American Revival? Don’t Count On It

Posted on October 8, 2018


By David Ettinger

Revival in America
Throughout America’s Christian history, revival has been dear to the hearts of evangelicals. There has never been a generation of American believers which has not yearned for revival. The reason for this, of course, is that America is perpetually in need of revival.

repentanceThe word “revival” infers that something is dead or dying. “Christian” revival recognizes that the Church is in desperate need of a fresh infusion of God’s Spirit to awaken it from its apathy, especially in times when spiritual decline and moral decadence rule the day. This explains why America – as well as every nation on earth – is always in need of revival.

Throughout America’s history, there have been six major revivals: the 1st Great Awakening (regional) led by Jonathan Edwards, 1730s-40s; the 1st Great Awakening (national) led by George Whitefield, same time period; the 2nd Great Awakening in 1792; the 3rd Great Awakening in 1830; the 4th Great Awakening in 1857; and the 5th Great Awakening in 1880. There were also several notable “minor” revivals: the Welsh Revival, 1904-05; “Jesus People,” 1970s; revivals under the preaching of evangelists such as Billy Graham and Luis Palau; and many smaller revivals that were and are occurring in various pockets of our nation.

The problem is that revivals never stick. People are sinners and their “default” is sin. When not pushed, prodded, or preached into temporary holy living, people act like the sinners they are. I am not denigrating revivals; not even close. The Holy Spirit has used revivals to bring millions to Christ, as well as preventing the U.S. from destroying herself from immorality and godlessness. Revival is vital to the health of a nation. If America was ever ripe for another revival, it is now. The question is, does America have one, good, soul-rousing revival left in her?

The Revival Prerequisite
In order for there to be revival, there must be repentance. The familiar verse Christian leaders employ to stoke the flames of repentance is 2 Chronicles 7:14: “… if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

However, I don’t think this verse applies to America, but is intended for ancient and modern-day Israel, specifically to unsaved people. God was – and is – speaking to His very specific “covenant” people. God chose Israel, set her apart, and is watching over her. So, when God says “My people,” He is referring to Israel, both past and present.

Photo by jemasmithTherefore, applying this verse to America doesn’t make sense. Put in an American context, the term “My people” would refer to believers in Jesus Christ. This being the case, why would God tell His people en masse that they must “turn from their wicked ways”? Of course there are always individual believers who in rebellion embrace sin, but for the most part, American Christians try and want to live holy lives. To say that the vast majority of us are engaging in willing and wanton sin is simply not true.

However, there is the second part of 2 Chronicles 7:14: “…will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” This could well apply to unbelieving America. And why not, you may be asking. Is it possible that the majority of unsaved Americans can repent and seek God? Why should today be different from the past? After all, there were many revivals – big and small – throughout America’s history, why not now?

These questions are hopeful, but do not yield hopeful replies. What makes 21st century America so different from any-other-time-in-history America is the extent to which the U.S. has sanctioned sin. Three major examples stand out:

  • June 17, 1963: Abington Township School District v. Schempp. This Supreme Court decision prohibited school officials from organizing or leading prayers and devotional Bible reading in public schools. With this ruling, the U.S. declared it illegal to have organized prayer in public school to the God of the Bible.
  • January 22, 1973: Roe v. Wade. This Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. With this ruling, the U.S. legitimatized certain types of murder, in this instance, the murder of unwanted, unborn – but very much alive – children.
  • June 26, 2015: The Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right for same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states. With this ruling, the U.S. declared its abhorrence of God’s biblical dictates for marriage: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). The Lord made no other allowance for marriage.

Add to this the pervading culture of sexual permissiveness, lawlessness, and immorality that characterize 21st century America, and we have a nation which has gone past the point of repentance – the point of no return.

Is There a Point of No Return?
But does the Bible teach of a point of no return? Indeed it does.

One of the best examples is ancient Israel under King Manasseh. A list of this evil monarch’s crimes is laid bare in 1 Kings chapter 21 and 2 Chronicles chapter 33, the nadir of which was offering his children as burnt sacrifices (2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chronicles 33:6). Near the end of his life Manasseh repented and tried to do good (2 Chronicles 33:10-16), but his change of heart had little positive impact on his people (v.17).

The idolatry of King Manasseh.Manasseh was succeeded to the throne for two wicked years by his son Amon, then for 31 righteous years by his grandson Josiah. Josiah’s biblical account (2 Kings chapters 22-23, and 2 Chronicles chapters 34-35) is every bit as breathtakingly wonderful to read as Manasseh’s is miserably terrible. Yet, despite all the good Josiah did, we still read this:

  • “Nevertheless the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath, with which His anger was aroused against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him” (2 Kings 23:26).
  • “Surely at the commandment of the Lord this [destruction and exile] came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also because of the innocent blood that he had shed; for he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, which the Lord would not pardon” (2 Kings 23:4).

Though the Southern Kingdom of Judah would exist 57 years following Manasseh’s death, God had already decided it had reached the point of no return. Yes, God gave Judah 57 years to repent, but for the most part, the nation was too far gone; judgment was imminent. There would be no repentance, and hence no revival. Has God already determined the fate of the U.S.? Have we passed the point of no return?

The Ultimate Rejection of God
Then there is Revelation Chapter 9. By the time we reach the final two verses, we are shocked by what we have read. Here is a summary of what has occurred leading up to this point:

  • the coming of the Antichrist (6:2);
  • the worldwide increase of violence, war, and murder (6:3);
  • universal starvation (6:5-6);
  • widespread plague and pestilence (6:8);
  • large-scale martyrdom of Bible-believing Christians (6:9);
  • frightening cosmic disturbances (6:12-17);
  • the Rapture of the Church (7:9);
  • destruction of a third of the world’s vegetation (8:7);
  • contamination of a third of the earth’s seas and major bodies of water (8:8-9);
  • the poisoning of a third of the world’s non-ocean bodies of water (8:10-11);
  • destruction of a third of the heavenly bodies (8:12);
  • the release of a demonic, locust army which brings misery to those who reject God (9:1-11);
  • a demonic horde which will kill another third of the earth’s population (9:13-19).

And yet – AND YET – after all this, we still read these astonishing verses:

But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts (Revelation 9:20-21).

Worldwide devastation.If ever there will be a time to repent, this will be it. And yet, even then, the human race will refuse to seek God. What a stunning commentary on the depravity of the human heart!

This leaves us wondering: Nothing of what is being described in the Book of Revelation is happening now. If those in that day will not repent, how much less will today’s inhabitants of the earth be willing to repent? I believe the days of revival are behind us; we will see no more. There is too much evidence from past and current history to permit us to think otherwise.

Personal and Individual Revival
So now what? First, don’t give up or lose hope. God is in control; He always was, and always will be. Second, so long as you have the breath of life in you, God expects you to keep striving after Him. On a personal level, conduct daily revival in your own life by repenting of sins, praying, and reading your Bible. To the unsaved individuals in your life, extend the opportunity to experience revival by sharing the Gospel and pointing them to the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Third, live your life with purpose and abundance (John 10:10) and stay upbeat, positive, and encouraging. The perishing world needs what you have to offer. The knowledge of the way to revival is yours to share with anyone you choose. America as a whole is past the point of revival, but a percentage of the individuals in your life are not. Therefore, sow the seeds of revival as God allows, and do so with joy, enthusiasm, and hope!