Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.
Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides. . . . Give me understanding according to Your word.
Psalm 119:89–90, 169 NKJV
Transformation is a much overlooked biblical subject. The theme is woven like a thread through both the Old and New Testaments. The realty of transformation is pervasive in Scripture because it is an essential part of God’s redemption!
If we fail to understand transformation biblically, we run the risk of treating this important reality as a passing and contemporary ministry fad. By rooting our pursuit of transforming revival in the revelation of Scripture, we are enabled to see God’s redemptive picture, to understand His eternal ways, and to prepare for longterm, sustainable results.
God’s Word is true and trustworthy revelation, revealing who God is in His nature, character, and intentions. God revealed His heart and nature when He assured the Jews who were going into exile for 70 years (because of their sins and the sins of their forefathers): “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11 NLT). The journey of transformation is a journey into God’s own heart and into His redemptive purposes and plans for humanity already revealed in Scripture.
We must be careful as we observe transforming revivals not only to be inspired by the transformational evidence, but to also discover God and His ways. Then our hearts will seek God Himself, not just the revival He brings.
Behind God’s “deeds” are always His “ways” that reveal His character and wisdom. Godly leaders in Scripture and in church history were able to lead God’s people because they knew God and understood His ways. As we seek God’s heart for transforming revival, like Moses, let’s cry out—“make known to us Your ways, O LORD!” (Psalm 103:7)
A biblical principle is a basic and functional truth, the essence of which is derived from Scripture, is timeless and is consistently true in all cultural contexts when implemented. A biblical principle reveals God’s wisdom and ways, based on His character and nature, and is woven into the very fabric of His created order.
Because biblical principles transcend time and culture, they are a solid foundation on which to build our hope and lives in the pursuit of transforming revival. While God’s transforming power may produce unique fruit in Fiji compared to Peru, all transformed communities arrive at their destination by following the very same principles from God’s Word!
Whereas man-made strategies and models are not equally effective across cultural boundaries, God’s principles in Scripture transcend time, culture, ethnicity, and generations. They work everywhere and with everybody when fully believed and followed. We must discover these same biblical principles for our own lives and communities, and trust God to lead us.
God’s intention in creation was to manifest His glory and live in intimate, permanent, covenant relationship with humankind. Man’s sin and rebellion broke that covenant bond—resulting in lost intimacy, identity, and a defiled earth.
The universe is designed to manifest God’s glory and to reflect His eternal power and divine attributes (Job 12:7–10; Psa. 19:1–4; 50:6; 148; Rom. 1:20). Everything, whether physical or spiritual, finds its origin in God. “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” Everything was created by Him and for Him so that in everything “He might have preeminence” (Col. 1:16-18 NKJV).
The Creator offered to Adam and Eve a perfect life of intimate fellowship with Himself and with each other, a beautiful sanctuary, meaningful responsibility to manage God’s earth, and a life free from sin, sickness, disease, hatred, or any other manifestation of darkness. This relationship between God, people, and the land formed the first covenant-based spiritual bond between God, man, and the earth.
When Adam and Eve attempted to “be like God” by eating from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their disobedience broke their covenant relationship with God. Intimacy with God was broken, death began (both spiritually and physically), the land itself was defiled (cursed), the humans were expelled from the garden, hatred entered Cain’s heart, and the first murder occurred.
Now in a rebellious state, humans no longer acted as royal inheritors and righteous stewards of the earth. The spirit of rebellion which entered through Adam’s disobedience now infects every sphere of life. Satan has used rebellion, pride, selfishness, etc., to influence people, society, and every institution to oppose God, and to destroy people and the communities where they live. Sin against God and broken covenant with Him always has dire consequences, even to this day.
Because humans are covenant-breakers, the framework of covenant with God must be intentionally re-established before transformation can occur.
When Adam’s covenant relationship with God was fractured by sin and rebellion, the framework for relating to God and living within His covenant blessing and protection was lost. The subsequent impact of broken covenant on both people and land has been devastation.
God is a covenant-making and covenant-keeping God and requires His people to be a covenant-keeping people. As a righteous husband commits himself to exclusively love his bride and be faithful to the marriage covenant, so God seeks to relate in love and enduring (faithful) covenant. Covenant in God’s eyes is an irrevocable, serious commitment that must not be broken!
God re-established a framework for a redeeming covenant relationship with humankind through the covenant He established with Abraham. God said to Abraham, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3). In this covenant promise of God with Abraham, hope for redemption was born!
This covenant promised “a seed” through Abraham that would bring redemptive blessing to the nations of the earth (Gal. 3:14)—even Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:16). “So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Gal. 3:9).
An unmistakable biblical principle is that willful sin offends God and seriously impacts our relationship with Him and others. The only way to restore broken relationship with God is to humble ourselves, submit to Him, confess openly our sins, and turn from our sinful ways (repentance).
Communities that are experiencing transforming revival in the twenty-first century are communities that are intentionally turning away from all known willful sin (individual and corporate sin) that offends God and breaks covenant relationship with Him (according to the standard of God’s Word). These communities are intentionally preparing the way for the Lord by returning to covenant relationship with God according to His instruction in 2 Chronicles 7:14. The divine continuum of redemptive covenant from Abraham to the fullness in Jesus Christ continues today as part of the total redemptive story!
God has made in Jesus Christ, provision for an all-encompassing redemption through the blood of the cross for humankind and creation. Everything that was lost in the fall is now a candidate for redemptive transformation.
Transformation is necessary because everything originally created whole and life-giving is now marred and affected by sin, the evil one, and death. Creation itself experienced consequences from Adam’s sin. In redemption, however, God has made every provision in Christ for re-establishing His rule and righteousness in the earth. Transformation is God redeeming and restoring people, community, and land to God’s originally intended life-nurturing state. For those in redemptive covenant with God, potentially nothing is excluded from the transforming power of the cross!
Jesus instructed us to pray for His kingdom “to come on the earth as it is in heaven.” The breadth of this revolutionary prayer includes His kingdom coming to our lives as individuals, to our families, to all spheres of society, and to defiled land—anywhere that darkness presently rules. The qualitative dimension of the Lord’s Prayer—on earth “as it is in heaven”—means God is not interested in superficial change or temporary improvement projects! Jesus didn’t die so our lives could be “improved.” He died to deliver us from sin and death, to redeem us from the pit and eternal damnation, and to transform us into His image as authorized agents to further His transforming kingdom!
Transforming revival in our generation is an important manifestation of God’s redemptive activity among the nations. Contemporary supernatural transformation testimonies (worldwide) provide evidence that God wants to extend redemptive transformation to people, society, and land as the first fruit of final redemption (Rom. 8:19).
In every arena where Satan and his kingdom have influence, we need God’s manifest presence and transforming power. The devastation of people and land because of sin is humanly impossible for us to change. But it is not beyond the possibility of supernatural transformation by a redeeming God and His Son who came to earth to destroy the works of the devil and to give fullness of life (John 10:10).
At the core of redemption is the transformation of individuals in Christ.
The concept of transformation is profoundly biblical when understood in its spiritual and supernatural dimension. Paul uses the word “transformation” several times. He speaks of the believer’s entire life being transformed by the renewing of the mind through the Word and by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 12:2). Paul’s exhortation in plain English is, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom. 12:2 NLT).
The church in the Western world tends to preach a sweet and loving God who affirms believers in their sin and makes them comfortable in their compromise, rather than a transforming God of love who delivers believers from their sin and transforms them into the likeness of His Son. The truth-focus in the Bible is clearly on the latter!
The believer faces two possibilities: (1) being conformed to the spirit of the age in one’s culture, or (2) being transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. Transformation into Christ’s likeness begins with the miracle of new birth and should continue from one degree of glory to another by the Spirit through the Word and a life of intimacy with Him (2 Cor. 3:18).
God is looking for transformational change agents in our communities. But before He can use us to affect change in our society, He must change us so that we are changed agents. God leaves us in this world to carry the light and salt of the gospel as agents of hope, revival, and transformation.
The Bible clearly calls us to a theology of transformation in which our entire life is to be reconstituted in Christ for His glory and honor. The authentic Christian life is a transformational journey toward redemptive fullness. As a work in process, our transformational journey will continue until the Lord Jesus Christ returns in glory to earth, and our earthly bodies are transformed so as to be like His glorious resurrection body (Phil. 3:21).
Transformation of the church is a foundational principle in New Testament revelation.
Paul’s theology of transformation—a theology shared by the other New Testament writers—had a corporate dimension to it. Usually the Bible speaks not in the language of individualism, but in terms of the corporate identity of God’s people as the collective body of Christ. The Bible originally was written not for individuals but for the corporate, covenant people of God—whether that was Israel or the church.
Clearly God intends that transformation be a corporate reality (Eph. 2:11–13). Christ has taken two hostile groups—Gentiles and Jews—and has created them in Himself to be “one new man” (Eph. 2:15) and “one body,” reconciling “both of them to God through the cross” (Eph. 2:16).
Notice Paul does not focus on individual salvation but on the corporate identity of those who are being transformed—“one body,” “fellow citizens with God’s people,” “members of God’s household,” a “whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. . . a [corporate] dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph. 2:16, 19–21).
The same process of transformation that occurs in the individual believer also happens in the corporate body of Christ as the household of faith. “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house [corporate] . . . .You are a chosen people [corporate], a royal priesthood [corporate], a holy nation [corporate], a people belonging to God [corporate]” (1 Pet. 2:4–5, 9).
A final image of the corporate body of Christ is the very relational and intimate image of the bride of Christ. Corporately, the bride of Christ is being transformed into the likeness of Christ and thereby being prepared to be an eternal companion for the Bridegroom.
Redemptive transformation in Scripture includes the possibility of community transformation.
God’s nature longs to express His love, mercy, and power to people, communities, and creation in tangible and extravagant ways. Transformation is God’s infinite love being tangibly expressed in a community. Transformation is possible for all communities because the Father sent His Son into the world to redeem people, and people most often live in communities. Moreover, Jesus was sent because of God’s love for all humanity. “God so loved the world,” includes all communities.
Devastation from sin occurs in the absence of God’s manifest presence and glory. Transformation is the tangible reality of God’s presence and glory among a redeemed people and their community (cf. Isa. 64:1–2, 4).
God’s transforming power at work in a community will result in changing the current identity of both the church and the community spiritually, morally, and socially by beautifying them with forgiveness, cleansing, healing, deliverance, and God’s manifest presence. The actual reputation of a city can change as a result of the testimony of Jesus and His living transforming power at work among the people.
A comprehensive biblical theology of transformation must include hope that encompasses communities when impacted by revival. The purpose of transforming revival and transformed communities is not only the redemption of human lives but also to manifest God’s glory and bring Him “renown, joy, praise, and honor,” before all the nations (Jer. 33:9).
The city of Nineveh (capital of Assyria, Israel’s foremost enemy) repented as a result of God’s message to her through Jonah. When God forgave their sins and spared the city, Jonah complained. God said to the prophet about the city: “Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11).
God loves cities because He loves people. Community repentance is possible even for a pagan city like Nineveh because of God’s mercy as Jonah witnessed. And where community repentance occurs, community transformation is likely to follow if God’s presence is welcomed and comes to rest there.
Redemptive transformation must be appropriated through a process of restored covenant, repentance, and consecration for people and communities that revival makes possible.
Regeneration begins with a conversion encounter with Jesus that can happen in a moment. Sanctification is the on-going process of dealing with pockets of darkness, bondage, and mindsets that need to be changed in order for us to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. This happens not only on an individual level, but can happen corporately as well when there is a corporate returning to covenant with Him.
As a redeemed people we now have authority to appropriate Christ’s blood to cleanse not only our personal sin but to go back into our family and uproot sin patterns. Root systems of sin entangle families, even those who have been saved. While the blood of Jesus saves us provisionally from all sin, it is our responsibility to appropriate the work of the cross in our lives and families.
In preparing a community for transformation, the root systems of community sins that have offended God must be identified. If there is devastation and bad fruit in our community, that is evidence of a bad root system that must be identified and identificational repentance made. Daniel, himself a righteous man, fully identified with the corporate sins of his people and repented for them (see Dan. 9:3–19).
There is some compelling evidence in the Bible that indicates the transgressions of one generation may produce real consequences for future generations. For example, Jesus affirmed the notion that generational iniquities can accrue over time by pointing out that the Pharisees “filled up” the “measure of the sin” of their forefathers (Matt. 23:32–35).
God desires to break generational sin-cycles in families and communities by identificational repentance and by releasing God’s mercy on a corporate level. Nowhere is God’s redeeming love more evident and extravagantly expressed than when a formerly devastated community (like Almolonga, Guatemala) becomes a presently transformed community.
For them, the desert has become a pool of water, eternal death has become eternal life, and children of wrath have become adopted children of God. God delights in taking old things and making them new, taking dead things and making them alive, taking rebellious people and turning them into lovers of God. God is a transforming God!
God’s manifest presence is attracted to a corporate people who have abandoned themselves to prepare for His transforming presence. God’s manifest presence is repelled when sin and strongholds are not dealt with by the church and community.
The manifest presence of God is to be distinguished from His omni-presence. In a real sense, God’s presence is everywhere in the universe. God’s manifest presence, however, is His immediate, personal, holy presence in a specific geographical area as a result of preparation that has been made for His coming.
God’s manifest presence is also to be distinguished from His indwelling presence in the authentically regenerated believer. Although the indwelling presence of Christ by the Holy Spirit is within each blood-washed believer, the manifest presence of God is external to individuals and relates to His evident presence in a specific geographical location or corporate community.
That God longs to be present among His people is evident in the Bible and revival history. That God’s holy presence is repelled by sin such as idolatry, sexual immorality, and innocent bloodshed is also clear in the Bible and in history. Ezekiel 8–11 describes how God withdrew His presence gradually and reluctantly from the Holy of Holies, then from the entire Temple and finally from the city because of abominable sin by His leaders and people. God’s presence must be prepared for by removing every obstacle and offending sin that repels His manifest presence and holiness.
The manifest presence of God that occurs during a revival from heaven is the critical reality required to affect real redemptive change in society. When His manifest presence and glory is evident in a community, a holy awe and a holy fear of the Lord will pervade the community. And where God’s presence is welcomed and received, He will dwell and rest among His redeemed ones. His resting presence will bring great blessing and transformation as when the “Ark of the Covenant” rested at Obed-Edom.
Supernatural transformation requires the presence of a supernatural God, a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” If God’s manifest presence is in the midst of His assembled people, it is safe to assume that there will be evidence and impact. In transformed communities where God’s manifest presence is resting among His people, they have a presence-based faith, not just a Word-based faith.
The nearness of God’s kingdom is available in this age. When God’s kingdom comes near “on earth as it is in heaven,” it will result in presence-based transformational change.
Transformation is the Holy Spirit bringing aspects of the future kingdom into the present as a down payment of full redemption. The kingdom in its fullness is yet future, coming when Jesus returns to earth at His second coming.
In the New Testament, the kingdom of God is directly related to Jesus as the Messianic King and to His mission. This fact underscores the prominence of the kingdom message in Jesus’ preaching, teaching, and healing ministry (nearly 100 times in the first 3 Gospels alone).
Jesus expressed the values of God’s kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount. The King and His kingdom bring presence-based transformational change. The kingdom of God is essentially a spiritual kingdom that God intends to touch every sphere of life. God’s kingdom is the ultimate culture of life on planet earth. God’s kingdom brings order to His creation and transformation to individuals and families, communities and regions, and even may impact nations.
Jesus instructed us to pray for God’s heavenly kingdom to come to earth as part of His redemptive plan for the earth. In the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:10), Jesus instructed us to make declarations of faith about His kingdom. The following two phrases grammatically (in the original language) are imperatives and may be translated:
Kingdom of God come!
Will of God be done!
On earth as it is in heaven!
When Jesus sent forth His twelve disciples, He sent them with this instruction:
As you go, preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:7–8).
Like John the Baptist and Jesus, the twelve disciples were to preach the gospel of the kingdom— i.e., the kingdom of heaven is near (NIV) or at hand (NKJV). The breaking in of God’s kingdom is demonstrated when the sick are healed, the dead are raised, the lepers are cleansed, and demons are driven out of people. Transformation is the kingdom of God and the will of God in heaven being manifest on the earth.
When Jesus stepped foot in a community, things began to change! When His presence comes to a community today, things should begin to change—like transformation for broken lives, families, all spheres of society, and the land where darkness presently rules!
Such is the character of God’s kingdom. As a counter-culture, it confronts the system of the world and brings redemptive change. Jesus challenged five of the seven churches in Revelation 2–3 because they had become like the culture where they lived (idolatrous and compromised) and were no longer representing the transformational power of God’s kingdom.
God’s kingdom is God’s redemptive action in the earth that brings light to places of darkness and transformation to places of devastation. God’s kingdom is not only called a kingdom of light, but also the kingdom of righteousness and the kingdom of heaven. In the midst of our wicked world, Jesus instructed us to seek first His kingdom and righteousness (Matt. 6:33)—and thus transforming revival—as a catalyst for supernatural change.
The culmination of great transforming revival is eschatological. Full transformation will occur when Jesus returns and brings His future kingdom to the earth.
Transforming revival is a strategic part of God’s plan for bringing redemption to fullness at the end of the age. What God began in Acts 2 at Pentecost, and what He poured out globally in the outpouring of the Spirit in the twentieth century, He is now ready to bring to fullness. Current transformational miracles of land are an eschatological precursor of the approaching fullness of redemption when Christ returns to transform the whole earth into an arena for His glory (Hab. 2:14, Isa. 35; Isa. 65:17–18, Rev. 21:22–24).
Although complete redemption of the earth awaits Christ’s second coming, clearly ecological miracles and supernatural transformation of land testimonies are appearing around the world as the first fruits of final redemption. As the church approaches the end of the age, forerunner eschatological phenomena will increase.
On the dark side, evil will reach its ultimate expression under an antichrist-world system with its own defilement of the earth. On the God side, however, the occurrence of first fruit of the fullness of redemption will increase and intensify as well. Nowhere does Scripture teach that evil triumphs and redemption diminishes during the eschatological drama of the end.
A whole world of transformation is present in the power and victory of the cross that we have hardly begun to understand or experience. An approach to Scripture like that of the Scribes in Jesus’ day will overlook portions of biblical revelation that clearly describe transformation on a corporate and ecological scale.
Isaiah 35 is one of these passages. It is not simply poetic language to be spiritualized (as in most sermons). Rather, the chapter is boldly prophetic and descriptive of eschatological transformation. In Isaiah 35 the entire landscape is changing. The spiritual atmosphere is changing and even the land is being transformed.
Description of transformation in Isaiah 35 occurs at two levels—the physical and the spiritual. The spiritual dimension is clearly indicated when the highway is called “the Way of Holiness” and a road on which only the redeemed will walk (35:8, 9). Because the glory of God’s presence is being openly manifested and glorious transformation is resulting, God’s people are overtaken with joy and gladness (35:10). This is revival at its best!
The physical dimension of transformation of this chapter is also apparent. The core message is about the manifestation of God’s glory and splendor in the earth. As a direct consequence of God’s public manifestation of His glory, supernatural transformation follows. Previously cursed and barren land is transformed into a green and blooming landscape. Signs and wonders occur involving the physical transformation of the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the mute. Where before there was desolate desert inhabited by jackals, there is now life-giving water with water-loving reeds and papyrus growing. Because of the manifestation of God’s splendor and glory, life springs forth everywhere.
It is noteworthy that Isaiah’s preceding chapter (Isa. 34) describes God’s judgment among the nations, while this chapter (Isa. 35) graphically describes God’s redemption in transformational language. Isaiah’s prophetic declaration in chapter 35 has several levels of fulfillment. Fulfillment begins with the first coming of Jesus Christ and reaches its fullest realization at His second coming.
In connection with His first coming, the church (as described in the Book of Acts) was a full participant in this transformational prophecy. In relation to His second coming, the church during the great end-time revival immediately preceding His coming will also be a full participant in this transformational picture. These two strategic points of redemptive history are the ultimate standard and expression of transformation.
In summary, the Bible reveals that supernatural transformation occurs at various levels—individuals, church, community, and land. These biblical principles of transformation provide a scriptural grid for understanding the global data about supernatural transformation that is now increasingly occurring among the nations. The church’s present strategic location near the end of the redemptive story provides thesetting in life (sitz im leben) for understanding the contemporary revival history that is unfolding in our century!
Copyrighted by Fusion Ministries, all rights reserved. Above excerpt taken from “REVIVAL – It’s Present Relevance and Coming Role at the End of the Age” by Wes Adams and Rhonda Hughey. Available in Fusion Bookstore visit our store.