Rapture Ready?

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

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

Here’s one take, by Pastor Greg Laurie:

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

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

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

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

Unwrapping the ‘Rapture’

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Many Trumpets Herald Jesus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul now brings us to the climax of this passage:

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

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

Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, observes:

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

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

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

Tribulation Saints and “The Church”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrapping Up

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

I will close with commentary from Gene L. Green:

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

 Glorious indeed!

[see also Escorting the King of Kings?]

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

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

3 My translation, as are all here.

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

5 Cf. Isaiah 13:9—10.

6 Cf. Isaiah 34:4.

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

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

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

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

11 MacArthur, Truth Endures, p 132.

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

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

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

15 MacArthur, Truth Endures, p 132.

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

Pre-Tribulation “Apostasy” as ‘Rapture’?

I recall my reaction when I first heard it. Confused and in a temporary state of cognitive dissonance, I thought to myself, “It can’t mean THAT!” I may have even said it aloud.

I was alone, driving my car, listening to Dr. J. Vernon McGee, whom I very much enjoy generally. I find his slow, Southern drawl aurally appealing, and his occasional dry humor sometimes makes me laugh. But, more importantly, his core doctrinal beliefs are orthodox. Yet here he was making statements that raised my eyebrows.

He was working through 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, which was and is of particular interest to me. When he came to the words “falling away” (KJV) in verse 3 (other translations read “apostasy”, “rebellion”), he claimed this meant not merely apostasy in the sense of renouncing faith, but also “the departure of the true Church”, aka the “Rapture” of the Church. In other words, Dr. McGee asserted that the Greek word apostasia meant both here. Upon reflection I thought, “That sure extracts a lot of meaning from one word!”1

Below you can hear his explanation (timestamped at the appropriate spot):

At present I cannot recall if it was in response to the above2 or if I had a different motivation, but I downloaded a pdf titled “Who Is Antichirst?” from the Thru the Bible website, which contains similar verbiage.3 In its text McGee relates how, upon doing an independent word study, he concluded (just as above) that the Greek term apostasia means both “Rapture” and “falling away” in this context:

. . . The root word means “departure” or “removal from.” And the verb means “to remove, to depart, to leave.” It comes from two words: histēmi, meaning “to stand,” and apo, meaning “away from.” . . . Apostates, we understand today, are men who held the truth at one time . . . and now they apo-histēmi, they stand away from it.4

So far, so good.5 However, it’s the next portion that goes beyond the typical understanding of the word. McGee continues to focus on “departure”, but he appends an entirely new meaning to the definition he had just provided:

. . . What departure is [Paul] talking about? Well, the same departure he talked about in his first epistle to the Thessalonians. That’s the Rapture of the church . . .6

McGee then references 1Thess 4:16-17. Yet there Paul uses a different word—anistēmi (verb, ana + histēmi; noun is anastasis), as opposed to apostasia. They are close, but they are not the same word. Lewis Sperry Chafer notes the difference:

Note: The word “Rapture” does not occur in Scripture. The Greek word associated with the Rapture of the Church is anastasis, better translated “resurrection.”7

This is a distinction with a difference. A big one. The prefixed preposition ana means “up”, as opposed to apo, which means “from” (as found above in 2Thess 2:3).

Nevertheless, Dr. McGee specifies two “departures”—to occur one after the other—for this one word in this specific context:

1. The true church is to the leave the earth;

2. The professing church will just move away from the truth.8

Now, I am one who searches for multivalence (multiple meanings, paranomasia) in words. Such literary devices add richness. But with McGee’s explanation of two events, one preceding and then directly impacting the other, this hardly seems plausible here. In other words, even if the word apostasia could be construed as having both meanings, Paul would have had to use it twice, in succession, in order to get his point across. Even so, Paul would much more likely have chosen anastasia instead of apostasia for the first usage (and this would have provided a fantastic opportunity to rhyme with synonyms—Paul was fond of using various poetic devices for effect).

Disappointingly, this appears as though it could be a case of arguing from a predisposed theological position (eisegesis) rather than a careful interpretation of the text (exegesis).

To be clear, I’m not suggesting the reader stop (or never start) listening to Thru the Bible radio broadcasts. On the contrary, I find them edifying. As I stated above, McGee’s doctrinal stances are orthodox. And my criticism here is regarding an interpretation of a secondary doctrine (eschatology, specifically, the ‘Rapture’).9

None are perfect. And this is why we should always read with a critical eye and listen with a critical ear.

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1 I am now reminded of D. A. Carson’s excellent Exegetical Fallacies (2nd ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996]), in which the author explains Unwarranted adoption of a semantic field (pp 60-61): “The fallacy in this instance lies in the supposition that the meaning of a word in a specific context is much broader than the context itself allows and may bring with it the word’s entire semantic range” (p 60). However, the specific issue here is slightly different in that McGee is importing an additional meaning foreign to New Testament and contemporaneous usage. This will be discussed further below.

2 At one time I uncritically accepted the “pre-tribulation ‘Rapture’” view. After studying the doctrine at some length, I have since rejected that position.

3 I can no longer find the link to this download. Included on the title page of my “Who is Antichrist” print-out: “This message was originally published in 1973, later fell out of print, and then was revised in 2006 for online publication. The message is also included in the hardback book, J. Vernon McGee on Prophecy, copyright 1993 by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.” In keeping with the site’s Copyright Policy, I hereby include the following: “Who is Antichrist”, by Dr. J. Vernon McGee © Thru the Bible Radio Network, www.ttb.org.

4 “Who is Antichrist”, p 9. Note: though the original text does not place the accent over the “e” in “histēmi”, I added it here, since this is the usual transliteration for the η (eta), in order to prevent confusion with the ε (epsilon).

5 Though I have seen this sort of thing quite often in the technical literature, I might question the methodology in looking to an associated verb form (histēmi, apo + histēmi) when the text contains a noun form instead (apostasia). This may provide helpful background at times, but it seems best to focus primarily on the noun form when the text in question contains a noun. See my comment at note 7.

6 “Who is Antichrist”, p 9.

7 From the website “Chafer Theological Seminary”, chafer.edu: Glossary: “R”, as accessed 07/04/2021. Though Paul uses the verb form of this word in 1Thess 4:14 and 16, he tends to prefer egeirō (“raise”) when otherwise using a verb referring to our future resurrection; however, when using a noun, he favors anastasis. When referring to the ‘Rapture’ event itself, most point to the verb harpagēsometha (from harpazō), “caught up”, in 1Thess 4:17, though the timing of this event relative to the Tribulation period or “Day of the Lord”, is hotly debated.

8 “Who is Antichrist”, p 9.

9 Though beyond the scope of this present article, it can be argued—and I would—that the apostasia is not to be split from the revealing of the “man of sin”. In other words, the two refer to the same thing; that is, the apostasia reveals the identity of the “man of sin”. If this is indeed the case, then this context does not refer to Christians “falling away”, apostatizing, from the faith.

Kris Vallotton and the “Mantle of Jesus Christ” / Bill Johnson on Corporate Anointing

“…Not just the mantle of William Branham, how about the mantle of Jesus Christ?  That’s even a bigger one there…”

– Kris Vallotton, August 15, 2010

Kris Vallotton is Senior Associate Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California under Senior Pastor Bill Johnson.  The above quote of Vallotton follows an August 15, 2010 sermon of Bill Johnson titled, “The Real Jesus” (with complete context below).  Johnson had just spoken of his desire for a “corporate anointing” and Vallotton was making a few comments after this sermon.  The following YouTube video1 captures both Johnson and Vallotton (my understanding is this video is available at www.ibethel.tv if one registers at the site):

Here’s a portion of Johnson’s “word”:

“…Here’s what I’m believing for – I know it’s never happened; but, I know that it must before the end.  There must be, not just individuals – I’m thankful we have individuals that are rising up with such anointing, such strength, we have people scattered all over the planet right now that are just making a mess of things in all the right ways.  We are so encouraged.  But, what I’m believing for is a generation – a generation that’ll rise up with a corporate faith, a corporate anointing to press into realms because it’s my conviction that as much as God put on a William Branham, or a Kathryn Kuhlman, or a Wigglesworth, He’ll put far greater anointing on a company of people than He ever would on an individual.  To do that, there must be that corporate sense of, ‘we have to deal with the issue of obeying the rules of this kingdom to tap into the resources of this kingdom’…we cannot use the principles of this world and expect to tap into unlimited resource of the kingdom of God…” 2

After finishing his sermon and following up with some prayer, Johnson relinquishes the podium to Vallotton who goes on to reveal a purported conversation he had with God:

…so, I was in a prayer chapel and laying on the floor and I said, “God would you give me the mantle of William Branham?”  And, He said, “Well, how could I do that? If I did that it would destroy you.”  Then, I was layin’ there and it was like, the Lord asked ‘how could I do that’ so then I said – I waited about a few minutes – I was thinking about and I said, “Well, you could put the same mantle on a whole generation then we wouldn’t stand out from one another.” He said, “Alright, I’ll do that.”

Isn’t that awesome?  That’s what the Lord wants to do.  He wants to put the, He wants – not just the mantle of William Branham, but how about the mantle of Jesus Christ?  That’s even a bigger one there, and, uh, He wants to put it on every single person

So, wasn’t that just a great word that Bill brought us right there…” 3

I agree “that’s even a bigger one there” but not in the same way as Vallotton, I’m sure.  First, note that by the usage of the word “mantle” Vallotton is equating it with Johnson’s “anointing.”  Bill Hamon states these terms are similar in meaning if not synonymous.  He defines “anointing”:

“An in-depth study of the word anoint reveals that it was used to consecrate people to a particular position or ministry…In present-day application, this means the manifest presence of God upon a person to meet specific needs.

“…Mantle has a similar meaning.  If someone has prophesied that you have a prophetic mantle, it implies that you can minister in prophetic ministry…” 4

It follows then that the desire to “put the same mantle on a whole generation” would be the same as what Johnson calls a “corporate anointing.”  Further, this “mantle of Jesus Christ” would be akin to a “corporate Christ anointing.”  This is the heretical manifest sons of God (MSoG) teaching.  [For more on Bill Johnson and MSoG, see Bill Johnson’s ‘Born Again’ Jesus, Part II.]  The most extreme view of MSoG culminates in the “Birth of the Man-Child” teaching in which the “birth” of the corporate Christ is through the corporate Church body.  More on this in a bit.

William Marrion Branham’s Doctrine and Practices

Both Johnson and Vallotton promote William Branham.  Who was William Marrion Branham?  There’s already quite a bit of info available regarding Branham, so, briefly: he declared a number of foretelling prophecies which failed to come to pass, he denied the Trinity, and his doctrine included a belief in pyramidology and astrology in conjunction with the Bible.  He also taught the Serpent Seed doctrine in which the claim is that the serpent in the Garden of Eden mated with Eve resulting in a tainted lineage beginning with Cain and continuing to this day.5  Apparently emanating from this perversion of the The Fall is the following from Branham:

“Who does the world belong to?  The Devil.  Who controls it now?  The Devil.  Exactly right. The Devil controls the world…” 6

Yet Psalm 24:1 states, “The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” [NIV 1984]  In the book of Job, Satan must receive God’s permission in order to test Job [Job 1:6-12 and 2:1-6].  And, in Job 38:33 is the following: “Do you know the laws of the heavens?  Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?” [NIV 1984]  God is sovereign over all.

 Branham’s son, Billy Paul Branham, reiterates his dad’s claim that he was the end-time spirit of Elijah:

 “The Word of the Lord has promised that He would send to the earth once again the spirit of Elijah in the form of that end-time messenger who is the angel to the Seventh Church Age in the these final closing days of time.  We firmly believe that this promise was fulfilled in the vindicated ministry of our precious brother, William Marrion Branham.” 7

Branham also taught that all Christian denominations lacked full revelation (Branham’s, that is), that denominations were the mark of the beast [Rev 13:16], and, thus, all those attending denominational churches were not really saved and are, in fact, antichrist.8  All congregants of denominations are actually the pale horse, death, of the fourth seal of Revelation [Rev 6:7-8] and will be killed off by the collective white horses made up of Jesus and the ‘church’ [Rev 19:14].9

In addition, Branham denied everlasting torment claiming the lake of fire was created and hence could not be eternal:

“…Anything that was created is not Eternal…That’s the reason there cannot be an Eternal hell.  If anybody ever tells you that you’re going to burn in an Eternal Hell, I want the Scripture for that…” 10

Well, here’s the Scripture: “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.  They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” [Rev 20:10, NIV 1984; see also Matthew 25:41-46, etc.]  It should be noted that Branham affirmed eternal life for the believer11 even though mankind is, of course, created thereby illustrating one of many contradictions in his teachings.  Some claim that Branham was orthodox in the beginning yet went astray toward the end of his life and ministry.

19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning.  If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us – eternal life.  26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. [I John 2:19, 24-26 NKJV]

Clearly, Branham was a false teacher propounding heresy.  Branham claimed – and others claimed as well – that he was a prophet and a healer; but, with such aberrant theology, why would we believe he was truly of God?  Is the sole criterion of a Christian the miraculous [see Matt 7:21-23]?  Aren’t we to worship in both spirit and truth [John 4:23]?  Given this, why would Bill Johnson promote Branham’s “anointing” and why would Kris Vallotton want his “mantle” as a “corporate mantle” / “corporate anointing?”  Would God really want to give anyone, let alone the entire church corporate, the “mantle” of one like William Branham?  Does God really talk to Kris Vallotton in this manner?

The “Mantle of Jesus Christ”

Setting aside for the moment the obvious blasphemy of even suggesting such a thing, what would it mean to receive the “mantle of Jesus Christ?”  The context of the message in the video/audio seems to be, in general, the “greater works” teaching prevalent at Bethel.  This may point to the Jesus Christ during the Incarnation as the model for this “mantle.”  If this is the case then, given that Jesus’ primary purpose was to lay down his life in propitiation for the collective sins of mankind, would this be a part of this “mantle” as well?

Or, does this “mantle” refer to the current glorified Christ and/or Jesus at the Second Coming, when He returns to complete all of God’s purposes including the final judgment and the consummation of the Kingdom of God?  This is certainly a possibility as will be made evident below.  Either way, however, or if this “mantle” includes Jesus both at the Incarnation and in His glorified state, this is blasphemy of the highest order as it equates mere men to God.  While Christians will receive a new glorified body in eternity, we will never become equal to Jesus Christ who was, is, and always will be God.

This phrase “the mantle of Jesus Christ” is not without precedence, however, as “The Mantle of Jesus” is the title of a ten year old article in which it is claimed the entire Church body will “operate in all the anointing that He [Jesus] did” as we “transition into the manifestations of the sons of God”:12

“…As we come into the unity of the faith the mantle of Christ will arise upon us, in ONE HEART and ONE MIND.  It is the will of Father for us to be in unity of heart and mind as this occurs the scripture will be fulfilled.

“…We will not come into the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, the perfect man until we stop causing separation of the mantle of Christ.  There still is a season where these callings and anointings will operate separate but soon as we grow in Christ and become ONE MIND and ONE HEART we will beat together as the BODY of CHRIST.” 13

Bill Johnson’s friends Bob Jones and/or Todd Bentley could not have been much more straight-forward than that in their respective manifest sons of God teachings.

In addition, “the mantle of Jesus Christ” is mentioned by The Order of Christ~Sophia [Sophia means “wisdom”] as it’s included in their “Purposes” statement which is based on the “ancient Wisdom Teachings,” or, in other words, New Age / New Spirituality teachings.  Among other things, the site desires “that all may know the love of their Creator and the reality of their Divine Birth” and to demonstrate to all “the Christ Consciousness and the Way of Return to the Creator.”14   Part of “ancient Wisdom Teachings” is the belief that we can attain sonship as fully manifested sons of God here on earth.

The Manifestation of the Sons of God

As noted at the beginning of this article and evidenced by the immediately preceding section, this “corporate anointing” and “corporate mantle”  which Johnson and Vallotton refer to respectively in the context of the video/audio is tantamount to manifested sons of God (MSoG) doctrine.  To illustrate further, I’ll quote from a few other proponents of this teaching.  Bill Hamon explains this teaching in his 1997 book Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God [with foreword by C. Peter Wagner and endorsements by Oral Roberts, Cindy Jacobs among others] which come to the enlightened via so-called “present truths”15 purportedly by the Holy Spirit.  These manifested sons of God will emerge “in one generation”16 displaying all kinds of “signs, wonders and miracles”:17

“…God has predestined a certain quantity of members with Christlike qualities for the full functioning of His eternal Church…” 18

“The [New] Apostolic Reformation will cause believers to manifest the supernatural grace, gifts, and power of God.  The one-man show will be over…” 19

“God has released the Holy Spirit to bring His revelations and activation to the end-time Church.  This will bring forth the last generation of mortal people, unlimited power…dedicated to fulfilling God’s present-truth purposes.” 20

This will culminate in what Hamon terms the “Resurrection-Translation” (R-T) of the saints – his terminology and version of the Rapture:

“…We must realize that the Resurrection-Translation (R-T) of the saints does not take place because of a negative situation on earth.  It is a positive event that takes place to fulfill God’s timely purpose.

“…The positive purpose of the R-T is to enable the army of the Lord [Joel’s Army, or MSoG militant] to finalize the war against all evil. The army of the Lord will progress on in the war until they have accomplished all they can in their limited mortal bodies.  The R-T is for the purpose of immortalizing their bodies.  This will remove all the earthly limitations, thereby enabling the saints unlimited abilities.  They will be able to travel in all space realms of the heavenlies the same as Jesus and the angels do now.  They can move in and out of all dimensions of the natural and spiritual realms as Jesus did in His resurrected flesh-and-bone body.” 21

These fully manifested sons of God, or, Joel’s Army, will execute judgment on those who will not go along with their plans.  Hamon claims Joel 2:1-11 is a prophecy for this near future ‘army of God.’22

God’s great end-time army is being prepared to execute God’s written Judgments with Christ’s victory and divine judgment decrees that have already been established in heaven.  The time is set when they will be administered and executed on earth through God’s saintly armyAll that is destined and needed will be activated during God’s restorational Army of the Lord  Movement…” 23

Bob Jones and Todd Bentley are other proponents of the manifest sons of God teaching.  Here, in the following, Jones calls them the “New Breed.”  From August 08, 2008 [for full transcription, see “New Breed of Elected Seeds” section of Bethel to Feature Bob Jones at Upcoming Prophetic Conference]:

“…The New Breed will be those that  are partaker of the divine nature.  As you begin to grow into the likeness of Christ you’re gonna begin to partake of the divine nature.  And, once you begin to grow up in that-a-way you’ll continue to mature until you look like Christ all over the world.  Jesus was one person.  Now get ready for Jesuses [sic; plural of “Jesus”] all over the world. 24 

Johnson, himself has referred to a “new breed of believer” resulting in “a reformation [that] will impact society on all fronts”25 in his book Face to Face With God.  Recall Johnson’s words from the above transcription, “I know it’s never happened; but, I know that it must before the end.” Here’s Bentley from May 28, 2008 at Lakeland making explicit references to what is called “birthing the man-child” – the ‘birthing’ of the “corporate Christ” which he states is a prerequisite for Jesus Christ’s return:

“‘Tonight is a crossing over and we have a moment,’ says the Lord, ‘where we can labor and travail until Christ is formed in you…’

“…I feel if we gave it a big push that we can literally form Christ – Christ in you.  I’m talking about a maturing of what God has placed on the inside of your spirit.  It’s gonna come out of the birth canal – it’s gonna come out of the womb – because there is a labor and there is a travailing that is going on in the spirit…

“…Under the anointing you make a declaration and it forms tonight…

“…We’re going to go back into travail right now until Christ is formed.  God promised a day where heaven and earth must retain Him until the restoration of all things.  Heaven will hold back the coming of Jesus Christ until sons and daughters come into maturity.  It’s called the Manifestation of the sons of God

“Heaven will hold back the Second Coming… A mature church manifests the glory of God.  A mature church manifests the Word of God in truth and power.  A mature church walks in holiness and character.  A mature church walks in miracles, signs, and wonders.

“I’m talking about a maturity tonight – and it’s being formed in you.   Let Christ be formed in maturity.  Let the full man, let the fullness of God come forth, and let the womb open tonight… and let there be a great birthing…” 26

Obviously, MSoG is not Biblical.  One of the proof-texts used is Romans 8:15-24.  And, as the Apostle Paul writes in 1st Corinthians 15:23-28, it is clear that Jesus is the one who puts “all His enemies under His feet” – not the Church.  Heaven will not “hold back the Second Coming” due to the failure of the Church to somehow prepare the way for Christ’s return.  If Jesus is waiting for a “perfected Church” as some erroneously teach (based on a faulty interpretation/proof-texting of Ephesians 5:27), He’ll be waiting for all eternity as we are inherently imperfect and will never be perfected this side of glory!

The New Age of the Manifested Sons of God

Constance Cumbey, in her 1985 book A Planned Deception illustrates how an adamant New Ager from a Unity Church in Kansas City recognized the Manifest Sons of God doctrine as taught in hyper-charismatic churches, or “Neo-Pentecostalism” as being New Age in nature [see also Ascended Master under “Glossary of New Age/Occult Terms and Concepts” and “Jesus of Nazareth / Master Jesus” in the “Christ” in the New Age article on this site]:

“Rev. Ernest Ramsey, an associate pastor at Unity’s Kansas City Founder’s Church, Unity on the Plaza, is an enthusiastic follower of the Alice Bailey and Benjamin Crème teachings.  In his Research Report #2, he tells of something he was led to by a spirit guide – what he terms ‘Neo-Pentecostalism.’  An aberrant branch of Pentecostalism, this is more commonly known as ‘Manifest Sons of God.’  That movement is also referred to as ‘Sonship’ or ‘Overcomers.’  Ramsey concludes based on even less evidence than I have personally collected that this is part of the New Age Movement.

“…The most interesting section of Ramsey’s report dealing with ‘Neopentecostalism.’  Ramsey spent a semester at one of the Neo-Pentecostal or Manifest Sons of God seminaries – in upstate New York ‘at a location surrounded by tall pine trees.’  Already familiar with the Alice Bailey writings, he was amazed to see that there was a branch of Pentecostalism that embraced the same teachings – albeit using different terminology.

“Like those seeking the ‘Age of Aquarius’ these people too were seeking a ‘New Age.’  Like the other New Agers, these people taught that ‘The Christ’ was an anointing – not necessarily one man.  They taught that Jesus was a pattern son who was to be a sign of something even greater to come – the ‘Manifestation of the Sons of God.’ They too believed the earth was to be cleansed of evil.  And chillingly like the other New Agers, they believed they were to be ‘God’s’ instruments to do such cleansing.  The New Agers believed they were gods.  The Manifest Sons of God likewise taught that if one accepted their ‘new revelation’ that they themselves would actually become Christ at the time of the unveiling or manifestation of the Sons of God….” 27

Theosophist/New Ager Alice A. Bailey (mentioned above by Cumbey), in her 1937 book From Bethlehem to Calvary, an occult rendering of the life and work of Jesus Christ, teaches the MSoG doctrine: 

“Let me state here briefly and succinctly, what it would appear really transpired when Christ died on the Cross.  He rendered up the form aspect and identified Himself as Man with the life aspect of Deity.  He thereby liberated us from the form side of life, of religion and of matter, and demonstrated to us the possibility of being in the world and yet not of the world,*living as souls, released from the trammels and limitations of the flesh, while yet walking on earth…” 28

The asterisk above denotes a reference in the original text to John 17:16 illustrating one of many instances of proof-texting.  Note that, according to Bailey, Christ did not die for our sins so much as He died for our own deification – becoming a model, a pattern to follow in attaining our own godhood.  The last part of the last sentence above is describing manifested sons of God with the claim that Jesus Christ had released us “from the trammels and limitations of the flesh, while yet walking on earth.” Bailey is also describing the dualistic Gnostic concept which recognizes the spiritual realm as the ‘real’ with the material realm as illusion and/or intrinsically evil.  This is also alluded to in Bill Hamon’s book Eternal Church in which he states: 

“…When the Church realizes its full sonship, its bodily redemption will cause a redemptive chain reaction throughout all of creation…” 29

This sounds not unlike the Kabbalistic doctrine of divine sparks which are within all matter requiring mankind to liberate and redeem them to perfection. 

In the following, Bailey is a bit more explicit in her manifested sons of God teaching:

“…Its form [orthodox religion] must be sacrificed upon the Cross of Christ in order that it may be resurrected into true and vital life for the meeting of people’s need.  Let a living Christ be its theme, and not a dying Saviour…Mankind can descend from the cross as Christ did, and enter into the kingdom of God, a living spirit.  The sons of God are ready to be manifested…” 30

The book goes on to quote Romans 8:16-24, just as those in hyper-charismatic churches do in promoting MSoG teaching.  Continuing with Bailey:

“Towards this glorification of God we are all moving.   Some of the sons of men have already achieved, through the realisation of their divinity.” 31

In addition to the ability to travel between the physical and spiritual realms at will, other characteristics of the fully manifested son of God are an impossibility to sin,32 being group conscious33 (the recognition of the imperative of unity), and a cessation of ongoing reincarnations.34 In the following, Bailey equates the attainment of sonship with entrance into the Kingdom of God and describes how Christ’s Incarnation furthered this possibility:

“…Christ’s incarnation, apart from its historical value, and apart from the keynote which He sounded, marked the closing of a great cosmic cycle, but it marked also the opening of that door into the kingdom which had opened only occasionally theretofore, in order to permit the entrance of those sons of God who had triumphed over matter.  After the advent of Christ, the door stood wide open for all time, and the kingdom of God began to form on Earth…” 35

This “door into the kingdom” is also known as a “portal” or “veil.”  The initiate “triumphs over matter” through meditation i.e., seeking the ‘presence of God,’ which brings increasingly deeper levels of “Christ consciousness,” or, in reality, increasing soul-control/possession. [See “Christ Consciousness” section of “Christ” in the New Age.]  Bailey makes it clear that the ultimate purpose is to build the kingdom now and this purpose can only be accomplished by both the individual and the entire human race attaining divinity.

“It is time that the Church woke up to its true mission, which is to materialise the kingdom of God on earth, today, here and now…” 36

“This divinity in man must be brought to the birth, both in the individual and in the [human] race, and thus can the kingdom of God on earth be brought into being.” 37

Obviously, this is not the true Biblical Kingdom of God which should make the reader wonder just which kingdom Dominionists/Restorationists/Kingdom Now adherents are seeking to build.  [See Fifth Kingdom in Nature and Kingdom of God under “Glossary of New Age/Occult Terms and Concepts” section of “Christ” in the New Age.]

Which Kingdom?

The late Earl Paulk made a distinction between the “Gospel” and the “Gospel of the Kingdom” in a glossary near the end of his 1984 book Ultimate KingdomHere are the two definitions respectively:

Gospel: The good news of God’s redemption to man. [Luke 4:18, 9:6; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 6:15]

Gospel of the Kingdom: The good news principles of daily life taught by Jesus that the Church must demonstrate as a witness to the world in order to return the rule of the earth to God.  [Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 24:14] 38

Notice again how it’s the Church which must “return the rule of the earth to God” which is, as already noted above, unbiblical.  Bill Johnson, in his book When Heaven Invades Earth also differentiates between the “Gospel” and the “Gospel of the Kingdom”:

“…the company of people who have joined this quest for an authentic gospel –  the gospel of the kingdom – is increasing.” 39

There is also a teaching in the New Age in which when “Christ” – actually the antichrist – ‘reappears’ (the belief is He never left the earth), He will have the ability to manifest Himself in many bodies at one time not unlike the “Birth of the Man-Child”40 teaching of MSoG.

“The Christ, when He comes into incarnation, will most likely project himself into many parts and be where he wants to be. This is called the Law of Divisibility, a term used in Agni Yoga that means a highly developed spirit—one who is able to contact, simultaneously, various people in various locations. For example, a Master can be seen in various groups at the same time. He can even be in different planes serving and teaching on different levels to meet various needs of the people. He can do different jobs in different places at one time. He impresses the space with his images, and so forth.” 41

Paulk also defines “Man Child” in his glossary as “Jesus Christ” (while referencing Revelation 12:5, 13).42  Francis Frangipane, in his book In the Presence of God, espouses this “Birth of the Man-Child” doctrine implicitly in a chapter titled “The Virgin Shall Be with Child”:

“Secure this thought in your mind: when the Spirit of Christ comes into the physical world, He must enter through a physical body…When Christ first entered our world as a child, it was Mary whom God chose to give Christ birth.  Mary’s life symbolized the qualities the Church must possess to walk in the fullness of Christ…[God is preparing us] as He did Mary to give birth to the ministry of His Son.  Even now, in the spiritual womb of the virgin Church, the holy purpose of Christ is growing, awaiting maturity; ready to be born in power in the timing of God…the virgin church is ‘in labour and in pain to give birth (Rev 12:1-2)…even now, hell trembles and the heavens watch in awe, for I say to you, once again, the virgin is with child.  Before Jesus Himself returns, the last virgin Church shall become pregnant with the promise of God.  Out of her travail, the Body of Christ shall come forth, raised to the full stature of its Head, the Lord Jesus.  Corporately manifested in holiness, power and love, the Bride of Christ shall rise.” 43

As evidenced by the title of his 1985 book Held in the Heavens Until… Paulk believes we either hinder or hasten Christ’s return.  Paulk made no bones about his belief in MSoG as he writes:

“…When I say, ‘Act like a god,’ I can hear people saying, ‘There he goes with the theory of the manifest sons of God.’  Forget about theories!  Forget about doctrine!  Just go back to the simple Word of God!  We are ‘little gods,’ whether we admit it or not…” 44

Paulk goes further by explaining that we are an “ongoing incarnation of Christ”:

“…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.” 45

“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.” 46

“…The Seed, Jesus Christ, multiplied Himself by sending the Holy Spirit to indwell His followers

“…the Holy Spirit within us makes us become the incarnation of God.  The seed begins to grow within individuals, and grows corporately into a tremendous church…” 47

Bill Hamon wrote regarding Paulk on the Rapture that his view “to most Evangelicals and Pentecostals [is] a denial of the rapture bordering on heresy”:

“He [Paulk] taught that the departed saints would be resurrected and the living saints would be translated in the twinkling of an eye, but this was not for the purpose of leaving the earth.  Rather, it was for establishing God’s divine order for the human race and Christ’s rulership over all the earth.” 48 

Please note this is essentially what Hamon teaches (see above).  Even though Hamon does not specifically mention the already departed saints, it can be inferred from the “Resurrection” part of his “Resurrection-Translation” doctrine for “resurrection” can only refer to the deceased.  While I may not  have found what Hamon refers to explicitly regarding Paulk (if I do find something more definitive, I’ll update this portion), here’s Paulk, once again, from Held in the Heavens Until… implying this as he continues in his line of thought from above [this may well be the quote Hamon had in mind]:

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

“If God’s love is going to be manifested on planet earth, who is going to demonstrate it?  Christ in us, the hope of glory.  God has no other place to show His love except through His body.” 49

I do believe God is quite capable of displaying His love apart from the Church body.

Concluding Remarks

This article has shown that a “corporate Christ mantle” or “corporate Christ anointing” is akin to Manifest Sons of God teaching.  Further, the logical conclusion to this teaching in most quarters is an establishment of the “Kingdom of God” through these manifested sons.  These doctrines have a direct parallel to New Age teachings.  Given that MSoG along with its associated doctrines are not Biblical, we must ask ourselves: Which Kingdom is Johnson, Vallotton, Hamon, Jones, Bentley, Frangipane, (and the late Paulk), et al actually attempting to establish?

Endnotes:

1“ChasingRiver” The Real Jesus – Part 4 – by Bill Johnson.  <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHcRI60j0HI&feature=related>; as accessed 07/03/11
2 “ChasingRiver” 0:36 – 1:30, emphasis added; as accessed 07/03/11
3 “ChasingRiver” 7:28 – 8:10, emphasis added; as accessed 07/03/11
4 Hamon, Bill. Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God. 1997 (2nd printing), Destiny Image “We Publish the Prophets”, Shippensburg, PA; p 282. Bolding in original, underlining added.
5 Branham, William Marrion. The Revelation of the Seven Seals. 1993, Voice of God, Jeffersonville, IA; pp 425-27.  From sermon tapes of March 17-25, 1963.
6 Branham; p 426
7 Branham; introduction
8 Branham; pp 259, 249-95
9 Branham; pp 281, 249-95
10 Branham; p 435
11 Branham; p 436
12 Jesus “R” Ministries. “The Mantle of Jesus” <http://www.jesusrministries.org/Mantle%20of%20Jesus.htm>; par 2, 3; as accessed 07/03/11
13 Jesus “R” Ministries; par 3, 5.  Emphasis added.  Also note the very last paragraph uses Joel 2:1-18 presumably for the Latter Rain version of Joel’s Army as well as the IHOP version.
14 Order of Christ~Sophia (Centers of Light) “Purposes” <http://www.orderofchristsophia.org/OCS_purposes.html>; points 3, 6, 5, 6 respectively; as accessed 07/03/11
15 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; p 13
16 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; p 11
17 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; p 13
18 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; p 11
19 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; p 13
20 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; p 18
21 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; pp 264-65
22 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; pp 255-56
23 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets; p 252
24 MorningStar Ministries, Media Store, VS19-000D. “Todd Bentley Healing and Impartation Service, 08-08-08” DVD.  A truncated version is on Jones’ site: <http://bobjonesnew.unionactive.com/Docs/Words%20of%202008/2008-09-The_New_Breed.htm>
25 Johnson, Bill. Face to Face with God. 2007; Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL; p 139. Emphasis added.
26 Bentley, Todd. Monologue from Lakeland Revival, Day 57 May 28, 2008. Originally accessed here: <http://injesus.com/index.php?module=message&task=list&GroupID-WB0062AX> access date unknown, website link no longer valid.
27 Cumbey, Constance. A Planned Deception: the Staging of a New Age “Messiah”. 1985; Point Publishers, East Detroit, MI; pp 171-172. Emphasis added.  Also available as a free download: <https://public.me.com/cumbey> “A PLANNED…ULL BOOK.pdf”   pp 78-9
28 Bailey, Alice A.  From Bethlehem to Calvary. Copyright 1937 by Alice A. Bailey, renewed 1957 by Foster Bailey; Lucis, NY, 4th paperback edition, 1989; Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; p 187. Emphasis added.
29 Hamon, Bill. Eternal Church. 1981 (2003 revised ed), Christian International, Santa Rosa Beach, FL; pp 359-60
30 Bailey. Bethlehem; p 189. Emphasis added.
31 Bailey. Bethlehem; p 189. As per original (sentence fragment in orig.).  Emphasis added.
32 Bailey. Bethlehem; p 202
33 Bailey, Alice A. The Rays and the Initiations. 1960 Lucis, NY, 2nd paperback ed, 1976, Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; p 694
34 Bailey, Rays; p 697
35 Bailey. Bethlehem; p 184
36 Bailey. Bethlehem; p 210
37 Bailey. Bethlehem; p 50
38 Paulk, Earl. Ultimate Kingdom. 1984, K Dimension Publishers, Atlanta, GA; p 335
39 Johnson, Bill When Heaven Invades Earth. 2003; Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 27. Emphasis in original.
40 Booth, Tricia (formerly Tillin), The Birthpangs of a New Age. “The Birth of the Manchild”  <http://www.birthpangs.org/articles/latterrain/manchild.html>; as accessed 07/03/11
41 World Service Intergroup website. Dubois, J.D. “The Christ, His Reappearance, and the Avatar of Synthesis” <http://www.worldserviceintergroup.net/#/christ-reappearance/4543145171>; par 5; as accessed 07/03/11
42 Paulk. Ultimate. p 337
43 Frangipane, Francis. In the Presence of God. 1994, New Wine Press, UK; pp 153-57 as cited in Booth, Tricia “The Birth of the Manchild”. Emphasis added
44 Paulk, Earl. Held in the Heavens Until…: God’s Strategy for Planet Earth. 1985, K Dimension Publishers, Atlanta, GA; p 171. Emphasis added.
45 Paulk. Heavens. p 163.  Emphasis added.
46 Paulk. Heavens. p 197.  Emphasis added.
47 Paulk. Heavens. p 227.  Emphasis added.
48 Hamon. Apostles, Prophets. p 199
49 Paulk. Heavens. p 229.  Emphasis added.

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