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.

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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.

The Spiritual State of America

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?

How Did We Get Here?

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?

The 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.

Fighting the Right Battle

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?

A Call to Awakening

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.

So Now What?

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 © 2005-2023 William R. Penning. All rights reserved.