One of the most disconcerting things occurring today is the tendency for Christians wanting to "see" a move of God within the church and the world. Accompanying this desire (which is natural to a degree) is the fact that there are a lot of preachers (mostly on TV) prophesying for years now about a new move of God and worldwide revival. Most, if not all of the preachers and evangelists (many call themselves prophets and apostles) agree that the time is short - the end is near. Among Christians in general, there is a feeling of urgency to go about the task that has been set before the Church...to preach the gospel to all the nations. There is also general agreement that the Church has been, and to a degree, is still lazy, content to sit in their pews, pay their tithes, and bask in the reflected glory of their own little ponds. Most of the churches spend more time arguing with each other over jots and tittles than in going about their real job - reaching a lost and dying world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
While all Christians want to see a move of God, and conversions by the thousands (or even millions), we must examine several things in the light of The Word of God, and also in the light of published (written and spoken) statements made by those who are advertising this great revival and move of God. Links to other sites will be obvious by their blue color, so that you may go and read for yourself those things that are said that have a bearing on these questions. First and foremost is a small admonition that will weave a thread throughout this study. We, as Christians, live by faith...NOT by sight. Beyond that, I believe that most of us can agree-we are in the end times, spoken of in The Word, and it won't be very long before we see the rise of the anti-christ and his false prophet. But what does The Word say about these times? Is there going to be a great worldwide revival? What about the ''move of the spirit'' as typified in the Toronto Blessing/Vineyard and Brownsville Revival movement, and its attendant functionaries and proponents, such as Steve Hill, Benny Hinn, Rod Parsley, Paul Crouch, Kenneth Copeland, et al? What about the moral fiber of these alleged prophets of God? This question comes into play simply because of the influence these people have over thousands of believers throughout the world, and the millions of dollars being given to them to support their ministries so as to create this world wide revival.
A logical approach dictates that the first question to be answered is that relating to revival, because the answer to other questions relies solely upon the finding to that question.
The closest we can come to a clear statement of what the end times shall be like is found in Jesus' words to His disciples in Matthew 24, sometimes referred to as the Olivet Discourse. The disciples came to Jesus, and asked:
vs.3: Tell us, when shall these thing be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
vs.4: And Jesus answered and said unto them, take heed that no man deceive you.
vs.5: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
vs.6: and ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
vs.7: For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
vs.8: All these are the beginning of sorrows.
vs9: Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
vs.10: and then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
vs.11: and many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
vs.12: and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
vs.13: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
vs.14: and this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come.
vs.38: for as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark...
There are a number of salient points made in this discourse, and we shall examine them one by one.
Vs.4-take heed that no man deceive you. Jesus was making clear that there would be people who would attempt, in any number of ways, to deceive the believer. By what means He did not expound upon, other than to say...
Vs.5-many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ. The construction of this sentence leaves the possibility that not only would some come saying that they were the christ (Mayatreya is a recent example), but of more importance, since Jesus was talking to His disciples (true believers), that many would come, simply, in His name, meaning that they were professing Christians supposedly ministering in the name of Jesus. That such people can exist is borne out in many books throughout the New Testament, such as Timothy, Peter, James, John, and Jude. Of interesting note here is a statement made, and supported by others, by Kenneth Copeland, about being ''a little Christ walking around up here''.
Vs.11- and many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many. Many Christians tend to rely upon an oft quoted section of the Old Testament concerning false prophets, in which God says that we shall know a false prophet if what he says does not come to pass. Assumption: if something DOES come to pass, then the prophet must be righteous. What is often skipped is the little squib in Deuteronomy 13:1-3, where God says if there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a SIGN or a WONDER, and the sign or the wonder COME TO PASS...thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Puts us in a bind as to who to believe, doesn't it? No. All we have to do is check out what the person is saying, and weigh it against the Word of God. If it doesn't line up, then they don't, and are to be ignored. Many today use scripture to support or destroy certain beliefs or points that they are trying to make, but we are admonished to use all scripture, which is given by God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2Tim3:16). The part concerning reproof and correction will come into serious play a little later.
Vs.14 - and this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations... I think it is very important to note that Jesus said this gospel...shall be PREACHED (or published)...for a witness. Nowhere did Jesus say that the gospel shall be believed, or acted upon, or cause millions of conversions...only that it would be preached as a witness. The sinner cannot know he is a sinner unless the gospel of righteousness is preached to him, nor can he repent unless he knows..and how shall they know, if there is no preacher? Still, the point is that although we may use many different means (including this web presentation) to preach the gospel, there is no guarantee from scripture or otherwise that it will be believed and acted upon. Indeed, scripture in Matt.24:9-10 makes very clear that true gospel preachers and true believers will be hated, and afflicted, and even killed.
Vs.38-as it was in the days of Noah... I will have to admit here to a great deal of speculation concerning just exactly what it was like then. The Bible tells us only that God told Noah to build an ark because He was disgusted with the actions of mankind, and He was going to destroy them. Obviously, Noah was chosen because he conducted himself in a manner that was pleasing to God, and did not do those things that the rest of mankind was doing. The real speculation enters here. I think it is reasonable to assume that while Noah was gathering materials, and building what was a VERY large boat (ship?), some of the townsfolk had to be curious. I am sure that at some point, these people asked Noah what he was doing. Noah, upon explaining that he was building an ark, was then asked why? ''So that I can ride out the flood''. What is a flood? ''A whole lot of water''. Since there had not been rain on the earth up til this time, I doubt the people understood, and if Noah also said (I'm sure he did) that God had told him to do it, these worldly people had to have made a lot of fun of Noah. That happens to be a lot like today. People of the world are complete in their own eyes, and make fun of the things of God, even to the point of trying to stop Christians (particularly) and just about any other religious types from doing or saying anything that might ''offend'' them. Indeed, many are offended because of Christ.
All of this leads us to the point where we may reasonably say that the end times will be characterized by a number of things:
1. Increasing denial of God by the world.
2. Increasing ungodliness in activity.
3. Increasing demand by religious people for hearing & experiencing only what they want.
4. Increasing apostasia from sound doctrine and truth.
Rather than a ''great revival'', what we will see (and are currently seeing) is the apostasy of those claiming to be Christian, a great falling away from the truth of Jesus Christ and the written Word of God.
At this point, we will also look at Revelation 2 & 3, the letters to the churches. Some scholars believe that the letters are a chronological description of Christianity through the centuries, with each church corresponding to a given church condition during a given period of time. Others liken the churches to the types of churches that will be in existence at the end times.
If you believe in the first explanation, then look carefully at the last church, that of Laodicea. The description given is certainly not one of a church in revival, but instead one of indifference to the truth, without commitment, lacking the will to defend the true faith, and considering itself to be self-sufficient. Truly an apostate church, and one that certainly describes the general condition of churches today.
If you prefer the second method of interpretation, that of this being a description of the types of churches in existence at the end, then take note of the fact that in five out of 7 instances, Jesus says He has something against the churches, and to repent - OR ELSE! Again, it does not sound like a church in revival, but one that is sick. I am sure that some will point to the two churches that "got off" without a reprimand, and say "my church is like that". Fine. Smyrna was a working church. Is yours? Is the Gospel being preached in truth? Is the love of Christ being exercised to ALL? Are you (and your church) more concerned with outreach to the unloved, or "inreach" to each other? Are you (and your church) suffering tribulation? Is the devil attacking you, your pastor and/or ministers, and the other members of the church with everything he can throw? Including poverty? Quite frankly, I seriously doubt it. If so, then praise God. And don't try to tell me that things like poverty can't come your way, because (1) you're good stewards, or (2) we've taken back the things the devil stole because we've taken dominion over him (more on this subject in a moment). How about Philadelphia? Jesus says He knows your WORKS, and that you have KEPT HIS WORD, and have NOT DENIED HIS NAME. If you are part of the Word-Faith movement (Hagin, Copeland, Joyner, Parsley, Crouch, Hill, Wimber, Hinn and so many others) then you HAVE NOT KEPT HIS WORD, because the theology put forth by them deviates so far from the Word of God that you have to be a snake to keep up with the twists and turns. Most especially, by partaking of their heresy, and believing in it, you are DENYING CHRIST HIMSELF. Some of these even go so far as to liken themselves and you who believe them as being "little Christ's" and "god-men" on this earth. They propound the theory that they (and you) are taking over this world, and setting it right, and taking dominion so that the millennial kingdom will be ushered in, and THEN Christ can come back, but not until after the church has done its work. To listen to them, God has abdicated His throne and is no longer in control. We are.
This brings us to the question of: If there is no end time revival (or move of God) then how do we explain all the manifestations that are occurring in various places, and the appearance of revival that is occurring. How do we explain all the thousands upon thousands in other places that are coming to God during the crusades.
First, I believe that we need to examine very carefully the "manifestations" that are occurring in places like the Toronto Vineyard (now the Airport ??????), or at Brownsville AoG, or in the crusades that Benny Hinn puts on. The links appearing here will go into far more detail, and are from eyewitnesses. Aside from that, I can attest to having seen, on tape and on tv some of the manifestations spoken of. I find, in scripture, no corresponding description to what I have observed other than in Mark 1:23-26, where Jesus cast a demon out of a man in the synagogue, and after the "spirit had torn him", it departed. Try as I might, I can find no place, in Old Testament or New, where there are examples of people shaking violently, twitching uncontrollably, flopping on the floor like fish out of water, or laughing for hours on end in a manner more devilish than truly happy. I must admit to having the hair on my neck stand up when I observed many of these things, and failing at any time to receive a witness of the Holy Spirit that these things were from God. I do not doubt that the things, in most cases, were real, but the real question is from what spirit they came. In over 20 years of ministry, I have NEVER seen a manifestation of one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that did not, unequivocally, point to Jesus Christ, and glorify God in the doing of it. The Holy Spirit does not bring attention to Himself or to the person being used, but ONLY to Jesus Christ. As Jesus said "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth; for HE SHALL NOT SPEAK OF HIMSELF; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall GLORIFY ME..." John 16:13-14. Many times during ministry, I have seen or heard things that the Holy Spirit did not bear witness with, and can be best explained as the flesh trying to simulate spiritual things, but these things I have observed on TBN, and via Brownsville tapes bear the imprint of the devil himself, not the Spirit of God.
Of great importance here is a question concerning the moral character of the people purporting to be instruments and ministers of God. Paul, in I Timothy gives a reasonable explanation of the type of character that must be possessed by a man of God, When talking about bishops, or deacons (translate pastors, shepherds, elders, or those in positions of spiritual leadership), two points become quickly obvious. One, that the person must have a good report of them which are without, and two, that they be not doubletongued, or greedy of money, and must HOLD THE MYSTERY OF THE FAITH IN PURE CONSCIENCE. My understanding of these passages are that a minister of God cannot do things in such a way as to cause those who do not know God (those who are without) to question him, or to bring reproach upon the name of God. While many people do not care for Billy Graham, I will point out that in terms of what the general unsaved public thinks of Mr. Graham, there is no shadow of reproach. Indeed, it is quite the opposite. Throughout his ministry career, Mr. Graham has conducted himself, publicly and privately, and his ministry in a very upright manner, for just this reason.
The second thing that a minister of God cannot be is doubletongued (lying, fibbing, exaggerating, stretching, or wishy-washy depending upon who he is talking to). I would submit that many of the ministers we have today such as Benny Hinn, Paul Crouch, Steve Hill and others fail miserably in the question of being doubletongued. Aside from outright lies that they have been caught in, none of them seem to believe that the scripture is profitable for reproof, and reject any and all admonition from others concerning their heretical statements. Paul Crouch in particular has vocally cursed any who would dare to point out anything to him that does not meet with his own belief. When ministers of God presume to place themselves above the Word of God, and immune from what it says, or think to change what the Word says into something they want it to say, then they have gone beyond the point of just being in error, and fall squarely into the definition of ''ungodly men who have crept in''(Jude). ''Clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots...to who is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever''.