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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once one reaches the full manifestation of a son of God, aka Master, through “higher consciousness” (by a “lifestyle of intimacy with the Father”?), one can, like the title of this podcast, ‘think from the Throne of God’.  Or, as New Age / New Spirituality teacher Alice Bailey states, comparing the manifested son (Master) to the yet-to-ascend disciple, the Master will “‘function from the above to the below’ and not (as is the case today with all disciples, though naturally not with the Masters) on ‘the below towards the above’….”5  Much like Johnson has stated on Facebook:

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

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

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

Am I jumping to conclusions?  Please read on.

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

Continuing where we left off above in the podcast:

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

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

The Father so honored Him for His perfect obedience that He now re-inherited everything; but, now not as GodDon’t misunderstand me, Jesus is not an ascended being; He’s not, uh, He didn’t work His way up into divinity.  He is eternally God, eternally God.  But, when He re-inherited everything, He inherited it as a man without sin.  Why?  Because He became our elder brother.  He became the one who inherited everything.  Why?  So, that you and I could be positioned to inherit everything with Him.  He forfeited all so that He could re-inherit in a way that would include us.7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He [Christ] thereby liberated us from the form side of life, of religion and matter, and demonstrated to us the possibility of being in the world and yet not of the world, living as souls, released from the trammels and limitations of the flesh, while yet walking on earth.15 

If he chooses to take a physical vehicle [ED: body]… the Master will ‘function from the above to the below’ and not (as is the case today with all disciples, though naturally not with the Masters) on ‘the below towards the above’.16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Christ, when He comes into incarnation, will most likely project himself into many parts and be where he wants to be. This is called the Law of Divisibility, a term used in Agni Yoga that means a highly developed spirit—one who is able to contact, simultaneously, various people in various locations. For example, a Master can be seen in various groups at the same time. He can even be in different planes serving and teaching on different levels to meet various needs of the people. He can do different jobs in different places at one time.21

Hyper-charismatic Bob Jones was recently at a conference hosted by Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church in Redding, CA, and stated something not unlike the above: “Recently, the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘I’m coming IN my people. Christ in you, the hope of glory. I’m comin’ IN my people.’”22  As already noted earlier, occultists pervert the “Christ in you, the hope of glory” of Colossians 1:27, and MSoG adherents pervert it in a very similar manner.

Conclusion

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

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

2 See Kurt Rudolph, trans. R McLachlan Wilson Gnosis: The Nature & History of Gnosticism, © 1977 Koehler & Amelang; translation (from German) of second, revised and expanded version © 1984 T&T Clark Ltd, Edinburgh; 1987 (1st paperback), HarperCollins, New York, NY, pp 121-134, 338-340.  Also “The Gospel of Philip” in Wilhelm Schneemelcher, transl. R. McL. Wilson New Testament Apocrypha: Volume One: Gospels and Related Writings. © J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tubingen, 1990; English Translation © James Clarke & Co. Ltd, 1991 (Rev. ed.), Westminster John Knox, Louisville, KY: The chrism [anointing] is superior to baptism.  For from the chrism we were called ‘Christians’, not from the baptism.  Christ also was (so) called because of the anointing… [p 200].  Cf. G. L. Borchert “Gnosticism” in Walter A. Elwel, ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 1984 (10th pr. 1994), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, p 446.   

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

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

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

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

7 Bill Johnson. Audio clip taken from 2010 Australian “When Heaven Invades Earth” Tour as accessed from Plantagenet Family Church, Mount Barker, Western Australia, 03/21/11 from the following url: <http://pfchurch.org.au/?p=357>, which now is redirected to a different page altogether.  Link recovered on Internet Archive / The Wayback Machine; however, audio clip is unavailable: <http://web.archive.org/web/20101106155256/http://pfchurch.org.au/?p=357>.  Originally transcribed by CrossWise on 3/21/11 or shortly thereafter; last access date to original web link unknown but likely Fall, 2011.  All emphasis added.    A similar quote is available on YouTube by “whizzpopping” Bill Johnson – Bringing Heaven to Earth (Part 2 of 2). Aug 20, 2010 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxVdxzJ0vN4> 3:10 – 4:30: “He forfeited everything because He owned everything; literally all that exists was His. And, He gave it all up to become a man; and, then He re-inherited everything as a man so that you and I would have an inheritance – the absolute mercy of God.  So, now He stands after His triumphant Resurrection. The defeat of the power of death, hell and the grave – all that stuff was defeated, the power of sin. And, He stands before humanity and He says, ‘I got the keys back.  That which was lost in the Garden, I’ve got it back. Now, let’s get back to plan A.’  And, he makes this profound statement; he says, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.”  Jesus did not make that declaration as God.  Now, na – He’s eternally God; he’s not a created being, He didn’t ascend, ya know, to some position. He’s eternally God; but, He did not make that statement as God.  How do we know? Because He said, ‘All authority’s been GIVEN to me.’  There’s no one higher than God to give God authority.    When Jesus made that statement, He made the statement as OUR elder brother.”  CAPS from emphasis in original; bold added.  As accessed 07/12/13.  Once again, note the stammering in his disclaimer.   

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

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

10 Bailey Bethlehem to Calvary, p 9.   Emphasis added   

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

12 Bill Johnson “Healing and the Kingdom” in Bill Johnson, Randy Clark. The Essential Guide to Healing: Equipping All Christians to Pray for the Sick, © 2011 by Bill Johnson and Randy Clark, Chosen Books (a division of Baker Publishing Group), Bloomington, MN; p 125.  Emphasis added.  Each chapter is authored by either Bill Johnson or Randy Clark.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 World Service Intergroup website. J.D. Dubois “The Christ, His Reappearance, and the Avatar of Synthesis” <http://www.worldserviceintergroup.net/?#/christ-reappearance/4543145171>  World Service Intergroup; Dubois; par 5; as accessed 07/12/13  

22 Bob Jones “The Coming Kingdom” Piercing the Darkness Prophetic Conference, February 2011. Hosted by Bethel Church, Redding, CA, Feb 23-25, 2011, Session 4, Feb 24, 2011, 7:00pm, 38:53 – 39:05. Emphasis in original. Available for sale at Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church website:  <http://store.ibethel.org/p4810/piercing-the-darkness-february-2011-complete-set-bethel-campus>; as accessed 07/12/13.

Advertisements

Bill Johnson’s ‘Born Again’ Jesus, Part II

[It will probably be best to read or review part I before reading this article.  In addition, it is important to view The Kingdom of God is at Hand, Part II as this provides more insight into Bill Johnson’s theology and its possible New Age implications. Once again, I’m indebted to all those who’ve assisted.  Thank you!]

In part I, we discussed the Christology of Bill Johnson based on his words from a portion of his sermon series titled Jesus Is Our Model as well as quotes from other sources. In part II, we will look further into Johnson’s doctrine and compare it to some other aberrant theology. Here’s the same part of his sermon which was referenced in the first part:

“…Did you know that Jesus was born again? I asked… the first service and they said, “No.” But I will show it. It’s in the Bible. He had to be. He became sin.

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

Word of Faith Connections and Disconnections

Kenneth E. Hagin, who borrows heavily from E. W. Kenyon, used the same verses as Johnson in speaking about a ‘born again’ Jesus. Hagin starts out in Hebrews 1:4-5 explaining how Jesus inherited His “more excellent Name”[2]. Then, just as Johnson does (or, perhaps the converse is more correct as it appears Johnson is copying Hagin), Hagin proceeds to Acts 13:33 to ‘explain’ how and when Jesus was born again:

“When was it that Jesus was begotten? When He was raised up! On that Resurrection morn!” [3]

So far this is practically identical to Johnson in terms of the method used although Hagin writes in his idiosyncratic Southern style in explaining his view. While Johnson does not provide his reasons as to why Jesus was ‘born again,’ Hagin does:

“Why did He need to be begotten, or born? Because He became like we were, separated from God. Because He tasted spiritual death for every man. His spirit, His inner man, went to hell in our place.”

“…Physical death would not remove our sins….”

Jesus is the first person ever to be born again.” [4] [emphasis added]

“Spiritual death means something more than separation from God. Spiritual death also means having Satan’s nature.” [5][emphasis in original]

Can we conclude that Johnson may believe that Jesus died spiritually as does Hagin? It’s certainly possible; however, absent an explanation from Johnson himself we are still left wondering. There is one important difference between Hagin’s and Johnsons’ renditions, though. Hagin claims Jesus was “not born as He took on flesh” because He “preexisted with the Father” stating that Jesus “just took upon Himself a body.”[6] Then, he makes the definitive claim that Jesus died spiritually on the Cross requiring that He be born again. However, Johnson states that Jesus was “born through Mary the first time” and had to be ‘born again’ because He ‘became sin’ with no further explanation.

Kenneth E. “Papa” Hagin is known as the “Daddy” of the Word of Faith movement. If that’s the case, then E. W. Kenyon is the grandfather since Hagin largely emulates his teachings. Kenyon’s doctrine has much in common with New Thought [7] and that’s because he was a follower of founder Phineas P. Quimby’s teachings. For an excellent expose on Word of Faith read Atonement Where?[8] by Moreno Dal Bello.

Some New Age doctrine seems to come from New Thought ideology:

“The New Thought movement, which originated in the late 19th and early 20th century, has at its core a belief that a higher power pervades all existence, and that individuals can create their own reality via affirmations, meditation and prayer. Early New Thought groups emerged from a Christian Science background, and many New Thought writers refer back to the Bible as their foundation text. New Thought resembles in some respects New Age philosophy, although some… …groups dismiss a connection….” [9]

While Johnson may diverge a bit from Word of Faith teachings, it seems he has much more in common than not with this false doctrine as much of the rest of this article will confirm.

Baptism in Confusion

There was an unanswered point in part I of this article:

… The view of Jesus being God’s Son at or through the Resurrection is only unorthodox if the belief is that Jesus was not the Son of God before this event….

Bill Johnson quoted Matthew 3:17 from the NKJV, “‘This is My much loved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”[10]; so, it would seem that he believes Jesus was the Father’s Son at baptism, if not before. However, the question that remains is if Johnson believes Jesus was divine at any point before baptism. It also seems possible though that Johnson believes Jesus was divine at the Virgin Birth (His Incarnation) even though his claim is that Jesus did not become The Christ until baptism at which point He received this ‘title’ of Christ. As pointed out in part I, this, of course, creates a contradiction within Johnson’s theology as Christ is the transliterated Greek word Christos which is taken from the Hebrew word meaning Messiah of which there can be only one; however, Johnson states we all can receive the same “anointing” as Jesus did. This would mean, in effect, we, too would attain the ‘title’ of Christ – which is tantamount to calling us individual Messiahs!

Passages such as the following from his 2007 book Face To Face With God aid in perpetuating this contradiction:

“…The outpouring of the Spirit comes to anoint the church with the same Christ anointing that rested upon Jesus in His ministry so that we might be imitators of Him.” [11]

Johnson makes it clear that Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist was what is known as the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” and it’s this baptism which provided the ‘power’ of the Holy Spirit which Jesus needed to perform the works of His earthly ministry. And, again, it’s this baptism all believers must receive in order to live a life of miracles, signs and wonders according to Johnson. [12]

Johnson explains this by differentiating between the Holy Spirit indwelling which “comes about at our conversion” and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit which is “upon” the believer.[13] Johnson declares emphatically “He’s in me for my sake, but He’s upon me for yours! ” in affirming the supposed tangible nature of this “anointing.”[14] He uses the Apostles – the real first century ones – as an example claiming Jesus Christ “breathed” the Holy Spirit indwelling into them in John 20:22:

“…In the lives of Christ’s disciples, we see this take place in John 20:22, when Jesus met with them, ‘breathed on them’ and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ But at His ascension [sic], Jesus told these same people that the Holy Spirit was going to come upon them. The Holy Spirit was already in them, but He was going to come upon them with power… ” [15] [emphasis added]

This raises some questions such as: Why didn’t Jesus “breathe” the Holy Spirit in/on them sooner? Given that the 72 were sent out (Luke 10) well before the events recorded in John 20:22 which took place while Jesus was on the earth in his post-resurrection body, why didn’t Jesus have the Holy Spirit indwell them at that time or before? Or did Jesus do this for the 72 and not the eleven (the twelve minus Judas Iscariot)? And, if the 72 weren’t – to use Johnson’s theology – both indwelled with the Holy Spirit and Baptized in the Holy Spirit, how could they have healed the sick and driven out demons?

Johnson states that the Holy Spirit “was already in Jesus’ life” [16] when Jesus received the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” at His Baptism by John. How can this be reconciled with Johnson’s belief that this ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit’ could only come after Jesus’ Ascension?[17] Since John’s baptism was one of repentance, how could he provide Jesus a “Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

Scripture shows that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. This was an identifying sign that Jesus was the Son of God. This was not an “impartation.” The Apostle John makes this distinction clear:

32 Then John [the Baptist] gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” [John 1:32-34 NIV]

Orthodox Christianity attests that prior to the events of the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 the Holy Spirit indwelling was “selective and temporary.”[18] The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit was not available until after Jesus Christ’s Ascension. While most, if not all, Pentecostal and charismatic denominations believe in a second baptism or “blessing” – known as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit – (also the view is that sometimes these two can occur simultaneously rather than being separate events) many other Christians do not.

Sinless at the Other Side of the Cross

“Jesus Christ was entirely God. He was not a created being, yet He became a man and lived entirely within man’s limitations. His ability to demonstrate power, walk on water, and carry out countless other divine manifestations was completely due to the fact that He was without sin and was totally yielded to the Holy Spirit. He became the model for everyone who would experience the cleansing of sin by the blood of Jesus.

The forgiveness that God gives puts every believer in a place without sin. The only question that remains is how empowered by the Holy Spirit we are willing to be.” [19]

This is worded very poorly and seems to suggest heterodoxy. Johnson can be quite explicit in some passages as he writes; so, it’s curious why he wasn’t more careful with this one. He had already stated that Jesus “laid His divinity aside”[20] and when this statement is added to just the bolded portion in the first paragraph we seem to have a “Jesus” that “became man” (at birth/Incarnation?) and performed supernatural acts “entirely” by yielding to the Holy Spirit’s power. Taking the entire first paragraph as a whole this could lead to the conclusion that during His earthly existence Jesus was not God in human flesh but, rather a man who lived a life powered by the Holy Spirit after Baptism even though He preexisted as God.

The second paragraph of the Johnson quote above creates two problems, especially when viewed in its full context in the whole of both paragraphs. The first is that it can be construed that Jesus could have sinned but did not solely because of submission to the Holy Spirit. Further support for this view comes from this quote from part I: “…He sought to fulfill the assignment given to Him by the Father: to live life as a man without sin…”[21]

Secondly, it can be understood – in fact it seems to state outright – that believers can live a sinless life if they “are willing” to be fully empowered by the Holy Spirit. If this second view is not entirely driven home above, Johnson makes it clear in his words below by claiming believers are now dead to sin and its nature:

“Many believe His power exists only to help us overcome sin. This understanding stops very short of the Father’s intent for us to become witnesses of another world. Doesn’t it seem strange that our whole Christian life should be focused on overcoming something that has already been defeated? Sin and its nature have been yanked out by its roots…”

“…Many in the church are camped on the wrong side of the Cross… …I don’t need power to overcome something [sin] if I’m dead to it” [22] [emphasis added]

The human sin nature does not ever leave us this side of glory since it’s a part of the human condition as a result of the The Fall in the Garden of Eden. It’s a struggle of all humanity – unsaved or saved. The Holy Spirit indwelled believer can choose to be led of the Spirit or to succumb to the sinful nature [cf. Galatians 5:16-26]; but, the believer never lives in a sinless state until the other side of Glory. The Apostle John states it quite succinctly:

“8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” [I John 1:8 NIV]

This is another example of the already but not yet [23] as discussed in both The Kingdom of God is at Hand articles on this blog. The Apostle Paul speaks of the struggle with sin and outlines the process of sanctification in Romans chapters 6, 7, 8 and 12 by a life lived by and through the Spirit. For a good discussion on sanctification see Sanctification – Set Apart.[24]

Kenneth E. Hagin’s view is similar to Johnson’s:

You see, as long as I believe that I receive forgiveness of my sins, and that’s all (not remission, but just forgiveness), then I remain in the position where Satan will dominate me all my life….” [25]

By making the distinction between “forgiveness” and “remission” Hagin seems to be saying that sin will, just like a sickness in remission, be absent from the believer for an indefinite period of time. He also speaks negatively about the Cross while promoting the Resurrection side:

“The Cross is actually a place of defeat, whereas the Resurrection is a place of triumph. When you preach the cross, you’re preaching death, and you leave people in death.” [26]

This negative view of the Cross bears a resemblance to the Theosophic/New Age/occult/esoteric teachings of Alice A. Bailey from a book from 1937:

“The outstanding need of Christianity today is to emphasize the living, risen Christ. We have argued too long over the death of Christ, seeking to impose a narrow sectarian Christ upon the world. We have fed the fires of separation by our Christian divisions, churches, sects and ‘isms.’ ‘Their name is legion,’ and most of them are founded upon some sectarian presentation of the dead Christ, and of the earlier aspects of His story. Let us now unite on the basis of the risen Christ…” [27] [emphasis added]

Notice how Bailey refers to the denominational orthodox Christian view and their focus on “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” [I Corinthians 2:2] as “legion” just like the self-ascribed name of the demons who inhabited the man from the region of the Gerasenes in the account of Mark 5:1-17. While Johnson does not go any where near as far as Bailey does here, he does speak negatively about denominations and “religion” throughout his books; and, at one point he even called our present age the “post-denominational era.” [28]

The question is: why would a New Ager speak positively about any aspect of the Cross? Wouldn’t the New Ager look upon Christianity in general with utter disdain? This question will be answered as we progress through this article and part III. And, why would Johnson and Hagin – purported ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – speak negatively on any aspect of the Cross? Shouldn’t this be the central focus of Christianity as the Apostle Paul stated numerous times?

The Resurrection of the Latter Rain

If there was any doubt, Johnson makes it clear that he adheres to Latter Rain (or New Order of the Latter Rain) doctrine – an aberrant branch of Pentecostalism/charismaticism:

“On the Day of Pentecost, Peter declared that the promise of Joel 2 was fulfilled. …Yet, that day was only the initial fulfillment of the promise – the Spirit was poured out on that day, but there is a day coming in which He will truly be poured out on all flesh….” [29] [bolding from emphasis in original]

The way this is worded it sounds as though Johnson is adhering to universalism – a New Age concept that all will be (or can be) saved.  In a video advertisement for a recent  “Open Heavens” conference (October 13-15, 2010) once again Johnson stresses the word “all”:

 “What does it mean to you when it says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on A-L-L flesh?’ Everywhere I go IS an open heaven. Miracles follow those who believe. Whenever He restores something, he restores it to a place greater than before. I’ve lived without miracles, and I’ve lived with miracles. With miracles is better.” [30]

Continuing with Johnson from the quote above regarding Joel 2:

“…This is a fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit being poured as the early and latter rain. The early rain was the first century, and the latter is now.” [31]

As justification for his position, Johnson uses the water turned to wine at the wedding in Cana and Job’s returned possessions as ‘proof’ that God “saves the best for last” and to disagree with him is “at best pure ignorance or at worst unbelief.”[32] Yet the Assemblies of God – the denomination of which Bill Johnson was formerly a part – denounced Latter Rain as heresy back in 1949.[33]

The Latter Rain movement went underground in the 1950s but emerged again in the 1970s and has gained momentum since then.

Here’s Johnson claiming we can seek to emulate Jesus in His glorified state as described by John in Revelation 1:13-16 by the power of the ‘other side of the Cross:’

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

“The Holy Spirit came with the ultimate assignment at the perfect time. During Jesus’ ministry, it was said, ‘The Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.’ …why didn’t the Father send Him until Jesus was glorified? Because without Jesus in His glorified state there was no heavenly model of what we were to become! …As He is, so are we in the world.

“The Christian life is not found on the Cross. It is found because of the Cross. It is His resurrection power that energizes the believer…” [34] [bolding from italicized original; underlining added for emphasis]

Johnson speaks more on this “resurrection power” for the believer:

At some point the reality of the resurrection [sic] must come into play in our lives – we must discover the power of the resurrection [sic] for all who believe.

“…we must follow Him all the way – to a lifestyle empowered by the resurrection!” [35] [bolding from italicized original, underlining added for emphasis]

Johnson’s words above are similar to some of Kenyon’s as taught by Hagin. After stating that as representatives of Christ “[w]e are Christ” “not only collectively, but individually” Hagin quotes 1st John 4:17 just as Johnson does above: “As He is, so are we in this world.” Then he poses the question: “when we get to heaven?” [36] to which he answers:

“No! In this world! Glory!” [37]

And, here Hagin quotes Kenyon directly:

“Oh, that our eyes were open; that our souls would dare rise into the realm of Omnipotence… …that we would act up to our high privileges in Christ Jesus.” [38]

“…so far, none of us have been able to take a permanent place in our privileges and abide where we may enjoy the fullness of this mighty power….

“But we have a conviction that before the Lord Jesus returns, there will be a mighty army of believers who will learn the secret of living in the Name, of reigning in life, living the victorious, transcendent, resurrection life of the Son of God among men….” [39]

“If our minds could only grasp… …that Satan is paralyzed… …it would be easy to live in this Resurrection Realm.” [40] [emphasis added]

Manifest Sons of God: The New Breed

This sounds very close to, if not is by definition, Manifest Sons of God (MSoG) doctrine. Known by other names such as Sonship[not to be confused with the orthodox doctrine of the same name], Overcomers, Joel’s Army and New Breed among others, MSoG is part of Latter Rain (or New Order of the Latter Rain) which teaches that certain individuals can obtain their resurrected, glorified bodies, as in 1st Corinthians 15:35-55, in the here and now before the Rapture and/or the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Yet, as verses 51 and 52 of 1st Corinthians make clear, all true believers in Jesus Christ will receive resurrection bodies at the same time. This false teaching is largely based on a faulty interpretation of Romans 8:19-23:

19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from the bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. [NIV; emphasis added]

Verses 24 and 25 which follow the above make it clear that this is a future promise; and, as 1st Corinthians 15:50-52 and 1st Thessalonians 4:15-17 attest, the dead in Christ are raised first a nanosecond before the living and all this occurs “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye” [NIV] at the same time. No living person precedes another living person and no living person will receive their resurrection body before the dead in Christ receive theirs.

For more on “resurrection power” and “Resurrection Life,” here’s Todd Bentley from August 08, 2008 at Rick Joyner’s Morningstar Ministries speaking of the fourth stage/floor/level he saw in a vision:

“I got up to the fourth floor, the door opened, it was Romans 8, the manifestation of the sons of God, power, dominion, and it was called ‘Resurrection Life.’” [41] [emphasis mine]

Bentley claims that at this point he enquired of God about the difference between raising the dead and “resurrection life.” In his account, God answered explaining that “resurrection life” will result in a coming “corporate anointing” in which people will be raised from the dead just because of “the anointing in the atmosphere.”[42]

“And that’s when I said, ‘God, I’m not focused on raising the dead anymore, I want resurrection life.’

“Do you know raising the dead isn’t something that happens? Raising the dead is a person. Resurrection isn’t something that happens – resurrection is a person. Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection, I am the life.’ Raising the dead is Jesus. When the dead are raised, it’s Jesus. …Resurrection is Jesus, not something that happens.” [43]

Following along with this train of thought leads to the ‘we are Christ, we are Jesus’ similar to Johnson’s ‘Christ anointing.’ Bentley continues:

“God’s going to move the church into such a realm… But, we’re moving into a realm of Romans 8: resurrection life; power; dominion over every sin, sickness, disease, death. …Because everything is the person of Jesus. [ed: panentheism?] And, we are pressing in for that ‘Romans 1:4 anointing.’” [44] [emphasis added]

Bob Jones relates just what this “Romans 1:4 anointing” is:

“What He’s doing now is bringing you to a level of maturity where you grow up. And, if you grow up you’ll never regress, you’ll continue progress year by year. So, what he’s talking about is the New Breed, is this: it’s Romans 1:4 – the spirit of holiness. So, for years I tried to get understanding of what the spirit of holiness is for it’s different than the Holy Spirit…” [45] [emphasis added]

Different than the Holy Spirit?! What ‘spirit’ would THAT be?! Continuing with Bentley:

“Do you know how Jesus was raised from the dead? By the spirit of holiness and declared by the resurrection of the dead…” [46]

Clearly, it was the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus Christ’s lifeless human body. However, it’s less clear which kind of spirit Jones and Bentley are speaking about (or, maybe it’s not). Continuing from the above:

“…And, I just believe there’s an impartation to call forth ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ – the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.’” [47]

True Christians already have the Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead – the Holy Spirit indwelling – and the “hope of glory” at initial conversion. Why the need for a further ‘impartation?’ These ‘impartations’ seem to have more in common with the occult than Christianity especially as Bentley describes them as “levels” or “stages/floors” which sound eerily like “initiations.”

“And, I want to take one moment church, and I want to press in, I want you to press in with me, to go from one floor, to two floors, to three levels, to four. And, let’s progress and let’s say, ‘God, beyond raising the dead, beyond notable miracles, beyond healing, let there be a release in the Church of the realm of glory and power and dominion and authority that affects everything that’s death and decay around us.’ And, it’s true victory, it’s true resurrection life, true resurrection power, and true resurrection glory

People will be made alive – born again.” [48] [emphasis added]

So, according to Bentley, this “resurrection life” makes one or leads one to be ‘born again?’ Going back to Johnson: The original sermon series from which Bill Johnson makes the ‘born again Jesus’ comments is titled Jesus is Our Model – a theme echoed in his books. So, is he saying essentially the same thing as Bentley; i.e., is Johnson saying that we are to become ‘born again’ and achieve “resurrection life” using Jesus as our model given that – according to Johnson in the transcript – Jesus was “born again through the Resurrection?

While it is possible that Johnson means something a bit different than Bentley, the wording and implications look the same. However, one must take into account the fact that Bill Johnson feels so strongly about Todd Bentley that he defended him during Lakeland[49]. [Here’s the corresponding video with him reading an email beginning around the 21:00 mark.] In response to this question: “What do you think of Todd Bentley and the Lakeland Revival” Johnson answers:

“Have you spent time with Todd? Do you know him? …Have you laid hands on him and prayed? Has he laid hands on you and prayed? Have you grieved over tragedy together? Have you celebrated victory together? Has he sought your counsel?…Have you ever received his counsel?

“I didn’t think so. I have. And I’ll continue to support those who I have walked with in life and ministry. He’s my friend…” [50]

Obviously, they had a close relationship not just in their association within ministry but in their personal lives as well. While this still doesn’t definitively prove a connection regarding their respective doctrines, it shows each was likely aware of the other’s. Also, Johnson lists both Todd Bentley’s Fresh Fire USA Ministries as well as Bob Jones as “Friends”[51] on one of his sites. In his book Face to Face With God, Johnson writes on the New Breed himself:

“We are in the throes of change; a reformation will impact society on all fronts. This is happening largely because today there is a new breed of believer.” [52] [emphasis added]

If that’s not convincing enough when added to all the above that Johnson is teaching MSoG, consider this. Todd Bentley was one of the endorsers on at least two of Bill Johnson’s books: When Heaven Invades Earth and The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind.[53] Similarly, Bill Johnson endorsed four[54] of Bentley’s books including Journey into the Miraculous from 2008 in which he writes in his endorsement:

I love this book. …this book is more than a story about his life. It’s a prophetic declaration of God’s intent for an entire generation….” [55][emphasis added]

The Militant Joel’s Army of the Manifested Sons of God

Right in the first chapter titled “The End-Time Healing Revival” of Bentley’s Journey into the Miraculous are some “prophetic words” of Bob Jones, Paul Cain and even Benny Hinn(!); and, on the very first page:

For 20 years, the prophets have foretold about a youthful generation that will rise up… In 1973, the Lord showed Prophet Bob Jones this coming anointing that would fall on God’s people. Bob told me that I was part of the ‘first fruits’ wave of a billion people whom God would light on fire.” [56] [emphasis added]

Then, referring to a quote of Paul Cain in a section titled “JOEL’S ARMY,” Bentley relates:

“…They’d learn patient endurance, how to demonstrate the power of God, and, having learned all, stand against the enemy. As Christian soldiers, they’d have the mind of Christ, and ‘partake of the heavenly calling, and be a new breed, God’s dread champions.’” [57]

This is “Joel’s mighty army” Bentley is speaking of “as described in Joel chapter 2” who are “the army of God – not a wicked army (as some have thought).”[58] However, it should be noted that Biblical scholars generally agree that the army of Joel 2:1-11 refers to both a locust plague and the Assyrian army who chastened the Nation Israel in the 7th and 8th century BC.[59]  And, there is likely a future fulfillment in the ‘Day of the Lord’ identified in Zechariah 14:2 as an evil army (also see Revelation 9:2-9) arrayed against Jerusalem which will be defeated by the Lord Himself (Zech 14:3-4; Rev 19:15).

In the following, Bentley quotes Paul Cain from the Grace City Report Special Prophetic Edition, from Fall 1989:

“‘They are the ones with feet of iron not mixed of clay, with the wisdom of God alone, not imitators of other men of God. Some of the superstars of the church will fall. The Lord will have an army of holy anointed vessels to usher in His Kingdom so that no one man can take credit for it. It will be to the glory of God alone.’” [60]

For those unaware, according to the Latter Rain view, Joel’s Army/Manifested Sons of God will be exacting judgment and penalty unto death if necessary upon those in the Church who do not go along with this “end-times move of the Spirit” as per Rick Joyner’s “vision” in The Final Quest [61] and earlier MorningStar Journals from Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries. This dispensing of “God’s judgment” or “cleansing of evil” was spoken of in Constance Cumbey’s 1985 book A Planned Deception as one of the stated goals of both New Agers and Manifested Sons of God[62]. This “old-order brethren” is referenced in Bentley’s book as spoken of here in the following quote from Paul Cain’s You Can Become the Word! at a 1989 Vineyard Prophetic Conference:

“…God has invited us to have a role in establishing a new order of ChristianityGod is offering to this generation something He has never offered to any other generation…beware lest old-order brethren rob you and steal this hope from you.” [63] [emphasis added]

Oddly, Bentley even quotes Jewel Grewe of Discernment Ministries(!) from one of her Discernment Newsletters in quoting Paul Cain:

“As Paul Cain says, these days will be marked by miracles; ‘All the sick are gonna be healed, the dead are gonna be raised and nations are gonna turn to God in a day.’ (Bob Jones and Paul Cain, Selections from the Kansas City Prophets, audiotape from discernment newsletter).” [64] [all as per original except bolding/underlining for emphasis]

Since Bill Johnson endorsed Bentley’s Journey into the Supernatural and claims that he “loves this book,” it’s fair to say he agrees with Bentley’s views regarding Joel’s Army as stated in the quotes above. Then, by extension, perhaps Johnson agrees with Todd Bentley’s and Bob Jones’ words from the 08/08/08 DVD as referenced above as well especially since Johnson has already identified with the New Breed which is another name for Joel’s Army or Manifest Sons of God.

A New Age Christ?

Here’s Johnson teaching more MSoG in a You Tube video:

“…It’s the Spirit of God that makes this thing [the Bible, which he’s holding] come alive to where we actually have the privilege of the Word becoming flesh in us again, where we become the living illustration and manifestation of what God is saying.” [65] [emphasis mine]

The bolded portion above is reminiscent of what is known as “birthing the man-child”[66] – yet another euphemism for the purported Manifested Sons of God. Also, it needs to be noted that this bolded portion sounds like it relates to the title of the piece from the Vineyard Prophetic Conference of Paul Cain mentioned above: You Can Become the Word! In addition, the above quote sounds quite a bit like some words by the late Earl Paulk from his 1985 book Held in the Heavens Until…:

The living Word of God, Jesus Christ, was conceived in the womb of a virgin. The Word became flesh in the God man, Jesus Christ… Likewise, the Word of God must be made flesh in the Church in order for us to bear witness to the Kingdom which God has called us to demonstrate” [67] [emphasis added]

“…Natural conception and birth graphically symbolize God’s offspring in His Church. The Church is the womb of God’s Kingdom. God wants to quicken His Word, to bring it alive in us, causing us to live by His Word, not by sight or natural understanding.” [68] [emphasis added]

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.” [69][emphasis added]

Taken together, these quotes seem quite similar to the New Age view of bringing in the “Kingdom of God” as mentioned in the “New Age Kingdom” section of The Kingdom of God is at Hand, part II article on this blog.

By quoting “Christ in us, the hope of glory” as Paulk and Bentley both do, the implication in their respective contexts above seems to infer our own divinity. This sounds eerily similar to the New Age/Theosophic/esoteric/occult teachings of Alice A. Bailey working as a medium for one of the “Masters of Wisdom” identified as “Master DK” or “Djwhal Khul” from her 1948 book The Reappearance of the Christ:

“…Inherent in the human consciousness… …is a sense of divinity. …‘As He is, so are we in this world.’ (1 John IV:17) is another Biblical statement. …‘Christ in us, the hope of glory’ is the triumphant affirmation of St. Paul.” [70]

Of course, both Johnson and Hagin quote 1st John 4:17 above in the “Resurrection of the Latter Rain” section. Restating part of Johnson’s quote:

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

“…why didn’t the Father send Him [the Holy Spirit] until Jesus was glorified? Because without Jesus in His glorified state there was no heavenly model of what we were to become! …As He is, so are we in the world.

“The Christian life is not found on the Cross. It is found because of the Cross. It is His resurrection power that energizes the believer…” [71] [bolding from italicized original; bold/underlining added for emphasis]

This focus on the “Resurrection side of the Cross” at the expense of the Cross itself as Johnson, Hagin, Bentley and others do above, as evidenced by quotes in this article, is yet another aspect of the New Age religion as referenced in the “Sinless at the Other Side of Cross” section above. Quoting Bailey again in The Destiny of the Nations from 1949:

“In the Aquarian Age, the Risen Christ… …will not this time demonstrate the perfected life of the Son of God, which was his main mission before; He will appear as the supreme Head of the Spiritual Hierarchy, meeting the need of the thirsty nations of the world – thirsty for truth, for right human relations and for loving understanding. He will be recognized this time by all and in His Own Person will testify to the fact of the resurrection and hence demonstrate the paralleling fact of immortality of the soul, of the spiritual man. The emphasis during the past two thousand years has been on death; it has coloured all the teaching of the orthodox; only one day in the year has been dedicated to the thought of the resurrection. The emphasis in the Aquarian Age will be on life and freedom from the tomb of matter, and this is the note which will distinguish the new world religion from all that have preceded it.” [72]

This “death” emphasized over “the past two thousand years” is the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The “paralleling fact of immortality of the soul” is the ‘fact’ of “inherent divinity.” This “Spiritual Hierarchy” is also known as the “Masters of Wisdom” who are, in reality, demons. Their “Risen Christ” is actually referring to the coming antichrist.

Are Bill Johnson and company teaching and preaching a New Age Christ whether unwittingly or wittingly?

Endnotes:

[1] “ewenhuffman” Jesus is our Model- Sermon of the week 20 Dec 09. <http://ewenhuffman.podbean.com/2009/12/23/jesus-is-our-model-sermon-of-the-week-20-dec-09/> 33:48 to 34:57; as accessed 11/08/10
[2] Hagin, Kenneth E. The Name of Jesus. 1979, 3rd printing 1981; Rhema Bible Church aka Kenneth Hagin Ministries / Faith Library, Tulsa, OK; p 28
[3] ibid.
[4] ibid. p 29
[5] ibid. p 31
[6] ibid. p28
[7] Affiliated New Thought Network The Philosophy of New Thought. <http://www.newthought.org/new_thought.html>; as accessed 11/08/10
[8] THE WORD on the The Word of Faith (a GroupBlog) Atonement Where? By Moreno Dal Bello <http://thewordonthewordoffaithinfoblog.com/2010/10/15/atonement-where-1-mdbello/>; as accessed 11/08/10
[9] Hare, John Bruno / Internet Sacred Text Archive New Thought. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/nth/index.htm>; as accessed 11/08/10
[10] Johnson, Bill When Heaven Invades Earth. 2003; Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 99
[11] Johnson, Bill Face to Face with God. 2007; Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL; p 77
[12] ibid. p 99-102
[13] ibid. p 78
[14] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 134
[15] Johnson, Op.cit. Face to Face with God. p 78
[16] ibid. p 21-22
[17] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 145
[18] Got Questions? What Was the Role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament? <http://www.gotquestions.org/Spirit-Old-Testament.html>; par 4; as accessed 11/08/10
[19] Johnson, Op.cit. Face to Face with God. p 199
[20] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 79
[21] ibid.
[22] ibid. p 110
[23] Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stewart How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. second edition, 1993; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 133-134
[24] AllaboutGOD.com / All About Following Jesus Sanctification – Set Apart. <http://www.allaboutfollowingjesus.org/sanctification.htm>; as accessed 11/08/10
[25] Hagin, Op.cit. p 55
[26] Hagin, Kenneth E. The Believer’s Authority. 1986, 2nd ed.; Rhema Bible Church aka Kenneth Hagin Ministries / Faith Library; Tulsa, OK; p 16
[27] 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; pp 238-239
[28] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 90
[29] Johnson, Op.cit. Face to Face with God. p 76
[30] ibethelTV Open Heavens 2010. < http://vimeo.com/15808994 > as accessed 03/26/11
[31] ibid. pp 76-77
[32] ibid. p 77
[33] Wikipedia The General Council of the Assemblies of God in the United States of America. “Relations with other denominations and renewal movements” <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Council_of_the_Assemblies_of_God_in_the_United_States_of_America>; as accessed 11/08/10
[34] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 145
[35] ibid. p 146
[36] Hagin, Op.cit. The Name of Jesus. pp 106-107
[37] ibid. p 107
[38] ibid. p 49
[39] ibid. p 52
[40] ibid. p 53
[41] Bentley, Todd Todd Bentley Healing and Impartation Service 08-08-08. DVD; available at MorningStar Ministries Store <http://www.morningstarministries.org/Store/Products/1000013034/MorningStar_Store/Media_Store/Teaching_Sets/All_Teaching_Sets/DVD_Teaching_Sets/Todd_Bentley_Healing.aspx>; 1953:26 – 1953:37
[42] ibid. 1953:37 – 1954:44
[43] ibid. 1955:18 – 1956:00
[44] ibid. 1956:00 – 1956:38
[45] ibid. 1934:39 – 1935:10 (Bob Jones speaking)
[46] ibid. 1956:38 – 1956:46
[47] ibid. 1956:46 – 1957:00
[48] ibid. 1956:58 – 1957:53
[49] Bill Johnson Ministries, Questions and Answers. “UPDATE: What do you think about Todd Bentley and the Lakeland Revival? June ‘08” <http://www.bjm.org/questions/11/update-what-do-you-think-about-todd-bentley-and-the-lakeland-revival.html?file=regarding-todd-bentley>; as accessed 11/08/10
[50] ibid.
[51] Bill Johnson Ministries, Friends. <http://www.bjm.org/friends.html>
[52] Johnson, Op.cit. Face to Face with God. p 139
[53] Both books from Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., copyright 2003 and 2005 respectively
[54] Journey into the Miraculous, Sound of Fire Productions, Ltd.; 2003 / Journey into the Miraculous, Destiny Image; January 1, 2008 / “Endorsements” ; The Reality of the Supernatural World, Destiny Image; June 1, 2008; “Endorsements” / Kingdom Rising, Destiny Image; October 1, 2008: pp 15-17
[55] Bentley, Todd Journey into the Miraculous. 2008; Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; “Endorsements”
[56] ibid. pp 21-22
[57] ibid. pp 22-23
[58] ibid. p 23
[59] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. “Joel.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1985; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 245-250. with contribution by Richard D. Patterson
[60] Bentley, Op.cit. p 23
[61] Joyner, Rick The Final Quest. 1996, 2nd ed.; MorningStar Publications, Charlotte, NC; pp 36-38
[62] Cumbey, Constance A Planned Deception. 1985; Pointe Publishers, East Detroit, MI; p 172
[63] Bentley, Op.cit. pp 24-25
[64] ibid. p 25
[65] “whizzpopping” You Tube video, Bill Johnson – Friendship with God. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4RZ_ctiwlE&gt>; 1:24 – 1:37; as accessed 11/08/10
[66] 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 11/08/10
[67] Paulk, Earl, Held in the Heavens Until…. 1985; K Dimension, Atlanta, GA; p 156
[68] ibid.
[69] ibid. p 197
[70] Bailey, Alice A. The Reappearance of the Christ. 1948, Lucis Trust, 9th printing 1979 (4th Paperback ed.); Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, NY; p 145
[71] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 145
[72] Bailey, Alice A. The Destiny of the Nations. 1949, Lucis Trust, 5th printing 1974 (2nd Paperback ed.); Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, NY; pp 150-151

The Kingdom of God is at Hand, part I

[see part II here.]

Jesus Himself stated, “The kingdom of God is at hand” in Mark 1:15 [NIV]; however, it is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew that He also said “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [Matthew 4:17, 10:7 NIV] A quick examination of Scripture leads to the conclusion that the phrases “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” are synonymous. So, is the kingdom of God NOW?

Most first century Jews, according to their understanding of Scripture, were looking for a Messiah who would provide theocratic rule thus delivering them from Roman oppression and immediately establishing the Kingdom of God – the Age to Come. The then-current age – “Satan’s Time” – was one of sin, sickness, demonic possession, and evil in which evil men were triumphant.[1]

Consequently, even though Jesus Christ healed the sick, drove out demons and even claimed to have forgiven sins, the majority of religious leaders did not recognize Him as the Messiah in part because He did not try to overthrow Rome. Since many of the Pharisees – one of the religious parties of the day – did not believe Jesus’ claim as the “I Am” [John 8:58] they wanted to stone Him for blasphemy!

Historical background

Writings of the Intertestamental Era

400 years had already elapsed between the writing of Malachi, the last Old Testament book to be recorded, and the era of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In the intertestamental period (the time between the Old and New Testaments), the Jews were not a free people most of the time instead subjected to the rulership of various empires. There were no prophets providing correction or guidance; and, consequently, it was a rather unhappy time. As a result, it was a period marked by a surge in the production of literary works, the most important of which were the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Tanakh – what Christians know as the Old Testament (abbreviated LXX)[2], the Apocryphal & Pseudepigraphic writings (some of the Apocrypha were translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic and included as part of the LXX)[3], and the Dead Sea Scrolls.[4]

The word Apocrypha, from Greek derivation, means “hidden” which has a view of the works being either esoteric and only to be understood by the initiated or, “hidden” in that the nature of the writings are questionable or heretical[5]. The term Pseudepigrapha is usually applied to Jewish (and Jewish-Christian) writings from 200BC to AD200 and comes also from Greek etymology meaning the writings were attributed to fictitious authors[6] although some have authorship ascribed[7]. From both groups of works the subject of eschatology has a significant role. Taken all together, this literature appeared to have a profound effect on the pre-Christian and the immediate post-Resurrection era[8] up through the destruction of the Second Temple in AD70[9]. [Note: for the purposes of this article the “New Testament Apocrypha” including the so-called “Lost Gospels, ” Acts of Andrews, Epistles of the Apostles, etc. are not considered.]

…These and other writings emerged during the long silence that fell between the death of the last OT prophet, Malachi (about 400 B.C.), and the appearance of John the Baptist. To some extent these writings attempted to discern what God was saying to a nation that, though it had repudiated idolatry, still suffered under the dominion of a succession of pagan powers… [10]

At the Council of Jamnia in AD90 Jewish rabbis rejected the Apocrypha (of which parts were included in the Septuagint) as canonical[11]. Yet, some of the Apocrypha are included in the Catholic New American Bible as Deuterocanonical (meaning later added to the canon) books[12]. Some of the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine such as purgatory, masses for the dead, and obtaining the merit of God through good works come from these Apocryphal works[13].

The OT canon accepted by Protestants today was “very likely established by the dawn of the second century,” some time after the destruction of Herod’s Temple in AD70. However, the Apocrypha was still in common use by most Christians until the Protestant Reformation[14].

Societal Developments of the Period

Even though the Second Temple was in operation from 516 BC[15] until AD70[16,17] geographical constraints and oppressive regimes prevented easy travel for the typical Jew. Thus the synagogue was born. Synagogues can be likened to our modern day church buildings as they provided a convenient way to gather socially and to worship. Jesus Himself visited local synagogues [Luke 4:14-21; Matthew 12:9; Mark 1:21]; and, the Apostles [Acts 9:20, 13:5-43] and early Christian missionaries preached in them as well[18].

The Sanhedrin was a committee of Jews with recognized executive, legislative, and judicial power over Jewish faith and lifestyle during the Seleucid Empire (196 – 167BC), the Maccabean revolt (168 – 143BC) and within the limits imposed by Julius Caesar, Herod the Great, and Roman procurators during the Roman Empire (44BC – AD66).[19,20] Subordinate to the Sanhedrin were the religious parties or sects known as the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, and the Qumran community[21]. Since the Sanhedrin had authority over these sects and ultimate authority over capital cases (yet subordinate to Rome during Roman occupation), Jesus’ trial is seen as being conducted illegally[22].

Beliefs of the Sects

Not much is known about the separative and isolationistic Essene group except that they were very legalistic living both frugally and communally while limiting contact outside their sect. While they did not condemn marriage in principle it was avoided and celibacy was celebrated. Their sect was continued on by the adoption of children. There was an expectation of an impending apocalyptic battle between good and evil. Evidence of a soon to emerge Messiah is in their writings also[23].

Even less was known of the Qumran community until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) which were first unearthed in 1947. The Qumranians are likely a sect that broke from the Essenes. This extremely sectarian group rejected the Jewish leadership referring to them as “sons of darkness” and “men of the pit” while referring to themselves as “sons of light” and “sons of truth.” They firmly believed they were living in the end times[24].

From the DSS it is evident that the Qumranians were highly legalistic with a commitment to study the Torah. The Qumran group believed they were living in the end times and accepted the guidance of a certain teacher of righteousness [ed: probably based at least in part on Malachi 4:5] who was presumably preparing them for the Messiah. Their own writings about this “righteous teacher” are too sketchy to determine the exact role of this figure; however, it is apparent that the community accepted his interpretations of the prophetic OT books regarding eschatology. Since the Qumran believed in a resurrection of the dead, it may be assumed in studying portions of the DSS that they expected the “teacher of righteousness to be martyred and eventually raised up[25]. Their Messiah figure, on the other hand, was more of a human son of David concept rather than a divine apocalyptic Son of man[26]. Some scholars construe that the Qumran belief system supports two or three Messianic figures[27,28].

As supernaturalists, the Pharisees believed in angels, demons, bodily resurrection [Acts 23:8], and immortality with reward for the righteous dead[29] in contrast with retribution for the unrighteous[30]. They were legalistic to the point of going beyond the Scriptures in attempting to adhere to the Torah; and, to this end added their own oral tradition to keep various points of the law. A good example of this is their view of the Sabbath [Mark 2:23-28]. The Pharisees “neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness” [Matthew 23:23 NIV] creating a more works-based religion than one with a personal God.

The Pharisees believed both in man’s free will and the sovereignty of God yet thought neither would cancel out the other. Ethics such as human equality were emphasized in their teachings but not necessarily from a theological standpoint[31]. They expected the Messiah to restore Jewish freedom[32].

One credible source stated outright that the Pharisees believed in reincarnation[33]; yet, the general consensus among Christian scholars is that Pharisaical belief regarding immortality adhered to orthodoxy instead. However, in the Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphic literature there are references to reincarnation[34]. In some camps, the Kabbalah was thought to be in use as early as the time of Moses as part of an oral tradition and reincarnation is one of the tenets of Kabbalistic doctrine[35]. While there are certainly some Jewish sects who currently espouse reincarnation[36], it is not clear when this doctrine first came about. The Apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus, or Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach[37], contains a warning against such esotericism [Sirach 3:20-22].[38]

The common people were predominantly middle class and identified mostly with the Pharisees in part because this party was of the same class[39]. It should be noted that not all Pharisees were of the same ilk as those represented in the NT. Some contemporaries within their own party recognized their hypocrisy and rebuked them for it[40]. Gamaliel appeared to try to honor a personal God with his words [Acts 5:33-41]. Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee, would, of course, become the Apostle Paul.

The Sadducees, more than any of these groups, had an interest in Temple ceremonies and sought a literal interpretation of the Torah. They appeared to reject extra-canonical sources for doctrine. As the most affluent of the religious groups, the Sadducees wielded political clout disproportionate to their relative size[41]. It is assumed that they held a large percentage of seats on the Sanhedrin.

The Sadducean view of eschatology was quite simplistic and widely divergent from the other sects as they did not believe in a resurrection [Matthew 22:23, Mark 12:18, Luke 20:27] or an afterlife and even denied the existence of a spiritual world altogether [Acts 23:8] attributing everything to free will[42].

Eschatological Views of the Pre-Christian and Immediate Post-Resurrection Era

With the exception of the Sadducean view, the predominant Jewish belief of the pre-Christian era included the imminent arrival of a Messianic figure (or figures assuming one of the viewpoints regarding the Qumran group) to deliver them from their Roman oppressors and immediately establish the Kingdom of God. Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stewart, in their book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, describe the Jewish eschaton (view of the end of time) as the belief that the Messiah’s coming would usher in the “Age to Come” to be “characterized by the presence of the Spirit, righteousness, health, and peace.”[43]

Since Jesus Christ’s disciples/followers came directly from Jewish heritage or were familiar with Jewish eschatological beliefs, they were also expecting Him to soon usher in the Kingdom and overthrow Rome[44] while He was still on the earth. Consequently, Jesus’ arrest and subsequent death on the Cross was met with immense disillusionment among His disciples in part because of this assumption [Luke 22:61-62; 23:27, 48-49; 24:17-21]. However, their sorrow turned to joy with His Resurrection and Ascension!

Yet it was apparent that the end of the age had not come in full:

“Very early, beginning with Peter’s sermon in Acts 3, the early Christians came to realize that Jesus had not come to usher in the ‘final’ end, but the ‘beginning’ of the end, as it were. Thus they came to see that with Jesus’ death and resurrection, and with the coming of the Spirit, the blessings and benefits of the future had already come. In a sense, therefore, the end had already come. But, in another sense the end had not yet fully come. Thus it was already but not yet. [45] [emphasis in original]

First century Christians had to adjust their eschatological thinking to fit the events of the Resurrection and Ascension. However, apparently some were expecting the imminent return of Jesus Christ prompting the Apostle Paul to write the two Thessalonian letters to provide markers of what first must take place before His return. They still had a “kingdom now” mindset. This expectation of imminency with regard to Christ’s return continues in the mindset of most Christians today.

This “tension” between the already but not yet is an important hermeneutical tool in interpreting the New Testament[46]. Passages such as Colossians 3:1-2 illustrate this quite well:

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. [NIV]

We are already raised up with Christ, yet we are still physically here on earth. However, since we have the future expectation of being raised with Christ, we are to already set our hearts and minds on heavenly things. Similarly, when Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is at hand” He was using this same principle. The Kingdom era has already begun; but, the consummation is yet to be fulfilled.

There are those today who are attempting to hasten Jesus Christ’s return by taking the not yet into their own hands. It is the doctrines of some of these which will be compared to the doctrines of the groups above in the second part of this article.

See Part II here.

Endnotes:

[1] Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stewart “The Gospels: One Story, Many Dimensions.” How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. second edition, 1993; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; p 131

[2] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. “The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 1. 1979; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 164-174. This section features Bruce M. Metzger as contributor.

[3] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. “Between the Testaments.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 1. 1979; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 179-192. This section features Harold W. Hoehner as contributor.

[4] Barker, Kenneth; Burdick, Stek, et. al. “The Time between the Testaments” NIV Study Bible. copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 1424-1425

[5] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 161 Metzger

[6] ibid. pp 162, 170

[7] Marshall, I. Howard; Millard, Packer “Pseudepigrapha” New Bible Dictionary. third edition, 1996; Intervarsity, Downers Grove, IL; p 985

[8] Gaebelein, Op.cit. pp 173-174 Hoehner

[9] Richards, Lawrence O. “Apocrypha” Richards Complete Bible Dictionary. 2002; World Bible Publishers, Iowa Falls, IO; p 76

[10] ibid.

[11] Marshall, Op.cit.

[12] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 162

[13] Richards, Op.cit.

[14] Barker, Op.cit. p 1425

[15] Richards, Lawrence O. “Ezra” Richards’ Complete Bible Handbook. 1987; Word, Inc., Dallas, TX; pp 233-234

[16] Wikipedia The Second Temple <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Temple> para 1; as accessed 10/17/10

[17] Richards, Op.cit. “The Second Temple” Bible Dictionary p 967

[18] ibid. “synagogue” pp 957-958

[19] ibid. “Sanhedrin” pp 894-895

[20] Gaebelein, Op.cit. pp 184, 189-191 Hoehner

[21] ibid. pp 192-193

[22] Richards, Op.cit. p 895

[23] ibid. “Essenes” pp 346-347

[24] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. “Dead Sea Scrolls.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 1. 1979; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 395-398. This section features William Sanford LaSor as contributor.

[25] ibid. pp 399-401

[26] ibid. pp 400-403 [The bulk of this information on the Qumran is from the work of William S. LaSor titled The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972]

[27] Barker, Op.cit. p 1427

[28] Hanson, Kenneth “The Wicked Priest” Dead Sea Scrolls: the Untold Story. 1997; Council Oaks Books, Tulsa, OK; p 82

[29] Richards, Op.cit. “Pharisees” p 782

[30] Barker, Op.cit. “Jewish Sects” p 1473

[31] ibid.

[32] Richards, Op.cit.

[33] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 192 Hoehner

[34] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 165 Metzger

[35] Wikipedia “Primary Texts” Kabbalah. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabbalah> para 2, also “History: Origin of Terms” para 1; as accessed 10/17/10

[36] Rich, Tracey R. “Resurrection and Reincarnation” Olam Ha-Ba: The Afterlife. <http://www.jewfaq.org/olamhaba.htm>  Copyright 5759-5760 (1999); Tracey R. Rich; para 4; as accessed 10/17/10

[37] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 166

[38] Confraternity of Christian Doctrine “Sirach” New American Bible. <http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/sirach/sirach3.htm> 2002; Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC; Sirach 3:20-22; as accessed 10/17/10

[39] Richards, Op.cit. “The Common People” Bible Handbook p 443

[40] ibid. “The Pharisees” p 442

[41] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 192 Hoehner

[42] Richards, Op.cit. “Sadducees” p 885

[43] Fee, Op.cit. p 132

[44] ibid.

[45] ibid. pp 132-133

[46] ibid. p 133