In a friendly discussion with my blogging buddy Polycarp over at The Church of Jesus Christ on his post Charismatic Movement: Alive or Dead?, we each agreed to write posts about whether there will be an end-times revival. You can find his excellent post here, wherein he very skillfully maintains there will not be an end-times revival. Surprisingly, however, despite my task of demonstrating that there is scriptural authority for an end-times revival, I must confess that there is not much in his post I disagree with, other than the ultimate conclusion, of course.
I think a few issues get confused when discussing this subject matter thereby creating distinctions, whether with or without real differences. First of all, I agree with Polycarp that the last days will be very difficult:
[Paul to Timothy] This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 Timothy 3:1 (KJV)
I do not, however, see these (difficult times and end-times revival) as being mutually exclusive. Whether you believe we are in the midst of the last days or not, I think most would agree that these are perilous times and that there is a considerable revival taking place right now in places like South America, China and other parts of Asia and Africa. So, both are indeed possible.
I think, too, the term "revival" is used loosely suggesting some sort of spiritual resurrection, which I firmly believe will happen (more on that in a moment), but it also gets used to suggest some worldwide mass coming to Jesus. I'm less comfortable with the latter because I'm not entirely sure scripture goes that far, but I don't negate the possibility. Therefore, to the question of whether the end-times revival will be worldwide or include mass numbers, I must simply answer, "I don't know."
With that in mind, the most widely used scripture to support the notion of an end-times revival is found in Joel 2:
28 It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions.
29"Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. The Day of the LORD
30"I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,
Blood, fire and columns of smoke.
31"The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.
32"And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered...
My friend correctly points out that in Acts 2 Peter applies this passage in Joel to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit experienced by Peter and the others on the day of Pentecost. However, I see this as the beginning of the outpouring referenced in Joel and not the end.
In support of this, it seems that Joel 2:31 is a parallel prophecy to Revelation 6:12 where, "The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red..." (NIV), which suggests to me that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit began, and did not culminate, at Pentecost. The culmination to come "before the great and awesome day" when the Lord comes.
Moreover, I find no where in scripture where this outpouring comes to an end. Lastly, at the time of Pentecost, Peter had no indication yet that the Gentiles were some how going to be a part of God's plan. His encounter with Cornelius and strange bedclothes had yet to occur, and He specifically addresses "Men of Judea" and "Men of Israel."
Thus, the pouring out on all mankind, while appropriate to Peter's sermon as the beginning of said outpouring, must have been still future in its completion.
I have always found that on questions of church theology, the book of Romans seems to provide most of the answers. On this question of theology, Romans 11 I think provides the clearest instruction.
First, and as an aside, albeit an important one, Paul cites Joel2:32 in eliminating the distinction between Jew and Gentile in Romans 10:13. It is apparent that Paul viewed Joel's prophecy as continuing and still future. More importantly, Paul explains:
11 I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. 12 Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!...15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery-so that you will not be wise in your own estimation-that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written..." (NASB)
If Israel's rejection of Christ meant my reconciliation, what must their acceptance be? Paul equates it to life from the dead. That sounds like a revival to me. I would love to be around when, "all Israel will be saved."
Admittedly, I think there are a lot of when, where, and how's that need to be worked out, but it seems to me that the end-times revival is the answer to the falling away, apostasy and lawlessness to come. Jesus instructs us, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." Matthew 24:14 (NASB)
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus, and we are to:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that [He] commanded [us]; and lo, [He] is with [us] always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19 (NASB)
I see it this way: the prophecied gloom and doom are the symptoms, the end-times, worldwide revival we are charged with carrying is the cure. Sure, some folks will not take their medicine, ignore their ailments, or seek help elsewhere, but among those who find Jesus, there will most definitely be revival.