If revival is the outpouring of God’s Spirit, what’s the biblical precedent for this? Is there revival in the pages of the Bible? To answer this, let’s turn to the book that records the first New Testament account of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the book of Acts.
In Acts chapter 2, we read:
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
The first principle we learn from this account is that when God shows up it’s apparent. That is the first mark of a genuine outpouring of the Spirit. Luke compares it to a “mighty rushing wind.”
Now, it is often argued that this event in Acts is not repeatable. In other words, this isn’t something we should be looking for God to reproduce. That it was a once for all event. Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes the point in his series on revival that there is nothing in Scripture to argue that viewpoint. As a matter of fact, he contends the Bible argues the exact opposite.
The mistake that is often made is thinking that it has to look exactly like Acts chapter 2. We absolutize the manifestations.
In Acts 4 (below), we find this same group of believers as in Acts 2 and God pours out His Spirit on them again. So, the principle to take away is that God will pour out His Spirit upon the church not just once, but multiple times.
The church in Acts is undergoing serve persecution, so the following account is their report back to the church.
23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,
This body of believers was undergoing career-ending, family-shaking, life-threatening persecution. Do they pray for protection or traveling mercies? (Not that those are bad things to pray for.) Nope. They pray for boldness. It just shows us their state of mind.
30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
What is the sign that the Spirit of God had been poured out upon the church here? Speaking the gospel with boldness. This supernatural boldness is a different manifestation than what they experienced in chapter 2, which was speaking in unknown tongues.
Lloyd-Jones reminds us not to pinpoint the manifestations or absolutize them and expect the same one each time. The point is that when the Spirit is poured out it is apparent in some way. (But, just between you and me, I’d prefer boldness.)
In the Scottish revival on the Isle of Lewis (1941-1953) one eyewitness said, “Night after night people came. Nobody asked the question, ‘I wonder if anyone will be converted tonight?’ You sensed that those who were praying were looking around and thinking, ‘Who is going to be saved tonight?’” (Sounds from Heaven, p. 264)
In another account of the same revival, it was said, “Another result of the revival was the boldness which we all had; boldness to witness, boldness to rejoice, boldness and such freedom to tell to whoever was listening that we had given our lives to Christ. This was part and parcel of the revival. We were so full that we could not help but talk about it! We spoke to everyone about the Lord — and it was so easy! Words just flowed so naturally whether we were speaking to old or young, converted or unconverted.” (Sounds from Heaven, p. 108)
So, between Acts 2 and Acts 4, we have biblical verification that God pours out His Spirit more than once. This is also the testimony of church history, otherwise there would have never been a First Great Awakening (1730-1740) or Second Great Awakening (1800-1870).
And we also have biblical verification that each revival will look a little different, depending upon what God wants to do.
Continue praying He will do something among us, something apparent.