Just an orange's throw away from Walt Disney's vision of Utopia, a new "destination" attraction is rivaling the nightly fireworks of Orlando's most spectacular amusement offerings. Less than 60 miles to the west of "Fantasmic!" (starring Mickey Mouse as "Sorcerer's Apprentice") a Canadian "healing evangelist" has turned neighboring Lakeland, Florida, into a new "Charismagic Kingdom." All summer long (or for as long as the "spirit" moves and crowds attend), Todd Bentley is presiding over a "Fresh Fireworks" extravaganza every night. Increasingly hailed as a modern day prophet, Bentley's "transferrable healing anointing" has led thousands from around the globe to leave home and family to literally camp out under the "glory cloud" at the latest Latter-Rain Revival (LRR) "outpouring."
As Solomon recorded in Ecclesiastes, however, "there is no new thing under the sun" (Ecclesiastes:1:9). Neither is there anything "new" occurring in sunny Lakeland; while the human containers have changed, the ancient doctrines dispensed from these "prophetic" vessels have not. The "new wine" being poured out at Bentley's nightly "Fresh Fire" meetings is neither new nor "divine" but is an intoxicating blend of showmanship, manipulation, and "spirits" from the fruit of neo-gnostic ("new knowledge") mysticism.
Truly, the state of the church today is as the state of Israel when Jeremiah, the "weeping prophet," lamented, "A wonderful [appalling] and horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so" (Jer:5:30-31). It is indeed a "wonderful and horrible" thing to view videos of Bentley's bizarre behavior-and of the wildly adoring crowds making eager and hopeful pilgrimage to the latest circus to hit Lakeland. The "wonder" of this phenomenon is not the alleged (or even actual) occurrence of healing and manifestations, but that thousands upon thousands of sign-seekers flock from around the world to "come get some" (in Bentley's words of invitation) of this "transferrable impartation," which is seemingly at his will to dispense. Gone is the humble power of prayer by the example of our Lord: "Father, if it be thy will." It has been replaced by the exaltation and power of man in prayer who summons, "I decree and I declare!" (with Jesus' name tacked on, of course). And, as in the days of Jeremiah, the priests of the Latter Rain are self-appointed "apostles" who "bear rule" by dispensing their own blend of neo-gnostic "enlightenment" while censoring biblical discernment.
If one good fruit has come from Todd Bentley's "carnival," it is that the very power of the internet that has helped catapult this alleged "third wave" revival to worldwide acclaim has also enabled faithful watchmen (and women) to "prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Th 5:21). This Scripture stands in stark contrast to Bentley's "apology" for the tangled confusion of bodies on his platform as he recklessly "slays" sign-seekers from his angel-empowered pulpit while raucously shouting, "Don't even try to figure this out!" Gratefully, technology has allowed an increasing multitude to conduct their own testing of Bentley's writings, rantings, and ravings, which are, by the standard of Scripture, "weighed...and found wanting." A quick search on Google or YouTube turns up dozens, if not hundreds, of discerning believers' posting of video clips, Bentley quotations, and biblical commentary that expose the darkness that purports to be light (Matthew:6:23).
This public trial-by-jury (a biblical principle) will be slightly hindered, however, by a defensive countermeasure: Bentley recently announced that all material deemed "too contoversial"-including his testimonies of meetings with angelic beings-is being extracted from his website. It appears that too many "fear-based" or "pharisaical" (terms used to deride those who are cautious or critical) believers were questioning his out-of-body encounters with angels of light, whose "new revelation" raises serious doctrinal concerns. Instead of standing firm on his convictions, this alleged prophet of God is simply yanking his "offending" material from public view to avoid causing "division" among those who are either too weak or "not ready" to receive higher knowledge that comes from his "hours and hours" of trancelike meditation. Believing to commune with Christ in this manner, Bentley has clearly succumbed to seducing spirits who leave him deceived, and deceiving others (1 Timothy:4:1; 2 Timothy:3:13).
Similar evasive action was performed by Latter-Rain prophetess and avid Bentley supporter Patricia King, who also withdrew from her website "controversial" teachings on raising the dead and communing with [dead] saints, although she maintains, "I do believe that the Lord is divinely releasing visitation from The Great Cloud of Witnesses" (supposedly tangible, real encounters with spirits of departed biblical saints and loved ones). To strengthen one's "faith" for raising the dead, King has recommended practicing on roadkill (dead animals). She wrote, "I believe that a person can be raised from the dead and then saved." When confronted with Hebrews:9:27 and other Scriptures, she did not repent or recant of any of these false teachings but simply stated, "I shared prematurely...too much at times, too soon, to some of the wrong people concerning [these] subject[s]." In other words, "It's not my fault you don't get it, but because your 'natural mind' can't receive it, I'll take it away...for now."
It's not that discerning believers doubt the reality of spiritual encounters by these men and women, for fallen angels have been communicating with mankind in various forms since the Garden of Eden. Rather, a comparison of Bentley's and King's teachings and testimonies to Scripture raises serious concern over whether they have fully escaped the bondage of occultism from which they claim to have been saved. As the apostle Paul warned, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts:20:29-30). Furthermore, the popularity of a prophet or their teachings is no gauge of truth. In fact, Scripture foretells the opposite: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" (1 Timothy:4:1).
Believers who reject on biblical grounds these and other "revelations" are accused of quenching the Holy Spirit, and those who attempt to bring biblical correction, they say, have a "Jezebel spirit." (Bob Jones, spiritual mentor to many neo-prophets, says that if anyone speaks a negative word, they are guilty of witchcraft.) In truth, it is the LRR "zealots" who are claiming higher authority and "wisdom" than Scripture, which instructs discerning believers to "reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Timothy:4:2). While many ministers have mistakenly bowed at the altar of academia, the neo-apostles are no less elitist, having arrayed their networks against the mere "muggles" of evangelicalism. Ironically, while claiming to do battle with principalities and powers in the spiritual realm, they are in fact "kick[ing] against the pricks" (Acts:26:14) by persecuting those who stand firm on the "more sure word of prophecy," which, according to Scripture, excels even the eyewitness testimony of Christ's transfiguration (2 Pt 1:16-21). In pale and pathetic contrast to the blinding glory of God as witnessed then, the "best" manifestations that prophets of the Latter Rain Revival have conjured today is mere "glory dust" or "blue haze" or "scented oil" that descends upon their meetings. Surely, this is not the Shekina glory of God (as they claim), but is instead chicanery, sorcery, or some of both.
Tragically, as we've seen, such ignorance and gullibility is a sign of the times: "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign" (Matthew:16:4). By enticing believers with "higher" and "hidden" knowledge of a "secret place" accessible by anyone who surrenders to "christ" in "meditation," prophets of the LRR fit Christ's description of those who enter "not by the door into the sheepfold, but [climb] up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber" (Jn:10:1). And with regard to the flock being rustled away "unawares" (Jude:1:4) this preoccupation with manifestations over manna indicates that the "insatiable hunger" of many who follow this movement is not a healthy appetite for the meat of God's Word but is, in reality, a lust for the forbidden fruit.
Like the Israelites who grew impatient for the Word of God to come down to them, and like Benny Hinn, who shouted, "I don't need gold in Heaven. I got to have it now!" today's Latter-Rain "outpouring" in Lakeland is laboring to birth and build its own magical "Kingdom Now" utopia, whose "mascot" (if one were to be chosen) would also have ears--the ears of a Golden Calf.