Deception, Falsehood, Error,  Truth,  Uncategorized

The Theology of Bill Johnson and the Bethel Church

Written by Radu Goga: Reprinted in full with permission.
https://thisibelieve.site123.me/my-blog/the-theology-of-bill-johnson-and-bethel-church

Introduction 

For the last 10-15 years I have watched the growth of Bethel church with both interest and concern, trying to keep an open mind and not throw out the baby with the bathwater. On the one hand I have admired their courage to step out and pray for people to be healed, whilst on the other hand I have seen first hand their theology be quite damaging to individuals and churches. Over the years, my concern has grown as I have seen more and more bizarre practices and manifestations at Bethel – “grave sucking”, “fire tunnels”, “gold dust” (which has been shown to be plain glitter) – to name just a few. Now, as a Pentecostal Arminian, I have no issues with the gifts of the Holy Spirit operating today. I believe in signs and wonders, and would welcome a genuine move of God. However, like the Bereans, we must be willing to test all things, and ensure that everything lines up with His Word (Acts 17:11). We are to hold on to what is good, and discard what is not (1 Thes 5:21; Gal 1:8-9).

Late in 2018, whilst part of a discussion forum, the question was asked as to whether Bill Johnson (BJ) is a false prophet. I was unprepared for this question. Not that I didn’t have serious misgivings for a number of reasons, but I realized that whilst I had read and seen many things, I had not done my own due diligence and read some of Bill Johnson’s writings for myself. So I undertook the arduous task of doing just that, reading his book God is Good (2016) and portions of When Heaven Invades Earth (2003), Face to Face with God (2007), Strengthen yourself in The Lord (2015), and other writings. I did my very best to check out some of the references from what other people had written, to ensure that I wasn’t coming to a conclusion based on hearsay.

For the purposes of this review, I will focus on 3 main areas that highlight the issues that I see with Bill Johnson’s teachings. The first is BJ’s overarching view of God, the second is his Christology, and lastly is his view of the Gospel. Finally, I will finish with my conclusion.

Bill Johnson’s Overarching view of God in the Bible

Whenever we consider any area of theology, the clear principle is that we go from the bigger picture/context (i.e. the whole Bible), to a narrower and narrower context (the OT/NT, the particular book, chapter and verses). That is not to say that God does not give us fresh revelation from a passage we have already studied, but rather that it will be in line with the rest of His Word. To base a theology from a narrow platform, without looking at a bigger context, is a guaranteed path to eisegesis, where we read what we want into a particular text. BJ frequently refers to Jesus as being “perfect theology” [1]. In practice, this means that his view of God is driven by the accounts of Jesus during His time of ministering on earth. That narrows things down to a period of time of some 31/2 years, and the four Gospel accounts. For example, BJ states that when asked about Job’s sufferings, he immediately will say “what about Jesus?” and that “the story of Jesus is the only one I follow.” [2] BJ sees the story of Job as being about holding to our faith in the midst of trials and seeing God restore everything brilliantly, but he makes it clear that the story does not represent God’s design, and that “To attribute evil to Him tragically undermines our purpose on the earth, as it cripples our ability to re-present Jesus as the manifestation of God’s goodwill toward men.” [3]  BJ goes on to say that if we view God as causing evil, we are left unable to distinguish a demonic attack. He says: 
 
“It’s not complicated. Loss, death and destruction are the things left behind when the devil has had influence in a given situation. Jesus is the Good Shepherd…He gives abundant life. Here it is – loss, death and destruction vs. abundant life.” [4]
 
The problem with this is that it completely misses the point and creates a false dichotomy. God never causes evil, but He certainly does allow it, to outwork His purposes which we are often not privy to. It was only when God (the same Jesus Christ who gives abundant life!) allowed Satan to get to Job (Job 1:6-22; Job 2:2-6), that Satan was able to touch him. Without Jesus’ permission, it would have never happened. BJ quotes Hosea 3:5 and Jeremiah 33:9 as “two brilliant promises of God for His people of the last days”, and goes on to say that these blessings would have to be “so clear, and in my opinion so extreme, so as to be obviously manifested from God Himself, that people tremble with fear” (based on Jer 33:9) [5]. No explanation is given as to why we can turn promises made to Israel as being for the church (should the church expect the promised land to come into our possession as well?) and why 11 out of the 12 apostles were martyred for their faith and failed in appropriating these Scriptures. BJ goes on to say, using Psalm 67 as an evangelistic proof-text, that blessings are what caused nations “to see the heart of God and His nature, to the point that they were convicted of their own sins and turned in repentance to Him” [6] (and to clarify, the blessings must include money [7]). This is simply outrageous. Israel turned away from God every time things were going well, 1 Tim 6:6-10 warns clearly against the desire for riches, and Jesus makes it plain how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matt 19:23-24). BJ never deals with these Scriptures and his theology is nothing more than a prosperity gospel veneered with spiritual-sounding jargon.   
 
Likewise, BJ simply refuses to acknowledge that God’s acts of judgment in the OT and in the NT (e.g. Ananias and Sapphira – Acts 5:1-11; the prophetic judgment of Jerusalem – Luke 23:27-31; His warnings of judgment for the churches – Rev 2&3) are all part of a picture of who God is, which was given to us by God Himself in His Word. BJ clearly denies that God causes our storms, diseases and conflicts [8].  He resorts to using the passage of Jesus rebuking a physical storm as the proof-text that “the powers of darkness were involved in the storm, and they needed to be dealt with because they violated the heart and purpose of God on the earth.” [9]   From rebuking a storm that was threatening to capsize the boat the apostles were in, BJ manages to extract a theology of saying that life’s storms are not the will of the Father! [10]  If this isn’t eisegesis, what is?! To turn trials and sufferings into purely a demonic attack or a result of sin is totally unbiblical. The words suffer & suffering appears 78 times in the NKJV NT, 64 of which are outside the Gospels. The call to suffering is prevalent throughout the NT – Acts 5:41; Rom 8:17-18; 2 Cor 1:5-7; Gal 3:4; Gal 5:11; Gal 6:12; Phil 1:29; Phil 3:8-10; Col 1:24; 1 Thes 2:2; 1 Thes 2:14; 1 Thes 3:4; 2 Thes 1:5; 1 Tim 4:10; 2 Tim 1:8&12; 2 Tim 2:9; 2 Tim 3:12; Heb 10:32; Jas 5:10&13; 1 Pet 2:19-23; 1 Pet 3:14; 1 Pet 3:17; 1 Pet 4:1; 1 Pet 4:13; 1 Pet 4:19; 1 Pet 5:10; Rev 2:10 – and this is not an exhaustive list!  
 
It is beyond the point of this review to go through a theology of suffering, but it should be self-evident to any Bible reader that true believers are going to suffer, and it is an integral part of our calling. The same God who came to destroy the works of the enemy (1 John 3:8), is the same God who wills to take us through suffering. To ignore the overall teaching of Scripture and say otherwise is to create a God in your own image.
 
In the same way, BJ defines his theology of healing from the Gospel accounts of Jesus, and says that “Jesus healed all who came to Him, no exceptions. Setting another standard than what Jesus gave us is unacceptable” [11]. This has been BJ’s consistent theology over the years, stating back in 2003 not only that Jesus healed everyone but also that “To accept any other standard is to bring the Bible down to our level of experience, and deny the nature of the One who changes not.” [12]  Not even the loss of BJ’s own father to pancreatic cancer has caused him to waver from this theology.[13]  In fact, he concludes his recount of his dad’s death with the statement: “The devil is called the thief, and he stole from our family.” [14] 
 
Again, the question we must ask is whether the Bible as a whole paints this picture of God in the area of healing, and whether in fact Jesus did heal everyone who came to Him. Let’s have a look at some Scriptures.
 
John 5:1-15 – Jesus only healed one man then withdrew from the miracle-seeking multitude (v13). Healing in and of itself is not the main thing Jesus is about – He healed the man for holiness (v.14). Of note is that when BJ considers this passage, he sets up a negative straw-man argument against those who might read into this passage that it isn’t God’s will to heal everyone, but he does not in any way explain why Jesus did not in fact heal everyone (yet there may have been “up to one thousand or more people gathered around that pool”). [15] 
 
Mark 1:29-39 / Luke 4:38-44 – This clearly shows that even if we confine our view of healing to Jesus’ ministry, it is not true that he healed all who came to Him. After healing for a whole evening (Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:40), the multitude sought Him out in the morning wanting more of the same – miracles, signs and wonders (Mark 1:37; Luke 4:42) – but Jesus moved on to preach the Word in other villages. He did not heal those who came to Him that morning.
 
So in as much as Jesus healed thousands upon thousands, He did not heal all He could have or all that came to Him. Matt 8:16-17 quotes Isa 53:4-5 in terms of physical healing, but it is clearly stated as a fulfilled prophecy during Jesus’ time on earth. It does not state a guarantee of physical healing in this lifetime, based on the Cross. This is consistent with the rest of the NT, which shows sickness present within the church:
 
Gal 4:12-14 – Remarkable that it’s because of an illness that Paul preached the gospel to the Galatians (v13)! Paul himself clarifies that this physical infirmity is a trial allowed by God (v14 – see also 2 Cor 12:7-10).  
 
Phil 2:25-30 – An illness almost unto death.
 
1 Cor 11:29-32 – self-inflicted in a way but still sickness.
 
2 Cor 12:7-10 – Almost certainly an infirmity given Gal 4:12-14, possibly the very same one.
 
1 Tim 5:23 – Note that Paul mentions frequent illnesses!
 
2 Tim 4:20 – Paul cannot heal his companion Trophimus and leaves him sick in Miletus.
 
James 5:13-18 – Clearly implies sickness can be present in the Body of Christ.
 
1 Peter 2:18-25 – This passage is the clear call to unjust suffering. In light of the above scriptures, how can we exclude illness from suffering? Moreover, in this case the Holy Spirit treats Isa 53:4-5 as spiritual healing, not bodily healing. God did not need to go to the Cross to win healing or health for a people group. He already showed that He could do that with the Jews in the desert. So to turn physical healing into a main focus related to the Cross (on the basis of one Scripture that has multiple interpretations), simply undermines what the Cross is really about – forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to God. 
 
Now, I do believe that God wants to heal us and will heal us. It is our inheritance in Christ (Rom 8:21; Rev 21:4). I believe that God is Sovereign, but I do not believe in an exhaustive, fatalistic sovereignty of “what will be, will be”. I firmly believe in praying in faith for people to be healed. But if He chooses not to heal us in this lifetime so that the illness brings us closer to Him, so be it. Healing in this little wisp of smoke called “life” is insignificant compared to an eternally perfect body. Rom 8:31-39 says that nothing in this creation – “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” (the list can obviously include sickness) – will separate us from the love of God. This is the key issue.
 
Joni Eareckson Tada sought physical healing of her quadriplegia. She prayed and fully believed that God would heal her. In her words, “I certainly believed. I was calling up my girlfriends saying, ‘Next time you see me I’m going to be running up your sidewalk. God’s going to heal me’”. Yet Joni is still in a wheelchair today. More than forty-five years after the accident that left her paralyzed, God has still not healed her. Her perspective is one of great faith: “God may remove your suffering, and that will be great cause for praise. But if not, He will use it, He will use anything and everything that stands in the way of His fellowship with you. So let God mold you and make you, transform you from glory to glory. That’s the deeper healing”.
 
Kathryn Butler, a doctor, says this: “Death is the consequence of the fall (Romans 6:23). It overtakes us all, and most commonly recruits illness as its vehicle. When Christ returns, no disease will blot God’s creation (Revelation 21:4), but for now, we wait and groan as our bodies wither. We may perceive our healing to be the greatest good, but God’s wisdom surpasses even the most impressive reaches of our understanding (Isaiah 55:8). We cannot bend his will to resemble our own.” 
 
For those who hold such a view of God as outlined in the previous two quotes, here is what BJ has to say to them (underlines mine):

“When I talk about the goodness of God and His greatness displayed in Jesus, I don’t forget that He was also the one who chased the moneychangers out of the temple with a whip. This, too, is love, as Jesus hates whatever misrepresents the Father! In the same way, it is a misrepresentation of the Father to say He permits sickness to discipline us. This is not true any more than it is to say He uses sin to discipline His children. For sickness is to my body what sin is to my soul. It’s time for those moneychangers to get chased out of the temple.” [16] 
 
“The level of deception even in the hearts of God’s people has been so strong that there is an arrogance masquerading as humility teaching us to receive the evil that comes our way as the mysterious hand of God. It’s arrogance because it comes from the soulish ideals of people without biblical roots, without biblical surrender.” [17]
 
“The will of God must be displayed by a praying people, unwilling to sit on the sidelines and see the devil continually steal, kill, and destroy, and then watch the theorist give God the credit. Masking our unbelief with a spineless theology is the great deception. This continual misrepresentation of the nature and heart of God for one another and for the world must stop. Stupidity often looks like intelligence in the absence of experience.” [18] 

Leaving aside the fallacy of the argument “sickness is to my body what sin is to my soul”, it is astounding and heartbreaking that BJ can write so harshly against fellow believers. Are Joni Eareckson Tada’s “misrepresentation of the Father”, “arrogance”, “soulish ideals without biblical roots, without biblical surrender”, “spineless theology” and “stupidity” the reasons for her spine still not functioning properly? BJ repeatedly complains in his writings of being unfairly criticized (and I would agree the spirit in which many criticize BJ is unhelpful, even if their critique may be correct), yet BJ’s attitude towards those who don’t hold his theological convictions is horribly judgmental and leaves no room for any middle ground. Either you accept his view of God, or – according to him – you have no biblical roots or surrender, and it’s time for you to get chased out of the temple. It reminds me starkly of what one Bethel follower said to me some time ago: “You’re not a Christian, you don’t even know Jesus. When was the last time you healed someone?” That is the conclusion if you follow BJ’s theology to its logical end. 
 
BJ’s overall view of who God is starts and ends with his interpretation of the person of Jesus: “Whatever you think you know about God that you can’t find in the person of Jesus you have reason to question. Jesus Christ is the fullest and most precise revelation of the Father and His nature that could ever be made known.” [19] 
 
Problem is, if you get that interpretation wrong, and that then becomes the hermeneutic by which you interpret the rest of the Bible, you have just created your Jesus genie. Consider this statement by BJ: “The Lord is looking for His Word, declared with courage, so that He has to show up to confirm it” [20]  (emphasis in original).  
 
In a sense, BJ is right. Either God wishes to heal everyone, period, and all the limitations are on our side, or there is an element of sovereignty involved (irrespective of how one sees sovereignty). The Bible teaches the latter, for the same Jesus who healed thousands upon thousands and exhorted us to pray for healing also said these words: ‘The LORD said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD?’ (Exo 4:11).
 
Moreover, consider the following NT Scriptures regarding suffering:
 
“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…” (Phil 3:10)
 
“We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings…” (2 Cor 6:3-5)
 
“Are they ministers of Christ?–I speak as a fool–I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness– besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”    (2 Cor 11:23-28)  
 
“For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.” (1 Cor 4:9-13)
 
How can God be any clearer than that in His Word? The irony is that, completely contrary to BJ’s view of God, the apostle Paul makes it clear that all of this suffering comes from the Lord (“God has displayed us…”). So ignore what the Bible teaches as a whole in the area of suffering or of sickness, and you have just created a false God. The “wonderful plan for your life” that God had for 11 out of the 12 apostles was intense persecution and martyrdom! You cannot have His resurrection power without the fellowship of His sufferings. Intense suffering is actually one of the distinguishing marks (among others) of apostleship or prophethood. [21]  Many – if not most – of today’s so-called apostles & prophets bear no resemblance to the apostles & prophets of the Bible, and their God bears little resemblance to the revelation He has given us of Himself in the Scriptures. 
 

Bill Johnson’s view of Christology

When we consider Christology (who Christ is in terms of his Deity and his humanity), there must by necessity be an area of uncertainty. There has only ever been one person fully human and fully Divine, and how that is possible is somewhat of a mystery. Nevertheless, over the early church centuries, there were numerous church councils that fiercely defended what some of the key aspects of Christology are, and many things that BJ states are in direct contradiction with Scripture on this critical topic.

In a book published in 2015, BJ states that “Jesus did everything He did as a man, laying His divinity aside, in order to be a model for us. At His baptism, He received His anointing as the Spirit descended on Him and remained, and He was declared by the Father to be the Son of God” [22] (emphasis in original).    
 
In previous books, he makes the following statements:
 
“Jesus did everything in His earthly ministry as a man who had set aside all His divine privileges and power in order to model the Christian life for us” [23].
 
“Jesus set aside His divinity, choosing instead to live as a man completely dependent on God” [24].
 
“He laid his [sic] divinity aside as He sought to fulfill the assignment given to Him by the Father: to live life as a man without sin” [25] 
 
“Jesus Christ was entirely God. He was not a created being. Yet He became a man and lived entirely within man’s limitations. His ability to demonstrate power, walk on water, and carry out countless other divine manifestations was completely due to the fact that He was without sin and was totally yielded to the Holy Spirit.” [26]
 
The above quotes could be interpreted to say that Jesus retained all His divine attributes yet chose not to exercise them; however, the following clearly illustrates that He no longer had inherent deity:
 
“Jesus could not heal the sick. Neither could he deliver the tormented from demons or raise the dead. To believe otherwise is to ignore what He said about himself, and more importantly, to miss the purpose of His self-imposed restriction to live as a man. Jesus Christ said of Himself, ‘The Son can do nothing.’  In the Greek language that word nothing has a unique meaning—it means NOTHING, just like it does in English!   He had NO supernatural capabilities whatsoever!…He performed miracles, wonders, and signs, as a man in right relationship to God…not as God.” [27]  (emphases in original)
 
“Jesus had no ability to heal the sick.  He couldn’t cast out devils, and He had no ability to raise the dead.  He said of Himself in John 5:19, ‘the Son can do nothing of Himself.’  He had set aside His divinity.  He did miracles as man in right relationship with God because He was setting forth a model for us, something for us to follow…. Jesus so emptied Himself that He was incapable of doing what was required of Him by the Father – without the Father’s help.” [28]    (emphasis mine)
 
“Jesus was sinless for sure. The spotless lamb. BUT He BECAME SIN. He needed to be raised from the dead. Acts 13 calls Him ‘the first born from the dead.’ He did not raise Himself. The Father through the Spirit raised Him. He was born of Mary. That’s one. He was raised from the dead. That’s two. ‘Again.’ It’s not a statement creating a new doctrine. It’s to make people think, which gets scary for some. Primarily it’s to help us appreciate the fact that Jesus had become sin and was in need of the resurrection as much as we are in need of being born again.” [29]   (emphasis in original)
 
This is now very dangerous theology since by very definition deity cannot stop being deity. If Jesus’ divinity can be laid aside then it was never true divinity. Deity is not an attribute that comes and goes. It is or it is not. The Scriptures confirm this in saying that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). Yet with BJ’s claim that Jesus had no inherent ability to perform miracles in and of Himself (even if He wanted to) he has, in effect, reduced Jesus to less than God. The point is that Jesus Christ could not just be God before and after His time on earth. He had to be God throughout His time on earth. Consider the following:
 
1) Jesus Christ forgave sins. He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2, also recorded in Mark 2:5 and Luke 5:20). The Pharisees were greatly offended and rightly said “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 5:7). So Jesus goes on to do a great miracle to prove His divinity – “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” — He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 5:10-12).
 
Jesus could not forgive sins simply out of a right relationship with God and anointed by the Holy Spirit. Only GOD can forgive sin in relation to God. It was Jesus’ divinity that was at work, and the miracle which followed was done to prove it.
 
2) When speaking to the Jews, Jesus said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:58) When asked what sign He would show the Jews, Jesus Christ stated: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19) Moreover, He also said: “My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:17-18)
 
Power over death belongs to God alone, but to allay any possible misunderstanding, a few verses later Jesus leaves no doubt over His existent deity: “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30). The Jews confirm this again by taking up stones to stone Him. Jesus answers saying: “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.” (John 10:32-33)
 
3) Reconciliation with God is a two-way street. On the one hand Jesus had to be fully human in order to be our representative sacrifice, but he also had to be sinless. The Bible says that we have been redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet 1:19). That sinlessness and purity could not come from his humanity, but only from His divinity: “”Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Moreover, to enter the heavenly Most Holy Place with His own blood and satisfy His own wrath, He likewise had to be God (Heb 9:11-28). Revelation makes this even clearer:
 
“And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” (Rev 5:6)
 
This now strikes at the heart of the gospel and of salvation. For if we deny that He was fully God whilst on earth, then He cannot save us. We are still lost for eternity. This is why Paul makes such a strong statement in Gal 1:8-9: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” The word ‘accursed’ in Greek is anathema and means ‘a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and if an animal, to be slain; therefore a person or thing doomed to destruction’.
 
In the same vein, we should also note that BJ repeatedly separates ‘Jesus’ from ‘Christ’:
 
“Christ is not Jesus’ last name. The word Christ means “Anointed One” or “Messiah.”  It is a title that points to an experience.  It was not sufficient that Jesus be sent from heaven to earth with a title.  He had to receive the anointing in an experience to accomplish what the Father desired. The word anointing means “to smear.” The Holy Spirit is the oil of God that was smeared all over Jesus at His water baptism.  The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit.” [30]    (underline mine)
 
This is not an isolated statement. A few years later BJ writes: “The outpouring of the Spirit also needed to happen to Jesus for Him to be fully qualified. This was His quest. Receiving this anointing qualified Him to be called the Christ, which means “anointed one.” Without the experience there could be no title.” [31] (underline mine)
 
This is now heretical theology. It completely flies in the face of not only Heb 13:8 (“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever”), but a whole series of other NT Scriptures which show that Jesus has always been the Christ:
 
Matt 1:1-17 – the genealogy of Jesus Christ clearly calls Him the Christ at all points
 
Matt 1:18 – “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows…
 
Matt 2:4 – Herod inquires “where the Christ was to be born.”
 
Mark 1:1 – “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
 
Luke 2:11 – “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
 
Luke 2:26 – Simeon had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that “he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”
 
John 20:31 – “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
 
The reason this is such a crucial point comes from the fact that ‘the Christ’ (or Messiah), is in fact a divine title. In Matthew 26:63-65 and the parallel passage of Mark 14:61-64, the high priest confronts Jesus:
 
But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.
 
This is the very reason Jesus was put to death! Because He claimed to be the Christ, the divine Son of God (Luke 2:11; Luke 4:41), the Lord (Luke 2:11,26), the King of Israel (Mark 15:32). His suffering as a ‘divine human’ (‘Christ Jesus’) had been foreordained from the beginning of the world, as Jesus Himself confirmed:
 
“He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”  (1 Pet 1:20)
 
Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day.” (Luke 24:46)
 
The bottom line is that Jesus has always been the Christ. He has always been divine. He was the Christ before His birth, in the womb, as a child, before His baptism and after, on the Cross and after His death, and after His resurrection. For BJ to state that Christ was not Jesus’ last name but something He received after His baptism is to again deny His inherent divinity. It is of note that the apostle John writes the following:
 
“Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.”   (1 John 2:22)
 
In other words, you cannot have God without accepting that Jesus has always been the Son, the Christ, one with the Father. John goes on to say:
 
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”  (1 John 4:1-3)

The underlined sentence in Greek is ‘sarx erchomai’, which word-for-word means ‘in the flesh has come from one place to another’. [32]  This is something that BJ denies when he says that Jesus came to earth but only picked up the title of ‘Christ’ when He was anointed. Over and over, BJ deconstructs Jesus’ divinity, which is in line with what a spirit of antichrist would do, as per the Scriptures of 1 John 2:22 & 1 John 4:1-3!
 
The separation of Jesus from the Christ, is actually a New Age teaching. In The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, Levi Dowling makes the following statements:
 
“The word Christ is derived from the Greek word Kristos and means anointed.  It is identical with the Hebrew word Messiah.  The word Christ, in itself, does not refer to any particular person; every anointed person is christed.  When the definitive article ‘the’ is placed before the word Christ, a definite personality is indicated, and this personality is none other than a member of the Trinity, the Son…” [33]
 
The word Christ means “the anointed one,” and then it is an official title.  It means, The Master of Love.  When we say ‘Jesus, the Christ’ we refer to the man and to his office; just as we do when we say…Lincoln, the President…Lincoln was not always President, and Jesus was not always Christ.  Jesus won his Christship by a strenuous life…we have a record of the events of his christing, or receiving the degree Christ.  Here is where he was coronated…” [34]
 
“…and now you stand ready to take the last degree. Upon your brow I place this diadem, and in the Great Lodge of the heavens and earth you are THE CHRIST. This is your great Passover rite.  You are a neophyte no more; but now a master mind. Now, man can do no more; but God himself will speak, and will confirm your title and degree. Go on your way, for you must preach the gospel of good will to men and peace on earth; must open up the prison doors and set the captives free. And while the hierophant yet spoke the temple bells rang out; a pure white dove descended from above and sat on Jesus’ head. And then a voice that shook the very temple said, THIS IS THE CHRIST…” [35]
 
Notice the striking similarities with BJ’s Christological statements:
 
“Christ is not Jesus’ last name. The word Christ means “Anointed One” or “Messiah.”  It is a title that points to an experience.  It was not sufficient that Jesus be sent from heaven to earth with a title.  He had to receive the anointing in an experience to accomplish what the Father desired. The word anointing means “to smear.” The Holy Spirit is the oil of God that was smeared all over Jesus at His water baptism.  The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit.” [36]  (underline mine)
 
“The outpouring of the Spirit also needed to happen to Jesus for Him to be fully qualified. This was His quest. Receiving this anointing qualified Him to be called the Christ, which means “anointed one.” Without the experience there could be no title.” [37]    (underline mine)
 
Personally, I can reach no other conclusion that BJ denies that Jesus is the Christ. No matter how many other orthodox-sounding theological statements he makes, there is no room for the deconstruction of Jesus’ divinity, with such New Age overtones. Yet perhaps in a sense, this should not be surprising. Bill Johnson and Bethel come from the Word of Faith stable. The theology of the Word of Faith movement was coined by EW Kenyon, who syncretised Christian and New Thought theology (New Thought metaphysical cults were what New Age was called at the time). [38] 
Kenneth Hagin – the father of the Word of Faith movement – plagiarized EW Kenyon, [39] with Kenneth Copeland then carrying on the New Age/Christian syncretism. BJ has also carried that on, but seemingly willing to go much further down the New Age path. He clearly thinks that New Age has something to offer [40]: 
 
“Many prominent pastors and conference speakers add fuel to the fire of fear by assuming that because the New Age promotes it, its origins must be from the devil. I find that form of reasoning weak at best. If we follow that line of thought we will continue to give the devil the tools that God has given us for success in life and ministry.” [41] 
 
Ellyn Davis, one of the authors of the book The Physics of Heaven (note that BJ’s personal assistant, Judy Franklin, is a co-author, and BJ himself has written an entire chapter), says that the contributors of the book:

“… all agree that the next move of God will cause a shift at the deepest level of who we are—perhaps the very “vibrational level” that the New Age movement has been exploring. They also all agree that there are precious truths hidden in the New Age that belong to us as Christians and need to be extracted from the worthless.” [42] 

(underline mine – the point is that this is what BJ actually believes!)
 
To say that “Jesus is eternally God” (which BJ does a number of times), yet on the other hand make statements such as: “He emptied Himself of His divinity and became a man… Christ is not Jesus’ last name…Receiving the anointing qualified Him to be called the Christ… Without the experience there could be no title”, is a logical and theological contradiction. The latter statements are outright heresy.
 
There were many, many battles fought over Christ’s divinity throughout early Church history. [43] Getting it right took much pain, suffering and even martyrdom. Get this wrong, and the warnings of Scripture could not be more dire.
 

Discussion

Before I move on to the section regarding the Gospel, I want to point out that in a sense it is true that God “anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him”. (Acts 10:38) There is clearly a degree to which Jesus was an example for us and He commanded the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were “endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a valid NT experience that could indeed be separate from faith in Christ, and which Paul wanted to make sure that believers had experienced – Acts 8:14-16; 19:2.
 
Nevertheless, it is wrong to say that Jesus had any need to be anointed. The Bible does not say that when the Spirit came upon Him as a dove, Jesus was “anointed” at that point. On the contrary, the Scriptures simply state that it was the sign for John to recognize Jesus as the One who does the baptizing with the Holy Spirit:
 
I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” (John 1:33)
 
Jesus did not need to be anointed by the Holy Spirit, since He is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, and it’s His Spirit anyway:
 
“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”   (Rom 8:9,10)
 
Thus, if we have a proper view of Jesus Christ’s Divinity, we would understand that in a very real sense He actually anointed Himself “with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38). It also means that we cannot ignore the workings of Jesus Christ as God outside of the Gospels, as BJ does (see section 1 on his overarching view of God).

BJ says that: “If we are tempted to believe something about God that we can’t see revealed in Christ, then we’d better reject it. In His life and ministry, Jesus perfectly re-presented the Father by doing what His Father did and saying what His Father said.” [44]  BJ sees Jesus purely as a man divested of His divinity, giving us a perfect example for us to replicate by receiving the anointing (the baptism of the Holy Spirit). Because He paid for your sins, you are called to then replicate that same ministry, because “The outpouring of the Spirit really is the Bible’s cure-all.” [45]  BJ then carries on to say: “The outpouring of the Spirit deals directly with God’s destiny for humanity. The purpose for which Christ accomplished salvation for mankind was just this, to put us right with God so that He (the Spirit) could rest upon us, creating a people who could co-labor with Him to bring heaven on earth.” [46]   (brackets mine)
 
This idea of bringing heaven on earth is in fact what BJ sees as the real Biblical message: “God’s plan of rulership for man never ceased. Jesus came to bear man’s penalty for sin and recapture what had been lost. Luke 19:10 records that Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” Not only was mankind lost to sin, his dominion over planet Earth was also lost. Jesus came to recapture all that was lost.” [47]  (italics in original)   
Later he states: “I owe people the message of the Kingdom of God. It must be declared. This wonderful message includes the good news of salvation for lost and broken humanity, which is all of us. But it is much bigger than that. It is the proclamation of God’s rule over everything that exists, in the natural realm as well as the spiritual. And all of that is in the here and now.” [48]  (italics in original)
 
In theological terms this is known as ‘Kingdom Now’ theology. It sounds very appealing. The problem is that this is not what the Bible teaches – that we are going to take over the world with signs, wonders, miracles and a demonstration of “God’s goodness”. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that that is the way the Antichrist will take over the world (2 Thes 2:9-10 – see below).
 
In 1 Cor 15:51-53, the Bible describes how, in the twinkling of an eye, the dead will be raised and we shall be changed, with our mortal/perishable bodies becoming immortal/imperishable. This is described further in 1 Thes 4:14-18, where it states “by a word from the Lord” that the dead in Christ will rise first, and those who are still alive will follow immediately, to meet the Lord in the clouds/air. This gathering together to the Lord is known as the rapture. It is further described in 2 Thes 2:1-4, where it says: “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” This speaks of the Antichrist, and more information is given in 2 Thes 2:7-8:
 
“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”
 
The only person who could restrain the Antichrist some 2000 years ago and still do so today is the Holy Spirit. It makes perfect sense that when He (the Holy Spirit) is taken out of the way, we go with Him (the rapture). This then makes way for the Antichrist’s kingdom to be established – “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” (2 Thes 2:9-10)
 
It is of note if we look at the book of Revelation, that in chapter 19:7-21 we see an interesting sequence. The wife of the Lamb (the church) partakes in the marriage supper of the Lamb (7-9), clothed in fine linen, clean and bright (v8). This is followed by Jesus and the armies of heaven, likewise clothed in fine linen, white and clean (i.e. the church), coming to earth for the great final battle where Jesus strikes the beast, the false prophet and all the earthly kings and their armies (17-21). The appearance of the church on earth in ch 19 of Revelation is the first time since the end of chapter 3. In between lies God’s wrath (Rev 6:17), with judgment after judgment of God upon the unrepentant people on earth and the Antichrist’s kingdom. I think it is very likely (though I accept other viewpoints exist) that the rapture takes place at the end of chapter 3, since the Bible also says that “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes 5:9).
 
The important points to note however from these Scriptures, is that we come with Jesus to establish His rule (Rev 20:1-6), and that the only kingdom that gets established on earth before Christ returns is the Antichrist’s – with “all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception”! Thus, the concept of the church establishing some sort of “God’s rule over everything that exists… in the here and now” [49] is in fact a deception that prepares the way for the Antichrist, not Christ! Scripture clearly says that it is Jesus Christ who ushers in His Kingdom, not us!  
 
(Note that the relationship between the ‘The Gospel of the Kingdom’ and ‘The Gospel of the Cross’ is an important consideration, which Don Carson explores very well in his essay on the gospel [50].  It is beyond the scope of this review to go into great detail so I will simply copy and paste a few summary sentences at the end of this review.)
 

The Gospel

BJ clearly spells out his view of the gospel in an article written in the Sept/Oct 2008 issue of “Ministry Today”. [51] I will copy and paste some of his statements in quotation marks, with my comments following.
 
 
MANDATE FOR MIRACLES Bill Johnson
 
“We sell the gospel short if we see the need for miracles as optional.” “It is tragic when the high water mark for the Church is our celebration of what is humanly possible. We build buildings, raise money for missions, feed the poor, and perform countless other endeavors that are essential expressions of the gospel. These must continue, but never at the expense of neglecting the specific things He commissioned us to do: invade the impossible. He commanded His disciples to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out devils, and cleanse lepers and to teach their converts to do the same. That unending commission makes evangelism, healing, and deliverance the responsibility of every believer.” “Once the Spirit of the resurrected Christ took up residence in us, powerlessness became inexcusable.” 

Most Christians’ walk is without the signs and wonders (or at least regular signs and wonders), so are they without excuse? The term “without excuse” in the Scriptures refers to refusing to believe in God, not a lack of signs and wonders (Romans 1:20). The book of Acts recounts that hundreds and hundreds of miracles were done though the apostles’ hands, but there are also many instances where the gospel was preached without signs & wonders – Acts 8:34-37, 9:20, 11:19-21, 13:14-44, 16:9-15, 17:10-12, 17:17-34, 18:7-8, 19:8-10, 28:30-31 being just some of those examples. “The power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us, longing for expression through the body of the one He rested upon two thousand years ago. He wants to do it all again: this time through millions, not just one. The gospel is a gospel of power and must become manifest through supernatural demonstration. Miracles are not optional.” The gospel is proclamation of the salvation message (and the coming Kingdom). It is not the signs and wonders in and of themselves. Where in the Scriptures does it say that the gospel must be accompanied by signs and wonders and that it is somehow deficient if signs and wonders are missing? The Bible says that the gospel itself the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16)!  
 

“They (miracles) are so important that Jesus hung the entire weight of His identity and ministry upon them saying, “If I don’t do the works of the Father, don’t believe me” (John 10:37). That is an amazing statement when you consider all the witnesses throughout history sent to reveal and confirm the identity of Jesus Christ. Nature proclaimed who He was. Angels also declared His identity and purpose. The Old Testament prophets, and even the Law, spoke of Jesus as the Christ. But when He came, He put the credibility of all of their messages on the line by highlighting one remaining bit of evidence, without which the message of all the rest would be nullified–the works of the Father must be done through Him. A study of the Gospel of John leaves little doubt as to what was meant by “the works of the Father.” They are miracles, signs and wonders. I long for the day when the Church stands before this world and declares, “If we don’t do the works of the Father, don’t believe us. If miracles are not present, you’re off the hook.”
 
BJ starts with a truth (Jesus saying that signs & wonders validated His ministry), then ends with a complete fallacy to push through his false theology. Let’s be clear: the Bible leaves no-one off the hook – “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20). The rich man in Luke 16 was in torment in flames and asked Abraham to send someone from the dead and Abraham declined, saying that if they don’t believe the word then they would not believe even if someone appeared to them from the dead – much less a sign and wonder!

“The perspective of Jesus on the absolute need for miracles must affect the way we think and pray. If not, we will always sell the gospel short.”
 
Obviously John the Baptist didn’t sell the gospel short since he did no sign yet many believed in Jesus whom he preached (John 10:41). And according to Scripture, John was a NT prophet: “The law and the prophets were until John…” (Luke 16:16), and “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.” Moreover Jesus said of John that “among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist” (Luke 7:28).
  
“We must face this reality: we were drafted into a lifestyle that is impossible apart from an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit; it only works the way Jesus modeled it. The Spirit that remained upon Him enabled Him to do only what the Father was doing and say only what the Father was saying. Only in the context of intimacy with God do we enter the life where nothing is impossible. As we learn to embrace the responsibility of demonstrating the normal Christian life of miracles, we enter a realm of impact that has been understood by very few. Exposure to the realm of the supernatural interventions of God changes something in the leader that cannot be brought about through leadership seminars and books. As good as these tools are, they don’t begin to touch the intangible shift that takes place in the life of the leader who has constant exposure to the miracle realm. “Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had known all the works of the LORD which He had done for Israel” (Joshua 24:31 NKJV). As long as Israel had leaders who had been exposed to miracles, they had a heart for God.”
 
This is outrageous! The OT is full of Jewish leaders exposed to prophets with signs and wonders and who still rebelled! Exposure to miracles is far from a guarantee that it will lead to a heart for God.
 
“It is unlikely that the generation of leaders that came after the Joshua/elder group had a calculated plan to lead Israel away from God. Coldness of heart and rebellion don’t usually come suddenly. But in the absence of a life of miracles is seldom found a life of radical obedience to God.”
 
Wow! How insulting to so many… where does this come from? This is poisonous. It is driving people to look for the signs and wonders as “proof” of their Christian walk and obedience to God, and that somehow without the signs and wonders they are sub-standard. Conversely, I have seen people who think they are obeying God because they have a supernatural gifting which they use (which may or may not be of God), and are liars & thieves through and through. In Matthew 7 Jesus says these words:
  
‘Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
 
Jesus only made signs & wonders the litmus test for one ministry – His. For all other ministers, there was a warning that the signs & wonders may be false and/or may not mean that we can trust that minister. The Bible says: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” (2 Cor 11:13-15)

“Exposure to the supernatural works of God brings about the equivalent of a spiritual DNA change in the leader that also engenders in the people a passion for God. Apostolic leadership always empowers instead of controls. And the empowerment for a passion for God is one of the most necessary, yet often neglected, traits in church leaders. When leaders live under the atmosphere of heaven, their exposure to miracles (heaven’s atmosphere on earth) increases their capacity to bring the people of God into their supernatural potential. We are indebted to the world to bring not only a message; we owe them an encounter with God.”
 

“For in living in freedom, we illustrate what He is like and model what living under His rule looks like. This is a huge part of our message of the Gospel – live it, and when necessary use words.” [52]
 
For BJ the gospel message itself is insufficient. So he alters it to suit his penchant for signs & wonders. But this is now a different gospel, for the Bible says that His Word will not return to Him void, irrespective of “the encounter” (Isa 55:11). In fact, Jesus said that “False christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect”. (Matt 24:24)
 
There are at least 18 Scriptures in the NT warning about the prophetic/false teachers/signs & wonders (Matthew 7:15-20;  Matthew 16:11-12; Matthew 23:1-29;  Matthew 24:24;  Mark 13:22;  Luke 6:26;  Acts 20:28-30;  Gal 2:4;  2 Timothy 4:3-4;  Titus 1:6-16;  2 Peter 1:12-21;  2 Peter 3:14-18;  2 Peter 2;  1 John 4:1-6;  Rev 2:2;  Rev 2:14;  Rev 2:20;  Rev 3:17).  When the focus is on signs & wonders, it makes us susceptible to “the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders” (2 Thes 2:9). The gospel message is a message. Signs & wonders are not that message in and of themselves. So while I’m not in any way opposed to signs and wonders to back up that message, if the framework is altered, then we are in dangerous territory. A lifetime of obedience to God may not have any signs and wonders to accompany (though we should seek to have these) but that does not mean it isn’t giving God glory.

 
Conclusion

What follows is not a conclusion that I wanted to reach. I have not enjoyed trawling through all the material that I have had to read and prayerfully consider. I have tried to be as succinct as possible – there are dozens & dozens more quotes from BJ that I could have included which I found Biblically inaccurate. Ultimately, I am constrained by BJ’s own statements and by Scripture. It is clear that BJ effectively denies that Jesus is God by denying His inherent divinity on earth, and denying that He has always been and always will be the Christ. This is borderline New Age, which BJ considers to have something good to offer. It is also clear that his gospel message is about signs & wonders and “bringing the kingdom to earth”, rather than the actual salvation message. The Scriptures have the following to say on this:
 
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”  (1 John 4:1-3)
 
“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:8-9)
 

 No matter how good his teachings might sound, or how accurate his teachings on other topics, I believe that Scripture clearly condemns BJ’s statements about Jesus and the Gospel, calling him a false prophet and his gospel a false gospel that is accursed. That may sound harsh, but in medicine we don’t judge a pill on the basis of the sugar coating that makes it palatable to swallow. We judge a pill on the basis of the active ingredient at its core. Christology and the Gospel are the core tenets of our faith that cannot be compromised. When those are altered, any sugar-coated theological pill that we swallow is nothing more than spiritual cyanide.
 
As a Pentecostal Arminian, I can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a cessationist Calvinist and preach the Gospel, for we are agreed on the foundation. This is not possible with BJ and Bethel, for their theology is nothing more than candy-coated heresy. I believe we should have no business doing spiritual business with them, other than to speak the truth in love, so that “God perhaps will grant them repentance” (2 Tim 2:25).

 Addendum – The Relationship between the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of the Cross
 

  “The Gospel of the Cross can be defined as being “the good news that God is reconciling sinners to himself through the substitutionary death of Jesus”, while the Gospel of the Kingdom can be defined as being “the good news that God is going to renew and remake the whole world through Christ.” Don Carson insists that these are not two gospels but one gospel in two perspectives – both of which are valid. The narrower focus draws you to Jesus—his incarnation, his death and resurrection, his session and reign—as that from which all the elements of what God is doing are drawn. The broader focus sketches in the mighty dimensions of what Christ has secured. Because of what God has done in Christ Jesus, the gospel necessarily includes the good that has been secured by Christ and his cross work. Thus it has a present and an eschatological dimension.  However, if one preaches the gospel in the broader sense without also emphasizing the gospel in the more focused sense of what God has done to bring about such sweeping transformation, one actually sacrifices the gospel.”
 
“To preach the gospel as if this were equivalent to preaching, say, the demands of the kingdom or the characteristics and promises of the kingdom, both now in its inauguration and finally in its consummation, without making clear what secures the whole, is not to preach the gospel but only a tired and tiring moralism. Perhaps that is why Paul, talking of what the gospel is, feels free to identify the matters of first importance: Christ crucified and risen again. The heart of the gospel is what God has done in Jesus, supremely in his death and resurrection. Period.”

“There is only one gospel, not two. The gospel of the kingdom necessarily includes the gospel of the cross. The gospel of the cross is the fountainhead of the gospel of the kingdom. Hence, it is wrong to say that the gospel is the declaration that the kingdom of God has come. The gospel of the kingdom is the declaration of the kingdom of God together with the means of entering it, and the message of forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus is not a reduction of the true gospel.” [53]
 
The reason all of this is crucially important, is because the ‘Gospel of the Kingdom’ is slowly being transformed into a new term for ‘Kingdom Now’ theology, without people realizing what this means. Note the following statements by BJ:
 
“Somehow we must learn how to merge the message of the blessed hope with that of societal transformation. We must be able to hunger for Christ and His return, yet still fully engage in our assignment to display the reality of His Kingdom now through miracles, signs, and wonders unto the transformation of cities and nations… If Jesus is the desire of the nations, then perhaps we, as His Body, should become desirable to the nations by becoming servants who have answers to the problems of the hour.” [54] 
 
“The revelation of God’s nature (His goodness) brings the nations to Him.” [55] 
 
This sounds so good, yet it is a complete twisting of Scripture. The “Desire of All Nations” is a descriptor for God in the temple in Jerusalem from Haggai 2:7… and later in the same chapter God describes how He will destroy the Gentiles (vv 21-22)! So much for the nations coming to Jesus in repentance. And perhaps Jesus was mistaken when He said:
 
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”  (John 15:18-20)
 
The concept of a kingdom on earth prior to the King’s return is also foreign to those who: “…all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Heb 11:13-16)
 
Undeterred by such Scriptures, BJ uses a whole chapter in one of his books to expand on the idea that “Most Christians repent enough to be forgiven, but not enough to see the Kingdom.” [56]  

He reiterates this idea years later by saying:
 
“Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17). This word “repent” means “to change our way of thinking.” But it is much more than a mental exercise. It really is the deep sorrow for sin that enables a person to truly repent and change his mind or perspective on reality. Hebrews 6:1 clearly teaches that there are two sides to this action: “Repentance from dead works… faith toward God.” Full repentance is from something toward something – from sin toward God. Many Christians repent enough to be forgiven, but not enough to see the Kingdom. Their repentance doesn’t bring the Kingdom into view.

The same concept is taught with two different perspectives. One passage (Hebrews 6:1) says “toward God” and the other (Matthew 4:17) implies it’s “toward the Kingdom”. Luke captures the richness of both views when he writes: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). The point is the presence is the Kingdom. It really is that simple.” [57]     (italics in original, underline mine)
 
One could be forgiven here for missing the sleight of hand. BJ uses “quotation marks” repeatedly for actual Scripture passages. With one exception – which I have underlined. Luke 4:17 does NOT state or imply that repentance is “toward the Kingdom”! It states to repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand – in other words the King is present and He is at work. He will soon return. Repentance is still toward God and away from sin – not some imaginary repentance toward the Kingdom which “many Christians” fail to do! Again, this is nothing more than false teaching, with a duplicitous attempt by BJ to try and pass his views off as though they were Scripture! And if we accept BJ’s views, then we are being deceived towards accepting the kingdom of the Antichrist.
  
We must remember that:
 
1) Jesus never defined the Kingdom, although we do get to see glimpses of it around us as the true gospel is preached (with or without signs & wonders), people are born-again and this impacts their lives and those of people around them.
 
2) Jesus installs His Kingdom on earth, not us!
 
3) He does this when we come with Him from heaven to earth, where He obliterates His enemies at a battle royal (Armageddon) and destroys the false world-wide kingdom of the Antichrist that had been previously set-up (Revelation 19). We have to beware the theology that the church establishes some sort of “God’s rule over everything that exists… in the here and now” [58]. 
 
Truly, our Kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36; James 2:5)

[1] God is Good (2016), p135
[2] Ibid, p30
[3] Ibid, pp31 (Italics in quotes always in original)
[4] Ibid, pp31-32
[5] Ibid, pp110–111
[6] God is Good, p112
[7] Ibid, p113
[8] Ibid, p136
[9] Ibid, p136
[10] Ibid, p136, last sentence
[11] God is Good, p135 
[12] When Heaven Invades Earth (2003), ch.10
[13] God is Good, pp191-196
[14] Ibid, p196
[15] Ibid, pp161-162
[16] God is Good, p166
[17] Ibid, p203
[18] Ibid, p157
[19] Good is Good, p137
[20] Ibid, p172
[21] https://www.samstorms.com/all-articles/post/are-apostles-for-today
[22] Strengthen yourself in The Lord (2015), p26
[23] Release the Power of Jesus (2009), p79
[24] Face to Face with God: The Ultimate Quest to Experience His Presence (2007), p108
[25] When Heaven Invades Earth (2003), p79
[26] Face to Face, p199
[27] Ibid, p29
[28] The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind: Access to a Life of Miracles (2005), p50
[29] Bill Johnson’s Facebook Post, February 14, 2011
[30] When Heaven Invades Earth (2003), p79
[31] Face to Face, p109
[32] See the passage at www.studylight.org, using Strong’s Interlinear Bible – Thayer’s Definition of the verb.
[33] The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ (1907), p6
[34] Ibid, p8
[35] Ibid, p82-83 (capitals in original)
[36] When Heaven Invades Earth (2003), p79
[37] Face to Face, p109
[38] A Different Gospel, D.R.McConnell, 1995, Hendrickson Publishers
[39] Ibid
[40] https://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=15508
[41] Dreaming With God: Secrets to Redesigning Your World Through God’s Creative Flow (2006), p. 86.
[42] The Physics of Heaven (2013), Kindle location: 447.
[43] Introducing Early Christianity (2004) by Laurie Guy, lecturer in church history and New Testament at Carey Bible College, pp248-294 (chs 10 &11).[44] Strengthen yourself in The Lord, p107
[45] Face to Face, pp76-77
[46] Ibid, pp79
[47] God is Good, p50
[48] Ibid, p212
[49] God is Good, p212
[50] https://media.thegospelcoalition.org/static-blogs/justin-taylor/files/2010/10/for_the_fame_of_gods_name.excerpt.pdf
[51]http://www.westchurch.org.nz/wc/docs/Prayer_Wells/Wells_Raw_Word_files/MANDATE%20FOR%20MIRACLES%20%20Bill%20Johnson.doc
[52] God is Good, p82
[53] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/the-relationship-between-the-gospel-of-the-kingdom-and-the-gospel-of-the-cross/
[54] God is Good, pp176-177
[55] Ibid, p209
[56] When Heaven Invades Earth (2003), ch.3
[57] God is Good, p72
[58] Ibid, p212

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