1907 Revival in Korea

Revival in Korea


Revival has been described as an extraordinary work of God's Spirit. Like all the great works of God there is an element of mystery about it. God's sovereignty is seen in that He sends revival where and when He pleases. Most people think of revivals as an alternative to the decline and deadness of the churches. However the phenomenon has sometimes been found at the very start of churches. Sometimes it comes prior to some great disaster or bitter persecution.


The Korean Revival of 1907

This remarkable revival appears to have had the purpose of setting the gospel forward in a land in which today one in four would claim to be Christian. At the same time God was preparing the church for a baptism of suffering. Korea had been known as the hermit kingdom before it opened its gates to the world in 1884. Gospel work began in the 1890s in Pyongyang (now capital of North Korea). The missionaries were from Presbyterian and Methodist churches in the USA. Although the gospel was attended with early successes the assessment of the situation as given by Dr William Blair in 1906 was as follows: We (the missionaries) felt that the Korean Church needed not only to repent of hating the Japanese, but to have a clearer vision of sin against God, for many had come into the church sincerely believing in Jesus as their Saviour and anxious to do God's will, without great sorrow for sin because of its familiarity.

A special feature of the early work was the Bible study class system, including an annual coming together in the first two weeks in January for days kept sacred to prayer and the study of God's Word. The class in January 1907 was preceded by months of fervent prayer by the missionaries for a blessing on the occasion. It was on the Monday of the second week that these prayers were answered in an abundant way.


Rev G. Lee describes what happened in the course of the meeting: After prayer, confessions were called for and immediately the Spirit of God seemed to descend upon the audience. Man after man would rise, confess his sins, break down and weep, and then throw himself to the floor and beat the floor with his fists in a perfect agony of conviction.


Dr Blair gives his account: Each felt as he entered that the room was full of God's presence....God is not always in the whirlwind neither does He always speak in the still small voice. He came to us in Pyongyang that night with the sound of weeping. As prayer continued a spirit of heaviness and sorrow for sin came down upon the audience.


The next day says Blair, begun a meeting the like of which I had never seen before, nor wish to see again unless in God's sight it is absolutely necessary. Every sin a human being can commit was publicly confessed that night. Pale and trembling with emotion, in agony of mind and body, guilty souls standing in the white light of that judgment saw themselves as God saw them. Their sins rose up in all their vileness, till shame and grief and self-loathing took complete possession; pride was driven out and the face of man forgotten....We may have our theories of the desirability or undesirability of public confession of sin. I had mine but where the Spirit of God falls upon guilty souls, there will be confession and no power on earth can stop it.


The class ended with the meeting on the Tuesday, but in the days following, the effects were felt throughout the city with similar manifestations in the schools and in the special classes for women. The same thing was repeated in the churches in the country districts.


Our Present Need

The Korean Revival is a striking fulfilment of the words of our Lord: When he (the Spirit of truth) is come, he will reprove (convict) the world of sin(Jn.16:8). The conscience is awakened as the sinner feels himself in the immediate presence of God. To these Koreans there was an overwhelming sense of the reality of eternal things. Terrible agony for sin and crying for mercy was followed by a sense of pardon, peace and an influx of joy.

We are living in a day when even within the evangelical church there is very little sense of sin and consequently the absence of the spirit of repentance. A W Tozer would often comment on two things: that there is little sense of sin among the unsaved and that the average Christian lives a life so worldly and careless that it is difficult to distinguish him from the unconverted man. We should not be surprised that there is no fear of God in society when there is so little fear of God in the church. David Wells writes: The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace is too ordinary, his judgment is too benign, his gospel is too easy and his Christ is too common?. We have to recognise a widespread antinomian spirit and a worldly attitude pervading the churches.

If, as we believe, revivals are larger measures of the Spirit of God, how desperately we need to cry and plead for more of this! Our actions cannot determine the giving of revival but may we like the missionaries in Korea be given the Spirit of supplications. As Matthew Henry said: ?When God intends great mercy for his people the first thing he does is set them a-praying


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