What is meant by the word “revival” when Christians use it? I’m sure most would agree that a rival has something to do with the movement of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men, women and children in any community, causing them to be born again, i.e., born of the Spirit.
Of the Spirit Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:5-8.
The most obvious revival recorded in the Bible surely is that of Acts 2, where the “Promise of the Father” (Luke 24:49; cf., Joel 2:28-29) is poured out by the Father and the Son (John 14:26; 15:26) on the church into which about 3,000 souls were added at that time (Acts 2:41, 47).
Revival, then, is when God, by His Spirit working with His Word, convicts people of their sins and enables them to believe in God for salvation (Acts 2:8; 11,14-37).
Revival is Trinitarian. The Spirit enables people to see the Son who tells us, that to see and to know Him, is to see and to know the Father. (John 14:7; 16:14). God is triune. He is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three distinct Persons who are/is one God – a community in eternal covenant with each Other.
Jesus says that His sheep hear His voice, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27. He is Saviour of His people. “You shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21b. Jesus berated some Jews who were not His people, “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.” John 10:26. Thus, revival takes place wherever the Word is faithfully proclaimed, God’s people are present, and the Spirit is pleased to work in their hearts. E.g., “So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood [i.e., a pulpit] which they had made for the purpose... And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people … and the Levites helped the people understand the Law … So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.” Nehemiah 8:4-8 abridged). Thus, though the Spirit works with the Word, the Word needs to be proclaimed. The people need to be given the sense of it, and helped to understand it.
The Gospel message is the means by which Jesus calls His sheep. It is the duty of His Church to ensure that people hear the message of the Gospel. His people attend worship services and Bible gatherings, hear and are taught the Word. Then they take what they have learned and spread it abroad in their respective communities (whether at work, or at rest, or at play).
Revival only takes place when the Spirit is pleased to move in a special way in a community – like Europe during the Reformation, like America before its War of Independence and during its Civil War, like in Wales during the Welsh Revivals, like on the Isle of Lewis during its revival etc.
Revival is not about giving any given community or its members the opportunity of salvation. Rather, like ordinary faithful preaching, it is a means by which the Good Shepherd calls those who are His sheep, those who have been chosen beforehand by the Father (John 17:2, 9; Ephesians 1:4). Therefore, the Church needs to keep on getting the Gospel right. Otherwise the bugle call will be unclear and we may end up like the pre-Reformation Church (darkness!) as opposed to the Post- Reformation Church (light!) – post tenebras lux.
Revival would occur, (nay it would already be occurring because the Spirit would already be at work), if the Church was to follow that well-known “revival passage” in 2 Chronicles: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14.