Feb 16, 2009

Revival or Rapture?

By Todd Strandberg

It is becoming very clear that the world is facing a time of economic peril that has not been seen in two generations. In all my years of watching current events, I've never seen headlines warning about the possibility of the whole financial system disintegrating into chaos. These dire reports are not from a supermarket tabloid. They are from some of the most respected news organizations in the land.

I firmly believe that God is in control of all events. Governments around the world have pledged $2 trillion dollars to try to stabilize the global economic meltdown, and still it continues to slide. The stakes have become so desperately grim, I see only two possible outcomes from the viewpoint of a believer: God is either using the economic crisis to bring about a great revival, or He is soon going to rapture the Church home and begin the tribulation countdown.

It is my view that we are headed for the second option. I would love to see revival break out, but I don't believe it is possible at this stage. Some of my friends hold to the view that the Lord is going to pour out a “latter rain” revival. Some other folks believe the Church is going to take over this world for Christ. I just don't see the Bible pointing to such a positive outcome.

I know there have been countless revivals throughout the Church Age. Here is a list of eight that stand out as having the greatest impact:

THE PRE-REFORMATION REVIVAL 1300-1500Lollards, Wycliffe, Hus, Savonarola
REFORMATION 1517 - 1560Huldrych Zwingli, Martin Luther, John Calvin
THE FIRST GREAT AWAKENING 1740 - 1745Howell Harris, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd,
THE SECOND GREAT AWAKENING 1798 - 1832Charles Finney, Asahel Nettleton, Lyman Beecher, Duncan Matheson
THE LAYMAN'S REVIVAL 1857-1861Phoebe Palmer, Lanphier, D. L. Moody
THE GREAT WELSH REVIVAL OF 1904Evan Roberts, Rees Howells
THE ASUZA STREET REVIVAL OF 1906W. J. Seymour, Frank Bartleman

The first thing that makes revival hard to grasp as a possibility now is the Word of God's repeated mention of spiritual darkness as the hallmark of the last days. Several prophetic passages describe the last days as a time of great apostasy. Here are two examples:

"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition " (2 Thess. 2:3).

"For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matt. 24:24).
Another potential obstacle to a revival is the fact we are in the Laodicean Age. Dr. David Reagan recently gave a good outline of how the seven churches described in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, present a prophetic view of Church history:

“The last of the churches mentioned, the one that represents the Church of the end times, is the church at Laodicea. It is pictured as a church that is neither hot (healing) nor cold (refreshing), but rather is lukewarm or tepid (Rev. 3:15-16). In short, it is a church that is apathetic. Jesus also pictures it as a worldly church enamored with its wealth (Rev. 3:17). The Lord is so dissatisfied with this church that He declares, 'Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth'" (Rev. 3:16).
I think the greatest case against revival is man's growing immunity to repentance. You can look at the above list of historic revivals and see how they diminish in number and scale over the years. A key problem is that revival today means getting something from God. The people who flocked to the so-called revivals at the Toronto Airport Vineyard Christian Fellowship and Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola were mostly looking for an emotional or physical blessing. A decade later, it's hard to argue with the simple fact that these events have been marked as questionable practices, and have had nearly zero impact on society.

In the revivals of the past, saints were given their marching orders to reach the lost for Christ. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church , was very direct about how to win souls:

"You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go always, not only to those that want you, but to those that want you most. It is not your business to preach so many times, and to take care of this or that society; but to save as many souls as you can; to bring them to repentance, and with all your power to build them up in holiness without which they cannot see the Lord."
The world will see revival. In fact, the Bible predicts a future revival that will put all others to shame. Once millions of people realize they were not rapture ready, they will find true faith. The sink-or-swim condition of the tribulation will cause many to quickly reach a level of dedication where they are willing to sacrifice their lives for the Gospel.

We Christians on this side of the rapture need to be doing everything we can to advance the Kingdom of God. Because we won't have the luxury of being able to tell the Lord we were willing suffer martyrdom for our faith, we need to take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way.