We Can Have Revival Now
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Chapter 1 – Mass Evangelism and Defeatist Voices that Despair of Revival
Chapter 2 – Bible Foretells Greatest Revivals Yet To Come
Chapter 3 – False Teaching About The Last Days
Chapter 4 – “The Last Days”, A Blessed Age of Revival
Chapter 5 – Great Revivals in Bible Times Prove We Can Have Revival Nowl
Chapter 6 – We Can Have Revival Now Because of God’s Infinite Resources Freely
Chapter 7 – Present-Day Wickedness, Apostasy and Modern Civilization Cannot Prevent
Chapter 8 – The Revival Harvest Is Always Ripe Among Lost Sinners
Chapter 9 – God’s Way to Mass Revival
Chapter 1 – Mass Evangelism and Defeatist Voices that Despair of Revival
WE CAN have revival now! That is the sense of what Jesus said to His disciples and followers again and again. In Matthew 9:36-38 a statement of Jesus, to His twelve disciples, is given just before He sent them out, giving them power over unclean spirits. Read carefully that Scripture:
“But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.”
Jesus saw the multitudes and had compassion on them. Oh, if only He had Spirit-filled and prepared workers to teach them, win them, save them! So He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.” There was no trouble with the harvest; the harvest was great and plenteous. There was a shortage of laborers! That is contrary to all of our excuses, all of our unhappy efforts to avoid blame for our powerlessness and fruitlessness. The trouble is with the laborers, not with the harvest! So Jesus beseeches the twelve to pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth more laborers into His harvest!
After these twelve had been sent out to preach and teach and heal, Jesus appointed seventy other workers, and told them the same thing. Read the record in Luke 10:1-3:
“After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.”
The twelve are gone forth to preach, but these are not enough. The harvest truly is great, but the trouble is with the laborers. Again these seventy are commanded, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.” These were only new converts. They were not even grown “sheep,” they were only “lambs”; but Jesus said, “Behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.” They were all He had, and with yearning heart, He sent these new converts out to win souls.
Again we see that there was no trouble with the harvest. The trouble was with the laborers. God had a man-power shortage then, and He has one now. They could have had a revival then if they had the workers who meant business, workers with the power of God upon them, workers who would pay God’s price for revival.
But a third time Jesus speaks on this same theme. It is an entirely different place, and a different occasion. Jesus is at the well of Sychar in Samaria. He has just won to loving trust and surrender the poor, shabby woman whom He met at the well. The disciples seemed wholly indifferent about the concern of the Saviour for sinners. They had been to the town to buy food, and they won no one. They told no one that the Son of God, the Creator of the world, the Wonder-working Jesus, sat at the well down below the city! They want Jesus to eat, but He has been so blessed in the salvation of this poor woman that He is too full of joy for her and too full of concern for others to want food. And here we read what Jesus told them:
“My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.”–John 4:34-36.
Here is that plaintive strain again! Oh, if people would only see the white harvest as Jesus saw it! Here are lost people, but they can be won! Here are men and women steeped in sin, depraved, blinded, but dear to the Lord, and having immortal souls that must be won. They are like the ripe harvest which may waste at the first wind or rain, and the Saviour says, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” It was wrong then, it is tragically and criminally wrong now, to suppose that some other time will be the time of revival, or that the time for revival is already past. The harvest is white now. Some people can be won now who will be forever lost unless we act soon. And one who will work at this blessed business, the Saviour promises, shall reap his sheaves and receive his wages. Oh, blessed harvest! And oh, blessed are the reapers! And, oh, happy and blessed will be the wages, when “they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).
All these Scriptures should burn in our hearts, for they are as applicable today as they were when Jesus uttered these principles, thrice repeated. They could have revival then; we can have revival now. The harvest was white then; it is white now. Souls were lost then, away from God; and many likewise are lost now. Then the people of God could have God’s power, could use His Word, could have the blessed anointing of the Spirit of God, could claim God’s promises and see great revivals. Now, God has not changed, and men are not changed, and the Word of God which lives and abides forever is still good! We can have revivals now! The harvest is white.
Will we again see great revivals, mass revivals? Will multitudes gather again, as in old time, to hear the preaching of the gospel? Will there be a deep moving of the Spirit of God upon His people, renewing their love, cleansing their lives and giving them passion and power for soul-winning? And will whole towns and cities and countries be moved mightily by such revivals? Will multiplied thousands of sinners in each of many cities hear the gospel, be convicted, repent of their sins and be converted in mass evangelistic efforts? I say that we can, and we will in proportion to the way God’s people meet His requirements.
All over America there are great groups that say no, when I say that we can have great revivals now.
And what do we mean by revival? Some would make a distinction between revival of the saints and evangelism, winning the unsaved. But all the great soul winners have used the word revival to include not only the stirring of Christians and winning them to a new consecration, a new cleansing of heart and life and a new obedience, but the winning of the unconverted to Christ. These two greatly-to-be-desired results cannot be far separated. For the primary work of the church is evangelism, soul saving. The Great Commission, the basic charter of the church, includes a command for soul-winning and then a command to teach the baptized converts the same basic soul-winning duty. It is impossible for a Christian to be really revived, to get a fresh vision of the will of God in his life and a new and a more abounding zeal to do the will of God without honestly setting out to obey Christ in this soul-winning matter.
All the successful evangelists have known this. And when Spurgeon, Finney, Moody, Torrey, Chapman, Gipsy Smith or Billy Sunday spoke of revival, they meant not only a blessed refreshing for Christians, but a great campaign of evangelism for the unsaved.
“What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” And God has immutably joined Christian surrender, devotion and faithfulness with soul-winning. For one to know Christ better is to catch His soul-winning passion and be about His main business.
So when we say revival we include evangelism. When we say that we can have revival now we mean that we can have the mighty power of God to win multitudes to Christ.
Let us say further that when we say we can have revival now we mean the same kind of revival which God has graciously given in all ages, that is, mass evangelism, the preaching of the gospel in power to great multitudes by men especially called and anointed–men whom the Bible calls evangelists.
Many these days say we cannot have revival now. Or they say we can win souls in Sunday schools and in personal work, but that we cannot have mass evangelism. Some claim that the age has so changed that God can no more use evangelists.
The voices that say no more great revivals, may not say it in those words. They may say it by criticizing evangelists, like the ultradispensational seminary president who said that evangelists are “false forces in evangelism.” They may say it like a prominent pastor in a N.A.E. committee who said, “We don’t want any of this Billy Sunday stuff.” They may say it by charges of “sensationalism” against evangelists, or “money-grabbing.” Some say we are in the last days, that Jesus is coming very, very soon and that therefore great revivals are impossible. Some say that we have a new day, a great new modern world which cannot be reached with the old-fashioned ways. Modernists say the old-time message will not do. Some Bible believers say that the old-time methods will not do. In actual fact God has given in the Bible the old-time method of revival in the pattern of Elijah, John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Apollos and Stephen as He has given the message. I for one am persuaded that God has no more changed His essential method of preaching the gospel to great multitudes than He has changed His message. It is still true that “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21), just as it is still true that “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” We had as well face the fact that radio evangelism, rescue missions, house-to-house-visitation soul-winning, child evangelism, and soul-winning in colleges all flourish when there is powerful mass evangelism like that in the days of D.L. Moody and Billy Sunday; and diminish when mass evangelism diminishes.
And God’s people had just as well be reconciled to the Scriptural fact that evangelists must be included with evangelism. Ephesians 4:11,12,16 says:
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edification of the body of Christ . . . maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
Evangelists are a gift of God to the church. The office of the evangelist is as definite as that of pastor or teacher. And the office of an evangelist comes before that of a pastor in the divine order and importance, as they are named here. One who says that God will not use evangelists as He has used them before is really saying that there can be no more of the Bible kind of revivals.
When we say that we can have revivals now, we mean we can have all the blessing that God Himself has attached to the ministry of evangelists. If we can have revivals now with the work of mighty Spirit-filled evangelists like Spurgeon, Moody, Torrey, Finney, Chapman, and Sunday, then we can have pastors’ colleges, Bible institutes, universities, rescue missions, and great upsurges of missionary zeal and work. You see, the key work of evangelists in the kingdom of God involves not only soul-winning but, in the words of Scripture, “the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ …” so that all together may make “increase of the body.” Let us face this thing honestly. Those who say, no more great revivals really say no more Christianity in the power and vigor of New Testament times.
I say that we can have great revivals now, as great revivals as the world ever saw. I mean we can have mass evangelism shaking whole cities, with thousands saved in a single campaign. I say that the gospel can again grip whole communities, whole areas, and affect the moral standards, the philosophy of life of the general public. I say that as a result of such mass revivals we may have a new and mighty missionary impetus that will win millions of souls around the world, that will build and support great Christian institutions like those that came with the ministry of great evangelists of the past. I mean an evangelism led by men called of God as evangelists, anointed with power from Heaven; men with the gifts needed for mighty mass movements, backed by Bible-believing pastors and people.
Who are these who doubt that we can have great revivals? Whose are these defeated voices that despair of great revivals; these voices which discourage faith, these defeated voices which withhold support from those who would do what Jesus commanded in getting the gospel to every creature? The defeated voices that teach that the vigor and glory of New Testament Christianity cannot be reproduced are the voices of modernists who do not believe the fundamentals of the faith; the voice of worldlings who are not willing to give up sin and the favor of the world; the voice of the backslidden who have lost faith, lost their first love, lost their Christian joy; the voice jealous of evangelists and their boldness, their crowds and popularity; and the voice of the ultradispensationalists whose wrong understanding of the Bible hinders their belief in the possibility and probability of great revivals. Let us discuss these defeated voices which despair of revival.
I. Modernists, Unbelievers in Fundamental Christian Doctrine, Say No More Great Revivals
It is true that modernists who deny the inspiration and reliability of the Bible, deny the deity of Christ and His blood atonement, deny the need for the new birth and other fundamental Bible doctrines, encourage what they call evangelism. But modernists habitually and deliberately change the meaning of historic Christian words and use them in another sense entirely foreign to their original meaning. So a modernist may speak of Jesus as the Son of God or say that Christ is divine when he does not believe in the virgin birth of Christ, nor His bodily resurrection, nor that He is deity incarnated. These infidels in the churches simply mean the false doctrine that all men are the sons of God by nature, and that Christ in that is not essentially different in nature than other men, though perhaps better in degree. The modernist may speak of the Bible as the Word of God when he does not believe it is God’s infallible revelation at all, but only that there are some good things in it from God. When a modernist speaks of salvation, he does not mean personal regeneration, a new birth by personal faith in Christ. You see, modernists are deceivers. As the Scripture says, these are false teachers “who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them …. “And again the Scripture says, “Through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (I1 Pet. 2:1,3). Discerning Christians must beware of the “feigned words” of modernists who intentionally deceive by using the language of historic Christianity when they do not believe in historic Christianity. So modernists speak of “evangelism” when they really mean house-to-house calling to enlist people in church membership, often without regard to repentance and the new birth.
Actually modernists oppose evangelism, oppose old-time revivals. In discarding New Testament doctrine they have discarded New Testament methods and aims. And modernists say that now a grand new day has come in which people are too intelligent to be influenced by the old gospel. Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, typical modernist, in a letter often published, said that he did not believe in historic Christian doctrines and did not know a single intelligent minister who did! In other words, modernists proudly believe their learning is so far advanced and that modernists have so gained control in the churches that old-time doctrines, as preached in mass evangelism, will not be heard nor accepted by intelligent and enlightened people.
Fosdick preached and published a sermon on “The Peril of Worshipping Jesus” (Hope of the World, Harper). In that sermon Fosdick plainly denounces those who worship Jesus, says we should not call Him Lord, should not pray to Him, should not enshrine Him on our altars, should not sing, “In the Cross of Christ I Glory.” Of course if you take away from the evangelist the deity and lordship and worship of Jesus Christ, you have no revivals. Well, modernists do not believe in revivals, do not want revivals, and finally, hope they have forever killed revivals in the Bible sense, in the old-fashioned sense of mass evangelism.
The American Unitarian Association, 25 Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts, has published a pamphlet, The Relation of the Liberal Churches and the Fraternal Orders. Elijah Alfred Coil, minister of the First Unitarian Society, Marietta, Ohio, was the author. He roundly rebukes lodge men whose orders plainly teach salvation by character and the universal fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, without a need for being born again, and yet go to hear evangelists preach. He quotes Billy Sunday as saying, “The fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man are the worst rot ever dug out of hell.” He properly reminds his modernistic friends that evangelists and all Bible believers hold in spirit the creed, “We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, by faith and not for our own works or deservings.” This modernist, this Unitarian minister, this Master of the Masonic Lodge, denies the doctrine of salvation by the blood of Christ and urges his infidel friends to stay away from preaching like that of Billy Sunday. You see, modernists, all Unitarian Christ-rejecters, do not want revivals, do not believe in revivals, and think they are gone forever among intelligent people. But that is only because they believe Bible Christianity is out of date.
Even the milder modernists fear evangelism. For example, Dr. A. Earl Kernahan, in his book, Visitation Evangelism; Its Methods and Results, with a foreword by Methodist Bishop Edwin H. Hughes, pioneered a method much used among modernists for increasing church membership by house-to-house visitation. Kernahan says many fine things. It is evident that he believes in some kind of conversion, though he says that “every child on earth is a Christian.” But he is afraid of mass evangelism. He says on page 40:
“Too often the professional evangelist brought in to lead a campaign of mass evangelism, is reactionary in his theological outlook. Oftentimes he is eccentric, and his eccentricities are exaggerated for publicity purposes. Oftentime he is a past master in the creating and directing of a dangerous mob psychology. Often the people who are won by this method are won to a certain theological interpretation of the Bible, which is mechanical and out of date.”
Again, on page 56 Kernahan says:
“We have been driven to attempt a new method because we are in a new day of evangelism. Mass evangelism has very largely served its day and is gone, or is going.”
Modernists, those who believe that the evangelist in a “campaign of mass evangelism, is reactionary in his theological outlook,” and that the converts of revivals are thus often “won to a certain theological interpretation of the Bible, which is mechanical and out of date,” naturally believe that “mass evangelism has very largely served its day and is gone, or is going.” God forgive all the fundamentalists who join in this modernist propaganda against old-time revivals.
Let us face this voice of defeat which says there will be no more such great mass revivals. It is the voice which hates the Bible, which would take the crown of deity from Jesus Christ, which denies historic Bible Christianity. If the modernist’s viewpoint is right, then Bible Christianity itself is doomed along with mass evangelism. Thank God, we know better than that!
Let me restate it: Bible evangelism, mass evangelism, that is, old-time revivals, are offensive to modernists who hope and believe that they are out of date. The emphasis on sin is offensive to modernists who are not willing to repent. The emphasis on God’s grace, on the blood of Christ as the only hope of sinners, is offensive to the modern infidel who worships man and believes in salvation by merit instead of by saving faith. Evangelism is based on the authority of the Bible as God’s infallible revelation. Such faith in the Bible is essential to Bible evangelism, essential to great revivals, but is utterly abominable to modernists. The voice of modernism, unbelief in the churches which says there can be no more great revivals in the historic and old-fashioned sense, speaks as the enemy of the Bible and as the enemy of New Testament Christianity itself.
II. The Voice of Worldliness Says No More Great Revivals
All the best and most fruitful evangelists fight sin, and this is offensive to the worldly and to the friends of the worldly. Sensible, experienced evangelists and other Christian leaders know that until God’s people humble themselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways (II Chron. 7:14), God cannot hear from Heaven and forgive His people and heal their land. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” God will not hear the cry of Christians for revival power, for the convicting and saving of sinners except as they confess and forsake their sins. So it is the divinely-appointed method for those who would help to bring about revival that they should preach to Christians on their sins, their failures, and their worldly ways.
Likewise, in preaching to the unsaved, one soon finds that it is impossible to get sinners convicted of their sins and bring them to repentance without making them conscious of their lost estate. It is true that one is not saved by keeping the law, but “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Gal. 3:24). When preachers condemn sin and preach on the wages of sin and show how God hates sin, how God will judge and punish sin, the Spirit of the Lord can bring sinners to see their need of a Saviour.
A young evangelist preaching in his third revival and seeing drunkards and other hardened sinners wonderfully saved, told me with great joy, “I have found out that if I can get people lost enough, I can get them saved!” Of course he meant that if he could get sinners to know how far they are from God, how terribly wicked their hearts, how fearful their ultimate fate if they do not repent, he can get many of them to flee to Christ for refuge and trust Him for mercy.
With this in mind, the reader should remember the great moral revolution brought about by the evangelical revival under Wesley’s leadership in England. The great book, This Freedom Whence, by J. Wesley Bready (American Tract Society) gives documented proof that prison reform, the Sunday School movement, the end of the slave trade and an enormous raising of moral standards throughout England and America were all largely brought about by the influence of this revival and such preaching as that of John Wesley and Whitefield. Older people in America remember that the preaching of Billy Sunday and of other evangelists like him had more to do with the bringing of prohibition in America and a moral revulsion against drinking than any other single factor. When the churches in America turned their backs on mass evangelism, they lost the prohibition cause. Students of revival will remember how plainly and powerfully Finney preached against every kind of sin–from profanity and secret orders, to vanity in dress. Sermons of D.L. Moody on sowing and reaping and kindred subjects brought tremendous conviction. He preached against slavery, against drink, against secret societies. He preached restitution and repentance.
So honest, Bible-preaching evangelists today speak out boldly against the moral rot in the movies, against increasing drunkenness, against divorce, against the lewdness of the dance and the looseness and immorality of necking and petting among modern young people. Such preaching is unpopular with worldly people.
We must not suppose that the opposition of worldly people to mass evangelism is always insincere. People who rationalize and excuse their worldly living or who defend the worldliness of others come to dread the division, the sensation produced by such preaching. They fear that worldly people will be driven from the church, that the income of pastors will diminish, that pastors and churches will thus lose the favor of influential people. Such opposition may be sincere but we must face it for what it is–the voice of worldliness, the voice of unsurrendered, unconsecrated people.
One should note that many who oppose mass evangelism and speak against evangelists and feel that the methods of mass evangelism are out of date, are fundamentalists. Some preachers who believe the Bible and all its principal doctrines are not willing to take the costly stand for holy living which great revivals demand.
I was called to a church for revival services. The pastor seemed to be orthodox in doctrinal position. He had from time to time called in well-used evangelists each year, obviously because of the new converts added to his church through revival efforts. But he went privately among his people to minimize my plain preaching against worldliness and sin. When I talked to him about it, I found that he himself attended lewd picture shows and did not teach Christians to live a separated or consecrated life.
But some Christians who are willing themselves to avoid worldly amusements and habits are yet unwilling to have worldliness rebuked in the pulpit. Plain preaching may alienate some of the best paying members. Many pastors do not have the courage to face the scorn of leaders in secular education, the newspapers and social leaders.
In a large, historic Eastern church, fundamental in doctrine, the Deacons’ board was largely dominated by members of the Masonic fraternity. Obviously, for the popular pastor to attack this evil would bring serious opposition; so he did not do it. Later he resigned the church to go into “evangelistic and Bible conference work,” and in his public announcement he assured the public that he would preach only “a positive gospel,” by which he evidently meant that he would not denounce sin. It was not surprising that he had little results in his evangelistic campaigns and soon accepted another pastorate. This man is a good man. He believes the Bible, he loves Jesus Christ and wants to see people saved. But he would be against old-time evangelism with its preaching on sin, its mighty call to repentance, its rebuke of the world and the reproach of Christ which falls on Christians who are true to Christ in great revivals.
Many a born-again Christian does not want any preaching that will offend his picture-show-going, cigarette-smoking, dancing son or daughter and his worldly neighbor.
Almost always such people say that such revivals are out of date. They rationalize their own cowardice and in contrast say evangelists are sensational and uncouth.
One of the voices of defeat, which says, no more great revivals, is the voice of worldliness.
III. Spiritual Backsliding Opposes and Discredits Revival
Related to the voice of worldliness, yet distinct, is the voice of backsliding. I mean that many people are indifferent to revivals and do not believe revivals are possible simply because they are spiritually backslidden.
Some truly born-again Christians do not have faith that God really answers prayer. They do not have any deep confidence in the power of the word of God to convict and save sinners as preached by Spirit-filled men. They do not pray for revival with any enthusiasm because spiritually their faith has grown cold and small. This is the voice of spiritual backsliding. Many Christians, truly born again. have found their love for Christ has grown cold. Such Christians have no deep compassion for lost sinners, no holy urge in their hearts to win people to Christ. The thought that there can be no more great revivals comes naturally to one who does not much care about revival. There are obviously so many difficulties and so many problems in connection with a great revival that one who is spiritually backslidden and cold in heart does not want to believe the Bible.
Such Christians have often grown to neglect secret prayer because they find no real joy in talking to God and have no deep burden for His help. Often they do not enjoy the Bible, and many who claimed to have been converted never seriously read the Bible to find out the will of God. These Christians with cold hearts, with no mind for prayer and no time for the Bible, are not prayer-meeting Christians. They do not delight to hear the Word of God preached. Often they do not have family worship, or have only a perfunctory kind. Backslidden in heart, those whose love has grown cold and whose devotion to Christ has wavered, do not long for great revivals and often do not believe in them.
And if backsliders do not want revivals, then the converse naturally suggested is that one who does not want revivals is backslidden in heart.
The Christian who is defeated about other matters would be defeated about revivals, too. In his unbelief, in his lack of compassion, in his lack of intimate touch with Christ, those spiritually backslidden despair of seeing great revivals again. This voice of defeat comes from a defeated life and a defeated heart.
IV. Jealous Christian Workers Often Consciously or Unconsciously Oppose and Fear Revivals
One of the voices which cries out that the old-time revivals are out of date, that new methods must be used, is the voice of jealousy.
God set in the church pastors and teachers, as is plainly told in Ephesians 4:11. God also gave evangelists, but He put the evangelist before the pastors and teachers!
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.”
Just as apostles and prophets are placed before evangelists, so evangelists are placed before pastors and teachers in this divinely-inspired order. Evangelists are called of God and ordained of God to win more souls than pastors and ofttimes to have larger crowds, have more influence with Christians, gain a better hearing from outsiders and perhaps receive better remuneration than many pastors.
Now Christian workers are only human beings. As Diotrophes was jealous of John the Beloved, as enemies of Paul preached the gospel from envy, we may expect the same spirit sometimes to appear today. In Christian colleges instructors are sometimes envious of full professors, and heads of departments are often jealous of the powers of the college president. Assistant pastors often seek to compete with the pastors in the affections and leadership of people in the church, and the organist is frequently jealous of the choir leader. So, many a pastor when he sees the evangelist preaching to larger crowds, preaching with greater boldness, seeing more converts than he himself has seen, often finds it difficult not to envy the evangelist.
Pastors have often criticized evangelists as being sensational when actually they regretted they could not be as bold and preach to as large crowds as the evangelist. A pastor has often criticized an evangelist as being a money-grabber when actually the evangelist put far less stress on financial remuneration than the same pastor. Pastors usually will not accept a pastorate without a definitely-promised salary, and often haggle for a free parsonage and a paid vacation. I have known a number of ministers to refuse a call to a pastorate because they said the salary promised was not adequate. Yet I have never known a reputable evangelist to set a price on his service, or ask a minimum guarantee. I have known a number of well-known Bible teachers to do so. The reason such pastors criticize an evangelist is not because the evangelist asks for more money but because he sometimes gets more! For the very same reason, poorly-paid pastors criticize well-paid pastors. That is simply old human nature playing a familiar part.
Denominational leaders are often jealous of the influence of evangelists. Pastors are in position to raise money for the denominations-evangelists usually are not. Pastors will usually cooperate more fully with the denominations than will evangelists. Pastors often have annuity or life insurance at stake, and often expect to need the recommendation of the denominational secretary or the good will of the bishop, while evangelists are usually independent in such matters. Evangelists are usually not made trustees of denominational colleges or seminaries.
This jealousy and natural antipathy of pastors and other Christian workers toward evangelists who get bigger crowds is natural, but it is carnal, not spiritual.
A great church asked me to come for revival services. The pastor said, “We always pay Bible teachers $100 a week and evangelists $150 a week. Will that be satisfactory?” I replied that any amount the church set would be abundantly satisfactory, that I would not be a party to any agreement whatever on the salary matter except that it was to be left to the pastor and church since I never made any demands.
After a blessed revival, with the church auditorium packed out night after night and with many saved, including prominent business men, the church paid me considerably more than the $150 a week intended. A short time before, the church had had a well-known and beloved Bible teacher and had paid him $100 a week. He had spoken to not more than a third as many people per night, I suppose, and I could well see the viewpoint of the church which was willing to pay more for larger crowds, more souls saved and greater blessing. But I can imagine how that Bible teacher would feel about evangelists! And the thoughtful reader will see why Bible teachers have complained that evangelists are sensational, that they play on people’s emotions, and that they harshly condemn sin. Such people criticize evangelists, not because evangelists are wrong, but because they are right. Men who do not win souls criticize those who do. Men who have small crowds criticize those who have large crowds.
I can see how a defeated man, resenting the crowds, or the popularity, or the income of some greatly-used evangelist can come to believe that all such evangelism is out of date and that it would be better to win souls in the Sunday school, in child evangelism, in Youth for Christ, without great mass revivals led by evangelists.
One of the defeated voices which despair of revival is the voice of jealousy among Christian workers.
V. Ultradispensationalism Is a Voice of Defeat Despairing of Revival
There are some Christians who over-emphasize the dispensational teaching in the Bible. Of course there is a dispensational difference between the old covenant and the new covenant, between the ceremonial law and the gospel. But ultradispensational people say that the Acts of the Apostles is a record of a transition period and that the Christianity of the book of Acts is not to be a pattern for present-day Christianity. Such people sometimes say that the Sermon on the Mount was for Jews only, not for us, and that even the Lord’s Supper is “a kingdom prayer” not suitable for us. They say that the miracles, power and gifts manifested among Christians in the book of Acts are now out of date. Such people usually say that the only “baptism of the Spirit” there is now is what one receives at conversion. These ultradispensationalists say that we are in the last days, that the Saviour must come very soon. They say that “the great apostasy” is on so that a great revival is impossible. They usually think that a number of signs prove that from the time of the first world war on to the present should be called “the last days” and that many signs indicate the Saviour must come at most in a few months or years.
The ultradispensationalists do more to discourage revival than many because they are Bible believers, not infidels. They are premillennial, not amillennial. They believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible and believe it literally true. These ultradispensationalists are usually followers of John Nelson Darby, one of the founders of the Plymouth Brethren movement. They have had tremendous influence in the notes of the Scofield Bible; they have infiltrated the Bible institutes built by the evangelists, and substituted their own pet doctrines for the teaching of Moody, Torrey, Spurgeon and Finney on the fullness of the Spirit.
The ultradispensationalists generally say that no more great revivals are likely, that it is much harder to win souls than before because of the great apostasy which, they say, now marks the closing days of the age.
This teaching is subtle, it is respectable, but it is deadly in its effect on evangelism.
Ultradispensationalists have not turned out a single great evangelist. They turn out many Bible teachers.
Typical of that teaching is the book called True Evangelism, by Lewis Sperry Chafer, which calls evangelists “false forces in evangelism,” which says that “a ‘revival’ is abnormal rather than normal,” and not to be “a sanctioned method of work” (p. 7). He says that evangelists place “false or undue emphasis on methods” by demanding “some public action in connection with conversion, such as standing or going forward in a meeting.” He especially opposes sending “out workers to plead with individuals in a miscellaneous congregation,” and desires evangelists not to preach on sin.
Many ultradispensationalists accuse every evangelist who works with churches of any denomination but Plymouth Brethren of compromising.
Many kindly, good Christian people, influenced by ultradispensationalists, feel that it is hopeless to expect revival. They are defeated. They feel so critical of worldly people that they cannot help them; so critical of evangelists that they do not trust them. Such people have a tendency to enjoy technical study of the Bible more than soul-winning, to be more interested theoretically in Jewish missions than in great citywide campaigns, though only a handful of Jews are saved each year in all the Jewish missions in America and frequently one single city-wide campaign will show more converts than all the Jewish missions in America will show in a year.
Another full chapter will be given to show from Bible prophecy that great revivals are yet to come and that this ultradispensational viewpoint about revivals is utterly unscriptural. But here let us mark this ultradispensational voice for what it is–the voice of defeat, the voice of failing Christians. The doctrine of the ultradispensationalists is heresy. The attitude of criticism and division is sinful. It discourages revival, it brings reproach on premillennial truth. It puts out the fires of soul-winning.
Let us make a clear distinction between the premillennial doctrinal position and ultradispensationalism. I am a premillennialist, which simply means that I believe Jesus may come at any time, just as He promised, and certainly must come before there can be any millennium on this earth. That is, I take the Bible literally and believe that the same Jesus who went away shall so come in like manner as the disciples saw Him ascend into Heaven, and in accordance with the plain promise of the angels who stood by (Acts 1:11 ). Premillennialists simply take the Bible at face value when it teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself will one day return for His own, raise the Christian dead, change the Christians who are alive and take us with Him to Heaven, then a little later will reign literally on the earth. It happens that evangelists generally take the Bible literally and so nearly all the great soul winners have been premillennial in faith. Spurgeon, Moody, Torrey, Chapman, Billy Sunday were all premillennial. As far as I know, all the widely-used interdenominational evangelists in America today are premillennial in doctrine; that is, they believe that the Saviour may come at any moment, just as He said. But to set dates or years for the Saviour’s return, to say that we cannot take the examples of the New Testament as our pattern in soul-winning, to say that Christians should never pray for the power of the Holy Spirit and that the times themselves forbid revival, is a voice of defeat, the voice of a false Dispensationalism.
You hear the cry of defeated voices which despair of revival. Some of these do not want revival. Those who wish to have revival do not have the faith for it, perhaps are unwilling to pay the price for it. They are the voices of modern unbelief, liberalism; of worldliness; of spiritual backsliding; of jealousy among Christian workers; the voice of ultradispensationalists whose wrong interpretation of the Bible makes them believe great revivals are now unlikely, if not impossible. Say what you will–these voices are voices of defeat, not of faith, not of victory. Their spirit is not the spirit of the Acts of the Apostles, not the spirit of the Apostle Paul. Their spirit is not true to the promises of Christ, nor to the implications and obligations of the Great Commission. Defeated Christians are not Spirit filled Christians, are not faith-filled Christians, are not Christians in the glory and power and joy of the Lord. We must not believe these defeated voices. They are wrong! And in succeeding lectures we earnestly hope to show that we ought to have now and can have now, if Christians will meet God’s requirements, as great revivals as ever blessed this earth.
Chapter 2 – Bible Foretells Greatest Revivals Yet to Come
Does the Bible justify the pessimism of those who think there will be no more great revivals? Absolutely not. How happy some would be if they could find in the Bible justification for their false alibis and excuses, justification for their powerlessness and fruitlessness. If there were a verse in the Bible which said there would be no more great revivals, which said that soul-winning would become harder and harder, you may be sure that it would be shouted from the housetops by preachers and teachers who win few souls and who do not have revivals. I assure you that the Bible has not a single word to the effect that soul-winning will get harder and harder, that revivals will become more difficult or impossible, not a single prophecy that the day of great revivals will pass away before Jesus comes. All that is in the minds of defeated, backslidden, powerless Christians. It is not in the Bible.
In fact the whole trend of the New Testament teaches that we are in the age of great revivals. Jesus promised to the disciples to whom He gave the Great Commission, and to us who should follow them in their work, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). When Jesus said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12), He did not even hint that that promise would little by little fail, and that less and less results could be expected. The great promises of fruit-bearing, the promises of answers to prayer, the promise of the enduement of power with the Holy Spirit, are all given to be in effect throughout this whole gospel age. There is not a word in the Bible, I say, to indicate that the gospel will become less effective, that sinners will be harder to win, that revivals will become more difficult or impossible. The contrary is true. And in the next lecture I shall go more fully into that blessed truth that we are now in the age of revivals, in the age of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, and that all the promises about revival and soul-winning fit as well for us as they did at Pentecost and in the times of the apostles, and in other eras of great revivals. We are in the revival age, and great revivals may be had any time God’s people meet God’s requirements. But that is another subject.
In this lecture I must show you that the greatest revivals the world is ever to see are yet future. Greater revivals are to come than any the world has ever experienced. That is plainly taught in the Word of God, and what a comfort it ought to be to our hearts! When we find that God has plainly promised greater revivals than any the world has yet had, that will certainly prove that the day of revivals is not passed.
I. The Great Tribulation Revival
Jesus told of a coming time which He called the “Great Tribulation.” In Matthew 24:21,22, He said, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” Note that the time coming will be more terrible than any the world has ever seen up until then.
Later in the Olivet discourse Jesus gave us a key as to when this Great Tribulation will be. In Matthew 24:27-31, Jesus said:
“For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Here we see that the Lord Jesus was particularly speaking to Jews, and so He told them of the time when He would send forth His angels and gather together His elect (Israelites) from the four winds of the earth. It will be when Jesus is seen visibly, bodily, coming in the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory (vs. 30). But verse 29 tells us that this is to be “immediately after the tribulation.” So it appears to me that after the rapture of the saints (when we who are saved will be caught up to meet Him in the air), Jesus will later return with us to the earth, this time to regather Israel and save them and reign on the earth. But the period after the rapture of the saints, while we shall be in Heaven with the Saviour, just before He returns to reign, will be the time of the Great Tribulation on earth. This is the teaching of the best premillennial scholars. This is the position of Moody, Torrey, Scofield (in the Scofield Bible), James M. Gray, H.A. Ironside, William Pettingill and Arno Gaebelein. Hence, the Great Tribulation time is yet to come. After every saved person shall be taken away with Jesus, and when the Antichrist himself will rule on the earth, will come the Great Tribulation. There will be so much persecution and trouble and war that it, above all the periods in human history, is to be called the Great Tribulation. The Antichrist will refuse people who do not take his mark the right to buy and sell. Those who get converted under these conditions will surely risk their lives for Christ. And yet, the Bible tells us plainly that in this Great Tribulation there will come the most marvelous revival.
Revelation 7:9-17 gives us a beautiful picture of the converts of the Great Tribulation revival gathered in Heaven. Let us read that Scripture prayerfully:
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
Here in Heaven are people praising God for salvation. Who are they? They are people who will have been saved during the Great Tribulation.
Two verses here are specially important. Verse 9 tells something of the number of these saved. “After this I beheld, and, LO, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” Verse 14 is also important, “And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
In the first part of this same chapter, we have a discussion of 144,000 Israelites who will be converted during this time of the Great Tribulation, from twelve tribes. But aside from the Israelites, here is “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues. .” who are saved. These will have come out of the Great Tribulation, when we see them assembled in Heaven. They will have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.
It is suggestive that the scene is laid in Heaven. Most of these converted in the tribulation period will have been martyred on earth. No such mighty assembly of Christians can be gathered on earth in those awful days when it will mean death not to take the mark of the Beast. But when these multiplied, uncounted thousands and millions who will be saved during the Great Tribulation are later assembled in Heaven, they will be given the honor due to martyrs, due to those who came to Christ in spite of such temptation and persecution and trouble. These to be converted in the Great Tribulation period will not be allowed to buy nor sell. Many of them will starve. But now we are told that “they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (vss. 16, 17).
Oh, my heart leaps within me as I think of that revival! I am not against counting the numbers. At Pentecost they were counted and found to be about three thousand. But in this blessed revival to come and spread over the whole earth during the reign of the Antichrist, during the tribulation period itself, when true preachers and Christians will have been carried away in the rapture, to Heaven, and the churches will have been taken over by unbelievers, and when it may mean death to turn to Christ–then uncounted multitudes that no man can number from every nation and kindred and tongue and tribe will turn to God. What a revival! Nothing less than millions could be meant by these terms, “a . . . multitude, which no man could number.” Past counting will be the converts in the marvelous revival yet to come in the Great Tribulation.
The Great Tribulation revival, so clearly prophesied in Revelation 7:9-14, proves that the day of great revivals is not passed, shows that the greatest revivals are yet to come.
And this blessed revival also proves that whatever the outward distress, God’s people can seek His face and have His power. Whatever the human limitations, we can have revival. We can have revival when it means persecution and death for Christians. We can have revival when the government is wicked and anti-Christian. We can have revival when modernism is everywhere in the saddle. We can have revival, provided God’s faithful few pay God’s price and have His mighty power!
Thank God for this wonderful revival when such multitudes will be saved in every nation of the world that they will be uncountable! Thank God for the 144,000 Israelites saved to witness for Christ in that period, but thank God still more for the multitudes, the uncountable multitudes, to be saved in every nation, saved among every heathen tribe, every language and dialect. What a revival God will give in the tribulation time!
II. The Coming Great Revival in Israel
But another great revival, in which millions are to be saved, is plainly foretold for the future.
Throughout the Bible there runs a story of God’s love for Israel. Often He has punished His chosen people, and they are even now scattered through all the world because of their sins. But again and again, in both Old Testament and New Testament, God has promised that He will bring the nation Israel back to Himself.
One of the clearest statements in the Scripture about the coming conversion of the Jews who will be left alive on the earth is in Romans 11:25-31 which follows:
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.”
Everybody knows that blindness in part has happened to Israel. How difficult it is now to win a Jew to Christ! I see some Jews saved in my large union revival campaigns, and I thank God for it. But it is difficult to win Jews. They are usually spiritually blinded and prejudiced, and not many of them are saved.
But it is God’s plan that the blindness that has happened to Israel will be taken away. When is that? It is, verse 25 says, after “the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” After this gospel age has run its course, after Christ comes and receives His own into the air, and then, after the tribulation when He returns to reign on the earth and restore the kingdom to Israel on David’s throne in Jerusalem, then, the nation Israel is to be saved.
The plain statement is, “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”
At present Jews are our enemies for the sake of the gospel, but they are beloved for the Father’s sake. The gifts and callings of God are without repentance. That is, God cannot turn away from the promise He made to Abraham. God cannot turn away from the choice He made of Jacob. God will not go back on His promises to David. So one of these days, after the fullness of the Gentiles is come in, God will turn away ungodliness from Jacob, and the nation Israel will turn to their God and be saved. So is the plain teaching of the Word of God. We Gentiles have obtained mercy through the unbelief of the Jews. God turned to the Gentiles with the gospel. But one blessed day when the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, then God will take away the blindness from Jewish minds and hearts, and they will turn to Christ.
This marvelous conversion of Israel is foretold away back in Deuteronomy 30:1-6. There God promised:
“And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shaft obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; That then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee. if any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: And the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which they fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.”
We see here that when the people of Israel turn with all their heart to obey God and seek Him, the Lord will bring Israel back to Palestine, gathering Jews out of every nation where He has scattered them. God will bring them into the land of Palestine and they will possess it and multiply. Then verse 6 promises, “And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” That means regeneration. That means that God will make Christians out of those Jews who will be regathered from all over the world.
The prophet Ezekiel foretold also this regathering and conversion of Israel. In Ezekiel 20:33-38 we are told that God will bring the nation Israel out into the wilderness and plead with them as He did with their fathers in the days of Moses. Then He will purge out the rebels, all who will not be converted, and settle the rest of them into the land of Canaan.
Ezekiel, chapter 36, tells also of this wonderful regathering of the nation Israel from all the heathen countries when God brings them back into the land of Palestine. And Ezekiel 36:26-28 says, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
That is a wonderful picture of a saved people, regenerated, with new hearts, with God’s Spirit dwelling within them. That is what will happen to the Jews when Christ returns to reign and regathers them and saves them.
One of the most moving descriptions of this marvelous revival among the Jews is given in Zechariah. Zechariah 12:10 says, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” When Jesus returns and delivers Israelites from the persecution and trouble of the Great Tribulation and destroys the Antichrist and his armies, then Jews will know this is the Saviour.
Zechariah 13:1 says, “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.”
That fountain was not opened at the crucifixion. It will be opened at a future time when the nation Israel will have their hearts opened to the gospel, in Jerusalem, and will turn and be saved.
Then in the same chapter, Zechariah 13:6 tells us, “And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” When Jesus shall appear among the Jews and rescue them, they will see the wounds in His hands and ask Him questions. He will reveal to them that He is the Saviour the Jews hated and crucified before–the Lord and King of the Jews, the Prince whom the Jews have so long despised. And when they see these wounds and know who Jesus is, they will mourn in repentance and turn to God.
Again I remind you of Paul’s inspired word in Romans 11:26,27, “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”
There have been some great revivals in the past. I should like to have stood at Mt. Carmel when Elijah prayed down the fire from Heaven and when all the assembled people fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is the God! the Lord, he is the God!” I should like to have seen the crowds that heard John the Baptist and repented of their sins and were baptized in Jordan. I should like to have seen the “multitudes” who heard Jesus and turned from their sins. (That term multitude or multitudes is used more than twenty times in the book of Matthew about the crowds who heard Jesus.) I should like to have seen the great revival at Pentecost when three thousand turned to God in a day and other thousands of men and women in the days that followed. I should like to have been in the revivals where D.L. Moody preached, and Finney and Torrey and Chapman and Billy Sunday. But bless God, I will be in a revival far greater! I will be there to see it and so will all the Christians, all the saints of God, when Jesus regathers the nation Israel so long despised,–the blinded nation yet so beloved for the fathers’ sake–and shows them His hands and has them repent of their sins and turn to Him, a whole nation in a day! What a blessed revival!
I think this wonderful revival to come at the beginning of the millennium, when Christ returns to reign and gathers Israelites out of every nation under Heaven, is good evidence that the day of great revivals is not done. God is the same, His plans run on toward their climax and victory. How wicked for us to be defeated and unbelieving!
III. Christ Delays His Second Coming That Others May Be Saved
We have shown that a mighty revival with unnumbered millions of converts will occur in the Great Tribulation time, and that after that, when Christ returns to reign and regathers the nation Israel, all Jews left alive after some rebels are purged out, will turn to Christ and be saved at once. Those revivals are wonderful, but what about the immediate future? What is God’s will for these days?
God’s will for these days is the same as it was for the days of the apostles. Christ Himself today longs to see souls saved more than anything else. And the Scriptures plainly teach us that Jesus delays His return on earth so that people may be saved.
The Scripture has a wonderful picture of the heart of Christ and His intense longing for the salvation of sinners, in II Peter 3:3-9, as follows:
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Scoffers are to arise, says the Scriptures, who shall doubt the return of the Saviour. Their argument is that “since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” And believers naturally wonder why Christ does not come again and put an end to the present wicked world system, resurrect and gather His saints and close up the present tragic age. But why does Christ not quickly return? Verse 9 tells us, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
The Lord Jesus is not slack in His promise about coming again. But His long-suffering heart wishes to delay until others may be saved. He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” And this is given in the Bible as the reason for the delay in the Saviour’s coming.
This Scripture shows what the Lord Jesus has on His dear heart. The “Bible teachers” who spend their time principally in speculation about the time of the Lord’s coming, about the mark of the Beast and signs of the times; the men who preach from newspapers as much as the Bible would do well if they should prayerfully consider what the Lord is concerned about. Instead of spending their time on speculation and guessing and date-setting about the Lord’s return, they would far better be spending their time in soul-winning, making glad the heart of the Saviour.
We have shown in this chapter how God will give mighty revivals during the tribulation time and then when Jesus comes from Heaven to set up His throne as promised, at Jerusalem. But we should remember that the Lord Jesus is now waiting for us to have revivals. The Saviour delays His coming because He is not willing that sinners should perish. In other words, the Lord is as much concerned about revivals and as willing to give them now as at any other time. It is not fair to draw any inference from this Scripture contrary to this; the Lord Jesus, before He returns for His saints, still longs for multitudes to be saved and willingly will give great revivals when His people pay the price for them.
This age is an age of revivals. We still have the Great Commission. We still have the promise, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” All the promises of answers to prayer are ours. In Heaven they still rejoice more over one sinner that repents than over ninety-nine just persons. And Jesus is longing continually to have souls saved and delays His return to earth for that one purpose, to give us time and opportunity to have more revivals and win more souls!
Those who say, no more great revivals ignore the clear teaching of the Word of God concerning great revivals yet promised for the future.
Chapter 3 – False Teaching About the Last Days
Thousands of tracts, magazine articles, sermons and radio messages tell the people, “Jesus is coming soon!” “These last days of this dispensation” and similar phrases are very common in the Christian magazines. “Time is running out!” writes one Christian, who means that in a very short time Jesus is certain to come. “The last great mission opportunity before Jesus comes” is the way one mission field is described. A widely-known seminary professor on the west coast is quoted as saying recently, “I believe we are seeing the very closing days of this dispensation.”
Some Christian writers regard the atomic bomb, the rise of Russia, the founding of the new Israel state, the last world war (as they regarded the first world war), as evidence that we are in the very last days before Jesus comes.
All these people, usually faithful Bible believers, earnest Christians, have been influenced and misled by a heresy that has become widespread in recent years. This mistaken teaching holds that we are now, according to what are regarded as definite signs, in the very last few weeks or months or years before Jesus must come; that this period which they call “the last days” is more difficult than ever. They believe that sinners are harder hearted, that Satan deceives people more than ever, that world conditions make it harder to reach people with the gospel, and that for all these reasons great revivals are less likely than ever, if not impossible.
A noble and greatly-used man of God says about the blessed Billy Graham revival in Los Angeles late in 1949: “For these three thousand we are profoundly grateful to God, and our confidence in the power of mass evangelism to sweep folks into the kingdom of God has been restored.”
Our brother agrees that the day of mass evangelism has not passed, though it took the Los Angeles revival to prove it. But it is noteworthy that many other people like this noble brother had been led to feel that mass evangelism had been outdated, no longer able “to sweep folks into the kingdom of God.” We thank God that his confidence in this matter has been restored, but we need to face the false teaching, so prevalent, which has undermined the confidence of the people that great revivals and mass evangelism are possible today.
Again and again godly men have asked me how the work in the revival field goes. “Isn’t it getting harder to have revivals?” they ask. And they are astonished when I tell them that it is not. And many others who are defeated lament that they cannot get the publicity that evangelists could once get, that local conditions like the competition of movies and radio and sports and the grip of modernists on the churches is unfavorable to revivals. And in the case of literally thousands of preachers these thoughts are connected with the teaching they have absorbed that the Lord Jesus is certain to return soon, and that in the immediate period before His return we will be unable to have great revivals.
“The great apostasy is on,” people say, and they mean that they think the modernism of today proves that the end of gospel opportunity is about at hand, forgetting that great waves of infidelity have come to the world and even to the church down through many centuries, as it was in England before the Wesleyan revivals, as it came in France before that, as it came even in the early church in the first centuries of the Christian era.
The defeatism of Christians, who are not bold in preaching nor bold in prayer because they believe that Christian work is less effective than ever before, that the gospel does not bring the results that it did before, and that great revivals are less likely than ever before, is tragic indeed. And it is especially sad to see this defeatism springing up because of misinterpretation of Scriptures by Christians who really believe the Bible and love Jesus Christ.
This ultradispensational teaching that Jesus is certain to come soon, that certain signs prove the age is rushing to an early end, that the apostasy, world conditions and increased activity of Satan make gospel efforts less fruitful and revivals more difficult and unlikely, is a distressing perversion of a great truth. It is true that Jesus may come at any moment, but the ultradispensationalists do not preach the emphasis that Jesus urged, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 25:13), and the Bible doctrine often stated and inferred that Jesus might have returned any time since Pentecost and may return now at any time. Instead, they emphasize world conditions and so-called signs, and spend their time in study of the technical details of prophecy and speculation rather than on the soul-winning work which Jesus clearly told us to be about until He should return.
Jesus would have us to watch for His coming simply because He commanded us to watch. However, the custom has grown up among a lot of premillennial Christians of looking for Christ’s return because we have had the first or the second world war, or of looking for Christ’s return because Zionists and infidel Jews have established the modern nation Israel in Palestine. Some are moved more by newspaper accounts than by the plain command of the Lord Jesus.
And earnest Christians ought to recognize that this ultradispensational outlook is largely a retreat from alarming conditions which Christians are not willing to face and for which they think the gospel is not sufficient. Too many Christians see the wickedness of the human heart, as expressed in Hitler’s murderous career and in the far worse wickedness of communism, and their faith wavers. Instead of an attitude of aggressive evangelism with the gospel which is really the dynamite of God, sufficient for any generation, they declare that such a generation as this is too hard for God, that Satan is too active, that the apostasy is too great and conditions too unfavorable for a revival.
Let us face this defeatism for what it is. Let us recognize the lack of faith, the powerlessness for the retreat of Christians from the battle which seems hard.
Indeed, some Christians rationalize the situation and subconsciously evade the facts of their powerlessness and unbelief with the doctrine that we are in the last days, and it is impossible to win souls in any great numbers. That is bad enough, but many such Christians are actually not much concerned about soul-winning and would much rather examine the Scriptures with a kind of morbid curiosity, hoping to be thought wise, when really they shed no tears for souls and never wait before God pleading for revival or His mighty Pentecostal power.
Learned men say to the people, “Let us gather around the Word,” and then they examine the Word of God as if it were a museum piece. It is as if, in a museum; soldiers gather around a sword, talk with interest of its history, how it was made, who wielded it, and tell what exploits were wrought with it in the past, yet never take this same sword to battle. So do many “Bible teachers” and “Bible students” use the Word of God. The Bible is not simply to be the object of dispassionate, technical interest and investigation. It is not a museum curiosity! It is the sword of the Spirit which ought to be used to cut sinners to the heart. It contains the gospel, the dynamite of God which is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. “Is not my word like as a fire? . . . and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29), the Lord asks. So all the searching of the Bible and the searching of the daily newspapers to find some “signs” that prove Christ will come within a certain specified time is contrary to the spirit of the Scriptures and does dishonor to the Lord Jesus Christ who left us here simply to get the gospel to every creature.
I. The Bible Doctrine That Christ’s Return Is Imminent Cannot Be Reconciled With the Teaching That He Could Only Return After Modern Events
There are two theories about the premillennial coming of Christ which are contradictory. Both of them cannot be true.
One theory is that Jesus will not come until certain signs have appeared. Some think Jesus cannot come until the gospel is preached again to all the world. Some think Jesus could not come until what they call “the budding of the fig tree,” the re-establishment of the nation Israel as it has recently been reestablished in Palestine. Others think that Jesus could not return until the so-called “great apostasy,” the wave of modernism in the church which has occurred in America in the last fifty years and is now possibly past its climax. Many would say that the first and second world wars are signs of the soon coming of Christ. If that be true, then Jesus could not have come before these wars. Others believe that certain earthquakes, that famine following the wars, that the present capital-labor controversy encouraged by socialists and communists everywhere are signs of Christ’s coming, and that therefore Christ could not have come before these clashes occurred and communism and socialism reached their present popularity. I want you to see that this first and popular theory I am discussing is simply that Jesus was to come only after certain definite signs should appear.
The other and contradictory theory is that Jesus might have returned any time after Pentecost. No one knew when He would return, so it would have been possible for Him to have returned before the first or second world wars, before the evolution theory became widely prominent and the present great rage of modernism developed. He might have come before the modern missionary movement. Or he may come now at any moment. This theory, or doctrine, we will call it, is the doctrine of the imminency of Christ’s return. But note carefully that this doctrine of the immanency of Christ’s return contradicts the doctrine that Jesus could not come until a certain set time in a program and that He must come after a number of specified signs are fulfilled. The teaching that Christ must come at a set time or in a particular generation and only after a certain program of signs is fulfilled is entirely different from the doctrine of the imminent coming of Christ. And the imminent coming of Christ is clearly taught in the Scriptures.
I beg your patience as I state it again. It is important for us to see that one cannot hold to the imminency of Christ’s return, that is, that He may come at any moment, that He might have come at any time since Pentecost as far as any one then could know, and that Christians, all through the ages, were right to expect Christ to come at any moment, and to watch for His coming, and to believe at the same time that certain signs must come first. That doctrine that Christ’s coming is imminent, the time of His coming unknown and unknowable, is clearly taught in the Bible. But one cannot hold to the imminency of Christ’s return, and at the same time believe that there had to be a first world war before Christ could return, or that Christ could not return before the nation Israel was established in Palestine; or that Christ could not return before the present wave of modernism and worldliness. Every reader may take his choice; he can believe in Christ’s imminent return, as taught in the Scriptures, or he can believe that Christ’s coming had to await certain events. The two doctrines are irreconcilable. They cannot be harmonized. The intelligent Bible believer cannot hold to both positions. And the Bible certainly clearly teaches the imminent return of Christ, that is, that Christ may return at any moment.
That being true, it will naturally be impossible for anybody to tell when we are in the last days of this dispensation. That being true, there can be no signs which definitely show the approach of the return of Christ. If Christ had to wait until certain signs appear before He can return, then His return is not imminent. On the other hand, if Paul was right to expect the Lord’s return in his day, as he did, speaking of “we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord” (I Thess. 4:15), then all are wrong who think that Christ’s coming is now indicated by the first and second world war, the great falling away of these days, the founding of the nation Israel in Palestine recently, etc. Either Christ might have come at any moment, as He taught, or He could not return until certain other events occurred. Both cannot be true. If Christ cannot now return until the gospel is preached to some tribes in the Amazon valley, then the imminent coming of Christ could not be true.
But, let me say again, the imminency of Christ’s coming is clearly taught in the Bible. To the disciples on Mount Olivet and to all succeeding generations of Christians, Jesus commanded, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matt. 24:42). Again He said to them and to us, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (vs. 44). Again He said to these disciples, and to all Christians who come after them, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 25:13). Then He told them, “And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mark 13:37). If these Scriptures are to be taken at honest face value, then all Christians, including those first disciples and including Christians of all ages, have been commanded to watch for Christ’s return, since He might come at any moment.
Christ’s second coming, then, does not now wait, and never did wait, on any world events.
II. No One Knows Even Approximately When Jesus Will Come
In the Olivet discourse the Saviour discusses the second coming. The clearest point in all His teaching on the second coming is that no one knows when it will be. Consider Mark 13:32-37:
“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”
Now observe the clear teaching of the Saviour that no man can know the time:
1. The angels do not know when Jesus will come.
2. The Lord Jesus Himself while on earth did not know when He would return.
3. Jesus said His second coming was so wholly unpredictable that it was illustrated by the servants waiting for their master’s return. The master might come in the evening, midnight, cock-crowing or in the morning. In this world no one can foretell even approximately when Jesus will return and when this age will end. If the more than nineteen hundred years which have already elapsed since Christ promised to return be divided up into four watches or periods to represent evening, midnight, cock-crowing and morning, we find that Jesus is saying that no one can know even within centuries of the time of His return.
4. The all-important teaching of Jesus about His return is that He may come at any moment. His coming is imminent.
Jesus may not come for one hundred years, for five hundred years, for one thousand years. People often say, “Jesus is coming soon.” That cannot be proven by Scripture. It is not what Jesus said. Jesus said, “Behold, I come quickly” (Rev. 22:7). We know Jesus will come suddenly. Whether He will come soon or late, we do not know. Whether He will come at evening or at midnight or at cock-crowing or in the morning, we do not know. Jesus said plainly that we are not to know. We are simply to wait. We are to expect His coming, to be ready for His coming and to be doing His blessed will in carrying the gospel to every creature but we do not know even the approximate time of His coming, nor of the end of this age.
This same strong teaching is given in Matthew 24:36-39. Again we have the clear statement of Jesus that no one can know even the approximate time of His coming. Read it carefully:
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
Again Jesus plainly says that no man can know the day or hour of His return. He repeats that even the angels in Heaven do not know the time, and then He illustrates the total lack of information which any man can have about the time of the second coming. As it was in the days before the flood when people ate, drank, married, and gave in marriage and had no hint of the time when the flood would come until “the flood came and took them all away,” just so surprising and unforeseen will be Christ’s second coming. Before the flood they did not know even one day ahead of time when it would come. So from the words of the Lord Jesus Himself, we properly infer that we cannot know even one day ahead of time when Jesus will come.
Again this question of Christ’s return and the restoration of the kingdom to Israel was brought up by the disciples after Christ’s resurrection. Read the discussion in Acts 1:5-7:
“For john truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.”
Jesus had told the disciples to tarry and wait there until they were endued with power from on high. They were to be baptized with the Holy Ghost and so supernaturally empowered for soul-winning.
Do you ever find Christians more concerned about the technical details of prophecy, more concerned about speculation as to the time of Christ’s return than about soul-winning? Well, the twelve apostles before they were Spirit-filled had the same carnal viewpoint. Instead of rejoicing that they were to be filled with the Spirit for soul-winning, they immediately jumped to the hopeful conclusion that Christ referred to His return, the restoration of David’s throne and the future independence of Israel. So they said, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel.” Then Jesus in strong and emphatic language told the disciples that the time and season of His glorious return and the restoration of Israel were not within their province at all, not matters for them to know. He said:
“It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:7, 8.
It is well to remember that the carnal mind seizes on externals rather than spiritual internals. The carnal nature is more concerned with incidentals than fundamentals. Men would rather be baptized than born again. Men would rather talk in tongues than have the mighty soul-winning power of the Holy Spirit. Just so, modern speculating, ultradispensationalists prefer to look for signs rather than to obey the Great Commission and to win souls.
Let us clearly understand what Jesus taught. He said, “It is not for us to know the times or seasons” concerning the second coming. Not the day, nor the hour, not the year, not the era of the second coming can be foreseen. Jesus expressly said that the Father deliberately kept this secret and it is not one that Christians should seek to know.
III. Date-Setting, Speculation, an Embarrassing Heresy
How it appeals to foolish human pride for a man to think, “In my superior wisdom I have figured out something others do not know!” And particularly, Bible teachers like to show their superior understanding of the Scriptures and the times, because, first if ‘the discovery’ is sensational and will help get a crowd of excited hearers and second, if it will be a good alibi for man’s powerlessness and fruitlessness in soul-winning. Men try to make the headlines by predicting when the next war will begin and when the next depression will be upon us. One can arouse more excitement and attract more attention if he can give plausible evidence that he has discovered approximately when the Saviour will return. That indicates that such a Bible teacher is more spiritual and more discerning and more everything that a proud carnal heart desires to appear to be! It is not surprising therefore that we have constantly recurring efforts to set the approximate date of the Lord’s return.
For example, more than a century ago a farmer in New York state, named Miller, started to read his Bible and discovered, he thought, what the scholars had overlooked. By making a day mean a year (which it never does) he took some of the prophecies of Daniel from out of their setting and figured that Jesus must return on a certain day in 1846. He convinced many of his neighbors that he was right and these Millerites made them white robes and got ready for the rapture; but they waited in vain on hilltops and haystacks for the Saviour to catch them away.
One day last summer I sat at dinner with Dr. Lowe, a professor of Biblical Interpretation at the Practical Bible Training School, Johnson City, New York. He told me that his people lived in the community of Farmer Miller and many of them had been convinced that Jesus was coming on the day announced by Miller. One uncle planted no crops. Why should he when he wouldn’t be there to gather them? He showed his faith by sitting on his front porch while others toiled. But Jesus did not come and that winter thirteen of his cows starved while he and his family barely lived on the milk from one cow and from corn meal given by a neighbor.
Seventh-Day Adventists are the spiritual descendants of the Millerites, and many of them still try to figure the time of the Lord’s return by misinterpretation of Daniel’s prophecy.
How foolish to think that the secret of the date of Christ’s return is given in the book of Daniel and that Jesus and none of His disciples knew it!
The British-Israel cult could not find the date of Christ’s return in the Bible so they turned instead to the Great Pyramid and they count it an inspired revelation like the Bible. In the ascending passage leading to the tombs of the kings in the pyramid they figured that one larger portion with a higher ceiling would represent the time of Christ’s return; so they took a tape measure from the supposed original edge of the pyramid through the passage to the enlargement. They counted every inch a year and so began to foretell when Jesus would come!
One greatly-heralded British-Israel teacher in Los Angeles predicted that Jesus would come September 16, 1936, as I recall. Needless to say, his prophecy was proved wrong and his influence was broken. Date-setting for the return of the Saviour has always been a heresy which turns out with embarrassment.
In my boyhood I saw in the old opera house at Gainesville, Texas, a picture prepared under the direction of “Pastor Russell” of the “Millenial Dawn” cult. He predicted, “Millions now living will never die,” and his books agreed that Jesus would come in 1914. When 1914 brought not the return of the Saviour but the First World War, Pastor Russell said Jesus came invisibly. The Russellites, later called Rutherfordites, now called Jehovah’s Witnesses, still teach this heresy. But they still die!
Since speculation as to the date of the return of Christ has proved so foolish in the past and always is connected with heresy, it seems that Bible-believing Christians would take seriously the word of Jesus, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:7).
Such speculations are carnal, not spiritual, and grow out of human pride and from misinterpretation of the Bible. No one knows even approximately when Jesus will return. No one knows the day, the year, the generation when Jesus will return. He may come today. Praise His name, I would be glad to see Him; but there is no way for any honest Bible student to foretell whether Jesus will come soon or after hundreds of years.
IV. There Are No “Signs” of Christ’s Coming by Which We May Know It Is Near
In my early ministry I sometimes preached on “Signs of Christ’s Second Coming.” I have a chapter on that subject in my book, The Coming Kingdom of Christ. In a second edition I was compelled to modify the chapter. I was compelled to see that the next thing on God’s program, as far as Bible prophecy is concerned, is Christ’s coming in the air to receive His saints when the Christian dead shall be raised and living saints changed and called up to meet Him in the air. That event is imminent; that means it may occur at any time. If Christ may come at any moment, then obviously we need not wait for any signs. And any signs could not make Christ’s coming other than imminent, could not prove He would come this year or day and could not prove He would not come this year or day. The Bible teaching is that Jesus may come at any moment, signs or no signs. He could have come even in apostolic days before any recent events could have occurred.
But did not Jesus speak about signs of His coming? Jesus spoke particularly of one sign but that was not a sign of the first phase of His coming and the rapture but a sign which will occur after the rapture, at the close of the tribulation period, before Christ comes visibly, triumphantly, to the earth to reign.
This sign is mentioned in the Olivet discourse of Jesus. In Matthew 24:3 we have the disciples’ question, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”
You see, the disciples asked, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Or better translated, “What is the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the age?” In Luke 21:25-27 Jesus answered as follows about signs:
“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”
It is similar to the passage in Matthew 24:29,30 where Jesus mentioned the sign in these words:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
Note the following facts about Jesus’ answer:
1. The sign is to be “immediately after the tribulation.; I understand from the Scriptures that the tribulation cannot begin till after the rapture, so Jesus must come into the air to receive His saints before the Great Tribulation. “The sign” is after Christ’s coming for His saints, not before.
2. We see that Christ’s coming referred to by the prophets was His coming to the earth to reign after the rapture. Jews would naturally look forward to the part of Christ’s coming that will affect them, when Jews will be regathered from all the earth, when the “angels…shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:31), when Christ will destroy all the enemies of the Jews and overthrow all Gentile dominion and restore David’s throne in Jerusalem and sit on David’s throne. It is this kingdom that the apostles asked about in Acts 1:6: “Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Gentile Christians are naturally more concerned about the rapture, the first phase of Christ’s coming. But Old Testament prophecies in the interest of Jews center mainly in the second phase of Christ’s coming, His revelation to Israel.
After the world is in the Great Tribulation time it will be very simple for those who know the Bible to learn when Jesus will return. There must be seven years in Daniel’s seventieth week. The Great Tribulation time itself is clearly announced to continue 3 1/2 years, 42 months, 1,260 days. (Dan. 7:25; Rev. 11:2, 3; Rev.12:14.) The terrifying reign of the Man of Sin is definitely limited. After the first phase of Christ’s second coming, the rapture, the second phase must come within a specified time. And just before Jesus returns to the earth with saints and angels to fight the Battle of Armageddon and set up His kingdom, the sign of His coming will appear in the heavens.
There is no sign of Christ’s coming promised before the rapture.
No preacher has a Scriptural warrant, I think, for preaching that current events are signs of Christ’s soon return. Mussolini was not the Antichrist, as some Bible teachers said, and they will be as foolish if they so designate Stalin or Tito.
We are not to believe Christ is coming because of some “signs” but because He said so!
V. Christ’s Coming for His Saints Does Not Await the Preaching of the Gospel to Every Creature
A great missionary leader, a friend whom I greatly admire and love, has recently published a book in which he pictures an imaginary scene. Satan is pictured as in counsel with the princes of darkness, the leading demons who supervise his work in various countries. Some demons report proudly that the gospel is not being preached in the countries over which they bear evil sway, and all gloat that Christ cannot now return until these people hear the gospel. Missionaries shot down or discouraged before they can enter Afghanistan, and the failure of missionary groups to reach other isolated tribes, is cited. And then Satan himself and his demons are pictured as being greatly distressed and defeated because at last there is prospect of the gospel being preached to every creature. Now, though they have defeated Christ’s planned return so long, it appears that the gospel will be preached to every creature and the Saviour will return.
It is here taught that Jesus cannot return to take away His saints until the gospel is again preached to all the world. But I believe that this is an entirely wrong interpretation of Scripture. The gospel has already been preached to all the world in early Christian times, if not in this generation. And if Jesus could not return until the gospel is preached to every tribe again, then His plain commands to watch, that He might come at any time, would seem out of place and misleading, if not actually dishonest. That surely we cannot concede. The imminent coming of Christ, so clearly taught in the Scripture, means that He might have come at any moment, may come at any moment now, whether the gospel is preached again to all the world or not.
Mistaught people sometimes think that Matthew 24:14 refers to a sign of Christ coming. It says, “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” But the context shows that this is a message primarily for Jews who will be living in the tribulation time and not for us today. The next verse mentions the Abomination of Desolation, when the Antichrist will stand in the temple in Jerusalem claiming to be God, which event must come after the rapture and which begins the Great Tribulation time. The following verse speaks of the flight of the Jews from the Man of Sin in those days, and verse 21 plainly says, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”
So during the Great Tribulation time the gospel of salvation will be preached to the world in view of Christ’s literal return. The preaching of the gospel to all the world mentioned in Matthew 24:14 will be after the first phase of Christ’s coming, not before.
The simple truth is that the gospel has already been preached to all the world. I remember that Dr. R.A. Torrey called attention to two or three Scriptures which show that the gospel has already been preached to all the world. In Acts 2:5, “there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven” and these men heard the gospel at Pentecost. In Romans 1:8 Paul says “that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world,” and how could people have heard of the wonderful faith of the fine Christians at Rome if they had not heard the gospel? Colossians 1:4-6 also says that the gospel had come to all the world in Paul’s time. So Matthew 24:14 could not teach and does not teach that the gospel is to be yet preached in all the world before Jesus comes.
Besides, if the preaching of the gospel to some unknown tribe in Central America or the Amazon valley is an event that must occur before Jesus can come, then Christ’s coming could not be imminent and the Scriptural warning that we must watch since Jesus may come any day or year would be foolish.
Let us say again there are no signs that will indicate when Jesus is to come and there is not a single prophetic event which must come before the rapture of the saints.
VI. The Modern Establishment of a Nation Israel in Palestine Not “the Budding of the Fig Tree,” Not a Sign of Christ’s Soon Return
Some months ago Editor Meldau, of Christian Victory magazine, my esteemed friend, wrote me and about a dozen well-known Bible teachers, asking us to prepare a statement for a forthcoming issue of his good magazine on a subject something like this, “Is the Re-establishment of Israel as an independent nation in Palestine recently, the budding of the fig tree mentioned in Matthew 24:32, 33, and a sign of Christ’s coming?” I was glad to give my answer, and glad indeed when the symposium came out in the good magazine that nearly all the Bible teachers agreed that the recent establishing of an independent nation of Jews in Palestine did not fulfill the prophecy of the budding of the fig tree as foretold in Matthew 24:32, 33, and was not especially a sign of Christ’s soon return.
Since that matter has often been misunderstood, let us read the passage involved and see clearly what the Saviour said in that Olivet discourse, about the budding of the fig tree. Matthew 24:29-34 reads as follows:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”
Let us note very simply some of the things which Jesus taught in this passage:
1. The time discussed is at the close of the Great Tribulation, and some time after the rapture of the saints. It is “immediately after the tribulation of those days . . .” (vs. 29). So the parable of the fig tree does not apply to these days before the rapture and before the Great Tribulation, but to the days “immediately after the tribulation.” Nothing before the tribulation period could be meant here. The recent developments in Palestine are not meant, it is quite clear, since they did not happen “immediately after the tribulation of those days…”
2. The meaning of the parable is clearly explained. Certain events which will follow the Great Tribulation are like a fig tree whose branch is tender and which puts forth leaves in the spring. These events are the appearing of the sign of the Son of man in Heaven, when Christ starts to return, and the sight of the Son of man coming in the clouds of Heaven; and the sending of the angels to regather Israelites from all over the world. Then verse 33 says, “So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” When converted Israelites at the close of the Great Tribulation time, or other saints converted in that tribulation time, see Christ coming in the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory to set up His throne at Jerusalem and reign on the earth, and when they see the angels of God sent out miraculously around the world with the great sound of a trumpet to regather the elect, God’s chosen nation Israel, from among all the lands of the earth, then these troubled people may know that Christ’s coming and reign is immediately at hand. So there would be no use in speculating about the matter, because the meaning of the parable is clearly given in the words of the Saviour Himself.
And we should distinguish between the present immigration of godless Jews into Palestine, unconverted and unrepentant, and going by human means and with human purposes, from that other great gathering when every Jew left alive in the world will be gathered by the angels and brought to Palestine at Christ’s return. The present movement in Palestine is human. It is not particularly a subject of Bible prophecy. It has no particular significance except that the Scripture indicates that some Jews will be in Palestine and will make a treaty with the Antichrist in the tribulation time. The present influx of Jews into Palestine is not the great regathering which will be done miraculously by the angels of God when Jesus returns in person to reign, after the rapture and after the tribulation period.
3. We must make sure to notice, too, that the coming of Christ here mentioned is the second phase of His coming. It is not His coming into the air invisibly to raise the Christian dead and receive them and us together, and carry us away for a honeymoon in Heaven. This is not the coming of Christ for His saints. It is the coming of Christ with the raptured saints, after the tribulation is over. The rapture will come, as most reputable premillennial Bible teachers agree, before the Great Tribulation time. Then after the Great Tribulation (which will occur in Daniel’s seventieth week, as I believe), Christ will return with these saints and with angels to fight the battle of Armageddon, to destroy the kingdom of the Antichrist, and to set up His throne at Jerusalem and reign on the earth for a thousand years of joy and peace. There are two separate phases of Christ’s coming. That for which we wait is His coming into the air to receive His saints. Then after the tribulation time, those who will have been converted on the earth will long for Christ’s return, with us, to set up His kingdom. It is this second phase of Christ’s coming, when He shall come literally to the earth to take charge and to reign, that is discussed in this passage.
4. Jesus said in verse 34, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all things be fulfilled.” I rather think that “this generation” means the race of Jews and the race will not be destroyed despite all the Hitlers and Antichrists. Dr. Scofield’s notes on this verse say about generation:
“Gr. genea, the primary definition of which is, ‘race, kind, family, stock, breed.’ (So all lexicons.) That the word is used in this sense here is sure because none of ‘these things,’ i.e. the world-wide preaching of the kingdom, the great tribulation, the return of the Lord in visible glory, and the regathering of the elect, occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, A.D. 70. The promise is, therefore, that the generation-nation, or family of Israel–will be preserved unto ‘these things’; a promise wonderfully fulfilled to this day.”
But if the word generation here means people living in one particular life-span, it still could mean only that group living “immediately after the tribulation of those days . . .” as Jesus Himself places them in verse 29. The so-called “budding of the fig tree” cannot happen until after Christ comes for His saints, after the Great Tribulation.
I am glad personally that there is now a land where oppressed Jews will be welcomed. But these Jews, going back in unbelief, have possession of only a very small portion of the land of Israel. They do not even have undisputed possession of Jerusalem. They have not gone back under the blessing and forgiveness of God. Blindness in part is still upon Israel.
The veil is not yet taken away from their faces. The great future regathering and conversion of Israel will take place by supernatural means after the tribulation time. And the establishment of a little state called Israel in recent months is not a sign that Christ may come soon. Christ may come very soon, but it needs no sign such as that to prove it. He may not come for long years. No one knows.
Let me stress with all my soul that current events do not especially affect the simple fact, clearly taught throughout the Bible, that we can have revival now, that God is in the saving business, and that any time God’s people meet God’s requirements, they may have His glorious power and the manifestation of it in the saving of multitudes of souls, in great revivals. Those who go by the newspapers and are greatly excited by current events may feel that the atomic bomb, the hydrogen bomb, the upsurge of communism, the modernism in many churches, the possibility of a third world war, and the establishment of the modern nation Israel, mean we are in “the last days,” and that therefore great revivals are impossible. But those who stedfastly depend upon the words of Christ will remember that “The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever” (I Pet. 1:24, 25). The harvest is still great and the labourers few. If God’s people, called by His name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways, God will hear from Heaven, will forgive their sin, and heal their land, as He promised in II Chronicles 7:14. All of God’s promises are still true. God’s tender heart toward sinners still yearns for them to be saved. God’s Holy Spirit has all the convicting and saving power He ever had. The Word of God is still quick and powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword. The blessed promise of Jesus, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12), is still true. Do not let false teachings and heresies about these so-called “last days” keep you from believing the Word of God, that we can have revivals now!
Chapter 4 – “The Last Days,” A Blessed Age of Revival
MANY people use the term, “the last days” to mean the time since World War I or the last ten or twenty-five or fifty years before Christ returns to catch away His saints. Very generally such hyper-dispensationalists mean that a certain period just before Christ will return is now upon us, and that in these so-called “last days” sinners are harder, conditions are more desperate, and greatest revivals are not possible, or at least very unlikely. But that use of the term, “the last days,” is unscriptural and wrong. The Bible does not use the term in that sense, but in another, which is very clear. And we ought to mean what the Bible means when we use the term, “the last days,” speaking of Bible matters.
I should like to show you, by God’s help, that the term, “the last days” in Scripture, really means the period from before Pentecost until Christ’s return; that the term, “the last days,” is never used in the New Testament to refer to the last few years before Christ returns; and that “the last days” are intended to be a whole age of revivals, from Pentecost on until the kingdom of Christ comes.
Since on this matter there has been much misinformation and since our whole attitude toward the possibility of great revivals and soul-winning work will depend upon how we understand this question, I urge every reader to be very prayerful and careful to understand exactly what the Scriptures say on the subject.
I. “The Last Days” in Scripture Really Mean the Period From Before Pentecost Until Christ’s Return
On the day of Pentecost the mocking crowd was astonished became the apostles and other disciples preached the gospel in mighty power to Jews out of every nation under Heaven, in their own language. Some doubted; others mocked. But Peter stood up to explain the matter, as recorded in Acts 2:15-21, in the following words:
“For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Joel said, as quoted by Peter, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: . . . And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” When the mighty power of God came at Pentecost and three thousand were saved in a day, Peter says, “This is it! These are the last days about which Joel spoke!”
Here we have the clear, inspired statement that “the last days” included Pentecost. By divine inspiration Joel had in mind Pentecost when he promised that “in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.” This is a Scripture which clearly defines for us the New Testament meaning of the term, “the last days.” So let us use the term in the Bible sense. According to this Bible use of the term, it would be utterly improper to call just the period since World War I, or the last few years before Jesus comes, whenever that may be, “the last days.” “The last days” is the period which includes this whole age of grace, beginning with Christ and having its first great typical manifestation at Pentecost. Bible Christians ought to follow Bible terminology, or at least they ought not to use Bible terms in a sense utterly foreign to the way they are used in the Bible. To say, “We are in the last days,” is all right if you mean the gospel age including Pentecost, the whole period covered by the Great Commission. But it is not all right if you mean only the recent ten or twenty or fifty years.
No one can know how near we are to Christ’s return, and so it would be improper to say that we are in the last days before Christ’s return, on that ground. And it would be improper to use the term, “the last days,” if we mean the term to be a Scriptural term, without including Pentecost. At Pentecost Peter said, “This is that.” Pentecost was included in the blessed prophecy of Joel, that in the last days God would pour out His spirit and send great revivals.
Certainly the last days, as defined in Joel, did not end at Pentecost. If we go back to the passage in Joel 2:28-32, and the following verses in chapter 3, we can see clearly that Joel had in mind a period reaching far beyond Pentecost, to the return of Christ, the restoration of Israel, and related events. Even the part quoted by Peter in Acts 2:15-21 plainly speaks of great catastrophes in the heavens and the sun and moon, “before that great and notable day of the Lord come.” And the very next verse in Joel, after those Peter quoted, beginning chapter 3, says, “For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem….” The period called the last days will continue to Israel’s restoration. The subheads of the third chapter of Joel, as given in the Scofield Reference Bible, are, “The restoration of Israel,” “The judgment of the Gentile nations after Armageddon,” “Retrospect: the day of the Lord,” “Full kingdom blessing.” I give them here to show that Joel really foretold a whole age, the revival age, the gospel age which would include Pentecost and run on to the return of Christ, the regathering of Israel and their conversion. This is the period of time called in the Scriptures, by divine authority, “the last days.”
This great period of time announced by Joel as “the last days” is co-existent with the scope of the Great Commission Jesus said in Matthew 28:19,20:
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
The Great Commission covers a period of time beginning with Christ, and ends with the “end of the world,” that is, the “consummation of the age.” At once the spiritual mind sees the fitness of the great promise. God is to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. Sons and daughters, servants and handmaids, old men and young men are to be filled with the Spirit of God and are to prophesy, that is, to witness with the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. And during this entire age it is promised, “… it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” During this gospel age the gospel was to be taken to all the world, as the Great Commission had clearly outlined. Not to Jews only was the gospel to be preached, but literally to every creature, as Jesus said in Mark 16:15. It is true that in Old Testament times one who sought God could find Him. It is true that Jonah preached the gospel to the heathen at Nineveh and many were converted. It is true that there is evidence that Nebuchadnezzar, that Naaman the Syrian, that Ruth the Moabitess, that Rahab the Canaanite harlot, and many other Gentiles turned to God and were saved. But during Old Testament times the gospel was not boldly carried to every creature. So it was not true in this same beautiful sense then, as it is now, that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The “whosoever” is more prominent in this blessed gospel day.
It is also fitting that when Jesus commands us to go to all the world, He promises the power for our ministry. How sad it would be if anyone were commanded to take the gospel and could not have poured upon him the Holy Spirit! How sad it would be for anybody to be commanded to preach the gospel and get sinners saved, if he could not have a supernatural enduement of power! You see, this great gospel age we are in now is the age of the Great Commission, and this is the period which is called in the Bible “the last days.” We ought not to use the term in another sense not Scriptural and contrary to this clear Bible usage. Those who speak of “the last days,” meaning these present days we are in, as a separate time not like the rest of the gospel age, are wrong.
II. “The Last Days” Is Terminology Never Used in the New Testament to Refer to the Last Few Years Before Christ’s Return
Several times in the New Testament, language like this is used: “these last days” (Heb. 1:2), “in the latter times” (I Tim. 4:1), “in the last days” (II Tim. 3:1), “in the last days” (II Pet. 3:3), “the last time” (I John 2:18). It is a striking fact that in none of these passages of Scripture in the New Testament does the terminology refer to the last few years before Christ shall come (whenever that shall be, we do not know). Let us consider these Scriptures and others often used as if they marked the time we are now in, perhaps since World War I, as if it were a separate time of declension where there would be less soul-winning. We will find that they do not mean the present time more than other times, and they ought not to be used in preaching that certain things now occurring are signs of the soon coming of Christ. That is a misuse of the Scriptures, since they do not refer to this time more than the whole age. As to that, you can judge for yourself after a careful examination of the Scriptures.
1. Note Hebrews 1: 1,2:
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake 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.”
Here the term, “in these last days,” is used of the time in which Jesus Christ brought God’s revelation to earth in person, when He walked on earth. In the ministry of Jesus Christ, then, began the period of time called “these last days.” The period properly means the whole age, we suppose, as defined by Joel, and the period certainly began with Jesus Christ.
2. Consider I Timothy 4:1-3:
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.”
“In the latter times,” this Scripture says, “some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” But verse 3 tells us plainly that this departure from the faith, under the influence of seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, with seared conscience and lying tongue, will result in certain heresies. First, those who depart from the faith will forbid people to marry. Second, they will command to abstain from meats.
Does anyone suppose that these are recent heresies? We know that for centuries the Catholic church has forbidden priests to marry, has forbidden nuns to marry. And in medieval times they laid far more stress upon this than they do today. There were countless thousands of monks of every kind, and monasteries and convents on every hand. The term, “in the latter times,” here could not refer to the last few years.
We also know that the Catholic church has commanded its members not to eat meat on Friday, not to eat meat during lent, etc. These commands are not of God. But this heresy is not new. It has come down for centuries. And the term, “the latter times,” certainly does not mean in recent years.
It must mean that in this gospel age, at various times, such heresies will arise as they have arisen.
3. Consider 2 Timothy 3:7-5:
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
What does the term, “in the last days,” mean in this Scripture? Well, the next verse, verse 6, says: “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts.” So some of that sort were living even then when Paul wrote the letter to Timothy.
And in verse 8, just below, Paul says: “Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.” Again Paul is writing in the present tense. Some of these wicked people in the last days Paul knew himself and said “… so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.” And he uses Jannes and Jambres in the time of Moses as an example, so that we know this is not a new kind of heresy. Modernism is not new. Falling away from the truth is not new. For people to have a form of godliness, but to deny the power thereof, as prophesied in verse 5, is not new. All the Pharisees in the time of Christ were guilty of that sin. We certainly could not say that Paul meant, by divine inspiration, to here picture the last few days or years of this age, just before Christ would come. He was talking about the course of the whole age, and the things mentioned here have been manifested throughout the age. Some of it was manifested in Paul’s time, and he refers to definite men then alive who were guilty of the things mentioned.
It is perfectly all right for a preacher to preach on II Timothy 3:1-5, but it is wrong for him to leave the impression that the sins here mentioned are marks of the last few years, and not of the whole age, the whole period of “the last days” as defined by Joel.
4. Consider II Peter 3:3,
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”
In the last days there shall come scoffers, this Scripture says, who will walk after their own lusts and doubt the second coming of Christ. Now consider honestly; is this a mark only of the last few years? I was converted at nine years old, joined a sound Baptist church when I was twelve, was baptized, and heard fine preaching all of my life. There was never a doubt about the inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Christ, the need for the new birth. My teachers and preachers were not modernists. Yet I never heard any clear teaching on the second coming of Christ all these days. I did not hear it when I attended Decatur Baptist College, nor when I attended Baylor University and got my degree. I did not hear it in the good Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary which I attended. Not until I had been out of the seminary some years was the matter forcibly brought to my mind and I began a careful study. All my life, until I was about thirty years old, I was among good Christian people, among good Bible preachers, but I never heard anything taught about the second coming of Christ! Forty years ago most of the Christians in America knew nothing about the second coming of Christ. But a hundred years ago they knew even less. The truth is that premillennial truth and teaching about the second coming of Christ became prominent in America largely through the ministry of D.L. Moody, Dr. R.A. Torrey, and the teachers and preachers whom they called together and helped to establish in this matter. The truth was spread widely through Bible Institutes and Bible conferences which grew out of the ministry of D.L. Moody, R.A. Torrey, and their associates. For hundreds of years there had been little teaching about the second coming of Christ. In England the Plymouth Brethren spread widely the teaching about Christ’s coming.
Commentaries written long ago scoff at the “Chiliasts,” that is, those who believe in a millennial reign of Christ on earth. Those who believed in Christ’s personal, premillennial return and reign were counted literalists and fanatics. There is more teaching right now about the second coming of Christ than the world has heard for three hundred or four hundred years! So this heresy of men walking after their own lusts and scoffing at the second coming of Christ is not a new heresy. We cannot say that it is peculiar to the last few years since World War I, and it certainly will not be peculiar to the few years before the Lord Jesus returns, whenever that may be.
So the term, “in the last days,” evidently means during this gospel age, as defined by Joel. It certainly does not mean some particular short period in the last part of this age when, according to some, there can be no more great revivals!
5. Consider I john 2:18
“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.”
Here twice is the clause, “it is the last time,” but it is obvious that John means the time then present. And that verse expressly says that though one great antichrist is to come after the rapture of the saints, antichrists were present then.
All those who cry that great apostasy is on, that there are hearts which are hardened against God, that this age is a wicked age, with the spirit of Antichrist, should notice that so it has been in every age! These are the last days, beginning before Pentecost, really beginning with Christ. These are the last days before Christ will come to personally take over the world and destroy the wicked Gentile world powers. But it was “the last time” when John the apostle wrote his first epistle. The great falling away had already begun then, as it has begun in every age. So the term, “the last time,” is meant to fit the whole age and not any last few years of the age. It does not fit 1950 any better than it fit the year A.D. 90.. A man who preaches on this text must preach that the whole age is alike, with the falling away of people, with hatred and opposition to the gospel, and with wicked, anti-Christian people, infidels, atheists and haters of God occurring all through the age.
From a consideration of all the passages which speak about the last days in the New Testament, it is quite clear that the term in the Bible never means just the few years preceding Christ’s coming. And it is quite clear that God has not set off the last few years before Christ’s coming to be different from the rest of the age. God has not even intimated in the Scriptures that before Christ comes there would be a special period of time when men would be harder, when revivals would be impossible or more difficult. All that is the manufactured excuse of those who do not pay God’s price for revival and for soul-winning. It is the subconscious rationalization of people who do not feel that God is able to meet this age, do not feel that the gospel is sufficient, do not feel that God’s power and God’s promises are sufficient. It is the excuse of those who are defeated, backslidden and unbelieving. Or it is the cry of those who have been misled in doctrine by the ultradispensationalists who have taught a false doctrine about a period of “last days” at the close of the age in which it is not supposed that there can be great revivals, and when it is supposed men are more wicked, that God’s Word does not work the same, and that revivals are much more difficult, if not impossible. The scriptures teach the exact opposite, that the whole age alike is the age of revival.
III. “The Last Days” Are This Whole Age of Great Revival
To many, any thought of the last days is a thought of defeat, a thought of sadness about the futility of Christian work. It ought not so to be. The term, “the last days,” ought to bring real joy to the Christian heart. For the term in the Bible means this age of grace, this age when the Great Commission is given to us, this age in which Christ has promised, “And, LO, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” It means this age which is to be marked by great revivals, and those revivals are to mark the end of the age as well as the beginning of it, at Pentecost.
Consider again Joel’s prophecy quoted by Peter at Pentecost, and let us see some of the blessed features which mark this whole age, features which make soul-winning comparatively easier than in other ages, and make great revivals always possible.
First, the whole age is to be characterized by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon Christian workers. In Acts 2:17,18 Peter said:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.”
“I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh”; that is, on all kinds of people, on all races of people. The Holy Spirit is not to be poured out upon a prophet here and there, but upon God’s people, Christian people everywhere who are willing to pay God’s price for soul-winning. Sons and daughters shall prophesy (which means to speak and witness in the power of the Holy Spirit). Young men shall see visions, old men shall dream dreams. Even on servants and handmaidens God will pour out in those days of His Spirit and they shall witness for Christ in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.
We cannot emphasize too strongly that these blessed promises are for the whole age. This mighty pouring out of the Holy Spirit came upon John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ (Luke 1:15). It came upon Christ Himself before He started His public ministry (Luke 3:21,22). The mighty power of the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles after they had waited at Pentecost. That mighty revival at Pentecost was “a specimen revival,” as D.L. Moody loved to say, and as he said publicly in his great campaign in Boston.
Oh, how we need to learn that it is the pouring out of the Holy Spirit which enables people to speak for God with power! The Spirit-filled testimony, the Spirit-empowered prophesying of Christians, whether sons and daughters, handmaidens, old men or young men, is what is needed to win souls. Without a supernatural enabling, a supernatural enduement of power, it is impossible to win souls, impossible to have great revivals. But, thank God, this pouring out of the Holy Spirit is characteristic of this age. D.L. Moody had it just as did Peter at Pentecost. R.A. Torrey, Billy Sunday, and every other soul winner has had it. We, too, may be filled with the Holy Spirit, mightily endued with power from on High for soul-winning. It is the heritage of this age! It is the first mark clearly promised for these last days, which began with Christ’s ministry, had its great, typical, sample manifestation at Pentecost. If we may have the fullness of the Holy Spirit, then we may have revivals! We can have God’s best, God’s all, if we but have the mighty power of His Spirit! Thank God that all through this age, even to the end, the Lord has promised this power to those who seek His face and pay His price. We can have revival now because we can have the flood tides of the Holy Spirit, just as they had at Pentecost. It is the divinely-given mark of this age!
And again, let us take courage from this blessed Scripture passage which Peter quoted from Joel at Pentecost. “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21), said Peter. This is said of the whole period of time, including Pentecost, and including all the time down until the coming of Christ to reign, and His kingdom, on earth. We have called attention already to the fact that the great revival in the tribulation period will be wrought by the same fullness of the Spirit as the great revival at Pentecost. The beginning and ending of the age, and all in between, is to be marked not only by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon God’s people for witnessing and soul-winning, but by the wonderful ease with which anyone who will may be saved! “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Every honest heart who wants salvation may have it. Only those who will not come to Christ miss salvation. Those who are willing to turn from their sins and so willing to trust in Christ and receive Him, are never cast out! What a simple, wonderful, beautiful offer of salvation: “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Every sinner who honestly asks for mercy may have it. And this is a mark of the whole age.
Note the “whosoever.” This is a gospel not just for Jews, but for Gentiles, too–all races, in every clime, in every circumstance. It is a gospel for the rescue mission and the slums of the cities; a gospel for little children as well as reprobates and derelicts. It is a gospel for mature, upright, moral religionists like Nicodemus. Whether up-and-out, whether down-and-out, this whosoever includes them all. It includes heathen people in every race, darkest Africa and poor enslaved China. And this “whosoever” is, in a particular way, the mark of this whole age.
And this verse indicates that the aim of the gospel throughout the age is the same. It is to get people saved. The expectation of the church ought to be everywhere that people will be saved. Every preacher should make his preaching aim at this, which is the aim and intention of the gospel, and a great mark of this gospel age. People should be saved under our preaching! Our Sunday schools, our preaching services, and all the work of the church auxiliaries should head up in this one thing–getting people to call on Christ for mercy and be saved.
The salvation of sinners, of multitudes of sinners, is a characteristic of this whole age, as it was the striking characteristic of the services at Pentecost when Peter spoke these immortal words quoted from Joel. “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
How wonderful that the age should have near its beginning this mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit, this mighty revival at Pentecost! It seems quite clear to any careful student that Pentecost was intended to be a great sample of what the gospel would do. The gospel was preached there to Jews, devout men out of every nation under Heaven, as if to remind us that the whole age would be marked by the spread of the gospel to every race everywhere. In other words, Pentecost was intended to be the first fulfillment of obedience to the command to take the gospel to every creature.
The disciples had been commanded, along with the Great Commission, to tarry at Jerusalem until they should be endued with power from on High. It was impossible, they were told, to do the work they were ordered to do without supernatural enduement. They waited, and when the mighty power of God came, the revival at Pentecost resulted. The revival at Pentecost is evidently intended to be a sample revival, a pattern for the whole age.
There were miracles there? Yes, and that is as if the Lord Jesus would say that we may have His power in any measure necessary. There would be no situation, no age, no civilization, no hardness of human hearts, no combination of circumstances of which the Christian, filled with the Holy Spirit, might not be the master, that is, might not be enabled to win souls in those circumstances. It is true that Christians may be persecuted, may sometimes die for Christ. But the course of the gospel through this age is intended to be a triumphant course. The promise of Psalm 126:6 is, “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” It is a triumphant and certain end that a Christian faces when he goes in the power of the Holy Spirit, preaching and witnessing the Word of God to lost sinners! Pentecost is a sample of what Christians ought to have throughout this wonderful age of grace, these last days prophesied by Joel and Peter.
They spoke in tongues at Pentecost, but mark you, only in the natural languages of people then present who heard the gospel. And this is evidently intended to be a sample and model case here. The gift of tongues was not a gift in some strange jabber, given only for the ecstasy and private and selfish joy of the Christian. No, the gift of tongues simply means that we can have help for any genuine need in getting out the gospel. If I must get the gospel to a Chinese man who cannot understand English, and if I have no time or cannot learn the language, then God can, when He wills, give the power to speak to the man in his own language.
We ought to take Pentecost as a sample of what God planned to give Christians during this age, the power we should have and the results we should have.
Perhaps one of the reasons D.L. Moody had such mighty power and won a million souls to Christ and shook two continents was that D.L. Moody believed that God would give him this same power, this same kind of revivals; and, praise God, He did!
I hope that every honest reader will shake out of his mind the wicked defeatism which often accompanies the thought of “the last days.” The term, “the last days,” means this whole gospel age. It is an age of the pouring out of the Holy Ghost. It is an age of the conversion of multitudes. It is an age when “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The fullness of the Spirit, the power to win souls, is for all flesh, servants and handmaidens, old men and young men, sons and daughters–all who will pay God’s price for fullness of power. What a wonderful gospel age in which we live! How our unbelief, our defeatism, our selfish alibis for our powerlessness and fruitlessness have grieved God! These last days are the blessed days of revival, the one period in all the world when revival is easiest, when the power of God is promised in the greatest fullness, when the gospel is offered most freely to every creature! Let us take advantage of our heritage, and enter into the power promised and the fruitage promised!
Chapter 5 – Great Revivals in Bible Times Prove We Can Have Revival Now
FAINT-HEARTED Christians who watch the clouds so much they do not sow, and observe the wind until they do not reap, are defeated by the manifest wickedness on every side, and do not believe that God can give revival now. Many people cite the coldness of the people of God, the modernism and infidelity in many of the pulpits and in many places of denominational leadership, the widespread appeal of pleasure, the outrageous wickedness on every hand, as evidence that God cannot now give great revivals, or will not give great revivals as He once did. But such faint-hearted Christians should make a study of the great revivals in Bible times and they would find that these revivals came in most cases in the midst of wickedness as great and apostasy and false religions as prevalent as those we face today. It is a most heartening study to observe some of the great revivals in the Bible and see how, against amazing odds, God used one person or a few, in each case, to turn a whole nation back to God, or a strategic city back to God.
There are innumerable examples. I could show how, among captive Israelites in far-off Babylon, Nehemiah had his heart warmed and stirred, and was used in a revival that took a remnant back to Jerusalem and reestablished the nation Israel in Palestine, with walls and gates rebuilt, and eventually the temple, so that Christ the Saviour could be born in a Jewish Bethlehem and preach in Jerusalem, and there be crucified according to prophecy. Or I could cite the revival under the mighty preaching of John the Baptist when for four hundred years the heavens had been shut up, without a prophet, without a divine revelation; and when unregenerate, formal Pharisees on the one hand, and rationalistic, unbelieving Sadducees on the other hand had made of the Jewish religion a powerless thing of dead letter and no heart, no contact with God. That was a mighty revival, under the most unlikely circumstances, when all Jerusalem and Judaea went out to hear John, preaching by the Jordan, and were baptized, confessing their sins. But I pass these and other great examples over, to mention four great Bible revivals. These include the great revival led by Elijah on Mount Carmel, the revival at Nineveh led by Jonah, both in the Old Testament; the revival at Sychar in Samaria where the Saviour won the woman at the well, and the revival at Pentecost, both in the New Testament. I think these show beyond any shadow of doubt that the God of the Bible can give revivals in the most distressing situations of declension and apostasy and idolatry and sin, provided only that He has one or a few people who can lay hold on God’s mighty power by obedient faith and prevailing prayer, and will give God’s witness to sinners.
I. God Could Have a Revival in Decadent, Idolatrous Israel at Mount Carmel
One of the most remarkable revivals this world ever saw was that led by the prophet Elijah at Mount Carmel, among the Northern tribes, Israel, when Ahab was king, as described in I Kings, chapter 18. That revival seemed to save the nation from utter and immediate ruin. At least it helped to postpone the captivity and destruction of Israel, and it must have resulted in multitudes truly turning in their hearts to God.
Consider first how wicked were the times, how apostate the people, when this revival occurred. Ahab, the son of Omri, was king. Read how wicked was Ahab.
“And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Ornri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years. And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.” I Kings 16:29-33.
Later it was said of Ahab, “But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up” (I Kings 21:25).
Notice that Ahab walked in all the sins of Jeroboam, he “went and served Baal and worshipped him,” he built an altar to Baal in a temple of Baal which he built in Samaria, the capital city. He made a grove for idolatrous and lewd ceremonies unspeakable. He married Jezebel, a wicked heathen woman, a murderess and idolater. And “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.” What a blight upon the nation! How difficult, it would appear, to have a revival in Israel under such conditions.
Later we are told that Jezebel killed all the prophets of the Lord, except one hundred hid by Obadiah (I Kings 18:13).
The whole nation seems to have turned to Baal worship, and, as far as we know, no prophets were active nor anyone else outspoken for God in the whole nation, except only Elijah.
Obadiah, the governor of the palace, was a man of God, but he was a secret disciple, a timorous soul who dared not speak out for the right, and who would not risk his place and income by plainly coming out for God. Secretly he hid prophets of God and fed them on bread and water in a cave, but he had no power with God and no influence with men for God. The whole nation would have gone to Hell for all that Obadiah could do about it, without paying a new price for power.
So great was the sin in the land that God had turned His face away. And He had revealed to Elijah that there would be no rain, nor even dew, for years, as a curse of God. So Elijah told Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (I Kings 17:1).
After three and one-half years of drought, Elijah came to show himself to Ahab. He urged Ahab to call the people of Israel to Mount Carmel, with all the prophets of Baal, four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves, four hundred, all of which ate at Jezebel’s table. These eight hundred and fifty wicked, idolatrous prophets came, and the multitudes of people to Mount Carmel, and there the one man of God challenged Baal and the prophets of Baal, and insisted that they ask for a miraculous manifestation from God or from Baal. “And the God that answereth by fire, let him be God,” said Elijah.
The people were unmoved by Elijah’s exhortation. “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.” The people answered him not a word. It is a time when preaching falls on deaf ears. It is a time when the rulership of the nation is idolatrous and murderous. It is a time when society is sold out to false cults and evil religions. It is a time when God has turned His face away. It is a time when what few believers there are in the whole nation keep themselves hidden. Now, if God can give a revival in those circumstances, He can give one today!
You know the thrilling story as told in I Kings 18. Elijah asked that the prophets of Baal put a bullock on their altar, with wood under it but no fire. He asked them to pray for their god to answer by fire. Throughout the day, until the time for the evening sacrifice, the prophets of Baal prayed, “O Baal, hear us.” Nobody answered! Nobody ever did answer the heart that depended on any god but our God. No heathen religion ever did show a single example of answered prayer, such as is commonplace with Christians. Demons show themselves, but the hand of a great God has never appeared when men called on any god but the true God, the Lord God. These prophets leaped on the altar. They cut themselves with knives and lancets till the blood gushed out. But there was no answer. Perhaps they did not expect one. At least they put on as good a show as would anybody, they must have thought.
Then Elijah called the people to come near. It was time for the Lord God of Israel to show His power. Elijah rebuilt the altar that was broken down, using twelve stones. He put wood upon the altar, but no fire. They killed the bullock and placed the sacrifice on the wood. Then Elijah asked for four barrels of water. It was poured over the sacrifice. The wood was now soaking wet. Then four barrels more, then four barrels more; then Elijah had them fill a trench round about the altar with water. Let everybody know that when the fire of God falls now, it is a miracle. It is not human and natural, but it is supernatural and extraordinary. A God who cannot have a revival in hard times is no good. A God who cannot start a fire with wet wood would not be sufficient for this wicked world.
Then Elijah prayed. “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again” (I Kings 18:36,37).
And then, marvel of marvels, God answered! “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt-sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God” (I Kings 18:38,39).
Oh, to see multitudes of people on their faces convinced and surrendered to the Lord God! Oh, to see the idolaters, the unbelievers, the atheists, the drunkards, the harlots, the worldlings on their faces bowing to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, like Elijah saw them that day trusting our God and bowing before Him and confessing Him! Well, the God who brought revival to Mount Carmel can do it again!
Our own nation is no further gone into sin than was Israel under the leadership of Ahab and murderous Jezebel. The modern infidels in the pulpit, the false cults, the atheists in our colleges, are not more arrogant nor more powerful than the prophets of Baal and the lewd prophets of the groves in Elijah’s time. Preachers who stand true to the Bible and to God these days have far more company than did Elijah who stood alone.
In your community, in your own heart, in your own meager talents, in your own sin-cursed nation, do you have only wet wood with which God may build a revival fire? Are the circumstances all apparently against God, against revival? If so, then remember that the God of Elijah can set a fire to wet wood. He can give a revival in the face of Ahab and Jezebel and four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and four hundred prophets of the groves, and an arrogant, thoughtless, rebellious, apostate people. A God who could give a revival at Mount Carmel can give one now! How wicked, how unbelieving we are when we do not depend on such a God for revival!
II. God Could Have a Revival Even in Violent, Heathen, Fish-Worshipping Nineveh
A second example I call to your attention is that of the revival in Nineveh under Jonah. However unwilling was the evangelist until God worked him over, the revival at Nineveh was one of the greatest in the history of the world. And it is a good example to prove to us that in any circumstance of wickedness, of idolatry, of false religion, of the impending doom and wrath of God, revivals are possible if only God can have workers who will pay God’s price for revival.
Nineveh was not a city of the Jews, but a heathen city. We suppose that it was one which had never heard the gospel. We suppose that the only worship there was idolatry. We read that they worshipped the fish god, and this may be one reason why God prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah and then to vomit him out on dry land. Be that as it may, here is a city so idolatrous, so violent, so wicked, that God said to Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me” (Jonah 1:2). And the message that God had for Nineveh was, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4).
The city was large, mighty. “Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey” (Jonah 3:3). And Jonah went one days’ journey into it before he began preaching. We understand from archeologists that Nineveh included several settlements and all under one king, and one outer wall, perhaps. The population was so great that it contained “sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle,” as God told Jonah (Jonah 4:11). The cattle indicates that the city contained pasture land and suburbs, besides settlements. The suburbs were included, and that makes reasonable the size indicated by three days’ journey. If there were one hundred and twenty thousand children and babes who did not know their right hand from their left, there may have been six hundred thousand population in the city. The king, the nobles, the people were wicked. God’s wrath was aroused against the city. God had determined to destroy it, and sent Jonah to announce its destruction. The city seemed almost past hope of redemption. Yet when God got one man ready to preach to the city, the king, the nobles and the people repented in sackcloth and ashes and pleaded for God’s mercy, until the dear Lord repented of His plan to destroy it and would not destroy it.
It is significant here that Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh and preach. I dare say that this is simply an illustration of the thing the Saviour so often said, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” (Matt. 9:37), and, “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few” (Luke 10:2), and, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal” (John 4:35, 36). The trouble is not with the harvest, it is with the labourers! God’s trouble about revival is not with the world, but with the church. And His trouble is not with the sinners, but with the saints. Anywhere God can get Christians who will pay God’s price, God can have a revival. And so God could have and did have a mighty revival in Nineveh, as soon as He could get Jonah ready for it.
Will you consider the message of Jonah? It was what modernists and many weaklings would today call “a negative sermon.” He preached, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” It was a message that appealed to fear, a message of judgment. It proclaimed the wrath of God, not His mercy. Yet God used that message to bring revival. That ought to remind us that if men are willing to preach as God tells them to preach, preaching His righteousness, His hatred of sin, His solemn warning, His judgments, the certain eternal destruction of Christ-rejecting sinners, God can use that kind of preaching to bring a revival in the most distressing and wicked and unpromising situations.
If God could give a mighty revival in Nineveh with no better worker than Jonah and with no more gospel than he preached, God can have a revival in any wicked city in America with proper prayer and power and testimony and preaching of the Word, in the power of the Holy Spirit. And we can have revival now, surely, since God could have a revival in Nineveh.
III. Christ Could Have a Revival in Half-Breed, Prejudiced Samaria
Another good example of revival under difficulties is that in the little Samaritan town of Sychar. John, chapter 4, tells how Jesus departed into Galilee, “And he must needs go through Samaria” (John 4:4). At Sychar He sat on the curbing of Jacob’s well, tired after a half day’s walk. At noon a woman came to draw water. She was a woman of shabby character, a woman often married and now living with a man to whom she was not married. Despite her own hostility, the indifference of the disciples, and the enormous prejudice that separated Jews and Samaritans, Jesus led her to see what a sinner she was and how she needed a Saviour, and then revealed Himself. She was wonderfully saved and ran to the city, leaving her waterpot, to say to the men, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” Then the multitude came out to see Jesus. Many were saved at the woman’s testimony before they ever saw Him. Others believed when they saw Him and heard Him speak, and said to the woman, “now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42).
The difficulties which would seem to prevent a revival were almost insuperable in this case. The Samaritans hated the Jews, and with some reason. In Luke 9:51-54 we read how the Samaritans in one village would not even give Jesus a room and bed when they learned that He was going to Jerusalem. Read those verses and sense the hostility.
“And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?”
Jesus rebuked His disciples. He came to save, not to destroy. But one would think that the same Jesus and the same disciples would have difficulty bringing a Heaven-sent revival to a city of such prejudices and ignorance and hate.
And the woman to whom Jesus talked as He sat on the well at the noon hour was full of suspicion. When He asked for a drink, she said, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” As the talk proceeded she insisted that Samaritans had the well that their father Jacob had given. They did not need any new-fangled help from any Jew!
There was also the difficulty of the woman’s sad, sad past, and her sinful present. She had been married five times. Now she lived with a man to whom she was not married. Would she confess her sins? Would she renounce her present wicked alliance? Gently, Jesus pressed the matter of her sin and told her that He knew all about it. When she saw her need of the Messiah, Jesus said, “I that speak unto thee am he.” And the woman was won.
But consider also the hostility or indifference of the disciples which was nearly as bad as the prejudice of the woman! They had been into the city to buy food and said not a word to those they met of the Son of God, the Saviour of the world who sat on the curbing of the well outside the city! They marvelled that Jesus talked to the woman. Why should He waste time on a Samaritan, and particularly on a shabby, castaway woman such as this one appeared to be? When Jesus was dealing with her soul, they thought only of their stomachs! They could hardly see the point when Jesus said, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of.” Here are twelve disciples to whom Jesus will give the Great Commission to take the gospel to every creature, and a poor, sinful woman whom they ignore and despise! And when Jesus wins her to repentance and faith and salvation joy under their very noses, they take no notice of what goes on and are absorbed with food for their bodies.
If any pastor today feels that a revival is hindered by the indifference in his own church, let him remember that a part of the work of revival is to revive the saints, to give them a burden for sinners, to get them on a praying basis, and to arouse in them a burden for souls! Part of the work of every revival effort is to get Christians ready for revival. There would be little credit to an evangelist who could have people converted only when the church was just right to start with, and when all the Christians were on fire and burdened and praying and working.
Note that in this revival effort there was no building. There was no advertising but the glad testimony of a converted soul! There were none of the outward conveniences that we often think necessary to revival. Yet in the midst of this suspicion and hate, despite the indifference, even the callousness and prejudice of His disciples, Jesus got the woman saved; then she helped to bring the whole town to Jesus!
Does some earnest soul winner face the fact that the people with whom he would labor are self-satisfied religionists? Are they well content because they were christened when babies and confirmed in the church when they learned the catechism? Are they jealous of the forms of their own cult and satisfied with the externals of religion? Well, their case is not so bad as these Samaritans who said, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:20). They had their own well, dug by their ancestor Jacob. They knew the true religion as well as anybody. Weren’t they descended from Abraham and Isaac and Jacob? And for many, many years their fathers had worshipped in this mountain, and here came some narrow-minded Jews who thought you should worship in Jerusalem! That was about their attitude. But God could give revival there, then, and God can give revival now, anywhere, if God finds some people to pay His price.
Deep in the heart of this sinful woman there was a need, a longing. She may have been a sinner, but she had a conscience, as does every other sinful woman, every other depraved man! She was a sinner, and she had lived in outrageous sin, but she feared death. Something in her heart cried out for forgiveness and cleansing and peace, which she could not find, how ever many men she lived with. That hunger was not immediately apparent, but it was there. The harvest really was white.
And the people in the city were probably as prejudiced and as unlikely as she to be friendly toward a Jewish preacher.
Yet when they saw a woman really transformed, a shabby, sinful woman forgiven and cleansed and happy, and found that the Lord Jesus knew all about her heart and therefore about their hearts and their sins, they were glad to turn to Him. Some were so eager to be saved that they trusted in the Saviour on the woman’s word at once. Others went to see Him and hear Him first, then were gladly saved.
The Saviour was right when He said, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together” (John 4:35, 36). The harvest was ripe then; it is ripe now. It did not appear to be ripe to the eye of unbelieving and indifferent disciples. To the cold in heart, the backslidden, the worldly-minded, the self-satisfied, the harvest does not appear to be ripe now. The harvest does not appear to be ripe now to preachers who have no passion, who do not have the mighty moving of the Spirit of God upon them. But, oh, if you who hear and you who read will be filled with the Spirit of God, you will find that God has hungry hearts everywhere, and the revival will come when you pay God’s price for it.
Isn’t it blessed how God can use the most unlikely instruments in revival? That poor Samaritan would seem to be a very unlikely instrument in revival. But her glad testimony had this to recommend it: she really meant business! She had no time to carry water now, so she left her waterpot at the well. She had a message to tell. Her heart overflowed with it! She ran, she did not walk! And she exaggerated the matter a little, as a woman might be forgiven for doing under the circumstances, when she said, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did.” Jesus did not really tell her everything that she ever did. But He gave her enough as a sample that she knew that He knew everything that she ever did. Oh, God can use anybody as a soul winner, provided only that he is thoroughly, with all his heart, committed to the soul-winning business and sets out to work at it with all his heart. The Holy Spirit can come upon such weak Christians and give mighty power to what they say and what they do. You see, there is no complaint about the harvest. The harvest is white. There are many people who could be won. God’s trouble is with the laborer! He had to by-pass Peter, James, John, Bartholomew, Andrew, Matthew, James the less, and others, and had to save this poor Samaritan woman before He could get anybody to win souls in Sychar. The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Anywhere God can get some Christians ready to pay His price, He can have a revival. He had a revival at Sychar; He can have one in your city, or in any city, where a few people will pay God’s price to be used in soul-winning.
IV. God Could Give a Revival in the Hardest City in the World, Jerusalem, Fifty Days After the Crucifixion!
If ever there was a gospel-hardened city, it was Jerusalem after the crucifixion of Christ. Here John the Baptist had preached like a flaming fire! Spirit-filled John, mighty in the Scriptures, had called men to repentance and had baptized multitudes in the river Jordan. Many of the Pharisees and Sadducees had rejected John’s preaching, but they had felt the impact of it.
Then the Saviour Himself was announced and began His public ministry. He had preached and baptized (through His disciples) more disciples than John. He had worked mighty miracles. He had raised Lazarus from the dead in Bethany just outside Jerusalem, and everybody in the city knew it. He had opened blind eyes, cleansed the lepers, stilled storms, saved a maniac, wrought all kinds of miracles. He had ridden into Jerusalem according to the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, “upon a colt the foal of an ass,” and the multitudes had thrown their garments before Him and littered the road with palm branches as He made His triumphal entry. He had boldly claimed to be the Messiah. He had driven the moneychangers from the Temple. He had warned of the coming destruction of the city of Jerusalem. Many were saved, but the Jewish leaders were not. They hated Jesus with an unreasoning hatred. They set out to kill Him. And at last they had their way. At the Passover season the high priest and the Sanhedrin, with Scribes and Pharisees, planned to take Jesus. They bribed one of His followers, Judas, the only unsaved one of the twelve, to lead them to Jesus in the night. He was tried in an illegal season of the Sanhedrin at night, and then condemned in Pilate’s judgment hall, but only by political pressure on the governor. Then with suborned witnesses, and with an incited mob, the people were moved to deny their King, to choose for release Barabbas instead of Jesus. And Jesus, despised and officially rejected by His nation, was scourged with a Roman scourge, was mocked, blindfolded and crowned with thorns, then made to bear His cross out to Golgotha. And there, amid the jeers of the multitudes, Jesus hung six hours and died. Was there ever a city so steeped in religion of a formal kind, a Christ-rejecting kind? They knew more about Passover lambs and atoning blood in Jerusalem than any city in the world now knows. They knew more about tithes and offerings and public prayers and forms and ceremonies of religion, than any group in the world did. They were insanely proud of their circumcision, of their descent from Abraham, of their prophets and their Mosaic law. They had hated John the Baptist, and John had gotten his head cut off. They hated the Lord Jesus Himself and killed Him, murdered the Son of God! What chance would there be here in Jerusalem for a revival now?
And consider the shameful state of His disciples. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples all deserted Him and fled (Matt. 26:56). Judas had betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver, the price of a common slave. Then this treasurer of the little band had hanged himself and the frayed rope later broke, and his body fell and burst open, and his bowels gushed out, and it was a scandalous bit of gossip all over Jerusalem! And worse still, the main spokesman for His disciples, Simon Peter, at the trial had consorted with the soldiers who were to crucify Jesus, and then had openly denied that he was a disciple of Jesus, even cursed and swore that he did not know Jesus! So betrayed, denied and deserted by His friends, the Lord Jesus came to trial. And He died with only three or four Christians near the cross; Mary, the mother of Jesus; Mary Magdalene, John, and perhaps one or two more.
Let that defeated, unreliable, immature bunch of disciples reassemble and try to have a revival now in Jerusalem! Let Peter, who cursed so loudly a few weeks ago and denied that he even knew Jesus, now try to preach Christ to these multitudes! What chance have they for a revival in Jerusalem?
But they had it nevertheless! They waited in an upper room for ten days. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14). And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, the power of God came upon them. They were filled with the Holy Spirit as John had been filled, as Jesus had been filled at His baptism. They were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness and power. God stretched out His hand to give miraculous confirmation of their message. Sinners were cut to the heart, there was a great repenting, and three thousand people were saved in one day and added to the church! Then multitudes of others were saved day after day, in the mighty initial revival, the sample revival which God gave early in the age for all of us to know what He could do and wanted to do in revivals.
If God could give a revival in Jerusalem at Pentecost, He can give one anywhere. Never a city, never a country in the world where people have hated Christ more than they hated Him at Jerusalem. Never a city or country in the world where they have rejected more pure gospel, and have despised more the manifestation of God’s grace, than at Jerusalem. Nowhere in the world is there a place where God’s disciples have failed Him so signally as that little band of disciples seemed to have failed Christ in the hours of His arrest, trial and death. They did not even believe that He had risen from the dead. They had thrown away all their hopes. Peter had quit the ministry and had gone back to fishing. Thomas would not believe in His resurrection for a week after others had been convinced of it. But the Lord Jesus met and empowered those disciples and used them in a mighty, mighty revival! Oh, then, weak, discouraged Christians, Christians who have made a shabby failure of your lives, take heart! The Lord Jesus can empower you and use you mightily if you will but wait upon Him with holy abandon, and seek and find the fullness of the Spirit for soul-winning power!
We know God can give us a revival now because He gave one at Jerusalem, at Pentecost. How foolish to suppose that times are getting too hard for God, or hearts are getting too hard for God, or the circumstances are too difficult for God to deal with! Oh, rather how we ought to say that our great God, with the power of the Word of God and the power of the Spirit of God and in answer to the prayers of His believing people, can give a revival anywhere, when we meet His requirements and pay His price!
If we are willing to wait upon God and plead His promises and stay before Him in humility and seek until we find the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, we too can have Pentecostal revivals.
We have taken these four examples of revivals in Bible times to show us that God can give revivals in the most difficult times. We could have taken many other examples. All of them prove the same thing; that the mighty God has grace that is greater than all the sin in the world; that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation; that the Holy Spirit can reach the hardest and most wicked hearts. And I have shown that all the way through God has one great need–a need for Spirit-filled, empowered workers, workers with a holy abandon and a deep, moving compassion that puts soul-winning above everything else in the world!
It took God longer to get Jonah ready to preach the gospel than it took to get all Nineveh on their faces repenting. It took the Lord Jesus longer to get one shabby Samaritan woman saved and ready to witness than it took to get many others saved. At Mount Carmel, God could turn the hearts of all the people back to Him; He could put them on their faces crying out, “The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God!” just as soon as He had one man who could pray down the fire of God from Heaven! And at Pentecost God could change hard hearts, could save multitudes, as soon as He had a group of people who were willing to wait before Him long enough and with singleness of mind enough to be mightily filled with the Spirit of God. You see, it is the old, old story that Jesus often told: “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few” (Luke 10:2). And again, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” (Matt. 9:37). And, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35). God’s great lack is not power enough to save sinners, not sinners enough who can be saved, not circumstances that are favorable. No, God suffers for lack of workers, and He earnestly pleads with us, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2, Matt. 9:37). The trouble is not with the world, but with the church. The trouble is not with the sinners, but with the saints. The revival problem is a Christian problem. We can have revival now if we want it enough to do God’s will about it.
Chapter 6 – We Can Have Revival Now Because of God’s Infinite Resources Freely Available for Soul-Winning
PETER, walking on the water to come to Jesus at His command, saw the wind and waves boisterous and was afraid. He lost his faith and began to sink. His trouble was that he looked at the circumstances instead of the Lord Jesus, the Creator of all the winds and waves.
Andrew, when Jesus wanted to feed the five thousand, said, “There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” (John 6:9). Andrew looked at the one boy’s lunch of barley biscuits and sardines, and looked at the great multitude of five thousand men, besides women and children, and knew that the boy’s lunch was inadequate. But he was looking at the conditions instead of Jesus Christ. So all those who say that the apostasy on the part of Christian people is too great to have a revival, that the voice of atheism among scholars and infidelity in the pulpits is too loud and convincing for us to ever have a revival; those who say that the shrill voice that calls to pleasure with all the competition of radio, television, sports, luxuries, leisure, the theater, the dance, and enticing sin is too clamorous and loud for us to have a revival–such people are looking at conditions instead of at God. They forget the infinite resources which have always made revival possible, the resources abundantly available to all who would win souls according to the will of God.
Hear how Paul had mighty confidence in the resources of God, the spiritual weapons of our warfare! “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (I1 Cor. 10:3-5).
Oh, these mighty “weapons of our warfare!” Through God they are mighty, “to the pulling down of strong holds.”
Paul had wonderful success in his spiritual warfare, his conquest of men with the gospel. His confidence was not based on any thought that men were easier to reach then than they might be in a later generation, nor in any thought that the circumstances made the gospel powerful. No, no! Paul had the infinite resources of an Almighty God at his command, and the weapons of his warfare were mighty to the pulling down of strongholds and casting down imaginations, and bringing men to obedience to Christ.
When Paul contemplated going to Rome, the center of the world, to preach the gospel, he wrote ahead to Christians in this city to say, “And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 15:29). There was no failure to Paul. Whether at Corinth, or Ephesus, or at Rome, it was all the same. He could write to Corinth: “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place” (II Cor. 2:14).
What are these mighty spiritual weapons of our warfare? What are these infinite resources of God available to the soul winner, which load the scales always in favor of those who would have revival and are willing to pay the price for it?
I maintain that the infinite grace of God, always loving sinners, grace greater than all their sin; the mighty power of the Word of God when preached and witnessed in the Spirit, “The power of God unto salvation”; the miracle-working energy of the Holy Spirit when He fills and endues Christians; and the power of persistent, prevailing, heart-broken, believing prayer are resources that are absolutely irresistible and make revival possible now or any time and any place in the world where people with holy abandon use these resources!
1. God’s Inexhaustible Grace and His Boundless Love for Sinners Make Revival Always Possible
If any one here doubts whether we can now have revivals, as great revivals as were ever given to bless humanity and keep souls out of Hell, let him simply turn in his Bible and find if John 3:16 is still there! God loves this world! Let me say it again, because our hearts are so calloused to the blessed truth that it makes little impression upon us–God loves this world! He loves every sinner in it. The extent of His love is beyond human comprehension. He gave His own perfect Son to be a man, to be tempted as a man, to live a perfect life, to minister among men and then to die a shameful death of agony that men might be saved.
Do you believe that if God had it to do over, He still loves lost men enough to let Jesus die? If it were to be in this generation, not the generation in Palestine nineteen hundred years ago, but this generation, and in our modern world and civilization, with all its wickedness, its pride, its arrogance, its lewdness, its unbelief, its hatred of God and goodness–if it were to be in this generation, I say, would God still give His Son to die? Does the heart of God beat with the same compassion and yearning over lost sinners as it ever did? Do you believe it is still true, just as true as it ever was, that God loves the world with an infinite, boundless love that would pay any price that is proper and good to keep people out of Hell? Remember that when God gave His Son, He gave everything with Him. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). Is that still the extent and measure and indication of the yearning, compassionate, weeping heart of God who will not stop until He has paid every price that infinite mercy can pay to save sinners and keep them from ruin? I know that it is true! I know that the infinite grace of God is still on the side of revival, on the side of soul-winning, on the side of mass evangelism. And the grace of God, oh, so great, means that revival is possible.
I believe that part of our trouble is that we do not enter into this loving compassion, into this sacrificial giving of God and of Christ, and so, since we do not love men as Moody and Billy Sunday and Wesley and Spurgeon and Finney did, we do not believe that we can have the revivals they had. Oh, for some understanding and some holy union with God and Christ in compassionate love and grace that would save sinners!
Men talk to me about the sin of this world, about the wickedness of mankind, about all the strident clamor that would turn men’s minds away from God. Men talk to me about the lawlessness of the age, the pre-occupation with pleasure, the strife between capital and labor, the warring between nations, the increase of divorce and the breakdown in the home, the lack of any authority in the home, and the breakdown of authority everywhere, whether in the laws of the nation, or in parental supervision, even the authority of the Word of God over men’s hearts. But do you talk to me of sin? I know something greater than all the sin in the world! “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:20, 21). I am conscious of the all-pervading rot and stench and bent and chaos and suction and lure and malevolence of sin! I find it in all the world about me. I find men depraved, degenerate, fallen, ruined and needing new hearts for the old wicked hearts. They need cleansing, forgiveness, new life for the deadness that is in men. I preach against sin and weep over it. I am ever conscious of it. Yea, I find it even in my own heart and nature. But, oh, thank God that “where sin did abound, grace did much more abound”! Do you talk to me about apostasy, about a falling away in the churches, about the invasion of infidels coming in as wolves in sheep’s clothing, claiming to be Christians when they are children of Hell, unregenerate, not believing the Bible, the enemies of historic Christianity who would tear the crown of deity with impious hands from the brow of Jesus Christ? Apostasy? Yes! But where there is such sin, there is the grace of God, greater than all the sin in the hearts of impostors and infidels. It is greater than all the sin in the hearts of drunkards and harlots. It is greater than all the sin in unbelieving Jews, in rite-and-priest-ridden Catholics. The grace of God is enough for sinners everywhere. And then it is more, much more, infinitely more than man’s sin can ever require. Oh, the boundless grace and love of God! Where there is such grace, such an outpouring of love and mercy and yearning and atonement, we can have revival!
This is just another way of saying that the cross of Jesus Christ, that Calvary, is so far-reaching, so colossal, such an outpouring of the heart of God for the saving of sinners, that revival is possible, that there is always an answer to sin that is more than enough. How we sin against the love of God and the grace of God when we give sinners up! How we sin against the love and grace of God and the price paid for sin when we give communities and nations up to sin.
Men who think the days of great revival are over have simply forgotten the infinite adequacy of the death of Christ, and the grace of God!
One may feel that all this is true, that God’s love, God’s grace, the atoning death of Christ, the intent and purpose of God is sufficient for revival, but may feel that he himself is totally inadequate to be used. Many Christians feel that they cannot win souls. Many preachers feel that they cannot be used as instruments in revivals, cannot be used to win hundreds, thousands of sinners. Many feel inadequate to deal with drunkards and harlots, infidels and criminals, hardened old sinners and members of false cults. But again the grace of God is the answer.
Are you weak? Are you encumbered with care and temptation? Is there a sense of utter insufficiency and inadequacy? Does Satan himself send many a messenger of Satan to buffet you? Ah, then let Paul tell you how he solved that problem. Once when he begged God again and again that the thorn in the flesh might be removed so that he could have more power, so that he could be adequate for the burden and ministry laid upon him, God gave him the answer, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul then gladly accepted the grace needed and said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (11 Cor. 12:9,10). God’s grace is sufficient for you, dear Christian, to do all you ought to do, to be all you ought to be, to be a channel of the infinite grace of God to the hearts of sinners. His grace is sufficient!
Never will I forget when early in my first full-time pastorate we came to a seeming impasse. I had started revival services. I had, in my own heart, made this a condition: if the church would ask me to lead in revival services so that I would have a chance to get acquainted with the people and God would have a chance to use me in winning souls and in building up a poor, discouraged, divided congregation, I would accept the pastorate. When they had agreed that I should lead in revival services, we were besieged by days of rain and storm. The pitiful handful of people who came were not expectant but impassive, though kindly. Many had vowed never to again attend the little church where there had been bickering, strife and barrenness. It seemed that even God had turned His face away, and the church building had been struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Now we were meeting in a little board tabernacle, and I had come to the end of my strength.
That morning I walked up the railroad track, anywhere to be alone. I sat disconsolately upon a rock and cried out to God not to let me go back and to face my problems and burdens in the ministry without some assurance that He was with me, that He would give the victory. And I found this blessed passage where Paul learned the secret of grace sufficient for all the weakness, for all the thorns of Satan, all the infirmities, all the persecutions and distresses. God said to me, as He had said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” I rose from there determined to have the strength of God in my weakness. A marvelous revival followed. And, thank God, for many long years I have found that always the grace of God, the marvelous, infinite, matchless grace of God is enough for revival, enough for soul-winning power.
Oh, you who hear and any who may read, do not go on defeated! Do not go on without power! Do not go on without the fruit of souls saved. God’s grace is sufficient!
As long as the infinite grace of God is poured out upon mankind, we can have revival. Christians may have His power and may carry His message to sinners, and may see men born again and lives changed, homes changed, communities changed by the grace and power of God! Oh, it is a wonderful gospel that I preach to you today! Grace for the drunkard! Grace for the harlot! Grace for the profane! Grace for the infidel! I have seen it work. How many drunkards I have seen made sober, how many whoremongers and harlots made pure, how many Catholics, Jews, and members of other false cults and isms have I seen turn to God! I have seen the murderer made into a godly and humble and devoted child of God. I can bear witness that the grace of God is enough for every kind of sin and for every kind of sinner. And that means that we can have revival now.
II. The All-Powerful Word of God Makes Revival Possible Now
“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” Paul said by divine inspiration, “for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). The word power here is the Greek word dunamis, from which we get our word dynamite. So the gospel Paul preached was the dynamite of God. And, he said, it was not only good for Jews, but good for Greeks. God’s mighty Word, as Paul preached it, was as powerful with the learned Greeks as it was with the religious Hebrews. And let us thereby learn a lesson. What this modern, educated race needs is the same old gospel. With all our gadgets, machinery, inventions, with all our luxuries, our proud independence and arrogant unbelief, the gospel of Jesus Christ, preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, is still the answer for man’s sin.
In Jeremiah 23:28,29 is this plain word from God:
“The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord, and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?”
What is the chaff to the wheat? Not moral essays, not human argument, not personality and magnetic influence; but the mighty Word of God is the preacher’s weapon. If a dream is all you have, then tell your dream, but it will not make black hearts white. But if you have the Word of God, then speak it faithfully. “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” Oh, the living, burning Word of God! Oh, the mighty hammer to break hearts of stone and crush resistance to God!
Heed what the Lord says to us in Hebrews 4:12,13:
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”
He who preaches the Word of God faithfully and in the power of the Spirit finds it a living and powerful weapon, sharper than any two-edged sword. He finds that the Word of God, so preached or witnessed with the power of the Spirit, pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit. That is, it is a revealer and discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. When a man preaches the Word of God in the power of God, every creature who hears finds his soul under the gaze of Almighty God. He finds that his conscience, his motives, his nature are all naked and open before the eyes of the Lord with whom one has to do, when the preacher preaches the Word of God in the power of God! Oh, then, that God would give us a heart to preach the Word of God and believe in that!
I find that the people who do not believe we can have revival now have always a tendency away from absolute faith in the Bible. To Spurgeon, the Bible was word-for-word, in original manuscripts, given of God. He believed in verbal inspiration. So it was with Moody and with Torrey and with Finney. So it was with all the great evangelists. They preached not merely good things, with the thought from God. They preached, as they were assured, the very words of God! They could say with Paul, “But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God; that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words” (I Cor. 2:12, 13 R.V.). God gave the things, the content of the message. He also gave the very words in which they were couched, in the original manuscripts. And preachers who preach the word as burning words which themselves came from God, and preach such Scripture in the power of the Holy Spirit, have seen the mighty working of God’s Spirit, in the saving of multitudes.
A few years ago when Evangelist Billy Graham was in England and being greatly blessed of God in revivals, with many being saved, I had a letter from him in which he told me that he had gotten away from the short messages, gotten away from the light approach and the entertainment, and had begun to speak often for an hour or more on sin and Hell and judgment and Christ’s second coming. He had begun to learn the mighty power that is in the Word of God itself, when it is preached with boldness.
I have before me now an account from Billy Graham of the blessed revival in Los Angeles where some three thousand people came to Christ late in 1949. My friend and beloved brother, Evangelist Graham, says:
“How foolish I have been so many times. I have worked so hard to build a message, replete with illustrations, with perhaps an experience or two of my own thrown in. True, God blessed those messages in the past.
“But, oh, how He blessed the plain and simple Word of God in this campaign!
“The Scriptures say . . . The Bible says . . . The Scriptures say . . . The Bible says . . .
“I got to the place where I could not preach any of my old sermons. Studying from six to eight hours a day, I received new sermons, burned into my heart by God. I did away with all illustrations. I used from twenty-five to one hundred passages of Scripture each evening. People, I found, cannot stand under the impact of the Word of God. Even the hardest sinner will capitulate.”
I am sure that God often wants men to use illustrations, to throw light on the Word of God. I am sure that God wants every gift dedicated to Him in the preaching of the Word. But, oh, may God help us to know that the dynamite of God is in the message itself, from the Word of God. “Is not my word like a fire, saith the Lord, and like a hammer which breaketh the rock in pieces?” “The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
What a divine resource! Thank God, the Bible, the Word of God, is as strong as ever it was, and it can cut to the hardest hearts.
I was in revival services in Washington, D.C. One morning I preached to a great crowd. A Catholic woman was present and was disturbed at my preaching on “Ye Must Be Born Again.” She had never before been in a Protestant service. That morning after the service she apologized to me for thinking that this could not be the house of God, that I could not be a messenger of God, nor these people the people of God. She expected God to manifest Himself only in a Catholic church. But she was so disturbed that she asked for audience with me. To get around any question of her church, and any argument about differences, I simply had her answer to me question after question from II Timothy 2:5,6. She, looking on the Scriptures, answered that there was only one God, that there was only one Mediator between God and men, that this Mediator was not a preacher, not a priest, not the saints, not the Virgin Mary. She looked again to verify it, and tears started in her eyes and her lips trembled as she said, “No! It is not the blessed Virgin.” Then I asked her, “Who, then, is the one Mediator, the one Go-Between, the one Peace-Maker between God and man?” She read the answer from the Scripture again, “The Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all . . .” And she was weeping. She soon trusted the Saviour. Then as she wiped her eyes, she said to me, “I never would have believed that if you had not showed it to me in the Bible!” Oh, if we would only believe what the Word of God will do, when preached in faith and power of the Holy Spirit!
Do you remember the blessed promise of Psalm 126:5,6? “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Here is the plain promise of God, never repealed. One who takes the Word of God and sows that Word of God with tears, with contrite, broken hearts, in the hearts of sinners, is certain to see results. He is to return with joy, bringing his sheaves.
Let us, then, sow the Word of God. Sow it broadcast. Sow it here and yonder, and in every way possible get out the gospel. “Blessed are they that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass” (lsa. 32:20).
We often think of Galatians 6:7,8 as a solemn warning to sinners, and so it is. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” But God adds in the next verse the emphasis that He mainly wants us to see, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
How can one who believes this Scripture, this blessed principle of the law of sowing and reaping the gospel, say we cannot have great mass revivals again? If we sow, we shall reap. If we plant the precious seed of the Word of God and water it with our tears, the blessed Spirit of God will make it sprout in many a heart. We can have revival now because we have the infinite resource, always available, of the all-powerful Word of God. If the Word of God ever comes to its own in our lives, we will have mighty revivals.
III. The Miracle-Working Holy Spirit to Empower Christians and Convict and Regenerate Sinners Makes Revivals Always Possible
When Jesus was talking to His disciples the last time before His crucifixion, that sad and terrible night, one thing burdened Him so that He returned to the subject again and again. In the fourteenth chapter of John He tells the disciples plainly, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do . . .” (,John 14:12). He gives them the wonderful promise of answered prayer, that whatsoever they shall ask in His name, He will do it (John 14:13, 14). Then He gives them the blessed secret of the Holy Spirit the Comforter who is to come and abide with them forever. This Comforter is “the Spirit of truth” whom the world cannot receive, and He is to dwell in them (vs. 17). This Comforter, the Holy Spirit, is to teach them all things and bring all things to their remembrance. They are to have perfect peace because of this comforting Holy Spirit dwelling within. How Jesus emphasized the importance of the work of the Holy Spirit in a Christian! And then in the fifteenth chapter of John He tells how this work of the Holy Spirit in Christians, if they fully abide in Him and the Word of God abides in them, shall bring much fruit.
Jesus was crucified, and the third day He rose again and talked often to His disciples. But when He was going away to Heaven, one thing He laid on their hearts more than all others: they were to be His witnesses. They were to carry the gospel to every creature, beginning at Jerusalem. “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you,” He said, “but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). All would be vain unless they should have a mighty enduement of power from on high. They were not ready to start revival services, not ready for house-to-house visitation, not ready for personal contacts, until they received this supernatural enduement of power.
Again in the first chapter of Acts the command of the Saviour is repeated, that they should “wait for the promise of the Father,” the enduement of power from on high. They should “be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” And that did not mean Christ’s return, nor the coming of the kingdom or restoration of Israel, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” And those were the last words that Jesus spoke while on earth. Then, “while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight” (Acts 1:8, 9).
The disciples faithfully waited and prayed. They “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” till the mighty power of God came on the day of Pentecost. They won three thousand souls that day, then continued in the mighty power of God. Throughout the book of Acts the fullness of the Spirit is the one great equipment mentioned for Christian workers. The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:4. The same crowd was filled with the Spirit again in Acts 4:31, after they had again prayed. Stephen and other deacons were filled with the Holy Ghost. When Paul was converted and had fasted and prayed three days, Ananias came to him “that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 9:17). Barnabas “was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord” (Acts 11:24). When Philip went and preached the gospel in Samaria, and multitudes were saved, then the apostles sent Peter and John there “who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:15). Paul and Barnabas and others fasted and prayed until “the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them… So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed . . .” (Acts 13:2,4). At the first opposition, “Saul, filled with the Holy Ghost,” rebuked the sin of Elymas the sorcerer publicly, and Sergius Paulus was wonderfully converted. Oh, those thrilling, thrilling days and years when men did not pretend to preach the gospel nor pretend to try to win souls except they were endued with the mighty power of God!
This is the lost note in our music. This is the lost chord that leaves unsatisfying all our efforts at service.
The Darbyites have come along and taught us that we need not wait on God for power, that it is fanaticism to ask to be baptized with the Holy Ghost. They have told us that we already have all of the Holy Spirit we may have; so men have ceased to wait on God and seek the mighty power of God as did Moody, and Spurgeon, and Finney, and Torrey. And, ceasing to depend on the mighty power of God, they have ceased to have it. And everywhere we have bland, self-assured “Bible teachers” preaching to little groups of saints, but having no drunkards made sober, no harlots made pure, no lives and homes and cities transformed. We cannot have revival without the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. But, thank God, His power is available for those who wait on Him and give themselves wholly to His will.
It is the plain command of God, “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). We, too, need exactly what Bible Christians needed. We, too, can have the mighty enduement of power from on high.
We have retreated from fanaticism. We were afraid of “wild fire.” And the truth is that, fearing what men would say, we have not thought enough about what God would say. We have gone in human wisdom. We have gone with educated sermons, with entertaining sermons, with doctrinally sound sermons; but, alas, we have gone without the Holy anointing, without the miracle-working, supernatural power of the Holy Spirit!
I do not wonder that the Darbyites say that we are in the last days, that we cannot have any more great revivals. After people are taught that they need not wait on God, that the wonderful events in the book of Acts were given only temporarily, in a transition period, and that such power and manifestations can never be repeated again, I do not wonder that they think we can have no more great revivals. But, oh, thank God, they are wrong! His Spirit and His power are still available.
Some people preach the Word and forget that the Word of God is “the sword of the Spirit.” They cannot wield the sword, but the Spirit of God must do so, if the wonder-working results are to follow. Oh, for Holy anointing! Oh, for a supernatural enduement of power! Oh, that men may speak for God as prophets, and our prophecy will be supernatural revelation, a miracle-working message from God!
We can have revival if sinners still tremble under the Word, if the Word of God can make men see their nakedness of soul, their wickedness before God, the impending doom that hunts them down! Men can be saved if they can but be wooed with the entrancing pathos and devotion and love of Christ, revealed by the Holy Spirit.
Yes, we can have revival. The enduement of the Holy Spirit of God makes revival possible for any one who will pay the price for that power.
What set Moody apart? I answer, the power of the Holy Spirit!
What made Billy Sunday powerful? If you think it was baseball slang, and enthusiastic and dramatic gesture and activity in the pulpit, you have foolishly missed the whole point of his ministry. Billy Sunday’s message was made powerful by a special anointing of the Holy Spirit. Every time he preached, he opened his Bible at Isaiah 61:1 and placed his manuscript upon that Scripture, to preach the gospel, whatever the sermon. That Scripture says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” And Billy Sunday knew that he had a covenant with God. He preached in the mighty power of God.
If it was a sober, rather matter-of-fact, inexorable logic of R.A. Torrey, or the pungent slang of Billy Sunday, or the tender pathos and vivid illustrations of D.L. Moody, the fundamental power was the same. It was the mighty power of the Spirit of God. They had revival because they were anointed to preach. We can have revival, too, if we be but anointed to preach, if we be but anointed to witness. We can have revival because the Spirit of God is the miracle-worker who is always available for the soul winner’s power.
IV. The Resource of Persistent, Heart-Broken, Prevailing, Believing Prayer Makes Revival Always Possible
I trust that all who hear and all who read this lecture are beginning to see that fundamental Christianity naturally provides for blessed, powerful revivals and the winning of multitudes. One who does not win souls is not even a normal Christian. A church that does not have revival is not a normal New Testament church. A preacher who does not have the mighty enduement of power upon him to the saving of sinners, is a backslidden, disobedient and unfaithful preacher, because New Testament Christianity inevitably involves the power of God upon His people and the preaching of His gospel fruitfully.
For example, here is a fundamental of the Christian faith: God answers prayer! Prayer changes things. Prayer moves the hand that moves the world.
Nothing is clearer in the Bible than the fact that certain things happen because people pray which would not happen if they did not pray. Hezekiah, for example, was “sick unto death.” God sent Isaiah to tell him frankly, “Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live” (Isaiah 38:1). But Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed, and God sent back the prophet to say, “I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years” (Isaiah 38:5).
James 4:2 plainly says, “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” The infidel, Harry Emerson Fosdick, says that God is not a Santa Claus, that one of the first things we must learn about prayer is that God does not give things. But I know better, and the Bible clearly says the opposite of that. God is better than any Santa Claus; and while He does not give on any wicked whim, God does answer prayer. I thank God that I know He has sent money in answer to prayer, the exact sum needed in literally dozens of cases. I know from never-to-be-forgotten experience, holy experience that He brought rain in answer to prayer in drought-stricken west Texas when there was no likelihood of rain. The surrounding country remained arid, and when we asked God to send rain within twenty-four hours, He sent it in a five-mile radius in the little town where I preached and where we agreed to pray.
I know that God raised up a woman dying with T.B., sent home from a state sanatorium to die, after years of wasting away. She was healed at once, as far as all of us could see, and in two weeks she was up doing her own housework. She still lives after eighteen years. I say that I can testify that God changes things in answer to prayer. God does things when we pray aright which He would not do if we did not pray aright.
But does not this fundamental doctrine, that God has committed Himself to answer a certain kind of prayer, mean necessarily that we can have a revival if we seek God for it properly? Here prayer is divinely given as a resource for every Christian, a resource that makes revival always possible.
Are conditions wrong for revival? Then prayer can change conditions. Are people wrong for revival? Then prayer can change people. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord” (Proverb 21:1). God can change newspaper editors and writers if He wants to, to give the gospel publicity. God can change hearts of public officials, to make great auditoriums available for rental. God can make Christian people concerned when they are unconcerned, if a few keep on praying. God can restore the backslider, if people mean business and keep on praying. God can change people in answer to prayer.
Is the preaching powerless? But God answers prayer! Let preacher and people wait on God until power is given. Prayer changes things, changes people, changes the weather. Prayer can change self. The weak can be made strong.
It is true that one of the conditions of proper prayer is that it should be in Christ’s name. In John 14:13,14 Jesus said: “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”
But this condition is fulfilled more easily about soul-winning and revival than about anything else in the world! It may be that a man will want a new car, and cannot honestly say that it is just for Jesus’ sake. It may be that one will wish to be raised from a bed of sickness, and his own desire may be the real reason back of the request. All right, friend, pray on, even in such cases. There are other promises that encourage you to pray. But on this matter of keeping people out of Hell, on this matter of saving souls for whom Christ has died, we can more easily come to pray in Jesus’ name than about anything else in the world!
Oh, if there is anything in the world that I know about God, I know that He loves sinners. Do I know what Jesus Christ thinks? Do I know what His dear heart desires and craves? Do I know the thing that is most often in His thought? Thank God, I do know! The dear Lord Jesus wants sinners saved.
We learn from I Timothy 1:15, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
Jesus said, when He saved Zacchaeus, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
This is what Jesus came into the world for. This is what He died for. If you seek the meaning of His lonely long years away from Heaven and His Father and the angels, then His love for sinners is the answer. If you seek to know why He endured the shameful traitor’s kiss on his cheek, the spittle in His face, the scourging of the Roman lash, and the indignities and torture of the cross, then I know, and I can tell you. His dear heart was broken over lost sinners and He wanted them saved. Even in His dying, He could not forbear praying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Now that He is seated on the right hand of God, I know what is in His heart. He told us. “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). I know what lights up the face of the Saviour and makes His heart glad even now. Oh, how He rejoices to see souls saved!
How bold I ought to be, then, when I come to pray in Jesus’ name about souls being saved. I sometimes, in my prayers, need to say, “If it be Thy will.” But I never need to say that when I pray that God, in His own way, will bring a blessed revival, will endue Christians with power and save sinners. That I know is the will of God and the will of Christ.
Don’t you see how prayer is a mighty weapon that makes revival inevitable for all who seek God’s face as they ought to seek it?
Faith? Faith is often mentioned as a condition of proper prayer. “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). It ought not to be hard for Christians who know God’s loving care, to believe that He will give them daily bread and raiment and shelter. How tender are His mercies, and how bountiful His provision! But faith surely ought to come easily when we read all the Scripture has to say about the love of God for sinners and His pleading that we go to win them. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” says Romans 10:17. And if you go to the Bible to build your faith, you will surely find it easy to believe that God wants to save sinners, wants to give revival.
Do you want to pray for power? Then how encouraged we are when we find how Jesus insisted that the disciples tarry in Jerusalem until they be endued with power from on high. How it ought to strengthen our faith!
This is why all the great evangelists were mighty men of prayer. Charles G. Finney would frequently feel some lack of power and blessing and would set apart a day of fasting and prayer “for a new baptism of the Holy Ghost,” as he was wont to say. Moody sought God unceasingly for two years, until he was mightily endued with power. Dr. R.A. Torrey started the prayer meeting in Moody Church in Chicago and there prayed for two years that God would send a great revival. Then suddenly a committee from Australia came and sought out Torrey, the Bible teacher who had never been much thought of as an evangelist, and Torrey began the mighty campaigns in Australia that led him finally around the world, with hundreds of thousands of souls saved under his great ministry. Torrey learned to pray, so he learned to have revivals. If you want to know the simplicity of Torrey’s prayer life and his teaching on prayer, read the little book, How to Pray (Moody Colportage Library, $.39), or The Power of Prayer and the Prayer of Power (Fleming H. Revell).
I do not wonder that we have seen so few revivals, when we have such little praying. May God send upon His people again the spirit of supplication, the spirit of prayer. When people prevail in prayer, God will give mighty revivals.
Is not this His promise in II Chronicles 7:14? “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
You see, prayer is one of those mighty weapons of God which are not carnal, but are mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. If people pray aright, they can have revival. They can have everything else it takes to bring a revival. May the dear Lord Jesus teach us anew to pray.
Let us remind you again in summary, of these four infinite resources of God which make revival always possible. There is first the infinite grace of God, the love of God, the tenderhearted tendency toward forgiveness and mercy that is greater than all the sin in the world. Second, there is the Word of God, living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, like a fire and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces. The Word of God is a mighty weapon that makes revival always possible. Third, there is the miracle-working Spirit of God who is always available to endue and empower Christians and preachers, to convict and regenerate sinners, to stir and convict and change hearts and homes and cities and nations. Oh, may we depend upon Him for revival! I have promised God I would never enter a pulpit to preach again without an enduement of power from on high. And fourth, there is the mighty power of persistent, prevailing, brokenhearted, believing prayer.
When a group takes full advantage of these resources available, they cannot avoid revival. We would be overwhelmed with revival, if we should make full use of these mighty resources. Oh, God can yet save millions in nation-sweeping revivals, if His people will enter into their holy heritage and use their resources, so richly given by a loving God who is disappointed that we do not claim His blessings.
Chapter 7 – Present-Day Wickedness, Apostasy and Modern Civilization Cannot Prevent Revival
THE God whom some people worship is old and tired. The present-day civilization is entirely too much for Him! Maybe He could one time give great revivals, but He cannot any more. Mankind has simply gotten to be worse than that old-fashioned God can handle the God of some people’s faith. The only thing that God and the people of little faith and little passion who serve Him can do is to retreat from the world. Such people on every hand can only read the newspaper reports of atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs, the spread of communism, modernism among church leaders, and say, “Jesus is bound to come very, very soon!” These Christians and their gospel are not adequate to face and meet the conditions in this world; so they, in defeated despair, do not “watch” in the Scriptural sense, do not “occupy till I come,” as Jesus commanded, but rather they study technical details and speculate upon the Antichrist, and whether Russia is now forming the great northern confederacy (Gog and Magog of Ezekiel).
Christians with belief in that kind of a defeated God can have no great revivals. Rather, they are like the remnant of the British army at Dunkirk, surrounded and hounded and being cut to pieces by the German blitzkrieg, and waiting only to be taken from the beaches by British boats, to escape annihilation! So many Christians look for the rapture as a last resort of a God who cannot cope with the present world, in a Christianity which is more or less out-of-date, very nice for the few who have it, but inadequate to reach multitudes, to shake and change cities and nations and save millions!
Can you see the wickedness, the near-blasphemy of that kind of an attitude toward God and the gospel? How God must be grieved by our defeated unbelief about revivals!
I thank God that I look for the Saviour’s coming. But I look for His coming because He said for me to look for Him, not because I read about the hydrogen bombs in the newspapers! I look for the dear Saviour’s coming, and my heart will leap with unmeasured joy to see His face; but I know what will rejoice His heart and I am trying to do that. He wants sinners saved, and left me to do this task while I await His coming. Oh, I long to be pleasing Him, should He come today! And if He does not come for another thousand years, I will serve Him gladly till I die, winning all the souls I can, and then rejoice with Him in the blessed revivals that will continue in this age until the Saviour does come.
Dr. Hyman Appelman, Jewish evangelist, tells how in San Angelo, Texas, in a hotel room he, as a state evangelist under the employ of the Baptist State Convention, discussed revivals with his superior. That godly man tried to comfort Dr. Appelman, saying that he must not expect such great revivals as had occurred in other ages since now people were distracted by radio, by automobiles and other luxuries, by a pleasure-madness, by leisure time and by widespread wickedness. Dr. Appelman should go on and do the best he could but not hope for a return of the revivals of D.L. Moody, said the good man.
Dr. Appelman tells how he bowed his head upon the bed and wept uncontrollably. Then he told his distressed superior that if the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit were not adequate for this wicked age as well as all other ages, then the gospel was truly out-of-date and Christ was not all He had claimed to be. Dr. Appelman was not willing to make that concession; nor am I.
The simple truth is that mankind is insatiably wicked, but no more wicked than he has been since the fall. The truth is that there is everywhere a great tendency toward spiritual decline and unbelief, but this is not essentially different from what it has always been. In Bible times it was so. It was so in all the ages of great revival. The wickedness, apostasy and all the distractions in all ages have never been enough to prevent great revivals when God’s people paid God’s price; and they cannot prevent revival now. If I seem bold in this matter, then let me thank God that I have such a Saviour, such a gospel, such divine resources available for revival, that I know we have the answer to the world’s need. This world has not gotten beyond God’s power. The atomic bomb, the hydrogen bomb have not razed God. The present civilization is not more complex than the Lord anticipated; and man’s wickedness and unbelief have not surprised Him, nor reached a stage for which He made no provision.
In this lecture I want to show that present-day wickedness and unbelief is not worse than in Bible times when God gave great revivals; that all great revivals since were not prevented by the failures of Christianity in Bible times; that the awful Dark Ages could not prevent the Reformation and its marvelous revival; that wickedness and depravity everywhere could not prevent the greatest revivals in modern times. The Christ, the gospel, the Holy Spirit, the promises, which were adequate in other days are adequate now. All of modern wickedness, apostasy and distraction cannot prevent revival.
I. Mankind’s Spiritual Conditions and Apostasy Are Not Worse Than in Bible Times When God Gave Great Revivals
Those who believe that men are more wicked and the days are more desperate now than in New Testament times have simply failed to see the picture clearly given in the New Testament of human wickedness and failure, and have underestimated the power of the New Testament gospel and Spirit-filled New Testament Christians.
First, consider that man was then the unregenerate, depraved sinner–as alien from God then as now. To a leading Pharisee it was that Jesus insisted, “Ye must be born again.” He taught Nicodemus that that which is born of the flesh is only flesh, and cannot see the kingdom of God; that the new birth was the only chance to avoid Hell. He told the nicest church people of their time–tithers, praying, law-abiding, religious people–“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:44). To them He said, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matt. 23:33). He said that all the civilization, all the religious forms and ceremonies they observed were only the whitewash on sepulchres filled with dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. He likened the hearts of these outwardly righteous Pharisees to decaying, stinking bodies. The hearts of men in Bible times were no better than the hearts of men today.
Paul wrote to the converts at Ephesus, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Lost sinners then were not only wicked, they were spiritually dead. They had in them no power to be good or to do good, though they might put on the outward appearance of goodness. It is hard to see how a race that is totally bad can get any worse, or how a man who is dead can get any deader. The Bible clearly pictures that men by nature, in Bible times the same as now–are utterly incapable of saving themselves or of doing good. It would take a miracle of God’s grace, the new birth, to make men into the children of God. If you believe the foolish chatter of the Christ-rejecting modernists that all men are by nature the children of God, then you do not believe the Bible, and your conception is fundamentally unchristian and anti-Christian. Men, according to the Bible, are a fallen race, alien from God and enemies of God by nature. But they were so in Bible times the same as now.
Don’t you see that if the gospel could reach and save such men in Bible times, it can reach them now? There is nothing in the nature of wicked men that can prevent great revivals. The gospel of Jesus Christ is enough for the hardest sinners now as it was when some of those who crucified Jesus Christ were converted and when Paul the persecutor found Christ on the road to Damascus. The gospel that could save Mary Magdalene, possessed of seven devils, and chief priests who mocked Jesus while He died, is today the gospel which can reach the hardest human heart, if it be preached in the power of the Holy Spirit by men who will pay God’s price for revival.
And consider, please, how in New Testament times flood tides of persecution rose everywhere that the gospel was preached in power. If you think that opposition to the gospel is stronger now than in Bible times, you have very carelessly read your New Testament. The inhabitants of Christ’s own home village in Galilee knew and honored Jesus for years, until He was filled with the Spirit and began His public ministry. Then the first day He spoke in the power of God in their synagogue they “rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong” (Luke 4:29). John the Baptist had his head cut off. The Lord Jesus Himself was crucified. Stephen, one of the first seven deacons, was martyred for the faith. Right in the midst of the blessed revival which began at Pentecost was much persecution, and Peter and John were arrested and thrown in jail. Early church traditions say that every one of the twelve apostles save John the beloved died a martyr’s death. We know that Paul barely escaped from Damascus with his life, that he was stoned at Lystra and left for dead, that he spent some years in jail and finally was taken in chains to Rome. After years as a prisoner, Paul seems to have been released for a little while, then arrested again and finally was beheaded under Nero.
Do you think there is opposition today to the gospel? Why, it was a customary thing for Paul and his companions to be run out of town! In Acts 13:50 we are told, “But the Jews stirred up the devout and honorable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.” That was after the Jews were filled with envy and there was much contradiction and blaspheming, and Paul had said to them, “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:45,46). At Philippi, Paul and Silas had their clothes torn off, were beaten and placed in jail in stocks. In answer to prayer, God shook the jail, doors opened and the jailer was wonderfully saved. But the officers and people “besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city” (Acts 16:39). Paul and Silas had to slip out of Thessalonica by night to save their skins; then when the tumult reached Berea, Paul had to slip away, pretending to go to the sea. At cultured Athens they mocked Paul. In the synagogue at Corinth they opposed and blasphemed, and Paul said, “From henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6). Paul was seized by a mob in a riot, and another riot filled Ephesus with confusion when Paul went there!
The simple truth is that we can have revival today if we are willing to preach the gospel as they did and suffer persecution as they did. If there were a few people willing to be martyrs for Christ, then the blood of the martyrs would be the seed of the church now, as it has always been.
We hear on every hand foolish statements like, “The foreign mission fields are closing.” What do men mean by such statements? They simply mean that there are some nations in the world where the government will not protect a missionary, and someone may hit him in the head with a stone. There are some nations in which soul winners may be persecuted. Well, in that sense, then, the whole world was a closed mission field when Paul began his missionary journeys. If men will not be missionaries unless they can have their whole family with them, have every comfort of life, have regular support of a certain amount of money, and have a guarantee that no one will ever stone them or burn down their house, then of course there will be some places where men cannot preach the gospel with such ease and protection. But in Bible times men expected to suffer for Christ when they went out to have a revival. We should expect the same kind of opposition now.
Actually the opposition in Bible times did not stop revivals. Neither does the opposition today stop revivals. What hinders revival is that God’s people are not willing to pay God’s price to win souls. We have the same Great Commission. We meet the same kind of sinners. We would have the same kind of opposition if we pressed the battle to the gates for the Lord as they did. But we could have the same kind of results.
Consider, thirdly, that the tendency of backsliding and spiritual decline in Bible times did not prevent revival then and cannot prevent revival now.
There is one sad fact that all of us must recognize when we consider this matter of revivals, that is, that even born-again people have still the old nature, and have a tendency to wander, to grow spiritually cold, to lose soul-winning power and Christian joy. This tendency to backsliding and to spiritual decline was exactly the same in Bible times as it is now. Those who are Christians have a tendency to grow less spiritual. All parents bring children into the world who are unsaved, and even Christian parents have a tendency to let them grow up unconverted. The tendency in churches everywhere is to grow more formal and less spiritual. The preaching tends to degenerate from clear, plain reproof of sin and a demand for repentance, to comforting messages to the saved, and moral essays.
The first chapter of Romans tells us how a race of men who once knew God, a race descended from Noah and his sons, spared from the flood in the ark, became heathen and idolatrous. That chapter tells us how the ancestors of heathen people, “when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom. 1:21). When they began to make images in worship, “wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness” (vs. 24), and “… God gave them up unto vile affections” (vs. 26). Then “even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind …” (vs. 28).
The foolish idea that man descended from brute ancestry and that man has climbed up from an animal-like state through savagery, barbarism, and civilization to enlightenment is a theory made in the imagination of men. It is not taught in the Bible, and it is not verified by history. The idea that man came through an old stone age, a new stone age, an age of metals, and so forth to the present civilization is belied by facts uncovered by archeologists and ethnologists everywhere. Heathen people did not reach their present state by ascending from brute beasts; they reached their present state of heathen darkness by apostasy and declension, going away from a knowledge of God and light and truth. That is the constant tendency of the human heart everywhere, a tendency toward straying from God, turning away from the light. God said, “My people are bent to backsliding from me” (Hos.11:7).
Of this constant tendency of people who are enlightened and blessed of God to fall into spiritual decline, false doctrine, unbelief and wickedness, Matthew Henry has the following to say in his comment upon II Thessalonians 2:3-12:
“And let us observe that no sooner was Christianity planted and rooted in the world than there began to be a defection in the Christian church. It was so in the Old-Testament church; presently after any considerable advance made in religion there followed a defection: soon after the promise there was revolting; for example, soon after men began to call upon the name of the Lord all flesh corrupted their way,–soon after the covenant with Noah the Babel-builders bade defiance to heaven,–soon after the covenant with Abraham his seed degenerated in Egypt,–soon after the Israelites were planted in Canaan, when the first generation was worn off, they forsook God and served Baal,–soon after God’s covenant with David his seed revolted, and served other gods,—soon after the return out of captivity there was a general decay of piety, as appears by the story of Ezra and Nehemiah; and therefore it was no strange thing that after the planting of Christianity there should come a falling away.”
What became of all the converts of John the Baptist? We remember that when John was preaching by Jordan, “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matt. 3:5,6). Some would lightly smile at John the Baptist’s revival, and scoff at his converts. But I remind you that he preached exactly the same gospel as Jesus did, as we see from John 3:36 which quotes his words, that Jesus Himself said there was never a greater prophet born of woman; and that the impact of His ministry was so powerful that multitudes thought he was the Messiah. Not only Jesus but all of the twelve apostles were baptized by John the Baptist, it is inferred. The revival under John the Baptist was powerful. John the Baptist was great in the sight of the Lord, was filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb and “turned many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,” as the angel plainly revealed to Zacharias before his birth (Luke 1:15,16). But what had happened to these many converts of John the Baptist when Jesus was crucified some three or four years later? Doubtless many of them were truly converted people, but they did not have much faith in the resurrection of Christ; they did not stand by Him when He was arrested and crucified. The frailty of the best Christians in the world is here illustrated. Yet a mighty revival could be had at Pentecost despite their failure and the failure of the disciples whom Jesus had won Himself.
If you think that revivals are not possible when Christian people grow cold, or fall into false doctrine, or bicker and divide and sin, then you should remember what Paul said to the elders of the church at Ephesus, gathered to meet him at Miletus:
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”–Acts 20:28-30. Paul had a mighty revival among fickle, immature Christians, and he knew that after his departure some of these very same elders would arise to speak perverse things and draw away disciples, and grievous wolves would enter the flock. Christians then were the same kind of frail creatures that they are today. Backsliding and apostasy were the constant tendency.
Paul, in deadly urgency, wrote to Timothy about this very thing. In II Timothy 4:1-5 he said:
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
Paul was ready to be offered. He knew that the apostasy prevailed everywhere, then as now. Yet Timothy was enjoined to watch, to endure afflictions, to do the work of an evangelist. Then good Christians might have sung that old hymn which says:
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.”
But that did not prevent revivals. God can have revivals with poor, frail, human instruments. He can revive His saints. He can use them in soul-winning. The declension and backsliding are so natural to men that they never surprise God, and we may be sure they never make powerless His gospel, if a few Christians will pay God’s price for the revival.
II. Failures in New Testament Times Could Not Prevent All Great Revivals Since
We had as well admit that Christians often failed God in New Testament times. Critics might well have said then, as they sometimes say now, “Christianity has failed.”
After Paul warned Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables,” then Paul spoke to Timothy about his own strait. He was in jail at Rome, about to be executed. Rather sadly he said, “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me” (II Tim. 4:9-11). He said, “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion” (II Tim. 4:14-17).
We might suppose that Paul was writing in 1950. Alexander the coppersmith hated Paul and opposed him, just as people turn against evangelists today. When Paul was tried for his life and stood to answer for himself, there was not a single witness who would stand up for Paul! All men forsook him! There was not a Christian who would risk his life to stand with Paul. Alone he gave his testimony and was delivered temporarily. But a little later he was taken out to the executioner’s block and his head was chopped off.
The worldliness and unspiritual state of Christians became so bad that even John the beloved disciple, the only apostle left alive, was not allowed to speak in some of the churches. He writes in the Third Epistle of John, “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.”
Does not that sound much like some churches and Christians today, where godly soul-winning evangelists are kept out, and where there are divisions and strife? Does not that remind you of worldly-minded church officers who hound the pastors in some churches today, and limit the power of God? The decline in spirituality, the increase of worldliness and selfishness among Christians is a normal thing that has happened in all the ages.
Does someone tell me that churches are failing in these days? Well, then, consider that every single church that was known to New Testament times has utterly disappeared! Where is the church at Jerusalem, filled with Spirit-filled disciples, at the birthplace of Christianity? It is gone! Long centuries ago, longer than even history has any record of, that church disappeared. Likely it happened in A.D. 70 when Jerusalem was taken by Titus and much of it destroyed.
Where are the seven churches of Asia? Even the church of Philadelphia, so greatly commended, has disappeared, as well as all the other churches in Asia Minor.
Where are the churches established in Paul’s ministry? Where is the mighty church of Ephesus? Where is the church at Corinth? Where is the Christianity which flamed so brightly all around the Mediterranean Sea, established by Paul’s journeys? Gone! All gone!
Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome, “Your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” And at Rome the Christianity so greatly favored of God drifted more and more into formalism and ritualism, and became what is now Roman Catholic apostasy. Roman Catholicism with the papacy, with worship of Mary, with prayers to saints, with the idolatry of images, with purchased masses, with confession to priests instead of to God, offering at best a dubious purgatory instead of outright regeneration and assurance of salvation, is a constant witness to the frailty of human nature, the constant tendency to spiritual decline and false doctrine, unbelief and worldliness.
Don’t you see that if cold churches, formal churches, modernistic churches, if unbelief in pulpit and pew in these modern days could prevent revival, they would have prevented all the great revivals since New Testament times! For in all Bible ages Christ has not failed, but the church has failed. Christianity has not failed, but the preachers, the Christians, the teachers, have failed.
Thank God that He is able to revive backslidden saints! Thank God that He is able to save cold, formalistic unconverted church members! Thank God that all the wickedness, all the false cults, all the worldliness, all the sin of these days cannot prevent revival if a few of God’s people pay God’s price for power and blessing!
III. The Dark Ages Could Not Prevent the Reformation Revival
Few people realize how black was the midnight of spiritual darkness, spiritual ignorance, in the Dark Ages. Never in the world was the “failure of Christianity” so obvious to unbelievers as in the Dark Ages when Rome had stifled opposition, when there was a famine of the Word of God, when in all the world there were only a little handful of spiritually-intelligent believers. Here and there, like a tiny candle gleaming in the dark, was a group of “heretics”‘ who still read the Scriptures copied by hand, who believed in individual regeneration by faith in Christ and who could be called New Testament Christians.
Practically every town of ten thousand or twenty thousand people in America today has more gospel preaching true to the Word of God than a nation of millions had during the Dark Ages. Sunday school scholars know more Bible usually than priests and monks usually knew in those days. What chance was there for revival when indulgences to sin were openly sold; when salvation was not put on the basis of faith in Christ, but on the basis of confession to a Roman priest and payment for masses in the church? What chance was there for revival when not only kings, but often the popes themselves were licentious and immoral?
Yet out of the welter of those Dark Ages God gave, in the Reformation, one of the greatest revivals the world has ever seen. God raised up Luther, Calvin and others and turned literally millions of people to personal faith in Christ and to a knowledge of salvation by faith, in Germany, the Scandinavian countries, Scotland and England, and parts of many other countries. There was really a counter-Reformation in the Catholic church that profoundly moved the whole corrupt organization. Protestantism as we know it in the main, particularly with reference to Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian and Anglican churches, came out of the mighty revival of the Reformation.
Thank God, no such spiritual darkness as that of the Middle Ages is on the world today, not in America, not in England, not in any English-speaking country! If world conditions, if spiritual decline, if false doctrine could not prevent revival in the Dark Ages, surely world conditions today cannot stop the power of God, the progress of the gospel, and the salvation of multitudes of sinners, if some of God’s people will pay God’s price for soul-winning power.
IV. Wickedness and Unbelief Could Not Prevent the Great Modern Revivals
All through recorded history one truth stands out forever the same. God has given revivals in spite of man’s wickedness, in spite of man’s unworthiness, his unbelief and unfaithfulness.
Consider England in Wesley’s day. In the book, This Freedom Whence, by John Wesley Brady, you would do well to read of the alarming state of England when Wesley began preaching. The complete breakdown of government and morals which took place in France and brought about the French Revolution bade fair to bring a similar convulsion in England.
The established church, the Anglican church, was unutterably corrupt. The church was, of course, supported by taxation and church leaders appointed as something like political patronage, by government leaders. Bishops had estates with enormous incomes, had them by appointment of political leaders and kept them by subservience to political ends. The clergy were everywhere simply political appointees, without any reference to spiritual fitness, and generally did not even profess to be converted, born-again men. Gambling was everywhere prevalent among the clergy. Drinking, even drunkenness, was very common. Most of the clergy were Deists. They believed in a supreme being but did not believe the Bible, did not believe in the deity of Christ, the new birth. The church ceremonies were simply a stiff form. People in the parish were sprinkled as babies, “christened,” and were counted members of the church. We have no record of anybody in the Anglican church at the time doing revival preaching, preaching the new birth, calling sinners to repentance. Puritan pastors had been barred from preaching in principal towns and had often been fined and jailed, and worse, for simply preaching the gospel. We remember that John Bunyan was kept twelve years in Bedford jail simply to keep him from preaching.
English vessels carried on the slave trade for most of the world. Armed thugs would land in Africa, raid villages, murder those who opposed them and carry off slaves. With brutality, herded in pens and holds like animals, the slaves were carried to the West Indies, to the American colonies, to England and elsewhere. Many died and were pitched overboard enroute. Smuggling, gambling, thieving, licentiousness were everywhere common. The Shakespeare plays give an idea of how common was adultery. Thousands were jailed for debt. A man could be jailed or hanged for catching a wild rabbit on an earl’s estate. Little children slaved in mines and mills as much as twelve or fourteen hours a day.
There were no Sunday schools of any kind, no free day schools, and most people could not read nor write. When Wesley would preach he was often assaulted physically just for preaching the gospel. Mobs were raised again and again against him and his fellow preachers. Occasionally a Methodist meeting house would be utterly destroyed and the officers often favored the culprits.
England was as unlikely a place for a great revival as one could imagine. The Puritan revival had been suppressed with great violence. Independent-minded and Bible-believing preachers were everywhere abused, jailed, run out of the country, or their property confiscated. England was hardly civilized, utterly foreign to what we now know as England. Yet God breathed upon John and Charles Wesley, on Whitefield and the preachers whom God raised up with them, and a mighty revival transformed England. Besides leading to the salvation of millions of souls, the Wesleyan revival indirectly started a Sunday school movement, caused prison reforms, stopped the slave trade, caused immense reforms in government, and largely created what we know as traditional English character, justice and society.
The unbelief, the lewdness, the immorality and dishonesty among the people and among church and government leaders when the Wesleyan revival began were far more discouraging than is true in America today. In view of the mighty revival God gave in Wesley’s day, it is foolish and faithless to believe that God could not now stir America and England and anywhere else in the world where men shake God and pay God’s price for revival, as mightily as He did in Wesley’s day. The trouble is not with the hardness of world conditions and wicked hearts. The trouble is with the laborers. “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few.”
The Wesleyan revival came to America through Whitefield, Coke, Asbury and others. But you will remember that in America, Tom Paine, one of the leaders of the American Revolution, was at the height of his popularity. He wrote The Age of Reason in which he set out to prove the Bible false. The multitudes read his books and pamphlets with enthusiasm. At one time his popularity rivaled that of Washington, Jefferson and Franklin. Leaders of thought in early America were also Deists, denying the inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Christ, and the need for regeneration. Yet Benjamin Franklin heard Whitefield preach and was profoundly moved. He did not make a public profession of faith, but Franklin’s Autobiography shows that Franklin in his later years believed in the God of the Bible, that he earnestly urged people to pray and to read the Bible. George Washington himself became an earnest man of prayer and was, we believe, a believing Christian. God brought a revival in early America in spite of infidelity and flagrant wickedness. Why would the Almighty God be hindered by human conditions now if His people meet His requirements for revival?
Consider the revival from 1857-1859, which began outwardly in the Fulton Street prayer meeting in New York City. It began only three years before the Civil War, and the flames of hate, strife and every wicked passion were rising high. That marvelous revival came in the midst of all the agitation for and against war, and it did not prevent the mighty Civil War.
Consider the state of America in the days of D.L. Moody. Robert Ingersoll, an infidel, was at the height of his popularity following the Civil War in which he had a distinguished military record. He came near being governor of Indiana, and many think he would have been president but for his position as an outspoken infidel. All over America he lectured to great crowds against the Bible and the Christian religion. Infidel clubs were formed all over America. Unbelief has never been more arrogant, more outspoken than it was in America when D.L. Moody began his great ministry.
Moody worked among soldiers during the Civil War. He did not become widely-known until after the war. All the aftermath of the war, with its hatred, its economic dislocation, with the oppression of southern states and flaming sectional hatred, did not prevent a revival. American frontiers were pushed westward with lawlessness and bloodshed, crimes against Indians, and whole communities were often kept in terror by murdering outlaws.
When Moody went to England, infidels, openly scoffing at the Bible and God and Christ, were so bold that infidel clubs were more popular and active than lodges are today. In fact, Mr. Soltau, in The Sword Book of Treasures, published by Sword of the Lord Publishers, tells how Moody preached one night to five thousand infidels in a service advertised especially for them. And they came, on order of their infidel leader, as a joke and to put the evangelists, Moody and Sankey, to shame. They knew no gospel hymns. Aside from a few Christian workers, no one was invited but infidels. Yet God’s mighty power came upon them and some five hundred turned to the Lord, and the infidel clubs were broken.
Those who imagine that revivals are simply the product of certain happy circumstances are foolish. They ignore the teaching of the Word of God and ignore the facts back of all great revivals. The moral and spiritual conditions when the D.L. Moody revival came to America and England were tremendously bad, even in many ways worse than conditions today. Conditions did not deter the power of God then, and cannot prevent His blessing now, if His people pay the price for revival.
God must feel it as an insult to His power and grace that people think revivals can only be had in propitious circumstances! On the verge of the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of Judah, about which Jeremiah had been forewarned and which he had faithfully preached, God instructed Jeremiah to buy a field and do it openly and officially as an evidence that “houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land” (Jeremiah 32:15). In view of the wasting and the utter destruction which was even then taking place, when the temple would be destroyed, the gates of the city burned with fire, the walls torn down, the people slaughtered or dispersed to Babylon, revival of the nation seemed impossible. But Jeremiah said, “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee.” God answered back, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:17, 27).
Elijah had people pour twelve barrels of water over the sacrifice on Mount Carmel before he called on God to send a fire from Heaven. He knew that God could start a fire with wet wood as well as with dry. He knew that God could give a revival in the midst of the awful depravity and idolatry and sin of Samaria. And God’s believing people know that God can do the same thing today.
What kind of a God is this we worship? Can puny men block the power of God when His people trust Him? Are sinners so strong and impervious to God’s call that the Spirit of God cannot bring conviction, cannot pale the sinner’s cheek, cannot put tears in the sinner’s eye, cannot set a burning in the sinner’s conscience? What kind of a God is this we preach and serve? Is He so weak that the weather, the competition of radio and sports and television and business and vacationing, has left Him helpless? Can God not compete in this brave modern world of which we boast? Shame on us for the thought! Down through the centuries God has proved Himself the God over all the circumstances, over all the people. He is the God above all human rulers. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). Man proposes, but God disposes. Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.
If I had a God who could not save a drunkard, I would never preach Him to little children. If I had a God who could not cleanse the harlot, I would never preach Him to a chaste wife and mother. If Jesus Christ cannot save Catholics and Jews, criminals and infidels, then I would never risk my own soul into His hand. If God cannot give great city-wide revivals with mighty results and thousands saved from the public preaching of the Word in mass evangelism, I would never preach Him in a class in child evangelism, or a class of Junior boys and girls!
What sin, what reproach upon God, what a mark of our unbelief, when we indicate that conditions are too hard for God, that conditions prevent a revival! History down through all the ages cries that it is a lie! All the revivals in Bible times, the great Reformation revival with Luther and Calvin and others, the Wesleyan revival that saved England from its French Revolution and made English and American civilization and freedom what it is today, the Moody revivals and more–these were all brought about in the face of horrible, widespread and flagrant sin, in the face of spiritual decline and unbelief in the churches and out.
Are you impressed with all the power and might and wickedness and the bent away from God of this present modern world? Then listen to the words of Jesus Christ, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The world? Remember that “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (I John 5:4).
World conditions have never yet stopped a revival when God’s people met God’s requirements and had His mighty power for soul-winning. World conditions cannot stop a revival now. “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).
Chapter 8 – The Revival Harvest is Always Ripe Among Lost Sinners
Throughout these lectures we have felt constrained to return repeatedly to the Scripture given in Matthew 9:35-38, where Jesus gave us this law that the harvest is plenteous but the laborers are few–that the trouble is not with the circumstances, the sinners, the world, but with the church, the people of God. Let us read that Scripture again with the thought in mind that sinners themselves are ripe for the harvest, in the sight of the dear Saviour.
“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”–Matt. 9:35-38.
This passage centers about the work Jesus did among the people. He taught them in their synagogues, knowing how hungry were their hearts. He preached the gospel of the kingdom, and the word gospel means good news; so the people must have felt very hungry for it and surely heard it gladly. He healed every sickness and disease among the people; so here He calls attention to the ravages of sin, the unrest, the want and need which are felt everywhere in a world of sin.
We are told that Jesus “saw the multitudes,” fainting. (The term is plural; not a single multitude, but “multitudes.”) That indicates that the people were not only needy but felt their need. They followed Christ, hung on to His words, sought His help.
And the great heart of the Lord Jesus was moved with compassion on these people. He saw how weary and faint, how discouraged and whipped they were. He saw how they “were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” They had no one to whom they could go. They had no leader to follow. They had no fold for refuge.
All this was in the mind of the dear Saviour when He said to the disciples, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”
Not only do sinners need the gospel, but they will hear the gospel. Many of them are hungry for the gospel and eager to accept it, if it be preached clearly and with boldness and love and tears, in the mighty power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus evidently had in mind the same truth, that multitudes of sinners are ripe for the harvest, when He sat on the curbing of the well at Sychar in Samaria and said to His disciples, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together” (John 4:35,36). Here Jesus had in mind particularly this city of Sychar. He had won a wayward woman to love and trust Him. She had left her waterpot and had run to the city to tell the men, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29). They would be coming now in a few minutes to see Him for themselves and to hear His words. Some of them were so eager for peace and forgiveness, so eager to know the Saviour that they trusted Him, unseen, on the testimony of the woman. Others would come and beseech Him to stay. He would stay in that town two days, and many more would believe because of His preaching (John 4:40,41). So Jesus told these disciples that they should not feel that the harvest would later be ripe, after four months. It was ripe already.
And what Jesus said about Sychar, He said in principle about the whole world.
Everywhere in the world there is such unrest on the part of sinners, such disillusionment over the unfulfilled promises of the world, over the wages of sin that hurt and warn them, over burning consciences, over lost loved ones and over the fear of death, that sinners can be won. Unnumbered millions of people in the world today–lost people who need saving–are ripe for the harvest. That is what the Saviour said. That is what Bible examples prove. And by God’s grace I shall try to give some of the fundamental reasons why there are always sinners who can be won to Christ, and so revival is always possible.
I. Bible Illustrations of Hungry Sinners Who Longed for Peace, Forgiveness and Salvation
Again and again in the New Testament we find hungry hearted sinners, like ripe fruit on a tree, waiting to be won. Not all of them knew exactly what they needed, of course, but they had some deep need that left their hearts open to the gospel and made them quick to trust the Saviour when the good news was presented to them.
1. Consider Cornelius, the Roman Centurion at Caesarea.
In Acts 10 we find the remarkable story:
“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do”–Acts 1O:16.
Or, as repeated in Acts 11:13,14 in Peter’s words, “And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.”
The Lord had to show Peter a thrice-repeated vision before He could break down his Jewish prejudice enough to get Peter to go to a Gentile’s house to preach the gospel! But at least when two servants and a soldier sent from Cornelius came to urge Peter to come to tell Cornelius and his whole household how to be saved, Peter was convinced and on the morrow they went.
It is interesting to note that Peter seems to have prepared a great sermon. No doubt he thought this ignorant Gentile would know so little that it would take a great deal of teaching. But if he had intended to preach a long sermon he did not get to finish it. In a brief introduction, Peter told the plan of salvation in these words, “To him [Jesus] give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). And he never got to preach the rest of his sermon! Cornelius and his whole household were converted at once. Peter, telling of it later, said, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.” So the new converts were baptized and Peter went on his way back to try to explain to critical Jewish Christians why he had gone to the house of a Gentile to preach the gospel!
In this charming story from the Scriptures it becomes apparent that God often has more trouble getting a soul winner ready to work for Him than He has in getting sinners ready to hear the gospel! It took signs and wonders to get Peter ready to preach to that poor unsaved man, a man of prayer, a man who gave alms, a man who fasted and waited on God, trying to find how to be saved. Just so God had more trouble in getting Jonah ready to preach than He had in getting the Ninevites to repent. Cornelius is a good example of hungry hearted people who in almost every community would be easy to reach with the gospel.
2. Consider also the Ethiopian Eunuch Whom Philip Led to Christ.
This treasurer of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, had been to Jerusalem to worship and, returning, sat in his chair and read the Prophet Isaiah.
“Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.”–Acts 8:29-39.
It is to Philip’s credit that he went without protest, leaving the great revival in Samaria to meet the unknown man with a hungry heart! This man had already been to Jerusalem to worship. He was already seeking, in the Word of God, to find peace for his soul. Notice that the unsaved man took the initiative all the way through this meeting. He begged Philip to sit with him in the chariot and explain the Scriptures. The eunuch asked Philip to explain “of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?” So Philip deserves little credit that he “opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, [Isa. 53] and preached unto him Jesus.”
It is the eunuch himself who begs to be baptized, though doubtless Philip had told of this rite and what it meant.
About men like this the Scripture says that “the harvest truly is plenteous.”
3. Consider Zacchaeus the Publican Who Climbed a Tree to see Jesus.
Let us read the beautiful story from Luke 19:1-10.
“And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
There are many reasons why one would suppose that Zacchaeus would be hard to reach. For one thing, he was rich, and rich people do not always feel their need for help. They are not always humble. For another, he was a publican, a crooked tax collector. He had wronged many and was hated by many and despised by all. But his heart was hungry. He was a little short man, and when a big crowd gathered around Jesus as He walked down the road and taught, Zacchaeus could not see Him. So, after trying in vain to see Jesus, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree so that when Jesus came along he should see Him well.
Oh, how different the dear Saviour is from us, His blind and unbelieving disciples! Jesus saw the man and read the signs of his hungry heart. Jesus simply said, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.” Would you think that this man would be so easily won? Oh, as soon as he knew that the Saviour loved him and would forgive, he slid down the tree and hit the ground a saved and happy man! As evidence of his salvation, he immediately resolved to give half of his goods to the poor and to restore fourfold to any man from whom he had taken money by false accusation, so common among publicans. And Jesus said, “This day is salvation come to this house.”
Zacchaeus is an illustration of the verse of the old song:
Down in the human heart, Crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, Wakened by kindness,
Chords that are broken will vibrate once more.
Zacchaeus is a type of many another sinful man who needs forgiveness and knows it, and whose heart would delight to see Jesus!
4. Consider the Sinful Woman Who Anointed Jesus’ Feet At the House of Simon the Pharisee.
Jesus went to the home of Simon the Pharisee and ate at a low table in the cool, stone-paved plaza, within the horseshoe shaped house. As they reclined on couches to eat, each leaning on his elbow in Oriental fashion, a strange thing occurred:
“And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.”–Luke 7:37-39.
But Jesus loved the woman whom the Pharisee despised. He told the parable of the two debtors and rebuked the Pharisee who had not loved the Lord Jesus enough to wash His feet or anoint His head, but this woman had washed the Saviour’s feet with tears and wiped them with her hair, and had anointed His head with precious ointment, a token of love and worship. Hear, then, the wonderful words of Jesus about how this woman’s sins were forgiven and her soul was saved by faith:
“Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”–Luke 7:47-50.
People often do not look among sinful women such as this woman, probably a harlot, for converts. It may be that you who say we cannot have revival now are more concerned with the Pharisees than with the sinful women. But wherever sin has done its worst work, often there is the deepest hunger for Christ. And this poor woman, so gloriously forgiven and saved, is typical of many, many others who are ripe for revival, if God only had some workers Spirit-filled to go with boldness, tears and holy abandon to win them.
5. Consider the Woman with an Issue of Blood Twelve Years, Healed when She Touched the Hem of His Garment.
As Jesus went to the home of Jairus, ruler of the synagogue, to raise his little daughter,
“… a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched. And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.”– Luke 8:43-48.
This woman had tried everybody else, and probably from absolute necessity or despair, she was ready to come to Jesus. She touched the hem of His garment. The Saviour tells us that it was genuine faith she had. “Thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” So we must be sure that the dear Saviour forgave her sins and that she gladly loved and trusted Him for salvation as well as for healing.
Do you know anyone who has reached the end of human help? Do you know anybody who, with broken health, or with wayward children, or with burdens more than human shoulders can possibly bear, would turn to Jesus? There are countless thousands of such, if we would go to them with the gospel in love and power. The harvest truly is plenteous.
6. Consider the Woman of Samaria, at Sychar.
I have called your attention more than once to the woman of Samaria to whom Jesus spoke in the fourth chapter of John, and who was so wonderfully saved. Here I take time only to call your attention to the fact that her heart was hungry. It is true she was prejudiced. It is true that she had lived a careless and worldly life. She had married five men and now lived in sin with a man not her husband. It is true that she was ready to argue. But when Jesus pressed upon her the fact of her sin and showed her that He knew all about her life, she immediately believed that He was the Messiah He claimed to be. She loved Him, trusted Him, set out to serve Him and to bring others to Him that very day.
I believe that Jesus had known ahead of time by some divine wisdom about this woman in Samaria, for instead of going down to Jericho and following the usual river route up the Jordan, He went over the hills to Samaria. We are told, “And he must needs go through Samaria.”
The Saviour never got away from the sense of hungry hearts all about Him, the multitudes like sheep without shepherds. God forgive us that we do not sense the need of people, the hunger of people, and their readiness to hear the gospel! Actually that woman who lived at Sychar had more than once grieved over her shabby reputation and wished she might be as acceptable as more virtuous women. No doubt she had even grieved that Jews had no dealings with Samaritans, and Samaritans were a half-breed people with a half-breed religion, despised by the Jews. No doubt she had longed for a peace and satisfaction that the world had, despite all her marriages and efforts at pleasure, failed to give her. So she was a typical case of sinners ready for revival.
We can have revival now because all over the world are people, sinners with hungry hearts, who could be won if we went to them in the mighty power of God.
II. Fundamental Reasons Why There Are Always Sinners Who Can Be Won to Christ
There are certain deeply-felt needs in human hearts that tend to turn men toward God when they hear the gospel in love and power. Often men may feel these needs very indefinitely. Sometimes these needs are very intangible. Nevertheless they are real; and every man and woman who seeks to win souls, every evangelist who seeks to lead in revival, ought to rejoice that there are certain deeply-seated, fundamental causes which work on the side of the gospel and revival.
1. There Is Among Men Everywhere a Universal, Subconscious Realization of God.
Someone has said, “Man is incurably religious.” Heathen races whose ancestors long centuries ago turned their backs on God, races that have had no gospel for many centuries, yet have a doctrine about God, a tradition, a race consciousness of God. As Wordsworth teaches in his Ode: On Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood, children do not come in entire forgetfulness from the hand of God into this world, but rather come with an inborn sense that there is a Creator, a God, a Judge to whom man must give an account. A world without a Creator is unthinkable to sensible men. No wonder that the Bible calls a fool any atheist who says in his heart, “There is no God” (Psa. 53:1). In the conscience, men have evidence of a God. In the sun, moon and stars, in the seasons, the tides, in God’s provisions for man on this earth are abundant evidences to the heart that there is a God.
And men are made for God. How depraved is the savage race that does not believe in a hereafter! Man subconsciously feels that there is a place where wrongs are made right, where men get their just dues.
Man, made in the image of God, finds the image now greatly marred by sin. And yet it is there! It is there so that St. Augustine could well say, “Our souls, O God, are restless, until they find their rest in Thee!”
All this means that most men are not hard to convince that there is a God, that there is a hereafter, that God punishes sin, that men need a Saviour. Deep in the consciousness of men is an ally of the gospel and that helps to make the harvest always white, a harvest of sinners for the gospel reaper.
2. The Failure of This World to Satisfy the Human Heart Leaves Disillusioned People Everywhere Ripe for the Gospel.
Sometimes Christians talk about all the pleasures of the wicked, and I have sometimes sensed envy in Christians who talk about the way sinners drink and carouse and live for wealth or pleasure. If the world could satisfy the human heart, it might indeed be difficult to reach men with the gospel. But one who preaches Jesus Christ, forgiveness, a new heart, the comfort of the Holy Ghost, and a home in Heaven, has so much more to offer than the world ever gives its devotees, that the scales are weighted in favor of the soul winner!
Do you think that the man who pursues wealth and finds it is happy? Well, if he does not have peace and joy of the Lord, his money certainly cannot give him peace and joy. Proverbs 15:6 says, “In the house of the righteous is much treasure: but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble.” How many men have found that in the revenues of the wicked is trouble! That is, to an unsaved man, money–whether gotten by fair means or foul–cannot satisfy. Money is not what the heart needs. Money is not the stuff out of which happiness is made.
Some years ago after a blessed city-wide revival campaign in Buffalo, New York, the pastors asked me to return for a week of services in the interest of Buffalo Bible Institute. They had procured a mansion, a very expensive property on half a city block, in an expensive section of Buffalo. The three-story mansion had bedrooms large enough for classrooms. The flooring was hardwood parquet. The bathroom by each bedroom had silver-mounted hardware. The interior doors were of three-inch thick solid mahogany, imported from Honduras. There was a private elevator. The dean lived in what had been the servants’ quarters and said that his home was like a seven-room mansion. The walls of this beautiful building were covered with tapestry instead of wallpaper.
I understand that the big home itself cost a quarter of a million dollars, besides the cost of the half of a city block in downtown Buffalo. So I asked one of the committee who had helped to obtain the new property, “Where in the world did you get $300,000 or so to buy such a property as this?”
“It did not cost us $300,000,” he said, “but only a tenth of that amount!”
I wondered how this came about. And he told me that the rich man’s wife, for whom he built the beautiful home, had died. When she had been afflicted with heart trouble, he had put in the expensive private elevator; but one day she died. Then his only daughter ran off and married against her father’s will. The hungry-hearted man, left alone, found his wealth no better than dust and ashes. He told his agents to dispose of the property, to sell it at any necessary price at once and get the matter off of his hands. He never wanted to see the place again!
Oh, there are no pleasures in the revenues of the wicked, but trouble! And men who do not know Christ can never find themselves satisfied with the husks of this world, no matter what money can buy.
I wonder if you ever envy those who go the merry rounds of pleasure? You are not wise if you do. Proverbs 14:12,13 says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.” I remember a ballad of my boyhood, “After the Ball” which had the sad refrain,
After the ball is over, after the break of morn,
After the dancers are leaving, after the stars are gone;
Many the hearts that are aching, could we but read them all,
Many are the hopes that have vanished, after the ball.
If you think that wine and women and song, the theater, and travel, and music can give any permanent satisfaction to the heart, then you do not know. Among the most unhappy people I have ever met, I would number those who had nothing to do but have “a good time.”
In Shamrock, Texas, I was pastor of the First Baptist Church and a young woman, an earnest Christian, told me of a friend who threatened to commit suicide. Would I talk to the girl and try to help her? Of course I would. She was brought to my home to visit us. I discovered, to my shocked surprise, that she was beautiful, that she was of good family, that she had a college education.
“Miss Irene tells me,” I began, “that you have been sad and unhappy, and I have asked her to bring you to me that I might see if I could help you.”
“Yes,” she said, “I am unhappy. I had a good chance to try everything that would bring happiness, and it has all failed me. I wanted to go to college, and my father was glad to send me. He has bought me the nicest clothes. I have travelled in Europe. I was interested in art, and in literature, and I have had time and money to travel. I have gone into society, have enjoyed all the pleasures that other decent young people enjoy. But I have found that life is not worth living! If I go to a party or a dance, I may seem light-hearted enough, but by the time I am home again I know it is all empty and hollow and vain. There is nothing to satisfy the heart, and life is a cheat. I wish I were dead! I would have killed myself before now but for the grief to my mother and father,” she said.
“Oh, no!” I said, “life is fit to live. Life is good. And you ought to be happy and have great joy and peace.”
She turned her face to me and said with sharpness, yet with sadness, “I wish you would tell me how! If you know how to be happy, how to have peace, I wish you would show me!”
I answered her, “Well, I can certainly do that. Just get down on your knees here with me and tell the Lord Jesus Christ what you have told me. Tell Him that you have tried all the other things in the world–education, music, art, dress, society, and what people call good times. Tell Him that in all the world promises it is a cheat, and that it never delivers. Tell the Lord Jesus that your heart is heavy and you want Him to come in and fill it, and make life worth living. Turn yourself over to Him now, in your failure, in your emptiness, your sin and sadness, and I promise you He will come in and make life happy and worth living.”
She uttered not a word of argument. She dropped on her knees and began to weep until her tears made a wet spot on the carpet. I asked the dear Lord to forgive, to help her to trust Jesus, to heal her broken heart. I asked the Lord Jesus to supply all that the hollow tinsel of this world had failed to give a hungry heart. And Jesus came in! She trusted Him there, took my hand on it gladly, then rose with a glad light in her face, and wiped away her tears! She found that the world cannot satisfy. She was only an example of the truth that everywhere there are hearts that are hungry and so ripe for revival.
Do you think that success and fame bring happiness? Then remember that “the paths of glory lead but to the grave.” Remember Woodrow Wilson who at one time was on the peak of world fame and honor, and a few months later was a disillusioned sick man on S Street in Washington, betrayed by his friends, attacked by his enemies, by-passed by his subordinates.
Do you remember that President Calvin Coolidge, urged to run again for the presidency, said simply, “I do not choose to run”? He resisted all urging, and would not have the nomination that would have meant almost certainly a third term as president of the greatest nation in the world. But later, writing in The Saturday Evening Post, he reminded us of his son, beloved and fine and fair, who had blistered his heel playing tennis, and then the blister, becoming infected, had killed him. Coolidge said, “When my son died, the glory of the presidency faded away.” Being in the White House does not make the heart happy. The fame of this world cannot satisfy the longings of a broken heart.
Had Hitler happiness? Was Mussolini a shining example of joy? You may be sure that all the promises of this world are as vain to others as they proved to those men.
When men have tried all that this world can give and find still a heart unsatisfied, they are ripe harvest for the gospel. Sinners everywhere, millions of them, have in their bosom the unrest and the disillusionment that make them hunger for what can be found only in Christ. They may not know what they need, but they know instinctively that they need something. And you and I know that Christ is the answer, and we ought to take Him as the Balm in Gilead, the ease for every heartache, the satisfaction for every void in the human heart. Such a hunger in the hearts of sinners proves that we can have revival.
3. The Wages of Sin Are Themselves Often the Incentive to Salvation.
Satan often over-reaches himself. He wanted to plague Job by the destruction of his property, and God permitted it. He wanted to kill Job’s sons and daughters, and God allowed that. Still Job trusted and honored God. And Satan, in a rage of jealousy, said that if he could but touch Job’s body, Job would curse God. God allowed the experiment. And instead of Satan getting honor out of the matter, the Lord showed how wonderfully He can give patience to a Christian in trouble, and how wonderfully He comes to the help of His own afflicted. How many millions have been comforted in this matter! Satan meant it for evil, of course, but God overruled it.
The brothers of Joseph sold him into slavery and he went to Egypt, they thought, to be forever out of their lives. But God used Joseph to save a nation and even his own family from starvation during the famine. And Joseph said to his brothers, “Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good” (Gen. 50:20).
Of course God hates sin. Sin is wicked rebellion against God. And Satan, who leads people on to sin, intends the damnation of their souls, and the ruin of all happiness. But in this matter God often allows Satan to prepare the way for a revival. Where sin has done its normal work, there are broken hearts that can never be healed but by the gospel of Jesus Christ and the saving touch of His salvation!
And John 8:1-11 tells of a woman taken in adultery, in the very act, and brought before Jesus with the hope that He would condemn her to stoning, or that Jesus could be accused of being the enemy of the law. You remember how Jesus stooped down and wrote with His finger on the ground, as though He heard them not, and then said to them, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” And when He stooped again and wrote on the ground, these men, convicted by their own consciences, stole away one by one and left the woman alone with Jesus. And when Jesus looked up and saw no one but the woman, He said, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?” She answered, “No man, Lord.” And Jesus said unto her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
All these, the woman’s captors and enemies, had stolen away. Why did she not leave, too? Jesus had obviously turned His back to leave the responsibility wholly upon His hearers. He did not detain the accusers, and he did not detain the accused. Yet she stayed! She did not want to leave. And I think we can see that clearly when she called Jesus, “Lord.”
She had had her adultery, but it brought no peace to her heart. It brought public shame and exposure. It brought the accusation of her neighbors. It made her a public spectacle. And it showed her, no doubt, that she needed something far more than any pleasures of this world. When she saw Jesus, she knew that He was the one whom she wanted, that He could give what she needed. She loved Him, trusted Him, and took Him as her Lord. And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” We cannot doubt but that this woman’s heart honestly turned to Jesus for mercy, and that He gave to the surrendered and believing heart the salvation she wanted. Oh, in that case, sin over-reached itself and but prepared a woman’s heart for God!
I know a beloved Christian worker. He was a professional musician and lived fast and loose in sin until suddenly he discovered that he was about to lose his wife, his home, and all the things that seemed most dear. He had never valued them before; now he found that sin was about to rob him of home and love and happiness. He immediately turned to Christ, and after long crying and tears, won his wife to Christ.
I am saying that sin over-reached itself there, and that the wages of sin simply prepared a heart for the gospel.
Do you lament the sin everywhere about us? So do I! But do you think that the wickedness of men, with drunkenness, divorce, adultery, unbelief in the Bible, lack of parental respect, lack of discipline of children, lack of reverence for the Bible do you think that these things indicate that God cannot have revival? You are wrong, dead wrong! For these things guarantee that there are broken hearts that need the gospel, hearts that cannot be satisfied without the gospel. Sin itself paves the way, with its wages, for revival.
When I was in the seminary, I drove a bus of Christian workers from the seminary to the jail every Sunday morning for services–one Sunday with men, the next with women. One morning we had service in the women’s chapel and I spoke on the woman taken in adultery, and the forgiveness of Jesus. A number of the women confined in the jail turned to Christ.
Among them was one of the most striking conversions I have ever known. One woman turned to Christ, trusted Him and claimed Him openly and seemed greatly assured about it. Then she praised God aloud, walking back and forth, clapping her hands as the tears of joy ran down her face. This is what she kept saying, “Oh! thank God I got in jail! I wouldn’t go to church; I wouldn’t listen to a preacher on the radio; I would not read a gospel tract: I wouldn’t allow anybody to talk with me about the Lord. I went on in sin with no sense of my need for God. But I went too far, and I got in jail. I thought I would rot in that lonely cell with no one to talk to, with no way to pass my time but to think about the ruin of my life. I came out here to the chapel only for a change, but, thank God, He spoke to my heart and saved me! Thank God I got in jail! God let me get in jail to keep me out of Hell!” I believe that she was exactly right, that God let her reap the wages of her sin to bring her to her senses and show her her need for God.
Do you know that many a man turns to God when the only alternative is suicide? Did you know that many a man has turned to God when he otherwise had determined to kill his estranged wife? Do you know that many a man has turned to God when he lost his job and was driven from his home and had become a bum? I have preached in city rescue missions all over America and I have found that many, many of the men who turn to Christ are brought to a readiness for the gospel by the wages of sin.
The more saloons we have, the more certain we can have revival. The more divorces we have, the more hungry and broken hearts there are who need God and who feel it! The more men turn to infidelity and reap the barrenness of it, the heartbreak of it, the despair of it, the more room there is for the gospel. How foolish and wicked we are to suppose that sin can keep down revivals. The wages of sin makes men fit subjects for the gospel, and makes the harvest ripe.
4. The Loss of Loved Ones Prepares People to Hear the Gospel.
God has many ways to plow the hard ground of a sinner’s heart and get it ready for the gospel seed. One way is the loss of loved ones.
While in revival services at Hastings, Minnesota, I went to visit a family out on an island in the Mississippi River. The man was notoriously hard and bitter. He had been nominally a Catholic. Now he seemed to hate God, the Bible and preachers, they told me. I went to his home. I was friendly with him and paid attention to his family, learned the names of his children, talked and prayed with them. Then I said to him, “Are these all of your children?”
There was a hushed silence. Then with choked voice he told me of the baby, three years old, that had fallen into the Mississippi River and drowned.
I was grieved for the man. But I told him about David’s baby and how David said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (II Sam. 12:23). I told him how little babies are kept by the power of God, how that “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22). I told him how that whatever taint of sin had been left by the baby’s human inheritance, all of that had been paid by the blood of Christ and she was kept safe, and so had gone to meet the Saviour. And I told him that if he would trust the Saviour, he could see her, too.
Suddenly the man was utterly changed. He leaned against me and wept. I found that a Catholic priest had told him that since the baby had not been sprinkled, she was lost. He had thought that the Christian religion taught that his child, his beloved little girl, was in Hell. If his baby was in Hell, he hardly wanted to go to Heaven. But now, since he had Bible assurance that the little one had gone to be with God, suddenly his heart was hungry for God and for Heaven. He loved this poor preacher who had brought him the gospel, and wept on my shoulder. When I told him how to be saved, he instantly accepted the Saviour with glad heart. And I went away with this thought in my heart, that multitudes of people whom we think are hard and impossible cases, are really very near to the kingdom of God, if only we knew. In many a heart that seems hard, God has had His breaking plow and His stump puller at work. And the death of a loved one has prepared the soil to hear the gospel.
Do you suppose that because a woman is a Catholic or a Jew, or because she is a professed unbeliever in the Bible, that she does not miss the little one who is torn from her arms by death? How many millions of women, when the breakfast dishes are washed and the men of the household have gone to their work and the children to school, get out of the dresser drawer or from a nearby table a baby book and look over the mementos of the little one who is gone! There is the little footprint for identification, taken at the hospital. There is the little bit of blond baby hair, slightly curled, tied with a blue baby ribbon! There is the snapshot of the little one taking its first toddling steps. And there, it may be, is a picture of the grave and the flowers when the little one was put in the casket and carried out to the Silent City of the Dead and buried, along with the mother’s heart. I say, do you believe that such mothers cannot be reached with the gospel? These mothers whose arms are so empty and whose hearts are so hungry, and who wonder if they will ever meet their little ones again–do you think they cannot be reached for Christ? I tell you that God has in thousands, yea, in hundreds of thousands of cases, beckoning hands on the heavenly shore who are doing more than others of us could do, to woo these to Heaven, if we but take the gospel in the power of God.
I remember the good deacon, “Daddy” Hickman, who died in Dallas, Texas, of cancer of the liver. I, his pastor, was called to his bedside at three o’clock in the morning and for two hours I sat there beside him and we talked of heavenly things. He knew he was going to Heaven. He said to me, “Brother Pastor, I have carried the burden of prayer for these boys of mine these years. Now I am going. I must leave the burden on you. I ask you to never give up my boys. They must be saved !”
Those fine grown sons were gathered to see their father in these last hours. The grim reaper was only a few hours or minutes ahead, we knew. So we brought these grown sons one by one to tell their father good-by. And he would grip their hands, look in their faces and say, “Bill, are you going to meet me in Heaven? You can’t lie to your father on his deathbed. And I must know. Tell me, may I expect to meet you there?”
One by one these men broke down. Those who were unsaved would bury their faces in the pillow and weep, then promise their father to meet him in Heaven. Then I would take the Scriptures and we would have the matter assured from the Word of God while he dealt with another son. And, thank God, when he went away at 5:00 A.m., already the whole family was depending upon the Saviour. Some had trusted the Lord before, but some in that holy hour found Christ because their father was going to Heaven.
You see, the harvest is white, and God has ways of preparing it all the time in the hearts of sinners.
People mocked at Charles Alexander because he had people sing, “Tell Mother I’ll Be There.” But that is a proper and Christian sentiment. If God deals with people’s hearts by the homegoing of a mother, it is right to sing about it and preach about it.
I promised her, before she died,
For Heaven to prepare:
0 Saviour, tell my mother
I’ll be there!
says the song. And you and I would be foolish not to thank God that He has dealt with many a heart and fixed there a longing that can never be satisfied but in Jesus and salvation.
5. The Burning of Conscience Prepares Men to Hear the Gospel Also.
How I thank God for that spark of celestial fire called conscience. How I thank God that when I preach to a wicked man I know that he has within his own breast a voice that is on my side and on the side of God.
John the Baptist had preached to Herod, and Herod had imprisoned him; then at the request of a dancing girl and his adulterous wife, Herod had cut off the head of John the Baptist. Then he heard of the preaching of Jesus. And Matthew 14:1,2 tells us:
“At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.”
Oh, John the Baptist! Herod would never get away from him! Herod would forever hear the warnings of that good man. Herod would dream about him. Now that Jesus was preaching and doing miracles, Herod’s heart smote him and he said, “This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead.” I will tell you that one could preach to Herod more easily, knowing that God had a silent minister in his own breast reminding him of his sin.
Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, and one would suppose that these hard-hearted men were glad to be rid of the young sprout who had such dreams of his dominance over them. And when they came to Egypt and saw Joseph but did not know him, and when their brother Benjamin was to be retained because of the money found in their sacks and Joseph’s cup, they did not know that anybody else in the world knew about their sin. Yet they said one to another,
“We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.”–Gen. 42:21, 22.
I would not mind preaching to those brothers about their sins and their need of forgiveness. And their own consciences, at everything I might have said, would have risen up to brand them as the sinners that they knew themselves to be. Oh, thank God, He has a witness in the heart of every man and woman in the world!
In Seattle, Washington, in a city-wide campaign, I preached in one of the early services on restitution. I pleaded with Christians to go to offended brothers and be reconciled, to make right their wrongs, to pay their debts, and see that there was nothing to hinder their prayers and their influence.
After the service was over, when I had preached to Christians, a despairing man met me in the back of the auditorium and asked me for help.
“You have talked about making good the wrongs we have done,” he said. “But how can I do it! I can never undo my sins, and I don’t see how I can ever have peace with God.”
He told me that he had been for years a panderer, that he had procured girls for the white slave trade. He would first win a girl’s confidence and love, then lead her into sin, then reveal his purposes and leave her in a house of shame. He told me that now for a year he had been haunted by the faces of the girls he had led into sin and ruin. “Many of those girls are already in Hell,” he said. “How can I make any restitution for things like that! And how can God ever forgive me?”
He told me how that very day as he had ridden a ferry across Puget Sound he had looked down into the dark waters and longed for peace and wondered if he might slip over the rail and into the waters at the bottom of the Sound and there someway forget the tortured memories of the wrongs he had done!
Oh, you may be sure it was easy for me to tell him of the blood of Christ which washes away the vilest sin. It was easy for me to tell him, though it seemed almost too good for him to believe, that “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” I told him that a Christian should try to be reconciled with other Christians, but that a lost sinner could never pay God for his sins, could never undo most of them.
And I assure you that there was no difficulty for a brokenhearted preacher, with some blessed anointing upon him, to win that man to Christ that night. God had already cut him down with the sword of conscience! And I say to you that God has put that candle of the Lord, that little spark of celestial fire, conscience, in the hearts of sinners to work with the gospel for revival and soul-winning. In every lost man’s heart God has some voices crying out to him to repent.
6. The Fear of Death on Every Hand Is a Powerful Influence to Aid the Gospel and Give Power to Plain Bible Preaching.
In that Spirit-filled and exalting bit of praise which Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, uttered after his son was born and named, he says that Christ came “the dayspring from on high,” and He came “to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” The shadow of death coming, surely coming, whether soon or late, is over every thoughtful man and woman in the world.
I know that many will say that the fear of death is an unworthy motive. I know that many people foolishly urge preachers never to use the fear motive in preaching the gospel. But they ignore the teaching and the example of Bible preachers. Nineveh repented when Jonah preached, “Forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” The fear of death turned men to repentance. Jesus used this motive when He said, “Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4,5).
And we are told very sensibly that “Noah… moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (Heb. 11:7). Noah was moved with fear, and God intended that the preaching of the gospel should use the fear of death which God has implanted in the human heart. Wherever men hear the verdict of the doctor, “It is cancer”; wherever the doctor says, “Active tuberculosis”; wherever men feel the infirmities of age and are reminded that they, too, must die, there is ground broken up, ready for the gospel seed.
But young people as well as old die. And young as well as old fear death. A girl, thirteen, came to Christ in one of my services in Texas, and then after she had fully trusted the Saviour and had assurance of forgiveness, she dried her eyes, smiled and said, “Now I will never be afraid to go to sleep any more!”
Let us honestly face this truth taught in the Bible, that everywhere, even among sinners, the harvest is white. Let us admit that God has people ready to hear the gospel if He only has people ready to go, with the power of God, and a holy abandon, to pay any price to win sinners. The harvest is white!
Chapter 9 – God’s Way to Mass Revival
THROUGHOUT these lectures we have insisted that we can have revival now. The Bible prophesies great revivals yet to come; this age is the age of revival, the age of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit for soul-winning, the age when “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved
.” We have insisted that God’s mighty resources are sufficient for revival today, and we have tried to show that in all ages the circumstances were more or less inconsequential and could not prevent mighty revivals when the people of God paid His price for His power and so were willing and fit to be used in winning souls. I trust we have showed that among lost sinners the ravages of sin, the disappointments of this world, the loss of loved ones, the burning of conscience, and the fear of death make sinners always ripe for revival. We can have revival now.
How, then, may we have revival? What are God’s requirements for His people, that He may pour out upon us His mighty, conquering, soul-winning power to win the hardest sinners, to change hearts and lives and homes and cities?
What must men do to have the revival God wants to give?
I. Remember That Revival Always Waits on God’s People
In Matthew 9:37,38, we find that Jesus said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” God is not limited in the nature of the harvest, but in the laborers.
On sending the seventy, two and two before His face into cities and places where He Himself would later come, Jesus said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). To the twelve He said, “The harvest truly is plenteous.” To the seventy He said, “The harvest truly is great.” To both alike He said that the laborers are few, and that they should pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers. God has a manpower shortage in the matter of soul-winning.
The same thing Jesus emphasized when the twelve disciples sat eating their lunch beside the well of Sychar in Samaria. “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest?” Jesus told them. “Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” And then He assured them that the reapers would receive wages and would gather fruit unto life eternal (John 4:34-36).
Please do not think the repetition of these three passages of Scripture either thoughtless or unnecessary. God does not wait for conditions to get right; He waits for men to get right! The harvest is not waiting because it is not ripe, but because the laborers are few. Jesus sent the seventy, new converts whom He could not call mature sheep, but only lambs, because He had no one else to send. And as they went they were to pray that God would send forth laborers into the ripe harvest.
This teaching that revival waits on men and is postponed only for lack of adequate workers is often found in the Bible. In II Chronicles 7:14 is the plain promise, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” It is God’s own people, those called by His name, who must pay the price for revival. Bartenders cannot have a revival. Modernists cannot have a revival. Atheists and infidels cannot have a revival. But, thank God, they cannot stop one either! Conditions, including the hearts of sinful men, are already ripe for revival. And when God’s people meet His requirements, revival always comes.
When the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray,” He said we need to come like a man who pounded on his neighbor’s door at midnight and said, “Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him” (Luke 11:5,6). The trouble is not that there are no sinners who are hungry, but that we do not have the bread. Most of us would rather blame sinners for not eating than blame ourselves for not providing the bread; but Jesus said that the blame is with us! Lord, teach us also to pray!
In these lectures we have mentioned particularly certain great Bible revivals. In these revivals one easily sees that God did not give the revival until He found a man or men willing and fit to be used in the revival.
At Mount Carmel God could turn the whole nation back to Himself, to forsake their Baal worship and return to the Lord, when Elijah was ready to challenge the people and pray down the fire of God.
It appears that it took God longer to get Jonah ready to preach in the great revival at Nineveh than it took to turn nearly the whole city to Him in sincere repentance.
Jesus came to Sychar, a city of the Samaritans, and there He knew that the field was ripe to harvest. The twelve apostles were with Him, but not one of them seemed to have had the slightest interest in getting anybody in the town saved. Just as Jesus had finally revealed to the woman that He was the Messiah, the attitude of the disciples is revealed as follows: “And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?” (John 4:27).
The disciples really “marvelled” (a very strong word) that Jesus would even talk to the woman. They did not dare say so, but each one would have liked to have asked Jesus, “Why talkest thou with her?” Here was a ripe harvest and nobody to reap it.
But when Jesus got the woman saved, she left her waterpot and ran to the city. Her testimony was that of a new convert; yet God used it to bring all the people of the city out to see Jesus, and He stayed there two days and many were saved. Here is another striking example that God waits on Christians to have a revival. He waits on laborers to reap His harvest.
Before Pentecost the apostles and other disciples faced an almost impossible task. But Jesus plainly told them that they should wait, tarry in Jerusalem until they should be endued with power from on high. They continued steadfastly in prayer and supplication, the twelve, and some of the women, and other disciples, and the mighty power of God came upon the disciples and a blessed revival with about three thousand people saved.
Here again the problem was workers with the power of God! As soon as these Christians waited on God and were mightily filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, multitudes were converted in the hardest city in the world! It was another example that God waits on workers for revival.
II. So, for Great Revivals, We Must Have Evangelists
God had an Elijah for Mount Carmel. He had a Jonah for Nineveh. The Lord Jesus Himself was the evangelist at Sychar in Samaria, but a saved and Spirit-filled convert helped to collect the crowd and do personal work. At Pentecost God had Peter standing up with the eleven to preach, and others of the disciples, no doubt, preached. In the great revival by the River Jordan where such multitudes went to hear John the Baptist condemn sin and announce the Saviour who would save all who would repent and trust Him, we cannot ignore the preacher himself, the Spirit-filled evangelist, John the Baptist. God has always used evangelists, that is, men who are especially anointed and dedicated leaders in great revivals.
It has been so in modern times. You cannot have a Reformation without a Luther and a Calvin. You could never have had the great Wesleyan revival without a John and Charles Wesley and Whitefield. We would never have had Charles G. Finney revivals except for Finney himself, the Spirit-filled, mighty prophet of God who did the work of an evangelist. The Moody revivals are inseparable from Moody himself. And the Billy Sunday revivals cannot be imagined without Billy Sunday. Other great revivals have been led by mighty evangelists. They had their weaknesses, but they were called of God to the work of evangelism, and dedicated and anointed for that work.
God has given to the church men for different purposes. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). After apostles and prophets, and before pastors and teachers in importance, God gave evangelists. There are some who would like to do without evangelists, some who would scorn them, curb them, berate them. But all such sin against God and sin against His holy Word. He has set the work of an evangelist in the body of Christ. These evangelists are not only called to give a gospel message to the unsaved, but, according to the Scripture they are “for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry,” to the end that the body shall make increase (Eph. 4:12-16).
The church is a sick church when it does not have evangelists. People will not be taught personal soul-winning as they should be and edified and built up for the ministry God requires of every Christian without the work of Spirit-filled, full-time called and anointed evangelists. The churches will lose the revival flavor God intended them to have if they do not have evangelists. It is true that some pastors will win souls, but they will be fewer and fewer as we have fewer evangelists to set the pace. Without evangelists we may not expect the great revivals God wants us to have. All the efforts to put evangelists into a minor place, to rob them of influence, circumscribe their preaching, and keep them out of the churches is working against God’s harvest, working against great revivals.
A widely-known prophetic teacher was called to a principal city, the capital of a state, to lead in a city-wide “revival campaign.” His sermons on “The Mark of a Beast,” on “The Coming Antichrist,” “The Tribulation Period,” etc., did not bring about a revival. They brought division and strife among pastors, and the result not only failed to be a revival, but it greatly hindered any future effort to get Christians united for a city-wide revival effort in that city.
A blessed preacher and Bible teacher has recently been invited to hold a city-wide revival campaign. Here in recent years a number of great revivals have been given by the Lord, and it was my privilege to lead in one such campaign with many hundreds of conversions and the city profoundly moved. The preacher now selected, a greatly-loved friend of mine, is not an evangelist. He has never claimed to be an evangelist. That is not his calling, not his anointing. He will preach good messages, but they will have no great revival unless his ministry is entirely transformed. God does not give great revivals without evangelists.
In another city known to me, good pastors got together to have a “revival campaign.” But so there would be no hard preaching against sin, no issue raised about movies, dances, lodges and other worldliness, they asked a good pastor to lead in the “revival campaign.” He preached good sermons. But he did not take the time for preparation of Christians, preaching against sin, getting them to pray and win souls, as Moody and Torrey and Billy Sunday and other blessed evangelists have always done. He simply preached sermons to the unsaved, good, sound sermons on the blood of Christ. But not many unsaved attended the services, there was a notable lack of real conviction, and pastors were disappointed because there was no genuine revival. There are a lot of good preachers, sound preachers, devoted preachers who are not evangelists. They are not called to be evangelists, not anointed to be evangelists.
It would be foolish for anybody to suppose that a group of men could select some man more to their liking than D.L. Moody, and put him in Moody’s place in the Moody revivals and still have the same results. God chooses evangelists and anoints them. And the best of them have learned by much waiting on God and in much experience how to promote a revival, how to get Christians to forsake their sins and pray and win souls, how to get sinners to attend the meeting, how to get them convicted and how to get them saved.
It would be as foolish to set out to change the whole plan of Christian churches and say that we would do away with the local congregations called churches and the office of a pastor, as it is to try to do away with the office of an evangelist. The evangelist is named before the pastor, has a more important role in carrying out the Great Commission. It is sin, it is rebellion against the New Testament plan, it is substituting human wisdom for the divine order when we try to get along without full-time, anointed, dedicated, Spirit-filled evangelists. If we want revivals, we must pray God to send the laborers and particularly that He will fit each one for the task God has for him to do. If we want to have a great time of revival so that every principal city and town in America will be shaken, then we must pray that God will raise up evangelists fit for the job and with the holy oil of God upon them, the breath of Heaven, the fullness of the Spirit.
III. For the Greatest Revivals, God’s People Must Unite on the Main Thing, Soul-winning
In the Bible account of the great revival at Pentecost, and before and after it, one simple phrase is repeated again and again. That phrase is, “with one accord.”
As they waited in the ten-day prayer meeting, we are told, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14). They prayed with one accord.
Jesus had previously taught these disciples, “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 18:19). And He said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).
Evidently the blessed power there is in believing prayer increases in geometric ratio with the number of those really united in prayer. Two can agree and get anything. And it becomes clear that the more Christians we can get to unite, really be of one accord in prayer, the more certain will be the great revival, and the more fruitful its results.
There were only one hundred and twenty of the disciples united in heart at the end of the ten days’ prayer meeting, when the day of Pentecost was fully come. They had started with much less than that–just the disciples, and the half brothers of Jesus, and His mother and a few other women (Acts 1:14). But that handful of Christians were really united in heart. They could really ask “with one accord” for the pouring out of God’s power.
Again we see the same beautiful phrase used in Acts 2:1, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” They were all with one accord as they prayed through the ten days. They were all with one accord and also “in one place” when the power of God came. Unity of heart, and even the gathering in one place, were important for the great revival.
Of course all of us are glad for single churches to win souls in their regular services, and to have special revival services whenever that seems wise and God leads. The local congregation is a divinely-instituted unit. Yet there is great lack of blessing oftentimes because people are more absorbed in their own local church plans than they are in the much larger and more important issue of great revivals, and in seeing multitudes saved. It is well, then, for God’s people, all who believe the same Book, all who are saved by the same blood, all who have been given the same Great Commission and are of like precious faith in these essentials, to unite in saving souls.
I do not ask that people throw away convictions. But people can honestly differ on the matter of baptism and be sincerely united in pleading before God for a great revival. People may honestly differ as to whether a church government should be local and democratic congregational form, or the rule by an episcopacy, and yet they can unite if they love the Lord as they ought and believe the Bible and accept responsibility for the Great Commission as they ought, in great city-wide revivals. On the day of Pentecost “they were all with one accord in one place.” May God bring the same blessed state to pass in cities and towns all over America! A certain unity of heart on the main thing–soul-winning–is essential if we are to have the greatest revivals.
Even the great rejoicing and blessing of the continuing revival were enjoyed with the same unity of heart after Pentecost, for Acts 2:46 says, “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” Thank God for the unity of heart among God’s people!
We can have denominations without having a sectarian spirit and wicked isolation among believers. Christians ought to work together to get people saved and ought to rejoice together when sinners are saved. God had in mind great citywide movements, and when among the choicest of God’s people, groups can be gathered and centered on this blessed end and purpose, then God can give the revivals.
Let me say here that this is one reason why I feel a cooperative or union campaign, when churches and pastors officially set out to work together in soul-winning efforts, is much, much better than an independent revival campaign where an evangelist comes in and makes independent plans and preaches the gospel. Better independent campaigns than none at all, of course, and better a few saved than none. But the greatest revival results have always depended somewhat on how many people of God, the born-again, Bible believers, one could enlist in the same prayer and effort.
In Acts 4:24 we find this beautiful phrase again. There again the people of God were “with one accord.” That verse says, “And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is.” When persecution and trouble came, the people of God were still with one accord and prayed with one voice and heart! How could such a revival close! How could God quit giving His blessing! The revival did not close, but continued, and multitudes of people were saved, including chief priests and others, thousands of them.
Soul-winning is the main thing for any Bible-believing Christian who is really surrendered to the will of God. The foolish talk of infidels that there are some three hundred denominations and that every one of them understands the Bible differently is not really true. There are minor matters in which there is very great variety of opinion, in Christian doctrine and in Bible interpretation. But there is no room for much difference among sincere Bible believers on the great principal doctrines: that all men are sinners, that Christ died to save sinners, that the blood of Christ atones for sin, that men need to be born again, that there is a Heaven for those who, trusting in Christ, are born again, and a Hell for those who will not repent and trust Christ. There is no room for difference of opinion about the fact that God has given to His people the Great Commission and that we are to get the gospel to every creature. I have been for many years working with Bible-believing Christians of many, many denominations and, thank God, I have found that Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Mennonites, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Assemblies of God, Salvation Army, Nazarenes, Reformed Church people, Christian Church people, Lutherans, Evangelicals, Congregationalists and many others, when they truly believe the Bible and have been born again, can unite happily in the soul-saving business. And the isolation of sectarian pride and denominational prejudice, often promoted by self-seeking denominational leaders so that people are discouraged from uniting in soul-winning work, greatly hinders revival. Let every local church and every denomination do all it can to win souls. But God still wants His people, His born-again, Bible-believing people, to work together wherever possible to the saving of multitudes of sinners. That was His plan at Pentecost; it is His plan now.
I do not say that Christians should yoke up with modern infidels who deny the Bible and the deity of Christ, who themselves are not converted and do not seek to convert others. To yoke up with unbelievers is a sin. I do not ask that Christians anywhere compromise on essential doctrines and convictions. I simply ask what God asks–that Christians put soul-winning first and do everything possible to reach the unsaved. That involves being “with one accord” with other Christians who have the same motives and purposes, and it often will involve uniting with other such Christians in great city-wide or area-wide campaigns.
It is well to remember that down through the centuries the great revivals were never confined to one denomination, and in given cities were not confined to any particular local church. The Wesleyan revivals permeated England. Wesley, whenever possible, preached in the Church of England church houses, while he fellowshipped also with independent groups like the Moravians. Only near his death did Wesley consent to the organization of a denomination as such, separate from the Anglican Church. Although Spurgeon was a Baptist and pastor of a Baptist church, his work was largely interdenominational, city-wide, nation-wide, world-wide. In Marion, Ohio, an old saintly pastor who had been converted under Spurgeon’s ministry and trained in Spurgeon’s Pastors’ College heard me preach. After saying some things which burn in my heart today but which I shall not repeat here, this Rev. Robert Hughes told me that the union campaign we were then in reminded him of the time when Spurgeon and an Anglican bishop or two, and others, were on the same platform in a united, soul-winning campaign in England.
Everybody knows that the work of Moody and Torrey, and Charles G. Finney, and Billy Sunday cut across all sectarian lines. They called for the people who believed the Bible, people who were born again, who wanted to obey Christ in soul-winning, to get together for revival. Moody and Sunday alike insisted that when they were called to a city for a revival campaign, the pastors should unite in the invitation, and they generally did. The blessed results in a number of recent great revival campaigns held by Dr. Billy Graham can be largely traced to a certain unity of heart among Bible-believing pastors in the area. In Los Angeles that unity had been built up through five years of labor by a central committee. In Columbia, South Carolina, the cooperation among Bible believing Protestants was almost universal, and I am told that some three hundred prayer meetings among people of all faiths preceded the campaign. God’s people, united, can pray down the fire of God and have fresh Pentecosts!
Great revivals have everywhere called together mighty crowds of people. That means that in the nature of the case the best revivals will not be held in church houses, but in much larger neutral auditoriums. No synagogues could hold the crowds that attended the ministry of Jesus. The crowds that heard John the Baptist by the Jordan River could not have collected in any porch of the temple. The revivals under the leadership of Moody, Torrey, J. Wilbur Chapman and Billy Sunday would have been impossible had men insisted that the services be conducted in their own church houses. The enormous crowds that gathered in the fields to hear Whitefield and Wesley could not have been accommodated in any cathedral of England.
Let us learn God’s lesson, then, that His people ought to get together and make large enough plans to reach every creature with the gospel. That means mass evangelism, with anointed and specially called and experienced evangelists. It means that Christians who hold to the simple fundamentals will cooperate. It means that countless multitudes can be gathered to hear the gospel in city auditoriums, under great tents, and in other large public places, when such people would never attend a church and would go to Hell if their only chance to be saved were in local church services.
In a blessed union revival campaign held in Kleinhan’s Music Hall, Buffalo, seating 2,800, where I was the preacher, a few years ago, there were 997 public professions of faith. What a blessed time we had! The converts were all dealt with very carefully in an inquiry room, and it was discovered that over three hundred of the converts had no church preference whatever! That meant that more than one-third of these converts would never have attended a revival in a local church. Neither they nor their parents nor anybody near and dear to them attended a church so that they could have a preference. If we expect to reach the drunkards, the harlots, the atheists, the Jews, the Catholics, we must make provision in great central and neutral places where God’s Bible-believing Christians will unite in getting the gospel to sinners, to whole cities full of sinners, and so winning thousands who would otherwise never be won.
Oh, for a oneness of heart among the people of God on the main business of soul-winning!
IV. For Great Revivals We Must Have Evangelistic Preaching, Preaching of a Special Flavor and Power Suited to the Crowds and the Occasion
A certain kind of preaching marks God’s anointed evangelist. It is a mistake to think that simply preaching on the plan of salvation will bring a revival. Such preaching alone will neither revive the people of God to get them on praying ground and endued with soul-winning power, nor will it convict and convert hardened sinners.
Elijah could have a mighty revival at Mount Carmel, but it would be shortsighted to ignore the kind of preaching and warning Elijah had done that preceded the falling of the fire. The boldness of Elijah in condemning sin was so proverbial that when the widow’s son died in whose house Elijah lived, she said unto Elijah, “What have I to do with thee, 0 thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?” (I Kings 17:18). And just before the marvelous demonstration of God’s power on Mount Carmel, Elijah said to wicked King Ahab, “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim” (I Kings 18:18). And it is astonishing to see the man of God whom Ahab has sought three years to slay, now giving the orders, and Ahab running quickly to call the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, four hundred prophets of the groves which ate at Jezebel’s table, and all the people of Israel to Mount Carmel at Elijah’s word!
Elijah could pray down the fire of God from Heaven, for God knew that immediately Elijah would command the people, “Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape,” and would bring these prophets of Baal and kill them at the brook Kishon (I Kings 18:40). There is a distinctive character to the evangelist’s message, and it involves particularly a boldness in condemning sin and calling men to repentance.
Obadiah was a good man, a believer in Elijah’s time, the governor of the palace. He hid out one hundred prophets of God by fifty in a cave, and fed them on bread and water to deliver them from wicked Jezebel. But he did not have the heart to condemn sin and could not bring a revival.
Jonah preached to Nineveh; and his message, given of God, was, “Forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). All the silly talk that preachers should give “a positive message” by which modernists and pussyfooters mean a soft message that pats sin on the back and doesn’t hurt anybody’s feelings, and never names a sin, nor calls a sinner to repentance–that kind of talk ignores the clear teaching of the Word of God. And this so-called “positive preaching” which never names a sin, nor condemns it, nor calls Christians to forsake their backsliding, nor sinners to repent, never did bring a revival and never will.
Jesus won the woman at the well of Sychar in Samaria, but the sword point that reached the woman’s heart was Christ’s plain revelation that He knew she was living in adultery with another man to whom she was not married, though she had been married five times! And the evidence that the woman gave to the men of Sychar was, “He told me all that ever I did.”
There was iron in the preaching of John the Baptist. To men who were outwardly the best churchmen of his day, John the Baptist said, “0 generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.” He said, “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” He preached that God’s fan is in His hand, “and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:7-12). That is evangelistic preaching, by a Spirit-filled preacher, a typical evangelist.
John the Baptist faced Herod and said plainly that he sinned in taking his brother’s wife.
What kind of preaching was that which Peter did at Pentecost? It was Bible preaching, of course, preaching that told how to be saved, but it had the sharpness of the Roman short sword, and the crushing power of a battle-ax! He said, “Him . . . ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Again he said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:23,36). In the next sermon Peter accused the people as follows: “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses (Acts 3:14,15). And in the first sermon at Pentecost, the application was, “Repent” (Acts 2:38). In the second sermon it was likewise, “Repent ye therefore” (Acts 3:19). They were to repent in order that their sins might be blotted out.
Spirit-filled Stephen preached like an evangelist; this is the way he preached: “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”–Acts 7:51-53.
I do not wonder that they were cut to the heart, that they hated Stephen and killed him; but that gospel cut Saul of Tarsus to the heart too deep for him to ever be cured, and he turned to God.
Every evangelist who has been mightily used of God in soul-winning has been sharp in his denunciation of sin, and explicit and plain in naming it. Gamaliel Bradford, biographer of D.L. Moody, acknowledges that Moody preached much on the love of God, but he reminds us also that D.L. Moody was sharp and powerful in his preaching against sin and says that Hell was always in the background of Moody’s preaching. All the biographers of Moody agree that he was unrelenting in his demand that people make restitution for wrongs done, that he condemned the theater roundly, that he preached on drunkenness many times, and that his sermons on sowing and reaping were convicting and almost terrifying. Moody clearly condemned even Sunday newspapers, condemned membership in secret orders.
Charles G. Finney was relentless in preaching against sin, and his preaching was often terrifying so that people fell from the pews to their knees and cried out to God for mercy.
Most people remember the sharp preaching of Billy Sunday against sin. Those who heard Gipsy Smith after he was eighty may have forgotten that when he was in his prime, when he had great revivals, his preaching on repentance, his preaching on restitution was bold and specific and powerful in condemning sin. One of the most moving messages I ever read was a sermon preached by Gipsy Smith in a city-wide campaign in Kansas City, Missouri, on “Washing Stripes,” or “Making Wrongs Right.”
Dr. R.A. Torrey was so specific and bold in his preaching against the dance that society people in an Australian city took it up, and for a joke invited Torrey to visit one of their dances. He went and prayed in public, then preached powerfully. Torrey was equally plain in preaching against the theater, against the lodges and other sins and hindrances.
Evangelistic preaching must be the kind of preaching that gets Christians to turn from their worldliness and waywardness so they will have power with God and influence with men, and must be the kind that will cause sinners to repent.
I have just read again one of the biographies of D.L. Moody, The Wonderful Career of Moody and Sankey in Great Britain and America. The author is rather amazed that for the first eight or nine days of the revival, Moody preached to Christians, showed them their sins, laid on their hearts a burden for soul-winning, taught them to pray. No one can be much of an evangelist who does not learn to prepare Christians for revival.
An evangelist in the nature of the case must learn certain methods. Certain methods go with a revival.
We well understand that God could have saved men without using human instruments, if He had chosen to do so. He could have had the angel show Cornelius and his household how to be saved without sending all the way to Joppa for Simon Peter, who was temporarily at the house of Simon a tanner. But God chose to use human beings as instruments and human methods. God could have saved sinners without the instrumentality of preaching, yet “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (I Cor. 1:21). God has ordained that people should be gathered in crowds to hear the gospel, that some man of God should preach to them with boldness and power. It is the plan of God that lost people should be urged to trust Christ, then to make an open confession of Christ before men (Matt. 10:32, Rom. 10:9,10). It is God’s plan that Christians should do personal work. Nothing can be clearer than that one who hears the gospel is to tell it to others. “Let him that heareth say, Come” (Rev. 22:17). Every Christian is to take part in the carrying out of the Great Commission as given by the Saviour in Matthew 28:19,20. That means that the man who does not try to run sinners down and get the gospel to sinners could not be much of an evangelist. An evangelist must seek to get the Christian people together to pray and prepare for revival. He must seek to teach Christian people to go out and compel sinners to come in to hear the gospel. He must, one way or another, try to get the gospel to everyone in a community. That involves promotion and enlistment and propaganda or advertising. No man is a good evangelist who is content to preach to small crowds, or content to preach to Christians only when there are sinners to be reached.
Ultradispensational friends scorn the public invitation to accept Christ and confess Him openly before men. But this method of D.L. Moody, R.A. Torrey, J. Wilbur Chapman, and all the great evangelists is ordained of God. A great deal of leeway is allowed, so each one may follow the leading of the Spirit, but no one could do the work of an evangelist to advantage who does not someway get sinners to decide in their hearts and to claim Christ openly before men. That was done at Pentecost, and has been done everywhere else in great revivals–in Bible times and in modern times. One, to be an evangelist, must learn the methods of evangelism, methods which God has blessed and which inherently go with the evangelistic message and urgency and boldness.
In the nature of the case, evangelistic preaching is not formal preaching. There should be a brightness, a sincerity, a forthrightness, an urgency about the preaching of a man who has set out to keep people out of Hell, and bring them to trust Christ and claim Him openly as Lord and Saviour. There should be a holy boldness. There should be tears and compassion, and as a result, the preaching will be all the more personal and direct and powerful. O God, raise up evangelists and teach all preachers to “do the work of an evangelist,” as Timothy was commanded to do (II Tim. 4:5).
V. Revivals Wait for People to Have the Mighty Power of the Holy Spirit for Soul-winning
A man wrote me the other day, “I have heard Dr. Torrey preach many times on his favorite theme, ‘The Baptism of the Holy Ghost.'” Torrey’s favorite theme was the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, to come upon a Christian as a special enduement, subsequent to conversion, to enable him to win souls! If that were the favorite topic of preachers today, we would have more revivals.
“The Baptism of the Holy Ghost” was the favorite theme of D.L. Moody also. He himself definitely knew that he had been endued with power from on high. He could name the day when, long after his conversion and after two years of waiting and pleading with God, he received such a mighty, overwhelming visitation of the power of God that he was compelled to say, “Lord, that is enough; if I have any more it will kill me!” And Moody knew that his power was a special miraculous enduement of the Holy Spirit.
Charles G. Finney uses similar terminology about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and tells us that again and again he would set apart a day for fasting and prayer, “for a new baptism of the Holy Ghost.”
I have deliberately used the term, “the baptism of the Holy Ghost,” which is offensive to many. I personally prefer the term more often used in the Bible, “filled with the Spirit,” or, “filled with the Holy Ghost,” but we had as well face the plain fact that the people to whom the term, “the baptism of the Holy Ghost,” is offensive as a name for a special enduement of power from on high, find the blessing as offensive as the name. I am not speaking about talking in tongues. I am not speaking of any so-called eradication of the carnal nature. I am speaking about an enduement of power which can be had by Christians as a special blessing to be sought and had after conversion, or perhaps occasionally at conversion, but certainly separate from it. What happened to the disciples at Pentecost was, Jesus promised, “Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” The Scriptures seem to teach that the baptism of the Holy Ghost, the fullness of the Spirit, the pouring out of the Holy Ghost, the gift of the Spirit, and the enduement of power from on high are all one and the same thing. For fuller discussion, I should like for you to see my large book, The Power of Pentecost. But I am not here arguing for terminology. I do not care whether you say you are baptized with the Holy Spirit, or full of the Spirit, or say that you are endued with power from on high. But I am desperately anxious that those who set out to win souls have a supernatural enabling and empowering from Heaven for the task.
The promise of Jesus in Acts 1:8 comes as powerfully to us as to the disciples to whom He first addressed it: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” How presumptuous we are to suppose that New Testament Christians needed a special enduement of power, but that for us college degrees and seminary training are sufficient! How foolish to suppose that the Galilean fishermen needed the power of the Holy Ghost, but we need only personal magnetism and culture and personality! When the Word of God, for these preachers, was not enough unless it should be preached in the power of God, who can honestly believe that orthodoxy is all that God requires of us?
No Christian can be a personal soul-winner except he have power from God, the power of the Holy Spirit. And no evangelist can lead in blessed revivals with power except he be endued with power from on high.
VI. Great Revivals Wait on People Who Are Willing to Prevail in Prayer
The classic revival text, II Chronicles 7:14, says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Actually that whole verse speaks of prayer. If God’s people shall first “humble themselves,” they simply get on praying ground. Then when they pray, they ask for specific things. Then when they ‘seek God’s face’ they simply keep on pleading with God, begging God, waiting on God in prayer. And when ‘they turn from their wicked ways’ they are simply removing the hindrances to prayer. Prevailing prayer is the secret of revival.
Necessarily I put this to follow the need for the power of the Holy Spirit, because after one knows that he needs the mighty power of God from on high to make him a soul winner, he must be willing to wait on God for that power.
I have no sympathy with those who say that at Pentecost the disciples needed to wait ten days in fasting, prayer and pleading, but that now we can have the same kind of power without any heart-searching, any penitence, any self-denial; without any long period of heartbroken prayer. I do not believe it! It does not seem sensible, and certainly historically that theory has proven incorrect. I have never known of any great revival in which there was not mighty, prevailing prayer. God does not give the mighty power of the Holy Spirit except to such people as have hungered and thirsted for God’s power, have waited patiently before Him until in His mercy He saw them fit to be filled with power.
Recently I had occasion to recommend a young preacher to hold a revival campaign. I had confidence in him because, in a conference on evangelism when all of us were on our face in prayer, I happened to be near this young preacher. I heard him begging God for forgiveness for his coldness, his powerlessness. I heard him promising God that he would never, never give up without having the power of God upon his ministry. When he went to the revival effort to which I had recommended him, he found most discouraging circumstances. He called the people to prayer, and hours were spent in waiting on God. With plain preaching and with day and night praying, the opposition melted away; God’s blessings came mightily upon the people. Souls were saved, and a church was saved from division and strife.
I recommended this same young man for another revival effort, and the pastor wrote to tell how in the midst of most difficult circumstances he had called the people to prayer and had waited on God until power came, and wisdom came, and unity came. Souls were saved and the work built up.
Too long we have been afraid of fanaticism. God give us some fanatics! Too long we have been afraid of wild fire when in truth we had no fire at all. Too long we have been on the defensive.
Many of us have been so afraid that someone would think we talked in tongues, that we did not fret because all around us people were going to Hell. Some of us were so anxious that no one would think we claimed sinless perfection, that we ignored the power of the Holy Spirit, and did not seek His power, and did not have it. Many of us would rather be respectable than powerful. Many of us would rather please men in this matter than please God and win souls. I say, we have been on the defensive too long.
I know some have misused this doctrine of the fullness of the Spirit. But that only illustrates how vital the doctrine is. Men cannot win souls without the power of God. Men cannot have revival without an enduement of power from on high. And this power comes in answer to prevailing prayer.
Dr. R.A. Torrey tells how a few young men met night after night and prayed until the revival of 1905 came in Wales, with Dr. Torrey leading. In that revival about one hundred thousand souls were won to Christ. Others will remember the haystack prayer meeting where some college students prayed in the lee of a haystack in the rain and started much of the missionary movement.
In England a bed-ridden saint of God prayed until God brought Moody from America to England, then prayed until hundreds of souls were saved in her church.
Charles G. Finney tells how Abel Clary followed him in revival meetings and prayed, often not attending the services but waiting and weeping before God for His power. Father Nash also was moved to pray mightily for the Finney revivals, and Finney himself ascribed the power of God which came upon him largely to the prayers of men such as these, as well as his own prayers.
If we are to have revivals, we must prevail with God in prayer.
Let us sum up the truth of this chapter. God waits on men for revivals. God is ready to do His part. The harvest is white, but the laborers are few. We should continually pray that God will send laborers into His harvest.
And His requirements I think we might sum up very simply. In Jeremiah 29:12,13 we are told:” Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” We can find God’s power, His might, His miraculous manifestation in revival if we simply seek God with all our hearts.
God wants His people to seek revival with a holy abandon. Paul suffered the loss of all things and counted them but dung. No wonder God could use him to save souls! Paul went “night and day with tears,” both “publickly, and from house to house” in his preaching at Ephesus (Acts 20:20,31). Paul could wish himself accursed from Christ to win the Jews! (Rom. 9:3).
The disciples in Bible times set out facing martyrdom with holy joy. What did it matter to them that their goods were destroyed? What did it matter to them that they were hounded and persecuted, were thrown into dungeons, that they could have none of the comforts of home and family which other men have? They went as gladly to the soul-winning task as a bride to the wedding altar, or as a soldier returning home!
This holy abandon which God requires of those who would be His laborers, would make it so that human love would seem incidental. A man for love of Christ would appear to hate father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, and houses and lands, yea, and his own life also!
(Luke 14:26). Oh, this holy business of winning souls ought to get such a hold on a Christian’s heart that nothing else in this world could much matter! This is the one business that makes Heaven rejoice, that adds stars to the crown of the Lord Jesus, that brings eternal glory to the soul-winner.
So in Christ’s dear name, let us offer ourselves living sacrifices to be the laborers God can use to win souls and bring about revival in America