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In the Day of Thy Power: 4. This Is The Purpose

By Arthur Wallis

      "This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the Lord of Hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it?" (Isa. 14:26).

      God has always worked by means of revivals. Since the dawn of human history His purposes have progressed by sudden and mighty movements of the Spirit.

      "The world of mankind has not advanced by evolution but by revolution; that is, by violent upheavals of society. Many changes have taken place rapidly, changes that make the ordinary events of history appear commonplace by contrast. Eden, the Flood, the Exodus period and the Captivity era are Old Testament illustrations of these revolutionary epochs, while Pentecost is the conspicuous New Testament example. Our Christian era is marked by many such times of religious transformation. The Renaissance and Protestant Reformation in the fifteenth century changed the whole thought and life of Europe. Modern history dates from them" (P. V. Jenness).

      While all must acknowledge this principle in the workings of God, some may ask, "Why has God chosen to work in this way? Would it not be more satisfactory for the work of God to progress quietly and steadily, without the stimulus of such excitement and upheaval as are produced in seasons of revival?" It should not be necessary to justify the ways of God before His people; nevertheless, in doing so, the underlying reasons for revival may perhaps be more clearly set forth.

      Revival as a method of God's working may be justified from the standpoint of divine strategy, first to counteract spiritual decline, and then to create spiritual momentum. Then revival may be justified from its results, by examining its effects in relation to the saints, the sinners and the Godhead. Firstly, let us see its place in divine strategy.

      Counteracting Spiritual Decline

      If the work of God could have been maintained and extended down the centuries in steady spiritual power, revivals would have been unnecessary as a counteracting agent, but this, as we know, has been far from the case. "A revival of religion presupposes a declension" (Finney).

      Decline and decay are inherent in fallen nature and are not confined simply to the physical and moral realm, but invade and influence even the spiritual. This is writ large not only in the history of Israel, but also across the pages of the New Testament and the subsequent history of the church. It has pleased God to counteract this deadly tendency to departure by working at special seasons and places in extraordinary power.

      It is a well-established fact that when the Spirit of God is working powerfully the spiritual results are usually deep and abiding. Souls saved or blessed in powerful revivals are, on the whole, more likely to continue steadfastly than is the case at other times. There is more connection between the manifestation of God's power and spiritual steadfastness than some have realized. The history of Israel in the time of the Judges illustrates this very vividly. "And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of the Lord, that He had wrought for Israel. . . and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the work which He had wrought for Israel. And the children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baalim" (Judges 2:7, 10, 11).

      It would not be good for these displays of God's power to be other than occasional. It would not make for spiritual health that the Lord's people should live on them. Nevertheless, in times of spiritual declension there is perhaps nothing more calculated to stay the rot, wean the heart from earth and attract it to heaven, and produce spiritual steadfastness than to experience such a mighty work of God. Again and again spiritual situations and conditions that seemed beyond recovery have been transformed by such a working of the Spirit. One recalls the pithy definition of revival as "the inrush of the Spirit into a body that threatens to become a corpse"! (D. M. Panton). If "counteracting spiritual decline" was the only purpose achieved by God in such seasons, His method would be abundantly justified. It is after all but the sound military principle that the best method of defence is attack.

      Creating Spiritual Momentum

      There is another well-known military principle known as concentration of force, according to which a commander will husband his reserves, concentrate them at a strategic point, for a vital blow at the crucial moment. He will thus hope to break through the enemy defences and so produce momentum or advance where all was static. A powerful thrust of this sort may well achieve what routine patrolling, skirmishing, or harassing tactics could never effect. It is thus with revival: it is designed to achieve what the quieter workings of the Spirit do not.

      There was once an ancient reservoir in the hills that supplied a village community with water.

      It was fed by a mountain stream, and the overflow from the reservoir continued down the stream-bed to the valley below. There was nothing at all remarkable about this stream. It flowed on its quiet way without even disturbing the boulders that lay in its path or the footbridges that crossed it at various points. It seldom overflowed its steep banks, or gave the villagers any trouble.

      One day, however, some large cracks appeared in one of the walls of the old reservoir, and soon afterwards the wall collapsed, and the waters burst forth down the hillside. They rooted up great trees; they carried along boulders like playthings; they destroyed houses and bridges and all that lay in their path. The stream-bed could not now contain the volume of water, which therefore flowed over the country-side, even inundating distant dwellings. What had before been ignored or taken for granted now became an object of awe and wonder and fear.

      From far and near people who in the usual way never went near the stream, hastened to see this great sight.

      In picture language this is revival; in fact it is the sort of picture language that Scripture uses to convey the irresistible power of God. Often in the period just preceding the movement, the stream of power and blessing has been unusually low. The people of God and the work of God have been "in great affliction and reproach", despised or ignored by those around them.

      In response, however, to the prayers of a burdened remnant God has been quietly hearing the flood. The watchful eye has seen "a cloud as small as a man's hand". The listening ear has caught "the sound of abundance of rain". Then suddenly, when the majority had no expectation of it, God opened the windows of heaven and poured out the blessing so that in the channels of organized Christianity there was not room enough to receive it.

      Like the river that issued from the sanctuary in the vision of Ezekiel (chap. 47), the waters that were at first to the ankles are before long, in the full tide of revival, "waters to swim in".

      The flood of life and blessing has now become an object of awe and wonder. Works of darkness and strongholds of Satan that have long resisted the normal influences of the Spirit are swept away. Stubborn wills that have long withstood the overtures of the gospel, the pleadings and the prayers of love d ones, now bend and break before the irresistible flow of the Spirit, to be engulfed themselves and borne along in the stream of blessing.

      What God has said of a coming time of judgment and revival for Israel and the earth, is in measure true of all such displays of God's power: "So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun: for He shall come as a rushing stream, which the breath of the Lord driveth" (Isa. 59:19). Thus does God see fit to use revival to create spiritual momentum, to accomplish in days what could never otherwise be achieved in years of normal Christian activity.

      We must not, however, in our zeal for revival disparage what is achieved in the quieter seasons, for God has His purposes in these times also. The patrolling and the harassing and the limited advances are all essential to the big offensive. "The day of small things" (Zech.

      4:10) is preparatory and supplementary to "the day of [God's] power" (Ps.110:3), and we must not despise it.

      We should not be surprised to discover that it has been in times of spiritual revival that most of the forward movements of the church have been born. The great missionary advance of the last century derived its momentum from the widespread revivals that blessed America and Britain during those years. Ever since the light was almost eclipsed in medieval times, God has been working to recover the situation, and to restore to the church the light, the purity, and the power which are her birthright, and which characterized her in the first century. The affairs of God's house must be re-established as He instituted them at the beginning. The ways of apostolic Christianity must be recovered, or the church of the latter days will never ride the storms that already threaten to engulf her. God has used revivals to this end.

      During such times new light has broken from the sacred page, and out of such times new expressions of the church have evolved, recovering in most cases something more of the mind of God. Only when the new truth became central, and the work was built around it, instead of around Christ; only when the believers became more diligent in holding fast the new truth than in "holding fast the Head", did the movement become denominational and sectarian.

      Although the revivals of the future will surely reveal that there is yet more land to be possessed in this respect, let us never forget what we owe to the spiritual momentum derived from the movements of the past, and let us be ready to walk in whatever new light may break forth when once again God is pleased to manifest His power and glory. It must now be shown that the ways of God in revival are yet further vindicated by the effects produced.

      The Saints

      Clearly it is the saints, not the sinners, that are primarily involved in revival. The quickening of the saints is the root, while the saving of the sinners is the fruit. Therefore, to see the primary effects of revival we must look at the church. Isaiah sounded a reveille call to the people of God in the familiar words, "Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city" (52:1).

      Revival marks the awakening of the church; indeed such a time is commonly termed "an awakening". When asleep one is out of touch with the world of reality. The church asleep is out of touch with the world of spiritual reality, and needs to be awakened.

      The argument in favour of an awakening grows stronger as the end of the age approaches, for Paul himself said, "knowing the season, that now it is high time for you to awake out of sleep: for now is salvation nearer to us than when we first believed. The night is far spent, and the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light" (Rom. 13:11). Here is the primary effect of revival - the church awakes, casts off the works of darkness that have blanketed her in her slumber, and puts on the armour of light. The assertion that we cannot have an awakening in these days is but the Devil's lullaby to hush the church to sleep.

      "Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion." Asleep, the church of Christ is impotent; awakened, she clothes herself with spiritual strength. The power that began to flow at Pentecost is inexhaustible, and is as much available now as then, but only an awakened church can claim her birthright and go forth "clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49).

      No one can deny that the people of God today are largely denuded of this power. It is a characteristic effect of revival that Zion puts on her strength. It is doubtful if the power is ever renewed in a widespread manner save in times of revival.

      "Awake, awake. . . put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city." The church asleep is not only denuded of power but also of holiness. Only when the people of God are awakened are they clothed with the beautiful garments of practical righteousness. Is there not a need of holiness today? Is there not a downward tendency on the part of individual believers seen in lukewarmness toward the Lord, compromise with the world, and complacency as to themselves? Then there is an undoubted need of an awakening. Holiness is not optional but obligatory. God demands it. Without it no man shall see the Lord (Matt. 5:8; Heb. 12:14). But revival is a time when God comes and rains righteousness upon us (Hos. 10:12). If there is no revival of righteousness, there is no revival at all.

      It is characteristic of revivals that they have been seasons when sins that have long hindered blessing are exposed, confessed, and forgiven. Relationships, wrecked by pride, envy, and evil-speaking are wonderfully restored when the hearts of the saints melt in the fires of revival. As Jonathan Edwards wrote of the 18th-century New England Awakening, "Abundance has been lately done at making up differences, and confessing faults one to another, and making restitution; probably more within these two years, than was done in thirty years before." It is at such times that Zion awakes and puts on her beautiful garments, displaying to a wondering world "the excellencies of Him Who called [her] out of darkness into His marvellous light" (1 Pet. 2:9). Revival issues in an awakened church clothed with the power and holiness of her risen Head. The church dormant becomes the church militant. Then indeed may her Beloved declare, "Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners" (Song 6:4). Is not this effect on the church sufficient justification for revival? Does it not provide ample reason why we should all be thirsting for revival?

      The Sinners

      When God finds His people willing, when they have been forged into an instrument He can use, He will begin to work in power upon the consciences of sinners. Revival involves two awakening cries: God crying to man, "Awake, awake . . . O Zion" (Isa. 52:1), and man crying to God, "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the days of old" (Isa. 51:9). When the voice of the Lord has awakened the church, the voice of the church will awaken the Lord, and the power of God will be manifested in the saving of sinners. "Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine. And He smote His adversaries backward" (Ps. 78:65).

      When it has seemed that for a long time the Almighty has slumbered, the cry of the church pierces the heavens, "Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; let them also that hate Him flee before Him" (Ps. 68:1). Then does the Lord go forth to war, and His "arrows are sharp . . . in the heart of the King's enemies" (Ps. 45:5). There is deep and widespread conviction amongst the lost. "The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling hath surprised the godless ones. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" (Isa. 33:14).

      Out of this deep conviction multitudes are born into the kingdom. Wherever there comes this awful sense of God's presence stealing over the hearts of men, the fountains of the great deep are broken up. Gone is the voice of the sinner who inwardly debates whether or not he will patronize the Son of God: "Christ is knocking at my sad heart, shall I let Him in? . . . Shall I bid Him for ever depart, - or shall I let Him in?" Instead we hear the heart-wrung sob: "Depth of mercy! can there be mercy still reserved for me? Can my God His wrath forbear? Me, the chief of sinners, spare?" Conversions take place without any appeals, and tend to be clear cut and decisive. As in the early church, many born again in revival are at once filled with the Spirit and became effective for God. Whether in meetings or out of them, whether through personal dealing or without it, men and women, broken over their sin, find their way to Christ.

      When God thus moves in power He wrests the initiative from Satan. Sin no longer stalks the land in triumph but hides its head in shame. It is not unusual for social evils to be swept away and industrial problems solved overnight. Drink saloons, places of amusement, and dens of iniquity have often had to close through lack of patronage. Magistrates have been known to take a holiday, and the jails to be nearly empty. Everywhere there seems to be one topic of conversation, the things of eternity. On the faces of the people there is a spirit of inquiry or of concern. They are asking, "What meaneth this?" or, "What shall we do?" Every stratum of society has been affected, and the widespread indifference of the masses is a thing of the past.

      Such are the effects upon sinners, and are they not sufficient justification for revival? Do they not provide a powerful reason, if we have any concern for the souls of men, why we should all be thirsting for revival?

      The Godhead

      Finally, there is the fruit of revival as it affects the Godhead. Important as were the other two, here is an effect which exceeds in importance the other two combined, for in a sense it includes them. In a day when the power of God is in great measure restrained, and when it would seem that the Lord hides His face, it is nothing strange to most believers that men should live in rebellion against Him; they come to expect it. It is the usual thing that men of the world should treat their Creator with indifference or contempt. The prevalent attitude towards God, unexpressed perhaps yet real, amounts to this, "Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? And what profit should we have, if we pray unto Him?" (Job 21:15). While repudiating this attitude for oneself, one may unconsciously become accustomed to it in others, and think of it as inevitable.

      Thank God indeed for the thousands who have not bowed the knee to Baal, but where are the Elijahs who have been "very jealous for the Lord God of Hosts" because the people have forsaken His covenant, thrown down His altars, and - if words have power to kill - slain His prophets with the sword? Where are "the priests, the ministers of the Lord [who] weep between the porch and the altar"? (Joel 2:17). Where are those who yearn to see the God of heaven, so long robbed of His crown rights, manifesting His power and glory, and vindicating His Name? To those who feel for God, it is intolerable that men should continue to treat Him thus.

      Yet saints their watch are keeping,
      Their cry goes up, "How long?"
      And soon the night of weeping
      Shall be the morn of song.
       - S. J. STONE.

      It is of course true that the full answer to this longing, wrought in the heart by the Spirit, must await that day when every knee shall bow to Christ, and every tongue confess that He is Lord (Phil. 2:10), and the pierced hand shall hold the sceptre of the universe and the government shall be upon His shoulder. Revivals, however, have always been times when God has vindicated His honour before the eyes of men in an extraordinary degree. They are seasons when men are made to know, though they be as proud and as powerful as Nebuchadnezzar, "That the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will . . .

      and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?" (Dan. 4:32, 35).

      As with God, so with Christ. Everywhere we see evidence of the bitter enmity which Satan bears to the Son, who gave His blood for the life of the world. This age, blinded by its god, has not revoked the tragic decree, "We will not that this Man reign over us" (Luke 19:14); nor has it ceased to ask, whether in fear or in scorn, the question, "What have we to do with Thee, Thou Jesus of Nazareth?" (Mark 1:24).

      Our Lord is now rejected,
      And by the world disowned,
      By the many still neglected,
      And by the few enthroned.
       - EL NATHAN.

      Nevertheless the promise still stands - "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied" (Isa. 53:11). In that word "satisfied" there are depths eternal, and consolations that outweigh even the agonies of Gethsemane and Golgotha. This was "the joy that was set before Him" when He "endured the cross, despising shame" (Heb. 12:2).

      Nearly two millenniums have passed and still He waits. Is it not strange that many who profess so much seem to care so little? Where are those with Paul's passion for the glory of Christ, who can say with that apostle, "I hold not my life of any account, as dear unto myself, so that I may accomplish my course, . . . to testify the gospel of the grace of God"? (Acts 20:24). Or again, "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die. . . for the name of the Lord Jesus"? (Acts 21:13).

      Where are those with an intense longing that the Saviour may be satisfied with the fruit of His suffering? You may expect to find them praying for revival, for that is a time when multitudes bow the knee before Him, and clamour to confess Him Lord. It is then that they will joy before Him "according to the joy in harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil" (Isa.

      9:3). For Him it is a precious foretaste of that final harvest when "a great multitude, which no man could number" shall stand before the throne (Rev. 7:9).

      As for the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, men's attitude to Him is no less grievous. Cults abound that deny both His deity and His personality. How true was the word of Christ to the apostles concerning this one, whose presence was to mean more to them than His own, "the world. . . beholdeth Him not, neither knoweth Him" (John 14:17), and we might add, "and many believers know Him not either". If we asked some who have truly believed, "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?" (Acts 19:2) they would have to confess, "We don't know about the Holy Spirit", or "We thought that He was the same as Christ".

      How seldom is that gracious unseen Presence truly recognized, relied upon, or given His rightful place in the church which He established. How often is He grieved and hindered because the people of God prefer human organization and the methods of the world, to that which costs more than money to secure - His own gracious presence and power. But revival ever brings a fresh emphasis upon the person and work of the Holy Spirit. It is a time when believers thirst and are filled, and when the Spirit Himself reasserts His rights, and is given the reins in the worship and service of the church.

      So revival has its repercussions even in the realm of the Triune God. It is a time when the rights of humanity give way to the rights of Deity. "God is not only the source of revival - 'Wilt Thou not revive us again?' - but He is also the end of revival - 'that Thy people may rejoice in Thee' (Ps. 85:6). Revival comes from God and leads to God, that He may be 'all in all', and that man may learn that of himself he is nothing" (Philip Hughes).

      Here is the transcendent effect of all revival, and the fulfilment of its highest purpose: "The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low: and THE LORD ALONE SHALL BE EXALTED IN THAT DAY" (Isa. 2:17).

      If we have a jealous desire for the glory of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, should we not all be thirsting for revival?

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See Also:
   Foreword by Duncan Campbell
   1. What Is Revival?
   2. A Sign Spoken Against
   3. The Latter Rain Of Promise
   4. This Is The Purpose
   5. Distinctive Features
   6. Distinctive Features
   7. The Prepared Heart
   8. The Praying Heart
   9. Lifting Up Holy Hands
   10. The Dynamics Of Prayer
   11. Wielding The Weapon
   12. Preparing The Way
   13. Paying The Price
   14. The Sound Of Marching
   15. The Solemn Alternative


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