‘Apostle’ Joyner Meets Apostle Paul

April 30, 2007

This is my third post examining Rick Joyner’s teachings in his popular book The Final Quest, which records a series of visions Joyner claims God gave him. In this post, I will look at a conversation Joyner — who claims to be a modern “apostle” and “prophet” — records between himself and the apostle Paul during a trip Joyner claims to have taken to heaven. The conversation should raise several red flags, which I will point out below.

But, first, I need to point out that Christians should view conversations with dead people with suspicion since the Bible forbids “necromancy” (the practice of communicating with dead people). Deuteronomy 18:10-11 and Isaiah 8:19-20 So, the very premise of Joyner’s book — which records his conversations with several dead Christians — should raise a legitimate question of whether he is guilty of practicing necromancy or not. That issue aside, I will now raise other concerns about the specific content of the conversation Joyner claims he had with the apostle Paul.

I’ll start with some background. Joyner says he is walking through heaven when he runs into Paul seated on a throne. Joyner tells Paul that he is honored to meet him. But Paul tells Joyner that the honor is his since Joyner is one of the soldiers in the “last battle” (the last-days battle between God and Satan). Then Paul confesses to Joyner that he didn’t accomplish all God wanted him to do during his time on earth, saying, “I fell short of all that I was called to do” (see pages 131-133 of Joyner’s book). Paul then adds:

“By the grace of God I was able to finish my course, but I still did not walk in all that I was called to do. I fell short of the highest purposes that I could have walked in. … I had been given so much to understand, and I walked in so little of it” (page 132).

Red Flag 1: Joyner claims Paul confessed that he failed to complete his apostolic ministry.
I think Joyner is really going out on a limb to say that the apostle Paul confessed that he had fallen short of God’s call on his life. The Bible — including Paul’s own writings — gives no indication of this. Quite the opposite, at the end of his ministry Paul wrote: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Since the Bible gives no indication that Paul fell short, apparently Joyner expects us to take his word on this — based only on his alleged conversation with Paul.

Red Flag 2: Joyner twists Paul’s words.
Joyner also says that Paul claimed — at the end of his life — to be “the greatest of sinners” (pages 132-133).

Paul did, of course, call himself the chief of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15, but he wasn’t referring to his present status at the end of his life. If one reads that verse in context, it’s clear that Paul was referring to the time before he was saved, when he was guilty of persecuting Christians and blaspheming Christ. Read the context here: 1 Timothy 1:12-16. Yet, Joyner claims that Paul was speaking about the present, not past. Joyner says:

“I was being honest when I wrote near the end of my life that I was the greatest of sinners. I was not saying that I had been the greatest of sinners, but that I was the greatest of sinners then” (page 132).

I don’t understand why Joyner would twist Paul’s words like this — whether he does it intentionally or whether Joyner really doesn’t know how to read the Bible in context.

Red Flag 3: Joyner claims Paul confessed to being prideful.
Joyner claims Paul told him that, as an apostle, he started off being prideful, but grew humble (page 133). Joyner says Paul pointed to his own New Testament writings as evidence of this transition from pride to humility — saying that, at the start of Paul’s ministry, he claimed to be equal to the most eminent apostles, then Paul claimed that he was the least of the apostles, then he claimed to be the least of the saints and then, finally, he claimed to be the greatest of sinners.

But Joyner quotes these four verses out of context. When Paul said he was equal to the most eminent apostles in 2 Corinthians 11:5, he was defending himself against false apostles who were challenging his apostleship. When Paul said he was the least of the apostles in 1 Corinthians 15:9, he was saying that, apart from God’s grace, he didn’t deserve to be an apostle because of his former role persecuting Christians. When Paul said he was the least of the saints in Ephesians 3:8, he was again acknowledging his former life of persecuting Christians. And when he said he was the greatest of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15, he was referring also to the time before he was saved. Each of these statements was referring to different things. So, Joyner’s claim that Paul was admitting to pride — based on these verses — is off-base.

Not only does Joyner quote these verses out of context, but he also has his biblical timeline wrong. 2 Corinthians was written after 1 Corinthians, which means Paul said he was the least of the apostles before he said he was equal to the eminent apostles — not after — disproving Joyner’s claim that these verses indicate a progression in Paul’s humility.

Red Flag 4: Joyner claims Paul told him that Paul’s teachings aren’t part of the church’s foundation.
Joyner says Paul told him that many Christians are distorting Paul’s letters in the New Testament by misusing his teachings as part of the doctrinal foundation of the church. Only the Gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) can be used as the doctrinal foundation, according to Joyner, because the Gospels are based directly on the teachings of Christ. Joyner quotes Paul saying, “His [Jesus’] words are the foundation. I have only built upon them by elaborating on His words. The greatest wisdom, and the most powerful truths, are His words, not mine” (page 134).

In Joyner’s vision, Paul does admit that his words are Scripture and are true. But he downplays their authority below that of the Gospels. This is bizarre to me, as Joyner seems to be suggesting that the parts of the Bible written by Paul are less important or authoritative than the Gospels. Yet, there is no biblical basis for this. Paul’s teachings are Scripture, so they are equal to all the Bible’s other teachings. I don’t know why Joyner would want to downplay Paul’s teachings as he does.

Red Flag 5: Joyner claims Paul equates his New Testament writings with Joyner’s writing.
Toward the close of Joyner’s conversation with Paul, Paul tells Joyner, “Even in this conversation I can only confirm what I have already written, but you still have much writing to do” (page 135). First, I want to point out that Paul does much more in Joyner’s vision than simply confirm what Paul already wrote in Scripture. Paul tells Joyner many things outside of Scripture. So this statement isn’t true. Second, Paul seems to equate his New Testament writings with Joyner’s writing of The Final Quest. So, in effect, Paul is putting Joyner’s book on the level of Scripture.

Last Thought
I believe all these red flags should cause Christians to question Joyner’s claim to be a “prophet” and “apostle.”

Strange Doctrines

April 16, 2007

Final Quest In my last post, I began a critique of Rick Joyner’s book, The Final Quest. Although this book has been out for over a decade, it’s still very popular and is continuing to bring people into the apostolic-prophetic movement. Also, many of the book’s erroneous teachings are taught in apostolic-prophetic churches.

Rick Joyner headshot In the introduction to The Final Quest, Joyner (pictured here) claims that modern prophetic revelations — like the vision contained in his book — can’t be used to establish doctrine (teaching). He says, “We have the Scriptures for that.” The two purposes of modern revelation, according to Joyner, are to reveal God’s will about certain matters and to illuminate doctrine that is taught in the Bible.

Yet — despite what Joyner says — his book contains many doctrines not found in Scripture or that contradict Scripture. In this post, I will look at a few examples of each.

Doctrines Not Found in Scripture
• Christians will be assigned to various levels of heaven. The Christians who served the Lord wholeheartedly, and with the right motives, will dwell in a level closer to Christ’s throne and will enjoy more of His presence, according to Joyner. They also will have more glorious bodies than the less devoted Christians. Those who didn’t serve Christ wholeheartedly will be assigned to the “outer fringes” of heaven for all eternity — far from Christ’s throne and presence. But, first, they will endure a hell-like experience — which lasts for what seems like a lifetime — until they repent of their lack of devotion to Christ. Only then will they be allowed to enjoy the lowest level of heaven. (See chapter 4 of The Final Quest for this teaching.)

Although the Bible does teach that there will be rewards given out in heaven, it doesn’t teach that there are different levels or that some Christians will have more glorious spiritual bodies than others. It also doesn’t teach that some Christians will have to go through a hell-like experience. Instead, the Bible teaches that heaven will be a place of eternal joy and intimacy with Christ for all God’s people. And it teaches that there will be no mourning in heaven because Jesus will wipe every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4).

• Last-days Christians must submit to modern-day prophets to have victory in the final battle (pages 58-59). They should be dependent on the prophets like children are dependent on their parents, according to Joyner (page 60).

Yet, the Bible doesn’t teach that Christians must submit to modern-day apostles and prophets. In fact, the apostle Paul warns the Galatian Christians about false teachers who want other Christians to seek after them (Galatians 4:17).

• Christians should frequently interact with angels (page 71).

But nowhere does the Bible teach that angelic encounters are to become common or sought after.

Doctrines That Contradict Scripture
• Joyner teaches that marriages will continue in heaven (page 103), though Jesus taught that there will be no marriage in heaven (Matthew 22:29-30).

• Joyner teaches that Christians — during their earthly lives — can eat the fruit of the Tree of Life that was in the Garden of Eden (pages 35, 41-43), though the Bible teaches that we can’t eat of the Tree of Life until we go to heaven (Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19). In fact, after Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden, God put angelic guards around it to block access to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24). Yet, in Joyner’s vision, these angels allow Joyner to eat the tree’s fruit, which, according to Joyner, represents God’s love. Joyner said God told him:

This [fruit] is now your daily bread. It shall never be withheld from you. You may eat as much and as often as you like (page 35).

Seeking access to the Tree of Life — though forbidden by God until heaven — is a recurring doctrine in the apostolic-prophetic movement. I hope to address this teaching more in a future post.

• Joyner’s misinterprets the “parable of 10 virgins” in Matthew 25:1-13 (page 89-91). He says the five foolish virgins are Christians who wasted their lives by living for themselves rather than serving God. So, they are assigned to the lowest level of heaven. But, first, these foolish virgins must go to a place of outer darkness where they gnash their teeth, according to Joyner. (By implication, Joyner also teaches that the foolish virgins won’t be able to take part in the great wedding feast, since, in Matthew 25, the foolish virgins are barred from entering it.)

Yet — despite Joyner’s teaching — Matthew 25 makes it clear that the foolish virgins won’t make it to heaven at all. According to the passage, the five wise virgins are allowed into the wedding feast, and then the door is shut behind them (Matthew 25:10). The five foolish virgins will try to get in, but Jesus tells them, “I do not know you” (Matthew 25:12). So, these foolish virgins are people who don’t belong to Christ because they didn’t trust Him for their salvation.

All God’s people — since they’re all part of the bride of Christ — will take part in the wedding feast. No people in heaven will be left out of this festivity. Nor will any of God’s people “gnash their teeth in outer darkness” — as Joyner teaches — because this is a biblical description for hell. For more on this, see Hampton Keathley’s article, “The Outer Darkness: Heaven’s Suburb or Hell?”

I’m troubled that Joyner — someone who is considered an “apostle” and “prophet” — would be so careless with his handling of Scripture. The Bible warns that church teachers should be able to accurately handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

Strange Doctrines
The apostle Paul told Timothy — the leader of the church of Ephesus — to “instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines” (1 Timothy 1:3). Paul said these doctrines are based on “myths” and “mere speculation.” I think Paul’s command should be applied to many of Joyner’s doctrines.

There are other strange doctrines in Joyner’s Final Quest, which I plan to look at in future posts.

Rick Joyner’s ‘Final Quest’

April 9, 2007

Rick Joyner — co-founder of MorningStar Publications and Ministries based in Fort Mill, S.C. — is one of the most well-known leaders in the apostolic-prophetic movement and is regarded by his followers as both a “prophet” and an “apostle.” The Final Quest is perhaps his most popular book. It contains a vision that, Joyner claims, God gave to him to equip the last-days church for its final battle against darkness. The Final Quest is followed by two sequels, titled The Call and The Torch and the Sword. Together, these books have sold over a million copies.

Many people, including dear friends of mine, reported feeling very edified by The Final Quest when they read it. They appreciated the book’s heavenly perspective on the spiritual battle Christians are fighting on earth. It reminded them of the eternal significance of how we spend our time here on earth and the glorious rewards that await us. It encouraged them to be humble by reminding them that many of the Christians who will be the greatest in heaven will have been regarded as the least on earth. It also stresses the importance of simple devotion to Jesus and of love for others.

Concerns About Joyner’s ‘Final Quest’
I just finished reading The Final Quest and also appreciated these emphases in the book. The book also contains teachings, however, that should concern Christians — teachings that directly contradict the Bible’s teachings. Some of them are especially troubling and, I fear, will hinder many people’s relationships with Christ.

When I spoke with my friends about these teachings, they were surprised and said they didn’t remember them being in the book. This may be the case with other Christians who’ve read The Final Quest, so I wanted to point out, specifically, some of these troubling teachings. I will deal with one of them in this post and continue to address more in future posts.

I will dedicate several posts to Joyner’s teachings because of his influence in the apostolic-prophetic movement and because these teachings are promoted by other leaders in the movement. I’m not trying to pick on Joyner, but believe serious errors in his teaching need to be noticed so Christians won’t be misled by them.

For those of you who’ve read The Final Quest, I encourage you to go back and read the pages I cite so you can see these teachings for yourselves (if you didn’t already notice them). Note: I’m using the 1996 edition published by MorningStar Publications, so the page numbers may vary in later editions.

Joyner’s Troubling Teaching No. 1: He claims the book’s vision is more accurate and important than revelation contained in the Bible.
On the back cover and in the book’s introduction (pages 7-14), Joyner says he received the vision from God in parts — over a period of one year. He goes on to explain that there are “many levels of prophetic revelation.”

Joyner’s ‘Levels of Prophetic Revelation’

The first level of revelation is, what Joyner calls, “prophetic impressions” — these can be very specific and accurate when those who receive them know how to interpret them correctly. However, these lower-level revelations also can be distorted by the recipients’ biases and incorrect understandings, according to Joyner.

The second level of revelation is a “special illumination to our minds” given by the Holy Spirit, according to Joyner. He says this level gives us “greater confidence” in the “importance” and “accuracy” of the revelation. However, this level can “still be influenced by our prejudices, doctrines, etc.,” according to Joyner (page 10). He believes this is the same level of revelation the apostles received when they wrote the New Testament letters. Joyner’s exact words are:

“I believe that this was probably experienced by the apostles as they wrote the New Testament epistles” (page 10).

The third level of revelation is “open visions,” which, according to Joyner, is more accurate than the second level (the level at which the apostles received their revelation recorded in scripture).

The fourth level is a “trance,” which Joyner defines as “like dreaming when you are awake.” This is the level at which Joyner received the vision recorded in his book, according to Joyner. He says:

“The visions contained in this book all began with a dream. Some of it came under a very intense sense of the presence of the Lord, but the overwhelming majority was received in some level of a trance” (page 11).

The crucial thing to notice is that Joyner is claiming that the vision he records in The Final Quest is more accurate and important than revelation contained in the Bible. This should alarm Protestant Christians who believe that the Bible is error-free and the final authority for Christian teachings (doctrines).

Joyner’s Inconsistencies
After listing the different levels of prophetic revelation, Joyner makes two important qualifications. Yet, unfortunately, he contradicts both those qualifications in his book.

His First Qualification

Joyner warns that modern prophetic revelations can’t give new teachings in addition to Scripture. He says:

“I must state emphatically that I do not believe that any kind of prophetic revelation is for he purpose of establishing doctrine. We have the Scriptures for that”
(page 12).

He goes on the say that — rather than giving new doctrine — the purposes of prophetic revelation are: (1) to reveal the Lord’s present or future strategic will about certain things; and (2) to illuminate biblical doctrines we have not seen before.

If Joyner truly believes that modern prophetic revelations can’t teach new doctrines, then he should be commended for this. But, unfortunately, he contradicts this statement throughout his book, which gives many new doctrines that can’t be found in the Bible or that directly contradict doctrines taught in the Bible. I will look at these unbiblical doctrines in a future post.

His Second Qualification

Joyner warns that only the Bible is free from error, so he urges his readers to separate the “chaff” from the “wheat” in his written vision. He states:

“Only the Scriptures deserve to be considered infallible” (page 14).

Again, if Joyner truly believes that his vision is subject to error, then he should be commended for this. He should also be commended for teaching that the Bible alone is error-free. But he contradicts these statements by claiming that the level of prophetic revelation recorded in his book is one of the highest and most accurate levels — even higher and more accurate than New Testament scripture. So, Joyner seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Final Thoughts

Toward the end of The Final Quest, Joyner records a conversation he claims to have had with the apostle Paul during his vision. During this conversation, the apostle Paul equates Joyner’s written vision with Paul’s own New Testament scriptures (page 135).

Christians should be alarmed to see Joyner equate his own writing with scripture. Yet, he not only equates his writing with scripture; he actually elevates it above scripture by claiming that his revelation is from a higher level than the New Testament writings.

Given this troubling teaching, I was disturbed to discover that, in 2001, Thomas Nelson (a leading, evangelical Christian publishing house) published Joyner’s The Final Quest and its sequel, The Call, in a one-volume book titled The Vision. Either some editors at Thomas Nelson lack doctrinal discernment, or they were willing to set it aside to make some bucks. Either way, Thomas Nelson bears responsibility for promoting a book with such an unorthodox teaching (and other teachings I will discuss in the future).

Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed

April 2, 2007

Have you ever heard an “apostle,” “prophet” or Christian teacher warn someone: “Touch not the Lord’s anointed”?

Many church leaders — not just in the apostolic-prophetic movement — quote this verse from Psalm 105:15 when anyone criticizes or challenges their teachings or actions. Sometimes, they may quote the entire verse: “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.”

When quoting this verse, they usually imply or directly state that God will judge a person who criticizes them and perhaps strike the person dead.

Yet, they are quoting this verse out of context. The verse is contained within a psalm, Psalm 105, which is about God’s protection of the people of Israel and His deliverance from their oppressors. Just a few verses before verse 15, we can see that the “anointed ones” weren’t just the leaders of Israel, but all the people of Israel. The verse showed that God would not allow the people of Israel to be physically harmed by their enemies because He was divinely protecting them.

Yet, church leaders today who quote this verse don’t mention that it was referring to all the people of Israel. They act like the verse was speaking only about leaders — and that it applies only to them.

This verse has nothing to do with criticizing or questioning church leaders. In fact, many Bible passages warn us to carefully evaluate church leaders’ teachings and actions by Scripture. For example, the apostle Paul urged Titus — a church leader in Crete — to appoint overseers who would oppose teachers who were contradicting Scripture (Titus 1:9).

No church leader is above such scrutiny, according to the Bible. Even the apostle Paul’s teachings were tested according to Scripture by the people who lived in Berea (Acts 17:11). And notice that the Bereans were praised for doing this — they weren’t told to just accept Paul’s teachings because he claimed to be an apostle. If the apostle Paul’s teachings needed to be tested by Scripture, then certainly no teacher today is above scrutiny.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respect our leaders. The Bible teaches us to respect them. But showing them respect doesn’t mean that we don’t test their teachings and actions by Scripture. Our first loyalty is to the Bible, not them.

Also — this is a crucial point — the New Testament teaches that all Christians are the Lord’s anointed, not just special “apostles,” “prophets” or teachers. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians believers: “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

In case Paul wasn’t clear enough, the apostle John also taught that all Christians have God’s anointing when he said: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth … As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him” (1 John 2:20, 27). The reason John said this was because certain teachers were falsely claiming they had a special anointing that set them apart from other Christians — the same thing some leaders are claiming today.

So, according to the Bible, all Christians have an anointing. This is a beautiful truth. Let it sink in.

We all, if we belong to Christ, have God’s anointing — not just Christian leaders. Yet, often, “apostles,” “prophets” and teachers try to act like they have a higher status with God than other Christians. This reveals pride on their part. Yet, one of the most important qualities that a church leader is supposed to possess, according to the Bible, is humility. It is a characteristic of our Lord who told his disciples that their lives — like His — were to be marked by humility and loving service (Mark 10:42-45).

I get concerned when I see church leaders act like only they have God’s anointing and that people who want the anointing must get it from them. All Christians have special status with God because of their relationship with Christ. All Christians have the Holy Spirit living inside them. Please don’t ever let anyone rob you of that.

And be careful if you hear a church leader quote “Touch not the Lord’s anointed” when someone criticizes or challenges them. They are using a common and unbiblical scare tactic to silence their critics.