From Topeka to Houston, from Los Angeles to London, and from Toronto to Pensacola, revival has swept across America and around the world during the twentieth century. Miracles and inner healing have become the watchwords of this new wave of Pentecostalism, which is now moving into mainline churches, as well. Such revival fills the airwaves of Christian television. Testimonials encourage all who want Christian renewal to jump in; the water is fine! While listening to sermons, participants often sink down in their pews, or fall to the floor in a trance. As they receive this baptism of the Holy Ghost, many howl, bark, cry, tremble, and jerk with epileptic-like convulsions. Some hear whooooosh and frresshhhh sounds described as a rushing might wind. Others see glory dust falling from the air. Are such manifestations fulfillment of the latter day rain of the Spirit of Pentecost? Are these spirit filled crowds taken over by the Holy Spirit, or by another spirit? Do these meetings represent a modern day Pentecost of revival or a modern day deception from hell?
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Act 2:2-4).
by Jerry Gentry
From these certain, gripping words, Christians understand that Jesus promise was fulfilled: But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me (John 15:26).
Christianity exploded onto the scene on that first day of Pentecost. The gospel was preached. The Spirit of Pentecost was moving. Hearts burned with conviction for sin. A long awaited revival was spreading like wildfire, throughout the streets of Jerusalem. They were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37). Peter answered, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (v. 38). Repentance and a change of life followed. That change was brought about by the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Pentecost, which the apostle Paul later described as Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). The streets of Jerusalem were filled with converts. Excitement filled the air. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls (Acts 2:41).
Today it is not enough just to know that the Comforter, the Spirit of Pentecost, came historically on that first day of Pentecost almost 2000 years ago. It is not enough to hear about it, or to read about it. Our hearts today burn to experience what Christians everywhere were then experiencing! Is it possible today to receive the Spirit of Pentecost, and to experience Pentecost, once again? Is it possible to bring that nearly 2000 year old event into the present and feel His indwelling presence today?
About fifteen hundred years earlier, Joshua had led the ancestors of these first Pentecost converts across Jordon and into the Promised Land, less than twenty miles to the northeast of Jerusalem at Jericho. Still earlier, the Spirit of Pentecost had descended upon Mt. Sinai with fire and smoke, as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly (Exod. 19:18).
On that ancient predecessor to Pentecost, God had written His law, the Ten Commandments, on tablets of stone, and given them to Moses. Now he would write those same laws on mens hearts. The children of Israel of old experienced the miraculous power of the Spirit of Pentecost, on what was then called the feast of weeks (Exod. 34:22). They had watched in awe as Moses countenance shone, when He came down after his encounter with the LORD. Forty years later, another generation had watched the billowing clouds of dust rise from the earth as the hand of God wrote judgment on the walls of that great pagan city of Jericho. Those Israelites had heard a roar like thunder as thousands of stones came crashing down to earth. They feared, they trembled, at the presence of God the LORD. Now, that same Spirit of Pentecost was manifest at Jerusalem as a rushing mighty wind, and. . . cloven tongues like as of fire (Acts 2:2,3). God had promised: I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people (Heb 8:10, from Jer 31:33).
Beginning on this first great Pentecost day, that same Spirit of Pentecost from old times came and empowered believers to preach the gospel, even speak in tongues and perform miraculous healings, as a testimony to unbelievers. These first Pentecost converts set their eyes upon that great prophetic city coming down from heaven to earth, where someday they would be priests of God and of Christ, and. . . reign with him a thousand years (Rev. 20:6). Their spirits swelled with zeal and devotion to the gospel. Their crucified king was risen and coming again. . . soon! They felt the power of the presence of the Spirit of Pentecost in every moment. They yearned to walk in the power of that Spirit.
Today, theres a great movement to bring Pentecost home, so Christians can experience, even feel, the power of God through a present day baptism of the Holy Ghost. Out of such a desire, modern Pentecostalism was born, almost exactly one hundred years ago.
On January 1, 1901, at Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas, a young female student named Agnes N. Ozman, asked to be prayed over and have hands laid on her. Her request was granted by the officials of that college. She immediately received the baptism of the spirit, and began to speak in tongues. Other students followed, and the modern Pentecostal movement was born. It travelled from Topeka to Missouri, then Texas, and eventually to Los Angeles, Californias Azusa Street Mission, in 1910. From Azusa Street, Pentecostalism fanned out across the nation and around the world. It has touched nearly every nation during the past century, as it has moved into every corner of the globe.
Today, churches in America and around the world are experiencing further changes. There is yet another spiritual awakening breaking through across the land. A New Wave baptism of the Holy Ghost is again sweeping across America and around the world, as we enter the 21st century. Huge televised meetings are taking place nightly in various cities. Benny Hinn, who once worked as Kathryn Kuhlmans pulpit boy, attracts tens of thousands in revival meetings across the globe. He has stated that viewers will soon witness the dead raised to life on TBN television! Slain in the spirit miraculous healings are Benny Hinns speciality.
Miracles are expected by thousands, perhaps millions, who send their seed faith money to Oral and Richard Roberts of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Miraculous prosperity here and now is assured by Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, of Ft. Worth, Texas, to all who faithfully follow the principle of seed time and harvest. A host of entertaining look alike charismatic ministries promise that if you keep your seed faith money flowing, blessings will surely return into your hands. Glory dust, also called gold dust, falls for some of these evangelists, as a demonstration of Gods miraculous breakthrough and proof of His work!
Further still, there are evangelists such as Steve Hill, and other such carriers of fire, who preach a more exotic form of Pentecostal revival. These ministries welcome demonstrations such as falling to the floor in epileptic-like seizures, barking, howling, deep bowing, holy laughter and crying out. These are all set forth as proofs of Gods work, that the revival of Pentecost is returning through the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Are such miracles and speaking in tongues and other familiar demonstrations proof of Gods presence? Are such works of the devil, as some observers claim? Do these blessings really amount to strange fire? How can you and I know for sure, at a time of history when great deception is prophesied to take place?
Jesus warned: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many (Mark 13:6). Who are these many who deceive?
We also read: And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them (Luke 21:8). Here are again identified many preachers we are told not to go after! They are deceivers! Who are they?
He further tells us: For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (Matt. 24:24).
Brother and sister, if we are among the very elect, then we will not be deceived. God will see to it, because He is sovereign in all matters. However, we must recognize the difference between false revival and the true. We must discern the Spirit of Pentecost, against all counterfeit spirits. But how? At the end time, there are false preachers who will begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets (Luk 13:26).
To these, he [Jesus] shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out (Luk 13:27-28).
These are sobering words indeed, for anyone who will preach revival in the name of Jesus. Both the true and the counterfeit types come in His name. Who are the true ministers, the genuine preachers of revival? Who are the false? We must know. The Bible tells us how to know:
We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error (1John 4:6). John is telling us that we must measure all who come in the name of Jesus against the written Word of God. Only then will we discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of error. Discernment is not possible, unless we subscribe to the authoritative, inerrant Word of God. You will find that sure Word in the King James Bible today.
Christianity has always had certain operators whose purpose was to deceive, through the spirit of error, even in New Testament times.
For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way (2Th 2:7).
And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming (v. 8).
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders (v. 9).
And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved (v. 10). The test this modern Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Ghost fails is the love of the truth, as in I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6), and Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth (John 17:17). Salvation is empty, false, where no sanctification progresses. Whom He justifies and saves by the blood, He also sanctifies and purifies through His Word of truth, that He may change and glorify at his second coming. The plan of justification, sanctification and glorification is one inseparable whole. Any baptism of the Holy Ghost that does not lead to sanctification through the Word of truth is the spirit of error, and will never lead to glorification!
Jesus challenged all who would believe on Him: And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? (Luke 6:46). Yes, true Christianity is demonstrable, experiential. Good works always follow true conversion. Faith without works is dead. We must show forth the genuineness of our faith through the way we live. We must do. . . the things which I say, in the words of Jesus. Now what does falling down in epileptic-like seizures, barking like dogs, laughing like hyenas, glory dust and other strange manifestations have to do with Jesus? Nothing. These are manifestations of strange spirits, not of the Spirit of Pentecost. The first Pentecost was Gods action to get mens attention. Modern Pentecostalism is mostly mans actions, to get Gods attention. Is God impressed? These are extrabiblical manifestations, strange fire, which are not subject to the purging of the written Word of God. Such manifestations proceed from the same spirits that gave us the unholy Bibles most of these ministers read from!
Pentecostal Christianity of the twentieth century has desired to experience the Holy Spirit, and to demonstrate His power. Further, Pentecostalism has been described as a religion of the heart and emotions, not of the head. Liturgical forms of worship are largely rejected. The silence of His Holy temple is broken with loud and noisy praise. Worshippers shout and wave their hands. The music is mostly in the style of Southern gospel, often rock, heavily influenced by the repetitious songs and chants of the slave workers of the old South. The Southern gospel hymn, Ill Fly Away, O Glory! captures the pulse of the modern Pentecostal movement. Jesus saves! Im saved and going to heaven! Forget the earthly kingdom! is the alpha and the omega of the modern Pentecostal message!
The fundamental problem of modern Pentecostalism and others who hold to the Arminian free will doctrine is theological. This is a system of religion whereby man approaches to God through his own free will. John Wesley (1703-1791) taught this doctrine during the Great Awakening, and set the stage for later revivalists. His contemporary and friend, evangelist George Whitefield (1714-1770), believed staunchly in divine election and irresistible grace, and rebuked John Wesley strongly for his teaching that man comes to salvation by the action of his own free will, rather than by Gods irresistible grace. It is upon Gods irresistible grace that the doctrine of eternal security hangs, without which man who was once saved can fall into sin and lose his salvation!
One hundred years later, during the Second Great Awakening, Charles Finney (1792-1875) set this free will doctrine in stone for nearly every later revival preacher. Billy Graham said, Few men have had such a profound impact on their generation as Charles Grandison Finney. . . (The Life and Ministry of Charles G. Finney, Lewis A. Drummond, Bethany Press, Minneapolis, 1983, Foreword). Charles Finneys baptism of the Holy Ghost was very much like that of modern New Wave Pentecostalism. He wrote: The Holy Ghost descended on me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love; for I could not express it in any other way. . . I wept aloud with joy and love. . . I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. . . until I recollect I cried out, I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me. . .How long. . . this baptism continu[ed] to roll over me and go through me, I do not know. . .one of the elders of the church. . .came in. . .a very serious man. . . [he] asked me how I felt, and I began to tell him. Instead of saying anything, he fell into a most spasmodic laughter. . .laughing from the very bottom of his heart. (http://www.ChristianWord.org/revival/finney.htm).
This free will doctrine was expostulated most thoroughly by Dutch Theologian Jacob Arminius (1560-1609). He was an opponent of what is now understood as the doctrines of grace, as defended most thoroughly by John Calvin (1509-1564). The free will idea holds that salvation is open to anyone who can say, Jesus, and make a decision for Christ. This is precisely the route nearly every modern evangelist takes, including Steve Hill, author of the ongoing Brownsville Revival of Pensacola, Florida.
In an interview with Lynn Sherr, on ABC Television, Mr. Hill said: I didnt believe in God, but he [a Lutheran minister] said, Say the name Jesus. So out of desperation I looked up at the ceiling of the room, and I said, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. I just began to say that name. And a power came through my body, and in a matter of seconds, it was like I was brand new. Im not using the needle anymore. Im not drinking whiskey anymore. Im not depending on a six pack of beer anymore. Im not smoking pot anymore. I dont need pornography anymore. Hes changed my life (ABC Televisions 20/20 program, October 9, 1997).
Judging strictly by Steve Hills testimony, we must say that his conversion was related not to the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which of necessity involves conviction over personal sin, heartfelt repentance, as well as a changed life. However, a changed life without conviction of sin and repentance is a false conversion. Quitting drugs, alcohol and pornography does not make a Christian. Many nonChristians live very moral lives, without drugs, alcohol or pornography, but are unsaved. Cleaning up a reprobates life no more makes a Christian than washing a sow makes a lamb. Men sometimes turn over a new leaf, make resolutions and do better, which does not necessarily make such a person a Christian at all.
Such a baptism of the Holy Ghost is a very subtle deception. In the name of Jesus, men do all sorts of things. Logically, anyone who can speak words like, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, can also turn away from Jesus and go into eternal damnation. Make your decision for Christ today, and be saved, is their altar call. Can you later fall from grace, and be lost? Yes, you can, most Pentecostals will say. These teach that through later falling into sin, a Christian can be lost to the flames of hell! They believe that Jesus can lose some who were once saved! Both Jacob Arminius and later John Wesley taught this idea. Pentecostals and others who hold such a world view experience no eternal security in this life. They need manifestations of the spirit to prop up their faith, for assurance, that God is still pleased with them. In the absence of the doctrine of eternal security, manifestations of the spirit provide something tangible to hold onto.
But failure of the doctrines of election, irresistible grace and eternal security are only part problem. Pentecostalism suffers an even greater problem. Salvation stripped of sanctification never leads to glorification.
Salvation experiences which flow from mans free will do not lead to sanctification and a holy life. Many thousands have walked down the sawdust trail and made their decisions for Christ, only to later decide to fall back into sin and reprobation. The human will is weak. Such decisions are often transient. They come and they go, especially under the emotionally charged atmosphere of the revival meeting. Such ala carte smorgasbord doctrine has produced great numbers of conversions, or experiences, for the evangelists records. Yet without sanctification, such believers always fall short of glory.
A baptism of the Holy Ghost that substitutes holy laughter, barking, falling down, etc., for conviction of sin and repentance resulting in a changed life is the baptism of a foreign spirit, a different gospel. It endeavors to accept Christ as savior without submitting to Christ as Lord. A Christian is justified by faith before he is sanctified by the word, no doubt. But such justification by faith is stillborn, false, unreal, unless it leads into a holy, sanctified life measured by the whole Word of God. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth (John 17:17).
Justification (being born again), absent sanctification (growth in living a holy life) produces a stillborn Christian -- dead. Worse yet, preachers who teach justification apart from sanctification commit spiritual abortion on their converts! Dogs return to their vomit, and sows to their wallows. All genuine Christians will do battle with Satan, the world and sin nature that wars within, as the apostle Paul confesses: For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do (Rom. 7:19). And what does he do? But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (1Cor. 9:27).
And in the end, a proper view of ourselves before God is to say with Paul, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 7:25). Divine election, Gods irresistible grace and eternal security brings us through in the end! It is not at all our free will. Our decision for Christ, is wholly lacking, because it is based on human effort. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God (Rom. 3:11).
Manifestations of the spirit can never be a substitute for growing in a holy, sanctified life. The only way possible to grow in holiness is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). How do we get Christ in us? Through barking, howling, falling down and having emotionally charged epileptic-like convulsions? fit? No. Jesus said, It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63). We need the Word of God in us. The Spirit of Pentecost works through the words that I speak unto you, and not through the blessing of extrabiblical manifestations of the spirit. Those very words that Jesus spoke, are more: they are spirit, and they are life. Through emotional experiences, decisions for Christ become substitutes for conviction of sin, contrition of heart, repentance and then a changed life. Christ dwells in hearts where His Word is believed, read, spoken and meditated upon. Emotionally charged decisions are not enough. Extrabiblical manifestations of the spirit will surely carry the believer into a false conversion, unless the Word is not held supreme.
The Spirit of Pentecost lives and thrives in the arena where Gods word is held above all else. The prophet declares, To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isa. 8:20). Jesus is that light. Do you want that light? Then embrace the law and to the testimony. For starters, memorize the Ten Commandments and begin to live by every one. You will not begin to bark or howl, but you will be convicted of your sin. You will discover your need for holiness, for sanctification, without which there is no eternal life. Jesus told the rich young man, If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments (Mat 19:17).
Oh how many preachers hate genuine sanctification, when they prefer extrabiblical manifestations of the spirit instead. But Christian, beware! Deception is rampant at the end. You must measure such manifestations by the law and. . . the testimony, that is, the entire Word of God. No matter which church, no matter which preacher, if the manifestations of the spirit do not measure up to the Word of God, then those manifestations must be rejected and the Word of God embraced. It is only through the revealed Word of God, the Holy Bible, that we will find and experience the genuine Spirit of Pentecost.