The New Apostolic Reformation
The New Apostolic Reformation
by Orrel Steinkamp, D. Min
A Second Pentecost?
C. Peter Wagner is attempting to will into existence what he calls a "New Apostolic Reformation". He tells us in a book he has edited called "The New Apostolic Churches" of the struggle he had with naming his new reformation.
"I needed a name ... For a couple of years I experimented with 'Post denominationalism'. The name I have settled on for the movement is the New Apostolic Reformation." (1)
Donald Miller a colleague of Wagner calls this movement "The New Paradigm Churches". (2) This is advertised as a reformation greater in scale than the reformation of the 1500's.
It is suggested that this "new reformation" is something entirely new. Wagner outlines his article with sections such as "new name", "new authority structure", "new ministry focus", "new worship style", "new prayer forms" etc. The centrepiece of this new apostolic reformation is the launching of new apostles and prophets. The restoration of modern day apostles and prophets is promoted in the book "The Gift of Apostle" by David Cannistraci. This book was offered to those attending a conference organized by Wagner called "Churches in the New Apostolic Paradigm". Among the list of topics and presenters for the conference was Bill Hamon. (Can we really refer to the Bill Hamon's teaching as new?) Bishop Hamon has been promoting restoration and manifest sons of God teaching for decades. Can it be argued that this "New reformation" is something that God has just recently dropped new from heaven like the baby Superman from Krypton? I suggest that there is nothing new here at all and for anyone willing to do the study they will find it a mere cutting edge version of something at least 100 years old. G. Raymond Carlson, former General Superintendent of the AOG [USA], had this to say regarding the new apostles and prophets:
"I saw it in the New Order of the Latter Rain in the late 40's and early 50's. Before that, it made its presence felt in the early days of the century among early Pentecostals." (3)
The only thing new about this movement seems to be the new personalities who are promoting it and their creative marketing techniques. It is interesting that those promoting this end of the age global revival visualise and allegorise it as a "Mighty River". Do the "River Boat Captains" know the direction the current river is flowing and do the gleeful riverboat passengers know where "the river" originated? Do they know that this river has been flowing for many years? Do they know the original channel that still determines where the river will eventually flow? We all know that the source and the course of a river determines its direction no matter how many tributaries may enter into it along the way. So it is with what is currently called the "River of Revival". Provided people think logically, the underlying core paradigm will eventually play out according to the original vision much like the rules of chess determine what is a valid move and what is not.
G. Raymond Carlson was right. This much-publicised new paradigm can be traced to the Latter Rain movement of the 40's and early 50's. Even though the Latter Rain of the 50's faltered and fell into disrepute with the death of William Branham and the repudiation by the Assemblies of God it was kept alive by certain survivors and reintroduced in a veiled manner into the Charismatic Renewal of the 60's and 70's. Few people have realised just how influential the Latter Rain movement was and how effectively Latter Rain concepts were introduced into the Charismatic Renewal. Ern Baxter who was instrumental in the Shepherding Movement, worked with William Branham during the 50's Latter Rain. George Warnock, who wrote the only systematic teaching from the Latter Rain (The Feast of Tabernacles), was Ern Baxter's personal secretary. In the midst of the Charismatic Renewal I remember well the teaching of the fivefold ministry and at that time assumed it was a new revelation to the church not knowing it had been imported directly from the Latter Rain. But is the mid-century Latter-Rain the headwaters of the current River of revival? Not really. Rather than the headwaters it is a major tributary. We must travel further upstream to find the actual source. Dr Raymond Carlson again is correct in asserting that some of the early Pentecostal pioneers of the turn of the century also were involved. Before we stop with the early Pentecostals, we must go back just a little further and find the headwaters in the Holiness movement of the late 1800's.
The Holiness Movement
Holiness enthusiasts of the late nineteenth century searched the scriptures for reference to the revival they were experiencing. One popular scripture was Matthew 24:14, "And this gospel shall be preached in all the world... and then the end shall come". Holiness teaching served as a prelude to missions and missions a prelude to the second coming.
They identified their holiness experience as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the enablement to take the gospel to every nation and then Jesus could return. Holiness preachers searched the scriptures for this worldwide revival and interestingly enough the best they could find was a teaching they called the "Latter Rain". This Latter Rain allegory was pieced together from scripture references of the early and latter rains of the growing season. (Deuteronomy 11:10-21 and James 5:7-8). These rainfall patterns metaphorically became a sort of lens though which to view all of church history. The outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost was seen as the early rain in which the church was planted and the end of age revival was the latter rain, a divine preparation of a last days harvest and the signal of the soon return of Jesus. Wesley Myland (1858-1943) who began his career as a holiness preacher was the first to put in writing the Latter Rain scheme, which he titled "The Latter Rain Covenant". (4) He is also credited with writing the first Pentecostal hymn "The Latter Rain". The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements also refers to his book, "The Latter Rain Covenant" as the first definitive Pentecostal theology.
Latter Rain And The Early Pentecostals
It was Charles Parham, a Methodist holiness preacher who broke with traditional holiness teaching and linked the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with a latter-day Pentecost. His new discovery was that tongues was both a sign of this Spirit baptism and also the signal of the end of the age.
The early Pentecostal pioneers initially accepted this Latter Rain motif. Spirit baptism was an end time repeat of the first Pentecost. Tongues were seen as an eschatological sign signifying that a second and final Pentecost was taking place, bringing the church into a new and final dispensation. This second Pentecost would bring a final world revival in which the nations would have one last opportunity to hear the gospel and then the end would come. Tongues were at first perceived as actual missionary languages to enable the gospel to be quickly preached throughout the whole earth. Indeed many at that time went to China assuming they had been given a Chinese tongue to announce the gospel. Most returned disillusioned. The term "Latter Rain" was used freely by the early Pentecostal pioneers as well as the term "apostolic". The early Pentecostals were convinced that not only would there be a Latter Rain global revival but the last days' church would be restored to the apostolic pattern. Joined to the Latter Rain teaching was a complementary truth called restoration.
Restoring The Apostolic Church
The basic principle of restoration teaching is that there is a fundamental discontinuity, historical and spiritual, between the church today and the New Testament church. In the restoration agenda, God will end the church as He began it. Events, however, caused the early Pentecostals to dispense with restorationism and the Latter Rain motif. In 1914 and later the founding fathers of the AOG turned their back on Latter Rain Apostolic Restoration thinking and espoused the current premillennial eschatology. The Latter Rain motif then sat more or less dormant for decades until 1948. In Canada the Latter Rain paradigm erupted again. Impartation of spiritual gifts by the laying on of hands was instituted as well as travelling prophets giving personal prophecy.
This time there was added the restoration of the apostolic office gifts of apostles and prophets. Indeed to restore the apostolic church without restored apostles and prophets would be a limited restoration of the apostolic church.
Restored Apostles And Prophets
To Latter Rain teachers it seemed obvious that if there was to be a repeated apostolic Pentecost then apostles and prophets must be restored as well. These teachers then devised a historical scheme of restoration. Church history was understood as a succession of recoveries of lost or neglected truths. Luther recovered justification by faith, Baptists believers' baptism, Wesley holiness, A.B. Simpson healing and the early Pentecostal pioneers the gifts of the Spirit. The recovery process was now extended further. The end time body of Christ must go on to maturity and restore the apostles and prophets and these restored ministries must lead the church to a new and final dimension of power and authority not only bringing in the final harvest but establishing the Kingdom of God upon the earth.
Kingdom Now Teaching
Now we are introduced to another major feature of the current move namely Kingdom Now Dominionism. Previously Latter Rain teachers saw a second and repeated Pentecost as a final harvest of souls before Christ could come back. Now there is a major addition to the Latter Rain/Restoration concept. The restored apostles and prophets will lead a new and reconstituted body of Christ in conquering the kingdoms of this world and establishing the Kingdom of God upon the earth.
This dominion mentality is conceived as a gigantic end-time revival that will sweep the whole earth in its wake. Some even refer to a billion souls being swept in to the kingdom. An elite company of overcomers from out of the larger church will subdue all things and will be so endued with supernatural power that the first church apostles will be envious of the latter day apostles.
According to his view, summarised from the statements made by a number of its exponents, "the church isn't going sit and take it any more. The church isn't going to wait to be helicoptered out of the world in some rapture rescue plan. The church will stay right here and by its spiritual authority even defeat the principalities and powers in the heavenlies, dragging them to earth and putting them under their heel". Paul Cain, a survivor of the Latter Rain (1950) is currently marketing a vision of an elite company of overcoming spiritual warriors called "Joel's army". This end-time spiritual army unit will be an invincible band, which leads the church in dominion on the earth. A purging of the wider church of those who will not follow the new order is necessary to constitute a unified global church.
Teachers of the new order tell us that all this has been prophesied. This is an end-time fulfilment of the Feast of Tabernacles. These teachers assert that Passover found fulfilment in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The Feast of Pentecost was fulfilled in the outpouring of Spirit, and now the only remaining feast is that of Tabernacles to be fulfilled in the last days' church. It is a second Pentecost with restored apostles and prophets. This end time spiritual army will put all God's enemies under its feet, yes even the last enemy, death itself. This introduces us to another added teaching of the Latter Rain (1950).
The Manifested Sons Of God
The body of Christ coming to spiritual maturity will be able to defeat death itself. This teaching became known as the "Manifest Sons of God". Taking childish cues from Paul's teaching in Romans eight and misunderstanding them, they suggested that a company of overcoming believers "the sons of God" will be manifested upon the earth with never dying spiritual bodies before the return of Christ. This would have to be the ultimate in dominion teaching.
Bishop Earl Paulk has stated the Manifest Sons teaching very clearly without ever using that unpopular term. Listen to his unmistakable teaching:
"Jesus Christ, as the first-fruit of the Kingdom, began the work of conquering death on an individual basis, but we, as His church, will be the ones to complete the task. Jesus said (Matthew 28:18), "all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth," and the church today has that same power. Death will not be conquered by Jesus returning to earth. It will be conquered when the church stands up boldly and says, "We have dominion over the earth". (5)
Obviously the church has not yet matured to the place of defeating death. Bishop Paulk counsels Christians not to accept death unless they get a specific revelation from God otherwise. There is a companion truth that often accompanies the Manifested Sons teaching namely the birth in the church of a corporate Christ. This corporate Christ is said to be a fusing together of the spiritual Christ within His many membered body upon the earth. The end-time glorious church is supposed to give birth to this corporate Christ. Though it is not always stated this view assumes and some teach (not all) that the literal physical resurrected Jesus will not need to return as such. Rather His second coming will happen when He is spiritually incarnated into his church, which will then be able to conquer death itself. This teaching has been expressed in various ways.
"Jesus was God in the flesh. We must be as He was in the world, even greater in volume and influence." (6)
"The completion of the incarnation of God in the world must be in His church... Jesus Christ is the firstfruits, but without the ongoing harvest, the incarnation will never be complete." (7)
"The living Word of God, Jesus Christ, was conceived in the womb of a virgin. The Word became flesh in the God-Man Jesus Christ (John 1:1). Likewise, the Word of God must be made flesh in the Church in order for us to bear witness to the Kingdom which God has called us to demonstrate." (8)
"We are on earth as extensions of God to finish the work He began. We are the essence of God, His on-going incarnation in the world." (9)
This is saying far more than the orthodox view that Christ indwells His church by the Holy Spirit. The question arises: how can Jesus, with his current resurrected body in heaven, be incarnated into the church that is still upon the earth? Some have seen this problem and solve it by adjusting their Christology.
"He [Jesus] entered a higher realm of restoration and love by becoming an indwelling Spirit." (10)
We must oppose this view. Jesus has not become the Holy Spirit. It is rather the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer. The resurrected Jesus is at the Father's right hand and in His glorified resurrected body He will return bodily to the earth. Obviously an indwelling spirit would not need to return from heaven. It is on this basis that some Dominion teachers assert that Jesus can be an ongoing incarnation of God in His body (church) upon the earth. Consequently scriptures pertaining to Christ's ruling on earth are often seen as referring to the church rather than to Jesus. The church is viewed as a kind of Virgin Mary who must give birth to Jesus the indwelling spirit.
Francis Frangipane teaches a similar message:
"When the Spirit of Christ comes into the physical world, He must enter through a physical body. When Christ first entered our world as a child, it was Mary whom God chose to give Christ birth. Mary's life symbolised the qualities the church must possess to walk in the fullness of Christ. God is preparing us as He did Mary to give birth to the ministry of His Son. Even now, in the spiritual womb of the virgin church, the Holy purpose of Christ is growing, awaiting maturity, ready to be born in the power and timing of God. The virgin church is in labour and in pain to give birth (Rev. 12:5) even now hell trembles and the heavens watch in awe for I say to you, once again, the virgin is with child." (11)
Latter-Rain teachers have long used Revelation 12, teaching that the woman in this passage is the church and the "Man child" to be born is a spiritual second coming of Christ into His corporate body. When Latter Rain Prophet Paul Cain describes, in passing, the church as the "Man Child Company" he has this teaching in mind.
Marc Dupont of the former Toronto Vineyard claims to have received a significant prophecy in which he states the following:
"This move of the Spirit in 1994 is not just a Charismatic and Pentecostal experience, concerning power and gifting. It is one thing to be clothed with power, it is another to be indwelt with the Person of God." (12)
Old Testament scriptures are spiritualised to see this birthing as the return of the ark to the temple, that is the coming of Christ invisibly into His living temple the church. This will occur when the Feast of Tabernacles is fulfilled which celebrates the Lord dwelling among His people. "When this happens, no longer will it be the Head (Jesus Christ) in heaven and the body (believers) on earth - but one Perfect Man filling both heaven and earth". (13)
This teaching of a spiritual second coming of Jesus into His body is rarely advertised. Rather the more palatable teaching of a final global revival and restored apostles and prophets is the public teaching most emphasised. How can the present Charismatic/Pentecostal church even entertain elements of this teaching that originated from such a small group that operated on the fringes of the Pentecostal movement in the early 50's?
When the Charismatic Renewal exploded in the 60's and 70's certain Latter Rain remnants found a new and undiscriminating audience. Charismatics had never heard of the Latter Rain and received the new teaching as part of their new wine experience. Consequently Latter-Rain/Restorationism received a greater hearing within the Charismatic renewal than it ever did in the Classic Pentecostal tradition. Through the Charismatic Renewal, Latter Rain teachings were renamed and finally homogenised sufficiently so that today Latter Rain ideas float freely on "the river" without anyone detecting their true identity. Furthermore the Charismatic Renewal has been mainstreamed into wider evangelical circles through John Wimber and Vineyard conferences, signs and wonders teachings, etc. Indeed some of the more extreme parts of the paradigm are not put out front, nevertheless, little by little the wider church is coalescing around what, when thoroughly analysed, are Latter Rain core beliefs. Without unwarranted employment of the Latter Rain allegory there is not even a hint in scripture of an end-time global revival and second Pentecost. Not everyone in the river uniformly accepts all the parts of the paradigm. But as time goes by more and more Latter Rain tenets exert a gravitational pull that draws participants to logically espouse more and more of the paradigm.
When Peter Wagner calls for and attempts to network a world wide apostolic reformation does he espouse the whole of the Latter Rain/Restoration paradigm? I don't really know. In fact I doubt that he does. I do know, however, that by bringing Bishop Bill Hamon to speak at his conferences, he is bringing the whole paradigm mentioned above. There must be at least openness on Wagner's part and many others because they without qualification recommend Bill Hamon's books with its full-blown Latter Rain and Manifested Sons' teaching. Wagner's "New Apostolic Reformation" is nothing more than warmedup Latter Rain teaching. G. Raymond Carlson from his vantage point of history knew that all this has its source in a second end-time Pentecost, first articulated at the turn of the century and restated and expanded in the New Order of the Latter Rain 1950 and now imported and marketed into the wider church by means of the Charismatic renewal.
When much is made of a sweeping revival that will overflow the earth in the last days with billions of converts, you should be aware that this popular idea comes not from scripture but from a view of church history that has been running now for over a century. Take away the fraudulent allegorical use of the "Latter Rain" scheme and there remains no other biblical support for this elaborate view of the end-times. Rather it was Jesus Himself who asked the question: "When the Son of Man comes will He find faith upon the earth?" (Luke 18:8).
The scripture leaves no doubt that Jesus will return bodily, first to the air then to earth and when He does, at the first stage, His "body" upon the earth (the full complement of his church) will be raptured to meet Him in the air (I Thessalonians 4:17). It is then and only then that He will change our corruptible bodies in a twinkling of an eye. It is then (at the second stage) that Jesus will rule earth in His glorified and resurrected body. It is then that the Sons of God will be manifest. Rather than sensationalising a false and unbiblical agenda, the church must occupy until He comes and His body is completed. Faithfully this gospel must be preached to every nation and then the end will come. Even so come quickly Lord Jesus.
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