Fresh fire or false flames?
Are you ready for the third wave – again? You might recall that in the 1980s, C. Peter Wagner termed John Wimber’s Vineyard ministry the ‘third wave’ of the Charismatic Movement. Is it happening all over again?
Wagner claimed at the time that the first wave of modern stirrings by the Holy Spirit began at the turn of the century with Pentecostalism. This eventually led to the establishment of various Pentecostal denominations such as the Assemblies of God.
The second wave, which started in 1960, was the Charismatic Movement which, Wagner claimed, brought the power of the Holy Spirit to the major denominations. Then he added, ‘I see the third wave of the eighties as an opening of the straight-line Evangelicals and other Christians to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that the Pentecostals and Charismatics have experienced, but without [the Evangelicals] becoming either Charismatic or Pentecostal. I think we are in a new wave of something that now has lasted almost through our whole century’.1
High octane revivals
In 1994 the so-called waves of Holy Spirit visitation began to take a back seat to the high-octane revivals that swept across much of the world. The Toronto Blessing was the first such event to make headlines, when the Toronto Airport Vineyard church exploded with bizarre manifestations attributed to the power of the Holy Spirit – such as uncontrollable laughter and shaking, along with people making animal noises, swooning and being stuck to the floor by ‘Holy Ghost glue’.
These and other strange phenomena were claimed to be evidence of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. Tens of thousands ultimately came from all over the globe to catch the spirit of the ‘laughing revival’, bottle it, and take it home.
Three years later the Holy Spirit apparently decided to move south to Pensacola, Florida. There, at the Brownsville Assembly of God, ‘revival’ again broke out with even stranger phenomena than at Toronto – including reports that the Shekinah Glory had showed up at the meetings, not to mention angels. Again, thousands travelled to Florida to experience the supposed workings of the Holy Spirit.
Now a third ‘revival’ has broken out and is being called the third wave by ‘super prophet’ Bob Jones.2 It has occurred this time in Lakeland, Florida. John Arnott (pastor at the Toronto Airport Vineyard during the Toronto Blessing) says this is ‘another wave of revival … coming to North America’.3
This occurrence – now termed the ‘Florida healing outpouring’ – is being led by a 32-year-old Canadian evangelist, Todd Bentley, who heads up an organisation called Fresh Fire Ministries International.
He began by holding a week of meetings at the Ignited Church in Lakeland on 2 April 2008, but soon the revival (sometimes called ‘Fresh Fire’) apparently caught on and is now attracting up to 10,000 people nightly. Its popularity has been greatly enhanced by the church’s web site, web casts, GOD TV and numerous videos on YouTube.
There is really not much to distinguish this revival from the previous two except that, if anything, it is even more bizarre. Bentley is a wild man with virtually no restraint – and thanks to YouTube and the internet you don’t have to take my word for this. Just Google Bentley’s name and you will have at your disposal more crazy antics, all in the name of Christ, than any reality show producer could ever dream up.
Seeing through a glass eye (darkly)
Bentley claims that he has raised over twenty people from the dead and that one person has been so completely healed that he can see through a glass eye. He also reveals that the Lord tells him to kick people in the face and choke them in order to bring about the Spirit’s power in their lives.
He is big on visits from angels and is known for his trademark – a scream of ‘bam!’ when he supposedly ‘throws’ the Holy Spirit on someone, who then falls to the ground often in convulsions.
Bentley is closely associated with many in today’s false prophet movement.4 He also has connections with the ‘healing rooms’ of John Lake, as well as pretty much all wings of the hyper-Charismatic movement (by whatever name they might go).
That so many are being deceived by such frolics shows the level of biblical discernment (or lack of it) to which many claiming to be Christians have fallen. Just a quick reading of the New Testament would reveal that this revival is not of the Holy Spirit because it fails the test of Scripture. I believe A. W. Tozer had it right when he declared:
‘Any of [the teaching] that is good is in the Word of God, and any that is not in the Word of God is not good. I am a Bible Christian and if an archangel with a wingspread as broad as a constellation shining like the sun were to come and offer me some new truth, I’d ask him for a reference. If he could not show me where it is found in the Bible, I would bow him out and say, “I’m awfully sorry, you don’t bring any references with you”.’5
1. Peter Wagner, ‘The Third Wave? An Interview’, Pastoral Renewal, 8 (July-August 1983), pp. 1-5.
4. If you want to stay up to date on the latest prophecies pouring out of this camp, check the Elijah List at http://www.elijahlist.com.
5. As quoted in Larry Thomas, No laughing matter (Double Crown Publishing; Excelsior Springs, Missouri; 1995), p.67.
Gary E. Gilley