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FOUR MISTAKES ABOUT REVIVAL

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, July 13, 2003


"Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence! When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence" (Isaiah 64:1-3).

Here the great evangelistic prophet gives, I think, as clear a definition of revival as we find in the Bible. Many revivals are described in the Bible, such as the revival in Nineveh, under Jonah; the revival under Nehemiah; the revival at Pentecost, under the preaching of Peter; and many others. But, although these revivals are described, they are not defined. What is a revival? I believe that our text tonight defines revival in possibly the clearest terms found in the Scriptures.

I am not going to give an exposition of every thought in this passage of Scripture tonight. I am just lifting out two thoughts from the text. First, revival is a manifestation of God. This is mentioned twice in the passage:

"Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down" (Isaiah 64:1).

And again,

"Thou camest down" (Isaiah 64:3).

This "coming down" of God means that God manifests Himself in a very real way in true revival. He makes Himself known.

Duncan Campbell, who was greatly used in the last great regional revival in the English-speaking world, gave this definition, which is as good as any I have read, "Revival is a going of God among his people, and an awareness of God laying hold of the community." In revival, God comes down.

Then, the second thing I would draw your attention to in the text is this - God comes down to make His enemies know Him, and tremble at His presence. Notice verse two,

"to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence" (Isaiah 64:2).

Duncan Campbell said, "In revival the fear of God lays hold on a community, moving men and women, who until then had no concern for spiritual things, to seek after God."

These, then, are the two essential elements in a Biblical definition of revival.

(1) God comes down and makes people aware of His aweful presence.

(2) God does this to make Himself known to His adversaries, His enemies, who then tremble at His presence.

That is a good beginning to a Biblical definition of revival.

Needless to say, a true revival usually bears little resemblance to a typical modern-day evangelistic meeting. These almost always follow the man-centered emphasis of Charles G. Finney in our day, getting people to make superficial "decisions" and recommitments, by the use of psychological manipulation, or, as Campbell put it, "high-pressure methods to get men into an inquiry room [to get them to physically respond in some way]."

This does not happen in true revival. Instead, God comes down and makes His adversaries "tremble at his presence."

We must be aware of who these adversaries are. History shows us that revivals usually begin with the awakening and conversion of God's enemies in the membership of the church. And most of our churches are full of God's adversaries, people who are religious but lost.

"Because the carnal mind is enmity against [hostile toward] God" (Romans 8:7).

We must understand that this refers to lost people, many of whom are outwardly religious, and appear to be good Christians. But their hearts have never been converted. Inwardly they are hostile to God, and inwardly they resist Him, because they have never truly experienced the new birth.

When God comes down to make Himself known to His adversaries, these inwardly hostile, unconverted church members are usually the first ones touched by the revival. In revival it is not uncommon for Sunday School teachers, deacons, and even preachers, to be converted. I personally led a missionary candidate, a Sunday School teacher, and a preacher to Christ in one remarkable revival sent down by God. All three of these people, by their own admission, had never been converted, and were inwardly hostile to God, God's adversaries, before the revival came down from Heaven.

So these thoughts are given by way of introduction, concerning what a real revival actually is. But tonight I am not going to deal much more with this. I say it at the beginning of this sermon simply to give you a rudimentary, simple definition of real revival. But my main purpose is to list four main mistakes about revival, which are common in our day.

I. The first mistake - that we cannot have revival now
because we are deep in the end-time apostasy.

A good man who comes from my own dispensational background expressed this view to me not long ago, "There can't be any revivals now, because we are in the apostasy, and the age is drawing to a close," he said. I answered him by asking a question, "What about the greatest revival of all, prophesied to come during the Great Tribulation, in Revelation 7:1-14, right at the very end of the age?" He lifted his eyebrows and said, "That's a very good question." I believe he is thinking over the subject afresh. The great revival on the Island of Lewis occurred in my own lifetime. We were already in the end-times when God sent revival there. In the last three decades I have personally witnessed two mighty classical revivals in Baptist churches.

I know that Dr. M. R. DeHaan said, "The age will go out in the blackness of apostasy. There will be no revival." I was present at a large meeting in the Church of the Open Door, then pastored by Dr. J. Vernon McGee, when Dr. DeHaan made that statement. DeHaan was a good man, and had great insight into Bible prophecy and other matters. But he was wrong on this point. The Lewis revival came during the height of Dr. DeHaan's ministry. And since his death in the 1960s, I have personally been an eye-witness to two rather remarkable revivals in Baptist churches. And the Bible predicts, as I said, the greatest revival of all - right in the middle of the horrible end-time apostasy of the Great Tribulation (cf. Revelation 7:1-14). I, therefore, do not think the strongly dispensational view that we can no longer have revivals bears much weight.

Arthur W. Pink was a great Bible scholar. Strangely, he lived on the Island of Lewis during the revival. He is buried there. But Dr. Pink never attended any of the God-blest revival meetings that came under the preaching of Duncan Campbell. I believe that his strongly Calvinistic theology prejudiced him against the revival, so he shunned it completely - and missed witnessing the blessing and conversion of thousands, who lived all around him at Lewis, in the town of Stornoway. Dr. Pink was probably influenced by those who, according to Duncan Campbell, "raised the scare - Arminianism." It was a foolish "scare" because Campbell and all the other preachers in that revival were Calvinistic themselves! We can only feel disappointed that this great scholar, Dr. Pink, with much Biblical insight, did not set aside his prejudices and attend some of the meetings himself. I believe he would have changed his mind - and possibly even supported the meetings - if he had attended a few of them with an open mind.

These are a couple of illustrations of men who, for theological reasons, felt that we could not have such revival today. As we have shown, this is a mistake, untrue to the Bible.

II. The second mistake - that we are in the midst
of a great revival right now.

As strange as that may sound to a conservative evangelical or a fundamentalist, many evangelicals think we are currently experiencing revival. These people often point to a few super-churches, to TV channels, and to a few big meetings in places like Brazil and Argentina - and they say we're in the midst of a great outpouring of God's Spirit in revival. Movements like the "Laughing 'Revival'" and the "Brownsville 'Awakening'" have discredited the very idea of revival in the minds of many more conservative evangelicals.

I have to give you my straightforward opinion on all this. I personally believe that much of the so-called "revival" of today is a Satanic, end-time deception. That isn't to say that there are no Christians in this movement. There certainly are.  The Pentecostal movement began in 1900, in Topeka, Kansas, and was spread through the ministry of William Seymour of the Los Angeles "Azusa Street 'Revival'" of 1905. The Pentecostal movement and its child, the Charismatic movement, fused together the false teachings of Finney's "decisionism," and the Keswick emphasis on instant sanctification, with tongues, healings and signs. The major fault with the new evangelical movement is that they do not see man as a totally depraved creature. Conversion to them is dependent on a purely human decision, and the gospel of Christ (I Corinthians 15:1-4) is given a second-rate position. The Holy Spirit is exalted and the substitutionary and mediatorial work of Christ, as seen in classical revival, is not the main emphasis. It astonishes me at times as I watch this movement go from one subject to the next as their main emphasis - healing, prosperity, "worship," laughter, even expositional preaching - without ever seeming to get ahold of the central point of Christianity - the centrality and all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ. They go all around the mulberry bush without actually going in and picking mulberries!

You must understand that I am not saying all Pentecostals are lost, or that the entire Charismatic movement has no saved people in it.  I do not believe that for a moment.  Nor am I saying that Baptists are perfect.  Not by any means!  In fact, I believe that all of us have a  great deal to learn from the three Great Awakenings.  I think that we should all go back and read about these historical moves of God.  And I think that we have a great deal to learn from the Puritans.  The thing that is missing today is conviction of sin, the way they experienced it.  This, to me, is the key element that is missing in our time.

And, then, the other great error of these movements is that they do not generally convert Roman Catholics. They have gotten millions of Catholics in Latin America, the Philippine Islands, and elsewhere, to join their churches, but the vast majority of these former Roman Catholics joined them without being saved. To be honest, this is also true (though to a lesser degree) among modern Baptists. But these people in the Philippines and in Latin America have poured by the millions into evangelical churches while still remaining Roman Catholics soteriologically. I know this by personally counseling countless numbers of them. In no sense do their soteriological beliefs match those of the Reformation or of the historic Baptists. Their soteriological beliefs are not Biblical. They remain Catholics regarding the way of salvation. Thus, millions of these new evangelicals are still lost - and headed for eternal punishment. Without a correct soteriology people are doomed to eternal torment.

Jesus gave this warning concerning the last days:

"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. Behold, I have told you before" (Matthew 24:24-25).

The main reference in this prophecy of Matthew 24:24-25 is to the "signs and wonders" movements of the last days. This is Satan's end-time counterfeit of true revival. The "false Christs" of Matthew 24:24 refer to the "Spirit Christ," the "Pantocrator Christ" and the "Shaman Christ" of so much preaching today. These are thoroughly perverted and twisted views of Jesus Christ.

I believe that Matthew 24:11 refers to the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and other cults, but Matthew 24:24-25 refers specifically to the false "revivals" of the last days. Needless to say, the idea that we already have revival is utterly false!

III. The third mistake - that the Christians must be
aroused first, before revival can come.

This view really has no Scriptural basis, other than a false interpretation of the Parable of the Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). The false interpretation is that the five converted virgins had to be aroused before the unconverted virgins could be awakened. But that is not what the passage says at all. We are told in verse six that the midnight cry was made,

"Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps"
    (Matthew 25:7).

This passage actually teaches the exact opposite of the need for Christians to be prepared before revival can come. The Christians in the parable were not prepared at all! The whole revival movement came down sovereignly from God when the midnight cry was given. This revival was a sovereign move of God, not something that man worked up by preparing himself for it!

The root of this false idea that revival comes through the preparation of Christians lies in the teachings of Charles G. Finney. Finney wrote, "A revival is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means" (Charles G. Finney, Revival Lectures, Fleming H. Revell, n.d., page 5). So, Finney taught that revival is produced by man using "the constituted means," that is, man preparing himself by various techniques. If Christians prepare, revival will always come, as a result of their preparation. That is what Finney taught, and that is what most evangelicals believe today. It has come down to us from Finney.

Then Finney said, "A revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God" (ibid., p. 7). He said, "When the Churches are thus awakened and reformed, the reformation and salvation of sinners will follow" (ibid., p. 8). That sounds good, and most people believe it today. But since these ideas have become popular, we have had no great revivals! That should make us reconsider Finney's "preparationism" regarding revival. Here is what Finney taught:

1. Revivals are not miracles, sent from God.

2. Revivals always come when certain methods (means) are employed.

3. Christian people must be reformed and obedient, and then the salvation of sinners will follow - automatically.

I think that is a fair evaluation of Finney's ideas, as given in the first chapter of his book, Revival Lectures. Read it yourself and you will see that this is what he taught.

But I disagree with Finney on two main grounds:

1. We have had no major regional revival in America since Finney's ideas took over after the 1859 revival.

2. Revivals did not happen this way in the Bible. Read the Book of Acts and you will see that

(1) Revivals were indeed miracles sent from God.

(2) Revivals did not come in the Book of Acts as a result of using certain methods (means).

(3) Christians were not reformed first, followed by the salvation of sinners. Read about the revival in Samaria (Acts 8:5-24) and you will see that I am right. Read about the revival in Caesarea (Acts 10 and 11) and you will see that I am right. Read about the revival in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-4) and you will see that I am right. Read about the revivals recorded in history and you will see that I am right - and Finney is dead wrong!

We can pray for years and not see real revival. We can organize great meetings and not see revival. We can fast and pray, and do many other things, and still not see revival. Revival is a miracle - and only God can send it! Our text makes that clear:

"Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down…When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down" (Isaiah 64:1-3).

Duncan Campbell, who led the last great regional revival in the English-speaking world, corrected Finney (and the modern ideas of revival) when he said,

I would first like to state what I mean by revival as witnessed in [Lewis]. I do not mean a time of religious entertainment, with crowds gathering to enjoy an evening of bright gospel singing; I do not mean sensational or spectacular advertising - in a God-sent revival you do not need to spend money on advertising. I do not mean high-pressure methods to get men into an inquiry room [manipulative techniques to get people to "come forward"] - in revival every service is an inquiry room…Revival is a going of God among His people, and an awareness of God laying hold of the community. Here is the difference between a successful [evangelistic] campaign and revival… in revival the fear of God lays hold upon a community, moving men and women, who until then had no concern for spiritual things, to seek God (Duncan Campbell, The Lewis Awakening, Rare Christian Books, fax (573)336-7316 to obtain a copy. The number is for the United States. The address is Rare Christian Books, 19275 Highway 28, Dixon, Missouri 65459, USA. The price is $15.00).

And yet, in a sense, there are some conditions which must be met before revival comes. But they are conditions which are seldom mentioned today. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who saw God-sent revival in his early ministry, said:

The way to revival is not just to say, "Let's pray about it." Of course, we must pray, and I hope to emphasize it, and to emphasize it strongly. But what I am saying is that there is something we must do before we pray. There are certain preliminary conditions attached to prayer (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Revival, Crossway, 1992, p. 43).

Then Dr. Lloyd-Jones lists some of these conditions:

1. An emphasis on the centrality of the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. An emphasis on the Blood of Christ.

3. An emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit.

4. An emphasis on justification by faith in Christ alone.

5. An emphasis on experiencing Christ, rather than dead doctrine about Christ.

6. A profound seriousness with respect to the things of God.

Every person who is interested in true revival should read Dr. Lloyd-Jones' book, Revival (Crossway, 1992).

I would add two more conditions which are not met very often today:

1. Strong preaching.

2. Self-examination.

Concerning strong preaching, Brian Edwards writes,

The men who preach in revival are always unafraid and urgent, and the description of Duncan Campbell as a preacher shows how seriously they took their task. There was nothing complicated about Duncan's preaching. It was fearless and uncompromising. He exposed sin in its ugliness and dwelt at length on the consequences of living and dying without Christ. With a penetrating gaze on the congregation, and perspiration streaming down his face, he set before men and women the way of life and the way of death. It was a solemn thought to him that the eternity of his hearers might turn upon his faithfulness. He was standing before his fellow men in Christ's stead [in Christ's place] and could not be perfunctory [careless] nor formal…He gave the impression of preaching with his entire personality, not merely with his voice (Brian Edwards, Revival! A People Saturated With God, Evangelical Press, 1991, p. 103, emphasis by Dr. Hymers).

Again, Edwards writes,

Duncan Campbell was often criticized for declaring the wrath of God night after night, but he saw this only as a backcloth to the gospel (ibid., p. 108, emphasis by Dr. Hymers).

And again, Edwards tells us,

Duncan Campbell's method was to preach on sin, condemnation and hell during the services, but to reserve the way of salvation for the after meeting attended only by those who were genuinely seeking salvation. He did not preach the gospel to those who were uninterested until they were under conviction (ibid., p. 254, emphasis by Dr. Hymers).

Thus, Campbell's preaching was much like that of the men who saw revival earlier, in the three Great Awakenings. He preached like great Whitefield, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards and Asahel Nettleton. He did not give soothing gospel sermons in the open meetings. He preached until he sweat, declaring in urgent tones the wrath of God, sin, condemnation and Hell. Needless to say, there are few men who preach convicting sermons like that today. This, I believe, is one of the main reasons we have not seen revival. "Expository" sermons are not given in times of revival!

And then there is the matter of self-examination. That is clearly given to us in the Bible, and I believe it to be a condition of God-sent revival. The Bible says,

"Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves" (II Corinthians 13:5).

Again, the Bible says,

"Make your calling and election sure" (II Peter 1:10).

Leading figures such as Bob Jones, Sr., W. A. Criswell, and A. W. Tozer have said that many of the people in our churches are unconverted. The figures they gave are very high. If they were even half right, self-examination should be at the top of our list of priorities in preaching. We should tell church members to "examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith" (II Corinthians 13:5).

I realize that this can be risky and dangerous. That's why it isn't done very often today. But in times of revival it has always been done. The question is this: do we want revival enough to take the risk and expose ourselves to the danger? Paul did. Peter did. Christ Himself did. So did great Whitefield, John Wesley, Asahel Nettleton, Duncan Campbell, and all of those who saw revival attend their preaching.

IV. The fourth mistake - that when revival comes
there will be little or no opposition.

I can only touch on this, but it is very important to remember.

Christ was crucified for revival preaching.
Peter was crucified upside down for revival preaching.
Paul was stoned for revival preaching.
Chrysostom was exiled for revival preaching.
Luther was excommunicated for revival preaching.
Baxter was locked in the Tower of London for 18 months
   for revival preaching.
John Bunyan was put in prison for 12 years
   for revival preaching.
John and Charles Wesley were driven from the
   Church of England for revival preaching.
George Whitefield was barred from every church in London
   for revival preaching.
Jonathan Edwards was fired by his own church
   for revival preaching.
Duncan Campbell was repudiated and vilified as a
   scaremonger and "Arminian" for revival preaching.

Who follows in their train?

The other day I read to a famous Baptist preacher what John Wesley wrote in his journal. This man had never read Wesley's journal. After I read the following words, the preacher said, "You ought to quote that statement often. Preachers need to read it." So, here are the words of John Wesley, who with his brother Charles, and George Whitefield, were the men who saw the greatest revival that has ever come to the English-speaking world. Wesley said,

That men revile me, and say all manner of evil against me; that I am become as it were a monster to many; that the zealous of almost every denomination cry out, "Away with such a fellow from the earth:" This gives me, with regard to myself, no degree of uneasiness. For I know the Scripture must be fulfilled, "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household (Matthew 10:25)?" (John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, Baker Book House, 1979 reprint, volume I, page 79).

John Wesley is looked upon as a great gospel preacher today. But in his own day he was hated for preaching the necessity of the new birth. He was nearly killed on several occasions. Every church in London was closed to him, and he was forced to preach outdoors. John Wesley was hated by the churches, and even considered "a monster" by them, for insisting on real conversions.

Who follows in his train?

Conclusion

George Whitefield, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Gilbert Tennent, and Asahel Nettleton were men of steel. Who will follow them and who will replace them in our city and in our time? We need men of God, who will stand up for Jesus and preach condemnation, sin, and Hell to this generation. These men were called to preach as firebrands - fiery prophets of God! They risked their very lives for God! Who of you will follow them? They were all called into the ministry at very young ages. They applied themselves and prepared themselves to preach white hot sermons, revival sermons.

Today we have many weak men in the ministry, men who are largely ruled by unconverted men and women in their congregations. These ministers are afraid of them.

Our church needs to produce some young men who are leaders! We need you to count the cost, and surrender your life to preach for God and for revival - no matter what it costs.

You must have thought about the ministry, young man. It is hard, difficult, often unrewarding work in the sight of man. But if God is speaking to you, and you have been considering the ministry, I want you to make it public now. I want you to say openly to this congregation, "I will, as God leads me, seek His will for my life." I want you to say, "From this moment on I will make it my daily prayer to seek God's will as to whether I should join the ranks of Jesus, Peter, Paul, Baxter, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and Duncan Campbell, and become a preacher of revival themes!" If you will promise to seek God's will on this matter of preaching, of making it your life-work, I want you to get out of your seat and come and stand here in front of this pulpit in a moment.

When I was a boy of 17 I surrendered my life to preach the gospel. I have never doubted for one moment that this was one of the great turning points in my life - when I walked down the aisle in a Baptist church and said, "I surrender to preach, as God calls and leads me." I had to wait over 14 years after I went forward and surrendered that morning - I had to wait fourteen long years before I was ordained as a preacher. I had to go through Los Angeles City College at night, and Cal State at night. I had to work my way through three years of seminary before I was ordained. But it has been worth it all!

Will you join me, and John Wesley, and these other great preachers I have named in the battle for truth and revival? Will you surrender your life to God and let Him lead you on from this moment, as you pray every night about the possibility of this holy calling? If you will, I want you to get out of your seat quietly and come, and stand here in front of this pulpit. When you have come, I will take you to my office and we will have a short talk and a prayer. You come right now.


(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. C. L. Cagan: Isaiah 64:1-3.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Revive Thy Work, O Lord!" (by Albert Midlane, 1825-1909).

THE OUTLINE OF

FOUR MISTAKES ABOUT REVIVAL

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence! When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence" (Isaiah 64:1-3).

(Romans 8:7)

I.   The first mistake - that we cannot have revival now because we are
deep in the end-time apostasy, Revelation 7:1-14.

II.  The second mistake - that we are in the midst of a great revival
right now, I Corinthians 15:1-4; Matthew 24:24-25.

III. The third mistake - that the Christians must be aroused first,
before revival can come, Matthew 25:6-7; Acts 8:5-24;
Acts 10 and 11; Acts 17:1-4; II Corinthians 13:5; II Peter 1:10.

IV. The fourth mistake - that when revival comes there will be little
or no opposition, Matthew 10:25.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."