FALSE PROPHETS TODAY: They Claim to Speak for God

They Claim to Speak for God 

 TA McMahon

A very large part of Christendom in the United States is enamored with those who claim to speak for God. If you think that’s an overstatement, simply tune into some of the programing on Trinity Broadcasting Network or some of the other cable religious networks. What you will see are churches filled with thousands of Christians hanging on to every word of a man or a woman who is declaring what God has just revealed to him or her. The content ranges from the mundane to the bizarre. To some observers who are fairly well versed in the Scriptures, what they are hearing and seeing is laughable. But that’s a tragic reaction by some who are forgetting that many of those being led astray by the so-called new prophets and apostles are their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Most North American believers are wonderfully and prayerfully sympathetic to the plight of fellow Christians who are undergoing terrible persecutions for their faith in foreign lands, yet too few have a real concern for fellow believers here in the West who are being spiritually seduced and whose biblical faith is being critically undermined. The tendency is to write off most false preachers and teachers as religious kooks and to think no more about their captive audience. All true believers, whether or not they have been led into false teaching, make up the body of Christ. When one part of the body is seduced and suffers, it affects the entire body (1 Corinthians:12:25-27

).

Not only is such a cavalier attitude wrong biblically, but it is extremely shortsighted and therefore blinds a person to the seductions and ultimate deceptions that are involved. In this series of articles we want to present a wider view of what’s involved with those who “claim to speak for God,” demonstrating that it’s far more than a few delusional zealots but rather a host of men and women, ministries, and movements that have an agenda and methodologies, all of which are contrary to the Word of God. In that endeavor, they have captured the hearts and minds of multitudes of Christians, mostly those among the Pentecostals and Charismatics, as well as staggering numbers of young adults, many from conservative evangelical backgrounds.

Dave Hunt and I have addressed this subject in bits and pieces in our books and in many articles in  The Berean Call  newsletters, but we haven’t communicated in a comprehensive way the extent of the spiritually destructive teachings and practices involved in this movement nor the scope of this development and its agenda. Now, however, there is a book available that covers the topic more extensively than anything yet in print.  Wandering Stars: Contending for the Faith with the New Apostles and Prophets , authored by Keith Gibson, not only explains the methods of this movement from beginning to end, but it also exposes its satanically inspired contribution to the progressive development of the kingdom and religion of the Antichrist. Gibson’s observations need to be heeded: “The majority of the church has not taken seriously the claims of the modern apostles and prophets [that they are] introducing a new paradigm into the Body of Christ. These claims are far more than idle boasts. Indeed the paradigm shifts have already begun in many segments of Christianity. To say that the movement has grown rapidly would be a gross understatement” (p. 10).

The root fallacy of the movement is the view of how one receives communication from God. Most if not all of the leaders subscribe to the teaching that the Greek terms  rhema  and  logos  found in the Bible describe different ways of hearing from God. This has been a fundamental teaching among historic religious movements such as The Latter Rain, Manifest Sons of God, and the prosperity-and-healing-promoting Word/Faith teachers. They conclude that  logos  refers to the written word and  rhema  refers to the spoken word. Although the Bible uses the terms interchangeably, making no distinction, in practice this false teaching elevates what (supposedly) God has spoken to them as  equal to  or  above  what is written in the Scriptures. It goes far beyond someone stating that he “believes” that the Lord has impressed something upon his heart. Gibson comments: “It is far different to claim an impression than it is to loudly pronounce, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ The former is the hesitant expression of a thought, something that may or may not be completely true. The latter is a claim to divine revelation that by definition cannot contain anything but truth and which carries divine authority and must be obeyed.” Whether implied or declared, Gibson adds, “The words ‘Thus saith the Lord’ change everything. A higher level of authority is being claimed. One should be extremely careful before one puts words in the mouth of God” (p. 8).

Many do not realize the dire consequences of being seduced by the “hearing from God” teachings. First of all, they completely undermine the objective nature of the Scriptures. In other words, when the Word of God is mixed with what some  believe  they’ve heard from God, it is difficult to objectively determine what is truly  from  God. That fundamentally destroys the value of the Bible in the lives of those who buy into the so-called new prophets of God. God’s written word is no longer relied upon as a determiner of truth, especially regarding the new doctrines presented, which those who are “hearing from God” promote in abundance. Unfortunately, that’s fine with such false teachers because their “new thing that God is doing” cannot then be challenged by the “old written words” found in Scripture.

Gibson notes with great concern: “No doctrine is under more regular assault from within the prophetic community than the doctrines relating to the Scriptures” (pp. 67-68). He adds, “Today’s prophets, and consequently their followers as well, are consistently sloppy in their approach to Scripture, frequently ignoring context, history, and grammar. They can even be seen redefining words when necessary to force verses to fit their preconceived ideas. The intent of the author of the text is rarely considered. The Bible is left to mean whatever the prophets say it means today” (p. 71).

If conservative evangelicals think that this drift away from God’s Word is a problem unique to Charismatics, they need to consider their own churches. Is  discipleship  a significant part of your fellowship? How about  apologetics ? In your Bible studies, are you actually studying books of the Bible or books by contemporary authors? Is the term  hermeneutics  a foreign word to most members of your fellowship? If that’s the case, you also have something to be very concerned about.

In  Wandering Stars , Keith Gibson underscores the critical necessity of hermeneutics for every believer. “Hermeneutics has been described as the art and science of biblical interpretation. In handling the Bible properly, one should consider such things as context, history, grammar, and the genre of the literature among other things. The goal of hermeneutics is to understand the passage according to the original intent of the author, as inspired by the Holy Spirit.” Simply stated, “The Bible should be studied in its historical and grammatical context and with the normal understanding of the words used. The intent is to discover the meaning intended by the author of the particular passage….It is essentially a belief that God meant the Bible to be understood by the normal believer within the community of faith. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘plain sense’ principle of interpretation” (p. 70).

Simplifying it further, it involves not much more than what happens when two people have a normal conversation. Both are aware of the context of what they are communicating, know enough grammar to converse in sentences, and understand the meaning of the words used. We all do this every day, so it’s mystifying that most misunderstandings of Scripture stem from not following the simple rules of hermeneutics.

Following such “plain sense” rules would eliminate the “prophetic hermeneutic” (i.e., believing what a dynamic preacher says just because he claims to be a prophet) that has caught many believers in the web of blindly following those who claim to be speaking for God. Gibson has seen the damage this has done to many believers’ trust in God’s Word. He writes, “The impact of this ‘prophetic hermeneutic’ is serious indeed. In the first place, as has already been stated, this type of approach to Scripture causes the Bible to lose its ability to provide boundaries for doctrine and practice because the Bible simply has no objective meaning. The Scripture means whatever any particular prophetic teacher declares that the Spirit has told him it means today. This style of teaching also serves to remove any definite understanding of Scripture from the common man who realizes that he simply cannot see all the things in Scripture that these teachers are seeing. This makes the average church person dependent on these ‘inspired teachers’ in order to know what the Lord has said” (p. 78). Once that happens, the individual is vulnerable to whatever such a teacher dishes out and whatever direction the teacher wants to lead him.

Gibson spells out the tragic consequences of which few of us are aware: “Because these prophetic teachers do not approach God’s Word properly, they reach false conclusions. These false conclusions then support aberrant doctrines and unbiblical practices. These unbiblical practices and false doctrines undermine the historic truths of the church and distract Christians from the pure faith and the true work of the ministry” (p. 80).

It isn’t only ignorance of the Scriptures or mishandling them on the part of many of the leaders of the prophetic movement. Some seemingly distort them for their own purposes. Gibson quotes Wendy Alec, from her very popular book  Journal of the Unknown Prophet . This is what she claims she has received from Jesus: “For the Word alone is yesterday’s manna and even they [prophetic teachers] have seen deep in their hearts that it is no longer enough to feed my people” (quoted in  Wandering Stars , p. 86).

So the written Word of God is not only “no longer enough,” but it’s also “yesterday’s manna.” Scripture tells us that leftover manna “bred worms and stank” (Exodus16:20). Who would believe that Jesus, who is the living Word, the same yesterday, today, and forever, the One who said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew:24:35; Mark:13:31; Luke:21:33), would have anything to do with such a blasphemous statement? Yet thousands accept it unquestioningly. We can’t judge Alec’s heart in this, but it is obvious that she has relegated the written Word at least to an inferior position in comparison to what she and others are supposedly hearing from God today. Again, tragically, this is infecting our brothers and sisters who are part of the body of Christ.

The Scriptures give us a sober warning that I believe is most applicable to the day in which we live: “For the time will come when they will 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.” Again, sound doctrine is simply the teachings of the Word of God, which every believer is to read, heed, and obey. Yet, according to these teachers, since biblical doctrine stands in the way of the “new things God is doing,” it must be downgraded.

Gibson quotes prophetic movement leader Francis Frangipane: “We have instructed the church in nearly everything but becoming disciples of Jesus Christ. We have filled the people with doctrines instead of Deity; we have given them manuals instead of Emmanuel” (p. 122).

Frangipane and his cohorts have in fact done none of that. Gibson notes: “Frangipane seems oblivious to the fact that teaching people to become disciples of Jesus Christ would necessitate doctrinal instruction if for no other reason than because to teach them who Jesus is necessitates a doctrinal discussion. Additionally, how else is the church to follow the words of Christ given in the great commission and ‘teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’ without instruction in doctrine?” (p. 114). Gibson’s response is stunning in its simplicity, yet what is even more amazing is that so many are not thinking through what they are accepting. He adds, “It is simply neither possible nor profitable to attempt to bypass doctrinal instruction. Discipleship may certainly involve more than merely doctrinal instruction but it cannot involve less” (p. 114).

The leaders of the prophetic movement of necessity must make it “involve less.” Rick Joyner, for example, declares: “We must first understand that our unity is not based on doctrines. Such unity is superficial at best. Our unity can only be found in Jesus. To focus our attention on Him and learn to love and cover one another is far more important than agreeing on all doctrines. Having like doctrines is not a basis for unity…it is a basis for division!” (p. 115). Although “doctrine divides” is the mantra of the new prophets and apostles, they are correct in a way with which they would not agree. Romans:16:17-18

sets the matter straight: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences  contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned ; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” It is false doctrine, i.e., that which is “contrary to the doctrine” taught by the biblical apostles, that “cause[s] divisions.”

Of necessity and hopefully for edification, this first article majored on the fundamental erroneous teachings of the New Apostles and Prophets movement, i.e., its own false doctrines. With that understanding, it should come as no surprise as to how bizarre their beliefs and practices could and have become. In the next part of this series, the Lord willing, we will glean (primarily from  Wandering Stars ) who the leaders are and what is involved in their global dominionist agenda.

Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart .  —Jeremiah:14:14

In the first part of this series we addressed a movement within Christendom that is undermining the faith of multitudes of Christians, especially those who consider themselves to be Bible-believing Christians. Whether done intentionally or unintentionally by the leaders of the movement, their teaching and methods seriously deprive their followers of a true basis for biblical discernment. The primary means that they employ involves disparaging the objective nature of the Scriptures. When a believer buys into that teaching, he is being led into the arena of subjectivity, meaning that he cannot objectively determine what is truly from God versus what is nothing more than content from the imagination of man.

In his excellent book Wandering Stars: Contending for the Faith with the New Apostles and Prophets (see TBC 03/13 ), which has been a chief resource in this series, Keith Gibson summarizes the foundational errors of the movement regarding the Bible: “So what can we conclude after this brief survey of the attitudes and words of the modern apostles and prophets concerning the Scripture? One would have to conclude that the Bible alone is an insufficient guide for the end-time church. New doctrines, not found in the Bible, are needed to perfect the church. Scripture is generally inspiring but basically unreliable. It is insufficient to convince the world of God’s truth….It does not provide the parameters to faith and practice and does not give us the norms for the activity of the Holy Spirit. The Canon of Scripture is not closed, and, in fact, many of the words of today’s prophets carry a higher level of revelation, anointing, and authority than some of the words of Scripture. And lastly, the Bible cannot be understood by any normal means. Grammar, history, and context are completely irrelevant. The words of Scripture can be redefined and ripped out of context to discover the ‘deeper’ meaning for today’s church. There is no objective interpretation or understanding of Scripture. The Bible means whatever one wants it to mean” (pp. 105-6).

This flagrant assault on the Scriptures is clearly a reflection of Satan’s grand scheme to undermine the Word of God, which he demonstrated first in turning Eve away from obeying what God had commanded. God declared: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis:2:16-17

). That was God’s word to Adam and Eve.

Satan’s first words to mankind were aimed at undercutting God’s instructions: “And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis:3:1). After leading her to reconsider what God had commanded, God’s adversary follows up with a flat denial of the consequences of her disobedience: “…ye shall not surely die” (Genesis:3:4). This undermining of God’s Word was successful with Eve, and it has been Satan’s main strategy throughout history. As previously noted, the obstruction of the Scriptures is at the heart of the teaching from those who claim to hear from God, and it opens the doors for the acceptance of their outrageous practices and manifestations, including their goal of taking dominion over the world for Christ.

For a true believer in Christ to accept manifestations such as falling and writhing on the floor, uncontrollable shaking, hysterical laughing, and making various animal sounds as though they were the work of the Holy Spirit would seem to indicate that the person has taken leave of his senses. It is more reasonable to conclude, however, that they have taken leave of the Scriptures . Although there may be power from the adversary involved in some of this (“We wrestle not against flesh and blood”), we can be sure that the victim of those manifestations is devoid of the full armor of God, which is available for every believer’s protection (Ephesians:6:10-18

), especially the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” When that is missing in a believer’s life, he or she is terribly vulnerable to the “wiles of the devil” and his minions, who sometimes present themselves as angels of light (2 Corinthians:11:14).

Many Christians are aware of the bizarre manifestations and some of the outlandish personalities involved, such as Todd Bentley, the tattooed preacher given to head butting and kneeing followers in the groin (followers who number in the thousands and came to his meetings from all over the world) in order to supposedly impart the power of the Holy Spirit for their healing. Yet few are aware of the organization, agendas, and networking of those who claim to speak for God. There are countless numbers of ministries, websites, blog sites, and the like, that advance the false doctrines and manifestations of the movement. To name but a few, there is the Elijah List, The International House of Prayer (IHOP), Bethel Church (Redding, CA), Identity Network, Morning Star Ministries, Streams Ministries International, Glory of Zion, City Bible Church (Portland, OR), and the Christian International Apostolic Network. C. Peter Wagner’s International Coalition of Apostles has a membership of hundreds who profess to be apostles manifesting apostolic authority.

Although not all such ministries agree on every fine point, they all believe that God is restoring to the church things that have been lost over the centuries, which they believe have rendered it ineffective. Gibson sums up their goal: “The end-time body of Christ must go on to maturity and restore the apostles and prophets, and these restored ministries must lead the church to a new and final dimension of power and authority not only bringing in the final harvest but establishing the Kingdom of God upon the earth” (p. 28).

According to one of their “modern” prophets, “Ever since the dark ages, God has been restoring Truth to the Church in order to get us back to the place of fullness where we can actually rule and reign in the world rather than be dominated by the very things we are to have victory over” (p.29). Another adds, “Jesus, having won back authority on earth, could now mediate and rule in the affairs of earth. However, Jesus did not stay on the earth to rule it. He ascended to the Father and is seated at His right hand. So who now is responsible to rule and reign in the earth? Believe it or not, the church, which is the body of Christ” (p. 160).

More specifically, they mean that it is to be the new apostles and prophets who are to run the show, and since there is little concern for doctrine learned from the objective Word of God, their rule will major in shooting from the lip, i.e., speaking forth whatever these leaders believe they have heard from God. They see themselves leading an end-time army.

Nearly all of the leaders in this movement teach some form of “Joel’s Army” doctrine, which states that the hope of the church in transforming the world rests solely on today’s youth . These young people will be instrumental because they will receive a super-anointing for setting up a theocracy, which they will rule under God. According to John Crowder, author of The New Mystics: How to Become Part of the Supernatural Generation , “Everyone born after abortion’s legalization can consider their birth a personal invitation to take part in this great army.” Gibson gives an example of how this is being implemented: “One young man who spent a significant part of his upbringing in a church steeped in these messages told of a service in which the older members of the congregation gathered to wash the feet of the teens of the church—not to teach them about Christ-like humility and service [John:13:1-15

] but to pay homage to them because they were the anointed generation. His heart was broken as he recounted seeing elderly saints who he knew had spent their lives serving Jesus bowing in servitude before young people who were being told that it was their birthright to be the greatest believers in the history of the church” (p. 274).

How seductive might this be for young Christians today? Consider the popularity of Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer (IHOP), which has drawn tens of thousands of young people to its 24-hour prayer hall and many as well to its university. Lou Engle, an “apostle” in residence at IHOP, draws similar numbers of youth to “The Call,” an annual prayer and fasting event held at major US cities and aimed at bringing about national repentance and revival. Sadly, the zeal exhibited by the young people is misdirected because they lack the discernment necessary to recognize that what they are being taught is either without biblical support or is contrary to Scripture. Much of it seems right to them but as we are told twice in Proverbs, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (14:12; 16:25). Heartbreakingly, this is the experiential environment into which their leaders are directing them.

One emotionally seductive doctrine they are taught is called the Bridal Paradigm, which Gibson notes reflects most of IHOP’s programs: “All of the Scripture is seen as the relentless pursuit of the heavenly lovesick groom for the bride of His heart’s desire, or the search of the Father for a bride for His Son, who will be equally yoked to Him in love. This message truly stands the gospel on its ear. No longer is the emphasis on a God who is working for His own glory and displaying His majesty in redeeming a lost and unworthy humanity. Now the story of redemption is about God seeking a suitable mate for His Son. No longer is the cross seen primarily as the place where Jesus makes propitiation for our sin and satisfies the justice, holiness, and wrath of God, or the place of redemption, where the price is paid for our ransom, which are the pictures the Bible uses. Now the cross is the dowry that is paid for the bride, [p. 193] a statement that the Bible never makes. Dowries (or, more accurately, bride prices) are paid because of the worth of the bride . But according to the Scriptures we had no worth. We had nothing to commend us to God. It was all grace” (pp. 166-67). What young adult who has a heart for Jesus but lacks maturity in the Word can resist these erroneous romantic notions applied to Christ?

The false doctrines that are coming forth from those who claim to hear from God range from the foolish to the fraudulent, from the bogus to the blasphemous. This two-part series could touch upon only a few such teachings, but thankfully Keith Gibson’s Wandering Stars is available to shine a light upon much of this darkness. Too often when an absurd teaching raises its seemingly silly head, it is dismissed as so much nonsense and not to be taken seriously. In most cases, the relationship to a major heresy is missed altogether. For example, the so-called prophecies by the new prophets are nearly always wrong when they can be checked out. Nevertheless, we’re told that a 65-percent accuracy rate is acceptable among the new prophets as determined by the new prophets themselves. The absurdity in this is that the new prophets claim to be working at a higher level of anointing than the prophets of old, yet those supposedly inferior old prophets were to bestoned if their accuracy dropped below 100 percent!

The even more critical issue is the new prophets’ rationale to cover their lack of accuracy: it is the heresy of open theism . This is a doctrine that declares that “God can’t foreknow the good or bad decisions of the people He creates until He creates these people and they, in turn, create their decisions.” So now, prophecy for the modern prophets is little more than a godly guess, and the omniscience of God has been trashed along with some of His other attributes. Gibson underscores the result of these erroneous beliefs: “God does not possess exhaustive foreknowledge of the actions of His creatures because these actions have not been performed; therefore, there is nothing for God to know. Thus God is not omniscient in the sense that the church has historically defined omniscience. God is not immutable because He grows in His knowledge of His creatures as they act out their free choice and as He adapts to these choices. God is more omnicompetentthan  omnipotent . God is not completely beyond time. He learns by watching the actions of His creation” (p. 134). That is not the God of the Bible.

The false teachings of those who claim to hear from God, the so-called new apostles and prophets, have attracted millions into unwittingly contributing to their anti-biblical and therefore antichrist agendas. All of it turns biblical spiritual warfare upside down. Their methods for achieving dominion and rule over the world include Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare (see The New Spiritual Warfare Strategies Parts 1 & 2 TBC5/97 , 6/97 ) using techniques of “taking cities for Christ” through spirit mapping, binding territorial spirits, prayer-walking, prayer journeys, prayer expeditions, national repentance, deliverance from generational sins, mysticism, and contemplative prayer, to name but a few.

The number of those Christians who believe and practice such things is alarming. For the most part they are among the Pentecostals and Charismatics. But in their goals they are certainly not alone. The agenda of turning the world into the Kingdom of Christ before His return—or in order for Him to return and rule—is compatible in many ways with more conservative branches of Christianity that hold to amillennialism, or Christian reconstructionism, or post-millennialism, or national restorationism, or those who subscribe to a form of “good-works salvation” by solving the world’s problems of hunger, disease, poverty, injustice, and environmental problems using ecumenical cooperation (see “Is Your Eschatology Showing?” TBC 10/11 ). The numbers then become staggering. These variations of “kingdom building” prior to the return of Jesus will add to the development of the next kingdom to come, according to the timeline presented clearly in Scripture: the kingdom of the Antichrist.

The bad news in all of this is that many who have been seduced into this deception are our brothers and sisters in Christ; the good news is that their eyes can be opened to the temporal delusion that has taken them captive. Scripture declares that the apostasy will increase in the last days and gives no indication of worldwide revival. Nevertheless, God’s Word does give us our marching orders for a continuing rescue operation : “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Timothy:2:24-26).

The Berean Call

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