The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit

[See also: Bill Johnson’s Christology: A New Age Christ?, Part II, Part IIIa, Part IIIb and Part IV (Conclusion)]

In Bill Johnson’s popular book When Heaven Invades Earth is a chapter titled “The Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit”.1  In Johnson’s theology “the anointing” is variously termed “the Christ anointing”,2 “the baptism in the Holy Spirit”,3 “the Holy Spirit’s presence upon” an individual (including Jesus),4 and “the presence of God”.5 The “antichrist spirit” is defined as essentially ‘anti-anointing’ in this chapter and is thus a redefining of this term as compared to the Apostle John’s definition.

Orthodox Definition of the Antichrist Spirit

Here are the Apostle John’s words in his first epistle defining the antichrist spirit:

22Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.  23Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.  [1 John 2:22-23, NASB]

One must confess that Jesus is the Christ and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  John makes it clear that there is only one Christ and He is Jesus, and if one denies the Son by denying that Jesus is the Christ, then consequently the Father is also denied.  It’s a flat out rejection of God.  However, the one who confesses that Jesus is the Christ and,  hence, is also the Son, has the Father.

The Apostle John also commands us to test the spirits providing one more identifying mark of the antichrist spirit:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;  3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of antichrist of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. [1 John 4:1-3, NASB]

One must confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.  This means one must confess that Jesus was the Christ at conception or at least the Virgin Birth [Luke 1:35/2:11; Matt 1:18] thereby precluding any adoptionist or separationist Christology.6  A confession to the contrary is evidence of the antichrist spirit.  Colin G. Kruse expounds:

…[I]t is not only those who…remain faithful to the message heard from the beginning and who love fellow believers who claim an experience of the Spirit.  There are many others who claim to be indwelt by God, to have received the Spirit, and to speak in his name…[John] warns his readers to exercise discernment when they encounter people claiming to speak in the name of God…Not everyone claiming to speak in the name of God actually does so….7

Kruse continues warning about “false prophets operating within the Christian community” [Matt 7:15; 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22; 2 Pet 2:1, etc].8  He then describes the test:

…The spirit of God is recognized as the one teaching human beings (‘every spirit’) when they acknowledge that Jesus Christ ‘has come in the flesh’…The expression ‘to acknowledge Jesus’ is but a shortened version of the expression ‘to acknowledge that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh’ [ED: from verse 2].  It is important to note that… here…the Spirit’s role is that of witness to the truth of Jesus Christ.

When in 4:2 the author refers to the confession ‘that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh’, he uses a perfect form of the verb ‘to come’, indicating that it is Christ’s status as one come in the flesh, rather than simply the historic act of his coming that he had in mind….9

Judith Lieu notes also the Greek perfect tense and explains the phraseology “in the flesh”.  It is not merely making reference to the Virgin Birth/miraculous conception (not to be confused with the false view of the RCC known as the “immaculate conception” of Mary) but the entire manner with which His being is made known to us during the Incarnation:

Yet to acknowledge Jesus Christ as having come in flesh is not merely another way of saying that he has come into the world.  “In flesh” signals not destination but mode and location: the means by which and wherein his presence is known….10

Bill Johnson Redefines the Antichrist Spirit

Bill Johnson initially defines antichrist spirit correctly (though not completely as anti can also mean “instead of”11):

The nature of the antichrist spirit is found in its name: anti, “against”; Christ, “Anointed One.”12

Yet, on the very next page he deceptively redefines the term:

It would seem that with all the significance attached to the name “Jesus,” anyone desiring to undermine His work of redemption might be referred to as “Anti-Jesus,” not “Anti-Christ.”  Even religious cults recognize and value Jesus, the man.  At the very least, cults consider Him to be a teacher or a prophet and possibly “a” son of God.  This horrendous error provides us with an understanding of why antichrist was the name given to this spirit of opposition.  The spirits of hell are at war against the anointing, for without the anointing mankind is no threat to their dominion.13

Notice the sleight of hand in the last sentence.  While the preceding sentences seem to build the case as to why cults and false religions value Jesus as a man yet not as the Son of God, Johnson’s conclusion totally redefines his own definition of antichrist spirit on the previous page from “against Christ” or “against the Anointed One” to ‘against the anointing’ or ‘anti-anointing’.  This revised definition is used throughout the remainder of the chapter such that anyone who is against “the anointing” (as defined in the beginning of this article) has an antichrist spirit per Johnson.

As noted in an earlier CrossWise article in which this same methodology was employed, this is the mark of cultic teaching and bears repeating here:

This is not unlike the way in which cultists work; i.e., making a series of orthodox statements and then concluding with an unorthodox sentence.  The mind is prepared for a logical, orthodox conclusion so that when what seems to be an illogical or unorthodox conclusion is reached instead, the hearer/reader may reject it assuming he just did not hear or read it correctly or some other such reason.  This is known as cognitive dissonance, the uncomfortable feeling in holding two conflicting views at once, which results in some sort of action to alleviate this feeling in this case which may be either by 1) rejecting the negative thought that the conclusion is unorthodox or illogical while mentally inserting one’s own orthodox or logical conclusion instead; or, 2) just dismissing the conclusion as a misunderstanding on the reader/hearer’s part; or, 3) assuming the speaker simply misspoke.

Yet, just as important if not more so, we see that Johnson has subtly split ‘Christ’ from ‘Jesus’ in his redefining above.  By stating “anyone desiring to undermine His work of redemption might be referred to as ‘Anti-Jesus’ rather than ‘Anti-Christ’” and his subsequent explanation and redefinition of the antichrist spirit, Johnson seems to illustrate the very thing the Apostle John warned against – that the antichrist spirit separates “Christ” from the person of Jesus Christ.  This redefinition itself could be construed as antichrist in nature.  This may be confusing, but please read on.

Johnson Redefines “Christ”

This same methodology above is in evidence in the first two paragraphs which begin this chapter in Johnson’s book – he starts with the correct definition of Christ then redefines it to anointing:

Christ is not Jesus’ last name.  The word Christ means “Anointed One” or “Messiah.”  It is a title that points to an experience.  It was not sufficient that Jesus be sent from heaven to earth with a title.  He had to receive the anointing in an experience to accomplish what the Father desired.

The word anointing means “to smear.”  The Holy Spirit is the oil of God that was smeared all over Jesus at His water baptism.  The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit.14

In this case, Johnson is absolutely correct with his first two sentences; however, with the third through fifth he is claiming that the “title” of Christ was received in a later “experience” which he identifies as “the anointing”.  This “anointing” is consistently defined throughout Johnson’s various works as noted above in the beginning of this article.

The second paragraph continues this line of thought with his concluding sentence making his redefinition clear: “The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit”.  By further logical implication Jesus became “Christ” only after He was “anointed” or “smeared with the Holy Spirit” and, consequently, He was merely Jesus of Nazareth prior to this “anointing”.  That this explanation/analysis is itself correct is borne out in Johnson’s own redefinition of antichrist as essentially ‘anti-anointing’.  Hence, Christ = the anointing and antichrist =anti-anointing’ in Bill Johnson’s theology.

As noted in the previous article, separating Christ from the person of Jesus is known as separationist Christology and is, by the Apostle John’s very definition above, antichrist Christology.

Further Explications and Implications of Johnson’s “Anointing”

With this sort of linguistic gymnastics one is left wondering what is truth and what is falsehood and what the real definition of other terms are in Johnson’s theological corpus.  Which parts of Johnson’s theology can be trusted to be true and accurate?

Johnson carries this same redefinition of Christ as anointing into other works.  Here in another book he states that this “Christ anointing” (aka “baptism in the Holy Spirit”) was not only for Jesus but for all in the Church:

…The outpouring of the Spirit comes to anoint the church with the same Christ anointing that rested upon Jesus in His ministry so that we might be imitators of Him…15

He makes a clear distinction between believers who would by necessity have the Holy Spirit indwelling upon conversion and “the anointing”:

The spirit of antichrist is at work today, attempting to influence believers to reject everything that has to do with the Holy Spirit’s anointing….16

Just to be clear, every truly converted Christian believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and thereby has the Holy Spirit anointing as per Scripture [Eph 1:14; 2 Cor 1:21-22; 1 John 2:20].  Johnson’s “anointing” is separate and distinct.

With his redefined antichrist spirit, Bill Johnson also claims that it leads to “religious spirits” which are described as

…demonic presence that works to get us to substitute being led of our intellect instead of the Spirit of God…Anything that will take the place of dependence upon the Holy Spirit [ED actually, again, Johnson’s “anointing”] and His empowering work can be traced to the spirit of opposition.17

Here we have one of the many times Johnson promotes false dichotomies – as if the intellect and the “Spirit of God” are mutually exclusive.  We worship in Spirit and Truth [John 4:24].  Yes, a person can be led of the flesh and hence his/her own mind; but, as noted by Bob DeWaay, there’s a consistent “anti-intellectual bias” permeating this book (and other works of Johnson).  Also, notice how he has, in effect, drawn a line in the sand between his unorthodox doctrine of “the anointing” and orthodoxy by claiming those who allow the Spirit to lead the intellect have the “spirit of opposition” and a “demonic presence”.

He also promotes “Toronto Blessing” style manifestations while speaking negatively on anyone who opposes these.18  Near the end of the chapter in his book he attempts to flip the table on orthodoxy stating more clearly that those who “embrace Jesus apart from the anointing”, once again, have the antichrist spirit:

The antichrist spirit has a goal for the Church – embrace Jesus apart from the anointing.  Without the anointing, He becomes a safe religious figure who is sure not to offend us…How can people who love God be offended by the anointing of the Holy Spirit?19

If the reader does not understand that “the anointing” is separate from the true Holy Spirit indwelling, s/he would be left wondering why anyone would reject the Holy Spirit and therefore agree with Johnson.

This illustrates quite clearly that Johnson’s Jesus is not only NOT the Jesus Christ of the Bible, Johnson’s whole Christology emanates from an antichrist spirit.  His Jesus could be termed ‘Jesus, the one among many anointed by “the anointing”’ (aka “Christ anointing”, “baptism in the Holy Spirit”, “presence of God”).  The following words by the Apostle Paul could well define Johnson’s theology and his followers:

4For if someone comes to you and preaches another Jesus other than the Jesus we preached , or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough…13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.  14And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.  15It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.  Their end will be what their actions deserve. [2 Cor. 11:4, 13-15, NIV 1984]

But, it’s not yet too late for Bill Johnson and his followers to repent.

1Johnson, Bill, When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. 2003; Treasure House/Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; pp 79-86
2Johnson, Bill Face to Face with God: The Ultimate Quest to Experience His Presence. 2007; Charisma House ,Lake Mary, FL; p 77.  Underscore added.
3Johnson, Face to Face; pp 21-22, 58, 77-82, 100-102
4Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 80
5Johnson, Face to Face; pp 21-22.
6Judith M. Lieu [I, II & III John: A Commentary. 2008, Westminster John Knox, Louisville, KY] does an excellent job describing vv 2:22-23 in 1 John by putting it in its original context: “It appears that what sounds like the traditional formula of belief in Jesus as Messiah has taken on a new dimension of sonship…This confirms that the force of the correct confession is ‘that Jesus is the Christ,’ and not, as is grammatically possible, ‘that the Christ [about whom we know] is Jesus [rather than someone else or as not yet appeared]’…The author’s logic is simple and can be understood within its immediate context.  His strategy is to start from what matters: the real charge is not about ‘the Christ,’…Rather, it is that the antichrist denies the Father and the Son: this is no longer denial of belief about (‘that’) but a refusal to acknowledge…it is ultimately a question of acknowledging, or denying the Son…the Son is Son only in relation to the Father, and the Father is Father only in relation to the Son; to reject the Son is to reject both, even if this was not the intention” [p 106].  While Lieu refers to “sonship” this explanation works just as well with the respect to separationist or adoptionist Christology.  The term separationist as regards Christology is defined in Heikki Raisanen’s The Rise of Christian Beliefs [2010, Fortress, Minneapolis, MN; p 208] and is specifically referring to 1st century proto-gnostic Cerinthus.
7Kruse, Colin G. The Letters of John: The Pillar New Testament Commentary. 2000, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; p 144.  Emphasis added.
8Kruse; p 145
9Kruse; p 145-147
10Lieu; p 167
11Vine, W.E., Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (With Topical Index).  © 1996 W.E. Vine Copyright Ltd. of Bath, England, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN; p 30 of New Testament section.
12Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 79.  Emphasis in original.
13Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 80.  Emphasis in original.
14Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 79.  Emphasis in original except underscore added.
15Johnson, Face to Face, p 77.  Underscore added.
16Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 81
17Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 81
18Johnson, Heaven Invades; pp 81-85
19Johnson, Heaven Invades; pp 84-85

Testimony of a Former IHOP-KC Attendee: Stephanie

[Part of this testimony first appeared here and is titled “I Was at IHOP and FSM for about 3+ Years…”  In a subsequent comment on that blog article, “Stephanie” added some more to her testimony.  She graciously revised her testimony to include both the original and her additional comments for publishing here at CrossWise.  Bill over at Beyond Grace has recently published two other testimonies.  Please take the time to read both The Mother of all IHOP Casualties and Red Flags over IHOP – Devotion or Deception?.  I had previously made a passing reference to another one of the second author’s articles (Red Flags… author “Ariel”) in a previous CrossWise post — The Kingdom of God is at Hand, part II (at footnote 5).]

I grew up as the only Christian in my household. My parents came to know Jesus when I was about 10. My Father began to backslide after his grandmother died which took a pretty big toll on his relationship with my brothers, my mother, and I. Off and on since I was in about 7th grade, I had severe night terrors and nightmares. I attended a Bible High School as well as a Bible College after I graduated. I often tried to find a reason and a way to stop my night terrors, with little to no answers.

Meanwhile, my family was extremely rocky to say the least. My dad was an absentee, my youngest brother was abusive, and my mom was enabling them both. I always wanted to help them, but neglected myself in the process. Wanting to get closer to the Lord, I decided to go to an extension campus in Hawaii (without praying about it and for pretty selfish reasons). I knew I probably wasn’t supposed to go but went anyway to escape from everything else going on in my life.

The Pastor who ran the campus quit 3 days before our arrival and a local apprentice to the pastor was put in charge and (very) reluctantly took the position. It was a pretty messed up situation, to which I and everyone else on campus (about 20 people) ended up leaving as a result. At this point, my walk was very dry and I felt so out of place no matter where I was. I just needed a place I felt I could fit in and, at the same time, draw closer to the Lord and get some answers for weird things that would happen (like the night terrors).

Then a friend told me about the International House of Prayer (IHOP). I heard that my favorite band was going to play at their “One Thing Conference” in December. I decided to go, for three reasons:

1. To meet the friend who told me about IHOP

2. To see my favorite band

3. Hopefully get closer to the Lord and find some answers to my questions

At this time, I had absolutely no experience in anything the Charismatic church teaches and was clueless about manifestations, deliverance ministry, baptism of the Holy Spirit, etc. At the same time, I was very desperate to be loved and accepted by God and by people, and I was desperate to feel anything. I felt so dry and empty. I just needed someone to be there for me and understand… I needed Jesus.

SO I went to the conference and had some very different experiences. I heard people speak in tongues for the first time. People talked about Angels and Demons like it was a normal every day experience, and I heard doctrines that I’d never heard before. I was also told that all the other churches in America were dead, dry, and boring and were, therefore, without Jesus. Because my walk was dead, dry, and boring, it seemed right to me. And the experiences I had that weekend, although strange to me, felt good and exciting. Because of the conference, I decided that I wanted to go to FSM [ed: Forerunner School of Ministry], in hopes of finding Jesus and acceptance there.

I attended IHOP/FSM and was heavily involved for about 3+ years.

My first semester there, I had nothing but good things to say about IHOP because I was still learning all these new things that I found to be fascinating, and I felt I was accepted by everyone else who was “just like me.” I also thought I found answers to my night terrors, when they explained it was because I “had demons” that needed to be delivered. After going through several of their deliverance ministries, however, the terrors only got worse and more frequent.

It wasn’t until my second semester (after going home for Christmas break) that I realized I had completely disconnected from my family, friends, and reality. All of my closest friends and family members sat me down (individually) for an intervention, of sorts. They would tell me things like that I’ve changed and I seemed happy and “on-fire” for God, but that something was off and something was wrong. And when I would tell them some of the things I was learning or experiencing, they only became more worried and they confronted me with scriptures, which got me thinking. So going back into my second semester, I was a lot more confused and had a lot more questions.

Slowly but surely, the Lord chipped away at my heart and showed me very clear scriptures to cause me to question the things that would go on there. After realizing this, I started feeling really weird about some things that were being done and said there, so I took it to the Lord, as any “Berean” should. I started looking up the scriptures my teachers would give us in handouts to explain some of their doctrines, and I realized that not one of those scriptures had anything to do with those doctrines. They were either taken completely out of context or just had nothing at all to do with what the doctrine was (ie: deliverance, manifestations, etc). So, I became even more confused and concerned. I started asking very genuine questions about where certain things were in scripture (like deliverance ministry, false prophesies, manifestations, etc.) because I wanted to be sure that I was doing the right thing in God’s eyes. I just wanted it to be explained to me because I didn’t understand the doctrines and I didn’t understand why the scriptures weren’t lining up with my experiences. When everyone would “feel the presence of God” or everyone would “break out into manifestations of God,” I wouldn’t feel anything and I would almost never experience what everyone else did. So, most days, I felt like an outsider because everyone but me was “getting it.” I started feeling confused and rejected by God, which is why (again), I turned to scripture.

I noticed that, when I started asking questions, that I had been “red flagged.”  What I mean is that I had particular people in leadership following me around and keeping tabs on me.  I was moved out of my core “Omega” group and into one with Sabrina Walsh who was a former, practicing witch and was also a leader at FSM. She and her husband were in charge of the “Signs and Wonders” classes where they teach kids how to prophesy and perform miracles. I was put in the group because I was to be “monitored.” After changing groups, I began having strange dreams and getting attacked on almost a daily basis.

As I read more scripture, I also began to realize that much of what they were teaching and practicing was extremely unbiblical and even dangerous. We were constantly fasting and in the prayer room. After starting to eat more and going to the prayer room a little less, I felt my head start to clear up and I didn’t like what I was seeing and how I felt. I often went back and forth, in my mind, between wanting to feel what everyone else felt, and realizing that it wasn’t from God, trying to figure it out. Half-way through my third year of school, I was brought into a room with several staff members (including Walsh) who accused me of many things that I hadn’t even come close to doing and they said something to the effect of:

“We know that you have father issues that need to be resolved (I didn’t) and we can tell that you are heavily oppressed by many demons.  However, we are incapable of this level of deliverance on someone. We just don’t have the time or the resources. So we are going to send you to this wonderful place in Toronto, Canada.  This rehabilitation facility is capable of handling your type of situation. We’ve sent many students there who have come back completely delivered.  We are going to send you there.  You cannot come back to IHOP or FSM until we have a written letter from them stating that you have been delivered.  In the current state you are in, you’re a danger to the other student’s growth and spiritual being.”

…To which I told them I would certainly go, but had no intention of actually going. I said I would go because I was very much afraid of what would happen if I told them I wouldn’t go, and was afraid until I moved back home. After the meeting with them, I immediately called my Dad, who I’d been told not to talk to anymore because he said IHOP was a cult. At one point, they also told me that I needed to stay away from my mom (who is my best friend in the world) because she had demons and was pulling me away from God (which was anything but true). My Dad booked the first flight to Kansas City.  At that time, my mom and I owned a home in KC and we had been helping students that went to FSM by providing rooms with low rent. I had an excellent relationship with each person in the house. Within two weeks of being pulled into the office ALL of my roommates – my friends - moved out. When asked directly, they either had no response or told me that the school had told them it was an “unsafe environment” because I and my mother “had a demon”.

I was absolutely crushed.  All I ever wanted was to know God and at the time I felt completely rejected by Him. When I finally left IHOP, I was not all the way better. I was actually worse than when I started because I was more confused, felt rejected, and still needed help. My head felt like it was covered in a fog. I would constantly go back and forth between “I know what happened was wrong” and “God was the one taking me out of there to save me” all the way to “IHOP was right” and “there is something wrong with me.” Like I said, I was a complete mess and it took a whole lot of love and prayer to get me out of that state of mind. I even flew to Illinois to go to my friend’s church (the same one who told me about IHOP in the first place) to try to get “Delivered” of this demon that IHOP told me about because I was so messed up. After that trip, I walked away from the Lord completely for about 6 months and was absolutely miserable both in and out of the church.

It wasn’t until I came back to my Calvary Chapel church that life started to become normal again. Even then, it took a really long time. I was able to let go of needing to feel something that wasn’t there and just focus on the truth of the Word of God and loving and understanding who God is. He is never-changing, always loving, arms-wide open, ever wise, ever beautiful, ever strong, amazing, orderly, and truthful God. He is my best friend, my Father, my peace, and my joy. And it didn’t take barking like a dog, falling over, being “drunk,” or being “delivered” from a “demon,” to do it. It was straight-up surrendering to His will and letting go of mine. It was repentance and it was loving God, even if it seems “Boring.” It was just worshipping at his feet, reading His word, fellowship with believers, accountability, etc… going back to the basics. The gospel is truly simple and God is very straight-forward. He is not the author of confusion.

I thank God for my Calvary Chapel pastor back home (and the amazing women at my church) who spent every minute praying for me, speaking life over me, and bringing me back to the truth of the Word of God. I almost lost faith and hope many times. But God is so amazing…He spared my life and got me out of there.

I grieve for the people I love who are still stuck within the lies of IHOP and for the many who are recruited to IHOP daily. I pray for their souls and I pray for the truth to be made known to them. If ever there was an “antichrist spirit,” this is it.

I’ve kept all of my journals, notes, books, and materials from when I was there. When looking back on the things I wrote and the things I would say…it’s like I was a mindless drone who repeated everything I heard. It scares me to think that so many people are being deceived, so many families ripped apart…so many lives destroyed….and all in the name of “Jesus”.  God help us and God forgive those who tarnish and blaspheme Your name!

[see also Hyper-Charismatica versus True Christianity]

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