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What is revival?

Quick Answer

Revival is a new beginning of obedience to God, that comes in response to an overwhelming sense of God's presence. 

Scriptural Answer

“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Psalms 24: 3-5

“Will you not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your mercy, Lord, and grant us Your salvation.” Psalm 85: 6,7

"I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" Psalms 27:13

“Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, "O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.” Daniel  9:3-5 

“For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.’” Isaiah 57:15

"Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might bow down at Thy presence. . . to make Thy name known to Thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Thy presence! When Thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, Thou camest down. . ." Isaiah 64:1-3.

""O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy" Hab. 3:2

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1: 8

Additional Definitions

God Revealing Himself in Awful Holiness

"Revival is divine intervention in the normal course of spiritual things. It is God revealing Himself to man in awful holiness and irresistible power. It is such a manifest working of God that human personalities are overshadowed, and human programmes abandoned. It is man retiring into the background because God has taken the field. It is the Lord making bare His holy arm, and working in extraordinary power on saint and sinner." Arthur Wallis, In the Day of Thy Power

The Power of God Coming as an Irresistible Force

"The power of God seemed to descend upon the assembly 'like a rushing mighty wind' and with an astonishing energy bore down all before it. I stood amazed at the influence that seized the audience almost universally, and could compare it to nothing more aptly than the irresistible force of a mighty torrent. . . Almost all persons of all ages were bowed down with concern together, and scarce one was able to withstand the shock of this surprising operation." David Brainard

Revival is a Manifestation of God That Cannot Be Denied

"Revival can never be explained in terms of activity, organization, meetings, personalities, preachings. These may or may not be involved in the work, but they do not and cannot account for the effects produced. Revival is essentially a manifestation of God; it has the stamp of Deity upon it, which even the unregenerate and uninitiated are quick to recognize. Revival must of necessity make an impact upon the community, and this is one means by which we may distinguish it from the more usual operations of the Holy Spirit." Arthur Wallis, In the Day of Thy Power

Revival Signifies a Renewal of Spiritual Life

“A revival and a reformation must take place under the ministration of the Holy Spirit. Revival and reformation are two different things. Revival signifies a renewal of spiritual life, a quickening of the powers of mind and heart, a resurrection from the spiritual death. Reformation signifies a reorganization, a change in ideas and theories, habits and practices. Reformation will not bring forth the good fruit of righteousness unless it is connected with the revival of the Spirit. Revival and reformation are to do their appointed work, and in doing this work they must blend.” Ellen White, Review and Herald, February 25, 1902 

Revival Brings a Renewal of Scriptural Knowledge, Vital Piety And Practical Obedience

A revival “is a revival of scriptural knowledge; of vital piety; of practical obedience. The term revival of religion has sometimes been objected to on the ground that a revival of anything supposes its previous existence; whereas in the renovation of sinners, there is a principle implanted which is entirely new. But though the fact implied in this objection is admitted, the objection itself has not force; because the term is intended to be applied in a general sense, to denote the improved religious state of a congregation, or of some other community…. Wherever then you see religion rising up from a state of comparative depression to a tone of increased vigor and strength; wherever you see professing Christians become more faithful to their obligations, and behold the strength of the church increased by fresh accession of piety from the world; there is a state of things which you need not hesitate to denominate a revival of religion.” William Sprague, Lectures on Revival, pp. 7,8

An Inrush of the  Spirit

"Revival is the inrush of the Spirit into a body that threatens to become a corpse!”" D. M. Panton

Revivals Are Cloudbursts of Salvation

“True revivals are conditional revivals. They are cloudbursts of salvation, caused by the Holy Ghost, yet the precipitation is conditioned upon human compliance with certain spiritual laws…. Given one hundred and twenty persons as dead to sin and the world, as absorbed in Christ, as loyal to His instructions, as united, prayerful, obedient, earnest and expectant, (this) was the first Pentecostal Church. It is impossible to have Pentecostal revivals without Pentecostal material. A fire cannot be built with sea-soaked wood.  World-soaked preachers and churches must be kiln-dried before they are fit for revival kindling wood.” Martin Knapp, True Revival and Its Apostolic Ingredients

Revival is a New Beginning of Obedience to God

“Revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God. Just as in the case of a converted sinner, the first step is a deep repentance, a breaking down of heart, a getting down into the dust before God, with deep humility, and a forsaking of sin.” Charles Finney, Lectures on Revival

Further Thoughts

Revivals are days when God manifests Himself in unprecedented and supernatural ways, and brings about an unmistakeable awareness of His presence, results in sinners agonizing over their spiritual condition, brings about a great collective response of confession and making things right with others, the release and joy of which is shared with others, resulting in the revival movement spreading from the original location to other bodies of believers.

There are differing opinions on how and why revival comes. However, when revival comes—when God is present—there is no mistaking that something supernatural is taking place. Sometimes revival is accompanied by a fair amount of emotion, but it isn't contrived and manipulated, rather the response of convicted sinners who are agonizing about their lack of spirituality, or forgiven sinners who are rejoicing in God's kindness to them in providing forgiveness.—Dan