The "Latter Rain" Revival Movement Part V

The "Latter Rain" Revival Movement<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Part V
by Thomas Ice
 
      After presenting an overview of the central role that the doctrine of apostasy plays in New Testament teaching, I will continue in this installment of the "latter rain" series by examining key "latter rain" issues in the light of Scripture.  These are important contemporary items since they provide a challenge to those of us who interpret Scripture literally, believe in the pretrib rapture, and recognize God's distinction between His plans for Israel and the Church.  These errors must be recognized and refuted from Scripture.
 
Key Theological Concepts and Passages
Restoration of the Fivefold Ministries
     In a previous issue[i] I noted Bill Hamon's explanation of the restoration of the fivefold ministries of evangelists, pastors, teachers, apostles, and prophets in the end-time.[ii]  This is said by Restorationist to be spoken of in Ephesians 4:11-16.  Fellow "latter rain"  advocate, Rick Joyner, claims that he received the contents of a book he authored called The Harvest, as a revelation from God on three different occasions in the late 1980s.[iii]  "What is about to come upon the earth is not just a revival, or another awakening; it is a veritable revolution," says Joyner about the vision he claims from God in his book.  "This vision was given in order to begin awakening those who are destined to radically change the course, and even the very definition of Christianity."[iv]  Joyner spoke in his book about the restoration of apostles and prophets in order to prepare the Church for the soon coming fullness of the "latter rain."  He said,
 
     The next spiritual contraction will bring about the restoration and recognition of the PROPHETS.  We will see the prophetic ministry become the primary focus of attention during the next few years as a much greater anointing comes upon this ministry than has been seen since Biblical times. [v]
 
     There will be another contraction during which a true APOSTOLIC authority will be restored and recognized within the advancing church.[vi]
 
     "Latter rain" advocates like Hamon and Joyner commingle their interpretations of the Scripture with their own supposed direct revelation about the restoration of the gifted men in Ephesians 4:11.  Their notions are erroneous for a number of reasons.  A major objection is rather obvious to anyone who would simply read the passage.  The passage says nothing about a restoration of these ministries.  Simply put, the text does not speak of such an occurrence.  They have pulled this concept out of the thin air of their fertile imaginations that they claim as a revelation from God.  The New Testament warns against those who would have such a seared conscience that they would be bold enough to pass of their own imaginations as the sure Word of God (Acts 20:17-35; 1 Tim. 4:1-2; 2 Pet. 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1-6; Jude 8, 17-19).
     Christ's giving of apostles and prophets to the Church is said in Ephesians 2:20 to be something which is to be foundational to the Church, not something given to each generation of believers.  The passage says, "having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone."  The picture is that of a building process which is going on during the entire period of the Church age, from Pentecost to the rapture.  This process can be described as taking place in three stages:  Phase one is the laying of the cornerstone , which describes the first century, non-repeatable, work of Christ.  The rest of the building is supposed to orient itself in terms of Christ the corner stone.
     Phase two is the foundation of the apostles and prophets, which also occurred in the first century and is non-repeatable.  However, just as with Christ, even though it is non-repeatable, it does not mean that it is non-applicable for today.  Just as with a foundation in a physical building, once it is laid, continues to be used for the life of the structure.  So it is with the ministry of the apostles and prophets, who gave us the boundaries of the gospel and doctrine with which believers are being used of God to build Christ's Church.  Once the foundation is laid, you don't keep relaying it each generation, instead you continue to build upon it.
     Phase three represents the superstructure of the rest of the building.  The building is built upon in accordance to the guidelines mandated by the dimensions of the corner stone and the foundation.  This work began at the birth of the Church in Acts 2 and will be completed at the rapture when the last person destined to make up the final component of the Body of Christ believes the gospel.  Then the Church will be complete.
     From the perspective of the Biblical picture presented in Ephesians 2, it is wrong to say that God is restoring apostles and prophets in our own day.  This error implies that the first century foundation was not complete and that it needs further work.  This would mean that until recent restoration times, God has been building the house upon a shaky foundation.  This kind of thought is a grave error.
     Ephesians 3:5 echoes the thought of 2:20 when Paul says concerning the mystery of Christ: "which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit."  The emphasis in this passage is upon revelation received during the time of Paul's writing in the first century.  This strongly suggests that the ministry of apostles and prophets was completed in the past.
     When we come to the Ephesians 4:11 use of apostles and prophets, with evangelists, and pastors-teachers, we observe a division of labor employed in the building of God's spiritual temple-the Church.  The foundation, phase two, was completed during the apostolic age ending around A.D. 100.  Upon completion, those workmen left the scene, leaving behind the trustworthy the fruit of their labor-a foundation.  That foundation was the New Testament canon of Scripture.
     Phase three is entrusted with the task of building upon the sure foundation of Christ and the apostles.  This is why the bulk of labor, over the life of the project (the Church age) is done by the evangelist, and the pastor-teachers.  They remain on site until the structure is complete at the rapture.  This is why the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) stress the importance of following and protecting the fixed deposit of Apostolic faith by faithful men, so that it can be passed from generation to generation (2 Tim. 2:2).  Therefore, evangelist, and pastor-teachers have never been removed from the scene so that they have to be restored at the end of the Church age as "latter rain" advocates teach.
     The Holy Spirit has been using believers to win and disciple others for the last 2,000 years without interruption, as taught by the Restorationist movement.  The Church is being perfected with the original doctrine contained in the New Testament and does not need an updated version of "Apostles' doctrine 2.1."  The first edition did not have any glitches and cannot be improved upon.  Why would anyone want to bring the foundation crew back on the job when the roof is near completion, unless they want to improperly change the foundation with their new revelation.  Yet, the desire to add to the foundation, when it has already been set, is the desire and practice of false prophets and teachers.  The believer who opens themselves up to "new revelation" is opening themselves up to deception.  As Paul told Timothy, "Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you" (2 Tim. 1:13-14).
     This is the Church's calling in our day:  to guard the foundation laid by Christ, and the apostles and prophets, while building upon that foundation the superstructure through evangelism and discipleship.  Believers are looking forward to the return of Christ at the rapture, not for new revelation.
 
A Perfect Church?
     Restorationist Rick Godwin has been described by a former Southern Baptist pastor, Jack Taylor, as "God's John Wayne to the Church!"[vii]  Probably a more accurate description would be to liken Godwin to Rambo since John Wayne had manners and was a gentleman. Godwin states his belief that the Church will be perfected before Christ's return:
 
     The Lord is going to have a "Glorious Church" before He returns.  This thought encompasses the theme of personal and corporate purity, for Scripture says that His Church will be "without spot, wrinkle or blemish."  His Church will have Power followed by signs and wonders, for Scripture says, "it will be a glorious church.[viii]
 
     Ephesians 5:25-27 is the much quoted passage which "latter rain"/Restorationist use to teach that the end-time Church will see the restoration of apostolic power, coupled with unity, which will produce the greatest period of miracles and conversions to Christ in all of history.  However, to draw such a conclusion from this passage provides a clear example of their ability to mishandle Scripture.  "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless" (Eph. 5:25-27).
     There is no question that this passage speaks of a glorious church, without sport or wrinkle.  But how does the Bible use these terms?  Do Restorationists use this passage in the same way the Bible does?  I believe they do not!  In a nutshell, the Bible here describes the believer's legal standing before God, as won on our behalf through Christ's work on the cross.  On the other hand, Restorationist (mis)apply this text as something which the believer and the Church must grow into and become in our current experience.
     God's plan of salvation is often discussed in terms of one's covenantal standing before God.  This is legal language.  When Adam fell, his sin was imputed or credited to the legal bank account of every person born thereafter, even though no one personally committed Adam's sin (Rom. 5:12-21).  Our legal standing (some call this positional truth) forms the basis from which our experience should follow.  Therefore, human beings sin experientially because they are legally or positionally sinners.  In the same way, Christ had to first deal with the legal barrier of sin in winning salvation for the Church as the basis for experiential change in the life of the individual believer and the Church as a whole.  Positional standing in Christ is the basis upon which the believer is to live his life experientially through faith.
     When properly interpreting Scripture, one must establish from Scripture itself, the way the Bible uses various terms.  Often a decision must be made as to whether or not a word or phrase is describing a positional truth or an experiential aspect of salvation.  The difference it makes in the interpretation of Ephesians 5:25-27 is great.  If these are positional terms, then the perfection spoken of in this passage is that earned by Christ through His saving work, which is applied positionally to the believer.  This means that our position will not be experienced in its fullness until glorification at the time of the resurrection.  However, if these are taken experientially, as applying to our current time, then it is teaching experiential perfection of the individual believer as well corporate perfection.
     In my final installment on "latter rain" theology, I will complete the study of Ephesians 5:25-27 and provide reasons why this passage should be interpreted positionally.  I will also draw implications for the doctrine of the rapture if such teachings are adopted.
 
     (To Be Continued . . .)

Endnotes
 


[i] Pre-Trib Perspectives, Vol. V, Num. 4; July 2000, pp. 5-7.

[ii] Ibid., p. 6.

[iii] Rick Joyner, The Harvest (Pineville, NC:  Morningstar Publications, 1989), p. 7.

[iv] Ibid., back cover matter.

[v] Ibid., pp. 28-29.

[vi] Ibid., p. 31.

[vii] Eagle's Nest Christian Fellowship of San Antonio, Texas, Tape and Book Catalog, July, 1990, page 8

[viii] Ibid., p. 6.

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