Todd Bentley, Fresh Fire Ministries and Lakeland Revival

Compiled By S. E. Ray

Canadian Todd Bentley doesn't look like a minister as some would expect. The 32-year-old openly sports body piercings and tattoos on his arms and neck, which has caused many to question his purpose and motivations. 

On April 2, 2008, Bentley was invited by Stephen Strader, pastor of Ignited Church, Lakeland, Florida, to lead a one-week revival. The revival quickly became a religious and media phenomenon, attracting up to 10,000 attendees nightly. It continued after the first week. In addition to showcasing Bentley's evangelism, the revival features colorful light shows and power-chord Christian rock music.

The Ignited Church quickly hired A New York public relations firm to send out press releases claiming "documented healings." Information and webcasts were made available via their website and the revival is streamed live via stream - which received over 1 million hits in the first five weeks of transmissions. After the initial weeks, GOD TV, a religious satellite channel, decided to pre-empt its primetime programming and broadcast the Lakeland meetings nightly.

Stepping back to 1998, the FreshFire Ministry Group asked Bentley to give his testimony at one of their weekly meetings. Soon after, Bentley took over the leadership of the group, which became more of a revival movement. He works with and/or otherwise promotes Patricia King of Extreme Prophetic, and he is also very close to aberrant Kansas City prophet Bob Jones, supports Rick Joyner, as well as such churches as the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. Todd Bentley’s neo-Pentecostalism is Latter Rain influenced and Bentley now claims to have William Branham’s ministry angels helping him.

The latter is where the so-called ‘Toronto Blessing’ began. The movement is characterized by a plethora of unorthodox teachings and questionable practices — encouraged and promoted by alleged ‘words,’ ‘prophecies’ and ‘visions’ from God, and accompanied by anything from outbreaks of uncontrollable laughter, people acting as if they were drunk, and claims of having received gold dust or other ’supernatural signs’ from God. Bentley’s teachings and practices place his ministry squarely among the controversial renewal and revival movements.

Michael Horton, who wrote “The Agony of Deceit,” which documents fraud among televangelists, said at an interview, “I have not yet encountered a 'faith healer' who failed to preach a different gospel than the one that we find clearly presented in the New Testament." Many of the faithful are understandably grieved by this bold resurfacing of Apostolic/Third Wave/Latter Rain teaching, which is a mix of New Age teachings and altered Pentecostal methodologies.

Even those sympathetic to Pentecostal theology are apprehensive. Mark Balmer, pastor of the 8,000-person Calvary Church in nearby Melbourne, FL, received so many questions about Bentley that he finally spoke regarding his position. He said he believes "in all the gifts for today, including healing." He also asserted: "We are not heresy hunters." He nonetheless told his congregation "not to attend this counterfeit revival." Lee Grady of Charisma magazine said "Charismatic and Pentecostal leaders are divided over its legitimacy."

As background information, Todd Bentley is relatively a new Christian with no formal training or experience in the exposition of scripture. His history which includes drugs, criminal activities and he belonged to a sexual molestation activist ring which is well documented and admitted by Todd. Christians realize that a soul can be saved from these things, however he personally claims that he was demon possessed after having been born-again, which poses a problem considering his self-acclaimed position.

Todd attributes his actual conversion (born-again) experience to the spirit named Emma-O, The god of the underworld. In art, Emma-O is depicted with green or red skin, red clothes, buffalo skin, holds a loop of rope in his left hand with which he pulls the soul from a corpse. He is documented as the son of Surya (Sun) and twin brother of Yami, or Yamuna, traditionally the first human pair in the Vedas, worshiped as a son of Vivasvat and Saranya, one of the Guardians of the directions and represents the south, reports to Lord Shiva the Destroyer, an aspect of Trimurti, Oni, oni red, oni green demon helpers of EMMA-O AND ENMA evil angels of Hell. (Pat Holliday, Ph.D. Book, “Angel Fire”).

After Todd's conversion, he had tattooed under his arm a depiction of Jesus’ dead face with a subliminal monkey etched in Christ's beard. Above the tip of the head, is a tattoo of Oni, a “Buddhist guardian devil” of Hell. An argument is lifted up against Todd’s ongoing tattoo additions. Even though Christian's are not under the law to fulfill righteousness, as they are saved by grace, they are to uphold it. "You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD." Leviticus 19:28

A visit to one of Bentley's services suggests that he knows how to turn the big crowds into big money. ATM machines were set up alongside food booths, providing attendees with readily available cash for the offering plate and book purchases. At Todd’s revivals, he sells “anointed” handkerchiefs, and takes money from people so that he may pray over them. This is normal with the people on the Elijah list, who believe God condones taking money from people so that they can prophesy over them.

Todd wrote on the website in 2003 “Now let me talk about an angelic experience with Emma. Twice Bob Jones asked me about this angel that was in Kansas City in 1980: “Todd, have you ever seen the angel by the name of Emma?” He asked me as if he expected that this angel was appearing to me. Surprised, I said, “Bob, who is Emma?” He told me that Emma was the angel that helped birth and start the whole prophetic movement in Kansas City in the 1980s. She was a mothering-type angel that helped nurture the prophetic as it broke out. Within a few weeks of Bob asking me about Emma, I was in a service in Beulah, North Dakota. In the middle of the service I was in conversation with Ivan and another person when in walks Emma. As I stared at the angel with open eyes, the Lord said, “Here’s Emma.” I’m not kidding. She floated a couple of inches off the floor. It was almost like Kathryn Khulman in those old videos when she wore a white dress and looked like she was gliding across the platform. Emma appeared beautiful and young-about 22 years old-but she was old at the same time. She seemed to carry the wisdom, virtue and grace of Proverbs 31 on her life.”

Without any exception that I have found, every questionable spiritual movement is marked by intervening Angels giving guidance, not necessary God’s Word or the residing Spirit of Truth. Joseph Smith, Neale Donald Walsch, Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda, Jerry and Esther Hicks, Rhonda Byrne, Helen Schucman, JZ Knight… the list is long for those who are popular and have spirit guides from the fallen realm. Bob Jones and Todd Bentley and their spirit guide “Emma” are not different. It should be interesting to note, in the book of angels, Emma (Imma Ila'ah, feminine, in the Kabbalah) means “Embrace Everything.” Also closely related, another name used is “Emma-O“, which in Japanese mythology means “King of Hell” or Satan.

These workers fruits are self-evident. Bob “was removed from the Vineyard Anaheim because of sexual improprieties, which consisted of encouraging women to undress in his office so they could stand ‘naked before the Lord’ in order to receive a ‘word.’” I am sure as a man; he was totally pure in motivation. Todd “Bam” Bentley runs and kicks people in the stomach with advance colon cancer while ignoring children lined up in wheelchair, who hope in vain that the revival is real and they might get healed. Instead people leave in a hypnotic state from the charismatic frenzy. Many attendees speak of new oppressions and those who claimed to be healed from a malignant condition die anyway. It has been noted by some critics of Todd's ministry, all Biblical divine healings lasted for the rest of the person's natural life.

How does one explain some of the healings if there is in fact a question regarding the authenticity of Todd's manifestations? We are warned explicitly in Scripture that the devil transforms himself into an angel of light", and that in the last days will come 'Lying signs and wonders' that will "deceive if possible the very elect." Paranormal healing has been in existence in the world since the creation, performed by shaman and faith healers. It is the oldest healing art. But the problem with this type of healing is that it is a lying wonder and opens the door to demonic influence, demonization, even possession. A lying wonder is not necessarily a false wonder or false miracle, but it is, more importantly, a miracle claimed to be from God but whose source is really from the realm of darkness. This type of healing leads the person into bondage to the enemy, symptoms that recipients have been reporting under Todd's revival. "For the head of the beast will be healed and all the world wondered after the beast" Revelations 13:3

Attaining a trance-like state as many do at these revivals, doesn't immediately reveal anything about the origin of the manifestation. Every spiritual manifestation can have one of three different origins (divine, demonic or human). The discerning of spirits is necessary to identify the origin. Because the same manifestation, like falling down and shaking violently or tongues for example, can be caused either by God's Spirit, by a demonic influence or merely by the person's own propagations. Trances, prophetic ecstasy and manifestations are expounded from both the Old and New Testament. Interesting occurrences of ecstasy can be found in the biblical stories of Adam, Abraham, David and Saul, Daniel, Peter, and Paul.

Undisputedly, there have been revivals in Europe and other parts of the world since the Early Church. A very long time before John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Smith Wigglesworth or the Pentecostal awakening, Europe has experienced the gifts of the Holy Spirit, healing, deliverance, manifestations of the Holy Spirit. The gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit have been present non-stop since the Apostles. Church history clearly reveals this fact. However, a believer must be wise as a serpent, but gentle as a dove regarding the testimony of the leaders of such movements, comparing their words and actions to the Word of God. We are to test all things and hold fast to what is good.

There will be many fakes, or many “Who are called by His name”, but very few who are authentic, this is just the facts. The authentic workers are those who work without recognition or fanfare as Christ and the Apostles did. They don’t seek fame, recognition, money and may never be known, such is the humble and contrite heart of the devout. Those of the Pharisee spirit, egocentric and endued by unbenevolent powers seek an exuberant audience, allocades, recognition, and make a spectacle of the precious gifts of God like a side show circus. Those prone to the charismatic (emotional) bent will easily succumb to the false light thus blinded to see the plight of error, whereas such is the power of hypnotic manipulation.

A.W. Tozer sums it up perfectly is his normal precision:

"Many tender-minded Christians fear to sin against love by daring to inquire into anything that comes wearing the cloak of Christianity and breathing the name of Jesus. They dare not examine the credentials of the latest prophet to hit their town lest they be guilty of rejecting something which may be of God. They timidly remember how the Pharisees refused to accept Christ when He came, and they do not want to be caught in the same snare, so they either reserve judgment or shut their eyes and accept everything without question. This is supposed to indicate a high degree of spirituality. But in sober fact it indicates no such thing. It may indeed be evidence of the absence of the Holy Spirit. Gullibility is not synonymous with spirituality. Faith is not a mental habit leading its possessor to open his mouth and swallow everything that has about it the color of the supernatural. Faith keeps its heart open to whatever is of God, and rejects everything that is not of God, however wonderful it may be. Try the spirits is a command of the Holy Spirit to the Church. We may sin as certainly by approving the spurious as by rejecting the genuine. And the current habit of refusing to take sides is not the way to avoid the question. To appraise things with a heart of love and then to act on the results is an obligation resting upon every Christian in the world. And the more as we see the day approaching." 

Scriptures for Reference

“Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.” Psalm 119:104

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” John 4:1

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Matthew 7:15

"At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time." Matthew 24:23-25

"For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:4

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” 1 Timothy 4:1

"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep." -2 Peter 2:1-3

“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Acts 20:29-30

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.” Colossians 2:8, 18-19