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Pentecost foreshadowed 100 years ago

By Ralph W. Harris

Four spiritual giants of the late 19th century anticipated and hoped for the Pentecostal revival which swept around the world in the 20th century.

For 30 years, 3,500 newspapers published DeWitt Talmage’s sermons weekly. In 1890, Talmage challenged believers with the opportunities before them in a published message entitled, "The Last Decade of the Century." He wrote, "The 19th century is departing. After a few more steps, it will be gone into the eternities." He said that often throughout history the closing decades of centuries have been marked by unusual developments and achievements. "I am glad [the new century] is not to come immediately, for we need a new baptism of the Holy Ghost to prepare for it."

This remarkable statement was made some 10 years before the outpouring at Topeka, Kan., which launched the Pentecostal revival.

Also significant is a statement by S.D. Gordon in his book, Quiet Talks About Jesus, copyrighted 1906 – the year the Azusa Street revival began in Los Angeles.

Gordon, writing about the tongue’s power, said, "The tongue is the index of man’s whole being. Through his tongue his whole being is revealed. There is no stronger indication of mastery over one’s powers than in control of the tongue. …

"The first evidence of God’s touch in the remaking of man on that memorable Pentecost day was upon his tongue," he concluded.

A. J. Gordon's The Ministry of the Spirit spoke of "a revival or pure and undefiled religion in the churches, and ... through them in the world that the age would close with a worldwide Pentecost."

F.B. Meyer wrote, in the introduction for A.J. Gordon’s The Ministry of the Spirit, of the need for "a revival of pure and undefiled religion in the churches, and such marvelous results through them in the world that the age would close with a worldwide Pentecost. And there are many symptoms abroad that this also is in the purpose of God. Nothing else can meet the deepest needs and yearnings of our time."

Andrew Murray wrote a preamble to the chapter on "The Enduement of the Spirit": "To the disciples, the baptism of the Spirit was very distinctly not His first bestowal for regeneration, but the definite communication of His presence in power of their glorified Lord. Just as there was a twofold operation of the one Spirit in the Old and New Testaments, of which the state of the disciples before and after Pentecost was the striking illustration, so there may be, and in the great majority of Christians is, a corresponding difference of experience. …

"When once the distinct recognition of what the indwelling of the Spirit was meant to bring is brought home to the soul, and it is ready to give up all to be made partaker of it, the believer may ask and expect what may be termed a baptism of the Spirit. Praying to the Father in accordance to the two prayers in Ephesians and coming to Jesus in the renewed surrender of faith and obedience, he may receive such an inflow of the Holy Spirit as shall consciously lift him to a different level from the one on which he has hitherto lived."

In these early days of 2000, each of us needs to answer the questions that were being asked at the beginning of the Pentecostal century: Am I as fully yielded to God as I once was? If not, what will I do about it?

15 reasons for the initial success of Pentecostalism:

  1. A world conditioned to expect the supernatural.
  2. Christians previously prepared to expect manifestations of the Spirit.
  3. Emphasis upon experience, not just doctrine or church.
  4. Pentecostals’ self-image as a revitalization movement within the Christian church.
  5. Early thrust toward nominal Christians and lethargic believers rather than to the unconverted.
  6. Appeal to the common people.
  7. Taking initiative in going to people rather than waiting for them to come.
  8. Use of mass meetings to create a sense of belonging to a community.
  9. Effective use of newspapers/periodicals to spread the Pentecostal message.
  10. Democratic tendency with no discrimination.
  11. Emphasis upon divine healing.
  12. Meeting people’s needs.
  13. Conviction of early adherents that God had raised them up for a special work.
  14. Tremendous spirit of sacrifice.
  15. Principle of establishing indigenous churches.

From Azusa Street and Beyond, L. Grant McClung Jr., editor. North Brunswick, N.J.: Bridge—Logos Publishers, 1986. Reprinted with permission.

Ralph W. Harris was editor of the Sunday School Curriculum and Literature Department at the Assemblies of God Headquarters and later editor of The Complete Biblical Library published by Gospel Publishing House. He lives in Springfield, Missouri.


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