Home > Christian Authors, church history, eschatology, evangelism, premillennialism, Worldview > Evangelism and ‘Revival’: God’s Divine Purpose

Evangelism and ‘Revival’: God’s Divine Purpose


From my recent readings, including George Mueller and the recent newsletter of the SGAT (Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony), comes a point often overlooked in our day, regarding God’s purpose in evangelism and missionary work. There is a difference between the salvation of individuals and “praying for revival,” and we understand this issue based on our interpretation of scripture including overall eschatology and the prophetic word.

George Mueller’s autobiography notes his establishment of the “Scriptural Knowledge Institute” in the early 1830s. He provided several scriptural-based reasons for this decision, to establish this new organization instead of working with existing missionary organizations. The first reason involved scriptural understanding of God’s purposes, as Mueller noted that the other missionary organizations referenced scriptures such as Habakkuk 2:14 and Isaiah 11:9 in support of their idea that the whole world will eventually be converted to Christianity. As Mueller well observed:

These passages have no reference to the present dispensation but to the one which will begin when the Lord returns.  In the present time, things will not become spiritually better, but worse.  Only people gathered out from among the Gentiles for the Lord will be converted. (Ref. Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43; 2 Tim. 3:1-13; Acts 15:14.) A hearty desire and earnest prayer for the conversion of sinners is quite scriptural. But it is unscriptural to expect the conversion of the whole world.

From the latest issue (Jan-Mar 2015) of the Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony newsletter, “Watching and Waiting” comes an article on a similar topic: “Did Noah Pray for Revival?” A look at several scriptures, including the time of Noah as well as Jeremiah’s day, shows indeed that it is not (always, or even usually)  God’s purpose to bring revival and save the majority of people at any given point in time. Select individuals were saved even in times of judgment, such as wicked King Manasseh (2 Chron. 33:12-20) and King Josiah, yet the nation as a whole faced judgment. There was undoubtedly a great measure of blessing, of revival and reformation, but the judgment brought on by the wickedness of Manasseh and his generation remained and was still going to be judged after the death of Josiah. The scriptures tell us similar for the future, of ever increasing apostasy within the church.

I was made to think of Noah and his circumstances as I listened to a Christian friend pray for the United Kingdom that God would send a mighty revival that would turn the whole land back to Him. Thinking upon this request, I pondered the fact that we are surrounded by an ever-increasing tide of apostasy. What are called the ‘main’ churches have abandoned all semblance to Bible religion and have embraced wicked doctrines to a degree never before witnessed in the history of Christendom. Furthermore, the remnant of true believers has never been smaller or weaker. This being so, it does seem likely that we cannot be far removed from the days of that last generation and the manifestation of the antichrist and the Savior’s return to earth to destroy him and establish His own Millennial Kingdom. That raises the question then: Is it the will of God for God’s people in the close of this age to pray for revival?

These facts serve to bring home to us that it is so necessary for God’s people to rightly divide the Word of God and so understand the signs of the times in which we live. It is through God’s Word that the final generation of believers in this age will know of the approach of the end and what it is we should be praying for and expecting the Lord to do. It is only by studying the prophetic scriptures and being informed of God’s will that we will be saved from praying and hoping vainly for revival when it is clearly the purpose and mind of God to bring down man’s rebellion and apostasy by judgment.

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  1. Glenn Seaver, retired Baptist pastor
    December 10, 2014 at 10:17 am

    This is a perceptive article. There is an emphasis on repentance and not revival in Revelation 2 & 3. Five of the seven churches are told to repent. The church in Pergamum was told to repent or else! What would happen if our churches gathered to hear the
    Word proclaimed and exclained in order that behavior would align with the instruction received?

    • December 10, 2014 at 10:56 am

      Thanks for the comment, Glenn, and that is another good scripture reference related to this issue. The issue throughout the Bible, as in Rev. 2 and 3, is repentance (salvation of individuals) rather than general mass revival.

  2. Neil Schoch
    December 11, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Repentance of sin; faith in Jesus Christ and forgiveness of sin resulting in the precious gift of eternal life. How much we have to be thankful for.
    But then comes the life of obedience and service for our Lord.
    Where would we be without 1 John 1:9:- “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Again, without Him we would be most miserable, wallowing in the filth of sin and of no use to the Lord.
    But through His cleansing of all unrighteousness we have such joy and peace, through repentance.
    There is a great revival to come on this earth, and it will come at great personal cost.
    The “great multitude that cannot be numbered” who have come out of the “great tribulation.” Revelation 7:9 onwards.
    We will not be there to see it, but we will be in the blessed presence of our dear Lord.
    What a great revival that will be, such as has never been seen before on this earth.
    In the words of the hymn writer – “How good is the God we adore.”

    • December 12, 2014 at 7:03 am

      Yes, the message in God’s word is repentance, the calling out of His people from the world. As far as any revival goes, and as we may have discussed before, there are different interpretations of Rev. 7, and nothing in the text says that the vast multitude are new converts from a great future revival. Still, it does give us a picture of the many believers (a vast multitude) that will come out of the great tribulation.

      Any further comments on this thread must relate to the topic of this post, and not to unrelated issues such as interpretation of Rev. 7.

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