‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts. (Haggai 2:9)
There is considerable debate, even now, around the issue of whether or not there will be a ‘great end-time revival,’ and no doubt this will continue until the end. Proponents of this will quote the prophets Joel and Haggai, and today’s verse in particular is a firm pro-revival refrain. If we’re all entirely honest, I think we’d all confess to a longing for this, a great desire for the Lord to stir up His people, to revive them, to bring a sweeping, life-changing manifestation of His power to a world in desperate need.
This, I believe, is evidenced by the fact that, throughout the world, people flock to the so-called ‘moves of God’ with their apparent manifestations of power. We’re conned into substituting masquerades into the ‘revival’ slot, sucked into believing that these are the ‘real thing’ when they are, in fact, driven by demonic power that has gained a foothold in church. Our search, sadly, is not for real revival – which is a man-made term at best and not used in the Bible at all – but for the feel-good results we imagine this will bring.
There is a tremendous burden in my heart on this issue – not to stir up the debates and controversies but rather that we should turn back to the real issue: God and our relationship with Him. On the whole, the defining principle of revival has been lost. Over and over, through the books of Chronicles and Kings, we see the backwards and forwards relationship between Israel and their God. They turn away from God, and through the prophets and godly leadership are turned back. The turning back is revival in its simplest form, and this is the critical issue that most believers have lost in the modern-day undersatanding of what revival actually is.
Significantly – and I feel compelled to mention this – there is nothing in Christ’s teaching of end times that even remotely suggests an end-time revival. I would imagine, if this was so real and so important a possibility, that He would have mentioned it at least once. Instead, He talks of wars, rumours of wars, natural disasters, deception, and, of course, a great falling away. Based on this, my personal belief is that end-time revival is unlikely – not because our great, merciful and compassionate God of grace does not desire to send it, but because the hearts of the people don’t want it what revival really is. The church desires revival on its terms, not on Gods. There is a fundamental difference between the two that quite possibly precludes the possibility of real revival actually happening.
This difference can be defined as turning back. Repentance. The real truth is that true revival always starts with God’s judgement. It never, ever, throughout the Old and New Testament, misses this critical step. Yet many modern-day preachers teach a different Gospel. They teach only the mercy, forgiveness, love and grace of God. They create a church that is driven the the need for self-gratification and the people follow because this is their desire. We have taken the fundamental need that drives the flesh and transferred it to our relationship with God. He has lost His holiness in the church and become a benevolent God who exists only to fulfill our desires according to our agendas.
For those among us who believe the church is spared judgement, consider Christ’s own words to the effect that, if God did not spare Israel, His chosen people, why can we expect Him to spare the church. The simple fact remains that God’s people are chosen in order to reveal the truth. We should know better. We therefore will be the first to be judged, and this is the very basis of revival.
Time and time again, Israel repented before the Lord. Time and time again He judged and chastised them, sometimes with awful results. Time and time again He sent His prophets to warn them of the judgement that awaited them. Revival only ever came when they humbled themselves in honest repentance and cried out for mercy. I do not doubt that God desires to revive His people. I do not doubt that He, out of His heart of mercy an compassion and grace, desires to give everyone a second chance – His church first and foremost. The real question is, however, whether we are willing to do so, whether we are willing to fully crucify self on the cross and repent of the man-made, self-gratifying religion we have shaped Christianity to be.
Today’s verse is significant, I believe. Used so often by ‘revivalists’ to validate their doctrine, it speaks of a fundamental truth. I encourage everyone to read these two short chapters and to keep in mind that it speaks, first and foremost, of Israel. I believe that Israel will experience an ‘end-time revival.’ This is part of God’s plan, that when the time of the Gentiles is over, His will turn again to Israel and that nation will have their ‘second chance.’ A similar principle applies to the ‘grafted house in that we are required to be transformed through our relationship with Christ from glory to glory – with the ultimate purpose of becoming the unified, glorified in Him Bride of Christ.
What most overlook, however, is that these verses are preceeded by a great shaking, a shaking of heaven and earth, the nations, everything that can be shaken. It entails a complete removal of everything and anything that is not built totally and completely on God and His Word. The ‘refinining fire’ we sing about is judgement, a concept that is becoming extinct in many of our churches. God sent His prophets to Israel to warn of judgement. Our self-appointed prophets speak only of grace and glory, with false signs and wonders to deceive us. True revival cannot occur without first receiving the judgement and enduring the shaking. God cannot revive what has not first been put to death on the cross with Christ.
The reality is, however, that all this does not preclude the possibility that revival may come. I pray daily for this, but I do so knowing the full ramifications of what is involved. But it starts with us. It starts with single, independent people who turn their hearts to God. It starts with simple hearts willing to humble ourselves before our God, willing to accept His judgement and receive His mercy, willing to walk in righteousness and holiness before Him despite the cost. It starts with believers willing to hunger and thirst after God and His righteousness, to allow their comfortable, complacent Christianity to be shaken so that the true identity of Christ can be formed in them.
At its core, revival is not about what we expect to receive. It’s about what we don’t receive – the consequences of being judged and found wanting. Paul says we should judge ourselves lest we be judged. The tragic reality is that many will fall away. Many will turn away from what God has called us to be, from His truth, and from the real grace of God which embodies His willingness to redeem His people. While I weep for those who turn away, still I can rejoice that God always has a remnant. Revival is about raising up the remnant, and never more so than at the end of the age.
There will be those who stand in their faith in full truth of God. There will be those willing to humble themselves and repent. There will be those who pass through the refiner’s fire and emerge the perfect Bride, spotless, without wrinkle or blemish. They will be those who put God first, who scorn all else for the glory and joy of the Bridegroom. Revival will come to those who seek God above all else, who will endure the shaking with praise and thanksgiving. Whether or not revival sweeps through the nations is irrelevant. What is important is that we allow God to revive us, as individuals, that we allow Him to bring us to a place of repentance and humility, so that His church, at the end, will fulfill its true purpose – to reflect His glory.
We cannot afford the luxury of complacent Christianity, of being swept along in whatever doctrine is currently ‘trending.’ The time is here when all believers must turn their eyes upon Jesus. It’s a time for personal accountability and personal choice. But, as the remnant of true believers turns back to God without reservation, there is also the chance that, as He has done in the past, He may use us to usher in a final ‘last chance’ for others. Any move of God starts with a single heart totally focused on Him.
Father God, turn our hearts to You. Create in us a new heart and new spirit, those that look only and always to You. Help us to see those things in us that need to be shaken loose. Help us to bring our lives to the cross, to lay down the flesh. Stir our hearts with a love and desire that only You can satisfy, and use us, Lord, to reach others – the church, the nations, the world.