Open Challenge to Fans and Critics of Bill Johnson/Bethel Church

[09/07/13: An in-depth “answer” to this post is now available: Answer to Open Challenge to Fans and Critics of Bill Johnson/Bethel Church.]

The following transcription comes from a sermon on 12/20/09 titled Jesus Is Our Model1 from Bill Johnson of Bethel Church.  This is the same one which contains Bill Johnson’s infamous “Jesus was born again” statement.2  This time we’re taking a closer look at a different and more lengthy portion of this sermon.

Before proceeding, a brief review of the Trinity may be in order.   The first Person of the Trinity is God the Father, the second Person is God the Son, and the third Person is God the Holy Spirit.  Orthodox Christianity affirms that each member of the Trinity has the divine attributes of omnipotence (being all-powerful), omniscience (possessing all knowledge), omnipresence (being everywhere present),3 immutability (inability to change, divine constancy), and other divine properties, in distinction from humanity.  For our purposes, even more needs to be said on the second Person. 

The Gospel of John describes the second Person of the Trinity as the Logos, “the Word”, who was “with God” in the beginning and who was (and is) God [John 1:1-2].  Then, the Logos, the Word “became flesh” and dwelt among us [John 1:14].  That is, the eternal Word, the second Person of the Trinity, entered our temporal realm as God in the flesh – fully/truly man and fully/truly God.  Jesus Christ is the one, unique “Word made flesh”.

With our brief review completed, we can proceed with the selected statement of Bill Johnson.  In the following selection, ALL CAPS indicates words/phrases in which Johnson himself is being emphatic; underlining is added to bring the reader’s attention to something deemed important towards understanding Johnson’s overall statement.  Interspersed throughout the selected transcription is some explanatory commentary as well as some questions (in green text) which comprise this “challenge”.

To participate in this challenge, simply copy and paste the question(s) you’d like to answer into the comment box with your answer(s) following.  You may answer any or all questions, but please keep each individual comment relatively brief with one or perhaps two questions and your responses in each comment box.  Any comment which does not attempt to answer a question constituting this challenge may be summarily deleted, unless it is in response to another’s comment.  Please view the Before You Comment tab if you are new to commenting on CrossWise.

First, we’ll provide the transcription in full, and, following that, we’ll repeat the selection, breaking it down into smaller sections while adding the related commentary and questions.

Here’s the complete selected text in order to provide full, uninterrupted context.  Johnson begins by describing Jesus’ testing in the wilderness in Luke 4, quoting from the NKJV:

…Look at verse 3, “And, the devil said to Him, ‘IF you are the Son of God command this stone to become bread.’”  Jesus answered Him saying, “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone but by every WORD of God.”  What was the first temptation?  It wasn’t to turn stone into bread, it was to question who He was.  Verse 3, “the devil said to Him, IF you are the Son of God’.”  What did it say in verse 22, chapter 3?  “YOU are My beloved Son.”  “In YOU I am well pleased”.  What was his first temptation?  “IF you are the Son of God”.

Jesus explains this later to the disciples in Matthew 13; I’ll just read the one phrase to you that’ll help that concept to make sense.  He was talking about people who had no root in themselves; they hear the Word but there’s no depth in their person.  They’ve not been prepared for what God is saying and doing.  And, then it says “for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the WORD [ED: 3 second pause for emphasis] immediately they stumble.  Persecution, difficulty, conflict arises because of the Word.  The WORD of the Lord attracts CONFLICT.  It’s not punishment.  It’s not to humiliate.  It’s for two basic reasons: it’s because the Lord wants to give reward and He wants to honor character.  Character is not formed in the absence of options.  There has to be two trees in the Garden where I am honored for a decision.  Do I honor what God has declared over my life or not?  Do I consider other options, other possibilities? 

The Scripture, this story in Matthew 13, the parable of the seed and the sower actually gives this picture of soil; and the seed of God’s Word, the sperma of God, is released into the seed, through His Word, into the soil.  And, then it says, but other things grow and they choke out the life of that seed of God.  Think about it: the Word of God, the most powerful thing in the universe, is put into an environment that if we give attention to other IDEALS, other VOICES, other WORDS, we actually give them a place in our heart to take root and they choke out the Word of God, the most powerful thing in the universe.  For a season, the Lord has allowed our choices to affect the power, the effect of the most powerful thing in the universe.  It’s stunning.4

Now, here’s the same selection broken down a bit for our challenge: 

…Look at verse 3, “And, the devil said to Him, ‘IF you are the Son of God command this stone to become bread.’”  Jesus answered Him saying, “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone but by every WORD of God.”  What was the first temptation?  It wasn’t to turn stone into bread, it was to question who He was.  Verse 3, “the devil said to Him, IF you are the Son of God’.”  What did it say in verse 22, chapter 3?  “YOU are My beloved Son.” “In YOU I am well pleased”.  What was his first temptation?  “IF you are the Son of God”.

In this first section, by Johnson’s context, to whom or what does “WORD of God” refer: Jesus Himself, the written Word (Scripture), the Father’s words spoken over Jesus following Baptism, or a combination of some or all of these?  Explain.

Considering the Biblical context of Luke 4:1-13, how did Jesus Christ answer the devil in each of the three temptations?  Which kind of “Word” does Jesus refer in each of His answers?  Is each response a different kind, is one different from the other two, or are all the responses the same kind of “Word”?

Take note how Johnson relates the Father’s words “You are My beloved Son” and “In You I am well pleased” from Luke 3:22 to his interpretation of Luke 4:3-4, which is that the devil’s temptation was “to question who He was”, and how Johnson then proceeds to correspond this to Matthew 13 [verses 18-23] as “Jesus explains this later to the disciples”:

Jesus explains this later to the disciples in Matthew 13; I’ll just read the one phrase to you that’ll help that concept to make sense.  He was talking about people who had no root in themselves; they hear the Word but there’s no depth in their personThey’ve not been prepared for what God is saying and doing.   And, then it says “for when tribulation or persecution arises because of the WORD [ED: 3 second pause following for emphasis] immediately they stumble.  Persecution, difficulty, conflict arises because of the Word.  The WORD of the Lord attracts CONFLICT.  It’s not punishment.  It’s not to humiliate.  It’s for two basic reasons: it’s because the Lord wants to give reward and He wants to honor character.  Character is not formed in the absence of options.  There has to be two trees in the Garden where I am honored for a decision.  Do I honor what God has declared over my life or not?  Do I consider other options, other possibilities?

Given that Johnson has started this section with “Jesus explains this later”, how exactly does Matthew 13 ‘explain’ how the first temptation of Jesus in the wilderness [Luke 4:3] “was to question Who He was”?

Did Jesus Christ potentially have ‘no root in Himself’?  In what way is it possible, or is it impossible, that Jesus could be in a position to ‘hear the Word but there was no depth in His Person’? 

Is it possible Jesus could have been in any position in which He had “not been prepared for what God is saying and doing”? Explain.

Could Jesus have ‘stumbled’ due to “tribulation or persecution because of the WORD”?

In Johnson’s question “Do I honor what God has declared over my life or not?” it’s clear that Johnson is referring to himself and/or his audience as ‘believers’.  Does this mean Johnson is referring to the words spoken over Jesus by the Father in Luke 3:22 and that these words will be ‘declared over’ the believer’s life; or, does he mean some other declaration?

From a Biblical perspective, does Matthew 13 even apply to Jesus at all?  If not, then to whom does Matthew 13 apply?  Explain.

Finishing up the selection:

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

Taking the full context of this selection of Bill Johnson’s Jesus is Our Model message, is the “Word of God” (“Word of the Lord”) used in the second and third parts of the transcription the same as the “WORD of God” in the first part (from Johnson’s interpretation of the NKVJ of Luke 4:4)?  Why or why not?

Could Jesus have succumbed to other IDEALS, VOICES, and/or WORDS and therefore have ‘choked out’ the Word of God?  Explain.

Is there Biblical support for Johnson’s assertion that the Word of God is “the most powerful thing in the universe”?  If so, cite chapter(s) and verse(s). 

Is the “Word of God” more powerful than the Trinity or any one Person of the Trinity?  Explain.

From a Biblical perspective, what is meant by “Word” in Matthew 13:21-23 when put in the full context of Matthew 13:1-23, i.e. does it refer to new revelation from God, the written Word (Scripture), the Gospel, Jesus Christ as the Word made flesh, something else, or a combination of some or all of these?  Explain.

Does Bill Johnson’s statement in any way affirm that Jesus Christ is the one, unique “Word made flesh”; and, if so, how?  If not, then does this selection actually affirm the converse, i.e., that Jesus Christ is not the one, unique “Word made flesh”; and, if so, how?

This “sperma of God” concept of Bill Johnson is rather difficult to unravel by the context.  It seems that everyone, or every potential ‘believer’, has “soil” within which contains a “seed”.  The “sperma of God” is the same as “the seed of God’s Word” which is then released into the ‘seed’ of the individual, which is in the individual’s ‘soil’.   Thus, there appears to be two “seeds”: one is “the seed of God’s Word”/“the sperma of God”/”Word of God”; the other is the “seed” within the “soil” of the individual which may be brought to life by this “seed of God’s Word”/”sperma of God”/“Word of God”.

Please note that Biblically it’s only “the farmer” [13:3-4] with seed who then ‘scatters’ it, with it falling either: “along the path” to be eaten by birds [v 4], i.e. snatched by the evil one [v 19]; on rocky places in shallow soil with the resulting plants scorched “because they had no root” [vv 5-6] lasting only for “a short time” [vv 20-21]; among thorns which choked the resulting plants [v 7] due to the “worries of life” and “deceitfulness of wealth” [v 22], or on good soil where it produced a crop of “a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” [vv 8, 23].

However, there is an occult/New Age concept in which all things have a divine seed/spark/‘”Christ” within’,5 which may be ‘activated’ to grow by “the Word” aka “the Christ”.  That is, there is a “Christ” without:

Christ is the Logos [Word] of Infinities and through the Word alone are Thought and Force made manifest.6

And, there is a “Christ” within:

…Now Christ, the universal Love, pervades all spaces of infinity…7

The above quotes are taken from Levi Dowling’s 1907 book titled The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ.  The ‘Christ without’ is the only vehicle through which all things were made;8 hence, it could be called “the most powerful thing in the universe”. 

The following provides some more explanation:

Perfection is the ultimate of life.  A seed is perfect in its embryotic life, but it is destined to unfold, to grow.

Into the soil…these seeds, which were the Thoughts of God, were cast…and they who sowed the seeds, through Christ, ordained that they should grow…9

These “seeds” (‘Christ within’) were cast into all of creation from the very beginning.  The goal, then, is for each person (and thing) to listen to the “Word” aka the ‘Christ without’ in order for “Thought and Force” to be “made manifest”, thus activating the seed/spark/‘Christ within’, with the goal of growing to “perfection” by transcending the outer material ‘shell’ with only the ‘divine’ remaining.

In this occult/New Age conception, Jesus is not actually the Christ as in the Jesus Christ of Scripture.  Jesus was merely a man (but a special man) who, like all of mankind, had the ‘Christ within’; conversely, “Christ” is ‘God’ as part of a false Trinity.  Jesus’ ‘Christ within’ was activated by the “Christ Spirit” (the ‘Christ without’) when it descended upon Him as a dove.  At this point, Jesus received the “official title” of “Christ” and became known as “Jesus the Christ”, with “Christ” referring to His office.10 

This Jesus is but man who has been fitted by temptations overcome, by trials multiform, to be the temple through which the Christ can manifest to men.11

Thus, He began the journey to become “the Christ” for our current era/aeon, which was not fully consummated until Ascension.  At Ascension, He became the fully divine “Master Jesus”, and as such, He became the pattern for all to follow towards the attainment of self-deity/divinity.12

This leads to the final question of this challenge:

Keeping in mind the title of Johnson’s message – Jesus is Our Model – and the entire content of the selected transcript, could this be an adaptation of the occult/New Age concept described above?  Why or why not?

1This is from the 2nd of two services that morning.
2Johnson’s statement was covered in an earlier article, “Bill Johnson’s ‘Born Again’ Jesus, Part I” <https://notunlikelee.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/bill-johnsons-born-again-jesus-part-i/>
3I particularly like the way in which Thomas V. Morris [The Logic of God Incarnate. 1986, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY & London, UK] describes omnipresence with its close dependence on the other two ‘omni’ attributes and vice versa: “Perhaps the best understanding of the attribute of omnipresence is that of its being the property of being present everywhere in virtue of knowledge of and power over any and every spatially located object” [p 91].
4Bill Johnson Jesus is Our Model sermon from 12/20/09, Bethel Church, Redding, CA, taken from compact disc subtitled “sunam2” (Sunday AM, 2nd message, 11:00); 25:21 – 28:24.  CD (and DVD or MP3 download) available at ibethel.com, titled “Jesus Is Our Model 11:00am December 20, 2009” <http://store.ibethel.org/p3322/jesus-is-our-model-11-00am-december-20-2009> as accessed 02/24/13.
5Levi 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.  On page 3 is the following from the “Introduction” by Eva S. Dowling: “The full title of this book is ‘The Aquarian Age Gospel of Jesus, the Christ of the Piscean Age’…”  See also 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; pp 162-163, 280.  A favorite Biblical text to pervert in this regard is Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.
6Dowling; p 6
7Dowling; p 6
8Dowling; p 6
9Dowling; p 6
10Dowling; p 8, 82-83.  Also, Bailey; pp 100-101.
11Dowling; p 8
12Dowling; pp 8-9.  Also, Bailey; pp 231-284

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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>