Prophetic History: A Brief Sketch

Shortly after the Fall of Adam, there were a few prophets such as Enoch or Noah, who had such close walks with God, that they were either taken up into Heaven (Gen. 5:24), or spared from the destruction of the world (Gen. 7:23):–on account of God’s revealing “secrets to His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

Noah, a prophet, who was told 120 years beforehand that God would flood the world in judgment, was also commanded to build a large ark to house his family, and animals of all species, by which the world would be repopulated from the mountains of Ararat (Gen. 6-8). Noah was called “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5).

Abraham, a prophet, was called out of Ur of the Chaldees, a town in Babylonia. From a totally pagan background, he was called to serve the Lord, and would become the “father of many nations” (Gen. 17:5). He “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). There are interesting stories of dreams and visions from God that Abraham had in the Book of Genesis.

Jacob, the son of Isaac, experienced the well-known dream of “Jacob’s Ladder” where it is believed he saw into a heavenly portal, with angels and ascending and descending, with God at the top of the staircase! (Gen. 28:10-19). He prophesied several things to his twelve sons, of the twelve tribes of Israel (Gen. 49).

Joseph, the son of Jacob, was a dreamer and dream interpreter; for this, and for being godly, and held in favor by his father, he was persecuted by his brothers, sold into slavery, but being humbled “was exalted” to the vice regent of Egypt (Gen. 37-41).

Moses, the son of Amram, of whom Josephus says, had a dream that his son would deliver the Israelites from their 400 years of slavery in Egypt, for constructing the pyramids and other things, in totally miserable conditions (Antiquities Book 2, Chapter 9). Moses is clearly the greatest prophet in the history of the world, other than the Son of God, the Lord Jesus. God revealed Himself to Moses in such a great degree that he even “saw the form of the Lord” (Num. 12:8), and not only mysterious dreams and visions, as normal prophets have. By the revelation and power of God, Moses worked the most astounding nature miracles ever recorded. The ten plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the striking of the rock at Marah, etc. However, Moses had a self-centered anger problem, and for this, the Lord did not allow him to enter the Promised Land, after wandering in the desert for 40 years (Num. 20:12).

It would be amiss for me to exclude Joshua from the prophetic hall of fame. He walked in levels of revelation as well, being the right hand man of Moses; during a battle, by faith God empowered him to command the sun to stand still, and it did so for one day! (Josh. 10:13).

In the period of the Judges, there were several political-prophet leaders over Israel, of which one was Deborah, a female prophetess (Judges 4).

Samson, far from being a model prophet, was yet a man who experienced miraculous strength, and was sort of an Israelite “Hercules” figure. With the jawbone of a donkey, it is said, God empowered him in wartime, to slaughter thousands of the enemies of Israel (Judges 15:15). His weak point was Delilah, a pagan woman, who eventually betrayed him, by getting him to reveal the secret of his strength: his long hair of the Nazirite vow, which he had kept from his birth, by the command of an angel to his parents (Judges 16:19).

Samuel, who is considered the last of the judges, is the first we know to start a prophetic order in Israel, called “the Sons of the Prophets” (1 Sam. 10:5). Although very little is written of Samuel and his prophets, the rest of Scripture looks back to him as one of the shining prophetic figures in the history of Israel, along with Moses, Elijah, Elisha, etc. A. B. Davidson’s Old Testament Prophecy says that his prophets were “cenobites” or groups of monks who lived together, perhaps in something like dormitories, or monasteries. There were no solitary hermits among them that we know of. It is said that this provides a basis for the practice of monks and monasteries in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Samuel probably trained and disciplined his prophets to be strict followers of the Law of Moses, scribes of the Scriptures, preachers of righteousness, “revivalists” in Israel, examples of godliness, and holiness. But on the mystical side, no doubt, he taught them to value dreams, visions, and listening to the voice of the Lord in meditation, contemplation, and prayer. It is probable they regularly prayed for healing, and perhaps cast out demons. They knew of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, through ecstatic praise and worship, similar to that of Pentecostals and Charismatics. Samuel’s prophets, and not Samuel only, but others of his community (for example: Gad the seer, and Nathan the prophet), also served as spiritual advisors to the royal court. Gad was even called “David’s seer” (1 Chron. 21:9); and we know that Samuel anointed both King Saul and King David as the divinely appointed rulers over Israel.

Elijah, in the prophetic hall of fame, came to be regarded as second in rank to Moses, because of the level of righteousness and miraculous power he attained in his life. This is evident in the transfiguration of Christ, when Moses and Elijah appeared to Him on the mount, typifying the Law and the Prophets, putting their stamp of approval on Christ. Elijah had either taken charge of “the Sons of the Prophets” group that Samuel had started hundreds of years earlier, or had started a new group by that same name. But here we see the same monk-like cenobite principle. Before Elijah is taken up into Heaven at the end of his life by a chariot of fire, he goes on a circuit, with Elisha his right hand man, and visits all of the prophetic communities scattered throughout the land of Israel. Elijah’s greatest claim to fame is in 1 Kings 18, when he confronted the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, and in a great act of faith and obedience to God, prays that God would send down fire from Heaven to burn up his sacrifice in front of all the pagan Israelites, that they would be converted. After the people convert, a three year drought was quenched by the intercession of Elijah, which, three years earlier, he had been told by God to warn King Ahab that his paganism was cursing the country, and only at the word of Elijah would the drought be stopped.

Elisha, the prophet who was second in succession to Elijah, became the leader of “the Sons of the Prophets” after the departure of his mentor. Before Elijah was taken in up the whirlwind and fiery chariot—truly an astounding sight—his spiritual son asked him if he could be imparted a “double portion of his spirit” (2 Kings 2:9). Elijah told him, “If you see me taken up, then will have what you ask.” He saw it happen; and after this, he took Elijah’s mantle, which might have been a prayer shawl, and whipped it on the river, which then split in half (like the Red Sea did with Moses), and this miracle being witnessed by a group of prophets, said, “The spirit of Elijah is upon Elisha!” Elisha performed many miracles, which are recorded in the Bible. He rose the dead, healed a man with leprosy, multiplied food, made an axe head float in water, cursed a gang in the name of Lord which made two bears instantly come out of the woods to attack them, saw an army of angels, gave words of knowledge to the captain of Israel, and many other supernatural exploits. It’s clear that many of the miracles performed by Jesus, were foreshadowed by Elisha; the greatest of which, is the power of resurrection.

In the eighth century B.C., there were many writing prophets who either directly wrote down their dreams and visions, or interpreted and put them to poetry, perhaps a “dream poem” style. Much of this content had to do with how Israel was being unfaithful to the Lord’s covenant that Moses had made with them, and that God was calling them to repentance, and He would threaten various judgments upon the people if they remained unrepentant. A judgment that would often be mentioned would be the rise of the Assyrians or Babylonians to come and raid them, or destroy them, and carry them away to slavery in a faraway land. There would also be prophecies and “judgment poems” against the other pagan nations of the near East, for all of their sins. To this category of prophets would be the “major prophets”: Isaiah, Jeremiah (of whom we have the most biographical information among the prophets), Ezekiel, and Daniel; and the “minor prophets”: Amos, Micah, Habakkuk, Zechariah, Zephaniah, Hezekiah, Malachi, etc. In later Christian revelation and theology, the prophecy of Isaiah 53 would play a major role in understanding the cross of Christ as penal substitutionary atonement, Jeremiah 31:33 would be looked on as a prophecy of the New Testament that Christ established, and Daniel’s prophetic dream of the “Son of Man” was a figure that Jesus Himself frequently identified with (Dan. 7:13-14).

John the Baptist, a prophet who preached by the Jordan River, it is said after 400 years without prophetic light, appeared with a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). It is debatable about there being no prophets in Israel for 400 years. Actually, that was known as the Intertestamental Period, in which many apocryphal and pseudepigraphical books were written, which included visionary books. (1 Enoch is one of these books that even the apostles Peter and Jude quoted in their letters; and which the church father Tertullian held to be Scripture.) But with regard to what can regarded as the “canon of Scripture,” John the Baptist appears as the first prophet in the New Testament, and a bridge between the Old and the New, the “forerunner” of Christ. Malachi prophesied that “Elijah would come before the great terrible day of the Lord” (4:5). Christ said that John was this Elijah (Matt. 11:14); the angel that appeared to his father Zechariah, said that John would have “the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17):–that is, his ministry would be similar, although “John did no miracle” (John 10:41); he preached repentance to the apostate leaders of Israel (as Elijah did), he led a prophetic movement (as Elijah did), he wore a camel hair shirt to mortify his flesh (as Elijah did), etc. Jesus said, “Of all men born of women, there is none greater than John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11).

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to launch His ministry under the endorsement of John the Baptist. One day, while John was baptizing people, Jesus came to be baptized too. When John was reluctant to do this, Christ said, “It must be done to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). That is, far be it from Christ to need repentance from sin, He came to be publicly baptized by John to receive his anointing, his approval, his imprimatur, and for John to point his people to Christ. So, John said, “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30). The Gospel message that God was revealing in those days would find its completion in Christ. John preached water baptism, repentance, and forgiveness of sins; Jesus would make the soteriology of the Gospel complete after His death and resurrection were complete: turning away from sin (repentance), faith in the cross (penal substitutionary atonement), forgiveness of sins (justification), being born again to a new Christian life of righteousness (regeneration), and continuing to grow in faith and loving obedience to God’s commandments (sanctification). John could point to Christ as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29), but only after His death on the cross was accomplished, could Christ say, “It is finished” (John 19:30):–that is, the atonement for the sins of all mankind. It is hard for Christians to think of Jesus as a prophet, because we worship Him as God, the Second Person of the Trinity:–but it is also true that in His very humanity, He was “the Prophet” spoken of by Moses centuries before (Deut. 18:18). This means Jesus “saw the form of the Lord” like Moses did, because Moses said “the Prophet” would be like him; but also, we may assume our Lord had many divine dreams and visions and voices from the Holy Spirit and angels, during His lifetime. He said once, “I only do what I see My Father doing” (John 5:19):–some understand this to mean, what Christ saw His Father doing in visions. Many of the parables of Jesus, which many did not understand, because they were spiritual lessons, could have come from symbolic dreams and their interpretation.

The apostles of Christ could be put into the category of “prophets,” although such language is sparse in the New Testament. However, Christ said to the Pharisees, “I am sending you prophets and teachers, many of whom you will reject and kill” (Matt. 23:34). By this He meant the apostles and disciples. Peter, James, and John saw the transfiguration of Christ, perhaps one of the most profound prophetic revelations in the history of the world, since Moses! They saw Moses and Elijah; they heard the audible voice of God; the glory of the Lord surrounded them; they fell into trances of the Spirit! (Matt. 17:1-9). Their religion was not made up, it was the result of their spiritual experiences and encounters with God:–prophetic encounters. Peter, in Acts 2:17 quotes the prophecy of Joel which attributes visions, dreams, and prophecy to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church at Pentecost; in Acts 10, after a time of fasting and prayer, he “fell into a trance” and saw a vision that led him to preach the Gospel to Gentiles. Paul was slain in the Spirit, knocked off his high horse supernaturally by the risen Christ, and appointed “the apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13). In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, Paul indicates he was taken up to Heaven in an out-of-body experience; he was so experienced with the gift of prophecy, that he was able to give directives to the church of Corinth, “concerning spiritual gifts” in 1 Corinthians 12-14. John was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10), and saw a vision of the glorified Christ, while he was in prayer. All the visions of the Book of Revelation were given to him; and he gave directives for spiritual discernment in 1 John 4. Philip the Evangelist was a prophet who also had four daughters who were prophetesses (Acts 21:9); he moved in power evangelism with healings, slayings in the Spirit, signs, and wonders; and was even transported by the Spirit from one town to another! (Acts 8).

The apostolic fathers, in the 2nd century A.D., were the next generation of church leaders after the apostles. Many Christians in these times were martyred for their faith; they were very hard times. But the persecutions enabled stronger faith to develop, and countless are the stories of miracles, healings, and references to visions during these times.

St. Antony of Egypt, in the third to fourth centuries, led a community of ascetics and mystics in the northern deserts of Egypt, called the Desert Fathers. Although for much of his life he was a hermit, a solitary saint, who meditated and prayed and encountered demons and gained victory over them. Many flocked to Antony over the years seeking spiritual guidance or healing. There was a short period of time in his older years where he went into Alexandria, Egypt and did some open air preaching, working miracles, and debated with philosophers and Neoplatonists. Athanasius’ The Life of Antony is a veritable manual on supernatural spiritual warfare with demons.

St. Patrick of Ireland, in the 5th century, was the first of a series of Celtic or Scotch-Irish saints who were on the same spiritual par with the Desert Fathers. They looked to the stories of St. Antony and his cohorts for spiritual guidance. The Celtic saints saw themselves as missionaries sent by God to bring the Gospel to the pagans of Ireland and Scotland. The religion of those times was that of the Druids, and they had wizard priests and witch priestesses, demonized with occult power, leading their religion for centuries. St. Patrick came in, as a Moses of Ireland, confronting the wizardry with the power of God, much like Moses did when he confronted Pharaoh’s magicians. On one occasion, Patrick successfully prayed for particularly hostile wizard to be flung up into the air, and for his head to be dashed on a large rock!

St. Benedict of Nursia, who lived at the same time as St. Patrick, was over in Italy forming the Benedictine Order. If you read Gregory the Great’s Life of St. Benedict, it becomes obvious that his life paralleled that of Elisha’s very closely. For centuries throughout the Dark Ages, the Benedictines came to define monasticism, Catholic mysticism, and sainthood.

St. Francis of Assisi, an Italian saint of the twelfth century, formed the Franciscan Order. They embraced “evangelical poverty,” practiced open air preaching, contemplative prayer, and other spiritual practices. St. Francis, it may be argued, was the mightiest of all the Catholic saints; it is generally thought that he is the model saint, the one who imitated Christ the most. Bonaventure’s Life of St. Francis is filled with visions, dreams, out-of-body experiences, and other prophetic experiences. His climactic experience happened near the end of his life, while he was in prayer on a mountain; during this retreat it is said he received the “stigmata”:–the supernaturally inflicted wounds of Christ in his body by a seraph angel! By this, he was made as completely Christlike as a man could be made in this life.

Hildegard of Bingen, a 13th century German leader of a Benedictine nunnery, was a profound visionary, healer, and exorcist. But because of this, she understood the continual sickness she had to be the devil’s attack, and God’s “thorn in the flesh” to check her pride, on account of all the revelations she had, and eventually recorded in her book of visions called Scivias. Gottfried and Theoderic’s The Life of the Holy Hildegard is definitely exciting and insightful spiritual reading!

St. Vincent Ferrer was a 15th century Dominican power evangelist in Spain.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, during 16th century Spain, founded the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), who started off as a mystical group who followed The Spiritual Exercises, and sought to encounter Christ through meditation. Later on, the order would be known for its mystical theologians (G. B. Scaramelli, Augustin Poulain, Albert Farges, etc), and its loyalty the pope.

St. Teresa of Avila, during 16th century Spain, along with St. John of the Cross, revived strict mystical piety through a monastic movement of Discalced Carmelites. She not only practiced contemplative prayer, saw visions, fell into trances, heard voices, and the like:–but wrote very much about her experiences, and guided her nuns to experience the same things. St. Teresa’s Interior Castle and St. John’s The Ascent of Mount Carmel are priceless books, on the prophetic experiences available to all Christians, yearning for a life of prayer and spiritual gifts! These and other of their works, would have a heavy impact on later Catholic mystical theology; and in a sense, would become the standard by which all Catholic theologians would judge spiritual experiences found among the saints.

Martin Luther, during 16th century Germany, received the revelation of justification by faith alone in Christ alone, as he was reading the Book of Romans. This caused him to break with the Catholic Church, start the Protestant Reformation, and found the Lutheran Church. Not much is known about the role of the supernatural in Luther’s life. For this interesting information, see Thomas Boys’ The Suppressed Evidence; and for other valuable evidence of the supernatural among Protestant reformers, see Jeff Doles’ Miracles and Manifestations.

John Wesley, the 18th century evangelist, open air street preacher, Arminian theologian, revivalist, and founder of the Methodist Episcopal Church (the Methodists)—is arguably the most prophetically accurate reformer to appear since Luther. (I understand this is a personal bias, because his theology and experience generally lines up with how my personal Christian life has been lived out.) Nevertheless, it is a historical fact, that his theology had a great influence on: (1) the Great Awakening through George Whitefield, (2) the Second Great Awakening through Charles Finney, (3) the Holiness Movement through Phoebe Palmer, and (4) the Pentecostal Movement through William J. Seymour. Wesley was preoccupied with itinerant evangelism and soteriology, so he was very intellectual and theological. But he was also an experiential Christian, and held some level of respect for “Enthusiasm”: or direct inspiration from God through visions, dreams, miracles, etc:–all of which he experienced, and are documented carefully in Daniel Jennings’ The Supernatural Occurrences of John Wesley. But Wesley was critical of the 1700s Quakers, in his day. He believed they had strayed from Anglican and Puritan orthodoxy, and exalted personal spiritual experiences over the authority of the Bible, rather than allowing it to be the standard by which spiritual experiences should be tested. Wesley’s soteriology is very sophisticated; over the course of his lifetime he developed an “order of salvation” for preaching the Gospel:–repentance, faith, justification, and regeneration (see Kenneth J. Collins’ Wesley on Salvation). In rare cases, he even believed that very mature Christians could experience “entire sanctification” or “Christian perfection,” in which the Holy Spirit is supposed to extinguish all inbred or original sin in the Christian. (I however, side with Luther, the Puritans, and Reformed theologians in that sanctification is only a growing process of love and righteousness, a continual fight with temptations, and that there is no perfection of holiness in this life; on just about every other soteriology issue, though, I agree with Wesley: of which another distinctive was, and which he agreed with Luther on, was that it is possible for a truly saved Christian to lose his salvation (apostasy): if he chooses to give into temptation, and live his life in persistent unbelief and rebellion, against the moral law and the Gospel. In this way, my view of salvation is similar, or even identical, to Assemblies of God, the Free Will Baptist Church, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.) To me, it is clear that Wesley and his circuit rider Methodist evangelists, had done a lot to restore apostolic 1st century evangelism: to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel” and “with signs following”! (Mark 16:15, 20).

Charles Finney, the 19th century upstate New York evangelist and revivalist, and leading preacher in the Second Great Awakening, proposed innovations or “New Measures” necessary for promoting revival meetings in the churches. After years of experience doing this, preaching the Gospel, with signs, and outpourings of Holy Spirit conviction following, he wrote down his ideas in Lectures on Revivals of Religion, which, when paired with Wesley’s Sermons on Several Occasions, became the theological and practical foundation of “modern revivalism”: 19th and 20th century revivalism ideas for revival meetings, street meetings, camp meetings, and evangelistic meetings which were practiced by holiness, Pentecostal, and fundamentalist churches. One of the distinguishing teachings of Finney was that of the “protracted meetings” concept. He taught, that if pastors wanted their congregations to experience true conversion and revival, then they would have to organize a series of revival meetings, lasting anywhere between one to two weeks or more (depending on the effectiveness of the sermons of the revivalist or evangelist). He also solidified the concept of a “revivalist”:–who, in his gift and calling, is technically an itinerant evangelist, but as a revivalist, his focus is on the conversion of hypocrites or false converts in the churches (not lost people in the world, as in the open air setting). He is to preach the moral law thoroughly (especially on those sins where the unsaved church members are most likely entrenched in), Heaven and Hell, repentance from sin, faith in the cross, justification (forgiveness of sins), and holy living (obedience to the moral law of God in Scripture and conscience). Finney was open to the supernatural, and Daniel Jennings’ The Supernatural Occurrences of Charles G. Finney catalog his spiritual experiences, and demonstrate that he was prophetic, and like Wesley, a forerunner to William J. Seymour and the Azusa Street Revival (Pentecostalism). However, BE WARNED that Finney accepted Wesley’s “Christian perfection” idea; and even rejected original sin (which makes him a Pelagian with regard to human nature). However, Finney can be tricky about grace and free will; sometimes he definitely makes appeals to the “influence of the Holy Spirit” in man’s salvation and sanctification, which is basically a Wesleyan synergism doctrine.

Faith Cure or the Divine Healing Movement, also in the 19th century, was an interdenominational Charismatic movement that was shared between holiness Methodists, Baptists, and Reformed alike. A. J. Gordon, the Baptist minister, published The Ministry of Healing, in which he argued from Scripture, reason, church history (Waldensians, Quakers, Methodists, Baptists, Irvingites, etc), and experience, that prayers of faith for the sick through the laying on of hands, according to James 5:14-15, can expected to have miraculous answers from God:–IN MODERN TIMES! It was the first serious attack on Cessationist theology from an Evangelical viewpoint. There had been other “Charismatic books” published prior to it, but this one gained such notoriety in the Evangelical community, that Cessationist B. B. Warfield felt it necessary attack in his Counterfeit Miracles. Others predated Gordon or ran alongside him in the teaching on divine healing, such as Carrie Judd Montgomery, Dr. Charles Cullis, Dorothea Trudel (who is considered the founder of the movement), Maria Woodworth-Etter, A. B. Simpson (author of The Gospel of Healing and founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance), and Andrew Murray (Divine Healing, etc). Pentecostals, and especially John G. Lake (see Roberts Liardon’s collection of his works), would advance the doctrine and practice of divine healing into the 20th century.

Evan Roberts, the young revivalist of the Welsh Revival (1904), was a Calvinistic Methodist who while at college, became obsessed with praying to be filled with the Spirit. Throughout the 1800s, there had been much talk about “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” as a second work of grace for entire sanctification, and spiritual power. After a few years of persistently praying for the baptism in the Holy Spirit (as a baptism of holiness—not as speaking in tongues), he received the answer to his prayers. For a series of nights, while he was sleeping in bed, he would suddenly be awakened in the middle of the night:–and the Lord Jesus would be standing at the foot of his bed! And the Holy Spirit would be hovering over him in waves; and many times, these waves of the Spirit were so overwhelming, that Roberts prayed for God to stop giving him so much of the Spirit, for fear he would die. The time came when he started to receive visions that directed him to churches for preaching. And eventually at one church in particular which became the center of a revival in Wales, called the Welsh Revival. The meetings at this church were prayer meetings, with times of singing, and preaching. Roberts, however, would be so filled with the Spirit, that there were many times, he would get into the pulpit and not preach at all. All he would do is pray or say a few words, and weeping and praying and confession of sins would sweep over the entire congregation for hours! There were also times when Roberts read hearts by receiving words of knowledge; the press writing of him as a “mind-reader.” These meetings that Roberts held in that church were so populated and frequent that the entire county of Wales was morally transformed; one significant sign was that bars closed down, and that donkeys didn’t understand their masters because they didn’t cuss anymore. The Welsh revival was one of prayer, the presence of God, holiness, and prophetic revelations.

William J. Seymour, pastor of the Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission in Los Angeles, CA, which housed the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909), and founder of true Pentecostalism; he was the son of slaves in Louisiana, but after the “Emancipation Proclamation,” he moved to Indianapolis, IN to find work as a waiter in some posh hotels. During this time he attended an A.M.E. Church and a Church of God (Anderson, IN), then called the “Evening Light Saints”:–where he was exposed to holiness preaching and learned Wesleyan theology. Shortly after that, he attended “God’s Bible School” in Cincinnati, Ohio, and sat at the feet of holiness preacher Martin Wells Knapp, who wrote several books Seymour was probably exposed to, one of which was called Impressions, and dealt with spiritual discernment, and direct revelations through visions and dreams and voices and signs. After spending a short time there, he accepted preaching opportunities in various black holiness churches. Eventually, he became an assistant pastor to the elder Mrs. Lucy Farrow in Texas. While living there, Seymour had learned of a new Bible teacher traveling around the county, giving temporary Bible schools on “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” and “speaking in tongues”—the man was Charles Parham. The godliness of Parham was questionable in several areas, but the idea of tongues that Parham was pursuing interested Seymour and Farrow. Seymour learned from Parham’s “Apostolic Faith Movement” that Acts 2:4 and many other places in the book of Acts, show that speaking in tongues is the Biblical evidence, or sign, of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Seymour accepted Parham’s teaching that there are three works of the Holy Spirit: (1) Regeneration/Salvation, (2) Sanctification/Christian Perfection, and (3) The Baptism in the Holy Spirit/Speaking in Tongues. To accept such a teaching was to break with the Wesleyan theological tradition, and the Holiness Movement, to which Seymour and Farrow were accustomed. But both of them pressed through in prayer, for the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and eventually received it, with the Bible evidence of speaking in tongues. Eventually, Seymour would be called out to pastor a black holiness mission in Los Angeles, but when he taught from Acts 2:4, he was kicked out of the mission. However, some of the people from that mission came with him to form a new Pentecostal mission: the Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission on Azusa Street, which would be the center of the international Pentecostal Movement from 1906-1909. Tongues were so strange, as were the physical manifestations of rolling, jumping, shouting, flailing, and dancing of the Pentecostal worshipers:–that these received most attention from The Los Angeles Daily Times, and were mocked in the most obscene and blasphemous ways: “Weird Babel of Tongues” was the first article they ran on the Azusa Street Revival. But tongues and physical manifestations were not all that could been seen at Azusa. There were dreams, visions, the voice of God, angels, demons cast out of Spiritualists, prayer for divine healing, miracles, street meetings, open air preaching on the street corners and at the railway stations. Frank Bartleman’s Azusa Street is the classic text on the revival, written by a firsthand participant, preacher, and observer.

Smith Wigglesworth, a Pentecostal evangelist from England who is a legend even to this day. He is most known for being a healer, even raising people from the dead, and having mastered the experience of spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. He is usually looked at as the model Pentecostal: what is possible for a Christian when he experiences the spiritual gifts. Stanley Frodsham’s Ever Increasing Faith is the classic collection of Wigglesworth’s teachings on various subjects ranging from righteousness, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, discerning of spirits, gifts of healings, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc. If there could be anything, however, that Wigglesworth was not a good example in:–it was that he was sometimes rough with the laying on of hands, and would thrust his hand at people, and even “punch” the devil out of them when praying for their deliverance! Truly, that should not be imitated. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal” (2 Cor. 10:4). However, much can be learned by reading his biography: Jack Hywel-Davies’ The Life of Smith Wigglesworth.

The Healing Revival (late 1940s-early 1950s), was a post-World War II movement of Pentecostal tent evangelists, traveling around America, praying for the sick, casting out demons, and giving words of knowledge. It was televised—obviously for its entertainment value. William Branham, Oral Roberts, Jack Coe, and A. A. Allen were the most popular among them, but there were many other “healing evangelists” whose “healing crusades” were carefully organized, and followed by Gordon Lindsay’s Voice of Healing magazine, and his Christ for the Nations ministry. The influence of John G. Lake and Smith Wigglesworth on this revival are worthy of note. But, the MORALITY of these men, such as Coe, Allen, and Roberts proved to be rather poor. Branham, on the other hand, seemed to have more integrity than the rest, but towards the end of his life, “went off the deep end” and claimed to be the prophet Elijah! Assemblies of God and Church of God (Cleveland, TN), once ardent supporters of the revival, eventually withdrew their support, and spoke against it, because of the emergence of “positive confession” and “prosperity gospel” teachings. Such teachings began to appear with Roberts and Demos Shakarian’s Full Gospel Business Man’s Fellowship International (FGBMFI) in 1951. These teachings were seen as not only heretical, but Roberts’ “seed-faith” teaching was seen as a ploy to rob congregations of their money, as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” are prone to do (Matt. 7:15). In the 1980s, Kenneth Hagin, who played a small part in the revival, would popularize the Word of Faith/Prosperity Gospel/Positive Confession teaching throughout Pentecostalism even more so. To me:–that makes these men FALSE PROPHETS! Although one must wonder about Branham, who had such a ministry in words of knowledge (and seems to not have jumped on the “prosperity” bandwagon):–could he just have been misunderstood? Could it have been that he claimed the “spirit and power of Elijah” had come upon him in the same manner as it did upon Elisha or John the Baptist? If that is the way we can understand Branham’s “Elijah” statements, as hyperboles, then it would seem to vindicate his ministry.

Dennis Bennett, the Episcopal priest, who in 1960, began the Charismatic Movement in Van Nuys, CA. At nine in the morning in his study room, Bennett was suddenly baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues! As far as I know, he had no connection to Pentecostals! What was alternately called the “Charismatic Renewal,” was a movement of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and the spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10:–only this time it was in the mainline liberal churches (e.g., Episcopal, United Methodist, ELCA, etc) as well as conservative Evangelical churches (e.g., Southern Baptist, Church of Christ, Church of the Nazarene, etc):–and even spilled into the Catholic Church! Books that were popular during the Charismatic Movement usually encouraged people to pray for the baptism in the Holy Spirit, to speak in tongues, or to use the spiritual gifts properly:–Dennis Bennett’s The Holy Spirit and You, John and Elizabeth Sherrill’s They Speak with Other Tongues, Larry Christensen’s Answering Your Questions about Speaking in Tongues, Don Basham’s A Handbook on Holy Spirit Baptism, etc. See the bibliography in the back of Robert Culpepper’s Evaluating the Charismatic Movement.

There was some difference of opinion over the meaning of the phrase “baptism in the Holy Spirit”—as there always has been, since the phrase started to reappear in the 1800s, during the Holiness Movement. Less people in the Charismatic Movement were willing to accept Seymour’s “three works of grace” teaching from Acts 2:4. Many did not see why it was necessary to believe speaking in tongues is the only necessary evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They reasoned, “Why can’t the fruit of the Spirit, or godliness, or love, or humility, be enough evidence of the baptism?” “Why can’t words of knowledge or healing be evidence—after all, the Bible asks, ‘Do all speak in tongues?’” “Didn’t we receive the Holy Spirit when we first got saved? Why then would we need the Holy Spirit a second time?” “And why would speaking in tongues have to be proof of the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life?” Others thought that speaking in tongues was just “too weird” for them, but they were open to feeling God’s presence in worship, or experiencing the spiritual gifts, like words of knowledge or healing. (Personally, I side with Seymour’s “three works” teaching on Acts 2:4, because I see regeneration as the indwelling of the Spirit in salvation, but the baptism in the Holy Spirit as an external experience of being “clothed with power from on high.” But those who disagree with Seymour’s view see the phrases “regeneration” and “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” as meaning the same thing in the Bible.)

Pros and Cons of the Charismatic Movement

THE PROS: (1) It exposed Christians to supernatural experiences of the Holy Spirit, who otherwise may never had the opportunity, due to their church’s traditions and doctrines. (2) It created a lot of literature on spiritual gifts, which now provide us with a very solid basis for Pentecostal/Charismatic theology; this was because many of the church leaders in the Charismatic Movement were highly educated seminary graduates, unlike those involved in the first Pentecostal Movement. (3) Because the outpouring of the Spirit was upon much of the sophisticated church crowd, they were more willing to be reserved, and follow Paul’s directives for “decency and order” in 1 Corinthians 14:40.

THE CONS: (1-2) The outpouring of the Spirit upon liberal Christian universalists, and on carnal church goers:–created the problem of a Gnostic New Age “Charismatic” Christianity on the one hand, and carnal Charismatics on the other, so that the Corinthian problem was renewed.

John Wimber, a musician formerly from the band called The Righteous Brothers, was converted to the faith in the 70s, and rose to a position of leadership in an Evangelical Friends church (Quaker); and then eventually in the Vineyard Movement, which was started by Kenn Gulliksen, in various home-based Bible study groups. Wimber had some connection with Calvary Chapel as well, but shortly crossed over to the Vineyard, because they were more open to the experiential aspects of Charismatic Christianity, and he had developed a strong interest in the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, desiring to see them appear in his congregation. In the 80s, he had the opportunity to teach an unusual class at Fuller Theological Seminary called “Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth”:–which caused a big stir, a Charismatic revival if you will, in both the Evangelical and Charismatic communities. This became Wimber’s launch into the spotlight of leadership in the Vineyard, which became the Association of Vineyard Churches, and the primary vehicle of the Third Wave Movement or the “Signs and Wonders” Movement. C. Peter Wagner, a professor at Fuller, maintained that the Pentecostal Movement, the Charismatic Movement, and the Third Wave Movement were “three waves” of the Holy Spirit’s work in the 20th century, and are all part of the same ongoing work. Theological aspects of the Vineyard, and of other independent Charismatic churches, that were influenced by Wimber are: (1) Evangelical/Charismatic Theology; unlike in the Charismatic Movement, which spread to all denominations, even liberals. The Third Wave was Biblically grounded, Evangelically minded, but Charismatically driven. In my opinion, this provided a healthy basis for a balanced approach to Charismatic Christian living, based on the Bible and experience of the Holy Spirit, so Biblical spiritual discernment can test and judge spiritual experiences. In this way, it was like Azusa Street Pentecostalism, grounded in Scripture. However, the difference between them, is that Azusa Street was more Wesleyan-Arminian, and the Third Wave is more Reformed-Calvinistic (as can be seen in Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology). Also, the Third Wave doesn’t insist on Seymour’s “three works” teaching on Acts 2:4, either. (2) Charismatic worship: raising hands, closing eyes, concentration on Christ, feeling God’s presence, speaking in tongues, dancing, shouting, and singing contemporary worship music, usually to a guitar and a “rock band” worship team. (3) Divine healing: although Wimber was aware of the various traditions of Christian healing, from Faith Cure/Divine Healing (1800s), the Healing Revival (1950s), Catholic Charismatic healing (1970s), etc. He synthesized and experimented with praying for the sick by the laying on of hands, and came up with the phrase Power Healing, which he believed was necessary for Power Evangelism, or preaching the Word “with signs following”:–these were the titles of Wimber’s two most popular books. (4) Words of knowledge through God’s voice and mental images (visions). Wimber did not go too far in this direction, however; his forte was in divine healing. The issue of prophecies and revelations would be passed on to Mike Bickle.

Mike Bickle, now the pastor of the International House of Prayer-Kansas City (IHOP-KC), around 1983, was visited by a man named Bob Jones. Jones was an unusual character, difficult to understand at times, because of his often mysterious and symbolic expressions. Eventually he told Bickle, “Before the first rain of Spring, you will acknowledge that I am a prophet.” This was the beginning of the Prophetic Movement, which would eventually spread into the Vineyard churches, and come under John Wimber’s oversight. The primary characteristic of the prophetic movement were words of knowledge demonstrated as a supernatural reality to Bickle, who had come from a Cessationist Presbyterian church background. Bob Jones and another man–a former healing evangelist named Paul Cain–from the Healing Revival, were the two most popularized and gifted in the words of knowledge during the 80s. Both Jones and Cain had been influenced at one point in their lives by the word of knowledge gifting operating in William Branham, during the Healing Revival; in a way, and even to this day, some in the Prophetic Movement see themselves as carrying on Branham’s prophetic anointing to the next generation. The reality came home clearly to Bickle and others in his connection that words of knowledge are frequently received by means of visions (open or closed eyes), dreams, and internal voices. Very rarely is there an audible voice of God or a trance. And seldom can intuitive “impressions” be trusted. There are such things as “signs” that confirm by a meaningful coincidence, or even a series of such events, that firmly establish a spiritual experience like a prophetic dream, to in fact be a divine revelation received and believed and obeyed in faith, provided it lines up with Scripture; for extra careful Biblical exegesis on prophecy and personal application, Wayne Grudem’s The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today was used often by Vineyard pastors. Eventually Jones and Cain fell into sexual sin, and were disciplined, by Wimber and Bickle; Cain, however, had a hard time accepting the discipline, because he claimed the accusations were totally wrong, and that he was not gay, just celibate (homosexuality was the sin he was disciplined for). Cain left the church and rarely showed his face again. Wimber, in order not to bring shame on the Vineyard, decided to disband Bickle’s church, and stop involving himself in the Prophetic Movement. Instead, Wimber returned to his original emphasis of divine healing. On the other hand, Mike Bickle’s Growing in the Prophetic (1996) was written to help seers, prophets, dreamers, and visionaries in the Charismatic churches to hone in on their gift, or to pray for the gift, or have sharper spiritual discernment, avoid pitfalls, and misinterpretations of revelations, and how to implement words of knowledge into a church service, all the while maintaining “decency and order.” It wasn’t the first book of its kind, but was certainly at the top of the list in priority, because Bickle himself wrote it, based on his personal experiences of pastoring and prophetic ministry.

John Arnott, pastor of Toronto Airport Vineyard Church, in 1994, invited minister Randy Clark to speak, who had attended a revival meeting by Rodney Howard-Browne. Clark, after speaking, prayed for the people to be filled with the Spirit, and many were slain in the Spirit at the same time! This came to be called the “Toronto Blessing,” and like the Azusa Street Revival, it had people traveling from all over the world to experience the power of God. There were physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s presence like shaking, shouting, rolling, quaking, “drunkenness,” crying, and yes—hysterical “holy laughter.” All these things were justified by Dr. Guy Chevreau’s Catch the Fire, which makes the case that these manifestations appeared under the ministries of Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, and George Whitefield, during the Great Awakening, and Methodist Revival in the 18th century. There were also strange ecstatic “animal sounds” which caused much controversy, and stirred suspicion that the revival was demonic; such animal sounds were imitated by Spiritualists who had tried to cause trouble at Azusa Street. Arnott, however, interpreted them in his church, as prophetic and symbolic—from the Holy Spirit. (Personally, I think ecstatic animal sounds have more of an occult root than anything else: in my assessment, instead of being called the “Toronto Blessing,” it should have been called the “Mixed Blessing”; but John Arnott’s The Father’s Blessing defends all of the revival’s experiences.)

Kris Vallotton, in the early 2000s, was appointed to be the director of the “School of Supernatural Ministry” at Bethel Church in Redding, CA. This church was founded by Pastor Bill Johnson, and was originally an Assemblies of God church. In 1995, Johnson had attended the Toronto Blessing revival meetings, in search for the experience of God’s power. Johnson experienced nothing during the meetings, but he was impressed enough by what he saw to devote the rest of his life to cultivating the supernatural in the church and the body of Christ at large. Bethel Church started off with a strong emphasis on divine healing after Johnson’s new vision for supernatural ministry; and then, eventually words of knowledge and prophetic ministry, became a focus. This is when Johnson brought Kris Vallotton, who wrote Basic Training for the Prophetic Ministry, to Bethel’s Bible school of “Supernatural Ministry” to train and equip ministers to receive words of knowledge and prophesy them to people on the streets for witnessing, or in church services for divine healing purposes!

Pros and Cons of the “Signs and Wonders” Movement

In my view, there are plusses and minuses, positives and negatives, pros and cons of the present-day “Signs and Wonders” Movement (aka. Third Wave/Neocharismatic), which began in the 80s, through John Wimber and the Vineyard churches.

THE PROS: (1) Books on prophecy have been produced by Biblical exegetes to show Christians just exactly, and specifically how the Holy Spirit directly speaks to man: by visions, dreams, and the still small voice, and this is developed through various forms of prayer and contemplation. (2) Books on healing have been produced for our generation which point us to sound, practical, useable principles, that can be implemented to pray for the sick by laying on of hands, and expect miracles, and increase our faith in the God of the All-Possible. (3) The reality of God, angels, and demons are things that cannot be replaced by book learning and sermons. They have to be EXPERIENCED; and because the faith of the people in this movement is so high in the supernatural, their spiritual experiences and prophetic revelations are abundant; and this is something like the Book of Acts, which is wonderful. We need all the Charismatic experiences, spiritual gifts, and miracles we can get in this atheistic and secular age, that tends to think of everything in the world by means of a “natural” scientific explanation (naturalism). To experience God and the spirit world, as this movement allows, is to truly open the way up to genuine, authentic, EXPERIENTIAL FAITH in the truth of Scripture!

THE CONS: (1) Carnality, or moral laxity, has been present since the Charismatic Movement began in 1960. “Charismatics” have been known for their loose morals, compared to the “legalistic” Wesleyan Pentecostal “holy rollers” at Azusa Street. This “carnal Charismatic” mentality passed over into the Vineyard, the Third Wave, and the “Signs and Wonders” Movement as well. Examples of Carnality among Charismatics: Having Bible studies in a pub, pints of beer at Vineyard church leaders meetings, speaking in tongues in church, smoking in the church parking lot, women dressing “sexy” at church and elsewhere, or going public swimming, and wearing bikinis, showing off skin, or wearing tight clothing during church services; cussing is something I once witnessed a Charismatic youth pastor, not only do, but philosophically defend; watching ungodly movies, TV shows, and listening to music with ungodly lyrics, fornication, adultery, and homosexuality among church leaders, covetousness based on the Prosperity Gospel, stealing from church treasuries among high-level church leaders, false prophecy, false healings, false slain in the Spirit (courtesy falls), etc. There’s less of a willingness to practice self-denial, or have a prayer life and fast; and almost a self-gratifying, selfish, entertainment-worshiping Americanism that hasn’t been shaken off; and a lot of this, I think is due to “cheap grace” theology—dead faith without works. And it just so happens these carnal Christians, which according to strict soteriology, means they’re not in the way of salvation, still yet received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and so, they fall prey to speaking in tongues with pride, and making others feel inferior they too don’t speak in tongues or experience visions and dreams and miracles, rather than encouraging them to pray for them. “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and work miracles?…and He will say, ‘Depart from Me you who practice lawlessness, I never knew you!” (Matt. 7:22-23). (2) Selling Charismatic books and tapes for high prices seems to have been going on since the first “Charismatic conferences” in the 60s. It is a Charismatic spin-off of the New Age seminar format; sometimes these conferences, even today, can cost hundreds of dollars to attend for a two-day weekend retreat; and that’s not including the hundreds of dollars of books and tapes that might be purchased. This is the sin of SIMONY, trying to buy the power of the Holy Spirit for a price like Simon the Sorcerer did; pagan, pagan, pagan! New Age seminar influence. (3) New Age theology influence (sometimes) is a problem with some Charismatic or modern “Signs and Wonders” teachers. Some of this is an accident, because some of these teachers who receive these gifts of the Spirit, like Patricia King, were formerly practicing psychics in the New Age Movement. After they came to Jesus, and repented of their witchcraft, they were left open to the gifts of the Spirit. They began to receive words of knowledge and easily move in faith for healing and miracles, only in the name of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit. But even after all this, there is sometimes a residue of New Age doctrines that remain with Charismatics, and you need to be careful about this. Read Clifford Wilson and John Weldon’s Occult Shock and Psychic Forces, Douglas Groothuis’ Unmasking the New Age and Confronting the New Age, Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon’s The Seduction of Christianity, and Josh McDowell’s Handbook of Today’s Religions, Part 2: “Understanding the Occult”—these five books should provide you with plenty of spiritual discernment about New Age doctrines, that still might be floating around teachers in the Charismatic Movement, the “Signs and Wonders” Movement, the Prophetic Movement, the Third Wave, and the Vineyard churches. I say, this is usually an accidental thing, because most New Age thought is based in Hinduism; and no serious Charismatic Christian would knowingly accept a Hindu belief. But the New Age Movement is very popular, and very subtle, and a lot of its ideas creep in without notice sometimes. But then there are intentionally universalist, pluralistic New Age “Charismatics” like Morton Kelsey (supports yoga meditation for Christians), or various authors published by Paulist Press—the Catholic Charismatic publisher, who knowingly allow a melding between Buddhist meditation, Hindu spirituality, and Charismatic Christianity—these people usually follow the lead of Thomas Merton and the “Centering Prayer” Movement in the Catholic Church, which Pope Benedict XVI called heretical.

30 Books to Glean from Charismatic Church History

  1. Athanasius’ The Life of Antony
  2. Gregory the Great’s Life of St. Benedict
  3. Bonaventure’s Life of St. Francis
  4. Gottfried and Theoderic’s The Life of the Holy Hildegard
  5. Hildegard of Bingen’s Scivias
  6. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius
  7. Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle
  8. John of the Cross’ The Ascent of Mount Carmel
  9. The Suppressed Evidence
  10. The Scots Worthies
  11. G. B. Scaramelli’s A Handbook of Mystical Theology
  12. Daniel Jennings’ The Supernatural Occurrences of John Wesley
  13. Daniel Jennings’ The Supernatural Occurrences of Charles G. Finney
  14. A. J. Gordon’s The Ministry of Healing
  15. Augustin Poulain’s The Graces of Interior Prayer
  16. Albert Farges’ Mystical Phenomena
  17. Frank Bartleman’s Azusa Street
  18. Stanley Frodsham’s Ever Increasing Faith
  19. Dennis Bennett’s The Holy Spirit and You
  20. John and Elizabeth Sherrill’s They Speak with Other Tongues
  21. Larry Christensen’s Answering Your Questions about Speaking in Tongues
  22. Don Basham’s A Handbook on Holy Spirit Baptism
  23. John Wimber’s Power Evangelism
  24. John Wimber’s Power Healing
  25. Wayne Grudem’s The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today
  26. Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology
  27. Mike Bickle’s Growing in the Prophetic
  28. Guy Chevreau’s Catch the Fire
  29. Kris Vallotton’s Basic Training for the Prophetic Ministry

Bibliography for This Article

Aumann, Jordan. Christian Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition.
Davidson, A. B. Old Testament Prophecy.
De Voragine, Jacobus. The Golden Legend.
Doles, Jeff. Miracles and Manifestations.
Farges, Albert. Mystical Phenomena.

Holt, Bradley. Thirsty for God: A Brief History of Christian Spirituality.
Hyatt, Eddie. 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity.
Jackson, Bill. The Quest for the Radical Middle: A History of the Vineyard.
Loren, Julia. Shifting Shadows of Supernatural Power.
Robeck, Cecil. The Azusa Street Mission and Revival.
Synan, Vinson. In the Latter Days.

——–. The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition.
——–. Century of the Holy Spirit. “Apostolic-Prophetic Movement.”

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