1. Beware the Scripture Twisters
When we examine the passages of Scripture concerning deception in the church, we find important Scriptural qualifications for a spiritual ministry as well as numerous warnings in both Old and New Testaments against false prophets and leaders. Scripture sets out definite qualifications for a spiritual ministry, but also presents clear disqualifications! The Bible makes it clear that, no matter what deception Satan attempts, God has already supplied the answer. If one Scripture is twisted then another quickly shows that the "Scripture twisting" is unacceptable. The Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormon "prophets" are notorious for this attempted treatment of the Bible. Scripture also makes it clear that a large part of the deception is with the full collusion of the deceived, for the Word of God clearly states that He will allow those who deliberately follow the false, despite the clear and obvious evidence all around them, to follow their own desires to believe a lie:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:18-32)
And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12)
True and false prophets were plainly on the scene both in Israel and in the early church, and present-day experiences of deception are vividly explained and illustrated in the Bible. There are many warnings in Scripture, and many of them from before the time of the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, concerning the appearance of false prophets, Messiah's and deceivers in "the last days." Careful study of the prophecies concerning the events leading up to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ leads many to believe that they are being fulfilled in this generation, and it is therefore quite surprising that the Church takes very little note of the warnings given about these deceivers. In the light of the obvious infiltration of the church by forces which have more in common with the 'old' Gnosticism of the apostle's era we have no hesitation in saying that the church has become blasé and so resigned to heresies within the Church, and the denials of Christian truth from supposed leaders, that we no longer consider seriously the warnings about deceivers. Worst of all, those who some might consider to hold the strongest view against these errors, e.g., those who have had the "best" training in Bible Colleges, often hold the most liberal and heretical views.
Many people hold the view typified by these comments: "There have always been errors in the Church, so what is so special about today?" "It is not important that we believe in the Trinity. Arius held one of many views, why shouldn't we expect to see him in heaven?" "Kenneth Copeland preaches nearly 100% truth - surely the little error he comes out with doesn't nullify the whole of his ministry?"
In many of these conversations (often with men supposedly trained to hold a leader's role as pastors) it became clear that the views they held hardly varied from the doctrines held by so many in the cults. Is it any wonder that the church is in the mess that exists today when so many of our supposed training grounds produce heretics because the men and women training them (despite Scripture denying the authority of women over men - 1 Timothy 2:12-15) are heretics themselves?! Satan already has his minions working hard in the church, and young men have left churches in Cardiff for London Bible College and totally lost their faith within a year of arriving amongst these wolves!
Satan knows his days are numbered and the inspired Apostle Paul warned us clearly against this cunning enemy who would even disguise himself as 'an angel of light' (2 Corinthians 11:14). Some expect Satan's counterfeit today to be more cunning and devious than in previous history. I don't believe this has yet been seen - but I do expect the anti-Christ to live up to the warnings given in Scripture - and who can say, for sure, how far from power this foul creature may be at this time?
There are many watchmen who have seen Satan blinding and deceiving the saints, in their own fellowships and in other fellowships and denominations, and have been amazed at the naïveté of Christians. The gift of discernment of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10) has never been needed more than it is now, but if Christians would carefully read the Bible and prayerfully reflect on the Scriptures then many believers would be saved from the snare of Satan and a lot of sadness and heartache would be avoided. We read in Ephesians 4:11-26:
11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. 17 This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. 25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH, EACH ONE of you, WITH HIS NEIGHBOUR, for we are members of one another. 26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.
Really all of this passage could be highlighted - for it all applies. Anyone who has read their Bible regularly for a number of years has no reason not to understand the major doctrines of Christianity - unless they have sought answers to their questions from a deceiver, or deceivers. Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit will lead us into ALL truth (John 16:13):
"But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come."
The Holy Spirit is a Person - not an "it" as the Jehovah's Witnesses maintain without Scriptural support - and He will be offended by liars who ignore the truth He brings - as Ananias and Sapphira found out (Acts 4:32ff.):
32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, 35 and lay them at the apostles' feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need. 36 And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement), 37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. 1 But a certain man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife's full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God." 5 And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 And the young men arose and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. 7 Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter responded to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?" And she said, "Yes, that was the price." 9 Then Peter said to her, "Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they shall carry you out as well." 10 And she fell immediately at his feet, and breathed her last; and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.
Notice that Scripture sees no difference between "lying to the Holy Spirit" and "lying to God." The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity and is fully God! When we consider the "knight jump exegesis," or rather "eisegesis" (reading something into the text that is not there) used by cults and heretics everywhere, we are all the more astonished that they fail to see this simple syllogism. Orthodox theologians quickly saw the truth expounded in Scripture by the Apostles - the Holy Spirit is shown by the Greek text to mean "another of the same kind" (John 14:16 - "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever"). So we have the clear message from Jesus that, as He is clearly personal and fully deity (John 1:1: 8:24,57; 5:18-24; 10:1-39; 20:28; Philippians 2:5-11 etc.) then so is the Holy Spirit. We should also recognize that, contrary to the message of the Word-Faith heretics and others, the Holy Spirit who they claim would never harm a man or woman because "He is the perfect gentleman," is quite capable of striking men and women dead on the spot! Unfortunately the mass of evidence available in the Old Testament that speaks of the fate of those who mock God is read by an unbelieving generation today - and is so often taught from pulpits today. 'God is a God of love - we should not fear Him,' they proclaim - and proceed to treat Him like a servant who must give whatever they demand of Him.
It is no coincidence that charismaniacs like Benny Hinn or the Copelands, and their followers, cannot bring themselves to teach a genuine message of "the fear of the Lord":
Job 28:28 "And to man He said, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding.'"
Acts 9:31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and, going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.
Acts 19:17 And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified.
2 Corinthians 5:11 Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.
Revelation 15:4 "Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou alone art holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE THEE, For Thy righteous acts have been revealed."
We should no longer be like babes deceived by the craftiness of deceitful humans men and Satan, but the church today is so lukewarm that we have lost "the fear of the Lord" and been deceived into looking for "love" in anything and everybody (and ignoring sin in the congregation until it is too late!), rather than being wary of the wolf in sheep's clothing and becoming mature enough to warn our brothers and sisters of the perils (Acts 20:27-31):
27 "For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 "Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.
One of the problems with the Laodicean church in the West is their arrogant belief that they could not be deceived. They seriously think that only those who are unstable, or immature, the 'ignorant and unsuspecting,' could be deceived and led astray. This is also reflected in their poor evangelism - both to the patently unsaved and to those who they deem to have followed 'another gospel'. The lukewarm church of today shows little zeal or love of the lost. Sadly, like a "good" counterfeit bank-note, the counterfeit is always designed to look exactly like the genuine article. Spiritual counterfeit is no exception, and not only may it require close examination to reveal its true nature, but failure to detect the counterfeit can also have extremely serious and damaging consequences. Confusion, discord, disruption of families, divorce, financial loss, nervous and mental disturbances and even premature deaths are some of the tragic results of counterfeit ministries. Such spiritual ills as pride, domination, delusion and even rejection of the faith can also be the direct outcome of deception.
2. Beware 'minor' experiences of deception
My first experience of the possible inroads the cults can make into a Christian fellowship was at the first church I joined, in Cardiff, after leaving the Mormons. At one of the "Prayer Breakfasts" held for the men, one of the deacons brought in a magazine that he claimed had some very interesting and challenging articles. Another deacon admitted reading this same magazine and concurred with the first opinion. When another young Christian joined me in pointing out that this magazine, the "Plain Truth," was the bait used by the Armstrong Cult (Worldwide Church of God (which has since 'reformed, but still not reverted to full orthodoxy) to lure people into joining their Ambassador College course, and thus into deception, the first deacon ungraciously threw the magazine onto the floor in front of us with a gruff invitation - "anyone who wants it can take it." No one likes to admit that they have been deceived and, sadly, this is the biggest deception of all, for they refuse to learn from the first lesson and often repeat it! Unfortunately, spiritual pride meant that the church as a whole would not admit to being deficient in any way and had lost many of its elders some years before when the new pastor announced that the "only true church was a Pentecostal church!" By this he meant spiritually gifted with the gifts being used, as described in Ephesians 4, Romans 8, and 1 Corinthians 12. But un-Scriptural cessationism (belief that the spiritual gifts were for the Apostles era and have now passed away) meant that those elders who ran away to the Heath Evangelical Church were eventually confronted by a judgement from God - an unusual brand of "heavy shepherding" at the hands of a pastor, Vernon Higham, renowned in Cardiff for disbanding elderships at his own say-so!
I don't believe that anyone who has zealously read the Bible for several years, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, can fail to spot the deceptions offered by the cults, occult and heretics within the orthodox church. I say this on the evidence of witnessing the changed lives of those saved from the cults in South Wales. The more zealous attitude displayed by those who know what they have been saved from results in intensive study and prayer - they want to know more and more about the one they love! This is Biblically displayed by Mary (Luke 10:38-42) who would rather choose the position at the feet of Jesus than the mundane 'works' orientation too often reflected by churches today. There are more hours spent planning events such as 'jumble sales', and poring over mundane details of the fabrication of the buildings at meetings, than Bible study or planning evangelism and 'mission.' As a result the actual discipleship of the few gleaned from the few 'hours of mission' each year is utterly sparse.
When a young Christian friend of ours, who had been saved out of the Mormons for only two years, was given Benny Hinn's heretical book, 'Good Morning Holy Spirit,' he highlighted every single heresy in the book at one reading! I travelled with a group of Christians from Calvary Baptist Church, Cardiff, to see Hinn 'perform' at the International Ring in Birmingham. This was shortly after Hinn had been exposed for his heresy in this book. He was now on his best behaviour and only attempted brief (and incorrect!) exposition from one verse of the Bible during the whole evening. The rest of the time was spent in the usual 'stage' performance after some desultory singing - blowing into the microphone while intoning 'fresh, fresh.' When you are watching any form of magic (whether 'sleight-of-hand' or 'supernatural') careful observation is of the utmost importance. The usual showmanship resulted in rows of people falling backwards under the 'power of the Holy Spirit.' But if you watched carefully you noticed that the ones who fell over were either on the stage with Hinn, or trapped in seats where they had to fall backwards to escape being crushed by the previous row. Unfortunately for Hinn, those who stood in the aisles behind the last row of chairs were easily able to turn and run away from the 'slaying'! None of these people fell! Most people are ignorant of the fact that Hinn has been sued by the family of an elderly woman who died after someone fell on her during one of his stage acts. It is a fact that not a single, medically testified, healing has ever resulted from Hinn's performances
If the 'power of God' was really the root of Hinn's ministry how could this be true? His ministry is the antithesis of New Testament experience. When they came to arrest Jesus, in Gethsemane, we read (John 18:4-6):
4 Jesus therefore, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth, and *said to them, "Whom do you seek?" 5 They answered Him, "Jesus the Nazarene." He *said to them, "I am He." And Judas also who was betraying Him, was standing with them. 6 When therefore He said to them, "I am He," they drew back, and fell to the ground.
Despite the clear difference between the only clearly Scriptural 'slaying in the spirit' - which happened to non-believers! - the only opinion voicing concern over Hinn's performance, after I pointed out this anomaly was, "Well, I think that God was very gracious, tonight." By this they meant that 'some' of what occurred was from God. Sadly this is the attitude that purveys much of Christian life in Britain today. Ecumenism has already done it's work. They - meaning Roman Catholics, Quakers, or whoever - must have some of the truth, because some things are happening in their churches. If you ever meet a former Roman Catholic, who has realized the truth and is now a born again Christian, ask them: "What did you find you could bring into your life as a Christian that you learned or practiced as a Catholic?" If they know of one thing look for it in your Bible and see if you can find it! I have never once found a single person who has left Catholicism who is able to tell me anything of truth that they could bring into their walk with the Lord. Our churches are full of ignorant Protestants who don't know anything about the biggest Christian cult in the world, but will say it is another denomination and that Catholics are also Christians. In 1994, Pat Robertson, Chuck Colson, etc., signed into Ecumenicalism in utter ignorance, just as the Baptist Union and others have done.
It never appears to occur to most Christians that it takes no real power to perform 'speaking in tongues' or 'slaying in the Spirit.' Too many make judgements on the most simplistic observation, and I give you this simple example. At the time that Paul Cain gave the 'false prophecy' that revival would come to Britain in October, 1990, Calvary Baptist Church sent representatives to observe John Wimber's group in the Elim City Temple, Cardiff. They gave their report on the following Sunday and, in response to questions about the nature of the visit, this was the strongest description given of the time spent in Wimber's company: 'He was just like a big, cuddly, Teddy Bear'! That's it - he apparently said nothing of note, except to appeal to leaders to come together and get their lives sorted out, but, because he looked like 'a Teddy Bear' he must be alright! If they had played the blindfolded game, 'Squeak Piggy Squeak!', they couldn't have been blinder! That just about sums up the ability of most churches to spot deception.
When St Andrew's Church in Cardiff ran Buddhist Meetings in their church hall a decade ago how many protests did they receive from Christians? TWO! We asked churches to protest but received just one letter from faithful Paul Vann, a Christian pastor who was subsequently forced out of his own church by unbelieving parishioners who would rather gather 'jumble' than gather sheep!
3. Beware Christian leaders who are led into error
How clearly did Jesus warn his disciples? Looking across at their magnificent temple from the Mount of Olives, away from the crowds, the disciples were eager to know more about the "end times" from Jesus: 'What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?' they asked (Matthew 24:3). Many today wonder if we are living in the last days and close to the Lord's return - taking the signs of the times as indicative that we are. Wars, rumours of wars, famines, earthquakes, and an increase in wickedness, are signs which Jesus clearly predicted for the end times and we observe all these in the world today. Are wars, famines, and earthquakes a sure sign that the end times are at hand?
Jesus gave this reply to their question: 'Watch out that no-one deceives you'! (Matthew 24:4)! Of the signs that were to herald His second coming, Jesus first emphasised the sign of deception appearing among believers - the sign of false prophets! We can hardly be unaware of the dreadful famines and earthquakes and the many continuing and senseless wars in our world today. Appalling pictures of starving children, devastated towns and villages, and countless refugees, are regularly shown in the media. When man is supposedly 'evolving' into a 'better' creature the increasing wickedness in our day is beyond dispute. Violence and terrorism are escalating uncontrollably, rather than receding, and the constant threat of nuclear war remains a constant reminder that we are living in the last days [for a useful discussion on the 'Signs of the Times' read Reachout Trust's excellent book, "Awake! To The Watchtower"] . Perhaps less obvious to most are the false prophets and false Christ's (although they are often termed 'anointed' by their followers, they are literally 'false anointed ones') who are also increasing! While many are deceiving and leading astray churches and fellowships it is clear that such a possibility is rejected by most believers. Detailing different ways in which churches are being devastated by the work of deceivers may be enlightening.
Many are happy to identify false prophets with the leaders of other religions, such as Muhammad (the 'prophet' of Islam), Buddha, Krishna, or the many other gurus of the Eastern mystical religious movements. Others may have thought of the many so-called 'Christian' cults which continue to multiply alarmingly in our day (the Mormons proudly proclaim that they are the fastest growing 'Christian' religion today) and even feel reasonably confident that they would not be deceived by any of these groups. We will see later if it is necessarily true that all born-again Christians are capable of discerning the obvious errors of Christian Science, Mormonism or Jehovah's Witnesses, and able to resist the appeal of Yoga, 'Transcendental Meditation,' or other Eastern philosophies. Is every Christian able to recognise these groups, their false Messiahs and false prophets - and that countless numbers of people have followed these deceivers and been led far from the truth? Jesus was not addressing the multitude when he warned His disciples, who had forsaken all to follow Him: 'See to it that no-one leads you astray'.
We have met some who considered themselves mature enough to be able to declare that a true Christian cannot be deceived at all! They interpret Mark 13:22: "for false Christ's and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order, if possible, to lead the elect astray" to mean that false prophets will only try to deceive the elect, but that they will not actually be able to do so. Some versions of the Bible translate the phrase 'if possible' as 'if it were possible', bringing quite a different shade of meaning to the plain Greek text. But, if this was the case, why did Jesus take the trouble to warn us of something that could never happen?
Today, many Christians belonging to Bible believing churches and fellowships are being exposed to teaching not only from their own pastor, or elders, but also from a wide variety of visiting ministers and preachers. Worse than this is the fact that speakers not only travel widely, but also often have radio and television programmes, and publish their own literature, ensuring nation-wide and often world-wide publicity. The "God Channel" now has access to our homes through satellite and cable television and the Wealth and Prosperity money-preachers, such as Hinn, the Copelands, Morris Cerullo, Marilyn Hickey et al (see The Word-Faith Movement), rub shoulders with a few men who once had world-wide credibility, such as Colin Urquhart and Derek Prince. Whatever induced these men to fellowship with unbelievers and to dirty their garments by appearing in proximity to the money grubbing killers of men, women, and children? It was appalling to hear that Urquhart had recommended his Kingdom Faith audience to read Benny Hinn books! It was no surprise to find Benny Hinn at home with the Sunderland 'refreshing' deception, but I sincerely hoped that Urquhart knew better. Why recommend a necromancing Scriptural illiterate who has lied openly to Christians about his supposed repentance after being exposed over the heresy in his book, "Good Morning, Holy Spirit" ?
But Scripture clearly reveals that, if you continue to rub shoulders with those whom God has exposed and judged, you are likely to share in their fate! Or, as your Granny might have taught you: 'You can't go into the coal-shed with out getting some black coal smuts on you!' Jonathan knew his father, Saul, was a demonised murderer of the priesthood (1 Samuel 22), yet remained in his army and eventually shared in his fate (1 Samuel 31) on Mount Gilboa. Better to grub around in the desert and make a few mistakes with the anointed David and to follow his descendant the Lord Jesus Christ today, than to continue to minister amongst fornicators and idolaters. A big book could probably be written about the errors that Arch-heretic Archbishops and bishops of the Anglican church have participated in because of their propensity to be 'unequally yoked with unbelievers' (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) both inside and outside, their own buildings.
Many of these preachers declare an 'anointing' of power, sometimes with 'signs and miracles,' and with an appealing ("ear tickling") message. They may tell impressive stories of 'what God has done' through their ministries, and introduce new teachings and revelations to their unquestioning hearers but: are they all of God? We should heed the warning in 2 Timothy 4:3:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.
4. Beware 'new prophetic standards'
We have access to more heresies than ever before through modern media. You can, for example, pop into the local Christian bookshop and buy Rick Joyner's latest nonsense. Sadly, since Rhiwbina Baptist's flirtation with deceptions of the 'Toronto' kind, there has been a prevalence of material from the 'new' Gnostics, such as Joyner and Jack Deere, on the shelves of 'The Olive Branch.' Joyner's book, "The Harvest," makes many extraordinary claims and one doctrine increasingly promoted is that of 'the Corporate Christ' where the Church itself (a "spiritual remnant" who now accept the "new move of God" taught by these 'new' Gnostics) becomes Christ the moment it subdues and rules the earth. In his book "The Harvest" he attacks the Scriptural understanding of the 'rapture of the church':
The doctrine of the rapture was a great and effective ruse of the enemy to implant in the church a retreat mentality, but it will not succeed. Already this yoke has been cast off by the majority in the advancing church and it will soon be cast off by all... (Rick Joyner, The Harvest, 1989 /1990 revised booklet on pg.121).
'The Final Quest' is Joyner's book reporting a 'vision' on a supposed ' war' now underway between those who support the "move of God" and those who oppose it. Those who oppose the "move" as defined by Joyner, comprise the hordes of hell! The "move of God" Joyner supports is the 'Toronto Blessing' and similar renewal and revival movements. Oppose this 'new thing God is doing' and you're in trouble, for Joyner has another fanciful label to put on those who aren't in his Gnostic camp in his "Civil War in the Church" vision. Like other leaders in this movement, Joyner rarely tries not to refer to himself as a prophet. However, these leaders are often caught referring to each other as apostles and prophets. In "The Harvest," Joyner says:
'What is about to come upon the earth is not just a revival, or another awakening; it is a veritable revolution. The vision was given in order to begin to awaken those who are destined to radically change the course, and even the very definition of Christianity. The dismantling of organizations and disbanding of some works will be a positive and exhilarating experience for the Lord's faithful servants. A great company of prophets, teachers, pastors and apostles will be raised up with the spirit of Phineas...'
In fact, Joyner has prophesied that there will be "super apostles." These apostles are said to be needed to administer the "new thing" God is doing. Many people involved in the controversial renewal and revival movements fall back on the claim that you 'can't find everything that's currently happening in the church in Scripture precisely because God is doing a "new thing."' Thus they are encouraged not to judge, discern, or even pray. After all, apostles, who wrote Scripture before, won't steer you wrong (exactly the excuse the Jehovah's Witnesses use to stop you checking out their false prophecies!). Not surprisingly, Joyner tries to silence critics of his ministry or the movements and teachings he supports by suggesting critics have a "Jezebel spirit," or a "religious spirit."
Joyner's volume, supposedly dealing with "The Prophetic Ministry," (Rick Joyner, The Prophetic Ministry, Morning Star Publications, 1997) attempts to explain away false prophecies and attacks "watchman ministries" (because they dare to use Scripture to expose the errors of Joyner's Gnosticism). After making much of the "prophecies" of a man who he claims predicted many accurate weather forecasts (but no details that could significantly help the church bring the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ to a single soul!) he then states:
"I have never known this brother to miss anything that he has received in a dream or an open vision. We who know him have less than a perfect score in interpreting the revelations he shares with us, but we are learning. We are learning from many who are receiving revelation specifically and accurately about coming spiritual, political, economic and natural events. If the church is going to move with the kind of strategy and vision that the times demand, we must know how to receive, interpret and judge prophetic revelation."
Since Joyner and his "prophet" friends admit that they have a less than perfect score in "interpreting the revelations" - how could he possibly say: "I have never known this brother to miss anything that he has received in a dream or an open vision"? How would you know?! Then, in attempting to answer the question: What About Mistakes? he writes:
"Mistakes are inevitable as we grow in the prophetic. When mistakes happen, we must be candid about them, with the hope that many can learn from our blunders and avoid having to make the same ones. Most of the prophetic men and women I associate with do not claim to be "prophets," nor do they care for such titles. They are simply trying to learn to hear from God accurately, and are devoted to seeing the whole church brought to the place where everyone can do the same."
This is the classic "Watchtower-speak" of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Read their works carefully and you find when their prophecies fail they quickly deny that they ever claimed to be "prophets." Of course, Joyner and his chums do not "care for such titles," because if they did they could clearly be called 'false prophets'! This is shown when he goes on to write:
"Some believers hold to the teaching that a true prophet cannot make a mistake, and are offended by my mention of mistakes made by prophetic people. While I hope there will ultimately be a prophetic ministry raised up in the church with 100% accuracy, at the present time the only people I know who may claim 100% accuracy have never made a significant prediction worthy of a prophet. Though I may not personally ever reach a level of 100% accuracy on significant, detailed predictions--and therefore not merit the title "prophet" in the eyes of some--I intend to do all I can to make the way easier for others to attain that level."
What would Joyner call 'a significant prediction worthy of a prophet'? Joyner clearly considers there is some standard which declares a 'prediction' to be 'significant' enough to be worthy of being called prophetic and worthy of a prophet. By inference he is declaring that there is such a standard to be met and, at this point he should have, at least, mentioned Deuteronomy 18:20-22:
20 'But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' 21 "And you may say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' 22 "When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.'
So, the test of a true prophet is 100% accuracy - and if he speaks presumptuously in the name of the Lord, or in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die! Strange that, in a book supposedly dealing with "The Prophetic Ministry," the author doesn't even mention this Scripture once? Having arrogantly stated: "Most of the prophetic men and women I associate with do not claim to be "prophets," nor do they care for such titles" he goes on to declare:
"Our goal should always be 100% accuracy in the reception, interpretation and application of prophetic revelation. While freely admitting that we are not there yet, we must pursue this goal without giving up until we get there. This will require being honest and straightforward with our mistakes, and humble with our successes. God gives His grace to the humble (James 4:6). We need to be far more concerned with walking in His grace than in receiving recognition for being prophetic."
Like most deceivers he puts on a front of being "humble and seeking grace," rather than "receiving recognition for being prophetic," having just stated that, "Most of the prophetic men and women I associate with do not claim to be "prophets," nor do they care for such titles." But why does he state that he "may not merit the title "prophet" in the eyes of some!" If you don't seek it why do you want to "merit it"? How does he think he can possibly achieve his other aim: "to do all I can to make the way easier for others to attain that level"? It is God who sends prophetic words to men and women and "all" they have to do is speak or write the words. The prophecies need no help from Rick Joyner for we only have to wait and see them come to pass. There is another factor here concerning the 'prophecies' he sneers at. When he states that 'at the present time the only people I know who may claim 100% accuracy have never made a significant prediction worthy of a prophet' he is admitting that some people are apparently capable of attaining the Biblical standard! Instead of rejoicing that God still speaks to his people and admitting that the Biblical record is sufficient to bring every Christian safely home to heaven and every fellowship through the opposition of the world, the flesh and the Devil, he makes it clear that they are not sufficient for him and his clique of false prophets for they seek a Gnosis, rather than the truth. If you examine Joyner's 'prophecies' it becomes clear they are subject to any amount of guesswork.
The following quotes from 'Morning Star', Rick Joyner's site, speak volumes about his interpretation of Scripture and inability to handle Deuteronomy 18:20-22:
One of the greatest hazards affecting maturing prophets is the erroneous interpretation of the Old Testament exhortation that if a prophet ever predicted something which did not come to pass he was no longer to be considered a true prophet (see Deut. 18:20-22). The warning was that if this happened, the prophet had been presumptuous and the people were not to fear him. If one predicts something in the name of the Lord and it does not come to pass, he probably has spoken presumptuously and needs to be repented of, but that does not make him a false prophet. No one could step out in the faith required to walk in his calling if he knew that a single mistake would ruin him for life. (The Prophetic Ministry, The Morning Star Prophetic Newsletter, Rick Joyner, n.d., Vol 3, No. 2, pg. 2).
Bob [Jones] was told that the general level of prophetic revelation in the church was about 65% accurate at this time. Some are only about 10% accurate, a very few of the most mature prophets are approaching 85% to 95% accuracy. Prophecy is increasing in purity, but there is still a long way to go for those who walk in this ministry. This is actually grace for the church now, because 100% accuracy in this ministry will bring a level of accountability to the church which she is too immature to bear at this time; it would result in too many 'Ananias and Sapphiras.' That so many the (sic) prophetic ministries are still missing so much is also meant to work humility and wisdom in them so that they will be able to handle the authority and power coming in the near future. (The Prophetic Ministry, The Morning Star Prophetic Newsletter, Rick Joyner, n.d., Vol 3, No. 2, pg. 4)
For further information on Joyner, and related false prophets and heretics, go to:
http://www.discernment.org/prophet.htm [Feb 2009 - domain expired?]