Readying the Bride of Christ

February 26, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream. I want to share it with readers because I hope it will give insight into my reasons for starting this blog.

I’ve been told that some readers of this blog — members of apostolic-prophetic churches — have been really offended by things I’ve written. This has troubled me because my goal isn’t to offend my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I haven’t updated my blog in the past couple weeks because I wanted to take some time to pray and think about how I can more lovingly and clearly present my concerns about the apostolic-prophetic movement without turning people off. I thought the best way to do that might be to share my dream.

My Dream
Bride I dreamt it was my wedding day. I was busy doing other things when, suddenly, I realized I hadn’t given myself enough time to get dressed for the ceremony.

The guests were gathered inside the church, and the groom was waiting for me at the front. Then, I could hear the piano music start to play. I panicked. I knew that after just a few songs, it would be my cue to walk down the aisle. But I wasn’t even in my wedding dress yet.

I looked down at the street clothes I had on and wondered if I could get by wearing them during the ceremony. But I knew I couldn’t do that: my groom was dressed in a tuxedo. So, I quickly put on my wedding dress. But, it was heavily wrinkled and looked shabby. I hadn’t bothered to have it steam cleaned beforehand.

Then, I looked down at my feet and realized I had forgotten to bring my fancy shoes. I would have to go barefoot. I hoped my long dress would cover my feet so no one would see them.

When I looked in the mirror, I saw my hair wasn’t fixed and my makeup wasn’t on. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I knew my groom would be hurt to find out that I didn’t value our relationship enough to make myself look beautiful for him on our important day. I had put other things before him.

When I woke from the dream, I was sweating and my heart was racing. My own wedding, two years ago, made the dream seem even more personal and relevant to me. As I lay there thinking about the dream, I realized it had biblical symbolism.

Biblical Symbols of Marriage
We, the church, are called the “bride of Christ.” God’s intimate relationship to His people is described — in both the Old and New Testaments — in terms of a marriage (examples: Isaiah 54:5-7; Hosea 2:19; Matthew 22:2-14; Ephesians 5:25-27, 32; Revelation 19:6-9). When Jesus returns for His bride, we will celebrate a great wedding feast with Him (Revelation 19:9).

The Groom expects that His bride will be spiritually ready for Him when He returns. Being ready includes:

• Being dressed in bright, clean, fine linen (which represents good deeds) Revelations 19:6-8

• Having no blemishes or wrinkles (being without sin) Ephesians 5:25-27

• Being a pure virgin (being doctrinally pure) who is devoted to Christ 2 Corinthians 11:2-4. The Bible compares the teachings of false prophets to spiritual adultery (Jeremiah 23:13-14).

• Having oil (representing the Holy Spirit) in our lamps, like the five wise virgins who were waiting for the bridegroom in Matthew 25:1-14

Even though this gets away from bridal imagery, all Christians are supposed to put on the full armor of God that is listed in Ephesians 6, which — as in my dream — includes shoes (shoes represent sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with others, according to this passage).

How The Dream Relates to My Blog
When Jesus returns for His bride, it’s going to be too late to get ready for Him — as it was for me in my dream. I can’t forget the panic I felt. Yet, that feeling will be much more intense if we Christians aren’t ready for our Divine Groom. We must get ready now.

This symbolism motivates my ministry. I have great love for the body of Christ and want all Christians to be ready when Christ returns for us. I have a special desire to see the church be spiritually pure when He returns for us, which, I believe, may be soon. (See fulfilledprophecy.com for more on this.)

But false teachings sneak into the church and, sadly, even good Christians can be seduced by them. Paul told the churches in Galatia that he was shocked to see that they were embracing false teachings (Galatians 1:6-7). And even the apostle Peter began promoting false teaching until he was confronted by the apostle Paul (Galatians 2:11-17). If Peter — Christ’s chosen leader of the early church — could be temporarily deceived by false teaching, then no Christian is immune from it — not you or me. So, all of us need to watch our doctrine closely, as Paul instructed his young disciple Timothy (1 Timothy 4:16). I frequently pray that God will keep me from believing wrong beliefs about Him and the world.

That’s the goal of my blog: to help Christians guard against serious doctrinal error that can hurt their relationships with Christ. Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying that members of apostolic-prophetic churches aren’t Christians. Quite the opposite: many of them are sincere, committed, beautiful, loving Christians. I’m also not saying that apostolic-prophetic churches are the only ones with doctrinal error. Sadly, there are a lot of false teachings in the church.

The reasons I focus on this particular doctrinal error are because so few people are addressing it and because this movement is growing so quickly. It’s been embraced in many charismatic churches, which are the fastest-growing churches in the world, according to church growth researchers, like David Barrett.

C. Peter Wagner headshot Many of the Christians who attend apostolic-prophetic churches don’t know that some of the teachings are the same teachings of the Latter Rain Movement of the 1940s — a movement that the majority of Christians, back then, rejected as seriously errant. The “apostolic-prophetic movement” and “New Apostolic Reformation” are simply new names given to these old teachings. Don’t take my word for it: some of the most prominent leaders in the apostolic-prophetic movement, like C. Peter Wagner (pictured here), openly admit that their teachings are the same old Latter Rain teachings. (See Wagner’s 2004 book, Changing Church, published by Regal Books.)

One of these teachings is that all Christians must submit to modern apostles and prophets who have unquestioned authority and the ability to give new doctrine to the church that can’t be found in the Bible.

Of course, not all Christians who attend apostolic-prophetic churches accept this teaching. In fact, I believe that many members of apostolic-prophetic churches would strongly oppose it. But, some of the most prominent leaders in this movement, like Wagner, do promote this teaching. And Wagner’s teachings are entering many apostolic-prophetic churches — though the teachings aren’t always detected.

This is my concern. I hope my blog will raise awareness about such teachings so they won’t mislead people.

My Heart
Please — if I’ve offended you with my blog — I hope you’ll see that this isn’t my intention. Let’s discuss these issues together, and show me if I’m off base somewhere or if I’m ungracious. As Paul warns, I can have all knowledge in the world — including all doctrinal knowledge (which I certainly don’t have) — but, without love, I’m just making a lot noise. I don’t want to be a noisemaker.

I think my post called “Holly’s Top 7 Prophecies for 2007” was especially offensive to some readers. I meant to use humor to highlight some of the movement’s errors. Perhaps my poking fun was unkind and, if it was, I’m sorry.

Some of the comments posted by readers of my blog, sadly, have resorted to unkind personal attacks and judgments against people in apostolic-prophetic churches. I don’t support such comments and I’ve even deleted some that, I felt, crossed a line.

Yet, as long as the comments are civil, I rarely delete them — whether they’re made by people who oppose or support the apostolic-prophetic movement. That’s because I want this blog to be a place where people from all sides can come together and discuss these important issues.

I know that some people will perceive all criticism as unloving, no matter how gently it is given. But my prayer is that — in sharing my concerns about this movement — my love for Christ’s body will be apparent.

(* Photo of bride was taken by David Ball)

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Why God’s People Are Being Destroyed

February 5, 2007

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6)

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard modern “apostles” and “prophets” quote this verse in reference to their own teachings.

They claim Christians are being destroyed because they don’t embrace the “apostles’” and “prophets’” teachings. See an example here (from Jill Austin, founder of “Master Potter Ministries” in Laguna Hills, Calif.).

Kenneth Copeland I also heard this verse used the other night on Kenneth Copeland’s (pictured here) television program, “Believer’s Voice of Victory,” that aired on Daystar network. Don Colbert, a guest on Copeland’s show, was explaining the importance of eating all-natural foods. Colbert said that Christians are being destroyed (having health problems) because they don’t know the health risks of processed foods. Watch the Feb. 1 program here.

Using this verse to refer to healthy foods is ridiculous. And so is using it to refer to modern-day “apostles” and “prophets.” Yet, when a verse is ripped out of its context, it can be used to support any teaching.

Hosea 4:6 In Context
When we look at this verse in context, we see what specific “lack of knowledge” is being referred to. It wasn’t knowledge about modern-day “apostles” and “prophets” or about unhealthy foods. It was knowledge of God’s law (i.e., His Word). This is made clear in the latter part of the same verse.

The reason God’s people didn’t know His Word — according to the surrounding verses — is because the religious leaders (the priests and “prophets”) weren’t teaching it to them. See Hosea 4:4-9.

Today’s ‘Bible’ Teachers
Sound familiar? It should. Many of today’s religious leaders are busy teaching anything besides God’s Word. Of course, they claim their teachings are based on Scripture, and they hold and wave their Bibles — like Copeland does in his photo above — but that doesn’t mean they’re teaching the Bible. The verses they cite are often used out of context and, thus, have nothing to do with their teachings.

The real reason God’s people are destroyed today — as in Hosea’s time — is because they don’t know God’s Word. Thus, they are seduced into false and idolatrous beliefs. This breaks God’s heart, which is the point of the book of Hosea — to show how much God loves His wayward people and wants them to be faithful to Him.

On my blog, I try to show that the teachings of the apostolic-prophetic movement are based on Scriptures used out of context, like the teaching about Joel’s Army, which I wrote about in an earlier post. Read it here.

In fact, all false, heretical and cultic teachings are based on Scriptures that are misinterpreted and used out of context. That’s why it’s important for every Christian to know how to correctly interpret the Bible, especially those who teach the Bible. 2 Timothy 2:15 says that someone who teaches the Bible must know how to correctly handle it.

Correctly Interpreting the Bible
Bible scholars use a big, fancy word to refer to the study of biblical interpretation: “hermeneutics” (pronounced, in English, like “her men new ticks”). Don’t let that word scare you away: the principles aren’t too hard to learn. It’s a shame that they are usually taught only in seminaries or Bible colleges. They should be taught in all churches, Bible studies and Sunday school classes — even to children.

But, sadly, they’re not. As a result, many Christians don’t know God’s Word and are being led into the erroneous teachings of the apostolic-prophetic movement and other unbiblical movements.

Recommended Resources
Here are some resources to help you learn basic principles of Bible interpretation.

Book
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart: This classic book is used in many seminaries, but it’s written for laypeople to understand. See it at Amazon.com.

Web Site
Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry: This Web page offers a brief overview of the principles.