The Need for a Third Great Awakening
A Crucial Message for Believers
In the middle of the year 2020, with everything that was going on, I began to sense the LORD calling for me to pray for revival. Many others that I know also had this burden. And as the year progressed, it became more and more clear that what appeared to be political issues were really symptoms of a major spiritual battle. In the months that followed, I began to truly sense the dreadful nature of the darkness hovering over America—and much of the world.
Satan has always opposed believers. But what I was sensing was much more than his ordinary workings. And only a Church empowered by the Holy Spirit can hope to fight it. And thus I began to understand that we need more than just a revival that fills pews. We need a true awakening—one that begins in the Church.
So please read the following essay. If you agree with it, please pass this page link on to other believers. Or if you prefer, you can download the original PDF document and send it out.
Because this is a message that all believers need to hear.
The moral and spiritual state of America is an issue that has been on the minds and hearts of believers in Jesus Christ for a long time. Along with this has been the question of what God will—or will not—do about it. Events in recent years have served to intensify the debate. And although there are exceptions, most agree that the current state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely.
I have recently been sensing what I believe to be a burden from the Holy Spirit to pray specifically for our country, beginning with His people, the Church. As a result of this burden, and after talking with various people, I have decided to summarize my thinking in this document. I do not claim to be a prophet. I merely claim to be an American believer who is concerned about his nation.
So I encourage you to please read the following essay. Please read it with an open and prayerful heart. And if you sense the LORD calling you to pray, then please join me in bringing our Church and our nation before the Throne of Grace.
There is no question that there is a lot of immorality in our country. Issues such as abortion, the perversion of marriage, the abundance of broken families, the legalization—and even celebration—of sinful behavior, rampant violence, and much more, provide ample evidence that something is seriously wrong in our society. To get a better picture of the situation, it is necessary to consider not only the state of the country as a whole, but to specifically examine the state of the Church as well. Because unsaved human beings have a natural tendency toward sin, it is possible for a nation to be immoral overall, while at the same time God’s people are faithfully serving Him and refusing to compromise. The House Church in China is an example here. There is no question that the government of China is evil and corrupt. Yet the House Church has stayed strong, in spite of persecution.
So what is the state of the American Church?
In one very important sense, the American Church is a mixed bag these days. Indeed, many individual congregations are mixed bags themselves. On one hand, there is a lot of immorality and compromise within the Church. A third of so-called “evangelicals” deny the deity of Christ. Over half have no problem with sex outside of marriage. The divorce rate in the church is essentially the same as outside. Yet at the same time there are many individuals and congregations that still remain true to Biblical principles and refuse to compromise.
Unfortunately, in another sense, even a lot of faithful churches and individuals are no longer living the way God called us to. Church committees have replaced the Holy Spirit. Social events have replaced prayer meetings. In short, we are living the Christian life in our own power. As a result, many otherwise faithful believers—people who are sincerely committed to following the Lord Jesus—are living defeated lives. And while by God’s grace they are saved, they are nevertheless a very poor testimony to the unsaved around us—and to other believers.
So the next question is: What happened that brought about this degeneration in what was once a shining example to the rest of the world?
First, of course, there is man’s natural tendency to sin. All believers struggle with this, and the only way to end up victorious is to walk in the Spirit, as Paul commanded in Galatians 5:16. And the tendency to walk in the flesh is not confined to individual believers. Earlier in the same letter, Paul asked the Galatian church, “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3b, NKJV). In this respect, the American Church is no different than any other body of believers.
Of course, there is also the constant influence of the other two members of the unholy trinity, namely the world and the devil. And when believers are no longer walking in the Spirit, it becomes easier for these enemies to lead us astray.
Yet can even these ordinary enemies that we are all familiar with from Scripture explain the depths to which America has fallen?Perhaps. But I believe that there is another factor that we must take into consideration if we are to truly understand what has happened to our Church and our country.
America was founded on Biblical principles. Advocates of modern revisionist history may deny it, but the evidence is pretty clear. The founding fathers were men who honored and feared God. The Constitution itself only came about after the framers spent time in prayer because they were at an impasse. And as a result of this unique beginning, America has always been viewed as the great enemy by the forces of darkness.
In the 1600’s, the modern philosophy of secular humanism was born. A couple of decades after the American Revolution established “one nation, under God,” the French Revolution established “one nation, under Reason.” The Reign of Terror followed. Even after the Revolution was overthrown, humanism continued to grow. By the mid-1800’s, Europe began sending humanists to the United States, with the goal of taking over labor unions and universities.
In the 20th century, humanism manifested itself in philosophies such as Communism and Socialism (including National Socialism, also known as Nazism). In America today, it is manifest as Leftism. And while we commonly view these philosophies as political in nature, all of them are also strongly anti-Christian. This is no surprise, since the basic tenets of humanism deny the existence of God and elevate man in the place of Deity.
So I believe that it is safe to say that, in addition to normal human tendencies and the ordinary working of Satan, the Church in America has been under specific attack for many decades. And I suspect that most believers who stop and think about it would agree. So the next issue that I want to address is: Just what is the nature of this attack against God’s people? What is the real nature of the enemy?
For a long time, believers have held a sort of mixed view of the Left and other philosophies based on secular humanism. While recognizing that they are instruments of Satan, which he is using to try to kill and destroy Christians and the gospel message, at the same time we have dealt with them as merely socio-political enemies. But is there something more?
Satan has always used unbelievers to oppose the advance of the Gospel. This is nothing new. But in the last several years—and especially in the year 2020—it has become increasingly obvious that there is a very specific and powerful spirit behind the Left. First, there has been a degree of apparent cooperation on a worldwide scale that has conspiracy enthusiasts coming up with new theories almost every time they blink. There is very little evidence to support such theories, at least on a human level. Yet events do give the appearance.
Second, the degree of fanaticism, hate, and irrationality on the part of Leftists is almost beyond belief. Something is messing with their minds, on a massive scale.
Putting everything together, it is becoming quite clear that there is a powerful—and very specific—power behind the workings of the Left. And it is not human.
So what is it?
Looking back at history, we can identify one other movement with similar characteristics. (There were undoubtedly more, but I am specifically looking at movements that began during the Church Age.) I am referring to Islam. Even today, it is possible to see a similar degree of anti-Christian fanaticism and irrationality among Muslims. And like the humanist movements, Islam also aims at world domination.
I would like to suggest what appears to be a very possible scriptural connection to prophecy. The book of Revelation contains many prophecies about what was to come after the vision was given to John. It is commonly assumed that the events contained in the scroll with the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls of wrath will all take place in the End Times. For the trumpets and bowls, this is probably a good assumption. In the culture of the time, a trumpet was an announcement or warning; the trumpet events are probably God’s warning that Jesus is about to return. And the bowls of wrath represent God’s final judgment being poured out on the unrepentant world before Christ sets up the millennial kingdom.
However, there is no real reason to assume that the events revealed when the scroll seals were opened are confined to the End Times. Rather, it is possible, even likely, that the scroll events can take place any time from when the Revelation was given, up until the end of events in the prophecy.
The first four scroll events are represented by riders on various-colored horses. Why represent them as living beings? One very simple explanation is that they actually do represent living beings—and given their described characteristics, these beings are probably powerful, high-ranking demons.
The first horseman came riding a white horse, and went forth to conquer. Several hundred years after Christ, Islam appeared on the scene, claiming to represent the final revelation from God—and went forth to conquer.
The second horseman came riding a red horse, carrying a large sword, and took peace away wherever he went. A few centuries ago, secular humanism appeared on the scene. Wherever it has gone, in any of its incarnations, it has sowed discord. And during the last century, the struggle between humanism and the free world produced the largest arms buildup in the history of mankind.
Perhaps these similarities are merely coincidences. I have never seen this explanation presented in any published work on Revelation or other prophecy. Of course, that in and of itself proves nothing either way. The important point is that the Church needs to recognize that there is a specific and powerful evil spirit behind the Left—whether it is the red horseman or something else—and that if we expect to defeat it, we must fight it accordingly.
As I stated in the previous section, there has long been a tendency among believers to treat the so-called “culture war” as nothing more than politics. As a result, for decades Christians have campaigned against immoral causes and the candidates that support them. Many have run for political office. Web sites offer a forum to promote Biblical and other conservative views. All of these are good things and should be applauded.
But if the resl enemy is spiritual, as I suggested in the last section, can we actually expect to win by using merely human methods? Stop and consider that, except for occasional, short-lived victories, we have been consistently losing this war ever since it began.
Paul once wrote that we “…do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12, NKJV). After coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus found his disciples trying to cast out a demon—and failing. After Jesus Himself cast it out, his disciples asked him why they could not do it. His reply was succinct. "This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting" (Mark 9:29b, NKJV).
The power behind the Left is spiritual, not political. As such, it cannot be defeated at the ballot box, or in the courtroom, or by petitioning your congressman, or by protests and demonstrations. It can only be defeated by serious, dedicated prayer and fasting. It can only be defeated by a Church mobilized to fight a spiritual war. In the end God may choose to use methods such as the ballot box or the courtroom or your congressman, but without His power operating behind the scenes, those methods will continue to be doomed to failure.
Earlier in this document, I pointed out what most of us are already aware of, which is the sad spiritual state of the American Church. So this leads to the next question that we must consider: Is the Church even able to fight a serious spiritual war at this time in history?
And if not, then what needs to happen in order to change that?
God is not in the habit of throwing His people away as soon as they disappoint Him. While He will never accept sin, the record shows that He prefers mercy over judgment. That is the very reason why He sent Jesus in the first place, to offer us the ultimate mercy of forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
However, we must remember that His mercy also involves repentance on our part. God is always calling for unbelievers to turn from sin and follow Jesus—and for believers to turn from lukewarmness and compromise and to walk in the power of the Spirit.
There have been many times in history when the LORD has called large numbers of people to repentance. And in general, all of the major revivals have followed the same basic pattern: Prayer, followed by revival in the Church, after which comes the harvest from among the unbelievers.
And if the harvest is big enough, it can lead to societal repentance and a change in the moral condition of the culture.
Those who are at all familiar with American history will recall the First and Second Great Awakenings. The first occurred during the colonial era, and the second during the early years of the Republic. Both had a strong impact on the culture of the times, including things such as adding impetus to the abolitionist movement to end slavery in America.
If God did this twice before, is there any reason to believe that He cannot do it again?
As I pointed out earlier, the spiritual condition of this country is very bad. Many believe that it is only a matter of time before God brings judgment upon us for our sins. But I urge you to remember my opening statement in this section: God is not in the habit of throwing His people away as soon as they disappoint Him. I would like to believe that He would prefer to call us to repentance, rather than simply judge us. Repentance may involve discipline—and probably will. But discipline and repentance lead to life, whereas judgment merely leads to destruction and death.
And that is why I am praying for a Third Great Awakening.
America—especially Christian America—is facing its worst enemy in the history of the nation. It is not an enemy that we can meet on the battlefield with guns and bombs. It is, as I described in a previous section, a powerful and evil spiritual force, which can only be met by a Church that is alive and filled with the Holy Spirit.
We need more than merely a revival that fills the pews in our church buildings. We need a revival that not only lights the fire of the Holy Spirit within believers across the country, but that spills out into every corner of the society in which we live. A former President talked about “fundamentally transforming” the country. And that is what we need. Not a secular, socialist transformation as he envisioned, but a spiritual transformation that turns the nation back to God.
And so I invite everyone who reads this document to join me in earnest prayer. Prayer and fasting. Pray that God would have mercy on America. Not the kind of mercy that excuses sin, but rather, the kind of mercy that leads to repentance and revival. Pray for a Third Great Awakening.
The truth is that we really do not know what God is going to do. The Bible is full of promises to believers, but in general these apply to individuals and local churches, and have to do with how we live the Christian life. And we also have the promise of Jesus’ return and eternal life with Him. However, except for general prophecies which we really cannot decipher in advance—prophecy was intended to be recognized after fulfillment, not figured out beforehand—God has chosen to keep the details of the future to Himself.
A lot is going to depend on where we are in history. Are these truly the End Times? Or are there still many more years—maybe even centuries—to go before our Lord returns? If it’s the former, then perhaps the best we can hope for is a reprieve, maybe an opportunity to finish the job that He gave His Church in reaching the lost. On the other hand, if there is still a lot of time left, then perhaps God is not finished with His purpose for America.
The only thing that I am sure of is that we must pray. We must pray that God would pour out a spirit of conviction, repentance, and discernment upon the Church. Conviction of our sin and our lukewarmness, of allowing ourselves to be deceived by the spirit of humanism and embracing doctrines of demons. A spirit of repentance to lead us to turn away from these things and to commit ourselves fully to the Lord Jesus Christ and His written Word. And discernment, that we may be able to distinguish truth from the lies being promulgated by the servants of Satan.
A true Great Awakening is a work of the Holy Spirit, and not of man. It will not come about through committees, or training, or political action. It will only come when the LORD pours out His Spirit on His people and works through them. As God reminded Zerubbabel through the prophet Zechariah: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (Zec. 4:6c, NKJV).
So I encourage you again to join me in praying for a Third Great Awakening. If this is truly God’s will, then I am praying that it would be a revival and a return to Him of unprecedented proportions. I am praying that it would be totally a work of the Holy Spirit and not of human effort. And I am praying that it would have far-reaching effects, resulting in profound change that would extend into every corner of our society and culture.
Because I sincerely believe that this is the last—but I also believe I to be the greatest—hope for America.
Copyright © 2005-2021 William R. Penning. All rights reserved.