An invasion of Error: A Review of Bill Johnson—When heaven invades earth

By Apprising Ministries special correspondent Bob DeWaay

Bill Johnson of Redding, California has become a popular teacher in one of the latest iterations of the Signs and Wonders movement. His book, When Heaven Invades Earth, reveals his underlying theology.

Johnson believes that there will be a great end-time revival that will be initiated by an “Elijah generation”[1] (a concept from the heretical Latter Rain movement) that shall transcend all other generations of Christians in regard to their ability to do great works of power. Johnson claims the following about himself and associates: “We will carry the Elijah anointing in preparing for the return of the Lord in the same way that John the Baptist carried the Elijah anointing and prepared the people for the coming of the Lord” (Johnson: 184)[2].

Supposedly these elitists will set off a great revival of signs and wonders greater than those of Jesus. This miracle explosion, they expect, will cause a great revival before the return of Christ. Johnson states, “I live for the revival that is unfolding and believe it will surpass all previous moves combined, bringing more than one billion souls into the Kingdom” (Johnson: 23).


The basic premise is that God always wants to do abundant and remarkable miracles but is kept from doing so by the fear and unbelief of the church. God awaits the arrival of specially anointed and enlightened Christians who will make it possible for Him to bring at long last an invasion of heaven to earth before the return of Christ. That is the point of Johnson’s title. His subtitle is A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. Accordingly, with the right information, zeal, desire, piety, faith and anointing, any Christian can “make the supernatural natural” (Johnson: 133).

In this article I will show from Johnson’s book that he has departed from orthodox Christian teaching in many serious ways. He teaches the heretical kenosis doctrine about Christ. He denies the Reformation principle of sola scriptura. He embraces pietism, elitism, subjectivism, fideism, dominion theology, and many other errors. I will claim that his supposed end-time revival is actually end-time apostasy.

How to Introduce Heresy

As I read Johnson’s book, I noted the various errors in it by category. At the end of the process the largest number of entries was under “anti-scholastic bias.” Johnson is firmly against careful scholarship based on sound exegesis of Scripture. To him, such study is likely to bring one into bondage and spiritual death. Sadly, this bias is widespread in current evangelicalism, but Johnson is quite blatant in his rejection of scholarship.
Johnson claims, “For decades the Church has been guilty of creating doctrine to justify their lack of power. . .” (Johnson: 116). It is hard to imagine what “problem” he is reacting to when most of our evangelical educational institutions are committed to postmodern mysticism, with their heroes being mystics like Dallas Willard and Richard Foster. It is hard to find a Bible college or seminary that does not promote “spiritual formation,” which is merely a fancy term for Roman Catholic mysticism. Yet Johnson decries the presence of doctrine. We will see later just how willing he is to depart from orthodox doctrine.

He resorts to an often misused passage that promotes his anti-scholastic bias: “A powerless Word is the letter not the Spirit. And we all know, ‘The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life’” (Johnson: 116). This twisting of Paul’s meaning in 2Corinthians 3:6 has a long history of use to promote subjectivism and mysticism. The false implication is that studying the Bible will kill you spiritually. The context shows that Paul was speaking of the letters written on stone (verse 3), meaning the Decalogue. Paul explains how the law “kills” in Romans 7:5, 6. It kills because of our sinful passions that it exposes, not because it is studied for what it means.[3]

For example, does “you shall not steal” have some secret, mystical meaning that can only be assessed by certain elite persons with subjective spiritual impressions, or does it mean what it says? It means what it says. But to truly live as a person who is free from the sin of stealing we need the grace of God that comes through the gospel. In 2Corinthians 3, Paul is speaking of those who have the Law but reject Christ. Bill Johnson is warning Christians that studying the Bible will kill them. In so doing he abuses the passage and lowers the value of Scripture in the minds of his readers.

Johnson warns against “a powerless Word.” The only way God’s Word lacks power is if we refuse to believe and obey it. The suggestion is false and abusive to the Lord’s flock that people like Johnson, who refuse to be taught the truth but relish signs and wonders, have “power” while those who love and believe God’s Word are powerless.
It is easy to see where Johnson is taking his attack against Christian scholarship:

Those who feel safe because of their intellectual grasp of Scriptures enjoy a false sense of security. None of us has a full grasp of Scripture, but we all have the Holy Spirit. He is our common denominator who will always lead us into truth. But to follow Him, we must be willing to follow off the map—to go beyond what we know. (Johnson: 76)

We will see in the next section just exactly where Johnson has gone “off the map” and where he wants to take us. The claim that we cannot know the Scripture but can know what the Holy Spirit is saying by other means is absurd. The Bible claims that Scripture is the Holy Spirit speaking to the church. The Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures. We understand the Bible using our intellect.

Johnson’s approach is to use the person of the Holy Spirit as an excuse to reject scholarly Bible study in favor of undefined, subjective religious experiences. He further denigrates the Bible:

But in reality, the Bible is a closed book. Anything I get from the Word without God will not change my life. It is closed to insure that I remain dependent on the Holy Spirit. (Johnson: 93)

His categories are false. The Bible is the Holy Spirit speaking to us and its power is not dependant on us using religious experience to escape its boundaries. Any lack of life-changing power is due to unbelief, not the meaning of Scripture as correctly understood. But Johnson claims that the Holy Spirit leads us off the map. Thus he denigrates sola scriptura.

The absurdity of Johnson’s claim is such that it amazes me how many are deceived by it. For example, the claim that the Holy Spirit leads us into truth (which He does through Scripture) by some subjective means that go “off the map” and beyond an “intellectual approach” is disingenuous. Those who go off the map are going somewhere. If they have gotten information directly from the Spirit about where they think they should go and then follow it, they are using their intellect as well. The subjective information from the spirit realm must register in someone’s mind in order for them to act on it. So if the intellect is as bad thing when contemplating the Scriptures, why is it a good thing when determining which subjective impressions to follow? But Johnson warns, “The Church has all too often lived according to an intellectual approach to the Scriptures, void of the Holy Spirit’s influence.” This false dilemma (i.e., either intellect or Spirit) fools his readers into thinking that if they attend hyped up meetings sucKen h as Johnson promotes, the Spirit is at work; whereas if they were to carefully study God’s once-for-all revealed Word they would be stuck in a “powerless” situation (Johnson: 76).

By discounting careful Bible study, scholarship, and using one’s mind Johnson disarms his readers to the point that they are susceptible to heresies such as those he teaches. For example, “Reaction to error usually produces error” (Johnson: 51). If this is true, why did Paul write Galatians, Colossians, and other of his epistles to correct error? Johnson brags that he doesn’t read any books of people who disagree with his version of revivalism. He consistently downplays or rejects the value of scholarly study. He says: “It’s in the environment of worship that we learn things that go way beyond what our intellect can grasp” (Johnson: 44). That statement reminds me of one I read from a New Ager who suggested we contemplate “the sound of one hand clapping.” How do we learn things but they never register on our minds? Probably by subjective, religious feelings that remain undefined. By such feelings people like the Dalai Lama feel close to God. But are they?

Johnson Goes “Off the Map” by Teaching a False Christology

Bill Johnson embraces a doctrine that teaches that during His earthly ministry Jesus operated only as a man and not God. Johnson claims that Christ laid aside His divinity. Johnson says, “He performed miracles, wonders, and signs, as a man in right relationship to God . . . . not as God. If He performed miracles because He was God, then they would be unattainable for us” (Johnson: 29; emphasis and ellipses in original). Johnson’s theology requires that Christians do greater miracles than Jesus. If Jesus’ divinity had any influence on His mighty works, then we might think we could not do the same (and rightly so). So Johnson embraces what is often called the kenosis heresy—that Jesus laid aside His divine nature. He writes elsewhere: “He laid his divinity aside as He sought to fulfill the assignment given to Him by the Father . . .” (Johnson: 79).

Johnson’s priority that believers must be able to do signs and wonders causes him to make many statements that blur the distinction between us and Christ and thereby diminish the uniqueness of Christ: “For us to become all that God intended, we must remember that Jesus’ life was a model of what mankind could become if it were in right relationship with the Father.” (Johnson: 138). On the contrary, the Biblical writers claimed that Christ was the Creator (see John 1:3; Hebrews 1:2). Jesus was affirmed to be the unique divine son (Mark 9:7) by a voice from heaven. Jesus’ deity was affirmed many places in the gospels. The gospel writers used Jesus’ mighty works to prove His deity. If Johnson is right and Jesus had laid aside His deity, then the mighty works prove only that Jesus learned what anyone could learn if he had the right faith and relationship to God. The claims of the gospels thereby become moot. Jesus is no longer unique, but only a special enlightened one who could lead the way to many such enlightened ones in the future. Thus we have a New Age Christ rather than the Biblical one.

If Johnson is correct and we can do greater works than Jesus (based on his misinterpretation of John 14:12; Johnson: 136), then whoever did greater works would have even greater reason to make himself the object of someone’s faith and worship.[4] The apologetic that points to Jesus’ life and miracles as proof of His deity would become worthless because others could do the same.

The kenosis doctrine is based on a misuse of Philippians 2:7 where Paul says that Jesus emptied Himself. False teachers claim that Jesus “emptied” Himself of deity and became only a man during the Incarnation. This claim is tantamount to the outright denial of Christ’s deity. This important issue is missed on people like Johnson, who attack the validity of Christian scholarship. Johnson’s denial of Christ’s deity during His earthly ministry is the same as the Word of Faith heresy’s denial of Jesus’ deity when He died on the cross. They claim he lost His divinity and suffered in hell as a man. Both denials are blatant heresy. Let me explain why.

A truly theistic understanding of deity has certain necessary definitions. The most basic definition is “eternal, non-contingent existence.” The reason such a definition is essential to Christian theology is to distinguish God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture from other deities. The God of the Bible is unique: “To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him” (Deuteronomy 4:35). The true God is eternal, and He created the world out of nothing. All false gods are created (if they have any status of existence), and thus are not eternal. The prophet wrote: “Thus you shall say to them, ‘The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens’” (Jeremiah 10:11). The New Testament claimed that Jesus was the Creator to establish His true deity.

Non-contingence is a corollary to God’s eternal existence. If God existed from all eternity before anything else existed, there is nothing outside of God that could have caused His existence. This means that God as God is not contingent on anything outside of Himself. This is important because in Bill Johnson’s Christology, Christ’s deity is contingent. It goes away during the Incarnation only to return later. That which comes and goes is not eternal and non-contingent. This is the same fatal error of the Word of Faith heresy and similar to other such errors that were condemned in church history. The heretic Arius was famous for saying about Christ, “There was a time when He was not.” Various Christological heresies were rejected by early church councils and the definition of Chalcedon (451) stands as a valid definition based on the true teaching of Scripture.[5]

What does this have to do with Bill Johnson and kenosis? 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. If lost and then regained it is contingent, and if contingent, then not true divinity. Anything less leads to every form of heresy, cult, and New Age teaching. If divinity can be gained, then created man can possibly attain it. The Bible denies this. Furthermore, if divinity can be laid aside it is not divinity. R C Sproul explains:

If God laid aside one of his attributes, the immutable undergoes a mutation, the infinite suddenly stops being infinite; it would be the end of the universe. God cannot stop being God and still be God. So we can’t talk properly of God laying aside his deity to take humanity upon himself.[6]

If Jesus laid aside divinity, that would be proof that He never had true divinity. Thus Johnson’s doctrine is a de facto denial of the deity of Christ. Christological heresy is heresy. Period. So what does Philippians 2:7 imply that Jesus did empty Himself of? The answer is not divinity, which is eternal and cannot be compromised, but divine prerogatives. Paul’s point was about Christ’s humility that we should emulate, not His ontological status as God. Sproul explains:

I think the context of Philippians 2 makes it very clear that what he emptied himself of was not his deity, not his divine attributes, but his prerogatives — his glory and his privileges. He willingly cloaked his glory under the veil of this human nature that he took upon himself. It’s not that the divine nature stops being divine in order to become human. In the Transfiguration, for example (Matthew 17:1-13), we see the invisible divine nature break through and become visible, and Jesus is transfigured before the eyes of his disciples.[7]

The true doctrine of Christ is that in the Incarnation He took upon Himself humanity, not that he laid aside deity. The Incarnate Christ is fully human and fully God. In theology this is called the hypostatic union. Johnson claims that the Holy Spirit has led him “off the map.” I agree that Johnson is indeed “off the map.” The “map” for Christians is Holy Spirit-inspired Scripture. Our doctrine is to come from the Bible (2Timothy 3:16). The “map” draws out boundaries and when we cross those boundaries we are not merely lost, we are in ungodly error. The Holy Spirit does not lead God’s people off the map that He has given us, once for all.

So Johnson gives us a double whammy. First, he warns against scholarship and scholarly Bible study under pains of becoming spiritually dead. Then he introduces heresy that his followers have no means to discern because they have been scared away from the necessary tools for discernment. This is how entire movements depart from Christian orthodoxy and are plunged into theological ruin. The kenosis heresy is a damnable heresy and is as egregious as the Arian heresy, which still has life in modern times through the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Christological heresy is not an aid to the working of the Holy Spirit as Johnson claims, but it grieves the Holy Spirit.

Likely Johnson’s thousands of followers have no idea they are being led into rank heresy. They come for the signs and wonders in the hope that they will do greater miracles than Jesus. They are mesmerized by the claims that they shall be part of an Elijah generation that will defeat evil on the earth before the return of Christ. Very few will ever realize that the doctrine of Christ they are taught departs from the teaching of the church that has been embraced by nearly every Christian group for centuries.

It could be argued that the definition of Chalcedon is unbiblical (which it is not). But the burden of proof lies with those who would deny it. One cannot lightly reject the doctrine of Christ that has held sway for centuries. To do so would require extensive theological work and Biblical argument designed to persuade conservative Christian scholars. One cannot go into such an undertaking lightly. But Johnson does, glibly denying the deity of Christ for no better reason than he thinks that doing so will likely make it easier for Christians to think they can do greater miracles than Jesus. He doesn’t offer any scholarly proof that his kenosis doctrine is Biblical. Why should anyone take him seriously? Sadly, thousands do.

Signs and Wonders Theory

More important than anything else, for Johnson and followers, is the presence of signs and wonders—the more the better. The reason for this is that they are a necessary prerequisite for the hoped for end-time revival that will be initiated by an “Elijah generation” of elite Christians. Says Johnson, “Our mandate is simple: raise up a generation that can openly display the raw power of God” (Johnson 27, 28). Having such power is what he calls an “authentic gospel” because “powerlessness is inexcusable” (Johnson: 27). We are the problem, he claims, because God wants to do miracles but He cannot because of our bad thinking. Miracles await the coming of a generation of enlightened ones who will know the secret. Thus we have a New Age definition of miracles.[8]

To show that in Johnson’s theology the supernatural is something that can be learned and mastered by man (thus robbing it of valid supernatural status), we see that he has a school of the supernatural. It is called the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry.[9] Once the supernatural can be mastered by learnable and reproducible processes, it is no longer supernatural, but natural. Thus in the New Age we have “A Course in Miracles.” In such thinking, there is nothing truly supernatural because all of nature is infused with God (panentheism). Given his distaste for scholarship, Johnson likely does not see the implications of his “school of the supernatural.”

If there is a process to be learned or a religious state to be achieved whereby miracles can be produced by humans at will, such miracles become natural events. Johnson claims, “The purpose of the anointing is to make the supernatural natural” (Johnson 133). This sounds like the opening of a whole new world, but it involves bringing the concept of “supernatural” into a panentheistic world view rather than a Biblical one. The Biblical concept of supernatural requires a theistic view of the universe in which the transcendent God of the Bible created the world out of nothing, but stays involved in His creation providentially. God can and does intervene in human affairs. The work of Christ is truly supernatural. Christ was not some enlightened One who learned and shared secrets that would work for anyone else with the same level of enlightenment. That view of Christ is that of the New Age. Christ’s works were truly supernatural because the Creator of the universe was on the scene of history and proved His true identity.

If the supernatural becomes “natural,” as Johnson claims, through those who have a superior anointing, then the uniqueness of Christ is compromised. The supernatural was always there to be accessed by those with special experiences and insights, thus it is not truly supernatural, but part of nature. Miracles, in such a worldview, are not miracles from a Biblical perspective.

When Paul spoke of power in relationship to the gospel, he spoke of the power of God to save Jew and gentile through the cross: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Paul uses the term “power” the same way in 1Corinthians: “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). God’s power through the cross saves us from God’s wrath against sin. False teachers can perform signs and wonders but they have no true power as Paul speaks of it. The arrogant teachers who came to Corinth had words of knowledge (gnosis) and wisdom (sophia) but lacked the power of God that saves lost sinners (1 Corinthians 4:19, 20).

What is truly lost on Johnson and his followers is that the Bible predicts false signs and wonders at the end of the age. There is no prediction in Scripture that an invasion of true miracles from God will happen at the very end. For example Jesus warns: “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). “Christs” are literal “anointed ones.” There will be those who claim to be anointed in some special way that will do great signs and wonders. They are false. Antichrist (whose name and role is based on the concept of “anointed”) will do great signs and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Paul also predicts end time deception in 2Timothy chapter 3.

Johnson brushes the possibility of such deception aside by calling these signs “counterfeits” (Johnson 110). False signs and wonders as warned against in the Bible are not sleight-of-hand magic tricks, but real signs that point to a false message. Thus the discerning of spirits concerns objectively evaluating teaching (1 John 4:1-5) not subjectively evaluating apparent miracles. A psychic healing might be a real healing, but it is not from God. It is known to be false by the false teaching of the healer. If such a false teacher produced a real, verified healing, the teaching and teacher would still be false.

By combining signs and wonders with a false Christology that denies the deity of Christ, Johnson has placed his followers in the center of end time deception. Now rather than the one “Anointed One” (Jesus Christ who is unique), there are many “anointed ones” who supposedly can do greater miracles than Jesus. This situation is described in the Bible: “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). “Antichrists” as understood from the Greek, are substitute “anointed ones.” In the Bible, all Christians are equally “anointed” by God, and only Jesus specially anointed, i.e., the Messiah.[10] An elite group of specially anointed ones who comprise the “Elijah generation” as taught in Bill Johnson’s Latter Rain theology would qualify as antichrists.

A related question is whether or not Johnson and company are actually doing greater miracles than Jesus. In Luke 8, Jesus is shown to have calmed the sea, delivered the most demonized man imaginable, healed the sick, and raised the dead. Luke’s point is that Jesus has power over nature, Satan, sickness and even death. Thus Jesus is Lord of the universe, and His claims are true. Do any of Johnson’s Elijah generation elite display greater power and authority than Jesus did in Luke 8? He lists a number of typical manifestations in a section he entitles, “When God Colors Outside the Lines.” They include laughter, gold dust appearing from nowhere, oil appearing from nowhere, wind in a closed room, a cloud appearing, fragrance smelled, gems appearing, and feathers falling in meetings (Johnson: 141). Most of these have no precedence in Scripture, and none of them is as profound as the Messianic signs of Luke 8.

There is a certain naiveté that accompanies those who follow signs and wonders theory. We once had a regular pastors meeting. At one of these a pastor attended who had just come from witnessing the so-called “Toronto Blessing” (the laughing revival as it was called). He recounted how he was standing in a food line and one of the attendees began gobbling like a turkey, strutting around, and using his elbows as turkey wings. The pastor concluded that God was at work. There is nothing bizarre enough to the point that true signs and wonders believers will question it. Signs and wonders that accompany a false Christology such as that of Bill Johnson do not thereby prove the existence of a great end-time revival. Rather, they prove the existence of end-time deception as predicted in the Bible.

Dominion Theology

Johnson’s theology contains a blend of many problematic movements of our day. One of them is the dominion teaching, popular in the Word of Faith movement. The idea is that Satan was able to wrest the earth, and authority over it, from Adam and Eve, leaving God on the outside having to figure out a way to get it back. His plan was for Jesus to come and take it back from Satan (which is what Word of Faith teachers say happened in hell during Jesus’ supposed stay there—to wrestle with Satan as a man, and not God). Jesus then, according to theory, delegated to the church the job of taking control of the earth back from Satan and putting it under the church.

Johnson teaches “All that Adam owned, including the title deed to the planet with its corresponding position of rule, became part of the devil’s spoil” (Johnson: 31). Like others of his ilk, Johnson uses Satan’s offer of the kingdoms during Jesus’ temptation as proof that Satan, not God, had the “keys of authority” to the earth (Johnson: 32). Jesus got them back and gave them to the church (Johnson 32). Proof that we have regained the dominion that Adam supposedly lost is to be found in achieving the attributes promoted by Word of Faith teachers: “In Adam and Eve’s commission to subdue the earth, they were without sickness, poverty, and sin. Now that we are restored to His original purpose, should we expect anything less?” (Johnson: 33).

Johnson interprets the Lord’s Prayer, which is primarily a prayer for the return on Christ, in terms of his “kingdom now” theology: “This is the primary purpose for all prayer—if it exists in heaven, it is to be loosed on earth” (Johnson: 59). This means that if we do not have problem free lives, we are lacking faith, praying wrongly, or failing to understand our role as having dominion. Johnson explains: “Such an invasion causes the circumstances here to line up with heaven” (Johnson: 59). This invasion is in the title of his book.

Johnson’s over-realized eschatology sees the sensibilities of many Christians, informed as they are from the Bible, to be a problem that will stop revival: “The second greatest reason for revival’s end [behind quenching the spirit interpreted as any questioning of bizarre manifestations] is when the Church begins to look for the return of the Lord instead of pursuing a greater breakthrough in the Great Commission (Johnson: 161). Earlier Johnson had interpreted the Great Commission in terms of his dominion theology (Johnson: 32). Those who correctly understand the Lord’s Prayer become the problem people who stop revival. Longing for the Lord’s return is discouraged. Eschatology of the soon return of Christ is replaced with eschatology of dominion, kingdom now, that sees the concept “maranatha” as a threat to revival.

A Deluge of Error

The rejection of scholarship and careful exegesis, in Johnson’s case, leads where it always does: to diverse theological errors. There are many that would take too long to cover in detail but need to be addressed. I shall do so briefly in this section.

Gnosticism

Gnosticism was an ancient heresy that claimed that the material realm was evil and the spiritual realm good. Johnson states, “Faith is the key to discovering the superior nature of the invisible realm” (Johnson: 43). The truth is that both realms, visible and invisible contain both good and evil. Both are created by God, and neither is innately superior. When the Bible speaks of things not seen, it includes things like the fulfillment of future promises and is not limited to ontological “realms,” such as material and spiritual. Johnson claims that there is an unlocked potential for seeing into the supposedly superior spirit realm: “Many of us have thought that the ability to see into the spiritual realm is more the result of a special gift than an unused potential of everyone” (Johnson 43). He misuses Hebrews 11:1 to teach his Gnostic understanding of realms: “The invisible is superior to the natural . . . Because the invisible is superior to the natural, faith is anchored in the unseen” (Johnson 45). But in Hebrews 11, what was unseen to the patriarchs was the future fulfillment of the promises of God, not just the heavenly realities (though those are included). There is much evil in the unseen world, so Johnson’s Gnostic categories are not what the Biblical authors had in mind.

Elitism

The Bible promotes the necessity that every member of the body of Christ is seen as important and essential, whatever their gifts may be (1Corinthians 12:14 – 25). But Johnson repeatedly speaks of an elite group of Christians that shall be greater than all other groups in church history. Of course those will be the ones associated with his movement and others who embrace the Latter Rain heresy. (International House Of Prayer in Kansas City is another example). For example: “Much of the opposition to revival comes from soul-driven Christians. The apostle Paul calls them carnal” (Johnson: 47). He goes on to claim that the spirit (not capitalized in translation, signifying the human spirit) influencing the mind produces true learning. His categories are reminiscent of Watchman Nee, whose false teachings harmed me early in my Christian life. Paul does not teach that the soul is problematic and the human spirit good. The revivalists that have true enlightenment by following their spirits rather than souls, are of course those who listen to Johnson and other such teachers. They are the elite ones, and the rest of us are left trying to understand the Bible. It is the few who have the real glory: “He lives in all believers, but the glory of His presence comes to rest on only a few” (Johnson: 149). The enlightened ones are part of the “Elijah generation” (New Order of the Latter Rain terminology) “But there will be no contest when such counterfeits go up against this Elijah generation that becomes clothed with heaven’s power on the Mount Carmel of human reasoning” (Johnson: 150). His attack on reason is unabated.

Fideism

Many of these errors are closely related. Fideism is the belief that faith operates independent of reason and needs no rational proof for its validity. Fideism is shown in this statement: “When we learn to learn that way [by faith], we open ourselves up to grow in true faith because faith does not require understanding to function” (Johnson: 47). Again, he is misusing concepts from Hebrews 11. For example, Abraham had to understand Gods promises to have faith in them. Faith is not disconnected from rational content in the Scripture as it is in Johnson’s fideistic theology.

Pietism

Johnson shows the same pietistic tendencies as many in today’s evangelical world of mysticism. He warns about the lack of “power encounters” and fear of experiences that might lead us away from scripture. He then states: “But it is illegitimate to allow fear to keep us from pursuing a deeper experience with God!” (Johnson: 92). He warns: “God is bigger than His book” (Johnson: 92). The obvious implication is that we must have extra-biblical experiences unless we live as lesser Christians ruled by fear. Pietists always look to higher order experiences to validate their Christian experience.[11]

Conclusion

The invasion of heaven promoted by When Heaven Invades Earth is in reality an invasion of theological error. Johnson says there is no sickness or poverty in heaven, which is true. However, there is also no falsehood or error in heaven. Johnson’s potpourri of error is astounding in is breadth. His is a classic case of zeal for a cause divorced from theological truth. In his thinking, zeal for signs and wonders (and the resultant end-time revival) baptize any theological errors, including his heretical Christology.

My conclusion is not overly harsh: that this movement is not really from heaven, as it is claimed to be. Many young people are targeted and deceived by it. Powerful experiences in a Christian context form a potent elixir that dulls ones theological senses. I know because when I was young, I was drawn into a similar movement based on experiences that I allowed to trump sound Biblical exegesis. Thankfully God saved me out of that and led me, through Scripture, to the true gospel. May many who are in the clutches of this false revivalism be spared as I was.

_________________________________________________________________________
End Notes:

[1] Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth – A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles, (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2003) 150. All subsequent citations from this book will be bracketed within my text.

[2] See Critical Issues Commentary issue 103 for a discussion of latter day apostles, the Latter Rain movement and their false understanding of an “Elijah Company” that will appear to defeat God’s enemies.

{3] See Critical Issues Commentary issue 16 for a full discussion of 2 Corinthians 3:6 and its common misuse in the church.

[4] See Critical Issues Commentary issue 65 for contextual and exegetical analysis that disproves this misinterpretation of John 14:12.

[5] This definition can be read here: http://www.twincityfellowship.com/special/definition_of_chalcedon.pdf

[6] R C Sproul: How Could Jesus be Both Divine and Human.

[7] Ibid.

[8] See Critical Issues Commentary issue 23, “New Age Miracles.”

[9] See http://www.ibethel.org/site/school-of-ministry .

[10] See Critical Issues Commentary issue 63, “Antichrists and The Antichrist.”

[11] See Critical Issues Commentary Issue 101, “How Pietism Deceives Christians.”

______________________________________________________________________________

Source :   http://apprising.org/2011/07/05/an-invasion-of-error-a-review-of-bill-johnson%E2%80%94when-heaven-invades-earth/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+apprising%2F2+%28Apprising+Ministries%29

Full Permission to place article – Thank you Ken Silva

About these ads

11 thoughts on “An invasion of Error: A Review of Bill Johnson—When heaven invades earth

    • Jessica
      It is always a pleasure to post Bob DeWaay’s teachings it is truly a blessing to share with all :-)
      With South African churches being so much into this type of false teaching, I pray many will heed to the warnings.
      God bless you and the family

      Like

  1. To be honest, you come across quite biased and polarized in you analysis of Johnson.

    You don’t even give him a chance: you are blatantly misinterpreting (slightly, but subtly which is pernicious) some of the things he said, which proves a definite level of intellectual dishonesty, but moreover, that you have an agenda (he would be the ideal object of choice for the literal you are, to be the target to quench and punish for the heresies YOU mention you suffered from in your youth, which bring attention to your psychology and motives!)

    Your study is unbalanced because it translates most exclusively in an attempt to deliberately attack what might be the fruit of the work of someone who sought for years to understand why the church is so powerless in its identification and likeness to Jesus and His works with and through her.

    I suggest you revise your extreme position, put aside any crusade-type agenda based on subjective exegesis, and genuinely seek The Lord about these things without the bias of your past. Johnson is expecting miracles? You see a problem with that?

    Jesus promised them in abundance and even ordered us to cast demons and claim healing of the sick in His name. Do you have miraculous results in your daily life showing how much of Jesus is alive in you?

    Or is it mostly accumulated knowledge resounding like a cymbal and suppressing life because it is void of the flowing and rushing living waters Jesus said would come out of us alike rivers?

    Your position is not satisfying because with all your theological knowledge, you are still not demonstrating life as even a child would under the effect of God’s spirit and inspiration.

    You are in fact reproducing the ever typical behavior of the pharisees Jesus dreaded so much and warned us about. They ended up tricking Jesus when ‘their time’ came about.

    Please seek God in prayer about all this, and don’t let theology supply you first with an answer, but wait until the answer comes from above directly and especially for you.

    If you tell me that scripture is already plenty to address this subject, you are smart enough to know that everything Johnson says can ALSO be back up with scripture as much as the few things i mentioned about Jesus above… and it would be a battle of swords, a bit like satan and Jesus did in the wilderness. The problem being that both sides might honestly or dishonestly assume they have the Jesus position…

    This only proves by itself that we sometimes need an outside intervention: the promised Holy Spirit whom job it is to remind us of The Truth (Jesus mentioned that the HS would take from what is His -and we know He is the Truth) as well as convincing and “convicting of sin, justice and judgment” [Paul]

    So many among us Christians want to do without the HS, and I suspect it is because when we actually welcome Him in the equation of our questionings, it implies that He will take the lead, show, reveal, and be ready to change and transform things we are not always ready to give up. His enlightening is radical to us as we should suppose it, being sinners, and it places us in the position of the rich man whom Jesus challenged to give up his wealth.

    What are we rich of, so attached to, that we aren’t able to surrender to Jesus?
    Many things could be listed here, but biased and unbalanced theology is definitely one too.

    Keeper.

    Like

    • Shall Blossom Rec
      The reason your comment was placed was to share with others how deceit can blind one.
      Your statements originate from false teachings. Please read the comment below and take heed !!

      Question: “What is apostasy and how can I recognize it?”

      Answer: Apostasy, from the Greek word apostasia, means “a defiance of an established system or authority; a rebellion; an abandonment or breach of faith.” In the first-century world, apostasy was a technical term for political revolt or defection. And just like in the first century, apostasy threatens the Body of Christ today.

      The Bible warns about people like Arius (c. A.D. 250 – 336), a Christian priest from Alexandria, Egypt, who was trained at Antioch in the early fourth century. About A.D. 318, Arius accused Bishop Alexander of Alexandria of subscribing to Sabellianism, a false teaching which asserted that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were merely roles or modes assumed by God at various times. Arius was determined to emphasize the oneness of God; however, he went too far in his teaching of God’s nature. Arius denied the Trinity and introduced what appeared on the surface to be an inconsequential difference between the Father and Son.

      Arius argued that Jesus was not homoousios (of the same essence) as the Father, but was rather homoiousios (of similar essence). Only one Greek letter – the iota (i) – separated the two. Arius described his position in this manner: “The Father existed before the Son. There was a time when the Son did not exist. Therefore, the Son was created by the Father. Therefore, although the Son was the highest of all creatures, he was not of the essence of God.”

      Arius was very clever and did his best to get the people on his side, even going so far as to compose little songs that taught his theology, which he tried to teach to everyone who would listen. His winsome nature and revered position as a preacher and one who lived in denial of himself contributed also to his cause.

      With respect to apostasy, it is critical that all Christians understand two important things: (1) how to recognize apostasy and apostate teachers; and (2) why apostate teaching is so deadly.

      The Forms of Apostasy
      To fully identify and combat apostasy, it is important that Christians understand its various forms and the traits that characterize its doctrines and teachers. As to the forms of apostasy, there are two main types: (1) a falling away from key and true doctrines of the Bible into heretical teachings that proclaim to be “the real” Christian doctrine; and (2) a complete renunciation of the Christian faith, which results in a full abandonment of Christ.

      Arius represents the first form of apostasy—a denial of key Christian truths (such as the divinity of Christ) that ultimately begins a downhill slide into a full departure from the faith, which is the second form of apostasy. It is important to understand that the second form almost always begins with the first. A heretical belief becomes a heretical teaching that splinters and grows until it pollutes all aspects of a person’s faith and then the full end goal of Satan is accomplished, which is a complete falling away from Christianity.

      A recent example of this process is a 2010 study done by prominent atheist Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola called “Preachers Who Are Not Believers.” Dennett and LaScola’s work chronicles five different preachers who over time were presented with and accepted heretical teachings about Christianity and now have completely fallen away from the faith and are either pantheists or clandestine atheists. One of the most disturbing truths highlighted in the study is that these preachers maintain their position as pastors of Christian churches with their congregations being unaware of their leader’s true spiritual state.

      The dangers of apostasy were warned about in the book of Jude, which serves as a handbook for understanding the characteristics of apostates like those chronicled in Dennett and LaScola’s study. Jude’s words are every bit as relevant for us today as they were when he penned them in the first century, so it is important we carefully read and understand them.

      The Characteristics of Apostasy and Apostates
      Jude was the half-brother of Jesus and a leader in the early church. In his New Testament letter, he outlines how to recognize apostasy and strongly urges those in the body of Christ to contend earnestly for the faith (vs. 3). The Greek word translated “contend earnestly” is a compound verb from where we get the word “agonize.” It is in the present infinitive form, which means that the struggle will be continuous. In other words, Jude is telling us that there will be a constant fight against false teaching and that Christians should take it so seriously that we “agonize” over the fight in which we are engaged. Moreover, Jude makes it clear that every Christian is called to this fight, not just the local body’s leaders, so it is critical that all believers sharpen their discernment skills so that they can recognize and prevent apostasy in their midst.

      After urging his readers to contend earnestly for the faith, Jude then highlights the reason: “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (vs. 4). In this one verse, Jude provides Christians with three traits of apostasy and apostate teachers.

      First, Jude says that apostasy can be subtle. Jude uses the word “crept” (found in no other book of the Bible) to describe the apostate’s entry into the church. In extra-biblical Greek, the term describes the cunning craftiness of a lawyer who, through clever argumentation, infiltrates the minds of courtroom officials and corrupts their thinking. The word literally means “slip in sideways; come in stealthily; sneak in; hard to detect.” In other words, Jude says it is rare that apostasy begins in an overt and easily detectable manner. Instead, it looks a lot like Arius’ preaching in which, in a seemingly dismissive and nonchalant manner, only a single letter differentiates its doctrine from the real teaching of the Christian faith.

      Describing this aspect of apostasy and its underlying danger, A. W. Tozer wrote, “So skilled is error at imitating truth, that the two are constantly being mistaken for each another. It takes a sharp eye these days to know which brother is Cain and which is Abel.” The Apostle Paul also speaks to the outwardly pleasing behavior of apostates and their teaching when he says, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). In other words, do not look for apostates to appear bad on the outside or speak dramatic words of heresy at the outset of their teaching. Rather than denying truth outright, apostates will twist it to fit their own agenda, but as pastor R. C. Lensky has noted, “The worst forms of wickedness consist in perversions of the truth.”

      Second, Jude describes the apostates as “ungodly” and as those who use God’s grace as a license to commit unrighteous acts. Beginning with “ungodly,” throughout his letter Jude describes eighteen unflattering traits of apostates so his readers can more easily identify them. Jude says the apostates are ungodly (vs. 4), morally perverted (vs. 4), denying Christ (vs. 4), ones who defile the flesh (vs. 8), rebellious (vs. 8), people who revile angels (vs. 8), who are ignorant about God (vs. 8), those who proclaim false visions (vs. 10), self-destructive (vs. 10), grumblers (vs. 16), fault finders (vs. 16), self-satisfying (vs. 16), people who use arrogant words and false flattery (vs. 16), mockers of God (vs. 18), those who cause divisions (vs. 19), worldly minded (vs. 19), and finally (and not surprisingly), devoid of the Spirit/unsaved (vs. 19).

      Third, Jude says apostates “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” How do apostates do this? Paul tells us in his letter to Titus: “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:15-16, emphasis added). Through their unrighteous behavior, the apostates show their true selves. Unlike an apostate, one who is a true believer is someone who has been delivered from sin to righteousness in Christ. With Paul, they ask the apostates who promote licentious behavior, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2)

      But the apostates’ false teaching also shows their true nature. Peter says, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Peter 2:1). Another aspect of true believers is that they have been delivered out of spiritual darkness into light (Ephesians 5:8) and therefore will not deny core truths of Scripture like Arius did with the divinity of Jesus.

      Ultimately, the sign of an apostate is that he eventually falls away and departs from the truth of God’s Word and His righteousness. The Apostle John signifies this is a mark of a false believer: “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).

      Ideas Have Consequences
      That God takes apostasy and false teaching seriously is evidenced by the fact that every New Testament book except Philemon contains warnings about false teaching. Why is this? Simply because ideas have consequences. Right thinking and its fruit produces goodness, whereas wrong thinking and its accompanying action results in undesired penalties. As an example, the 1970s Cambodian killing fields were the product of the nihilistic worldview of Jean Paul Sartre and his teaching. The Khmer Rouge’s leader Pol Pot lived out Sartre’s philosophy toward the people in a clear and frightening way, which was articulated in this manner: “To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss.”

      It should be remembered that Satan did not come to the first couple in the Garden with an external armament or supernatural weapon, but instead he came to them with an idea. And it was that idea that condemned them and the rest of humankind, with the only remedy being the sacrificial death of God’s Son.

      The great tragedy is, whether knowingly or unknowingly, the apostate teacher dooms his unsuspecting followers. One of the most frightening verses in all of Scripture comes from the lips of Jesus. Speaking to His disciples about the religious leaders of His day, He said, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14, emphasis added). This verse is alarming because Jesus affirms that it is not only the false teachers that go to destruction, but their disciples also follow them. Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard put it this way: “For it has never yet been known to fail that one fool, when he goes astray, takes several others with him.”

      Conclusion
      In A.D. 325, the Council of Nicea convened primarily to take up the issue of Arius and his teaching. Much to Arius’s dismay, the end result was his excommunication and a statement made in the Nicene Creed, which affirmed Christ’s divinity: “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father.”

      Arius may have died centuries ago, but his spiritual children are still with us to this day in the form of cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who deny Christ’s true essence and person. Sadly, until Christ returns and every last spiritual enemy has been removed, tares such as these will be present among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). In fact, Scripture says apostasy will only get worse as Christ’s return approaches. “At that time [the latter days] many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another” (Matthew 24:10). Paul echoes Jesus in his inspired writings as well. The apostle told the Thessalonians that a great falling away would precede Christ’s second coming (2 Thessalonians 2:3) and that the end times would be characterized by tribulation and hollow religious charlatans: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be . . . holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these” (2 Timothy 3:1-2, 5).

      This being true, it is critical, now more than ever, that every believer pray for discernment, combat apostasy, and contend earnestly for the faith that has once and for all been delivered to the saints.

      Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns.
      source : http://www.gotquestions.org/apostasy.html

      Like

  2. Wayne,
    It is obvious that your reply, as it is not supported by Scripture, is just a defense of your idol. The Lord our God hates idolatry and will have no gods before Him. Read 1 Timothy 4 for an account of what has happened to you and others like you. As Jesus says, Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!

    Like

  3. @Wayne: The first sentence of your 3rd paragraph in your reply states ‘…but your doing the same thing…’! This is grammatically incorrect: you should use ‘you’re’ not ‘your’.

    Like

  4. I found this page because i know a person in my fellowship who clings to the teaching of Billl johnson and passed on his book to me. I can’t even read it, there is something about it that I know is wrong. I thought that surely there is another believer on the web that could help me refute so I don’t have to study this guy’s book myself, I mean… why reinvent the wheel if I don’t have to? Just so you know, I gained nothing from your evaluation in my pursuit of biblical refutation of this guy. I recommend that you drop your traditions that you have been taught, and truly find scripture to refute this book. It is obvious of the intelligence that you have been given, but it is also obvious that you are refuting based on preconceived religious beliefs, instead of actually showing someone like me why Bill Johnson is wrong based on what is written in God’s word. I am starting to dread that I might actually have to devote my time to refuting this book on my own.

    Like

    • I agree with ‘Lazy Reader’. The analysis shows a clear theological bias against Bill Johnson and his views. But fails to do so with appropriate reference to scripture – something the very same analysis critises Bill Johnson of doing.

      I am not for or against Bill Johnson – I’ve never met the man – but I grew up in a denominational Christian home, but could never understand scripture growing up even into my early thirties. It all changed the day I got batised with the Holy Spirit. Suddenly all those difficult chapters and verses somehow started making a lot of sense. My point is that the Bible as a book was of limited value to me, even though I read it regularly, until the day that I became acquainted with the Holy Spirit. So I can relate to a lot about what you have quoted out of his book even though you did so in an attempt to discredit him. That doesn’t mean that I agree or disagree with all of Bill’s theology. All I am saying is that the written Word of God had very limited meaning for me without knowing the person of the Holy Spirit who wrote it in the first place and who interprets and explains it to me. In that sense I think Bill has a good point.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s