In these days of ‘restoration’ as some in the church would call it, ironically, there is more confusion than ever. We know that God is not the author of confusion but I believe it is important to say that I personally don’t believe it is all attributed to the enemy of our souls either. In the past 75 years, there has been what some would call a Pentecostal explosion and others would say that heretical teaching is at a fever pitch. Yet in the perspective of history, this period of time in question is not unprecedented nor is it wild beyond belief. It is a nursery school run wild. In these days of unhistorical orthodoxy, a true test of any spiritual truth cannot be ‘felt’ nor is revelation to be trusted on its own merit. It is a time that, if near the end of days, should not be a surprise to anyone who is versant in the scriptures. After all, the Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy (4:3-4) that in the last days people would gather to themselves teachers who tickle the ears and that people would not endure sound doctrine. So what is sound doctrine?
The Presumptious Prophets
In the days of Jeremiah the prophet, the Southern Kingdom of Judah was in peril and God had clearly spoken through Jeremiah that captivity was imminent and to go quietly and orderly to Babylon so as to preserve life. Yet in opposition to Jeremiah were the leaders, the priesthood and the prophets. Most specifically Hananiah who was the mouthpiece of the nation. In their brief exchange, Jeremiah and Hananiah were in direct confrontation. The Lord had told Jeremiah to put himself in a wooden yoke and bind himself as an example of what the Lord was going to allow to happen. Yet, Hananiah resisted him and tore off the yoke on Jeremiah and again stated the Lord had told him, that Jerusalem was to be delivered and all the people who had already gone into exile would return. To this Jeremiah responded with a principle we would do well to heed:
“The prophets who were before me and before you from ancient times prophesied against many lands and against great kingdoms, of war, and of calamity and of pestilence. The prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then that prophet will be known as the one whom the Lord has sent..” Jer. 29:8-9
So what is the principle? If you want to discern the truth from presumption, you need look no further than history. In this time of God ‘doing something new’, this principle will be the only sure ground on which to stand. Look at it this way: the further we go from the point of origin, the more likely for doctrinal error. Any student of church history will tell you that most ‘revelation’ ends up with elitism, separation and eventually spiritual burn out and self-destruction. Our time will be no different. Let the prophets of the ‘New wave’ beware. History is watching and God is judging the buildings most recently constructed in the last 75 years. We must ask ourselves what it is that we know has endured over the last 2000 years. What are the lasting truths as we see them handed down from the apostles – these meet the Jeremiah test:
1> The word of God is the ultimate judge of any movement and doctrine. It is the plumbline of Amos and the sword of the writer of Hebrews.
2> Jesus is God, the Son incarnate. He was born of a virgin. Led a sinless life, suffered a criminal’s death and was resurrected on the third day.
3> To those who would believe in Him, he would grant eternal life and safety from the fires of Hell and eternal punishment.
4> He sent the Holy Spirit to be with those who would believe in Him. This Spirit was to baptize them and also indwell them.
5> Jesus will return to judge the quick and the dead.
While there is much more, these basic truths must be the foundation of any relationship. We could talk of baptisms here, sanctification, etc. But the point here is that these are the basic truths upon which we must all rest…that is upon the Son of God Himself.
Are these truths not enough for us? Are they not the bulwark that has lasted and will last? They cannot be supplanted from a fundamental sense but will remain long after we are dust – as countless saints before us can attest. What do these truths pronounce?
1> One who believes in Jesus has received forgiveness of their sins.
2> One who believes in Jesus has the Spirit of God – indwelling them.
Yet in our time, even these basics are marred beyond recognition and many things are added to them. Yet whom the son has set free, they are free indeed. If we are to build upon this foundation, let it be with time and battle tested truth. Truth of the kind that was forged in the fires of first century after the apostolic era when believers built much of the bulwark and Christology we rely upon today. Let it be refined by the fires of the reformation that cost those who penned them everything they had. Let it be the heart warming of Wesley, the burning of Lightfoot, Moody, Studds, Spurgeon, Sunday, Graham, Barth and so many others. These ancient prophets speak and they should carry more weight than the currently we afford them.
What have we seen the past 75 years?
The chief source of what has been experienced over the last 75 years is the Latter Rain Moevment 1947-1960s – The watershed of so many modern positions such as:
Discipleship movement – Born during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Those who founded it were directly a part of Latter Rain, this is a historical fact. How did it end? With elitism and even the movement’s leaders themselves admitting the ‘it was not the major teachings of the group but their orthopraxis (how they implemented the teachings) that was wrong. Yet the damage done to people’s lives measures in the thousands.
Prophetic Movement – Born during the 80’s and through the 90’s. Again, it can trace its founders to Latter Rain. How did it end up? In spiritual abuse and immorality. This movement, now in its last days, continues to vaunt spiritual experiences over scripture.
Fivefold Ministries - 40’s-present. Born in the fires of Latter Rain with such doctrines and the Manifestation of the Sons ( an elite company of believers who will rule over the nominal believers in the coming kingdom and will be the only company taken from the earth during the Great Tribulation) and The Apostolic Movement – where modern day ‘apostles’ teach various versions of the Way, each that in the end promotes their own approach and way to live.
Yet let one of the founders – George Hawtin -- of Latter Rain offer us all some insight:
“..as I look sadly in retrospect now, I can see with clearness that the great and blessed move of God was not two years old before the sectarian spirit began to show its ugly head…it is true that we vociferously denied that we had become a sect…
1. there was to be no fellowship with anybody who was not within the confines of our ever narrowing circle. We were the true church. We were the elect. We stood on the foundation and all other men stood on sinking sand.
2. No man cast out a devil unless he followed us.
3. No teaching was worth the time it took to tell unless it originated with us.
4. We were the most spiritual people in the world.
5. We were going to reign in the kingdom and even now were beginning to reign.
6. We had the gifts of the Spirit, and we were going to “call the shots” in the tribulation.
But we did not know that like Ephesus we had lost our first love, and must repent and do the first works over again…”
If you want to see the end fruits of any ‘unhistorical othrodoxy’, it is the above. What may have been termed as glorious sinks to the squalor of self-promotion and begins to feed on its own self-perception and spiritual narcissism – all the while proclaiming that they themselves are the keepers of the kingdom. History has judged and God has recorded. In the time of Jeremiah, all the nation stood against Jeremiah and repeated the phrase ‘The Temple of the Lord, The Temple of the Lord’. What that represented was the people’s belief that what mattered was what God put in their midst and not the responsibility for their keeping it according to the Lord’s instructions. How true of the last 75 years. Whatever spiritual blessing may have been in these movements ( and I say that with a large grain of salt), it was long ago lost and the mere form is all that is left if anything at all. Yet Jeremiah’s test has stood the test of time and the words of all that have gone before are still a guiding light through the fell heights of modern orthodoxy.
Back to the Ancients
Where do we start to get back on track. We return to the word. We do our homework. We strive to learn again and have the Spirit of God confirm. There is so much material of saints long dead that are of the scholarly level that would shame all the above. I would venture to say that out of all that has come about in the last 75 years, there is not a writer, theologian nor teacher well schooled in the spiritual disciplines of exegesis, hermeneutics and fallacies among them all - because if there were, their movements would not be dying but would have sunk their roots down and would be flourishing. Yet the ancient truths still stand and will stand. After all, this flotsam and jetsom is but a blip, a mere disturbance on the historical church: such is its fate, such is its place. It is by its own mouth condemned and assigned to the brackish back waters of church history.
Yet the Jeremiah test of being consistent with what God has revealed as unshakable truth will be that which guides the disheartened, broken, cast aside through the shining and simple light of the fact the Jesus came and died for us sinners. He simply came to save us from ourselves. That is the good news.