Horatius Bonar (1808-1889) explains it this way:
What is revival? Strictly speaking, it is the restoration of life that has been lost; and in this sense, it applies only to the Church of God. But used in a more common acceptation, it is the turning of multitudes to God. As conversion is the turning of a soul to God, so a revival is a repetition of this same spiritual process in the case of thousands. It is conversion on a large scale. It is what occurred under the apostles at Pentecost, when three thousand were converted under one sermon. It is what took place at Corinth, Thessalonica, and Ephesus, when, under the preaching of the apostles, multitudes believed and turned to the Lord. This is what we mean by revival!
So revival is more than personal revival and church revival, it includes a broad awakening where multitudes are awakened. So what about us? First, we can be grateful for the signs of awakening among us, but there is more. There is a community that surrounds us. Because of that, the matter of revival should never leave our consciousness until we see heaven come down and glory fill souls around us.
Also, Kevin De Young has posted some helpful thoughts on revival in two parts.
First, he defines revival like this: “True revival is a sovereign, swift, extraordinary work of God whereby he saves sinners and breathes new life into his people.”
Here is a description of one of the most famous awakenings in history, in the days of Josiah, where we learn that revival begins with love for the Word of God. De Young says,
True revival will always be Bible saturated through and through. Revival is not simply renewed fervor for spiritual things. Buddhists have a fervor for spiritual things. Oprah and Tom Cruise have a hunger for spiritual things. God-wrought revival brings a fervor for the Bible, that we might live, feel, sing, pray, work, and worship according to the word of God.
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