A revival is a spiritual reawakening in which a church or community is brought out of a state of dormancy or stagnation, resulting in changed lives and a renewed pursuit of personal righteousness. In one sense, revival can only happen among believers, since it is a restoration to life. In common usage, however, the word revival often refers to any large-scale response to evangelism in which new converts are made.
Does the Bible contain any prophecies about a worldwide revival breaking out? Yes and no. Yes, the Bible does predict times of turning to the Lord, but probably not in the sense that many people expect.
Biblically speaking, the “end times” is the period between Jesus’ ascension and His return. We are living in the final dispensation before the day of the Lord occurs. We will take a look at predictions of revival through three periods: the Church Age, the tribulation period, and the millennium.
End Times Revival in the Church Age
Many of the biblical prophets speak of an outpouring of God’s Spirit in the end times, but Peter interprets that to refer to the coming the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and perhaps the ministry of the church thereafter. In Acts 2, Peter preaches to the crowds: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. . . . This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:14–18). So, the revival prophesied in Joel 2:28–32 was fulfilled 2,000 years ago when the Church began.
During the Church Age, there has been a great revival—that is, a great influx of people into the kingdom of God, far more than there ever were in Old Testament times. If you lived in the time of the Old Testament and could see what we have today—Christians in every nation actively evangelizing and translating Scripture with the intent of reaching every tribe and language, you would probably call it an incredible revival far beyond anything you could have imagined. The same might be true if you were living in the first century during the time of the apostles. The church has grown exponentially since the day of Pentecost.
In Matthew 24:14, Jesus speaks of the gospel being preached to the whole world, “and then the end will come.” Jesus does not indicate what the response to the preaching will be, but just a few verses earlier, He said, “At that time many will turn away from the faith . . . and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:10–12). Elsewhere, Jesus asks, rhetorically, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Jesus said He would build His Church (Matthew 16:18), and He is doing that. The Church has seen periods of revival and great growth and periods of what seems to be stagnation. But Jesus never taught that a global revival would happen in the last days before the tribulation.
The apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, did not seem to think there would be a worldwide revival, either: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1–2). Also, Paul wrote, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days” (2 Timothy 3:1). Note, the description of the last days: they will be “terrible”; in fact, “evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). Rather than repenting in a worldwide revival, “people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:2–5).
In another epistle, Paul again says that the last days will be characterized by apostasy, not revival: “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, CSB). Paul’s prediction of an apostasia before the Antichrist is revealed suggests that what occurs will be the opposite of a revival. It will be a falling away from the truth, as many professing believers abandon the faith and reject biblical teaching in the days leading up to the tribulation.
If the Battle of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38—39) takes place during the Church Age, then we could see a revival of sorts in the aftermath of that conflict. The nations of the world will see God’s greatness and holiness demonstrated (Ezekiel 38:23). And, for Israel, specifically, there will be revival: “From that day forward the people of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God. . . . I will pour out my Spirit on the people of Israel” (Ezekiel 39:22, 29).
End Times Revival in the Tribulation
The New Testament speaks of a coming revival among the Jews/Israel. Romans 11:25 says that now, for a time, Israel is “partially hardened . . . until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (ESV). Then, “all Israel will be saved,” which seems to indicate that the Jews will one day be “softened” to the gospel and receive it. Revelation mentions what seems to be a revival among Jews during the tribulation, led by 144,000 Jewish evangelists (see Revelation 7). The tribulation will have the effect of turning Jewish hearts to their true Messiah, and this was prophesied in the Old Testament: “It is the time of Jacob’s trouble, But he shall be saved out of it” (Jeremiah 30:7, NKJV).
End Times Revival in the Millennium
Several Old Testament passages prophesy a coming age of justice, peace, and safety when the Messiah will reign from Jerusalem. During that time, which Revelation 20 says will last 1,000 years, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). That sounds like a truly worldwide revival. Also during that era, former enemies of the Lord “will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles” (Zechariah 14:16; see also Habakkuk 2:14; Psalm 22:27; Isaiah 18:7; 19:21; 27:13; and Jeremiah 31:34).
End Times Revival: Conclusion
Some believe that we are in the midst of, or building up to, the greatest revival in the history of the Church. We would like nothing better than for God to do a great work and bring multitudes of people into the kingdom, and we pray toward that end. A wholesale turning to God on a global scale would change this world. But Scripture seems to say that, in the days leading up to the rapture, a worldwide revival is unlikely. The last days will be a troubling and alarming time, but we take comfort in the fact that our Lord has overcome the world (John 16:33). We keep our eyes on Him and let His light shine through us, bringing glory to God as we await our Savior’s return.