By Rick Becker 1 June 2022
The word “breakthrough” is synonymous with the New Apostolic Reformation. Those who are familiar with this apostate movement will know that it elevates man, places subjective experiences above the objective truth of God’s word, and relies on mystical jargon to appear spiritual thereby fooling the ignorant. In a theological context, the phrase “we believe that…” must always be backed up by scripture. In the case of Bethel, that phrase is usually an introduction to their fabricated teachings. Here’s an example from Bethel: “We believe that, because of the breakthroughs that you have experienced with the Lord, you carry authority over those areas.”
What they mean is this – if you’ve experienced a breakthrough (financial miracle, or the healing of a specific disease etc) you have extra supernatural power/authority in those areas. Anyone finding themselves in the same difficult situation, has a better chance of a breakthrough because
Jesus YOU have the authority and faith to command, decree, declare, shift their atmosphere etc. This is nonsense of course, and as usual the “chapter and verses” provided by Bethel to justify this vain imagination are wrest out of context. In this article we’ll examine six recent posts on Bethel’s Facebook page.
Bethel’s modus operandi that captivates so many people is to promise a supernatural solution to those who are struggling in various areas – health, finances, career, family problems etc. The solution is largely dependant on some super anointed individual or BSSM student willing to take a risk, declare, release, activate, or command the desired breakthrough to manifest. Bethel do not restrict this philosophy and practice to church ministry – it’s the philosophy that drives their evangelistic endeavours, and it’s similar to the methodolgy of cults. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
“The methodology of the cult is entirely different from the Christian method; it is not scriptural in any respect. It is merely the formula, plus the personal testimony of what happened to someone as the result of accepting and applying the formula in his or her own life. If you go and do likewise, the same result will follow. Unfortunately there are some evangelical Christians today who imitate the methodology of the cults, and who thereby do a great disservice to the Christian cause. We are to preach ‘Christ Jesus as Lord’, as did the Apostle Paul. We are to give an exposition of the truth of God. We are not to be entirely subjective, starting with ourselves and ending with ourselves, and recommending Christianity simply because it does various things. That is the method of the cults, but it is not the Christian method. Unlike the cults, we are to present objective truth, and to expound the New Testament message.” 1
A formula and a testimony – a recipe for deception and a perfect description of Bethel’s methodology.
Examining six recent posts on Bethel’s Facebook page:
Bethel – Every story of Jesus encountering another person is yours to receive, because as He has done it before, He can do it again.
Psalm 119:111 in context:
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules. I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word! Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your rules. I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law. The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts. Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end. I hate the double-minded, but I love your law. You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.” ” Pslam 119: 105-115.
The Psalmist is delighting in God’s written revelation, which in verse 111 is described as his “testimonies.” It’s simply false to suggest that the meaning of verse 111 is that “Every story of Jesus encountering another person is yours to receive.”
Bethel are taking descriptive texts from the life of Jesus, and changing them into a form of presciptive texts. Naturally, Bethel will pick the good stories that resulted in a miracle, and ignore the negative. Have you always set your mind on the things of God? No? – then you should want to receive the story of Peter’s encounter with Jesus: “But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Mark 8:33.
Bethel – When you hear about how the Lord powerfully moved in another’s life or completely changed a situation for the better, these become the lenses that you see your own life through.
An ambigious statement suggests that an encounter with Jesus that we can claim as our own is not limited to biblical accounts. This opens the door for further deception because many folk covet the encounters with “Jesus” that Bethelites claim to have experienced. The result is the pursuit of various encounters such as entering the realm of the third Heaven, and other mystical experiences – experiences that are a product of the imagination or evil spirits.
Not all testimonies are bad in the sense that they include subjective and mystical experiences, lies and exaggerations. I’m sure we have all been encouraged when a fellow believer experiences God’s intervention and providence in a remarkable way. However, we may be in a similar predicament and not experience the desired relief or intervention. Some folk are graciously delivered from awful situations, others are given grace to endure awful situations. That is God’s prerogative. Testimonies have their place, but they must never replace the gospel.
The lens through which we must view our life is scripture – not the experience or testimony of another person. In order to do away with any confusion, we must know what the scriptures teach about our benefits and privileges as believers. As believers God has promised us forgiveness for our sins, eternal life, wisdom, access to his throne to find mercy and grace, peace, and “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 1:3. Note that the emphasis is on the spiritual, not the material or physical. Due to Bethel’s false doctrines and pursuit of mystical experiences, it goes without saying that they are going to claim benefits and privileges that are not scriptural. One example is Bethel’s definition of a “better situation” when it comes to sickness. Their view is that healing is guaranteed in the atonement, so the only “better situation” for the sick according to Bethel must be physical healing. The fact that all the healers and super anointed leaders at Bethel are powerless in the face of serious diseases among their own loved ones, can be used by God to bring about a better situation. This would mean that God opens their eyes to the delusion and false teachings they have embraced, and teach. That would be a better situation spiritually speaking, and possibly a situation where some are saved. But despite previous opportunities to see their errors, they seem resolute in their endless quest to obtain non existent benefits and privileges.
Sometimes a difficult situation does not go away, because the “better” thing is spirtual growth in the midst of trails and tribulation. Sometimes the “better” thing is learning to rely on Christ regardless of our situation: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13.
The lens through which we should view our life regardless of our situation is the knowledge “that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.
Bethel – When a similar scenario presents itself, you can consider it an opportunity to see God show up like He did before. This is one way that He renews our mind. We go from seeing problems to seeing prophetic signs that God is going to break through.
Another word salad that will only create false expectations and conform your mind to Bethel’s false doctrine. Paul did not view Timothy’s frequent ailments as a prophetic sign, but rather an incovenience for Timothy, and gave him practical advice instead of commanding his ailments to be healed. Perhaps (according to Bethel as we’ll see shortly) Paul carried insufficient authority in the area of stomach problems and was helpless to cure Timothy. What Bethel are doing is attempting to raise expectations when encountering a problem. The belief that expectation is linked to faith is a common word of faith heresy. The idea is that if you only speak positively, expect and declare a breakthrough, you’re more likely to receive one. What this really means is that faith consists of feelings, positive thoughts, and positive declarations – heresy in other words.
Bethel – If you need healing in your body, we invite you to take a step of faith and receive these healing testimonies for yourself. Revelation 19:10 says, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
How exactly does one “receive healing testimonies for yourself.” This kind of mystical jargon places the burden on the sick – they need to conjure up some faith, claim the same miracle, and focus on someone’s testimony, instead of Christ and his word.
The context of the verse:
“And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19: 9-10.
Explanation of the passage:
John is awestruck by the revelation of the marriage supper of the lamb, and in a lapse of judgement falls down at the feet of the angelic messenger to worship him, but instantly receives a rebuke from the angel – a “fellow servant.” Like John, the angel is a creature, a fellow servant of God, a messenger, and should not be worshiped. The passage has nothing to do with receiving “healing testimonies” or prophesying healing over the sick:
Matthew Poole’s Commentary:
“For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy: there are divers senses given of the last phrase; but of all given, there are two which seem to me most probable: either:
1. The spirit of this prophecy, by which I have revealed these things to thee, is not mine, it is the testimony of Jesus; he therefore is to be adored, not I. Or:
2. Thy preaching the gospel, which is thy testimony to Christ, is as much from the Spirit of God, as my spirit of prophecy: we are therefore equals, and I am not to be worshipped more than thou art.”
Gill’s Exposition: “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy that is, the testimony of Jesus, or the Gospel which John and his brethren had, is the very spirit, life, and soul of the prophecy of this book; for as all the prophets bore witness to Christ, so does the Spirit of God in this; or the testimony which they had, and bore to Christ, was equal to the spirit of prophecy with which this angel was endowed; so that he and they were upon an equal foot; and he was no more a proper object of divine and religious adoration than they were.”
Speaking of “religious adoration,” there’s definitely a form of it in Bethel and the New Apostolic Reformation. Bethel elevate and pursue “the messenger,” or the individual they consider to be anointed or has experienced an encounter with Jesus: “We see somebody that has a great anointing in healing and we ask them to pray for us, and from that point on, we begin to pray for people and we see things happen that we never saw happen before. That’s an inheritance.” 2
The Psalmist considered God’s word his inheritance, but Johnson looks to man instead of God, and encourages his followers to do the same: “Pursue the men and women of God who carry an anointing in their lives for the miraculous. Such an anointing can be transferred to others through the laying on of hands. Occasionally there are ministry times when such an individual is willing to pray for those who desire an increase of anointing. I have traveled extensively in pursuit of MORE.” 3
Bethel – Jesus healed these two people in a moment. We prophecy you will be healed. We believe that God wants to heal you wherever you are, whenever you are reading this.
In the accompanying video, the lady describes how two people were healed, one of a swollen ankle, the other an Achilles tendon injury. In both instances, the injuries were commanded to be healed – something scripture does not instruct us to do. “We prophecy you will be healed” is meaningless and powerless, but probably makes Bethelites feel good and gives the sick some kind of hope that a spiritual force to induce their healing has been set in motion. Bethel’s confidence in declaring “God wants to heal you” is due to Johnson’s teaching that physical healing is guaranteed in the atonement.
Bethel – We declare that the supernatural power of God is going to heal your body in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen!
More hot air from Bethel, who imagine that their words are causative. Despite all Bethel’s decrees, declarations and commands, nothing changes. The odd genuine healing that may have taken place in their midst can be attributed to God’s sovereign will, not Bethel’s declarative formula.
Bethel – We believe that, because of the breakthroughs that you have experienced with the Lord, you carry authority over those areas. Everything that God has helped you overcome is now a key that can unlock breakthrough for others.
This may be a belief held by pagans, mystics or new age thought, but this is not Christianity. All authority belongs to Jesus: “And Jesus came and said to them,“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20.
We have been given authority to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them the scriptures. When believers need a “breakthrough” in a certain area, we ask God for wisdom, we help practically if we have the means, we give counsel based on God’s word, we pray knowing that “this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” 1 John 5:14.
To suggest that people carry authority in the area they have overcome is hocus pocus, and a fruit of Bethel’s man centered theology –
Jesus you carry the key to unlock breakthroughs for others.
Bethel – Revelation 12:11 says, “And they were victorious by the blood of The Lamb and by the word of His testimony.” We celebrate every victory, great and small, believing that every testimony of what Jesus has done creates faith and releases hope that He will do it again. In this way, a testimony is a prophecy of what Jesus is willing and able to do right now.
It seems as if Bethel looked for the word “testimony” in scripture, and assigned their own meaning to the verse. In this case, they quote a portion of Revelation 12:11, the complete verse reads as follows:
“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”
“They” is likely referring to believers during the great tribulation who are martyred, but the principles remain true for all believers during all ages.
I would summarize Revelation 12:11 “in this way” – The believers conquered the accuser because of:
1. The work of Christ – they are redeemed by the blood of Christ, the accuser has no hold on them.
2. The word of Christ – they obeyed and proclaimed his word.
3. The way of Christ – they walked in the footsteps of our Lord who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:8.
You won’t find Bethel’s interpretation or application of verse 11 in two thousand years of church history. Excerpts from 3 commentaries give a general idea of what “their testimony” is referring to –
Gill: “..and by the word of their testimony; either by Christ, the essential Word, they bore record of, who is sharper than any two edged sword, and through whom they were made more than conquerors; or rather by the use they made of the Scriptures of truth, the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, to which they bore a faithful testimony, and to which they adhered, and by so doing gained the victory over Satan and his instruments, whether false teachers or persecutors; and particularly by the Gospel, which they embraced, professed, and preached with constancy and courage, and by their last testimony they bore to it at their death,”
Barnes: “The faithful testimony which they bore to the truth. That is, they adhered to the truth in their sufferings, they declared their belief in it, even in the pains of martyrdom; and it was by this that they overcame the great enemy – that is, by this that the belief in the gospel was established and maintained in the world. The reference here is to the effects of persecution and to the efforts of Satan to drive religion from the world by persecution.”
Matthew Henry: “The servants of God overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb, as the cause. By the word of their testimony: the powerful preaching of the gospel is mighty, through God, to pull down strong holds. By their courage and patience in sufferings: they loved not their lives so well but they could lay them down in Christ’s cause.”
Bethel –The testimony of Jesus is your victory over the enemy! Every story of God turning a situation around is a powerful tool for you to war with. When you’re faced with an impossible situation, begin to release testimonies of God’s goodness breaking in powerfully and invite the presence of heaven to earth.
God is not anxiously waiting to for heavens “presence” to be invited to earth. God is omnipresent, and dwells within all believers who have been given tools to war with – Ephesians 6:10-18.
“Release” and “presence” are words that permeate Bill Johnson’s false teachings:
“There were times in Jesus’ ministry when everyone who touched Christ’s clothing was healed or delivered (see Mark 6: 56). The anointing is substance. It is the actual presence of the Holy Spirit, and He can be released into our surroundings.” 4
“Many opportunities for ministry have developed as I’ve learned how to release His presence in the marketplace.” 5
“We are the carriers of His presence, doers of His will. Giving what we have received releases Him into situations previously held in the grip of darkness. That is our responsibility and privilege.” 6
“When we minister in the anointing, we actually give away the presence of God— we impart Him to others.” 7
“His people are to manifest the beauty of His rule to a world in unbelief. We have been chosen for this purpose. Not because we’re better, but because we’re the ones who signed up for the ultimate quest. He enlists everyone who is available to learn to carry His presence until all is changed.” 8
Believers should be living transformed lives because of what Christ has done for them – the fruit of the Spirit should be evident in our lives. Every believer will no doubt have some form of “testimony” of how God saved us, changed us, and is working in our lives. That is our story, but however encouraging it may be, we are commanded to preach His-story, which is the gospel. That is where the “power” lies: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..” Romans 1:16.
Long-lasting change in the world alludes to Bethel’s agenda of transforming the earth by influencing the seven spheres of society – something that’s never going to happen as the scriptures predict apostasy and increasing evil in this world.
Bethel – Bill Johnson once said, “Every time you share your testimony, you usher in the mercy seat of God.” In other words, as you testify, you invite the listener to receive the finished work of the Cross.
How about telling the listener why the cross was necessary? How about telling the listener that the finished work of the cross may not change their earthly situation? How about mentioning repentance when the listeners are unbelievers:
Jesus once said: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15.
Peter once said: “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” Acts 3:19.
Paul once said: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” Acts 17:30.
Bethel – As we declare what God has done, we create an expectation for earthly circumstances to be transformed by heavenly solutions. This is a culture of faith—believing that all that Jesus paid for is our inheritance.
No, that’s the culture of Bethel – creating false expectations based on false promises. Where does the gospel promise to transform earthly circumstances? Did Jesus die to make your life more comfortable on earth? Was that the experience of his disciples and the early church? Believers should expect difficult circumstances at times, Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
“Another great characteristic of the cults is that they offer you the cure, the blessing, ‘at once’. It is the ‘short cut’ method always; that is why it wins adherents. But it is not Bible teaching. The New Testament tells the convert: ‘You have become a Christian, you are converted; thank God’. But do not run away with the notion that henceforward your whole life will just be a case of ‘They all lived happily ever after’. The New Testament says that you must not think in those terms. It says that you are in a very difficult world, a sinful world, a world that is dominated by the devil and his cohorts—these principalities and powers! It tells you that you will often find it difficult just to stand on your feet at all. Indeed you will need ‘the whole armour of God’, you will need to be ‘strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man’, you will need to be ‘strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might’.” 9
The biblical view is that believers should expect sufferings, not simply because they live in this fallen world, but because God uses various forms of afflictions to discipline us, test our faith, and cause us to have an eternal perspective. As a result of false teaching, many have the view that all suffering is a sign of deficiency at our end of the equation. What should be seen as a privilege (suffering that God permits us to endure) is seen as a curse. Suffering that God permits his children to endure, is not harmful, but beneficial. “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.” Psalm 119:67
(Bethel’s theology makes no room for the biblical doctrine of suffering – see point 7 of this article).
Bethel – This is why we testify… telling your story releases ripples of breakthrough into the world.
The question is this – what is the standard testimony of Bethelites? There may be true believers temporarily caught up in Bethel’s deception that are born again and have a genuine testimony that points to Christ. However, there’s no need to speculate what the average “story” of a Bethelite looks like:
• I had no self esteem until papa God told me I was worth dying for.
• God told me I’m awesome, I rock, I’m a world changer, and he’s telling you the same thing.
• I saw an angel who told me…blah blah blah.
• I was slain in the spirit for hours, I couldn’t even talk or walk…whoaaaa!
• I felt this heat come over me and my back pain was gone.
• I’ve seen God’s glory in the form of gold dust, angel feathers, and gemstones!
• I’ve seen real miracles like short legs being lengthened!
• It’s been prophesied that I’ll be influential in the mountain of arts and entertainment…so goood!
• I had this vision of Jesus walking towards me, then he hugged me and told me to follow my heart.
The only story the world needs is the story of the gospel.
Bethel – Every time you share a testimony, you say “yes” to a moment of leading people into an encounter with God.
“Encounter” – another word synonymous with the New Apostolic Reformation, which I’ve previously described as follows: What it means is that you have had some sort of experience in this experience driven movement. It could mean you have a mind image, heat sensation, vision, angelic visitation, or simply goosebumps. In other words, anyone can claim to have had an encounter. Encounters have also become a necessary ingredient as far as NAR evangelistic endeavours are concerned. Because experiences are revered above the written word, believers supposedly owe the world an encounter with God. Paul was not ashamed of the gospel, but NAR leaders believe the gospel without some sort of encounter gives unbelievers the right to disbelieve.
Context of Romans 10:14:
“But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:8-17.
“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” – is a phrase found in Deuteronomy 30:14, and is referring to the law God gave Moses. The early church had the benefit of having the law, and hearing the gospel being preached through the apostles. This is what we should be proclaiming, God’s story of redeeming fallen men and women, and calling them to repentance. To associate Romans 10:14 with a Bethelites story is deceptive. Twisting the scriptures is par for the course for Bethel, who have no idea how to interpret the scriptures, beginning with the first basic rule of examining the context.
Bethel – Our histories with the Lord are full of beautiful stories of how the light of God broke through the darkness in our lives. We share these stories to glorify God, to draw people closer to His light, making room for it to illuminate the lives of all who hear it.
Paul preached “the gospel of Christ” (2 Cor 2:12). The true gospel always gets a response. It is always effective in the sense that it saves or it hardens. The result is not our responsibility:
“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?” 2 Corinthians 2:15-16.
Bethel’s doctrine is a means to an end – way to receive healing, a way to have spiritual experiences, a way to be influential in your sphere, a way to have spiritual powers, a way to become rich, a way to be admired. Mark and avoid Bethel!.
The Messed Up Church
Church Watch Central
The Word Like Fire
Christian Research Network
Holly Pivec– search for “Bethel Church”
Famine In The Land
1. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The Christian Warfare: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10-13.
2. Bill Johnson. A Life of Miracles.
3. Bill Johnson. When Heaven Invades Earth.
4. Bill Johnson. When Heaven Invades Earth Expanded Edition: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles.
8. Bill Johnson. Hosting the presence: unveiling Heaven’s agenda.
9. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The Christian Warfare: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10-13.