By T. A. McMahon
The Berean Call
Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart (Jeremiah 14:14).
In the first part of this series we addressed a movement within Christendom that is undermining the faith of multitudes of Christians, especially those who consider themselves to be Bible-believing Christians. Whether done intentionally or unintentionally by the leaders of the movement, their teaching and methods seriously deprive their followers of a true basis for biblical discernment. The primary means that they employ involves disparaging the objective nature of the Scriptures. When a believer buys into that teaching, he is being led into the arena of subjectivity, meaning that he cannot objectively determine what is truly from God versus what is nothing more than content from the imagination of man.
In his excellent book Wandering Stars: Contending for the Faith with the New Apostles and Prophets (see TBC 03/13), which has been a chief resource in this series, Keith Gibson summarizes the foundational errors of the movement regarding the Bible:
"So what can we conclude after this brief survey of the attitudes and words of the modern apostles and prophets concerning the Scripture? One would have to conclude that the Bible alone is an insufficient guide for the end-time church. New doctrines, not found in the Bible, are needed to perfect the church. Scripture is generally inspiring but basically unreliable. It is insufficient to convince the world of God's truth…. It does not provide the parameters to faith and practice and does not give us the norms for the activity of the Holy Spirit. The Canon of Scripture is not closed, and in fact, many of the words of today's prophets carry a higher level of revelation, anointing, and authority than some of the words of Scripture. And lastly, the Bible cannot be understood by any normal means. Grammar, history, and context are completely irrelevant. The words of Scripture can be redefined and ripped out of context to discover the 'deeper' meaning for today's church. There is no objective interpretation or understanding of Scripture. The Bible means whatever one wants it to mean" (pp. 105-6).
This flagrant assault on the Scriptures is clearly a reflection of Satan's grand scheme to undermine the Word of God, which he demonstrated first in turning Eve away from obeying what God had commanded. God declared:
"Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17).
That was God’s word to Adam and Eve.
Satan's first words to mankind were aimed at undercutting God’s instructions:
"And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" (Genesis 3:1).
After leading her to reconsider what God had commanded, God's adversary follows up with a flat denial of the consequences of her disobedience:
"…ye shall not surely die" (Genesis 3:4).
This undermining of God’s Word was successful with Eve, and it has been Satan’s main strategy throughout history. As previously noted, the obstruction of the Scriptures is at the heart of the teaching from those who claim to hear from God, and it opens the doors for the acceptance of their outrageous practices and manifestations, including their goal of taking dominion over the world for Christ.
For a true believer in Christ to accept manifestations such as falling and writhing on the floor, uncontrollable shaking, hysterical laughing, and making various animal sounds as though they were the work of the Holy Spirit would seem to indicate that the person has taken leave of his senses. It is more reasonable to conclude, however, that they have taken leave of the Scriptures. Although there may be power from the adversary involved in some of this ("We wrestle not against flesh and blood"), we can be sure that the victim of those manifestations is devoid of the full armor of God, which is available for every believer's protection (Ephesians 6:10-18), especially the "sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." When that is missing in a believer's life, he or she is terribly vulnerable to the "wiles of the devil" and his minions, who sometimes present themselves as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Restoring the Apostles and Prophets
Many Christians are aware of the bizarre manifestations and some of the outlandish personalities involved, such as Todd Bentley, the tattooed preacher given to head butting and kneeing followers in the groin (followers who number in the thousands and came to his meetings from all over the world) in order to supposedly impart the power of the Holy Spirit for their healing. Yet few are aware of the organization, agendas, and networking of those who claim to speak for God. There are countless numbers of ministries, websites, blog sites, and the like, that advance the false doctrines and manifestations of the movement. To name but a few, there is the Elijah List, The International House of Prayer (IHOP), Bethel Church (Redding, CA), Identity Network, Morning Star Ministries, Streams Ministries International, Glory of Zion, City Bible Church (Portland, OR), and the Christian International Apostolic Network. C. Peter Wagner's International Coalition of Apostles has a membership of hundreds who profess to be apostles manifesting apostolic authority.
Although not all such ministries agree on every fine point, they all believe that God is restoring to the church things that have been lost over the centuries, which they believe have rendered it ineffective. Gibson sums up their goal:
"The end-time body of Christ must go on to maturity and restore the apostles and prophets, and these restored ministries must lead the church to a new and final dimension of power and authority not only bringing in the final harvest but establishing the Kingdom of God upon the earth" (p. 28).
According to one of their "modern" prophets,
"Ever since the dark ages, God has been restoring Truth to the Church in order to get us back to the place of fullness where we can actually rule and reign in the world rather than be dominated by the very things we are to have victory over" (p.29).
"Jesus, having won back authority on earth, could now mediate and rule in the affairs of earth. However, Jesus did not stay on the earth to rule it. He ascended to the Father and is seated at His right hand. So who now is responsible to rule and reign in the earth? Believe it or not, the church, which is the body of Christ" (p. 160).
More specifically, they mean that it is to be the new apostles and prophets who are to run the show, and since there is little concern for doctrine learned from the objective Word of God, their rule will major in shooting from the lip, i.e., speaking forth whatever these leaders believe they have heard from God. They see themselves leading an end-time army.
Nearly all of the leaders in this movement teach some form of "Joel's Army" doctrine, which states that the hope of the church in transforming the world rests solely on today's youth. These young people will be instrumental because they will receive a super-anointing for setting up a theocracy, which they will rule under God. According to John Crowder, author of The New Mystics: How to Become Part of the Supernatural Generation, "Everyone born after abortion's legalization can consider their birth a personal invitation to take part in this great army." Gibson gives an example of how this is being implemented:
"One young man who spent a significant part of his upbringing in a church steeped in these messages told of a service in which the older members of the congregation gathered to wash the feet of the teens of the church—not to teach them about Christ-like humility and service [John 13:1-15] but to pay homage to them because they were the anointed generation. His heart was broken as he recounted seeing elderly saints who he knew had spent their lives serving Jesus bowing in servitude before young people who were being told that it was their birthright to be the greatest believers in the history of the church" (p. 274).
How seductive might this be for young Christians today? Consider the popularity of Mike Bickle's International House of Prayer (IHOP), which has drawn tens of thousands of young people to its 24-hour prayer hall and many as well to its university. Lou Engle, an "apostle" in residence at IHOP, draws similar numbers of youth to "The Call," an annual prayer and fasting event held at major US cities and aimed at bringing about national repentance and revival. Sadly, the zeal exhibited by the young people is misdirected because they lack the discernment necessary to recognize that what they are being taught is either without biblical support or is contrary to Scripture. Much of it seems right to them but as we are told twice in Proverbs, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (14:12; 16:25). Heartbreakingly, this is the experiential environment into which their leaders are directing them.
The Bridal Paradigm
One emotionally seductive doctrine they are taught is called the Bridal Paradigm, which Gibson notes reflects most of IHOP’s programs:
"All of the Scripture is seen as the relentless pursuit of the heavenly lovesick groom for the bride of His heart's desire, or the search of the Father for a bride for His Son, who will be equally yoked to Him in love. This message truly stands the gospel on its ear. No longer is the emphasis on a God who is working for His own glory and displaying His majesty in redeeming a lost and unworthy humanity. Now the story of redemption is about God seeking a suitable mate for His Son. No longer is the cross seen primarily as the place where Jesus makes propitiation for our sin and satisfies the justice, holiness, and wrath of God, or the place of redemption, where the price is paid for our ransom, which are the pictures the Bible uses. Now the cross is the dowry that is paid for the bride, [p. 193] a statement that the Bible never makes. Dowries (or, more accurately, bride prices) are paid because of the worth of the bride. But according to the Scriptures we had no worth. We had nothing to commend us to God. It was all grace" (pp. 166-67).
What young adult who has a heart for Jesus but lacks maturity in the Word can resist these erroneous romantic notions applied to Christ?
65% Accuracy Rate Is Good Enough
The false doctrines that are coming forth from those who claim to hear from God range from the foolish to the fraudulent, from the bogus to the blasphemous. This two-part series could touch upon only a few such teachings, but thankfully Keith Gibson’s Wandering Stars is available to shine a light upon much of this darkness. Too often when an absurd teaching raises its seemingly silly head, it is dismissed as so much nonsense and not to be taken seriously. In most cases, the relationship to a major heresy is missed altogether. For example, the so-called prophecies by the new prophets are nearly always wrong when they can be checked out. Nevertheless, we're told that a 65-percent accuracy rate is acceptable among the new prophets as determined by the new prophets themselves. The absurdity in this is that the new prophets claim to be working at a higher level of anointing than the prophets of old, yet those supposedly inferior old prophets were to be stoned if their accuracy dropped below 100 percent!
Diminishing God's Attributes
The even more critical issue is the new prophets' rationale to cover their lack of accuracy: it is the heresy of open theism. This is a doctrine that declares that "God can't foreknow the good or bad decisions of the people He creates until He creates these people and they, in turn, create their decisions." So now, prophecy for the modern prophets is little more than a godly guess, and the omniscience of God has been trashed along with some of His other attributes. Gibson underscores the result of these erroneous beliefs:
"God does not possess exhaustive foreknowledge of the actions of His creatures because these actions have not been performed; therefore, there is nothing for God to know. Thus God is not omniscient in the sense that the church has historically defined omniscience. God is not immutable because He grows in His knowledge of His creatures as they act out their free choice and as He adapts to these choices. God is more omnicompetent than omnipotent. God is not completely beyond time. He learns by watching the actions of His creation" (p. 134).
That is not the God of the Bible.
The AntiChrist Agenda
The false teachings of those who claim to hear from God, the so-called new apostles and prophets, have attracted millions into unwittingly contributing to their anti-biblical and therefore antichrist agendas. All of it turns biblical spiritual warfare upside down. Their methods for achieving dominion and rule over the world include Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare (see The New Spiritual Warfare Strategies Parts 1 & 2 TBC 5/97, 6/97) using techniques of "taking cities for Christ" through spirit mapping, binding territorial spirits, prayer-walking, prayer journeys, prayer expeditions, national repentance, deliverance from generational sins, mysticism, and contemplative prayer, to name but a few.
The number of those Christians who believe and practice such things is alarming. For the most part they are among the Pentecostals and Charismatics. But in their goals they are certainly not alone. The agenda of turning the world into the Kingdom of Christ before His return—or in order for Him to return and rule—is compatible in many ways with more conservative branches of Christianity that hold to amillennialism, or Christian reconstructionism, or post-millennialism, or national restorationism, or those who subscribe to a form of "good-works salvation" by solving the world’s problems of hunger, disease, poverty, injustice, and environmental problems using ecumenical cooperation (see "Is Your Eschatology Showing?" TBC 10/11). The numbers then become staggering. These variations of "kingdom building" prior to the return of Jesus will add to the development of the next kingdom to come, according to the timeline presented clearly in Scripture: the kingdom of the Antichrist.
The bad news in all of this is that many who have been seduced into this deception are our brothers and sisters in Christ; the good news is that their eyes can be opened to the temporal delusion that has taken them captive. Scripture declares that the apostasy will increase in the last days and gives no indication of worldwide revival. Nevertheless, God’s Word does give us our marching orders for a continuing rescue operation:
"And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will" (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
- Is God restoring the offices of apostle and prophet in the church today? • GotQuestions.org
- They Claim to Speak for God (Part 1) • BPB (T.A. McMahon)
- Book Review: 'Wandering Stars, Contending for the Faith with the New Apostles and Prophets' by Keith Gibson • BPB (Gary E. Gilley)
- Does God Speak to Us Today? • BPB (Christopher Cone)
- The Coming Kingdom (Part 1) • BPB (Andy Woods)