The Chinese introduced genuine snake oil as a cure-all to North American railroad workers in the 19th century, evidently believing (as many ancient cultures did) that serpents possess supernatural healing power. Such "miracle" remedies have long been fraudulently sold to desperate souls lacking discernment but who muster up enough misplaced faith (and fortune) to "buy" the claims of a hypnotic huckster. In the name of Christianity, innumerable shysters have sold so many bills-of-goods (such as bottled "healing water") to trusting victims, that the true Gospel—the free gift of Eternal Life—is difficult to give away to dying souls.
Today's New Spirituality, however, has created a more "discerning" Christian marketplace for sophisticated aids to healing, prayer, and "worship"—in the form of exclusive oils, candles, and incense. In search of greater "prophetic" power and blessing, an increasing number of professing evangelicals are purchasing expensive accessories to enhance their prayer life and worship experiences. In contrast to the greedy grifters who in former times pedaled "snake oil" placebos, not all of the modern-day purveyors of these "prophetic" wares are corrupt. Some are undoubtedly "deceived and deceiving others" but a few seem to take genuine pride in their exotic concoctions.
One such company, prominently featured by the web-based "Elijah List" (a promotional network for the prophets and apostles of the Word-Faith, New Apostolic Reformation, and Kingdom-Dominion camps), manufactures "Third Heaven Vision Anointing Oil." [This is a reference to Paul's testimony in 2 Corinthians:12:2 and to the dwelling place of God.] What is interesting about this oil, however, is not its ingredients or its intended use but the story of its origin and its alleged effects on individuals:
Tom [Panich] had been blending fragrances for several years when one day while he was in the shower, what seemed like a lightning bolt from God's Glory came down upon him and the voice of the Holy Spirit began to speak to him about what to call His oil. Tom was caught up in a stream of God's manifest Glory (as an open vision), and he began to tremble vigorously under the power of the Lord. After the shaking stopped, excitedly, he ran into the kitchen to tell his wife that the Holy Spirit had told him to name His anointing oil "Third Heaven Vision."
The critical concern over "Third Heaven Vision Anointing Oil" is not just whether it is properly concentrated or that the producer is making an unfair profit (though at $10 per 1/2 oz and $8 per 1/4 oz, it sells for 40 to 70 times more than olive oil alone!) but the testimony of the maker—with the endorsement of the increasingly popular Elijah List (a non-profit company that bombards a rapidly growing e-mail list with "prophetic words" and related product offers)—that there is some extraordinary, supernatural blessing conferred upon the contents that transfers to the user or recipient:
Many intercessory prayer warriors who use "Third Heaven Vision" anointing oil mention that the oil has a strong breaker anointing upon it. This is consistent with the reports received of the breaker anointing that is upon Tom's drumming. The breaker is the Lord God Almighty inhabiting the praises of His people.
What exactly is a "breaker anointing"? Mr. Panich shares in his testimony that he used to "drum for the spirits of the world," but he now believes that his war-like drumming can somehow "break" the powers of darkness. This, of course, is unbiblical mysticism. In addition (if his account is accurate) the process by which the oil is made, and its apparent effect on people, is occultic in nature. Tom (a self-described "apothecary and drummer for God") seems to brood over each batch of oil with a manner and care that is also used by his pagan counterparts who brew designer potions for spell-casting:
Each time Tom blends a batch of oil [a mixture of frankincense, myrrh, spikenard, rose of Sharon, cassia, calamus and olive oil], a strong presence of the Lord's Glory comes upon him and he trembles vigorously ("vibrating all over the place," his wife would say!) Also, on various occasions when Tom has put full boxes (144 bottles) of the anointing oil in the hands of two separate strong intercessors, they have both been hit by the anointing and power of the Lord, nearly falling to the ground.
In addition to placing emphasis on a magical number of bottles in a case, and ascribing a "breaker" anointing to the oil (practitioners of vodoun anoint with oil to make or break curses), another red flag—endemic to New Wave prophetic adherents—is the war-like nature and purpose of their mission:
The Lord has given [the creators of] "Third Heaven Vision" anointing oil as a means of providing funds (Acts:18:3) to forcefully advance His Kingdom across America and to the nations.
The fallacy of Kingdom-Dominion theology has long been addressed in The Berean Call; but regardless of these aberrant views, Panich is not alone in his pursuit of "heaven-scent" funds. A simple internet search turns up dozens of purveyors of oils and incense used for religious purposes—a surprising number of which claim to distill and bottle "biblical" scents for a variety of needs. One company proudly specializes in "all natural Biblical Aromatherapy Candles for prayer and worship," with the claim that their "In His Presence" anointing oil (made with pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils from Israel) is "preparing the Bride of Christ" for "personal encounters with the Lord." Other companies seem less concerned with an evangelical slant but appear convinced nonetheless of the mystical and magical powers of "biblical" oils:
We strive to bring you the purest quality (not synthetic) of biblical anointing oils available.... We believe in the holy teachings of the Bible and that there is a basic theme throughout all religions, and that is honoring God and His love for all people. No matter what religion you choose, these anointing oils can be used by you.
Another company's product promises even more lofty results to star-struck customers for the stellar price of $98.00 per quarter-ounce:
Experience the superconductor that the ancients kept hidden away.... It has been called the Fruit of the Tree of Life, and Star fire-Gold of the Gods. White Powder Gold is the residue from the golden calf that Moses melted down [and] is believed to have been used in his anointing in order to enhance the receiver's blessing. It allowed the recipient to align his will to the Divine Will of God. It empowers your prayers into a much higher level of understanding.
These obviously unbiblical claims are patently false; but still more websites feature a dizzying array of oils to anoint and dress the body, as well as sacred objects for ritual purposes. Are all of these people crooks? Not necessarily by criminal definition; whether Wiccan, Vodoun, or "Christian," some are quite sincere. So why is it wrong for Bible-believing Christians to create custom oils, scents, and candles for worship? There are two reasons:
First, attempting to recreate oils or incense used by Old Testament priests—or to experiment with original recipes as a means to enhance one's spiritual "experience"—is ignorance at best and an abomination at worst. We are now part of a new priesthood that offers "spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Peter:2:5-9). Second, all of the above examples share mutual error in claiming that some spiritual power or benefit can be derived from a physical substance-this is witchcraft! Unfortunately, the acceptance and practice of occult techniques is on the rise in evangelical circles. One woman concerned with her husband's TV watching habits was advised by another professing Christian, "Rub it down [with oil]! It works for me!"
There is no question that the process of anointing with oil is a biblical procedure, used at various times and for specific purposes both in the Old and New Testaments. However, as with other customs and ordinances (i.e., baptism and communion) the methodology and materials have been subject to much embellishment and corruption. Biblical Christians may still anoint as prescribed by Scripture (only for the sick, and only by elders—James:5:12); but any healing is not a by-product of the oil's rarity, purity, or spiritual preparation (common olive or cooking oil will suffice). Just as biblical communion is a symbol, so is the use of oil for external anointing. Nowhere in Scripture is it used for "breaking" or "binding" or for creating a prophetic "power boost" nor are there any recipes or formulas for "worship aids" of any kind.
But as mystical beliefs, pagan practices, and shamanic techniques continue to infiltrate the church, one thing is clear: an increasing number of well-intentioned (but naïve) believers will continue to misplace their faith and money—deceived anew by the lure of the Serpent's "miracle cure."