The Bible is preeminently a book about hope. It affirms that almighty God is at work within history to bring forth a future in which all things will be made new. In fact, Christ summons us to become co-laborers with Him in birthing this new order in our lives, our communities, and in the larger world. Here’s how Scripture describes the hope of the gospel: “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you” (Col. 1:5-6).
Such a biblical hope provides the unshakeable foundation from which we can face and engage the mounting challenges all around us, both inside and outside the Christian community. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that in daily discipleship, saving faith is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (nasb). Without hope, we can’t have faith. And without faith, we can’t go forward in the things of God (v. 6).
The Big Hope: Revival
Perhaps the most perceptive of all writers on the topic of revival was Jonathan Edwards, the 18th-century pastor and scholar from New England. Edwards believed that God’s one primary objective in creation was to prepare a kingdom for His Son. From this perspective, he held that revivals were strategic in the revealed purposes of God because they were God’s way of “shepherding” history toward that great climax.
The Bible indeed teaches that, at the end of history, God will sum up everything under Christ (Eph. 1:9-10). Christ will be manifested as Lord and take His rightful place as the central focus of all creation. That event, described in hundreds of verses through- out the Scriptures, might properly be called the final revival.
That being so, it follows that every other revival approximates this final revival. God intends for His Son to be at the center of everything—at the end of history and at every step along the way. He has no greater desire. In whatever He does, His ultimate purpose is to sum up all of heaven and earth under Jesus as Lord. Every revival is meant to accelerate, intensify, and expand this process.
At this very moment, Christ is about the business of bringing unconditional surrender among all the nations. Therefore, there is always great potential in any generation for the advance of God’s purposes throughout the earth. Not one corner is left out of the exercise of Christ’s lordship. No human enterprise is irrelevant to His concern or outside of His authority. No human structure and ultimately no peoples of the earth can indefinitely remain indifferent to His reign.
God’s one increasing purpose is to achieve glory for His Son from the greatest number of people, to the fullest scope, and at the deepest level. And often that requires revival. The question of God’s predisposition toward revival is already decided—in Christ. There is no Plan B. This is God’s longing for every generation. He is not only willing and able, but also ready and committed to do this on behalf of those who seek Him for it.
Revival Is Christ!
Consumed with Christ as the church’s everlasting future, Paul summarizes his entire life mission in one verse: “God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
This passage defines the heart of revival. Revival comes to the church when we are thoroughly possessed with the hope held out in the gospel—and that hope is Christ Himself. From whatever angle we view it, therefore, revival is Christ! That’s because God can do nothing greater for His church than to reawaken us to the sufficiency, supremacy, and destiny of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Clearly, if there is one hallmark of the revivals documented in Scripture (and repeated the past two thousand years), it is that God reveals more of Christ. In revival, Christ and His kingdom become the center of attention.
There is such an intensified awareness of who Christ is that even skeptics must acknowledge that what is happening with the Christians is only explainable by supernatural causes.
Thus, revival is something that comes from outside our re- sources, our ingenuity, and our control. It is something God must do for us, something that God brings to us out of grace. Revival is an extraordinary work of the Spirit that invades the church to reenergize us with God’s eternal purposes in Christ Jesus.
Nothing Else Matters
In a real sense, revival is the only hope for our nation and for this whole generation. If it doesn’t come, then most of our other strivings will ultimately be in vain. If the church is enveloped in revival, however, then we will be receiving from the Holy Spirit virtually everything that matters to see Christ sufficiently exalted in our land and among many peoples.
In 18th-century preaching and writing on revival, leaders never gave way to the feeling that the condition of the world was so desperate that the only hope left was to “hold the fort” until Jesus came back. In their minds, to have done so would have been to “fall into unbelief in regard to the promised results of Christ’s first coming. If what was predicted seemed impossible, the remedy was to contemplate more closely the authority and glory which now belongs to the Head of the church.”
As we focus on revival, we pray not simply with a spirit of hopefulness. Rather, we pray with a living hope, and that hope is Christ Himself. We pray with our eyes toward that final revival when God will culminate, execute, and then supremely extend Christ’s kingdom over all the earth.
The hope of which I speak must become the passion of our churches and for a whole generation. We must become a people filled with such a hope—a people who live for revival. May God help us to be so filled with confidence in who He is and what He is up to at this moment that we will pray and prepare with confidence.
Would you join me in praying with growing intensity and expectation for the whole counsel of God to be fulfilled? Come, Lord Jesus!
David Bryant gives leadership to PROCLAIM HOPE! (ProclaimHope.org). He is the author of many books, including his latest, Christ Is ALL! This excerpt comes from The Hope At Hand: National and World Revival for the 21st Century, copyright © 1995, published by Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission. All rights reserved.