What do you think about when you hear the word, “revival”? For some it brings back negative feelings of some scary hell-and-brimstone message at a camp meeting where sinners were exhorted to come forward and repent. For others it stirs up the excitement of days gone by when God came by His Spirit and changed the course of a nation.
So, what is revival? What does it have to do with us today in the Twentieth Century? Let us see.
Definition of Revival
The words, “revive, revived, reviving,” occur 30 times in the New American Standard translation of the English Bible. The King James translation additionally lists Romans 7:9 and 14:9. In all of these cases, the basic meaning of the Hebrew words, “chayah” and “michyah,” and the Greek words, “anathallo” and “anazao,” is “to live,” “to live again,” and “to come to life.” The English word, “revival,” is derived from two Latin words, “re,” which means “again,” and “vivo” which means “to live;” thus the literal meaning “to live again.”
1. The American College Dictionary defines “revival” as the “restoration of life.” More specifically, “revival of religion” is defined as “an awakening, in a church or a community, of interest in and care for matters relating to personal religion.” 2
2. Various Christian writers have defined revival in these ways: “God came.”
3. “A visitation of God.”
4. “Revival then is such a display of God’s holiness and power that often human personalities are overshadowed and human programs abandoned. It is God breaking into the consciousness of men in majesty and glory.”
5. “We shall consider ‘revival’ as that special season of refreshing when many believers simultaneously experience deep Holy Spirit conviction, causing them to make private and public confession of sin, along with a renunciation of it… and the whole experience bearing fruit in the salvation of the lost.”
6. “God at work, restoring His Church to health.”
7. “It is God visiting a segment of His people with cleansing from sin and the filling of the Spirit.”
8. “The divine intervention of God in human affairs which changes the course of history.”
9. “Revival is an ‘awareness of God’ that grips the whole community, and the roadside, the tavern, as well as the church, becomes the place where men find Christ.”
10. “It is the sovereign outpouring of the Holy Spirit in which Christians are turned to their ‘first love’ for Christ.”
11. “Is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God.”
12. “… times of refreshing… from the presence of the Lord.” — Acts 3:19, New American Standard Bible.
Let’s combine these into a single definition: “revival occurs when God, the Holy Spirit, moves upon a person, local church, community, nation, or the whole world in an extraordinary way which results in Christians being greatly awakened and drawn closer to God; in multitudes of new people being brought to Christ; in the social climate of that area being greatly changed for the good; and in many new workers being thrust forth into the harvest.”