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Subject: concerned ...
6th October, 2004
hi, i just wanted to ask a couple questions regarding the whole "signs wonders miracles" phenomenon. my wife has gone to a conference held by fresh fire ministries (todd bentley). also a few people in our church have been influencing her beliefs. i've asked her how she feels about people who talk about having out of body experiences where they apparently talk face to face with Jesus. her answer is that the spirit of God can use any means he desires to speak to us. i'm unsure how to refute such views. recently a lady told us that she had been praying for direction and one night, and she saw the hand of God writing the answer on the wall. this lady and her husband get a lot of their direction from dreams visions and prophets. how do i deal with these issues in my home? my wife and i differ so greatly on these things. my wife believes she has the gift of tongues because she can speak jibberish while praying. we have two young children and i don't want them getting mixed messages. please consider this letter prayerfully as you answer it. thank you for your time.
15th October, 2004 - TCE replies:
thank you for taking the time to contact us.
The concerns you express are common to contemporary Christianity.
We also sought such answers when we first formed a concerned group, mainly witnessing to the cults but also facing the claims of such ministries.
We hope you also will read our second e-mail, which follows this reply to the specific points you raised. This second e-mail was written recently in reply to points expressed, often somewhat cryptically, by a Word Faith/Vineyard/Charismatic supporter called Josephine. We have included her original mails in full and, if you can find time to read it in full, other points, such as the position that 'signs and wonders' really hold in the gospel will also be made clearer, as well as more details about this branch of contemporary deception in the church.
We have read many of the claims of the 'Fresh Fire Ministries' of Todd Bentley at his web-site, including the Statement of Faith which is ostensibly orthodox and would be acceptable to most Christians. However, they have made a final addition - point 11 - which reads:
11. We recognize that God is continually restoring truths and light to His Church. We, therefore, place no limit on further revelation. However, each must be substantiated according to the Scriptures.
This is the same dangerous error the Mormons make. By claiming that 'God is continually restoring truths and light to His Church' they are going against Christ, the apostles, and the declaration of the Reformers, that sola scriptura (Scripture alone) is the standard and no further revelations would be added to His Word. By claiming: 'We, therefore, place no limit on further revelation' they are opening the floodgates to error of the kind that has thoroughly corrupted the Roman Catholic Church. Obviously, if they are serious that in 'restoring truths' the 'new' revelation is 'substantiated according to the Scriptures' then, logically, no further revelation will ever be received because it would already have been discovered in the existing Word from God. These ignorant people forget that Jesus spoke of the Spirit and said (John 16:13): '13 ... when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.' ALL truth is ALL truth - or are they claiming that Jesus was wrong and they now have 'new' truth that Jesus and the Holy Spirit did not know about?!
We also note that their link to the 'School of the Prophets November 23-27 Conference' includes this statement:
Fresh Fire Ministries is hosting this new prophetic school to train the body of Christ so it can go higher in the Spirit. God is releasing a new level of revelation that goes beyond just operating in the nine gifts of the Spirit. This new dimension involves living in the realm of the seven spirits of God (Isaiah 11:2). These spirits can rest on us just as they rested on Jesus. We are contending not just for a word of knowledge but for the Spirit of Knowledge to rest on us. A whole new model of prophetic revelation is about to be released. The Lord is calling us, not to just receive a small gift of revelation once in a while, but to live under the mantle of this abiding revelation.
TCE: again, we high-light the main points of concern in red. You would struggle to find an orthodox theologian who would agree that there are 'seven spirits of God' because you cannot support the doctrine from Scripture. Isaiah 11:2 reads:
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him - the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.
As you can read, 'seven spirits' are not even spoken about in this verse; the verse is speaking of the modes of operation of the One Perfect Spirit of God and they provide an accurate description of the coming Messiah. He was to be a descendant of King David; He was to be filled with the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 3:16); He would be a merciful but true judge of mankind. The work of the Holy Spirit in the Person of Jesus Christ included leading Him (Luke 4:1), inspiring His teaching (Luke 4:14, 15, 18), enabling Him in the working of miracles (Luke 4:18), and being involved in His offering up of Himself (Heb. 9:14), His resurrection, and His exaltation (Rom. 1:4; cf. Isaiah 42:1; 61:1).
The number seven was regarded by the Hebrews as a sacred number and it is, throughout Scripture, the covenant number or sign of God's covenant relation to mankind, and especially to the Church. The evidences of this are met in the hallowing of the seventh day; in the accomplishment of circumcision, which is the sign of a covenant, after seven days; in the part played by the number in marriage covenants and treaties of peace. It is the number of purification and consecration ( Lev. 4:6 , 17 ; 8:11 , 33 ; Num. 19:12 ) and the number of every grace and benefit bestowed upon Israel and is thus marked as flowing out of the covenant, and a consequence of it. The priests circled Jericho for seven days, and on the seventh day seven times, that all Israel would know that the city was given into their hands by God, and that its conquest was a direct and immediate result of their covenant relation to Him. Naaman was to dip in Jordan seven times, so that he would acknowledge the God of Israel as the One who healed him. It is the number of reward to those who are faithful in the covenant (Deut. 28:7 ; 1 Sam. 2:5); of punishment to those who have been removed from the covenant (Lev. 26:21, 24 , 28; Deut. 28:25), or to those who injure the people in it (Gen. 4:15, 24 ; Exo. 7:25 ; Ps. 79:12). All the feasts are ordered by seven, or else by seven multiplied by seven, and thus made more intense. Thus it is with the Sabbath, the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, of Tabernacles, the Sabbath-year, and the Jubilee. Similarly the number appears in God's dealing with nations outside the covenant, showing that He is working for Israel's sake and with respect to His covenant. It is the number of the years of plenty and of famine, as a sign that these are for Israel's sake rather than for Egypt's. Seven times pass over Nebuchadnezzar, so that he would learn that the God of his Jewish captives was king over all the earth.
Seven also occurs as a sacred number in the New Testament. There are seven beatitudes, seven petitions in the Lord's Prayer; seven parables in Matt. 13 ; seven loaves, seven words from the cross, seven deacons, seven graces (Rom. 12:6-8), seven characteristics of wisdom (James 3:17). In the Book of Revelation the prominence of the number is marked. To a remarkable extent the structure of that book is moulded by the use of numbers, especially of the numbers seven, four, and three. There are seven spirits before the throne; seven churches; seven golden candlesticks; seven stars in the right hand of Him who is like unto a son of man; seven lamps of fire burning before the throne; seven horns and seven eyes of the Lamb; seven seals of the book; and the thunders, the heads of the great dragon and of the beast from the sea, the angels with the trumpets, the plagues, and the mountains which are the seat of the mystic Babylon -- are all seven in number.
The seven named churches are chosen to symbolize the whole Church (not all the churches in Asia are meant, since the list of those addressed in the Book of Revelation does not include Colossae, Miletus, Hierapolis, or Magnesia - cf. Revelation 2:7). Seven being the number of the covenant, we have in these seven a representation of the Church universal.
So an orthodox view accepts that the 'seven Spirits of God' (spoken of in Revelation 3:1: 1 'And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead') follows the usual significance attached to numbers. The 'seven Spirits of God" must therefore be taken as a symbolic or allegorical way of expressing the full range of exercise of the Divine power in the Seven Churches, i.e. in the Universal Church as represented here by the Asian Churches.
An alternative view taken by some commentators follows the midrash teachings (ancient Rabbinical commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures) of the ancient Jews, who represented the throne of God as the throne of an eastern monarch, supposed that there were seven ministering angels before this throne, as there were seven ministers attendant on the throne of a Persian monarch. Sometimes they represent them as seven cohorts or troops of angels, under whom are thirty inferior orders. That seven angels are here meant, and not the Holy Spirit, is taken to be evident by these commentators from the place, the number, and the tradition. They also suggest these seven spirits are angels in Revelation 4:5 and 5:6, where they are called 'the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.' However, since the words 'spirits' (Greek: pneumata) clearly occurs in these three references, and the word 'angelos' could have been used if angels was meant, most Christians would accept that the Holy Ghost is intended and the number seven denotes his manifold gifts and graces, seven being the number of perfection and completeness. It is not surprising that the number seven is found fifty-four times in the final book of the Bible.
So you can see straight away that the promise of 'Fresh Fire Ministries' that 'further revelation ... must be substantiated according to the Scriptures' is an empty promise! The usual impressive claims that 'a whole new model of prophetic revelation is about to be released' is meant to impress the unwary - but we can be guaranteed that nothing that is substantial in any way whatsoever will be 'released'. Ask anyone seriously involved in this ministry (even if it has to be your wife?) to keep a diary - which you are privy to - for a whole year and, after this time, examine it together and highlight the promised revelations (knowledge, wisdom etc.) that come through this ministry. Do the same with the 'directions [from] dreams visions and prophets [that] this lady and her husband' get. If they are from God they will be 100% accurate, if not they will be no more accurate than a gypsy with a crystal ball, or magazine horoscopes, and this evidence will reveal more than any other facts that this 'Fresh Fire Christian ministry' is little more than 'hot-air' and 'smoke and mirrors.'
Do not be fooled by their expansive claims - such as that found on
http://www.freshfire.ca/default.asp [link no longer works - 2008] - that '23,000 souls were saved in Zambia'. These numbers are produced by Charismatic ministries asking to 'see hands' when announcements or proclamations of 'special anointings' or 'blessings' are made - and everyone in the congregation puts up a hand! The people who raise their hands may have already been saved for years - which is why they are at the meetings - but they simply get counted as a 'new Christian' again. The same scam has been operated at Pensacola, Toronto etc.
The tests to apply to the claims of supernatural revelations are found in Scripture, and we have detailed the basic guide on one of our pages
Essentially, if the 'revelation' does not come to pass we are to follow the advice of Deuteronomy 18:20-22 and not take heed or fear that 'prophet.' When genuine prophets of the Bible declare: "Thus says the Lord," they are claiming to be messengers from the sovereign King of Israel, namely, God himself, and they are claiming that their words are the absolutely authoritative words of God. When a prophet spoke in God's name in this way, every word he spoke had to come from God, had to come to pass, and had to be consistent with God's revelation about Himself - or he would be a false prophet (cf. Num. 22:38; Jer. 1:9; 14:14; 23:16-22; 29:31-32; Ezek. 2:7; 13:1-16).
Our web-page also details the kind of excuses used by people like Rick Joyner to try and explain away his countless prophetic failures.
To state that 'the spirit of God can use any means he desires to speak to us' is extremely dangerous and obviously opens the doors to every kind of demonic deception possible. This does not mean that those who allow such deceptions to be practiced in the name of Christ will automatically become demonised, for God is very gracious and protects ignorant Christians from much that we do wrong. But those who wilfully and continually follow deception are treading on very dangerous ground.
The 'lady ...praying for direction [who] one night ... saw the hand of God writing the answer on the wall' will not want reminding that this method of communication was used by God to bring judgement on one of His enemies (Daniel 5):
1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. 3 Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. 4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. 5 In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. 6 Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. 7 The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. 8 Then came in all the king's wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof. 9 Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied. 10 Now the queen by reason of the words of the king and his lords came into the banquet house: and the queen spake and said, O king, live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed: 11 There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers; 12 Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation. 13 Then was Daniel brought in before the king. And the king spake and said unto Daniel, Art thou that Daniel, which art of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Jewry? 14 I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee. 15 And now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known unto me the interpretation thereof: but they could not shew the interpretation of the thing: 16 And I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom. 17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: 19 And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. 20 But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: 21 And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. 22 And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; 23 But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: 24 Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written. 25 And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. 27 TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. 28 PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. 29 Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. 30 In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. 31 And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.
How can this lady know that the 'hand' writing was the 'hand of God'? In the Book of Daniel the 'finger' was that of a man! If she seriously accepts this is a means of communication from God she should consider why He is using a method which is against the New Testament pattern (see later references in main article) and was only used against His enemy! Satan is the greatest counterfeiter - everything he does has to look similar to God's real works! Accepting this method has almost certainly opened the door to occultic writing of this kind, as it has opened the door to so many other occult deceptions through the Charismatic movement. The 'dreams visions and prophets' this couple are guided by are all subject to the same Scriptural tests of Deuteronomy 18:20-22 etc. - if they do not come to pass then they are not from God. Again, you could ask for details of their 'revelations' over a period of time and then examine what the results prove. Spiritual pride will almost certainly not make them thank you for proving them wrong. The spirit of Jezebel (Revelation 2:20) is thoroughly in the church worldwide.
If you can find the time to read through our 'Savage Wolves' section - starting at this page - you will find examples of genuine guidance through the gifts of the Spirit - and some occult methods which have come into the church through 'Fresh Fire' type ministries. It is tedious to read so much about deception - but, then, there is so much of it in the church today.
Regarding 'deal[ing] with these issues in my home? Be very, very patient! Patience is, after all, part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-22):
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. GAL 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
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