What is true Revival?

One of the best known verses in the Bible is Habakkuk 2:14:

For the earth shall be filled
With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.

But there is a lesser known verse in Habakkuk:

O Lord, I have heard thy speech and was afraid.
O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years
In the midst of the years make it known
In wrath remember mercy
(Habakkuk 3:2).

Habakkuk’s prayer is a necessary prerequisite for God’s glory filling the earth. Before such a great awakening can take place there needs to be a great revival of prayer in the Church.


Ever since I have been a Christian, I have heard much about revival. I have heard people praying for revival and talking about revival. I have read many books concerning revival. Yet few of the Christians I have spoken with can claim to have experienced revival. It seems so elusive. The consensus is that there is a stirring taking place and many are anticipating a strong move of the Holy Spirit in the Church. There is going to be a revival in the land. But I have often wondered, “Do we really know what revival is?”

Psalms 85:6 says: “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”

Revival comes from the word “revive” which means literally “to live again” or “to come back to life.” The lack of the presence of God in church meetings and the numerous problems in the church are seen to be evidence of the need for revival. But I often wonder – if we have never experienced revival, then how do we know what it is? And if we don’t know what it is, then how can we be so sure that we want revival?

Apply this illustration to yourself. Revival means to come back to life. But this implies something more – to say that you need to come back to life is to say that you are dead. This is a startling revelation. Revival can only come when you admit that you are dead and far away from God. Are you in need of revival today? Are you really?

If you see yourself as being alive and yet sense that something is still lacking in your spiritual life, then it is the natural life, or the flesh, that still has to die.

Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us. It can only be removed in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. We may as well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God in destruction before we are set free. Let us remember that when we talk of rending the veil we are speaking in a figure, and the thought of it is poetical, almost pleasant, but in actuality there is nothing pleasant about it. It is never fun to die. To rip through the dear and tender stuff of which life is made can never be anything but deeply painful. Yet this is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the cross would do to every man to set him free (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God).

How much of your own life is merely religious activity and how much of it is truly born of God? Do you allow the Holy Spirit to conduct your life? Or do you have your own agenda? You may be excelling spiritually compared to others, but without revival this is still a status quo experience. Even if you are above average compared to others, you are still very religious.

This revelation challenges everything that appears to be a move of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Although many appear to have a measure of the Presence of God in their lives, most Christians rely on the strength of their own flesh and much of their activity is devoid of the Presence of the Holy Spirit.

Before Revival Comes the Church Must Die

The contrast between a religious experience and true revival is seen in Luke 7:36-50. In this passage Jesus is invited to have dinner with Simon the Pharisee. A woman, who perhaps had been a prostitute, comes and stands behind Jesus holding an alabaster jar of perfume. She then sits at His feet weeping and begins to wet his feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair and kissing them. She pours perfume on his feet, weeping all the time.

Simon the Pharisee is content to have Jesus, a great prophet, at his table and hear his teaching. Perhaps he may be able to pick his brains for some interesting sermon material, or gain some insight into the scriptures. He is disturbed by this woman, a repulsive sinner, who is carrying on at Jesus’ feet. To his dismay, Jesus doesn’t seem to care and goes on teaching:

“Simon, two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him 500 denarii, and the other owed him 50. Neither one of them had the money to pay him back so he canceled the debts of both. Now which one of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your home. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman has not stopped kissing my feet since the time I came in. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

The woman in this passage has no name. She is of no position in society; she has no reputation. Simon was a man of great reputation – a teacher among the Jews, God’s chosen people. Yet the woman was more highly esteemed in Jesus’ eyes.

Jesus turned to the woman and said, “Do you see this woman?” Jesus was able to praise the person of low esteem because she saw her desperate position in life. She humbled herself, lowering herself at Jesus’ feet and shedding many tears. Her love for Jesus consisted of a great awareness of her need and a deep thankfulness for Jesus as her Savior.

Simon the Pharisee, on the other hand, was self-righteous. He had already arrived at a high position in life and did not perceive a great spiritual need in himself. He saw himself as already having great favor with God. Simon looked to Jesus solely for intellectual stimulation. Simon was absorbed by Jesus’ teaching and neglected his great need for spiritual salvation. Jesus turned to Simon and rebuked him.

“You did not wash My feet … You did not give Me a kiss… You did not put oil on My head.”

Now I ask you – be honest with yourself – which one of these people do you more closely resemble – Simon or the woman? When was the last time you truly wept before the Lord? When was the last time you truly thanked Jesus for redeeming your life from the pit? Are you like the sinful woman who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears? – Or are you like Simon who looked to Jesus to feed his intellect? Although his head was swollen with theology, his heart was shrunken and lukewarm.

The woman in this story brought an alabaster box of ointment. Back in those days perfume was very expensive – a person would have to spend a life’s savings to buy enough perfume to anoint another person. The woman came with one purpose only – to worship Jesus. She poured her life out at his feet, then as she cleansed Him with her tears and hair, the fragrance of God came back upon her.

If you desire the fragrance of God in your life then you must spend time loving Jesus and pouring your life out to Him. God is not impressed with your natural talents or your intellect. The glossy veneer of religion is more repulsive to Jesus than the sin of a harlot. You may have three degrees and a colossal I.Q. but if you are not intimate with Him then you are dead and you need revival.

So, What Is Revival?

It is a realization of a great need for forgiveness, deep conviction of sin, followed by repentance and a fresh experience of joyful obedience. This experience begins with personal holiness and results in the transformation of society. A.W. Tozer has said, “Revival changes the moral climate of a community.”

Wilt Thou not revive us again:
That thy people may rejoice in Thee?

The greatest characteristic of revival is the great joy found in the people of God for the work he has done in their lives. A revived people speak only of loving Jesus. They have moved on to a passionate love relationship with their Savior. Their lives are a testimony of his holiness. Of course, it is important to receive biblically balanced teaching. But the great need for the Church today is realization of need and conviction.

We have become like the church at Laodicea. Jesus beckons to us, “Behold I stand at the door and knock.” Although we appear to be rich in God on the surface, in our hearts we have become miserable, wretched, poor, blind and naked. Many churches in America today are among the richest and most prosperous that have ever appeared on the face of the earth. And yet Jesus is pounding on the door! While many are excelling among their peers, few are changing the moral climate of our nation. Most spiritual experience remains within the four walls of a church building, but little emerges on the outside.

We need only to look to the great awakenings of past centuries to see that the Church has fallen from great heights. The men who led these great awakenings were ordinary men. They were intelligent, but they carried none of the distinguishing marks that accompany those who are capable of changing a nation. There is no money or fame here – no power or prestige. In fact, the greatest characteristic of these men was that they were consumed with a passionate love for Jesus Christ. They were humble men who loved the holiness of God. They were jealous of God’s glory and refused to compromise with those who would lower the standard of His holiness. If we would only follow their example then the Church would be reinstated to a place of power and the world would be shaken by our testimony.


Dear Jay Rogers

I see your “What is true Rivival” comments were written back in 1989, however this 2010 and I’m just seeing them for the first time. I was pursuing information on the Asbury Revival and stumbled on your article, which I found very spiritually enlightening, knowledgeable, and true. My pastor is encouraging us to pursue personal and corporate revival and I needed to know personally how I could contribute and what the Lord expects of me. I deeply desire a much closer walk with the Lord, though he is continually opening my eye’s to greater spiritual truth’s ( Timothy Keller has opened new vista’s of understanding ) I lack the personal experience you speak of and can’t help seeing myself more as the Pharisee rather then the repentant woman. Kellor in the Prodigal God really helped me uncover spiritual truth’s hidden beneath the surface. I never really understood the elder brother in this parable before or the real message Christ was wanting us to see though I’m 62 now and have heard many sermons on this parable – I mean besides the apparent lesson in the younger son. I tried to convey this to a church brother of mine, but he steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the elder brother as the unrepentant one of the parable and thinks he’s just confused,hurt, whatever but still righteous in his anger. He refuses to see him as a type of pharisee, but when we go back to the first verses of Luke 15 we see this is who Jesus is speaking to and really why He gave us this parable. We all want to identify with the Prodigal and even with the elder brother when we view him as a doer of righteous deeds, but miss his salvation by works – but I digress. Thank you for your article and the insight it has provided me. I hope to find more and would very much like a reply from you concerning this and any further help and insight in this area. I shall pass this on to my pastor in the hope he finds it beneficial to our pursuit of revival.
God bless and thanks, your brother in Christ, David

Revival is so important for christian to live in a good christian life.

Dear Jay, one of the best papers on Revival. Keep up God’s work! Love in Christ Zhark

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