Part 2: The Destroyed Foundations - The Word
The Kingdom Gospel Messenger,
Vol.8, No.4, August 1996
"I consider it [the Latter Rain revival] to be one of the most important events in the history of God's restorative plans. It's the least understood, but has had profound effect on many of the present ministries involved in what God is doing today. The Word of the Lord that came out of that revival continues to reverberate and influence Christians world-wide. It seems like the streams that flowed out from that divine encounter--Restoration, Sonship, Kingdom Now, Life, and Immortality messages--these have remained on the fringes of the mainstream Church. However, many leaders have been profoundly influenced by this revival but have not endorsed it, nor have made explicit reference to it, because of the controversies and misunderstandings of what God actually did during those times." - Paul Van Elst in a letter to Richard Riss, Feb. 1995
As the Latter Rain Movement spread out from its beginning in North Battleford, it began to coalesce into a loose movement of independent churches and ministries with varying degrees of relationship with one another. Some of the more influential centers that were identified with it beyond the "Sharon brethren" were Elim Bible Institute and Assemblies out of Lima, New York; Bethesda Missionary Temple in Detroit with Mrs. Myrtle Beall; Portland Bible Temple in Oregon; Peniel Bible Institute in Argentina, and many other places.
Among the more influential persons to emerge from these circles over the years were Ern Baxter who ministered extensively with William Branham from 1947 to 1953 and later became part of the "Ft. Lauderdale Five" Shepherding experiment of the 1970's; Bob Mumford out of Elim and John Poole, both of which were also part of the Ft. Lauderdale Christian Growth Ministries; J. Preston Eby of El Paso; Bill Britton of Springfield, Missouri; Bill Hamon of Port Washington, Florida; David Ebaugh in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Winston Nunes in Toronto; Kevin Connor who has written some profound books on Old Testament typology; Ralph Mahoney of World MAP; and many, many others too numerous to mention.
As was said in part one of this series, the period immediately following World War II was a time of broad-based revival across the spectrum of the Body of Christ around the world, with the movement that became known as the "New Order of the Latter Rain" being just one stream among many enjoying this season. In light of this, it is instructive to note that no less stalwart a promoter of Latter Rain doctrines than Bill Britton admitted that a sovereign move of the Spirit hit the Assemblies of God's Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri in the fall of 1948.1
I say this is instructive because the Latter Rain movement tended to see the Pentecostals out of which they came, to be backslidden and of the "Old Order" of things. In fact, as the movement turned more and more inward, all denominations came to be seen as "Babylon". This development reflected a view that, on the one hand, "jumped the gun" as regards what indeed will yet become the ultimate nature of the denominational system ("Mystery Babylon"), while on the other hand, does not understand that belonging to a sect of Christianity does not mean one is necessarily sectarian.2
Nevertheless, within the atmosphere of this grace being poured out upon many, it seems there must have been an assumption that somehow the blessing of God they were enjoying was therefore a sign of Divine approval upon everything they were doing, including the doctrines they were developing. The Pentecostals, however did not agree, and since it was taking root in many denominational Pentecostal churches as well as independent ones, it did not take long before friction and controversy began to erupt. Less than two years after the North Battleford outbreak, the 1949 General Council of the Assemblies of God passed a resolution officially disapproving of these new doctrines. It identified six of their biggest objections at that point:
1. The overemphasis relative to imparting, identifying, bestowing or confirming of gifts by the laying on of hands and prophecy.
2. The erroneous teaching that the Church is built on the foundation of present-day apostles and prophets.
3. The extreme teaching as advocated by the "New Order" regarding the confession of sin to man and deliverance as practiced, which claims prerogatives to human agency which belong only to Christ.
4. The erroneous teaching concerning the impartation of the gifts of languages as special equipment for missionary service.
5. The extreme and unscriptural practice of imparting personal leadings by the means of gifts of utterance.
6. Such other wrestings and distortions of Scripture interpretations which are in opposition to teachings and practices generally accepted among us.3
At that council, the venerated Stanley Frodsham, one of the pioneers of Pentecost and the Assemblies in 1916 and the editor of their magazine The Pentecostal Evangel, resigned to join the Latter Rain circles. The fact that this sort of thing had happened at all explains why the ten denominations of the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America feared the Latter Rain Movement was going to literally split the Pentecostals in two.
In another censure thereafter, the Assemblies of God, fairly or otherwise, singled out Winston Nunes as representative of the Latter Rain doctrines, even though Nunes taught a more radical idea than most that saints this side of the Second Coming "can experience the resurrection body in this life."4 Nevertheless, developments such as this indicate the directions some were beginning to take.
That Was Then, This Is Now...
What this direction was is not easy to summarize, for we are talking here about an incredibly diverse collection of teachers and doctrines that varied much in content and emphasis. It seems however that two broad categories emerged, one of a very radical bent that is little more than outright New Ageism now, and another more representative of the current status and trends.
The New Age movement is basically a return to the ancient paganisms that every people group of the earth have somewhere in their past. It believes that what we Christians call the creation is itself God, and therefore we human beings are a "part of God" too. Since God then has become depersonalized, spiritual attainment is no longer a matter of the pursuit of a right relationship with a Person by means of truth or doctrine, (and from that an accurate discernment in our experiential walk with Him). Rather, it is the pursuit of experiences per se and esoteric knowledge, from which the seeker will experience and know oneness with "God".
These mystical experiences are achieved by the pursuit of altered states of consciousness through means as varied as drugs, sex, yoga, dancing, chanting, music, fasting, frenzied emotion, epileptic fits and the like. The "enlightenment" is attained by means of esoteric gnosis or occultic ("hidden") "knowledge" whereby the initiate walks an ever-ascending path to deeper and deeper levels of "truth" akin to that which was promised by the serpent in the Garden whereby "your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Gen 3:4).
These New Age beliefs have been translated by some into a "Christian" form whereby terms and concepts found in the Bible are redefined to take on New Age content. Prominent in this sort of trend have been people like Barbara Marx Hubbard, the Catholic theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, psychologist M. Scott Peck, Presbyterian Bruce Larson, and many others. In this scheme of things, Jesus Christ is not God incarnate but a high level adept who, through "revelation knowledge", attained to the "Christ principle" or "Christ anointing". So likewise, since there's a little spark of God in everyone, we too can follow in Jesus' steps and attain to the same "God consciousness".
Within the Latter Rain logic that the Church is Christ's Body and that during the Manifestation of the Sons era, believers will experience a corporate "spiritual Second Coming" in them, this radical version simply goes a step further and states that all believers are God. LR teachers like Irene Lindsay and Al Henderson have stated as much.5 Norman Grubb, biographer of his famous missionary father-in-law C.T. Studd, left his position as a stalwart of Evangelicalism to form Union Life, and is now teaching that, "If everything is He [sic] in one form or another, negative or positive, then there is nothing in the universe but He...Nothing but God exists."6
A similar kind of thinking can be found within the Faith Movement wherein Kenneth Copeland, Frederick Price, Casey Treat and many others speak of the Christian as "a little god" who, by means of "revelation knowledge", can learn to control life's circumstances to one's advantage. This is pure metaphysics, and ironically a far cry from the Biblical concept of faith as, for an example, trust in a God who sometimes leads us into circumstances we would not ordinarily want, and then delivers us in what time and way seems good to Him.
That this radical version of Latter Rain teachings was capable of going so far as into outright cultism is illustrated by the story of John Robert Stevens and his network of churches called, "The Walk". Stevens, a Pentecostal pastor who was in his early days "mighty in the Scriptures", nonetheless had some serious traits that did him in. One was a predilection to want to hear anything "new", no matter what, nor from whom. He seemed to be always looking for "new revelation". Another was his fiercely independent spirit.
Then, by his own admission, Stevens in 1950 disobeyed the Lord's warning for him not to get involved with the Latter Rain. Instead he allowed Winston Nunes to lay hands on him, changing his life forever but in the wrong direction. Stevens developed his network of some 94 churches thereafter by teaching his people that he was not just an Apostle, but the Apostle of the Kingdom who would break through into the ultimate revelation "in the heavenlies", leading his flock into it with him. Basing his views on such a subjective foundation, it is not surprising to find that he eventually got into the occultic practices of spiritualism, reading auras, astral projection, psychic warfare, hypnosis and what amounted to "white witchcraft" (but witchcraft all the same).7 Stevens and The Walk are to this day universally considered among researchers to be a cult.
An affinity of the Latter Rain people with the later Word of Faith movement was also founded in other similar or mutually-held concepts as we shall see. But the contact may have been established almost from the beginning. For the Latter Rain people, like most Pentecostals of their day, felt particularly drawn to the great healing revival of the late 1940's and early 50's wherein many evangelists--(now Word of Faith teachers) such as Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts, T.L. Osborn and others--got their start, and wherein some cross-pollination may have already begun to take place..
But with their being ostracized from the Pentecostal denominational churches, many Latter Rain teachers were forced to keep a low profile, develop their "revelations" and doctrines, and wait for a better atmosphere to work within. It is this reality that may have contributed to the practice among some to remain coy about what they believe, as the quote at the beginning put it, "because of the controversies and misunderstandings" surrounding them.
This "better atmosphere" came about with the inception of the Charismatic Movement in the 1950's. The Charismatic Renewal was the attempt to bring Pentecost to the mainline churches, since the mainline churches would not come to Pentecost. The resulting blessing was mixed however, because with the ministry of the Holy Ghost came the need to accommodate everyone and their beliefs. The outcome was a much greater emphasis on "unity", but not a unity based on the pursuit or discussion of truth as on downplaying truth so as not to offend anyone.
This however, suited the Latter Rain teachers just fine, because it provided a setting wherein new and novel "third-party" theologies could respectably fill the doctrinal vacuum, and if the Latter Rain doctrines were anything, they were certainly new and novel. In fact, this situation was so tailor-made to their purposes that Bill Hamon, a leader in the development of Latter Rain prophets, entitled a chapter in his book "The Eternal Church": "The Charismatic Movement--An Expansion of the Latter Rain Movement".8
The Charismatic Ecumenical Renewal provided them many things:
(1) A Body of Christ out of which they could form the Manchild Company;
(2) The opportunity to create a "paradigm shift" in the Church away from theology to experience to prepare the people to receive the revelatory leadership of the coming Apostles and Prophets;
(3) the opportunity to offer a false unity based upon submission to these ecclesiastical authorities, and
(4), the opportunity at the same time to come out smelling like roses, appearing as real heroes for "peace and unity", even while they await to fill the vacuum with their own divisive doctrines.
I know that my descriptions of all this make it sound like a sinister plot on their part. Perhaps I'm looking at it as if I were watching the Devil's strategy behind it all. Nor do I wish to impugn evil motives to well-intentioned people. But that's the problem in dealing with deceived people--they may have all the best intentions in the world and yet still be just as dangerous as if they were bent on evil.
What I would like to do here is take a look at the doctrinal beliefs of the Latter Rain as they have developed since their early days-- that "less radical" category of LR doctrine, but wrong all the same. As I do, I would like to stress that it is not my intention to lump all people who embrace such ideas in total or in part, as being cut from whole cloth, as if they all believe the same things or to the same degree. In fact, one of the most commons traits of Latter Rain teachers is that they often seem to have an aversion to being categorized as "Latter Rain", or of being identified with others in the movement.
This is so for any of several reasons. Some, as was said, are very coy, not wanting people to know exactly "where they're coming from", so they hold back, perhaps thinking, based on Jn 16:12, Mk 4:33 and the like, that the people are not able to hear all that they have to say yet. Others are either so individualistic, dishonest, or embarrassed by the public perception of Latter Rain doctrines that they deny they are part of it at all. Others still are probably happy for all the welter of opinions, for it allows them to hide and be all over the map, similar to the ways of our current President.
But to try to understand everyone's particular beliefs or combinations thereof is a yeoman's task and beyond my time and resources to check out. What I want to do is deal more with the ideas themselves rather than the personalities involved, so that you the reader can get a picture of where all this is headed. If I seem to lump people together or misrepresent what they believe, please know that I am trying my best to be accurate in the midst of a very complex and confusing situation.
To sum up their view of their mission, Latter Rain teacher Preston Eby characterizes their movement as a people,
being prepared for the coming THIRD OUTPOURING which shall finally bring the FULLNESS, a company of overcoming sons of God who have come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ to actually dethrone Satan, casting him out of the heavenlies, and finally binding him in the earthlies, bringing the hope of deliverance and life to all the families of the earth. This third great work of the Spirit shall usher a people into full redemption--free from the curse, sin, sickness, death and carnality.9
In contrast, British researcher Tricia Tillin, who has done some tremendous work in tracking the development of the Latter Rain and New Age movements, sums it up by saying that,
the Church must be restored and equipped by the fivefold ministries and ultimately it must come to full perfection and a complete physical unity, and out of that purified Church must come a spiritual elite core, a corporate Christ who possess the Spirit without measure. And this corporate Christ will purge the earth and the Church of all wickedness and rebellion. They will judge the "apostates", redeem the land, bring in the Kingdom, and even ultimately will overcome death, through a counterfeit of the Rapture. And then the Church united will inherit the earth and rule over it from the throne of God.10
Here are the doctrines of the Latter Rain as they have been developing into their ultimate logic:
1. New Revelations
Although I do not like starting with this subject because it is hard to illustrate without bringing up other doctrines, still, it is so foundational to everything else that it deserves to be mentioned first. Its importance is due to the fact that "New Order truths" cannot be established until the "Old Order truths" are superseded. And this is accomplished by creating a "new paradigm" or model for judging anything, away from reason, rationality, theology, doctrine and the like to "direct revelation" by the Spirit.
This version of warmed-over Gnosticism acts as if the Word of God is not itself God's revelation to man. Furthermore, if Christians have a problem walking in the Spirit it's the fault of the believer who uses poor judgment, poor reasoning, poor discernment, poor exegesis, or a poor application of biblical principles in any given situation.
Moreover, it plays off the half-truth that there are two meanings for the term, "new revelation". The first is a valid idea, that of getting illumination from the Holy Spirit into that which the Bible already teaches. In the last days for instance, I believe the Holy Spirit will be giving the Church more light on the meaning of various symbolic events and the like in the book of Revelation.
But it's the second sense of "new revelations" that is making for the subtle shift in the Church's basis for establishing what is truth. "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth", Jesus prayed at the Last Supper (Jn 17:17). The foundation of determining what is true and real for the Christian is the Word of God. For him, it is not a matter of what he thinks, how he feels, what he has experienced. It is, what has God said? This is what it means to have faith, that we believe God's testimony, not our own.
When I came to the Lord, I was so blind to my true nature that, despite the fact that I agreed in principle that I must be a sinner, it was during the next six months that I really began to experience and see how deep my sin nature ran. Yet all that time I was saved because I believed in God's record of me. And that record said that when I knew God, I glorified Him not as God, and as a result my foolish heart became darkened (Ro 1:21). It just took some time before my experience began to catch up with what I believed the Word of God taught.
The Charismatic Church world today is awash however, in subjective experiences, most of which are either badly misinterpreted if not outright imaginations of our own hearts (Jer 23:16). And the Latter Rain people who, of course, are right in the middle of all this, would never admit that that is what they are promoting because one can always find Scripture to prove anything one wants to. But that in reality is what happens, and within the modern day Charismatic circles (whether they realize it or not), is an atmosphere drowning in subjectivity trying to determine what "things" the Holy Spirit is "saying" today.
One example from the early days is found in the words of George Hawtin in a letter he wrote to a friend explaining that when they were seeking the new revelations, "soon we found that the familiar doctrines previously taught and the subjects studied have a strange sense of being removed from us, as though they had become past truth instead of present truth."11 A second is found in the very way the "Manifested Sons of God" doctrine was "revealed". At an affiliated Bible school in Edmonton, Alberta, it was claimed that the Spirit swept into the classroom one day and:
...all began to prophesy together. This great demonstration was accompanied by a vision of the Manifestation of the Sons of God in the last days of this dispensation. This mighty army was seen conquering all before it. Sickness and disease were vanishing, and all evil spirits were seen scattered before the triumphant power of God's people.12
Later, a Pentecostal named Cornelius Jaenen wrote of this event this way:
Spiritualistic trends were evident in the doctrine of the "manifestation of the Sons of God". The doctrine originated from the predictive prophesyings of Rev. E. Crane of the Northwest Bible Institute in Alberta. He believed that he had seen a vision of the victorious saints as a mighty army...His entire class was affected by his belief and soon there grew the doctrine that the "elect" would receive "redemptive bodies" here and now and that any person who died had not been able to "appropriate the redemption body"13 and was therefore not one of the "overcomers". In the final analysis, to be an "overcomer" meant affiliation with the Sharon Group. Affiliation alone was believed to give hope of "manifestation".14
To bring this sort of approach to determining truth more up to date, one could cite hundreds of examples large and small of how people are getting "new revelation" direct from God. They range from Oral Roberts' claim some ten years ago to have discovered that Jesus was actually rich, to Benny Hinn's claim that Adam must have been able to fly like the birds in order to have had dominion over them,15 to Kenneth Copeland's claim that Jesus went down to hell to do "mortal combat" with the devil--just fill in your favorite Charismatic personality vying to outdo the next in whatever is "new".
Another more recent example was provided by the "Gathering of the Eagles" conferences at Whistler Mountain in British Columbia. These meetings of intercessors from around the world were held to seek the next stage beyond Toronto. Since it is common in Latter Rain circles to want to "pierce the veil of the flesh" so that the Spirit can be released, one of the goals of this gathering then, was a desire by many to have the Holy Spirit "remove the veil from their faces" to "see the visible glory of God".
These kinds of terminology give a new and mystical content to what the Bible plainly describes in other terms. The "veil over the face" is said to be the Old Testament now taken away in Christ (II Cor 3:13,14). And the "veil of the flesh" is said to be Christ's flesh, through which we already have access into the holiest of all. The revelation people are seeking for we already have in the Scriptures, but apparently there's not enough fleshly excitement in just that.
All this plethora of new doctrines that result from such "revelations" adds up to the same effect that the Roman Catholic teaching magisterium had in their claim to possess the right to promulgate "new" revelation beyond that of the Scriptures, except this time, instead of it being Popes and cardinals, it's going to be Apostles and Prophets.
As a footnote to all this, I do not in any way dispute the importance of "getting revelation". What I dispute is the nature and content of the revelation they're getting. These people sure don't come to the same conclusions I do from the experiences I am having in the Spirit. The things I see confirm for me what the Bible already teaches and consistently show how far off all this is.
2. Dominion Lost
Al Dager in his book, "Vengeance Is Ours", a critique of Dominion theology, says that Dominionism in essence believes,
when Adam sinned, not only did man lose dominion over the earth, but God also lost control of the earth to Satan. Since that time, some say, God has been on the outside looking in, searching for a "covenant people" who will be His "extension" or "expression" in the earth to take dominion back from Satan. According to dominionist interpretation, this is the meaning of the Great Commission.
Some teach that this is to be accomplished through certain "overcomers" who, by yielding themselves to the authority of the latter-day apostles and prophets, will take control of the kingdoms of this world...Most especially...the "kingdom" of politics or government.16
This doctrine of "what happened in the Garden" is a good example of the common ground people like Latter Rain and the Word of Faith people hold in common. And it has been taught so much over and over again in Charismatic circles that many people do not even realize this is not at all what the Bible teaches on the fall of man. The Bible does not teach, "The earth will be the Lord's, and the fullness thereof, just as soon as God's covenant people wake up and get revelation knowledge of who they are and take back what Satan stole from them." It says, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof" (Psa 24:1), way back there in the Old Testament, no less.
In other words, the Bible teaches that when Adam and Eve sinned, man was lost to God. God did not lose the earth to Satan, and then had to come up with some kind of a "legal way" to get it back! When II Cor 4:4 calls Satan the "god of this world", it does not mean Satan stole it from Adam and therefore now God is kind of locked out. It means Satan is the head of this world's values and its attitude toward God--the quintessential example of rebellion against Him and therefore the leader, whether men realize it or not, of their rebellion as well (Ro 1:18,19; 5:10, etc.). He has been allowed here from the beginning by God to test man. God's hands have certainly not been tied, waiting for Jesus to come along and "legally get it back from Satan" on the cross, and now waiting for His people to "rise up and take their covenant rights". All this betrays a false understanding of why Jesus Christ had to die the way He did17 and what it means to serve God in the "new and living way".
Such ideas of course play upon man's natural ambitions, vanity and propensity for "works-based" religion, but they woefully miss the point of what God is trying to accomplish in our lives. God has no legal problems with any of His creation because He owes none of us anything. The only legal problem you could cite is the broken law problem, and this God took care of with the atoning death of Christ.
This other thinking denies God His sovereignty and totally misses His purposes and ways in how He deals with man. Further, the entire drift of Scripture is that the Church cannot save herself, nor the world with its "broad way", but that she must wait for Christ's return to deliver her from all her afflictions and the earth from Armageddon (II Thess 1:7; Mt 24:13; Lu 21:12-19; Rev 13:7, etc.).
The truth about the so-called dominion doctrine is that the Bible teaches that God gave man dominion over the animals--the beasts, the fowl, and the fishes--and that in the sense of a stewardship to use them but treat them in a humane and ecologically-responsible way. This is the extent of man's "dominion" as taught in Gen 1:26, 28 and Psa 8:6-8. There is no permission given to lord it over one's fellow man but instead to serve him (Mt 20:26). Dominionism is the spirit of the Gentiles (Mk 10:42).
And as far as demonic principalities and powers are concerned, they will remain up there until "he [Christ] shall have put down all rule and all authority and power" (I Cor 15:24), and that will not happen until the Second Coming (Rev 20:1-3). The fact that Revelation 14:13,14 tells of the release of high level demons just before Armageddon speaks volumes about the Latter Rain's disrespect for Scripture.
3. The Restoration of All Things
As it is with so much that is wrong in Latter Rain doctrine, the concept of "restoration" is built upon half truths. I personally do believe that the Reformation was an attempt to restore what had been lost during the Medieval Roman Catholic rule, and that that restoration process is an ongoing thing, to return us to the simplicity and power of the first century Church.
But when the Latter Rain speaks of "Restoration", what they mean goes far beyond what one might assume it means. For one thing, one of their big goals is to see the "restoration of the Apostles and Prophets". Now, if one were to ask me if I believe in that, I would have to say, "Both yes and no". "Yes" in the sense that I do believe that since the Reformation began, the ministries of the apostle and prophet have not been consciously developed that much and could use some more refinement and definition.
But "no" in the sense that I do not believe the offices of the apostle and prophet have ever been totally lost, although the former are probably called missionaries in a cross-cultural context, and church planters or fatherly overseers in a domestic one. Likewise, there have always been ministers with a distinct prophetic anointing and call on them to some degree. A.W. Tozer or Finney of previous generations I would see in such a light, although I'm sure neither of them would have characterized themselves as such.
But the "coming of the Apostles and Prophets" here means neither of these things. What is meant is not the restoration of their ministries so much as the supposed restoration of their authority. This of course confuses the difference between ecclesiastical authority and spiritual authority, as if the two were the same. Nevertheless, these people believe that the Church is seriously "out of Divine order" until these people are received as such, with the implication, I gather, that that acceptance will come when God's patience dries up and people who oppose these self-proclaimed authorities start dropping dead.
But the Latter Rain concept of Restoration goes far beyond just this to the idea of the restoration of the entire earth back to the pre-Fall days in the Garden. And it's not just that, it's the when and how of it that is so amazing.
When -- Acts 3:21 speaks of Jesus Christ, "Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution [restoration] of all things". How much plainer can it be that the restoration will not take place until what time the heavens give back Jesus Christ? And that won't be until His Second Coming (Rev 19:11ff)? Until then, though the Kingdom is here in the Spirit and in the hearts of men (Lu 17:21), it is still postponed (Acts 1:6,7) until He returns as He left (1:11). And even at this, the fullness of the restoration will not come until the eternal state (Rev 21:1), after a partial restoration during the Millennium (Isa 65:20, etc.).
How -- The Latter Rain believes the Church is going to evolve to such a point of perfection and miracle power that it will usher in the Kingdom for the Lord on the earth before He even gets here. This is because they see themselves as Christ on the earth. The amazing bit of twisted logic behind this is that since the Church is His Body, then the Church is Christ (with but an easy step to that radical "union with God" concept mentioned at the beginning).
Now, since part of the body is the shoulders and Isaiah 9:6 says, "The government shall be upon his shoulders", then, in their Gnostic, hyper-spiritualized, almost-Talmudic way of thinking, the Church on earth becomes the government of God. Thus it is that British Restorationist John Noble in his book, "House Churches: Will They Survive?" can write, "When the government is clearly seen to be upon His shoulders [i.e., the Church], we shall become a light and a testimony to a totally new order, which finds its source and strength coming from the throne of God. The river of life will support trees whose fruit will be for the healing of the nations."18
The implications are clear here. The "totally new order" he is talking about is a Christian New Age brought upon the earth by the knowledge and unity appropriated by the Church. We however, know that it is the New World Order to which all this is headed (although I'm sure Mr. Noble is blinded to this and would vigorously deny it). And we also know that the outcome of this attempt by the Church to portray itself as a lamb until it consolidates its power, will be a checkmate by these world powers, thus destroying her (according to Rev 17:16,17).
Likewise, it's no longer the one specific tree of life found in the eternal state in heaven that heals the nations of the redeemed (Rev 22:2). In true Gnostic fashion, and perhaps with an inappropriate cross reference to people as "trees of righteousness" in Isa 61:3, the Church is now declared to be the "trees of life".
Furthermore, since another part of the body is the feet, and the Scriptures say "he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet" (I Cor 15:25), it's the Church's heritage to fully conquer in Canaan land, to put her feet on the necks of her enemies, whether natural or demonic, whether inside or outside the Church. Francis Frangipane, commenting on Psa 110 has said, "The Church is the feet of Jesus. And God has promised Jesus that He will train your feet and use them to tread down and crush your enemies."19 Even when such words are in reference to demonic enemies, the use of such language usually leads to more radical applications.
In Hebrews chapter 4, the primary, contextual meaning for "the rest" that remaineth for the people of God--the "rest" that Joshua could not bring the people into (Heb 4:8)--is that it's a symbol of heaven, whereunto Jesus, the great High Priest, has passed for us (vs. 14). Canaan, the "promised land" here, is a type of heaven, with the river Jordan a type of physical death through which one enters, as the American slaves used to sing about in their spirituals.
Bygone and spiritually-minded generations went a step further and spiritualized that "rest" in terms of a level of sanctification saints could enter into, fighting and taking ground in the spirit.
But such heavenly and spiritually-minded attainments are not good enough for the Restorationist people. Canaan to them has now become their earthly inheritance that they have a right to as the Sons of God. Terry Virgo of New Frontiers Ministries, considered an Apostle among the British Restoration churches, has stated thus:
Many who thank God for their deliverance from spiritual Egypt have no concept of God's purpose in bringing them into Canaan. Unfortunately, many people today think of Canaan as going to heaven when they die. In Moses' understanding though, what lay beyond Jordan was the land, the city, the temple.20
What he means here by the land is a literal land (the earth) to possess (despite Heb 11:16). The city is akin to Augustine's city of God on the earth to populate. And the temple is one of living stones out of which the last days shekinah glory will emanate. And although the last generation will reveal the shekinah glory to some degree and in some sense, that is a far sight different than an Ishmaelic, ecumenical Church laying claim to such.
Furthermore, this is not only our heritage they claim, but it's the only option open to God. Bryn Jones, another British apostle writing in Restoration Magazine (1986) has said,
God had intended to rule all creation through man. That was plan A. Now that man was in rebellion, what was God's Plan B? He had no Plan B. God's original and only intention was in Psa 8--'You made man ruler over the works of Your hands. You put everything under his feet.' 21
How this concept of restoration is affecting the meaning of evangelism in the Church is a whole study of its own. Briefly, there's a shift taking place away from the idea of soul winning crusades to the idea of "winning whole nations" that resembles more and more a glorified membership drive. Remember, numbers are essential to pull all this off, so the emphasis is not so much on the born-again crisis brought about through the preaching of repentance and faith, but developing a "combine strategy" of bringing in whole nations and cultures. But more of this at a later time.
4. An Evolving Church
Our modern day secular world is laboring under a delusion at this hour that is a half truth at best, that mankind is in an evolutionary process into higher and higher levels of spirituality, morality and consciousness. While it is true that man's technology is evolving, that his knowledge, as Dan 12:4 predicted, is increasing, and that material wealth is being accumulated in amounts previously unthinkable, still, morally and spiritually, man is not evolving, he's degenerating!
For instance, while it is true that some parts of the world are more humane and enlightened than they were just a few centuries ago, the influence of Darwinism and its "survival of the fittest" philosophy along with atheism and religious fanaticism has at the same time rendered the 20th Century one of the most amoral and brutal in history. Even today in "humane" America, there's a continuing slaughter of the unborn that rivals the philosophy of the Nazis. Relativism in ethics, continued high crime levels, and a resurgence of the occult tell the same story. Likewise, spiritually speaking, the resurgence of ancient paganism through the New Age movement is causing man to regress from what the West, at least, once knew.
Within the Latter Rain, there is a similar half truth that is creating a lot of presumption regarding the supposed evolution of the Church. While it is true that modern day transportation and communications are making the work of the Great Commission such that more souls are being saved and saved faster than ever before, still the internal weaknesses of the Church they are bringing people into are rendering the converts anemic or subject to the same falling away that is already beginning to manifest in the Body itself.
Likewise, I also believe that our generation does understand some things regarding, say, the operation of the gifts of the Spirit more than people a century ago did. And we do have more and better tools in the areas of Biblical research, archaeology and the like. And there has been a steady recovery of the fivefold ministries (in some ways) since Pre-Reformation times. And in some ways I do believe, for instance, that the glory of this latter day house will be greater than that of the former. I believe this because I do agree somewhat with the LR idea that the last days outpouring will be of a power of both the former and latter rains combined upon a remnant Church (Joel 2:23).
But what I do not at all agree with them about is the supposed evolution of the spirituality and unity of the Church and upon who this great visitation will fall. Here we have a Church world awash in celebrity cults, hype, slick magazines lifting up men instead of Christ, selling out Christ Jesus for a handful of silver, sacrificing His truth for the sake of both secular and religious politics, whipping up crowds into a carnal frenzy in the name of the anointing, unable to discern between God, the flesh and the Devil (and apparently not caring), steeped in material prosperity, humanistic psychology, ecumenical compromise, and seeking to exercise dominion as much as any prince of the Gentiles (Mt 20:25), and this is the culmination of God's supposed centuries-long work of maturing a Church for the end times?! When I think of the Wesleys and the Whitefields and the Finneys and the Booths and the sincerity of the multitudes of the martyrs of the ages who lived and died for Christ, unsung and unnoticed and then I think of this generation, I wonder if we have any humility left in us at all!
And yet this is the very work that the Latter Rain people so glory in--bringing"unity" to this all-but apostate situation--until the Church stops operating as a collection of redeemed individuals and starts operating as "one new man in the earth"--a clear distortion of Eph 2:15. But here it is all the same. British Restorationist apostle Arthur Wallis, now deceased, wrote that the Church must look beyond its present attitude to:
God's ultimate purpose, [a Church like] one man, striding the earth, having come to the fullness of his manhood...the corporate Christ, the spiritual Body in unison with the unseen Head, having come to a mature man...and displaying throughout the earth the power and glory of God just as Jesus did at the beginning. This is God's supreme purpose for the age.23
As we go about "striding the earth", we ought to note that all this is based on two big assumptions. One, that the Church has heretofore not been operating as a "corporate man" merely because these critics do not see an outward, organizational manifestation of the Body of Christ in operation. And two, to assume that the Dominion view of Restoration is a restoration of what the first century Church actually had under the Apostles.
The Scriptures picture the Body of Christ as a mystical, invisible organism with every believer playing the role of an "member" or organ whether or not human eyes can see it happening. "The wind blows where it wishes...you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit" (Jn 3:8). Granted, the Reformation has been slow in getting all believers to participate in their individual priestly ministries. But according to Restorationist doctrine, once this "corporate man" is under their control, that's when it will be very identifiable because now everyone is "in Divine order" under the heretofore supposedly-missing Apostles and Prophets. But if it's true that the problem with modern-day Christianity is a matter of structure, hierarchy and human authority, then these "Restorationists" are going to be hard-pressed to resist the next step in their logic, which is that they must turn everything back over to Rome since she has been quintessential in these forms and answers.
As far as the second assumption about restoring to the first century Church model is concerned, there seems to be something of a contradiction here. For on the one hand, there seems to be the idea that the last days Church is going to be so advanced and evolved as to far surpass what the early Church had. Yet on the other hand, there is the idea that the goal is to merely restore the early Church and its structure.
I would not have so much of a problem with the latter idea if it were not for the vision they have of what the early Church was really like. The early Church was distinguished by its spirituality, its humility, it collegiality, and its koinoneia (fellowship), not an airtight, hierarchical structure headed by the Apostles. The main function of the Apostles in the early Church was to serve as witnesses to the life and resurrection of Christ and bearers of the doctrinal standard for the Gospel. In time their writings served to complete the Bible which in effect took over these functions from them. Meanwhile, historical records indicate that the "lesser apostles" settled into the pattern of being missionaries.
But their place in structural authority was much different. Paul seemed to want to get the churches he began to be self-governing and on their own two feet as quickly as possible (Acts 14:23), and many times declined the opportunity to use his authority lest it give the wrong impression or set the wrong example (I Cor 9:15, 18; 16:12; II Cor 1:24; 6:3; 11:7-20; II Thess 3:8,9; Pl'mn 8,9,14, etc.) The fact that Paul puts "governments" seventh in his list in I Cor 12:28 suggests that the roles of the apostle, prophet and teacher were not primarily a matter of this.
Much more could be said about this but it would distract from our main concern here. But this is the Dominion view of an evolving Church, inexorably moving on to its ultimate maturity in the twilight of the Pre-Millennial age. Back in 1975, Ern Baxter of the "Ft. Lauderdale Five" fame (but originating out of the Latter Rain circles of the late 40's and early 50's) gave an address at a large Charismatic gathering. In it he gave the usual Dominion claim that the Church has been waiting all these centuries to come into its "fullness", meaning a corporate ministry, so that:
under His authority, the redeemed community might become the means whereby He would establish God's sovereign right in His own redeemed earth...He's saying...I will build a congregation that will succeed. They'll kick the gates of hell in...they'll prostrate Satan's plans...I am going to have a people who will come under the reign of My Father and who will become, indeed, a theocratic community in the earth that will attract the attention of men! Therefore, all nations will be forced to declare that the sending of Jesus Christ was the ultimate answer to earth's need of an alternative society...
God's people are going to start to exercise rule, and they're going to take dominion over the power of Satan. They're going to bring diabolical princes down. The dark powers that hover over the parliament buildings of the nations are going to be paralyzed by the corporate prayer of an authoritative community. As the rod of His strength goes out of Zion, He'll change legislation. He'll chase the devil off the face of God's earth, and God's people together, doing the will of God, will bring about God's purposes and God's reign.24
The idea is fairly clear here. The earth has been waiting all these years for God's people to rise up and take authority over man and devil (as if this hasn't been tried many times before anyhow!) Moreover, the stated reason it hasn't happened yet is that somehow the best wine, the greatest revelations of "God's purposes" have been saved for last. Al Dager adroitly points out the absurdity of this:
The dominionists, in effect, tell us that God planned for the Church to walk in darkness, unable to grasp the truths necessary to mature believers to the stature (and even the nature) of Christ, until latter-day apostles and prophets arrived on the scene.25
- Latter Rain by Richard Riss, (Mississauga, Ont:Honeycomb Visual Productions), 1987, pp. 80-81.
- J. Roswell Flower, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God at the time wrote that, "among those who have turned in their credentials and withdrawn from the fellowship in recent months are a few who claim they now have a revelation of the body of Christ, and therefore find it inconsistent to be associated with a 'sectarian' denomination." Riss, p. 125.
- Ibid, p. 119.
- John Robert Stevens and The Church of the Living Word, unpublished manuscript by the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, P.O. Box 4308, Berkeley, CA 94704, p. 38.
- Kingdom Theology by Peter Lalonde, Omega-Letter, April, 1987, p. 8.
- Ibid, p. 9.
- Spiritual Counterfeits Project, pp. 33, 63, 106, etc.
- The Eternal Church by Bill Hamon, (Pt. Washington, FL: Christian International Publishers), 1981, pp. 238ff.
- Riss, p. 143.
- Tricia Tillin, Apostasy and the Year 2,000 Conference, Nov.25, 1995, tape 2.
- From the archives of the Assemblies of God, Springfield, MO.
- Riss, p. 96.
- Sounds like the Word of Faith attitude towards healing.
- Riss, p. 96.
- Christianity In Crisis by Hank Hanegraff, (Eugene,OR: Harvest House), 1993, p. 119.
- "Vengeance Is Ours" by Albert James Dager, (Redmond, WA: Sword Publishers), 1990, p. 44.
- See the July, 1994 Kingdom Gospel Messenger, "The Secret of Finney's Success" for the what and why of Christ's atoning death.
- Quoted by Tillin in "Apostasy" conference, tape 2. Emphasis added.
- Hamon, pp. 115-371.
- Lalonde, p. 7. Emphasis added.
- Dager, p. 114.
© 1995-2013 Tricia Tillin of Banner Ministries. All rights reserved. Cross+Word Website: http://www.banner.org.uk/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.