The Greatest Revival in History

Revival: “a period of renewed religious interest; an often highly emotional evangelistic meeting or series of meetings.”

There have been many genuine ones throughout history. Pentecost, the Reformation, and the First Great Awakening, to name a few. And there have been more that are questionable. Revival timelines list the greatest revivals in history surrounding events and people such as Azusa Street, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Charles Finney. An honest historical and theological examination of these would call into question the genuineness of these revivals.

Revival attempts became somewhat of a fad in the last century. Individuals offer “how-to” instructions for inciting them. Huge events are organized in order to schedule revivals.

But, from what we know, the greatest revival event in history happened about 2800 years ago in one of the most wicked cities in the world. And it was quite different from many supposed revivals in recent times.

“So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. 6 The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, 8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” 10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it” (Jonah 3:3-10).

This passage records the repentance of the great city, Nineveh sometime during the mid-eighth century B.C. It was a glorious event, unmatched in history.

Here are a few observations from the greatest revival event in history.

  1. The conversions numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

From Jonah 4:11, it seems that there were likely 120,000 children in Nineveh. That easily puts the total population over 500,000.

Revival preacher George Whitefield was once asked after a large event, “How many were converted?” He responded, “We’ll see in six months.”

It’s probably best for us to be careful about numbering conversions. We simply do not know. But, when God numbers them as with Nineveh, we can be sure. This was the greatest revival in history.

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