This classic was originally published in March 1998
In my mind, a revival is a veritable tornado! A tornado is a violent whirling windstorm that accompanies a funnel-shaped cloud. Severe thunder, lightning, and torrents of rain are present as well. Just as a tornado advances across the sky, touching down on land here and there, a genuine revival moves through the spiritual world, stirring up life among believers in its path.
Divine truth strikes like lightning. God’s voice thunders, bringing heavy conviction and repentance. And torrents of saving and delivering power from God rain down upon men, women and children. This analogy doesn’t stop there, however. Let me suggest eight additional ways in which a true revival mimics a tornado:
1. Like a Tornado, a Revival Draws Attention to an Unseen Power
Man’s attention is usually fixed on the material world, but a revival tornado causes people to see and feel the power of the spiritual world.
Whereas the sunshine, dew and gentle showers of ordinary religious climates go unnoticed, a mighty revival tornado captures the attention of even hardened sinners who seem impervious to the Word of God. They begin to weep, tremble, pray, and cry out for God’s mercy, and their lives are transformed into scenes of holy triumph.
Others, who have tried religion before, but have never experienced victory over sin, are miraculously delivered from strongholds—their hope in God restored.
2. Both a Tornado and Revival come From God; Man Cannot Stir them Up
The mission of God’s wind is to fulfill His will (John 3:8). Men have no power to direct that wind; we can only respond to it. We can hold evangelistic crusades, coax the lost to come to Jesus, and encourage people to express a desire to go to heaven when they die. After that, we can even baptize them and count them as members of the church. But there is no more revival power in all these things than the twitching of a corpse under the currents of an electric battery.
In revival, by contrast, God initiates and fuels all spiritual activity. He raises the spiritual temperature in a church or community. He causes the atmosphere to become heavy with “spiritual moisture” and charges it with the electricity of His presence. Once these atmospheric conditions are just right, He unleashes a cyclone against the human heart. Everything not founded upon the Rock of Jesus Christ is removed and destroyed.
At no point can man either stir up this storm or hold back its fury. A tornado begins and ends as God wills.
3. Like a Tornado, a Revival Purifies the Atmosphere
Before a tornado hits, the atmosphere is heavy and hot. Disease-carrying mosquitoes hover over swamps and lakes. Smog blankets the valleys. But when a tornado passes through, it cleanses the atmosphere. A similar atmospheric change takes place in a revival, delivering people from the swamps of sin and the foggy skies of unbelief.
I have actually felt this cleansing take place in revival meetings. At first, a thick and heavy spiritual atmosphere envelopes the room. The presence of God weighs on your heart, pressing you into contact with God. Then, in the gaze of God’s holy eyes, you feel naked and exposed. You can’t hide your sin anymore. It’s all around you, like the flying debris of a tornado. As you confess your sins and repent before the flaming eyes of Jesus, the work of the cross is completed in you. Death to sin is applied to your heart. Chains of bondage fall off. Addictions and demonic strongholds crumble by the power of God. And you are cleansed.
4. Thunder and Lightning Characterize Both a Tornado and a Revival
In an atmosphere of revival, the thunder of God’s voice terrorizes a sinner’s heart. His Word strikes like lightning, penetrating the heart so deeply that it arrests the attention of even those who typically reject the gospel or refuse to obey God.
The Holy Spirit so grips their hearts that they are open to instruction. Hardened hearts literally melt like wax before a flame. Humiliation, confession and the turning from sin follow, crushing sin like a steamroller flattens a grape. Then, in a flash, freedom rushes in like a flooding river, liberating the heart from areas of sin it has battled for years.
A so-called revival, in which the lightning of God’s truth hits no one, is a sham. Such revivals don’t bring rain or cleanse the atmosphere of malaria.
In true revival, the Lord hurls red-hot thunderbolts on religious sin, searing hypocrisy, dead orthodoxy and modern-day Pharisaism. Powerless to cleanse the heart of sin, they cannot coexist with the genuine power of God.
Many Christians forget that the Lamb of God is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth;” Jesus told His disciples, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). A sword will cut sin out of the heart and break every yoke in our lives (Isaiah 58:6).
Although Jesus meets the weeping, repentant sinner with overflowing mercy, He attacks the unrepentant sinner with the fury of a hungry lion. He devours all prey, be it religious or moral sin.
Come back next week to learn four additional ways in which a true revival mimics a tornado.