D. Appendix: Will there be an End Time Revival?
I have addressed the issue of praying in faith for Revival, believing God will answer that prayer, in “Grow in Faith”. But in this appendix I address other aspects.
“This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:16-21).
The idea of there being a great revival in the End Times is controversial amongst Christians. Some say it is a deception and refer to the “false prophets and teachers of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement, which is, in fact, a movement that is about to prepare the coming of the Antichrist.” [i] They speak about the apocalyptic prophecies of judgment and calamity in the End Times and the prophecies about false prophets and teachers: “The situation of the Church in the last times will be rather precarious; there will be many deceptions and false teachings, false Christians and false teachers, and the sound believers will have to struggle in order to keep the true path of Christ. They will have only a little strength (Rev 3:8).” [ii] They also refer to the prophecy about the great falling away (apostasy) of the church in the End Times: “A world-wide end-time revival is unbiblical and in opposition to numerous passages of Scripture. The Scriptures that speak of a massive falling away from the faith are overwhelming!” [iii] They remind us that Jesus said: “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matt 24:10-12). Another reason some reject the idea of an End Time revival is that the End Times will be dominated by the Antichrist who will manifest false signs and wonders: “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie” (2 Thess 2:9).
Some commentators say that Joel’s prophecy means the Spirit will be poured out but only on Israel, not on the Gentiles: “When the Spirit is poured out on end-time renewed Israel, it will be poured out not only on priests and prophets, but on all flesh, that is: all converted Israelites – sons and daughters, old men and young men, menservants and maidservants. This is the only possible meaning of “all flesh” in this passage; it is impossible to include the masses of the heathen nations in this expression.” [iv]
Some think the prediction that the “gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations” refers to a worldwide revival, but it seems to speak only of worldwide evangelism.
Others think there will be a great revival in the Millennium but this does not seem clear in the NT.
Having carefully considered these views I believe there will be an End Times revival affecting Gentiles as well as Jews, for the following reasons:
- Acts 2:16-21 links a great outpouring of the Spirit with apocalyptic events which refer to the End Times: “wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” These did not happen at or after Pentecost. They are reminiscent of Matthew 24:29 and Revelation 6:12 which relate such events to the End Times.
- Biblical prophecy often has more than one fulfilment. It seems clear that the Joel prophecy quoted in Acts 2:16-21 was not completely fulfilled at Pentecost.
- It is not impossible for there to be both a great apostasy and a great revival in the End Times. Revivals in the past have come at a time when the church has been very low in numbers. Also some who profess faith in revivals fall away.
- An End Times revival seems in line with the nature of God. He is merciful and compassionate as well as the holy judge of all humanity. It is reasonable to expect that the End Times will not be all doom and gloom but will include the Lord reaching out in a special way to win people to himself. In fact, some of the judgment may well result in large numbers turning back to God.
However there is something more important for us today. Bearing in mind the multiple fulfilment of prophecy we need to remember that God has brought about revivals in the past and we can pray and prepare for revival ourselves. So we should not simply look forward to an End Times revival, which may happen long after our time, but rather trust that God wants to pour out his Spirit today.
[iv] Rudolf Ebertshauser, op. cit.