Should Christians Experience the Supernatural?

March 6, 2007

Charisma cover, Feb. 2007 The February 2007 issue of Charisma magazine (pictured here) featured an article by Patricia King, titled “Living in the Throne Room. King (a “prophet” in the apostolic-prophetic movement and founder of Extreme Prophetic Television in Canada) argues that supernatural experiences — like seeing the Lord on His throne, being visited by angels, or being transported from one geographical location to another by the Holy Spirit — should be a “normal part of a believer’s experience.”

This, of course, is a big claim. If such experiences should be a normal part of the Christian’s life, then many of us — myself included — are falling far short. Yet, this teaching is common in the apostolic-prophetic movement. So, I think it’s important to consider it. After reading King’s article, I found at least five key errors in her reasoning.

Error 1: She equates these types of experiences with God’s love

Patricia King headshot The first major error King (pictured here) makes is she claims that these types of supernatural experiences should be ours because God loves us.

She starts off this argument with a correct statement. She says that an intimate relationship with God, like a marriage relationship, should include experience of His love for us. I agree. In the Bible, we see that God’s people not only had sound doctrinal knowledge about Him, but they also had a loving relationship with Him. King David’s psalms express great depth of feeling and experience with God. Unfortunately, some Christians today stress the importance of doctrine, but they undervalue the roles of experience and emotions in our relationship with God.

So, King starts off correct. But then she makes a huge logical leap. She argues that experiencing God’s love includes experiencing the wonders of the heavenly realm, here and now — including God’s throne, angels and golden streets. She says that because God loves us, “we have been invited to discover and partake of it all.”

But King can’t support this teaching from Scripture. True, the church is called the “bride of Christ.” But we’re currently betrothed to Christ. The marriage — though certain — won’t take place until He returns for us and takes us to our new home with Him in heaven. Until then, we can’t expect to experience the wonders of our heavenly home.

I’m afraid many Christians may be burdened in their relationship to God because of King’s mistaken teaching. When they don’t have the supernatural experiences she speaks of, then they may feel disheartened that God doesn’t love them or that they’re not pleasing Him. But, nowhere in the Bible do we find that Christians should expect to see heavenly scenes or experience such overtly supernatural occurences during their earthly lives.

Error 2: Her main biblical support is a passage that she quotes out of its context

In her article, King says: “Not only are we to seek Jesus, but we are to actually seek the things of the kingdom — the things of the unseen realm” (emphasis hers). To make her point, she quotes Colossians 3:1-2, where Paul urges the Colossians to “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”

King’s argument hinges on this Scripture passage. But, when you read it carefully, in context, you may see that the “things above” do not refer to angels or throne room scenes. In fact, far from it — just six verses before this verse — Paul warns the Colossians about false teachers who were promoting angel worship and who were claiming to be spiritually superior because of visions they received. Colossians 2:18

The “things above” that Paul told Christians to focus on are the truths that (1) we have died to our old sinful nature, and (2) we have been resurrected to new life with Christ, which will be fully revealed at Christ’s second coming. As a result of these truths, we should no longer engage in the sinful things listed in verses 5-9, but we should do the holy things listed in verses 12 through chapter 4 verse 6.

So, the passage does not tell Christians to seek supernatural encounters — as King claims it does.

Error 3: These types of supernatural experiences were never sought in the Bible

King also fails to recognize that, in the Bible, God’s people never sought after these types of supernatural experiences.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t think of one instance where we have an indication that the prophets, apostles or evangelists sought out the amazing, otherworldly experiences they had. Instead, these experiences happened to them when they least expected it. Phillip was suddenly visited by an angel who told him where to go. Phillip didn’t seem to know that he was being directed to the right place at the right time to share the gospel with an Ethiopian eunuch. As soon as he finished baptizing the eunuch, Phillip found himself whisked away to another location. The angels who visited Abraham, Mary and the apostle John all showed up — seemingly unexpected. And the list goes on.

Error 4: These types of experiences weren’t typical in the Bible

King also misrepresents these types of supernatural experiences as normal occurrences in the Bible.

Yes, there are many miracles in the Bible. Yet, for the patriarchs, prophets and apostles who experienced them, they weren’t typical occurrences in their lives. Whenever Paul spoke of his Damascus Road encounter with God, for example, he always spoke of it with amazement. He didn’t treat it like it was no big deal — just another, run-of-the-mill supernatural experience.

Error 5: Supernatural experiences aren’t always from God

King, rightly, warns her readers that not all supernatural experiences are from God. Her article includes a 2/3-page sidebar, titled “Avoiding Spiritual Pitfalls,” that seeks to warn people of dangers they might encounter in the “invisible realm.” It’s good that she warns her readers of the reality of such dangers and advises them to test all their spiritual encounters by the Bible.

Although these warnings are great, I’m afraid King isn’t heeding them herself. Her Extreme Prophetic Web site and television program promote troubling “prophets” like Todd Bentley. Bentley claims to have supernatural encounters all the time. He says: “Never more than a few days go by that I don’t encounter third heaven and some kind of prophetic experience — at times it happens daily for months. Supernatural experiences have become part of daily Christianity for me.”

But one of the angels that Bentley claims visits him is an angel that was associated with William Branham’s healing ministry, according to Bentley. See Bentley’s report of the “angelic” visits here. This should concern Christians because Branham — a “prophet” in the Latter Rain movement — taught many false and heretical doctrines. See this source for more information. These false teachings include:

• Claiming that he was the angel in Revelation 3:14 and 10:7
• Claiming he was Elijah, who would precede Christ’s return
• Denying the Trinity and calling it a satanic doctrine
• Teaching that Eve had sexual intercourse with the serpent, producing human beings who are destined for hell, which is only a temporal place. But those who receive God’s seed (Branham’s teaching) are the “Bride of Christ”
• Saying that anyone who was a member of any denomination had taken the “mark of the beast”

• Giving a number of false prophecies about the end of the world
• Teaching that the Word of God had been given in two other forms besides the Bible: the zodiac and the Egyptian pyramids
• Some of his followers thought he was God or had been virgin born and, when he died in 1965, they believed he would be resurrected.
• Many of Branham’s critics believe he genuinely had a supernatural gift of healing, but that it wasn’t from God since he promoted heretical teachings

Bentley claims that, whenever Branham’s angel shows up at one of Bentley’s meetings, he gets a supernatural ability in his left hand to diagnose people’s sicknesses, and he also gets correct words of knowledge about details from their lives — just as Branham claimed. In the same article I linked to above, Bentley also talks about another troublesome “angel” named Emma, who I will address in a future post.

How can King claim to practice discernment in the spiritual realm, yet promote “prophets” like Bentley? This should alarm King’s followers.

Important Qualification
So, should we experience the supernatural regularly? My quick answer is “yes.” This may surprise you, given my above response to King’s article. But, it’s all in how you classify the supernatural. If, by supernatural, one means that we should talk with angels and take trips to heaven, then the answer — according to the biblical evidence — is no.

Yet, the Christian life is a supernatural life. First, our new birth is a major miracle — through it, we are convicted of and washed of our sins, we receive eternal life, and we are indwelled by God’s Holy Spirit who starts the work of conforming us to Christ’s image. After this initial miracle, our lives as Christians should continue to be characterized by the supernatural. Here are many types of supernatural works that Christians should consistently seek and see in their daily lives:

• Love for others, including our enemies 1 John 4:7-21
• Fruit of the Spirit, including love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control Galatians 5:22-23
• Conviction of sin in our lives John 16:8-9
• Gifts of the Spirit 1 Corinthians 14:1
• Assurance of our salvation by God’s Holy Spirit Romans 8:16
• Comfort from the Holy Spirit and direction to truth John 14:15-18
• Inner strength from the Holy Spirit Ephesians 3:16
• Guidance from the Holy Spirit Acts 16:6-7
• Power from God for effective ministry Acts 1:8, Ephesians 3:20, John 15
• Boldness in evangelism Ephesians 6:19-20
• Answered prayers (when they are according to God’s will) John 15:16, 16: 23-24