Blow a trumpet in Zion,
And sound an alarm on My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
For the day of the Lord is coming;
Surely it is near …
There has never been anything like it,
Nor will there be again after it
To the years of many generations.
- Joel 2:1,2
The trumpet is sounding. Alarms are going out from the watchmen that stand upon the walls. The day of a visitation of God is very quickly approaching. 1988 has been slated as America’s date with destiny.
Spiritual awakenings are unique events that do not come to every generation. Many generations have lived and died and have never seen a visitation of God’s Spirit. After the last Old Testament prophet Malachi proclaimed his message in Israel, God did not send another messenger to His people until John the Baptist arrived 500 years later.
Since the beginning of time God has accomplished His purposes in history by sudden and powerful movements of His Spirit. A quick overview of Old Testament history reveals events of such magnitude – events such as the Flood, the Exodus, the conquest of Canaan, the reign of King David, Elijah’s ministry of supernatural might and power, the work of Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem, or the repentance of Nineveh. In all these events, God sovereignly intervened in the affairs of men and changed the course of history.
In the New Testament we find the work of John the Baptist, the advent of the Messiah, the Resurrection, and the Day of Pentecost as evidence of the same principle of sudden and powerful movements of the Holy Spirit which bring about God’s purposes.
In more recent history, we find that these divine moves of God have continued. The Protestant Reformation, the First and Second Great Awakenings, the Great American Revival of 1856, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the turn of the 20th century remind us that God shapes the world through revival Christianity. During this century there have been various renewal movements, such as the Latter Rain, the Charismatic renewal, and the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s. While each of these movements had profound results, none of the more recent events ever reached the full magnitude of earlier awakenings.
Taking a look at the broad sweep of history, it is obvious that while God has always worked in quiet and steady ways, He has used great times of spiritual upheaval to plummet His work forward. We must never forget that God’s title as the “Lord of Hosts” reminds us that He is a military commander. His ways in awakenings are His heavenly strategy, by which He moves the forces of heaven to counteract spiritual decline and to create spiritual momentum.1
A spiritual awakening is a strategic move by the armies of heaven against the forces of Satan. We must never forget that the generation in history to whom God sends awakening, the manner in which He sends it, and the servants He chooses to use, are not determined by the soldier in the field. That decision belongs to the Commander-in-Chief, the Lord God Almighty.
Are You Prepared?
But while the timing of awakenings is orchestrated by God alone, He is not in the habit of intervening in the face of human indifference, disobedience, and prayerlessness. In every awakening the sovereignty of God and the preparedness of men and women hang in divine balance.
There were many in the nation of Israel who missed the day of their visitation during the time of the Messiah and the early years of the Church. There were those who were too busy with religion to notice that their God and King – whom they claimed to worship – was in their midst. Weeping over them, Jesus proclaimed, “If you had known in this day the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes … because you did not recognize the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:41,44).
We, too, can miss the day of our visitation if we are not watchful, and if we do not have a sensitivity to the moving of God’s Spirit. Jesus continually warned his disciples to be found watching and waiting for His coming. These scriptures apply not only to the second coming of Christ, but also to other times of visitation when the Lord seeks admittance to the corporate assembly or calls the individual believer to a deeper level of fellowship.
What can cause us to miss the day of our visitation? Most definitely a lack of heart preparation. Jesus taught a parable about five wise and five foolish virgins who heard the bridegroom cry at midnight and arose to meet him (Matthew 25). While the five wise virgins trimmed their lamps and awaited his appearing, the five foolish virgins were not prepared and left in search of oil.
When the bridegroom arrived, the five wise virgins went in through the open door to the wedding feast. The five foolish virgins returned and sought admittance, crying “Lord, lord, open to us.” But the bridegroom said, “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.”
It is important to recognize that all of these women were virgins, signifying those who were separated unto God. They had all been waiting for the bridegroom’s appearing but had fallen asleep. They also called the bridegroom “Lord.” But five were unprepared.
These virgins were called “foolish.” Fools in the Bible are not only those who say there is no God. Fools are also those who do not walk in holiness. Not only were the foolish virgins not holy, but they also had not prepared themselves to receive the bridegroom if he delayed his coming, for their lamps ran out of oil. Those who were at one time spiritual were not prepared for the long haul. Their spiritual affections had waned and their hearts had grown cold. They had become lax in their spiritual exercises and dark in their understanding.
Because they did not tend the inner relationship and keep a vibrant fellowship with God, their wick went out and the event caught them by surprise. Because they had neglected their personal devotion to the Lord and their necessary heart preparation, the bridegroom confessed when they sought admittance, “Sorry, I don’t know who you are.”
God Desires Obedience
Disobedience to the Spirit of God, and secret sin, will also keep us from being ready for the visitation of God. Jesus taught, “Not every one who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord , Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and in Your name cast out demons and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
We can lead thousands into spiritual life and be thrown into hell when we are finished. It is a life of inward holiness and obedience to the will of God that counts, along with a true knowledge of God. The fear of God is apparent in our lives if we instantly, joyfully, and wholeheartedly obey God. That is biblical obedience … and anything else is disobedience.
Delayed obedience, partial obedience, or doing what God has asked with murmuring is disobedience. The testimony of some Christians is,“God spoke to me, but I did not obey”; or, “God spoke to me again to do the same thing a year later and I still did not obey. But finally after two weeks of arguing and hoping God would let me off the hook, I finally consented.” This is not considered obedience. Those who fall into this category most definitely are like the ones in Jesus’ parable who say ‘Lord, lord,’ but do not do what He says.
There is desperate need in the Church today for repentance and a sincere hatred of the sin of disobedience – and without it many will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
We must purpose in our hearts to obey God fully. He is not after sacrifice and burnt offerings; He desires an obedient people who will pray when He says to pray, read the Bible when He says to read it, evangelize when His Spirit prompts us to share, and to obey whatever He speaks to our hearts.
The prophet Isaiah records that in the time of the outpouring of God’s Spirit, there will be a“roadway through Zion” called the “highway of holiness” on which “the unclean will not travel” nor will “fools wander on it” (Isaiah 35:8).“Without holiness,” the Bible exhorts us, “no man will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). A person who walks in the way of holiness hates sin and does not participate in it. He has come to truly understand the fear of the Lord.
Today there are many Christians in need of the fear of the Lord. Without it, they will be caught unprepared for the coming visitation of God’s Spirit. If you do not have a holy hatred for sin, if you are constantly confessing the same sins over and over again – sins perhaps of lust, disobedience, jealousy, covetousness, resentment, fear, unbelief, pride, criticism – then you fall into this category. Sins repeated continuously are the result of a lack of true hatred for sin.
As clearly shown in James 1:14-15, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.” People in this category must stop excusing their sins as “character weaknesses” or “shortcomings” and become honest with God. In humility they must say, “Lord, I love this sin and I am constantly tempted to commit it. I do not hate it. I need the fear of God. O God, give me a hatred for what I now love.” God will always answer that kind of honest, sincere prayer with miraculous deliverance.
“By the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil,” says Proverbs 16:6. Conclusively, the person who fears the Lord hates sin … therefore he seldom sins. If he does transgress, he will experience quick awareness of his guilt and will immediately repent. He will also have the willingness to humble himself and repent before others.
If, in the deepest longings of our heart, our desire is to know God and out of that knowledge to make Him known, then we will have to make holiness a way of life. For according to Psalm 25:14, “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him.“2
Are You Too Busy to Hear His Voice?
Jesus told another parable about a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent out to call all the invited guests to the feast. But the invited guests were unwilling to come. Again the king sent out his servants to plead with the people to come, but they were too busy to interrupt their routine. They paid no attention, but went their own way to do their own business. They finally stoned the servants that brought the message and killed his son.
The king then went to the highways and invited anyone he could. He invited both evil and good, and brought them to the feast. But there was a man present who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and that man was thrown out into outer darkness. Jesus concluded His parable by reminding us that, “many are called but few are chosen.”
Likewise, we must be careful that we are not too busy about our daily tasks to turn aside and prepare our hearts for the visitation of God’s Spirit. The cares of this life and the desire for other things can keep us from being prepared. We must be careful that we are not playing around the golden calf, and think that we are worshipping God. We must be careful not to push God out of His sanctuary in a desire to fulfill our agenda or monopolize His work, or try to control it.
We must come to the house of God to hear a word from Him. It must be a house of prayer, not a place of entertainment. We must take time to make sure we have on the wedding garments, the “fine linen garments” which symbolize the righteous acts of the saints.
We must also recognize that true revival uncovers the hidden thoughts of the heart. Because of this, the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit will always draw forth antagonism in the carnal mind, which is “hostile to God” (Romans 8:7). God’s instruments will invaribly be the targets of this antagonism.
Jonathan Edwards was used greatly by God in the New England Awakening, but he was also compelled to resign from the church that was so blessed under his ministry. William Burns, whom God used to bring awakening to Dundee, received severe punishment after defending his work before a panel of his fellow ministers.
Whitfield was barred from speaking at any of the parish churches in England. He responded, “The churches are closed, but, Praise God!, the fields are open!” Over 50,000 people gathered in the fields to hear him speak. John Wesley was not allowed to preach in some of the churches, so he stood on his father’s tombstone in the churchyard and made it his pulpit. The tens of thousands that gathered to hear him preach could have not been contained in the church house anyway.
Arthur Wallis, in his book Rain From Heaven, states: “Find a revival that is not spoken against and you need to look again to be sure that it is a revival.“3
Jesus continually exhorted, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Be dressed in readiness and keep your lamps alight. And be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master shall find on the alert when he comes … Who then is the faithful and sensible steward? … his master will put him in charge of all his possessions” (Luke 12:34-44).
Wallis exhorts, “Scripture repeatedly warns us that we are not to be found sleeping when Christ returns, but watching and waiting. If that day overtakes us as a thief in the night we shall suffer serious loss. For the same reason we must not be found unprepared for the Spirit’s visitation. God always speaks beforehand to those who have ears to hear, and reveals to them what He is about to do. He may have to pull back His servants from the rush and bustle of Christian activity to share with them his secret plan …
“Although revival may break out suddenly and take many by surprise, there are those as always in the watchtower of prayer, with whom God had been pleased to share the secret of what He was about to do. They had heard the ‘sound of marching.’ They had seen the ‘little cloud like a man’s hand.’ They were praying with expectant faith, fully assured that what God had promised, he was able to perform. When revival came they were ready. This is invariably the case with every movement of the Spirit. Let us ask God to give us the listening ear and the sensitive spirit, that the day of visitation may find us ready also.”
Keys from Pentecost
Awakenings are both majestic and mysterious because they proceed from a God who is both clothed in majesty and shrouded in mystery. While awakenings remain somewhat of a mystery, the biblical record of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost gives us a few keys to the characteristics of such spiritual phenomena. The dual aspects of the sovereignty of God and the preparation of man are readily seen.
After His resurrection, Jesus presented himself alive to some 500 people for a period of 40 days, and instructed them to go and wait in Jerusalem for “the promise of the Father,” the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which was to empower them for the task ahead.
They did not go to Jerusalem to mill around the shops and seek the amusements of the city, nor did they expect that the promise of the Father would somehow come upon them as they went about their daily business. Of the 500, 120 of Jesus’ earnest disciples decided to meet together in prayer until the Holy Spirit was poured out from on high. They were continually devoting themselves to prayer with one mind.
What were they doing during these days of prayer as they waited for the Holy Spirit? While they were uncertain of exactly what they were to expect, they were no doubt filled with great expectancy as they anticipated what this promise of the Father could mean.
With the recent revelation of the sins in the lives of the disciples prior to the resurrection, they were in all probability spending time exhorting one another to humility, repentance, and confession, to make sure that nothing stood between them and the Holy God that they served. There was certainly a spontaneity of worship and adoration for the life, death, and resurrection of their blessed Master whom they loved and adored.
There were most assuredly offerings of thanksgiving and a sense of awe over the new birth which they, the first people in history, were privileged to experience. There was no doubt agreement with the prayer that Jesus had taught them to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Suddenly, the voice of prayer was stilled as the sound of a dull roar could be heard in the distance. It grew louder and louder until the room vibrated from the sound of the violent, rushing wind which filled the house where they were sitting. At that very moment, a ball of fire shot out from the wind and divided into flames which lit over each person. The disciples were overawed by the presence and power of God.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was intensely personal. As the wind bore down upon those who had gathered for prayer, tongues of fire sat upon each of them. This signified that God was coming upon them by His Spirit to make them pure. Though they had prepared themselves with ten days of prayer, they still needed the purging fire of the Holy Spirit.
This corresponds with the exhortation from the prophet Malachi: “‘The Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,’ says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when He appears: For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness” (Malachi 3:1-3).
Before God sends a mighty awakening, He first sends a revival of holiness to purge, purify, and refine the church. God’s holiness and His power are especially in evidence during times of revival. Deep conviction of sin is wrought among the believing and the unbelieving alike. This mighty purging of the Holy Spirit comes to prepare a people for the visitation of God’s Spirit.
We see this time of cleansing typified when the children of Israel were preparing themselves for the visitation of God on Mt. Sinai. The Lord told Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people”(Exodus 19:10-11).
The visitation of God was fearful. The trumpet sound was awesome. The lightning flashed, the thunder rolled, and the whole mountain quaked at His presence. From that mountain the voice of God was heard as He gave Moses the Ten Commandments. The people stood trembling at a distance and they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die.”
And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin” (Exodus 20:19-20).
God forbade the people to break through the boundaries He had set around the mountain, lest they gaze upon Him and be consumed by His terrible holiness. Yet Moses was able to climb up the mountain and speak to God face to face. What was the difference between Moses and the people? Moses, like the people, was under the Old Covenant. Moses, like the people, was in need of redemption. What kept Moses from being consumed in God’s presence? David gives us the answer:
“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? and who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Thy face” (Psalm 24:3-6).
Isaiah confirms this idea, saying, “Sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling has seized the godless. Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with the continual burning? He who walks righteously, and speaks with sincerity. He who rejects unjust gain, and shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe; He who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed, and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil; He will dwell on the heights; His refuge will be the impregnable rock; His bread will be given him; His water will be sure. Your eyes will see the King in his beauty”(Isaiah 33:14-17).
Breaking Up the Fallow Ground
God has promised America a visitation of His Spirit. He is in the process of bringing about a revival of holiness so that we will be able to receive His visitation. It is time to break up the fallow ground of our hearts and to seek the Lord until He rains righteousness upon us. It is a time when we need the fear of God.
The outpouring of the Spirit has been likened in the Bible to the deluge of rain on a dry and thirsty ground. But if that deluge is to result in harvest, if it is to have deep and lasting effect, the fallow, hard ground of our hearts must first be broken up so that the soil of our hearts will crumble at the touch of the Master’s hand. Then it will be able to drink up the rain and bring forth both flower and fruit. This heart preparation takes place mainly through prayer.
Arthur Wallis writes: “Finally, there is the spirit of intercession. I think we may confidently say that revival never comes without this’forerunner’ preparing the way. As Matthew Henry, the Puritan commentator, quaintly put it,‘When God intends great mercy for His people, the first thing He does is to set them a’praying.’
It was Dr. A.T. Pierson’s conviction that “From the day of Pentecost, there has been not one great spiritual awakening in any land which has not begun in a union of prayer, though only among two or three; no such outward, upward movement has continued after such prayer meetings have declined.” In other words, revivals are born out of prayer and sustained by prayer. The opening chapters of Acts certainly illustrate this.
“To the religionists of His day our Lord had to say, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” Those words were spoken probably only a few months before that first great outpouring of the Spirit. They were quick to see in the darkening cloud the coming of rain, but were blind to all those things around them that heralded the mighty showers of the Spirit. May God open our eyes to see the little cloud arising and open our ears to hear the sound of marching. May we respond by seeking Him till He pours down the rain of righteousness. Then the breakthrough of the Spirit will not find us unprepared, but a people willing in the day of God’s power.
When Jesus was praying in the garden He took his three closest friends, Peter, James, and John, aside to pray with Him, leaving the rest of the disciples behind. He asked them to watch and pray with Him. He went a little ahead of them and poured out His soul in agony. When he returned he found them sleeping. He said, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Could you not watch with me one hour? Rise and pray that you enter not into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
The cry is now going forth at midnight: “Behold the Bridegroom cometh! Go you out to meet Him.” Will we be among those virgins who were prepared to greet Him? Will we have broken up the fallow ground of our hearts, and gotten rid of all the hardness, and the weeds that threaten to choke out the good seed? Will we have agreed with God concerning our sins, and have quit excusing ourselves by calling them ‘shortcomings’?
Will we have faced them openly and honestly, and have turned from them in true repentance? Will God find us responding to His commands in faith and obedience, or will He find us still arguing with Him before finally giving in? Will we be among those foolish virgins who were not adequately prepared and were shut out of the wedding feast, or will we be a part of that chosen inner circle who went in to the wedding feast with the Bridegroom?
1 Arthur Wallis, Revival, (Revell Co.: 1979,) p. 13.
2 Joy Dawson, Intimate Friendship with God, (Chosen Books, Fleming Revell, Co.: 1986), pp.55-56.
3 Arthur Wallis, p. 20.
Copyright © Bob and Rose Weiner 2007, All Rights Reserved