By Jeff Ziegler
Published January 7, 2008
Dynamic outpourings within the church and its corresponding effects upon a given society – or a “spiritual awakening” – has long been the great divine means by which Christ has dramatically advanced His redemptive purposes in the earth.
Throughout the scriptures and church history the Lord of heaven and earth can be seen radiating His glorious perfections with unusual power to particular generations of the elect, who under God’s influence perform great exploits against sin and iniquity, often transforming entire nations with heavenly glory.
To most evangelicals, the life and testimony of the reformers of a bygone era are quite familiar. Names such as Luther, Knox, Edwards, Whitefield, Wesley, and Finney to name just a few, are generally synonymous with large sweeping movements of Christianity which engulf entire generations. Yet this familiarity often makes the discussion of revival difficult in that any inquiry into revival becomes personality based. This in turn hinders the discovery of the underpinning theology and immutable principles which foster such movements of holy grandeur.
The purpose of our inquiry concerning revival is to uncover the biblical foundations of such awakenings that we may practically implement these principals in our present generation. My hope is that revival will no longer be viewed as a mysterious capricious act of the sovereign Christ but instead seen as part of His overall purposes in maturing the church and advancing His rule among the nations.
REVIVAL – To restore from a depressed, inactive, or unused state. A restoration of force or validity. (Websters)
“Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence.” Isaiah 64:1
In order to understand revival and spiritual awakening in a biblical context with all of its high and lofty dimensions, one must inquire beyond fundamental dictionary explanations and preconceived cultural ideas concerning revival. There must be a renewed effort to embrace a theological, historic and global appreciation for this otherworldly phenomenon, if revival is to be more than a byword in our generation.
Three Misunderstandings About “Revival”
Before a proper definition of revival can take place there are three major misunderstandings concerning revival which must be overcome.
The first of these barriers is the all too common cultural understanding of revival which exists among the majority of American evangelicals. Such understanding generally sees revival in terms of a given local church holding a set of special evangelistic meetings usually scheduled in the spring and fall. This sort of meeting would ordinarily include special speakers and varied musical presentations in order to make an appeal for unregenerate sinners to be converted to Christ. That this kind of meeting has value and at times can even assist in the expansion of revival once it is already in progress there can be no doubt. However, evangelistic meetings do not represent authentic biblical revival! Evangelism should be an ongoing function of the church whether the dynamic of revival is present or not.
Another major obstacle in forming a proper understanding of revival again revolves around a cultural difficulty. The critics of revival (I speak here of evangelicals who no longer believe revival a possibility), often cite that the great historical awakenings were generally confined to 18th and 19th century America and Britain because their respective cultures were suited to such religious movements. The implication being that there cannot exist an immutable set of biblical principles which can transcend time and sophistication of culture in order to bring revival to every tribe and kindred on earth.
Of course, this short and truncated view fails to take into account the mighty evangelical awakenings which are currently taking place in such diverse places as Asia, South America, Africa, and the Soviet Union. Thus it is is imperative for the success of the churches global mission that we reject any notion that revival is based upon certain cultural conditions. Revival is distinctly biblical not cultural!
The third major obstacle in arriving at an understanding of revival and spiritual awakening has to do with a confusion over the terms themselves. Very often the terms “revival” and “spiritual awakening” are used interchangeably to describe large numbers of converts being added to the church in a very short period of time. Large numbers of converts can be expected as a result of what is called a “spiritual awakening.” Revival and spiritual awakening are related; both may be attended by the salvation of a large number of souls. However, they are in fact two separate events.
In light of our discussion so far, it is now time to properly define the terms revival and spiritual awakening. While there exist many good and varied explanations for revival, we will opt for simplicity by defining revival as a recovery of Christ’s glorified testimony within a particular generation of the church. Such revival may take place on a local scale, but usually takes on national and international implications. The marks of such reviving include corporate repentance, humility, renewed spiritual vigor, holiness of life, and large sweeping movements of corporate prayer. Thus revival is a specific blessing of divine intervention which Christ bestows to the elect in order to arrest spiritual atrophy and enhance the churches testimony in society.
Spiritual awakening on the other hand, takes place when an already “revived” church begins to righteously leaven the society in which it is located. The evidences of awakening usually include mass conversions and dramatic changes in a given nation’s social structure. Virtually every historic revival has inaugurated an awakening which has challenged and reformed society in some degree. This all encompassing vision can best be summed up in a little known yet poignant statement by the great 19th century revivalist Charles G. Finney in which he exhorted:
“Now the great business of the church is to reform the world – to put away every kind of sin. The church of Christ was originally organized to be a body of reformers … The Christian church was designed to make aggressive movements in every direction – to lift up her voice and put forth her energies against iniquity in high and low places – to reform individuals, communities, and governments, and never rest until the Kingdom and the greatness of the Kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the saints of the most high God – till every form of iniquity is driven from the earth.”
Let us now summarize our opening statements concerning revival and spiritual awakening.
1) Revival and spiritual awakening cannot be defined from a cultural perspective. Culture cannot create revival movements. Revival is based upon immutable biblical principals and this in turn affects both church and culture.
2) Revival is distinctive in that it embodies the sovereign movements of Christ on behalf of His church, in order to enhance her testimony in a given generation.
3) Spiritual awakening takes place among those who are lost in sin due to the relevance of an already revived church.
This is part one in a two part series by Jeff Ziegler on Revival and Spiritual Awakening.
Jeff Ziegler is president of Christian Evangelistic Endeavors, a ministry dedicated to bringing a great and mighty revival to the Church and spiritual awakening throughout the nations. C.E.E. sponsors Intensive Revival School, a two year discipleship training program designed to prepare students for the ministry. Revival Flame, a bi-monthly newsletter published by C.E.E., contains articles written by staff members and revivalists of old concerning revivals past and present. If you wish to receive Revival Flame, write to the following address:
c/o Christian Evangelistic Endeavors, Inc.
35155 Beachpark Dr.
Eastlake, OH 44095
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What is true Revival and Spiritual Awakening?
Discover the answer in this eyewitness account by Dennis Kinlaw, President of Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky, who recounts the story of a visitation of the Holy Spirit in 1970. This is the presentation that has continued to spark the flames of Revival in the hearts of people around the world. Contains eyewitness footage from the Revival at Asbury College in 1970 in Wilmore, Kentucky.
Certain to challenge you to greater holiness and a deeper commitment to full-scale revival. Original news and private footage has been included. If you are a student who longs to see a spiritual awakening at your school, you must see this video!
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— Bob and Rose Weiner, Weiner Ministries Int’l
Running Time: 40 minutes
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“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
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This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.
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God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.
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Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:
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Running Time: 240 minutes
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After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.
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Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!
Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.
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