πας ο μισων τον αδελφον αυτου ανθρωποκτονος εστιν και οιδατε οτι πας ανθρωποκτονος ουκ εχει ζωην αιωνιον εν εαυτω μενουσαν εν – τουτω εγνωκαμεν την αγαπην οτι εκεινος υπερ υμων την ψυχην αυτου εθηκεν και ημεις οφειλομεν υπερ των αδελφων τας ψυχας θειναι 1 John 3:15-16
Revival is a term that many saints hold to in order to look for an answer to their own lives as well as the lives of other saints. The emphasis is sometimes broader and includes a revival of society generally. The question we must ask ourselves is how that way of looking at recovery is either helpful or else entirely accurate if we believe that revival is a panacea for the saints and for society. When we examine the lives of the saints after restoration – also how society is changed after improvement – what will we see? We must be honest, and we must look. It is essential that when we do this, we also realise that the revivals that we can examine do not speak of the condition of today. They talk about the day in which they happened. And whilst they carry into the decades after revival, they are still outwith the day we live in. So whatever we do learn by looking at revival in the past, we must always hold to the condition of the day we live in to express our own hope.
If we take the Welsh revival then we would speak of Evan Roberts as a focus for research, of China, we would talk of Watchman Nee and of Scotland we would talk of Duncan Campbell. The one fact that separates these three revivals of God is so sobering that we cannot ignore it, and must say it from the very outset. China has never ceased to be revived – even when persecution was most present. Wales fell into death and moral depravity after revival. The Isle of Lewis fell back into darkness. Indeed Lewis is a very sobering account, and I could personally speak in terms witnessed first hand in my own walk, after revival, that would give us cause to tremble. Whereas China has remained on fire even during the most severe persecution.
I have a reason for saying these things, and that reason is entirely to do with Britain. If we ask ourselves the questions that are most pertinent to explaining how it is that all of God’s sovereign work in revival of the saints can be so characteristically similar, so that almost every revival not only comes to an end but that its finale also marks the beginning of darkness once again, we would have to realise that the reason is because whilst God is sovereign in revival, his workmen are in authority in the Church. We do not have room here to explain this in great detail. What we can say is:
All revivals begin with a few men and women who pray, intercede and groan for the hand of God on his people, and they are all primarily directed at the condition of the churches, yet realising that the churches will be filled with new believers if revival comes. When that is established there is always God’s promise on those few people. When the time comes for revival, that promise is held before God, and He is courageously asked to meet His part in that agreement.
Duncan Campbell reported that seventy percent of all the people who were saved in the revival of the Outer Hebrides were saved with no intervention of men. They neither heard the gospel, nor were witnessed to, neither did any man or woman direct them, neither could they explain how they came to be acting as they did when they gathered in hundreds outside churches, in fields, and in homes, and outside police stations. All they knew was that they were taken by a means in which God did not contradict their needs, yet their needs were not met until God finished with them. They fell down in fields whilst at work on the harvest, fell into ditches whilst going to social events, and were ministered to by children and by anyone who it pleased God to bring to them in their moment of salvation. Entire villages were swept by the hand of God and buildings were shaken, children were caught up in a triumph of obedience, and the Kingdom of Heaven was evidenced in such children, for as it is written, of such as these is the Kingdom of Heaven. God has perfected His praise in children.
It is no wonder that we see revival of God as an answer to the church and the nation. However, what we also need to know is that both in China in the late forties and early nineteen fifties, in Lewis in the late forties and into the fifties, as well as Wales in the first decade of the twentieth century, it was the Church and not merely the world that brought harm, injury and imprisonment of the benefit of revival by the means of men’s weakness, by bitterness, by jealousy and by an instrument and effect of Satan. Some were falsely imprisoned by accusations, doctrine and unimaginable spiritual rebellion. In Lewis, doors were thrown shut in some churches as a real and visible rebellion, and the cry was to refuse God and despise His mercy.
Some of this rebellion was dealt with in the same way that God deals with all uprising in revival, He shows mercy and men are changed and become His true workmen. Committees and agreements, and an organised rebellion are evidenced in a time of revival, by the church. Moreover, when the hand of God is passed, it is the church that imprisons those who have been saved, so that by means of a jealousy of men, babes in Christ are set in chains. The same thing happened in China, and whilst others would be better witnessing of Wales, the same thing happened in Wales, also.
So here is the difference in China.
Before revival came, a few men and a few sisters were obedient. They laboured in their ministries, through their books and in their teachings all that which would be necessary for China, once Satan had the hand of imprisonment. Satan persecuted those men and women, when they bore in their bodies the cost – when they were despised by many, rejected by many, and where believers who could not be as they were, yielded to Communism – betrayed them – becoming slaves to oppression Their obedience, in books, prayers, fasting, teaching and suffering, laid a foundation. When the time of tribulation came, they paid a further price, and many gave their lives. All others who are appointed to salvation – and the church which is called to be Holy, as God is Holy – could then stand in the midst of unimaginable trials, so as to be always revived. In truth, their work was broader and deeper in preparation for revival, and so when it came, they were already in that crowd of witnesses and not a voice in the midst. Many of them never saw revival other than in a modest way of evangelism. Revival came after decades of Communist oppression, yet even those who were saved and nurtured in their own day survived, and went underground. It has been their obedience based on the efforts and faithfulness of a few others before them that has given the revived church in China its ability to stay revived. At the heart of the labour of these early men and women, from the mid nineteen twenties, through to the early nineteen fifties, there has been one undoubted character. They embraced the cross unto death. And those who have followed them have remained in that same obedience.
To demonstrate this principle from the Scripture:
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself.”
“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”
Then we read:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.”
If we can fathom how it is that in Christ all men are included in His death and that He says, “It is finished!” And how Paul agrees with his inclusion in Christ’s death, yet speaks that he fills up that which is lacking, or else behind in Christ’s suffering, then we can understand the difference between the church in China and the churches in other places. If not then we are destined to see revival and little lasting effect. In that outcome, we will be changed for an hour and perhaps no more than that. Whereas we live at the end of the age and we must be changed permanently otherwise we will be caught up in unnecessary suffering, and may even betray Christ as some did in China, when others paid a full price of obedience, and through their willingness, the church in China has seen the fullest revival in any place.