“Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the Church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Ever since the beginning of time, the Word of God has gone forth with power. In centuries past, holy men of God have shaken the foundations of the world and have altered the course of history through their mighty revival preaching. Men such as George Fox, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Finney, William Booth and D.L. Moody all made an impact on their generation.
Although they appeared at first glance to be lone voices crying in the wilderness, the preaching of these men preceded the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the masses. God’s blessing went into the whole world through their lives – to change individuals, families, cities, governments and entire nations – and the increase of this blessing has not ceased.
The kingdom of God continues to advance forcefully in the earth today. This kingdom is going into the territory of the enemy and is pulling down the strongholds of darkness – and light is coming forth! As the kingdom of God moves forward, the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all the world will see it!
As we trace the advancement of Christ’s victorious kingdom from the beginning, we will begin to see a divine plan unfold. We will begin to see that God has been preparing His Church for centuries. And we will begin to understand the glorious destiny that Jesus has for His Bride.
Beginning in an upper room in Jerusalem in 33 A.D., an infant Church began to proclaim the Word of God to the nations of the world. Having been endued with the power to be witnesses, the early Church brought the message of the Cross to individuals and also saw the power of the Gospel to transform entire cities within the Roman Empire.
By the year 300 A.D., the Church saw the Roman Empire begin to come under the rulership of Jesus Christ. Some compromised to escape the message of the Cross, however, and the Church lost its anointing and power of life in the Holy Spirit. Those in positions of Church authority began to look to the pleasures of riches and earthly power. What followed this demise was centuries of spiritual darkness. Those calling themselves by the name of Christ succumbed to idolatry and the Church became nothing more than a pagan institution.
Yet even during the Dark Ages there were a few who carried the light of the Gospel. Fiery evangelists, such as St. Francis of Assisi, who stirred all Italy and parts of Egypt and Spain, would appear sporadically to reclaim thousands for the kingdom of God. Others, such as Girolamo Savonarola, John Wycliffe, Jan Hus had the courage to attack the corruption of Church leadership of their day.
Revival Christianity Reappears
Following over a thousand years of spiritual darkness in Europe, the Protestant Reformation brought a rekindling of the true message of the Gospel to the world. It was the belief of the Reformers that the Church would experience great outpourings of the Holy Spirit on a consistent basis. It was the Holy Spirit Who gave them the grace to advance the kingdom of God in the world. Ultimately these outpourings would result in “a revival that never needed to be revived.”
At this time the glory of the Lord would fill the whole earth and Jesus would return in the fullness of His kingdom. The Reformers looked forward to a day when the nations would stream into the kingdom of God. Wycliffe, Hus, Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Tyndale were just a few of the Reformers who held this view.
Another group of Reformers who greatly impacted Europe and America in the 1600s and 1700s were the Puritans. They believed that the whole world would someday come under the rulership of Jesus Christ. It was this vision that caused America to be founded.
The Puritans saw the New World as an unconquered kingdom in which to advance the Gospel. They saw the the world as property of Christ to be cared for and cultivated by men. They saw themselves as soldiers in a war against Satan and all of human history as a progression toward the fulfillment of God’s purposes in the earth. The Pilgrims who came to plant the first colony in America came for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.
The Great Awakening
During the First Great Awakening in the 1700s, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley and George Whitefield all labored to see multitudes converted to Christianity through their mighty revival preaching.
Jonathan Edwards was the Congregationalist Minister who preached the Word in his home church in Northampton, Massachusetts. His ministry was the spark that caused the fire. He was initially responsible for the great revival that has become known as the Great Awakening. Edwards’ disciples became known as the “New Lights,” a generation of believers who saw a new order coming on the earth.
In the hearts of the New Lights, a promise was reborn. They looked forward to Christ’s kingdom coming on the earth and to a day when all people would speak a common language of the heart. They found that just as they had been reborn, entire societies might do the same. Just as they had been severed from their own individual pasts, so, they believed, an entire nation might shed its former self and find joy and fulfillment.
At the same time, John Wesley, laboring in England, saw the decadent moral condition of his nation – and met it head on – as a great challenge. He believed in the overcoming power of the Gospel that is destined to conquer the world. John Wesley told his followers not to worry about gaining an audience when they preached. Rather he urged them: “Get on fire, and people will come to watch you burn!”
During his life, he wrote extensively, publishing 50 volumes of theology; 233 books on a variety of subjects including medicine, natural science, and literary criticism. Wesley traveled over 225,000 miles on horseback and preached 50,000 sermons. He did all this to advance the kingdom of God and hasten the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Another young man, who preached on both sides of the Atlantic and was a close personal friend of Wesley and an acquaintance of both Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin, was also used powerfully of God during the First Great Awakening. George Whitefield’s success was due to his purity of heart and the simplicity of the gospel which he preached. He almost never strayed from telling his hearers of their sins, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the absolute need of repentance, faith and holiness.
But the Church of England did not love Whitefield. As churches began to close their pulpits to him, Whitefield went to the open places and lifted up his voice for Jesus Christ, preaching to thousands of sinners at a time – people who never frequented a church building.
Whitefield was, in his time, one of the most famous men in England and America. Everywhere he preached, thousands would come from miles around to hear a man on fire for God. He arose at 4:00 A.M. and delivered twelve messages each week! He was, by far, the greatest orator of his day.
He also wrote extensively, visited almost every town in England, Scotland and Wales, crossed the Atlantic seven times, preached in the cities of Boston, New York and Philadelphia, and traveled up and down the east coast of America raising money to build orphanages. The result of his life was seeing multitudes stream into the kingdom of God and seeing the transformation of American and English society.
The Second Evangelical Awakening
In the 1800s, revivals came more and more frequently, so much so that the first 60 years of that century has become known as the Second Great Awakening or the Great Evangelical Awakening. One of the great revival preachers of this time was Charles G. Finney. This is what Finney had to say about the progress of the kingdom of God in the earth:
“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 people of the saints of the Most High God – until every form of iniquity be driven from the earth.”
This was the vision of the Second Great Awakening. Some of the most far reaching social changes that this country has ever experienced came out of this spiritual awakening. These social reforms included: the abolition of slavery, the women’s suffrage movement, the temperance movement, advances in public education and care for the mentally ill.
The Church of this age had a mandate from heaven to advance the kingdom of God on the earth. The reformation of society was one of the results of this viewpoint. In fact, historians are almost unanimously in agreement that virtually all of the social reform movements of the 1800s had their roots in Christian revivals.
From the lives of the men who led the great awakenings of past centuries, we see a pattern emerging Their success was due to a simple revelation about the kingdom of God – there is more to God’s plan for our lives than just obtaining a blessing and securing a personal faith. God intends for His Church to make bold, violent aggressive movements against the forces of darkness and advance His domain into every area of human life.
This is a commitment that begins with personal holiness and ends in the transformation of society. A life of excitement and fulfillment awaits the true child of God.
The Untold Progress of the Gospel
What is the progress of the Gospel in the world at present? What is happening throughout the nations of the world today?
The two largest unevangelized continents of the world, Africa and Asia seemed unreachable just a short time ago, due to the satanic strongholds of Islam and communism. Yet today, these nations are being shaken by the power of God. There are great revivals happening in the South Pacific Islands as well as China, where the underground Church has grown so powerfully that there may be more Christians in China today than in America!
Africa has also been experiencing great outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Islamic countries such as Ghana and Nigeria are the sights of massive evangelistic thrusts where many are coming to know the Lord. When we look at the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, we see the kingdom of God forcefully advancing in many places. There is also revival in parts of Germany and Great Britain.
How does this compare with what is happening in the Church in America today?
In America today, there is more gospel preaching than ever before. It is estimated that the gospel is preached 10,000 times everyday on television and radio nationwide. There is more gospel literature than ever before, more gospel music, more evangelism and more fund raising to proclaim the gospel … and still there is no revival.
We have more programming, more seminars, conferences and teaching tapes on than ever before … and still there is no revival! We have more advertising and mass media communication geared for evangelism than ever before but much of it is in vain.
How can this be? What is it that we are lacking today?
The answer is simple: we are lacking the power of God that comes from knowing Him intimately. We must face this fact. Although we have heard many messages about God, we seldom hear any message from God. And yet this is what true preaching is: the voice of a man who has beheld the glory of God. Our only course of action is to humble ourselves and seek the face of God. And unless we do this, we have no right to claim that we know Him.
In the midst of much of the religiosity in America today, God is preparing a generation who will praise Him. God Himself is raising up an army of young people who will speak as prophets to their nation!
So how about you?
Will you dare to be different? Will you be a part of God’s prophetic generation? Do you believe that the gospel has conquering power? Do you see yourself as part of a victorious, overcoming Church that will be bringing the gospel to the whole world?
Many will choose the easy path and will grow faint and weary in the battle that lies ahead, but a few will catch a vision of what God is doing in the earth today. They will be as bold as lions and they will lay their lives down to see that the gospel of the kingdom goes to every nation of the world. His glory means everything!
“But the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits” (Daniel 11:32).
Revival Accounts & Biographies:
The following account of the Cane Ridge Revival Meeting in August of 1801 is a reminder of the awesome movements of God’s Spirit that our country has witnessed in the past. The scenario is a six-day camp meeting attended by 20,000 people! It was a remarkable event, since this occurred in the sparsely populated frontier. Among the thousands who were converted was a young skeptic, James B. Finley, who wrote this account:
“The noise was like that of Niagra. The vast sea of human beings seemed to be agitated as if by a storm. I counted seven ministers, all preaching on stumps, others in wagons and one standing on a tree which had in falling, lodged against another…. Some of the people were singing, other praying, some crying for mercy in the most piteous accents, while others were shouting most vociferously.
“While witnessing these scenes, a peculiarly strange sensation such as I had never felt before came over me. My heart beat tumultuously, my knees trembled, my lips quivered and I felt as though I must fall to the ground. A supernatural power seemed to pervade the entire mass of mind there collected…. I stepped up on a log where I could have a better view of the surging sea of humanity.
“The scene that had presented itself to my mind was indescribable. At one time I saw at least five hundred swept down in a moment as if a battery of a thousand guns had been opened upon them and then immediately followed shrieks and shouts that rent the very heavens.”
This was the beginning of the Second Great Awakening. Many great personalities emerged from this outpouring, men and women such as Charles Finney, Peter Cartwright, Harriet Beecher Stowe, the Methodist Circuit Riders and the Baptist Revivalists. America’s early westward movement was characterized by true Christianity.
Mendell Taylor, Exploring Evangelism, (Beacon Hill, 1964), p.142.
Charles G. Finney was one of America’s foremost revivalists. Over half a million people were converted during his ministry in an age that offered neither amplifiers nor mass communication as tools for evangelism. Finney literally altered the course of American history with his mighty revival preaching. His ministry began after the following experience:
“Without any expectation of it, without ever having the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for me, without the recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in such a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me.
“Indeed it seemed to come in waves of waves of liquid love; for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me, like immense wings. No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart.
“I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over and over me, one after the other, until I cried out, ‘I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me.’ I said, ‘Lord, I cannot bear any more;’ yet I had no fear of death.”
Charles G. Finney, Memoirs, (New York, A.S. Barnes & Co., 1876), pp.20-21.
Dwight Lyman Moody, the great evangelist who labored in the cities of Boston, Chicago and New York, had an experience after ten full years of ministry which changed his life:
“My heart was not in the work of begging. I could not appeal. I was crying all the time that God would fill me with His Spirit. Well, one day, in the city of New York – oh, what a day! I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it, it is almost too sacred an experience to to name.
“Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and that I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand.
“I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world – it would be as small as the dust of the balance.”
W.R. Moody, The Life of D.L. Moody, (New York, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1900), p.149
Frank Bartleman experienced a revelation of Jesus Christ in Pasadena, California several months before the onset of the Azusa Street Revival. Bartleman was used mightily by God after this experience to write and preach as a leader in the early Pentecostal movement. His writing and preaching has also literally changed the course of world history:
“Then suddenly, without any premonition, the Lord Jesus revealed Himself to us. He seemed to stand directly between us, so close we could have reached out our hand and touched Him. But we did not dare to move. I could not even look. In fact I seemed all spirit. His presence seemed more real, if possible, than if I could have touched Him naturally. I forgot I had eyes or ears. My Spirit recognized Him.
“A heaven of divine love filled and thrilled my soul. Burning fire went through me. In fact my whole being seemed to flow down before Him, like wax before fire. I lost all consciousness of time or space, being conscious only of His wonderful presence. I worshipped at His feet. It seemed a veritable ‘mount of transfiguration.’ I was lost in the pure Spirit.”
Frank Bartleman, Azusa Street, (Plainfield, NJ, Logos International, 1980), pp.16-18.