By Rick Becker 18 December 2020
If there’s one word being used in evangelical circles to an excessive degree it’s revival. When it comes to present-day revivals, they are largely associated with packed stadiums, gatherings in strategic places, celebrity speakers, trending worship songs, and feel good “prophetic words.” Some believe we are currently experiencing revival, but this assumption is based on activity in the visible church, particularly within the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) By attaching the word revival to their meetings or movement, the self appointed “apostles” and “prophets” of the NAR are securing the attention and devotion of their deluded followers. After all, no one wants to miss out on what “God is doing.” But if we examine the roots and characteristics of NAR revivals, we’ll discover that their “revivals” are manufactured and simply a perpetuation of a great delusion.
Revival is a complex topic with various definitions, but I’ll offer two for the benefit of those who may need a general sense of what a revival entails.
Got Questions: “Revival refers to a spiritual reawakening from a state of dormancy or stagnation in the life of a believer. It encompasses the resurfacing of a love for God, an appreciation of God’s holiness, a passion for His Word and His church, a convicting awareness of personal and corporate sin, a spirit of humility, and a desire for repentance and growth in righteousness.”
“We can define it as a period of unusual blessing and activity in the life of the Christian Church. Revival means awakening, stimulating the life, bringing it to the surface again. It happens primarily in the Church of God, and amongst believing people, and it is only secondly something that affects those that are outside also.”
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, What is Revival?
Influential revivals in church history.
• During the 18th century what has been termed The Great Awakening took place among Protestants in British American colonies. Two of the influential preachers during this revival were Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. The doctrinal mark of this awakening was teaching that emphasized the dreadfulness of sin, and justification by faith.
• A second Great Awakening occurred between 1795 and 1835. A prominent figure in this awakening was Charles Finney. Dubbed the “Father of Modern Revivalism” Finney was a Pelagian who denied the substitutionary atonement. Finney had a pragmatic approach to evangelism: “Without new measures (One of these new measures popularized by Finney was the “altar call.”) it is impossible that the Church should succeed in gaining the attention of the world to religion. There are so many exciting subjects constantly brought before the public mind, such a running to and fro, so many that cry “Lo here!” and “Lo there!” that the Church cannot maintain her ground without sufficient novelty in measures, to get the public ear.” – Charles Grandison Finney, Measures to Promote Revivals, 1835.
• The year 1906 saw the birth of the Pentecostal movement during the “Azusa Street Revival.” Leaders in the revival believed this move was nothing less than a second Pentecost. The two prominent figures in this revival were Charles Parham from Topeka, Kansas, and his student William Joseph Seymour. The teaching that speaking in tongues is the evidence of being baptised in the Holy Spirit originated with Parham, who is often referred to as the “Father of Modern-day Pentecostalism.” Seymour moved to California and started the meetings in Azusa. Parham traveled to Azusa, but was not well received. Some attribute this to a personality conflict and leadership differences, others believe the fact that Parham had previously been arrested for sodomy played a role. The charge was dropped due to lack of evidence, but the damage had been done.
Generals of the faith or wolves in sheep’s clothing?
Many of the leading figures (generals) in these revivals are revered within the New Apostolic Reformation and Charismatic circles. Their stories and exploits are recorded in numerous books, and unfortunately, these stories and testimonies overshadow the doctrine and fruits of certain “generals.”
This article exposes the doctrines and fruits of Edward Irving, John Alexander Dowie, Frank W. Sanford, Charles Fox Parham, John G. Lake, and Smith Wigglesworth.
Their influence has not waned, many of those considered “generals” were heretics, yet their anointings are coveted by current day “revivalists.” Bethel serves as an example of a NAR church that is building a “revival” on sand instead of building on the sure foundation of God’s word. Bill Johnson regrets that we have failed to build on the works of men and women: “Instead of building on the work of the John Lakes, Smith Wigglesworths, and Aimee Semple McPhersons, we build memorials to their memories, and forget what we should have inherited.”
Bill Johnson. A Life of Miracles: 365-Day Guide to Prayer and Miracles.
The fact that Bill Johnson and Kris Valloton from Bethel church asked God for the mantle of heretic William Branham should send shudders down the spine of any informed believer. It doesn’t end with Branham. The following two excerpts are from Bill Johnson’s contribution to the book Momentum: What God Starts, Never Ends – by Bill Johnson, Eric Johnson (Chapter 4)
The title of the chapter is Access Through Honor – a clear indication that the NAR has made people mediators of God’s power or anointing. In chapter 4, Bill discusses revivalists of the past. Now I’m sure we have all been encouraged by the biographies of men and women of God that have gone before us. But Johnson takes it to another level, not to mention that most of the “revivalists” he reveres were complete frauds.
Johnson: “These heroes of the faith made sobering choices to follow God, no matter what. In doing so, they have made it possible for me to access things I’d never have access to on my own. The Lord spoke to me about these revivalists, saying “If you will honor the generals of the past, even those whose lives ended poorly, I will give you access to their anointings.”
Sounds a bit like idolatry! Chapter, verse? “Poorly” really means apostasy or gross sin. Surely any believer would know that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” 2 Peter 1:3. Johnson is making up his own theology as usual.
Johnson: “I personally think that many have gone into spiritual poverty simply because of their careless comments and slander of those who have filled an important place in history. Such careless accusations are not acceptable, even though the person is dead. We must guard ourselves. If I am careless to criticize, I have opened myself up to the same spirit that deceived them.”
Bill Johnson’s logic – by pointing out that his hero in the faith, William Branham was a heretic and fraud who taught the serpent seed doctrine, and the “idea that the zodiac and the Egyptian pyramids are equal to written Scripture”… you will be inflicted with “spiritual poverty.” Sadly, it’s Johnson and his fellow NAR leaders who are operating in the same spirit that deceived men like Branham.
During the past few decades the majority of those calling for revival, or claiming that we are in a revival, are self appointed “apostles” and “prophets” who like the Johnsons hold deceased charlatans in high esteem.
Bill Johnson like many others has bought into the “billion soul harvest” lie – a “prophecy” by Kansas city false prophet Bob Jones.
“The exploits of the present and coming revival will surpass all the accomplishments of the Church in all history combined. Over 1 billion souls will be saved. Stadiums will be filled with people 24 hours a day, for days on end, with miracles beyond number: healings, conversions, resurrections, and deliverances too many to count.”
Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth Expanded Edition.
It’s not only deceased false teachers the Johnsons admire. Bethel will defend modern day “revivalists” who fall into the mark and avoid category. People like Todd Bentley, Randy Clark, John Arnott, and Rodney Howard Browne are considered to be modern day revivalists by Johnson and the NAR. Surely Bill Johnson should research these men and their movements before giving them his stamp of approval? That’s not the case because Johnson has created a “culture” of refusing to entertain any legitimate concerns:
“Someone once brought a book to my office that was critical of the revival that started in Toronto in January of 1994. I refused to read it and threw it away. You might say, “You’re not very open-minded.” You’re right. I am responsible to protect what God has given me. No one else has that assignment. Burning within my soul is a piece of the original flame from the day of Pentecost. It’s been handed down generation after generation.”
Bill Johnson. When Heaven Invades Earth Expanded Edition: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles.
This culture of willful ignorance or shamefully pursuing known error has permeated Bethelites and is one of the reasons your friends or family caught up in Bethel will refuse to examine any critique.
A prime example of a contemporary “revivalist” in the NAR is Sean Feucht who looks to omens for guidance and confirmation. Feucht has been touring the US hosting numerous “Let Us Worship” meetings and he is priming his followers for the new years eve meeting to be held in Azusa Street, which he claims is going to be the “best party of the year in LA!.” His description is fairly accurate because that’s really what a NAR revival boils down to. Let’s examine the characteristics of a true revival, and then compare them to the NAR revivals.
FIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF A TRUE REVIVAL.
A revival is not something we can manufacture, the roots of revival are found in God and his word. The cause can only be God – “A revival is a miracle. It is a miraculous, exceptional phenomenon. It is the hand of the Lord, and it is mighty. In other words, it is something that can only be explained as the direct action and intervention of God” Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival.
A phrase, which like the word revival, has sadly lost any real meaning and is often used to describe a revival is “a move of God.” But as we shall see, NAR “revivalists” are actually the “movers.” Now while it’s true that revival is therefore unconditional in the sense that it’s something God alone can do, it’s also accurate to say that certain conditions existed when God brought revival – the preaching of the word, obedience to the word, and prayer.
In short, revival is rooted in God and his word.
By “revelation” I mean the infallible revelation of God’s word contained in the scriptures. There can be no true awakening, or revival if God’s word is contradicted or neglected. Any true revival will be a return to scripture, not a departure from scripture. Those within the NAR who are hoping to facilitate a second Pentecost ignore the fact that it was a unique and historical event in the establishment of the church, and the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit. NARites are quick to covet the salvation of thousands and the signs and wonders that occurred on the day of Pentecost and throughout the book of Acts, but neglect the faithful preaching of God’s word recorded in Acts. Peter’s theme for his sermon on the day of Pentecost was repentance, and his message was based on two quotes from the old testament (the book of Joel and the Psalms)
Throughout the book of acts the revelation of God’s word was studied and taught:
“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:42
The bold preaching of God’s word was a fruit of being filled with the Spirit:
“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31.
Paul’s custom with the Jews was to
stretch their legs “reason with them from the Scriptures.”
In short, a high view of scripture is a mark of revival.
Any “revival” or time of refreshment from God will contain an accurate view of God and man. This is a result of teaching God’s word and the operation of the Holy Spirit. Based on the revelation of God’s word, an “awakening” or realization takes place.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12.
Sinners need a saviour, and believers need continual reminders of what they were saved from. False teaching will always distort the nature of God and the nature of man, and a true revival will correct any distortion of those views. Christ will be exalted, not man.
In short, revival produces a high view of God – his attributes and his glory.
A deep conviction of sin is a mark of a true revival, and conviction leads to repentance. It’s impossible to have a true awareness of God, without a true awareness of self. When God spoke, when sinners found themselves in the presence of Jesus, or as on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out, people repented:
• “And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah 6:4-5
• “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5-6.
• “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Luke 5:8.
• “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” Luke 18:13.
• “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. ” Acts 2:37-38.
• “But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent , therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord..” Acts 3:18-20.
Don’t think this applies to sinners alone, because as believers grow in sanctification they see their flesh for what it is.
Matthew Henry’s commentary on 1 John 1:8-10 “All who walk near to God, in holiness and righteousness, are sensible that their best days and duties are mixed with sin. God has given testimony to the sinfulness of the world, by providing a sufficient, effectual Sacrifice for sin, needed in all ages; and the sinfulness of believers themselves is shown, by requiring them continually to confess their sins, and to apply by faith to the blood of that Sacrifice.”
In short, revival produces repentance and converts.
The fear of God is a mark of any spiritual “awakening” (the fear of God should be a mark of the normal Christian life) Reverence is the natural outcome when we have the correct understanding of God and self.
“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was marked by the fear of God upon people: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul..”
In short, revival produces the fear of God.
The error of contemporary revivals is glaring when we compare the characteristics of NAR revivals to the above.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones had a God centered view of revival. Charles Finney’s view is the opposite – man centered: “A revival is not a miracle according to another definition of the term “miracle” something above the powers of nature. There is nothing in religion beyond the ordinary powers of nature. It consists entirely in the right exercise of the powers of nature. It is just that, and nothing else. When mankind become religious, they are not enabled to put forth exertions which they were unable before to put forth. They only exert powers which they had before, in a different way, and use them for the glory of God. A revival is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means.”
Finney, What a Revival of Religion Is.
The contrast between Lloyd Jones and Finney’s view on revival is the difference between a true revival/awakening, and the “revivals” of the NAR. The true has its roots in God and his word, the false has its roots in modeling frauds and false doctrine. Finney’s “new measures” have a contemporary manifestation in the proclamations and promotions of NAR revivalists who know exactly how to prime their followers. Their strategies for marketing for their meetings include some form of divine instruction to hold the event, followed by a repetitive campaign to create expectation. Once again, Feucht is a prime example.
Feucht: “I’ve immersed myself reading about the this historic revival (Azusa Street) and believe New Year’s Eve is time for another round! Whose with me? Why not now?
You MUST JOIN US for this prophetic and historic significance! SOMETHING IS GOING TO BREAK OUT ON DECEMBER 31st! DO NOT MISS IT!!”
In short, NAR revivals are manufactured through the manipulation of their followers.
In NAR “revivals” the word of God hardly features, instead the crowd listens eagerly to the vain imaginations and myths of men. It’s the word of God, the gospel that not only saves sinners but refreshes the saved. Replace the word of God with the opinions of men and a few scattered references to a verse from the heretical Passion Translation, and you have deception, not revival. The usual agenda is as follows – trending “worship” songs for an hour, then a few “prophetic” words, a few stories, feel good promises over the nation followed by a celebrity speaker who tells you more about himself than Christ. Finally, an altar call (courtesy of Finney) which usually takes less time than the offering. The whole “revival” is built on the revelations of men – “God told me to hold this meeting, God told me we need to break the spirit of _______ over our nation, God told me a billion souls will come in, etc. The “revelations” of the NAR are appealing – heaven on earth, health and wealth, dominion in the media, government, education, economy, family, religion, and arts. In other words, NAR revelations appease self, whereas God’s revelation (the scriptures) slays self.
In short, NAR revivals exhibit a low view of scripture and contain new revelations.
An accurate view of the nature of God and the nature of man is absent in NAR revivals because the revelation of God’s word is not taught. The fruit of this omission is the elevation of self. The awakening that takes place in the NAR resembles Maslow’s self-actualization – self-fulfillment by reaching our potential. This is hardly surprising given the NAR teaching that emphasizes our worth and value to God. Man’s hopeless position before God is minimized or ignored, instead the NAR focus on man’s potential – which is effectively some kind of a little god.
I’ll let Bethel’s prophet “papa Kris” prove my point that the only realization the NARites of Bethel experience is NARcissism:
“Your identity as a child of God is a non-negotiable. You’re powerful, glorious, and outright awesome. I want to reiterate the declaration from the video and encourage you to read this out loud today: “I am amazing. I am God’s greatest creation. He loves me to death. I rock. I was born to do greater works than Jesus. I was born for glory. Nations are attracted to me. I have the mind of Christ, therefore I think like God. He’s my inheritance and I’m His inheritance. He actually likes me and I like me too. And if people got to know me, they would like me. Creation knows who I am. The devil knows who I am, God knows I am, the angels know who I am… and today, I know who I am!” We are now two decades into various forms of NAR revivals, and the result is a new breed of NARcissists.
In short, NAR revivals do not produce people who stand in awe of God, but people who believe they are awesome – a high view of man.
Beginning with the leaders, it’s taken for granted due to their stories, books, big ministries, and elevated position in their domain that they have indeed repented. By that, I mean regenerated. Jesus called false teachers wolves in sheep’s clothing, not misguided sheep, there’s a difference. Satan’s masterful ploy is to get wolves among the flock and we should not be surprised that most of the current day “apostles” and “prophets” calling for, and claiming revival are servants of Satan: “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” 2 Cor 11:14-15.
God does not appoint goats to lead his sheep.
Now some may argue that during these stadium events or outdoor meetings people repented, and were baptized and healed. God knows, in his mercy, he may have saved some. That does not negate the fact that any NAR revival has rotten roots, and will prove to have rotten fruits. I’ve watched numerous of these meetings during the past few years, I’ve yet to find one where the law and gospel were clearly presented. Questions that need to be asked: have “converts” been swayed by the hype of the event? have they been mesmerized by a therapeutic gospel? A final and crucial question – what kind of “church” will these new converts be drawn to? We know the answer – it will be a NAR type church, and these “converts” will begin their “Christian” life in a quagmire of deception.
NAR corporate repentance.
The faulty assumption made by the NAR is that corporate repentance leads to national revival, which in turn transforms cities and nations – a product of dominion theology. Proof-texting and the NAR go hand in hand, and in the case of national transformation they quote 2 Chronicles 7:14 as the proof text “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
But in this text, God is addressing the nation of Israel under the old covenant – God has not made a covenant with any other nation! This promise is tied to the nation of Israel, the land of Israel & the temple.
• Nation – “My people” refers to those that God brought out of “the land of Egypt” – vs 22
• Land – “then I will pluck you up from my land” – vs 20
• Temple – “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place” (vs 15) “Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?” (vs 21)
We cannot “claim” this as a promise from God to eradicate pestilences & famines or solve our nation’s political and economical problems because we are not Israel under the old covenant. Furthermore, the church in your nation cannot repent on behalf of the wicked.
In short, NAR revivals are marked by superficial repentance based on false doctrines and produce many false converts.
The apostle John had a real vision of Jesus on the isle of Patmos, his reaction: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last,” Revelation 1:17.
That reverential fear of God does not exist in the NAR, instead, there’s a familiarity with God that begs the question: Which god have they encountered? Their blasé approach to holy matters is telling. NARites believe they can command and wake up angels, decree as if they were God and take trips to heaven. At times they manifest like the demonized and behave like lunatics while supposedly experiencing an “encounter” with God. It’s difficult to keep up with the flood of dreams, visions, and new revelations that they claim are essential to the church. They remind me of the dreamers mentioned in Jude:
“Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.”
No doubt, a NAR revival is a passionate affair, and there will undoubtedly be moments when people seem to be worshiping God in sincerity. God knows the hearts, and while there are believers caught up in the NAR, passion and sincerity can never legitimize a movement steeped in false teachers and false doctrines.
In short, NAR revivals result in an unhealthy familiarity with God instead of a fear of God.
Any “revival” in the NAR or Charismania is not a “move of God” but deception.
The scriptures warn of an increase in lawlessness and apostasy in the last days, a rebellion, not a worldwide revival that will disciple literal nations or bring heaven to earth. Jesus described the condition of the world when he returns as the “days of Noah,” the majority were busy with the affairs of this world, oblivious to the impending judgement. Genesis 6:11 is an apt description of the times we live in: “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.”
And so it shall be when Christ returns – to a world that has rejected God, rejected his messengers. Furthermore, he is returning to a visible church wherein the majority have rejected the truth and been given over to a delusion.
Writing to the Thessalonians regarding the coming of Christ, Paul’s warning is emphatic:
“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12
Many “revivalists” will be in for a terrible surprise:
“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matthew 7:22-23
The good news is that as in the days of Noah, there is a remnant. Jesus is building his church and he won’t fail. We don’t need to manufacture a revival, but be faithful in what we have been instructed to do – preach the gospel and make disciples.