Editors Note: Jeremy Sanders continues exposing the pagan practices of the NAR. This authors views are his own and do not represent those of his employer or anyone else.
Twice Dead: The Heretical Doctrine of the Mainstream Charismatic Movement
Below I have a list of the prominent heresies promoted by Bethel/Hillsong/Elevation et al. A full review would take multiple books to cover completely. These are some of the “highlights” of the movement. I have concentrated mostly on Bethel and Hillsong simply because these are two of the more “mainstream” groups that are infiltrating the Evangelical church. Many churches will shun (at least for the present) other NAR groups, and not dare host false teachers such as Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, and Kenneth Copeland. Yet, they are more than willing to embrace the music of Bethel and Hillsong with open arms. Thus, it is important to focus on these groups more than some of the other, less mainstream organizations. As you will see, the teachings of Bethel and Hillsong are heretical enough on their own. Some of their doctrines can be treated in a shorter fashion, others will be examined in much greater detail to demonstrate the heretical nature of these teachings. We will examine 15 false teachings of the NAR, with the last point explaining why such doctrines are practiced so openly at these organizations.
1. Bill Johnson, Pastor of Bethel Church, teaches that Jesus had to be Born Again ((45) Heretic Bill Johnson says Jesus was Born again – YouTube) This doctrine is widely taught among the Word of Faith/ Prosperity Gospel movement. They teach that when Jesus said “It is finished” on the cross, that it truly was not finished. They teach that Jesus had to go to hell to be tortured by demons for three days before dying spiritually and being born again, and thus be the first saved individual. Such false doctrine leads directly into the next heresy that we will cover in point # 2, the idea that Jesus gave up His divinity. Thus, it is important to combat the false doctrine that Jesus had to be born again. Bill Johnson and Bethel are not the only group to teach such a doctrine, this is a common heresy in NAR dating back through the teachings of Joyce Meyer etc. and can be found in their music. The song “Ain’t No Grave” a song published and sung by Bethel, includes the lyrics “And He went on down to hell, He took back every key, He rose up as a lion and He set all captives free”. Although subtle, the lyric is referencing this unbiblical belief. Not only does this song teach the false doctrine of Jesus dying spiritually in hell, but it also it teaching universalism. Jesus did not set “all captives free” for that would mean everyone is going to heaven.
Now the Bible does teach that Jesus preached to those imprisoned in the lake of fire after dying on the cross, but it does not teach that Jesus died spiritually in hell. To refute the false doctrine of the NAR, it is important to understand exactly what the Bible teaches. 1st Peter 3:18-20 tells us “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” (emphasis added). What these verses are referencing is that when Jesus died, he preached a sermon to the imprisoned spirits. The word for prison is φυλακη and is not referencing hell, but the lake of fire, where death and hell will one day be bound as described in Revelations 20:3,14.
The word “spirits” is πνεῠμα, which always refers to either angelic or demonic spirits unless when in the genitive case when referencing the spirit “of man”. Here, both because of the case as well as the proceeding verse, we know it is referring to demonic spirits. These spirits were active in the days of Noah, and either by taking physical form or by possessing the bodies of men, reproduced with human woman, no doubt in an attempt to interrupt God’s plan of salvation. Genesis 6:2 “That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.” The “sons of God” references angels in this passage, as it does in Job 1:6, although here it is referencing fallen angels (demons). Because of their evil deeds, God bound them forever in the lake of fire. Not all demons are bound of course, but these specific ones were and still are. And this so terrified the other demons that they never again attempted to follow the actions of these bound demons. We know they are terrified of being bound because we see the legion of demons begging Jesus not to cast them into the abyss when Jesus heals the demon-possessed man in Luke chapter eight. “And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep.” (Luke 8:31). The “deep” is from the Greek word ἀβυσσος meaning abyss. So why does Jesus go and preach to them? They are demons and cannot be saved, so why preach? Jesus is not preaching an evangelistic message here. No, he is preaching a message of triumph. The Greek word for “preached” in 1st Peter 3:19 is κηρυσσω, which means to herald. But he is not preaching the gospel, Jesus is heralding his triumph. Perhaps the bound demons knew Christ had died and thought their captivity would soon be over and Jesus was reminding them of His victory, we cannot be sure. What we do know is that Jesus did not go to hell to be tortured by demons and be born again. He went to the abyss to preach a message of victory to bound fallen angels.
Although this is not a doctrine commonly known by many Christians, it is what the Bible teaches. We must understand sound Biblical doctrine if we are to combat false doctrine. The best way to spot a fake is to know what the genuine article looks like. A seemingly insignificant false doctrine can blossom into full blow heresy unless dealt with immediately. As we will now see, the false teaching of Jesus dying in hell leads directly to an attack on the very Deity of Christ.
2. The NAR commonly denies the Deity of Christ, claiming Jesus gave up His divinity when He was born. They claim Jesus shed his deity and performed His miracles as a mere man. The reason for this claim is so that the NAR can teach that modern-day “apostles” can also perform the same miracles as Christ. If Christ gave up His Deity while on earth, then He performed His miracles as a mere man, which according to the logic of the NAR, means men today can perform the same miracles. In an interview with
Charisma Magazine Bill Johnson from Bethel, claims that Jesus emptied Himself of His Deity. In the section “Letting the Father Lead”, Johnston states “While Jesus is eternally God, He emptied Himself of His divine powers and became a man (see Phil. 2:7). It’s vital to note that He did all His miracles as a man, not as God.”
Johnson’s statement is heresy, and dates back as far as the 1st century A.D. and was further propagated by Arian. Arianism teaches that Jesus was created by the Father and is not coequal with the Father, and created from a different substance. Hence, the modern view is just a new spin on an old heresy. It is similar to the heresy taught in the first century, that taught Jesus came not in the flesh, but in the spirit only. Such teachings claim that Jesus was not both fully God and fully man. Of course, Jesus claimed Divinity, in John 8:58, Jesus says, “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” He is claiming to be the same being as I AM from Exodus, clearly demonstrating His Deity. In Mark chapter two Jesus heals the paralytic and then forgives his sin. Only God could do this, a fact the Pharisees know all too well. If Jesus gave up His deity, then are NAR teachers claiming the ability to also forgive sins? Some certainly do, for there are thousands of charismatic Catholics who believe that priests and the pope can forgive sin, a teaching that clearly violates Scripture. John combated such heresy directly in his second letter. “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” (2nd John 1:7) False teachers claimed Jesus was not both God and Man, and John tells his audience that such teachers are deceivers and antichrists. As we will later see, John tells Christians not to invite such false teachers into their houses, or bless them. Of course, the modern church has done both, inviting such false doctrines into both their homes and their churches through the music of Bethel and Hillsong, while simultaneously blessing them by purchasing their music!
3. The entire NAR movement is based on the Prosperity Gospel, and because of this fact, we will examine the roots of this teaching in great detail. The NAR teaches that sickness is never in God’s will, that disease is due to a simple lack of faith, and that is God’s will for Christians to always be wealthy. Of course, such teachings are in direct violation of Scripture. The Apostle Paul for example in 2nd Corinthians 12:7, describes a “thorn in the flesh”, a physical ailment that stayed with him his entire ministry even though he prayed for God to remove it from his life. Are we to believe that Paul, the Apostle who willingly went to his death for the sake of the Gospel, lacked enough faith to be healed? Are we to believe that Paul or the other Apostles, nearly all of whom died for the faith, lacked the faith to be blessed financially by God? For that is what the Prosperity Gospel teaches, that if you have enough faith, and of course, give enough of your money to the preacher at the top of the pyramid scheme, then God will bless you financially and physically. Of course, such doctrine is not Scriptural and preached to deceive simple minds into giving their money to the false teacher leading the Ponzi scheme.
As bad as the teachings of the prosperity gospel are, they are predicated on a doctrine far worse, the “little gods” doctrine. The NAR believes that since man is created in the image of God, we are “little gods”, and we are “I AM”. Indeed, by claiming to be gods, and that we are also “I AM”, these groups are claiming divinity.
(45) My Maker Is My Mirror | Pastor Steven Furtick – YouTube (Steven Furtick, Elevation Worship. Between 33:45-34:00 in the video, Furtick claims God says He calls Himself I AM, so we can see YOU ARE)
Brian Houston (Hillsong) has published two books, “Live Love Lead” and “There Is More: When the World Says You Can’t, God Says You Can” which teach the Prosperity/ Word of faith doctrine.
(45) Little gods Heresy.wmv – YouTube (Compilation of Kenneth Copland, who is praised by Hillsong (A Message from Brian & Bobbie Houston, Global Pastors of Hillsong Church. – Kenneth Copeland Ministries Australia (kcm.org.au)), Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, and other Word of Faith Preachers preaching the “little gods” doctrine.
It should be obvious why such doctrine is damnable, for anyone claiming to be a god is certainly not filled by the Holy Spirit. However, given the lack of spiritual discernment in the church, it has become necessary to demonstrate the heresy of this belief. We will demonstrate the satanic nature of this doctrine, its historical roots, and what the Bible teaches concerning this doctrine.
The claim that man is like God is satanic, there is no getting around this point. In Isaiah 14, we read of what caused Satan to fall from serving God. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” Isaiah 14:12-15, (Emphasis added)
Pride is what caused Lucifer to fall and become Satan. He wanted to be like God, he wanted to “be like the most High”. Notice the focus is entirely on him He wants to be a god. Yet, his pride and desire cause him to be cast out of heaven and thrown down to hell.
It is important to note, Lucifer was one of, if not the leading angel in heaven. Not only that, we see he was a musician, and given his status, may have even led the worship of God. “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.” Ezekiel 28:13-15 (Emphasis added). Lucifer had musical instruments prepared for him such as tabrets and pipes, and as the anointed cherub, a position of high standing, for he led a rebellion against God. It illustrates the fact that the devil will use music to preach false doctrine. Worship leaders must look at the fall of Lucifer as a dire warning. Most “worship leaders” in today’s churches are the center point of attention for large portions of the service, and can likewise succumb to pride. It is a small wonder then that many lead songs that take a similar attitude as Lucifer? Such songs focus on man, not on God, and direct to focus on the experiential feelings, not on sound doctrine. Indeed, I have just described the majority of modern “worship” contemporary Christian, seven/eleven songs sung across every denomination.
The “little gods” doctrine is not just found in the fall of Lucifer. It is also the root of the fall of man! The claim that precipitated the first sin in the garden of Eden was when Satan told Eve “ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5). Adam and Eve allowed pride and rebellion to enter their hearts, fostered by a desire to be as gods. This desire to be as gods is found in the heart of every man, for why do we sin except we believe our will and desires are on par with the Will of God? Hence, the “little gods” doctrine is nothing new, just a repeat of the sins dating back to the garden of Eden and the fall of Lucifer. Yet, what is new is that it is being preached by those claiming to be Christians, and tolerated by the Evangelical church.
Proponents of the little gods doctrine cite John 10:32-36 when claiming that men are little gods. As usual with cults and false teachers, they conduct improper exegesis of Scripture and take God’s Word out of context to “prove” their claims. “Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” (Emphasis added)
Jesus is quoting Psalm 82 when he references “Is it not written in your law”. “They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes” Psalms 82:5-7(Emphasis Added).
So, what are these verses saying? Is Jesus promoting the “little gods” doctrine? Of course not! Jesus is being threatened with stoning by the Pharisees for claiming to be God. He reminds them of the verse in Psalms, which must be examined to properly understand what Jesus is saying. Psalms 82 is referring to ungodly princes and judges of Israel. The Hebrew word for these rulers is Elohim, the same word used for “gods”, “angels”, and “God”. Of course, these men are not truly gods, and the Scripture is making a sarcastic reference, calling them “gods”, but then “ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes”. So even if ye think you are a god, you will still die like a man, no matter what you do, and you shall eventually fall from power like every other earthly prince. It is a derisive reference, meant to mock those who view themselves as gods. Jesus then is making this comparison as well. If the Hebrews had been content to call these princes gods, even though they were truly just men, how could they then attack Him for calling Himself God, since Jesus is “the Son of God”.
So, Jesus is not saying that men are little gods, far from it! He is mocking the Pharisees and drawing attention to the only divine person, Himself. Sadly, many false teachers continue to contort these straightforward verses to push their heretical doctrine.
The “little gods” doctrine can also be found in many of the cultic groups claiming ties to Christianity. It is a Mormon doctrine, taught extensively by the Mormon religion. I think it telling that most Evangelical churches do not as yet play music from Mormon groups in their services, although given the current push towards ecumenicalism, are we far from that perversion? Yet, currently, we do not play Mormon music in the church. Why is the NAR different? Both preach false gospels, both teach the “little gods” doctrine. Yet, one is still shunned, the other embraced. Such hypocrisy surely confuses and detracts from the Gospel!
The Word of Faith movement rests in its entirety on the “little gods” doctrine. Since the NAR/ Bethel/ Hillsong etc. believe man to be gods, they attribute creative power to man via the “Word of Faith” movement, which claims we have the power to create out of nothing, and that God cannot work on earth without our permission. Of course, such teaching directly denies John 1:1-3 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (Emphasis added). Only Christ has the power to create ex nihilo. Yet, Word of Faith practitioners claim the ability to create things as diverse as positive energy, weather, and health. (56) Bill Johnson – Creative Miracles At Bethel – Part 1 – YouTube
Indeed, some go as far as claiming God can accomplish nothing on this earth unless man first gives his permission and allows himself to be used by God. Such doctrine stems from Arminianism, and has found its way into other aspects of Christianity as well, where the Sovereignty of God is denied. Of course, this teaching goes back to the root of all sin, which is our desire to be “as gods” and control our destiny. We see Joel Osteen promote such doctrine. (56) Miracles In Your Mouth | Joel Osteen – YouTube. Between the 10-11minute mark, Osteen declares that God shut the mouth of Zechariah so that his negative words did not prevent John the Baptist from being born. According to Osteen, perhaps we should be thankful Zechariah did not interfere with God’s Sovereign plan. I guess God and humanity dodged a bullet on that one, for John is the one who comes before and points to Christ. Are we to believe that God’s plan of salvation, planned out before the creation of the world, was almost derailed or changed due to the “creative power” of Zechariah’s words? Indeed, Acts 2:23 tells us, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:” (Emphasis added).
To those who say that foreknowledge (προγνωσις = prognosis) is God looking down through history and arranging his Sovereign plan according to our actions, are we going to say that God’s plan of salvation was based on whether the Jews would determine to crucify Jesus or not? I guess we were fortunate that the crowd decided to adopt such a plan, lest God had to choose another means of saving mankind or even scrap the plan completely! Of course, God does not allow His Sovereignty to be overcome by the sovereignty of man, nor was His perfect plan of salvation based on happy circumstances or the sinful actions of man. Such teachings place ourselves as sovereigns, and Christ as the supplicant. As seen in both Scripture and the teaching of the Word of Faith movement, such doctrine has its roots in man’s sinful nature and the pride of Lucifer.
Do you know what’s going to happen when you die? Are you completely sure? If you aren’t, please read this or listen to this. You can know where you will spend eternity. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us, we’d love to talk to you.
Pt 3 runs next week.