When the subject of prayer for revival and spiritual awakening in the twenty-first century comes up, some ask, “Why?” They wonder why we would pray for revival or spiritual awakening when Christ’s return is just around the corner. I have certainly asked that question. What is the motivation or inspiration for such “revival” prayer activity? The answer to this question is critical and should move the church to pray fervently for revival and spiritual awakening.
What is The Hindrance of Erroneous Interpretation?
In his book, Revival, Richard Owens Roberts answers this question under the heading of “General Hindrance To Revival.” I recommend a reading of this book. One of the book’s chapters focuses on hindrances to revival. Three are listed. I will quote from the first of the three hindrances, “The hindrance of erroneous interpretation.” 1
“Have you heard someone say, ‘These are the last days. No revival of religion can ever again be hoped for. We can only expect things to grow worse and worse’? Obviously, such a viewpoint can have a devastating effect on revival interest. But is such a view warranted? We must be sure we understand the use of the expression ‘last day’ in the New Testament. As an illustration of regular usage, consider Hebrews 1:1-3:
‘God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.’
Owens continues, “In this passage, as in a host of others, a contrast is made between ‘former days’ and ‘latter days’ – the ‘former days’ being the Old Testament period and the ‘latter days’ being that period which began in the New Testament and continues to the present. Throughout Christian history the return of Christ seemed imminent to those who loved His Word and His appearing.
The Apostles expected Christ to return in their lifetimes, as did a host of reformers, Puritans, settlers of America, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and ordinary Christians of the past. These all lived in the last days. They understood them to be the last days as we understand them to be the last days. Yet they experienced gracious revivals. While we may be living in the last days in the fullest and most final sense of that term, it is also possible that the return of Christ is a century or more away.
Our Assignment: Occupy Till Jesus Comes
We must face carefully the task assigned to us; certainly it is not to set the year of Christ’s return. That we can safely leave in the Father’s hands. The assignment Jesus gave was, ‘Occupy till I come’ (Luke 19:13). This assignment was first given in the parable of the ten talents and clearly teaches the right use of God-given opportunities. If we spend our time and energies calculating the details of our Lord’s coming, we may easily miss opportunities of ‘occupying till He come.’ What greater opportunity is there than revival?
In the event the return of Christ is yet some distance off, the Church must be cautious not to be more explicit than written concerning Christ’s coming and some of these ancient volumes were plain in stating the return would be within the lifetime of the author. Some of these writers were as convinced as writers of our own day, but they were wrong. Certainly Christ can come at any moment, and may come before you finish reading this page, but His coming could be another thousand years away. We are commanded, ‘Therefore be ye also ready for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh’ (Matt. 24:14). Making false predictions is not a good way to make ready.
We must not let our observations on the condition of society and the degeneration of the hearts of men block our earnest seeking of God’s face. God is as able to send revival now as at any time during the history of His Church. While on the surface, things do seem to be getting worse and worse, a balanced perspective on history clearly suggests that the Bible is absolutely right in declaring men of all times and in all places are ‘deceitful and desperately wicked.’ There have been times in the past when it looked as if the world could not survive another generation, and yet it did. This may well be the last generation, but then again, our great-great-grandchildrenmay be the ones to see Christ’s coming in the air. Since the possibility exists that this may not be the last generation, we should, with ever-increasing fervency, seek a mighty outpouring of the Spirit of God in revival blessing for the sake of both our own and future generations, and for the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Perhaps The Last Revival In Time
“To hinder revival by arbitrarily announcing that it cannot come because of the late hour of history in which we live is to abandon our role as faithful servants of Jesus Christ and to pose as God. If God chooses to revive us again, who has sufficient authority to say He cannot? Time after time, in the dark season of the past, God has stepped into the stream of history and sent revival. Why shouldn’t we expect Him to do it again?”
It is clear from what Roberts says that we MUST fervently pray for revival and spiritual awakening.
We just might be praying for the very last great revival, the very last great awakening that the world will ever know.
Could it be that hundreds of thousands could be swept into the Kingdom of God in one final move of God and then comes the end of history, as we know it, with the anticipated return of the living Christ?
1 Richard Owen Roberts, Revival (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois, 1983) Pg. 144-149.