In the Patmos model of revival and reformation all the outer garments of Judaism and institutional Christianity had been removed. Five essentials were there. John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. There was a Christian, the Spirit of Christ, the Word, the lampstands and the Lord’s Day. (This is not a model for a new reductionistic fundamentalism, but rather a reflection of what Jesus says in Matthew 18:20: “For, where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”) There are Christians, assembled in worship, seeking the true God, (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and receiving the Word of God.
THE MINIMUM MEANS FOR REVIVAL AND REFORMATION
There was a Christian Revival and reformation start with people. It has to start with the first person. In times of revival. God uses the particular few in order to reach many others. One Jesus, 12 disciples, and the Spirit came upon 12 apostles. One Peter preached and 3,000 people came into the church. One Paul, apostle to the Gentiles. Now, one John, the only remaining apostle. One Augustine to bring the church back to her Trinitarian basis. One Luther in Germany. One Calvin in France. One Knox for Scotland. Two Wesley brothers. One Jonathan Edwards. One Whitefield…and on and on we go.
We recognize that God will often use officebearers, such as the special offices of apostle, to do His work. John was an apostle. Included in his call was the task of writing part of the New Testament. He was given a special revelation (which will not be repeated for now it is inscripturated). This was to be written down and given to the messengers of the church to preach.
Now, your involvement in revival and reformation focuses on you. Our hearts can be warmed by historical accounts of great revival and reformation but what about you? The warming of the emotions and sentiments do not constitute a basis for revival or reformation.
You too are called to be a Spirit-anointed office bearer. Being a Christian is an office, a function under the unction of the Spirit of Christ. The Hebrew name for the Greek “Christ” means “anointed one.” This is an official title, a title which points to the vocation of being a Christian.
The office of all believers includes being prophet, priest and king. The leadership offices of the church are for the brothers who are called to such a task, but the office of all believers is for all Christians. We will soon see that Christ as our prophet, priest and king, calls us to respond to Him!
In times of revival there is an increased awareness of the Christian’s vocation as prophet, priest and king. God’s people will be anointed by the Spirit of proclamation, intercession and dominion over sin.
There was the Holy Spirit
The apostle John did not experience regeneration on Patmos. Rather, he was being prepared for a special task. Being in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day is part of the ongoing sanctifying and preparing work of the Spirit.
How does God prepare His people for revival and reformation. The English Puritan, Richard Sibbs spoke of four personal means (to be distinguished from communal means of preaching, discipline and the sacraments). From his study of Scripture he concluded that the Spirit prepares His people in repentance, in prayer, in drawing them into fellowship with other Christians and in Bible study 2 These are normative activities for the Christian in communion with the local congregation in worshiping God. In times of revival. the Spirit of God multiplies such activities in extraordinary ways.
There was the Context of Worship on the Lord’s Day
Notice that at Pentecost and now on Patmos, the Spirit was received on the Lord’s Day, while God’s people were in prayer. That is not coincidence. Worship is God working with His people at a communal level.
We come into worship in order to meet with God. This is true worship. God speaks to us through His Word and we speak to God through personal and corporate prayer, and our praises. The God whom we meet in worship is the God of revival.
In times of revival, Biblical worship is restored. So it was after the Exodus, during the time of the judges, after the exile, during the ministry of Jesus, at Pentecost, on Patmos, during the Reformation, with Puritans, and in mission movements such as the growth of the Presbyterian Church in Korea.
God’s people begin the week with communal worship (the Lord’s Day) and continue to serve Him throughout the week. Evening services are not a rarity but frequent. Converts and covenant members are instructed. Leaders are trained. Services are rendered. In times of revival, spending time in worship with the Lord on His day will be restored.
There was the Word
The vision which John the apostle received was special. The apostles were chosen by Jesus; they were eye witnesses of Jesus; they were to set up the early church; and they were to finish writing the New Testament (II Peter 3:16). For that purpose they received special revelations which are written down, inscripturated in the Bible. This vision is one of the last we receive in Scripture. It now remains permanently in the Church.
In times of revivals many claim to receive visions of Jesus. The children at the Airport Fellowship saw a Lion, Jesus, standing in front of a store saying: “Come and buy.” Benny Hin says that Jesus came into his room at night and He was dressed in a robe and with sandals.
Are we allowed to ask a few questions? Why would Jesus dress that way in modern day North America? How can you be sure you saw the real Jesus? Did He speak King James English or New International Version English (this would go a long way in settling our Bible version debates). What was His view on women as pastors, homosexual orientation, papal authority and mariology? What constitutes a claim to a vision: subjectivity or the objectivity of Scriptures?
For this reason God has given us a permanent, inscripturated vision of Jesus so we can be sure, so we will not be led astray by the imaginations of man and deception of the evil one.
There was a Lampstand
The lampstands were the congregations who were faithful to the testimony of Jesus and the Word both in belief and practice. The churches were the recipients of God’s Word. God’s Word was preached there. When John heard the voice of the Lord he looked and saw the lampstands. Jesus was walking among the lampstands. He spoke in the context of the churches. He received the prayers of God’s people in the context of the churches. Christ interacted with Christians in the congregation. The lampstand is a bearer of light. The gospel light is sustained by the High Priest, Jesus Christ.
In times of revival there will be a multiplication of churches and increase of gospel preaching and obedience. This was the experience of the CRC in the Dominican Republic and other mission movements: authentic church growth accompanied by true gospel light.
THE MESSAGE OF REVIVAL AND REFORMATION
Jesus Himself appeared. That is the essence of God’s Word. Jesus reveals it, shows who He is and how we can be reconciled to the Father.
We see Jesus, as God, as Son of man, as prophet, priest and king.
Jesus is God
Jesus Christ is God. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last. He is eternal. For this claim Jesus died (Mt. 26). Yet He does not change His being. He is the eternal Son of the eternal Father, always eternal.
Only the eternal God can instruct us about eternal matters, of life and death, of heaven and hell, of salvation and sanctification.
Christian revival exalts the deity of Christ.
Jesus is the Son of Man
Jesus was crucified because He claimed to be the Son of Man who would come again on the clouds in glory (Mt. 26). The Jews and Romans sought to destroy Jesus and His claims. The same Jesus will return. He does not change. Eternity cannot be wiped out.
Some say that all roads of world religion lead to God. What will the Hindu, Buddhist, New Ager, Jew and all who have rejected the Son of Man say when they appear before Him? We will all appear before the Son of Man, the only authentic representative of mankind. In times of revival there will be an urgency to evangelize all in preparation for the day of judgment.
Jesus is the Chief Prophet
As prophet He speaks the Word. His voice is as a trumpet. Have you heard what a trumpet sounds like? It is high and sharp. It pierces the air. In the Old Testament days the trumpet was used to announce the beginning of a religious feast such as the Sabbath, the coming of someone very important or to call soldiers into battle. It could mean all three.
The Word of God is like a trumpet; it is communally sounded forth on the Lord’s Day. It calls attention to the greatest personality who exists, God, who is revealed to us in Christ. It calls us into spiritual conflict with the forces of darkness and evil.
A sword comes from His mouth. This sword is a weapon. This is the living Word the preachers preach. According to Ephesians 6:17 the Word is not only the sword of Jesus but the sword of the Spirit. The Word is to sound forth from our pulpits in preaching. The sword of Christ is exercised in congregational preaching. John Calvin says:
Preaching ought not to be lifeless, but lively, that if an unbeliever be present, he may so effectually be arrested and convinced as to give glory to God. Paul speaks of a lively power and energy with which men ought to speak, who would approve themselves as good and faithful servants of God. The Spirit of God ought to sound forth by their voices so as to work with mighty energy. He directs that we be not slothful in God’s business, but fervent in Spirit. serving the Lord with holy zeal and fire.
John Greener says:
The pulpit is the altar where the fire falls on Mount Carmel. The pulpit is the heart beat of the gospel proclamation. As the pulpit goes so go the churches…As the pulpit goes so goes the hearts of men in our generation…The pulpit is the front line of the spiritual battle that is waged in every generation and in every culture.
Martyn Lloyd Jones says:
What is it that always heralds the dawn of a Reformation or a Revival? It is renewed preaching…A revival of true preaching has always heralded these great movements in the history of the church…As that is true in the beginning as described by the book of Acts, it was also after the Protestant Reformation. Luther, Calvin, Knox, Latimer, Ridley…all these men were great preachers. In the seventeenth century, you had exactly the same thinggreat Puritan preachers and others. And in the eighteenth century, Jonathan Edwards, Whitefield, the Wesley’s, Lowlands and Harris were all great preachers.3
In our spiritual battle, we must be under the protection and direction of the sword of Christ, the Word of God. The sword is used to defend against Satan. As Martin Luther so ably states in his hymn:
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure, one little Word shall fell him.
The sword is used to convict sinners in the congregations The sins of idolatry, immorality, the breaking of the first four commandments and the violations of the last six commandments are arrested by the sword of Christ through the preached and applied Word in the congregation.
Does Christ speak to sins of God’s people on Sunday morning and evening? If not. you have not been under the sword of the Spirit. Yes, the word is to comfort, to console, to praise and pray; but it is also to convict (John 16:8–11). The converted need to be convicted. We need daily repentance and daily obedience. That is why Jesus addresses the congregation rather than the world with His message.
Jesus is the High Priest
As priest He wears the priestly garments. He is the intercessor, the sacrificer, the way before the Father. He dwells in the new temple, among the lampstands of congregations. Notice that Jesus is spiritually present among the congregations. As priest He hears our prayers and confessions. He continually prays and intercedes for us.
Continual intercession by Christ is necessary. Can you live one moment of your Christian life without prayer? Can you live on your own? Jesus said that if we bear witness to Him on earth He will bear witness for us before the Father.
Robert Murray McCheyne says:
If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.
It is said that for over 100 years, starting in 1720, the Moravians kept a prayer vigil going, 24 hours a day. Does this mean that all Christian churches should do that? Legalistic prayer, praying because someone tells you to do it. will stay within the cold heart from which it comes. Spiritual prayer, (when we ask God to break our hearts and cause us to pray) will be effectual. What a blessing it is when God’s people pray continually! Wherever there is great revival and reformation there is prayer. Prayer does not cause revival and reformation. Prayer is a fruit of revival and reformation.
Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 116:
Why do Christians pray? Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us. And also because God gives His grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking Him for them.
Prayerlessness is sin. Did Adam and Eve consult with God, communicate with God, express their communion with God through praying in times of temptation?
Prayerlessness is sin. Samuel said about the sinful covenant people: “Should I sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you…” (I Sam. 12:23).
“Pray always…” (Eph. 6:18).
“Continue in prayer…” (Col. 4:2).
“Pray without ceasing…” (I Thess. 5:17).
E.M. Bounds says:
A prayerless ministry is the undertaker for all God’s truth and for God’s Church.
Prayer involves Jesus in the conflict against sin, worldliness and Satan.
John Bunyan says:
Prayer is a shield to the soul, a delight to God, and a scourge to Satan.
Samuel Chadwick says:
The one concern of the devil is to keep the saints from prayer. He fears nothing from prayerless study, prayerless work, prayerless religion; he laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.
Sidlow Baxter says:
Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.
We know the High Priest is active today. He is moving among the lighted lampstands, the true church. Prayer to the only Intercessor is a sure sign of the true Church. No prayer, or prayer to other intercessors, is a sign of the false church.
The church is waning in Europe, even in Canada, and decline is moving worldwide. There are churches who have the name of true churches, be it Reformed, Presbyterian, Orthodox, Conservative. Are they alight with the gospel of living to Christ and dying to sin, of seeking continual intercession, of proclaiming and practicing the Word in and out of season?
Jesus is the King of Kings
As king of kings, He walks in the furnace of tribulation and rules over the earth. The fires of persecution were licking at the feet of the Son of God. “Wherefore do the nations rage and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against His anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us.’ Christians were killed or thrown before wild animals to be devoured for one reason: for saying that “Jesus is Lord,” rather than “Caesar is Lord.”
Polycarp, when asked to confess that Caesar is Lord said:
Eighty and six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?
Persecution is happening now. How many hundreds of thousands of Christians have died in Russia before, during and after World War II. We are speaking of millions.
In the Huarorani territory of Ecuador, early 1956, the pilot of a low-flying search plane making its i way along the Curaray River spotted one of the five missing missionaries’ bodies lying face down in the water.
Recently, under the regime of Adi Admin, thousands of Christians were slaughtered. He remains alive today, protected by a Muslim government. Muslims continue to execute Christian pastors in Iran and other countries of the world. Children of Christians in the Sudan are sold as slaves and prostitutes. Need we speak of the slaughter of Rwandan peoples, right in the church, where they fled for refuge?
Modem day martyrs are also to be found among Reformed believers. In Chiapas, Mexico, members of the National Presbyterian Church continue to be forced out of their homes and even martyred.
We are to remember those being persecuted, as if we were in prison with them. Richard Wurmbrand estimates that one third of the world’s Christians live under persecuting conditions.
Yet. the fires of persecution cannot stop the advancement of the gospel. Jesus continues to rule.
In the Orient, even as Communist Chinese authorities seek to purge the church, it continues to grow by the millions.
Among the Auca Indians, the son of the man who murdered five missionaries became a missionary himself, and the wife of one of the deceased missionaries attended the ordination service
Even though the peace keepers of Canada and the United Nations do not dare to enter Rwanda, missionaries like Dr. Timothy and Dorothy Monsma work with church leaders and help out orphanages.
The Roman Catholic liberationists the Zapatista guerrillas, continue to oppress Christians in Chiapas, yet the church continues to grow.
Christians, we are an insignificant few according to the statistics of this land. We see from the Patmos model of revival and reformation that God starts with one Christian at a time. He uses the means of grace, centered around His Word, at the personal as well as the communal level. God continues to work according to His creation, redemption and eternal plan. He sends His Spirit to accomplish His work in and through us as office-bearers, as prophets, priests and servants of the King. Christ is the significant One. He is the prime actor in redemption. Through Him alone we come to the Father and receive the Spirit. He is the Chief Prophet. the High Priest, and the King of Kings. All our attention must be on the things above, on Christ. and not on the things below. May Christ be exalted!
As we return to our congregations, may we truly be in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, hearing the Word of God, as Christ continues to speak to His people through the Word. May we be in prayer and be found faithful under the rule of Christ.
Then true revival and true reformation will take place.
1. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 12.
2. Stephen Beck, “The Role of Preparation.” (Ligonier Ministries of Canada 1996), audio tape.
3. Maryn Lloyd Jones, Preachers and Preaching (London: Lowe and Brydone, 1981).
Dr. Neal Hegeman is Associate Pastor of the Cornerstone United Reformed Church in London, Ontario, Canada He also serves as Executive Director of Ligonier Ministries of Canada.