If God poured out the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, then much of what we envision as “revival” is simply part of the normal Christian life. It is not the sole possession of one part of the body of Christ, as if other parts may dismiss it as a sectarian or divisive issue; it is part of God’s gift, and it is unholy and a sin against God to despise it (cf. 1 Thess 5:20). At the same time, it is not something that belongs to a label, as if calling ourselves “Pentecostal” or “charismatic” means that we have it, reducing it to a merely sectarian possession. It does not come with labels or with a theology that merely affirms it. It comes from obedient faith in God’s gift to his church.
The early Christians saw themselves as living both in the last days and in the continuation of the biblical era, expecting God to act in their own day. Their continuity with the apostolic church was a foretaste and herald of the coming kingdom. Although early Pentecostals, like other restorationist movements of their era, did overemphasize much of their own distinctive role in the history of the church, they did ultimately play a historic role in restoring to the wider church the recognition that spiritual gifts should continue.
As various scholars have shown, early Pentecostals saw the restoration of the gifts as a sign of Christ’s imminent return, and this eschatological hope helped drive the growth of Pentecostalism. Although many early Pentecostals accepted the classical dispensationalist eschatology popular at the time, their perspective also continued the expectant eschatology of the holiness movement, which viewed the present era of the church as the era of the Spirit.
God sometimes acts in different ways in different times; Christians today often speak of those special periods as periods of revival or awakening. In some settings and times, miracles seem to happen regularly, and in other times more rarely; we need to recognize the element of God’s sovereignty. At the same time, he welcomes us to pray for his activity (cf. Acts 4:29-30) and promises to hear us (Luke 11:13). Living in the reality of God’s word and the presence of his Spirit is something that can characterize our lives all the time, and make us increasingly ready for whatever other ways God may pour out the Spirit in our time and place. Faith may be expressed in expectancy, and this faith may itself express the sense that God is moving, a sense based on God’s own activity in our hearts. Biblical faith is not “make-believe,” or wishing hard; it is a spiritual sense that has eyes to see and ears to hear, recognizing that God is trustworthy and, in light of some biblical passages, recognizing that God is acting or recognizing what God is doing. Faith is the sound and appropriate response to God’s reliability.
This content is by Craig Keener, but edited and posted by Defenders Media.
For more on how to read Scripture in light of Pentecost, read Spirit Hermeneutics (2016).