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Latter Rain Movement:
Its Continuing Influence
By R. K. McGregor Wright, Th.M., Ph.D.
Note: Words in bold are defined in the Glossary at the end of Part Two.
In North Battleford, Saskatchewan in 1946-48, there was an eruption of charismatic manifestations which proved to be the start of a remarkable departure in the history of the Pentecostal type of churches around the world. Many came to think that this "new wave" of the Spirit was in fact the "latter rain" referred to in such passages as Jeremiah 3:3 and 5:2, Joel 2:23, Hosea 6:3, Zechariah 10:1, and James 5:7.
The "early" rain was said to be the outpouring of Pentecost itself (or perhaps the Azusa St. revival), and the current "move" of the Spirit was the "latter rain." Many movements and seminal doctrines already existing on the fringes of Pentecostalism came together in a key group of healers, evangelists and teachers in the years 1948-52, and the combination came to be called the Latter Rain Revival.
Crossing Denominational Barriers
Within less than two years, however, the mainline Pentecostal churches (such as the Assemblies of God) had completely rejected the Latter Rain Movement as dangerous and heretical, calling it "wild-fire." This was their own term for out-of-control manifestations, and captures the flavor of the movement rather well.
The Latter Rain teachers, healers and evangelists were forced out of their many former associations into what they felt was a "wilderness church" experience, where they regrouped, and strengthened their own ministries. Then in the late sixties and seventies they began the self-conscious re-infiltration of other denominations under the "charismatic" label.
An important bridge-builder during this stage was the Full Gospel Businessmen's International of the duPlessis brothers. This has since resulted in the heavy permeation of the whole charismatic movement by Latter Rain doctrines in their many permutations and idiosyncratic developments, down to the mass evangelism TV ministries of today.
I say "self-conscious" infiltration because central to the Latter Rain's view of itself is the idea that they represent God's New Order, which is to unify the body of Christ as a whole, preparing it by overstepping the artificial boundaries of "doctrine" and "tradition" to bring believers together into a perfected Church by new patterns of worship and Spiritual experience (see sources below, 1e.g. Bill Hamon 1; pp.365, 387).
Jesus is said to be "imprisoned in heaven" (Acts 3:21 actually says "receive," but this is taken to mean he is held there) until the Church is united and ready to meet him (Hamon 2; pp. 84f., 122, 224). This was the whole point of promoting "pentecostal experiences" across denominational barriers in the sixties.
The peculiar doctrines of the Latter-Rain prophets can be easily listed, but can only be traced with some difficulty in the hundreds of charismatic groups today, because of their multiform mutations.
1. The Latter Rain theory itself.
2. Restoration of the "fivefold ministries" of Ephesians 4.
3. Manifested Sons of God.
4. Kingdom Now eschatology (lately influenced also by Reconstructionism).
5. Shepherding discipleship methods.
6. Positive Confession, the "creative spoken word."
7. "Impartation of gifts" by laying on of hands.
8. Use of traveling Presbytery Teams to get other churches involved.
9. Anti-doctrinalism, in the interests of promoting unity.
10. Seed-faith techniques.
11. Directive prophecy to control and influence both individuals and churches.
Attention will be given here mainly to the false doctrines associated with the "restoration of prophecy" in the Neo-Prophetic Movement. The Neo-Prophetic Movement is animated by the claim that God is restoring the gift of prophecy, both the "predictive," and the "directive" for individual guidance.
Some claim this gift can only be imparted by laying-on of hands by a Latter Rain prophet, and gives the impartee special powers to speak the "rhema word" of God in power and judgement (Hamon 1; pp. 250f, and Hamon 2; pp. 170-173).
4. EPHESIANS 4:11-14 is used as the basis of the idea that God is progressively restoring the five gifts of verse 11, in the reverse order to how they were "lost." This is supposed to mean that God has already restored all but the last gift, that of Apostleship. Since prophets were restored in the 1980s, Apostles are expected to be restored in the 1990s (Hamon 2; pp. 45-49, 112, 169f., 182-183).
This curious historical gloss is not even hinted at either in the context of the verse, or in any other passage of Scripture. Bishop Bill Hamon all but insists that somehow Apostles will appear in the nineties, to bring the Church to the perfection necessary for Christ to return.
The actual method for deciding who counts as an Apostle is a bit mysterious; but it seems as if it might work much the same way as the latter-Rain old-boys network sets up a prophet. They simply praise him into prominence by promotionally pointing to each other.
For example, Bob Jones, a key prophet at the former Kansas City Fellowship, said in 1989 that, "Paul Cain is the most anointed prophet thats in the world today" (Bob Jones, V and R, p.1). And Bill Hamon describes the process in some detail in The Eternal Church, using himself as a case in point.
Christians should compare this method with the rather stringent qualifications for church leadership given by Paul in the Pastoral Epistles.
The quality of Cains prophetic insight may be gauged by the fact that he prophesized that every minister living in secret sin would be exposed by the end of the eighties, and a New Breed of supernatural miracle Workers would replace them (Paul Cain in the tape The New Breed referred to in Dager).
When I saw in a newsnote in Christianity Today some weeks ago, that Cain was joining the staff of (formerly) Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones' Westminster Chapel in London, I about croaked, to put it colloquially. This is in the same weirdness category as a public announcement that the Pope has just appointed Billy Graham as the new Archbishop of New York. Except that the CT note is actually true.
Can we imagine what ML-J would have thought of this? The good Doctor spent forty years of faithful ministry trying to convince the British evangelical world to face the encroachment of syncretism with false doctrine in their denominations, and basically, he was not successful (see the biography by lain Murray, Vol. II). Now that he is dead, a charismatic "prophet" who claims to get literally hundreds of direct verbal revelations from angels (Bob Jones, V and R tape), is coming onto the staff of the church ML-J served so long.
Kansas City Fellowship
Kansas City Fellowship (now Metro Vineyard Fellowship), was severely challenged from within the charismatic fraternity itself, by a group of concerned pastors in 1989-90, led by Pastor Ernie Gruen. The resulting expose (Documentation of Aberrant Practices and Teachings of KCF/GM, Gruen et al.) was so frightening that it led the KCF leadership to reorganize and place themselves under the authority of the Vineyard's John Wimber, who was called in to do damage control.
Despite the rumor that Gruen "apologized" for inaccurate statements, no such apology ever occurred, and his criticism still remains intact, and he stands behind all of it. Nevertheless, trusting Wimber to sort it all out, Gruen promised to stop circulating the tapes and printed criticisms of problems at KCF, summarized in about 240 pages of material. But the evangelical public at large had now been warned what the Neo-Prophetic Movement could be like close-up, and KCF, now part of the Vineyard, was widely recognized as a prime example of it.
In the meantime, the mighty prophet Bob Jones has been put on the back burner, and Paul Cain, the main prophet associated with Wimber, is now distancing himself for a while in England.
Real Character of the Neo-Prophetic Movement
The real character of the Neo-Prophetic Movement was unwittingly exposed by the KCF in a taped interview between Bob Jones and Mike Bickle, the principal leader of KCF, with the written transcripts widely circulated (Referenced below in "Sources").
In this tape, Mike and Bob banter about the prophetic practices of the Neo-Prophetic Movement. The following is but a sample.
We are told that:
1. People who watch pornography will experience nasal fluids "sliming" up their arms (BJ: "I mean literally.).
2. The presence of the Lord smells like a woman wearing too much perfume.
3. Bob Jones and others will speak "rhema" revelations in 1990.
4. These revelations will have the same power and effectiveness as Isaiah spoke of in Isa. 55:11.
5. When BJ is filled with the Spirit, he can see and taste spiritual states and sins in others with all his five senses.
6. KCF will be attacked by witchcraft.
7. People (like the present writer) who complain that many of the practices and claims of the Neo-Prophetic Movement are basically occultism, are "hirelings and gigilos" (sic).
8. The claims people make for revelations should not be criticized.
9. That unlike Old Testament prophets, New Testament prophets are often wrong. They may be 90% wrong; 60% accuracy is about the best they can expect.
10. BJ himself expects to be only about two-thirds accurate.
11. The Neo-Prophetic Movement prophecies have never been more than 60% accurate.
12. Francis Frangipane (they sell his tapes at KCF) claims that the level of demonism rises with the level of prophecy.
13. What the Lord will do for KCF is already in Psalm 50.
14. God's "logos" is merely the "dry word" compared with their "rhema."
15. Even when God "loads the gun" of the rhema revelations, some of his bullets are blanks.
16. We can only know a prophet is telling the truth when "three or four of us bring the same word."
17. God told him a year-and-a-half before Jimmy Carter became President who it would be.
18. The children of the KCF leaders will become Melchisedekian priests.
19. This new generation will "put death under their feet and they'll bring forth the glorious church and reveal the malechild of Revelation 12.
20. Ezekiel 9:4 speaks about an uncreated Angel.
21. BJ has seen God "face to face."
22. The Reorganized Mormon Church will join the Neo-Prophetic Movement.
23. 1000 religious leaders will die in 1990 for misusing "the anointing."
24. Jesus still doesn't know the time of the Second Coming.
25. The Logos has to be "anointed" to produce Rhema.
26. The KCF will eventually become twelve city churches each with its own personal prophet.
27. BJ is the "Keeper of the Threshold-the Holy Place."
28. He feels a tingling in his fingers to tell who is a prophet, an evangelist, or pastor.
29. The Manifested Sons of God will appear within 30 years to glorify the Church on earth, and raise the dead and heal people.
30. BJ's hands turn purple when he gets his best revelations.
And all this is from two friendly interviews! We could go on; this is a mere selection of the more intelligible of this man's prophetic revelations. Is it any wonder that the KCF has put him on the back burner for a while? How can the KCF leadership, including John Wimber, claim superior spiritual discernment to Ernie Gruen and his worried colleagues, when they indulge this sort of thing throughout the Neo-Prophetic Movement for years? As an illustration of the Neo-Prophetic Movement's odd theories, we will now consider the Manifested Sons doctrine.
Manifested Sons Heresy
The Manifested Sons heresy appears in many forms, and under many names, including: the Manchild Company, the Sonship, the Melchisedek Priesthood, the Shulamites, Joel Company, Elijah Company, the Many-membered Christ, the New Order, Overcomers, God's Army, the Corporate Body, Feast of Tabernacles, Tabernacle of David, etc., etc.
The terms are endless, and merely reflect whatever idiosyncratic use is being made of allegorical Scriptural illustrations at any instant. Bill Hamon's books for example, are saturated with this arbitrary use of passages out of context. But the central idea is the same; God will raise up a supergroup of anointed and empowered believers in the last days to bring the Church to unity and perfection, to produce the Spotless Bride in readiness for Jesus at his return. This theory passed into serious practice under John Robert Stevens (JRS) in the dangerously aberrant sect called The Walk (ref. Nichols).
Meanwhile, Paul Cain's version of the Manifested Sons doctrine goes under the label "Joel's Army" and the "New Breed." These are his own terms (Cain, pp. 10-12). This super-naturally-endowed future body will be manifested to unite and perfect the Church, judge the world, and conquer the earth for Christ. These prophetic paragons will lead millions to Christ, heal people and raise the dead, etc.
Yet in the Wake of the Gruen controversy, Paul Cain has claimed (both through John Wimber, and in printed articles) that "He does not hold to the doctrine of the Manifested Sons, but totally denies ever having believed in that teaching" (Cain p. 10). In his own statements he has said that "There are several significant errors in this doctrine." He then repudiates the notion that "some Christians will have fully glorified bodies this side of heaven, or attain physical immortality this side of heaven.
But he himself teaches the Manifested Sons doctrine in another form, which is usually called the "Perfected Church." Instead of using the word perfected, Cain substitutes the word "matured," or "victorious" and speaks of "overcomers." Then, he is also careful to add that any sense of elitism is sinful and to be avoided, and that "the canon of Scripture is finished, closed."
The problem with claiming authoritative additional verbal revelation however, was underscored by the early Church in its rejection of Montanism because their prophetic revelations implied the reopening of the canon of the New Testament. This issue will not be analyzed here, but it still dogs the Neo-Prophetic Movement today.
The Walk was organized by Stevens in 1951. He had been defrocked by the Foursquare Gospel Churches, had joined the Assemblies of God, and was defrocked again, this time for his involvement in the Latter Rain teachings (Nichols). As Stevens got further into the Latter Rain, he developed his own extensions of it.
He came to teach that all the regular denominations were of the Old Order, were Babylonish, and worldly, and largely apostate. God was using The Walk to establish a New Order, and eventually they would "birth" the Manifested Sons, of whom Stevens would be the first. He claimed to be an Apostle and Prophet, and gave out endless taped revelations, many of them transcribed into dozens of booklets. Documentation on this Latter Rain variant is therefore easily obtainable, and has been available to interested researchers for thirty years.
Stevens' most serious (and aberrantly fruitful) blunder was his decision that the spiritual practices and forces of Occultism are really "neutral" and that therefore the methods of the occult should also be used by Christians to help them achieve a similar or even better "spirituality." In fact, he said that Satan originally stole these methods from the righteous. Believers should therefore study the occult and appropriate their techniques, reclaiming their use for God.
JRS taught that God will bless this syncretism, and the Latter Rain fire will fall at last, birthing the perfected Church. The Walk will be (literally) glorified into the Manifested Sons, thereby becoming themselves the Parousia (the Second Coming) of Christ, itself the Manchild Company (Nichols' SCP report).
Stevens even said that communication with Angels and deceased believers had already become possible. Paul Cain and Bob Jones have been talking with Angels regularly for decades, of course. Stevens claimed communication himself with the "great cloud of witnesses."
We need to note in passing that Francis Frangipane, Royal Cronquist, and Mel Bailey, former Apostles of The Walk, are now prominent figures in the Neo-Prophetic Movement. Frangipane has joined forces with KCF/ MVF and is now publishing books and traveling the country encouraging people to conquer demonic "principalities" in order to usher in the Kingdom Now.
This discussion is continued at: The Latter Rain Movement - Part 2.
The above article originally appeared in The
Shield newsletter in 1992.
It was posted on this Web site February 1998.
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