The Russian Revelation
By Judith Bentley
God is never absent in the events of history. It was the year 1915. Russia was embroiled in World War I. The war was not going well for Russia’s troops. Tsar Nicholas II and his family were in great disfavor with much of the Russian populace.
The tsar and tsarina’s son, Alexei, heir to the throne of Russia, was suffering greatly from the blood disease of hemophilia. Rasputin, the mad monk of Russia, had appeared on the scene as the queen’s friend and spiritual advisor. This relationship with the tsar’s family would soon lead to the elimination of the monarchy and the sad death of Nicholas, Alexandra and their four children.
Lenin was in exile in Zurich, Germany. He saw opportunity in the sad state of affairs in Russia. He waited patiently, gathering resources for the Russian revolution he was to lead.
God was never out of the picture. As the tsar of Russia, Nicholas was the head of the Orthodox Church. While turmoil existed throughout Russia, God was arranging his own set of events. He was preparing for a Russian revelation that would form a very unorthodox spiritual movement. This revelation would have far-reaching effects.
Waiting in the wings was a powerful young evangelist by the name of Andrew Urshan. This Persian-American preacher had ministered extensively throughout his native country of Persia (modern day Iran). He had experienced great revival as well as great persecution during his time there. He arrived on the Russian scene in the momentous year of 1915. It was part of God’s plan. God’s revelation was to precede man’s revolution.
Andrew Urshan arrived in the city of Tblisi after fleeing the terrible massacre that was about to take place in Persia. There he began preaching to a group of Russian Baptists
There were strict laws at that time against foreign preachers; consequently, much persecution arose. God gave this group favor, however, wit the vice-mayor of the city. This man sent the chief of police to keep order in the meetings and to protect them. It was indeed a miracle of God, particularly during these troubled times.
From there Andrew traveled to Armavir and preached for a month to many Assyrians and Armenians. There were many conversions during this time including some of the very worst characters in the city. A strong church eventual! evolved from this revival.
From there, Bro. Urshan traveled to Leningrad (St. Petersburg). He was invited to speak for a few minutes at a Protestant mission. The people in this small congregation had heard of the revival in Tblisi and wanted to know more about it.
At the conclusion of his talk, Bro. Urshan was invited back to preach. As he preached during the next service, the power of God began to fall. The small group of twenty-five soon grew to a group of two hundred. There was standing room only in the small building. People came and stood for three to four hours, hardly able to move in the crowded building.
Many were filled with the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The power of God was felt by everyone.
The people were so moved by God that they asked to be baptized in icy cold water. At one time, Bro. Urshan stayed in the freezing water for over two hours, baptizing anxious converts.
The power of God would fall upon them in the water. For a long time they would be shaking under the power of God as they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Sinners who had come to observe, were soon under the power of God. Weeping and confessing, they would fall in the deep snow in the forests and cry out to God for mercy. Bro. Urshan wrote: “These two months were months of blessedness at beyond my power to describe.”
Another miracle occurred. Within two months, Bro. Urshan had acquired a grasp of the Russian language. He was able to master this language to the point that he could preach in it. To anyone who under stands the difficulty of learning Russian, this was a miraculous accomplishment.
The Russian government soon heard about the meetings. A group of detectives was sent to close down these services. Instead, they went back and reported: “An American evangelist is here doing great good in our country.”
Many Protestant ministers worked hard to close down this revival,
but God prevented them from doing so. Bro. Urshan had found great favor
with the people.
At this time, word had reached Andrew about a division among Pentecostal people in America concerning different formulas used in water baptism. Under debate was the question of whether baptism should be administered in the name of Jesus as in the book of Acts or whether to use the titles Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as in Matthew 28:19.
Bro. Urshan had decided to avoid making a decision concerning these matters until he returned to the United States; however, this was not to be.
While praying and thinking on the issue, he prayed this peculiar prayer: “Oh Lord, if you are going to make me baptize converts in this meeting, and if you would have me baptize them in the name of the Lord Jesus as in the book of Acts, please cause the first one who may ask me to baptize him or her to ask to be baptized according to the book of Acts. Make that candidate show me the verse and the chapter referring to water baptism.”
This he asked so he would know without a doubt God’s perfect will, concerning the matter of baptism. He promised God that if this happened, he would be obedient and baptize all his converts accordingly. None of the Russian saints had heard a single word about these matters.
Nevertheless, one night while testimony service was in progress and the power of God was falling, a large man rose from the audience and rushed down the aisle with his Bible in hand. This man had been converted just a few nights before.
Tears were streaming down his cheeks and his finger was pointing to a page of the Bible. “Oh, Bro. Urshan! The Lord Jesus told me last night to ask you to baptize me just like this text.”
As Bro. Urshan attempted to take the Bible, the man would not remove his finger from this verse: “For as yet it was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 8:16) The young evangelist said nothing about this to the congregation. He only asked them to pray about a place where this man and others could be baptized the next night.
Eleven more asked to be baptized. When they arrived at the chosen baptismal site, the snow was about two feet high and the water was frozen.
A young lady who was an unbeliever, followed them, intending to make fun. She thought these people were foolish and fanatical. A hole was dug in the ice and some snow was shoveled away. Andrew wore no rubber boots and was wearing only regular trousers and shoes.
As soon as one young lady stepped into the water, God’s power fell on her. When the young skeptic witnessed this move of God, she believed. She fell on her knees in the snow and then came running to the water to be baptized.
Every convert was baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, according to Acts 2:38. “Then Peter said unto them, repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
That baptismal service stirred others to repent and be baptized and soon another baptismal service had to be arranged. This time Bro. Urshan was led to preach from Isaiah 9:6: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the Government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall Be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
It was the first time he had ever preached from this text and he was marvelously anointed to emphasize the Sonship of Jesus and the divine fatherhood in Him, our mighty God and everlasting father.
He was then led to explain why the Apostles baptized in the name of Jesus, omitting the use of the titles “father, son, and Holy Ghost.” He had no idea that some would ask to be rebaptized. In fact, he was very opposed to rebaptizing. He had come to the conclusion in Chicago in 1910 that he should baptize new converts in Jesus name, but never those who had already been baptized.
In spite of his feelings, there were those who insisted on being rebaptized. Bro. Urshan told them that it was not necessary. He explained the havoc this matter was causing in America and refused to rebaptize them.
Then he instructed all of them to kneel with him in the snow and “pray this imagination out of your minds.” He began praying against this divisive spirit and branded it as a trick of the enemy to destroy the revival that was taking place.
The people prayed fervently. When the prayer had ended, they stood up and looked at Bro. Urshan with their faces beaming. “Now, Bro. Urshan, we are ready to be baptized.”
He could not understand why these people wanted to be rebaptized when there was so much ice and snow. Their health could be in danger, he reasoned. By now, he was feeling sorry he had ever preached this message.
Finally, he consented. “Since you say you see Jesus’ name so much greater and more gloriously and His name being that one name of the father, son, and Holy Ghost, you may go ahead and baptize one another. I will go to America and study the matter more fully before I will rebaptize anyone.”
Nothing thwarted these people from their desire. “God has used you, Bro. Urshan, to open our eyes to the deity of Christ. We plainly see Jesus as our all in all and His name is the name of the father and the Holy Spirit. Your preaching has made us see our need for being rebaptized. Oh, Bro. Urshan, be baptized now and baptize us also.”
Instead, Bro. Urshan asked them to kneel and pray again. They knelt, but they could not pray. Instead, they arose and started praising God for the new light and inspiration. Meanwhile, their
evangelist was praying fervently for guidance.
God spoke to him: “Are you willing to let your American friends go for my name’s sake? Will you fail me and despise my name given under heaven whereby men must be saved? Arise and be baptized in the Apostolic manner.”
While the Lord was speaking to him, the Holy Ghost caused his head to shake until it seemed to him that it would come off his body. Then and there, he submitted and said, “Yes, Lord. I have counted the cost, and I will choose the narrow way.”
He arose and declared, “I will be baptized in Jesus name too.” Everyone began shouting, “Glory to God!” Fifty more shouted, “We will be rebaptized too.”
And so it was that an elderly Russian brother by the name of Bro. Antonov baptized this Persian-American evangelist in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Seventy-five others followed him in Biblical Christian baptism and the Lord poured out His power on all of them. They were in the icy water for over two hours, but none caught cold or got sick from the effects of it.
In Bro. Urshan’s own words: “It seemed that the reason God granted the revelation of His Wonderful Name to those dear Russian people so many years ago, leading them to be baptized into His Name, was so that they might be saved from the terrible Bolshevik massacres which followed a year later. For a long time we heard nothing of those precious saints, and at times wondered if they were safe at all. But praise Jesus, He is able to keep!”
The news reached us later that they were kept, and even increased to about a thousand souls. Surely the name of the Lord is a strong tower, and the righteous run into it and are safe.
Our precious brothers, Alex Ivanhoff and Bro. Smarodian, were holding onto the truth in Leningrad and evangelizing elsewhere. Today, praise God, that seed of Truth concerning the Kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, has spread as far as Estonia and to many other parts of Russia.
Note: All quotes and information from this chapter are a part of Andrew Urshan’s own writings as detailed in his monthly magazine, the Witness of God, and later compiled in The Life of Andrew Bar David Urshan, published in March 1967 by W.A.B.C. press in Stockton, California.
This article is a chapter from the book, Red Star White Nights by Judith Bentley. Sis. Bentley’s other books include Moscow Mornings and Red September.
For copies of the author’s books contact
Rev. S.W. Chambers
Bridgeton, MO 63044
Sister Judith Bentley and her husband, Bro. Robert Bentley, are missionaries to the Baltic Republics.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY THE APOSTOLIC WORLD REPORT, OCTOBER-DECEMBER 1998, PAGES 13-15. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.