STRANGE FIRE. The Rise of Gnosticism in the Church.
Van Der Merwe, Travers and Jewel
Table of Contents
Dedication and Foreword 2
Chapter 1: Strange Fire 3
Chapter 2: Gnosticism 9
Chapter 3: A Gnostic Gospel? 14
Chapter 4: The Supernatural 20
Chapter 5: The “Elite” Concept 26
Chapter 6: The Mystic “Link” 31
Chapter 7: Spirituality 41
Chapter 8: The Exaltation of Man 47
Chapter 9: False Prophets 49
Chapter 10: Neo-Gnosticism 56
This Book is dedicated to Travers van der Merwe (1935-1995). The burning passion of Travers’ heart was to give a clarion call to the Church that he saw falling in line with Gnosticism and leaving the simplicity of the Word of God.
In severe pain he preached his last message on the subject of mysticism. After his departure from this life, the following definition was found in his
jacket pocket, in his handwriting:
“Mysticism: The timeless quest for higher/hidden truth, spiritual experiences and knowledge of God by using imagination, intuition, so-called’Holy Spirit revelations’ and subjective feelings rather than fact, reason and the undistorted Word of God.”
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is
that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there
anything whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old
time, which was before us. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)
Some books are written before their time. This is one such book. It was
never our privilege to know Travers van der Merwe but we had heard of his
exemplary walk before God and man while on Earth. While battling cancer,
a painful ordeal that lasted for many years, Travers and his wife Jewel
penned this book. He saw an ancient heresy arising in the modern Christian
church and it weighed heavily on his heart.
After the book was completed, it lay dormant for several years. In the
meantime much was happening in the Christian church nationally and
internationally to confirm that there was a revival going on – not
accompanied by repentance and a turning away from dead works – but of
Gnosticism has a chameleon-like ability to appear like the genuine article,
true Christianity, and thus has managed to transform itself to fit the times in
countless new wrappings over the centuries. It particularly adapts itself to
that place where the ideas of the east and west meet. Whenever eastern
mysticism and western rationalism collide, one can find there the seedbed
for a pseudo-Gospel that mimics the real thing.
Gnosticism is fool’s gold, shiny and beckoning on the surface yet phony.
Modern Saints are poorly equipped to recognize the counterfeit. Much
Gnosticism enters the Church via the popular Christian media, where the
real and the false get mixed up in a garbled soup of doctrines and teachings.
The rise of the New Age movement, and the extent to which it has permeated
Christian thinking, further clouds the issue. How is a Christian to sort out
these strange teachings?
When Jewel first sent us the unpublished manuscript for the book it was
because we had been asking her for more information about the rise of
modern Gnosticism. The book, she said, would answer many of our questions. Indeed, it did. So many, in fact, that we then began pressing her to let us publish the book. We believed that it should be widely disseminated and read by Christians who were seeking to understand their growing uneasiness with the “new” moves of God, signs and wonders, “laughing revivals”, and ecumenical unity.
Strange Fire is a brief, easy-to-understand book that explains how to tell the
Truth from the Lie. It doesn’t dwell on the spectacular manifestations, but
concisely illustrates modern Gnosticism. The real gold of the Gospel is
presented in such a way that it outshines the fool’s gold of Gnosticism.
Readers will have no doubt as to which is which. This handy tool enables
even the unlearned to discern Gnosticism the next time they encounter it.
This is one little book that may save many a soul from walking into the error
and falsehood so prevalent in our time.
Lynn & Sarah Leslie; December 1995
Chapter 1: Strange Fire
“And Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord, when they offered strange fire
before the Lord, in the wilderness of Sinai, . . .”
Even though Nadab and Abihu were the sons of Aaron the high priest, they failed when they presented their offering to God. They knew they were in the wrong. However, like Cain, they thought their way was better! They had obviously taken up with a “new thing” with which they thought God would be pleased.
God created man and woman to live on this planet called Earth. In his Infinite Wisdom, He set forth the laws of nature, looked upon His creation and was satisfied. He said, “it is good”. The universe continues day by day, ordered by God’s commands that issued forth in the first book of the Bible.
God’s Plan and Purposes
From the beginning God set forth His PLAN and PURPOSES in clear
unmistakable language. Beginning with His directives to Adam and Eve, and throughout Scripture, He did not do anything that was not explicitly laid out to His creation, who were the inhabitants of this planet. What an all-Wise and all-Knowing God! He made known His Ways to the children of men!
Every prophecy given in the Old Testament concerning the coming
of the Messiah was fulfilled literally and in minute detail at the coming to earth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. God’s PLAN and PURPOSES were on course!
Down through the annals of human history, man in his disobedience, has continually tried to take matters into his own hands. Eve desired to eat of the fruit that God had commanded Adam to avoid. Cain determined that his sacrifice was sufficient as it was the fruit of his labours. Even to this present day, man continues to try in his own strength to replace God. God is abandoned from his thoughts and replaced instead by his accomplishments.
Man becomes tired and impatient. He does not like to wait for God and
instead tries to help God along in His work. Man’s efforts at the best
are not sufficient! However hard he tries, his wisdom comes to naught.
Despite the attempts of mankind to improve on His wisdom and programme, the PLAN and PURPOSES of God move steadily forward with infinite precision. The courses of empires are ordained by God. All things are created by HIM and for HIM. Even the heathen king Nebuchadnezzar had to come to acknowledge this fact. After his humiliation he declared:
I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever,
whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from
generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as
nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and
among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto
him, What doest thou? (Daniel 4:34, 35)
Every Scripture concerning Christ’s return to this planet, this planet
Earth that God loves, will be literally fulfilled. God gave His Son, His
only Begotten Son to die for this sinful Earth in order to fulfill His
PLAN and PURPOSES. Because man was corrupt in all his ways
(having forfeited God’s commands and reign) God in His infinite
Mercy gave His only begotten Son to die for corrupt man in order to
redeem him and thereby fulfill His PLAN and PURPOSES.
The supernatural realm has always been held in fascination. Imagine
being able to partake of the supernatural! Experiences of the beyond
continue to titillate the imagination. Yet man was not created to live
in that (the invisible) realm. He was created to glorify God on this
Earth. Man’s obedience in the natural world and faith in God’s Word
serves as a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to man (1
Cor. 4:9). The supernatural realm regards God’s creation in wonder.
The angels are amazed at God’s glorious plan of salvation as they
see mortal man (through Jesus Christ) faithfully follow the Word that
God has spoken. As believers we are being closely watched by
angels and men – as the revelation of redemption unfolds as the
Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did
minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have
preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven;
which things the angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:12).
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the
heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom
of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in
Christ Jesus our Lord: (Eph. 3:10-11)
To live according to God’s PLAN and PURPOSES here on this Earth
takes faith! It is the faith of Hebrews 11 that trusts unquestionably in
the God whose mercy endures forever. In the face of trials, whether
by tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or
sword – we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!
The child of God rests in the knowledge that God is faithful!
Heresy Hunters or Bereans?
As menacing teachings permeate the fibre of the Church, there is a vigorous attempt being made to silence anyone who opposes the status quo! Labels are handed out freely if you question what is happening. The most popular label is “heresy hunter”. Anyone who does not “go with the flow” for unity is considered “divisive”.
Whatever happened to the ability to contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints? Many pastors who are “going with the flow” refuse to even read an article that will question some of the popular practices posing as “new revelation” and “deeper truths”.
When asked if they have read a book or an article documenting some of the heretical thoughts being propagated, pastors will invariably have several excuses among which are: (a) “the author only wants to sell books”, (b) “I’m too busy”, or© “I’m not really interested”. In the meantime the hole in the dyke has given way to an avalanche of false teaching and heretical thought.
It is frightening to realise that beliefs can be created merely by passively accepting information without attempting to analyse if what is preached or taught is truth! Unfortunately today much depends on the personality delivering the message. If it is a charismatic figure with a certain appeal, he/she can say anything they want and get away with it! The only criteria for truth seems to be if a book has been published and sold many copies, the author must be right.
This is why the knowledge of the Word of God is so important. It is
not enough to parrot off someone else’s teaching and sound like a
great name in miniature. Any man can lead you astray – no matter
how nice or how spiritual he sounds. You have to stand before God
yourself! The Word of God says explicitly, Study to show thyself
approved, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. (1 Tim.2:15).
Listening to hours and hours of tapes or watching “Christian TV” is not a substitute for honest and earnest study of the Word of God. Be like the Bereans who checked out everything they heard to see if those things were so. (Acts 17:10-11). They were commended for doing so – not told they were divisive, critics, fault-finders and “heresy hunters”.
An astonishing event was an outburst by Paul Crouch on the world’s largest Christian TV network as he denounced anyone who would speak out for sound doctrine and against the “gnostic” trends in the church today.. . . that old rotten Sanhedrin crow, twice dead, plucked up by the roots . . .they’re damned and on their way to hell and I don’t think there’s any redemption for them . . . the hypocrites, the heresy hunters that want to find a little mote of illegal doctrine in some Christians’ eyes . . . when they’ve got a whole forest in their own lives . . .I say, ‘To hell with you! Get out of my life! Get out of the way! Quit blockin’ God’s bridges!’ [CIB Bulletin, vol.7, no.7, July 1991]
There is a concentrated attack on those who have been labeled “heresy hunters”. Unfortunately there are those who hold to the contention that “most Christian truths were formulated and defined in response to heretical half-truths. Thus, heresy comes before orthodoxy – and may in fact be a precondition for orthodoxy.” [‘Confusing the Roots with the Fruits’, William L. DeArteaga, Ministries Today, July/August 1991, p.56]
The DeArteaga article also said that The critics have tragically misunderstood how the Holy Spirit accomplishes His work in instructing, reminding and moving the body of Christ into truth. From a biblical and historical perspective, the process is plain: The Holy Spirit sovereignly uses both heathen and heretics to move the church from a status quo of theological laziness and conventionally accepted error to a position of corrected, renewed and invigorated truth.
So the author actually says that:
The idealist cults understood the critically important role that the mind,
acting in faith, had in prayer and the miraculous – especially in healing.
Christian Scientists, regardless of their heretical view of sin and evil and
their muddled view of God, did have successes in their healing ministry . . . it was semipagan, but persistent enough to channel God’s healing power.
He continues by saying that New Thought leaders “moved steadily closer to biblical reality”. Among these he included Emmet Fox and Glenn Clark, yet he admitted they never separated from their Gnostic origins. In mentioning Agnes Sandford he said that:
Her healing theology might best be considered a second-level ‘Bible filtration’ by which the half-truths of Christian Science were discerned, separated and amplified in a biblically valid form for the Christian community.
So DeArteaga’s conclusion is that:
The church has experienced heightened power for ministry and
evangelisation – all because God chose to repeat the ironic heresy-before orthodoxy process that has occurred many times before in the life of the
church. [‘Confusing the Roots with the Fruits’, William L. DeArteaga,
Ministries Today, July/August 1991]
This is pure “Gnosticism” and it was in response to the impact of Gnosticism in the early church that the church decided on the “Canonicity of Scripture” and the “Apostles Creed”. Most of the heretical trends in the church can be traced to the ancient religion of Gnosticism. Benjamin Walker writes: “There are few unorthodox, schismatic or heretical movements in Christian history that cannot be traced back to gnostic sources.” [Benjamin Walker, Gnosticism: Its History and Influence, The Borgo Press, 1983, p.163]
This was precisely the philosophical and mystical religious concept of the Gnostics, propagated in John the Revelators day. It was called “the doctrines of the depths of God”, while in fact it was the doctrine of the depths of Satan. (Revelation 2:24).
What is Gnosticism?
Gnosticism was an esoteric religious movement that flourished during the
second and third century A.D. and presented a major challenge to orthodox Christianity. Most Gnostic sects professed Christianity but their beliefs sharply diverged from those of Christianity in the early Church. To its
adherents, Gnosticism promised a secret knowledge of the divine realm.
Sparks or seeds of the Divine Being fell from this transcendent realm into
the material universe, which is wholly evil, and were imprisoned in human bodies. Re-awakened by knowledge, the divine element in humanity can return to its proper home in the transcendental spiritual realm. [Gnosticism, Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, Vol.12, p.10]
The definition of Gnosticism is “a system of religion mixed with Greek and Oriental philosophy (1st-6th century A.D.), intermediate between Christianity and paganism, which taught that knowledge, rather than faith, was the greatest good, and that through knowledge alone could salvation be attained.” [Webster’s Encyclopedia of Dictionaries; Baltimore, Maryland, Ottenheimer, 1978].
Basically what is being said here implies that man’s redemption and
justification is not by faith in God according to the Scriptures, but rather in “mystical knowledge” acquired by a personal experience. This is the theme that is intrinsically intertwined in all the doctrines of the cults and occults.
The issues at stake are serious. It is not merely a “cosmetic” problem. The “roots” are not only being threatened, they are being “chopped off”. As this dreadful surgery is being carried out, the life is slowly sapped and in its place is another gospel. This is a gospel that puts man on the throne.
A gospel that does not need the cross, the blood or even acknowledge the deity of Jesus Christ.
The more you get to be like Me, the more they’re going to think that way of
you. They crucified Me for claiming that I was God. But I didn’t claim I was
God; I just claimed I walked with Him and that He was in Me. Hallelujah.
That’s what you’re doing. [Voice of Victory, Feb.1987, Kenneth Copeland
prophecy, Dallas, Texas]
This “divine utterance” is given in the first person. We must take this as Jesus Himself speaking to the Church. But, if Jesus didn’t claim to be God, who was He?
The Scriptures are very clear: Jesus is called God. Isaiah 9:6 says:
For unto us a child is born, and unto us a son is given: and the government
shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful,
Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
2. Jesus accepted worship. Jesus expressed to Satan in Matthew
Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Jesus accepted worship in Matthew 14:33:
Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, of a truth thou art the Son of God.
Are we to sit by and let these strange teachings develop without a word? Must we just ignore what is happening and smile passively in agreement without a protest?
A popular evangelist will stand before a congregation and ask, “how many here have read my books?” As hands go up, the evangelist will nod his approval and continue. He will give a Scripture text, but does not refer to it again. Instead he will quip out phrases that are met with cheering and clapping from an adoring audience. Before long it sounds like a pep rally with enthusiasts ready to jump on whatever bandwagon is presented with no thought to what has even been said.
The more vociferous the participants become in proclaiming useless
verbalisation of nonsensical half-truths, the more the cry goes out,
“Do not name names”. In other words, you can freely quote the
heretical statements, but just don’t let anyone know who is
preaching the error!
We have to use caution and not lump many names together and paint them all with a single brush. The Latter Rain Movement will be alluded to in the course of this book. Within the movement were many children of God who remained true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, there were those that started out well, but along the way were influenced by “strange” fires that has brought the church to accepting so many different teachings today.
Chapter 2: Gnosticism
The word itself conjures up an image of obscure men in long robes, poring for hours over ancient texts and scrolls, seeking in musty tomes the essence of truth. In reality this teaching was in existence long before the formalization of Christianity. Today it is also among the most prevalent new concepts. Its influences are not confined to the long dusty bookshelves in some forgotten college library, but are seen and heard worldwide.
An abundance of information on Gnosticism is readily available. Many books and articles on the subject have been written and can be obtained in any quality bookstore or library. Old manuscripts with reference to Gnosticism dating back to the early Church are also available, and provide great insight into the teachings and influence of Gnosticism on the world and in particular, the Church.
W.H.C. Frend writes that “in the second century Gnosticism was a world-wide movement.” [The Early Church, W.H.C.Frend, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1965, p.62]. Gnostic sects sprang up all over the world. Jacques Laccariane says, “No sooner was Gnostic thought born than it began to be disseminated along the great routes of the Orient”. [The Early Church, W.H.C.Frend, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1965].
Since that time Gnosticism has entrenched itself in the major religions of the world and not least of all Christianity. Gnosticism, while appearing to be a complex system of thoughts, is really quite simplistic and can be rather easily defined and understood.
The following attempt to set forth and explain some of the basic Gnostic thoughts will help some Christians to be on guard against the “winds of doctrine” blowing through the Church. The greatest challenge in the Church today is to discern between Gnostic thought and Christian thought.
What is Gnosticism? According to Webster, it is “an occult salvational system . . . stressing [knowledge of spiritual things] as essential . . . combining ideas derived especially from mythology, ancient Greek philosophy, ancient religions, and eventually, from Christianity”. [Webster’s New World Dictionary, Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1988, p.577].
The doctrinal core of Gnosticism is basically a form of mystical
religious or philosophical doctrines which other adherents and
some early Christian sects spread and which the early Church
leaders vehemently rejected as heresy. Believers in Gnosticism are
called Gnostics. The word “Gnostic” is derived from the greek word
gnostiko or gnosis (inner mystic knowledge).
The Gnostics believe that “gnosis” is subjective (internally perceived by the mind or feelings) knowledge of the divine element or spark in every man that needs to be discovered to be known. They believe the divine spark
originally came from the “realm of light” (totally alienated from the world and the flesh), and is resident in the soul of man and is held there in captivity by the flesh (a product of demons).
The only way to release the divine spark is through divine “revelation knowledge”, experienced within in the spirit. Also they believe that only when the unconscious spirit in man is awakened by revelation from the “realm
of light” can he come to know his real self – the god within.
Explained in a nutshell:
God is within, waiting to be revealed. Any external influence (matter) is evil.
Finding the god within comes only via your mind or feelings. There are no
external checks or balances, only those which your inner spirit appropriates as you progress in your revelation.
Characteristics of Gnosticism
1. Man is Co-Substantial with God
As soon as man by “gnosis” (self knowledge) discovers and releases the imprisoned divine spark (spirit), he then starts on a mystic ascent to divine substance and on into the “realm of light”.
Through divine revelation knowledge experienced in self, man becomes conscious of his origin with God, his essence as God and his transcendent destiny – all God. The unconscious self of man (the unawakened inner spirit) is co-substantial with the Godhead, i.e. having the same substance or essential nature. This is the kernel Gnostic thought that has led to the creature being deified, worshipped and served more than the Creator.
The mystic “gnosis” (or knowledge) is only taught to the elite – those
who have a special capacity beyond the force of reason and the flesh. According to Gnostic writings, this special capacity was imparted by a messenger bearing a “spark” of light from the “realm of light” even before the creation of the world. The goal of the Gnostic is the release of the inner man by virtue of gnosis (inner knowing) and his return to his native “realm of light”. There seems to be a special “place” for a special “people” who are called out or chosen. That is how the spiritual elitism comes forth. It is this
Gnostic thought that is behind many of the aberrant teachings of the
Latter Rain Movement. (This will be discussed at length in Chapter 3).
The Gnostic concept of God is determined by the depth of illumination and revelation subjectively (by mind or feeling) experienced “about God”. The concept rejects external faith in God the Person. The reference point for godhood is in self. Gnostic revelation must be distinguished from Christian revelation because it is not rooted in history and transmitted by Scripture. It is rather the intuition of the mystery of self. The dark cloud of mysticism that
overshadows the Church can readily be traced to the Gnostic’s “intuition of the mystery of self”.
The Gnostic believes that gnosis (selfe knowledge) is redemptive and as such needs to be discovered and known. As a result of gnosis, man subjectively discovers as a creature, the reality of his lasting unity with the transcendent God. He discovers that his life is immortal and that he is an ongoing manifestation of the light and the god that dwells in his inner self. This knowledge, it is believed, has a redemptive quality that takes the spirit in man to the ultimate realm of light such as the fulness of God.
5. Redefinition of the New Birth
Love and salvation are reckoned obvious consequences of “gnosis”. Pure knowledge without subjective reality provides intellectual enlightenment that comes from force of reason and must be avoided because it suppresses the gnosis of Divine Reality. The only substantial evidence of Divine Salvation comes from within the self-consciousness of man. It is in the experience of the inner gnosis that the Gnostic is “born-again”.
The redemptive quality in man must not be sought in the incarnation of God in Christ through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Holy Scriptures or in faith through grace, but rather in the self-conscious seat of his own divinity. In
other words, the fullness of divine self-consciousness is the source
and evidence of the Gnostic’s “New Birth”.
To the Gnostic the mystery of God was already unveiled (at least in secret) long before the birth of Jesus Christ and even before the Scriptures were written. In fact, they say it was revealed and buried in man before the creation of the world. Therefore, the only way for man to know about God is through gnosis (self knowledge). As a result, he will experience and know the Divine Spark within himself and know he is a member of the Elite – a “Manifest Son of God”.
He who exalts and prizes above everything else, the Divine Spark within
himself and sincerely believes that eternal life is found only in the Divine
Element will be certain to come into harmony with all of life and thereby
bring into consciousness the Spark of Divinity and so immortalize his soul … by obedience to the Divine Law, man attains unto Christhood, become the
Son of God. [Jacques Lacarriere, The Gnostics, Peter Owen, London, 1977,
The Gnostic strives to find God in the creation, i.e., in “self” rather than in the Person, Christ, who is the Creator! This pursuit winds up in pantheism.
Unfortunately, Gnostic trends are developing at an alarming rate within the Church. As early as the Second Century, Gnosticism infiltrated Christian theology. Since that time, it has gradually saturated the Church and is now, in these last days exploding not only within the Church, but also within secular institutions. The world is being prepared for a predominant Gnostic religious form, a New Order that will govern a great part of the world before Christ
Because certain “popular” theological concepts are not being measured and subjected to strict Scriptural scrutiny, Gnosticism is gaining a stronghold. As a result of new theological thought, even fundamental orthodox doctrines are being grossly changed into seed-beds for Gnosticism.
The statements below (originally in chart form) is adapted from Which Jesus Do You Follow? by M. Dauer.
FUNDAMENTAL ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY:
• Based on: God’s Word.
• Acknowledges: Deity of Jesus Christ.
• Believes: Man is basically sinful, and only GOD can correct the evil in
• Gives glory to: GOD
• God: Believe in a PERSONAL GOD who is all good.
• Salvation: Spiritual rebirth that takes place when an individual chooses to
believe by faith the DEITY of JESUS CHRIST, recognizes the SIN in his life
and chooses to follow Christ and turn from his sin according to the Scriptures.
• Faith based on: The Word of God.
• The Answer: Jesus Christ – according to the Scriptures.
• Christ: Jesus Christ, the one and only fully God and fully man.
• The Bible: NOTHING should be added and NOTHING should be taken
away from the Bible. It is the COMPLETE WORD OF GOD. Interpreted
literally and the literal meaning received.
• Commitment: To the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures.
GNOSTIC/NEW AGE THOUGHT:
• Based on: Man’s word.
• Acknowledges: Deity of man.
• Believes: Man is good and getting better.
• Gives glory to: Self
• God: Belief in God or a great force or energy or One Mind. An impersonal God with both good and bad.
• Salvation: Spiritual awakening that comes when an individual experiences
“his own divinity”.
• Faith based on: Experience.
• The Answer: Finding the “self” or “god” within and striving with “works”.
• Christ: A position of status held by all deserving members. Arrived at by
“self”, “experience” and “works”.
• The Bible: They pick and choose Scriptures to suit their purposes. They
say the Scriptures can be “interpreted” in many different ways.
Spiritualised to say whatever they want.
• Commitment: To self – or God through a passive or emotional experiential
form of religion.
. . . they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also other Scriptures, unto their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16)
Chapter 3: A Gnostic Gospel?
Having defined and illustrated the doctrinal core of Gnosticism, we can now effectively identify Gnostic thought as it emerges in the church today. There is a growing network comprised of loosely linked groups with a common Gnostic theme. They refer to themselves in many ways. They use Biblical sounding titles such as “Overcomers”, “The First Fruits”, “Manifest Sons of God”, “The Elect”, “A New Breed”, “Son of Man Company” and even “The Manchild Company”. These groups can be involved in a wide spectrum of teaching from anti-Semitism, Prophets and Apostles, Restoration, Kingdom Now Theology, and most sinister of all – the New Age philosophy.
Though diverse in their outworking, these groups have a common origin in three main bodies of teaching: the Latter Rain Movement, the New Order and the Rosicrucian Order. We will study these three groups in detail, and as we do, the underlying Gnostic philosophy will be evident. Bear in mind, the essence of Gnosticism is finding your divinity – the god within you, by subjective experience.
The Latter Rain Movement
Most Pentecostal history books date the historic Pentecostal revival of the Latter Rain movement to 1948 and attribute its geographical origin to North Battleford, Canada. Its beginning was explosive among the Pentecostals and like a wild fire spread quickly throughout North America and many places around the world.
The movement was characterized by many healings and miraculous phenomena . . . There was an emphasis on spiritual gifts which were to be
received by the laying on of hands. [Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Zondervan Publishing House]
Leaders felt that God was giving the Church, in these last days, great insight into the mind of God by prophetic revelation and manifestations. With the outburst of the revival the ministry of an apostle and a prophet was elevated to the rank of an “office”. “The ministries were not restricted to penetrating the mysteries within the Bible but included the unveiling of people’s lives and heart.” [Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Zondervan Publishing House (emphasis added)].
New revelations into the spiritual world emerged – communication with angels, divine visitations, and out-of-body experiences. Dangers Revealing a “new thing” or gaining knowledge either by allegorizing the Scriptures or by personal prophetic revelation was the spirit of absurdity that overtook what initially seemed to be a move of God.
The records show that the revival started out well. Unfortunately, in certain major respects, it ended in abuse and apostasy, thus showing once again the need for the teaching of true Biblical doctrine.
The Latter Rain Movement had a notorious reputation for imparting
an assortment of strange teachings. The origin of these teachings,
which have no thread of Scriptural foundation except where the
Scriptures have been applied out of context, can be traced beyond
any reasonable doubt to the occult. These teachings are invariably
accompanied by what seems to be supernatural manifestations,
which when examined, are characteristically descriptive of the
occult. There is evidence that with the Latter Rain revival came a
blaze of subjective theology that centred on man, his senses,
imagination and intuition above the objective and scriptural knowledge of truth.
This new emphasis started a paradigm shift. The initial paradigm, an
orthodox perspective of Christ shifted or changed, caused
Christians to be receptive to subjective impressions of Christ,
experiences and ideas. To maintain the interest of followers, new
ideas and new revelations were (and are) continually in the making.
Most people who have had any history in Pentecostalism at all have
been influenced at some time in their lives by the Latter Rain
There have been many sincere people who felt they were part of the move of God for the Last Days and were earnestly partaking of the fruit that was offered. Since 1948 the Latter Rain influence has permeated the churches, Bible Colleges, evangelism and Christian television broadcasting networks. The overall magnitude of its influence makes it more difficult to warn of the inherent dangers that are involved.
As a result of the Latter Rain influence in the Christian Church two basic streams of thought exist side by side. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish the one from the other. Like the tares and wheat they have grown up together. Only through God’s written Word can a true separation be discerned. The first stream is “Gnostic” thought – the inspiration of many masquerading as apostles and prophets. The second is “Christian orthodoxy” thought based on the Holy Scriptures. It is the Gnostic stream of thought that divides the
Christian Church into a dichotomy.
Here are some of the subtle doctrinal concepts the Latter Rain fraternity have come to popularise:
• Positive Confession and Prosperity Message
(Hagin, Copeland, Capps, Price)
• Restoration – Apostles, Prophets and the “Inner Voice”
(Bickle, Hamon, Cain)
(Simpson, Godwin, Mumford)
• Kingdom Now Theology
• Manifest Sons of God
There are many more names and new ways these streams are flowing together now. In spite of these erroneous teachings, many souls around the world have come to receive Jesus Christ as Saviour. However, through these aberrant doctrines, many Christians have or are being swept into a form of religion that too often fits the description of the cults and occult.
Prophets and The New Order
Today with the rise of new “prophets” and “apostles”, we are hearing terminology that is clearly unscriptural. Yet, enough Scripture references are used to make the teachings palatable to the average Christian.
The elevation of prophets and apostles obviously made way for individuals to abuse Scripture. It allowed some to give the ‘Spoken Word’ equality with Scripture. ‘There could be no greater error’, denominational leaders warned. . . [The Assemblies of God] General Secretary, J. Roswell Flower cautioned, ‘Predictive prophecy resulted in untold disaster wherever it had been given free course’.
Flower was well-versed in the history of Pentecostalism and recalled numerous prophecies that had come to nothing. The New Order of the Latter Rain in fact was nothing new. The ground had been covered before, with lessons learned through costly mistakes. Now a new generation seemed to want to repeat it all. [The Assemblies of God, A Chapter in the Story of American Pentecostalism, Vol.2, Edith Blumhofer]
This “New Order” has survived and has influenced the course of Pentecostal history. All along there has been interaction among the salvation/healing revivals and the Charismatic movement for the past 40 years. Now another generation later, we are facing the same situation that our forefathers faced, only this time it is exacerbated because of the mass media, telecommunications, huge conferences and a strong interlocking network.
When the terms “Illumination”, “New Revelation” and “New Order” are used, immediately the imagination is titillated into wondering, “What does God have new in store for me?” Promises of a “New Anointing” and a “New Thing” keep the conferences filled and the tape and book sales rolling! When the term “New Thing” is used, the following are some of the thoughts behind the term:
1. New “mysteries” revealed;
2. New “knowledge” of the Christ within – self consciousness;
3. New “form of godliness” that will be the light of the world;
4. New “power” that will do marvelous new things;
5. New “Law of Love” without Scripture;
6. New “Inner Voice” above the Scriptures to guide and govern;
7. New centre of divinity – the soul;
8. New ministries that exceed even those of the prophets and apostles of old; and
9. New consciousness/self potential – self-esteem, selfimmortalisation
and self-the temple of illumination.
These thoughts are the bedrock of Gnostic experience and its objective of self-realisation of the god within and its subsequent fruit of love and works (born not out of the working of the Holy Spirit but of connecting with your inner self.)
The Rosicrucian Order
There is a clear link in modern trends and the above teachings to what is known as “The Rosicrucian Order”. (A Gnostic religion). This seems like a bold drastic statement. However, in 1925 there was a book written entitled The Sons of God. It was “A Foreshadowing of the Coming World of the Messenger of The New Age” (R. Swinburne Clymer). Note the similarities in the following quote:
In each life is a spark, a germ of the Divine Nature. This spark is the
potential Christos or the potential individual Soul or that “light which
lighteth all the world of man’s consciousness”. When man becomes conscious
of this light within his own being and recognizes and obeys its ‘still small
voice’, he has reached a state bordering on Illumination of Soul or
Immortalisation. When he has found within himself the CENTRE whence
cometh the LIGHT, Soul Consciousness is attained. This is the beginning of
Initiation; the first revealment of the Divine Mysteries.
The Divine Spark in each individual may be developed into a centre or globe of pure white fire; it may become a dynamic nucleus of living fires – the Fire of Love and Immortality. This fact gives the key to the significance of the term ‘Temple of Illumination’. Man in toto, is the nuceau of Illumination, the Temple of the living, radiating Christos . . . ‘God in me and I in you’. Thus, by obedience to the Divine Law, man attains unto Christhood, becomes the Son of God. (page 15)
Out of Gnosticism a variety of religious cults and orders emerged, one of which was Druidism that spread rapidly during the mediaeval era throughout Europe including Britain. It became a prime factor in the direction of all European culture, religion and society. From Gnosticism and Druidism evolved what has come to be known as the Rosicrucian Order that openly admits to having originated in Gnosticism.
We can date the Rosicrucian Order back to 1379. According to their own writings, a Rosicrucian is one who has learned, or is learning a philosophy of life – a path to confident living. Among famous people who were known Rosicrucians were to name a few: Gottfried Leibnitz 1646-1716, Francis Bacon 1561-1626 and Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790. The Rosicrucians boldly advertise “Become united with enlightened minds everywhere”. The tragedy is that men who were great thinkers and spiritual leaders in their day became influenced by the Rosicrucians, just as the same thinking is influencing the church in varying degrees today.
As a result of the Rosicrucian philosophy in the eighteenth century, the Freemason Society became one of the strongest influences in Europe and North America. Thus, in the USA as well as in other parts of the world, Gnosticism helped shape much of the Christian thought, culture and politics of the day.
The book Ancient Wisdom and Secret Sects by Time-Life Books not
only seems to confirm the fact that Freemasonry in part owes its existence to Rosicrucianism, but also substantiates the fact that Gnosticism is at the core of Freemasonry. With reference to the enormity of Freemasonry influence on North America, this book says:
Today of course, the fraternal service group known as the Free and
Accepted Masons is a secure strand in the social fabric of the developed
world. In the United States alone, some 16,000 lodges welcome several
million member Masons, and the leading citizens of many a town consider it
a privilege to belong. In some ways, however – in the observance of hidden
rituals, the profusion of symbols and honorary titles and high-flown
ceremonial language – the Masonic order remains the secret society it has
been for centuries untold. (page 83)
Needless to say, a great portion of Freemasonry membership comprises of the Christian clergy and to some extent accounts for the strong Gnostic influence in the Church.
According to the same book, on page 53:
Rosicrucianism’s spread in seventeenth-century Germany may have gained impetus from a Gorlitz cobbler named Jakob Boehme. Boehme reportedly has his first spiritual ‘illumination’ in 1600 when, at the age of twenty-five, he sat gazing at the light reflected from a pewter dish. The revelation led the shoemaker to abandon his trade for mystical studies. It was William Law’s introduction to Jakob Boehme which poured light into Law and inspired him to write The Spirit of Love and The Spirit of Prayer. People who love William Law’s writings and respect his teachings cannot believe he was influenced in any way by Rosicrucian thought that was basically Gnostic.
The founder of InterVarsity, Norman Grubb, testifies in his biography,
. . . from Boehme, most difficult to read because he could not easily put the
depths of his illuminations into readable form, I got my answer, and to this
day know no writer to match him . . . He is the last word to me . . . I am
saying that everything is a form by which He manifests Himself, much as my
body is not exactly I, but an outward form of the inner me. This fact,
gleaned through Boehme, confirmed through the writings of many others,
with the foundations in Scripture, has given me my anchor. [Once Caught,
No Escape, Norman Grubb, Intervarsity Press]
Norman Grubb confessed to receiving more from mystic writings than from studying the Bible. Apart from Boehme and William Law, other great mystic writers that proved a spiritual help to him were as follows: Saint Teresa, Meister Eckhart, Henry Suso, John Tauler, John of Rusbroeck, Walter Hilton, Plotinus, Angelus Silesius, Richard Rolle, Lady Julian of Norwich, Evelyn Underhill, William Kingsland and Rufus Jones.
These names are well known for their Gnostic and even theosophical ideas. With reference to some of the mystic writers he said, “These are out of bounds to the orthodox; but I have often got more from them than from normal Bible exegesis”. According to his own testimony, during a time of severe despair and doubt as to the existence of God, he desperately sought
for answers amongst the writings of mystics. “My answer came
through the mystics and has been widening ever since”, he writes.
Norman Grubb is a typical example of countless others, who for
whatever reason, struggled to walk by faith and unfortunately turned
to Gnostic ideas (mysticism) to experience a sense of spirituality
and a feeling of belonging to God. Like Norman Grubb, numerous
Christians, in spite of all of their experiences, are floundering in
doubt for lack of faith in God’s Word and instead are searching for
answers in mysticism – the spirit of Gnosticism.
No wonder the masses are receptive to the modern Gnostic apostles and prophets. Scripture very clearly gives us insight into the realm of the
supernatural. We know that the supernatural realm suffered a terrible rebellion as Lucifer made his bid for godhood. God became man, and this man was Jesus Christ who was born of corrupt humanity. He bridged the supernatural chasm between God and man. All things work and progress according to God’s PLAN and PURPOSES and the supernatural realm functions within the parameters God has set. As natural man, we are forbidden to attempt to even peer into those unseen things that scripture refers to. We are presently to be occupied with bringing the Gospel to the natural realm, the creation.
However, there is a time soon coming, even the angels know that at this appointed time, when the last trumpet heralds the return of Jesus Christ, the saints will put on immortality, cross the supernatural barriers and judge angels (1 Cor. 6:3).
Today we are seeing a strange trend as again, man, but his own endeavours (experientially and philosophically), tried hard to relate to the “supernatural realm” and walk in a sense of godhood. The nature of this is clearly characterised as the New Age philosophy, as opposed to Orthodox Christianity. Regretfully, a great part of the church has latched on to this trend.
By all appearances, Christians are knowingly or unknowingly dabbling in eastern mysticism and the spirit world. Unless they resist this temptation, they will ultimately fall prey to Satan’s control. Deeper spiritual understanding seems to be the motivation behind it all. The problem is that Christians are no longer satisfied with the literal Word of God. They are looking for experiences “beyond the sacred page”. The Bread of Heaven, according to their inner “sacred feelings”, has become stale and outmoded.
Scripture indicates that participation in the supernatural realm is ours to be had. However, not until the prescribed Biblical time – the literal return of Jesus Christ! Any participation in the supernatural realm apart from this is treading on the same path that Lucifer walked in pursuit of going beyond his limits. Until this appointed time, the saints should be content to live and rest in the Word of God. They are t