During the writing of this article, my dear mother, Dr. Joye Spence, has been in the hospital as a result of another stroke that has now affected her left side as well as her speech. It had been eight years this past February since her first severe stroke incapacitated her, paralyzing her right side. We truly thought her divine appointment for heaven had come three evenings ago (Sunday, May 23rd), but she still is among us. It is a great comfort to know that our times are in God’s hands and that His will and ways are the best. We have committed Dr. Joye (as she is affectionately called) to His arms of safekeeping and to His sovereign sway of doing “all things well.”
In recent years it has become evident that God is calling His elderly saints home—those redeemed lives and voices that have been both salt and light in their generation. Such men and women whom God has used as restraining voices in the earth seem to now be taken away as a prelude judgment upon the earth before the coming Rapture and Tribulation Period. As God withdraws such individuals, fewer in number are taking their place. To the contrary, the prominent voices we are presently hearing with aggressive force are those of Neo-Christianity.
We must weep every time we hear of a restraining voice for God passing off the scene of present history. Jeremiah knew this when King Josiah died as the prophet wept at his death. Very few of the remnant voices are now being heard. Even Fundamentalism, the most militant of the movements against the end-time apostasy, is not producing the militant voices it once had. Rather to the contrary, Fundamentalism is slowly but surely capitulating to the Neo powers that be. As its patriarchal voices become extinct, its militant voice retreats. A voice here and there is heard now and then, yet it does not seem to be in prominent leadership capacity. Carnality rules most of the conservative churches while spirituality is disregarded or even despised. Not only is the militant voice dying out but also is the hunger for a spiritual walk with God. The hunger for an end-time revival is the cry of the remnant.
Interpreting Movements of God
A Christian must always know where he is in the chronology of biblical history and prophecy. A lack of this understanding leads to improperly interpreting Scripture by viewing it outside its context and outside the characteristics of the times. This problem is seen in three prominent areas of modern interpretation. After briefly considering the first two, the third area of modern interpretation will be the primary burden of this article.
The first school of modern interpretation is prominently found among the Charismatics. It is based upon their concept of Acts 2 concerning the infilling of the Holy Spirit for today. The Bible does clearly indicate the distinction between being born of the Spirit and being filled with the Holy Spirit. But historically and prophetically we are presented with two different periods of history in which this infilling is to be viewed.
Deuteronomy 11 gives the type and shadow of this truth by presenting the rains God promised to His people. From May to October basically there were no rains; the rains typically fell between October and May. There were former rains, winter rains, and latter rains. Former rains were showers of October to the first of November. They softened the parched ground so that the winter grain could be sown. Then came the winter rains of December and February. The latter rains of April were to ripen the fruit and stay the drought of summer. The latter rains were the most appreciated rains. Job 29:23 describes how that before Job became afflicted, men waited for his words as they did for the latter rain.
But the spiritual view of these rains (former and latter) is given in Joel 2:23 and 28. God has promised to send these rains in the latter days. Historically, the latter days commenced with the first coming of Christ: Peter quotes from Joel 2 on the day of Pentecost in his message and declares, “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). The seed of the Gospel, the sowing and the planting, were to be seen in this outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 2, 8, 10, 19). The former rain came with the sowing of the seed. But the latter rain is the time of the harvest, the judgment of the fruit. Prophetically, this is the End Time. Acts 2 is over; that was the seedtime. It is not to Acts 2 that we look, but to James 5.
James 5:7–9, rather than dealing with the seedtime, is dedicated to the End Time when the husbandman is waiting for the precious fruit of the earth. We are prophetically and historically in the latter rain. It is heaven’s final preparation of the fruit for harvesting; it is in the time of the apostasy. This latter rain may have commenced around the mid-1800s when there was an opening of light concerning the Second Coming. (The first Congress of Fundamentalists met in the mid-1800s and the theme was the Second Coming of Christ.) But counterfeits such as Pentecostalism and now Charismatism have come. While there is a wholesale falling away in the earthly church and its movements, there is a remnant of believers that know the anointing of the Spirit of God. They know this anointing for personal living, for preaching, for maturity in sound doctrine, for the fruit of the Spirit in character, for prayer, and for seeing the conditions of our times. They are waiting for the sound from heaven to call the fruit home at harvest time.
But another prominent area of modern interpretation outside the context and characteristics of the times is the popular view of evangelism. Many believe, when they read in the Book of Acts of the dramatic numbers of believers and the move of God, that the same thing should be happening now. Many good men become discouraged when they do not see the same thing happening in their ministries as in Acts or even in revival days of Church history. While it is true that biblical principles are the same and the Gospel is the same, the numerical results of the Book of Acts may not always be the same throughout time.
There is often given this “guarantee” by certain evangelistic work-shops that “if you follow the principle of Acts, it will bring the same results.” But this may not be true because we are not living in the times of the Book of Acts. There are several factors that are different. In the Book of Acts there had never been New Testament Christianity before; also, there had been no Christian apostasy (although there was Judaistic apostasy). This was new wine being poured into new wineskins. The Church was pure, fresh; there was only one gospel in those early years. God brought His Son’s Word to man who was bankrupt naturally and knew it. The Christians then were not facing nor confronting a false Christ or a false Gospel in those early years. The days in which we live are not as in the days of the Book of Acts. Therefore, though the Gospel still saves, we are preaching in the time of the Christian apostasy; the institutional churches have become the enemy of the truth of the Gospel. It is harder to declare the Gospel today without people interpreting it in the context of the Neo-Christianity. Everyone today is viewed as a Christian no matter what they believe. This was not the case at the outset of the Church in the former rain.
The third area of modern interpretation concerns the concept of revival. As we read of former revivals and awakenings, we tend to believe that they too can be duplicated in our day and time. We tend to look for the same movings and the same results, but each time period in history is different. Again, Bible principles are the same, the gospel message is the same, but every generation is a different group of people with different circumstances and an apostasy that has taken its toll in different ways. Although we may long for a return of the first or second great awakenings or revivals in our generation, revival will not be same. Rather than a revival of great glory as of former days, we must be looking for a revival from God in days of apostasy. The cost for such a revival may even be greater because of what we have accumulated in these days of Laodicean wealth and materialism.
When seeking for revival, what kind of revival are we looking for? When biblical Christians speak of revival, it is the periodic restoration of God’s people after a time of indifference and decline. Such a revival is needed periodically in the Christian’s life. We read of the promise of revival in Psalm 23:3, “He restoreth my soul.” It is not that the Holy Spirit cannot sustain the Christian life in the Christian; instead, it is the human passions that wane. In these times there is the decline of heart towards God, not so much the mind. We mentioned in the previous article on Revival that all of the virgins slumbered and slept in Matthew 25, both wise and foolish virgins. Sleep at times may take hold of the soul, even more so in the End Time. According to Matthew 24:12, as part of the prophecy of the Olivet Discourse, the abounding of iniquity will have a profound effect, influencing the love for God to wane in the hearts of His professing people (the word for love here is agapae, a love only known from God to the Christian heart, Rom. 5:5). When man does not go on with God, it is because of selfishness, self-centeredness, and pride. However, the Holy Spirit allows it to happen! Why? It is to cause us to pray for renewing. This is what revival is: a renewing of the heart and mind for God. It is a quickening, a making alive of some things that are dying.
A Pattern of Principle Found in History
But we must understand that revival is a sovereign work of God. It often begins when God begins stirring the hearts of a remnant at a time of spiritual depression, apathy, or the evidence of gross sin. It is needed when the great majority of normal Christians are hardly different from the secular world. At such a time an individual or a small group of God’s people become conscious of their sins and backslidden condition; it enters into their heart to forsake all that is displeasing to God. They recall past outpourings of God’s grace and long for such outpourings to be manifested again. God then begins to raise up a man or men with prophetic insights into the causes and remedies of these problems. God then brings a fresh revelation of the holy and pure character of Himself; this character is the standard of holiness that must be known by God’s people in every generation. By such people observing their age in the light of this fresh revelation of God’s holiness, they see with great burden the degeneracy of the age and the falling away of professing Christians from that standard of holiness. Out of this burden, there will be a remnant to follow. During these times of reviving, there will be an understanding and even an appropriation of higher and deeper spiritual living to come to many.
The nominal Christian views revival basically as evangelism. Although there may be some to come to Christ, revival is not the same as evangelism. Revival is the word for believers. The greater need today is not evangelism but a deep move of God in revival among God’s people; global apostasy will be born from within the Church, not from without. The greatest grief we view today is not the decadence and lawlessness within society, but the falling away, the carnality, the loose and worldly living of the Church.
We must understand the times in which we live. Revivals and awakenings throughout Church history have been in different time periods. When I was a younger man and would read of these awakenings and revivals, I would long for God to do the same. I read of the pubs closing down in the entire country of Wales during the revivals at the turn of the twentieth century; I read of hardened men coming to God. But distinctions of right and wrong were known then. People knew that God did not tolerate certain things. Those were days when God was known as God; absolutes reigned in the view of truth. God was generally defined in the minds of the people.
However, now America has come to believe in the Neo-God, the Neo-Christ, and the Neo-Christianity. It is hard now, even in the church, to speak of the things of God without the minds of people thinking of James Kennedy, Jerry Falwell, or TBN. If the Holy Spirit is mentioned, the Charismatics are immediately thought of. Christianity today is a mongrelized view that is almost impossible to shake from the minds of the contemporary audiences. The End-time Apostasy is of the Church! If God sends a revival to His people before the secret coming of His Son—the awakening of the virgins in Matthew 25—it will be more of a revival as in the days of Hezekiah rather than the glories of the days of David and Solomon.
If Fundamentalism is to see a genuine biblical revival—and it desperately needs one—many incidents of neutrality and compromise will have to be dealt with; presently Fundamentalism is marked with a lot of spiritual and carnal debris. We have gone so long without a true move of God that polished programs and professionalism have taken the place of the Holy Spirit. We are fast leaning into the winds of the Neo, and we do not see it. There are changes of music, terms, and versions, and leaders want meetings to “chart the course for the future.” Our chart has already been laid out; our responsibility is to follow it without compromise. We don’t need a new chart or a new compass.
Although a Davidic revival is one of glory, a revival in times of apostasy will be one of great cost. A revival for our days will have to be as in the days of King Hezekiah. Carefully read 2 Chronicles 29:3–11. For as in those days, much damage and failures will have to be acknowledged. Will we have the humility to acknowledge it?
What will God call upon us to do? What repairs, cleansings, and restorations will be needed? He has made a covenant with us through His Son. We must make a renewed covenant with Him.
O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy (Hab. 3:2).