Revival | The Weight of God's Glory
Although I pastor a church in London, England, I was born and bred in Ashland, Kentucky where there was definitely a revival atmosphere in my home church. The Cain Ridge Revival of 1801 has been called America’s Second Great Awakening, and the tail end of it was still around our part of Kentucky in the first half of the twentieth century. I therefore have always felt that I knew a little bit about revival, what it is like and the effect it has.
So when I first heard about the Toronto Blessing, I was skeptical. If you had put me under a lie detector, when I first heard about it, I would have told you that it was “not of God.” But a number of things have happened to change my mind. The first was seeing a close friend of mine, a reformed Baptist minister who had never even heard of Toronto and is by nature very cynical, fall to the floor the first time he received prayer having only heard of the “Toronto thing” minutes before! When I saw that happen, without any kind of hype or preconditioning, it sobered me; indeed it shook me rigid. But then I began to talk to others who were blessed by it, including Ken Costa, the churchwarden of Holy Trinity Brompton in London. I knew that I was on the wrong side of the issue, and that I needed to cross over soon! I will always be thankful to Ken for his patience with me, although he originally sought my advice because he wasn’t so sure about the Blessing himself.
When I realized I was on the wrong side of the issue, I went to the pulpit one Sunday morning, admitted that I had been wrong about this phenomenon and climbed down publicly. We prayed for Sandy Millar and the people at Holy Trinity Brompton where the Blessing was flowing in full force by the summer of ‘94.
Revival is an unveiling of God's glory.
Some weeks after this, my wife Louise was deeply touched when Sandy Millar and Ken Costa of Holy Trinity Brompton prayed for her. A few months later she was touched by the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands by Rodney and Adonica Howard- Browne. Louise was instantly healed of a severe cough that she had had for three years, and four weeks later, as a result of sitting under Rodney’s ministry, was healed of a depression that she had had for many years.
If revival simply means God’s own people being revived, then I would say certainly that the Toronto Blessing is revival, and I think that the Toronto Blessing has been an awakening in many places. Someone has called the Toronto Blessing “God’s feather,” His way of touching the church and loving His people.
WHAT IS REVIVAL?
The term “revival” has been overworked and possibly abused. For example, in America this word is used to mean a series of evangelistic meetings. It is possible that the term flowed from a time when evangelistic services frequently resulted in revival. And yet the term continues to be used in some places, whether or not true revival comes. I sometimes think that the British term “mission” is probably a safer term to use instead of the word “revival.”
One problem with the term “revival” is that it is not a New Testament term. It is found not as a noun but only as a verb in the Old Testament. “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6).
“Renewal” is a New Testament word, but it is found as a noun in the Old Testament. “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2)
In reality “revival” and “renewal” can only refer to the church, the people called by God. Only those who have been given life can be revived. The lost, strictly speaking, cannot be revived; they need to be regenerated, to be given life. Those who have lost this life can be revived. Revival therefore assumes that there was life at some time. The ultimate definition of revival, in my opinion, would be this: a sovereign out-pouring of the Holy Spirit on the church that leads to the church being revived, conversions of the unsaved and an awakening of the community outside the church. This is what we desire to see most of all. This is what happened on Pentecost, and though it is not the only frame of reference for revival, it is certainly the best definition of revival I know of.
There are some other defining aspects of revival. First, revival is an unveiling of God’s glory. The Hebrew word for “glory” is “kabodh” which means weightiness or heaviness. As the Toronto Blessing has reached some people, they have been “slain in the Spirit.” This was an occasion of God’s “weightiness” on them. They fell because they couldn’t stand! I’ve talked to some who have felt that there was a weightiness on top of them when they were on the floor, who sincerely thought someone was sitting on them keeping them from getting up. But it was the weightiness of the glory of God.
The Greek word for “glory” is “doxa,” which also means “praise,” and comes from a Greek root word that means “opinion” thus the glory of God may also be seen as His opinion.
There is a difference between God’s presence and the awareness of it.
The unveiling of God’s glory may be revealed by the supernatural. What is supernatural has no natural explanation, and is sometimes accompanied by the miraculous: healings, deliverances or other phenomena that cannot be explained naturally. God did this in Moses’ day by unveiling His name through the burning bush, the plagues on Pharaoh, the pillar of fire and of cloud, the manna in the wilderness.
Revival may also be called a heightened awareness of God’s presence. There is a difference between God’s presence and the awareness of it. God is always present everywhere; it is what is called His “omnipresence.” However, not all are aware of His presence. There is more than one explanation for this. God may not choose to let one feel His presence. God may be blessing one person who has a heightened sensitivity to the Spirit with an awareness of His presence while seeming to bypass another for the moment.
You cannot “make” revival happen.
There is therefore a difference between God’s omnipresence and special blessings of His presence such as His healing presence (Luke 5:17) or the special presence of Jesus as in the case when Joseph and Mary moved ahead of Him and consequently found He was no longer with them (Luke 2:43-45). The feeling that arises from God’s special presence may vary from time to time, place and purpose of the occasion. There may be a feeling of conviction of sin (Isaiah 6:1-5); there may be a reaction of fear (Acts 2:43; 5:1-11); there may be a release of praise and worship (Acts 2:46-47).
HOW REVIVAL HAPPENS
How does revival happen? Some advance the idea that you can make revival happen. Charles Finney, though I admire him greatly, sadly promoted the idea that if the church does certain things such as praying fervently enough, revival will surely come. Some servants of God with an unusual anointing have possibly had some success and assume that anybody can do what they also did. In my opinion, however, you cannot “make” revival happen.
A few years ago I was sitting with Paul Cain in our family room and he prophesied these words: “the last shall be first.” As soon as I heard those words, I knew exactly what they meant! I knew in a flash that Westminster Chapel would be the last church in London to embrace the Toronto Blessing, but that one day we would take our place. It turned out to be exactly that way. We were in fact the very last church in London to accept this phenomenon. The truth is, by the time it came to us it was not, for the most part, even happening in other churches. So we were the last, and I can now say that within seven or eight months there has been an increase in power on the Chapel premises.
Is the Toronto Blessing a revival or not? Regardless of what some would say, I know that the Toronto Blessing has not only touched my own family, but also Westminster Chapel. In recent months we have had the highest level of the Spirit’s presence of any time in my twenty-five year tenure. What will this lead to? I don’t know that, either. It is “God’s feather,” there is no doubt about that! And it is my prayer that this will lead not just to revival among our people at the Chapel, but to a genuine awakening in London even if it happens long after I am gone.