Bill Johnson Claims You Can Think and Live from the Right Hand of God

In the SAME measure that the Father put Jesus at His right hand, in the same measure He has put YOU at His right hand, because YOU are IN Christ…. 

         Bill Johnson, “Thinking from the Throne” podcast, June 9, 20131

It could not have been planned this way.  In the previous CrossWise article, the attempt was made to synthesize Bill Johnson’s “eternally God” statements with his other teachings that indicate a temporally non-divine Jesus, conjecturing that Johnson may have in mind John 3:13, Ephesians 2:6 / Colossians 3:1-3 as a way to account for Jesus living in two realms simultaneously, with the idea that Christians can do the same, as in the manifest sons of God (MSoG) doctrine.  Amazingly, the very day the finishing touches were put on the article and it was published (June 9, 2013), Bill Johnson preached a sermon using these very Scriptures towards that very end!  With this podcast as evidence, it is apparent that Johnson DOES, in fact, share essentially the same MSoG view as Bill Britton, as illustrated in the quote used in the last article. Throughout this current article this podcast/sermon titled “Thinking from the Throne” will be referenced, but instead of assigning footnotes next to each quote, time markers will be placed just before and after the quotes from the transcript.  ALL CAPS indicates Johnson stressing particular words, all other emphasis added: 

[0:24]…I want to pick up where we kind of left off here a few weeks ago…the series that I started about the Throne life, the ascended lifestyle Jesus stood before His disciples, before Nicodemus in John chapter 3, and He made this statement, He said, “No one has ASCENDED into heaven except He that descended” [John 3:13].  Now this is before His death, before His Resurrection; so He was describing here a lifestyle of intimacy with the Father where even though He was standing on earth He had ascended into heavenly realms in His relationship with God.  The point being, that is an invitation for every believer…[1:52] 

Did you catch that?  Johnson is claiming that John 3:13 means that Jesus “ascended” while He was yet still on earth during the Incarnation, before His literal, physical ascension (Acts 1:9-11) – this “lifestyle of intimacy with the Father” providing the means by which He “had ascended into heavenly realms with God”.  Moreover, this is also “an invitation for every believer” to do the same – that is, to attain the “ascended lifestyle”, or “Throne life” while yet here on earth. While John 3:13 is a somewhat difficult Scripture to interpret, not one credible exegesis is such that Jesus had mystically “ascended” while still on the earth, before His literal Ascension.  But Johnson’s view is not inconsistent with Gnostic redeemer myths of the 2nd century (and perhaps late 1st century), in which Jesus ascends and descends as a pattern for others to follow towards self-salvation (sometimes with Christ distinct from Jesus as the means by which to “ascend”).2  However, as I’ve stated elsewhere, my opinion is that the Gospel of John was actually written in part as a polemic against this sort of proto-Gnosticism of the late 1st century (see introduction here), though some 2nd century Gnostics interpreted John’s Gospel as a Gnostic text.  Wayne Meeks interacts with the very liberal Rudolf Bultmann’s work in this regard [“Johannine” = writings attributed to the Apostle John]:

…To be sure, [Bultmann’s] observation that the closest extant analogies to the Johannine myth [ED: descending/ascending motif] are to be found in the literature of the gnostic movements stands firm and had been reinforced by more recent discoveries.  The problem comes in assessing the very important differences between the typical gnostic myths and that of John, and therefore the direction of the relationship between the two patterns.  Perhaps the most important difference, which Bultmann did not fail to notice, is the fact that in gnostic myths most comparable with the Johannine pattern the redeemer’s descent and ascent parallel the fate and hope of the human essence (soul, pneuma [ED: spirit], seed, or the like), while in the Fourth Gospel there is no such analogia entis [ED: analogy of being/imitation] between redeemer and redeemed3

In other words, in these Gnostic writings the Redeemer Himself first needed redeeming, and the pattern He set for self-redemption was a model for all (or a select few).  Is this what Bill Johnson means?  As per Johnson, it seems that the ultimate goal of ‘experiencing God’s presence’, “intimacy with the Father”, “Biblical meditation”, or ‘soaking in His presence’ is to “ascend”, thereby having a fully “renewed mind”, as in the sense of attaining full manifest sons of God (MSoG) status.  MSoG doctrine is not inconsistent with the “Ascended Master” teaching in New Age / New Spirituality. New Agers call this process leading up to ascension “expanding your (Christ) consciousness”, which is done by “experiencing God” through centering prayer, or contemplative prayer – the same term used by many within Christendom.  This is not incongruent with the 2nd century Gnostic idea of receiving ‘special knowledge’ (gnosis), or mystical insight as a means of self-salvation; in fact, this is an updating of this Gnostic doctrine.  Here’s one New Ager describing such an approach to this “higher consciousness”:

What would it feel like to be embraced by God? What would it feel like to become aware of how deeply you are loved by your Divine Source? It is possible to experience this! You can have a direct personal experience to feel the love your Creator has for you and to grow into the body experience of feeling the love you crave.  Spirit has the capacity to relate to us in any way we need and want. Relating to God as an energy force or love is certainly one approach to higher consciousness. Love, however, is best experienced in personal relationships–for example you cannot get love from a thing, only another person. We can know God through our hearts simply by wanting a personal relationship. This opens the portal for Spirit to fill us with the love and acceptance we need that we did not get as children or in our adult relationships.4

Once one reaches the full manifestation of a son of God, aka Master, through “higher consciousness” (by a “lifestyle of intimacy with the Father”?), one can, like the title of this podcast, ‘think from the Throne of God’.  Or, as New Age / New Spirituality teacher Alice Bailey states, comparing the manifested son (Master) to the yet-to-ascend disciple, 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’….”5  Much like Johnson has stated on Facebook:

The most consistent way to display the kingdom of God is through the renewed mind [ascended lifestyle, aka resurrection life]. It is much more than thinking right thoughts. It is how we think – from what perspective. Done correctly, we “reason” from heaven toward earth. [Bill Johnson, Facebook, May 12, 2012; emphasis added]

Or, as Bailey states elsewhere of the goal of the disciple: 

…We are also preparing for expansions of consciousness which will enable us to live in two realms at oncethe life which must be lived on earth and the life which we can live in the kingdom of God6

Am I jumping to conclusions?  Please read on.

The Resurrected, Ascended, and Glorified Jesus as Model for Earthly ‘Believer’

Continuing where we left off above in the podcast:

[1:52]…The Apostle Paul coined a phrase, found language for this later, when he talked about every believer is seated in heavenly places, in Christ [ED: Ephesians 2:6].  So, picture this: Jesus was raised from the dead by the Spirit of Resurrection.  When He was Resurrected, He Ascended to heaven, and He was seated at the right hand of the Father, and then was glorified.  Alright?  So, we have resurrected, ascended, and glorified….[2:22]

Here Johnson elaborates on his point about the believer’s goal of appropriating the very thing he claims Jesus did in John 3:13 – by faith, “ascending” via a “lifestyle of intimacy with the Father”, with Johnson using Ephesians 2:6 as his proof-text (see previous article for a proper interpretation of this verse).  Does he mean that the ‘believer’ can be “resurrected, ascended, and glorified” and yet be here on the earth?  In another audio from 2010, Johnson stated the following.   Note his claim of Jesus “re-inheriting everything” as a man, not God, yet Johnson also makes the usual “eternally God” assertion with it.  One must wonder what it is Jesus “forfeited” in order to “re-inherit” it, in the selection below.  But more important for now, notice the stammering in the middle, in which he makes the disclaimer that Jesus “is not an ascended being” as He “didn’t work His way up into divinity”:

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.7

Contrary to Johnson’s disclaimer (again, what was included in the “all” that was “forfeited” and subsequently “re-inherited”?),8 it appears he may be readapting Bailey’s Theosophic teaching that Jesus’ five major events – Birth, Baptism, Transfiguration, Crucifixion, and Resurrection / Ascension (the latter two grouped as one) – were both actually and symbolically achieved by Jesus in order to provide a symbolic pattern for others.  In other words, according to this esoteric doctrine, Jesus provided an actual concrete pattern, both literal and symbolic, for the ‘believer’ to symbolically do the same.  As further evidence to support that Johnson may be readapting Bailey’s model, he has elsewhere made the explicit claim that “[m]ost all of the experiences of Jesus recorded in Scripture were prophetic examples of the realms in God that are made available to the believer”, with the context specifically referring to the Mount of Transfiguration as one example.9  Bailey’s fivefold pattern is explained in her 1937 book From Bethlehem to Calvary: The Initiations of Jesus, and it would be instructive to quote a somewhat lengthy section to illustrate (note that “myth” is defined earlier here as “a fact which can be proven”):

…Through self-initiated experiment we can prove their validity; through experience we can establish them as governing forces in our lives; and through their expression we can demonstrate their truth to others.  This is the theme of this book, dealing as it does with the facts of the Gospel story, that fivefold sequential myth which teaches us the revelation of divinity in the Person of Jesus Christ, and which remains eternally truth, in the cosmic sense, in the historical sense, and in its practical application to the individual.  This myth divides itself into five great episodes: 

  1.       The Birth at Bethlehem.
  2.       The Baptism in Jordan.
  3.       The Transfiguration on Mount Carmel.
  4.       The Crucifixion on Mount Golgotha.
  5.       The Resurrection and Ascension.

 Their significance for us and their reinterpretation in modern terms is our task.10

The “Gospel” here is reinterpreted as self-salvation through self-deification by following the five steps above symbolically rather than actually.  Understand that the “revelation of divinity in the Person of Jesus Christ” is referring to a gradual deification, not that the earthly Jesus was divine per se.  In occult teachings such as Theosophy, and some of the Gnostic teachings of the 2nd century (and today), the man Jesus of Nazareth had a divine spark/seed of ‘Christ’ within Him, like all of mankind (occultists pervert Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you, the hope of Glory” to this end), which was awakened at “the Virgin Birth” and continued to grow until He fully ‘died to his lower, material self’ at the “Crucifixion”, ridding Himself of the outer material body, after which He ascended.  It took the “Christ spirit” – which was separate and distinct from the man Jesus – at Baptism for Jesus to actualize the 2nd through 5th initiations (sound familiar?). So, is this what Johnson has in mind with his teachings?  Keep reading. In a follow-up sermon to the June 9th podcast, titled “Waiting Patiently in Hope” (June 23, 2013),11 Bill Johnson expounds a bit on the basic themes in his “Thinking from the Throne”.  More importantly, he states the following which fits well into the Alice Bailey model above:

…The death of Christ is also the death of your old nature.  The resurrection of Christ is actually your resurrection.  His ascension is actually your legal access to heavenly realms.  And His glorification is the position of the New Testament believer coming into the glory of the Lord.  We LIVE in this atmosphere of presence…[3:15 – 3:39]

As we well know, the sin nature never leaves us in this life [Romans 7:14-25], but we must live by the Spirit rather than the sinful nature [Romans 8:4] by submitting to the Spirit instead of our sin nature [Galatians 5:16-26].   It is not until the resurrection of the saints that the sin nature leaves the saint – a yet future, one-time event for all Christians collectively, including those who’ve perished in centuries past, at the “last trumpet”, at which point we receive our non-flesh-and-blood bodies [1 Corinthians 15:50-54]. However, in the Alice Bailey Theosophic teachings, and other occult/esoteric doctrines, mankind has two natures – one human (lower self,  ego) and one inherent divine nature (divine spark/seed or “Christ within”, higher self).  According to Bailey’s five steps above, “the Crucifixion” (aka “The Great Renunciation”) is the point at which the “lower self” (“old nature” in Johnson’s quote above?) in the disciple has been completely overcome, overtaken by the now fully actualized divine nature, the culmination of the process of “dying to self”.  Following this death of the lower self (“old nature”?), which renders the disciple a spirit being, having shed the outer material body (known as the “not self”), is the resurrection/ascension.  This is the final stage, and the disciple is now a fully manifested son of God, usually known as “Ascended Master”.  These steps do not have to be fulfilled in one lifetime, for at death the spirit re-ascends to the heavenlies to await reincarnation into another body, in order to continue the process.  The spirit continues reincarnating ad infinitum until completion of the five steps, i.e. the attainment of Ascended Master, or fully manifested son of God.   The individual is now on par with the occult/Theosophic “Master Jesus” who had provided the pattern for this “Age of Pisces”. Those who know anything about the manifest sons of God (MSoG) teaching know that “coming into the glory of the Lord”, as Johnson uses it above, is overt MSoG language, referring to a fully glorified ‘believer’ on earth.  And MSoG is not incongruent with Bailey’s teaching on becoming a “Master”, as laid out in the five steps above. So, in the immediately preceding quote is Johnson claiming that Jesus’ death was the death of His “old nature”, i.e., His lower, human nature?  Did Jesus (re)actualize His divinity at this point because He had previously “emptied Himself of divinity and became man”12 at the Incarnation – perhaps itself a  “reinterpretation in modern terms” of Alice Bailey’s five step process above?  Was Jesus’ divinity a part of, or the entirety of what was “forfeited” and subsequently “re-inherited” in the quote from 2010 above? Note also that Bill Johnson has claimed that Jesus was ‘born again’, specifying that this occurred at His Resurrection, which, again, is not inconsistent with the Theosophic model above.  This statement was made on Facebook in mid-February, 2011 in response to a question from Kevin Moore:

Jesus was sinless for sure. The spotless lamb. BUT He BECAME SIN. He needed to be raised from the dead. Acts 13 calls Him “the first born from the dead.” He did not raise Himself. The Father through the Spirit raised Him. He was born… of Mary. That’s one. He was raised from the dead. That’s two. “Again.” It’s not a statement creating a new doctrine. It’s to make people think, which gets scary for some. Primarily it’s to help us appreciate the fact that Jesus had become sin and was in need of the resurrection as much as we are in need of being born again.    

No credible Christian pastor would even joke about such a thing as Jesus being ‘born again’.  And Jesus did not literally ‘become sin’.  He was our sin-offering, providing Atonement as the Redeemer of mankind (only to those who accept His atoning sacrifice, of course).  However, I do agree on one thing: it’s “not…a new doctrine”, as the basic thrust of this teaching goes all the way back to 2nd century Gnostic redeemer myths, as noted earlier.  But, again, is this part of a reinterpretation of Bailey’s five step process?  (Note also that, contrary to Johnson, the entire Trinity raised Jesus from the dead: Jesus Himself – John 2:19-22/10:17-18; the Holy Spirit – Romans 1:4/8:11; the Father – Acts 5:29-31/Galatians 1:1/Ephesians 1:17-20; God – Acts 2:24/Romans 4:24.)  Going back to Johnson’s “Thinking from the Throne”, we observe him continuing in his claim that ‘believers’ need to understand that they are now resurrected/ascended – at least potentially – as per his distortion of the Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:6, thereby placing the not yet into already (see previous article for explanation of already but not yet).  ‘Believers’ just have to recognize this ‘fact’ and then apprehend it:

[2:23]…Jesus accomplished that on your behalf and mine, so much so that the Bible says WE were raised WITH Him.  So, His Resurrection is actually our resurrection.  To put it in a little more potential [sic] offensive way: WE – because of your faith in Christ – WE are as raised from the dead as is Jesus, because it is actually HIS resurrection.  It’s not like HE was raised and then He shared some of that with us – that’s not it.  The Bible says WE were raised together with Christ.  His Resurrection IS my resurrection.  …[W]hat is possible is that through Biblical meditations, which is filling your mind with truth, through consideration of a truth that seems to be too big, too good to be true…The Lord actually invites us into encounter where we start thinking and seeing according to the Biblical reality.[3:51]

Note that “Biblical Meditations” refers to seeking “intimacy with the Father” and filling one’s mind with ‘new truths/revelations’, i.e., new ways of understanding Scripture (John 3:13; Eph 2:6) in this case. Johnson proof-texts Colossians 3:1-3, using it in much the same manner as above, with the understanding that ‘believers’ are now resurrected/ascended (the 5th step?), because they have already died (the 4th step?):

[18:04]…If you then were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God; set your MIND on things above not on things on earth.  Why?  Because you died.  Your life is HIDDEN in Christ…Because you’re dead, set your mind on where your life is hidden, which is above, it’s in Christ.  Everything about your life is hidden in this realm…Everywhere else is a field trip…That’s where you live.  That’s where you dwell; that is home…[19:06]

Johnson reiterates his distorted interpretation of Colossians 3:1-3 later in the podcast:

[22:23]…It’s a lifestyle, it is a place from which to LIVE…FROM the abiding presence of the resurrected Christ.  I’m not talking about the theology of the resurrected presence, I mean the encounter…with the almighty God – living from that place changes everything…The THRONE life, the ASCENDED life is the invitation for every believer…[22:58]

As Bill Fawcett, over on the Facebook page Bethel Church and Christianity (on June 21, 2013), so astutely observed of Johnson’s podcast, “the main doctrinal thrust of the message is that we live in a spiritual universe, and the present world is just an illusion.”  This particular theme is an important point made in a previous CrossWise article (see Johnson’s Word of Faith Roots Showing section here).   According to some occult doctrine, the physical world in which we live is all illusory (a “field trip”, to use Johnson’s words), while the spiritual world is reality. This idea comes originally from the Dualism of second century Gnosticism (derived in part from Platonism), though this is also prevalent in the Eastern religions – a false dichotomy in which all matter is evil, while all spirit is good.  New Age / New Spirituality doctrine is largely taken from Theosophy and other metaphysical cults (all of which adopt doctrines from Eastern religions). The following quotes are from Madame H. P. Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy (1875), in which she borrows the term maya from Buddhism, meaning “illusion”, in her description of this same teaching:

…The reader must bear in mind that, according to our teaching which regards this phenomenal Universe as a great Illusion, the nearer a body is to the UNKNOWN SUBSTANCE, the more it approaches reality, as being removed the farther from this world of Maya13 [All capitalization and italics in original; bold added for emphasis.]

…When the spiritual entity breaks loose for ever from every particle of matter, then only it enters upon the eternal and unchangeable Nirvana. He exists in spirit, in nothing; as a form, a shape, a semblance, he is completely annihilated, and thus will die no more, for spirit alone is no Maya, but the only REALITY in an illusionary universe of ever-passing forms.14 [All spelling, capitalization, and italics in original; bold added for emphasis.]

But if the goal for the “spiritual entity” is to rid itself of matter (as a means of self-salvation towards self-deification) and die no more, then how would this apply to what Johnson is teaching above?  Bailey provides the answer:

He [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.15 

If he chooses to take a physical vehicle [ED: body]… 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’.16

A Master, or manifest son of God, can choose to come back to earth, without or with an ‘earth body’, thereby living in “two realms at once”.17  This is not inconsistent with Johnson who claims that this “ascended lifestyle” provides the ability to live “at the right hand of the Father”, while simultaneously living on earth:

[32:48]…In the SAME measure that the Father put Jesus at His right hand, in the same measure He has put YOU at His right hand, because YOU are IN Christ…The renewed mind considers reality from what the Lamb has accomplished…This is the normal life for the believer. [33:59]

While we will one day be raised with Christ, it’s blasphemy to claim we’ll actually be on the Throne, thinking and living “FROM the abiding presence of the resurrected Christ”, at the Father’s right hand, the place where Jesus Christ now sits. In Johnson’s message here, and his other works, much is made of the “renewed mind”, but this is effected by “intimacy with the Father”, ‘soaking in God’s presence’, “Biblical meditation”, etc.  These ‘encounters with God’ allow the ‘believer’ to advance in his/her spiritual walk – just like the gnosis of the 2nd century:

[34:00]…And I feel like the Lord, even right now, is inviting us…is drawing us into encounters that adjust our perspective…the person who has encountered God sees from His perspective, sees through His eyes – the invitation every believer has to come up higher…[34:43]

Bill Johnson claims that each ‘believer’ can come up so high as to obtain the FULLNESS of God.  He does this by first quoting Colossians 2:9 noting that “In Him [Jesus] dwells all the fullness of God bodily” [07:28 – 09:13].  Then Johnson makes the illogical leap that in the ‘believer’, as part of the Church body, dwells the fullness of God (since Jesus is the “Head” and we are the “body”):

[09:15]…I want you to take note that it says that the FULLNESS dwells in Him BODILY – not just in His head…[09:32] 

[10:45]…the FULLNESS of God that dwelleth in JESUS in bodily form, now dwells in the CHURCH in bodily form…[10:55]

Johnson asserts that the Lord’s Prayer is an apostolic prayer in the sense that since the ‘believer’s’ home is in heaven, then earth is “another territory” as compared to heaven.  That is, heaven is “home base”.  This illustrates that the ‘believer’ needs to understand, if they don’t already, that s/he really IS living in heaven, with the goal to bring him/herself here to “‘reason’ from heaven to earth”, or to think “FROM the abiding presence of the resurrected Christ” as a fully manifested son of God “at His right hand”, with the ability to function in both the heavenly (spiritual, eternal) realm and the earthly realm:

[23:16]…because the basic definition of the word “apostle” is to go to another territory and recreate the culture there that you lived in at your home base…so it’s a prayer to recreate on earth a culture that exists in heaven…[23:34]

Prior to this, Johnson was explaining how the ‘believer’ should work towards living in and from heaven, not being deterred by naysayers: 

[19:22]…This is another way of saying “seek first the Kingdom of God and these things will be added to you.”  It’s amazing – we celebrate the person who seeks first the Kingdom, but often criticize the one to whom all things have been added…it becomes offensive…“Submit yourself under the mighty hand of God that He might exalt you at the proper time.”  So we celebrate the person who humbles himself under the mighty hand of God, but criticize the one He exalts.  What it does is it hurts our own future promotion, because if I cannot celebrate the breakthrough of another, I cannot be trusted with my own…[20:31] 

The message here is that the ‘believer’ must not “criticize”, but instead recognize as special those who’ve already reached their “breakthrough” (a common occult term for spiritual advancement), their “ascension”, so that the ‘believer’ can be positioned to attain his/her own “ascension” (“the one He exalts”, “the one to whom all things have been added”).  The subtle implication is that Johnson himself is in this esteemed category as one so exalted, i.e. “ascended”, an “apostle” who is ‘bringing heaven to earth’.  This point is made clearer near the very end of this sermon, as he reiterates this point using Ephesians 4:11 about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers [35:27], until he gets to this climax, using false humility: 

[38:09]…I’ll not do this one for me, I will do this to protect others and to empower so that a CLEAR manifestation of this resurrected Christ is seen worldwide…[38:19]

Obviously, this means that there will be individuals who are exhibiting all the traits of the glorified Christ on a worldwide scale (such as Bill Johnson currently?).  In fact, in his popular book When Heaven Invades Earth Johnson makes the explicit claim that the glorified Jesus Christ of Revelation 1:14-15 IS the model for the earthly ‘believer’!18  In addition, as Alice Bailey has done (and other occultists), Johnson proof-texts “As He is, so are we in the world” from 1 John 4:17 to back up his assertion.19

[28:16]…The Lord is longing to live on earth again THROUGH yielded people…[28:29]              

[13:49]… So what is He looking for?  He is looking for a people that will cooperate with the FULLNESS of God’s presence, operating and manifesting THROUGH them so that this world actually gets a FULL and ACCURATE taste of who Jesus is.  It’s not us; it’s Him.  But He dwells IN us in FULLNESS in bodily form…[14:12]

Let’s be clear, Jesus Christ is not coming to “live on earth again THROUGH yielded people”.  Jesus will be returning bodily in the same manner in which He left (Acts 1:9-11).  But Johnson goes even further than this, expounding on the above.  In typical Latter Rain fashion, he is looking for full unity, by proof-texting Ephesians 4:13:

[36:30]…until we all come to unity of faith and the KNOWLEDGE of the SON of God.  Too many people think they know that don’t know.  So the knowledge of the Son of God, to A perfect man.  Look at the description.  Millions and millions of body members come to A – singular – perfect mana full-on revelation of the Person of Jesus, what He is like, how He is.  To A perfect man, to the measure and stature – equal measure to the fullness of Christ…[37:34]

Equivalent to Christ Himself, these fully manifested sons of God, as collectively ONE perfect man, in which Christ is “on earth again THROUGH [these] yielded people”.  This sounds eerily close to the New Age / New Spirituality doctrine that “the Christ” – in actuality the antichrist (or antichrist spirit) – will manifest himself through many different people at one time:

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: Satan/antichrist] and His disciples when the outpouring of the Christ principle, the true second Coming, has been accomplished.20 

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. 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.21

Hyper-charismatic Bob Jones was recently at a conference hosted by Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church in Redding, CA, and stated something not unlike the above: “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.’”22  As already noted earlier, occultists pervert the “Christ in you, the hope of glory” of Colossians 1:27, and MSoG adherents pervert it in a very similar manner.

Conclusion

Bill Johnson is clearly teaching the manifest sons of God doctrine (MSoG).  Individuals attain this MSoG status of “ascended lifestyle” (aka “Throne life”) through “intimacy with the Father”, using methods akin to the centering prayer and contemplative prayer of Eastern religions and the New Age / New Spirituality (as well as 2nd century Gnosticism).  This will ultimately result in the ability to both live and think from the Throne of God, while yet remaining on earth (with a “renewed mind”).  Such a ‘believer’ can ‘think from the Throne’ as they are literally – in a statement of utmost blasphemy – at the right hand of God, as per Johnson.  This version of MSoG has a parallel with occult doctrine, with the fully manifested son / Ascended Master possessing the ability to live in both the heavenly and earthly realms simultaneously. It seems quite possible that the Neo-Gnosticism of Bill Johnson (and others of his ilk) is a slight variation of the five-fold Bailey model illustrated above.  In this revised model Jesus is portrayed as God pre-incarnate (instead of a reincarnated man), yet “He emptied Himself of divinity and became man” so that He could gradually re-actualize His divinity and thus become the pattern for others towards their own self-deification – similar to the Gnostic redeemer myths of the 2nd century.     

1 Bill Johnson “Thinking from the Throne” podcast, June 9, 2013. <http://podcasts.ibethel.org/en/podcasts/thinking-from-the-throne>   

2 See Kurt Rudolph, 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 121-134, 338-340.  Also “The Gospel of Philip” in Wilhelm Schneemelcher, 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: The chrism [anointing] is superior to baptism.  For from the chrism we were called ‘Christians’, not from the baptism.  Christ also was (so) called because of the anointing… [p 200].  Cf. G. L. Borchert “Gnosticism” in Walter A. Elwel, ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 1984 (10th pr. 1994), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, p 446.   

3 Wayne A. Meeks “The Man from Heaven in Johannine Sectarianism” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 91, No. 1 (Mar, 1972), p 44.  Italics in original; emphasis added.   

4 Donna D’Ingillo, “Experiencing God” Center for Christ Consciousness: Open your Heart, Expand your Mind, Unite with God website, par 1, 2 <http://www.ctrforchristcon.org/experiencinggod.asp>, as accessed 07/08/13   

5 Alice A. Bailey The Rays and the Initiations. 1960 Lucis, NY, 2nd paperback ed, 1976, Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; p 699. Emphasis added.   

6 Alice A. Bailey From Bethlehem to Calvary: The Initiations of Jesus, © 1937 by Alice A. Bailey, renewed 1957 by Foster Bailey, Lucis Trust, 4th paperback ed., 1989, Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, p 51.  Emphasis added.   

7 Bill Johnson. 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 shortly thereafter; last access date to original web link unknown but likely Fall, 2011.  All emphasis added.    A 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 God.  Now, 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.”  CAPS from emphasis in original; bold added.  As accessed 07/12/13.  Once again, note the stammering in his disclaimer.   

8 In his book A Different Gospel: A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement [1988 (4th pr. 1991), Hendrickson, Peabody, MA] D.R. McConnell notes how E.W. Kenyon, the ‘grandfather’ of the Word of Faith movement, of which Johnson is a part, had made specific disclaimers yet proceeded to teach the very doctrine disclaimed!  McConnell states: The typical pattern in such instances is to disclaim any similarities with cultic teaching on a particular topic and then proceed to teach exactly that [p 45].  It appears Bill Johnson may be doing something similar.   

9 Bill Johnson Face to Face with God: The Ultimate Quest to Experience His Presence, 2007, Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL, p 200.  Emphasis added.  Here’s a bit more of the context: 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. While Johnson is not clear on just what constitutes the “new birth”, he does have a teaching which appears to promote the divine spark/seed concept, which is subsequently enlivened and grows by an external ‘word’.  This is detailed in the following CrossWise post: https://notunlikelee.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/open-challenge-to-fans-and-critics-of-bill-johnsonbethel-church/.  In addition, his teaching on “the anointing”, aka the “Christ anointing” (see previous article) matches quite closely Bailey’s “Baptism in Jordan”.  Taken together, this accounts for steps 1 through 5 of the Bailey model, when we consider the totality of Johnson’s words in “Thinking from the Throne” and the remaining material referenced in this article, which include the Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and even glorification.   

10 Bailey Bethlehem to Calvary, p 9.   Emphasis added   

11 Bill Johnson “Waiting Patiently in Hope” podcast, June 23, 2013 <http://podcasts.ibethel.org/en/podcasts/waiting-patiently-in-hope>   

12 Bill Johnson “Healing and the Kingdom” in Bill Johnson, 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.   

13 Helena P. Blavatsky The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy, Vol. 1 – Cosmogenesis, 1999 (facsimile edition of 1888 original), Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, CA, pp 145-146   

14 Helena P. Blavatsky Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology: Vol 1 – Science. 1988 (unabridged from original 1877 first edition), Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, CA, p 290.  Noteworthy is the fact that Reality was the name of a newsletter written by E.W. Kenyon, and a term used in a similar manner as compared to Blavatsky above.  From a footnote in D.R. McConnell’s A Different Gospel is the following (although the author did not trace the doctrine to Theosophy, he does compare to both New Thought and Christian Science, which were contemporaneous with the roots of Theosophy): …It should be pointed out that ‘Reality’ as Kenyon uses it is a term used in New Thought and Christian Science to refer to the spiritual realm and truths that were hidden by the sensations of the physical realm, which were not reality at all, but was considered ‘error,’ the opposite of metaphysical reality.  Reality was also the name of Kenyon’s first newsletter [p 55, n 53].  As noted above, Bill Johnson is considered a Word of Faith teacher, having inherited some doctrine from Kenyon.  Johnson uses reality in a similar way, as indicated in this very article and in the Johnson’s Word of Faith Roots Showing section here: < https://notunlikelee.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/learning-etymology-with-bill-johnson-a-new-age-repentance/ >.   

15 Bailey Bethlehem to Calvary, p 187.  Emphasis added.   

16 Bailey, Rays and Initiations, p 699.  Emphasis added.   

17 Bailey Bethlehem to Calvary, p 51.   Emphasis added.   

18 Bill Johnson When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. 2003, Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA, p 145  

19 Bill Johnson Heaven Invades, p 145; Alice A. Bailey The Reappearance of the Christ, 1948, Lucis Trust, 9th printing 1979 (4th Paperback ed.); Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, NY, p 145; Bailey Bethlehem to Calvary, p 110.   

20 Alice Bailey The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, © 1957 Lucis, NY, 6th printing 1981; Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, p 510.  Emphasis added.   

21 World 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 07/12/13  

22 Bob Jones “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 07/12/13.

Assessing Bill Johnson’s “Eternally God” Declarations Amidst His Other Christological Statements

[UPDATE: In a new post it is shown that Johnson actually affirmed some of the speculations in this particular article in a sermon at Bethel on the very same day this article was posted, using some of the very same Scriptures cited as possible proof-texts for such an approach!]

A hallmark of any true Christian is charity (this is not to say non-Christians cannot be charitable, of course).  Christians will give their money and time with no expectation of return.  Rightly, this generosity should extend to giving another the benefit of the doubt if a given statement or statements are not exactly clear.  Everyone makes a ‘slip of the tongue’ or a ‘slip of the pen’, right? 

But, on the other hand, when a teacher consistently makes statements that run counter to Christian orthodoxy, there is a need to address this issue forthrightly.  When these statements are in the public realm via books, online sermons, video/audio, et cetera, these should be addressed publicly. 

There are those who – while understanding that Bill Johnson’s Christological teachings are problematic, if not at least seemingly self-contradictory at times – do not fully agree with the views put forth on CrossWise regarding Johnson’s Christology.  Specifically, there are those who are of the opinion that Bill Johnson teaches that the Word retained all His divine attributes when He became flesh, yet chose not to exercise those attributes for the entirety of His earthly ministry, instead relying on the Holy Spirit for all miracle workings.  Whether they do this out of charity or out of a firm belief that this is Johnson’s teaching given the evidence of Johnson’s own words (as they read them), or both, I cannot be certain.  The following tweet from April 7, 2013 by Bill Johnson in answer to a direct question, seems to have strengthened this view:

Bill Johnson tweet April 7, 2013

Bill Johnson tweet April 7, 2013

Does this statement render false the CrossWise articles asserting Johnson teaches that Jesus Christ did not possess any divine attributes during the Incarnation?  Some may think so.  But, on the other hand, what are we to make of the above tweet in conjunction with the following selection from the recent book co-written by Randy Clark and Bill Johnson titled The Essential Guide to Healing? 

…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 to follow.1

 By the clear words in the first sentence, Johnson is claiming that the Word (Jesus) divested Himself of divinity in becoming incarnate.  But, then again, in the second sentence we have the “eternally God” declaration like the tweet above.  Is this a contradiction?  Or should we be charitable and assume Johnson meant to state that Jesus ‘emptied Himself’ of all divine prerogatives, i.e., that Jesus voluntarily did not use the divine attributes He yet retained?  (Though this view is not Biblical.)  But please note, to assume the latter requires reading into this statement beyond what is clearly written in the first sentence. 

To be certain we are not misunderstanding Bill Johnson, here is another passage from this same book:

…While Jesus is eternally God, He emptied Himself of His divinity and became a man (see Philippians 2:7).  It is 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.2

Once again, we have the same “eternally God” statement in conjunction with a claim of divested deity while incarnate.  Yet, we also have the assertion that Jesus did all His miracles “as a man yielded to God”.  Does this indicate we should, as noted above, assume Johnson really means that Jesus retained His divine attributes yet purposefully chose not to exercise them, instead relying upon the Holy Spirit for all miracle workings, despite the claim that “He emptied Himself of His divinity and became a man”?

I submit that there’s a different solution to this seeming conundrum, this apparent contradiction, without the need to read into any of the above.  But, it will require a bit of explanation first.

The Christ Anointing

One cannot effectively analyze Bill Johnson’s Christological statements apart from his teaching on “the anointing”, which is central to his theology.   In Johnson’s Christology, like some other teachers in hyper-charismaticism, both Christ, and then logically, antichrist are redefined.

Christ = the anointing
antichrist = against the anointing 

It is of utmost importance to keep this in mind.  “The anointing” is also called the “Christ anointing”,3 “Baptism in the Holy Spirit”,4 “Holy Spirit’s presence/rest upon” an individual,5 “the presence of God”,6 and “the outpouring of the Spirit”7 in Bill Johnson’s theology.  This is not speaking of the Holy Spirit indwelling; this is in addition to the indwelling:

…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 as a mantle of power and authority for that specific purpose8

Bill Johnson’s duplicity is plainly evident in the way he first correctly defines Christ, and then redefines the term in the same paragraph in his book When Heaven Invades Earth:

Christ is not Jesus’ last name.  The word Christ means “Anointed One” or “Messiah…”9

So far, so good.  This is absolutely correct.  Yet, observe how he redefines “Christ” to “the anointing”:

…It [Christ] is a title that points to an experience.  It was not sufficient that Jesus be sent from heaven to earth with a title.  He had to receive the anointing in an experience to accomplish what the Father desired.10

 Contrary to Johnson, Scripture states that it was sufficient for Jesus to be the Christ, the Messiah at His birth (Luke 2:11).  And, importantly, the term “Christ” is understood in Christian orthodoxy as indicating deity/divinity.11  Continuing on to the very next paragraph in Johnson’s book: 

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.12

 This completes Johnson’s redefinition.  If Jesus is “the One smeared with the Holy Spirit” at His baptism, and this ‘smearing’ is the anointing, and this is the “experience” that brings forth the title of “Christ”, then it logically follows that Jesus was NOT the Christ prior to baptism.

To be sure the above is correct – that Jesus did not attain the “title” of Christ until He received the anointing in the river Jordan following John’s baptism when the Holy Spirit came upon Him as a dove (aka Baptism in the Holy Spirit, etc.) – the following quote from another work makes it clear: 

The outpouring of the Spirit also needed to happen to Jesus for Him to be fully qualified.  This was His quest.  Receiving this anointing qualified Him to be called the Christ, which means “anointed one.” Without the experience [the anointing] there could be no title.13

 Had Jesus not received the anointing, He could not have received the “title” of Christ, for this was the “experience” that “qualified Him to be called the Christ”.  But note how Johnson claims this “anointing” means “anointed one”.  Is Jesus then the unique “Anointed One”, although He did not receive the title of Christ until the anointing?  Does Johnson ‘merely’ have the timing wrong on when Jesus becomes the Christ?  Note that in the first quote in this section he neglects to use the definite article (the) in front of “Anointed One”, and he does the same in the immediately preceding quote for “anointed one” (lower case).  This is because, in another example of duplicity, ALL can receive this same “Christ anointing”:

…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 Him14

Be aware that this is consistent with Gnostic and New Age teaching as exemplified by Levi Dowling’s book The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ:

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 christed15

 In Johnson’s theology, when ‘believers’ receive this “Christ anointing” do they become divine?  Not exactly.  Note below that it’s the anointing itself that’s divine, not Jesus.  The anointing links the man Jesus to the divine, thus providing the supernatural power that the non-divine Jesus lacked:

The anointing Jesus received was the equipment necessary, given by the Father to make it possible for Him to live beyond human limitations…That would include doing supernatural things.  The anointing is what linked Jesus, the man, to the divine, enabling Him to destroy the works of the devil…16

It follows logically then that those who receive the Christ anointing will be linked to the divine in the same way.  To reiterate, just like mankind is non-divine and subsequently linked to the divine via the anointing, Jesus was merely a non-divine man who was linked to the divine via the anointing.  Also, given that Jesus receives the “title” of Christ only by virtue of the Christ anointing, then  it follows that anyone else who receives this same Christ anointing should receive this same “title” of Christ.  This puts us back to the teaching of Levi Dowling above: “every anointed person is christed”.

Having adequately determined how Bill Johnson defines Christ, we’ll briefly illustrate how he defines antichrist.  As he does with the term Christ, Johnson initially correctly defines antichrist (mostly, since anti can also mean “instead of”) as “anti, ‘against’; Christ, ‘Anointed One’.”17  Observe that he dispenses with the definite article (the) in front of “Anointed One” yet again.  And once again, he subtly redefines the term: “The spirits of hell are at war against the anointing, for without the anointing mankind is no threat to their dominion.18

In the following, he makes a clear distinction between believers – who would, by Christian orthodoxy, necessarily have the Holy Spirit indwelling upon conversion – and “the anointing”, though here he calls it “the Holy Spirit’s anointing” instead of the “Christ anointing”, or “Baptism in the Holy Spirit”, et cetera:

The spirit of antichrist is at work today, attempting to influence believers to reject everything that has to do with the Holy Spirit’s anointing….19

 There you have it.  By Johnson’s redefinition of antichrist, I myself have the “spirit of antichrist” since I am “attempting to influence ‘believers’ to reject” the anointing.

This teaching on the anointing corresponds with Johnson’s statements such as “He [Jesus] had NO supernatural capabilities whatsoever!”20 and “Jesus had no ability to heal the sick.  He couldn’t cast out devils, and He had no ability to raise the dead.”21  Given His total lack of inherent supernatural capabilities, this clearly indicates a temporally non-divine Jesus.

Eternally God Yet Temporally Man?

In Bill Johnson’s Christology, like all men, Jesus lacks divinity while in the temporal realm – except by virtue of the anointing.  But how does that theology mesh with Jesus as “eternally God”?  To answer this, first we’ll look at eternity in Scripture.

According to Ephesians 2:6 all Christians are currently seated in the heavenly realms; that is, though we are currently in our earthly bodies, we are in heaven (cf. Col 3:1-3).  Believers have a sort of “dual citizenship”.  Eternal life is a future that we already possess.  This means, in a sense, we are already in the eternal realm, while we are yet still on this earth in the temporal realm.   However, the tension between these two realities must be kept in check, as we are not bi-located; we are not simultaneously living in heaven as we walk on earth.

This is usually referred to as the already but not yet.   True believers have eternal security already, but we are not yet seated in the heavenlies.  The last days have already begun at Jesus’ first coming, but the final consummation is not yet.  This understanding that we have been in the last days since Christ’s earthly ministry is also known as inaugurated eschatology (sometimes realized eschatology, but not in the absolute sense by some liberal theologians that there is no future eschatology), with the understanding that Jesus Christ’s Second Coming brings in the eschaton (end of all things).

To explain further, Revelation 13:8 indicates one of two things (the syntax of the Greek allows one of two interpretations): 1) Jesus was slain from the creation of the world, or 2) the writing of the names into the Book of Life occurred from the foundations of the world.  To accept number 2 would seem to necessitate number 1, as it appears difficult to have a Book of Life unless there first had been a Life Giver.  In any case, the point is that some events from our temporal perspective are depicted in Scripture as already past and/or already present in the eternal realm.  Therefore, we cannot conceive of the temporal realm, with its chronological developments, as if it were a subset of the eternal.  In other words, time as we know it does not run parallel with eternity, as though eternity has a past, present, and future.  Lewis Sperry Chafer aptly describes the relationship between the temporal and the eternal:

…Whatever time may be and whatever its relation to eternity, it must be maintained that no cessation of eternity has occurred or will.  God’s mode of existence remains unchanged.  Time might be thought of as something superimposed upon eternity were it not that there is ground for question whether eternity consists of a succession of events, as is true of time.  The consciousness of God is best conceived as being an all-inclusive comprehension at once, covering all that has been or will be.  The attempt to bring time with its successions into a parallel with eternity is to misconceive the most essential characteristic of eternal things.22

With the foregoing in mind, we can return to Bill Johnson.

It appears possible Johnson may be condensing the concept of already but not yet, with some of the not yet into the already.  This would not be surprising as some hyper-charismatics are known as having an over-realized eschatology; i.e., some of the things reserved for the eschaton (the end of all things; when Christ returns) are claimed to be for now.  The Manifest Sons of God (MSoG) doctrine is one example of over-realized eschatology.

It is conceivable then that, in the Johnson Christology, Jesus is “eternally God” because Jesus is God only in eternity, but not divine in the temporal, earthly realm.  Stated another way, we can read Johnson’s tweet in conjunction with the question posed such that Jesus Christ is “eternally God”, i.e., Jesus is God in the eternal realm – and, of course eternity never ceases, as it has no beginning and no end – while He was simultaneously non-divine temporally in His earthly mission, as He had “emptied Himself of His divinity and became a man”.

Note that this adequately answers the question posed in the above tweet: Johnson affirms Jesus’ full deity while on earth, but only in virtue of the assertion that “Jesus Christ is eternally God” (again, eternity never ceases).  This is somewhat similar to the believer claiming to already have eternal life.  In other words, in its context, Johnson is not necessarily affirming temporal divinity in the earthly Jesus in and of itself in the above tweet; but, in asserting eternal deity it can be comprehended as somewhat analogous to the believer’s dual status in Ephesians 2:6 and Colossians 3:1-3.  Understood this way, Johnson’s tweet and the two quotations from the book referenced at the very beginning are adequately synthesized.

To be clear, what I’m proposing above with regard to Johnson’s teaching is not orthodox; it’s merely an attempt at explaining the seeming contradictions in Johnson’s theology.  This same idea can be applied to the following Facebook quote:

Jesus is God, eternally God, and never stopped being God. But He was also man, completely man. In His earthly life He lived from His humanity to illustrate dependence on the Father in a way that could be emulated. Jesus said, “the Son of man can do nothing of Himself . . .” illustrating His dependence. His limitations were in His humanity, not His divinity. Understanding the difference can help us to successfully live the life He gave for us to live. [Bill Johnson, Facebook, August 11, 2012]

Setting aside the fact that Johnson totally distorts the meaning of John 5:19 (“the Son of man can do nothing of Himself…”) by taking only a portion of this verse, wresting it from its proper context, we can understand this such that Jesus is an earthly non-divine man concurrent with an eternally divine Jesus.  Some of the bolded portion will be discussed further below.

In another context altogether, there is evidence of Bill Johnson’s conflation of the not yet with the already:

When I first heard this phrase, the Kingdom now but not yet, over 20 years ago, it was used as a statement of promise.  It was helpful for me to realize that we have access to things right now that I had always thought inaccessibleThe phrase helped to bring into focus the reality that some things will be enjoyed in time, and some things only in eternity.  But that same phrase has also been used to define limitations and restrictions, and not instill hope.  It is used to ease people’s dissatisfaction with unrealized promises now…

It is true that a full manifestation of the Kingdom of God is more than our physical bodies can endure.  But it is also true that when we are in Heaven we will still be able to say, now, but not yet, about the Kingdom, because there is no end to the increase of His governmentThroughout eternity the Kingdom will be expanding, and we will always be advancing.  I teach our people that if now, but not yet is used to define promise and potential, accept it.  If it is spoken to build awareness of our limitations and restrictions, reject it.  We don’t need more people without authentic Kingdom experiences telling us what we can and cannot have in our lifetime.  Those who walk out their faith with an experiential paradigm understand that we will always live in the tension of what we have seen and what we have yet to see, and that we are always moving on to more in God.  This is an understanding by experience issue.23

I’m not exactly sure how to understand Johnson’s statement, “Throughout eternity the Kingdom will be expanding…”, but the phrases “we have access to things right now that I had always thought inaccessible” and “we are always moving on to more in God” indicate, in context, that some of the not yet is for now.

But, I concede, this does not unequivocally prove that Johnson intends to teach an eternally divine Jesus with a temporally non-divine Jesus simultaneously.  However, such a teaching is not without precedent within hyper-charismaticism.  

The Two Realms of the Manifested Son of God

The late Bill Britton, a Manifest Sons of God (MSoG) teacher, has implicitly taught this in his booklet Tent to Temple (and other works) in a subsection titled “A Man Living In Two Worlds”.  In the following, please note that Britton is referencing the KJV/NKJV of John 3:13 that includes a clause at the end not found in most modern Bible versions – No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven (NKJV):24

Jesus told Nicodemus a very strange thing in John 3:13.  He said that He was living in heaven at the same time he was living on earth.  It was too much for Nicodemus to comprehend, as well as for many of God’s people today.  But it was true.  Hebrews 10:20 tells us that the Veil that separated heaven and earth was His flesh.

One side of the Veil faced the sanctuary with its candlestick and the priests who ministered daily.  This was his earthly existence, living under a skin covering.  But the other side of the same veil faced the Holy of Holies and the Skekinah Presence of His Father.  So he could say “I do only those things I see my Father do – I say only those things that please Him”.  He lived on the earth where men could see him, in an earth body.  But in that body He also walked continually in a heavenly place on the other side of the veil.  And I see a people who live in “tent” bodies which have been redeemed from the sense realm, a people who walk victoriously because they walk in the spirit.  Jesus showed us the way.25

Ignoring the fact that Britton has taken Hebrews 10:20 way out of context and John 3:13 beyond proper exegesis, the above quote indicates the very thing I’m illustrating that Johnson may intend.  That is, Johnson’s quotes above are not incongruent with manifest sons of God (MSoG) doctrine.  I’m not stating definitively that Bill Johnson actually teaches or believes Britton’s exact statement; I’m just providing it as a possible explanation.

Yet, the Facebook quote above from August 11, 2012 fits the basic thrust of Britton’s statement quite nicely – as exemplified by the title of this subsection as “A Man Living In Two Worlds”.  Specifically, the Johnson statement “His limitations were in His humanity” [He was non-divine temporally on ‘this side of the veil’], “not His divinity” [He had full divinity in the eternal realm, on ‘the other side of the veil’] can align with Britton, especially when we add Johnson’s claims that Jesus is “eternally God” and “[b]ut He was also man”.

Johnson also alludes to something akin to Britton’s teaching above in his book The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind in a chapter titled “Becoming the Dwelling Place of God”:

…We are again becoming the dwelling place of God that was promised in the Bible.  [ED: Holy Spirit indwelt Christians throughout the years weren’t?]  We have hungered for more, prayed for more, and now we are receiving unprecedented insight into our privileges and responsibilities in the Kingdom of God.  These insights aren’t just being pondered; people are acting on them, and more and more, God’s will is being done on earth as it is in heaven.26

This chapter is describing the Christian in “tent” bodies (not that this idea by itself is unscriptural), with an allusion to the not yet in the already.  Johnson claims that Genesis 28:10-19, Jacob’s dream, with the ladder of angels ascending and descending, is the OT precursor to the above (Johnson takes this out of context to ‘prove’ his point, not surprisingly).  He continues in this vein for a while, then discusses Jesus, after first quoting John 1:14 – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth:27

Dwelt in this verse means “to tabernacle.”  Jesus tabernacled among us – He was the House of God made flesh – the place where God lived.  He was the initial fulfillment of the prophetic picture in Genesis 28…28

There is a New Testament reference to Genesis 28:12 as Jesus being the one whom angels had ascended and descended upon in John 1:51, thus identifying Jesus as the one, unique Redeemer.

The fulfillment of the House of God began with Jesus.  He was the House of God on earth.  But this concept did not stop with Him – far from it…your conversion was not God’s ultimate intent for you.  It was His initial intent that set you up for the ultimate fulfillment, which is that you be filled with His fullness, living the normal Christian lifestyle as defined by what takes place in heaven29

For Johnson, “living the normal Christian life” means doing supernatural works in virtue of the anointing.  And, of course, this is what he means by Jesus being the “House of God made flesh”.30  Overlooking the fact that, from an orthodox Christian perspective, we cannot equate Christians as a “House of God” (via the indwelt Holy Spirit) to Jesus as the “House of God” (as He is the unique Word made flesh, with His divine nature in hypostatic union with His human), is this a veiled version of manifest sons of God (MSoG) doctrine?  I think so.

To assist in fully comprehending the unorthodox doctrine of MSoG, here’s occultist and New Ager Alice A. Bailey, as MSoG has a direct parallel with occult doctrine (the occult uses this very name).  The second quote provides the key to understanding Bill Johnson’s “eternally God” statements in conjunction with his temporally non-divine Jesus.  “Master” in the third selection is another name for a fully manifested son of God:

He [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.31 

…We are also preparing for expansions of consciousness which will enable us to live in two realms at once – the life which must be lived on earth and the life which we can live in the kingdom of God [ED: kingdom of God = eternal realm]…32 

If he chooses to take a physical vehicle [ED: body]… 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’…33

The first Bailey quote is similar to the Britton passage (“redeemed from the sense realm”), while portions of this first quote align with the “eternally God” yet temporally non-divine Jesus in some of the above Johnson quotes (Bailey’s “being in the world and yet not of the world…while walking on earth”).  However, it’s the second one that quite adequately explains Bill Johnson’s “eternally God” with a non-divine earthly Jesus, while also being congruent with the Britton quote.  And here’s a Facebook comment of Bill Johnson from May 12, 2012, which sounds similar to the third Bailey quote, and two more quotes from other Johnson works, which read like a bit of all three:

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. [Bill Johnson, Facebook, May 12, 2012; emphasis added]               

…He wants you to see reality from God’s perspective, to learn to live from His world toward the visible world34 

…That which is unseen can be realized only through repentance [ED: contemplative prayer, aka “experiencing His presence”].  It was as though He said, ‘If you don’t change the way you perceive things, you’ll live your whole life thinking what you see in the natural is the superior reality35

However, for more explicit MSoG teaching we have the following, in which Johnson claims that the glorified Jesus Christ of Revelation 1:14-15 is the model for which the believer is to aim while here on earth.36  Note how he takes 1 John 4:17 out of context (as He is, so are we in the world) – just as Alice Bailey does in her works to promote MSoG:37

…[W]hy didn’t the Father send Him [Holy Spirit] 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.38

To summarize this section: Keeping in mind Johnson’s teaching on the anointing, which indicates a temporally, earthly non-divine Jesus, who is only ‘linked’ to the divine via the anointing, we can systematize this doctrine with Johnson’s other statements that Jesus Christ is “eternally God” by understanding Jesus living in two different realms, the temporal and the eternal, simultaneously.  That is, there is a temporally non-divine Jesus concurrent with an eternally divine Jesus.  This is not unlike Manifest Sons of God doctrine, and Johnson looks to be explicating a somewhat veiled MSoG at some times, while teaching it more explicitly at others.

Overcoming Some Objections

Before concluding, there other statements of Bill Johnson that are less strongly asserting divested divinity (notwithstanding Johnson’s prevalent teaching on the anointing), while seemingly more strongly implying that the Word retained His divine attributes, yet chose not to exercise them.  Following are two.  We will focus on the bolded portions:

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] 

…Everything He did in His life and ministry He did as man who, though He was fully God, had set aside the privileges of His divinity in order to show us a model of the kind of life He would make available to each of us through His death, resurrection, and ascension…39

The first of these is not too dissimilar from the quotes in the very first part of this article; however, the “self imposed restriction” part can be read such that Jesus had continually restricted Himself from utilizing the divine attributes He retained, throughout His earthly ministry.   But, on the other hand, this can also be read that the Word’s limitation came just before the Incarnation in the form of a divestment, or partial divestment, of His divine attributes – or at least those divine attributes providing supernatural power – resulting in this “restriction”.

One unanswered question (at least explicitly unanswered) is just what the term divinity means.  From the above, it’s clear that possessing divinity entails an ability to perform the supernatural, since when it is “emptied” or “laid aside” the result is a complete inability to act supernaturally.  This implies no longer possessing the means by which to perform supernatural acts, rather than a continual, conscious self-limitation.  For, if Johnson means that the Word continued to possess supernatural powers, yet consciously chose not to use these powers, instead relying on the Holy Spirit, then words such as “no ability,” “couldn’t,” and “NO supernatural capabilities” would not be used.  Moreover, when “Jesus, the man” is ‘linked’ “to the divine40, i.e. the anointing, Jesus has supernatural capabilities via this linking “to the divine”.  Therefore, divine, is another form of divinity, both entailing the ability to perform the supernatural.

Also, we can construe that divinity and deity are interchangeable, as the term deity was part of the question posed to Johnson in the above tweet, and the term divinity is used in Johnson’s other quotes in a similar manner.  So, in Johnson’s dictionary, to empty of divinity does not result in ceasing to exist.  So, to recap, to empty or lay aside divinity/deity entails a continued existence but at the expense of any and all supernatural capabilities, in Johnson’s theology.

In the second quote above, if we take the bolded section just as it is (and the quote in isolation from all other Johnson material), we could understand this to be stating that the Word retained all divine attributes when He became flesh, yet refrained from using His divine “privileges”, i.e., supernatural powers.  But, on the other hand, this can be understood such that He was formerly God, that is, prior to becoming man, He was fully God; however, upon becoming a man He was no longer God having – to use one of the earlier quotes – “emptied Himself of divinity” when He entered the temporal realm.  Alternatively, we can interpret this statement such that “He was fully God” means He was “eternally God” (fully God) concurrent with the time He was temporally non-divine “as a man”.  The latter understanding is congruent with our analysis of the rest of Bill Johnson’s statements.

In each of the above quotes, it must be conceded that to apply the understanding that the Word retained possession of His divine attributes during the Incarnation is directly opposed to Johnson’s teaching on the anointing, which clearly reveals a non-divine earthly Jesus.  Therefore, to accept the interpretation that Johnson is stating that the Word retained all His divine attributes yet chose not to exercise them during His earthly ministry (while ignoring the “emptied Himself of divinity” statements) renders Johnson’s Christology totally incoherent, self-contradictory.

One other objection noted is based on a passage in When Heaven Invades Earth, which appears to affirm that Jesus was indeed Christ/Messiah at the virgin birth:

For hundreds of years the prophets spoke of the Messiah’s coming.  They gave over 300 specific details describing Him.  Jesus fulfilled them all!  The angels also gave witness to His divinity when they came with a message for the shepherds: ‘For there is born to you this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  Nature itself testified to the arrival of the Messiah with the star that led the wise men…’41

Besides the fact that Johnson above, in His Christ = the anointing teaching, illustrates that anyone who receives the anointing is an “Anointed One” or “Messiah”, the above passage does not necessarily affirm that Jesus is the Messiah/Christ at the virgin birth.  The interpretive key is the remainder of the paragraph:

…Yet with this one statement, ‘Unless I do the works of the Father, do not believe me,’* Jesus put the credibility of all these messengers on the line.  Their ministries would have been in vain without one more ingredient to confirm who He really was.  That ingredient was miracles.42

Do we imagine that the archangel Gabriel was pacing the heavens hoping that Jesus would perform miracles to prove He really was the Messiah, the Christ, and thus prove Gabriel to be true?  Certainly not.  The asterisk (*) above refers to John 10:37 in a footnote in the original quoted passage.  In this Scripture Jesus Christ was not making some sort of all-inclusive statement putting “the credibility of all these messengers on the line;” He was addressing the unbelieving Jews.  Johnson is mixing Biblical contexts here.  However, note that in John 10:37 Jesus is pointing out that they should believe He is the Son of God by virtue of the works/miracles He performs.  Jesus’ point is that, though they do not believe He is Who He claims to be, they should believe by the miracles.  Johnson proof-texts this to remain consistent with the rest of his teachings that Jesus was not really the Christ/Messiah until His Baptism after which, of course, He performed the miraculous works having been ‘enabled’ by the anointing mentioned earlier in this same book.

So, it would seem the above paragraph can be perfectly harmonized with the rest of Johnson’s teachings.  To state another way: With Johnson’s assertion that “The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit”,43  in its original context (see above), he makes it apparent that baptism is the point at which Jesus receives the title/name of Christ (Messiah).  Consequently, according to this teaching, it follows that since Jesus did not have the name of Christ, and, hence was not yet Christ before baptism, the angels’ and the other messengers’ words were contingent upon Jesus ‘proving Himself’ by performing the miraculous, thereby showing Him to be an “Anointed One” – for anyone receiving the Christ anointing is an anointed one.  Moreover, Johnson’s quote is not necessarily proclaiming Jesus’ divinity (“the angels gave witness to His divinity”) since he asserted that it was the anointing that linked “Jesus, the man, to the divine.”44  Jesus’ divinity was only by virtue of the yet future anointing.

But what about the specific language in the first part of the paragraph above, especially the use of Luke 2:11, that states, in effect, that the Messiah had come at that time, at the virgin birth?  To answer this, I’ll quote New Ager/occultist Levi Dowling:

…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 Christ45

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, “President Lincoln was born On February 12, 1809.” Certainly, Lincoln wasn’t born President, for he was elected to the office of the President later.

Once again, if one does not accept the above explanation, then one is left with self-contradictory teaching.  However, I submit that Johnson’s penchant for redefining terms and concepts, as well as his overt duplicity in doing so at times (whether he borrowed any of this from someone else or not matters little), indicates he could be deceptive in other areas (as he has been in the account of the Roberts Liardon library acquisition); that is, Johnson could throw in the odd orthodox statement now and again in order to purposefully confuse those who see his main teachings as unorthodox.

Concluding Remarks

As this article illustrates, by using Bill Johnson’s own words, he does in fact deny the full deity/divinity of Jesus Christ while He was on earth in his teaching on the anointing.  This is not a “hurtful rumor”, as he states in his tweet; it’s an established fact as evidenced by Bill Johnson’s own clear (and sometimes unclear) teachings.  Is this being uncharitable towards Bill Johnson?  Scripture does not indicate we should be charitable toward false teachers:

17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17-18, NKJV)

It is Bill Johnson who is causing division with his teachings that run contrary to orthodox Christianity.  Having identified this, we are to avoid him.  The Apostle Paul states quite clearly, “such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Anyone who consistently denies the divinity of Jesus Christ in any form or fashion, as Johnson clearly does in his Christology, is an enemy of the Cross of Christ and an enemy of the Christian faith.

1 Bill Johnson “Healing and the Kingdom” in Bill Johnson, 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.
2 Bill Johnson “Healing and the Authority of the Believer” in Johnson, Clark Essential Guide to Healing, pp 132-133.  Emphasis added.
3 Bill Johnson Face to Face with God: The Ultimate Quest to Experience His Presence. 2007; Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL, p 77.  Underscore added.
4 Johnson Face to Face, pp 21-22, 58, 77-82, 100-102
5 Bill Johnson When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. 2003, Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA, p 80; Johnson Face to Face, p 22
6 Johnson, Face to Face, pp 21-22
7 Johnson, Face to Face, pp 79, 109
8 Johnson, Face to Face, pp 21-22. Bold added.
9 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 79
10 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 79.  Emphasis added.
11 Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology, 1994, Inter-Varsity, Grand Rapids, MI, pp 233-38, 543-554, 624-33; Louis Berkhof Systematic Theology, 1941, 4th revised and enlarged ed, 1991, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, pp 91-5, 312-13, 356-66
12 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 79.  Emphasis added.
13 Johnson, Face to Face, p 109. Italics in original; bold added.
14 Johnson, Face to Face, p 77.  Bold added.
15 Levi Dowling The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ: The Philosophic and Practical Basis of the Religion of the Aquarian Age of the World, © 1907 Eva S. Dowling and Leo W. Dowling, © 1935 and © 1964 Leo W. Dowling, (11th printing, 1987), DeVorss, Marina del Rey, CA, p 6. Italics in original; bold added.
16 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 79.  Emphasis added.
17 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 79.  Italics in original.
18 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 80.  Bold added.
19 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 81
20 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 29
21 Bill Johnson The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind: Access to a Life of Miracles, 2005, Destiny Image: “Speaking to the Purposes of God for This Generation and for the Generations to Come”, Shippensburg, PA, p 50. Bold added.
22 Lewis Sperry Chafer Systematic Theology, 1948, 1976 Dallas Theological Seminary (1993), Kregel, Grand Rapids, MI, Vol. VII, pp 141-42.  Emphasis added.
23 Bill Johnson Dreaming with God: Secrets to Redesigning Your World through God’s Creative Flow, 2006, Destiny Image: “Speaking to the Purposes of God for This Generation and for the Generations to Come”, Shippensburg, PA, pp 64-65.  Italics in original; bold added for emphasis.
24 This clause will be the subject of a future article here on CrossWise.
25 Bill Britton From Tent to Temple, nd, Bill Britton (no publisher listed), Springfield, MO, pp 15-16.  All as per original except bold, which is added for emphasis.
26 Johnson Supernatural Power, pp 53-54.  Bold added.
27 Johnson Supernatural Power, pp 54-57
28 Johnson Supernatural Power, p 57. Italics in original.
29 Johnson Supernatural Power, p 57.  Bold added.
30 I’ve argued elsewhere that Bill Johnson is teaching that Jesus is really the Word of Faith (WoF) “rhema” word ‘made flesh’, aka the “present truth” word made flesh, in the following: < https://notunlikelee.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/open-challenge-to-fans-and-critics-of-bill-johnsonbethel-church/ >.  This is also is consistent with the Gnostic/New Age doctrine of divine spark or divine seed within each person waiting to be awakened.
31 Alice A. Bailey From Bethlehem to Calvary: The Initiations of Jesus, © 1937 by Alice A. Bailey, renewed 1957 by Foster Bailey, Lucis Trust, 4th paperback ed., 1989, Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, p 187.  Emphasis added.
32 Bailey Bethlehem to Calvary, p 51.   Emphasis added.
33 Alice A. Bailey The Rays and the Initiations. 1960 Lucis, NY, 2nd paperback ed, 1976, Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; p 699. Emphasis added.
34 Johnson Supernatural Power, p 45.  Italics in original; bold added.
35 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 38.  Italics in original; bold added.
36 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 145
37  Alice A. Bailey The Reappearance of the Christ, 1948, Lucis Trust, 9th printing 1979 (4th Paperback ed.); Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, NY, p 145; Bailey Bethlehem to Calvary, p 110.
38 Johnson Heaven Invades, p 145.  Italics in original; bold added.
39 Johnson, Face to Face, p 23
40 Johnson, Heaven Invades, p 79
41 Johnson, Heaven Invades p 97
42 Johnson, Heaven Invades p 97.  Italics in original.
43 Johnson, Heaven Invades p 79
44 Johnson, Heaven Invades p 79
45 Dowling, Aquarian Gospel, p 8.  Emphasis added.