RECEIVING? OR DECEIVING?
A BIBLICAL LOOK AT THE
Pastor Jannie Viljoen
Many Christians believe that we are living in the “end days” as predicted by the Bible. That there are many “signs” given by Jesus which will precede His coming for His Bride, the Church, is clear in Scripture. One of these signs is recorded for us in Matthew 24:24, “For false Christs (Greek meaning – “anointed ones”)and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive …” Although this is a clear sign during the last days, this spiritual deception is not confined to the “end days” but has been something that the church had to deal with since its early life.
“But there were also false prophets among the people,
even as there will be false teachers among you, who
will secretly bring in destructive heresies … And many
will follow their destructive ways … (2 Peter 2:1,2).
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits,
whether they are of God, because many false prophets
have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
To Biblically evaluate the “Toronto Blessing” we first need to establish a basis for our evaluation against which we can measure the teachings and manifestations of the Toronto Blessing. The need to do this objectively and fairly necessitates a “standard” or “criterion” that is truthful and above reproach, against which we can compare and investigate this matter. The ONLY truthful standard that we can use to measure any and all spiritual teachings and phenomena, is the Word of God, the Bible:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is
profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction in righteousness, …” (2 Timothy 3:16).
I also want to emphasize that with this investigation I am not questioning the integrity and character of any person, pastor or leader, but my only goal is to see whether their teachings and the phenomena of the Toronto Blessing square up to the teachings of God’s Word. We are commanded to “Test ALL things; hold fast what is good” (2 Thess. 5:21).
Secondly, we need to understand that the canon of Scripture is not only complete, but also final and closed. God’s revelation to man is contained fully and completely in His Word, the Bible:
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke
IN TIMES PAST to the fathers by the PROPHETS, has in
these LAST DAYS spoken to us by HIS SON … (Hebr. 1:1,2).
The Gospel, as revealed and given to the apostles and New testament teachers and preachers, is the final revelation of God to men. Even in Paul’s day there were already false teachers who were deviating from revealed Biblical truth and bringing false teaching into the church as if it were the word of God:
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him
who called you in the grace of Christ, to a DIFFERENT
GOSPEL, which is not another; but there are some who
trouble you and want to pervert the Gospel of Christ. But
even if we or an angel from heaven, preach any other
Gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let
him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say
again, IF ANYONE PREACHES ANY OTHER GOSPEL to
you than what you have received, let him be accursed”
Jesus Himself warns us not to add any new revelation or take away (change) from Holy Scripture (Rev. 22:18,19).
Thirdly, we need to understand what the Bible means when it speaks about “deception.” Vine’s dictionary gives the meaning “to deceive” as “mingling the truths of the Word of God with false doctrines or notions.” According to the Word of God, deception has to do with spiritual teaching that is not Biblical but yet so close to the real thing that it “looks” right and “feels” right, and is brought to the church by preachers who “look” and “act” like the real thing.
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers,
TRANSFORMING THEMSELVES INTO APOSTLES
OF CHRIST. And no wonder! For Satan himself
Transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore,
it is no great thing for his ministers also to transform
themselves INTO MINISTERS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, …”
(2 Cor. 11:13-15).
The Bible therefore warns us that deception will not come openly in the form of blatant error and false teaching, but will be brought in subtly through preachers and teachers who appear and act like true ministers of Christ, but who cloak their false teaching in Christian terminology and Biblical phrases. They therefore use the Word of God to support their own ideas and unless they are Scripturally tested, their deception is difficult to detect.
Fourthly, the belief, often propagated by false teachers themselves, that true believers cannot be deceived, is in itself a deception. In writing to the Corinthian believers, Paul admonishes them by stating that,
“ … as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so
your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that
is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches ANOTHER
JESUS whom we have not preached, or if you
receive a DIFFERENT SPIRIT which you have not received,
or a DIFFERENT GOSPEL which you have not accepted –
you may well put up with it!”
We must be aware of the fact that any Christian can be deceived if he or she does not weigh all spiritual teaching against the Word of God. That is why Paul holds up the Berean Christians as more noble than the Thessalonian Christians, who allowed any teaching into their midst:
“Now the Bereans were more noble than those in
Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with
all readiness of mind, and SEARCHED THE SCRIPTURES
daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).
We are to diligently guard against deception by comparing and testing ALL spiritual teachings with the written Word of God!
Another factor in examining the “Toronto Blessing” is the Biblical concept that “truth” is not determined by “signs and wonders.” Revelation 16:4 speaks of “ … spirits of demons performing miraculous signs … “ and in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 Paul warns that “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan DISPLAYED IN ALL KINDS OF COUNTERFEIT MIRACLES, SIGNS AND WONDERS.”
Spiritual truth must always be based on the revealed Word of God, the Bible. It must never be based on the shaky foundations of “passivity,” “experience” or a “feel good” mentality, because God’s Word warns us that the human heart “ … is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked … “ (Jer. 17:9).
“ … the one condition and principle which `mediums’
have to fulfil in order to obtain spirit communication
and working, is this: Every part of the whole being
must be perfectly passive and out of action. The brain
must be blank, the faculties dormant, the will `let go’,
and the body passive. This absolute passivity is the
fundamental law for the working of evil spirits through
The law for the working of evil spirits is passive
submission. God desires `fellow workers’ with Him:
Evil spirits want to use you as a passive instrument. If,
then, passivity is the law for evil supernatural powers to
work, and you as a believer (knowingly or unknowingly)
fulfill that law in any degree, THEY WILL WORK.”
(The Spiritual Warfare by Jesse Penn-Lewis, Overcomer
Publications, Dorset, England. Pp. 21,22).
These then are the essential Biblical criteria which need to be employed in examining the teachings and phenomena of the Toronto Blessing, whether it is a true move of God, or whether it is a false and deceptive “revival” in the church.
Let us note briefly again the criteria:
1. God’s Word, the Bible, is to be our only guideline.
2. All spiritual revelations and truth is fully contained in the Scriptures – no new “revelations” can be added.
3. Even Christians can be deceived!
4. Deception is not blatant, but subtle. It will be difficult to discern.
Before we look at the preachers, their teachings, and the manifestations of the Toronto Blessing, let us first investigate the historical roots of these phenomena, which became the foundation upon which this “revival” not only survived, but again flourished.
Historical Roots of the Toronto Blessing.
Although the Toronto Blessing only gained world-wide attention during the early 1990’s, its roots lay much further back. During October 1947 the Hawtin brothers, George and Ern, together with an ex-pastor of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God of Canada, P.G. Hunt, and the Hawtin’s brother-in-law, Milford Kirkpatrick, joined a reverend Herrick Holt of the Saskatchewan Church of the Foursquare Gospel in opening the Sharon Bible School. These men were all looking for and preaching that God was going to do a “new thing” in the church according to Isaiah 43:18-19, although they did not qualify what this “new thing” would be. Their expectations for this “new thing” that God was going to do was fuelled by the teachings of an independent traveling evangelist, an ex-Methodist minister, Franklin Hall. His book, called “Atomic Power with God through Fasting and Prayer”,had a great influence on the Hawtin brothers, and thus also on the Sharon Bible School. What was the theology of Franklin Hall, whose teachings influenced and heightened the expectations of a “new thing” in the Sharon Bible School through the Hawtin brothers?
Franklin Hall had his own particular theological view. He believed and taught that a great revival was coming in the church, which would be manifested by the APPEARANCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN A TANGABLE WAY. He further taught that out of this revival a victorious, perfected church of “overcomers” will emerge who would eventually attain immortality here on earth. He taught that this immortality of believers in the Lord Jesus,
“ … would be achieved through … various psycho –
spiritual encounters. He also taught a number of other strange and non-Biblical Doctrines including assigning spiritual significance to the signs of the zodiac.” (Blessing the Church? By C. Hill, Harper Collins, Glasgow. 1995. P. 66).
Another person who greatly influenced the Sharon Bible School was William Branham.
He was born on 6 April 1909 in Kentucky near Burkesville. According to many of his biographers, miraculous and supernatural events were a “normal” part of his life from birth, for example, a visible light hovering over his crib the day he was born, accompanied by what he called a “strange aura, a presence,” his first “vision” at age three and at age seven his first encounter with “the voice” as he called it, that spoke to him.
During 1946, according to his own testimony, an angel appeared to him and gave him instructions to start his healing ministry. This “angel,” whom Branham identified with the “voice,” gave him not only the ability to detect diseases by vibrations in his left hand, but also to have the ability to tell people’s secret thoughts and sins. We need to understand that the gifts of the Spirit is never given by any other “agent” than the Spirit Himself! The Holy Spirit also never gives anyone clairvoyant abilities.
Branham also taught a doctrine known as the “Serpent Seed” which stated that the Fall came about when Eve commenced a sexual relation with Lucifer, out of which Cain was born and through his descent have come the “wicked” which are still with us today. He also rejected the Biblical concept of the Trinity and said “it was of the devil.” He prophesied that the rapture would occur in 1977. He further taught that the Bible, the Zodiac and the Egyptian pyramids were all forms of the Word of God. He denied an eternal hell and taught that denominatiolism was the mark of the beast.
According to Branham, his “angel” always accompanied him on stage and stood by his side during his healing campaigns. He further stated that the healings were not done by him but by his “angel.”
These facts, coupled with his erroneous theology and view of the Bible, can bring one to only one conclusion, that his ministry has more in common with New Age practices, shamanistic healing and fortune telling.
A young woman called Johanna Michaelson, while searching for spiritual truth, became involved in a psychic healing ministry in Mexico. It was only when God revealed to her the demonic source behind the miraculous healings, that she realized the deception and evil behind the outward appearance of beauty. In her book, “The Beautiful Side of Evil” she emphasizes the high level which spiritual deception can take:
“Today we are seeing many signs and wonders.
They may even be done in the name of Jesus and `to the glory of my Father above.’ But WHICH JESUS?
`For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus
other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive
a different spirit from the one you received … you
put up with it easily enough.’
Incidentally, Paul said this to a church ‘not lacking in
Any gift’ (1 Cor. 1:7), a church sincere in its devotion
to the Lord (1 Cor. 1:4-8). Yet their gifting and sincerity
alone, Paul says, does not preclude the possibility of
their being tricked and deceived and led astray because
of their undiscernment and their unscriptural emphasis
(The Beautiful Side of Evil by J. Michaelson, Harvest
House Publishers, Oregon, 1982. P. 174,175)
Although Franklin Hall and the Sharon Bible School possibly did not agree with Branham’s view on the Bible and the Trinity, they were prepared to overlook it for the “benefit” of the signs and wonders of his ministry. That the Sharon Bible School was very positive towards Branham is reflected in an article in their January 1948 issue of “The Sharon Star.”
“The Branham campaign in Vancouver B.C. was a great
success … the next great outpouring is going to be
marked by … a demonstration of the nine gifts of the
Spirit as the world, not even the Apostolic world, has
ever witnessed before.”
It is interesting to note that those who desire this “move of God” do not care whether those, who can “pass on” the “blessing,” are Biblically and theologically sound in their doctrine, as long as the signs and wonders are a result! This is the same thing John Wimber did when he brought and introduced the Kansas City Prophets to Holy Trinity Church, Brompton, in England in July 1990. The leading “prophet” of the Kansas City Prophets, Bob Jones, was allowed to minister to the leaders in Britain behind the scenes, even though Wimber knew about and acknowledged Jones’ bizarre and unscriptural prophetic teachings.
How much more proof do we need that “such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13). These pastors and leaders are so deceived in their desire to bring about a “new move of God,” that they have been blinded to the fact that the Holy Spirit is also called the “Spirit of Truth” and will NEVER work through error! It is deceiving spirits who will grasp such an opportunity and will imitate and masquerade as the Holy Spirit.
“In seeking to deceive the believer, the first great effort
of evil spirits is directed toward getting him to accept their suggestions and workings as the speaking, working, or leading of God. Their initial device is to counterfeit a
“Divine Presence”, under cover of which they can mislead their victim as they will.”
(War on the Saints by Jesse Penn-Lewis, The Overcomer
Literature Trust, England. P. 69)
The great delusion will be furthered by a spurious `Holy
Spirit’ which is so evidently operating … “
(Global Peace and the Rise of Antichrist by Dave Hunt,
Harvest House Publishers, Oregon, 1990. P. 272)
Even though the 23rd General Council meeting of the Assemblies of God in the USA, during the autumn of 1949, which was held in Seattle, Washington, passed a resolution that, as far as the Sharon Bible School “revival”, they “disapprove of these extreme teachings and practices, which, being unfounded Scripturally, serve only to break fellowship of like precious faith and tend to sow confusion and division among the members of the Body of Christ …” , these erroneous teachings and unbiblical manifestations continued under different names and movements like the Word of Faith, Dominionism, Kingdom Now, Shepherding and Restorationism.
This Biblically erroneous and spiritually false movement continued and was kept alive, albeit quietly and under the above various movements for the next 40 years, until it found fertile ground in the charismatic movement and suddenly burst onto the general church scene again with new vigor during the late 1980’s through the Kansas City Prophets, Paul Cain, and the Vineyard Movement.
Old Doctrine – New Resurrection.
After its initial relapse during and directly after the Second World War, these erroneous teachings started to gain momentum again during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, especially in the Charismatic Movement, which quickly became a “hot-bed” for extra-biblical experiences and for those who emphasized “signs and wonders” above sound Biblical doctrine.
It is into this “spiritual euphoria” and “revival expectations” that Paul Cain and the Kansas City Prophets from the Kansas City Fellowship in the United States stepped during the late 1980’s.
Paul Cain and the Kansas City Prophets.
Paul Cain’s early life had much in common with William Branham’s. Paul Cain was born in 1929 and, like Branham, experienced a “supernatural power” on his life from early childhood. He also experienced while still a young boy, what he thought was direct communications with the Lord through audible messages. During the 1940’s and 1950’s he began a healing ministry not much different than that of William Branham. They frequently ministered together and Cain often stood in for Branham when he was not able to minister. We need to emphasis again that the Holy Spirit will not work through error and both these men were steeped in unbiblical teachings. That there was a “spirit” working through their ministries cannot be doubted, but the question is which “spirit?”
“Another attestation to Cain’s validity, in many people’s
minds, were the power surges that occurred at auditoriums where he held his meetings, blowing fuses, setting off fire alarms and even short circuiting video cameras!”
(The New Prophets by B. Randles,Plumbline Publishing,
Pietermaritzburg, 1999. P.35.)
During early 1987 Cain met the Kansas City Prophets and felt the Lord was re-commissioning him to restore the “prophetic ministry” to the church. In 1988 Cain contacted John Wimber of the Vineyard Churches who decided that they will give Cain and the Kansas City Prophets the necessary platform to accomplish their goal of restoring the ministry of “prophets” to the church. (For a Biblical teaching on modern day “prophets and prophecy,” request the book “Prophets in the Church?” from this author at: [email protected]).
Even though Wimber was aware of the many false prophesies of the Kansas City Prophets, their “new extra-biblical revelations,” and their use of “directive prophesy” to control the lives of believers and take over other fellowships, as well as Paul Cain’s unbiblical “Manifested Sons of God” teachings, he still took them under his wing.
Toronto Airport Vineyard Fellowship.
Then during the early months of 1994, reports of “amazing happenings” at a little known Airport Fellowship at Toronto, Canada, were being received all over the world. The “Catch the Fire” conference was held in a large auditorium of a local hotel. It was here that the “fire” fell and the many physical manifestations which are synonymous with the “Toronto Blessing” were experienced.
David Noakes, a leader in the British charismatic movement, who attended this conference at Toronto, makes the following observations:
“During the times of worship, I felt as if I were in a
rock concert. The level of noise was deafening to the
point of being physically painful and oppressive, and
brought an increasing sense of unreality. This, together
with the insistent rhythmic beat of the drums and of
the bass guitar tends to induce a state bordering on
hypnosis in susceptible people and creates a
spiritual atmosphere in which I would say without
hesitation that the demonic can thrive. During these times of worship, many people began to exhibit jerking
bodily movements which were unnatural. Some of these
people appeared to be in a state of trance. From a
number of years’ experience of deliverance ministry, I
would identify a good deal of what I saw as proceeding
from demonic spirits associated with occult practices,
The teaching which I encountered in Toronto was to the
effect that because God is doing a work amongst His
people, therefore everything which takes place is by
definition an activity of the Holy Spirit and it is assumed
that Satan is inactive. I have never encountered any
form of teaching which is more dangerous or which
could open the door so widely to deception and the
undetected activity of a demonic spirit. To make such
an assumption is a total abdication of one of the principal
responsibilities of Christian leadership.
The warnings in Scripture about deception are being
completely ignored and such teaching flies in the face
of scriptural commands that when any form of spiritual
activity is seen to be taking place, it is to be weighed
and tested and an assessment is to be made as to
whether its origin is truly from God.”
(Blessing the Church? By C. Hill, Harper Collins, Glasgow,
1995. P. 169, 170)
These events at Toronto was nothing more than the “old” manifestations at the Sharon Bible School during 1949, and at the Branham and Cain meetings. It is definitely not a “new move” of God but rather a resurrection of the “old error” that was condemned by the 23rd general Council of the Assemblies of God in the USA during 1949.
As the news of this so-called “new move” of God spread, many from all over the world pilgrimaged to Toronto to “receive” this “blessing” and bring it back to their own churches in their own countries. The South African born Rodney Howard-Brown is one of the more prominent preachers who takes this “blessing” and imparts it to others in his meetings all over the world.
Apart from the manifestations, this “passing on” of this “blessing” or “anointing” through the laying on of hands, should be warning enough for discerning believers. The Assemblies of God in the USA, as far back as 1949, during their 23rd Council, passed a resolution disapproving the unbiblical practice at the Sharon Bible School “revival” of bestowing the gifts of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands.
“Do not lay hands on anyone hastily …” (2 Tim. 5:22)
The Bible also clearly teaches that it is not man who can “pass on” or who distributes the “gifts” of the Holy Spirit, but that the Spirit Himself gives His “gifts” to people individually as He wills (1 Cor. 12:11).
“That the manifestations of the Holy Spirit displayed
through human flesh are called “gifts” has caused some
confusion … the gifts of the Spirit are under the direction
and control of God and are … exclusively for His purposes and to His glory … it does not become a power possessed by an individual which he can wield at his discretion. It is a great delusion for anyone to imagine that he possesses any gift of the Spirit in the sense that he can exercise it whenever he so desires. Beware of any alleged “gift” that is initiated or possessed by the human spirit! Whatever purports to be the manifestation of a “gift of the Spirit” and is not initiated by Him, but is under man’s control, is not of
God but from the occult.”
(Occult Invasion by Dave Hunt, harvest House Publishers, Oregon, 1998. P. 126 – 127).
Surely, in the light of all the aforementioned, we must seriously question a Rodney Howard-Brown, a Benny Hinn, or any other person in the Toronto Movement, who manipulates the “Holy Spirit” and uses “Him” to “slay” people en-masse in their meetings. We need to understand that the Holy Spirit is not a “force” or “power”, but the Third Person in the Trinity, that He is “Holy” and that He will never abdicate His Godhood to become a mere “instrument of showmanship” in the hands of sinners! It is interesting to note that the Bible, when speaking about the Antichrist, calls him a “god of forces” (Dan. 11:38).
Anyone who uses the Holy Spirit as a “force” or “power” to manipulate, dominate or control, is involved in witchcraft and is under the influence of deceiving spirits. We must never forget that the Holy Spirit is God and we can never “use” or “command” or “control” God!
“Consider Benny Hinn on TBN (With Paul and Jan Crouch
laughing uproariously) telling with much merriment of a
man’s wig flying off when he fell `under the power’ after
Hinn touched his forehead. The man pulled the wig back
on … and got up; Hinn touched him again JUST TO SEE
HIM FALL AND THE WIG FLY OFF. He did this FIVE TIMES, admitted Hinn … Was this God’s power on display, the Holy Spirit at work? Surely not! Then what power caused the man to fall repeatedly, this strange force that Hinn claimed to have picked up at the graves of Kathryn Kuhlman and Aimee Semple McPherson? Such questions must be faced seriously!”
(Ibid. P. 484)
In the light of all this, it is a sad reflection on Christianity that it has lost its discernment for spiritual things and its God-given mandate to test all things to see whether they are from God (1 Thess. 5:21). In its quest for “revival”, it has unquestioningly accepted these manifestations as from the Holy Spirit because it is “done” in the name of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and therefore it must be of God. As we have seen, this type of reasoning can be very dangerous!
Many in the Toronto “experience” claim, that because many “feel” a deeper love for Jesus and God after their “experience”, therefore it must be of God. The following incident should be a serious warning to those who argue like that and think that positive physical manifestations and feelings is a guarantee that it is a work of God. During Robert Schuller’s (of the Crystal Cathedral fame in America) “hour of Power” TV program, his guest Gerald Jampolsky, psychiatrist / author / lecturer, tells of his meeting with the Hindu Swami (or priest), Muktananda:
“He touched me with peacock feathers. I began to have the impression that our minds were joined … A beautiful light came into the room and I decided at that moment to stop evaluating what was happening and simply be one with the experience … I was filled WITH AN AWARENESS OF LOVE unlike anything I had known before.”
(Seduction of Christianity by Dave Hunt, Harvest House
Publishers, Oregon, 1987. P. 58)
The spirit that gave him this “awareness of love” and that manifested through this Hindu priest, who denies the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, was not the Holy Spirit, but an evil spirit, yet it deceived by giving a physical and emotional feeling of peace and love! Many of the leaders in the Toronto Blessing Movement, during their meetings, ask people not to evaluate with their minds what is happening, but just to “give in” to what the Holy Spirit wants to do. As we have seen, this is not only Biblically unwise, but spiritually irresponsible.
Apart from these spiritual excesses and unbiblical manifestations, this is not a “new thing” God is doing! It is very much a resurrection of the “old” Manifested Sons of God tenant under a “new guise.”
A new Thing – or an Old Lie?
As we have seen in Chapter Two, the “Toronto Blessing” and its manifestations are not really a “new move of God” as many would have us believe. Although its historical roots can be traced back to the errors of Franklin Hall, the Hawtin brothers, Branham, Cain and others during the 1940’s and 1950’s, its unbiblical roots can be traced even further back – right to the first deception that took place in the Garden of Eden. It is here that Satan tempted man with the lie that “ … you will be like God … “ (Gen. 3:5). This is the very same lie that is being propagated today in this so-called “new move of God.” The foundational doctrine of the Manifested Sons of God is that man is like God with God-like abilities.
“The Manifested Sons of God doctrine teaches that these
sons will be equal to Jesus Christ: immortal, sinless,
perfected sons who have partaken of the divine nature.
They will have every right to be called gods and will be
called gods” – Prophets and Personal Prophecy by Bill
(The New Prophets by Bill Randles, Plumbline Publishing,
Pietermaritzburg, 1999. P. 20)
“The Manifested Sons of God believe they will not only
become Christ corporately, they believe they will become
Christ individually too.”
(Understanding Deception by Roy Livesey, Bury House
Christian Books, 1987. P. 184)
Pastor Casey Treat, of the Christian Faith Center, that has a seating capacity of over 3000 in Seattle, Washington, said the following on Tape No. 2 of a four-tape series entitled “Believing in Yourself”:
“The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost had a little
conference and they said, `Let us make man an exact
duplicate of us’ … Say it out loud, `I’m an exact duplicate of God! When God looks in the mirror, He sees me! When I look in the mirror, I see God! Oh, hallelujah!
You know, sometimes people say to me, when they’re mad and want to put me down …,
You just think you are a little god!
Thank you! Hallelujah! You got that right!
Who do you think you are, Jesus?
“Kenneth Copeland proclaims, `You don’t have a god in you, you are one!’ and Benny Hinn pronounces, I am a little Messiah walking on earth …’ TBN president Paul Crouch puts it, `I am a little god! Critics be gone!’”
(Christianity in Crisis by Hank Hanegraaf, Harvest
House Publishers, Oregon, 1997. P. 110)
“Morris Curello … `Did you know that from the beginning
of time the whole purpose of God was to reproduce Himself? And when we stand up here, brother, you’re not looking at Morris Curello; you’re looking at God. You’re looking at Jesus.’”
(Ibid. P. 109)
This type of teaching reduces the God of the Bible, the Creator of the universe, who is characterized by omnipresence, omnipotence, and sovereignty, to a god who is human and a human who is God! This is utter foolishness and blasphemy! Have those who make this claim forgotten that God will never share His glory with man!
“So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on
his throne and gave an oration to them. And the people
kept shouting, `THE VOICE OF A GOD AND NOT OF A
Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died” (Acts 12:21-23).
The Jewish historian, Josephus, describes Herod’s death in his Antiquities XIX.8.2, stating that Herod lived only five days after he fell ill in the theater. How unlike these modern “prophets” and “teachers” Paul and Barnabas in the Bible are, who, when the people called them “gods”, rent their clothes in protest, rejected any such claimand acknowledged that they were mere men (Acts 14:11-15).
If we do not want to be swept into this deceptive so-called “move of God”, we need to ask ourselves whether the “performing and experience of miracles” or the “preaching of the Gospel” is what the Christian life is all about. If we want to cater for the fleshly appetites of people, we will focus on “wonders and miracles” as it is currently being done in the Toronto Blessing. Jesus Himself said, when the people wanted Him to perform a miracle for the sake of an experience:
“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matt. 12:39)
The only miracle that Jesus would give those who were running after signs and miracles was the “sign” of Jonah, i.e. the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Matt. 12:40). This is the ultimate “sign” which will be given to the world: That Jesus died for our sins and rose again from the grave so that we can be saved and become children of God! This is a much greater and more important miracle and is one that can never be duplicated by deceiving spirits or any mere man. This work of regeneration, saving and transforming a sinner to a saint, can only be done by God Himself!
If we want to appeal to the spiritual needs of people, we as pastors and leaders need to realize that the deepest need of people are not signs and wonders, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This so called “new move of God” with its so-called “signs and miracles” are just like candy-floss on a stick – once you taste it, it quickly melts away and more needs to be tasted. Away with shallow, fleshly appetites that can never satisfy the heart of man! Let us get back to solid meat, to “ … the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15).
Revelations from God – or Manifestations from the god of this world?
Although I used the above heading to indicate that there are ample evidence that many of the manifestations in Toronto blessing meetings are from a source other than the Holy Spirit, not everything must be seen as demonic. A lot of the manifestations are the result of hypnotic suggestion.
Many of the manifestations are also very similar to the manifestations in New Age meetings. In the New Age movement the Biblical spirituality of conscious prayer, faith and obedience to an external, personal God, is replaced by monistic meditation (repetitive, hypnotic music in “Toronto” style meetings), personal experience that is “felt” in the physical senses (physical manifestations in “Toronto” style meetings), and the god within (feeling and experiencing God with the senses).
New Age and Eastern meditative practices emphasizes the need to empty the mind to “experience” the god within. On a video Rodney Howard-Brown says: “Don’t try to understand this. Don’t you know the natural MIND cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God.” This is taken from 1 Corinthians 2:14 but is misquoted by Howard-Brown. This Scripture actually says “ … the natural MAN …” not“MIND.” Paul, in this scripture, is referring to the fact that natural, or unregenerate man, cannot understand the things of God. Howard-Brown misquotes this scripture to mislead his hearers so that they will place their minds in neutral. Don’t think! Just experience!
This misquote was not a mistake on Howard-Brown’s part but a deliberate deception! And he is not the only one of the “new move” teachers to employ such scripture twisting to fit the Bible into their theology. The sad thing is that thousands of Christians soak up this kind of preaching! “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” (2 Tim. 4:3).
The New Age goal is ultimately the dissolution of the individual “self” and the discovery of the “divine within.” This is achieved through “altered states of consciousness.” This is very similar to the manifestations and experiences in Toronto type meetings.
John Wimber and others in this movement have employed and taught “techniques” on “how to impart the blessing.” In a manual called “Vineyard tips for Leaders,” eleven techniques are subscribed on how to prepare people, during a meeting, to receive the “anointing.” Does this sound like it’s a sovereign “move of God?” Mark Haville, who was one of the leaders and directly involved in this “move,” shares the following:
“I had LEARNED to create the right atmosphere. I knew
that the nature of the worship itself was vital to the
`anointing’ falling. I knew it was essential to be personally in control of the service. THE ATMOSPHERE WAS EVERYTHING.
I knew that God needed those involved in such a service
to `feel just right’ to allow the power to flow through them. The whole relationship between the minister and the congregation was another key factor. Those, for example, who believed I was `highly anointed’ automatically believed that I had a greater ability to `allow the Holy Spirit to flow’ through them. If you are `known’ to be `anointed,’ believers become more susceptible to phenomena …
I remember one of the most successful meetings I held.
People in the congregation responded … and the resultant signs and wonders were the strongest evidence validating that what I had been taught about phenomena was real. Their responses were astounding. Some were experiencing ecstasies for some time on the floor. Others shook energetically … God’s calling on my life had truly begun in earnest. OR HAD IT?
(Ibid. P. 18 – 20)
Mark Haville later started to question this as a true “move of the Holy Spirit” and after a long personal struggle and thorough Biblical investigation he came to the conclusion that it was not. After repenting of this error he returned to sound Biblical Christianity.
“I had come to know that the feelings and experiences
of the Signs and Wonders Movement are not the Holy
Spirit. Clearly something supernatural often appears to
take place … such things are the outworkings of dangerous shamanistic and hypnotic, mixed with strongly psychological techniques. They are validated by poor Biblical exegesis and a Christian name-tag. Those who are leaders in the movement dream of revival and mass evangelism that the Bible simply does not promise.”
(Ibid. P. 34)
The more ominous side to this is that these “signs and wonders” may have a different origin than from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and will never work through false teaching and false teachers.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall
come … Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses,
so do these also resist the truth … (2 Tim. 3:1,7,8)
Jannes and Jambres were occultic magicians in Pharoah’s court. How did they resist Moses? By performing, through the power of Satan, counterfeit signs and miracles so as to oppose Moses. Paul warns in this Scripture, that in the end times, there will be those who, like Jannes and Jambres, resist the truth of God’s Word by producing counterfeit signs and miracles through Satan’s power.
Another ex-leader and ex-pastor in this movement, John Goodwin, gives a serious and timely warning of the demonic side of this “blessing.” Before coming to Christ, he was heavily involved in the Hollywood music, drug and Eastern mysticism scene. His experiences in occultism before his conversion and the similarities he experienced in the “Toronto blessing”, caused him the leave this movement.
“There’s more to what’s going on … with Toronto …
than meets the eye. Its not just an issue of some heresy,
some false doctrine and strange experiences. When you
see people barking like a dog … slithering on the floor
like a snake … Have you seen a person transformed into
an ape before your very eyes? That will shake you up!
I only relate this to impress upon you … what we see
(are) totally demonic manifestations … People would
be screeching and howling, Animal noises? Forget it.
You never heard animals makes noises like this … These
are supernatural noises! They’re teaching that these are
manifestations of the Holy Spirit upon the person’s life …
There’s no Scriptural warrant for any of this …”
(Testing the Fruit by J. Goodwin, Tape 2, Toronto, Canada, April 1997, Discernment Ministries, P.O. Box 129, Lapeer, MI 48446-0129).
This has been a very brief investigation into the “Toronto Blessing.” There are many books that expose this “move” in more detail and reveal it as a false “revival” and a danger to Biblical Christianity. My purpose with this little booklet has been threefold:
1. To reveal to those already actively involved in this movement that there is something seriously wrong and that they need to “test” the spirits at work in the Signs and Wonders Movement.
2. To warn those who are unsure of all this and who are at the point of taking a blind leap into this “river.”
3. To better equip, with Biblical answers and facts, those who knows that something is wrong.
Those who are involved in the Toronto Movement, especially those who have not had a “bad” or “negative” experience, will find that the information given in this writing will cause them to have various emotions – it might even be disbelief or anger. That is understandable, for to acknowledge that the real, wonderful emotional experiences, resulting in a deeper love, could be from the enemies of our souls, would be very difficult indeed.
Yet I would urge you to think soberly and to look at the facts that have been presented. Those, who were in leadership positions in this Movement, but who realized its errors, like Mark Haville, says that:
“The so-called signs and wonders I had witnessed and
practiced myself were and are nothing more than hype
and the flesh, brought about by mindless worship and
psychological crowd manipulating techniques.”
(The Signs and Wonders Movement Exposed by P. Glover, Day One Publications, Epsom, Surrey, 1997. P. 36).
This might be difficult to accept by those who are still actively involved in the “Toronto Blessing.” To realize that you have been spiritually deceived can be very painful and difficult to accept. But remember, you are not the first and will not be the last. Physical and emotional experiences, no matter how good, can never be the basis for spiritual truth and faith! The opposite is true. Our faith is to be based on the complete and finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ as it is revealed to us in the Word of God, the Bible.
Many who are caught up in the “Toronto Blessing” are those who sincerely desired a deeper and closer walk with God, and so, in ignorance, have opened themselves up to this deception. If you realize that you have erred by getting involved in this movement or its manifestations, I would remind you that God is a loving Father who sees the heart rather than the outward appearance (1 Sam. 16:7). He is more than willing to forgive and restore anyone who comes to Him in true repentance.
There is nothing we can add to the finished work of Christ to bring us closer to God. In Christ we have been reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18021). In Christ we have direct access to the very Holy of Holies (Hebr. 9:24). In Christ we are sealed and secure (Eph. 1:13,14). In Christ we have all that we need for a life of service in the Kingdom of God (Col. 3:1-17). In Christ we have all the authority to live a holy and fruitful life (Phill. 4:13). As we live our lives according to the will of God as revealed in His Word, the Bible, we find that the Holy Spirit strengthens and empowers us to live the Christian life to the full (Gal. 5:22-25). Our faith is not to be built on the shaky foundation of emotional experiences, but on the perfect, inerrant Word of God!
If you want further help or advice in this matter please feel free to contact me at: [email protected]
May God bless you as you live for Him!