Sparks from the Gospel Anvil
Never was the Church more richly organized than she is at the present hour. Her ministers were never more thoroughly equipped for the proclamation of the Gospel. Yet, who does not feel that there is something lacking, some large and heavenly baptism of power, to give authority to those who preach and reality to those who hear? I recall the remark that Sir Walter Scott once made as he stood before a portrait of Robert Burns. He looked at it for a moment and then said, “Yes, the luster is there, but it is not lighted up.” And it seems to me that what Sir Walter missed in the portrait of the poet is what we all miss in our church. The luster is there of method and efficiency, of able preaching and devoted service, yet somehow, if I see things aright, that luster is not lighted up, and nothing will light it up except revival. A revival is like a sacrament in this, that it give nothing which was not there before. Neither reveals the new; each illuminates the old. Each makes intensely and powerfully real what the trafficking of common days has dulled, till the hearts of men begin to burn again. A large baptism of The Holy Spirit is the church’s deepest need today. Our Christian faith has not come down the centuries like a steadily expanding river. There have been times of deadness, seasons of inertia, long ages of weary formalness. And then, always at the appointed hour, has come the opening of heaven’s windows, and an awakening to lost simplicities. So, it was with St. Francis. So it was with the Reformation. The Reformation was not a thing of politics: at its heart it was a spiritual revival. So it was with John & Charles Wesley; so has it been in our land with every secession and disruption. No secession is just ecclesiastical; at its deepest it is spiritual. It is the protest of the heart—the challenge of the soul—the trammeled spirit breaking through to God. The history of Christianity is one long checkering of light and darkness, and the light is always near unto the darkness. Just when everything seemed lost, the battle was on the point of being won. A thousand times the extremity of man has proven the opportunity of God. And today, when we seem to have tried everything, and still lack the authentic mark of power, taught of history we reasonably hope that the hour of our redemption draws nigh.
Always prepatory to revival there has been a certain deadness in religion. Always prepatory to revival, there has been unrest, dissatisfaction and unsettlement. And always, I venture to say always, revivals have been given of God in periods of historical transit. Just as in individual life crises are associated with such periods, as when childhood is passing into youth, or youth emerging into adulthood, so in history revivals come when things are waxing old as does a garment, and the foundations of society are rocking. It is when new ideas are fermenting and new thoughts swarming into the knowledge of humanity; when there are new conceptions of the social order, or when new classes are rising into power; when the older social groups are breaking up, and men dream of a reconstituted world- -it is then you have the coming of revival. I will not take too much space to enlarge on that; I simply refer you to the page of history. Francis, Savanarola, Luther, Wesley- -that is true of the periods of them all, and he must indeed be blind who cannot recognize these signs in the conditions of our life today. Unrest on every hand. Unsettlement on every hand. Profound dissatisfaction with the state of things, both in society and in the church. New thoughts, fomenting in the minds of millions, about the Bible and about the universe, as if we moved in worlds unrealized. I feel profoundly that the time is near when we shall be in the midst of a revival. History points to it with no uncertain finger. God is not capricious in his workings. For a revival, as for spring and sunrise, there is a fulness of the time and fulness of the time is nigh. There is something lacking in preaching and in worship, and in social service, which nothing but a revival will bestow. The church today is not clothed with heavenly power. She is distracted, weak, often ineffectual, but the time is coming, and is nearer than some of you think, when the church shall recapture her authority, ‘not by might and not by power,’ saith the Lord. Let modernists cease to sneer at fundamentalists to look askance at modernists- -let all who believe in God through the Lord Jesus Christ unite in a deep and general expectancy, and sooner than we dream of, the windows of heaven will be opening and the evangel be with power again. Let us stress our unities and not our differences- -our oneness in things that really matter - -not hindering the times of heaven by antagonism but hastening them by the love that thinks no evil. Earlier than we dream, the places where we assemble shall be swept as with the sound of the mighty rushing wind. And God, who is waiting to be gracious to our church, to our beloved land, and to the world, will solve our problems and redeem our weakness with the baptism of power from on high.
Lt. Charles Smith is commanding officer of the Salvation Army of El Dorado.
• • •
Miracles of Faith, Realm of the Dead
The word “realm” is mentioned about 44 times in NIV Bibles with the majority of uses concerning the “realm of the dead”. Num 16:30 “But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead, then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt.” The realm of the dead is a 4th dimension for mankind’s 3-dimensional world created by and existing for God. It is not a pleasant place, it is not a place of comfort. On the contrary, the realm of the dead is very much alive and filled with darkness, depravity and torment for the spirits of men and women who have in the least rejected God. Psalms 9:17 “The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God.” Psalms 55:15 “Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the realm of the dead, for evil finds lodging among them.”
Opposite the realm of the dead is the realm of the living—-the realm of paradise, the realm of light, goodness, and comfort. Pro 15:24 “The path of life leads upward for the prudent to keep them from going down to the realm of the dead.” Rom 8:8-10 “Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.”
Jesus said to Martha in John 11:25-26 “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” The power manifested by the existence of the Son of God is beyond measure and only explained by the working of God’s miracle. Faith in God’s Son delivers one at physical death into the 4th dimension, the realm of life or paradise so that Jesus’ announcement at Lazarus’ tomb remains eternally true. Another Lazarus (the beggar) story in Luke 16 contains a perfect description of the 2 realms. The rich man and the beggar die physically yet their living spirits ascend and descend to two realms of the 4th dimension existence. The rich man is in hell, hades, the realm of the dead. Lazarus is in Abraham’s bosom, paradise, the realm of the Spirit which is the realm of life.
Rejecting God’s Son delivers one at physical death to the realm of death—alive!! A terrible place is the realm of death—-Isa 14:9 “The realm of the dead below is all astir to meet you at your coming; it rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you— all those who were leaders in the world; it makes them rise from their thrones— all those who were kings over the nations.” Who in their right mind would want this reunion with the evil leaders of nations? Who wants to be greeted by terrorists and the darkness of the ages? Lazarus, on the other hand was greeted by Abraham and all his many “sons” declared righteous.
Jesus descended to the realm of the dead, yet did not remain (Ps 16.10). With Christ, God raised us up and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Eph 2,4). He receives us as “brothers” into the realm of life where there is no judgment or condemnation because his blood has atoned for all of our sins!! Act 2:29-33 “Fellow Israelites, I (Peter) can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” The Miracle of the Realm of Life exists through the promised Holy Spirit by a living faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Almighty God!!
Scott Johnson is pastor at East Faulkner Church of Christ and author of the BRG Bible. Bible questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.