The mention of the word “Revival” evokes a lot of different images and ideas in people’s minds. To those who are not Christian believers, it might conjure up notions of extreme religious fervor and excitement. To those with more of a historical bent, they might recall the key periods in American history often called “The 1st Great Awakening” and “The 2nd Great Awakening”. To those who know Jesus Christ and have grown up in a particular denomination, the word can trigger an even wider spectrum of mental imagery: extravagant tent meetings, intense vigils of prayer, and erratic physical behaviors. But, to some believers, revival is nothing short of a fresh thunderous outpouring of the Spirit and the powerful awakening of the Church from a deep slumber.

The challenge is that people often mix and blend together all kinds of revival elements and carelessly slap the label “revival” on it. These elements include the often-unsung endeavors that precede revival, the disorderly effects during its expansion, as well as the long-term impacts on a city and society. Things get mashed together, and all sense of priority is quickly forgotten. For example, it is no secret that prayer always figures prominently before, during, and after a revival, yet it cannot be overstated how crucial a role it plays in setting the scene for a Holy Spirit outpouring. In our rush to embrace and hype revival, we start talking about how much society will be forever changed without first having done the gritty work of costly gut-wrenching prayer. 

In addition, people fail to make a distinction between the various types of revival that can take place. I am not going to pretend that the Bible makes a hard distinction between the words like “revival” or “awakening” or “renewal”. The Bible honestly does not make any such technical distinctions. But we can take note of narratives in the Bible and in history that reveal varying scopes of revival. One could loosely categorize it into one of 3 scopes: 1) Personal, 2) Corporate, and 3) Historic. 

Personal revival is generally seen as what happens when the Holy Spirit starts a fresh fire anew in the weary heart of a son or daughter of the King. We see this happen in Luke 24, where 2 of the disciples, sick at heart over Jesus’ crucifixion and death, encountered a veiled Jesus on the road to Emmaus. As Jesus rekindled their hope in the promises of God from Scripture, their hearts burned within them. Their hope and hearts were revived and set on fire again for Christ!

Corporate revival can be thought of as one that takes hold in a group or chuch or small community. Revelation 2 talks about how a church had forgotten its first love, despite all the good deeds they had done in Jesus’ name. That church needed to be re-ignited again with a fresh touch of God on their hearts. 

Historic revival is the largest scope, impacting cities or nations or even in regions across the world. There is clearly a supernatural and divine act of God at work in these revivals. It may have begun in a tiny prayer meeting or local parish, but there are distinct and forceful lines of impact upon cities and nations that can be traced back to a God-event at its humble beginnings. It is the stuff that even non-believers and the world pay heed to. 

Let’s look more at these types of revivals in the weeks ahead…

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