“By Your Pharmakeia Were All the Nations Misled”, Part II

[See Part I]

In the first part of this investigation we looked at the uses of pharmakeia, pharmakon, and pharmakos in the NT. The intent was and is to try to determine a more precise meaning for pharmakeia in our subject verse, Revelation 18:23:

18:21 Then a mighty angel lifted up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “In similar fashion, with violence shall Babylon the megalopolis be thrown, and she shall never be found again! 22 The sound of singing harpists and of musicians, flautists, trumpeters shall never be heard in you again. And never shall any kind of craftsman of any trade be found in you again. Noise from a mill shall never be heard in you again. 23 Lamplight shall never shine in you again. And the voice of bridegroom and bride shall never be heard in you again. For your merchants were the distinguished persons of the earth, because by your pharmakeia were all the nations/peoples misled. 24 And in her, blood of prophets and holy ones/saints was found, and all those who had been slain upon the earth.”

Below is a more expansive look at the use of pharmakeia. We will survey literature contemporaneous with the NT era. Later we will view material in the Greek Old Testament (OT), known as the Septuagint, aka LXX (Greek translation of the Hebrew OT, ca. 200 BC). And we will also look at synonyms of the pharma– nouns for comparison.

What It Does Not Mean

Sometimes determining what a word does not mean can aid in determining what it does mean. Immense help in this sort of investigation comes from Louw & Nida’s (L&N) Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains (2nd ed.).8 Rather than sorting alphabetically, this lexicon categorizes terms by definitions, synonyms grouped together. Under the broad category Religious Activities (category 53) is the subdomain Magic (53.96–53.101), which includes the pharma- nouns. Within these definitions is the following crucial note:

Pharmakeia and the variant pharmakon (as in Re 9:21) differ from the preceding terms (53.96–53.99) in that the focus is upon the use of certain potions or drugs and the casting of spells.9

In other words, 53.100 (both pharmakeia and pharmakon), as well as 53.101 (pharmakos) include ‘focus upon certain potions or drugs and the casting of spells’. Conversely, the words correlating to 53.96, 97, 98, and 99 do not focus upon potions, drugs and casting spells.

The L&N lexicon appears to differ from Danker’s in this comment about potions and drugs. Or does it? Following is the L&N definition for pharmakeia and pharmakon (53.100): the use of magic, often involving drugs and the casting of spells upon people—‘to practice magic, to cast spells upon, to engage in sorcery, magic, sorcery.’10 If we take the “often” in the definition here and reconcile it with “the focus is upon” in the above note, we might understand this to mean that the pharma– nouns often, though not exclusively, refer to “the use of certain potions or drugs and the casting of spells”. Therefore, many times they do, but sometimes they don’t. This, then, would not contradict Danker’s definition: ‘manipulation through incantations, spells, substances, or combinations thereof’, sorcery, magic.11

Now we shall investigate the synonyms to the pharma– nouns—those that do not focus upon using potions or drugs and casting spells (53.96–53.99).

The first synonym is the verb mageuō and its noun form mageia (53.96): to practice magic, presumably by invoking supernatural powers—‘to practice magic, to employ witchcraft, magic.’12 Both forms are found introducing the account of Simon, known as Simon Magus, in Acts 8:

Acts 8:9 A particular man named Simon was formerly in the city practicing mageuō and amazing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great. 10 All, from the least to the greatest, began paying attention to him, exclaiming, “This one is the power of God called ‘Great’!”  11 And they continued paying attention to him, because of the long time he had amazed them with mageia.

Next is the noun form for the practitioner of the above, magos: (53.97): one who practices magic and witchcraft—‘magician.’13 The account of Elymas Bar-Jesus contains two occurrences in reference to him:

Acts 13:6 After traveling through the whole island up to Paphos, they found a certain man, a magos, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus, 7 who was with the proconsul Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. He [Paulus] summoned Barnabas and Paul, wanting to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas, the magos—for this interprets his name14—began opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul from the faith.

(Read the rest of the account to see how Paul handles Elymas’ attempt at deception!)

The next synonym is baskainō (53.98): to bewitch a person, frequently by the use of the evil eye with evil intent—‘to bewitch, to practice magic on’ . . . Baskainō differs from mageuō ‘to practice magic’ (53.96) in that the former [baskainō] involves the use of so-called ‘black magic’.15 The sole NT occurrence of this word is used by the Apostle Paul in response to the Galatian ekklēsia upon learning they began Mosaic Law observance. It seems possible, if not probable, Paul is being a bit sarcastic and hyperbolic here, not literalistic:

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who baskainō you!

The final synonym for analysis here is periergos (53.99): the use of magic based on superstition—‘magic, witchcraft’.16 The only usage in the NT is in reference to those who burned their occult works after accepting Christ:

Acts 19:19 Many of those who practiced periergos gathered their books and burned them in front of everybody.

From this investigation we see that there are a number of synonyms to the pharma– nouns in the NT that do not encode ‘potions or drugs and the casting of spells’ as part of their definitions. And baskainō encodes ‘black magic’ as part of its definition, while mageuō/mageia/magos does not. And since the definitions of the pharma– nouns do not include ‘black magic’ in either Danker or L&N, we might assume these do not encode it either.

Venturing Outside the NT

These distinctions will prove useful as we survey extra-Biblical works written by those commonly known as the Apostolic Fathers (AF). The writers of these works are believed to have had contact with the first century Biblical Apostles. The works span part of the first and into the second centuries AD, all roughly contemporaneous with the NT era.

Since we are now venturing outside the NT, it would be prudent to provide more suitable definitions. These are found in the BDAG, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. One must be judicious in using this resource, however, for, as the title indicates, it includes ‘other early Christian literature’. Moreover, besides including definitions for the AF, it also contains definitions for “Selected Apocrypha”, the OT (LXX), “Intertestamental/Pseudepigraphical Literature”, “Inscriptions”, “Papyri/Parchments and Ostraca”, and “Writers and Writings of Antiquity”.17 Therefore, one must be careful not to apply a definition that is appropriate for an earlier work/period to the NT era (this could be anachronistic18). With that clarified, here are the relevant definitions (transliterated):19

mageia, a rite or rites ordinarily using incantations designed to influence/control transcendent powers, magic20

This definition is much like L&N above. Though it includes “incantations”, these are not spells cast upon others; these are, like L&N states, ‘to invoke supernatural powers’.

pharmakeia, sorcery, magic21

pharmakeus, maker of potions, magician22

pharmakeu, to make potions, practice magic23

pharmakon, Primarily ‘a drug’, ordinarily contexts indicate whether salubrious or noxious. 1. a harmful drug, poison 2. a drug used as a controlling medium, magic potion, charm 3. a healing remedy, medicineremedy, drug24

pharmakos, 1. one skilled in arcane uses of herbs or drugs, probably poisoner 2. one who does extraordinary things through occult means, sorcerer, magician25

Most of the above aligns with Danker (see previous segment). However, note the increased focus on making potions/drugs (-keus/-keuō/-kon/-kos). Taken all together, it seems like “magic” here primarily involves making potions/drugs. Yet, there must be some distinction between “magic” in the pharma– words and “magic” in mageia. We must keep this in mind as we go along.

Four occurrences of mageia or mageuō are found in the AF, and three of these are in contexts which also include pharmakeia or its verb form pharmakeuō. The first one we will look at is the one excluding any of the pharma– words. This is found in Ignatius of Antioch’s epistle to the Ephesians:

Ign. Eph. 19:3 Consequently, all mageia and every kind of bondage began to loosen, the ignorance of evil began to disappear, the old kingdom began to be abolished—being destroyed by the appearing of God in human form, Who brought newness of eternal life—only when what had been finished by God began to be received.

Next we will look at two selections from Didachē (Greek: Δίδαχή, literally “teaching”), typically dated to the first century (or early second).26 Both include forms of pharmakeia and mageia side-by-side in a list of prohibitions/vices. This fact of occurring side-by-side, of course, implies a clear distinction between the two.

Did. 2:1 The second commandment of this teaching is: 2 You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery [moicheuō], you shall not molest children [paidophthoreō], you shall not commit sexual immorality [porneuō], you shall not steal, you shall not mageuō, you shall not pharmakeuō, you shall not murder a child by miscarriage [i.e., abortion] or kill the born [i.e. infanticide], you shall not covet your neighbor’s possessions.

Take careful note as to how the above is grouped. Three sexual sins are listed in a row (one against children), abortion and infanticide are listed one after the other, and in between these two groupings are mageuō and pharmakeuō one next to the other. Each of the three groupings contains similarly-themed terms, but each term within each grouping is individually distinct, different in nuance.

Did. 5:1 But the path of death is this: First of all, it is evil and entirely cursed—murders, adulteries, inordinate lusts, sexual immoralities, thefts, idolatries, mageia, pharmakeia, extortions, false testimonies, hypocrisies . . .

The above is not grouped quite as well as the other selection from Didachē. However, once again, mageia is right next to pharmakeia. Below is the final occurrence of the two terms together, side-by-side. This is from the Epistle of Barnabas, and it is quite similar to the immediately preceding selection:

Barn. 20:1 But the path of the black one is crooked and entirely cursed, for it is a path of eternal death with punishment, in which is the destroying of all the souls—idolatry, audacity, exaltation of power, hypocrisy, duplicity, adultery, murder, extortion, arrogance, transgression, deceit, malice, stubbornness, pharmakeia, mageia, greed, lack of the fear of God.

There are two passages containing pharmakon, which also, helpfully, include adjectives to assist in defining them. This eliminates the necessity of providing any further context. The first is from Ignatius’ Epistle to the Trallians (6:2): thanasimos pharmakon, “deadly poison/potion”, or “deadly drug”. The next one is from Papias of Hierapolis (3:9): dēlētērios pharmakon, “destructive poison/potion”, “harmful drug”.

Two more passages contain pharmakon. The first one we shall investigate is again from Ignatius’ Epistle to the Ephesians:

Ign. Eph. 20:2 . . . that you come together in one faith and one Jesus Christ—Who according to the flesh is from the lineage of David, Who is son of man and Son of God—in order that you obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undisturbed mind, breaking one bread, which is the pharmakon of immortality [athanasia], the antidote against dying, but rather to live everlastingly in Jesus Christ.27

Clearly, the term means “medicine” in the above. The word for “immortality” (athanasia) is the same word Paul uses in 1Cor 15:53–54 to refer to our spiritual (non-flesh and blood) bodies we receive at “the last trumpet” (1Cor 15:52).28

The final pharmakon appears in The Shepherd of Hermas, in which the term occurs twice and in context with two occurrences of pharmakos, as well:

Shep. 17:6 (3.9.6) Look, therefore, you who exult in your riches, lest those in need groan, and their groaning rise up to the Lord, and you be excluded, with your goods outside the gate of the tower. 7 (3.9.7) Now, therefore, I say to you, those leading the ekklēsia and in the exalted chairs, do not be like the pharmakos[pl]. For the pharmakos[pl] indeed take up their pharmakon[pl] in wooden boxes, but you [take up] your pharmakon and its poison [ios] into your heart.

The context defines the terms. The pharmakos (plural pharmakoi) make substances, pharmakon (plural), and we can infer that these are poisonous. The leaders, those in the exalted seats, are like the pharmakos in that they also carry poison (not in literal ‘wooden boxes’, but, figuratively, in their exalted chairs) but they take it into their own hearts. The Shepherd is using plays on words here (“to exult”, “rise up”, “exalted”, “take up”).

Tentative Findings

From our investigation of synonyms in the NT and in Christian-themed works contemporary (or nearly contemporary) with the NT, in conjunction with our more expansive survey of pharma- words in these extra-Biblical works, we can arrive at some tentative findings. Comparing the pharma- terms with these synonyms has helped to better define both the pharma- terms and the mag- terms. Though it would be intellectually dishonest to completely take these findings and impose them onto our subject verse (Rev 18:23), it seems we have enough data to come a tentative conclusion: pharmakeia is more likely than not to include “potions” or “drugs” in its definition—understood as carrying negative connotations, of course (not “remedies” or “medicines”).

The next part, the conclusion will survey the LXX, which will include both the Greek OT and works known as the apocrypha (or deuterocanon [literally, “second canon”] in some traditions).

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8 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, 2nd ed. (New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1988, 1989) Accordance electronic ed., OakTree Software, Inc. Version 4.4.

9 This is under 53.100 pharmakeia, p 545. Greek transliterated.

10 L&N, p 545, bold added.

11 Danker, Concise Lexicon, p 370.

12 L&N, p 545.

13 L&N, p 545. Note that this same term is used for the Three Wise Men in Matthew 2. L&N categorizes this usage under Understanding: Capacity for Understanding, with the following definition: a person noted for unusual capacity of understanding based upon astrology (such persons were regarded as combining both secular and religious aspects of knowledge and understanding) . . . (p 385).

14 From the ISBE (S. F. Hunter, “Bar-Jesus”, in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, Gen Ed., 1st ed. [1915] prepared by Accordance/Oak Tree Software, Inc. Version 2.5): “Elymas is said to be the interpretation of his name (Acts 13:8). It is the Greek transliteration of an Aramaic or Arabic word equivalent to Greek μάγος [magos]. From Arabic ‘alama, ‘to know’ is derived ʾalı̄m, ‘a wise’ or ‘learned man’” (paragraph 7611).

15 L&N, p 545, bold added. Since there is some uncertainty as to its nuance and application here, the editors also place this word under Moral and Ethical Qualities and Related Behaviors: Mislead, Lead Astray, Deceive (88.159): to deceive a person by devious or crafty means, with the possibility of a religious connotation in view of the literal meaning ‘to bewitch’ . . . It is also possible that baskainō in Ga 3:1 is to be understood in the sense of bewitching by means of black magic . . . (L&N, p 760). Nonetheless, I take Paul’s words as hyperbole, sarcasm, not literal.

16 L&N, p 545.

17 BDAG, pp xxxi–li. Many thanks once again to the late Rodney Decker for providing a learning shortcut: BDAG (scroll down to second post “BDAG” dated October 10, 2012, then scroll further down to hyperlink “A Basic Introduction to BDAG” to open a PowerPoint.

18 Words may change over time, with nuances added or subtracted.

19 Of the other synonyms in the NT, none proved to help in our analysis here. Periergos occurs only one time, but there the connotation is “meddling” or “curious”. As to baskainō, it appears more often and in two other (noun and adjective) forms, but none of these appeared to mean “bewitched” in some black magic sense; the terms connote “begrudge” or “envy”.

20 BDAG, p 608.

21 BDAG, p 1049.

22 BDAG, p 1050.

23 BDAG, p 1050.

24 BDAG, p 1050.

25 BDAG, p 1050.

26 The work as we have it today appears to be a composite, seemingly redacted over the course of time. The ISBE (J. R. Michaels, “Apostolic Fathers”, in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, G. W. Bromiley Gen. Ed., Rev. Ed., [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979]) states: “Total agreement is seldom possible as to which forms are primitive and which are later adaptations. Therefore, it is difficult to speak about dates, but the compilation of purportedly apostolic material under the name of the apostles as a group [ED: complete title is The Lord’s Teaching through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations] indicates the apostles are already figures of the past. This together with the apparent use of Matthew’s Gospel tends to suggest a date of composition in the 2nd cent., though many specific elements . . . may well go back to the apostolic age and even perhaps to the early days of the Jerusalem church” (p 207).

27 This text is used to support the “real presence” doctrine, but one must understand Ignatius through his strong use of metaphorical expression. See the White Horse blog for explanation of how Ignatius is not teaching the “real presence” (much less Transubstantiation): Eating Ignatius.

28 Note also that athanasia (noun) is the opposite (the prefix a negating it) of thanasimos (adjective) in the selection from Ignatius’ Epistle to the Trallians just above.

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“By Your Pharmakeia Were All the Nations Misled”

[See Part II]

In Scripture, as in all literature, a word takes on meaning only in its specific context. But sometimes the immediate context (sentence, paragraph) does not shed enough light to provide precise meaning. In such instances, broadening the scope by viewing the entire Biblical book, or the New Testament (NT) as a whole, may further illuminate. However, there are cases which require a more panoramic lens. The untranslated pharmakeia in the title to this article provides such an example.1

As the reader can readily perceive, the modern words pharmacy, pharmacist, pharmaceutical, and pharmacology are derived from this Greek word. But it would be wrong to automatically (and anachronistically) impose modern definitions upon the NT era.

This article’s title is taken from the final clause in Revelation 18:23. The noun pharmakeia and its related noun forms occur only five times in the entire NT. Four are in Revelation (Apocalypse of Jesus Christ).2 The remaining instance finds itself in Paul’s description of living by the flesh (as opposed to the Spirit) in Galatians:

5:19 Now the works [ergon] of the flesh are obvious, which are: sexual immorality, moral impurity, lewdness, 20 idolatry, pharmakeia, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, rivalries, dissensions, discriminations, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousals, and such things similar to these. All these I tell you to forewarn you as before: All those who engage in such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

In this context, pharmakeia clearly carries a negative connotation.  English versions translate it either “sorcery” (ESV, NASB, NET, HCSB, ERV) or “witchcraft” (KJV, NIV, ISV, YLT). But what do these English words mean exactly?

F. W. Danker’s The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament will assist here.3 As its title suggests, Danker’s concise lexicon focuses strictly on the NT. Following are the relevant words (transliterated), with corresponding Scripture references:4

pharmakeia: [{from} pharmakeus ‘specialist in mixing drugs/potions’] ‘manipulation through incantations, spells, substances, or combinations thereof’, sorcery, magic Gal 5:20; Rv 9:21 [variant]; 18:23.

pharmakon: ‘a mixture of various items designed to manipulate’, magic potion, charm Rv 9:21.

pharmakos: [= pharmakeus see pharmakeia] ‘an expert in manipulation through occult means’, sorcerer, magician Rv 21:8; 22:15.

So, from the above definitions we see what these nouns pertain to: pharmakos is the person who manipulates, pharmakon is the method or mixture of methods used for manipulation, and pharmakeia is the word used for this type of manipulation. Thus, the practice of pharmakeia (manipulation) is performed by a pharmakos (manipulator), who uses a pharmakon (manipulating method or mixture) for such manipulative purposes. This manipulation is occultic, as in sorcery or magic (witchcraft), and may or may not involve substances (drugs or potions).

The contexts in Revelation follow, in chronological order.

9:20 And the rest of humankind—those who were not been killed by these plagues—did not repent of the works [ergon] of their hands, so that they would not worship demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood, which cannot see, hear, or walk. 21 And they did not repent of their murders, their pharmakon[pl], their sexual immorality, or their thefts.

The subscripted “pl” indicates plural (pharmakōn) instead of singular. The “they” in 9:21 refers to “the rest of humankind—those who were not killed by these plagues” (9:20). Observe in Danker’s definitions above there is the note in brackets “variant”. Some manuscripts have pharmakeia instead of pharmakon here in 9:21. In the case of the text as it stands (pharmakon), this refers to the methods or mixtures; the variant (pharmakeia), the practices of it. Whatever the case, the context does not assist in determining specific meaning.

Moving on to the next context, which contains our subject verse:

18:21 Then a mighty angel lifted up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “In similar fashion, with violence shall Babylon the megalopolis5 be thrown, and she shall never be found again! 22 The sound of singing harpists and of musicians, flautists, trumpeters shall never be heard in you again. And never shall any kind of craftsman of any trade be found in you again. Noise from a mill shall never be heard in you again. 23 Lamplight shall never shine in you again. And the voice of bridegroom and bride shall never be heard in you again. For your merchants were the distinguished persons of the earth, because by your pharmakeia were all the nations/peoples misled. 24 And in her, blood of prophets and holy ones/saints was found, and all those who had been slain upon the earth.”

So Babylon misled—or will mislead—all the nations/peoples by her pharmakeia. There appears to be a causal relationship between Babylon’s pharmakeia misleading the nations and Babylon’s merchants being “the distinguished persons of the earth”. In other words, Babylon’s merchants were “distinguished persons” seemingly as a result of her pharmakeia misleading “all the nations”. The NET Bible explicitly interprets it that way: For your merchants were the tycoons of the world, because all the nations were deceived by your [pharmakeia]! Stated another way, by Babylon’s manipulative deception (pharmakeia) her merchants were “the distinguished persons of the earth” (became wealthy?).

The next occurrence is in Revelation 21:8. The larger context describes the forthcoming new heaven and new earth, the Holy City and the New Jerusalem (21:1–2). A “voice from the Throne” relates how God’s dwelling place will then be with His people (21:3–4):

21:5 Then the One sitting on the Throne said, “Take note! I make all things new.” Adding, He said, “Write, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And then He said to me, “These things6 have come to fruition! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last. To the thirsty I will freely give from the spring of the water of life. 7 The one who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son7 (or daughter). 8 But to those who are cowardly and unbelieving, to the abominable, to murderers, the sexually immoral, pharmakos[pl], idolaters, and all falsifiers, their portion shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

In the above, the term (in its plural pharmakoi) occurs in a list (like 9:21), making it impossible to determine precise meaning. The final instance is also in a list and is thematically similar. As an aside, note that the immediately preceding section has “the One sitting on the Throne” as speaker, while below it is the glorified Jesus:

22:12 Behold! I am coming soon. And with Me is My rewards, to repay each one according to his own work [ergon]. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have their right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the ‘dogs’, the pharmakos[pl], the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone loving and practicing falsehood.

So, once again, the context of this term here (again in its plural form pharmakoi) is insufficient to help us determine anything more than a general idea as to its meaning.

Summarizing all the above, the context of Rev 18:23 does not provide enough illumination to resolve the question of the precise definition of pharmakeia. Disappointingly, the other occurrences of pharmakeia/kon/kos in the NT, though thematically similar (carrying negative connotations within lists), fail to shed any additional light on our subject verse.

Part II will widen the scope. This additional survey will certainly prove beneficial, illuminating. But will it be enough to solidify the meaning of pharmakeia in Revelation 18:23? More pointedly, will we be able to determine with any confidence whether or not the term implies that drugs or potions are included in its meaning here?

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1 A synchronic study would be strictly NT, though could include some extra-biblical works of the NT era. A broader approach, to include pre- and/or post-NT literature, would be a diachronic study. By necessity, we will venture a bit into diachrony here.

2 The Inscriptio, the “title” of Revelation, is Apokalypsis Iōannou, “Apocalypse of John” (with manuscript variations), but it is doubtful this was present originally. It was probably added by later copyists. The first three words of the book begin with Apokalypsis Iēsou Christou, Apocalypse of Jesus Christ. This is more likely the ‘title’ of the Book—or, better, the beginning of its longer title. According to, e.g., David Aune (Revelation 1–5, Word Biblical Commentary, 52A [Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1997]): “[W]hether the author gave his work a title originally is uncertain; titles were often regarded as superfluous for works intended for oral recitation (such as Revelation [ED: see 1:3: Blessed is the one who reads and those who hear . . .]), for their ‘titles’ were inherent in the opening lines. It is therefore relatively certain that the first sentence of the book in 1:1–2 was intended by the author to function as a title” (pp 3–4). Nevertheless, for our purposes here we will retain the more common “Revelation” as the title.

3 F. W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: Chicago UP, 2009). Danker is the “D” in “BDAG” (The letters correlate to the first letter in each of the last names of those involved in the project: Walter Bauer, Danker, W. F. Arndt, and F. W. Gingrich), considered the standard lexicon for NT Greek studies, namely, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago, IL: Chicago UP, 2000). The late Rodney Decker wrote: “. . . [Danker’s] Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament [is] a 400 page lexicon published in 2009. (A 400 page lexicon can only be called “concise” by comparison with the 1,100 pages of BDAG!) This was not an abridgment of BDAG, but a new work (though obviously dependent in many ways on the larger lexicon).”

4 All definitions are taken from Danker, Concise Lexicon, p 370.

5 English versions typically render hē megalē polis as “the great city”, but I prefer “the megalopolis”, for this leaves room to mean either ‘one large city’ or ‘an urban region consisting of several adjoining cities and suburbs’. I think the latter makes better sense.

6 I interpret the implied subject in the 3rd person plural gegonan here to be either hoitoi hoi logoi (“these words”) or panta kaina (“all things new”).

7 This is a paraphrase of the Davidic covenant in 2Samuel 7:14: I will be his Father, and he will be My son.

“Peace and Security!”

When they are saying, “Peace and security!” then destruction overtakes them suddenly…

This article is a continuation of the previous two that were centered on 1Th 4:13­‑18 (Rapture Ready? and Escorting the King of Kings?). The beginning of the very next chapter in Paul’s first Thessalonian epistle (5:1-11) should be understood as further explanation of the Christian resurrection hope, which is to occur at the Parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 But the focus is on how the Christians at Thessalonica are to abide in the interim:2

5:1 Concerning the times and the seasons, brothers (and sisters), you have no need to be written to you. 2 For you certainly know that the Day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. 3 When they are saying, “Peace and security!”3 then destruction overtakes [ephistēmi] them suddenly [aiphnidios], as in the pain during birth pangs, and they will not escape [ekpheugō].

4 But you, brothers (and sisters), are not in darkness, that the Day might surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all sons (and daughters) of light and sons (and daughters) of the D/day. We are neither of the night nor of darkness. 6 Thus, therefore, let’s not sleep as the rest, but rather let’s stay awake and remain sober. 7 For those who sleep, at night they sleep, and those who get drunk, at night they get drunk.

8 But we, being of the day, let’s remain sober, wearing faith and love as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet, 9 because God has not appointed us to wrath, but rather to obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us, so that whether awake or asleep we may live together with Him. 11 Therefore, encourage each other, and edify one another, as you are already doing.

The Apostle Paul contrasts “they”/”them” (v. 3) with his Thessalonian “brothers (and sisters)”. One group is “of darkness” and “of the night”; the other is “of light” and “of the D/day”. And while “they” are ‘sleeping’ and ‘getting drunk’, the “brothers (and sisters)” making up the ekklēsia4 of Thessalonica are encouraged to “stay awake” and “remain sober” instead.

Most likely, “they”/”them” is the same group as “those who have no hope” in 4:13. Support for this is found in Paul’s use of “the rest” (hoi loipoi) in both 4:13 (“so that you will not grieve as the restthose who have no hope”) and 5:6 (“let’s not sleep as the rest“). This is another way Paul linguistically ties 5:1–11 to 4:13–18.5

Note that, in a sense, the Apostle mixes metaphors here. He refers to those in spiritual darkness (“they”/”them”) as “those who sleep” in 5:6–7. Yet in 5:10 he returns to the meaning of “asleep” from 4:14–17, which is as a euphemism for those who died in Christ. This is yet another way to linguistically link the two passages.

In 5:1, “the times and the seasons”6 refers back to the Parousia of 4:15­‑17 in a general sense (cf. Matt 24:33). And “the Day of the Lord” in verse 2 is clearly a way of rephrasing Jesus’ Parousia. In other words, the two refer to the same event—more accurately, the same series of events. That “Day”, the day of Jesus’ return (Parousia), will come as a complete surprise to “they”/”them”. In contrast, the discerning Christian will know when that time is near.

No Surprise for the Wise

After detailing a series of events to precede His Parousia (Luke 21:7–28; cf. Matt 24:3–31), Jesus provides the example of a budding fig tree as a metaphor for discerning the nearness of His return (Luke 21:29–36; cf. Matt 24:32–51). So, to witness these events unfold is to know Jesus’ return is growing near. In the selection from Luke’s Gospel below, note the three words in brackets, which are the same Greek terms identified in 1Th 5:3 above:7

Luke 21:29 He told them a parable: “Observe the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they bud, you see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 Likewise also you, as you observe these things occurring, recognize that the Kingdom of God is near . . . 34 But watch yourselves lest your hearts be heavy with intoxication and drunkenness, as well as life’s worries, and that Day overtake [ephistēmi] you suddenly [aiphnidios] 35 like a trap. For it will spring upon all those dwelling on the face of the entire earth. 36 But stay watchful in every season, praying that you may have the strength to escape [ekpheugō] all these things that are going to occur, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Notice how the three bracketed terms in Luke’s context differ with their usage in 1Th 5:3. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is making a blanket appeal to His entire audience to guard against becoming heavy-hearted with worldly distractions to the extent of being unprepared when He returns (see Parable of the Ten Virgins). Such unpreparedness may result in not having the strength to stand before the Son of Man.

Comparatively, Paul is being more pastoral. He assures his Thessalonian ekklēsia that they will not be ‘overtaken’ “suddenly”—unable to “escape”—as “the rest” will be.  Using the emphatic you (and we in v. 8) to press his point, he reassures his “brothers (and sisters)” that they will remain “awake” and “sober” instead. The Apostle encourages them to encourage each other in this regard (5:11).

To be clear, Paul is not countering or amending Jesus’ words here. He accepts them as they are. Yet, for his brothers’ and sisters’ sake, he assures them that they have the capacity to hold fast to their faith and hope. And, carrying this forward to today, we are to do the same.

In 1Th 5:9 (God has not appointed us to wrath, but rather to obtaining salvation . . .), Paul returns to a statement near the opening of his epistle (1Th 1:10): . . . to wait for God’s Son Whom He raised from the dead—Jesus, Who will deliver us from the wrath to come. This agrees with the thrust of Jesus’ statement in the verse directly preceding the above passage in Luke (21:28): But when these things begin to occur, stand and lift up your head, for your redemption is drawing near.

To borrow the pithy words of Yogi Berra: “You can observe a lot by watching.”

The Pax Romana

What did Paul mean by, “Peace and security!”? Most likely the Apostle was referring to the ‘peace and security’ provided by the Roman Empire.8

Roman poet Ovid refers to the “peace of Augustus” (Ex Ponto 2.5.18), while Tacitus (Annals 12.29) and Martial (7.80.1) speak of the Pax Romana, the “Roman Peace”.9

The Pax Romana (Roman Peace) was a period of relative peace and stability across the Roman Empire which lasted for over 200 years, beginning with the reign of Augustus (27 BC–14 AD). The aim of Augustus and his successors was to guarantee law, order, and security within the empire even if this meant separating it from the rest of the world and defending, or even expanding, its borders through military intervention and conquest.10

The city of Thessalonica, as part of the larger Macedonia, actively sought the favor of Rome.11 This afforded the city relative freedom, including a bit of self-government, compared to mainland Greece.12 The peace and security (pax et securitas) provided by Augustus’ reign was greatly appreciated.13 From their god-like worship of the Emperor arose the Imperial Cult—emperor worship.14 Undoubtedly, Paul saw the temple for and the statue of Augustus during his trip to the city.15

Understanding this background, the Apostle apparently used “peace and security” to reference this Pax Romana. The Thessalonian congregation would surely understand Paul’s meaning. As former pagans (1Th 1:9), the “brothers (and sisters)” almost assuredly had formerly engaged in the Imperial Cult—in effect, worshiping the Empire through the Emperor. This is in addition to the former worship of other pagan ‘deities’.16 But now the Thessalonian ekklēsia worshiped the One True God, which put them at odds with “the rest”.17

In their conquest for “peace”, the Roman army had a reputation for insatiable ruthlessness. Calgacus, a Caledonian (Briton) chieftain, described the devastation behind Roman conquest in a pre-battle speech:

. . . and the more menacing Romans, from whose oppression one vainly seeks to escape through compliance and submission. Bandits of the globe, after laying the land bare by their universal plundering, they ransack the sea. If foreigners have riches, they are greedy; if poor, dominating. Neither east nor west has been able to satisfy. Unique among all, the wealthy and the impoverished they equally desire to rob, massacre, and plunder in the supposed name of the Empire. And where they create desolation, they call it “peace”.18

What Now?

As regards futuristic prophecy, what conclusions may be drawn from this background information? Without speculating too much here, a specific current event commands our attention. Apparently, on November 9, 2021, the statue pictured below was unveiled at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

UNPeaceSculptureMex-002

On this website is the following caption, which was also placed on a UN tweet:

A guardian for international peace and security sits on the Visitors Plaza outside UN Headquarters. The guardian is a fusion of jaguar and eagle and donated by the Government of Oaxaca, Mexico. Artists Jacobo and Maria Angeles created it. November 09, 2021. The United States of America. New York. UN Photo/Manuel Elías.

The jaguar has been an enduring symbol in Mexican lore. And, of course, the eagle is an American symbol, representing freedom. So, this statue appears to be a composite of Mexican and American symbolism. But why was it given to the UN as a “guardian for international peace and security”?

Others have been quick to point out its similarity to the beast depicted in Revelation 13:2:

The beast which I saw was similar to a leopard, yet its feet were like a bear, and its mouth like a lion

But this description does not include anything about an eagle. Of course, Daniel 7:4 speaks of a beast like a lion with eagle’s wings. But the statue above is part jaguar, not leopard or lion. However, note this from Louw and Nida’s excellent Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains (2nd ed.), referring to the Greek word for “leopard” (bold added):

πάρδαλις [pardalis] . . . ‘a beast whose appearance was like a leopard’ Rev 13:2. As in the case of the term for ‘bear’ (ἄρκος [arkos]), this reference to a leopard occurs in the NT only in Rev 13:2 and is likewise used as a means of describing the apocalyptic beast. A term referring to a local type of leopard or jaguar would be perfectly appropriate, and in some languages a term referring to a mountain lion has been employed. In other instances the equivalent expression is based upon a phrase meaning ‘fierce, large, a cat-like animal.’ A borrowed term may also be employed with a descriptive classifier, for example, ‘an animal called leopard.’19

Now, do note that the feet of the above pictured statue are not quite cat-like. But do they resemble bear’s feet (Rev 13:2)?

Whatever is to be made from all this, the statue as a “guardian for international peace and security” is quite curious.

_______________________________________

1 In my opinion, the chapter break between chapters 4 and 5 in modern Bibles should have never been made. I infer that this is the view of some commentary writers, for not a few treat 4:13–5:11 as a unit. This chapter break is unfortunate, as this can lead some—and certainly has led some—to dubious exegesis. Some mistakenly separate Jesus’ Parousia in 4:13–18 from “the Day of the Lord” in 5:1–11, as if these are completely separate events.

2 The parenthetical “and sisters” and “and daughters” is to capture the inclusive intent of Paul’s masculine words here (in a strongly patriarchal culture). The italics indicate emphasis in the form of pronouns in the Greek text alongside the implied pronouns of their accompanying finite verbs (finite verbs encode person and number, and thus a separate pronoun is unnecessary, usually implying emphasis). The bold “not” in v. 3 indicates the emphasis of the Greek double negative. The first two of the three bracketed Greek (transliterated and in green) words in v. 3 are unique in Paul’s writings; and, when considered alongside the third bracketed word, may well indicate the Apostle has purposed these from Luke 21:34–36, in order  to evoke these words of Jesus (see below for further explanation). Cf. Charles A. Wannamaker, Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians, NIGTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990), p 180; Gene L. Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians, Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC); Accordance electronic ed., OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), pp 232, 266 nt 160. Assuming so, this would seem to indicate a strong oral tradition preceding the scribal tradition of Luke’s Gospel. Cf. John H. Walton & D. Brent Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013).

3 The exclamation is my interpretation. It may well be simply, “Peace and security” (or “Peace and safety”).

4 In the very first verse of this epistle (1:1) Paul specifically refers to the ekklēsia̢ Thessalonike̒ōn, the assembly of Thessalonians. I am opposed to the use of “church” because of the baggage it has accumulated over the years; see Re-Assembly Required.

5 See, e.g., Abraham J. Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, The Anchor Yale Bible; Accordance electronic ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974): “In 4:13, ‘the rest’ are non-Christians, those who have no hope. Here, they are described in terms of quality of life that is in contrast to the sober vigilance of those who do have hope in salvation” (p 295). See A Closer Look section of Escorting the King of Kings? for the other linguistic links.

6 This phrase “the times and the seasons”, opines Gordon D. Fee, “is almost certainly to be taken as a hendiadys, where, as this Greek term itself implies, the two words function to express a single idea” (The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians, NICNT [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009] p. 186; cf. 185–86). In the New Testament, this specific verbiage is found only here, though Acts 1:7 has it without the Greek articles (“times and seasons”); in the LXX, it is found in the singular and without the articles in Daniel 7:12 (“time and season”), while  Daniel 2:21 and Wisdom of Solomon 8:8 reverse the order (“season and time”).

7 See, e.g., Green, Letters to the Thessalonians, pp 232, 266 nt 160.

8 Ben Witherington III, 1 and 2 Thessalonians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006), pp 146–148.

9 Green, Letters to the Thessalonians, p 266  nt 163.

10 Donald L. Wasson, “Pax Romana“, World History Encyclopedia, last modified December 08, 2015, https://www.worldhistory.org/Pax_Romana/, para 1; as accessed 10/24/2021. The inclusive dates in the parenthesis changed from the secularized “BCE” and “CE” in the original source to the Christianized “BC” and “AD” here.

11 Witherington, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, pp 1–7.

12 Witherington, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, pp 4–5.

13 Witherington, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, p 5; cf. Wasson, “Pax Romana”, para 4.

14 Witherington, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, pp 5–6; cf. Wasson, Pax Romana”, para 9.

15 Witherington, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, p 5.

16 According to Witherington, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, “What is sometimes overlooked is the emperor cult was syncretized with the local worship of the Cabiri, the mystic deities of Samothrace (a cult patronized by Philip and Alexander), and so here the emperor was deified as Kabeiros [‘the ancestral and most holy of all gods’], as coins show” (p 5).

17 See Larry W. Hurtado’s popular-level (non-academic) work Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2016).

18 Cornelius Tacitus, Agricola [De Vita Iulii Agricolae (The Life of Julius Agricola)] 30.4–6. Translated from the Latin, courtesy Perseus Digital Library, Tufts University, beginning here, with help from English translations here and here. Agricola was Tacitus’ father-in-law.

19 “πάρδαλις”, Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, 2nd ed. (New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1988, 1989) Accordance electronic ed., OakTree Software, Inc. Version 4.4, p 39.

Escorting the King of Kings?

In the previous article (Rapture Ready?) on the pre-tribulation ‘Rapture’ (PTR) we looked at, among other things, the primary passage used to support the doctrine, namely 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17. Parallel and similarly-themed passages to these Thessalonian verses—ones mentioning a “trumpet” in the context of the gathering of believers (both dead and alive)—were shown not to support the PTR. In fact, these parallel passages suggest a completely different understanding, which in turn suggests a non-PTR interpretation in the Thessalonian passage.

In this post we will more closely analyze this same passage. Understanding Paul’s primary and secondary purposes in preparing this passage will further support our non-PTR position. At the same time, this may provoke other intriguing lines of inquiry.

Additional Revelation

Before proceeding further, however, I shall provide two additional passages relating to Jesus’ Parousia. These were left off the preceding article due to length. They are presented here as further evidence for the previous article’s stance as well as background for the current one. Both are from Revelation. The first is the seventh of seven trumpets (cf. Rev 10:7), which is the last trumpet of all:

11:15 Then the seventh angel trumpeted, and [then] there were loud voices in heaven, saying: The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. 16 Then the twenty-four elders, who sit upon their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God 17 saying: We give you thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and reign. 18 The nations/people were enraged, but then came your wrath and the time for the dead to be judged—and to reward your bond-servants: the prophets, the saints, and those who fear your name, the small and the great—and to destroy those who destroy the earth.

The above passage has its own focal points, yet this last of seven trumpets is certainly the same as the “last trumpet” of 1Corinthians 15:52—and, as pointed out in the previous article, the Corinthian passage is a parallel to 1Thess 4:15–17. Though the Parousia and the gathering of the saints are not explicitly mentioned, both are implied, given the other similarly-themed passages which do mention them. That is, the Parousia and gathering are assumed to be nearly coincident with the trumpet sound yet prior to he shall reign forever and ever (compare And so we shall be forever with the Lord in 1Thess 4:17). Judgment, in both its negative (“wrath”) and positive (“reward”) aspects, is one of the foci (cf. Matt 25:31–46, the sheep and goats). And judgment is the sole focus of the remaining Revelation passage we will explore:

14:14 Then I saw—behold!—a white cloud. And sitting upon this cloud was one like a son of man—upon his head a golden crown and in his hand a sharp sickle. 15 And then another angel/messenger came out of the temple crying out in a loud voice to the one sitting upon the cloud: Apply your sickle and reap! For the hour has come to reap, because ripe is the earth’s harvest. 16 And the one sitting upon the clouds thrust his sickle upon the earth and the earth was harvested.

The imagery of one like a son of man seated upon this cloud evokes both Daniel 7:13 (cf. Rev 1:7, 13–14) and Matt 24:30. One might initially mistake this passage as indicating negative judgment (cf. Joel 3:13)—perhaps especially considering the “sharp sickle” symbol—but that would misinterpret the ‘reaping of the harvest’ metaphor here and in its broader context. See Matt 3:11–12/Luke 3:16–17 and the parable of the weeds (Matt 13:24–30) for comparison. To keep in proper context, this Revelation passage (14:14–16) should be contrasted with the wrath of God expressly stated in the verses immediately following it (14:17–20;1 cf. 1Thess 5:3). Thus, Revelation 14:14–16 is the harvesting of believers—though no distinction is made between those still alive and the dead in Christ.

As Paul states in 1Thess 5:9: For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. We are saved from wrath, but not necessarily from tribulation (just ask the Thessalonians). We may suffer at the hands of our enemies (or not), but we will not suffer God’s wrath. Believers are whisked away just prior to God’s wrath pouring out upon the earth on the Day of the Lord.

A Closer Look

Now we will scrutinize the Thessalonians passage, adding verse 18 (1Thess 4:13–18):

4:13 Now brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who are sleeping, so that you will not grieve as the rest—those who have no hope. 14 For since we believe Jesus died and rose again, in this way also God will bring those who have fallen asleep through Jesus along with Him [Jesus]. 15 For this we say to you, by word of the Lord: We who are alive, those remaining until the coming [Parousia] of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 Because He, the Lord, will descend from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first; 17 then we who are alive, those remaining, shall be caught up [harpazō, ‘raptured’] together along with them, in the clouds, to meet [eis apantēsin] the Lord in the air. And so we shall be forever with the Lord. 18 So, encourage one another with these words.

Paul opens with a plea for the Thessalonians not to grieve about the dead in Christ (13–14) and closes with an exhortation to encourage each other (18). There seems to have been some mistaken notion about the ‘fate’ of the dead in Christ (13–14). The Thessalonian ekklēsia was primarily, if not exclusively, from a pagan background.2 Accordingly, they believed the dead had no positive future. Thus, Paul wanted to remind (or apprise) them of our future resurrection hope (14–17)—and the disposition of those surviving until Jesus’ Parousia. This future meeting of all believers dead and alive with Christ at the Parousia would provide the reason they could “encourage one another” (18) in the (then) present time.

So, Paul’s primary objective in this passage was to correct their misunderstanding—whatever this was exactly—regarding the dead in Christ (“those who have fallen asleep through Jesus”). And, toward this end, Paul quite likely went beyond what most English readers would perceive. That is, in his use of the verb harpazō (“caught up”) he may well have consciously repurposed this term (17) from pagan ideology, as Malherbe asserts:

Of special interest is the consolation tradition, which casts light on Paul’s use [of harpazō] and shows once more how he turns conventional expressions to a pastoral use. Epitaphs lament Fate’s snatching (harpazein) away the dead from their loved ones to Hades . . . Letters of condolence then use harpazein and its cognates in addressing or speaking of the grief stricken . . .

 . . . [Paul’s] purpose is to console . . . The dead in Christ will rise, and their separation from those who were left is overcome as, ironically, they are snatched up together with them. In a neat twist, Paul uses the conventional language of grief to comfort. He does not say who snatches them up, but v 14 would seem to indicate that it is God who gathers them together by snatching them up.3

In other words, Paul took a term (harpazō) with a negative connotation and inverted it. Instead of “Fate” ‘snatching’ all the dead to Hades forever, God will ‘snatch’ the dead in Christ together with those believers still alive at Jesus’ Parousia. We will all then meet Him “in the air”. The Apostle linguistically ties this idea together in his use of “along with Him [Jesus]” (syn autō̹) in verse 14 and “together along with them” (hama syn autois) in 17. In verse 14 God will bring/lead the dead in Christ along with Jesus, i.e., once the dead arise as Jesus had done God will snatch them (together with those yet alive) to meet Jesus in the air (17).4 As Paul states in his first Corinthian epistle, For the [last] trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (15:52).

In service of his primary objective, Paul necessarily had to explain some end time events. However, importantly, this was subsidiary. Similarly, in the immediately following section (5:1–11), Paul’s primary purpose is again pastoral, with a brief explanation of eschatology toward that goal. As Green helpfully explains in his overview of 1Thessalonians 5:1–11,

The purpose of the whole discussion of this theme is pastoral and not speculative (v. 11; cf. 4:13, 18). Paul demonstrates no interest in fueling an apocalyptic perspective in order to hypothesize about the end or to foster escapism. The teaching about final events is meant to inform and encourage them in their daily life and conduct. Clear thinking about the end is designed to help them live as true Christians in the present.5

The Day of the Lord comes as “a thief in the night” (5:2) solely with respect to unbelievers (5:3), not to believers, who will not be caught by surprise (5:4; cf. Luke 21:29–31). Importantly, note that Paul linguistically ties this section together with the previous section (1Thess 4:13–18): “Jesus died for us, so whether awake [alive] or sleeping [dead] we will live together along with Him (hama syn autō̹)” (5:10). Following this affirmation, Paul provides his concluding exhortation (5:11).

Where Do We Go From There?

An unanswered question in the Thessalonians passage—and not explicitly answered elsewhere in Scripture—is this: Where do we go after meeting Jesus “in the air”? Clearly, at the Parousia Jesus will descend from heaven (16), while believers will be caught up with Him “in the clouds” (17). One comes down, the others up. But once we meet “in the air”, where do we believers go? Do believers and Jesus go together, or do believers continue on to one destination, while Jesus proceeds to another?

In the PTR view, Jesus reverses course and believers continue on, escorting Him to heaven.6 But the analyses in this and the preceding article related to it have shown the PTR view to be insupportable when placed in the broader context of Scripture as a whole. Taking the similarly-themed passages as a group, the most logical movement for Jesus is to continue earthward, or, alternatively, to remain in the clouds to pour out His wrath upon the earth from there. Where, then, would believers go (or remain)? Scripture elsewhere records judgment/rewards at the end of the age (e.g., Daniel 12:1–3; John 5:28–29).

The remainder of this article will be necessarily speculative in probing for answers to this question of movement and/or destination. To be clear at the outset, I do not wish to make any firm conclusions from any of the data presented below. I am merely providing the following as intriguing [to me anyway] food for thought. That said, let’s dive into the data!

In 1Thess 4:16 the first command could be understood as a battle cry (see various English versions: “shout of command”, “cry of command”, etc.). And the “trumpet of God” could be similarly understood. Adding the “voice of the archangel”, Witherington observes, “The images are martial, as if Jesus were summoning His army.”7 These images accord well with the battle imagery of the Rider on the White Horse (Rev 19:11–16). Note that His army here includes those “wearing fine linen, pure white” (19:14; cf. 19:7–8; 7:9, 13–14). And Paul states something intriguing in 1Cor 6:2–3, almost in passing: “Do you not know that the saints/holy ones (hoi agioi) will judge the world? . . . Do you not know we will judge angels?” When are we to judge the world and the angels? Whatever the timing, this idea must be harmonized with God’s clear words, “Vengeance is mine” (Deut 32:35; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30).

In another article on CrossWise it was noted that the term Parousia had been used in antiquity for the fanfare surrounding the arrival of a king, ruler, or dignitary (see definition A2 here). The ISBE records how parousia was found in various inscriptions, noting specifically its application to the Greek god of medicine:

In Hellenistic Greek it was used for the arrival of a ruler at a place, as is evidenced by inscriptions in Egypt, Asia Minor, etc. Indeed, in an Epidaurus inscription of the 3rd century BC…‘Parousia’ is applied to a manifestation of Aesculapius [Aσκληπιός Asklēpiós]. Consequently, the adoption of Greek-speaking Christians of a word that already contained full regal and even Divine concepts was perfectly natural.8

Considering their pagan background, surely the Thessalonians understood Paul’s intention behind his use of Parousia. Such a regal backdrop can add substance to the battle imagery noted earlier. But there is even more to consider here.

The words translated “to meet” in 1Thess 4:17 are from the Greek eis apantēsin. This is an accusative (direct object) phrase, and the infinitive “to meet” in translation is somewhat of a compromise. The Greek is actually a preposition (eis, “into”, “in”, “for”) and noun (apantēsin, “meeting”). We might think of it more along the lines of eis martyrian in John 1:7: “This man came for testimony, to witness about the Light.” As such it would be more like: “for a meeting with the Lord in the air”.9

With that background, we can proceed further. Two different Christian sources claim this noun apantēsis (in its accusative form apantēsin) carried particular significance in Hellenistic culture:

According to 1 Th. 4:17 . . . there will be a rapture eis apantēsin tou kyriou eis aera [“to meet the Lord in the air”]. The word apantēsis (also hupantēsis . . .) is to be understood as a technical term for a civic custom of antiquity whereby a public welcome was accorded by a city to important visitors. Similarly, when Christians leave the gates of the world, they will welcome Christ in the aēr [“air”], acclaiming Him as kyrios [“Lord”].10

The word seems to have been a kind of technical term for the official welcome of a newly arrived dignitary—a usage which accords excellently with its New Testament usage.11

Before exploring the New Testament (NT) examples, a selection from historian Polybius (Histories, V 26:8–9) will illustrate its usage in Hellenistic culture near-contemporaneous with Scripture. Note that Polybius also uses a verb form (apantaō) of this noun to restate the initial meeting, and he uses a separate verb (gignomai, “came”) to record the escort back to Corinth:

So, with Apelles nearing Corinth, Leontius, Ptolemy and Megaleas—commanders of the foot soldiers and the other army divisions—with great urgency, spurred the young men to go for the meeting [eis tēn apantēsin] with him [Apelles]. Consequently, Apelles came [to Corinth] with great fanfare, due to the multitude of soldiers and officers who had come to meet [apantēsantōn] him, and marched directly to the royal court.12

Note that the welcoming party would first go out with the purpose of meeting the dignitary en route, and then turn back toward their own locale to accompany him for the remainder of his journey.

Backing up for a moment, it might prove beneficial to further define both apantēsis and hupantēsis. Each is a compound of a preposition + noun. The first is from the verb apantaō: apo (“from”) + antaō (from anti, meaning “against”, “opposite”, “instead of”). Danker defines the term ‘come opposite to’, hence ‘meet face to face’.13 The second is from the verb hupantaō: hupo (“under”, “below”) + antaō, defined as draw up close for encounter.14 The two are synonyms but may well have different nuances, depending on context.

The first NT passage we will explore is, appropriately, in the long discourse on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24:1–25:46), which contains Jesus’ teaching on the end times. The passage in question is known as The Parable of the Ten Virgins:

25:1 “At that time the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins taking their lamps to meet [eis hupantēsin] the Bridegroom. 2 Now five of them were foolish, yet five wise. 3 For the foolish taking their lamps had not taken any oil with them, 4 but the wise had taken flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 Because of the Bridegroom’s long delay, they all became tired and fell asleep. 6 But in the middle of the night came a shout, ‘Look, the Bridegroom! Come out to meet [eis apantēsin] Him!’ 7 So all those virgins arose, and they trimmed their lamps. 8 Then the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil because our lamps are burning low.’ 9 But the wise replied, saying, ‘No, there may not be enough for both us and you. Go instead to the sellers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 But as they were leaving to buy, the Bridegroom arrived, and those who were ready entered the wedding with Him. Then the door closed. 11 Later the remaining virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us!’ 12 Replying, He said, ‘Amen, I say to you: I do not know you.’ 13 So, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

The substance of this parable does not quite fit the pattern of going out to meet the dignitary, and then accompanying him back to the originating locale. However, it does match a civic custom of antiquity whereby a public welcome was accorded by a city to important visitors. And the five wise did accompany Him to the wedding. Moreover, the content is thematically related to both 1Thess 4:13–18 and 1Thess 5:1–11. So it is useful for analysis.

As with any parable, it can be perilous to attempt to make concrete parallels to the figurative language. But it would be safe here to understand the oil as indicating degree of readiness. In this sense, the oil could signify the amount of Holy Spirit infilling (Eph 5:15–21). If so, this idea of purchasing oil could be understood as akin to Simon Magus, aka Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:9–24)—except maybe for the fact that the five wise suggested the idea to the foolish. Whatever the case, it is clear that Jesus (the Bridegroom) ‘does not know’ the foolish (cf. Matt 7:21–23). All ten desired to meet Jesus, but half were not ready, thereby missing the wedding (Rev 19:6–9; cf. 19:17–18).

The next NT selection for consideration is in Acts 28, which follows the pattern of the Polybius’ passage. While on his journey to Rome, Paul is welcomed by some brothers from Rome, and the brothers accompany him for the rest of his trip:15

28:15 After hearing the things concerning us, the brothers from there [Rome] came up to Appias’ Forum and Three Taverns to greet (eis apantēsin) us. Upon seeing them, Paul, thanking God, was encouraged. 16 So when we entered [eiserchomai] into Rome, Paul was permitted to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.

The next passage, like the first, is from Matthew’s Gospel. But it is very different in that it is regarding Jesus’ encounter with the two demon-possessed men from the land of the Gadarenes, whom he exorcises by sending the demons into nearby swine:

8:28 Upon His arrival to the other side, to the land of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs—exceedingly violent, such that no one is able to pass through that way—confronted [hupantaō] Him. 29 Excitedly they cried out, “What is it between us and you, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” 30 Off in the distance from them was a herd of many swine feeding. 31 So the demons begged Him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” 32 And He said to them, “Go!” So, after they came out, they went into the swine. Immediately, the entire herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and died in the waters! 33 Those who were tending the pigs fled; and then, going into town, they reported all, especially concerning the two demon-possessed men. 34 Then the whole town left to confront [eis hupantēsin] Jesus. Upon seeing Him, they urged that he should turn away [metabainō] from their borders.

Given the context, I decided to translate to the stronger “confronted”/“to confront” instead of simply “meeting”. The recurrence of the two words (verb in 28, noun in 34) may have been intended as a linguistic framing device to tie the story together. The final verse (34) is the primary one to analyze here, for it begins with the accusative eis hupantēsin and ends with the verb “turn away” (metabainō). I perceive the townspeople’s message here as one of ‘go away and don’t come back!’ Accordingly, I interpret this passage: After Jesus drove the demons out of the two men and into the herd of pigs, the townspeople drove Jesus from their town to any other!

In any case, verse 34 at least partly follows the pattern— it does not specify whether or not they escorted Jesus back to the shoreline—though in a negative way. That is, Jesus is not considered a dignitary by the townspeople. However, this could be a case of irony. That is, though the townspeople saw Jesus as villainous, the fact that they intercepted Him and essentially drove Him out of town, follows this pattern as if He were the dignitary He really is!

Tangentially, though still relatedly, observe the demons’ question to Jesus regarding “the appointed time”. Is this the time believers will “judge angels”?

The final passage to consider is The Triumphal Entry in John’s Gospel (John 12:12–15):

12:12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast, after hearing Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took palm branches and came to welcome [eis hupantēsin] Him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD: the King of Israel!” 14 Then Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat upon it, as it is written: 15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter of Zion. Behold! Your King is coming, sitting upon a donkey’s colt!”

 . . . 17 Now the crowd—those who were with Him when He called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead—continued bearing testimony. 18 Because of this also, the crowd greeted [hupantaō] Him—for they heard He had performed that miracle.

Though not explicit, it is strongly implied that those who went out with palm branches to welcome Jesus also escorted Him into Jerusalem. This, then, fits the Polybius pattern.

Verses 17–18 may not be directly related to The Triumphal Entry, but they do exhibit a similar pattern to the Polybius passage. The difference is that a verbal form is used instead of the accusative phrase.

What Can Be Concluded?

Having provided the applicable Hellenistic background and all the NT examples corresponding to or approximating this background, what, if anything, can we make of the data? Can any of this be used in attempting to determine where believers go immediately after our meeting in the air with Jesus?

What do you think?

____________________________

1 Note that these clusters of grapes are from the vine of the earth, that is, they get their sustenance from the earth as opposed to from the Lord (cf. John 15:1–17).

2 See 1Thess 1:9 how you turned from idols to serve the living and true God.

3 Abraham J. Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, The Anchor Yale Bible; Accordance electronic ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), p 276. Emphasis added.

4 “Those who have fallen asleep through Jesus” will rise from the dead first, then both the newly-arisen/formerly-‘sleeping’ in Christ and believers yet still alive will be ‘snatched’ up together. This sequence is the most faithful to the text. It is probably only a nanosecond after the dead arise that both these newly-arisen and the remaining believers are ‘snatched’ up together by God to meet Jesus in the air. In this way, all believers will be ‘snatched’ up together simultaneously in order to have one single meeting “in the clouds” with Jesus. This concurs with Paul’s statement that those remaining (those alive) when Jesus comes “will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep”—the living will not precede the dead in Christ, but the dead in Christ will not precede those yet alive either, with respect to the meeting in the clouds. Put simply, we are all ‘snatched’ together (hama) “to meet the Lord in the air”.  Accordingly, the ‘Rapture’ is a ‘snatching’ of both the newly-raised-formerly-‘sleeping’and those still alive in Christ at His Parousia. This, then, conforms to the one gathering of believers in Matthew 24:31 and the one harvesting of believers in Rev 14:14–16. This also concurs with 1Cor 15:51–52: Take note! I tell you a mystery: Not all will sleep, but all will be changed—in an instant, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we [those yet living] will be changed. Paul then refers to the living as “the mortal”, which will be changed to “immortality” (15:53). In other words, Paul makes a distinction between the two groups and always places the dead before the living in the texts. Thus, all these passages easily harmonize by judiciously employing Occam’s razor.

5 Gene L. Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians, Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC); Accordance electronic ed., OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), p 230. Emphasis added.

6 Very likely due to a committed PTR stance, Robert L. Thomas (“1 Thessalonians”, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians – Philemon, rev. ed., Tremper Longman III & David E. Garland, gen. eds. [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006]) states: Since God the Father is in heaven, the verb ά̓ξεί (axei, “will bring” . . .) indicates that the destination of the movement of Jesus and those with him in this verse is upward, not downward. At this moment of Jesus’ return in the air, the company named will not move back to the earth but toward the Father’s presence in heaven . . . (p 418). But this does not necessarily follow.

7 Ben Witherington III, 1 and 2 Thessalonians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006), p 138.

8 Burton Scott Easton, “Parousia”, in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, Gen Ed., 1st Ed. (1915), prepared by Accordance/Oak Tree Software, Inc. Version 2.4, para 43388

9 I retained “to meet” in my translation above because no other English version translated it “for a meeting” and I did not wish to cause any initial confusion. It was decided to leave the explanation of “for a meeting” for later—here—when explaining this speculative portion.

10 Erik Peterson, “ἀπάντησις”, in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT), G. Kittel & G. Friedrich, eds.; transl. G. W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–76), p 1:380; Greek transliterated, bold added.

11 J.H. Moulton & G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985), p 53.

12 Polybius, Histories, V.26.8–9 [Book 5, Chapter 26, section 8–9] (my transl.); Greek text [transliterated above] Theodorus Büttner-Wobst after L. Dindorf, 1893, courtesy Perseus Digital Library, Tufts University, specifically  here.

13 Frederick W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2009), p 40. Danker is the “D” in BDAG and the older BAGD.

14 Danker, Concise Lexicon, p 361.

15 Without a firm grasp of ancient geography—and Luke’s rather confusing narration in this part—it is difficult to follow Paul’s journey and that of the brothers who wish to welcome him; so, I’ll rely on the almost always reliable F. F. Bruce (1 & 2 Thessalonians, Word Biblical Commentary [Waco, TX: Word Books, 1982]): Cf. . . . Acts 28:15, where the Christians from Rome walk south along the Appian Way to meet Paul and his company (eis apantēsin hēmin) and escort them on the remainder of their journey to Rome (pp 102–103).

Rapture Ready?

Are you ready for the ‘Rapture’? That is, are you living such that you are prepared for Jesus to return to first raise up the dead in Christ, then to ‘catch up’ those in Christ yet still alive?

As Christians, we should all be living as if the ‘Rapture’ were a near-future event. (I’m preaching to myself here, too.) But the relevant question to ponder is this: When does the ‘Rapture’ occur relative to the “Great Tribulation” period or the “Day of the Lord”?

Here’s one take, by Pastor Greg Laurie:

The Great Escape? Will there be a pre-Tribulation ‘Rapture’ (PTR)? Will those alive when Jesus returns escape the “Great Tribulation”? Is this PTR position supportable Biblically?

I strongly contend that the PTR view collapses under Scriptural scrutiny. In the following I shall show how and why.

Before doing so, let me state that I am not writing this to be argumentative or anything of the sort. Quite the contrary, I write this out of love and concern for my Christian brothers and sisters.

I recognize this is a secondary doctrine (eschatology) and, thus, not something to divide over. Yet it seems that the very fact that this is a secondary doctrine induces some (or even many) to forgo any critical analysis. In other words, many who believe in the doctrine appear to accept it without reservation (perhaps because the thought that we might go through the Tribulation is just too much to bear?1). My concern is that adherents to PTR could be lulled into a false sense of security, and when real persecution should come, they may be spiritually unprepared. This weighs heavily on me.

Unwrapping the ‘Rapture’

One of the usual tenets of the PTR is that the ‘restrainer’ in 2 Thessalonians 2:6 and 2:7 is the Holy Spirit.2 As part of this view (with respect to PTR), some, or even many (though not all—see below), believe the Holy Spirit is ‘removed’ from the earth when the Church is ‘Raptured’. This then sets up the Great Tribulation period during which the “man of lawlessness” (2Thess 2:3, 8), aka the Antichrist (1John 2:18) is revealed. Yet, at the same time, adherents to this tenet of the PTR believe that “the saints” (hoi agioi) referenced in Revelation 13 and beyond refer to ‘Tribulation saints’, meaning individuals saved during the Tribulation period—usually understood as seven years long. But how can individuals come to Christian faith during this Tribulation with no Holy Spirit to indwell them, let alone bring about initial conviction unto salvation (John 16:8—11)?

The PTR requires two ‘Second Comings’ of Jesus. The first is for the ‘Rapture’, the second is for the final stage of the Great Tribulation. In attempts to alleviate the inherent incongruity of two ‘Second Comings’, some proponents claim there will be one ‘Second Coming’ but in two aspects (‘Rapture’ → ‘Great Tribulation finale’). But this strains language, especially given the presumed seven (literal) year tribulation gap separating the two. Pastor Laurie above makes the hard distinction between the Rapture, which immediately precedes this Great Tribulation period, and the Second Coming when “Jesus returns with His believers . . . to end that period, and to establish His Kingdom on the earth.” Can such a distinction and such a gap be supported Biblically, in proper context?

The ‘Rapture’ is said to be “secret”. Yet the primary passage used to support the doctrine is 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (as Laurie does in the video above), in which ‘the Rapture’ is preceded by a loud command (shout) and the trumpet of God (4:16). It is difficult to imagine how such imagery can be construed as secretive—that it can be understood as quiet enough not to disturb non-Christians. Below is larger context:

4:13 Now brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who are sleeping, so that you will not grieve as the rest—those who have no hope. 14 For since we believe Jesus died and rose again, in this way also God will bring those who have fallen asleep through Jesus along with Him [Jesus]. 15 For this we say to you, by word of the Lord: We who are alive, those remaining until the coming [Parousia] of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 Because He, the Lord, will descend from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first; 17 then we who are alive, those remaining, shall be caught up [harpazō, ‘raptured’] together along with them, in the clouds, to meet [eis apantēsin] the Lord in the air. And so we shall be forever with the Lord.3

I contend that two ‘Second Comings’—or two aspects of one ‘Second Coming’, or (per Laurie) “the Rapture” followed by “the Second Coming”—must be read into the relevant texts (eisegesis). One Coming, one Parousia, is the most natural reading of the associated passages. Surely Occam’s razor (do not multiply unnecessarily) should be applied here. The last sentence of v 17 above (And so we shall be forever with the Lord) most logically implies the closing of the present age and the beginning of the next. In other words, in view of the closing sentence above, does it not seem that the ‘Rapture’ occurs just before the end of this age?

The Greek word Parousia (see v 15 above) will play a key role in our analysis below. This term is understood to refer to Jesus’ Second Coming, i.e., His (one) return (see dictionary definition here.).

How Many Trumpets Herald Jesus?

It will prove instructive to compare 1Thess 4:16—17 with similarly-themed passages.

In Jesus’ teaching on the Mount of Olives (Olivet Discourse) regarding the end times, He is asked by His disciples (Matt 24:3), “Tell us, when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of Your coming [Parousia] and the end of the age?” Note that their question combined Jesus’ return with the end of the age.

In response, Jesus provides a list of things which must occur prior to His return [Parousia], seemingly in chronological order. This includes famine and seismic activity (24:7), Christian persecution unto death on account of faith in Jesus (24:9), apostasy and betrayal (24:10), deception (24:11), increasing wickedness leading to cold hearts (24:12)—all before the beginning of the end (24:14). These events are followed by the “abomination of desolation” (24:15; cf. 2Thess 2:3), which leads to unequaled “great tribulation (thlipsis)” (24:21). This then is followed by Jesus directly answering the latter part of their question:

24:23 “Then if anyone should say to you, ‘Look! Here is the Christ!’ or ‘Over there!’, do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and display great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 Take heed! I have forewarned you. 26 So if they say to you, ‘Look! He is in the wilderness’, do not go out; 27 For as lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so will be the Parousia of the Son of Man.

29 “Immediately after the tribulation [thlipsis] of those days, the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give its light, and the stars shall fall from the sky. The powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in the sky, and all the tribes/people of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels/messengers with a great trumpet, and He will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”

Here we have a ‘trumpet’, which clearly occurs after some awful celestial events (24:29).4 Does this not appear like the end of the age? The italicized portions are quoted or paraphrased from, respectively, Joel 2:31 (sun . . . not give its light),5 Joel 2:10 (stars shall fall),6 and Daniel 7:13 (Son of Man coming). Joel 2:31 is not quoted in full, its latter portion reading …before the great and awesome Day of the LORD comes (cf. Acts 2:20).7 And Joel 2:10 is followed by this in 2:11: The Day of the LORD is great and dreadful; who can endure it? Since these celestial events are followed by “the sign of the Son of Man in the sky”, this seems to imply His appearing signifies what is elsewhere called the Day of the Lord (LORD).

More importantly, Jesus’ return (Parousia) will be both clearly visible to all (24:27, 30) and in concert with the gathering of His elect (24:31). Will there be two trumpets with two separate gatherings: (a) first the dead in Christ and those ‘raptured’ (1Thess 4:16-7), (b) and then some later gathering of “Tribulation saints”? A look at the next similarly-themed passage should definitively answer that question.

Chapter 15 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians contains the most extensive narration on Christians’ future resurrection hope, including a description of the post-earthly bodies of the faithful. Paul begins with a proclamation of the Gospel message (1Cor 15:1-4; cf. 1Thess 4:14a), which he then uses as a basis for our future hope (1Cor 15:22-23; cf. 1Thess 4:14b-4:17) and for the final end to Christ’s (and our) adversaries (1Cor 15:24):

15:22 For just as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in order: Christ, the first fruit, then all those of Christ, with His coming [Parousia] 24 Next: the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, after He has nullified every ruler, and every authority and power.

So, according to Paul the Apostle here, all those in Christ “will be made alive” (resurrected [or ‘raptured’, see 15:51 below: Not all will sleep]) with His coming/Parousia. Compare Paul’s usage of Parousia here with his usage in 1 Thessalonians 4 and also Jesus’ words in Matthew 24. Also note that in the Corinthians passage just above, Jesus’ Parousia is followed by the end. This seems to concur with the chronology of events in 1 Thessalonians (4:17: And so we shall be forever with the Lord.) and Matthew (24:35: Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall never pass away.).

But there is more. In describing our future ‘resurrection bodies’, the Apostle compares and contrasts with our current flesh and blood bodies (1Cor 15:43—44a, 49):

15:43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.  44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body . . . 49 Just as we bear the image of the earthly [Adam], we will also bear the image of the Heavenly [Jesus].

Our new ‘spiritual bodies’ will be just like Jesus’ post-resurrection glorified body!

Paul now brings us to the climax of this passage:

15:50 Now this I say, brothers [and sisters]: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, neither does the perishing inherit imperishability. 51 Take note! I tell you a mystery: Not all will sleep, but all will be changed— 52 in an instant, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must be clothed with imperishability and this mortal clothed with immortality. 54 But when the perishable has been clothed with imperishability and the mortal has been clothed with immortality, then the written Word will be fulfilled: Death has been swallowed up in victory!

Paul explicitly refers to this trumpet call as the last trumpet. And he refers to ‘the Rapture’ in not all will sleep. In other words, this should be understood as a parallel passage to 1Thess 4:16—17. Thus, the Thessalonians passage cannot refer to a separate gathering from the First Corinthians passage. And it certainly appears that Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 refer to this same gathering. Moreover, the quote of Isaiah 24:8 (Death has been swallowed up) in 1Cor 15:54 connotes the same finality as the similar verbiage in 1Thess 4:17 and Matt 24:35 (as noted above).  Sure the words in the surrounding contexts are a bit different, but each passage has different emphases, accounting for these variations.

Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, observes:

The tribulation is quite clearly linked with the Lord’s return in some passages. First, the loud trumpet call to gather the elect in Matthew 24:31, the sound of the trumpet of God in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, and the last trumpet at which our bodies are changed in 1 Corinthians 15:51—52 all seem to be the same trumpet—the last trumpet that is blown just before the millennium (or, on the amillennial view, the eternal state). If it is indeed the “last trumpet” (1Cor 15:52), then it is hard to see how another loud trumpet call (Matt 24:31) could follow it seven years later.8

Apparently some PTR teachers construe Matthew 24:31 as describing separate, later events than the Thessalonians passage. The burden of proof is on the PTR teachers to conclusively demonstrate that these are indeed completely separate events, and, more generally, to provide a coherent overall doctrine. This would include (though not be limited to) explaining how the Matthew passage refers strictly to the gathering of “Tribulation saints”, while the Thessalonians passage excludes them, and how the “loud command” and “trumpet of God” of 1Thess 4:16 can be understood as “secret” and quiet enough not to awaken unbelievers.

Once again, I think Occam’s razor should be employed. The Parousia is mentioned in all three passages. Most logically, this refers to the one return of Jesus—to gather all the saints and bring about the end of the current age. This is the Day of the Lord—our blessed hope, yet a Day for God’s wrath to rain down on his adversaries.

Tribulation Saints and “The Church”

Pastor/teacher John MacArthur is another example of one who holds to the PTR. To his credit, however, he rejects the view that the Holy Spirit leaves at the PTR. Instead, MacArthur claims the Spirit remains and is ‘taken out of the way’ (2Thess 2:7) midway through the seven year Tribulation so the Antichrist can be revealed; yet the Spirit’s presence continues on the earth even after that.9 Laying aside for now the other problems with the PTR (as detailed in the previous section), MacArthur’s view here retains one of the attendant problems of the ‘Holy-Spirit-leaves-with-the-Raptured-Church’ camp: the relation of the “Tribulation saints” to the universal Church.

The best way to explain is to begin by quoting from his sermon “A Jet Tour Through Revelation”, as found in his book Truth Endures:10

The end of Revelation 3 is the end of the message to the churches. We do not hear the word “church” again in the book of Revelation until the very end of chapter 22 when Jesus says, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches.” The church is not particularly in view from here on until the church is called by another name in the millennial Kingdom, and that is the “bride.”11

The Greek word for “church” is ekklēsia (plural ekklēsiai).12 In the New Testament (NT), with respect to Christ-followers,13 this word refers to gatherings or congregations of believers, as it does for the seven churches in Revelation 2—3. This word is even used of a gathering at Prisca and Aquila’s home (Romans 16:3—5). True believers are referred to as hoi agioi, “the saints”, or more literally “the holy ones”—always in the plural, never in the singular. The saints/holy ones are inseparable from “the Church”. We may call an individual gathering at a specific locale a “church” (ekklēsia), but every ekklēsia is part of the one larger, universal ekklēsia: “the Church”. All true “holy ones” (agioi) belong to the same universal ekklēsia as the Apostle Paul and the Apostle John.

To exemplify, the two terms overlap in the beginning of First Corinthians (1:2): To the church/assembly [ekklēsia] of God which is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints [agioi], with all those calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place—both theirs and ours. Thus, Paul is implying that the Corinthian ekklēsia is made up of agioi.14 And so it follows that all Corinthian agioi make up the one ekklēsia at Corinth. And in Paul’s address here he also includes others outside Corinth: all those calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place. All these are obviously agioi, as well. This implies a universal ekklēsia. Certainly, we could expand this to include all agioi throughout the centuries, constituting one universal ekklēsia.

After Revelation 3, hoi agioi (“the saints”, “the holy ones”) are referenced multiple times (13:7, 10; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6). Therefore, these hoi agioi are part of the universal ekklēsia.

With this background, let us return to the MacArthur quote above. Though we do not see the word “church” (ekklēsia) again until Jesus’ summation in Revelation 22, clearly “the saints” (hoi agioi), as used between chapters 3 and 22, refers to believers in the Tribulation period, i.e., individuals in “the Church”. Given this, MacArthur’s argument unravels. More pointedly, though “church” is not mentioned again after chapter 3 (until 22), “the saints” are, and since “saints” make up the “church”, it is dubious to make the distinction he makes. “Tribulation saints” are part of “the Church”.

To recap: While MacArthur avoids the conversion problem for “Tribulation saints” other PTR teachers create, he retains their failure of accounting for “Tribulation saints” (agioi) as part of the Church (ekklēsia). And, like other PTR enthusiasts, he fails to explicitly account for their end-times gathering.

Once again, the simplest solution is that the ‘Rapture’ occurs at the end of the age and includes ALL “holy ones”, all members of the universal Church (ekklēsia).

To see that we are not being overly harsh in our judgment of MacArthur’s position, following is his stance on just where the ‘Rapture’ occurs in Revelation:

Now we come to chapter 4 and leave the church age. People often ask, “Where does the Rapture come in?” It’s in the white spaces between chapters 3 and 4. You have the church on earth in chapters 2 and 3; all of a sudden we appear in heaven in chapter 4.15

Setting aside the obvious eisegesis inherent in such an assertion (“white spaces”?!), MacArthur, knowingly or not, excludes Tribulation saints from “the church age”. Similar to other PTR teachers, he has orphaned them. With his claim that “the church age” ends at the ‘Rapture’ “in the white spaces between chapters 3 and 4”, he leaves Tribulation saints ‘churchless’—more explicitly than other PTR teachers.

If, per MacArthur, Tribulation saints are excluded from “the church age”, then what age would they be in exactly? Is there an “age” between the PTR and the millennial Kingdom (or eternal state)? Is it “the Tribulation age”? Is there Scripture to substantiate such a view?

Wrapping Up

As the critical, analytical reader can see, there are flaws in the PTR doctrine. And I cannot view these as anything less than fatal flaws. If a reader can trumpet a Biblically coherent PTR doctrine—one devoid of the flaws exposed here—I will listen raptly.

I will close with commentary from Gene L. Green:

[1 Thessalonians 4:13—18] has suffered much ill as it has been mined to provide clues concerning the timing of the “rapture” of the church . . .  In the haste to answer this question, the real purpose of [this passage] is overlooked. This teaching was presented to comfort those in grief by connecting the confession of the creed (“Jesus died and rose again”) with the reality of the resurrection of the dead in Christ. This is not the stuff of speculative prophecy or bestsellers on the end times . . . The decidedly bizarre pictures of airplanes dropping out of the sky and cars careening out of control as the rapture happens detract from the hope that this passage is designed to teach. The picture presented here is of the royal coming [Parousia] of Jesus Christ. The church, as the official delegation, goes out to meet him, with the dead heading up the procession as those most honored. One coming [Parousia] is envisioned, which will unite the coming King with his subjects. What a glorious hope!16

 Glorious indeed!

[see also Escorting the King of Kings?]

________________________________

1 Why would we think end-times Christians should escape persecution and even martyrdom considering the first century Apostles and disciples were martyred? That’s not to mention those persecuted and martyred in the intervening centuries, or those persecuted and martyred throughout the world in our present age.

2 Yet not only is the Holy Spirit completely absent from the immediate and surrounding context, the Spirit as ‘restrainer’ does not fit well grammatically. Specifically, though the occurrence of ‘restrainer’ in 2:6 is grammatically neuter in the Greek, thereby matching the grammatically neuter pneuma (Spirit), 2:7’s ‘restrainer’ is instead grammatically masculine. The argument then sometimes goes that the grammatically masculine word paraklētos (paraclete: counselor, helper, advocate), which is used for the Spirit in John’s Gospel (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7), is to be understood here. But this strains credibility, since this word occurs for the Spirit solely in the Gospel of John, never in the Pauline epistles. A related argument extends on this use of the grammatically masculine paraklētos for the Holy Spirit, in that masculine pronouns are used in John 14—16 and these masculine pronouns are claimed to refer to the grammatically neuter pneuma, thereby “personalizing” (indicating personhood for) the Spirit (whereas the neuter pneuma and its associated pronouns are erroneously construed as implying non-personhood). But this not only confuses grammatical gender with biological gender, it fails to recognize that these masculine pronouns refer back to the grammatically masculine paraklētos, not the neuter pneuma, thereby conforming to conventional grammar norms. A similar argument posits that a masculine grammatically gendered ‘restrainer’ would be appropriate given the Personhood of the Holy Spirit, as derived from contexts indicating such Personhood (the Spirit can be grieved [Eph 4:30], can be lied to [Acts 5:3], etc.). Yet, again, this overlooks that the Holy Spirit is absent in this context, while simultaneously presupposing erroneously that masculine grammatical gender can imply P/personhood, while the neuter cannot. See CrossWise articles Misgendering the Spirit and The Holy Spirit as “Restrainer” in 2 Thessalonians 2?. See also Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), pp 331, 332, cf. 338.

3 My translation, as are all here.

4 These celestial events bear strong resemblance to those described in Revelation 6:12—14, which are followed by pleas from the inhabitants of the earth: …hide us from the face of the One seated on the Throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great Day of Their wrath has come, and who is able to stand? (6:16—17).

5 Cf. Isaiah 13:9—10.

6 Cf. Isaiah 34:4.

7 Cf. Rev 6:17. Jesus’ Jewish audience might know these passages well enough to mentally ‘fill in’ the Day of the LORD (YHWH) verbiage. See Peter’s address to the crowd in Acts 2:14—21, particularly 2:20 which sources Joel 2:31.

8 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), p 1134; emphasis added. The parenthetical comment is taken from the same page, but two paragraphs above this particular quote. This comment is included here in order to retain his thoughts in the current context. In other words, since the author had used this parenthetical comment earlier on the page in a similar context, the thrust of his comment is assumed to carry over, and so appending it here seems appropriate.

9 See this video segment John MacArthur – The Restrainer (“The Coming Man Of Sin” Part 4), as edited by “310revelation” from a larger sermon at gty.org. Accessed 8/14/2021. Note that MacArthur assumes some of the faulty pronoun arguments as detailed in note 2 above.

10 John MacArthur, Truth Endures: Commemorating Forty Years of Unleashing God’s Truth One Verse at a Time, 1969—2009, Phil Johnson & Mike Taylor, eds. (Panorama City, CA: Grace to You, 2009), pp 125—151. I would be terribly remiss if I did not mention the following: In my car as I was listening to MacArthur on local radio, an advertisement for Grace to You (gty.org) followed, stating that first time callers could receive a booklet of the sermon “A Jet Tour Through Revelation”, free of charge. I requested a copy, but was delighted to instead receive a full-length hard cover book with an accompanying note card: “Thank you for requesting a free copy of John MacArthur’s booklet, A Jet Tour Through Revelation. Due to the unexpected death of a member of our editorial staff, production of the booklet was delayed. As a result, we’ve taken the liberty of sending you John’s new book Truth Endures. It contains the “Jet-Tour” material you requested, as well as eleven additional, full-length messages. Please enjoy it with our compliments. We apologize for any inconvenience. Grace to You.”

11 MacArthur, Truth Endures, p 132.

12 The modern word “church” carries multiple meanings, has a skewed etymology, and generally confuses the meaning behind the NT use of ekklēsia in relation to Christ-followers. See CrossWise article Re-Assembly Required.

13 This word is not exclusively reserved for Christ-followers (see Acts 7:38; 19:32, 39, 40). See article referenced in note 12 above.

14 The first three clauses, separated by commas, are all in apposition (all dative clauses), meaning these three refer to the same group. This is akin to: Bob, my neighbor, the baker at Bob’s Bakery. They all refer to the same entity.

15 MacArthur, Truth Endures, p 132.

16 Gene L. Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians, Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC); Accordance electronic ed., OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.5 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 229; emphasis added. For more on the Parousia, see Not One Parousia, But Two.

Chuck Pierce Hosts Conference Referencing ‘One New Man’

[Updated! 09/16/12.  New “word” from Bob Jones on Joel’s Army both on the Elijah List and Jones’ own site.  See below.]

This weekend Chuck D. Pierce, President of Global Spheres, Inc., is hosting the “Head of the Year Celebration” at his Global Spheres Center in Corinth, Texas.  The full title of the conference, to commence September 20 and conclude on the 23rd, is From Recovery to Wholeness: A Year to Bridge the Past and Enter the Future.  Since this upcoming year will be 5773 on the Jewish calendar, Pierce is claiming this is the ‘year of the camel’ as the number 3 in Hebrew was originally pictured as a camel.  Speakers to include Pierce, C. Peter Wagner, Dutch Sheets, Jay Swallow, Trevor Baker, “Bishop” Bill Hamon, Paul Keith Davis, Venner Alston, Mark Chironna, Avner & Rachel Boskey, Rania Sayegh, Jeff Jansen and Robert Heidler.

The event is billed with the usual superlatives: “This is a time to keep your feet moving and go beyond where you have been in the past, until you drink and eat of the produce of your promise! The Kingdom of God will become the greatest influence in the earth realm.”

The subjects to be discussed at the Conference are the following:

  1. See the Camels Coming to Bring the Rewards and Reimbursements for Our Sorrows!
  2. Find Our Way of Escape from the Past!
  3. Cross the Bridge of the Past and Enter the Glory of the Future!
  4. Neutralize the Enemy’s Power, Recover Lost Strength, and Nourish Us into WHOLENESS!
  5. See the Priesthood for this Hour Blossom!
  6. Grow Up and Mature into One New Man!
  7. Bring the Impoverished into a New Dimension of Prosperity!

I wish to focus on numbers 3 and 6.

To “Cross the Bridge of the Past and Enter the Glory of the Future” is very likely referring to fully accessing the power of the first century Apostles and ‘bridging’ this to our future ‘glory’.  “Glory” in the hyper-charismatic / New Order of the Latter Rain sense means the erroneous and heretical notion of the attainment to the fullness of manifested sons of God/Joel’s Army such that these ‘elites’ will have received their glorified, resurrection bodies on the earth – contrary to 1st Corinthians 15:20-28, 50-54.  These ‘glorified elites’ will possess powers exceeding those of the REAL 1st century Apostles with an even greater authority.  These manifested sons of God (MSoG) will have the ‘divine’ authority to execute judgment and exact punishment upon those in opposition as explained by “Bishop” Bill Hamon (the “R-T” in the following means Resurrection-Translation):

…The positive purpose of the R-T is to enable the army of the Lord [Joel’s Army, or MSoG militant] to finalize the war against all evil. The army of the Lord will progress on in the war until they have accomplished all they can in their limited mortal bodies. The R-T is for the purpose of immortalizing their bodies. This will remove all the earthly limitations, thereby enabling the saints unlimited abilities. They will be able to travel in all space realms of the heavenlies the same as Jesus and the angels do now. They can move in and out of all dimensions of the natural and spiritual realms as Jesus did in His resurrected flesh-and-bone body.1 

God’s great end-time army is being prepared to execute God’s written Judgments with Christ’s victory and divine judgment decrees that have already been established in heaven. The time is set when they will be administered and executed on earth through God’s saintly army. All that is destined and needed will be activated during God’s restorational Army of the Lord Movement2

The “One New Man” is a reference to the hyper-charismatic / New Order of the Latter Rain doctrine of Christ’s “second coming” – the full-on heretical doctrine that Christ will only return IN a perfected body of believers culminating in this “One New Man” (also known as the “birth of the man-child”).  This is what Hamon is referring to in the above.  Two recent examples incorporating both of these false teachings (numbers 3 and 6 above) are: 1) Bill Johnson’s tweet from August 20, 2011 in which he states, “Jesus is returning for a bride whose body is in equal proportion to his head”, and, 2) Bob Jones statement at the 2011 “Piercing the Darkness Conference” held at Johnson’s Bethel Church, “Recently, the Lord spoke to me and said, I’m coming IN my people. Christ in you, the hope of glory. I’m comin’ IN my people.’3

Bill Johnson spoke on a “corporate anointing” – otherwise known as the “Corporate Christ” concept, which is the same as this “One New Man” – at Bethel about 2 years ago:

…Here’s what I’m believing for – I know it’s never happened; but, I know that it must before the end. There must be, not just individuals – I’m thankful we have individuals that are rising up with such anointing, such strength, we have people scattered all over the planet right now that are just making a mess of things in all the right ways. We are so encouraged. But, what I’m believing for is a generation – a generation that’ll rise up with a corporate faith, a corporate anointing to press into realms because it’s my conviction that as much as God put on a William Branham, or a Kathryn Kuhlman, or a Wigglesworth, He’ll put far greater anointing on a company of people than He ever would on an individual. To do that, there must be that corporate sense of, ‘we have to deal with the issue of obeying the rules of this kingdom to tap into the resources of this kingdom’…we cannot use the principles of this world and expect to tap into unlimited resource of the kingdom of God4

A new “word” on ‘Joel’s Army’ was just posted on Bob Jones’ site and the Elijah List using Joel 2:1-11 as the proof-text.  Paul Cain used these verses for Joel’s Army back in the late ’80s, though this is now denied.  The following purportedly came out of an August 18, 2012 trance Bob Jones went in to while napping:

Shortly there will be a war that I will declare and it will be a great victory! For I am going to hire mercy-naries you see and I shall pay well when they work for Me. Health and peace of mind will be their pay and joy they never knew. Money will be the least of things for I will prosper them in all ways. Mercy-naries are professional soldiers that have fought in many lands and fought in many battles. They are well trained in the sword you see. The word of God I will put in them and that will be their victory. They shall know defeat no longer but they shall be victorious. They shall know honor in Me. There will be no defeat for them. They are warriors and I will give them the victory. My pay to them shall be love, joy and peace that they will have within themselves. This shall be the tip of the sword of which they touch many. They have been warriors in many religious churches. Now I call them unto “the church” and they will have a victory in Me. Amen. [Bold in original; underscore added.]

It is claimed that those chosen to be in this army “have fought in many battles and [have been] scarred by the religious spirit. This religious spirit will no longer be able to touch them because they have been healed and delivered from it.” Jones goes on to quote from Joel 2:1, then he declares:

These are the days Joel prophesied! The Father will blow the trumpet in Zion and call His army into formation. (Amos 1:1) These are not battle weary soldiers but warriors well-armed in the power of the word and the fear of the Lord. They march forward in the might of the Holy Spirit never breaking rank. They never strive against one another but move in unity forming God’s most powerful army.

Bob Jones continues to quote the Book of Joel moving to 2:7-10 (the following is in the NASB):

7 They run like mighty men,
They climb the wall like soldiers;
And they each march in line,
Nor do they deviate from their paths.
8 They do not crowd each other,
They march everyone in his path;
When they burst through the defenses,
They do not break ranks.
9 They rush on the city,
They run on the wall;
They climb into the houses,
They enter through the windows like a thief.
10 Before them the earth quakes,
The heavens tremble,
The sun and the moon grow dark
And the stars lose their brightness.

This is followed by a section boldly titled God is Declaring War!:

The Father declares war but the mercenaries fight it at His command. We are the soldiers of fortune on this land. Our fortune is to do His Will. There will be great prosperity in His peace of mind, joy and love. The voice of the Father is the only one they will hear as they march forward into battle. Their life is spent on doing the Father’s will. Not one will cower to the fear of man or be led astray by the enemy.

This “word” is completed by finishing the section in Joel:

11 The Lord utters His voice before His army;
Surely His camp is very great,
For strong is he who carries out His word.
The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome,
And who can endure it? [NASB]

These ideas have parallels in New Age / New Spirituality teachings.  Here’s a quote from Alice Bailey from a century ago referencing the “Corporate Christ” concept corresponding to a false second Coming:

…Eventually, there will appear the Church Universal, and its definite outlines will appear towards the close of this [20th] century…This Church will be nurtured into activity by the Christ [ED: actually Satan/antichrist] and His disciples when the outpouring of the Christ principle, the true second Coming, has been accomplished5

Here’s another New Age / New Spirituality site proclaiming a similar thing specifying that when this ‘Christ’ “reappears” (the belief is he never left), he will appear in many people at one time:

The Christ, when He comes into incarnation, will most likely project himself into many parts and be where he wants to be. This is called the Law of Divisibility, a term used in Agni Yoga that means a highly developed spirit—one who is able to contact, simultaneously, various people in various locations.6

Barbara Marx Hubbard, former US Vice Presidential candidate (in 1984, although Geraldine Ferraro ultimately made it on the Democratic ticket) and staunch New Ager, explicated a radical version of “Joel’s Army” in an unpublished manuscript from 1980 referencing Revelation 6:7-8 with the ‘pale horse’ of verse 8 representing those “elected to transcend with all their heart, mind and spirit”.7  This pale horse will “kill with sword” (Rev 6:8) the one-fourth of the population which refuses to “evolve” with the rest, deemed the “self-centered”8 – those who will fail to join the others into making the next evolutionary leap from homo sapiens sapiens to homo universalis (Universal Humanity).  Compare the following to Hamon’s and Jones’ words above:

Before this stage of power can be inherited by the God-centered members of the social-body, the self-centered members must be destroyed.  There is no alternative.  Only the God-centered can evolve…

Fortunately, you, dearly beloveds, are not responsible for this act.  We are.  We are in charge of God’s selection process for planet Earth.  He selects, we destroy.  We are the riders of the pale horse, Death.

We come to bring death to those who are unable to know God.  We do this for the sake of the world…

The riders of the pale horse are about to pass among you.  Grim reapers, they will separate the wheat from the chaff.  This is the most painful period in the history of humanity.

Those of you who know what is happening – the one-fourth who are now listening to the higher self – are to be guides for the rest who will be panicked and confused.9

Is this the sort of thing Bill Hamon, Bob Jones and the other hyper-charismatic leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation have in mind for those Christians who refuse to unify with their false belief system?  Must the earth be purged of those “self-centered” Christians – the ones who will not unify with these false ecumenical, pluralistic efforts – to pave the way for the “One New Man”?  Placing Hamon’s and Jones’ quotes above alongside Marx Hubbard’s, one must really wonder which side Hamon, Jones and their cohorts are really on.

It seems that, just like Marx Hubbard’s theology, there must be a battle to get rid of those “self-centered” Christians with a “religious spirit” before the “One New Man” can emerge.  That is, this war must be fought before “Christ” can ‘return’ “IN his people” after which they become collectively “One New Man” a/k/a homo universalis (Universal Humanity).

LORD have mercy upon us all.

1Bill Hamon Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God. 1997 (2nd printing), Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA, pp 264-265.  Emphasis added.
2Hamon, p 252.  Emphasis added.
3Jones, Bob “The Coming Kingdom” Piercing the Darkness Prophetic Conference, February 2011. Hosted by Bethel Church, Redding, CA, Feb 23-25, 2011, Session 4, Feb 24, 2011, 7:00pm, 38:53 – 39:05. Emphasis in original. Available for sale at Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church website: <http://store.ibethel.org/p4810/piercing-the-darkness-february-2011-complete-set-bethel-campus>; as accessed 09/15/12.
4“ChasingRiver” The Real Jesus – Part 4 – by Bill Johnson. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHcRI60j0HI&feature=related>, 0:35 – 1:45; as accessed 09/15/12.
5Alice A. Bailey The Externalisation of the Hierarchy. © 1957 Lucis, NY, 6th printing 1981; Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, p 510. Underscore from emphasis in original; bold added for my own emphasis. Most sections within the book have corresponding dates of initial writing, or, more accurately, transmission. The portion quoted here is from 1919.
6World Service Intergroup website. J.D. Dubois, “The Christ, His Reappearance, and the Avatar of Synthesis” <http://www.worldserviceintergroup.net/?#/christ-reappearance/4543145171> World Service Intergroup; Dubois; par 5; as accessed 09/15/12.
7Barbara Marx Hubbard The Book of Co-Creation: An Evolutionary Interpretation of the New Testament – Part III, The Revelation: Alternative to Armageddon. 1980, unpublished manuscript, p 59.  From the title page: “The Book of Co-Creation is a three part unpublished manuscript written by Barbara Marx Hubbard in 1980.  Part III follows in its pre-publication form.”  Interestingly, the first edition of a book by Marx Hubbard titled The Book of Co-Creation: The Revelation, Our Crisis is a Birth [1993, The Foundation for Conscious Evolution, Sonoma, CA], which goes through the entire book of Revelation, entirely omits 6:7-8 proceeding from a reference to 6:1-2 (p 134) to 7:1-4 (p 138).
8Marx Hubbard, p 59
9Marx Hubbard, pp 60-61

Bill Johnson’s Christology: A New Age Christ?, part IV (Conclusion)

[See also: Part I, The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit, Part II, Part IIIa, and Part IIIb.]

One of the most persistent themes in early Christian accounts of heresy is that it smuggles rival accounts of reality into the household of faith.  It is a Trojan horse, a means of establishing (whether by accident or design) an alternative belief system within its host.  Heresy appears to be Christian, yet it is actually an enemy of the faith that sows the seed of faith’s destruction.*  It could be compared to a virus, which establishes its presence within the host, ultimately using its host’s replication system to achieve dominance.  Yet whatever the ultimate origins of heresy might be, the threat comes from within the community of faith.

– Alister McGrath188

 As McGrath points out, there is a long tradition of heresy distorting Truth, whether wittingly or unwittingly, to the destruction of the faith.  The asterisk above denotes a footnote reference in the original text of a Thomas Aquinas quote from Summa Theologiae: “[H]eresy is a species of unbelief, belonging to those who profess the Christian faith, but corrupt its dogmas.”189  The Trojan horse/virus analogy is an apt description of the way in which heresy is spread.  As the dark intentions of Djwhal Khul, Alice Bailey’s demon, makes clear, “The Christian church in its many branches can serve…as a nucleus through which world illumination may be accomplished.”190  This is effected by “preserving the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed to church usages”.191

Jesus is Our Model

Jesus Christ died for our sins.  He is also a model for us.  His sacrificial life provides an example of how we are to live:

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had:

6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. [Philippians 2:3-7, TNIV]

We are to serve others in humility not thinking ourselves more important keeping in mind Christ’s example as He, though fully God, condescended to take the form of man (without diminishing His deity) with all its inherent limitations, except for the sin nature, in order to redeem man.

18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. [1 Peter 2:18-25, NASB]

We are to submit to authority even to the point of enduring unfair treatment, as Jesus had.  We must “die to sin” by yielding to the indwelling Holy Spirit rather than our inherent sinful nature [Romans 8:1-17] which never takes leave this side of glory.  Those who remain in Christ will bear much fruit [John 15:1-17] evidenced by good works [James 2:14-26].

In contrast, the Theosophical/New Age/New Spirituality writings of Alice Bailey also cite Jesus as an example to follow, but, of course, not in the same way as orthodox Christianity.  As noted in Part IIIa, in occult literature man has two natures: one human and one latent divine nature (divine spark/seed), the latter needing to be awakened.  Once activated, the divine nature (the “ego”, or “higher self”) is to be actualized while the human nature (the “lower self”) is simultaneously diminished.  This process is also known as “dying to self”.  One ‘dies to self’ through much self-effort such that the divine spark/seed grows eventually overtaking the lower human nature (aka the “not self”) so as to fully actualize inherent divinity, to become ‘gods’.  This is a works-based system accomplished in part by asceticism and service.192  This is the polar opposite of Christianity.

The New Age / New Spirituality Jesus’ life both symbolically and actually represents “The Path” of the aspirant signified by five markers, or initiations, as identified in Alice Bailey’s From Bethlehem to Calvary: the Initiations of Jesus.193  Recall also that these five initiations do not have to be achieved in one lifetime as they are cumulative carrying over from past incarnations, just as they had for the Theosophical Jesus of Nazareth.  Following are the signposts:

1)     Birth at Bethlehem – a/k/a virgin birth, or new birth.  “The birth of Christ in the cave of the human heart.194 Recognizing the “Christ in you, the hope of glory” – your inherent but latent divinity (duality).195  The divine spark/seed is activated.  “Freedom from the control of the physical body and its appetites.”196

2)     Baptism in Jordan – Water baptism “purifies the emotional nature” which precedes the “purification of the mind by fire,”197 or the “baptism of spirit and fire” / “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” thus providing the ability to consciously reject all evil.198What therefore lies ahead for the initiate who has entered the purificatory water, or rather fire?”199  This is the point at which Jesus of Nazareth became “the Christ”200 having received this title and name at Baptism.201

3)     Transfiguration on Mount Carmel – “transfiguration of the [human] nature” into “full-grown man in Christ” – learning to “die to self;” i.e., working towards overcoming the ‘lower, human nature.’  “Develops fourth dimensional vision.”202 Full-grown man working towards manifested son of God.203 Receives “terrific voltage” of Kundalini.204  “[T]he mind…begins its true task as an interpreter of divine truth…205 (i.e., new revelations, reinterpretations {usually allegorical} of Scripture).  “Third eye” is opened.206

4)     Crucifixion on Mount Golgotha – “The Great Renunciation.”207 The “sacrifice of humanity” by totally “dying to (lower, human) self” in order to achieve divinity and to arise as fully manifested son of God.208  Sin becomes impossible.209  Moving towards attainment of full ‘group consciousness.’210  At the final stage of this initiation, post-‘Great Renunciation’, one dispenses with the fleshly body and attains resurrection body thereby becoming free from death:211 “and the causal body, the soul body is relinquished and disappears.”212 “[Christ] thereby liberated us from the form side of life, of religion and matter, and demonstrated to us the possibility of being in the world and yet not of the world, living as souls, released from the trammels and limitations of the flesh, while yet walking on earth.”213

5)     Resurrection and Ascension – “The cave of the tomb into the fullness of the resurrection life.”214 Attainment to full status of ascended Master in which the individual can move between and live in the physical and/or the astral realms.215If he chooses to take a physical vehicle (as many will when the Christ reappears and the Hierarchy is externalised on Earth), the Master will ‘function from the above to the below’ and not (as is the case today with all disciples, though naturally not with the Masters) on ‘the below towards the above.’…They will therefore need no centres on the etheric levels of our planetary physical plane.”216

This is “The Path” open to all regardless of religious affiliation.217  Bailey summarizes the five steps above:

The babe in Christ, the little child, the full-grown man, the perfected man!  Through the Bethlehem experience the babe is born.  The little child grows to maturity and manifests his purity and power at the Baptism.  He demonstrates at the Transfiguration as the full-grown man, and, on the Cross, he stands forth the perfected Son of God.  An initiation is that moment in which a man feels and knows through every part of his being that life is reality and reality is life.  For a brief moment his consciousness becomes all-enfolding; he not only sees the vision and hears the word of recognition, but knows that the vision is of himself, and that the word is himself made flesh.218

Recall Bill Johnson’s statement about ‘the word becoming flesh in us again’ in part IIIb:

…It’s the Spirit of God that makes this thing [the Bible] come alive to where we actually have the privilege of the Word becoming flesh in us again, where we become the living illustration and manifestation of what God is saying.219

As Johnson states quite often, Jesus is our model – even to the point that we become the ‘Word made flesh’.  Is Johnson using the New Age / New Spirituality Jesus as his model?  Let’s compare some of his doctrine to the five initiations above.

New Birth

Bill Johnson says little about initial conversion, yet each time he does, there always seems to be more attached to it.  For example, he’s made it clear that “an authentic gospel” is “the gospel of the Kingdom220 which means one in which it is accompanied by signs and wonders in order to supposedly take dominion back from Satan (Dominionism) – in distinction from merely preaching the plain ol’ Gospel.  However, he rarely, if ever, actually explicitly states the Gospel message.  Johnson’s ‘gospel’ always includes miracles221 as if any gospel preached which doesn’t include a manifestation of miracles is not authentic:

The gospel of Jesus Christ is one of power and must become manifest through supernatural demonstration.  Miracles aren’t optional.222

Does this mean those individuals whose conversion experiences were without signs, wonders and miracles in evidence are not true Christians?

As noted in part IIIb, Johnson refers to the “seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God,” which is “released into the seed,” within the individual, “through His Word,” which is deposited “into the soil” of the individual (the ‘soil’ containing the individual’s ‘seed’).  He claims this is the proper exposition of Matthew 13:18-23.  However, this seems more in line with Bailey’s ‘new birth’ in which the divine spark/seed is activated thereby marking this ‘new birth’.

In addition, the “spiritual DNA” concept, which resembles the “sperma of God” schema, is correlated to the ‘new birth’ or being born again as evidenced by the following Bill Johnson statements:

When the Spirit of the resurrected Christ took up residence in our bodies, all of heaven positioned itself to see what we would conquer in His name. Resurrection power is in our nature, in our spiritual DNA.  When we were born again, we received the same spiritual DNA as Jesus.  His resurrection power now is to dwell in us through the Holy Spirit…223

Every born-again believer has the DNA of Christ.224

Progressive Repentance

In Johnson’s book When Heaven Invades Earth is a chapter titled “Repent to See” with the ‘seeing’ referring to the Kingdom: “Most Christians repent enough to get forgiven, but not enough to see the Kingdom.225  Progressive repentance?  Is this a form of Gnosticism (recall that Gnosticism is inherent in Theosophy / New Age) – the quest for secret knowledge, new revelation, via mysticism in order to advance one’s spiritual walk?

This subject has been covered in-depth in a previous CrossWise article illustrating the strong possibility that Johnson’s use of the term repentance is of the likes of Unity, Christian Science and New Thought which were all influenced by Theosophy.  This alternative definition is used by New Ager / Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault who goes back to the Greek metanoia claiming, “[t]he word literally breaks down into meta and noia, which…means ‘go beyond the mind’ or ‘go into the larger mind.’”226  One goes ‘beyond the mind’ and ‘into the larger mind’ through meditation a/k/a contemplative prayer a/k/a ‘soaking’.

Johnson has distorted Jesus’ words to Nicodemus (John 3:3) to mean that in becoming ‘born again’ one will, with the benefit of additional training, attain the ability to literally see the Kingdom in the here and now:

Through Christ, God has made it possible for every person to see the kingdom. Our conversion experience gives us access to that realm, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3, NKJV). However, it is our responsibility to develop this capacity, to train our senses to perceive God through renewing our minds and feeding the affections of our hearts on the truth227

In the John 3 passage, Jesus is making the statement that no one will see the eschatological Kingdom unless one is ‘born again’.  Jesus is not saying we will literally ‘see’ the Kingdom upon conversion (not initially, but after enough ‘repentance’).  Yet, this is a persistent theme of Bill Johnson:

If the Kingdom is here and now, then we must acknowledge it’s in the invisible realm.  Yet being at hand reminds us that it’s also within reach…That which is unseen can be realized only through repentance.  It was as though He said, “If you don’t change the way you perceive things, you’ll live your whole life thinking that what you see in the natural is the superior reality.  Without changing the way you think you’ll never see the world that is right in front of you.  It’s my world, and it fulfills every dream you’ve ever had.  And I brought it with me.” All that He did in life and ministry, He did by drawing from that superior reality.228

The Kingdom does not gradually unfold before our eyes as we ‘renew our minds’ or through repentance (as defined by Johnson) as Johnson asserts by essentially putting words in Jesus’ mouth.  The Kingdom will only come at the eschaton, the end of all things, when Jesus Christ returns.  However, this concept of progression in general and of the ‘hidden’ Kingdom on earth in particular is part of Theosophy:

Emphasis should be laid on the evolution of humanity with peculiar attention to its goal, perfection…man in incarnation, by the indwelling and over-shadowing soul…The relation of the individual soul to all souls should be taught, and with it the long-awaited kingdom of God is simply the appearance of soul-controlled men on earth in everyday life and at all stages of that controlThe fact will appear that the Kingdom has always been present but has remained unrecognized, owing to the relatively few people who express, as yet, its quality….229

Here’s Alice Bailey describing the purpose of initiations indicating a progressive ‘seeing’:

…[E]ach initiation enables the initiate to “see ahead” a little further, for revelation is always a constant factor in human experience.  The whole of life is revelation; the evolutionary process is, in relation to consciousness, a process of leading the blind out of darkened areas of consciousness into greater light, and therefore into vaster vision.230 

…It is a spiritual fact that those who have passed from the cave of the tomb into the fullness of the resurrection life can be seen, and at the same time evade the vision of the believer; seeing and recognition are two very different things…231

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

In addition, Bailey says at the second initiation, the baptism in the Holy Ghost and fire, the tri-part aspect of human personality (physical body, emotional nature, and the mind) is perfected bringing man “en rapport with the existing universe, and therefore with God, immanent in nature.”232

The physical body enables us to touch the tangible, visible world.  The emotional, feeling nature enables us to say, “I lift up my heart unto the Lord.”  Most people live in their heart nature and in the feeling body, and it is through the heart that we find our way to the Heart of God.  Only through love can Love be revealed.  When through right use and understanding the mind is definitely and properly oriented, it is brought en rapport with the Mind of God, the Universal Mind, the Purpose, the Plan and the Will of God.  Through the illumined mind of man, the Mind of Deity stands revealed.  Thus man is seen as “made in the image of God.”233

Is this what Johnson means by ‘repenting enough to see the Kingdom’?  Is the above what Johnson is referring to in the following?

…‘Re’ means to go back.  ‘Pent’ is like the penthouse, the top floor of the building.  Repent, then, means to go back to God’s perspective on reality. And in that perspective there is a renewal, a reformation that affects our emotions, and every part of our lives234

Bill Johnson claims that it’s only at the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Christ anointing), that Jesus obtained the ability to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ the Father and this same ‘anointing’ is available to every believer providing these same abilities:

This anointing [“Christ anointing” / “baptism in the Holy Spirit”] is what enabled Jesus to do only what He saw the Father do, and to say only what He heard the Father say. It was the Holy Spirit that revealed the Father to Jesus.235

It was the Holy Spirit upon Jesus [“baptism in the Holy Spirit” / “Christ anointing”]  that enabled Him to know what the Father was doing and saying.  That same gift of the Spirit has been given to us for that same purpose.236

This means, according to Johnson (and other hyper-charismatics) that those Christians who have not experienced the ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ lack the ability to commune with the Father.  Yet the writer of Hebrews tell us that believers have the right to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood sacrifice of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19-24) with no mention of a ‘second blessing’ being necessary for this privilege.

(See Part IIIa and Part I for more details on Johnson’s baptism in the Holy Spirit / Christ anointing.)

Transfiguration

So far we have Johnson claiming we are ‘the Word made flesh’ with the baptism in the Holy Spirit enabling Christians to both ‘see’ and ‘hear’ the Father.  In addition, we can ‘see’ the kingdom increasingly unfold in front of our eyes through ‘progressive repentance’.  Thus far, this appears to parallel the Theosophic model as put forth by Bailey above.  But Johnson goes further in the Theosophic ‘Jesus is our model’ theme:

Most all of the experiences of Jesus recorded in Scripture were prophetic examples of the realms in God that are made available to the believer.  The Mount of Transfiguration raised the bar significantly on potential human experience…The overwhelming lesson in this story is that Jesus Christ, the Son of man, had the glory of God upon Him.  Jesus’s face shone with God’s glory, similar to Moses’s after he came down from the mountain.  But Jesus’s clothing also radiated the glory of God, as if to say this was a new era as compared to Moses’s day. In this era the boundaries had changed – a veil could not be used to cover Jesus’s face as it shone with glory, as the veil itself would also soon radiate the same glory.  We influence and impart what God has given us to change the nature of whatever we touch…In the kingdom, things are different.   

…Through the Spirit of the resurrected Christ living in us we are designed to carry the same glory.  But we still must go up the mountain – to the place where we meet with God face to face.237

First, let’s get this straight.  At the Transfiguration it was Jesus’ inherent divine Glory that was radiated; it wasn’t God’s glory coming down upon Him like Moses on Mount Sinai.  As Grant Osborne explains, “Moses reflected the glory of God in his ‘radiance’ when he descended the mountain (Exod 34:29, 33-35), but here Jesus’ true preincarnate glory shines through his humanity.”238

Note how Johnson not only humanizes Jesus, but he raises man up to the Incarnate Christ’s (lowered) level in the last two sentences of the quote.  This is just like New Age / New Spirituality teachings.  Johnson is saying we can match the glory of Jesus, that our garments will radiate God’s glory as we ‘go up the mountain’, as we progress in the “kingdom”.

At Todd Bentley’s ‘commissioning’ ceremony at the “Lakeland Revival” on June 23, 2008, Bill Johnson spoke the following words over Bentley:

…We shape the course of history by partnering with you giving honor where it’s due.  You welcome the glory as well as anybody I’ve ever seen in my life – I long to learn from you in that and I bless you.  And, I pray with the rest of these that the measure of glory would increase, that Moses would no longer be considered the high water mark with the glory shown from his face but instead the revelation of the goodness of God would change the face of the Church.  And that he would use your voice, he would use your grace, your anointing, to alter the face of the Church before this world239

Wait, wasn’t Jesus’ example at the Transfiguration a progression from Moses and thereby the new high water mark?  Well, so much for theological consistency from Johnson.  (Please note the publishing of Johnson’s Face to Face with God, from which the above quote on the Transfiguration is found, predates the Bentley commissioning by at least 1.5 years.)

Crucifixion, the Great Renunciation

The Theosophical / New Age / New Spirituality “dying to self” culminates in the “Great Renunciation,” the cross.  In the Theosophical model, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection are very closely related with the latter usually immediately following the former.

Christ’s major task was the establishing of God’s kingdom upon earth.  He showed us the way in which humanity could enter that kingdom – by subjecting the lower nature to the death of the cross, and rising by the power of the indwelling Christ.240

Let’s compare the above words of Alice Bailey to those of Bill Johnson in a sermon from February 2011:

…How did you get into the Kingdom in the first place? The Cross. What does the Christian life look like? It is only as strong as our connection to how we got in. It is the Cross.  It never deviates from that.  Jesus GAVE Himself to be crucified.  He DID NOT raise Himself from the dead…His job was to give His life to die.  The Father raised Him by the Spirit…My emphasis is on – the Christian life is not the Cross, the Christian life is the Resurrection; but, you can’t get there without the Cross…But the problem is, is the focus of the people of God – it can create an appetite for success.  Meaning, more books sold.  Or, ya know, you put it in your world; I have to try to filter this through the things that I face – that success has some sort of external measurement instead of that internal sense: ‘I have laid my life down for His honor, for His glory’. It’s the Cross; it’s the Cross.  My job is to die; HIS is to raise me. My job is to prefer others; HIS job is to exalt ME…241

Taking the first sentences in and of themselves, this can be understood as orthodox.  Yes, the Cross is the only way into the Christian life.   However, one may call this quibbling, but we are either ‘connected’ to the Cross by salvation through faith in Jesus Christ or we aren’t.  There aren’t degrees of ‘connectedness’.

As already pointed out in part I, Jesus did, in fact, raise Himself from the dead (John 2:19-22, 10:17-18) as it was the entire Trinity who raised Jesus: Father, Son and Spirit.  And, as pointed out in part IIIa, Johnson’s phraseology on this reads like New Ager Benjamin Crème’s.

Yet, it’s the portion in the middle and following which is of interest here: “the Christian life is not the Cross, the Christian life is the Resurrection; but, you can’t get there without the Cross.”  From an orthodox perspective, we cannot reach the future resurrection of the saints (1 Corinthians 15:50-54) unless we’ve accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross by grace through faith and nothing else – no works.  But Johnson states that ‘the Christian life IS the Resurrection’ as if that is for the here and now.  By Johnson’s full context, it makes more sense when viewed with a Theosophical / New Age lens.  He seems to be comparing Jesus being raised ‘by the Father through the Spirit’ with himself, “My job is to die; HIS is to raise me.”  So, presumably, like Jesus, Johnson is to be raised ‘by the Father through the Spirit’ by ‘dying to self’ as per Theosophy – in virtue of works through self-effort.

According to Bailey, it is after this initiation that “the initiate now works from above downwards”.242  Compare this to Johnson’s words in the following: “He wants you to see reality from God’s perspective, to learn to live from His world toward the visible world.”243  On his Facebook page, Johnson recently stated something similar:

The most consistent way to display the kingdom of God is through the renewed mind. It is much more than thinking right thoughts. It is how we think – from what perspective. Done correctly, we “reason” from heaven toward earth.244

One other goal the New Age / New Spirituality aspirant seeks relative to this particular initiation is the attainment of full ‘group consciousness’.  This is gradually developed as one progresses on “The Path”; however, it’s full manifestation comes at the “Great Renunciation”.  In the following, Johnson speaks about a “corporate anointing” which seems akin to the Theosophical / New Age “corporate Christ” concept [This was covered more completely in a previous article.]:

…Here’s what I’m believing for – I know it’s never happened; but, I know that it must before the end.  There must be, not just individuals – I’m thankful we have individuals that are rising up with such anointing, such strength, we have people scattered all over the planet right now that are just making a mess of things in all the right ways.  We are so encouraged.  But, what I’m believing for is a generation – a generation that’ll rise up with a corporate faith, a corporate anointing to press into realms because it’s my conviction that as much as God put on a William Branham, or a Kathryn Kuhlman, or a Wigglesworth, He’ll put far greater anointing on a company of people than He ever would on an individual.  To do that, there must be that corporate sense of, ‘we have to deal with the issue of obeying the rules of this kingdom to tap into the resources of this kingdom’…we cannot use the principles of this world and expect to tap into unlimited resource of the kingdom of God245

Resurrection Life

The final stage in the Theosophical schema is the Resurrection at which point the aspirant is now a Master and no longer an earthly disciple.  The physical body is shed as it’s no longer necessary.  However, there will be some who will stay behind to help further the cause:

If He chooses to take a physical vehicle (as many will when the Christ [ED: actually antichrist] reappears and the Hierarchy is on Earth), the Master “will function from the above to the below” and not (as is the case today with disciples, though naturally not with the Masters) “on the below towards the above”… 246

The individual who stays “to help humanity on this globe” will be “in charge, also, of large work, teaching many pupils, aiding in the many schemes, and is gathering under him those who are to assist him in future times.”247  This ‘physical vehicle’ will, of course, be a ‘resurrection body’.

Bill Johnson claims that our current model is the glorified, resurrected Jesus of Revelation 1:13-16.248  He proof-texts a portion of 1 John 4:17 to make this point, yet in its context, the Apostle John is speaking of how we are to be like Christ in love, not like Christ’s current glorified state:

The “as He is, so are we” [1 John 4:17] declaration is far beyond what any of us could have imagined; especially in light of the glorified description of Jesus in Revelation, chapter 1.  Yet, the Holy Spirit was sent specifically for this purpose that we might attain…“to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” 

The Holy Spirit came with the ultimate assignment at the perfect time.  During Jesus’ ministry, it was said, “The Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”…[W]hy didn’t the Father send Him until Jesus was glorified?  Because without Jesus in His glorified state there was no heavenly model of what we were to become! As a sculptor looks at a model and fashions the clay into its likeness, so the Holy Spirit looks to the glorified Son and shapes us into His image. As He is, so are we in the world 

“The Christian life is not found on the Cross.  It is found because of the Cross.  It is His resurrection power that energizes the believer…249

Clearly, Johnson is promoting that we attain our glorified, resurrection bodies in the here and now.  This is known as the heretical Manifested Sons of God doctrine.  As can be seen, this mirrors New Age teaching.  The “resurrection power that energizes the believer” could be construed as the Theosophical “Christ in you, the hope of glory”, the divine spark/seed.  Johnson expounds further claiming emphatically that we follow Christ “all the way – to a lifestyle empowered by the resurrection!”:

At some point the reality of the resurrection must come into play in our lives – we must discover the power of the resurrection  for all who believe…we must follow Him all the way – to a lifestyle empowered by the resurrection!”250

…Religion is unable to mimic the life of resurrection with its victory over sin and hell.251

For comparison, here’s an Alice Bailey quote illustrating a few Scriptures being pulled out of their contexts in order to create pretexts, including 1 John 4:17:

…Inherent in the human consciousness…is a sense of divinity.  “We are all children of God” (Gal. III.26); “One is our Father, even God,” [John 8:41?] says the Christ and so say all the world Teachers and Avatars down the ages.  “As He is, so are we in this world.” (1 John IV:17) is another Biblical statement. …“Christ in us, the hope of glory” [Col 1:27] is the triumphant affirmation of St. Paul.252

The common theme in all of these is ‘inherent divinity’ and universalism, as in all are potential gods.  The Galatians verse should read, “You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus“; and, in the Colossians verse, the original “you” is replaced by “us” to make it more inclusive.  The verse from John’s epistle is used much like Johnson does above.  Interestingly, Johnson hints at universalism in a snippet from an advertisement for the “Open Heavens 2010 Conference“: “What does it mean to you when it says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on A-L-L flesh?’”[Acts 2:17/Joel 2:28]

Going back to the so-called Lakeland Revival, Georgian Banov delivered two anointings ‘from the Lord’ to Todd Bentley at his ‘commissioning’ ceremony.  Prior to this, Banov, speaking for ‘the Lord’, deemed Bentley a “well pleasing son” – the very words used by the Father at both Jesus’ baptism and the Transfiguration:

…And The Lord says that because you’ve loved his personal presence there are two anointings that are released on His presence and I just want to release those two anointings on you from the LORD.  By the way, the Lord says ‘you are well pleasing son.’The Father, Abba, says that to you personally.  The first anointing is the anointing of the pleasure of the LORD.253

For this first anointing, Banov quotes Isaiah 53:4-6, a Messianic passage, i.e. Scripture pertaining to Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  Interestingly, this Scripture speaks primarily about the Cross:

‘Surely He has borne our grief, sickness and weakness and carried our sorrow and the pain and the punishment of us all. He was considered stricken, smitten and afflicted by God; but, He was bruised for our transgression. He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities and chastisement that brought our peace came upon him and by His stripes we were healed and made whole.’  And, yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him and in His presence there is fullness of joy and pleasure forevermore.   And, God’s releasing his pleasure of what He did to Jesus upon you Todd.254

It seems this can well be construed as a ‘crucifixion anointing’, or the fourth initiation of Theosophy.  The second anointing is based on Psalm 45:6-7 – another Messianic passage.  Derek Kidner, in his commentary on the Psalms, explains:

…[V]erse 7 distinguishes between God, your God, and the king of verse 6.  This paradox is consistent with the incarnation, but mystifying in any other context. It is an example of Old Testament language bursting its banks, to demand more than a human fulfillment…255

These verses, as Banov notes below, are referenced in Hebrews 1:9.  The writer of Hebrews puts it in the context that Christ is above the angels in status and is worshiped by them.  Of this verse, William L. Lane states: “…The implication that the Son shares the quality of deity only intensifies the reference to his eternal rule and sharpens the contrast between the unchangeable Son and the mutable angels…”256   With this in mind, it seems Banov is ascribing deity to Bentley which, from a Theosophical standpoint would represent the fifth initiation, resurrection, in which one becomes a Master:

And, the second anointing that he wants to release upon you is in Psalm 45 but it’s also in Hebrews chapter one verse nine.  It says, ‘Because you have loved righteousness and you have delighted in integrity and virtue and uprightness in heart and thought and action and you have hated injustice and inequity; therefore God, your God has anointed you with the oil of exultant joy and gladness above and beyond your companions.’  We bless you.257

Hebrews 1:9 is also a parallel passage to Philippians 2:9 – a part of the ‘Philippians hymn’ [vv 2:6-11]: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” [NIV 1984].  Again, this represents Jesus Christ’s Resurrection (and Ascension).  Interestingly, Todd Bentley himself, a little over one month later, would speak of “resurrection life” describing a progression in its attainment:

…And, I just believe there’s an impartation to call forth ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ – the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. And, I want to take one moment church, and I want to press in, I want you to press in with me, to go from one floor, to two floors, to three levels, to four.  And, let’s progress and let’s say, ‘God, beyond raising the dead, beyond notable miracles, beyond healing, let there be a release in the Church of the realm of glory and power and dominion and authority that affects everything that’s death and decay around us.’  And, it’s true victory, it’s true resurrection life, true resurrection power, and true resurrection gloryPeople will be made alive – born again.258

When was it that Johnson claimed Jesus was ‘born again’?  It was at the Resurrection:

…Did you know that Jesus was born again?… I will show it. It’s in the Bible. He had to be. He became sin. 

In Hebrews 1 it says this, “For to which of the angels did he ever say, ‘You are my son. Today I have begotten you’?” And Acts 13 explains that: “God has fulfilled this for us, their children, in that he has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are my Son, Today I have begotten You.’ And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption.”  He was born through Mary the first time and through the Resurrection the second time. He was ‘born again.’259

Just like the name of the sermon from which the above was taken echoing words of Bill Johnson in other contexts: Jesus is our model.

Conclusion

This rather lengthy series attempts to illustrate that not only is the Bill Johnson Christology (and by extension, others within hyper-charismaticism with similar teachings), his Jesus, not like the one revealed in Scripture, his theology could fit into the New Age / New Spirituality model.  Whether one agrees or not, the hope is that the reader at least has been given food for thought and the desire for further investigation.

[See part I, The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit, part II, part IIIa, and part IIIb.]

Endnotes:

188McGrath, Alister. Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth. © 2009, HarperOne, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY; p 34
189McGrath; p 239 n3
190Bailey, Externalisation; p 510
191Bailey, Externalisation; p 511
192Bailey, Initiaton; pp 92-93: “Students must get rid of the idea that if they are ‘very good and altruistic’ suddenly some day they will stand before the Great Lord.  They are putting effect before cause.  Goodness and altruism grow out of realization and service, and holiness of character is the outcome of those expansions of consciousness which a man brings about within himself through strenuous effort and endeavor.”
193Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary.  From back cover: “…These experiences are both symbolic and actual, setting guideposts along the way of the disciple.  They exemplify the experience of the human soul through the five stages of its spiritual journey and can be invaluable to individual man facing the vast span of the same five-fold experience.”
194einterface, “The Master Jesus” par 2; as accessed 06/18/12
195Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; pp 26, 47.  Bailey, Initiation; pp 114-15
196Bailey,  Alice A. The Rays and the Initiations. 1960 Lucis, NY, 2nd paperback ed, 1976, Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; pp 685, cf. 664-673
197Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 99
198Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; pp 27, 47-48
199Bailey, Rays; pp 677, cf. 673-687
200Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 100.  Dowling;  pp 83
201einterface, “The Master Jesus” par 2; as accessed 06/18/12
202Bailey, Initiation; p 89
203Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; pp 26, 48
204Bailey, Rays; pp 687, cf. 688-89, 367
205Bailey, Rays; pp 688
206Bailey, Rays; pp 689-91, 368
207Bailey, Initiation; pp 56-57
208Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; pp 28, 48-49, 184-194, 206-207
209Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 202
210Bailey, Rays; pp 694
211Bailey, Rays; pp 695-699.  Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; pp 178, 184, 186
212Bailey, Rays; p 695
213Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 187
214Bailey, Externalisation; p 597
215Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; pp 28, 49-51.  Bailey, Externalisation; p 468-71.  Bailey, Rays; pp 699-703
216Bailey, Rays; p 699
217Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 9
218Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 105.  Emphasis added.
219“whizzpopping” YouTube video, Bill Johnson – Friendship with God. 1:24 – 1:37; as accessed 04/23/12.   Caps from emphasis in original; other emphasis added.
220Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 27
221Johnson, Heaven Invades; pp 33-34, 25-28
222Johnson, Bill “Mandate for Miracles” Ministry Today. September/October 2008, Vol. 26, no. 5; p 70
223Johnson, Bill, “Super-Natural by Nature” Charisma, par 13; as accessed 4/26/12
224Johnson, Clark, Essential Guide to Healing; p 147. Bold from emphasis in original; underscore added.
225Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 37
226Bourgeault, Cynthia The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – a New Perspective on Christ and His Message. 2008, Shambhala, Boston, MA; p 37
227Johnson, Face to Face; pp 89-90.  Emphasis added.
228Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 38
229Bailey, Externalisation; p 588.  Emphasis added.  This portion originally written in 1946.
230Bailey, Rays; p 703
231Bailey, Externalisation; p 597.  Emphasis added.
232Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 88
233Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 88
234Johnson, Supernatural Power; p 44.  Emphasis added.
235Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 80.  Emphasis added.
236Johnson, Dreaming; p 136.  Emphasis in original
237Johnson, Face to Face; p 200.  Emphasis in original.  Cf. Johnson, Heaven Invades; pp 149-150
238Osborne, Grant,  Arnold, Clinton E. (Gen. Ed.) Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. © 2010 by Grant R. Osborne, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; p 646
239“nowbelieve” YouTube video “Todd Bentley’s Apostolic and Prophetic Commissioning 2/4” Todd Bentley ‘Commissioning’ of June 23, 2008. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A05WQYi7aQ> Bill Johnson; 1:30 – 2:10
240Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 206
241“ewenhoffman” Maintaining the Cross-Walk; 16:31 – 17:55.  Caps from emphasis in original.
242Bailey, Rays; p 701
243Johnson, Supernatural Power; p 45.  Emphasis in original.
244Johnson, Bill Facebook, May 12, 2012
245“ChasingRiver” The Real Jesus – Part 4 – by Bill Johnson.  <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHcRI60j0HI&feature=related>; 0:36 – 1:30.  As accessed 07/03/11
246Bailey, Rays; p 699
247Bailey, Initiation; p 90
248Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 145
249Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 145
250Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 146
251Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 147
252Bailey, Alice A. The Reappearance of the Christ. 1948, Lucis Trust, 9th printing 1979 (4th Paperback ed.); Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, NY; p 145
253“nowbelieve” YouTube video “Todd Bentley’s Apostolic and Prophetic Commissioning 3/4” Todd Bentley ‘Commissioning’ of June 23, 2008.  <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gjl5wKso9eU&feature=player_embedded#t=0shttp://>; Georgian Banov, 6:23 – 6:49; as accessed 06/24/12
254“nowbelieve” Banov; 6:49 – 7:34; as accessed 06/24/12
255Kidner, Derek Tyndale Old Testament Commentary: Psalms 1 – 72; © Inter-Varsity Press, London, 1973 (2008 reprint), Inter-Varsity Press, Nottingham, England/Downers Grove, IL; p 189
256Lane, William L. Word Biblical Commentary: Hebrews 1-8; 1991, Thomas Nelson, Nashville/Dallas/Mexico City/Rio de Janiero; p 29
257“nowbelieve” Banov; 7:34 – 8:11; as accessed 06/24/12
258Bentley, Todd.  Excerpt of his monologue from an August 08, 2008 conference held at Heritage International Ministries Retreat Center featuring Todd Bentley, Bob Jones and Rick Joyner.  DVD sold through Rick Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries, Media Store, VS19-000D. “Todd Bentley Healing and Impartation Service, 08-08-08” <http://www.morningstarministries.org/store/teaching-sets/todd-bentley/todd-bentley-healing-and-impartation-service-08-08-08>; 1956:46 – 1957:53.  Emphasis added.  As accessed 04/01/12.
259“ewenhoffman” Jesus is our Model  sermon by Bill Johnson. 33:48 – 34:57; as accessed 06/23/12.

Bill Johnson’s Christology: A New Age Christ?, part IIIb

[See also: Part I, The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit, Part II, Part IIIa and Part IV (Conclusion).]

1In the beginning was the Word [Logos.]
and the Word [Logos] was with God
and the Word [Logos] was God.
2He was in the beginning with God.
3All things came into being by Him,
and apart from Him
nothing came into being
that has come into being
14And the Word [Logos] became flesh,
and dwelt among us,
and we beheld His glory,
glory as of the only begotten from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
[John 1:1-3,14 NASB]

The prologue to the Gospel of John is among the most beautiful passages in all of Scripture.  It is also one of the most theologically brilliant.  Not only does John assert that the Logos was WITH God in the creation account of Genesis by paralleling the first few verses with those that begin the canon of Scripture, John states the Logos WAS God.  He is illustrating the plurality of the Godhead, i.e. that God is monotheistic yet more than one ‘Person’ (John would describe the Person of the Holy Spirit later in 14:15-16:15).  The Gospel writer makes it clear that God the Word/Logos became flesh, yet He was fully God in the flesh and not ‘merely’ human.

However, other groups claimed that John had different thoughts in mind for the Logos.  Some Gnostics in the 2nd century (and later) claimed John’s Gospel has a dualistic Gnostic backdrop with his contrasts of light and darkness (v 1:5) and other dichotomies, and they interpreted John’s Christology as congruent with Gnostic redeemer myths117 (redemption through autosoterism, or self-salvation).

Some have claimed Hellenistic (ancient Greek) influence.  According to NT scholar Craig Keener, Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher of the 6th century BC, “reportedly spoke of ‘Thought’ as guiding and ordering the universe” and his work refers to the Logos as being “eternal, omnipresent, the divine cause”.118  The Stoics took this further as Zeno “identified Socrates’ logos, or rational principle, with that of Heraclitus” calling this “the common law” or “natural law”.119  Apparently, these groups believed the Logos was present in all of creation, i.e. they had a panentheistic (God is in all) worldview.

Others asserted that it was Philo’s Logos that John had in mind.  Philo combined aspects of Stoicism (including the Logos as the divine mind, or nous120) with his own theology which was influenced by Platonism (from the philosophy of Plato):

In Philo’s scheme, the Logos is directly below God and directly above the powers through which God rules creation; the powers appear as angels when related to OT imagery, but Philo elsewhere identifies them with Platonic ideas.  The Logos, as God’s archangel and eldest offspring, functions as ambassador to humanity and separates the creature from the Creator; as such it is a mediator of God’s activity in the world and of revelation.  The Logos is God’s image, through whom the universe was formed.  In Platonic thought the sensory world is merely a copy of the real world of ideas, of eternal forms.  The Stoics, by contrast, saw the Logos as immanent in the world of matter.  Philo combines these strands of thought, following the syncretistic lead of middle Platonism in his day.121

Still others claim that John had in mind the Wisdom literature in Scripture [Proverbs 8, 9, etc] and extra-Biblical writings of the time including the Apocrypha (the Deuterocanonical books in the Catholic Bible including “Wisdom of Solomon”, “Wisdom of Ben Sira”, etc.) and the Pseudepigrapha (literary works circa 200 BC to 200AD).  This position asserts that John had envisioned Jesus as Wisdom personified given the many seeming parallels between his use of Logos and the way Sophia, the Greek word for Wisdom, is used in the Wisdom literature.  Yet the Gospel writer never actually uses Sophia in reference to Jesus. Therefore, some scholars claim reliance on this motif while others may affirm perhaps partial influence.122

Andreas Kostenberger sees John’s intent more in line with personifying the Word of God in the OT noting the strong parallel of John 1 with Genesis 1, the parallels of John 1:14-18 with Exodus 33-34, and the Logos concept in Isaiah 55:9-11 (and other passages in Isaiah).123  In addition, Kostenberger seems to suggest the Logos concept was used as an apologetic against prevailing Greek thought:

…Though John does not elaborate on the precise way in which Jesus was made flesh, his contention that deity assumed human nature in Jesus would have been anathema for Greeks who held to a spirit/matter dualism and could hardly have imagined immaterial Reason becoming a physical being.124

It seems quite plausible that the Gospel writer, being well aware of current philosophical and religious thought, wrote the prologue and parts of the rest of the Gospel with a dual purpose – as both a Gospel and an apologetic against these threats.  This is especially possible if one assumes a late date of authorship as do most scholars (between 90AD and 100AD).125  In fact, Irenaeus, in his Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies), circa 180AD, makes the claim that the Gospel of John is an apologetic against the burgeoning Gnostic (or proto-Gnostic) threat of John’s day.126  John’s Gospel (and, of course, his epistles, especially 1 John which contains elements of the Gospel’s prologue) can function as an apologetic against current Christological heresies as well since some of the concepts above are being perpetuated in slightly different forms today.

The Word Becoming Flesh

Christian orthodoxy affirms that Jesus Christ was/is the Word made flesh; i.e., the Word/Logos, the second Person of the eternal Triune God, added human flesh to Himself and became the unique God-man in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  This hypostatic union retains throughout eternity, for Jesus Christ is yet still both human (with a glorified body) and divine as He sits at the Father’s right hand.  However, Bill Johnson explicitly denies the uniqueness of the Word made flesh:

…It’s the Spirit of God that makes this thing [the Bible] come alive to where we actually have the privilege of the Word becoming flesh in us again, where we become the living illustration and manifestation of what God is saying.127

What does he mean by “the Word becoming flesh in us again”?  Are we to be just like Jesus, i.e. divine?  Or was Jesus not the second person the Trinity made flesh in the first place?  Is this what Johnson means by “Jesus emptied Himself of divinity and became man”?128  Perhaps this is speaking of the false parousia as mentioned in part II?  Or, is this a combination of some or all of these?

In yet another sermon, titled “Jesus is Our Model” – the same from which is the blasphemous ‘born again Jesus’ statement – we have Johnson speaking on the word Word yet again:

…Look at verse 3 [of Luke 4], “And, the devil said to Him, ‘IF you are the Son of God command this stone to become bread.’”  Jesus answered Him saying, “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone but by every WORD of God.”  What was the first temptation?  It wasn’t to turn stone into bread, it was to question who He was129

Not many theologians would agree with Johnson that the first temptation was “to question who He was” by emphasizing if.  The majority of scholars assert it was a test to satisfy His hunger by miraculous power rather than relying on the Father for provision.130  But, more importantly, Johnson stresses Word having in mind the Word of Faith (WoF) “rhema” Word, i.e., ‘new revelation’ – NOT that Jesus is Himself the unique, second Person of the Trinity Word/Logos made flesh, although that is how it may appear at first.  This will be evident as we continue on with Johnson:

…Jesus explains this later to the disciples in Matthew 13; I’ll just read the one phrase to you that’ll help that concept to make sense.  He was talking about people who had no root in themselves; they hear the Word but there’s no depth in their personThey’ve not been prepared for what God is saying and doing131

In applying Matthew 13 to both Jesus and mankind rather than just mankind, Johnson has reduced Jesus to a man who Himself is indwelt by (NOT in hypostatic union with) the “rhema” Word.  Simultaneously, he’s reinterpreted this Scripture to pertain to those who either accept or reject the WoF “rhema” Word.  [The Greek words rhema and logos are used interchangeably in the Bible although the Apostle John specifically refers to Jesus as the Logos made flesh (John 1:1,14).]  Continuing on:

…It says, “for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the WORD [3 second pause for emphasis] immediately they stumble.  Persecution, difficulty, conflict arises because of the Word.  The WORD of the Lord attracts CONFLICT.  It’s not punishment.  It’s not to humiliate.  It’s for two basic reasons: it’s because the Lord wants to give reward and He wants to honor character.  Character is not formed in the absence of options.  There has to be two trees in the Garden where I am honored for a decision.  Do I honor what God has declared over my life or not?  Do I consider other options, other possibilities?132

Please note that the Scripture in Matthew 13 [13:21-22] refers to the Gospel message, not the “rhema” Word as Johnson would have us believe.  Scripturally, either one accepts the Gospel message and stays true to the Faith (the true convert) or one drifts away when trials and tribulations arise, when persecution comes, or the message is choked out by the concerns of life (the false convert).

At this point we’ll compare to more text from Levi Dowling’s New Age book which was referenced in part IIIa:

  The Christ is son, the only son begotten by Almighty God, the God of Force and God omniscient, the God of thought; and Christ is God, the God of Love.  

…Through Christ all life was manifest; and so through him all things were done, and naught was done in forming worlds or peopling worlds without the Christ.  

Christ is the Logos of Infinities and through the Word alone are Thought and Force made manifest.133

This is obviously a perversion of the prologue in John’s Gospel.  Both “Thought” and “Force” are capitalized in the original [“thought” is not capitalized the first time though].  This sure reads like WoF doctrine with “faith” as a ‘force’ and the “rhema” Word, ‘new, ongoing revelation’, coming into our thoughts.  “Christ” here is in reference to a member of this false Trinity who also “pervades all spaces of infinity”134, as in panentheism, meaning that all matter contains a “seed” of “Christ”, including man, and it takes the “Christ Spirit” to activate these “seeds”:

Into the soil…these seeds, which were the Thoughts of God, were cast…and they who sowed the seeds, through Christ, ordained that they should grow…and each to be a perfection of its kind.135

To reiterate, this “Christ” is the occult version of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” [Col 1:27] with “Christ” being the dormant, non-activated seed as well as a member of this false Trinity who permeates all matter.  This is evident in the following words of Levi’s “Jesus”:

Look to the Christ within who will be formed in every one of you, as he is formed in me.136

Now, let’s pick up where we left off in the sermon of Johnson:

…This story in Matthew 13, the parable of the seed and the sower actually gives this picture of soil; and the seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God, is released into the seed, through His Word, into the soil.  And, then it says, but other things grow and they choke out the life of that seed of God.  Think about it: the Word of God, the most powerful thing in the universe, is put into an environment that if we give attention to other IDEALS, other VOICES, other WORDS, we actually give them a place in our heart to take root and they choke out the Word of God, the most powerful thing in the universe.  For a season, the Lord has allowed our choices to affect the power, the effect of the most powerful thing in the universe.  It’s stunning…137

We’ll elaborate more on the “sperma of God” in the section below on “spiritual DNA”; but, it seems obvious that it’s analogous to Bob Jones’ “God sperm seed” from part II.  This “sperma of God” compares remarkably well with Levi’s “seeds” account above, does it not?  In addition, Levi’s statementthrough the Word alone are Thought and Force made manifest” seems akin to Johnson’s “rhema” Word made manifest in both Jesus and ‘believers’ as we consider Johnson’s words, “we actually have the privilege of the Word becoming flesh in us again, where we become the living illustration and manifestation of what God is saying.”

Also, note Johnson’s negative emphasis on ideals, voices, and words – is this a knock against Christian theological orthodoxy?  Perhaps so, since later Johnson speaks of ‘religion’ as, “mowing down the seeds so that they all look the same”.138  Bill Johnson continues to make more parallels to Levi’s doctrine:

The most powerful thing in the universe, the Word of God – that created the world, that spoke things into being, that Word has been planted in your heart.139

You’ve got to know the mind of the Lord if you’re gonna stand strong.140

Overall, Johnson appears to be making the point that to be strong, to grow in the faith, one must become more and more attuned to the ‘continuing revelation’ of the “rhema” word.  This is instead of the Christian orthodox view of sanctification by submitting to the Holy Spirit’s leading rather than our own flesh, carnality.

Levi’s teachings are not unique to him as these are also common in Gnostic literature (as stated earlier, Gnosticism also informs New Age doctrine).  In Benjamin Walker’s Gnosticism: Its History and Influence, he uses this same “seed” concept referencing Matthew 13 like Johnson.  Walker notes how man may either “identify with the upper realm and be transformed by it, or with the lower and perish as a result.”141

This type of man hears the call, but whether he listens and responds, or not, lies entirely within himself.  He is capable of receiving the seed sown by the sower.  But he is fertile ground for both tares and wheat (Matt. 13:25).  He must take care that the thorns of intellectualism and disbelief do not grow and choke the seed.  He has free will and tends both to good and evil, and must make up his own mind in which direction he will move…142

Biblically, the parable of the wheat and the tares/weeds [Matt 13:24-30] is about true Christians and false Christians.  The false Christians (tares/weeds) will be intertwined with the true (wheat) until the eschaton, the consummation, the end of all things.

This same false teaching is also in the Unity Church doctrine.   The following is a portion of the Unity Church’s definition for “kingdom of God” in their Metaphysical Bible Dictionary which compares favorably with both the Gnostic account above and Johnson’s version of Matthew 13:

…Jesus likened the kingdom to a seed because a seed has unexpressed capacities, and needs to be planted in the soil best suited, and when planted in a receptive mind it brings forth the fruits of the Spirit.  The life of the word is the spiritual idea it contains.

The kingdom of heaven is attained, first, by one’s establishing in one’s mind the consciousness of the truth of Being; second, by one’s outer life to Truth.

Jesus used many commonplace things to illustrate the establishing of the kingdom of heaven in consciousness in order that we might the more easily adjust all our thoughts and acts in harmony with the ideas that make heaven.

Jesus likened heaven to a man that sowed good seed in his field, but when he slept an enemy sowed tares there (Matt. 13:24-30).  The explanation is this: The field is consciousness; the good seed are our true thoughts, which are sown when we express our mind positively.  The tares are the error thoughts that drift in when the consciousness is negative or ignorant143

For further comparison, here are two quotes from Constance Cumbey’s September, 1988 New Age Monitor in which are transcriptions of question and answer sessions with David Spangler and Michael Lindfield, both of Findhorn Foundation, an openly New Age organization (which has been around for 50 years and counting).  Both individuals were taped at Boulder Episcopalian Church in Boulder, CO on October 26, 1987144 the day following an important series of meetings with Evangelicals and New Agers over the weekend.  First is Spangler:

…Even today, you know, in meeting with people who are leaders of the evangelical and pentecostal community, it was quite evident they were saying, ‘you know, the Spirit of Christ is in the world.’  It is in all people.  That is in scripture and as a consequence, people who have never encountered Christianity can still encounter Christ.  And a number of these evangelicals came up with examples of this in their travels around the world, and pointed to scriptural passages to substantiate this…145

Spangler makes the claim that both Evangelical and Pentecostal leaders stated that ‘Christ’ is “in all people” such that even non-Christians can “encounter Christ.”   Lindfield makes a similar claim about himself having his “own essential Christhood” and then makes a further claim about the “word made flesh”:

…I claim my right to freely explore my relationship with God and with Christ.  And if that makes me a New Ager, I will proudly wear that label, if that makes me a fundamental Christian, I will proudly wear that label.  Whatever it is that allows me to freely explore my relationship with God – my own essential Christhood – I will gladly take that on…There are many books and many writings purporting to express ‘this is the New Age.’  But in essence what I feel we are searching for is the word made fleshnot just the word made paper146

Levi Dowling makes this concluding statement with respect to the “Word made flesh”:

…[A]fter thirty years of strenuous life the man [Jesus] made his body fit to be the temple of the holy breath [Holy Spirit] and Love [Christ] took full possession, and John well  said when he declared: ‘And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.’147

Dowling’s point is that Jesus of Nazareth so demonstrated His worthiness to become ‘the Christ’, the World Teacher of the Piscean Age, that He was fully possessed by ‘the Christ’, the member of the false Trinity.  That is, Jesus, like all others, had the seed within Him (‘Christ within’, the “Thoughts of God” which pervade “all spaces of infinity”) which was then activated by ‘the Christ’, the Son of the false Trinitarian Father, who eventually  “took full possession” of Him.  Once ‘the Christ’, the Logos of Infinities, the false Trinitarian Christ, took full possession of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus then became ‘the Word made flesh’.  The now ascended Master Jesus, the “World Teacher” for the Age of Pisces, is now our example to follow towards our own ascension to godhood.  To that end, we ourselves must also become “the Word made flesh”.

Given the earlier comparison (in part IIIa) of some Christological quotes of Bill Johnson to those of Levi and the comparisons in this particular section, it is entirely plausible that Johnson intends the same meaning as Levi with respect to “the Word made flesh”.

Interestingly, later in the “Jesus is our Model” sermon, Johnson comes close to correctly explaining Jesus’ first temptation as Him not succumbing to the Devil’s temptation to turn stone into bread: “He could have used the anointing that the Father had given Him through the Holy Spirit to turn the stone into bread.  But, He would not prostitute the favor, the anointing, the power, for personal gain…He faced it; He quoted Scripture; He brought the Word back into focus.”148   However, note that He refrained from using “the anointing that the Father had given Him” rather than His own inherent divinity.

Yet, Johnson follows this up conflating Scripture with the “rhema” Word, then he proceeds to use an example of a personal predictive prophecy which purportedly came to pass years later thereby emphasizing the “rhema” Word and, hence, coming full circle.  Subsequently, he closes his sermon and restates his original wrong exposition on Jesus’ first temptation.149

So, initially, Johnson goes to great lengths to show that Jesus’ first temptation was to question who He was as the “rhema” Word made flesh; yet, he later claims that Jesus first temptation was to get Him to use the power of ‘the anointing’ “for personal gain” thereby contradicting his first interpretation.  However, he asserts once again that Jesus’ first temptation was to “question His identity” near the very end of this sermon.150  This aptly illustrates Johnson’s duplicity.

The Word Becoming Spirit

In the following is another example of Johnson proclaiming Jesus as the “rhema” Word made flesh in yet another sermon.  However, Bill Johnson goes a bit further.  In this first bit, Johnson is making the point that most don’t have the full reality of what God ‘has already imparted into us’.  By this, he apparently means we’ve not yet fully actualized the seed implanted in us:

…We take such small risks because we live with such ignorance of what we possess.  I pray…that the ongoing revelation of God would come upon us as a people to discover what He has already been imparted to us; so that we can reasonably pursue the increase in what we’re lacking, what we’re missing…the real issue is that we live in ignorance of what has already been deposited into our lives.151

This “ongoing revelation”, this “rhema” Word, activated by “the sperma of God” will help us to literally release ‘the Word’ into the atmosphere – as it did for Jesus:

…Jesus said the Kingdom is within you.  Now that Kingdom is released in many different ways.  It is released through touch, it is released through the prophetic act, it is released through word.  In John chapter 6, Jesus said, “My words to you are spirit and they are life.”  Whenever Jesus spoke, He spoke what the Father was saying; so, nothing originated [from Him]…152

Johnson goes on with his usual kenotic motif of ‘Jesus did nothing of Himself being totally reliant on the Father in order to model a Spirit-filled life for the believer’.  Then he continues, claiming that when Jesus, “the Word made flesh”, spoke, His Words literally became Spirit by taking John 6:63 out of context.  He expounds on this proof-text by taking Romans 14:17 out of context as well which is followed by more Scripture twisting in order to make his esoteric point:

…So Jesus makes this declaration: “My words to you are spirit and they are lifeJesus is the Word of God made flesh; but, every time He spoke, the Word of God became SpiritWord made flesh; Word made Spirit…  Why is that important? 

…Paul said this in Romans, that the Kingdom of God is not meat or drink, but it is righteousness, peace and joy IN the Holy Spirit.  The Kingdom of God is not meat or drink, it’s righteousness, peace and joy IN the Holy Spirit.  The Kingdom of God is IN the Holy Spirit.  When words become Spirit, the realms of God’s dominion are released over humanityWhen we say what the Father is saying then we literally impart Presence through speech.  It is not the volume.  It is not the profundity.  It is the source: Was it from the heart of the Father?  If we tap the heart of the Father and we speak, then something is released and it is the person of the Holy Spirit who Himself contains the realm of the King-dom – King’s domain.  The realm of God is contained in the realm of the Spirit. When we say what the Father is saying, we change the options of every hearer…

When Jesus said, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” He was letting them know ‘when I talk to you, a reality is released over you that changed your options’.  And your answer is within reach.  It’s at HAND.153  

Is this Levi’s (God of) Force ‘made manifest’ “through the Word”?  The similarities are striking indeed.  Later in this same monologue, Johnson tells the audience the entire purpose of “all ministry” which is to literally “impart the Person of the Spirit of Christ”.  Which “Spirit of Christ” is being imparted?

…It’s my conviction that all ministry can be summed up…can be boiled down to one thing: All ministry is actually imparting the Person of the Spirit of Christ into the atmosphere, into a situation.  It’s actually imparting [ED: Johnson here points to his mouth] the person.  “Freely you have received, freely give.”  What have you received?  Him.154

This doctrine is not found anywhere in the pages of the Holy Bible; however, this concept is remarkably similar to an occult teaching regarding the etheric realm.  In Alice Bailey’s Telepathy and the Etheric Vehicle, she describes the etheric realm as the panentheistic realm – that substance of ‘god’ which is within all matter.  She uses the term omnipresence to describe its nature:

…Omnipresence has its basis in the substance of the universe, and in what the scientists call the ether; this word “ether” is a generic term covering the ocean of energies which are all inter-related and which constitute that one synthetic energy body of our planet.155

In panentheism, God is both transcendent (outside the cosmos) while simultaneously immanent, within all matter.  This immanence is the ‘god within’ (or “Christ within”, seed, divine spark) which inter-connects with all others; i.e., the ‘god within’ one person or thing is of the same essence as the ‘god within’ another.  This ‘divine immanence’ is the etheric realm, and omnipresence characterizes the nature of the entire etheric body.  This then makes omniscience possible to all:

It is a fact that omnipresence, which is a law in nature and based on the fact that the etheric bodies of all forms constitute the world etheric body, makes omniscience possible.  The etheric body of the planetary Logos is swept into activity by His directed will; energy is the result of His thoughtform playing in and through His energy body.156

Bailey asserts that this inter-connectness of the panentheistic, etheric realm makes collective omniscience possible since “divine thought” permeates this realm.157 Through “concentration and meditation”, individuals become “inspired Thinkers” with the power to direct this energy thereby acquiring “the clue to ultimate world salvation”:158

The thought-directing energy has for its source a Thinker Who can enter into the divine Mind, owing to His having transcended human limitation; the thought-directed receiver is the man, in exoteric expression, who has aligned his brain, his mind, and his soul.159

…Advanced humanity, the mystics and the knowers, are becoming increasingly aware of the mind which directs the evolutionary process.  When this awareness is cultivated and the individual mind is brought consciously into contact with the mind of God as it expresses itself through the illumined mind of the Hierarchy of adepts, we shall have the steady growth of omniscience.  This is the whole story of telepathic interplay in the true sense; it portrays the growth of that oligarchy of elect souls who will eventually rule the world, who will be chosen so to rule…160

Going back to Johnson, “The realm of God is contained in the realm of the Spirit”.  And, “If we tap the heart of the Father and we speak, then something is released and it is the person of the Holy Spirit who Himself contains the realm of the King-dom – King’s domain”.  So, in speaking the “rhema” Word (or through touch or the “prophetic act”), we release the “person of the Holy Spirit”, or, in other words of Johnson, we impart “the person of the Spirit of Christ into the atmosphere, into a situation”.  This is the purpose of “all ministry” as per Johnson.  In comparing to the Bailey concept above, it seems plausible that Johnson is releasing the ‘etheric realm’ into the atmosphere through the spoken “Word of God” via the omnipresence inherent in the ether.  Let’s compare this to more words of Bailey from another book:

Instruction is being given at this time to a special group of people who have come into incarnation at this critical period of world’s history.  They have come in, all at the same time, throughout the world, to do the work of linking up the two planes, the physical and the astral, via the etheric.161

It would be instructive to point out that occult / New Age / New Spirituality teachings are also expecting a “kingdom of god” as illustrated in Alice Bailey’s From Bethlehem to Calvary: The Initiations of Jesus, her 1937 work explaining how Jesus is ‘our model’:

It is time that the Church woke up to its true mission, which is to materialise the kingdom of God on earth, today, here and now…162

…A new kingdom is coming into being: the fifth kingdom in nature [ED: kingdom of God] is materialising, and already has a nucleus functioning on earth in physical bodies.163

Bailey explains this concept of bringing in the “kingdom of god” in yet another book, The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, with the book’s title about the intent of ‘externalizing’ the “Spiritual Hierarchy” (of demons) onto the physical plane (the earth):

Hovering today within the aura of our planet are certain great spiritual Forces and Entities, awaiting the opportunity to participate actively in the work of world redemption, re-adjustment and reconstruction.  Their Presence is sensed at times by the spiritually-minded people of the world, and Their reality is recognised by the mystics and occultists working in every land.  Men and women express this recognition according to the trend of their religious and psychological training and the particular mental or emotional bias…164

The book goes on to note how the different religions await various messianic figures each according to its own particular religious views and how this can create a powerful “thoughtform”.   This collusion of thought can hasten an event:

…[W]hen a thoughtform has been constructed of sufficient potency and has been built over a long period of time by the people of the world, a further and final stage becomes ever possible.  The form can be rendered so magnetic that it can attract an Energy which will inform it and give it active potency; it can then become a vital link between the subjective world of energy and the objective world of forces and a thing of power, of impelling and guiding activity, and therefore the expression of a Life.  This thoughtform, duly informed, becomes a mediating factor, constructed by humanity but animated by the will-to-good of some great and spiritual Entity… 165

Is this the method Johnson has in mind “to impart Presence through speech”?  Is this what is meant by his conviction that the ultimate goal of ministry is “actually imparting the Person of the Spirit of Christ into the atmosphere, into a situation”?  While Johnson does not make any explicit or implicit claims of omniscience in believers with his words above, he implies it in the following section (while Bob Jones does so explicitly).

We’ll close this section with additional words of Alice Bailey stating fairly concisely the intents and purposes of the “Spiritual Hierarchy” of which she communed indicating the needed cooperation of humanity:

Emphasis should be laid on the evolution of humanity with peculiar attention to its goal, perfection…man in incarnation, by the indwelling and over-shadowing soul…The relation of the individual soul to all souls should be taught, and with it the long-awaited kingdom of God is simply the appearance of soul-controlled men on earth in everyday life and at all stages of that control…The fact will appear that the Kingdom has always been present but has remained unrecognized, owing to the relatively few people who express, as yet, its quality….166

Getting Down to the DNA of Spiritual DNA

In his Shepherd’s Rod 2005, Bob Jones used this same concept of the ‘Word becoming flesh in us again’ with the ‘Word’ being the WoF “rhema” word, i.e. new, ongoing revelation, in referencing spiritual DNA:

The Living Word or Bread of life once again desires to be made flesh through a body of people joined with Him in a holy consummation.  As we live not by natural bread alone but by the living Word proceeding from the mouth of God, the bread of abundant life, even so the hidden truth of godliness will become part of our spiritual DNA.

…Mysteries reserved deep in the heart of the Father, locked away in the mind of Christ, and dispersed by the Spirit who searches the deep things, await the passionate embrace of a latter-day company of overcoming, holy, victorious ones…167

Since Jesus identified Himself as the “Bread of Life” [John 6:35, 48], it is clear Jones is claiming that some believers will, at some point, be just like Jesus as “the Word made flesh”, thus mirroring Johnson above.  Apparently, in living by the “living Word proceeding from the mouth of God” the spiritual DNA is expanded.

In part II it was shown how Bob Jones differentiated between the physical body which contains our DNA as compared to “His [God’s] genetics” / conscience / spirit within each person that has “authority over DNA”.  This is subsequently added to the human body (clay).  Jones’ teaching appears to be a ‘Christianized’ version of the esoteric/occult doctrine of reincarnation.

Apparently, “spiritual DNA” provides the means with which one can attain the literal mind of Christ (omniscience) as Jones also mentions in his teaching at the 2011 Piercing the Darkness prophetic conference:

…But there are Christians who are maturin’ now in their mind to where they’ll have the mind of Christ, and they’ll have the answers…168

This presumably occurs when one taps into “the Wisdom of the Ages” [see part II and below].  It is entirely possible, if not probable, that Jones has in mind ‘the Christ’ which is part of the false Trinity of Levi, i.e. the one which “took full possession” of Jesus of Nazareth (or a similar teaching).  This then would mean that when Jones speaks of ‘Christ’ “coming IN my people” [see part II] – referencing the false parousia – he’s referring to this same false Christ.

To reiterate, and perhaps make clearer, here’s additional context of Jones’ “God sperm seed” statement in which his claim is that this “spirit of God” comes into everyone at conception:

…Everyone of you, when you were conceived in your mother’s womb, a spirit of God came into you.  It’s your human spirit which is your conscience.  When this came into you, this spirit was as mature as it’ll ever be because this spirit came from God.  And, this is what’s been guiding your life – your conscience, your human spirit.  Man is six things.  He’s mind, will, and emotions.  He is human spirit, Holy Spirit and Wisdom of the AgesWhat happens if you begin to tap into the Wisdom of the Ages?  In that little bitty God sperm seed – 1st Peter 1:23 is all the Wisdom of the Ages.  That genetic thing – you have authority over DNA169

When Jones speaks of those Christians “who are maturing’ now in their mind” he’s speaking of those who are in tune with this ‘spirit’ which has “been guiding your life”, a “spiritual guide” which is providing these ‘new revelations’.  For those not familiar with New Age or esoteric/occult terminology, “spiritual guide” is the term used most commonly for a disincarnate spirit which guides the individual (which can seem like a ‘god within’).  Jones adds more to the above (quoted in part II):

But what He put in here [ED: the body] was not DNA.  It was His [God’s] genetics that has authority over DNA… For this conscience of yours is really your spiritual guide.  God gave this to you to guide your lives.  Don’t violate your conscience.  In certain places it’s called your spirit.  Especially in 2nd Corinthians 7:1 it’s called spirit and flesh.170

Jones is reiterating that it’s the spirit which is “as mature as it will ever be” which was “put in here [the body]” at conception.  It seems Jones’ “God sperm seed” is the agent which activates “His [God’s] genetics”, “your conscience”, which allows one to “tap into the Wisdom of the Ages”.  This “God sperm seed” is apparently what activates the “spiritual DNA” which “has authority over DNA”.  This appears to be very similar to, if not the same as, Johnson’s teaching on the “sperma of God”.

Johnson sets up his account of the “sperma of God” by explaining that ‘God’s Word’ brings conflict; however, again, Johnson is not speaking of Scripture.  He is referring to the “rhema” word as in the Word of Faith teachings as noted above:

…This story in Matthew 13, the parable of the seed and the sower actually gives this picture of soil; and the seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God, is released into the seed, through His Word, into the soil.  And, then it says, but other things grow and they choke out the life of that seed of God…171

Johnson’s point is essentially that other concerns “choke out” the ‘rhema Word’ preventing the “seed of God’s Word”, which is the “sperma of God”, from growing in the soil of the human.  With this teaching, he may well be promoting, in a more subtle way, the same doctrine of reincarnation that Jones has explained a bit more explicitly in part II.  The following quotes will help explain this a bit more.

In his book When Heaven Invades Earth, Bill Johnson speaks of “spiritual DNA” in two different passages.  Bracketed comments are inserted for explanation:

God is our Father, and we inherit His genetic code [at conception].   Every believer has written into his or her spiritual DNA [activated by the “sperma of God”] the desire for the supernatural….172

It is abnormal for a Christian not to have an appetite for the impossible. It has been written into our spiritual DNA [activated by the “sperma of God”] to hunger for the impossibilities around us to bow at the name of Jesus.173

God’s “genetic code” is the not yet activated “spiritual DNA” that all receive at conception.  This “spiritual DNA” is activated when one begins to listen to the ‘Word of God’, or “conscience” / ‘spirit’ as Jones would put it, thus beginning the ‘born again’ experience.  Here are some additional quotes:

…Exposure to the supernatural works of God changes the capacity of leaders to lead, thereby changing the bent of the people of God to pursue Him.

Such exposure is the equivalent of a spiritual change of DNA.  Something is altered in that person that enables him or her to lead in a way that the people of God inherit a heart for God through the leader’s influence.174

It is said that when a kernel of corn is planted, every kernel that grows has the exact same DNA as the original kernel in the ground. Jesus became the ultimate seed that was planted in death, and we were born again by the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead.  Every born-again believer has the DNA of Christ.  That is amazing!

This DNA of Christ in us is practical in that it enables the Godlike capacity to dream…He [Jesus] was planted to redeem people unto something.  And that unto something involves accurately and fully representing who Jesus is on earth as in Heaven.  We have His DNA and therefore manifest His face to the world…175

In this context, ‘born again’ refers to the point at which the ‘spiritual DNA’ is activated.  Once again, Johnson stresses how Jesus was raised by the Spirit rather than by the Father AND Christ Himself as per orthodoxy.  And this same ‘Spirit’ provides the ‘born again’ experience of every ‘believer’.  Johnson stresses this elsewhere in the same book: “The Holy Spirit in us is the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.  He is the Spirit of the resurrected Christ.”176  Johnson emphasizes ‘the Spirit’.  Could Johnson be referring to the same “Christ Spirit” that Benjamin Crème had in mind as indicated at the end of part IIIa?

Also, his assertion that we should be “accurately and fully representing who Jesus is on earth as in Heaven” in this context has overtones of the heretical Manifested Sons of God (MSoG) teaching.  And the ‘kernel of corn’ comparison reads much like the “seed of God’s Word”, “sperma of God” teaching above.  Johnson reiterates this teaching in a Charisma piece from last year’s special issue featuring Bethel Church:

When the Spirit of the resurrected Christ took up residence in our bodies, all of heaven positioned itself to see what we would conquer in His name. Resurrection power is in our nature, in our spiritual DNA.  When we were born again, we received the same spiritual DNA as Jesus.  His resurrection power now is to dwell in us through the Holy Spirit…177

This “resurrection power” described above was discussed in Bill Johnson’s ‘Born Again’ Jesus, Part II illustrating likely roots in MSoG teaching which has a parallel teaching in the occult / New Age / New Spirituality which itself is predicated on the false doctrine of reincarnation.

Let’s compare Johnson’s teachings with those of Eternal Vision Ministries which adheres to the following creed: “We believe that all of creation was designed and set forth to fulfill God’s Eternal Purpose”.178  Their teachings are reminiscent of other hyper-charismatic ministries with a decidedly New Age bent.  There’s no explicit mention of the Gospel while there’s a vague “Gospel of Eternity” promoted.  The following is from their teaching “The Function of the Bride”:

It is clear that growth cannot be accurately measured by the number of doctrines we learn or the amount of knowledge we achieve. Spiritual growth is measured by the spiritual life we have received from Him. This is the Zoe Life that IS Christ in us. This is the Life that comes into us as the sperma of God when we are born again. This “sperma” is the living and abiding word of God. It is also called the Spirit of Christ or the Spirit of His Son. The same “sperma” that was impregnated into Mary to develop into the Man Christ Jesus also comes into us. The growth of that “sperma” was the incarnation of God in a human body.

God’s goal for the church is the incarnation of Christ IN His body now on earth. For that reason God begins by infusing the “sperma” of God which is the living and abiding Word of God into each of us individually. Then individual “members” are assembled into a local body called the church. The corporate church is said to be the fullness of Him that fills all in all. In other words this church is the manifestation of Christ.

Jesus said if you have seen Me you have seen the Father because He was the manifestation of the Father on earth. Hopefully we will be able to say if you have seen me you have seen Christ, at least if we see His fulness we will see the “corporate Christ”. A “body with many members”.179

This looks a LOT like Bill Johnson’s teachings.  Not surprisingly, Eternal Vision asserts that Jesus was formed from the same “sperma” that ‘infuses’ “each of us individually”.   This correlates to Johnson’s teaching of Jesus as explained above regarding Jesus as the “rhema” Word made flesh by this “living and abiding word” indwelling Jesus rather than Jesus as the second Person of the Trinity made flesh via the hypostatic union.  Of course, this also correlates with the teaching of Levi above.

In an article titled Creating Heaven on Earth, is an interview of New Ager Jean Adrienne by Asa Wulfe in which they discuss bodily ascension as a way of creating Heaven on Earth in the here and now.  Note the similarity in title as compared with Johnson’s When Heaven Invades Earth.  In the Adrienne/Wulfe interview, Adrienne describes the process of ascension as being “started by activating additional strands of DNA – the spiritual DNA”:

…[I]f additional strands are activated, we awaken new abilities, gifts, and powers that have been dormant…Perhaps our DNA could be a ladder into the Fifth Dimension…180

This “Fifth Dimension” is analogous to Bailey’s “Fifth Kingdom,” also known as the “Kingdom of God”, which is only accessed by achieving the fourth (and higher) initiations with the fourth initiation resulting in the attainment of a manifested son of God.  [see “Christ” in the New Age article on this site]:

Certainly, everything that we are physically is encoded in the DNA.  We have physical DNA in our cells, and spiritual DNA that is in our energy field.  These two energies have to be connected, just as the left and right hemispheres of the brain must become integrated and balanced as we move into the Fifth Dimension.

All of our inner knowledge is stored in the DNA…When we become authentic, we no longer search outside ourselves for ‘true knowledge.’  It is within us.181

Bill Johnson’s friend Che Ahn of HRock Church has clearly defined spiritual DNA in an old Ministry Today article:

While no two of us are exactly alike physically, it would appear we have the same spiritual DNA, according to the Scriptures. Like Adam and all of humanity to follow him, the image of the Godhead has been passed down…

…[C]an we fathom the untold significance of having our Father’s DNA?

I no longer merely confess that I am the righteousness of Christ. I realize that with His DNA in me through His blood, I could be nothing else. I realize the attributes of His DNA reside in me—whether dormant or active.

No longer do I see the fruit of the Spirit as something we “will” by self-effort or following the law. Rather, I see that in my DNA, God has already placed genes of love, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. They are waiting to be activated by the Holy Spirit.182

This sounds much like what Bill Johnson is stating although it explains some aspects a bit more clearly.  From another New Age / New Spirituality site we see, once again, the same concepts:

In our current DNA structure, we have two visible strands, which are called backbone DNA, but all the other 10 other strands are present…According to Esoteric teachings, the first two strands are Physical DNA, the other ten strands are Spiritual DNA.

Activating your dormant DNA, which in time will also give you access to the secrets and mysteries of which you are and what your life-purpose is, will allow you to realize your full potential here on Earth.183

Divine Nature Activated

Bill Johnson’s friend Todd Bentley defined “DNA” as “Divine Nature Activated” under the Supernatural Training Center tab on his old Fresh Fire Canada site.  This seems an apt way to define the activation of the “spiritual DNA”:

Christ wants us to know Him intimately by the power of the Holy Spirit and to catch His vision for our lives.  His desire is to build godly character into our DNA – Divine Nature Activated….184

Also, his now-defunct Fresh Fire Canada site featured his “Joel’s Army Internship” in which was found the following quote from Jerame Nelson of Living at His Feet Ministries:

…I have experienced a true impartation of the Fire of God, as well as faith to see the divine nature of Jesus Christ manifest in the earth today185

Do we have a divine nature?  Scripture shows we have a fallen, sinful human nature but never does the Bible say or even allude to humans having a divine nature. Yes, the Holy Spirit is in the true believer which makes us “partakers of the divine nature” [2nd Peter 1:4 NKJV] but only through Him.  The word partake does not mean become.  Yes, we can say “Christ in us, the hope of glory” [Col 1:27]; but, this does not mean we become Christ or divine.  Only the Trinitarian Godhead is divine.

However, as explained earlier, esoteric/occult teaching is such that man has a dual nature – one human and one inherent but latent divine nature which must be actualized through self-effort.  Once an individual acknowledges their inherent divinity, then they can work towards actualizing it.  This seems like the best explanation for Bill Johnson’s concepts of the “sperma of God”, “Word made flesh”, “spiritual DNA” and the other material brought forth in this article.

The significance of “Divine Nature Activated” is explained quite well by New Ager John Lewis of Age to Age Ministries:

Citizens of planet Earth, you have been incarnated in your present physical form at this time to witness and participate in the Transformation of human kind.  This phase of human evolution is to bring him into full manifestation of his Divineness

You are not here by accident, chance, or coincident.  Your parents were only convenient for you arriving in the physical 3 dimensional existence you now experience.  You came through your mother, but you came from God.  Parents gave you the physical and biological stuff to house who you really are until the appointed time of the Divine Nature Activated.  You are being summoned and wooed to an experience that transcends what is known as the human experience.  Therefore, arise and shine because the Light within is coming to full expression and the glory of God will become more visible on your physical being.186

Once again, one can almost hear the refrain of the popular song by the soul/rock group The 5th Dimension “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”.  Clearly, this is very similar, if not the same as, Manifest Sons of God teaching.  Continuing with Lewis in his subsection titled, “DIVINE NATURE ACTIVATED”:

We are partakers of his divine nature.’  97% of our DNA is unused, not active; therefore, the science communities don’t understand it.  I believe that the discovery of DNA at the time it was discovered was carefully orchestrated by God in man….

 …The 97% of your DNA that’s not activated is GOD waiting to be activated in man.  You have the information and intelligence of the Adam the son of God encoded in your DNA.  Access and activation to this information will cause you to live as Adam the God-man in the Garden of your Be-ing….

One will only be able to fulfill the Divine purpose when he is walking in awareness of his own divinity.  It is our belief system that hinders us from being the Gods we are…187

John Lewis’ teachings sure do resemble those of Johnson, Jones, Ahn and Bentley, do they not?

Part IV will discuss how some other teachings of Johnson resemble those of occult / New Age / New Spirituality and will conclude this series.

117Rudolph, Kurt; trans. R McLachlan Wilson Gnosis: The Nature & History of Gnosticism. © 1977 Koehler & Amelang; translation (from German) of second, revised and expanded version © 1984 T&T Clark Ltd, Edinburgh; 1987 (1st paperback), HarperCollins, New York, NY; pp 159-160, 305-306.  Craig Keener, in his commentary on John [The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume One.  2003, 1st Softcover Ed, 2010, Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; pp 339-363], exhaustively covers the various possibilities for the Gospel writer’s reason for using the term Logos.  Keener contends that any Gnostic influence on the Gospel writer is “not probable” [p 340].
118Keener; p 341
119Keener; p 341
120Keener; p 344
121Keener; p 345
122Keener; pp 347-363.  While Keener is convinced of the parallel, Andreas Kostenberger [Kostenberger, Andreas J. Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective (Encountering Biblical Series). July 2009 (8th prtg (paperback), (1999)), Baker, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 52-57] is less so as he sees “Wisdom” as a divine attribute instead [p 53].  Kostenberger believes the parallel is not close enough and, “if no closer parallel can be found, it may be necessary to conclude that personified Wisdom constitutes at least a remote parallel to the characterization in John” [p 53].
123Kostenberger, Encountering John; pp 52-56
124Kostenberger, Andreas J. John: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. July 2009 (4th prtg (2004)), Baker, Grand Rapids, MI; p 41
125Keener; pp 140-142.  Keener notes that “John’s literary freedom” [p 140] makes it easier to date the Gospel.
126Bercot, David W., Ed. A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs.  © 1988 David Bercot, November 2000 (3rd prtg), Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; p 91
127“whizzpopping” YouTube video, Bill Johnson – Friendship with God. Uploaded November 1, 2009 , taken from Bethel Church in Redding, CA, <http://www.ibethel.tv/watch/399/open-heavens-conference/2009/10/14?session=113> Open Heavens Conference October 15, 2009, morning session, Bill Johnson  <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4RZ_ctiwlE>; 1:24 – 1:37; as accessed 04/23/12.   Caps from emphasis in original; other emphasis added.
128Johnson, Clark, The Essential Guide to Healing; p 75. Emphasis added.
129“ewenhuffman” Jesus is our Model- Sermon of the week 20 Dec 09. Posted December 23, 2009, “Bill Johnson sermons for downloading”, mp3 audio, taken from <http://www.ibethel.org/> December 20, 2009, original sermon titled “Jesus is Our Model”  <http://ewenhuffman.podbean.com/2009/12/23/jesus-is-our-model-sermon-of-the-week-20-dec-09/> 24:07 – 24:24 (Johnson continues reiterating this thought until 24:57 at which he point he explains this via Matthew 13); as accessed 04/21/12.  Emphasis added.
130Bock, Darrell L. Luke, Volume 1 – 1:1—9:50 (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). © 1994 Darrell L. Bock, Baker, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 372-374
131“ewenhuffman” 24:57 – 25:17.  Emphasis added.
132“ewenhuffman” 25:17 – 26:18.  Caps from emphasis in original; other emphasis added.
133Dowling; p 6
134Dowling; p 6
135Dowling; p 6
136Dowling; p 8
137“ewenhuffman” 26:19 – 27:11.  Caps from emphasis in original; other emphasis added.
138“ewenhuffman” 27:30 – 27:48.
139“ewenhuffman” 29:11 – 29:28.  Emphasis added.
140“ewenhuffman” 32:14 – 32:17.  Emphasis added
141Walker, Benjamin Gnosticism: Its History and Influence. © 1983 Benjamin Walker, 1989 (1st published 1983 Aquarian Press), Crucible/Thorsons Publishing Group, Northamptonshire, England; p 62
142Walker; p 62
143Unity School of Christianity Metaphysical Bible Dictionary. 1931 (1955, 8th pr.), Unity School of Christianity (no publisher specified), Lee’s Summit, MO; p 388.  Emphasis added.
144Cumbey, Constance E. “An Evening with David Spangler” New Age Monitor. September 1988, Vol. 3, No. 1, Pointe Publishers, Center Line, MI; p 8
145Cumbey, “Evening with Spangler”; p 10
146Cumbey, “Evening with Spangler”; p 12
147Dowling; p 8
148“ewenhuffman” 30:21 – 31:01.  Importantly, Johnson indicates Jesus refrains from using the power of “the anointing” as opposed to stating Jesus refrained from using His inherent divinity which would be the predominate historical orthodox view.
149“ewenhuffman” 31:01 – 33:00
150“ewenhuffman” 35:03 – 36:04
151“ChasingRiver” YouTube video Bill Johnson – The Resting Place – VERY POWERFUL MESSAGE. Uploaded October 1, 2011, taken from GodTV <http://www.god.tv/node/503> and <http://www.god.tv/node/504> , venue: International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV), <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsQmLuG-Exo&feature=related> 11:17 – 12:04.  Emphasis added.  As accessed 04/23/12
152“ChasingRiver”; 12:14 – 12:39.  Emphasis added.
153“ChasingRiver”; 13:09 – 15:08.  Emphasis added.
154“ChasingRiver”; 34:40 – 35:08.  Emphasis added.
155Bailey, Telepathy; p 2
156Bailey, Telepathy; p 7
157Bailey, Telepathy; p 7
158Bailey, Telepathy; p 6.  Emphasis added.
159Bailey, Telepathy; pp 6-7
160Bailey, Telepathy; p 7
161Bailey, Alice A. Initiation, Human and Solar. © 1951 Lucis, NY, 4th paperback ed, 1980 (First printing 1922), Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY; p 67.  Emphasis in original.
162Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 210
163Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 254
164Bailey, Externalisation; p 222
165Bailey, Externalisation; pp 222-223
166Bailey, Externalisation; p 588
167Jones, Bob & Paul Keith Davis Shepherd’s Rod 2005. © 2002 Bob Jones and Paul Keith Davis, Bynum Printing, Waynesboro, MS; pp 15-16. These “Shepherd’s Rods” are purportedly ‘prophetic words’ Jones receives each year on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.  What is the significance of Yom Kippur as the Day of Atonement to the Christian when Jesus’ blood sacrifice IS the Day of Atonement and the fulfillment of this Jewish holy day?  The year of Jones’ “Shepherd’s Rods” is always the year following Yom Kippur, in this case the actual date was September 25, 2004 (from page 1 of the booklet).  Paul Keith Davis is of White Dove Ministries.
168Jones, “Coming Kingdom”; 5:02 – 5:11.  Emphasis added.
169Jones, “Coming Kingdom”; 10:53 – 11:59.  Emphasis added.
170Jones, “Coming Kingdom”; 24:48 – 25:30.  Emphasis added.
171Jones, “Coming Kingdom”; 26:19 – 26:38.  Emphasis added.
172Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 81. Emphasis added.
173Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 25. Emphasis added.
174Johnson, Release Power of Jesus; p 140.  Emphasis added.
175Johnson, Clark, Essential Guide to Healing; p 147.  Bold from emphasis in original; underscore added.
176Johnson, Clark, Essential Guide to Healing; p 135.  Emphasis in original.
177Johnson, Bill, “Super-Natural by Nature” Charisma. June 09, 2011, online version <http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/component/content/article/1571-features/31221-super-natural-by-nature> par 13.  As accessed 4/26/12.
178Eternal Vision Ministries, home page <http://www.eternalvisionministries.com>.  As accessed 4/27/12.
179Eternal Vision Ministries “The Function of the Bride”, <http://www.eternalvisionministries.com/_writings/writings/10022_bride_function.html> par 4-6.  Emphasis added.  As accessed 4/27/12.
180“The Spirit of Ma’at” website by Asa Wulfe “Creating Heaven on Earth with Jean Adrienne”, Vol 4, No 5, n.d.      <http://www.spiritofmaat.com/archive/dec4/adrienne.htm> par 13.  As accessed 4/27/12.
181Wulfe; par 14-17.  Emphasis added.  As accessed 4/27/12.
182Ahn, Che “Spiritual DNA” Column: First Priority, Ministry Today; June 30, 2007, online version  <http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/first-priority/15390-spiritual-dna>;  par 4-8.  Emphasis added.
183Humanity Healing Network website, ‘hhteam’, “Spiritual DNA”, <http://humanityhealing.net/2010/08/spiritual-dna/>; par 6-7, 15.  Emphasis added.  As accessed 4/27/12.
184Fresh Fire Canada website, Todd Bentley, “Supernatural Training Center” courtesy Internet Archive (the Wayback Machine),<http://web.archive.org/web/20070826155456/www.freshfire.ca/index.php?Id=4&pid=994>;  par 3.  Emphasis in original.  As accessed 4/27/12.
185Fresh Fire Canada website, Todd Bentley, “Joel’s Army Internship” ‘Testimonies’, courtesy Internet Archive (the Wayback Machine), <http://web.archive.org/web/20070825050149/www.freshfire.ca/?Id=943&pid=994>; emphasis added.  As accessed 4/27/12
186Age to Age Ministries, John Lewis, “DNA 2002: Divine Nature Activated”    <http://www.atam.org/DNA.html>; par 1-2.  Emphasis added.  As accessed 4/27/12.
187Age to Age Ministries, John Lewis; par 21, 24, 32.  Bold from emphasis in original; underscore added.  As accessed 4/27/12

Bill Johnson’s Christology: A New Age Christ?, part IIIa

[See also: Part I, The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit, Part II, Part IIIb and Part IV (Conclusion).]

Cosmic humanism forms the basis of the New Age Movement and related religious expressions, particularly Eastern mysticism.  It says that man is evolving toward a state of higher consciousness that will result in the attainment of godhood…

…Many have…adopted a form of cosmic humanism, believing that they are capable of achieving the same anointing of Christhood that Jesus had.  Their beliefs are predicated upon a new Gnosticism which appears so very Christian as to deceive even the elect if possible.  Through close examination, however, they are found in an error so serious that it threatens the stability of the churches in which these people fellowship and, in some cases hold positions of leadership. 

– Albert James Dager, Vengeance Is Ours85

Occultists / esotericists cannot deny that there was a historical Jesus of Nazareth (and maintain any real credibility) as the evidence for His earthy life is insurmountable.  Instead, He is humanized at the expense of His deity and proclaimed a righteous teacher, a model to emulate.

As noted in part II, a belief in reincarnation is integral to New Age / New Spirituality teachings.  In New Age Christology, Jesus of Nazareth was merely human and His life as the son of a carpenter was one of a number of incarnations.   For example, one of his previous incarnations was as Joshua son of Nun.  In fact, He was incarnated once more following His crucifixion and resurrection.86

In the New Age / New Spirituality and some other occult teachings, there is a false Trinity made up of The Father, the Holy Spirit (Holy Breath, sometimes Wisdom Sophia), and The Son (the Christ, the Logos, the Word):

The Christ is son, the only son begotten by Almighty God, the God of Force and God omniscient, the God of thought; and Christ is God, the God of Love.87

In His incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth, the man Jesus overcame many tests and trials through much effort during the first 30 years of His life.  Because of this, He proved worthy to manifest ‘the Christ’.  Therefore, He was chosen to be the new world teacher (the Christ) of the Age of Pisces to succeed Gautama Buddha, the Christ of the Age of Aries, once Jesus would perfect Himself at Ascension.  Thus, Jesus was “christed” in a ceremony occurring just after His water baptism in the Jordan by John when the Holy Spirit (Holy Breath) descended upon Him as a dove.  It was at this point Jesus was deemed “the Christ”.88

This ‘christing’ resulted in Jesus becoming the temple of the Holy Breath (Holy Spirit) thus providing the power for His miracles, while “the Christ” completely overshadowed Him, taking full possession.89  This “Christ Spirit” stayed with Him until some time before the Crucifixion so that it was only the man Jesus who died.90  It was the “Christ Spirit” which raised Jesus’ dead body at the Resurrection while Jesus of Nazareth went on to be reincarnated as Apollonius of Tyana who subsequently ascended thereby becoming Master Jesus and world teacher as “the Christ” for the Piscean Age.91

Jesus’ life became a symbolic pattern for all to follow toward their own salvation – just as the man Jesus procured His own.

Before going further in explaining New Age Christology and comparing this to Bill Johnson’s, it’s important to keep in mind the intention as explained earlier by Alice Bailey.  As stated in part I, in order for Christianity to be “transcended” the goal is in preserving the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed to church usages.  In other words, the doctrines must seem to be orthodox while actually teaching unorthodoxy.  By implication, a certain amount of duplicity and inherently contradictory statements would be part of the plan.

For example, in the kenosis theories claiming Jesus emptied Himself of some or all divine attributes to become a man, there is the implication of Jesus’ pre-existence as God rather than the New Age view that Jesus was previously incarnated as a man.  Certainly, no one can deny Jesus Christ’s pre-existence as God and remain in a Christian pulpit (at least not generally).  However, as noted in part II, claiming Jesus was/is eternally God yet He “emptied Himself of divinity” during the Incarnation is an inherent contradiction.  The point is, ‘Christianized’ New Age will not completely parallel New Age / occult theology.

Comparing Specific Christological Statements

Many prominent authors and conference speakers add fuel to the fire of fear assuming that because the new age movement promotes it, its origins must be from the devil92

Given Bill Johnson’s words above, obviously, he sees no trouble with at least some New Age concepts or practices.  And, of course, this illustrates that Johnson acknowledges there is a New Age movement.

As explained earlier, in New Age Christology, Jesus pre-existed as a human who had been reincarnated.  Once “christed”, He was en route to becoming “the new World Teacher”.93  Conversely, “Christ” is God’s son who pre-existed as “God”.  Here in the following is “Christ” as defined by a well-known New Age book by Levi Dowling first printed in 1907 (and presumably still in print) titled The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ:

We recognise the facts that Jesus was man and that Christ was God; so that in very truth Jesus the Christ was the God-man of the ages.94

Central to most all (if not all) occult doctrine is the belief that all humans have two natures – one human nature and one latent divine nature.  This divine nature is known as the “divine spark”, “seed”95 and/or the “Christ within” which must be awakened to begin “the Path” to self-salvation.96  The point at which one realizes and begins to actualize this inherent divinity is known as the ‘virgin birth’.97

This inherent dual nature in all humans makes us potentially the same as Jesus.  Since the term “Christ” is used in many different ways in New Age / New Spirituality teaching, it is confusing and sometimes difficult to interpret meaning which is ultimately determined by context.  In the following, in a book by Alice Bailey most likely originally written in the mid to late 1940’s, she is referring specifically to the person of the Incarnate historic Jesus at first; she then uses the term more generally in the second.  That is, in the second case Bailey is indicating that anyone can expand their “Christ consciousness” by following Jesus’ example.  By “the keynote of the Gospel story” Bailey means the so-called ‘good news’ that everyone can save him/herself and relate to the Father by our inherent divinity (awakened by the “Christ anointing” or, being “Christed”) and to humanity by our human nature:

…the keynote of the Gospel story [is] the human-divine nature of the [person of Jesus] Christ, relating Him to the Father through His essential divinity and also to man through His essential humanity.  The Christian Church gave a wrong slant to the teaching by making Christ appear as unique, though the higher criticism (deemed so shocking fifty years ago) has done much to correct this false impression.98

It seems quite possible that this “higher criticism” to which Bailey refers includes the kenosis theories at the turn of the twentieth century.

Also from Dowling’s book, who is usually affectionately referred to as simply “Levi”, is the New Age / New Spirituality teaching on two different aspects of “Christ”: the first is general, meaning “anointed” (or “christed”), while the second refers to a member of the false “Trinity” as indicated earlier:

The word Christ is derived from the Greek word Kristos [ED: actually Christos] and means anointed.  It is identical with the Hebrew word Messiah.  The word Christ, in itself, does not refer to any particular person; every anointed person is christed.  When the definitive article ‘the’ is placed before the word Christ, a definite personality is indicated, and this personality is none other than a member of the Trinity, the Son…99

Notice in the first three sentences the similarities between them and Bill Johnson’s teaching in the following:

Christ is not Jesus’ last name.  The word Christ means “Anointed One” or “Messiah.”  It [Christ] is a title that points to an experienceIt was not sufficient that Jesus be sent from heaven to earth with a title [Christ].  He had to receive the anointing in an experience to accomplish what the Father desired.100

…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…101

Per Levi, “every anointed person is ‘christed’” or receives “the anointing” or, “Christ anointing”, as Johnson calls it.  As previously pointed out in the CrossWise article The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit, Bill Johnson redefines Christ to “the anointing” and he subsequently redefines antichrist (spirit) to ‘anti-anointing’ in the same chapter of this particular book.

Confusingly, there is yet another aspect to the term ‘Christ’ in New Age Christology.  It is also an ‘office’ or ‘title’ for the “Christ” of the current age.  As noted above, there have been many “Christs” (or “World Teachers”) down the ages and, as previously stated, Jesus of Nazareth – more accurately, the now ascended “Master Jesus” – is the one for the Piscean Age, our current era/aeon102 having earned this ‘title’ and receiving His coronation at His “baptism in the Holy Breath (Holy Spirit)”.  This is explained in the Introduction to the book by Levi:

The word Christ means “the anointed one,” and then it is an official title.  It means, The Master of Love.  When we say ‘Jesus, the Christ’ we refer to the man and to his office; just as we do when we say…Lincoln, the President…Lincoln was not always President, and Jesus was not always ChristJesus won his Christship by a strenuous life…we have a record of the events of his christing, or receiving the degree Christ.  Here is where he was coronated…103

With the exception of the introduction, Levi’s book is written in chapter/verse format as if it were a Bible.  Here is how the (fictional) account is presented:

…and now you stand ready to take the last degree. 6  Upon your brow I place this diadem, and in the Great Lodge of the heavens and earth you are THE CHRIST. 7  This is your great Passover rite.  You are a neophyte no more; but now a master mind. 8  Now, man can do no more; but God himself will speak, and will confirm your title and degree. 9  Go on your way, for you must preach the gospel of good will to men and peace on earth; must open up the prison doors and set the captives free. 10  And while the hierophant yet spoke the temple bells rang out; a pure white dove descended from above and sat on Jesus’ head. 11  And then a voice that shook the very temple said, THIS IS THE CHRIST104

Now let’s look at one more Bill Johnson quote we’ve used previously in part I to compare with the immediately preceding:

The outpouring of the Spirit also needed to happen to Jesus for Him to be fully qualified.  This was His questReceiving this anointing qualified Him to be called the Christ, which means “anointed one.” Without the experience there could be no title.105

To reiterate, following is the latter part of the previous Johnson quote with additional context provided:

…It was not sufficient that Jesus be sent from heaven to earth with a title [Christ].  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.106

As pointed out in part I, as per Johnson, logically Jesus was not Christ prior to this experience as this title was given only at the point when the Spirit descended upon Him as a dove [Luke 3:16; John 1:32].  Hence, He was merely Jesus of Nazareth until this anointing.  This sure resembles the teaching of Levi above, does it not?

One other important thing to consider which is best illustrated by picking out a bit of one of Levi’s quotes above:

…When we say ‘Jesus, the Christ’ we refer to the man and to his office; just as we do when we say…Lincoln, the President…Lincoln was not always President, and Jesus was not always Christ107

If one has this in mind, one could use Luke 2:11, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” [NIV 1984], to mean that Jesus is the future Christ and NOT that Jesus was born as the Christ.  This would be similar to stating, “On February 12, 1809 President Lincoln was born.” – certainly, Lincoln wasn’t born President for he was elected to the office of the President later.  In the same way, occult / New Age / New Spirituality teachings assert Jesus wasn’t born the Christ for he wasn’t coronated until He was around thirty years of age.  Of course, Christian orthodoxy affirms that Jesus was the Christ, our Lord and Savior at birth.

In the Apocryphal/Gnostic The Gospel of Philip from the 2nd century is a similar idea.  In the following, there is a specific distinguishing between water baptism and ‘anointing’ [chrisma is the Greek transliterated word meaning anointing].  The “anointing” here is identified as the mark of a Christian rather than true Christian conversion upon which one receives the Holy Spirit indwelling:

The chrism is superior to baptism.  For from the chrism we were called ‘Christians’, not from baptism.  Christ also was (so) called because of the anointing.  For the Father anointed the Son.  But the Son anointed the apostles.  And the apostles anointed us.  He who is anointed possesses all things.  He has the resurrection, the light, the cross.108

This reads like an “ongoing incarnation”.  Alice Bailey, in her 1937 Theosophical / New Age book From Bethlehem to Calvary: the Initiations of Jesus, quotes Luke 3:16, then describes the two steps in baptism, the first by John the Baptist in water and the second by Jesus Christ “which is that of the Holy Ghost and of fire.”109  She further describes this second baptism:

…The baptism which Christ gives His followers concerns the purification of the mind by fire.  Fire, under the universal symbolism of religion, is ever symbolic of the mind nature. This baptism by fire is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.110

Those who are or were involved with the so called ‘Third Wave’ have undoubtedly heard the word “fire” used to describe those “under the anointing” (especially from Todd Bentley at Lakeland).  Bailey’s use here is referring to the transformation of the mind (continued transformation by Transcendental Meditation / contemplative prayer / centering prayer / soaking, etc.) to expand one’s “Christ consciousness”.111  [See “Christ consciousness” section of ‘Christ’ in the New Age article.]  This is a process that continues until one, hopefully, ascends to Master, becoming a god oneself.

In the following is Johnson as he explains the “baptism in the Holy Spirit”112 distinguishing between the Holy Spirit “that was already in Jesus’s life” and what transpired just after His baptism by John.  After quoting John 1:32, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him” [NKJV], a parallel passage to Luke 3:16 (as Bailey uses above), Johnson explains this baptism:

…Certainly this is not talking about the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that was already in Jesus’s life.  This was the inauguration of Jesus’s ministry, and the Holy Spirit came to rest upon Him [baptism in the Holy Spirit / “Christ anointing”] as a mantle of power and authority for that specific purpose.  But the fact that the Holy Spirit came to rest on Him is evidence of Jesus’s faithfulness to be perfectly trustworthy with the presence of GodThe same principle is true for us.

The Holy Spirit lives in every believer, but He rests upon very few…113

Here’s one more quote from Face to Face with God, the same Johnson book cited above:

…The baptism in the Spirit, a profound encounter with the face of God, adds the power of heaven to bring transformation to planet Earth…114

Does this not resemble the same basic teaching as the New Age / New Spirituality with respect to the ‘baptism of/in the Holy Spirit’ / “the anointing” / the “Christ anointing”?  “Transformation to planet Earth” sure has a New Age-y ring to it.

As noted in part I, Johnson claims that Jesus did not raise Himself from the dead contrary to John 2:19/10:17-18.

…Jesus GAVE Himself to be crucified.  He DID NOT raise Himself from the dead…His job was to give His life to die.  The Father raised Him by the Spirit…115

Of course, it was the entire Trinity who raised Jesus’ body from the dead as other Scripture attests [Holy Spirit – Romans 1:4/8:11; Father – Acts 5:29-31/Galatians 1:1/Ephesians 1:17-20; God – Acts 2:24/Romans 4:24].  However, Johnson’s phraseology is not that far from the words of well-known New Ager Benjamin Crème:

Jesus was raised from the dead by his teacher the Christ who entered his body 3 days after his death. Jesus was no longer in that body and it was the Christ whose personal name Lord Maitreya lived in that body for the 41 days after the resurrection.116

In essence, Crème is stating that it was the “Christ Spirit” which raised Jesus’ body and remained in Him at the instruction of the Father of the false Trinity. The difference in the Crème version is that Jesus’ immortal Spirit came back into the body of Apollonius of Tyana; and, upon his death, Jesus’ Spirit ascended and He became ‘Master Jesus’ and the “World Teacher” of the Age of Pisces.

One has to wonder why Johnson would emphatically violate Scripture in stating that Jesus DID NOT raise Himself from the dead especially when this is not much different than the occult / New Age / New Spirituality account.

Part IIIb will discuss “the Word made flesh” and “spiritual DNA” and part IV will specifically compare the Theosophical Jesus as pattern for mankind to quotes of Bill Johnson and concludes this series. [See also: part I, The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit, and part II.]

85Dager, Albert James Vengeance is Ours: The Church in Dominion. © 1990 Albert James Dager, Sword Publishers, Redmond, WA; pp 12-13.  Bold from emphasis in original; underscore added.
86Bailey, Alice A. Initiation, Human and Solar. © 1951 Lucis, NY, (4th paperback ed, 1980), Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY; pp 56-57
87Dowling; p 6.  Emphasis added.
88Dowling; pp 6-8, 82-83, 94
89Dowling; p 8
90einterface website. “The Master Jesus” taken from Benjamin Crème’s works Maitreya Mission, Volumes 1, 2, and 3. <http://www.einterface.net/gamini/indexju.html> par 1-5; as accessed 04/17/12
91Bailey, Initiation, p 56-57
92Johnson, Dreaming with God; p 86.  Emphasis added.
93Dowling; p 8
94Dowling; p 8
95Dowling; p 6
96Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary, pp 24, 26; Bailey, Externalisation, p 592
97Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary, pp 9, 21-22, 24, 26
98Bailey, Alice A. Telepathy and the Etheric Vehicle. © 1950 Lucis, NY, (2nd printing, 1957), George S. Ferguson, Philadelphia, PA; pp 127-128.  Underscore added.
99Dowling; p 6.  Emphasis in original
100Johnson; Heaven Invades, p 79.  Emphasis added.
101Johnson, Face to Face, p 77. Underscore added.
102Dowling; pp 3, 8
103Dowling; p 8.  Underscore added.
104Dowling; pp 82-83.  Underscore added; caps in original.
105Johnson; Face to Face, p 109.  Underscore added; other emphasis in original.
106Johnson; Heaven Invades; p 79.  Bold from emphasis in original; underscore added.
107Dowling; p 8.  Emphasis added.
108Schneemelcher, Wilhelm; transl. R. McL. Wilson New Testament Apocrypha: Volume One: Gospels and Related Writings. © J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tubingen, 1990; English Translation © James Clarke & Co. Ltd, 1991 (Rev. ed.), Westminster John Knox, Louisville, KY; p 200.  All emphasis added; parenthesis in original.
109Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 98
110Bailey, Bethlehem to Calvary; p 99.  Emphasis added.
111Here are a few statements taken from Alice A. Bailey’s A Treatise on Cosmic Fire [© 1951 Lucis Trust (1925, 4th ed 1951), Lucis Publishing Company, George S. Ferguson, Philadelphia, PA; p xvii] which are themselves from H.P. Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine [n.d., “Third Revised Edition”; identified as “S.D.”] (all emphasis added): “Fire is the most perfect and unadulterated reflection, in Heaven as on earth, of the One Flame.  It is life and death, the origin and the end of every material thing.  It is divine substance” (S.D. I. 146).  “Fire and flame destroy the body of an Arhat [ED: 4th level initiate]; their essence makes him immortal” (I. 35).  “The fire of knowledge burns up all action on the plane of illusion, therefore those who have acquired it and are emancipated are called ‘Fires’” (I. 114).  Of what are Bentley and others referring when they use the term “fire” and “fire of God”?  I was once given a cd of Robert Stearns / Jason Upton / JoAnn McFatter / Julie Meyer titled Freedom’s Fire [see here: http://store.liveinhispresence.com/Freedom_s_Fire_Prophetic_Worship_Robert_Stearns_p/cd-ffpw.htm ] with tunes such as “Burn Away”, “Swirling in the Fire”, “Freedom’s Fire”, “Burning Desire”.  From the same individual I was also given a copy of JoAnn McFatter / Steve Mitchell / Steve Swanson Messengers of Fire [see here: http://www.joannmcfatter.com/messengers.html ] with selections titled “Contact”, “Seven Spirits Burning”, “Messengers of Fire”, and “Winds of Fire”.  One must wonder what is meant by ‘fire’ in hyper-charismatic circles in general.
112Johnson, Face to Face; p 79
113Johnson, Face to Face; pp 21-22
114Johnson, Face to Face; p 102
115“ewenhoffman” Maintaining the crosswalk- sermon of the week Feb 27th 2011. 16:45 – 17:00.  Emphasis in original; underscore added.   As accessed 03/11/12.
116einterface website.  “The Master Jesus”; par 3

Bill Johnson’s Christology: A New Age Christ?, part II

[See also Part I, The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit, Part IIIa, Part IIIb, and Part IV (Conclusion).]

[T]he church movement, like all else, is but a temporary expedient and serves but as a transient resting place for the evolving life.  Eventually, there will appear the Church Universal, and its definite outlines will appear towards the close of this [20th] century…This Church will be nurtured into activity by the Christ [ED: actually Satan/antichrist] and His disciples when the outpouring of the Christ principle, the true second Coming, has been accomplished.  No date for the advent do I set, but the time will not be long.

-Alice A. Bailey, 191939

As noted in part I, Bailey’s words were channeled through her by a demon known variously as “Djwhal Khul”, “the Tibetan”, or “Master D. K.”.  Bailey was essentially a disciple of H. P. Blavatsky, one of the founders of Theosophy.  Formed in 1875, Theosophy itself is an amalgamation (uniting) of occult doctrines with some roots in 1st/2nd century Gnosticism.  These Theosophical teachings form much of the basis of the New Age / New Spirituality.

As both the Bailey quote from part I and the one above illustrate, the goal was to infiltrate the Christian Church in order to transform it into part of one large universal esoteric Aquarian Age / New Age ‘church’.  The Apostle Paul warned in 2nd Thessalonians 2:9 about this fake ‘second coming’ of which Bailey refers, which is an attempt at mimicking Jesus Christ’s Second Coming.  Paul even applies the same Greek word (parousia) to both Jesus’ Second Coming [2nd Thes 2:1, 8] and the coming of the antichrist in his warning:

7For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who restrains him will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming [parousia].  9The coming [parousia] of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of miracles, signs and wonders, 10and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.  They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.  11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie [pseudos (counterfeit)]  12and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.[2 Thess 2:7-12, NIV 1984]

Parousia is defined: “arrival as the first stage in presence, coming, advent.40  By the complete context it’s clear that once the ‘lawless one’ is revealed there will be “all kinds of [false, counterfeit (pseudos)] miracles, signs and wonders”.  These will be absolutely real, but they will be false in the sense that they are coming from Satan.  Ultimately, the power comes from God as He allows Satan the use of this power for His own purposes (v 11).

However, note that “the secret power of lawlessness is already at work” during the time Paul wrote this epistle which is obviously well before the ‘lawless one’s’ revealing (v 8).  These counterfeit/false signs and wonders will be in evidence before the arrival of the antichrist.   He may not yet be ‘revealed’ but his works are already made manifest.  It seems to make sense that these counterfeit signs and wonders would be increasing in both quantity and intensity in the time immediately preceding this false parousia.

Promoter of New Age / New Spirituality teachings Matthew Fox expressed the need for global mysticism in his 1988 book The Coming of the Cosmic Christ in order to bring forth this “Church Universal” of which Bailey speaks above:

Without mysticism there will be no “deep ecumenism,” no unleashing of the power of wisdom from all the world’s religious traditions…The promise of ecumenism, the coming together of religions has been thwarted because world religions have not been relating at the level of mysticism.  The Western tradition appears to have nothing to offer on a mystical level because its religious traditions are unaware of their mystical heritage…41

Perhaps Fox wasn’t aware of the mysticism already growing in the Western church primarily in the hyper-charismatic wing of Christianity.  No doubt hyper-charismaticism has grown since the time his book was written.

At last year’s Piercing the Darkness “prophetic conference” held at Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church in Redding, CA, “prophet” Bob Jones told the audience they were “called to be a mystic generation”.42

…Man is six things.  He’s mind, will, and emotions.  He is human spirit, Holy Spirit and Wisdom of the Ages.  What happens if you begin to tap into the Wisdom of the Ages?  In that little bitty God sperm seed – 1st Peter 1:23 is all the Wisdom of the Ages.  That genetic thing – you have authority over DNA43

For the record, 1st Peter 1:23 is referring to the Holy Spirit indwelling upon conversion, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” [NIV 1984].  All of mankind does not have the Holy Spirit; only true Christians will be indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  Of course, what Jones is teaching here is not Biblical; but, what does he mean?  More on this in a bit.  “Wisdom of the Ages” is analogous to the ‘Ancient Wisdom’, or occult teachings,44 or “the power of wisdom from all the world’s religious traditions” as Fox states above.  Jones continues later in his ‘sermon’ with even more alarming words:

…Man was created all at oncet [sic: “once”]. Bang.  And God finished it and He made man out of the clay. The DNA.  What He put in here [ED: the body] was not DNA.  It was His genetics that has authority over DNA.  And, you’re gonna have to begin to get a-hold of this.  For this conscience of yours is really your spiritual guide.  God gave this to you to guide your lives.  Don’t violate your conscience.  In certain places it’s called your spirit.  Especially in 2nd Corinthians 7:1 it’s called spirit and flesh….45

Clearly, Jones is making a distinction between the creation of the spirit / conscience / “His (God’s) genetics” which was “made all at oncet”, and the physical human body (clay) containing DNA which was made subsequent to this, indicating a two-step process.  Yet, Scripture describes the creation of man a bit differently, “the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” [Genesis 2:7, NIV 1984].  However, Jones words work well as a ‘Christianized’ explanation of the esoteric/occult/New Age doctrine of reincarnation.  To explain this doctrine, we’ll elicit help from some enthusiasts of the esoteric/occult.

In Annie Besant’s Theosophical/occult book The Ancient Wisdom from 1897 (Theosophy forms much of the basis of the New Age / New Spirituality teachings, as note above) she describes how the individual souls (spirits) await “the opportunity of incarnation” in human bodies:

…As the [human] race evolved, the human tabernacles improved, and myriads of souls [spirits] that were awaiting the opportunity of incarnation, that they might continue their evolution, took birth among its children….46

One time leader of the Theosophical Society Pasadena, Gottfried de Purucker, in his book Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, a “Commentary and Elucidation of H. P. Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine”, explains that the spirit is immortal:

…The spirit is the immortal element in us, the deathless flame within us which dies never, which never was born, and which retains throughout…its own quality, essence, and life, sending down into our own being and into our various planes, certain of its rays or garments or souls which we are; and furthermore, that these rays, in descending, constituted the life-essences of a hierarchy, whether we treat of our own selves as individual human beings, or whether we think of the atom, or the solar system, or of the universal cosmos. 47

De Purucker may seem a bit confusing here (and his run-on sentences do not help in clarifying); but, what he’s stating is that in the doctrine of reincarnation all spirits are part of the one “god” who is within all things – a doctrine known as panentheism.  These spirits are immortal, eternal.  De Purucker differentiates between spirit and “soul” with the latter referring to any vehicle containing the spirit.  Each entity has its own “soul”.  That is, the descending spirit has its own “soul”, its vehicle, which enables it to descend and it, in turn, inhabits the soul/vehicle of the human body.48  Besant above is speaking of the soul as vehicle containing this immortal spirit which is “awaiting  the opportunity of incarnation”.  According to this occult doctrine, the human being can function without acknowledging this descended spirit; however, once one acknowledges the ‘god spirit’ inside, one can begin the path to “godhood”.

After explaining how the immortal spirits emanate from the transcendent “God”, and that each spirit remains fully “God”, yet the transcendent “God” is in no way diminished, de Purucker provides a helpful analogy:

A perfect analogy is found in the intrauterine development of man and his descent into incarnation.  His [immortal] spiritual nature does not come down and become his actual body; it remains always his spiritual nature…[T]he physical man, the body, is in very truth the ‘temple of the living God,’ which is itself the glory thereof, hence a part of the temple; the temple, verily, is the lowest manifestation of the living God within.49

In the doctrine of reincarnation, the immortal, disembodied spirit must inhabit a new body at conception as de Purucker and Besant illustrate.   Going back to the first Jones quote: his teaching about “God sperm” works well when put into the context of reincarnation in which the immortal spirits ‘take birth’ in the ‘temple of the living God’.  Combining this with Jones’ second quote, he is claiming that the “God sperm seed” [immortal spirit] provides the “authority” over your DNA (your body) since this “God sperm seed” is, as he calls it, the spirit / conscience or, ‘God’s genetics’, which is placed into the “clay” (body) containing your DNA.  So, once you “tap into the Wisdom of the Ages”, according to Jones, you will gain authority over your DNA.  Apparently this is the basis for the “spiritual DNA” teachings which are becoming more prevalent both in the hyper-charismatic and “Emergent” streams of Christendom.  More on this “spiritual DNA” in part III.

Jones continues with more esoteric teaching, this time sounding decidedly New Age:

But, you’re getting ready to wake up for the night is far spent and the dawn is at hand.  And we’re getting ready for one of the greatest awakenings of all time – no revival but a’ awakening that never ends50

One can almost hear the refrain of the 1969 hit by The 5th Dimension “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” at this point: “This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius…”  According to the New Age / New Spirituality, we are currently in the latter stages of the Age of Pisces and the dawning of the Age of Aquarius is imminent.

But, Jones is far from through [the remainder will be the subject of a future post].  He even speaks of Christ coming in His people, a reference to the anti-biblical doctrine known as the “birth of the man-child” which is part of the heretical manifested sons of God (MSoG) teaching (MSoG is also an occult / New Age teaching):

…Recently, the Lord spoke to me and said, “I’m coming IN my people.  Christ in you, the hope of glory.  I’m comin’ IN my people.”51

This is not dissimilar to his August 08, 2008 monologue at a conference hosted by Heritage International Ministries and distributed by Rick Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries:

As you begin to grow into the likeness of Christ you’re gonna begin to partake of the divine nature.  And, once you begin to grow up in that-away you’ll continue to mature until you look like Christ all over the world.  Jesus was one person.  Now get ready for Jesuses [sic; plural of “Jesus”] all over the world.52

Esoteric/occult/New Age literature has long proof-texted Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” to indicate the god within which needs to be first realized then actualized.  As but one example of Alice Bailey, “There is a growing and developing belief that Christ is in us, as He was in the Master Jesus…”53 Here Jones seemingly has yet another application in mind.  Is he speaking of the fake parousia, the false second coming of which both the Apostle Paul and Alice Bailey spoke?

Actually, Bob Jones has been speaking these sorts of things for about 25 years now.  To help further explain the preceding Jones material, here’s a more direct, concise quote from the late Earl Paulk which should help shed some light (actually dark):

…‘Christ in us’ is God’s continuing incarnation…The Church is Christ’s body, the incarnation of Christ today.  The mystery which has been hidden but is now revealed to His saints is ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’  The mystery of this generation is Christ in us.  We never understood that mystery fully.  We pray to a ‘God beyond the clouds in heavenly places’ when Christ is in us.  The hope of glory is not in the heavenlies – the ‘hope of the heavenlies’ is on earthEvery departed saint is gathered, waiting to see how many of us are going to receive understanding and bring Christ from the heavenliesThey are waiting for total redemption as we are.

If God’s love is going to be manifested on planet earth, who is going to demonstrate it?  Christ in us, the hope of glory.  God has no other place to show His love except through His body.54

Satan and his demons need our cooperation to do their bidding (“the hope of the heavenlies is on earth”).  Following is the New Age / New Spirituality teaching on the false parousia as Bailey calls it, “the outpouring of the Christ principle, the true second Coming”.  According to New Age / New Spirituality, when “the Christ” (antichrist, the new ‘World Teacher’) “reappears”, he will also have the ability to manifest through many people at one time:

The Christ, when He comes into incarnation, will most likely project himself into many parts and be where he wants to be. This is called the Law of Divisibility, a term used in Agni Yoga that means a highly developed spirit—one who is able to contact, simultaneously, various people in various locations.55

Does this not seem uncomfortably close to the Jones/Paulk version above?  Continuing:

For example, a Master can be seen in various groups at the same time. He can even be in different planes serving and teaching on different levels to meet various needs of the people. He can do different jobs in different places at one time. He impresses the space with his images, and so forth.56

Certainly, Bill Johnson bears some responsibility for Bob Jones’ teaching since this “prophetic conference” was hosted at his Bethel Church.  Presumably, he’ll likely revert back to his words here:

…As a pastor I sometimes invite speakers who come in a rough package but carry a great anointing.  I do this to train my congregation to recognize the anointing and to celebrate who people are, not who they aren’t.  People want to be doctrinally safe, not relationally safe.  Often people expect me to publicly rebuke a previous speaker for teaching against what we believe.  I will do that only if it’s actual heresy.57

One has to wonder what Johnson’s definition of heresy is.  Certainly, refusing to rebuke a specific unbiblical or anti-biblical teaching by an individual who has spoken at his church amounts to tacit approval despite his statement above.  However, given that the Bob Jones material cited in this section (excepting the MorningStar monologue) is sold in both audio and video format at Bethel, this connotes not just tacit but explicit endorsement.  And for this, Johnson should be held responsible.  With this endorsement from Bethel, one may be led to believe Jones’ teachings (at the least his words on this DVD/cd) are part of the Johnson / Bethel belief system.  Are they?

Bob Jones “The Coming Kingdom”
Piercing the Darkness, 2011

Bob Jones lurks in the background of much of hyper-charismaticism.  He is lauded as a true ‘prophet of God’.  Do his esoteric teachings form the backdrop for the movement as a whole?  “Apostles” in the New Apostolic Reformation, the very ones who claim authority, do nothing to correct any of Jones’ strange teachings.  Since Bill Johnson himself is a recognized ‘Apostle’ within his own sphere of influence, he certainly has the authority.  Will he correct any of Jones’ teachings?  Has he yet?

Bill Johnson: Deceived Deceiver or Deceiving Deceiver?

While we cannot know for certain an individual’s true heart or motives, we are to ‘know them by their fruit’ [Matthew 7:15-23], i.e. their doctrines and practices.  Following is a list of things showing redefinition of key Christian terms and concepts, apparent deceit, questionable associations and endorsements, a dubious ‘healing’, and other concerns:

— It has been demonstrated that Bill Johnson has redefined repentance and, even worse, Christ and antichrist spirit, some of this in mid-paragraph.  It is very difficult to view this as other than deliberate.  Given that Johnson has changed Christ to “anointing” and antichrist spirit to ‘anti-anointing’, and that he’s termed our present era the “post-denominational era”,58 is it any wonder that Johnson would want the anointing of William Branham, the one who called all Protestant denominations antichrist?59

…That antichrist spirit that we’re studying, in denominationalism, and proven that denominationalism is antichrist….60

— The circumstances surrounding the acquisition of the Roberts Liardon library indicate apparent deceit.  Of note also: Liardon’s book God’s Generals is highly endorsed by Johnson.61  This book contains historical snapshots of a number of “past revival leaders” including Branham.  While Liardon doesn’t shy away from some of the problems with Branham in the latter part of his days including that denominationalism was “the mark of the beast”,62 he attributes these doctrinal aberrations to be caused by Branham moving away from his ‘gift of healing’63 which he claims God “couldn’t take back”.64  Liardon mentions the fact that Branham could only heal if his ‘angel’ was “standing at his right side”.65  Apparently, according to Kurt Koch, in his book Occult A-B-C, Branham’s ‘angel’ would not appear when Christians were in the audience praying thus rendering Branham powerless:

There are disturbing powers here.  I can do nothing.66

Since when is God constrained by “disturbing powers”?

— He clearly borrows from Word of Faith (WoF) theology.  As stated in a previous article, some of his doctrines follow Kenneth E. Hagin, Sr. in the way he moves from one Biblical proof-text to the next to make his theological points.  One such example is the ‘born again Jesus’ teaching in which he moves from Hebrews 1:4-5 to Acts 13:33 although Johnson stops short of Hagin’s claim that Jesus went to hell, took on Satan’s nature and was subsequently ‘born again’.

Here’s one Johnson quote illustrating the WoF ‘prosperity gospel’:

…Jesus destroyed the power of sin, sickness, and poverty through His redemptive work on the cross. In Adam and Eve’s commission to subdue the earth, they were without sickness, poverty, and sin. Now that we are restored to His original purpose, should we expect anything less? After all, this is the better covenant! 67

Moreover, it has been demonstrated that there’s a strong possibility Johnson has even adopted the same (re)definition as E.W. Kenyon for the word reality (the spiritual realm as opposed to the physical).  Kenyon, from whom Hagin borrowed heavily, was the originator of Word of Faith doctrine.  Kenyon very likely borrowed this redefinition from Theosophy (H. P. Blavatsky) who apparently had in mind the Dualism of 1st/2nd century Gnosticism.

— Johnson has friends who have propounded and continue to promote unorthodox and heretical doctrines including Bob Jones (as noted in the previous section), Todd Bentley and others.   Conferences of which Johnson both hosts and speaks feature individuals with unbiblical and anti-biblical doctrines and some with questionable practices.  He specifically backed Todd Bentley both at the Lakeland “Revival” and in its aftermath, and he even wrote a letter last year in support of him recommending him for ‘ministry’.

— There is at least one recorded dubious (or worse) healing.  The following probably says it all: “What have I done?  This guy thinks he hobbled in here…wait until he tries to walk out!68 The Biblical witness does not once show God making an individual worse en route to divine healing.  In essence, Johnson states that God subsequently ‘covered him’ for his initial mistake in this ‘healing’.69

— Johnson promotes contradicting concepts.  Johnson states one thing one time then contradicts this very thing the next.  One example is his definitive statement, “sin and its nature have been yanked out by its roots”.70  This, of course, is not Biblical as we never get rid of our sin nature until we receive our imperishable bodies [1 Cor 15] at the resurrection of the saints.  Johnson will make statements seemingly affirming our ability to remain sinless71 (a view in common with New Age / New Spirituality) yet, at other times Johnson will make statements about our sin.72  In addition, Johnson’s followers sometimes understand his teachings in an unorthodox manner while Johnson rarely makes any attempts to correct these ‘misunderstandings’.

With all the preceding in mind, let’s look at a few statements which seem to contain orthodox statements at least in part:

Jesus was (and is) God.  Eternally God.  That never changed.  But he chose to live with self imposed restriction while living on earth in the flesh – as a man.  In doing so He defeated sin, temptation, the powers of darkness as a man.  We inherit His victory – it was for us.  He never sinned!” [Facebook 3/21/2011]

The first three sentences in and of themselves are entirely orthodox.  Adding the fourth, some have understood Johnson to be teaching what is known as functional(ist) kenosis (see here for a full discussion on kenosis, or self-emptying), i.e. that Jesus retained all His divine attributes yet chose not to use his omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience (and possibly other traits) during His earthly ministry relying instead on the Holy Spirit. [This view violates some key Scripture in any case: Heb 1:3/Col 1:17; John 5:21, 24-25.]  However, this narrow view fails to look at the rest of Johnson’s explicit statements as shown in part I and this article which prove the contrary.

Moreover, “self imposed restriction” can also be understood such that the Word voluntarily divested Himself of some or all divine attributes at the moment of the virginal conception/birth resulting in this restriction.  This would indicate a stronger form of kenosis (or worse) known as ontological kenosis.  In fact, this seems more likely given Johnson’s next sentence that Jesus defeated “the powers of darkness as a man”.  In addition, the emphatic last sentence seems to drive home that it was His sinlessness as a man which provided “His victory”.  According to orthodox Christianity, to provide effective Atonement Jesus had to be both fully God and fully man on the Cross.

In addition, it’s important to note that all modern (mid 19th century to today) kenosis theorists proclaim Jesus Christ’s eternal deity yet many effectively deny this in their theory by asserting He lacked some or all divine attributes while incarnate creating an inherent contradiction.

Here’s another quote which backs up the assertion that it’s both the stronger kenosis (or worse) and Jesus Christ’s lack of sin that is Johnson’s focus.  The following even suggests that if one were to follow Jesus’ example one could be sinless (again, this is not unlike New Age / New Spirituality teaching):

Jesus modeled what life could be like for any person that had no sin and was filled with the Spirit of God.  He’s eternally God; He’s not a created being – He’s eternally God, but He set aside divinity and chose to live with the same set of restrictions that a human being would have.  Why? To set an example for us.  Now if He did what He did as God, I’m still impressed; but, I’m not inclined to follow.  But when I find out He did it as a man with the same limitations I have, suddenly I’m no longer content to stay where I’m at.73

In the following, a statement in an article in the March 2012 Charisma, Johnson states quite explicitly that Jesus no longer had any deity/divinity during the Incarnation:

While Jesus is eternally God, He emptied Himself of His divinity and became a man (see Phil. 2:7). It’s vital to note that He did all His miracles as a man, not as God.

If He did them as God I would still be impressed. But because He did them as a man yielded to God, I am now unsatisfied with my life, being compelled to follow the example He has given us. Jesus is the only model for us to follow.74

The Charisma article states that this quote was adapted from his book (co-authored with Randy Clark) The Essential Guide to Healing.  Here’s the quote from the book which is much the same as above:

Jesus emptied Himself of divinity and became man (see Philippians 2:7).  While He is eternally God, He chose to live within the restrictions of a man who had no sin and was empowered by the Holy Spirit.  In doing this, He provided a compelling model for us to follow.75

Each of these suggests not ‘merely’ kenosis but metamorphosis instead, i.e. the Word literally became a man transforming Himself into a human devoid of any deity/divinity.76  Perhaps Johnson was not very careful with his words (and Charisma as well as Chosen Books, the publisher of his book, were equally careless in editing); however, when taken together with the other two statements above and the rest of his Christological statements, something is definitely amiss.  This reconfirms the analysis of Johnson’s Christology in part I.  Moreover, in looking over all the other evidence noted in this section one may wonder if he is not deliberately making these seemingly confusing and contradictory statements.

However, Johnson does proclaim Christ’s eternal deity in most of these statements, doesn’t he?  As regards this ‘affirmation’ issue, this proclamation of Christ, we must look at some Scripture such as 1st Corinthians 12:3, “…and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit”.  Gordon Fee, in his commentary on 1st Corinthians, does not see this as a “means of ‘testing the spirits’…” because “…it would seem possible for anyone to say these words at will“.77

The presence of the Spirit in power and gifts makes it easy for God’s people to think of the power and gifts as the real evidence of the Spirit’s presence.  Not so for Paul.  The ultimate criterion of the Spirit’s activity is the exaltation of Jesus as Lord.  Whatever takes away from that, even if they be legitimate expressions of the Spirit, begins to move away from Christ to a more pagan fascination with spiritual activity as an end in itself.78

Following is Craig Blomberg expounding on Matthew 7:15-23:

Jesus now explicitly addresses the situation in which greater numbers profess Christ than actually follow him.  He describes some of the pretenders as “false prophets,” those who claim to be God’s spokespersons but are not.  Yet, like wolves in sheep’s clothing, they give all external appearances of promoting authentic Christianity in both word and work.  “Prophets” as in the Old Testament, refer to those who either foretell or “forthtell” God’s word.

Verses 21-22 enumerate some of the ways in which individuals can masquerade as Christians.  They may verbally affirm that Jesus is their Master, perhaps with great joy and enthusiasm…some [may] work various kinds of miracles…We are reminded that signs and wonders can come from other sources other than God…It is worth emphasizing, however, that one can never know with absolute certainty the spiritual state of any other individual.79 

Blomberg’s last statement works both ways: one cannot affirm with absolute certainty whether another is a Christian and one cannot affirm with absolute certainty that s/he is not.  We must look at their ‘fruit’.  Johnson’s ‘fruit’, as outlined above, should give us cause for concern.

Keeping in mind the goal as specified by Alice Bailey in part I of this article in “ preserving the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed to church usages”,80 the kenosis/metamorphosis teachings may be a way to ‘Christianize’ the concept of reincarnation, i.e. by superimposing this on the subject of the person of Christ in a way that seemingly remains ‘Christian’.

From a Christian perspective one cannot state, “Jesus is eternally God” yet claim, “He emptied Himself of His divinity and became a man”, as this is a logical contradiction.  However, in the esoteric doctrine of reincarnation all spirits are immortal.  “Immortal” can be synonymous with “eternal”.  And according to the Theosophical doctrine of reincarnation all of these immortal spirits are a part of the one transcendent “God”, so one could say these are “gods” as well.   Therefore, one could claim that not only is Jesus “eternally God”, we are also gods, for we all, including Jesus, have these immortal spirits within us!81

Essentially, Bill Johnson, like much, if not all, of the rest of hyper-charismaticism, humanizes Jesus at the expense of His deity.  This makes Jesus just like we are, and makes us just like Jesus.  Once the playing field is leveled in this way, the door is opened to deify ourselves, to make ourselves into gods.  Consider the following Johnson statement with this in mind:

…And the whole issue of Jesus going to the Father was that He would be going as the Resurrected, Ascended, glorified Son of God, and, in that condition would set the stage for what you and I would become.  It’s an amazing part of the Gospel.  Did you know that Jesus gave up everything to become a man?   He owned everything.  He and His Father owned everything…But when He became a manHe forfeited everything to become a man.

One of the most amazing truths in the Bible…in John 16 is that Jesus re-inherited everything…He’s talking to His disciples…‘The Father’s given me everything.’  Now think about this.  He gave it all up; He forfeited His right to everything to take on a human body and be murdered to take upon Himself what you and I deserve so that we could take upon ourselves what only He deserves.  Stunning. 

The Father so honored Him for His perfect obedience that He now re-inherited everything; but, now not as GodDon’t misunderstand me, Jesus is not an ascended being; He’s not, uh, He didn’t work His way up into divinity.  He is eternally God, eternally God.  But, when He re-inherited everything, He inherited it as a man without sin.  Why?  Because He became our elder brother.  He became the one who inherited everything.  Why?  So, that you and I could be positioned to inherit everything with Him.  He forfeited all so that He could re-inherit in a way that would include us.82

Note the disclaimer in the last paragraph, “Jesus is not an ascended being…He didn’t work his way up into divinity” and his stammering in the middle.  It appears Johnson is well aware of the Christological contradiction inherent in his teaching: Christ cannot be eternally God yet temporally (in our time-space continuum) merely a man during His earthly ministry.    But more importantly, he’s obviously aware of New Age teaching which he seems to be trying hard to convince the audience he is not teaching.83

Most importantly, this quote begs the question: what did Jesus relinquish when He “forfeited everything to become a man”, and what did he subsequently “re-inherit in a way that includes us”?  Did He become wholly a man complete with the human sin nature yet successfully remain sinless, thereby (re)attaining His salvation and becoming the model for the rest of mankind to follow in order to attain their own salvation in the same fashion?  Or, did He forfeit His divinity and subsequently regain it thereby paving the way for mankind to attain deity?  Considering all the Christological quotes above, one or both of these seem to be quite logical conclusions to Johnson’s teaching, for it seems Jesus gave up His divinity at the beginning of the Incarnation and reacquired it some time before or at Ascension.  This is not inconsistent with WoF doctrine.84

No matter how all this is meant, any interpretation seems not to approach Christian orthodoxy.

Part IIIa will take specific quotes of Bill Johnson and compare these to various quotes from New Age material.  In addition, Part IIIb we’ll take a closer look at the “spiritual DNA” teaching and will discuss “the Word made flesh”.  All this should prove quite ‘illuminating’.

39Bailey, Externalisation; p 510.  Emphasis added.
40Bauer, Walter, F. W. Danker, W. F.  Arndt, F. W. Gingrich A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 2000 (3rd ed.),University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL; pp 780-781.  Also known as “BDAG”.
41Fox, Matthew The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance. © 1988 by Matthew Fox, HarperCollins, New York, NY; p 65.  Bold from emphasis in original; underscore added.
42Jones, Bob “The Coming Kingdom” Piercing the Darkness Prophetic Conference, February 2011. Hosted by Bethel Church, Redding, CA, Feb 23-25, 2011, Session 4, Feb 24, 2011, 7:00pm; 16:02 – 16:05.  Available for sale at Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church website: <http://store.ibethel.org/p4810/piercing-the-darkness-february-2011-complete-set-bethel-campus> As accessed 04/01/12.
43Jones, “Coming Kingdom”; 11:30 – 11:59.  Emphasis added.
44de Purucker, G. Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy. © 1979 Theosophical University Press, 2nd rev ed (1932), Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, CA; p 147.  The front cover describes the book as a “Commentary and Elucidation of H. P. Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine.  From the text on page 147 referencing volume I of Blavatsky’s work (page 272): “The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages…”
45Jones, “Coming Kingdom”; 24:36 – 25:30.  Emphasis added.
46Besant, Annie The Ancient Wisdom: An Outline of the Theosophical Teachings. © 1939 The Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, (1897; 8th Adyar ed 1969), Adyar, Madras, India; p 214.  Book is “dedicated with gratitude, reverence, and love to H. P. Blavatsky who showed me the light”.  While there are a few minor discrepancies in the teachings of Blavatsky, Besant and Bailey, they mostly agree.
47de Purucker; p 157.  Bold from emphasis in original; underscore added.
48de Purucker; p 154.  “…What do we mean by soul as contrasted with spirit?  We speak of the human soul and the spiritual soul, and we speak of the astral soul, and we speak of the animal soul.  But we do not use those terms in connection with the word spirit.  Does it not teach us that the meaning of soul is that of a vehicle, an uphadhi in general; that vehicle, or any vehicle, in which the monad [ED: spirit, i.e. part of the transcendent “God”], in any sphere of manifestation, is working out its destiny?” [Emphasis in original.]  In this doctrine of reincarnation, everything has a “soul” – minerals, plants, animals and humans – and each have an inhabiting “spirit” which is using the “soul” as a vehicle to ascend to godhood.  The mineral must first ascend its way to the plant, then the animal, then the human, and ultimately to godhood.
49de Purucker; p 150
50Jones, “Coming Kingdom”; 21:26 – 21:40.  Emphasis added.
51Jones, “Coming Kingdom”; 38:53 – 39:05.  Emphasis in original.
52Jones, Bob.  Excerpt of his monologue from an August 08, 2008 conference held at Heritage International Ministries Retreat Center featuring Todd Bentley, Bob Jones and Rick Joyner.  DVD sold through Rick Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries, Media Store, VS19-000D. “Todd Bentley Healing and Impartation Service, 08-08-08”
<http://www.morningstarministries.org/store/teaching-sets/todd-bentley/todd-bentley-healing-and-impartation-service-08-08-08>.  Emphasis added.  As accessed 04/01/12.  Here’s an advertisement announcing the conference: <http://www.morningstarministries.org/events/morningstar-conferences/todd-bentley-healing-impartation-service-2008> As accessed 04/01/12
53Bailey, Externalisation; p 592.  Emphasis in original.
54Paulk, Earl Held in the Heavens Until…: God’s Strategy for Planet Earth. 1985, K Dimension Publishers, Atlanta, GA; p 229.  All emphasis added.
55World Service Intergroup website. Dubois, J.D. “The Christ, His Reappearance, and the Avatar of Synthesis” < http://www.worldserviceintergroup.net/#/christ-reappearance/4543145171 >   World Service Intergroup; Dubois; par 5; as accessed 03/27/12
56Dubois; par 5.  Continuing from above.
57Johnson, Face to Face; p 71, cf. 66-67
58Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 90
59Branham, William M. The Revelation of the Seven Seals. © 1993 VGR (2009 reprint), Voice of God Recordings, Jeffersonville, IA; pp 259, 283-285, cf. 259-295.  Transcribed from original tapes recorded March 17-24, 1963.
60Branham, p 259
61Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 103
62Liardon, Roberts God’s Generals: Why They Succeeded and Why Some Failed. © 1996 by Roberts Liardon (2nd prtng), Albury Publishing, Tulsa, OK; p 340.  The book is endorsed by C. Peter Wagner, Hee Kong, Jack Coe, Jr., Gerald Coates and others.
63Liardon; pp 335, 343
64Liardon; p 343
65Liardon; p 332
66Koch, Kurt Occult A-B-C. 1986 (2nd ed), Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI; p 235
67Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 33
68Johnson, Release Power of Jesus; p 107.  Emphasis added.
69Johnson, Release Power of Jesus; p 108
70Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 110
71Johnson, Heaven Invades; pp 29-30
72Johnson, Supernatural Power; p 110
73Johnson, Bill. “Authority and Power for Healing, Special Impartation and Activation Service”, NW Healing Explosion – Seattle Region, held at Sonrise Christian Center, Everett, WA, Thursday, December 1, 2011 (most likely date, as it seems there’s discrepancy between schedule on bulletin and date listed on url with Johnson’s monologue), 7pm; 42:30 – 43:10. <http://www.livestream.com/nwhealingexplosionseattle11/video?clipId=pla_49e5829f-8bef-4441-a0a1-3d91097b27a2&utm_source=lslibrary&utm_medium=ui-thumb> As accessed 04/01/12.  Emphasis added.  Many thanks to the CrossWise reader who sent this to me recently.
74Johnson, Bill. “You’ve Got the Power!” Charisma. March, 2012, Vol 37, No. 8; p 26.  Emphasis added.  Also currently available online: <http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/new-man/1622-features/32505-youve-got-the-power> Feb 23, 2012; par 7-8.  As accessed 04/01/12.  Many thanks to CrossWise reader/commenter Tim Bain for providing the source.
75Johnson, Bill, Randy Clark. The Essential Guide to Healing: Equipping All Christians to Pray for the Sick. © 2011 by Bill Johnson and Randy Clark, Chosen Books (a division of Baker Publishing Group), Bloomington, MN; p 125.  Emphasis added.  Each chapter is authored by either Bill Johnson or Randy Clark.  The chapter from which this quote is taken was authored by Johnson.
76This is consistent with Word of Faith doctrine.
77Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians: The New International Commentary on the New Testament. 1987, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MN; p 581.  Emphasis added.
78Fee, Corinthians; p 582.  Emphasis added.
79Blomberg, Craig L. The New American Commentary: Vol. 22; Matthew. 1992, B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN; pp 132-133.  Emphasis added.
80Bailey, Externalisation. p 511
81See de Purucker; pp 150-151
82Johnson, Bill. Audio clip taken from 2010 Australian “When Heaven Invades Earth” Tour as accessed from Plantagenet Family Church, Mount Barker, Western Australia, 03/21/11 from the following url: <http://pfchurch.org.au/?p=357> which now is redirected to a different page altogether.  Link recovered on Internet Archive / The Wayback Machine; however, audio clip is unavailable: <http://web.archive.org/web/20101106155256/http://pfchurch.org.au/?p=357>.  Originally transcribed by CrossWise on 3/21/11 or just after; last access date to original web link unknown but likely Fall, 2011.  All emphasis added.  Many thanks to the CrossWise reader who sent this to me on 3/21/2011.
83A similar quote is available on YouTube by “whizzpopping” Bill Johnson – Bringing Heaven to Earth (Part 2 of 2). Aug 20, 2010 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxVdxzJ0vN4> 3:10 – 4:30: “He forfeited everything because He owned everything; literally all that exists was His. And, He gave it all up to become a man; and, then He re-inherited everything as a man so that you and I would have an inheritance – the absolute mercy of God.  So, now He stands after His triumphant Resurrection. The defeat of the power of death, hell and the grave – all that stuff was defeated, the power of sin. And, He stands before humanity and He says, ‘I got the keys back.  That which was lost in the Garden, I’ve got it back. Now, let’s get back to plan A.’  And, he makes this profound statement; he says, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.”  Jesus did not make that declaration as GodNow, na – He’s eternally God; he’s not a created being, He didn’t ascend, ya know, to some position. He’s eternally God; but, He did not make that statement as God.  How do we know? Because He said, ‘All authority’s been given to me.’  There’s no one higher than God to give God authority.    When Jesus made that statement, He made the statement as our elder brother.”  Bold from emphasis in original; underscore added.  As accessed 04/01/12.  Once again, note the stammering in his disclaimer.
84McConnell, D. R. A Different Gospel: A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement. 1988 (4th prtng, March 1991), Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA; pp 116-133

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