by Bill Randles
If there has been one distinguishing characteristic of popular Charismatic, Pentecostal and even Evangelical Christianity in the closing years of this millennium, it has been the pursuit of the "New Thing" and the "Great End-Times Revival", which in theory would sweep the world into the Kingdom and usher in the "greatest move of God ever seen" - greater even than in the book of Acts. Through the prophecies and teachings of Charismatic leaders, an expectation has developed of a Last-Days cutting-edge church which would move in such power and anointing that world leaders would search out the wisdom of its leaders, and whole nations would fall trembling at its feet.
In spite of the fact that there is no scriptural justification for this fantasy, it appeals to the desire in a good many Christians to be seen as relevant and powerful. Therefore, millions around the world have bought into it, as evidenced by the immediate mass pilgrimages to such sites as Toronto, Pensacola, and many other lesser locations which are designated as having received the "New Anointing". In three years, estimates of up to half a million people visited the Toronto Airport Vineyard, and stood in lines at times for three and four hours waiting to come into the church! And for what were they waiting? Not for the preaching and teaching of the Word of God so much as for an experience with the "presence of the Lord". Such experiences ranged from uncontrollable laughter to guttural roaring, crying, prophesying, being slain in the spirit, put into trances, and for many, even being put into such an altered state of consciousness that they imitated animal gestures and sounds! It was not the word of the Lord which these pilgrims sought so much as an unmediated experience with "the presence of the Lord".
To their credit, the Assemblies of God initially resisted this excess, having seen it all before in the "New Order of the Latter Rain" movement, which they had renounced as heretical in 1950. At one point, they could see plainly that the Vineyard movement, out of which the Toronto phenomenon grew, was influenced by the very Latter Rain/Manifest Sons of God errors which they had once refuted. They were particularly cautious of the Kansas City Prophets of the Vineyard . Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time before an Assemblies of God version of the "Toronto Blessing" "flowed" forth at the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida. That particular outpouring became the turning point at which the bulk of the AG movement was brought into what became known as "the River".
In spite of protests to the contrary, the Assemblies of God version of the "New Anointing" is identical to the Vineyard's version. This is because rather than having had this "New Anointing" come down out of heaven as a "rushing, mighty wind", Steve Hill brought it to Brownsville from England. This followed his asking his British hosts, "where is the Holy Spirit moving in London?", then being directed to the Holy Trinity Brompton church, and finally having hands laid upon him by the vicar, Sandy Millar. (Holy Trinity Brompton is nearly synonymous with the Toronto Blessing in the British mind, having done more than anyone else to blanket the churches in the United Kingdom with this phenomenon. In fact, the expression "Toronto Blessing" was coined by someone on staff at HTB.) Steve brought "it" back to Pensacola, Florida, and to the Brownsville Assembly of God. Perhaps another million people have since made pilgrimages to this location get "it" and take "it" back to their own churches. In this way, what was once primarily a Vineyard and then a Charismatic phenomenon has been brought into the mainstream of the classical Pentecostal - and even the Evangelical - worlds.
A prominent example within the Assemblies of God denomination of a pastor and church radicalized by this "New Anointing" comes out of the testimony of Pastor Steve Benson from 1st Assembly of God in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here is his own account of his initial encounter with this "New Anointing":
"When Steve (Hill) and John (Kilpatrick) started to anoint me with oil, they doubled over and shouted, 'The Anointing'!!! and collapsed. I felt like the three of us were swirling around the room like the vortex of a whirlpool...they walked out of the office. I felt as if my body was being pulled apart...was being pulled apart...was being stretched out of shape beyond measure. I asked the Lord, 'What does this mean, Lord?' The Lord answered, 'I'm just crucifying your flesh.' I opened my eyes and the first thing I looked at were my hands, because they were tingling with the power of God."
The manifestations of this spirit, as you can see, go far beyond the commonly understood gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is not about speaking in tongues, nor even very much about prophecy or divine healing. The manifestation of this "New Anointing" is more likely to bring people into an unmediated experience of power. Joseph Chambers' End Times Digest, March 1997, quotes John Kilpatrick of Brownsville Assembly of God as testifying:
"I have hundreds of times laid hands on the unsaved and I have watched them being thrown across the ground. I mean I have watched them fly through the air, fall to the ground to where they couldn't get up again for an hour or two hours. The next thing you know is, "what shall I do to be saved?" ...Friends, I am not talking hundreds anymore; thousands this has happened to. Thousands have been convinced by the power... We have had people, agnostics and God-haters, businessmen coming into our meetings and they have been thrown into the air up against a wall and hit the ground when we shook their hand."
What are we to make of this "New Anointing"? Is this the Holy Spirit of God doing a "New Thing" among us? Or could this be something fleshly and human, or perhaps even something more sinister? Since the mid 1990's when the Assemblies of God mainstreamed "The River" of blessing, this "presence" that people have been willing to embark on pilgrimages to various locations to find has swollen into a floodtide of unusual manifestations and experiences! Nor is it any longer to be found solely in Toronto or Pensacola. Hundreds and even thousands of other churches are reporting their own manifestations of this "presence". Here is just a sampling of New Wine testimonies reported on the Internet:
Automatic finger pointing - "It was prophesied over me that I was a weathervane... all of a sudden my finger starting pointing at people and in the air towards heaven...I was in a very conservative church and during the service, there went my finger. I sat there for a half an hour that way... The pastor got up to give the altar call for those to get saved. He also fell laughing to the floor. The first pastor managed to pull himself to the podium, still laughing, and said "If you want to get saved, see that lady's finger? Follow that finger..."
Braveheart anointing? - "That night the place (church) was full with two thousand plus persons, and there was a real spirit of anticipation... Pastor**** got up... as he began to exhort the people during the announcements, he took hold of the large Braveheart sword that was there from the night before. He began to get bolder and bolder as he pointed the sword towards the congregation, and charged them to a revived spirit...after two hours...(he) suggested the whole church "Pass under the sword through a fire tunnel". The two senior pastors... would hold up two swords, so as to form an arch...all two thousand of the congregation waited patiently for the chance to be prayed through the fire tunnel".
Starting out in the flesh - "She recounted her experiences in "coming into the River" during a Rodney Howard-Browne meeting at a church across town (Marilyn Hickey's church)... She had a very tough time figuring out what God wanted from her, and she really wanted to get into the laughing thing. God told her to yield. "Whaddya mean, 'yield'?"... she was flat on her back, and God told her to start laughing even if it was "just the flesh" to start out with. In a few minutes something rose up inside her; away she went. The point being, she had given God something to work with..."
I didn't really have to try very hard to find these testimonies. They are a mere skimming off the top of a bulging file, gleaned from testimonies on the Internet, Charisma magazine, and other sources of the manifestations of this "New Anointing". In fact, I deliberately didn't use some of the more extreme manifestations; the above are just typical ones, so as to not sensationalize. I haven't gotten into the multiple gold-dust secretions, "birthing", oil, and even feathers which are allegedly supernaturally manifesting in countless 'Renewal' churches and gatherings. We are obviously no longer awaiting this "New Anointing"; it is here, and people are being impacted by it. This is why I believe that we should consider this "Anointing" in the light of several truths:
First of all, Jesus warned us specifically:
"Then if any man say unto you, 'Lo, here is Christ', or 'There', believe it not. For there shall arise false christs and false prophets who shall show great signs and wonders; inasmuch if it be possible they shall deceive the very elect (and by the Greek construction, it is clear that Jesus is saying it is possible)...Wherefore if they shall say unto you, 'Behold, he is in the desert', go not forth; 'Behold, he is in the secret chambers'; believe it not..." (Matthew 24: 23-26)
Note that the warning does not concern the problem of people claiming that Jesus is here or there, but that Christ is! This is a very significant distinction, because no one is claiming that Jesus has come to Pensacola or Toronto, or to one of Rodney Howard-Browne's crusades. Rather, they are claiming that these wonders and signs and 'breakthroughs' are a result of the outpouring of a 'new anointing'. And what is the Greek way of saying 'anointed' or 'anointing'? Christ is the Greek way of saying 'anointing'. To receive of Rodney Howard-Browne's 'anointing' is another way of saying that Rodney Howard-Browne is Christ! When they say that there is an anointing being poured out in the Toronto Airport Vineyard, they are in effect saying, "Look, there is Christ"! The danger is not that of being deceived by a false Jesus; after all, most Christians know that the real Jesus has holes in His hands and feet. The warning is 'beware of a false Christ', or, in other words, a false anointing!
John also warned us explicitly when he gave us the test for the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error: "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that denieth that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God; and this is that spirit of antichrist..." (1 John 4:3-4)
John warned us that in some way the Antichrist will seek to spiritualize Jesus Christ in order to deceive the world. There is more than one way to do this. To the Jehovah's Witness, Christ did not raise bodily from the dead, but in spirit. This is an obviously Antichrist doctrine. To the Mormon, the denial is that Jesus became the Christ, rather than that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. But to the modern Pentecostal and Charismatic, the deception is that instead of awaiting the bodily return of Jesus Christ, they are to await the outpouring of a "new anointing" (Christ), which will empower us to become the greatest generation of the Church ever!
What we have in this "new anointing" is a disincarnate Christ! It manifests itself in many ways foreign to the Jesus of the Bible. People get drunk in it, soak in it, go into trances in the name of it and act like animals in its presence. John Kilpatrick of Brownsville Assembly of God was so drunk in it for several weeks that he had to have help dressing in the morning! He called it "The Glory". Instead of patiently waiting for the coming of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ from heaven, Pentecostals and Charismatics and even many Evangelicals have entered into a disincarnate 'presence', seeking 'it' instead of Him!
Consider the fact that from the beginning, at both Toronto and Pensacola, "It" was invoked. The true Spirit of Jesus Christ is in the church, praying with and through the church, "Come Lord Jesus", for the Spirit and the Bride say "Come!" The false spirit, on the contrary, is invoked by the command of the newly anointed "Come!!! COME HOLY SPIRIT, MORE! MORE!". In the testimony of Pastor Benson, the spirit was invoked by simply hitting him in the stomach and shouting in unison, "THE ANOINTING". The depersonalized nature of this spirit is further attested to in the testimonies of the many who went to "get it", and perhaps "bring it back to their churches", that others might "soak in it" and perhaps get under the heavy weight of "it", as Pastor Kilpratick often has testified.
We need to consider also how it is that our God changes lives. In the new paradigm "the River", there seems to be a strong emphasis on change without the preaching of the Gospel, but rather by 'being zapped', as witnessed in the above testimony by Kilpatrick of the thousands who have been thrown against the wall by the anointing and come up two or three hours later asking, "What must we do to be saved?" In fact, there almost seems at times to be an anti-preaching bias. When standing outside in the depths of the Canadian winter to interview those waiting for three hours to get into the Toronto Airport Vineyard services in 1995, I noted that a good many pastors from around the world repeated, without exception, a constant theme, "We don't preach anymore; since the Spirit came we don't need to. The Spirit has taken over..."
Ours is the faith in the Logos of God. God has spoken, and by the Word He "Heals us and delivers us from our destruction". "In the beginning was the Word..." and it is the Truth that shall make men free. The God of the Bible doesn't 'zap' people into conversion. "The Son of God has come and has given us an understanding..." (1 John 5:20)
Whenever God's people are denied a consistent sound-doctrine diet, they are tempted to resort to symbols, pageants, sensuality, and personalities as a golden calf substitute. This explains 'Braveheart' swords, Marches for Jesus, identificational repentances, symbolic actions driving stakes engraved with scriptures at the corners of cities, spiritual warfare dances with staves and a whole host of other pagan practices which are currently taking place in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches around the world. When the God of the Bible wants to effect change, He presents truth to the minds and consciences of the people, demanding that they conform to it. It is the truth that sets you free. Paganism and magic are anti-rational and symbolic, not Christianity.
Perhaps this current explosion of mysticised Christianity represents the failure of pastors, especially Pentecostals, to feed the church with sound doctrine. After all, what are people looking for, anyway? I thought we found what we wanted when we came to the Fountain of Living Water, Jesus! Why this restlessness, this openness to anything except sound doctrine? I believe that we are in the time of the famine spoken of by both Amos and Paul:
"'Behold, the days come,' saith the Lord God, 'that I will send a famine on the land, not of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord, and they shall wander from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the Word of the Lord and shall not find it...'" (Amos 8:11-12)
"For a time will come when they shall not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables." (1 Timothy 4:3-4)
Is there a way back? How do you admit that you were wrong after going under the "Tunnel of Fire"? Worse yet, how can you admit that you were deceived when you were the one who formed the tunnel with your Braveheart sword? It is because we are often unwilling to be reproached, because we want to be great and regarded as 'cutting edge', that we become seduced by all of this unholy madness. How else can we explain the proud boasting, the swelling prophecies, the desire to have the power to turn stones into bread? If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.
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