Historical Context of the Healing Revival Links



This balanced article first appeared in the Conference brochure of the World Pentecostal Conference held in London, England, 1952. Lindsay was the editor of 'The Voice of Healing Magazine.'

DURING the past generation, the world has gradually become aware of a phenomenon which is affecting the Church in a manner comparable with that of the Reformation or the Wesleyan revivals of the eighteenth century. This dynamic move has received tremendous acceleration during the past few years. Audiences unprecedented in history are attending the great salvation-healing revivals that have sprung up all over America, as well as in many other lands. Confessions of Christ (not necessarily all conversions) have numbered as high as 50,000 in a single campaign. National magazines and newspapers have sent their correspondents and photographers to these meetings, and their reports in not a few cases have been sympathetic and favourable. Of course, as might be expected, this powerful religious movement has created enemies as well as friends. In this article, it is the purpose of the writer, who has had the privilege from the beginning to be associated with these revivals, to take some account of them and of the methods employed in their promotion.

Scripturalness of the Healing Revival

The dominant feature which has produced the great appeal of these revivals is their emphasis on Divine healing. We must recognise, of course, that ability to draw a large audience is not of itself the final test of the scripturalness of a revival. We must see if, in its essential character, it lines up with the Word of God. However, even a casual study of the New Testament makes it clear that Divine healing was the chief cause for which Christ received the attention of the nation in His day.

In fact, Christ regarded the ministry of healing as His credential. When John the Baptist, in a moment of doubt, inquired, "Art thou He that should come, or look we for another?" The answer of Jesus was deeply significant. He bade the messengers of John to stand aside for a little time, while He ministered to the sick. Luke says, "In that same hour He cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits and unto many that were blind He gave sight" (Luke vii. 21). Then He told these messengers to go back to John and tell him, "The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them" (Matt. xi. 5). Christ's method of answering the question as to whether His ministry possessed the proper qualifications or not, was to have His inquirers observe Him conduct a healing service!

large gospel tent

As large as a circus tent! but devoted to great revival and healing campaigns.

Thousands have been attracted to these meetings and thousands have found the living Saviour.

This picture is of Oral Roberts tent in 1952

Jesus reached the people through healing. What about His disciples? In answer to this question, we call to attention the great commission which Christ gave to the Church, which included the command to heal the sick: Jn My Name shall they cast out devils . . . they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover" (Mark xvi. 15-18). There is not space here to relate in detail the supernatural ministry of the Early Church, but may we observe that the latter had its very origin in a healing revival! The elements of such a revival are all found in the 4th and 5th chapters of Acts:

1. A revival where thousands were getting saved (Acts iv. 4).
2. Judgment on wicked persons (Acts v. 1-11).
3. Gifts of healing being manifest through certain individuals—Peter in this case (Acts v. 1-15).
4. Multitudes coming in from cities round about to attend the healing campaign and bringing their sick with them (Acts v. 16).
5. Mass healings of the sick (Acts v. 16).
6. Fierce opposition arising from the jealous clergy (Acts v. 17).
7. A refusal by God's ministers to give heed to the threatenings of men, and their continued fearless preaching (Acts v. 21).

The healing revivals were not confined to the original Twelve. In fact, the Apostles are mentioned but rarely, with the exception of Peter. The healing ministries of such deacons as Philip and Stephen are described, and later on, that of Paul. This would seem to indicate the universal scope of this ministry. Actually, gifts of healing were placed in the Church, along with that of teaching and other ministries (I. Cor. xii. 28). We see therefore, that the authenticity of the healing ministry stands or falls with the authority of the Scriptures.

The Power of the Healing Revival

We have already mentioned the power of the healing revival to reach the ear of the multitudes. The writer, for many years, was disturbed by the relative inability of ordinary evangelism to get the people of a community to take a revival seriously. He, with countless other evangelists, felt keenly the handicap of preaching to a handful of people in some church, usually located on the outskirts of the city, while the great mass of people plunged recklessly on in sin, ignoring the revival effort, or passing it by with supreme contempt. How different things have been in recent years! Rarely have we been in a campaign that did not number into the thousands, and we have seen people literally fight for seats. The ministry of healing gives the evangelist an authority that he does not have otherwise. We have seen the time when a revival had to be practically shut down when a circus came to town. Now we have seen a carnival actually deserted, while the big tent where Christ was being preached was attended by multitudes.

Best of all, the pastor can keep his crowd after the evangelist has gone. We have nothing to say against any legitimate method of reaching people with the Gospel. Usually, however, the pastor cannot compete with specialised evangelism—such as that involving unusual musical talent, child prodigies, ex-cowboy evangelists, illustrated sermons, etc. It is hard for him to carry on when these special attractions are gone. Not so with the healing ministry. Many ministers these days have begun praying for the sick, and the capacity of their churches is taxed in caring for the crowds. They have found Divine healing the Bible way to reach the multitudes. It is true, however, that the pastor who refuses to accept the challenge of this apostolic ministry and proceeds on denominational lines, may find things in his church at a lower tide than they were before. The people sometimes will rise to the challenge of faith whether their leader will or not.

Moreover, the healing revival is the God-appointed means to reach the unsaved masses in heathen lands, or where Protestant Christianity has a feeble hold. The writer has always been very much interested in missionary work. More times than a few he has been depressed by the report of some faithful, but broken, missionary who had returned to tell the story of his meagre success, in the early days of this present visitation, we made a special trip to Mexico, into an area where Americans are, to say the least, usually coolly received, just to test the results of the healing ministry under unfavourable conditions. The results were far beyond what we dared hope to see. Since that time the healing revivals have shaken vast areas, with as many as 30,000 people attending a single service. Moreover, the revival fires in these regions are continuing to burn with increased intensity until this day.

Branham in Durban

Thousands throng to William Branham's meetings in Durban

Distinguishing Feature of these Revivals

What then is the distinguishing feature of the revivals, other than the ministry of healing? Is it some new doctrine? Emphatically, No! A few, in attempting to capitalise on the revival, have introduced doctrines which are suspect, and have drawn a few disciples after them, in the main, they have only succeeded in isolating themselves from the main body of believers. Certainly in these days God has no desire to share His glory with the flesh. God owes nothing to any man. This is a day when the glory of this visitation belongs to Christ and not to man. The anointing of God will permanently rest upon man in the proportion that he will repudiate his own ego, take no glory for himself, and be content humbly to participate in the Divine visitation. The fact is that the doctrines of this great revival have long been established and integrated into the faith of the Full Gospel groups.

The real distinguishing feature of these revivals lies in the boldness of the men who minister, and the demonstration of the power of God.  It is true that ministers have prayed for the sick for many years. A few evangelists have arisen in the past who have had great success. But the healing revival never became a vital tool of the ministry in general. In most cases, when prayer was made for the sick, no one expected a miracle to take place. Indeed, at the beginning of these revivals, we discovered by actual enquiry, that well over 99 per cent of the average audience had never seen a miracle. It was rare indeed that a blind man would receive his sight before a congregation, or that a crippled man who had been on crutches for many years should suddenly arise and throw away his crutches as did, for example, former Congressman William D. Upshaw. Fear of failure made the average preacher too timid to challenge the promises of God to that extent. Now, however, many are praying for the sick and experiencing miracles. Not every cripple, or blind person, or invalid that is prayed for instantly receives his healing, but miracles do take place, and in such numbers as to cause the audience to know that the power of God is a real thing. There is nothing so convincing as a demonstration of the power of God, and it is this demonstration that draws the large audiences (I. Cor. ii. 4-5).

Another distinguishing feature of these revivals, or rather we should say, a result of them, is that they are bringing about a new unity and fellowship between the various Full Gospel groups. The fact that these large meetings bring many ministers and their congregations together in united efforts, contributes toward this happy end. The relation of unity in the Church to the healing of its members is more important than is generally supposed (I. Cor. xi. 29-30).

Importance of Teaching

So far, we have considered the peculiar power of this ministry to reach and awaken the masses. We must not fail to mention the importance of the teaching that must go with them, if they are to be as successful as they should be.

Let us consider the healing revival realistically. It is obviously a means of getting the ear of the careless sinner, of awakening him to spiritual things, and of gaining an entrance to his heart and life for the Gospel message. If men fail to follow up by instructing and establishing the convert in the Word of God, it is not the fault of the revival, but of those associated with it.

There are many things that are important in the proper instruction of those who are giving serious attention to the Full Gospel message for the first time in their lives. It is true that many want healing, and they want it badly. Even the Devil wants to be well. It would be a shame, however, to minister to these people and pass up the golden opportunity properly to instruct them in spiritual things. Healing of the soul must go hand in hand with healing of the body. People should be told that they must repent and give up their sins, and if they do not, they can expect, even if they are healed, a worse thing to come upon them (Luke xi. 24-26, and John v. 14).

Every pastor knows that if in his church a hundred sinners are saved, he can expect that the next few weeks will be one of the busiest times in his life. He does not say, “Now we will see if those converts are really saved. If they are, they will stand.” Indeed no. He works with them, encourages them, prays with them, solicitously feeds them with the sincere milk of the Word, until they are established in the faith. He knows that if he does not do this, the results of the revival will melt away, and it is even possible that he will have less than he had at the beginning.

Alas, when it comes to the matter of Divine healing, instead of encouraging the faith of those who have been healed, sometimes the very opposite is done. The sick are often told that they should not be too sure they were healed, and are warned to be on the alert for the symptoms to reappear, and if they do appear, the poor individual does not know what to do. Exactly the same results would occur if the penitent sinner were told not to be too sure he was saved. The result of such instruction would be a foregone conclusion. The Devil would move in like a flood and the new convert, not having instruction from the Word of God, would be swept away by the temptations of the enemy.

An example of one of the more patent misconceptions concerning Divine healing is the supposition that if the Lord really heals a person, it is impossible for one to lose that healing. There is a popular belief prevailing that has been fostered by some who should know better, that God with finality secures any miracle in which He is involved. That such a belief is manifestly erroneous is apparent in the case of Peter's walking on the water. This was indeed a miracle if anything was, yet the moment doubt crept into his heart—which was caused by Peter's looking at the waves instead of Christ—he began to sink. It is extremely important that the patient who is ministered to for healing should be taught to look to God's Word, and not to his symptoms.

The fact is that when a sinner repents and believes in Christ as His Saviour, the power of the Spirit works in his heart to save him. If he lets doubts and fears control him, the work becomes a miscarriage. Any soul-winner knows this. The work of the Spirit in the healing of the soul or the body has a close parallel. Where faith is present, the work of healing begins in proportion. If doubts subsequently are permitted to move in, it is possible for the healing to be a miscarriage. Nevertheless, it is the writer's conclusion that more people in proportion, get healed and stay healed, than sinners get delivered from sin and stay delivered. In both cases, however, where proper instructions are given, the proportion of permanent results vastly increases: There is no substitute for instruction in the Word of God.

The Necessity for Organisation

It is evident that in the large healing revivals, proper organisation is urgently necessary, if the results which are potentially possible are to be fully realised. Close understanding between the pastors and the evangelist are important. Cards should be signed by the new converts, and personal workers from respective churches should follow up the contacts before they get "cold." Evangelists should plan to see that all those who come for healing should be properly ministered to. However, he should certainly not be considered under obligation to pray for every afflicted person the first time he attends the meetings. Sinners should get their souls healed before they demand healing for their bodies. Jesus told the Syrophenician woman that it was not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to dogs. It is usually not possible, nor is it advisable, to pray for all the sick until they have had some opportunity to receive instruction.

It is quite permissible and sensible for the evangelist to minister first to those who manifest great faith (Acts xiv. 9-10). Their healing gives inspiration to those whose faith is weak. Nevertheless, it is advisable to see that all the sick are ministered to in the course of the campaign. There is no finer thing, than toward the close of the campaign, when faith is high, and many wait to be ministered to, to enlist the aid of the co-operating pastors. This gives them a chance to try out their "wings" and when they see that they are getting results, they are encouraged to move out into God in a new ministry to the sick.

There are many things that go to make a healing revival a success that cannot be mentioned here. Arranging for the people to go to the local churches on Sunday morning and night is one of the very best methods of getting the new converts to begin attending local churches, the evangelist contenting himself on that day with an afternoon service. The final criterion of any revival is that it benefits the churches.

Inside Oral Roberts tent
Interior of Oral Roberts healing campaign tent. Vast crowds have attended the campaigns
conducted by a number of evangelists.

The Evangelist's Conduct

It is extremely important that an evangelist's personal conduct be above reproach. People expect men who have this ministry to maintain a Christlike attitude in all things. He must not strive with his brethren. He must pay his bills promptly. How can one have faith to pray for the sick who has not faith for God to supply his needs? He must work with the pastors. An evangelist who will not seek to work with the pastors and the local churches is a menace and a trouble-maker. The evangelist should avoid exaggeration in estimating the size of his crowds and the number of his converts. He should be careful in publicising a healing until time has proved it. He should document the miracles of his meetings in such a way that the opposition will be confounded and silenced. There is no need to spend time railing against the unbelieving clergy: he that demonstrates the miracles will have the people with him, despite the most cunning sophistry of the opposer. A minister should use caution in the handling of his money matters. An over-emphasis on the raising of money can produce a serious backwash. The evangelist should live modestly and not above the level of his brethren. On the other hand, ministers must not become envious of the large offerings taken in these meetings. A plan should be worked out that is satisfactory to all concerned. It should be remembered that equipment necessary for the accommodating of thousands of people may cost enormous sums money. The depreciation is enormous. If the tent blows down or is otherwise destroyed, who will offer to help the evangelist pay for it?

But as to those who mischievously oppose the ministry of healing, we have only this to say: it would be surprising if human nature had so changed that there should not be repeated the same bitter opposition as was in the days of Christ. The Pharisees, jealous because of the increasing popularity of Christ, declared that He cast out devils by the prince of devils. Jesus quietly replied by warning them that such an accusation placed them perilously near the position of committing the unpardonable sin (Matt. xii 24-32).

In this connection, the Lord called attention to the fearful guilt of the cities which had not repented although mighty works were done in their midst. He declared that if those works had been done in Sodom and Gomorrah, they would have repented—incidentally testifying to the power of the ministry of healing (Matt. xi. 23-24). As for the cities who rejected this ministry, the Lord solemnly declared that they would be in a less favourable position at the day of Judgment than the inhabitants of Sodom (Luke x. 9-12).

Keep Teaching the People

Care must be exercised that an audience does not get a superstitious belief concerning Divine healing. There are no limitations to God, but there are obviously limitations to Divine healing. It was never intended to overrule the law of death that works in every human body. As the years pass the hair turns grey or falls out; teeth decay, the eyes lose their ability to focus, the skin becomes wrinkled, and the bones brittle. Divine healing will not restore youth to senility. Ordinarily, Divine healing does not restore an organ that has been removed. We have never seen an amputated arm replaced by another, although we have seen many cases in which a new ear drum was created. No doubt the ministry of miracles will achieve new prominence as time goes by.

There is such a thing as taking proper care of the body. Divine healing is not to be considered as a means of repairing the damage caused by a wilful and flagrant disregard of the laws of health. Ordinarily, healing may give hearing to a deaf mute, but in most cases he must learn the language himself, often a slow and tedious process. There are some exceptions to the above, but they are exceptions rather than the rule, and in any case they enter the creative realm, which is something different from Divine healing, although an allied ministry.

Health in Christ

Last of all, let us say that the people, once they have been healed, should learn to maintain their health, rather than depend on getting into another healing line every so often. This is the Bible way. When God first gave the ordinance of healing, He said: "If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put (permit) none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee" (Exodus xv. 26).

In order that there might not be any mistake, the Lord repeated the substance of this promise in Exodus xxiii. 25, "And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and He shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee." Some say these promises are in the Old Testament and therefore not for us today. That is the characteristic attitude of some toward God's promises. They would keep all the curses of the Old Testament (sickness, Deut. xxviii.), and do away with all the blessings. Just the opposite is true. Grace does away with the curses to all that believe, and keeps the blessings. Thus the Apostle John, who brings the New Testament to a close, sounds this grand note in his last epistle, "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth (III. John 2).

In closing may we not add, that this heaven-sent visitation, pointing the Church forward to new experiences of victory, triumph, and dominion in the living God, is perhaps preparatory to the coming of her long-awaited Bridegroom.

Gordon Lindsay

World Pentecostal Conference Brochure 1952