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Revival in the Bible
In every generation revival has carried certain traits that can be traced right back to Scripture. We can expect modern-day revivals to follow the same patterns.

A revival is a supernatural work of God resulting in an awakened interest in obediently following and obeying the Lord. It usually follows a serious period of idolatry and sinfulness on the part of God's people. All revivals, including those of Scripture, have been times when God invaded the earth with a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven. In fact, I am writing this article from Ukraine where we are now in the midst of a rip-roaring revival! Many churches here are hungry for more of God and His power after having spent seven decades under atheistic domination.

When the rulers turned to evil, God sent revival through faithful prophets …

I have recently reviewed several revival accounts in Scripture and have found two components in every account. One was the presence of a dynamic, godly leader. The second was the supernatural power of God working powerfully, sometimes overtly and other times subtly among people. So let's open the Bible!

Biblical periods of revival

Since the Garden of Eden, God the Father has been primarily concerned with restoring human beings to fellowship with Him. In His earliest dealings with man and throughout the Old Testament, God restores backslidden Israel over and over again through time of supernatural intervention.

After revealing Himself to the patriarchs to found a nation, God began to reveal His mercy by signs and wonders to an entire nation of people during the time of Moses and afterward, during the time of Joshua. God sent "revival" to bring that nation into the Promised Land. During the time of the Judges, God restored backslidden Israel through the leadership of several heroes and heroines whose prophetic ministries called Israel back to devotion to Him. Then during the time of the kings, God began to govern Israel through rulers, some good and some evil, ultimately demonstrating that intimacy with God brings Israel into periods of peace. When the rulers turned to evil, God sent revival through faithful prophets like Elijah and Elisha to cause them to hear His voice again.

When Israel's backslidden condition led to a 70-year period of captivity in Babylon, God sent revival to restore them to their land. The prophet Daniel experienced revival first when he realized that the time for deliverance had come and began to invite God's presence into that generation. In the process, Nehemiah restored the walls of Jerusalem and Ezra led the restoration of the temple and brought the Word of God to its central place.

God even showed mercy by bringing revival to Nineveh during the time of Jonah. He motivated Jonah to obedience causing him to spend three days and nights in the belly of a large fish to go and call Nineveh to repentance.

All these revivals proved to be the drum roll building up to the ultimate revival, the moment when God sent Jesus, His only begotten Son, to redeem mankind from sin. The New Testament began with the life of a prophet, John the Baptist, calling Israel out of a corrupt religious and political system and back to God.

At that moment, God introduced His presence, the kingdom of heaven in the person of Jesus. He went about performing signs and wonders that had never been seen before, teaching with Divine authority and introducing the radical new way of relating to God as Father.

The remainder of the New Testament records waves of refreshing revival as the Holy Spirit comes to live with believers forever. What we experience of God today is far more powerful than what the folks in the Old Testament experienced. He lives inside us.

Now for the past 2000 years the Holy Spirit has changed the course of world history and continuously reveals His presence to each generation drawing multitudes to Jesus Christ and convincing them of the veracity of God's love. And we can be sure that the generation that sees the coming of the Lord will experience not only painful birth pangs, but revival of earth-quaking magnitude.

The revival pattern

So how does revival happen? Is there a pattern to God's ways?

At the core of each revival there is always an individual who has a powerful personal meeting with God. It was the "burning bush" experience that changed Moses' life forever. The impact of this experience enabled him to move beyond his reluctance and on into his life's calling and became the turning point in his life. From the burning bush experience on, Moses became a surrendered vessel in God's hands leading the nation into a revival that delivered them from Egypt and caused them to experience God too.

… each powerful man or woman of God led the nation on the basis of the powerful encounter they had had with God.

Joshua followed Moses, building upon the foundation Moses had laid but having his own encounters with God which led Israel into another season of revival. This revival brought the nation into the promised land.

If you examine the pages of the Old Testament, each powerful man or woman of God led the nation on the basis of the powerful encounter they had had with God. The encounter was always God initiated and seemed to be the outworking of a phase of God's plan for redemption of a larger group of people. He chose each vessel by His grace, revealed Himself to them and then proceeded with His ultimate purpose which was to show mercy to thousands of people who had spurned Him.

A pattern of opposition

Another part of the revival pattern is always opposition. God allows the leader and the people of God to endure testing through permitting opposition to thwart them. God allows the enemy to use his arsenal of evil to oppose the work He is doing in order to ultimately triumph over it and expose Satan as weak and unworthy of worship or devotion.

Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem tormented Nehemiah and the builders of the wall of Jerusalem using deception, accusation and treachery to supplant the rebuilding process. However, the opposition backfired causing God's people to rally, unify and be even more determined to serve God.

In the New Testament every enemy that opposed the advancement of God's kingdom was finally put down including emperors' armies and any individual who masqueraded as part of the Body of Christ.

Seeing God supernaturally defend and protect His own work caused faith to building the hearts of His people and led to their developing a more intimate relationship with God as the revival continued. Indeed, no weapon that was ever formed has prospered against God's people or His purpose throughout history. No weapon ever will, including any that forms against current moves of the Holy Spirit. Our goal is to be sure that we never become part of thwarting any move of the Holy Spirit whether through ignorance or intent. I don't know about you, but I want to find myself blessing everything that God does.

So now, what does all this have to do with you and me? The answer is—everything! Understand that the sovereign God can take every circumstance of your life, both good and bad, and let it all soften you and prepare you for effective ministry. You too can be a revival leader in your church or city.

In my own life so much has happened that I would not want to repeat. It was painful and unpleasant, yet God has taken those life experiences and used every one of them to better prepare me for the revival that we would lead. Life is a very thorough teacher. It certainly has taught me, and it will teach you. It will either make you bitter or better. The choice is yours. My advice is, stay sweet, forgive and learn from the unpleasant things as well as the pleasant and see them all as God's preparation for ministry and revival.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28 NAS).

A pattern of victory

Finally, the most important aspect of God's pattern is victory. In a wave of gracious mercy, God's river flows through every generation accomplishing His purpose which is always intimacy with man. Every revival is a season where the kingdom of heaven touches earth and seems to part the curtain of the usual to reveal the supernatural, gracious God behind it. God even gives us a picture of that ultimate victory to comfort us when it seems that the preparation process and the opposition is too much to bear. At the end God will say, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with men."

Victory in God's eyes is not as man sees.

The Toronto Airport Church has seen every element of revival experienced by any other move of God either in the Bible or in Church history. It has leaders who were prepared and tested in secret and whose hearts are on God alone. It has had and will always have opposition. And it will know its hour of victory. Victory in God's eyes is not as man sees. It will be seen not in the building of institutions but in the flame of love for God ignited in the heart of every person the river of God's Spirit has touched and will touch.

Right now God is working on His next wave. He is preparing leaders in secret. He is testing them. He is allowing opposition to be stirred, and He has already declared victory. Let's all be on God's side and a part of that victory.

John Arnott is an international speaker and senior pastor of the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship.

Originally published in Spread the Fire, July/August, 2004.




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