Biblically, four things are true about revivals: 1) they start with the communication of God’s Word and the positive reception of it, 2) they can be personal or corporate, 3) they lead to regeneration of the lost and godly reforms among the saved, and 4) they often don’t last beyond one generation. These four points will be demonstrated in the following examples.
An Example of Personal Revival
We observe a personal revival in Psalm 119, where the Psalmist positively received God’s Word and it led to holiness of conduct. The psalmist said, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word” (Psa 119:9). He then said, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psa 119:11). When God’s Word was received into his heart, it reformed his behavior for the better. He went on to pursue God’s Word further so that it might work in his life, revitalizing him. He said, “My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to Your word” (Psa 119:25), and “This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your word has revived me” (Psa 119:50), and “I am exceedingly afflicted; revive me, O LORD, according to Your word” (Psa 119:107), and “Plead my cause and redeem me; revive me according to Your word” (Psa 119:154).
Other examples include Jeremiah, who said, “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jer 15:16). And the two disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus and recalled their experience, saying, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).
Three Examples of Corporate Revival
First, we see an example of corporate revival in Judah during the reign of King Josiah (2 Ki 22:1). The revival began when a copy of Deuteronomy was found in the temple and was read to the king who responded positively to its message (2 Ki 22:8-20). King Josiah then read God’s Word to his people. Scripture reveals the king “went up to the house of the LORD and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great; and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD” (2 Ki 23:2). Apparently the leadership and people responded positively to God’s Word, as they followed King Josiah in many good and godly reforms. The benefit was that Judah was largely purged of idolatry and the temple restored to its proper place of function (2 Ki 23:1-25). However, after Josiah died in 609 B.C., his reforms did not last, as the four subsequent kings all did evil in the sight of the Lord, and this led to Judah and Jerusalem being destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.
Second, Jonah preached God’s Word to the Ninevites, and “the people of Nineveh believed in God” (Jonah 3:5). The king of Nineveh responded positively as well and directed his people, saying, “let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands” (Jonah 3:8). The result was that God relented of His threat of judgment and the city was spared (Jonah 3:10). Unfortunately, subsequent generations rejected God and His Word and fell back into their sinful ways, and the Assyrians destroyed Israel nearly 37 years later in 722 B.C. This shows that the faith of one generation is merely the faith of one generation, and that believing and humble parents do not guarantee believing and humble children. Eventually, God destroyed the Assyrians in 612 B.C.
Third, Paul taught Scripture in Ephesus for two years (Acts 19:9-10), and “all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10). Paul’s preaching was received by many, which led to regeneration and social reforms. Luke tells us, “many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone” (Acts 19:19). The result was that “the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing” (Acts 19:20). Paul eventually left Ephesus after a great conflict (Acts 20:1) and the church continued as a model of godliness (see Paul’s letter to the Ephesians). However, within two generations they had lost their fervor, and Jesus said of that church, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Rev 2:4), and He called them to “remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first” (Rev 2:5a). Again, this demonstrates the point that the faith and zeal of one generation does not automatically flow into the next, as subsequent generations must choose the Lord for themselves in order for the Lord’s approval and blessings to follow.
Preaching God’s Word Does Not Guarantee a Positive Response
Sadly, there were some generations of people who were not receptive to God’s Word, and this resulted in the Lord’s judgment falling upon them. For example, Noah preached God’s Word for one hundred and twenty years with very minimal results (2 Pet 2:5), and God’s judgment fell upon the world in a global deluge, with the result that only “eight persons were brought safely through the water” (1 Pet 3:20). Jeremiah preached God’s Word for twenty-three years, but his generation would not listen. Jeremiah said, “these twenty-three years the word of the LORD has come to me, and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened” (Jer 25:3). The result was that Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians and went into captivity in 586 B.C. Of course, there’s no greater display of grace and truth than our Lord Jesus (John 1:14), yet the majority of those who saw Him and heard His message rejected Him (Matt 12:24; John 3:19; 12:37), and judgment fell upon that generation (Matt 23:37-39). The result was that Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70 when the Romans attacked the city and destroyed the temple.
For revival to be true according to Scripture, whether personal or corporate, it must start with the communication and positive reception of God’s Word. When there is positive volition in the hearts of people, it will lead to regeneration of the lost through evangelism, and godly reforms among the saved.
Dr. Steven R. Cook
- The Gospel Explained
- Righteousness Exalts a Nation
- The Righteous Lifestyle of the Believer
- Improving Culture – An OT Example
- Improving Culture – A NT Example
- Walking with God
- Enjoying the Spiritual Life
- Knowing and Doing the Will of God
- The High Calling of God’s Servant
- The Life of Faith
 Because of an evil man named Demetrius (Acts 19:24), and the spread of his lies (Acts 19:25-27), there was a great riot in the city that disrupted Paul’s ministry (Acts 19:28-41).