The Charismatic Movement: Spiritual Revival or Deadly Deception?

The Charismatic Movement: Spiritual Revival or Deadly Deception?

This article by Jozef D. Astley was originally published as cover story in the German magazine INFO VERO. The English version slightly differs from the German due to translation and editing. (See 'Die Charismatische Bewegung: Auferstehung des Urchristentums oder Spiel mit fremden Feuer?' , INFO VERO, DE02, 01 May 2012, pp. 72-90, translated from English to German by Dr. Gerhard Padderatz).

This article by Jozef D. Astley was originally published as cover story in the German magazine INFO VERO.

As music floods the building, two rows of ministers and ushers line up to form a so-called “fire tunnel” by joining hands, while purporting to impart “the fire of the Holy Spirit” to the conference participants that pass  through the tunnel. Many fall to the ground in ecstatic frenzy or stumble bewildered upon their feet. Some experience intense shakings and uncontrollable jerkings of the body. I pass through this tunnel several times, but fortunately no one lays hands on me, so that I remain relatively sober, compared to others (Although I did feel somewhat strange and foggy). The scene described is a snapshot of one of many meetings I attended as a member of the Charismatic movement, between October 2006 and June 2007.

For well over a hundred years, the revival fire of the Charismatic movement has been sweeping the Christian world. At a time when many leading Christian theologians are embracing a materialistic God-is-dead theology, millions of people end up on the other side of the pendulum and are drawn into this new type of ecstatic spirituality.

The rise and progress of the Pentecostal movement and its Charismatic counterpart is one of the most remarkable religious developments of the twentieth century. Since its rise in the early 1900s, its growth has been phenomenal. The figures speak for themselves: In 1909 there were an estimated 50.000 Pentecostals. By the 1950s that number had jumped to several million. Then, with the beginning of the Charismatic movement in the 1960s, these numbers rapidly increased. In 1970 there were 72 million Charismatics worldwide (including Pentecostals). That number jumped to 452 million in 1990; then to 523 million in 2002; and again to 650 million in 2005. Today, there are an estimated 700 million Charismatics – about ten percent of the world’s population! Of these, 120 million are Roman Catholics. It has been estimated that by 2025 there will be 811 million Charismatics worldwide. With such remarkable figures, it is evident that the Charismatic movement has become a major religio-political force in society, so that an analysis of its history, teachings, practices and purposes is imperative.

Charles F. Parham (1873-1929) is the founder of the modern Pentecostal movement. He formulated the doctrine of speaking in tongues as evidence of being baptized by the Holy Spirit. He taught his ideas to William Seymour, who initiated the Azusa Street Revival in 1906.

The history of this movement is generally divided into three stages, often referred to as the three “waves” of the Holy Spirit. The first of these waves is the Pentecostal movement, the beginnings of which can be traced to an American preacher by the name of Charles Fox Parham (1873-1929) and his Bible school in Topeka, Kansas. In January 1900, Parham and nine of his students received what they called the “baptism with the Holy Spirit with the sign of speaking in tongues.” Convinced that he and his students were experiencing a revival of Apostolic Christianity, Parham then began to preach what he called the ‘New Apostolic Faith. The central tenet of this faith was that glossolalia, or speaking in tongues – viz. a language that consists of unintelligible syllables – is the evidence that a person has received the baptism with the Holy Spirit. In 1905, Parham passed on his New Apostolic Faith to a one-eyed Afro-American preacher named William J. Seymour (1870-1922), who subsequently led out in the Azusa Street revival (1906-1909) in Los Angeles, California. The Azusa Street revival is generally regarded as the fire that ignited the Pentecostal movement.

In the decades that followed, the Pentecostal movement was largely ignored by mainline denominations, although it grew to a total of several million adherents. In the 1960s this situation changed however, when the Pentecostal experience crossed denominational barriers and many Episcopalians, Baptists, Evangelicals, and Methodists began to speak in tongues. This stage in the history of the Charismatic movement is often referred to as the “second wave of the Spirit.” After the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Roman Catholic Church followed suit and opened its doors to what has come to be known as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Those who received the Pentecostal experience during this era of ecumenism and interdenominational renewal came to be known as Neo-Pentecostals, or Charismatics.

The Azusa Street Revival began in the spring of 1906 and gave birth to the worldwide Pentecostal movement. It commenced in a former African Methodist Episcopal church building located at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California.
“Curate Nicky Gumbel prays that the Holy Spirit will come upon the congregation. Soon a woman begins laughing. Others gradually join her with hearty belly laughs. A young worshipper falls to the floor, hands twitching. Another falls, then another and another. Within half an hour there are bodies everywhere as supplicants sob, shake, roar like lions and, strangest of all, laugh uncontrollably. This frenzied display has become known as the “laughing revival,” or “Toronto blessing,” from the city that has popularized it. Though similar to the emotional outbursts found in some U.S. Pentecostal and Charismatic circles, the paroxysms of laughter are new, particularly for straitlaced Anglicans.”

Richard N. Ostling, Laughing for the Lord, TIME magazine, June 24, 2001The “third wave” of the Charismatic movement began in 1981 with a series of lectures on miracles and church growth delivered by John Wimber (1934-1997) at Fuller Theological Seminary. These teachings gave birth to the so-called Signs and Wonders movement, which led to establishment of many Neo-Charismatic churches, characterized by their strong emphasis on signs and wonders, divine healing, prophecy, spiritual warfare, exorcism, and other phenomena that were less emphasized during previous stages of the movement. To some extent, this movement de-emphasized the importance of the gift of tongues. The third wave also gave birth to the so-called “laughing revival” of the 1990s, commonly known as the Toronto Blessing, which flooded churches throughout the world with a tidal wave of strange phenomena and uncontrollable laughter. Some of the manifestations and practices associated with the Toronto Blessing are hysterical “laughing in the Spirit,” “drunkenness in the Spirit,” uncontrollable spasms and jerkings of the body, people crawling on the floor like animals, barking like dogs, roaring like lions, howling like wolves, etc. Since the beginning of the third wave movement, novelties have multiplied on end. Besides the phenomena already mentioned, churches now have fire tunnels, apparitions of glory clouds, angel feathers, gold dust raining down upon worshipers, and even teeth that are miraculously turned into gold during worship services. In addition, there are people rolling on the floor while they fancy themselves to be sitting on a mystical swing with God pushing behind them. Others presume to have a romantic relationship with Jesus, and even date, flirt and dance with him (or so they imagine). To these fads must be added the endless reports of dreams and visions, apparitions and chimeras. Some Charismatics claim they have been to heaven, others have travelled to hell (or even purgatory); some have talked to angels, others have physically fought with devils; some have received visitations from Jesus, others have conversed with Paul the Apostle. The list is endless.

Benny Hinn sharing the “fire” at Maple Leaf Gardens on Sept. 28, 1992. Photo by Tony Bock/Toronto Star

I myself was once a member of the Charismatic movement. Shortly after my conversion in October 2006, my brother introduced me to the Ark of Covenant Church, a colourful African Charismatic church in the city of Leeuwarden, Netherlands, where I attended until June 2007. From January until August of that year, I also shared my apartment with an Ethiopian student from a Pentecostal background, who afterwards became the pastor of an Ethiopian Pentecostal church in Rotterdam, where I have sporadically attended. During this period, I also occasionally visited the Christian Fellowship in Drachten, Netherlands – a third wave church affiliated with the American umbrella organisation MorningStar Ministries, led by Rick Joyner – where I was introduced to some of the ideas and practices of the so-called “New Apostolic Reformation.” So in my personal encounter with the Charismatic movement, I have attended churches belonging to each of the three waves of this movement, viz. Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Neo-Charismatic. Perhaps this experience enables me to reflect upon the Charismatic movement with greater clarity than most outsiders.

During the eight months I was a member of the Charismatic movement, I read my Bible from cover to cover without skipping a single word. As my knowledge of the Bible increased, I noticed that some of the teachings and practices of the Charismatic movement were not biblical. Although I was initially deceived by prosperity teachings à la Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar, I soon rejected these teachings because I knew them to be unscriptural (see 1 Tim. 6:6-10). I also had my doubts with regard to the manifestations associated with the Toronto Blessing. Was this really the work of the Holy Spirit? These doubts prompted me to pray for the gift of discernment, one of the spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12.

During this period of uncertainty, I attended a worship conference in May 2007 organized by the Christian Fellowship in Drachten, Netherlands, and led by Suzy Wills and her husband Kamran Yaraei, together with several other musicians from Rick Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries in America. The purpose of the conference was to teach young people (and some older folks), how they could let “the spirit” flow through them in various forms of worship. Many of the teachings had a strange pantheistic twist to them. For example, we were told to communicate with God without words, simply by making certain gestures with our hands, reminiscent perhaps of the mudra or hand gestures of Hindu dancers in India. Kamran Yaraei, an Iranian ex-Muslim, demonstrated how he communicated with God by mystically imitating a tree and thus identifying himself with nature. Although I was cautious at first, I soon let my guard down and freely participated in the conference. In due course, I found myself stretched out on the floor together with the rest of the church, visualizing ourselves to be caterpillars in a cocoon transforming into butterflies. Some people claimed they saw angels; Suzy Wills said she saw a demon chewing on the head of a visitor who was rather sceptical of the happenings at the meeting. There were also workshops on “prophetic singing” and “prophetic dancing,” in which we were taught to sing and dance intuitively. The underlying premise was that all promptings of our intuition are produced by the Holy Spirit. One of the people from MorningStar Ministries had her art studio set up at the front of the church, and taught participants how to practice “prophetic painting ” under the inspiration of “the spirit” and in harmony with the music. During the worship services, which lasted for hours on end, all these various forms of “prophetic worship” would mysteriously blend together, as highly repetitive and psychedelic music would carry people to emotional heights and ecstatic experiences. Songs with lyrics such as, “You come around, we all fall down,” were repeated over and over again. Finally, on the last evening of the conference, there seemed to be an expectation that this was the night of revival! After hours of frenzied worship, during which some had ecstatic experiences more intense than before, the whole church eventually ran out into the street – shouting, singing and dancing before the entrance of the church. We must have looked like a bunch of madmen, but that concluded the conference.

As I went home that night, I felt very bewildered, not least because a person dear to my heart was struck by a severe psychosis after participating wholeheartedly in the conference. Although I had sporadically witnessed some strange manifestations, I had hitherto never attended meetings like this. In the week that followed, confused and weeping, I knelt down to the floor of my apartment one day and prayed my heart out. I felt confused and wanted to know whether the strange phenomena I had seen and experienced in the Charismatic movement were of God. It is important here to understand the psychology of terror that is utilized by Charismatic ministers to prevent people from questioning “the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus once said that the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall never be forgiven (Mark 3:28-29), and Charismatics frequently employ this text to scare critics into silence. Even so, I just couldn’t match all of these experiences with the Bible. I prayed more earnestly for discernment than ever before. I cried my heart out and asked God to show me the truth. All I wanted was to know the truth. As I was thus praying and reflecting upon my experiences and that of others, the thought came to me: “It is unbiblical and I reject it in the name of Jesus Christ.” I had read the Bible from cover to cover during the eight months after my conversion, so I pretty much know what it said. As I pondered this thought for a moment, I was convinced of its veracity, and then I spoke them out loud. Hesitatingly at first, but then with great confidence, I declared: “It is unbiblical and I reject it in the name of Jesus Christ!” As I thus spoke these words with full assurance of faith, I felt within my spirit as though the chains of hell just dropped off. The spell was broken. The hypnotic fog that had beclouded my mind during the conference was expelled at once, and my mind was now clearer than ever before. The freedom and joy that I then felt I cannot describe, but I decided then and there that henceforth I would believe nothing except that which is written in the Bible. “Sola Scriptura” became the principal pillar of my faith.

From that time to the present, I have studied the history, doctrines and manifestations of the Charismatic movement and other religious movements in light of Scripture. I wanted to know what I had been involved in. There are many sincere and loving people within the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement, many of whom are actively and successfully engaged in rehabilitation programs for drug-addicts and prostitutes, as well as other types of practical ministry to the poor and needy that are in many ways commendable. My critique of the Charismatic movement is not based on a personal grudge against its members, but on a deep conviction that the foundation of this movement is not Scriptural, as I will demonstrate in the following pages. It is important to bear in mind that not every believer thinks alike and not every church is the same. There are, for instance, considerable differences between traditional Pentecostals and third-wave Charismatics. The former are often closer to historic Protestantism than the latter, and this difference is seen in their respective theology and practices. Some Pentecostals who practice speaking in tongues and believe in the gift of healing, for example, reject the excesses of the Charismatic movement associated with the “Toronto Blessing.” There is, however, a neglect on the part of Christian pastors generally to face the issues squarely and oppose and expose the spiritual apostasy that has been sweeping the churches for many decades. In writing the current analysis and criticism of the Charismatic movement, the author hopes to encourage ministers and laymen to take a bold stand for the truth of Scripture.

At the time of the Azusa Street revival, in September 1906, William J. Seymour published the first edition of his newspaper ‘The Apostolic Faith’, in which he announced that, “Pentecost has come!” Pentecost, as you will recall, was the day on which the disciples of Jesus Christ received the Holy Spirit and went out into the streets of Jerusalem to proclaim His resurrection. The Bible records how they received the gift of tongues, which supernaturally enabled them to intelligently communicate the gospel in languages never learned, so that “every man heard them speak in his own language.” (Acts 2:6). The people understood what the apostles were saying, for men of various national backgrounds declared, “we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11).

William J. Seymour (1870-1922) was an African American, holiness preacher who initiated the Azusa Street Revival, an key event in the rise of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements.

William J. Seymour claimed that the Christians at Azusa Street were experiencing another Pentecost. But was this really the case? The answer is no. For four days after the beginning of this revival, on April 18, 1906, the Los Angeles Daily Times reported that a “new sect of fanatics is breaking loose,” and that those involved were uttering a “gurgle of wordless talk” and a “weird babel of tongues.” Please note the difference: On the day of Pentecost, the gift of tongues which God gave to the apostles broke down language barriers, so that “every man heard them speak in his own language.” But at the Azusa Street revival the gift of tongues erected language barriers, for all that could be heard was nonsensical gibberish, a “gurgle of wordless talk” and “weird babel of tongues.” Clearly then, whatever gave birth to the Pentecostal movement, it was not Pentecost. In fact, it was the exact opposite!

Perhaps a few words on the baptism of the Holy Spirit are in place here. This term might sound a bit confusing, especially to non-Christians, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit simply refers to the moment when we “receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:14), so that we are empowered to do what is right in the sight of God (Phil. 2:13), and empowered for Christian service. When Jesus was baptized with water by John the Baptist, he was also baptized with the Holy Spirit. He was empowered for his ministry by the Spirit of God. The Bible tells us: “And the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22). It is interesting to note that although Jesus was baptized with the Holy Spirit, we nowhere read that he spoke in tongues. But immediately after this, we do read that “Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Luke 4:1). Observe here the order of events: (1) Jesus was baptized with the Holy Spirit; (2) He was simultaneously declared to be the Son of God; (3) and immediately after his baptism He was “led by the Spirit.” And so it should be with us. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14). Just as Jesus was declared to be the Son of God at the time of his baptism in the Spirit, so we become the children of God through the baptism with the Holy Spirit, by being born again. And just as Jesus was “led by the Spirit” immediately after his baptism, so should we be led by the Spirit. The evidence that we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, is not the speaking in tongues, but the fact that we are led by the Spirit after this baptism. Unfortunately, this is no reality in the lives of many Pentecostals and Charismatics. Even the late David Wilkerson (1931-2011), a Pentecostal minister whom I highly regard, admitted this. “Tragically,” he said, “too many speak with tongues, but then live like the devil. Sin was never uprooted and all they received was an experience of ecstasy.”[1] In view of this truth, we must conclude that tongues are no evidence whatsoever.

A person must be led by the Spirit after being baptized with the Spirit. But how do we know whether or not a person is led by the Spirit? Again, we look at the life of Jesus Christ. We are told that He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he was “forty days tempted of the devil.” (Luke 4:2). So those that are led by the Spirit are not beyond temptation. However, every time the devil came to Jesus with one of his devilish suggestions, He responded by quoting the Scriptures. Again and again he answered: “It is written… It is written… It is written…” (Mat. 4:4-10; Luke 4:4-12). And thus, by the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus overcame the temptations of the devil. The evidence that Jesus was baptized with the Holy Spirit was not the speaking in tongues, but his life of victory over sin and his unwavering loyalty to the word of God. As Christians, this is what our lives should look like. Martin Luther said it well, when he declared in 1519: “The Spirit is nowhere more present and alive than in His own sacred writings.” The only evidence that a man is baptized with the Holy Spirit is his life of victory over sin and his unwavering loyalty to the Word of God, whereby he is sanctified and becomes like Jesus Christ in life and character. The Spirit will lead us, just as the Spirit led Jesus.

Sadly enough, we find that the spirit that animates the Charismatic movement is leading people in another direction. John MacArthur, the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, tells us: “Experience after experience is reported in the Charismatic press, television, radio. A subtle but sinister pattern is developing. Instead of responding to a proper interpretation of God’s Holy Word, Christianity is collecting preposterous tales producing a pseudo-Christian mysticism that’s more like Hinduism and the New Age, than it is Biblical Christianity. …Feelings are more important than the eternal Word of God. Intuition surpasses interpretation. This is a tragic thing.”[2] Along these lines of thought, Paul Washer, a well-known Baptist preacher, writes in one of his books: “The true Christian cannot bear or even survive a divorce between the emotions and the intellect, or between devotion to God and the truth of God. According to the Scriptures, neither our emotions nor our experiences provide an adequate foundation for the Christian life. Only the truths of Scripture, understood with the mind and communicated through doctrine, can provide that sure foundation upon which we should establish our beliefs and behavior as well as determine the validity of our emotions and experiences. The mind is not the enemy of the heart, and doctrine is not an obstacle to devotion. The two are indispensable and should be inseparable.”[3]

Curiously, when we look at the temptations which Jesus overcame in the wilderness, we find that these are exactly the points where the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement is stumbling and falling. Jesus had been fasting for forty days in the wilderness, when the tempter came to him and said: “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” (Matthew 4:4). Observe here, that the devil wanted Jesus to prove himself. He developed a test whereby Jesus should prove whether or not he really was the Son of God. “If you really are the Son of God – if you are really baptized with the Holy Spirit – prove it! Manifest your power! Perform a miracle! Use your supernatural abilities for your own gratification!” No doubt Jesus was hungry after being without food for forty days, but He rejected the temptation to use the power of God for the gratification of his own feelings. Instead, He turned to the Word of God and replied, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” By contrast, Pentecostals and Charismatics often do the exact opposite. They turn away from the word of God, and use what they believe to be the power of God to gratify their own feelings and emotions. Moreover, just as the devil asked Jesus to prove his divine identity by doing a miracle, so Pentecostals have often asked genuine children of God to prove that they are truly Spirit-filled Christians by speaking in tongues. But is this the standard whereby a Christian man is to be measured? Not according to Jesus. As Christians, we are to measure our lives “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

Again, the devil led Jesus to a pinnacle of the temple and said to him: “If thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” Now think about this for a moment. Jesus stood at some place on top of the temple, where all the worshippers in the temple court could see him. If Jesus had jumped down from such a height in the sight of all these people and had landed upon the ground without the slightest injury – not even a scratch – no doubt this spectacle would have created a great sensation among the people. So the devil tempted Jesus to make a great display of his supernatural power, as a kind of religious entertainment for the spectators. This act would have made Him famous at once, and no doubt very popular too. But Jesus replied: “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Curiously, the Charismatic movement stumbles exactly upon this point. Sensationalism seems to be the name of the game within this movement and the most credulous miracles are advertised far and wide. Everywhere prideful pastors and laymen boast of their great supernatural powers, and endeavour to draw the attention of the multitudes to themselves. Many of them are great story tellers. Bobby Conner of Eagles View Ministries, for example, claims to be engaged in Harry-Potter-like-battles with covens of witches, supposedly shooting bolts of blue fire from his hands, and miraculously throwing these witches through the air. An unhealthy excitement prevails and the Charismatic crowds just love it! While Jesus firmly rejected this kind of spiritual-entertainment-ministry, many Charismatics are lusting after the sensational, ever thirsting for more.

The devil came to Jesus a third time. He took him to a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and then said to Jesus: “All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.” Satan basically told Jesus that the cross was not necessary; that He didn’t need to go through the agony of Calvary for the salvation of man; that there was an easier way to do this. Jesus withstood the temptations, but do not these words remind us of the health, wealth and prosperity teachings of many Charismatic preachers today? Just like Satan, they offer an easy religion of grace without obedience and  worship without holiness. They offer mysticism and ecstasy instead of fellowship with Christ in his suffering. They promise a crown without a cross and preach a religion that requires no sacrifices. Just like Satan, they proclaim their so-called Dominion theology, or Kingdom Now theology, telling their followers that they are ‘Destined to Reign,even on this side of eternity. They promise them the kingdoms of this world and even urge them to establish a universal theocracy, which they call “the kingdom of God on earth” (as we will see hereafter). But Jesus has said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). And thus, in calling the kingdom of this world God’s kingdom, while the Bible tells us that Satan is “the prince of this world” (John 14:30), these preachers and their followers are essentially worshipping Satan as God, whose kingdom they are building. And so again, we find that where Jesus overcame the temptations of the devil, Charismatics are failing by the millions. For Jesus refused to compromise his religion for the sake of politics, to obtain power and wealth. “Get thee behind me, Satan.” he said, “for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”

We find, then, that in each of these three temptations, Jesus Christ was led by the Spirit in obedience to the Word of God, whereas the Charismatic movement is leading people in the opposite direction: they have embraced the very religion which Satan preached to Jesus in the wilderness.

One of the doctrines that is very prominent among Christians today – especially among Pentecostals and Charismatics – is the idea that Christians don’t have to keep the Ten Commandments. For example, Theology Professor Dr. Lemmer du Plessis, a leading Bible teacher from South Africa, published a book in 2003 titled Die Belofte van Sy Wederkoms, which was widely distributed in Pentecostal and Evangelical churches in South-Africa. It was also distributed in the Netherlands, where it was endorsed and promoted by Kees Goedhart, a well-known Bible teacher, and Peter Sleebos, president of the Verenigde Pinkster- en Evangeliegemeenten (VPE), an umbrella organization of the united Pentecostal and Evangelical churches. In this book, the author declares that “those who still try to keep the law are not spiritually of age and have not yet received the Holy Spirit.” And again, “Christians who today try to keep the ten commandments hinder the work of the Holy Spirit and undermine the pure essence of the New Covenant.”[4] Sweeping statements indeed. But are these ideas Biblical?

The Scriptures declare one of the purposes of the gospel to be, “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:4). To fulfil the law of God means to keep the law of God (see Rom. 2:27). So this verse essentially teaches that those who are led by the Holy Spirit will keep the law of God. They are not saved by keeping the law; but their faith in the love of Christ prompts them to do the will of God (cf. John 14:15). On the other hand, the Bible declares that “the carnal mind is enmity against God: because it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Rom. 8:7). Clearly, then, irrespective of how spiritual they fancy themselves to be, those Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders who claim that we do not have to keep the Ten Commandments – and who are therefore not subject to the law of God – are carnal minded and are at enmity against God. They do not have “the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to them that obey him,” (Acts 5:32), but are led by Satan, “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).

Jesus once said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works [Greek: dunamis, i.e. miracles]? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21-23). It is evident from these verses that Jesus is speaking about a class of professing Christians, for they call him “Lord.” These Christians believe that they are doing the work of God, for they do it in Christ’s name. And the class of Christians Jesus describes here are definitely Charismatic, for they “prophesy,” “cast out devils,” and do “many miracles.” Moreover, Jesus did not describe a single and isolated individual, for he plainly declared that “many” would belong to this class of Christians. He predicted the rise of a Charismatic movement, that would deceive many (cf. Matt. 24:4-5,11,24-27). Yet despite their great display of supernatural power, these Christians will not enter the kingdom of heaven, because they do not do the will of God. For on the day of days, they will come to Jesus and say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many miracles?” Others might say, “Lord, Lord, have we not soaked in thy presence? Were we not drunk in thy Spirit? Have we not seen thee in dreams and visions? Have we not spoken in tongues?” But Jesus will say unto them, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity,” “ye that transgress the law.”

Yet while they transgress the law of God, Charismatic leaders are striving to establish laws of their own. The political wing of the Charismatic movement is spearheaded by the so-called New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), arguably the most dangerous outgrowth of the third wave movement. It was founded by C. Peter Wagner, a self-styled apostle, who believes we are currently living in the “Second Apostolic Age” which “began roughly in 2001.” Influential names within the New Apostolic movement are Rick Joyner, Paul Cain, Che Ahn, Heidi Baker, Bob Jones, Cindy Jacobs, Mike Bickle, and many others –– all of whom claim to be prophets or apostles under the direct inspiration of God. The leaders of the NAR are the major proponents of Dominion theology, also known as Kingdom Now theology, which basically teaches that believers must establish a universal theocracy on earth, which they call the kingdom of God.

Reclaiming the Seven Mountains of Culture is a key concept in the theology of the New Apostolic Reformation.

One of the features in their theology is a concept known as ‘Reclaiming the Seven Mountains,’ based on a vision which God allegedly gave in 1975 to Loren Cunningham (born 1935) and Bill Bright (1921 – 2003), founders of Youth With A Mission and Campus Crusade.[5] Believers are instructed to reclaim the seven mountains (or spheres) of society, consisting of the mountains of Religion, Government, Family, Business, Education, Media, and Arts & Entertainment. In other words, they must take control of every aspect of society. This is significant, for the Bible predicts the establishment of a universal theocracy, and speaks about “seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.” (Rev. 17:9). This woman represents an apostate church that will eventually control the governments of this world and dominate the consciences of men.

In fact, there are several prophecies in Revelation 13 and 16 which predict that the Charismatic movement will bring this apostate church to power. According to the Bible, there will come a time when the Charismatic movement, through great signs and wonders, will induce the governments of this world to enforce a religious law, which the Bible calls “the mark of the beast.” And those who refuse to obey this law, will not be able to buy or sell. (see Rev. 13:11-18). Che Ahn, one of the leading prophets of the NAR, has stated with regard to the ‘Mountain of Government,’ that “once we do get to the head, then all of a sudden we can make decrees and declarations and we can shift and influence that whole mountain.”[6] No doubt, “the mark of the beast” will be one of the decrees which the Charismatic movement will enforce, once they gain control of the government.

At present, the New Apostolic Movement is actively recruiting an army to implement these decrees and to punish its violators. Bill Hamon, a leading prophet of the movement, wrote in one of his books: “God’s great end-time army is being prepared to execute God’s written judgments with Christ’s victory and divine judgment decrees that have already been established in heaven. The time is set when they will be administered and executed on earth through God’s saintly army.” He has predicted the rise of an “Army of the Lord Movement” and claims that “millions of Spirit-filled Christians …believe this army has a destiny in being instrumental in executing God’s purposes and judgments upon earth.”[7] In Charismatic circles, this army is commonly known as Joel’s Army. Through agencies such as The Call, an organization led by Lou Engle, which organizes massive prayer events attended by hundreds of thousands of people; Becky Fisher’s Jesus Camp, a Charismatic boot camp which drills and indoctrinates young children to become soldiers for Jesus; and Rick Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries, which trains “children from eight years old” to become “true knights of the Spirit”[8]; literally millions of young people are being mobilized and trained to fill the ranks of this ecclesiastical army. According to their own prophets, this army is destined to bring about a global revolution called the “Elijah Revolution.” Rick Joyner, a major prophet of the NAR, has predicted a “veritable revolution” that will be carried out by “a great company of prophets, teachers, pastors and apostles that will be of the spirit of Phinehas.”[9] Phinehas was a priest in the Old Testament who turned the wrath of God away from God’s people by executing the death penalty upon the most obstinate fornicator in the camp (Num. 25:6-12). So it seems Rick Joyner essentially predicts the rise of a company of Christians who will execute the death penalty upon those who refuse to obey their laws.

It is also interesting to note that in May 1996, Rick Joyner published an article titled ‘Civil War in the Church,in which he predicted that the church is headed for “a spiritual civil war” between the proponents of ecumenical unity and its opponents. The latter he ranks under the banner of “the Accuser of the Brethren” (i.e. Satan; see Rev. 12:10). According to Joyner, this war will be “one of the most cruel battles the church has ever faced. Like every civil war, it will cause brother to turn against brother like we may have never witnessed in the church before.” He also stated that “the definition of a complete victory in this war would be the complete overthrow of the Accuser of the Brethren’s strongholds in the church.” “This battle must be fought. It is an opportunity to drive the accuser out of the church, and for the church then to come into a unity that would otherwise be impossible.” In other words, the voice of opposition must be silenced at any cost, and those who dare to oppose the ecumenical unity of the church will be banished from their congregations. It seems Joel’s Army is destined to become a persecuting power that will “cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.” (Rev. 13:15). Interestingly, these words of Rick Joyner remind of something our Lord Jesus Christ predicted nearly two thousand years ago. “They shall put you out of the synagogues,” he said, “yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.” (John 16:2-4). In view of current developments, it seems this time has nearly come. Bible-believing Christian should brace themselves and pray for grace to endure the difficult times ahead, for the fires of persecution are about to be kindled.

But the confusion of the Charismatic movement gets still worse. On one occasion, the Pharisees declared that Jesus “cast out devils” by “Beelzebub the prince of the devils.” (Mat. 12:24). But Jesus denied these accusations and indirectly declared, “I cast out devils by the Spirit of God” (Matthew 12:28). So the Pharisees ascribed the work of Jesus to the devil, whereas in reality it was the work of the Holy Spirit. In doing this, they sinned not against Jesus only, but against the Holy Spirit. For this reason Jesus said to them, “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men.” (Matthew 12:31). Charismatics will often take this verse out of its proper context, and claim that to criticize the manifestations or preachers of their movement is sin against the Holy Spirit (because the Charismatic movement is claimed to be the movement of the Holy Spirit). Thus the voice of opposition is largely silenced. For who would dare to risk his salvation by criticizing something as vague and ambiguous as these phenomena? What if it is of God after all?

But let us look at it from another perspective. The Charismatic movement is ascribing occult and demonic manifestations to the Holy Spirit. So if anyone is in danger of sinning against the Holy Spirit, it is they themselves. Many of the practices in Charismatic churches have their occult equivalent in the New Age movement (whose leaders openly profess that it is the spirit of Lucifer that works within them). For example, what Charismatics call prophetic singing, prophetic dancing, and prophetic painting, is known in the New Age movement as intuitive singing, intuitive painting, and intuitive dancing. Another concept that has gained a strong foothold in many Charismatic churches is a form of contemplative prayer known as soaking prayer, whereby church members bring their pillow and blanket, and just lay themselves down in quiet meditation on the floor of the church, supposedly “soaking in the Holy Spirit,” while meditative music is being played in the background. In the New Age movement, the same thing is practiced under a variety of names, such as lay down concert, meditation concert, or relaxation concert, but here it is associated with Druidism and Shamanism. There is also a striking parallel between the Toronto Blessing and its occult equivalent in Hinduism and New Age spirituality, where it is the working of Kundalini – the serpent power – that produces similar manifestations. In fact, Benjamin Crème, the leading prophet of Maitreya (the New Age Christ), is said to have stated that the Toronto Blessing is “the method being used by his spiritual Masters to soften up Christian Fundamentalists to accept the New Age Christ when he appears.”[10] Since the New Age Christ is none other than Lucifer, or Satan, who plans to counterfeit the second coming of Jesus Christ, it is evident that these manifestations cannot possibly be the work of the Spirit of God.

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit, “will reprove the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8). So the work of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of sin, and this He does by the law, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). The Holy Spirit confronts us with the law of God, whereby he makes us conscious of sin, so that we will turn to Jesus Christ to cleanse us from sin (see 1 John 1:9). But this is precisely the work of the Holy Spirit which many within the Charismatic movement explicitly deny. Renowned Charismatic preacher Joseph Prince of New Creation Church in Singapore, one of Asia’s biggest churches (about 22,000 local members), declares in his book ‘Destined to Reign’: “The bottom line is that the Holy Spirit never convicts you of your sins. He NEVER comes to point out your faults. I challenge you to find a scripture in the Bible that tells you that the Holy Spirit has come to convict you of your sins.”[11] Joel Osteen, a world-famous prosperity preacher and pastor of Lakewood Church (with 47,000 weekly worshipers the largest congregation in the United States), likewise declares in one of his books that this “sin consciousness” is of “the enemy.”[12] Similar ideas are taught by Creflo Dollar and other Charismatic preachers. These men thus ascribe the work of the Holy Spirit to the devil, just as the Pharisees did of old, and in doing so, they are sinning against the Holy Spirit. The sad thing is that this sin can never be forgiven, because the moment people persistently declare the voice that convicts them of sin to be the voice of the devil, the Holy Spirit has nothing more to say to them. Whenever the Holy Spirit convicts them of sin, these deluded preachers and their deluded followers will believe it is the devil that accuses them. They will reject the voice of the Holy Spirit as being the voice of the devil, because they confuse the Holy Spirit with the Accuser of the Brethren. And so when Rick Joyner and his companions seek “to drive the accuser out of the church,” it is actually the Holy Spirit whom they are warring against.

It is evident that the Charismatic movement rejects the word of God, the law of God, and the Spirit of God, and has embraced the very religion which Satan preached to Jesus in the wilderness. We must conclude, therefore, that this movement is not being led by the Holy Spirit, but by “the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” (Rev. 16:14). The Christian world has become the center of Babylonian confusion, and God’s final warning must be given: “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. …COME OUT OF HER, MY PEOPLE, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Rev. 18:2-4).

A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), a well-known American preacher, once said, “I am a Bible Christian and if an archangel with a wingspread as broad as a constellation shining like the sun were to come and offer me some new truth, I’d ask him for a reference. If he could not show me where it is found in the Bible, I would bow him out and say, I’m awfully sorry, you don’t bring any references with you.” This attitude is our only safeguard against deception. It was the principle of Sola Scriptura that put an end to the dark ages, it ended my personal confusion, and it is our only protection against the wiles of Satan. So let us cling to the good old maxim, “The Bible, and the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants.” Or, as the prophet Isaiah said of old, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20).

[1] David Wilkerson, “The Last Outpouring”, May 10, 2010;
[2] John MacArthur, Does Experience Determine Truth?, Sermon series: Charismatic Chaos, Grace to You, 90-50, 9 June 1991.
[3] Paul Washer, The Truth About Man, (Granted Ministries Press; 2nd edition; October 9, 2009) Introduction
[4] Lemmer du Plessis, Die Belofte van Sy Wederkoms (2003), 158, 162.
[6] Che Ahn in a video on Youtube entitled “Che Ahn Claims S. Korea President is an Apostle,” originally posted by the Wagner Leadership Institute, May 2010.
[7] Bill Hamon, Apostles, Prophets, and the Coming Moves of God. Destiny Image Publishers (July 1, 1997), 252, 267.
[8] Rick Joyner, “Knights of Malta,” 6/26/2007;
[9] Rick Joyner. The Harvest, (Whitaker House, June 1997), 60.
[10] Nick Needham, “The Toronto Blessing”, Part 2, The Shepherd, Jan 1996 (Vol. XVI, No. 4).
[11] Joseph Prince, Destined to Reign, (Harrison House, October 31, 2007), 134, 135
[12] Joel Osteen, Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day, (Simon and Schuster, 15 Oct. 2007), 102.

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Jozef Daniel Astley (b. 1987) is a British-Dutch journalist of religion, poet and Bible teacher from the Netherlands. He is the founder and editor of Advent InSight and lives in the vicinity of Den Bosch. You can contact him via