In the Day of Revival
March 7th, 1976 @ 7:30 PM
IN THE DAY OF REVIVAL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-7-76 7:30 p.m.
We would love for you now—all of us in this great auditorium, and you who share the service on radio—we would love for you to turn to the Second Gospel, the Gospel of Mark, and we are going to read the first five verses; the Gospel of Mark, the first five verses. And if a neighbor does not have a Bible, there is one in the pew beyond, or share your Bible with the one next to you, and all of us reading it out loud together, the first five verses of the Gospel of Mark. And the title of the message is In the Day of Revival. Mark 1:1-5. Now reading it out loud together:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the Prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness; Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.
John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
And the text as a background: “There went out unto him all the land of Judea, and all of Jerusalem, and they were all,”pantes, “all baptized of him in the River Jordan, confessing their sins” [Mark 1:5].
This is a text not to be expounded on, exegeted tonight, but as a background for a study that I have made. I have studied the history of revival. And in that perusal, I have found an amazing and a startling thing, something you’d never guess for, you’d never realize, you’d never know were it not that you had carefully followed the hand of God in human history in the bringing in of great revival.
The thesis of the study and of the summary message tonight is this: that when it looks the least like it, when it is the darkest and when the people seemingly are the most unprepared and debauched, then it is that God sends revival. It is something from above. It is something from God. It is something from heaven. It is never of man. It is a moving of the Spirit of the Lord. And God calls out a man, and He calls out a people. And in a day of darkest distress, that is the day that you will find God visiting the earth with revival.
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent ye, turn ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” [Matthew 3:1-2]. What kind of days were those? “In those days came John the Baptist, and there went out to him all Judea and all Jerusalem, and they were all baptized in the Jordan River, confessing their sins” [Mark 1:5]. What kind of days were they?
Well, the prophet Isaiah—through whom I’m now preaching in the morning services—the prophet Isaiah said of the Lord, “He shall grow as a root out of a dry, dry ground” [Isaiah 53:2]. And I could not conceive of a more unlikely soil to produce the Messiah than in the days when Jesus was born and began to announce, with John and with His own message, the nearness, the approaching kingdom of God [Matthew 3:1-2, 4:17]. What kind of a day was it? Was it one propitious, large, expectant for revival? The opposite!
In the hands of the unregenerate, unbelieving Pharisees, the hypocritical leaders of the church, and in the hands of the rationalistic, atheistic Sadducees, the entire religion of the people was held like a man would hold it in an iron fist. There never was a more unpropitious time for a visitation from God than when John the Baptist came forward and announced in those days the coming of the kingdom and the coming of the King [Mark 1:2-8]. Now, we can follow it right on through. Can you imagine a more unpropitious hour for revival than in the days of Elijah the prophet, when Ahab the toad was on the throne, and Jezebel that wench was a queen by his side? [1 Kings 16:30-31]. And those two had led the entire nation into a debauchery like unto which the world has never seen! [1 Kings 16:33]. And so killed they the prophets of God and hounded the people who loved God [1 Kings 18:13], until Elijah said, “And I, I only have been left” [1 Kings 19:10].
And in those days of dryness and darkness, Elijah stood on Mt. Carmel, built an altar, covered it over with water, and praised Almighty God for a pouring out of the flame from heaven [1 Kings 18:30-38]. And the reason I mention the water—pouring water on that altar, on that sacrifice and on that wood—it is a type and a symbol. God can create a fire, a heavenly and spiritual fire with wet wood, just as He can with dry wood. And in that day of apostasy unexcelled, God sent through Elijah a great and a mighty revival and a turning back to the Lord [1 Kings 18:24, 39].
Could you imagine a more unpropitious place for a revival than Nineveh? The winged bull of Asshur, the sign and symbol of the bitter and ruthless and merciless Assyrian, was a veritable ogre to the whole world. And Nineveh, proud and lifted up, sat like a queen on the banks of the Tigris River. And in those days came Jonah, and entering into the city of Nineveh after a three-day journey, he began to lift up his voice and to say, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed” [Jonah 3:4].
Isn’t that an unusual thing? “You must never be negative in your preaching. You must always be positive. You must never be negative in talking to little children. You must always be positive. You must never (clapping sound) to little children. You must [smile] to little children.” Isn’t that a strange turn of psychology? I wonder why God didn’t know all about that when He gave us the Ten Commandments? Number one: “Thou shalt not . . .” Number two: “Thou shalt not . . .” Number three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine: “Thou shalt not . . .” Number ten: “Thou shalt not . . .” [Exodus 20:1-17]
You know, they say, “Always there is to be a positive note in the faith and in religion. Never preach about hell and damnation and never threaten with judgment from above.” You know, this is the God’s truth: when there was hell in the pulpit, you didn’t have so much of it out there in the home and on the streets. Now you don’t have any hell in the pulpit. You have it now in the home and on the streets. “Don’t,” they say, “ever preach a negative gospel.” That’s exactly what Jonah preached. As he entered Nineveh, that great and wicked city, he said, “Yet forty days, and God will visit Nineveh! Nineveh shall be destroyed!” [Jonah 3:4]. And from the king down to the lowest animal in the palace, they covered themselves with sackcloth and stood before God in repentance [Jonah 3:5-9]. And Jesus Christ Himself pointed to the revival in Nineveh as being the greatest revival the world had ever seen [Matthew 12:41]. Could you imagine a more unpropitious situation than you had in Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire?
Think again, in the days of Simon Peter, who were those people to whom Simon Peter was preaching? He himself described them like this: “Ye, to whom I am preaching, ye, with wicked hands have taken the Prince of glory and crucified Him, nailed Him to the cross.” And they were cut to the quick and said, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” [Acts 2:36-37].
Revival: now I haven’t time to follow it through. I just take some of the things that are known to us so well; the day of revival—the dark, dark century, the eighteenth century. Somehow there was a collapse of government, and there was a collapse of morality, and there was a collapse of that tissue that holds civilization together in the eighteenth century. And in those dark and ominous days, the French government collapsed. The moral life of the French people collapsed. They took a whore and set her on the high altar of the cathedral called Notre Dame! And they drank to her and extolled her, that prostitute! That was the French Revolution. And under Robespierre and the men like him, literally the streets of Paris ran with blood, and the whole fabric of French life disintegrated in disaster, in drunkenness, in debauchery, in blasphemy; the dark days of the French Revolution.
What we don’t realize is the same debacle was maturing in England. There the government was corrupt, and a state church, supported by taxes, was as corrupt as the government. They openly sold the bishoprics for money. Simony was the rule of the church. The clergy were drunken and ignorant. The whole fabric of the society of England was desperate. Little children, little children worked for fourteen hours a day in the mines and in the mills. The prisons were loathsome beyond description. And it was England who led the world in the slave trade. They poured their forces into Africa. They rounded up those black people by the thousands and like cattle, and they shipped them off in English ships to the four winds of the earth, including America.
And the moral life of England was debauched beyond compare. The great revival under the Puritans was depressed—such as John Bunyan, who languished in the jail at Bedford for twelve long years. England was as morally rotten, and the government as corrupt, and the people as debauched in thievery and lying and drunkenness, as their comrades across the English Channel in France.
But what happened in England? In England there arose a man by the name of John Wesley, and his brother, Charles, and their friend, George Whitefield. And though they were excluded from the pulpits of the Anglican Church, and though they were mobbed and sometime outrageously treated, they preached the gospel of the Son of God, and they turned all England to Jesus. As you have it here, “There went out to him all Judea and all Jerusalem, and they were all baptized in the Jordan River, confessing their sins” [Mark 1:5].
It was an identical thing like that that you found in England in the eighteenth century. There was a great turning to God. In those days, the mission movement was born with William Carey. And in those days, the great Sunday school movement was born with Robert Raikes. And in those days, there was a massive reform in the government of England. And there was a massive regeneration in the lives of the people. And what we know today as English character, and English justice, and English commitment to righteousness was born in the great Wesleyan revival of the eighteenth century. There never was a time I say, as unpropitious for revival as it was in England in the eighteenth century—something God did. Well, we’re going to come—and we must hasten—we’re going to come to America and its champions of infidelity.
You know, it is very interesting to me to listen to our people now extolling Thomas Paine, extolling Thomas Paine. I read it, I hear it, I see it—extolling Thomas Paine. Thomas Paine was a rabid and fanatical infidel, and he loved to sow the seeds of unbelief and rejection among the people. He wrote pamphlets. And did you know Thomas Paine was as popular among the colonists as George Washington himself? They read his writings avidly, with avidity. His pamphlets and his books were just literally devoured by the people. Was there ever a time when infidelity was more rampant among the people than in the days of Tom Paine? And yet in that day came the Great Awakening in America.
George Whitefield came from England to our country. And with Jonathan Edwards and with Bishop Asbury, they preached the gospel of the Son of God in the days of Tom Paine, when it looked as though the whole world over here was going infidel. And George Whitefield, up and down those colonies on the seacoast, preached the gospel of the Son of God, and multitudes turned to the Lord. And that was the birth of the great Baptist movement in America. That’s the strangest thing I ever read in human history. These Wesleyans, like George Whitefield, and these Presbyterians, like Jonathan Edwards—when they got through their revivals, and when they got through their preaching, and when they got through their converting, the people were Baptists. George Whitefield said, “I don’t understand it, but my chickens have turned out to be ducks.” It was a glorious thing, a marvelous thing.
One other instance: in the days after the Civil War, there was a brilliant and a wonderfully gifted lecturer named Robert Ingersoll; Bob Ingersoll. He astonished the whole world with the brilliance of his infidelity. He went up and down the land lecturing on the mistakes of Moses, and he scoffed and made fun of the Bible. And the people flocked to hear him, enticed, wooed by him, interested. They flocked to hear Bob Ingersoll by the thousands and the thousands. And he sowed this country down with infidelity in the days after the Civil War.
But in those same days, there arose an unlettered and an unlearned shoe salesman in Boston by the name of Dwight L. Moody. I went over there to that street down there by that square, and read that little plaque, “On this spot, Dwight L. Moody was converted.” What’s the name of that street? Court Street. I just stood there and thought, “I just can’t understand the ableness and the marvel of the intervention of God.” Dwight L. Moody, a young shoe salesman; I doubt whether he ever went to the third grade of school in his life. Converted by a Sunday school teacher by the name of Kimball, and began to teach in a Sunday school class; was never licensed to preach; was never ordained to preach, but Dwight L. Moody began to testify to the grace of God, and people began to listen, and they began to listen, and they were converted, and great revival broke out under Dwight L. Moody, in the days of Bob Ingersoll, the infidel.
One of the things I heard was, in the days when everybody rode a train, they didn’t have any buses, and certainly no planes—everybody rode a train. I have been in that day when everybody rode a train. And on the train would be what you’d call a ‘news butch.’ He’d go up and down the aisles, and go through one time with all kinds of fruit, go through the next time with all kinds of cookies and candy, go through the next time with all kinds of magazine and papers; a news butch. Well, on this train there was a news butch, and, of course, Bob Ingersoll, popular as he was, everybody was eager to read what Bob Ingersoll had to say. And he had written a lecture out on hell. And the news butch walked through the aisles of the train saying, “Ingersoll on hell. Ingersoll on hell!” And he was selling those little pamphlets of Bob Ingersoll making fun of the Bible and making fun of Jesus and scorning and scoffing the idea of a judgment day of Almighty God. And when he walked by Dwight L. Moody on the train, Moody stopped him, and he said, “Young man, I have here in my little case, I have some pamphlets of a message I have preached on heaven. If I were to give them to you, would you take them along with those infidel pamphlets by Bob Ingersoll, and would you sell them, too?” And the young fellow said, “I’d be glad to.” So he went up and down the aisles, this time calling, “Bob Ingersoll on hell. Dwight L. Moody on heaven.” A great revival; all the people were lifted up, and they were encouraged in the faith.
I remember one time—and I have heard this story many times—Bob Ingersoll was up haranguing an audience about his infidelity, scoffing at Jesus and the record of the Lord and the Holy Book. And in one of his passages, Bob Ingersoll came to the glorious miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus [John 11:43-44]. And Bob Ingersoll said, “And so it says in the Bible that Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth. Lazarus, come forth.’” And Bob Ingersoll stood in one of his dramatic silences, and he said, “Why did Jesus say, ‘Lazarus, come forth?’” And in the stillness that followed, a humble disciple of the Lord who believed in the Savior stood up and said, “Sir, I’ll tell you why. Had the Lord not said, ‘Lazarus, come forth,’ the whole cemetery would have stood up and come to meet the Lord.” Isn’t that all right? Isn’t that all right? The day of revival.
I have, hastily, just one other. We are looking at the fact that God is not dependent upon times or propitious occasions. God is not dependent upon just certain things to send revival. God is just dependent upon Himself, and God can pour out of His Spirit any day, any time, any where in a great soul-saving revival movement—God can do it!
Now, I have just one other. Did you ever read such things as we read in the judgments of God in the days of the great tribulation? Hē thlipsei hē megalē, the tribulation, the great erchomenoi—“These are they who are coming out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:14]. It’s a throng—no man could number so vast a multitude [Revelation 7:9]. Who are they?
In the days of the great tribulation [Matthew 24:21], after the rapture of the church [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], and the judgments of God are falling upon this sin-cursed, unbelieving, Christ-rejecting world [1 Thessalonians 5:3-9]—in the days of the great tribulation, there is the greatest revival the earth shall have ever seen, including Nineveh [Jonah 3:1-10], including Elijah [1 Kings 18:39], including all the other revivals of all time. There are a hundred forty-four thousand Jewish evangelists who are going to evangelize this whole world, preaching the gospel of Jesus [Revelation 7:1-8], and there’s going to be a turning to heaven as the world has never seen [Revelation 7:9-14].
I must conclude in this final minute. My brother, revival is possible any day, anytime, anywhere, with any people! We live in a day of a dispensation of grace [Ephesians 3:2], of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:16-17], of the saving power of the blood of Christ [Ephesians 1:7], and He never withdraws His hand [1 Peter 3:9]. God is able always to save [Hebrews 7:25]. He is able now, even now to pour out of His saving Spirit upon our people, and upon our church, and in this dear place.
I received a letter last week from one of the discerning members. He’s a fellow elder. He’s a professor, a preacher. I received a letter from a discerning man, that man, this last week, and he said, “Pastor, I may be mistaken, but I’m beginning to sense in you a great longing and praying for a revival, a visitation from heaven, a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God.”
I wrote him a little note back, and sent the letter saying, “You are correct. O God, that in this day, and in this generation, and in this church, and in this hour, with this people, we might see a visitation from above, a sweeping, moving of the Spirit of God—not of man or by man, but by God, of God, from heaven. And that we might feel it, that we might see it, and that we might see a whole city turn to God, and through the city, maybe the saving of our whole nation.”
There’s so many things that are enlarging, portending, harbinging that glorious arrival. We have our “Here’s Life, Dallas,” we have our action appeal, we have our services of evangelistic import, and invitation, and opportunity. And our people are becoming concerned. They’re praying. This man here who led our prayer tonight, these men and others like him, are feeling the tug and the pull of God from heaven. O Lord, visit us. Visit us as You did in the days of Elijah, as You did in the days of Nineveh, as You did in the days of Finney and Moody. Lord, do it again. Visit us. Visit us.
All of you who have listened on KRLD, we pray God will bless the message to your hearts in a great turning to Jesus. And in the great throngs in this auditorium tonight, a family, a couple, or just one somebody you, give himself to the appeal of Christ; would you come and stand by me? “Tonight, pastor, I have made this decision for God, and I’m coming. Here I am. Here I am.” Take the hand of your wife and say, “Dear, let’s go. This is God’s time for us.” Come. Or, “Pastor, this is my wife. These are our children. This is the whole family. We’re all coming tonight.” Or just one somebody you, “Pastor, tonight I want to take your hand. I have given my heart to God. I give my hand to you. And here I am.” Or, “I want to be baptized like God says in the Book [Matthew 28:19-20], in a new commitment to the blessed Lord, following Him. I’m coming to be baptized as God has written in His Book.” Or, “I’m coming to bring my family, and we’re going to worship and pray and praise God in the circle of this dear church.” As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now. And in a moment when we stand to sing, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Here I come, pastor. Here I am.” Make it now. Do it now. Come now. God bless you in the way and angels attend you while you come, as we stand and as we sing.