Editors Note: Jeremy Sanders returns to walk through some of the pagan practices of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and how it is seeping into your church. This authors views are his own and do not represent those of his employer or anyone else.
One of the more bizarre and occultic practices practiced by Bethel is that of “mantle grabbing” or “grave sucking”. Although the Bethel leadership has said they do not encourage these acts, there are countless pictures and videos of students from Bethel’s college, accompanied by a leader at Bethel church named Ben Fitzgerald, laying on/ standing by graves to “soak up” the “mantle” of dead “apostles”, which is, of course, a doctrine of the occult. (45) Bethel Church Soaking up the “anointing” of dead men, or Grave Sucking – YouTube, The Power of Soaking – Bethel Church These Bethel students are learning this idea from somewhere, even though the leadership publicly denies the practice. There is no record of these Bethel students being expelled or disciplined for their actions. Furthermore, in his book, Physics of Heaven, Bill Johnson makes this statement. “There are anointings, mantles, revelations and mysteries that have lain unclaimed, literally where they were left, because the generation that walked in them never passed them on. I believe it’s possible for us to recover realms of anointing, realms of insight, realms of God that have been untended for decades simply by choosing to reclaim them and perpetuate them for future generations.” (Davis, 2012) Physics of Heaven – Bill Johnson.
Furthermore, the wife of Bill Johnson, Brenda “Beni” Johnson has also had numerous pictures taken where she too is “grave soaking. Grave Sucking / Mantle Grabbing | bewatchful.org (infomaniak.website). She is a “senior pastor” at the Bethel organization, an oxymoron in itself, and is here doing the same acts that Bethel insists they do not teach. Trying to gain anointing of a dead individual is not Scriptural. The Holy Spirit does not rest in corpses, nor can someone acquire more of the Holy Spirit.
One might ask what Scriptural basis these people use for their belief? Of course, as usual with cults, they are forced to take Scripture out of context. In 2nd Kings 13:21, we read, “And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.” So, because someone was revived by touching the bones of the dead prophet Elisha, these cults insist that spiritual anointing can be passed on from dead men. Of course, such statements contort Scripture. First, this was physical healing. I haven’t seen anyone placed on the graves of the dead charismatic “apostles” receive physical healing. Second, the event in 2nd Kings was a one-time event, fulfilling a prophecy made to Elisha from Elijah. Elisha had asked for a double portion of what Elijah had done. This request references Deuteronomy 21:17 where the firstborn son receives a double portion of his father’s inheritance. However, in the context of miracles, Elijah performed seven recorded miracles in Scripture. Elisha performed 13 before his death. The revival of the man-made 14, thus a double portion to that of Elijah. So, it was a one-time occurrence to fulfill a specific prophecy, not a promise to future generations about spiritual blessings. Grave soaking/ mantle grabbing is an occultic practice that has no place in the true church.
5. Due to being seeker-sensitive churches, the NAR is fulling on board with supporting the pagan culture on various social issues. Such issues vary from support for Abortion to support for the Social Justice movement. Hillsong and Bethel are completely on board the social justice train. BLACK LIVES MATTER | UK (hillsong.com), An OPEN Letter to Hillsong Church | Collected , (45) Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz On Justin Bieber, Church’s Stance On Politics, Social Issues | The View – YouTube (Former Hillsong Pastor, recently fired for sexual immorality, does not condemn abortion)
Not only did one of Hillsong’s pastors not condemn abortion and not call it a sin, but both churches are also supportive of Black Lives Matter and other social justice movements. These movements pervert the gospel and are not Scriptural. Indeed, Social Justice and the NAR/ Charismatic movement are the two greatest and most prevalent threats within the church, and often go hand in hand. I have already covered some of the dangers and unbiblical beliefs of these movements, and do not have the space to cover them in this current article. If you would like to read further on the demonic nature of BLM, check out the podcast How Social Justice Impacts the Church w/ Jeremy Sanders (podbean.com), and Black Lives Matter: An Organization from Hell – In His Image.
Bethel has also recently issues statements concerning homosexuality that are unclear at best. Bethel Church Suggests ‘LGBTQ+’ People ‘Who Feel Fulfilled and Happy As You Are’ Don’t Need to Change or Repent | Christian News Network. They state in reference to the LGBTQ movement that “the message of CHANGED has never been ‘All Must Change.’” They also seem to support those who are “happy as you are” and decry shame as a means of ministry. Of course, a sinner can only be saved if he or she feels shame for their sin, so this statement is especially problematic. If one is not ashamed of their sin, then one has not submitted to Christ.
6. Bethel claims to have dead-raising teams, with claims made that they have raised multiple people throughout their “ministry”. Of course, such claims are never verifiable, as in all such cases, because they are patently false. Several years ago, the daughter of a Bethel worship leader, Olive, tragically passed away, Bethel held a several-week-long attempt to “raise her from the dead.” While they claimed the attempt was in Jesus’ name, if you watch the video you will notice they are calling to Olive to “come back to the light” and to “rise.” (45) Baby Olive’s Dad Prophesying Resurrection Life #wakeupolive – YouTube Although supposedly done in Jesus’ name, such an act is part of the occult and frankly demonic. They are speaking directly to the dead. The frantic chants, the screams, and speaking in tongues are certainly not Christian. Indeed, the whole scene is quite similar to Saul calling up the spirit of Samuel from the grave via the witch of Endor in 1st Samuel 28:7-19.
Such a practice is not scriptural and is occultic/demonic in nature. As we are told in Scripture, we are not to seek out magicians or the dead. Isaiah 8:19-20 asks why people will consult with the dead and magicians when they should seek the counsel of God. 2nd Chronicles 33:6 describes the evil of consulting with sorcerers. Deuteronomy 18:9-12 warns the Israelites against consulting with sorcerers, wizards, or any who call upon the dead, while Leviticus 20:6 says God will cut off any who go to mediums to speak to the dead, while verse 27 says such people should be put to death. The Bible is quite clear about practicing magic, yet Bethel has a long history of such acts.
7. Bethel recently had a woman conduct a “prophetic vision” to combat the “spirit of racism” using “Gandalf’s staff” and quotes from Lord of the Rings to defeat racism. Invoking wizards and witchcraft in a church service, no matter the source goes against Biblical teachings on magic and witchcraft, as we saw in point five. Invoking “magic words” in a church service is not honoring God, and is occultic.
8. Lest we think these are the only two incidents involving Bethel and magic, there is another example of Bethel associating with witchcraft. Beth is associated with a group that conducts a version of “Christian” Tarot cards. Although Bethel has distanced themselves from this practice, and claims the group is not conducting such activity, if you read the description at the bottom of the letter included on the website, this is exactly what is occurring. It has just been spruced up and “Christianized”. Bethel Statement Regarding Christalignment – Bethel ChurchBethel Church. Now, any church that has to post an entire statement explaining why a practice they support is not a tarot card, is probably not exercising good discernment, at the very least. At the worst, it is preaching heresy and dabbling in the occult. Now, you may ask, how did these groups come to this? Such views are not Scriptural, why could someone not stand up and say that these teachings are heresy? When we get to the 15th false doctrine, we will see how it underpins every false teaching taught by these groups.
9. One might ask why the NAR is so open to occultic teachings. One reason is its lack of reverence for the Holy Spirit. By viewing the Holy Spirit as a wish-granting genie, it diminishes the “Holy” in Holy Spirit. As such, it puts the Holy Spirit on the level of any other false, demonic spirit. According to Bethel, the Holy Spirit is like a blue genie and is “funny, silly, and sneaky”. (45) Jenn Johnson – Holy Spirit is like a Sneaky Blue Genie – YouTube This is a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Sneaky stems from the word snake. The Holy Spirit is not sneaking around. False teachers are sneaking around, as the Bible demonstrates in Jude 1:4 and 2nd Timothy 3:6. Neither is the Holy Spirit “funny”. Funny means “causing laughter or amusement” according to the Oxford Dictionary. Amuse means to not think. That is not an attribute of the Holy Spirit, far from it. Furthermore, the word “fun” is never once seen in Scripture. Our modern preoccupation with fun has seen the word infiltrate the church, becoming one of the three pillars undergirding most churches: fun, food, and fellowship. Now, I am not against any of those things in their proper place and context. However, when defining the Holy Spirit, such a definition is sacrilegious at best, and blasphemous at worst. Mark 3:29, “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:”
10. Given the preoccupation with fun and an irreverence concerning the Holy Spirit, it is small wonder that these groups continue to blaspheme the third person of the Trinity. One other way is their testimonies of a “Glory cloud” of gold dust that supposedly surrounds certain believers. They claim that this gold dust is a demonstration of the glory of God. (56) Glory Cloud at Bethel – YouTube, (56) Glory Cloud Rises At Bethel Church – YouTube, Gold Dust – Bethel Church, (56) Flash Back to the Glory Cloud | Danny Silk | Bethel Church – YouTube. The second video is from a phone camera and claims to capture the “golden cloud” of God’s glory rising from the floor of the building. You will notice people attempting to take pictures and selfies of the event, all the time laughing, smiling, and joking. If that was truly God’s glory, none of those people would be taking pictures and joking. If they were not struck dead instantly, they would all be on their faces in terrible fear. When the glory of God, hidden by a cloud is revealed to Peter at the Mount of Transfiguration, we are told in Mark 9:6 “For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.” In Matthew 17:6, when God speaks at this event, we are told “And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.” Isaiah 2:19 says “And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.” When the shepherds were confronted with the glory of God, what occurred? “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.” Whenever God’s glory confronts man, man is instantly overcome with great fear.
Furthermore, John 1:18 tells us, “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Jesus is the glory of God, only through Christ can we see God’s glory, not fake, golden glitter distributed by deceivers in a false church. John 1:14 “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
At the end of the first video, Bill Johnson claims that they “don’t know what they are doing”, which is true of many of the individuals present. They truly do not realize they are blaspheming God. But, the leadership of the church who has staged this event does know what it is doing; they are purposefully deceiving the simple-minded and blaspheming God.
11. One common aspect of the NAR is its focus on the Prosperity Gospel, specifically the gift of healing. Most will point to James 5:13-16, specifically verses 14-15 to claim that God will heal sickness. “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”
A few thoughts. First, the faith-healing crowd does not follow the mandate of this practice. Notice the sick man is supposed to call elders to him, not the other way. Faith healers stage large events and call sick people to them. Second, if this verse is referring to physical healing, it is not a blanket promise guaranteed to heal someone every time, nor is it dependent on the amount of someone’s faith. More importantly, the word “sick” here must be looked at in the context of the entire passage. “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” James 5:13-20. The word sick here is not describing physical sickness. It is the Greek word κάμνω which can mean either physical sickness or spiritual sickness. Given the context of the passage, James is talking about someone who is spiritually sick. Notice, verse fifteen talks about “committed sins”, while verses 19 and 20 describe converting one who errs from the truth and one who is a sinner. It is clear then from the context of the passage and meaning of the Greek word that is passage is not referring to physical sickness, but spiritual sickness.
Faith healers emphasize healing depends on the amount of faith an individual possesses. (56) The Gift of Healing | Brian Houston | Hillsong Church – YouTube. Right around the one-hour twenty-minute mark, Brian Houston from Hillsong begins talking about healing coming from “acting on your faith”. Bill Johnson from Bethel, when speaking at Hillsong (demonstrating how intertwined these two groups truly are), also teaches such unbiblical doctrine. (56) Healing Service | Hillsong Conference Sydney 2019 – YouTube. Of course, it is also interesting, and should be a flashing warning beacon, that Bill Johnson is making this statement while wearing glasses! Shouldn’t an “apostle” and “prophet” who claims to have great faith have the ability to heal his poor eyesight? Yet, we are to believe he can heal cancer and disease in others? The unmitigated shamelessness of these people, combined with the gullibility of their victims and many “Christians” as a whole, is beyond shocking.
12. One of the keys to understanding the NAR is in their name; New Apostolic Reformation. This group believes that the office of Apostle has been restored and that there are modern-day Apostles today. So, what exactly is an Apostle? What is the Biblical definition of the word? “Apostles” comes from the Greek word “αποστόλος” which means “sent ones”. There are two types of apostles. The Apostles of Christ (Generally denoted with a capital “A”), who were the twelve Apostles chosen by Christ. Jesus sends these Apostles in John 20:21. Of note, Paul was the last Apostle chosen by Christ, although not one of the twelve (1st Corinthians 9:1). The other type is the apostles of the church. In modern terms, these are the missionaries, evangelists, etc. (Philippians 2:25, 2nd Corinthians 8:23). We see a similar use in the term “elder” in the Bible, where one meaning is an older man (1st Timothy 5:1), and the other meaning is the office of Elder (1st Timothy 5:17).
To be an Apostle of Christ, one had to meet the following qualifications. 1: You had to be a man who meets the other three requirements. None of the Apostles were female. This alone disqualifies many so-called “Apostles” in the NAR, who are female. 2: You had to be a first-person eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22, 10:39-41, 1st Corinthians 9:1). No one alive today can claim to have seen Christ, no matter the dramatic claims of the many charlatans participating in “heavenly tourism”. 3: You had to be directly appointed by Christ (Mark 3:14, Luke 6:13, Acts 1:2, Galatians 1:1). There is no election for Apostleship. The positions have already been filled, they are complete. We see this in Revelation 21:14, where the 12 foundations of the new Jerusalem are inscribed with “the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” 4: A true Apostle could perform signs, wonders, and healings (Matthew 10:1-2, Acts 1:5-8, 2:43, 4:33, 5:12, 2nd Corinthians 12:12). These miracles were meant to authenticate their office. Miracles are always meant to authenticate the man of God, particularly one who brings the Word of God. Since the Word has been completed in its entirety, (Revelation 22:18), there is no longer a need to authenticate Apostles, for there is no new Word to be added to Scripture.
To be an Apostle, you had to meet all four of these requirements. Not just one, not two, but all four. And there is not a person today that meets one, let alone all four, of these requirements. Thus, there are no more Apostles today. All the phony “Apostles running around, Bill Johnson (Bethel), Mike Bickle (International House of Prayer/ Kansas City Prophets), Heidi Baker(Iris Global), Peter Wagner (NAR), and the rest of these false prophets are merely charlatans preaching a false gospel.
If these people were Apostles, not only would they meet all four requirements of Apostleship, they would have the gifts of Apostleship; healing, dead raising, etc. Now, they might claim the ability to heal, but none of them can go up to someone with a broken leg and instantly heal that appendage. It never happened through these people, and it never will. Of course, they claim to have performed such miracles, but when pressed for evidence, it always comes up blank. Unlike the other spiritual gifts (teaching, mercy, administration, etc.) we do not see the gift of healing (or tongues for that matter, more on that later) today. Yes, God still heals today, but only by His Sovereign Will, not through some charlatan who claims the gift of healing.
13. The next point might be difficult for many fringe charismatics. Speaking in tongues is one of the key characteristics of every charismatic church. Some even teach that unless one practice speaking in tongues, one is not a Christian. Others do not stress the point or practice tongues in public, instead claiming it is a personal language of worship before God. Sadly, none of these views is Biblical. The modern practice of speaking in tongues is not only unbiblical, it is at best useless and dangerous, at worst it is veering into the demonic. This is not to offend anyone who is part of the traditional charismatic movement, however, it must be said. I trust an examination of the practice will demonstrate this point.
As charismatics, Hillsong, Bethel, Jesus Culture, and the rest of the NAR practice speaking in tongues. And instead of following the prescribed manner per 1st Corinthians 13-14, these groups do not practice the Biblical manner for speaking in tongues. Aside from the fact that the gift of tongues was almost certainly only practiced by the Apostles and no longer practiced today, how these groups conduct “tongues” is disorderly and contrary to Scripture. It may even be demonic. One is unable to discern the difference between many modern “tongues” movements and the practices of the Hindu Kundalini cult, which also speaks in tongues, falls into trances, is “slain in the spirit, etc. Here are two examples of these practices, one from the charismatics, one from the Hindus; it is hard to tell the difference.
Unlike the modern Charismatic tongues, which are practiced in a disorderly manner, we see in Scripture the process is very orderly. One person is supposed to speak at a time, in a known language, and another person translates. No more than two or three people are supposed to speak in tongues during any particular event. “Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.” (1st Corinthians 14:13-14). “If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.” 1st Corinthians 14:27-28.
The reason to keep silent without an interpreter is that all spiritual gifts are meant to edify the body of Christ (1st COR 12). If there is no interpreter, it does not edify anyone, only the person speaking, and even here Paul is speaking with sarcasm. “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.” (1st COR 14:4). Notice the analogy Paul makes in verses 6-11. “Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.” (Emphasis added). Paul uses the analogy of a trumpet in battle. If the army cannot understand what signal it is sending, the trumpet is useless. Like tongues without translation, it is merely sounding forth into the air. Furthermore, Paul uses the term “barbarian”, which is significant because he is writing to the Corinthian church, a Greek Church. Barbarian to the Greek meant anyone who did not speak Greek, anyone whom they could not understand. Outsiders’ words sounded like “Barbarbar” to the Greeks, which is why they labeled them barbarians. Tongues are meaningless if they cannot be understood.
God declared things are to be conducted in an orderly manner within the church (1st COR 14:33). Furthermore, we are then told that women are to keep silent in the church in the very next verse. Now, this verse is not saying that woman cannot open their mouths at church, merely that they are not to speak in tongues because to do so means speaking words of authority, and Scripture is quite clear women are not supposed to preach. “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” (1st COR 14:34). This verse is the death knell of any charismatic church, as almost all allow women to speak in tongues in clear violation of Scripture.
The primary purpose of tongues was always to authenticate Apostles and evangelize unbelievers (1st COR 14:22). That is why there must always be an interpreter present. When tongues are practiced in Acts chapter two, we see that God enables the ears of the listeners to hear in their language. The Apostles speak in Hebrew, and the listeners hear in their own language. “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.” (Acts 2:4-6). If there is no translator and everyone is babbling in tongues, then even the world will view such behavior as madness. “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?” 1st COR 14:23 (Emphasis Added).
Now after all this evidence, you might still think that it is acceptable to speak in tongues privately. After all, does not Paul talk about speaking in the tongues of angels? Yes, he does, but he is not writing of literally speaking in the angelic language. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (1st COR 13:1). Paul is using hyperbole to illustrate a point. Without love/ charity, even if someone could speak in the tongues of angels, one would be like a crashing symbol; useless, loud, and obnoxious. Paul is saying not to do this! Furthermore, as mentioned previously, in chapter 12 Paul clearly states that the gifts are meant for the betterment of the church, not ourselves. Thus, speaking in tongues for your betterment is not Scriptural. Do you practice the gift of mercy towards yourself? Do you exercise the gift of love to yourself? (side note, unlike the new age philosophy that has infected the church and teaches such doctrine, such teaching is not Scriptural). Why would tongues be different?
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Pt 4 will run next week.