07 Nov REVIVAL: IS IT A BIBLICAL CONCEPT ? By Dr. Michael Brown
In its classic sense, revival can be defined as a season of unusual divine visitation resulting in deep repentance, supernatural renewal, and sweeping reformation in the Church, along with the radical conversion of sinners in the world, often producing moral, social, and even economic change in the local or national communities. But is such a concept biblical? And is the term “revival” even found in the Scriptures?
Actually, the concept is quite biblical: Old Testament Scriptures are full of examples of national revivals, such as those under Asa, Hezekiah, and Josiah, and personal revivals (e.g., Jacob’s revival in Genesis 32:25).
In the New Testament, the book of Acts sets the tone, describing the church in the midst of divine visitation, filled with the Spirit, ablaze for God, and making a powerful impact on the community and nation. However, by the end of the New Testament period, as reflected in the messages to the seen churches in Asia Minor noted in Revelation 2-3, many of the congregations were backslidden, and Jesus sternly called them to repentance with a promise of restoration. That is a picture of revival! Whether the Church’s problem was leaving its first love (Ephesus), falling into doctrinal or moral impurity (Pergamum and Thyatira), or being guilty of spiritual pride and self-deception (Sardis and Laodicea), the call was the same and the promise was the same: “Repent and I will bless you.”
As for revival terminology, the noun “revival” is not found in the Bible, but the verbs “revive” and “quicken” are frequently found, especially in the Psalms.[i] Other related nouns and verbs are used throughout the Scriptures, such as “return” and “heal” in Jeremiah 3:22, “restore” and “renew” in Lamentations 5:21, and “times of refreshing” in Acts 3:19.[ii]
More important, some of these passages contain within themselves the foundations of revival theology. For example:
- A prayer for the Lord to revive His works of old that have become only a memory and in wrath to remember mercy (Hab. 3:2)
- A pleas for God to turn from His anger and restore His people that they might again rejoice in Him (PS. 85)[iii]
- Repentance leading to refreshing (Acts 3:19)
- The call to Sardis to wake up and repent (Rev. 3:1-6)
- The call to Laodicea to realize its spiritual bankruptcy, repent, and be fully restored by the Lord (Rev. 3:14-21)
In light of this, it is no surprise that spiritually hungry believers find encouragement to pray for revival from the Bible: That ministers base their calls to repentance and their promise to revival on the Bible. That the Bible provides the guidelines and paradigms for revival, and that in the end, revived believers delight themselves a new in the Bible. The Bible is the books on revival!
[i] Ps. 119 and Hab. 3:2
[ii] See Study Chains from The Revival Study Bible
[iii] Note Ps. 85:6 from The Revival Study Bible