Presented at the Pre-Trib Study Group Conference, December 2005.
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith [apostatize], giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron. (1 Tm 4:1-2)
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men [shall be] ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres [two of the magicians in Pharaoh's court] withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. (2 Tm 3:1,4,8)
Paul thus declared that the major opposition to the truth in the last days would be from false prophets who would counterfeit miracles by the power of Satan just as Jannes and Jambres did in opposition to Moses. Although only God can do genuine miracles, what Pharaoh's sorcerers did in mimicking the first two plagues was so impressive that Moses declared, "And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments."1 But when it came to the third, "the magicians could not."2
Surely we are seeing this prophesied opposition to the truth today. There is an entire "signs and wonders" movement among charismatics led by false prophets who pretend to do miracles in Christ's name....There is no clearer sign of "last-days apostasy."
Yet the great success of The Purpose-Driven Life and the growth of megachurches such as Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston (30,000 each weekend) have sparked a new optimism among evangelicals that even embraces the false "signs and wonders" movement. In his book Megashift, James Rutz writes:
We are now winning the world at an astonishing pace, swept along by a vast array of miracles. [God] has apparently decreed that plain folks like you and me are now a central part of an accelerated plan for a total transformation of the world....We are in the early stages of total transformation of our planet. The family of Jesus Christ is growing so fast that if our growth simply continues at today's pace, most of us living today may see the fulfillment of Revelation:11:15: "Now are the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and his Messiah! And he shall reign for ever and ever."3
This is a delusion that harks back to the Manifest Sons of God heresy but is now gaining acceptance among evangelicals: there is no Rapture and no Great Tribulation. We are already in the Millennium, with the church taking over under the leadership of "miracle-working prophets." These people expect to meet Christ with their feet planted on planet Earth, rather than being caught up to meet Him in the air and taken to heaven, as His Word promises. It is one more form of apostasy that is preparing a false church to welcome Antichrist....Among the dozens of false prophets we might name who claim to be part not of apostasy but of a great "last-days revival" are Oral and Richard Roberts, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, ReinhardBonnke, the Kenneth Hagins, Rick Joyner, Kim Clement, and many others often seen and heard on TBN and elsewhere. The major one, of course, is Benny Hinn. Hinn has been praised by evangelical leaders (including Jerry Falwell) and is the darling of the largest Christian TV network, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), upon which are regularly displayed false prophets to deceive the church and world.
[Another example is Pastor John Hinkle.] According to a "Voice," which spoke "so loud and clear" to Hinkle "[and] sounded like a great bell" being rung in his ear, all evil would be "ripped from the earth" on June 9, 1994. Paul Crouch and the studio audience were overjoyed by this "wonderful revelation."4 Crouch backed this obviously false prophecy to the hilt in at least three newsletters5 and on several TV shows.6 Pat Robertson was [also] enthusiastic about it.7
Yet anyone with common sense and a minimal knowledge of the Bible knows that "evil" is not a "thing" to be ripped from Earth but resides in human hearts. Evil will certainly be rampant under Antichrist in the Great Tribulation yet to come; and even at the end of the Millennial reign of Christ when Satan will be loosed, evil will manifest itself as never before in an attack against Jerusalem and Christ by millions of Earth's inhabitants. Yet on June 9, 1994, Crouch claimed that Hinkle's prophecy had been fulfilled!
Of course, false prophecies too numerous to mention are standard fare on TBN, from the assurance that the appearing of Christ8 will take place onstage at a Benny Hinn revival--to the confident declaration that soon the dead will be resurrected by placing them in front of a TV screen on which a TBN program is being aired. Benny Hinn's false prophecies are too many to recite. For example, on December 31, 1989, claiming that he was in the very throne room of God, Hinn declared: "The Lord also tells me about '94 or '95, no later than that, God will destroy the homosexual community of America by fire."9 Amazingly, as Hinn's false prophecies increase, so does his audience, growing to at least one million on several occasions. Surely this growing delusion is another sign of last-days apostasy.
Hinn can't even get his "testimony" straight. In the PTL Family Devotional, he says, "I got saved in Israel in 1968."10 But in a 1983 message in St. Louis he said, "It was in Canada that I was born again right after '68.'"11 Yet in Good Morning, Holy Spirit, he says he was converted in 1972, during his senior year in high school.12But he dropped out before his senior year. When was he saved?!
"People of God!" shouts Benny, "We must never speak such faith-destroying words as 'If it be thy will, Lord.' I amHim [Jesus]! The Word has become flesh in Meee!....You are a little god on earth." Hinn and Crouch have declared this lie numerous times together on TBN, and Crouch stated in a newsletter that if we are not little gods, he would apologize in front of 10,000 times 10,000 before the "glassy sea."13 If he is a "little god," he won't be there.
Not to be outdone, Morris Cerullo declares, "From the beginning of time, the whole purpose of God was to reproduce Himself. And when we stand up here, brother, you're not looking at Morris Cerullo; you're looking at God. You're looking at Jesus!"14 And in fulfillment of Christ's Word, false prophets keep coming in His name claiming to be Christ.
Paul's warning (1 Tm 4:1-2) has come true with a vengeance. A major "doctrine of devils" is the occult technique of visualizing persons or events to bring them into the present for one's private use. This is how shamans (witchdoctors) contact their "spirit guides." This occult method is widely practiced in today's church. Norman Vincent Peale taught it,15 as does Yonggi Cho, Robert Schuller, Richard Foster, Calvin Miller, Karen Mains, John and Paula Sandford, and others who practice "inner healing," and so do many Christian psychologists.
Visualization is widely taught in the church as a means of creating the answer to one's prayers and even calling Christ from His throne in heaven to appear in one's presence. Of course, Christ will not oblige, but there are demons that are only too happy to appear, pretending to be "Christ" in order to further their deception.
Yonggi Cho tells his readers, "You create the presence of Jesus with your mouth. He is bound by your words. Remember that Christ is depending upon you and your spoken word to release His presence."16 Likewise, Richard Foster (co-founder of the Renovaré movement and editor of the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible) assures us that visualization in the imagination of what one desires is not mere fantasy but reality created in the mind.17 He writes:
Take a single event [from Scripture]. Seek to live the experience, remembering the encouragement of Ignatius of Loyola [founder of the Jesuits, fanatical defenders of the pope and Rome's heresies]...as an active participant. And since Jesus lives in the eternal "now" you can actually encounter the living Christ in the event, be addressed by His voice, touched by His healing power. Jesus Christ will actually come to you. In your imagination, allow your spiritual body, shining with light, to rise out of your physical body. Look back so that you can see yourself and reassure your body that you will return. Go deeper and deeper into outer space until there is nothing except the warm presence of the eternal Creator. Rest in his presence. Listen quietly [to] any instruction given.18
This is occult contact with "seducing spirits [bringing] doctrines of demons" through the imagination and is the major technique used by shamans to contact their spirit guides. Yet in full agreement, popular evangelical author Calvin Miller writes:
One door opens to the world of the Spirit: imagination. We cannot commune with a Savior whose form and shape elude us...in my conversation with Christ, I see him white robed...I drink the glory of his hazel eyes, thrill to the golden sunlight dancing on his auburn hair. Do you disagree? His hair is black? Eyes brown? Then have it your way. His image must be real to you as to me, even if our images differ. The key to vitality, however, is the image...block by imaginary block we define him and we adore him. The Bible writers did the same.19
Instead of being inspired of God, the "Bible writers" wrote from their imagination?! This is not only blasphemy but "Christianized idolatry." Every pagan image is first formed in the mind before it is fashioned out of wood or stone. [This] is another growing movement among evangelicals. Icons are displayed with candles to light in "prayer stations," and church members in evangelical churches "pray through the image" to reach God, joining in the practice of Eastern Orthodox and Catholics.
Like Miller, Foster, and Cho, Robert L. Wise, pastor of a large Presbyterian church, endorses visualizing "Jesus" based upon his experience during a "Healing of the Memories" session:
I began to visualize myself as a boy of eight...startled to see myself carrying a large bundle on my back [of] needs and worries. "Now see if you can imagine Jesus appearing," [I was] instructed. "Let him walk toward you." Much to my amazement, I--an ordained Reformed clergyman with a doctorate in psychology--found Jesus mov[ing] slowly toward me extend[ing] His hands toward me in a loving, accepting manner. I no longer was creating the scene. Christ reached over and lifted the bundle from my back with such forcefulness that I literally sprang from the pew.20
Wise was sure that it was not his imagination--and we know that it was not Jesus. So it could only have been a demon impersonating Christ that came alive in this occult experience!
Yonggi Cho and Rick Warren recently had breakfast together....Cho [told Warren], "As a minister, you should know that prayer is the foundation of church growth and revival. [Y]ou should have visions and dreams because [these] are the vessels through which God works."21 He failed to tell Rick that his occult practice of visualization has been the key to his success. Cho has some good teachings, but that only commends his heretical and occult teachings and makes them all the more appealing....Yet the Bible declares: "This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart";22 "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,"23 etc.
Robert Schuller...declares, "That's what sets me apart from fundamentalists, who are trying to convert everybody to believe how they believe. We know the things the major faiths can agree on. We try to focus on those without offending those with different viewpoints, or without compromising the integrity of my own Christian commitment." Of course, the major faiths do not agree on...who God is, who Jesus Christ is, the way of salvation, and all other biblical fundamentals. One can only wonder what "Christian commitment" it is that Schuller isn't compromising....
Pat Robertson, responding to those asking why he had signed ECT, declared: "People of faith [in which he includes Catholics, Mormons, Moonies, Jews, et al.] are under attack as never before by forces which wish to destroy all religious values, all worship, and all freedoms for Christians like you and me [so] we must lay aside certain Protestant differences to join hands to support those things upon which we all agree."24
Peter reinforces the warnings by Christ and Paul: "There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them and many shall follow their pernicious ways and through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you."25 The language is remarkably prophetic. It is covetousness on the part both of the false prophets and those who believe their lies that allows the former to "make merchandise" of the latter. We see this in the "seed faith" teaching invented by Oral Roberts and followed by most of the other false prophets: "Send in your 'seed faith' offering to get the miracles started...." It would take minimal common sense to recognize Roberts's unconscionable lie (has he no fear of God?), but it is the covetousness of recipients that blinds them to the truth in their desire to get "miracles from God" by feeding the covetousness of the "miracle worker."
The gospel is "to the Jew first,"26 and Paul always preached it in the synagogue before going to the Gentiles. Yet some Christian leaders have claimed that there is a different gospel for Jews. John Hagee has said, "...I believe that every Jewish person who lives in the light of the Torah will come to redemption."27 In 1987, Pat Robertson was...asked, "Do Jews go to heaven?" Pat replied, "The Jews go to heaven if they keep all the commandments of the Jewish Law."28 Isn't it part of the apostasy to deny to Jews the gospel that saves?
When Robertson failed to get the Republican nomination for president, he was asked, "If God called you to run, then why did you fail to get the Republican presidential nomination?" Pat responded, "I suppose we could ask the same question of Jesus: why did He fail the first time around and get crucified?"29
One of the most shocking evidences of apostasy is the acclaim given to Sir John Marks Templeton by evangelical leaders. Templeton's books blatantly proclaim a false god and false gospel. Yet one of his major works, Discovering the Laws of Life, declares: "The basic principles for leading a 'sublime life' may be derived from any religious tradition. Astronauts traveled into outer space [and] did not bring back any evidence of heaven. And whereas drills had penetrated the earth, they'd found oil, not hell...spiritual theorists are inclined to conceive of [heaven and hell] as states of mind...we create our own heaven or hell right here on earth. Our innate goodness is an essential fact of our existence. The God within us--the godhood within you--is in a state of becoming perfect...."
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever; Christianity is not a religion, and it does not "progress" toward a better form. No Christian could possibly accept the Templeton Award as the person who had contributed the most during the year toward the Antichrist religion that Templeton is promoting. Yet Billy Graham did (1982), as did Chuck Colson (1993), and Bill Bright (1996)....
Just as God's people Israel, to whom He sent His prophets to warn them of their apostasy and its dire consequences, would not listen, so it is today with many professing Christians. Glad to follow any pied piper who plays an enticing tune, and unwilling (and one day unable) to hear the Lord ("who is my strength and my song" - Exodus:15:2), they dance merrily on to judgment.
Time on this earth is quickly drawing to a close. Let us determine once again to remain true to and earnestly contend for "the faith once delivered unto the saints." And in that perseverance, may our example give renewed courage and conviction to many others--and may we rescue many before it is forever too late.