years of my Christian life, I left biblical prophecy severely alone. The experts, I argued, have been squabbling over the interpretation of coming events for centuries. Who am I to come up with any answers?
Then one day I was confronted with the fact that at least one third of the Bible is prophecy. Could I afford to adopt an attitude of indifference to so much which was written for my edification and encouragement? Were not these things hidden from the wise and prudent but revealed to babes? I felt I qualified!
Christians have tended to devalue the word ‘hope’, to make it little more than optimism in spiritual things. But hope is just as certain and powerful as faith itself. As the age moves on to its climax, and Satan becomes more and more desperate, we shall need to be sustained by a hope that finds a sure base in die prophetic Scriptures.
Rescued From Disaster?
I was one who for many years was in great faith for things to wax worse and worse, with men both deceiving and being deceived. Wasn’t that exactly what the New Testament said? I viewed the rapture of the saints (1 Thes 4:17) as a rescue operation of a church that had failed to make it.
However, I was neglecting a very important principle of prophetic interpretation.
‘No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of any personal or private or special interpretation’ (2 Pet 1:20 Amp). Whatever else the statement means, it is saying that you cannot interpret a given prophecy in isolation from other relevant prophecies. The interpretation must be in keeping with the general drift of the prophetic Scripture.
You may read certain Scriptures and conclude that the world is going to get better and better until thoroughly christianised. Other passages would suggest the reverse. First, we must grasp the broad sweep of God’s kingdom plan.
It is not enough to ‘take a sneaky look at the close of the book and find out that Jesus wins in the end’. When does he win? How does he win? Is it in spite of us or because of us? And you don’t have to go to the end of the Book; you’ll find the answer at the beginning.
The Genesis Key
If s the first prophecy of the Bible. ‘I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel’ (Gen 3:15). Here is the germ of all prophecy: a warning of conflict and a promise of ultimate victory.
First, there would perpetual enmity between the two offsprings, representing the forces of darkness and the forces of light.
Next the issue of the conflict would be decided when the offspring of the woman (Christ) bruised the serpents head (Satan).
Finally, this victory would not leave the Victor unscathed. His heel would be bruised, a cryptic reference to death by crucifixion.
‘The offspring of the Serpent’ refers to all those governed by the spirit of anti-Christ, people implacably imposed to the rule of Christ. Remember how Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘You belong to your father the devil’ (Jn 8:44). The offspring of the serpent (the anti-Christ movement) and the offspring of the woman (Christ the head and the body) will both come to full manifestation before the final showdown.
Though it was Christ who bruised Satan’s head at the cross, it is the church who also bruises Satan’s head in the final outworking of his great victory.
‘The God of peace’ said Paul ‘will soon crush Satan under your feet’ (Rom 16:20). You and I have a vital part to play. The victory of Christ is to be implemented, not in spite of the church, or apart from the church, but through the church.
Just as the word about the bruising of Satan’s head involves us, so does the suffering of the bruised heel include us too. It is a suffering church, one that has embraced the cross, that will triumph in the end time.
This is the picture of the victors: ‘They have conquered (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death’ (Rev 12:11).
How is the kingdom to come and the final victory to be won? Three key words which are increasingly on the lips of God’s people, help us to understand what God’s strategy is.
The means not the end
This first word has a personal emphasis. The charismatic renewal in the mid-sixties began with individual believers seeking the Father for his promised gift of the Holy Spirit.
Multiplied thousands all over the world have experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit, with far-reaching results. They have received power through the on-coming of the Holy Spirit, spoken in new tongues, been set free from fears and inhibitions, and have come into a new dimension of praise, prayer and worship.
Chapters 12 and 14 of 1 Corinthians, at one time incomprehensible, have now become clear and plain. And this for the simple reason that the wonderful gifts of the Father, tongues, interpretation, prophecy and such like, have been experienced, instead of being relegated to a museum of New Testament curiosities.
It is only a Spirit-baptised church that will bring in the kingdom of God. There is no bypassing the experience of renewal.
The final triumph over the powers of darkness will be accomplished by a people clothed with power and equipped with spiritual gifts. It is not enough to know about it. It is not even enough to dip a toe in the water. We must commit ourselves.
Many deeply blessed in the charismatic movement mistakenly saw it as the end rather than the means. The baptism in the Spirit became a kind of graduation certificate, and meetings where spiritual gifts operated became an end in themselves.
‘Where do we go from here?’ became a cry, often with no satisfactory answer. Enthusiasm began to give way to unbelief, disillusionment and even cynicism. Yet, still the movement of the Spirit rolled on, breaking new ground both at home and overseas, continuing to quicken and renew all who were hungry for God.
An ongoing process – (of Restoration
The second word has a corporate emphasis. Behind it is the recognition that the power and effectiveness of the early church was not through a few dazzling individualists. Nor was it simply that all the believers had personally received the Holy Spirit, true though that was.
On the day of Pentecost 120 men and women were not only filled but also fused into one body. That had never happened before. ‘They stood on their feet a vast army’.
There was no place for individualism in the early church. Community was the name of the game.
The efforts of a rowing eight or a tug-of-war team, working in perfect unison, generate much more power than the sum total of their individual efforts. So it was with the early church.
It became the most powerful single element in society and a grave threat to ‘the establishment’. No wonder they were described as ‘these men who have turned the world upside down’ (Acts 17:6 RSV).
Can you imagine today’s church, no longer the butt of music-hall jokes or treated as a religious irrelevance, becoming the most influential force on earth? This is God’s plan and he is going to bring it to pass (see Psalm 2).
This means that we must have local churches which are not composed of both believers and those who simply profess to believe (a mix that always spells weariness), but a community of true believers, baptised in water and in the Holy Spirit, totally committed to Christ and to each other.
Here each believer recognises that he or she has a special part to play in the functioning of the church, so that there is a building up of ‘the body’ to full maturity.
The unity of the early church was not simply task-orientated. Believers were not together simply because there was a job to be done. They had found each other in God. They were joined together by the Holy Spirit They shared a common life.
The world did not exclaim, ‘See how zealous these Christians are for their cause’, but ‘See how these Christians love one another’.
Sprain your wrist or break your ankle, and the relationship between one part of your body and the rest is seriously impaired, the overall function detrimentally affected. Just so in the body of Christ
What a revelation it was to discover that ‘church’ was not really meetings and activities, but relationships. Where ever you have a breakdown of relationships, there you have a breakdown of function also.
The members are to be ‘joined and held together by every supporting ligament (Eph 4:16). Though we are to ‘make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace’ (Eph 4:3), what about those ‘supporting ligaments? How do they hold parts together?
Are not these the gifts of Christ that Paul had just mentioned, that is, apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers? Does he not say that they are God’s appointed means to bring us to the unity of the faith (Eph 4:13)?
The emphasis on restoration is bringing these gifts into their rightful place, restoring those of apostles and prophets, so long denied and yet so vital for the bringing of the church to full maturity.
What exciting days these are! But to look at the situation realistically we are obliged to acknowledge ruefully that by present standards, it is going to take thousands of years to see the kingdom triumph across the face of the earth.
Many would say that any prospect of the church, so sadly segmented, coming forth as a unified army, is so unrealistic as to be an idle daydream. Even if we have faith for it, and the process speeds up, it is going to take a very long time.
But hold on. There is a weapon in God’s armoury that he is still holding in reserve.
Revival – The Divine Break-in
There are few words in our spiritual vocabulary meaning so many different things to so many different people. On the American continent ‘revival’ usually describes successful evangelism: ‘We plan to have a revival in our church next month’.
Others equate it with a personal renewal as individuals are sanctified, quickened or filled with the Holy Spirit.
Many think and speak of the charismatic renewal as revival. I was seeking God for revival, even before the charismatic movement broke out, that led many of us into a renewal experience and to seek God concerning his will to restore his church to New Testament purity and power. But even as we came into some experience of these things, we knew that revival had not yet come.
Anyone who has read widely of the true revivals of the past will have no hesitation in affirming that we have not yet seen it, at least, not here in Britain.
We have certainly seen valuable movements of the Holy Spirit that have had some of the ingredients of revival, but there have been significant missing elements. I want to touch on some of these. When we see them characterising the movement of the Spirit, then we can declare that God has truly come amongst us in revival power.
We may have been in meetings with a sweet sense of God’s presence in worship, or even a powerful sense of his presence in the manifestation of healing or deliverance. But there is a visitation of God in revival that is more powerful than anything that we have ever experienced.
This God-consciousness is prefigured in the Old Testament story. When Shekinah glory came down upon tabernacle and temple of old, the priests could not stand to minister. They were on their faces.
A visitation of God in revival means an overshadowing of man and his activity by the overwhelming glory of God. Moses knew it when he cried out, ‘I exceedingly fear and quake’.
Imagine we are in Jerusalem at Pentecost. Weeks before, the city had rung to the cry, ‘Away with him, crucify him’. The populace had witnessed the fulfilment of their plea.
Then there were disturbing rumours that Jesus was alive. Then came Pentecost, and those discouraged, dispirited disciples came out into the open and boldly declared, ‘The Jesus that you have crucified is alive and he is the Messiah’.
It took the city by storm. Three thousand were saved on the spot Then we read, ‘And fear came upon every soul’ (Acts 2:43). Imagine that great metropolis, the centre of world Jewry, caught in the grip of God!
This feature has not been characteristic of the charismatic renewal, but it is characteristic of revival
Let us prepare ourselves for something grander than we have yet experienced. We shall see salvation without sermons, healing without imposition of hands, and deliverance without a commanding word.
This is not to say that God wants to do away with human instruments. He simply wishes to remind us that he is quite capable of working without them.
Revival: Community Impact
The charismatic renewal has now been around, at least in this country, for over fifteen years. Many in our churches, not to mention the vast majority of our citizens, know nothing about it They have not been touched by it. It is clear that the community impact has been minimal.
In true revivals, community impact is a major feature. People do not have to read the Gospel Gazette in order to discover that God is amongst his people.
As well as the God-consciousness that we have been speaking about, there are signs and wonders that fill men and women with awe and wonder. The message of the kingdom becomes the major talking point in the pubs and the clubs.
There may be debating and discussing mocking and scoffing but indifference is no longer possible. When people can neither deny nor explain what is happening when indifference to the gospel is no longer possible when sin hides its head in shame, then we will know that revival has truly come.
Revival: Conversion Harvest
This is the crowning blessing of a true visitation of the Holy Spirit, a harvest for the kingdom of God. But it is more than large numbers of converts. This can happen and does happen without revival. It is the manner in which they are converted. It is the depth of conviction of sin, the travail with which they come and will be born into the kingdom
Remember the lame man at the Gate Beautiful. Following the arrest of the apostles, they were tried by the Sanhedrin. When they saw the man who had been healed standing with the apostles, these religious leaders could say nothing against what had happened.
The healed man did not need to align himself in this fashion. But so deep was the work of God’s Spirit in him, far deeper than a physical healing he was eager to be identified with those who had brought him salvation.
In revival you don’t need to follow the converts up, they follow you up!
We have only to read the history of revivals of the past to get some idea of how great the harvest can be. The task of world evangelism, the establishing of the rule of Christ throughout the earth, and the full restoration of the church to be ‘fair as the moon, clear as the sun and terrible as an army with banners’, can never be accomplished apart from such visitation of the Holy Spirit.
Get Ready: IT’S COMING!
There’s no question about it, the best is yet to be! Many promises of such a visitation, given by God to his people over the years, have not yet been fulfilled.
Again and again God has spoken in prophecy of an outpouring of his Spirit which can only be described as God doing ‘immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us’.
Is it then a sovereign act of God for which we must patiently wait? Must we simply twiddle our thumbs till God’s zero-hour strikes?
No, indeed! We have our part to play. There are conditions that we need to fulfil. They do not rate as revival nor do they ensure that it will come. It is rather that God informs us that revival is coming and then commands us to get ready for it.
‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land’ (2 Chron 7:14).
How desperately our land needs healing! Only revival can accomplish it.
Let us respond with all our hearts to these four things that God requires of us, and become a people willing and ready for the coming day of his power.
Originally published in Restoration Magazine – March/April 1983.