For the last couple of months I have been writing and speaking about a “Christian” gathering of nearly 50,000 young adults at a stadium on February 23, 2019, in Orlando, Florida. This is a summation of my observations made after viewing hours of video of the assembly as well as my knowledge of the producers and speakers of the 12-hour, one-day event.
It began with an enthusiastic exhortation given by mostly young dynamic speakers to the equally enthusiastic crowd to fulfill the great commission: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark:16:15). That urging underscored the theme of the event, which was titled “The Send.” The goal was to motivate and send the young adults back to their neighborhoods, their high schools and universities, their workplaces, their cities and nations, and then to countries far and wide in order to share the gospel.
They were told that God would empower them to be extremely successful in their attempts at evangelizing the world. Andy Byrd of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) declared, “We are here for the greatest move of God in human history…. Five years from now, we will be in a Jesus Movement beyond anything we could have imagined, and it all starts tonight.” Speaker Lou Engle stated that following the death of Billy Graham a major revelatory shift has taken place, featuring “the proclamation of the gospel, signs and wonders…stadiums will be filled, and Billy Graham’s mantle is coming on the nation…. It will be Jesus the evangelist [who] is going to fill stadiums in America….Why wouldn’t I believe that I would see stadiums with massive evangelism, signs and wonders and miracles, and hundreds of thousands of people being saved in America? We believe this day something will transfer and bring us into…worldwide transition into the greatest Jesus movement we have ever seen!” That would be wonderfully exciting if it were true. But it’s not.
Why would I conclude that? The reasons are manifold, the primary one being that it’s at odds with what the Word of God tells us about the present spiritual condition of the world and the state of the church as the return of the Lord draws near. That situation is characterized by anti-Christianity outside the church and apostasy within.
In chapter 24 of Matthew, His disciples asked Jesus to tell them what it would be like at the time of His coming. “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.” Additional verses concur: Luke:18:8: “…Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Second Timothy 3:13: “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” Second Timothy 4:3-4: “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.” Second Peter 2:1-3: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of [blasphemed]. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”
Those are just a few of the scriptures that describe the spiritual condition of the last days, and those traits will greatly increase prior to the Rapture of the church and on into the later horrendous wickedness of the great tribulation period. This is what the Bible clearly teaches! So how is it that so many of the speakers at The Send seem to be oblivious to biblical eschatology, that is, what the Scriptures plainly declare will take place as the return of Jesus Christ draws near? They appear to be ignorant of the major conditions and events the Bible says are to come, especially these three: 1) Apostasy (Mark:13:22-23; Acts:20:28-31; 2 Thessalonians:2:3; 1 Timothy:4:1-3; 2 Timothy:3:13 and the Book of Jude); 2) The Rapture (John:14:2-3; 1 Corinthians:15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians:4:14-18; 1 Thessalonians:5:9-11); 3) The Kingdom of the Antichrist (Revelation:13:1-8; 11-17; 19:19-21). All of these the Word of God sets forth as significant timeline events that will take place prior to Christ himself setting up His Kingdom, the time during which He will reign for a thousand years from Jerusalem.
I encourage all those reading this article, especially those not familiar with biblical eschatology, to read or review the verses listed above, and then compare them with what is being taught by those in The Send leadership. Here is what those leaders are saying, including those at Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church and his School of Supernatural Ministry, Loren Cunningham’s Youth With A Mission (YWAM), the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) leaders, along with dozens of likeminded and very influential Word-Faith/Healing preachers and their ministries: They believe that God is pouring out His Holy Spirit in these last days, which will result in worldwide revival. As the revival grows, Christians will be placed in the highest governmental leadership positions throughout the nations. This will culminate in a Christianized world that is responsible to restore it physically (governmentally, environmentally) and spiritually (morally, and through restoring social justice) in order for Christ to return to earth to begin His physical rule.
There is absolutely no basis for this teaching in Scripture. One overwhelming obstacle to Christians thinking they can take dominion over the world is the entire book of Revelation. The next kingdom to come in God’s timeline is the kingdom of the Antichrist! That takes place during the “great tribulation,” when God pours out His wrath on the entire world. Jesus himself described what will take place as being so devastating that “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew:24:21). The prophet Jeremiah adds “that none is like it,” calling it “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” and likening it to a woman laboring through birth pains: “…I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail [labor], and all faces are turned into paleness” (Jeremiah:30:6-7).
What is astonishing about the false scenarios promoted by these “Christian Kingdom-Now Dominionists” is that none of the above verses can be spiritualized (read twisted) to indicate worldwide revival. On the occasions when those verses do come up, rationales denying them issue forth, such as “God is doing a new thing that abrogates what He has written.” By no means! God tells us, “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but My words shall not pass away” (Mark:13:31). The prophet Isaiah wrote, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah:8:20). Not only do these false teachers have a dominionist objective that is completely at odds with what God’s Word says, but also their pronouncements are rooted in a completely corrupt belief system.
This movement has been referred to as the Word of Faith, Healing, and Prosperity ministry. Its roots go back to false prophets and teachers such as E. W. Kenyon, Kenneth Hagin, Charles Capps, Kenneth Copeland, Fred Price, Marilyn Hickey, Joyce Myers, Rodney Howard-Browne, and, of course, the leader of the pack, Benny Hinn (See The Confusing World of Benny Hinn). Although all those who teach these unbiblical beliefs and practices have their own specialties (e.g., healing methods, commanding prosperity, positive confession, using faith as a technique, performing as gods under God, etc.), their foundational belief is that God is restoring to the contemporary church the signs, wonders, and miracles that are found in the Book of Acts.
The chief miraculous sign of this movement is healing. An early leader in this was Oral Roberts, whose university (ORU), according to him, was created primarily to promote supernatural healing. Other schools with a similar emphasis on healing include Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City and Bill Johnson’s Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, California.
Does the Bible teach supernatural healings? Without a doubt! So why are we not seeing what took place when Jesus healed the multitudes, or later, in the Book of Acts when some were healed simply as the shadow of Peter passed over them (Acts:5:15)? Among many reasons that could be given, I believe the most significant is that all the truly miraculous activities of those days were confirmations. They confirmed Jesus, that He was truly God incarnate, and they confirmed that the gospel preached by Peter and the disciples was the truth of God’s Word by the signs that followed: “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen” (Mark:16:19-20).
Jesus is still “confirming the word with signs following,” as has been testified by missionaries ministering the truth of the gospel in very challenging places worldwide. What then of the Word-Faith/Healing, and Prosperity preachers? They promote a false gospel, another Jesus (see “A Berean Exercise: ‘Christian’ Magazines – Part 2”, August 1, 2019), and a host of unbiblical doctrines and practices. According to the Scriptures, as noted, Jesus will not work with them by confirming their heresies with miraculous signs following. Their so-called miraculous manifestations are not of the Lord. Yet I believe there is an even more tragic deception inflicted upon the thousands of young people attending The Send. They are being presented with an empty gospel.
It should be apparent to any believer who preaches the gospel, whether it be in one’s own church fellowship or home fellowship, that not everyone who has heard the gospel has responded to it, thereby receiving the free gift of eternal life with Jesus that constitutes salvation. This can be the sad outcome, no matter how thoroughly the gospel is explained. If a person is unwilling to accept the truth of what Jesus accomplished on the cross on his behalf (as well as for all of humanity), which was that He paid the full penalty demanded by God’s perfect justice, that person has rejected his only hope of salvation (Acts:4:12). What then of a gathering of 50,000?
At one point during The Send’s 12-hour session, one of the speakers stepped forth to invite those in the crowd to commit their lives to Jesus. He declared, “I want everyone to lift their hands. We’re all going to pray this together in support of those who are praying it for the first time. Are you ready? Say, ‘Dear Lord Jesus…I come to you today…a sinner needing salvation…Lord Jesus Christ...as of this day…I say yes…I say yes…I say yes…to you, Lord Jesus. No more hesitation…no more procrastination…no more negotiation…as of this day I belong to Jesus. And Jesus belongs to me. I believe it. I receive it. I confess it in the name of Jesus. And everybody said ‘Amen!’” The entire gathering of thousands shouted an enthusiastic “Amen.”
Take a closer look. Was that the gospel? What did these emotionally driven young people actually believe? First of all, in whom did they put their faith? Jesus? Jesus who? Many false Christs abound in our day. Did they put their trust in God who became a man, while never ceasing to be God and man? Did He pay the full penalty for our sins on the cross? Over a billion Roman Catholics don’t believe that. Many of the Word-Faith/Healing/Prosperity teachers likewise do not believe that, claiming that the penalty was paid in the depths of hell as Christ was tortured by Satan and his demons. That’s not the biblical Jesus. Were those who nearly filled the stadium in Orlando aware that Christ’s sacrificial act of dying for mankind’s sins was accepted by God the Father as satisfying divine justice? Did they know that Christ’s resurrection was proof of God’s acceptance?
The invitation given seemed to be with the intent to have the recipients make a commitment to follow Christ and to go forth sharing the gospel locally and internationally—that is, asking for a critical commitment of one’s life. Yet the “gospel” they were given was entirely without biblical substance. What transpired was an “altar call” that was purely emotional, and the hoped-for obligation of their lives had no biblical support. Thus the hearers could only depend upon their feelings. That’s akin to sending an army into battle fortified with only wishful thinking.
How wishful? A major teaching of the Word-Faith/Healing and Prosperity Movement is Positive Confession. The idea is that anything that has a negative connotation must be avoided because it will cause a negative result. In healing, for example, symptoms of an illness cannot be spoken of because that will reinforce the illness; positive statements of healing (whether true or not) will bring about healing. The Send employs that tactic as it selects only the “positive” signs and wonders and healing verses found in the Book of Acts. Avoided are all the “negative” trials and tribulations that the Apostle Paul suffered as God used him mightily, as well as many of the other saints, some of whom were martyred in their service to Jesus. Not understanding that suffering is a part of life for everyone who serves the Lord is setting a person up for a deceitful expectation. Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation…” and then He adds, “...but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John:16:33).
In summary, tragically, the thousands of young people who attended The Send were led astray. The deceitful heresies they were exhorted to follow can be readily exposed by simply comparing them to what the Bible spells out very clearly. I have no doubt that the millennial and Z generations will face far more spiritual deceptiveness than any previous generation and, tragically, they are terribly ill prepared. Pray for them continually and with the encouragement that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans:5:20). That grace, which saves everyone who turns his life over to Jesus by faith, is more than sufficient for him to be used of the Lord no matter how trying the believer’s circumstances: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians:9:8).