Anatomy of Revival
1. General introduction

General Introduction to this Series

This is a series of studies that may on the face of it seem to be rather ad hoc or unsystematic. I believe however there is an inner ordering of the material. It seems to me that what these communications represent is a sort of unfolding of the mind of God. They describe, I hesitate to use “explain”, what happens when the Lord moves in what we call “revival”. In a certain way they do this from God’s side of the relationship rather from, primarily, our side. They are a perspective on a move of God from the inside rather than the outside of what God does. Such a communication is possible because of the incarnation. When the “Word became flesh” (John 1:14) God moved from being beyond man to living, breathing and dying-rising as a human being. God, the Son, is now on both sides of the divine –human relationship. The more we centre, in the Spirit on Jesus, and particularly on his humanness, just as Paul says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5), the more we find the Spirit taking us into the way God in Christ experiences things. In my opinion this is the very essence of prophecy.

“To be a prophet means to identify one’s concern with the concern of God… He carries within himself the awareness of what is happening to God….His was not an experience of God, but an experience of a divine experience….inspiration is a moment of the prophet’s being present at a divine event…every vision of God is a divine vision of man…For we can think of God only insofar as He thinks of us.”[1]

Teaching 1: Head and Body

Key text

“Therefore it says,“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph 4:8-16)


The revelation I am about to share came as a small group were praying together for revival in our local region. I believe it overcomes the dichotomy between the two main opposing views of revival. Reformed believers insist that revival is a pure sovereign work of God that humans cannot promote of control. Non-Reformed Evangelicals and Pentecostals teach that we can “move the hand of God” by earnest prayer, fasting etc[2].

1. Revival as Sharing in Jesus

I felt the Lord directing me to Ephesians 4:15, “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ”. I sensed and prayed the following: as the church matures by speaking amongst its members the truth of Christ in love, we begin to hear what Jesus hears, see what Jesus sees and experience what Jesus experiences. This is a natural experience for the church in its “connection with the Head” (Col 2:19). We are promised a share in “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16), “the sufferings of Christ” (2 Cor 1:5), “the aroma of Christ” (2 Cor 2:15), “the truth of Christ” (2 Cor 11:10), “the power of Christ” (2 Cor 12:9), “the love of Christ” (Eph 3:19), “the affection of Christ” (Phil 1:8), “the peace of Christ” (Col 3:15) and so on.

I saw that as we begin to share in Jesus’ intercession for the community[3], non-believers start to sense within them (even if they are totally unaware of the origin) an awareness of God’s thoughts, God’s affections, God’s desires and so on. They come under heart conviction concerning issues in their lives e.g. that some of their behaviours are wrong, they are selfish, life must have more meaning somehow etc. This is something God does that comes before any human initiative[4]. In the society at large people are moved to pray, to call out to God, they start to hear God; they have dreams, visions, revelations and angelic visitations that come to them outside a church environment.[5] This is God’s sovereign preparation of the spiritual atmosphere over a region through prayer and revelation.

Subsequently, the Spirit takes the church forward to speak his Word[6] in the community. When the word of God is heard in the form of the gospel proclamation of Christ, many unbelievers turn powerfully to Jesus. What we call “revival” breaks loose. This is powerful and penetrating because there is a deep sense in which Jesus is recognised as the one complementing and completing the insights and revelations granted before the gospel was heard[7]. There acceptance of the gospel is not a matter of receiving an alien message but something that “fits” the place where they already are in their spiritual life.

2. Tribulation Comes First

This outbreak of grace only happens however after a period of tribulation. Chaos always comes before glory. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1 Pet 4:12-14).

I sensed the Spirit of glory and of God coming to rest over our city. The Spirit as a dove is coming to rest amongst us. There is a pattern here however that must be observed. Paul outlines it in this way, “But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.”(1 Cor 15:46-48). In the original creation God brought natural dust together to form the earth and humanity[8]. Instead of entering into eternal life through obedience, the dust of our bodies was humiliated by the punishment of death, “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”” (Gen 3:19). This lowly dust must go through a transformation to enter into the kingdom of God[9]. Even Jesus own earthly body could not ascend to heaven apart from death and resurrection, this is the glorifying work of the Spirit and it is brought about through tribulation.

The glory of the Lord could only settle on Jesus after a period of tribulation. Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus is part of the preparation for the coming of the dove upon the Christ (Matt 2:13-15).

The dove form of the Spirit which settled on Jesus at his baptism (Luke 3:22) was a concentrated presence of all the manifestations of God in the Old Testament. This includes the Spirit at creation (Gen 1:2), the pillar of cloud and fire that led Israel through the desert (Num 14:14) the glory experience upon the prophets (Isa 6 etc.).

In the resurrection of Jesus this dust was glorified in the eternalising of his body. The Lord is bringing glorified dust to settle over the city. This is a metaphor for the intense presence of Jesus amongst us. This pattern always sees chaos before glory.

so the glory of the Lord will settle after a period of turbulence., who could not enter into his glory without suffering (Luke 24:26), so the present period of tribulation we are enduring (Acts 14:22; Rev 1:9) will precede a reviving work of God. As many people have prayed that the dry bones will awake (Ezek 37), the Lord will pour out his Spirit with life-giving power.


Church-centred views of revival that focus on intense healing and evangelistic meetings[10] are essentially misplaced. Similarly, passive expectations about God simply acting when it is his time are likewise in error. A thoroughly Christ-centred approach is required. Jesus is calling on his people to pray in unity with him to the Father in a much more intense way. Such prophetic praying will see a softening up the corporate heart of the community. When the Word of God is spoken the previously hard ground will be found to be sensitive to the gospel, because men and women have been granted by grace through the intercession of the church a share in the sensitivity of Jesus himself. This sort of revival will prove to be enduring because it is deeply rooted in the union of heaven and earth found in the humanity of the Word.

[1] Abraham Heschel, The Prophets, vol 2 pp. 89, 213, 215, 267-268.

[2] Generally speaking this is a part of the Calvinist – Arminian debate, whose classic representatives on this issue would be Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finney respectively.

[3] “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb 7:25).

[4] This is called “prevenient grace” e.g. John Wesley stated that prevenient grace elicits, “…the first wish to please God, the first dawn of light concerning His will, and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against Him.” See John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”

[5] There are many examples of this in scripture e.g. Gen 20:3ff; 40:5ff; 41:1ff; Dan 2:1ff; 4:1ff; Acts 10:1-8 and numerous examples in our own time, e.g. do a Google search on dreams and Muslims seeing Jesus.

[6] Note how Jesus is manifested in response to the prayers of people like Anna and Simeon (Luke 2:22-38).

[7] It may have been “heard” outwardly before, but now it is heard inwardly. “he who ears to hear let him hear” (Mark 4:9).

[8] “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Gen 2:7).

[9] This is Paul’s point, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor 15:50).

[10] The Toronto, Pensacola and Lakelands moves come to mind.

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