My previous posts on recent events in Lakeland, Florida included the word revival in quotation marks. I was asked recently if I would like to experience “revival” in my church. I guess that all depends on what you mean by revival. It is one of the fluid words that are hard to nail down. The Bible doesn’t use the term or define it in anyway, so it is difficult to be clear on what we mean by revival.
I think most Christians quantify revival in terms of large numbers. Throughout the Southeast the word “revival” implies attending “revival meetings” at the church building every night for four days (Sunday through Wednesday) or if you are really spiritual then six days (Sunday through Friday). If it isn’t quantified by the number of days you attend a “revival meeting” then it is quantified by the numbers of people who claim to have become Christians. For those living in the highlands of Charismania, “revival” entails the number of exuberant worshippers packed into a church or convention center or the number of reports of miracles or other supernatural phenomenon.
If “revival” is not quantified then it is often defined in terms of a heightened emotional state. These people identify revival by becoming passionate for the Lord. This passion is expressed by a number of phrase: “on fire,” “sold out,” “radical,” “walking in the power of the Lord,” etc. When a people use numbers and emotions as their criteria, then their definition of “revival” begins to look less and less like the kind of experience I want.
I do want people to gather together regularly as the church for worship and encouragement.
I do want people to come to Christ and receive his salvation.
I do want people to worship in their local church with passion and zeal.
I do want people to experience the charismatic dimensions of the Christian faith.
I do want people to love the Lord with all their mind AND all their heart, soul, and strength.
I would rather see an entire family worshiping together once a week in worship than 10,000 individuals going to church every day for a month.
I would rather see one person genuinely transformed by the Holy Spirit and living in a right relationship with God through Christ, than to see 10,000 people respond to an “altar call.”
I would rather see a person translate their passion and zeal for God into a passion for their neighborhoods and work places, than to see 10,000 people dancing in the isle.
I would rather see a man love his wife like Jesus loved the church and devote himself to his children than to hear 10,000 prophecies of the end of the world.
I would rather see one person who loves God—Father, Son, and Spirit—for twenty years through all the ups and downs of life than a crowd of Christian novices who boast of the commitment to Christ.
My concept of “revival” is not the neo-gnostic, Corinthian spirituality of charismania—with it’s never-ending church service, and ministry-turned-entertainment circus side show, and its sensational reports of the “supernatural realm.” My thoughts on revival are simple—living life here in God’s good creation with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and oh yeah, self control.
Instead of running from “revival” to “revival,” why don’t we just live vived? Why don’t we just live in the life eternal, the life abundant that Jesus came to give us? Revival presupposes a declension according to Finney, so why don’t we continue to ascend in our walk with God? And quit defining revival in terms of numbers and feelings.
The misunderstandings of revival are complicated when combined with a misunderstand of the end times. There are those who claim the Bible teaches that the return of Christ will be preceded by a great “end-time revival.” The use verses like Deut. 11:14; Joel 2:23-24, 28-32; Hosea 6:2-5; Ezk. 37; Isa. 60 & 63; & Zec. 10:1 to proclaim a world-wide “revival” before Jesus returns to earth. This so called revival has been called the “Latter Rain Revival,” the modern day Feast of Tabernacles, “Joel’s Revival,” or “Hosea’s Revival.” They often use the metaphor of the “former rain” and the “latter rain” as the biblical evidence for their claim.
This teaching is nothing new. It has been around since at least the 1940s through the Latter Rain Movement.
The primary text they use is from Joel 2:23-28:
Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.  “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you.
 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.  Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.  “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.  The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. (NIV)
The KJV translates verse 25: Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.
Those who believe in an “end time revival” that since part of Joel was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, then that part must have been the “former rain” and now we can expect the “latter rain,” a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit before the coming of the day of the Lord.
They only way you can come up with that interpretation is through some kind of subjective interpretation. This, unfortunately, has been the negative influence of the Latter Rain thinking. The only way to interpret the Scripture in order to understand God’s truth is to allow the Scripture to interpret itself. Subjective “illuminations” by the Spirit are secondary and subsequent to the clear reading of the Scripture in its own context.