These are interesting times. If someone would have told me 20 years ago, that the end of the millennium would be a time of extreme and diverse religiosity, I wouldn't have believed it. At that time, the overarching concern for Christians was the specter of an ever increasing secularism, which looked with disdain on religious devotion as "outdated superstition." "Secular humanism" was the "Goliath" taunting us Christians. But now look around you. Are we not living in the most religious time in recent history? Spirituality has made a comeback and it seems to be back with a vengeance! In this "Post Modern" era, all religious opinions are treated as equally valid in the name of tolerance. Eastern religion, Zen Buddhism and even the Kabbalah El Ramadan, are respectfully being treated in today's media and by sports figures and celebrities. Even within the Church of Jesus Christ, there seems to be a revitalization of the "old time religion." The overnight expansive growth of phenomena such as Promise Keepers, March for Jesus, the Toronto Blessing, Willow Creek Church and other various expressions would seem to indicate (as many Christian leaders proclaim) that we are in the "great last days revival," and that these are the greatest moves of God since the days of the apostles! Far from being atheistic and materialistic, America seems to be more spiritual and God conscience then ever. This recent flood of spirituality requires all of us to make choices, to discern. At some levels, the choices for believers are obvious: blatant Christianity or blatant mysticism, Eastern religion or paganism. At other levels, they can be quite difficult, for example, is Roman Catholicism Christian? Should we have the Pensacola "anointing" in our church? Should we be part of the "city wide church?" Am I to pursue racial reconciliation as a Christian? These are just some of the serious issues coming across through Christian media and requiring thousands of ministers and tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of Christians worldwide to be for or against.
Hopefully, this article can be a help to you who love the Lord Jesus and seek to be faithful, both to His call for His own to be united in love, as well as His command and warning to be discerning, even critical, in these last days. I would say at the outset (since I do believe these are the last days) that the great issue which confronts the flock of God is neither unity, nor power, signs and wonders. The question is not, "Will the churches ever come together like the Lord prayed in John 17?" Nor is it, "Will we ever have the power to do signs, wonders, and miracles like the Book of Acts?" The issue is Truth. Will we receive the love of the truth or will we believe the lie?
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders. And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. II Thess 2:9-12
Though indeed there are so many different spiritualities flourishing in the world today, there are in essence only two religions underlying them. All religious expression or experience can biblically be put into only two categories, two spiritual principles or mysteries as the Bible calls them. They are either the Mystery of Godliness or the Mystery of Iniquity. As far back as the Garden of Eden (and even before that) these two spiritualities have coexisted.
The first of these two mysteries to appear in scripture is called the Mystery of Iniquity. It found its first expression in the very mount of God, in the Garden of God where Lucifer the angel of God proclaimed his now infamous "I Will's"
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou has said in thine heart, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High. Isaiah 14:12-14
Now this is the essence of iniquity, lawlessness, that the created being can assert himself up out of his God assigned role, by an act of his will, to become equal with God! This spiritual principle, this essence of all false religion, starts with the creature, who would "ascend up to heaven." You can follow this all through the Bible and human history to this present day. Adam and Eve, willing to believe that they could be "like God" even if it meant trampling love, loyalty, commitment and gratitude in the dirt, as they grasped their own "personal fulfillment." Nimrod, whose very name means "Let us rebel"(1) organized a worldwide revolt against the binding restrictions of the God of the Bible and could only be stopped by the catastrophe of the confusion of tongues at Babel--they wanted to "ascend up to the heavens," "to make a name for ourselves." This is the ancient lie, the recurring temptation of fallen man which countless pyramids, ziggaruts, meditation techniques, Masonic degrees, gurus, Christian Scientists, Mormons, New Agers, Yogis and countless other world religions testify to, that somehow or other "man can ascend up to God's level and be like God." This principle of creaturely ascent is at the heart of all false religion including the occult, for all time and in every culture. It is the Mystery of Iniquity.
The Mystery of Godliness however, is the opposite of the Mystery of Iniquity. If Iniquity says, "Man can ascend and be like the Most High," Godliness says, "God must descend and become a man" in order to save us who are desperately lost, completely bankrupt, and unable to save ourselves. This is the spirituality that originates from Heaven and which requires an incarnation, "God was manifest in the Flesh." There can be no compromise, nor mixing of these two religions. The scriptures warn us that the two would coexist, mature and come to their fullest expression in the last days before the bodily return of Jesus Christ. The spirituality of iniquity, whose motto could be "Let us (creatures) ascend." or the spirituality which produces godliness which would have the opposite motto, "He (God) must descend to us."
And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. John 3:13
In the light of these two simplified definitions of the two respective mysteries, godliness and iniquity, we can take a critical look at recent spiritual developments within the church. In 1992-1994, as the pastor of a small Pentecostal church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I was made aware of a new surge of interest in spiritual warfare. I could always accept as biblical the concept that as believers we are engaged in a tremendous spiritual warfare. This has been the position of orthodox Christianity all the way back to the apostles. I have never had a problem with the ministry of deliverance, the "casting out of devils" for I've seen that this also was proscribed by the Lord and His apostles. However, in the new superspiritual warfare, we have something unique to the teaching of the New Testament. Christians are being told to "rise up into the heavenlies and do battle with the strongmen" over cities and even nations! The title of my first book reflects this new "belief." Making War in the Heavenlies, comes directly from a popular song being sung in worship services which touts that "We are making war in the heavenlies, we are tearing down principalities." Notice the emphasis is what We are doing as the church, through Jesus (of course).
Contrast this with the orthodox Christian view of spiritual warfare, which is a battle of cosmic proportions indeed but which is in the realm of ideas, thoughts, belief systems, etc. Christianity has taught that Satan blinds men, through "vain imaginations, high things, that exalt themselves above the knowledge of God," and that Christian warfare is to dismantle these mental "strongholds" through the truth of the Word of God. This takes time, patience, love, dedication, prayer, commitment, and humility. We see Paul, in the Book of Acts, engaging in spiritual warfare.
And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures. Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. Acts 17:2-3
Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Acts 17:17
And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. Acts 18:4
This is spiritual warfare according to the Bible, teaching, discussing, arguing, and reasoning scripture, dismantling the intellectual and philosophical barriers to faith in Jesus Christ. If Paul had the modern teaching of spiritual warfare, he would have been researching the history of the respective cities, trying to identify the spiritual entity which controlled it. He no doubt would have discerned a spirit of adultery in Corinth, witchcraft in Ephesus and a spirit of religion in the city of Jerusalem. Acts 17 tells us that when Paul arrived at Athens, "His spirit was stirred in him when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry..." What was his response? Did he scream at Zeus or bind Apollos? Did he gather a citywide meeting of Greeks and apologize to them on behalf of the Romans? Did he march around Athens and plant stakes at the four corners of the town to claim it for God? These are just some of the recent "revelations" that have come forth of late and which are being practiced in the name of spiritual warfare! But Paul knew from the gospel that there is only one lowly method of doing spiritual warfare, "He disputed daily in the synagogue with the Jews and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him." Acts 17:16-17.
The two approaches to spiritual warfare come from two different sources, or spiritual principles. I discern the Mystery of Iniquity in this new spiritual warfare. Remember it's motto, "Let us ascend" up to God's level. "We're making war in the heavenlies, We're bringing down principalities!" Kenneth Hagin, the "Word of Faith" leader, tells a story about a visitation he had with "Jesus." "Jesus" came to him supposedly, to give him some direction and instruction, but a demon imp materialized between Hagin and "Jesus" and began to raise such a racket Hagin couldn't hear what Jesus was saying to Him. Hagin relates that after waiting for "Jesus" to rebuke the demon and observing no apparent response from "Jesus," Hagin himself rebuked the imp and sent him away. Then this "Jesus" told Hagin, in effect, "If you hadn't done that, I couldn't have!" This new "Jesus" doesn't presently have all power and authority for He has, according to Hagin and others, delegated it to us, the believers. Therefore it is up to us, not Jesus, to complete the plans of God. Bill Hamon articulates this doctrine in his book, The Eternal Church,
"Jesus is waiting on the church. All that the fall of man and sin has taken away from humanity, Jesus through His church shall restore"
"When the church has put under it's feet all enemies of Christ...then Christ can be released from Heaven to return as the manifested head of His physically resurrected and translated church." (Prophets and Personal Prophecy, Bill Hamon)
In the old and true spirituality, we, the church, are waiting for Jesus to come back to "redeem the purchased possession," and to complete our salvation. But, in the Mystery of Iniquity, as always, all is reversed, Jesus has to wait for us, the church, to rise up in our power and glory, and to take dominion over all and when we get to that place of unity and power, ruling and reigning, then He can come back so that we can hand the kingdoms of this world over to Him. John Wimber, at a Docklands, England 1990 conference said,
"There is something higher than being a [Denomination] and that is to be the end time army and involved in this greater prize of bringing everything on earth and above the earth and below the earth to the feet of Jesus."
This dangerous doctrine has far reaching implications in that it seriously alters the world view of all who submit to it. Bill Hamon, John Wimber and a host of other popular leaders widely influencing the church confuse the person of Jesus Christ and the church. Hamon says, "When the church puts under its feet all enemies of Christ." While Wimber looks to the "greater prize of bringing everything on earth and above the earth and below the earth to the feet of Jesus." Wait a minute! Where does the New Testament give us that kind of mandate? I Cor 15, Psalm 110, and Psalm 2 tell us that Jesus is the one who will do these things, or that God will do them for Jesus, nothing is said of "The Great Last Days Church" rising up and performing these wonders!
The affect of this rapidly spreading delusion, is to exalt man and confer upon us the prerogatives that belong to Christ alone. I've tried to document this trend in my book on the context of the Toronto Blessing which I believe is the direct outcome of the once rejected New Order of the Latter Rain Movement, and was influenced by its offspring, The Manifested Sons of God Movement, both of which were denounced by the Assemblies of God in 1950. The Latter Rain Movement taught that this last days church would be the greatest expression of the Body of Christ ever! Through "The Great Last Days Outpouring of the Holy Ghost" the church would supposedly come into the time of the greatest power, unity and effectiveness ever! The Manifested Sons of God Movement sprang out of that and taught that Romans 8:19 would be fulfilled before the coming of Jesus, that an elite group of Christians would be so perfected by revelation that they would come into a complete "manifestation of their sonship" and overcome all, even death, before the Lord's return. Once again I believe you can discern by now which Mystery energizes this, "Let us arise" up to God's level and take dominion, we can be the greatest demonstration of the church ever! Though this idea was denounced it never went away. From the late 1940's till now it has consistently developed and resurfaced in many different ways. From Latter Rain to Manifested Sons of God to Kingdom Now to the Word Faith Movement to some aspects of the Church Growth Movement, definitely Spiritual Warfare, the Prophetic Movement, (we currently have a Restored Apostles Movement) and I believe definitely Toronto and Pensacola are mystical manifestations of the same basic premise, that without the bodily return of Christ, the church will somehow develop, and perfect herself and come into glory and honor and power, of course all in the name of Jesus, but without His coming, and that we will be dominant and influential as a church in this world, before the coming of Christ. Lest you think I exaggerate, here are a sampling of current teachers' comments:
Rick Joyner prophesies of the day that:
"The President of the United States and heads of nations will begin to seek out the Christian prophets and prophetic ministers...to know what to do...The Joseph and Daniel Prophetic Company will arise with supernatural answers for the...Egyptian Pharaohs and Babylonian emperors of this world."
In his "Harvest" 224 page prophecy, Joyner tells us that as the last days church, we carry "the credentials."
"The feet of the Body of Christ will carry the credentials for all those who have gone before them. They will be joined to each other like no other body of people have ever been joined...In the near future the church will not be looking back at the first century church with envy because of the great exploits of those days, but all will be saying that he certainly did save his best wine for last. The most glorious days in all of history have now come upon us. You who have dreamed of one day being able to talk to Peter, John and Paul are going to be surprised to find that they have been wanting to talk to you." (Rick Joyner, "The Harvest." Page 26)
Is the church getting better and better over time? Are we evolving? Are we about to "breakthrough" to the greatest church ever in history? According to the Mystery of Iniquity we are, but the Mystery of Godliness doesn't teach so. How can the church get better, when she's always been "complete" in Christ? Is God comparing the 20th century church to the first century church? (I hope not.) The church has no generations, it has always been composed of individuals who are in various stages of personal growth in Christ! Are we the first generation to "invent spiritual mapping", "identificational repentance" or command the Holy Spirit to come to us? The apostles knew nothing about these things, have we evolved past them? C. Peter Wagner tells us in his spiritual warfare book, Engaging the Enemy, page 46, that the reason for the revival in Argentina is linked to spiritual warfare.
"But more than in any other place I know, the most prominent Christian leaders in Argentina such as Omar Cabrera, Carlos Annacondia, Hector Giminey and others, overtly challenge and curse Satan and his demonic forces both in private prayer and on public platforms. The nation as a whole apparently is engaged in a world class power encounter."
Which of the two spiritual principles is being operated from here? The Mystery of Godliness or Iniquity?
Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. Jude 9
Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. II Peter 2:11
The effect of this "new revelation" is to puff us up with pride and blind us to reality. The Mystery of Iniquity is like that, "Let us ascend!" sounds better to sinful man then "God must descend" to save us. This is the time Jesus warned "take heed that no one deceive you" and yet with all the binding, loosing, commanding, cleansing the heavenlies, singing militant songs like "He's under our feet!" and so forth, deception seems to be the remotest possibility to "cutting edge" Christians.
The very essence of biblical spirituality is this, God had to come down to us, in the flesh, God became a man, to save us from sin. The very antithesis of it, is this Mystery of Iniquity, this principle of man ascending up unto God's class. The polarization of Christians along these lines is upon us, and the choice is becoming increasingly stark! In closing, Jesus poses a question which I believe is directed to the last generation of believers, that on the one hand, to some incurs serious heart searching, but on the other hand, to the "new breed," the question is almost irrelevant in the light of the great and mighty "revival" of signs, wonders and power sweeping the earth. The question is: "Will the Son of Man find faith when He comes to the earth?"
1. The Genesis Record. Page 251. Henry Morris. Baker Book House.