Kris Vallotton on Becoming an Incarnation through Holy Communion

[UPDATE 02/26/2019: Vallotton’s site has been updated, but the article from which the quote below had been taken is still available: Digesting Jesus]

Kris Vallotton, Senior Associate Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, CA (Bill Johnson is Senior Pastor), recently stated the following on his website:

When Jesus said we must eat His flesh and drink his blood, he wasn’t talking about cannibalism, but he was referring to ingestion that leads to incarnation. Christ is the Word that became flesh. It is important that we ingest the Word of God in a way that causes us to digest His life until Christ is literally formed in us. Ingestion without digestion will lead to feeling full but not being transformed. Digestion is more than just a taste test, it is the full meal of His presence that conforms us to His image. There is an old saying that is true in this case, “You are what you eat!

Many people ingest the Bible but they don’t digest the living, active Word of God. Religion fills their souls but never satisfies their longing for real life. Digestion requires assimilation, not just consumption. Truth was never meant to just be recounted, it was intended to be experienced. When we exchange the communion meal for a dinner commentary or a cookbook, we deprive ourselves of the privilege of abundant life, and relegate ourselves to a meager existence in the Kingdom. [Tuesday, July 16, 2013; emphasis added]

How do we interpret Kris Vallotton’s message?  The key is in the word incarnation.  Of course, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ occurred when the Word, the second ‘Person’ of the Trinity “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).  This took place at the moment of the Virginal Conception (Luke 1:35).  But, do Christians become an incarnation?

While there are a few different meanings for the term incarnation, as it applies to Jesus Christ it implies preexistence, as in the preexistent, eternal Word, the second ‘Person’ of the Trinity took on a new mode of existence as the one, unique God in the flesh.  The fully God and yet fully man Jesus Christ IS the Incarnation.  And since, according to orthodox Christianity, humans are not preexistent, then humans cannot become an incarnation in that sense of the term.  (However, those who believe in the preexistence of souls affirm reincarnation – not a Christian doctrine, specifically deemed anathema at the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, or Constantinople II of 553 AD.)

So what does Kris Vallotton mean?  Certainly, he’s adhering to the typical Word of Faith (WoF) doctrine of ‘new revelation’ (what Vallotton terms “living, active Word of God” above), or as Kenneth E. Hagin termed it, the “rhema” word.  According to WoF, these ‘new revelations’ are superior to Scripture, the written Word (Hagin called this the “logos” word).  But what does that have to do with becoming an incarnation?

The other modern day definitions for the term incarnation are used in a figurative sense, yet it’s clear Vallotton is speaking literally, as he states, “until Christ is literally formed in us”.  Taking the context of Vallotton’s message above, this seems similar to an old and oft-repeated quote by Hagin:

Every man who has been ‘born again’ is an Incarnation, and Christianity is a miracle.  The believer is as much an Incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth.1

Hagin equates the Incarnate Word of God to the ‘born again’ believer.  Others have stated something similar, and here are two examples from Earl Paulk – one who taught explicit Latter Rain doctrine as well as WoF:

It was the quickening and bringing alive of the Word which was incarnate in Jesus ChristThat Word became incarnate in the Church. 

Jesus was the firstfruit of God’s incarnation, a man living out God’s perfect will.  Now He says, “…My people will bring forth life as they become the ‘incarnate Word’ on planet Earth”…the Church is the ‘ongoing expression’ of God.2

All things have been given to us, even to the point of allowing us to share the divine nature of Jesus.  Sharing His nature is a definition of the ongoing incarnation of God on the earth.  ‘Christ in us, the hope of glory.’  His inheritance is already ours3

While Vallotton has not gone so far as to declare the Church body “the ongoing incarnation of God on the earth”, he’s not very far off.  More important though is that if one reads the Vallotton quote carefully, one sees that the ‘believer’ becomes the ‘new revelation’ word made flesh.  Does this mean that, in the Vallotton quote, Jesus Christ was also the ‘new revelation’ word made flesh rather than the Word, the second ‘Person’ of the Trinity made flesh at the Virginal Conception as the unique fully God and fully man, as the Hagin and Paulk selections above seem to imply? 

To see that this interpretation of ‘believer’ as ‘new revelation’ word made flesh is indeed the correct understanding, we’ll go through the above Vallotton quote sentence by sentence.

When Jesus said we must eat His flesh and drink his blood, he wasn’t talking about cannibalism, but he was referring to ingestion that leads to incarnation

This means simply that partaking of Communion leads to “incarnation”.

Christ is the Word that became flesh. It is important that we ingest the Word of God in a way that causes us to digest His life until Christ is literally formed in us 

These two sentences are the most crucial as far as interpretation.   Here, we’ll have to make an initial hypothesis which will prove itself as we continue.  First, note the two uses of “the Word” above.  From a strictly orthodox perspective, the first sentence would be speaking of Jesus Christ as the eternal Word made flesh at the Virginal Conception.  But is this what Vallotton means?  We’ll return to this later.

Regarding the second, this could refer to either Scripture, or the ‘new revelation’ word.  However, in the second paragraph of the complete quote, Vallotton is clear that he’s referring to the ‘new revelation’ word, since he’s made a direct comparison between this and Scripture, with the ‘new revelation’ word the one to be “experienced”.  Therefore, for now we’ll tentatively conclude that this is the intended meaning here, as this Word “causes us to digest His life until Christ is literally formed in us”.

Ingestion without digestion will lead to feeling full but not being transformed. Digestion is more than just a taste test, it is the full meal of His presence that conforms us to His image. There is an old saying that is true in this case, You are what you eat!”  

Here “the Word” is personified as “His presence”.  Also, this implies that Holy Communion consists of the real presence, just as it does in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox, Lutheranism, and only a few others within Protestantism.  The majority of Protestant churches deny the real presence in Holy Communion, seeing it as symbolic instead.  For Vallotton, “His presence”, that is, the ‘real presence’ in Communion, literally makes the ‘believer’ become that which was ingested: “the Word”.

Many people ingest the Bible but they don’t digest the living, active Word of God. Religion fills their souls but never satisfies their longing for real life.

The message in these two sentences is that reading (“ingesting”) the Bible results in “religion”, the term used pejoratively; whereas,  the “living, active Word of God” (“His life” and “His presence” in the first paragraph), i.e., the ‘new revelation’ word brings “real life”.  By positing this false dichotomy between the Bible and ‘new revelation’, this confirms the earlier working hypothesis that the ‘new revelation’ word was the intended meaning in the first paragraph.

Digestion requires assimilation, not just consumption. Truth was never meant to just be recounted, it was intended to be experienced.

Studying and memorizing Scripture is not the real goal.  The “truth” of these ‘new revelations’ is to be digested, experienced, assimilated.  This is the goal.

When we exchange the communion meal for a dinner commentary or a cookbook, we deprive ourselves of the privilege of abundant life, and relegate ourselves to a meager existence in the Kingdom.

If Holy Communion is viewed as symbolic, rather than the ‘real presence’ of “the Word”, i.e. ‘new revelation’, then we become a spiritual ‘have-not’ instead of a spiritual ‘have’.  Why?  Because it’s “important that we ingest the Word of God in a way that causes us to digest His life until Christ is literally formed in us.”  If we don’t “ingest the Word of God” in this way, then “Christ” will not be formed in us, literally. 

But, what does all this really mean?  The mystery and confusion evaporate when this is viewed from a Gnostic, or, more specifically, a Neo-Gnostic (New Age / New Spirituality) perspective.  First, we’ll need to provide a brief sketch of a basic Neo-Gnostic conception, keeping in mind that this is a perversion of Christianity.

In the Neo-Gnostic (New Age / New Spirituality) conception of deity, there is an eternal trinity consisting of the Father, the Holy Breath (sometimes Mother), and Christ (the logos, usually the offspring of the first two).  Christ is “the Word of God”, the “word” of Thought, Force and Love.  This “word” formed the entire cosmos, leaving a part of himself in all of creation, alternatively known as a seed, spark, Christ.  Therefore, the eternal word (third person of this false trinity, as opposed to second in orthodox Christianity) is the ‘Christ without’, while the internal seed/spark in everything is the “Christ within”.This is the doctrine of panentheism, that is, God is within all, yet simultaneously transcendent.

In the Gnostic understanding, mankind has two natures, one human and one divine spark/seed, or ‘Christ within’.  In order for humans to progress spiritually, the goal is to awaken the ‘Christ within’ (Christ in you, the hope of glory – a perversion of Colossians 1:27) via the “Christ without”, i.e., the “word” which provides “Thought and Force”,5 or ‘new revelation’.  As one increases in ‘new revelation’ knowledge, one progresses spiritually.6  This progression occurs over multiple lifetimes, as the spark/seed is then reincarnated into a succession of human forms.

Though “Christ” (divine seed/spark) was yet still latent in humanity, due to ‘selfishness’, most of the human race did not recognize this and, thus, was not progressing as it should.  This necessitated that the eternal Christ (of this false trinity), the “Word of God”, be made manifest in human form “by taking his abode in some pure person”.7  That “pure person” was Jesus of Nazareth.  This “Word of God”, ‘new revelation’ of “Thought and Force”, became flesh in the man Jesus at baptism, specifically when the dove (Holy Breath) landed upon him.  This is when the incarnation of the “Word of God” began.8

Once ‘the Word’ was “made flesh” in Jesus of Nazareth at baptism, Jesus became the model for all towards their own spiritual progression, for their own self-redemption.  The goal then for mankind is for each one to become his own ‘word made flesh’, to become his own incarnation, by recognizing the divine seed/spark within, and then begin its path towards actualization.9  This false Jesus instructs others: “Look to the Christ within who shall be formed in every one of you, as he is formed in me.”10  What was it that Vallotton wrote above?  “It is important that we ingest the Word of God in a way that causes us to digest His life until Christ is literally formed in us.”

Viewing Vallotton’s complete statement from a New-Gnostic perspective works well indeed.  Using Neo-Gnosticism as our lens with which to view this statement, we can see how to interpret “Christ is the Word that became flesh”, and this adds clarity to the entire Vallotton quote.

As regards Vallotton’s references to Holy Communion, we’ll compare to material on a Gnostic website.  Please note that there are many different flavors of Gnosticism, with each one borrowing from other religions and occult traditions.  This particular one incorporates Hinduism, Jewish mysticism to include the Kabbalah, Tantric Yoga, and others into its own mix of Gnosticism.  Also, as a side note, the reader may have recognized that Hagin referred to the ‘new revelation’ word as the “rhema”, while above (and below) it was used as the “logos” instead.  This is not unusual, as terms are not necessarily consistent, though concepts usually are.

Jesus says that man cannot live upon this bread alone, this bread of Moses.  In other words, the teaching that Moses gives is vital, it is important, but it is not enough; there is something else.  And that something else is the Word of God, as Jesus says.  But here we have to look deeper than the literal meaningSome interpret this passage as meaning that we need the scripture or the Bible in order to have life, but this is only a literal, superficial meaning of the phrase. The document from which the quote is taken was written in Greek, and in Greek, ‘word’ is ‘logos’…11

Just like Vallotton, we have to look beyond the literal meaning of Jesus’ words in John 6, we must “look deeper” for the mystical meaning, as per the Gnostic quote above, for if we don’t, then this will result in “not being transformed”, per Vallotton.  The Bible is not enough.

…In other words, man cannot live by bread alone…but by the Word of God, by the Logos, by the Christ.  So he is pointing out a very important mystery that we need to comprehend…. 

receive the blessed elements so they can take those atoms [of the Christ] into their bodies as assistance for their work.

…these elements which will house the forces of Christ (the Logos) so that the congregation can receive those forces.12

As Vallotton concluded his first paragraph, “You are what you eat!”  This is what he means by “His life” and “His presence” in the first paragraph.  But, whose life and presence is this really?  All this reminds me once again of the following Alice Bailey quote, only this time I’ll place other emphasis:

…[T]he church movement, like all else, is but a temporary expedient and serves but as a transient resting place for the evolving lifeEventually, 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: the false Christ above, actually Satan/antichrist] and His disciples when the outpouring of the Christ principle [ED: spirit of the ‘new revelation’ word], the true second Coming, has been accomplished…

The Christian church in its many branches can serve as a St. John the Baptist, as a voice crying in the wilderness, and as a nucleus through which world illumination may be accomplishedThe church must show a wide tolerance…The church as a teaching factor should take the great basic doctrines and (shattering the old forms in which they are expressed and held) show their true and inner spiritual significance [ED: occult/esoteric meaning]The prime work of the church is to teach, and teach ceaselessly, preserving the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed to church usages.  Teachers must be trained; Bible knowledge must be spread; the sacraments must be mystically interpreted, and the power of the church to heal must be demonstrated.13

  

   1 Kenneth E. Hagin “The Incarnation” in The Word of Faith, (1980, December; #13) Kenneth Hagin Ministries, Tulsa, OK, p 14, as quoted in Russell Sharrock Covenant Theology: A Critical Analysis of Current Pentecostal Covenant Theology, 2006, Lulu Enterprises, Morrisville, NC, p 109.  Emphasis added.
   2 Paulk, Earl. Held in the Heavens Until…God’s Strategy for Planet Earth, 1985; K Dimension, Atlanta, GA, p 163.  Emphasis added.
   3 Paulk, Held in the Heavens, p 197.  Emphasis added.
   4 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.  Dowling is cited as merely one Neo-Gnostic text, but there are many others, with subtle differences in basic doctrine.  However, Dowling’s very closely matches the Vallotton quote, and hence, serves our purposes here.
   5 Dowling Aquarian Gospel, p 6
   6 Dowling Aquarian Gospel, pp 6-7
   7 Dowling Aquarian Gospel, p 7
   8 Dowling Aquarian Gospel, p 8.  The point at which this false incarnation begins is detailed: …Jesus was man; Christ was Divine Love – the Love of God; and after thirty years of strenuous life the man had made his body fit to be the temple of the holy breath and Love 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.”
   9 Dowling Aquarian Gospel, p 8
   10 Dowling Aquarian Gospel, p 8
   11 “Gnostic Instructor” “Sacrament of Communion” gnosticteachings.org website <http://gnosticteachings.org/courses/sacraments-of-the-gnostic-church/666-sacrament-of-communion.html>, as accessed 07/20/13, © Glorian Publishing, Brooklyn, NY; emphasis added.
   12 “Gnostic Instructor” “Sacrament of Communion”
   13 Alice A. Bailey The Externalisation of the Hierarchy, © 1957 Lucis, NY, 6th printing 1981; Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, pp 510-511.  Underscore from italics in original; other emphasis added.  While the book was not published until 1957, most sections within the book have corresponding dates of initial writing, or, more accurately, transmission.  The portion quoted here is from 1919, some of the earliest writings of Bailey/The Tibetan.

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Open Challenge to Bill Johnson/Bethel Supporters

[Here’s Another Challenge to Bill Johnson/Bethel Supporters.]
[2/27/13: Here’s another challenge: Open Challenge to Fans and Critics of Bill Johnson/Bethel Church.]

The following is based on an original idea of and primarily written by W B McCarty in conjunction with Craig who provided minor additions, changes and editing.

Many have charged that the teaching of Bill Johnson is unbiblical and wrong. Not a few have charged that his teachings violate orthodoxy – the ancient, common theological understanding of the Christian Church – and therefore entail or promote heresy. On the other hand, no small number of Bill Johnson supporters have denied these charges.

This brief article challenges Johnson supporters to reconcile just one of Bill Johnson’s statements in his book When Heaven Invades Earth (WHIE) with Christian orthodoxy. The article does not address all the suspect statements in that book or suspect statements in other books, sermons, or talks.

Here is the selected statement of Bill Johnson:

“Jesus lived His earthly life with human limitations. He laid his [sic] divinity aside as He sought to fulfill the assignment given to Him by the Father: to live life as a man without sin, and then die in the place of mankind for sin. This would be essential in His plan to redeem mankind. The sacrifice that could atone for sin had to be a lamb, (powerless), and had to be spotless, (without sin)” [When Heaven Invades Earth, Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2003, p. 79].

And, here are the questions that comprise the challenge:

1. To what “limitations” does Bill Johnson refer? Does he mean that the God-man Jesus, in His divine nature, lacked divine attributes such as omniscience (possessing all knowledge) and omnipotence (being all powerful)?

a.)    If so, how could God relinquish divine attributes and yet remain God?  In what sense might a limited, finite man be considered God, when the very term “God” denotes infinity?

b.)    If so, given that all things consist in Jesus (Col. 1:17) who upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3), why did the world not cease to exist during His Incarnation?

c.)    If so, how did Jesus regain His divine status? Can other non-divine beings gain divine status?

d.)    If so, how could the finite sacrifice of a non-divine man pay the infinite penalty of the sins of humankind?

2. What does Bill Johnson mean when he writes that Jesus “laid his [sic] divinity aside?”

a.)    What, exactly, was laid aside? That is, what does Bill Johnson mean by “divinity?”

b.)    Did Jesus cease to be God at the time of His Incarnation?

c.)    If Jesus was not God in His Incarnation, what is the significance of his name Emmanuel [“God is with us” (also Immanuel)]?

d.)    If Jesus was not God in His Incarnation, how was he able to forgive the sins of the paralytic man (Mk. 2:9)? Can anyone other than God actually forgive sins?

e.)    If Jesus was not God in His Incarnation, how could John’s account of His ministry have as its purpose the affirmation that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” [John 20:31, emphasis added]?

3. When Bill Johnson writes “He laid his [sic] divinity aside,” why does he write “his” rather than “His?”

a.)    Does “his” refer to a non-divine Jesus?

b.)    If “his” refers to a non-divine Jesus, how and at what point did Jesus regain divine status?

4. As a sacrifice, was Jesus “powerless?”

a.)    That is, was He or was He not in possession of the divine attribute of omnipotence even as He hung on the Cross?

b.)    If He was not in possession of omnipotence during His time on the Cross, and was therefore unable to free Himself, in what sense was His sacrifice willing?

For those who lack training in the Scriptures and Christian theology, here is a summary of the main points of orthodoxy at issue in Bill Johnson’s statement:

A. Jesus is the eternally pre-existent, second member of the divine Trinity.

B. At His Incarnation, Jesus took on a second, human nature in addition to His divine nature.

C. Since the beginning of His Incarnation, Jesus has been at all times fully God and fully man (known as the hypostatic union).

D. God possesses a number of divine attributes, such as omniscience and omnipotence.

E. By definition, divine attributes are a necessary and sufficient condition of divinity. That is, no one but God may possess divine attributes. And, if God were hypothetically to cease to possess any divine attribute, He would cease to be God.

Note: For further exposition of these points, including biblical references, see any good discussion of the Nicene and Chalcedonian creeds, which are common to the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Protestant Church. No one who rejects these creeds has any reasonable basis to claim to be Christian in the usual, historical sense of that term.

Finally, here are some ground rules for the discussion that the authors of this article hope will ensue:

1. It isn’t intended that the statement/answer/response be selectively cited. Those who wish to support Johnson by bringing in other explanatory material from the book WHIE are free to do so. However, those who challenge the orthodoxy of the statement should not bring in new material. Let’s keep the discussion as focused as possible.

2. Bringing in explanatory material from sources other than the book is prohibited, as doing so would unduly widen the discussion. If this challenge proves popular, the authors may find time to offer similar challenges based on other statements within WHIE and other of Bill Johnson’s books and sermons. The authors believe there is no shortage of suspect statements requiring explanation by Bill Johnson’s supporters or ideally by Bill Johnson himself. Those who are unfamiliar with the works of Bill Johnson should not suppose that the offered statement is the only of his statements that seems unorthodox or heretical.

3. To respond, copy both the corresponding number and its question followed by the corresponding letter and question.  For example, if responding to “2b)” then copy and paste from the article the following with your response following that:

2. What does Bill Johnson mean when he writes that Jesus “laid his [sic] divinity aside?”

b.)   Did Jesus cease to be God at the time of His Incarnation?

[your response]

Who will take the challenge?

_______________________________________________________________________________

Here’s a new challenge.

The Kingdom of God is at Hand, part II

‘Tween the Times

In part I, the intertestamental era (the time between the Old and New Testaments) was discussed including the literary works, social developments, and beliefs of the different Jewish sects of this period. Since God had sent no prophets since the time of Malachi, the oppressed Jews turned to writing various works which are known as Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. Much of this literature was fictional, some of dubious origin, while others contained factual historical accounts interspersed with inaccuracies; however, there was a fair amount on the spirit world including the angelic realm, eschatology, and the afterlife.

The Church of today is in waiting in a not too dissimilar way. There have been no prophets since the writings of the Apostles in the first century; and, we are in between the two advents – Jesus’ First and Second Comings.

However, in recent years there has been the claim that God has brought back prophecy through the so-called “restoration of the five-fold ministry” of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers based on an interpretation of Ephesians 4:11-13. Interestingly, the focus is primarily on the first two in this list to the virtual exclusion of the others with some of the self-proclaimed using these titles to define their own personhood as in Apostle __________ or Prophet __________ (with the first letter of their designation capitalized).

It is beyond the scope of this article to do an in-depth exposition on the Latter Rain movement[1] from which the “five-fold” teaching in the previous paragraph and much of the remaining article emanate. Others have already done a fine job such as Tricia Booth (formerly Tillin of Banner Ministries) at The Birthpangs of a New Age[2], Herescope[3], and others.

It would be journalistically improper, unfair and inaccurate to make direct correlations between the Jewish sects of the intertestamental era with Christians of the present; however, general comparisons may prove interesting. The Qumranians as identified in the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) lived a monastic type of lifestyle perhaps not too dissimilar to monks and nuns of the Roman Catholic Church of today. Also, the Qumran group had their “teacher of righteousness” whom they looked to for interpretation of the Scriptures not unlike the Roman Catholic Church looks to the Papacy.

Similarly, Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer (IHOP)[4] in Kansas City, Missouri could be compared to the Qumran community in that both groups are separative – IHOP less so, as they do allow guests. However, once you are ‘in’ at IHOP, it’s not so easy to leave as one ex-IHOPper illustrates[5].

Like the Qumran community had its “righteous teacher,” the International House of Prayer has its leader, Mike Bickle, as primary expositor of the Bible. While Bickle himself says he’s not a prophet, he has relied upon both Bob Jones [see here for article on this blog] and Paul Cain for “foundational revelation” with respect to the vision of the International House of Prayer and its 24/7 worship. And, similar to the Qumranians, Bickle believes we are in the last days; and, likewise, Bickle feels like his congregation has reached a step or two beyond other Christian groups.

More comparisons could be made; but, that would detract from the primary focus of this article. However, in general, it could be said that most people today believe we are currently in the last days much like those of the intertestamental period thought.

Kingdom Now/Dominionism and the Redefined Great Commission

The first paragraph of part I ended with this question: “So, is the kingdom of God NOW?” Bill Johnson answers in the affirmative:

“Jesus taught us how to live by announcing, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand!’ It is a present reality affecting the now.

“…Many say that we must be careful over how much emphasis we put on what we are to become in the now. Why…?”[6] [bolding from italicized original]

While the Kingdom of God is most certainly now, its consummation will come only when Jesus returns bodily [Acts 1:6-11]. Johnson, however, believes Jesus gave the authority to us to “take dominion” over the earth; i.e., to “Christianize” by ‘miracles, signs and wonders’ thus distorting Matthew 28:19-20 and redefining the Great Commission as orthodox Christianity knows it:

“In redeeming man, Jesus retrieved what man [Adam] had given away. From the throne of triumph He declared, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore…’ In other words I got it all back. Now go use it and reclaim mankind…”[7] [emphasis and ellipse as in original]

Johnson states that the “authentic gospel” is actually “the gospel of the kingdom [8] – meaning what is known as Dominionism or Kingdom Now. Interestingly, the part about repentance and sin as in Luke 24:47 – “and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem.” [NIV] – is conspicuously absent or deemphasized amongst those who have redefined the Great Commission. Without the knowledge that we are sinners – the bad news – what good is the Good News of the Gospel? Todd Bentley even goes so far as to say:

“…We can preach the Gospel all day long, but that won’t save souls….” [9]

That’s because it’s all about the ‘miracles, signs and wonders’ according to the Bentley and Johnson viewpoint. In the October, 2009 issue of Charisma, C. Peter Wagner states the same basic thing as Johnson:

“Formerly I thought my task was to go to as many nations of the world as possible and plant as many churches as possible. Now I take the Great Commission more literally when it tells us not to make as many individual disciples as we can but to disciple whole social groups – such as entire nations. This is kingdom theology.

“When God created Adam and Eve, He told them to take dominion over all His creation (see Gen. 1:28). This was God’s plan until Satan succeeded in persuading Adam to obey him rather than God. The result was that Satan usurped Adam’s authority and took dominion himself.”[10] [emphasis mine]

This whole premise of ‘reclaiming lost dominion’ is faulty. The main problem with this logic is that the dominion referred to in Genesis 1:28 refers to ruling over the fish, birds, animals, and “every living thing” on the earth. The next two verses in Genesis explain God’s intent:

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food. And it was so. [NIV]

In effect, the Lord is saying we are to have stewardship rather than ownership over the earth. Who really owns the earth? Psalm 24:1 states, “The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” [NIV] In the book of Job, Satan himself must receive God’s permission to test Job (Job 1:6-12 and 2:1-6). And, in Job 38:33 God states the following as a rhetorical question:

33 Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth? [NIV]

Obviously, Satan does not have dominion over the earth – he may be “lord of this world” in a sense; but, he doesn’t own it or control it. God is still sovereign. So, regarding Wagner’s and Johnson’s (and others’) claim that the dominion of the earth was lost to Satan at The Fall, Scripture just does not attest to that. From the Adam Clarke commentary regarding Genesis 1:28:

“…God created man capable of governing the world, and when fitted for the office, he fixed him in it. We see God’s tender care and parental solicitude for the comfort and well-being of this masterpiece of his workmanship, in creating the world previously to the creation of man. He prepared every thing for his subsistence, convenience, and pleasure, before he brought him into being; so that, comparing little with great things, the house was built, furnished, and amply stored, by the time the destined tenant was ready to occupy it.” [11]

The more traditional view of postmillennialism (that Jesus will return after the Millennium spoken of in Revelation chapter 20) does not believe that man has any control as to when the coming of the new heavens and the new earth will take place. Yet, this is the basic premise of the late Earl Paulk in his 1985 book Held in the Heavens Until…. In it, he asserts the classic Latter Rain notion that Jesus cannot return until certain things are accomplished by Christians. The back cover of the book explains:

Why must Christ “remain in heaven until the time of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21)? When will the time come? As Christians, are we responsible for holding Christ?

“…The Church must accept its responsibility in the Second Coming of Christ. Only when the church is in the spirit of unity as the mature Bride of Christ will He return.” [12][emphasis mine]

So, with this view, Christians are either hindering or hastening the Second Coming by our actions or inactions. The book goes into all the Latter Rain doctrines, including Dominionism, in the same way Johnson and Wagner believe. Paulk begins by saying Adam and Eve were not only created in God’s image, but were created as His offspring with the implication, of course, that they were little gods:

“When God created His offspring in His own image, He determined that they would bring order and dominion to the earth. God declared the dominion of His Kingdom over everything throughout the entire universe (Genesis 1:26).…” [13][emphasis mine]

Just like Johnson and Wagner above, Paulk goes back to the Garden of Eden.

Error Incarnates Error

Some of the implications and ramifications of the “errors” regarding one’s view of the kingdom of God are delineated by D. A. Carson in his Common errors in understanding the Kingdom[14].  As indicated here throughout this article, these doctrinal “errors” compound themselves in and with their associated teachings.

[Side note: there are various movements with this same flair such as Reconstructionism[15]; however it is beyond the scope of this article for a full discussion. Herescope[16] has been doing a very fine series on the various flavors of Kingdom Now theology.]

Kenneth E. Hagin says basically the same thing as Johnson, Wagner and Paulk with respect to the Great Commission in his book The Name of Jesus in which he quotes heavily from E. W. Kenyon’s similarly titled book The Wonderful Name of Jesus. The belief is that Christians can do most anything in Jesus’ name because Jesus specifically gave His authority to the “Church” including, of course, taking dominion[17]. Hagin picks up where Paulk left off in the previous section:

“…When someone is born again, he is baptized into, put into, immersed into the Body of Christ.

“Jesus is the Head. We are the Body. The Head and the Body are one.” [18] [all as per original]

Note how “Body” is capitalized. Hagin also references II Corinthians 6:14-16; and, because of the words of verse 15, “…And what concord hath Christ with Belial?” [KJV] he equates this to mean “the Church is called Christ…:”[19]

“…In fact, in the Epistles, the Church is called Christ!

“The Church has not yet realized that we are Christ.” [20]

Curiously though, in the following he does not capitalize “head” or “body” which is assumed to be a typographical error especially as he explains further that we are Christ individually not just collectively:

“…Christ is the head; we are the body. We are Christ.

“…We are here as His representatives – not only collectively, but individually.” [21] [emphasis mine]

Then he quotes Kenyon directly (attributing this to Kenyon):

“When we pray in Jesus’ Name, we are taking the place of the absent Christ; we are using His authority to carry out His will on the earth.” [22]

So, we go from a redefined Great Commission to self as god. It gets worse. Here are well known words of Kenyon which Hagin parroted on more than one occasion:

Every man who has been ‘born again’ is an Incarnation, and Christianity is a miracle. The believer is as much an Incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth.” [23] [emphasis mine]

This is tantamount to Manifest Sons of God doctrine[24]. By strict definition, the word incarnation infers a preexistence; and, by extension, this also infers the doctrine of reincarnation. Here’s Paulk stating basically the same thing as Hagin/Kenyon:

“…It was the quickening and bringing alive of the Word which was incarnate in Jesus Christ. That Word became incarnate in the Church.

“…Jesus was the firstfruit of God’s incarnation, a man living out God’s perfect will. Now He says, “…My people will bring forth life as they become the ‘incarnate Word’ on planet Earth.” …the Church is the ‘ongoing expression’ of God.” [25] [emphasis mine]

“All things have been given to us, even to the point of allowing us to share the divine nature of Jesus. Sharing His nature is a definition of the ongoing incarnation of God on the earth. ‘Christ in us, the hope of glory.’ His inheritance is already ours.” [26][emphasis mine]

Then Paulk goes on to reference Matthew 18:19-20[27] just as Hagin does in his book[28] in justifying the same doctrine AND; similarly Paulk references Mark 16:17-18[29] in the same manner as Hagin[30]. There is certainly a lot of cross-pollination between Hagin’s teachings and Paulk’s even though Hagin is considered Word of Faith while Paulk is considered Latter Rain. In reality, both Word of Faith and Latter Rain have much in common.

“…The next move of God awaits Christ in us taking dominion, being the standard by which God can judge the world. The next move of God awaits the total oneness of the family of God in heaven and earth…” [31][emphasis mine]

The Changing Face of Christianity

At the time of publication of Paulk’s Held in the Heavens Until…, the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA)[32] was not yet formed; however, one of the major goals of Latter Rain was to establish a hierarchy of leadership which others must be subordinate to. In 1985 when this book was first published the “modern prophetic” was gaining momentum.

“Jesus cannot come until the apostolic ministry is re-established. We are now in the period of the prophets. Today God is raising up prophets who are under the anointing of God, but the period of the apostolic ministry will soon return also. Only then can Jesus Christ return.” [33][emphasis mine]

The ICA’s “Presiding Apostle” is C. Peter Wagner of Global Harvest Ministries[34]. Membership as of November 10, 2009 can be found at this link.[35] The newest version of their website now requires a member login; whereas, previously anyone could access their site. Courtesy of Internet Archive a/k/a The Wayback Machine the following info from their former site is recovered:

“The Second Apostolic Age began roughly in 2001, heralding the most radical change in the way of doing church at least since the Protestant Reformation. This New Apostolic Reformation [NAR] embraces the largest segment of non-Catholic Christianity worldwide, and the fastest growing. Churches of the Apostolic Movement embrace the only Christian megablock growing faster than Islam.” [36][emphasis mine]

Further, on the Prospectus tab the redefined “Great Commission” is identified and its importance explained:

“The fundamental vision of ICA is to speed the completion of Jesus’ great commission to preach the gospel to every creature and to make disciples of all nations. World evangelism is the pulse beat of apostles wherever they might be found. Nothing that we do in ICA should eclipse or even dull this essential vision. The accelerated advance of the Kingdom of God is our highest priority….” [37] [emphasis mine]

Bill Johnson, in his own push for both apostolic authority and unity (at the expense of doctrine) in this “post-denominational era,” compares and contrasts what he terms “fathers” (modern day “apostles”) and “teachers” (those who adhere to sound doctrine). He claims these “fathers/apostles” are humble, they imitate other “fathers,” and they have a ministry of power with a focus on “The Kingdom.” On the other hand, “teachers” are prideful, they “gather around ideas” to the point of being divisive (in sticking to orthodox Christian doctrines) while focusing on the “many words” of said teachings. To him, signs and wonders take precedence over sound doctrine.[38]

Mike Bickle states that Jesus cannot return until the Bride of Christ (the Church) is mature, perfect. Bob Dewaay wrote an excellent piece on Bickle’s Bridal Paradigm[39] which shows the International House of Prayer view.   This belief of Bickle is shared by Paulk:

“The purpose of every move of God is to produce the mature Bride: Christ in us, the power of God’s authority displayed through us, taking dominion of the planet. God waits for us to complete His plan. God cannot move again until we fulfill our mission on earth.” [40] [emphasis mine]

Mike Bickle is also (in)famous for the following quote:

“The Lord said simply, ‘I will change the understanding and expression of Christianity in the earth in one generation.’” [41][Emphasis mine]

Rick Joyner, of MorningStar Ministries[42] on the back cover of his book The Harvest, states a similar thing:

“What is about to come upon the earth is not just a revival or another awakening; it is a veritable revolution. This vision was given in order to begin awakening those who are destined to radically change the course and even the very definition of Christianity.” [43]

And, Bill Johnson, at Todd Bentley’s “commissioning” service at the ‘Lakeland Revival’ on June 23, 2008 said:

“…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 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 the world….” [44] [emphasis mine]

It seems, unfortunately, the “face of the Church” has changed, and for the worse, in some quarters; but, did God do this or did man? “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” [Hebrews 13:8] “But you remain the same and your years will never end.” [Psalm 102:27] “God is not a man that He should lie or a son of man that He should change his mind.” [Numbers 23:19] The Bible provides the answer. [all Scripture from NIV]

The New Age Kingdom

“The Kingdom of God will be presented to Christ by the Kingdom prototype, a true demonstration of Him in the world. When His Kingdom on earth has been demonstrated in prototype, Christ will return…” [45][emphasis mine]

The words above are those of Earl Paulk. Compare these and the other quotes in this article to Alice Bailey, acting as a medium for “Tibetan Master DK (Djwhal Khul),” in her 1937 esoteric/occult book From Bethlehem to Calvary, explaining the New Age view of the kingdom of God in the chapter titled “Our Immediate Goal: The Founding of the Kingdom:”

“…The question, however, arises whether we may hasten the process; whether, by a right understanding of Christ and His teaching, we could so expedite matters that the kingdom and its laws may hold sway earlier than would otherwise be the case….” [46][emphasis mine]

“…We can produce, and as a [human] race give birth to, the next kingdom in nature, which Christ called the kingdom of God; this is the kingdom of souls, the kingdom of spiritual lives, and herein, uniquely, Christ emerges.” [47][emphasis mine]

Bear in mind that “Christ” here does not refer to the Jesus Christ of orthodox Christianity but rather the occult/esoteric/New Age version. The soon-to-emerge “Christ” above refers to the “Christ consciousness” and; once enough individuals achieve this state – a “critical mass” – the physical embodiment of the antichrist will arise on the scene.

Put another way, the New Age view is that “Christ” is not a person but an “office”[48] or “anointing” which Jesus received; so, in the following quotes, “Christ” refers to this “Jesus” rather than the actual divine Jesus Christ of true Christianity. In the occult/esoteric view Jesus had both a human nature and a divine nature (as do all humans according to this view); and, through effort He attained godhood leaving His humanity behind. This, of course, changes the definition of “church” and the “kingdom of God” as well.

“…the motive must be the one that incited Christ to all His divine activity – the founding of the new kingdom and the attainment of that state of consciousness on a universal and human scale which will make out of the human being a citizen of the kingdom, consciously functioning therein, voluntarily subject to its laws and striving steadfastly for its extension on earth….” [49][emphasis mine]

“The true Church is the kingdom of God on earth, divorced from all clerical government and composed of all, regardless of race or creed, who live by the light within, who have discovered the fact of the mystical Christ in their hearts, and are preparing to tread the Way of Initiation. The kingdom is not composed of orthodox theologically minded people. Its citizenship is wider than that, and includes every human being who is thinking in larger terms than the individual, the orthodox, the national and the racial. The members of the coming kingdom will think in terms of humanity as a whole; and as being as they are separative or nationalistic, or religiously bigoted, or commercially selfish, they have no place in the kingdom. The word spiritual will be given a far wider connotation than that which has been given in the old age which is fortunately now passing….” [50][underline/bold as emphasis in original, additional bolding mine for emphasis]

“How will this condition of God’s kingdom materialize on earth? …by men and women everywhere cultivating the wider consciousness, and becoming more and more inclusive….” [51][emphasis mine]

The exclusivity of the “old age” of Biblical Christianity with its insistence on only one way to salvation is seen as “sin” and “divisive” by the New Ager. Their goal is inclusiveness as the above quote demonstrates. The reasoning is that worldwide unity is critical to the attainment of the next leap in humankind from the homo sapiens of the current Piscean Age to homo universalis in the upcoming Age of Aquarius[52]. Ed Tarkowski, in his work Lord Maitreya: Lord of the Apostasy, (“Maitreya” is the name given for the antichrist) explains:

“New Agers believe that every age has had a teacher who manifested ‘the Christ.” During the past 2,150 years, they say, we have been in the age of Pisces, the energies of which brought divisions into the world. It is believed that now we are in a transition period, and that the new age of Aquarius will be one of synthesis, an age of unity and oneness. This unity of all things will bring fulfillment to humanity through the realization that man is god. Many believe that this realization will be brought forth under the Aquarian leadership of and through the personal appearance of the Lord Maitreya.” [53] [emphasis mine]

A central tenet of New Age teachings is evolution and the accompanying doctrine of reincarnation. In her 1948 book The Reappearance of the Christ – which refers, once again, to the “Christ consciousness” and/or antichrist – Alice Bailey speaks of the ultimate fulfillment of the Kingdom of God on earth. The “Hierarchy” mentioned below is the New Age “spiritual Hierarchy” or “Masters of Wisdom” who are, in reality, demonic spirits. “Christ” in the last sentence is actually the antichrist or Lord Maitreya:

“…It will then be possible for the Hierarchy [Masters of Wisdom], the Church of Christ hitherto invisible, to externalise [sic] itself and to function openly upon the physical plane. This will indicate a return to the situation which existed in Atlantean days when (to use Biblical symbology, Genesis Chaps. 2 and 3) God Himself walked among men; He talked with them and there was no barrier between the Kingdom of men and Kingdom of God. Divinity was then present in physical forms and the Members of the spiritual Hierarchy were openly guiding and directing the affairs of humanity, as far as man’s innate freedom permitted. Now, in the immediate future, and on a higher turn of the spiral of life, this will again happen. The Masters will walk openly among men; the Christ [antichrist] will reappear in physical Presence….” [54][brackets mine for explanation, emphasis mine]

In stating “The Christ will reappear” the actual meaning is the antichrist will appear. This will NOT be Jesus Christ’s second coming as the text may seem to say.

Building the Kingdom on the Firm Foundation

Ethics and religion cannot be legislated as this will not, by itself, change the heart. Only God through Jesus Christ can do that. For a good read on the correct way to ‘build the Kingdom’ see Relevant Bible Teaching[55].

The Kingdom of God is within the true believer (Luke 17:21) by the indwelling Holy Spirit – the one who trusts in the Jesus Christ of the Holy Bible. The Kingdom is constructed by God through Holy Spirit conviction, not man. It is built through preaching the True Gospel and a receptive heart accepting this Gospel – the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the one and only begotten/incarnated Son of God, who took the sins of the world upon Himself and nailed them to the Cross thus providing the means of salvation for all who believe on Him. Raised on the third day, He ascended bodily and is now at the Father’s right hand providing intercession for us. If you confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior you will have eternal life provided you stand firm to the end.

Please dear reader, be sure you are helping to build the right Kingdom. Your eternity could be at stake.

Endnotes:

[1] Wikipedia. Latter Rain <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latter_Rain_(post-World_War_II_movement)>

[2] Booth, Tricia (formerly Tillin). The Birthpangs of a New Age. <http://www.birthpangs.org/articles/latterrain/gloryappx.html>

[3] Herescope home page <http://herescope.blogspot.com/>

[4] International House of Prayer home page <http://www.ihop.org/>

[5] “Ariel” “Why I Believe IHOP is a Cult” The Gospel Masquerade <http://gospelmasquerade.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/why-i-believe-ihop-is-a-cult/>

[6] Johnson, Bill. When Heaven Invades Earth. 2003; Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 178

[7] ibid. p 30

[8] ibid. p 27

[9] Bentley, Todd. Kingdom Rising: Making the Kingdom Real in Your Life. 2008; Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 67

[10] Wagner, C. Peter. The Case For Dominion. Charisma (2009, October) p 29

[11] Adam Clarke Commentary on Genesis 1:28; studylight.org <http://www.studylight.org/com/acc/view.cgi?book=ge&chapter=1&verse=28#Ge1_28>

[12] Paulk, Earl. Held in the Heavens Until… 1985; K Dimension, Atlanta, GA; back cover

[13] ibid. p 153

[14] Carson, D. A. Common Errors in understanding the Kingdom. 2008; Evangelicals Now <http://www.e-n.org.uk/p-4197-Common-errors-in-understanding-the-Kingdom.htm>

[15] Wikipedia. Christian Reconstructionism. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Reconstructionism>

[16] Herescope. “The Emerging Order” Part 6: The Next Great Awakening… Or Great Deadening? see parts 1-5 also <http://herescope.blogspot.com/2010/10/emerging-order.html>

[17] Hagin, Kenneth E. The Name of Jesus. 1979; RHEMA Bible Church / Faith Library, Tulsa, OK; pp 18-19, 42, 47

[18] ibid. p 66

[19] ibid. p 105

[20] ibid.

[21] ibid. p 106

[22] ibid.

[23] Hagin, Kenneth E. “The Incarnation” The Word of Faith. (1980, December; #13) Kenneth Hagin Ministries, Tulsa, OK; p 14 as quoted in Russell Sharrock’s book Covenant Theology: A Critical Analysis of Current Pentecostal Covenant Theology. 2006, Lulu Enterprises, Morrisville, NC; p 109

[24] Graves, Charles S. “Sonship and Rebellion Anointing or Apostasy: The Latter Rain Legacy. As sourced from Tricia Booth’s website Birthpangs: A New World Order in the Making. <http://birthpangs.org/articles/background/Chas-Graves-Anointing-Apostasy.pdf> pp 22-30

[25] Paulk, Op.Cit. p 163

[26] ibid. p 197

[27] ibid p 198

[28] Hagin, Op.cit. The Name of Jesus. p 20

[29] Paulk, Op.cit. p 198

[30] Hagin, Op.cit. pp 17-18

[31] Paulk, Op.cit. p 198

[32] International Coalition of Apostles (ICA) home page <http://www.coalitionofapostles.com/>

[33] Paulk, Op.cit. p 228

[34] Global Harvest Ministries home page <http://www.globalharvest.org/>

[35] International Coalition of Apostles Membership Directory, November 10, 2009 <http://www.psa91.com/resource/ica.pdf>

[36] International Coalition of Apostles former home page courtesy Internet Archive / Wayback Machine <http://web.archive.org/web/20080204161103/http://www.apostlesnet.net/> par 4

[37] ibid. par 5

[38] Johnson, Op.cit. pp 89-94

[39] Dewaay, Bob. Mike Bickle and International House of Prayer: The Latter Rain Redivivus. <http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue107.htm>

[40] Paulk, Op.cit. pp 230-231

[41] Bickle, Mike. Growing in the Prophetic. 1996; Creation House, Lake Mary, FL; p 30

[42] MorningStar Ministries home page <http://www.morningstarministries.org/> Joyner is the one who predominately “restored” Todd Bentley to “ministry.”

[43] Joyner, Rick. The Harvest 1993; MorningStar Publications. Charlotte, NC; back cover

[44] “nowbelieve” YouTube video “Todd Bentley ‘Commissioning’ of June 23, 2008.” <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A05WQYi7aQ> Bill Johnson; 1:30 – 2:10

[45] Paulk, Op.cit. pp 235-236

[46] Bailey, Alice A. From Bethlehem to Calvary. Copyright 1937 by Alice A. Bailey, renewed 1957 by Foster Bailey; Lucis Trust, 4th paperback edition, 1989; Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; p 262

[47] ibid. p 259

[48] Cumbey, Constance. The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow. 1983, Rev. ed., Huntington House, Shreveport, LA; p 252. This is also available as a free download at <https://public.me.com/cumbey> “HIDDEN DANG…ND COVER.pdf” p 214

[49] Bailey, Op.cit. pp 271-272

[50] ibid. p 273

[51] ibid. p 274

[52] Tarkowski, Ed. “1945: The Signal For The Christ’s Return” Lord Maitreya: Lord of the Apostasy. <http://www.velocity.net/~edju/maitreya.htm>par 5

[53] ibid. “Who Is Lord Maitreya?” par 2

[54] Bailey, Alice A. The Reappearance of the Christ. 1948, Lucis Trust, 9th printing 1979 (4th Paperback Ed.); Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, NY; p 121

[55] Barnett, Brenton M. Relevant Bible Teaching webpage Does the Bible Teach a Cultural Mandate? <http://www.relevantbibleteaching.com/site/cpage.asp?cpage_id=140011557&sec_id=140001239>