It is very appropriate that we begin this School of Prayer with a message on "The Need of a Spiritual Revival," because this is the greatest of all our needs and without it the gospel work can never be finished.
The spirit of revival has often visited individuals and the church down through the history of the reign of sin, but the Scriptures describe only two spiritual revivals accompanied by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in unlimited power. These are called the early and latter rains. The first began on the day of Pentecost when Christ entered upon His priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, and the second will be just before the close of probation and the finishing of His mediatorial work, when under the visitation of the Holy Spirit the work will be finished and cut short in righteousness.
Since the early rain visitation of power was typical of the latter rain, we will first briefly discuss that experience and its marvelous results. The revival and reformation in the lives of the 120 in the upper room prepared the way for the work of Pentecost. In only ten days their lives were completely changed and they experienced the promises of Christ which He made just before He ascended to heaven, as recorded in Acts 1:4-8. This had been the chief burden of Christ for His disciples: "Christ, the Great Teacher, had an infinite variety of subjects from which to choose, but the one upon which He dwelt most largely was the endowment of the Holy Spirit. What great things He predicted for the church because of this endowment. Yet what subject is less dwelt upon now? What promise is less fulfilled? An occasional discourse is given upon the Holy Spirit, and then the subject is left for after consideration."—Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 156, 157. The time has come when this latter situation must be changed.
What wonderful things happened during the early rain. "More were converted by one sermon on the day of Pentecost than were converted during all the years of Christ's ministry. So mightily will God work when men give themselves to the control of the Spirit."—The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Acts 2:1-4, 14, 41, p. 1055. Only about five hundred became Christians during these three and one-half years, but three thousand were baptized as the result of Peter's first sermon, and we are told that as the result of his second sermon "many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand" (Acts 4:4). This number doubtless means besides women and children, which could mean from ten to twelve thousand in all. In this sermon Peter made the wonderful statement recorded in Acts 3:19-21. Verse 19 reads in the Weymouth translation: "Repent, therefore, and reform your lives, so that the record of your sins may be cancelled, and that there may come seasons of refreshment from the Lord."
In Colossians 1:23, which was written in A.D. 64, we are told that at that time the gospel had been "preached to every creature which is under heaven." It thus took them only thirty-one years to fulfill the gospel commission. This was possible only because of the gift of the Holy Spirit in the showers of early rain. Bible students estimate that from six to ten million became Christians during this brief period. This, of course, was a "little flock" compared with the inhabitants of the world. But we must remember that at that time there were no steamships, railroad trains, automobiles, airplanes, printing presses, radios, television, and other modern means of travel and communication which contribute so much to the proclamation of the gospel.
We are assured that the latter rain will be greater and far more productive than the early rain. The following are samples of the many statements that could be quoted: "The great work of the gospel is not to close with less manifestation of the power of God than marked its opening. The prophecies which were fulfilled in the outpouring of the former rain at the opening of the gospel, are again to be fulfilled in the latter rain at its close."—The Great Controversy, pp. 611, 612.
As with the early rain, the latter rain will come only in answer to earnest and persevering prayer. This is stated in Zechariah 10:1, and in the following quotations: "A revival need be expected only in answer to prayer. . . . There should be earnest searching of heart. There should be united, persevering prayer, and through faith a claiming of the promises of God."—Ellen G. White in Review and Herald, March 22, 1887, p. 178. "The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the church is looked forward to as in the future; but it is the privilege of the church to have it now. Seek for it, pray for it, believe for it."Ibid., March 19, 1895, p. 178. "Meetings should be held in every church for solemn prayer. . . . Take the promises of God, and ask God in living faith for the outpouring of his Holy Spirit. . . The Holy Spirit will be given in answer to their sincere request. . . . Then the windows of heaven will be open for the showers of the latter rain."ibid., Feb. 25, 1890, p. 113.
Doubtless the greatest appeal for earnest prayer for the needed revival of spiritual power is found in Selected Messages, book 1, page 121. Here are a few of the appeals: "A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work. There must be earnest effort to obtain the blessing of the Lord, not because God is not willing to bestow His blessing upon us, but because we are unprepared to receive it. Our heavenly Father is more willing to give His Holy Spirit to them that ask Him, than are earthly parents to give good gifts to their children. But it is our work, by confession, humiliation, repentance, and earnest prayer, to fulfill the conditions upon which God has promised to grant us His blessing. A revival need be expected only in answer to prayer."
In Testimonies to Ministers, page 392, we are told that the latter rain will "come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power." Also, on pages 174, 175, we are told that "this promised blessing, if claimed by faith, would bring all other blessings in its train," and that this power awaits our demand and reception. On page 300 it is stated that "when the loud cry of the third angel shall be heard" and "when light goes forth to lighten the earth" "God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands," and that "the workers will be surprised by the simple means that He will use to bring about and perfect His work of righteousness."
In Revelation 18:1-5 is a description of the loud cry which calls all of God's true people out of spiritual Babylon. On page 390 in The Great Controversy we read: "Notwithstanding the spiritual darkness and alienation from God that exist in the churches which constitute Babylon, the great body of Christ's true followers are still to be found in their communion. . . . The time will come when those who love God supremely can no longer remain in connection with such as are 'lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.' . . . Then the light of truth will shine upon all whose hearts are open to receive it, and all the children of the Lord that remain in Babylon will heed the call, 'Come out of her My people.'" And again we are assured that "every truly honest soul will come to the light of truth" (ibid., p. 522). In the same volume we read: "In the issue of the contest, all Christendom will be divided into two great classes,—those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and those who worship the beast and his image and receive his mark."—Page 450. During the latter rain "many, both of ministers and people, will gladly accept those great truths which God has caused to be proclaimed at this time, to prepare a people for the Lord's second coming" (ibid., p. 464).
In the book Evangelism, page 700, we read: "The Spirit is poured out upon all who will yield to its promptings, and . . .
they will declare the truth with the might of the Spirit's power. Multitudes will receive the faith and join the armies of the Lord." The messenger of the Lord states that during the final crisis "as company after company from the Lord's army joined the foe," "tribe after tribe from the ranks of the enemy united with the commandment-keeping people of God" (Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 41). "God has His agents, even among the rulers and some of them will yet be converted to the truth" who "are now acting the part that God would have them."—Ibid., vol. 1, p. 203.
"Some who are numbered among merchants and princes will take their position to obey the truth. God's eye has been upon such as they have acted according to the light they have had, maintaining their integrity."—The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Acts 10:1-6, p. 1060. "When the storm of persecution really breaks upon us, the true sheep will hear the true Shepherd's voice. Self-denying efforts will be put forth to save the lost, and many who have strayed from the fold will come back to follow the great Shepherd."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 401.
"Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God."—The Desire of Ages, p. 638.
"Among earth's inhabitants, scattered in every land, there are those who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Like the stars of heaven, which appear only at night, these faithful ones will shine forth when darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the people. In heathen Africa, in the Catholic lands of Europe and of South America, in China, in India, in the islands of the sea, . . . God has in reserve a firmament of chosen ones that will yet shine forth amidst the darkness, revealing clearly to an apostate world the transforming power of obedience to His law. . . . The darker the night, the more brilliantly will they shine. What strange work Elijah would have done in numbering Israel at the time when God's judgments were falling upon the backsliding people! He could count only one on the Lord's side. But when he said, 'I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life,' the word of the Lord surprised him, 'Yet I have left Me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal.' Then let no man attempt to number Israel to-day, but let every one have a heart of flesh, a heart of tender sympathy, a heart that, like the heart of Christ, reaches out for the salvation of a lost world."—Prophets and Kings, pp. 188, 189.
The above divinely inspired counsel constitutes a rebuke to those who attempt to limit the number to be saved at any time, and especially in the last days. We must not forget the statement previously quoted that in the final crisis "as company after company from the Lord's army joined the foe . . . tribe after tribe from the ranks of the enemy united with the commandment-keeping people of God." Tribes are larger than companies. In Early Writings, page 271, we read: "My attention was then turned to the company I had seen, who were mightily shaken. . . . The careless and indifferent, who did not join with those who prized victory and salvation enough to perseveringly plead and agonize for it, did not obtain it, and they were left behind in darkness, and their places were immediately filled by others taking hold of the truth and coming into the ranks." The Lord will work so that the disaffected ones will be separated from the true and loyal ones. Those who, like Cornelius, fear God and glorify Him will take their places.
That God's love cannot permit a limit to the number to be saved when the gospel is proclaimed is evident from the following scriptures: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16) . "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:3, 4). "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).