This article is written with a heavy heart. I believe that it is necessary in order to be clear and “up front” with people. It is possible that what I write applies to none of my readers. Nevertheless, I do not want to be misunderstood. I want to be clear that, as I have made my position fairly clear in advocating a Post-Tribulation Rapture of the church, I am not advocating some of the teaching that some have connected with that position. I am especially referring to the kind of church-triumphant teachings that some advocate. In order to clarify what I am discussing, I shall review some history. I shall not give references for this particular essay. Readers may confirm much of what I say through various sites on the internet.
THE PENTECOSTAL/CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT
At the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century, a movement was being born. It came mostly out of movements of the nineteenth century that sought a deeper and closer and more powerful walk with God. In Kansas a small group experienced the first documented instances of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues in modern times (foreign or unknown languages). Some from this group eventually played a role in the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. That prolonged series of meetings eventually led to the formation of a series of Pentecostal denominations. Eventually, the Pentecostal movement was mostly “housed” in such denominations as the Assemblies of God, the Foursquare Church, the Church of God in Christ, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), and others.
The Pentecostal denominations became some of the most dynamic churches in America. Their doctrine was, for the most part, “standard evangelical” theology—inspiration of Scripture, deity of Christ, the Trinity, vicarious suffering of Christ to bring about the blood atonement for sin, salvation by grace through faith, and so forth. Their eschatology was generally Dispensationalist and Pre-Tribulational Rapture.
In addition these denominations taught that a believer can receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. They also taught that the Spirit endowed individuals with one or more of the gifts of the Spirit that are listed in I Corinthians 12.
Through their Spirit-empowered ministry and boldness, these denominations became some of the fastest-growing groups in America. They were filled with missionary zeal and sent missionaries in numbers that were disproportionate to their size. Some of the largest churches in Latin America and Africa were Pentecostal.
In the late 1950’s and into the 1960’s, the Pentecostal experience spread into mainline denominations. This new movement was called the Charismatic movement. Some people eventually left their mainline churches and formed small groups, prayer meetings, and even non-denominational churches. The Jesus movement of the early 1970’s—which formed among the hippies—tended to gravitate to the Charismatics. As the 70’s progressed, a new phenomenon took hold—the church growth movement. In some cases church growth and Charismatic teaching were wedded. During that time the mega-churches began to explode.
Along the way, Christian radio and television began to take off. This development, along with highly successful pastors, put the spotlight on certain extremely successful pastors. And so, the TV evangelist phenomenon was born.
Now, to be clear, not all mega-churches nor all TV evangelists nor all non-denominational churches were Charismatic or Pentecostal.
A PERSONAL STATEMENT
I speak in tongues almost every day. I believe in the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. I attended Pentecostal and Charismatic churches for many years and have no regrets for those years. I recognize that some of the teachings of these groups have a certain degree of validity. For example, I believe that sometimes we, under the power of the Holy Spirit, can speak a word of faith into a situation. I believe that God can heal bodies beyond the power of medicine. I believe that God can lead people to give prophecies and to have discernment of spirits and other exercises of the gifts of the Spirit.
I do not, however, buy into every teaching of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. Nor do I appreciate the behavior of some in this group. I believe that some are lifted up in pride and some cater to the fleshly pride of those they minister to. Some take advantage of willing followers and exploit them for money and power.
Moreover, I am sometimes aghast at the fast and loose way that some of these preachers interpret Scripture. These folks can take a phrase or part of a verse and turn it into a major teaching. For example, “the tabernacle of David” became popular for a year or so. Related to this is the fact that this group (they are not the only such group) is vulnerable to the “winds of doctrine.” There are constantly new teachings. I doubt if one can survive as a leader among these people if he or she cannot come up with some new teaching at least every three months. This way of living caters to a flesh that needs excitement, sensation, constant change, and titillation. Such a Christian lifestyle does not promote maturity in the faith.
So, I do not criticize these people because I am coming from a non-Charismatic, fundamentalist background. I criticize them for their excesses and, I believe, in some cases, for their errors.
As all of these developments unfolded, certain teachings began to ride along with the Pentecostal teaching. For one thing, the standard teaching of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit was not taught as dogmatically in these new groups as in the “old-line Pentecostal” churches. Some groups did not insist on speaking in tongues as evidence of “the Baptism.” The new groups tended to emphasize the exercise of the gifts more than some had done in the Pentecostal denominations.
In the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s certain teachers began to be very popular. They did not all have the blessing of the Pentecostals. There was a group called the “Latter Rain” movement and there was the “Word of Faith” movement. The Word of Faith movement was especially influenced by Kenneth Hagin’s teachings. This group used phrases such as “name it and claim it” and “positive confession” and similar slogans. The idea was that one’s faith had creative power especially through the spoken word (rhema).
One of the teachings that came out of the Latter Rain movement was the “Manifest(ed) Sons of God.” This teaching was based on Romans 8:19: “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” (King James Version) The teaching was that Christians would experience a dramatic transformation in the last days so that they would be manifested as the sons and daughters of God. This teaching first came out in the 1940’s. I observed a group of people affected by it in the 1970’s. Today, it still is having an influence on some in the Charismatic movement.
The New Apostolic Reformation is a development among Charismatic/Pentecostal groups. C. Peter Wagner has had considerable influence on this group. The group believes that there are apostles and prophets operating today. Among the teachings that have come out of this group are new ideas about the last days. Within this movement there is a wide range of ideas and doctrine, varying from Post-Millennium teaching to Dispensationalist Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Many have been influenced by the Dominion teachings (a group generally non-Pentecostal and often Calvinist). A number subscribe to Post-Tribulational Rapture teaching.
As background in understanding some of these movements and teachings, it is helpful to know that most of these groups are not denominations and, in some cases, not even local churches. Some of the teachings come through sermons, some of which get audio- or video-recorded and passed on to followers in the nation and around the world. The teachings tend to continue to evolve and so what might have been exciting last year is now old hat. Thus, it is difficult to pin some of these folks and their teachings down.
One particular teaching that caught my eye is a twist on Post-Tribulational Rapture teaching. This teaching is that the church will go through the Tribulation. However, at some point the church will be transformed in a Rapture-like miracle. The result is the Christians will be invincible. They will be able to withstand anything. This is probably an outgrowth of the old Manifest Sons of God teaching.
In some cases, the teaching ignores the idea of the Tribulation. The triumphant, transformed Christians will subdue the whole world and take over, just as the Dominion movement hoped. The difference is that the Dominionists thought it would years and years—even centuries to bring about Dominion. Some of those in the New Apostolic Reformation believe it can happen in decades.
Paul declares that we shall have glory “revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) We are God’s children (8:16), and this makes us joint-heirs with Jesus (8:17). We share Jesus sufferings so that we may also share His glory (8:17).
The whole creation is waiting for our glory—for us to be fully manifested as the sons of God (8:19). After all, the creation itself has been frustrated (8:20) and has been locked in a bondage that brings about decay (8:21). But, God put creation into this condition with a hope. Hope is one of Paul’s favorite words. It evokes the future. It is not a wishy-washy, “hope so, maybe so” kind of hope. It is one of the virtues that lasts forever (I Corinthians 13:13). So, though the universe slowly winds down, entropy (disorganization) ever increasing, there is deep down in the fabric of the universe a hope that there will be a release from this bondage into the same kind of freedom that God gives to His children.
In the midst of all this decay and bondage, the universe groans, as though trying to give birth (8:22). What does that mean? I do not know. I sense that there is a spiritual dimension to the physical universe. God spoke and there was light. How could matter-energy obey the voice of God unless there is a spiritual dimension to the universe? And we are groaning also (8:23a). Are you aware of your groaning? I’m not sure I am. I know that I am discontented. Sometimes I’m discontented because my flesh wants something. But sometimes I am discontented because I know this is not the best of all possible worlds. This world is not right. There are weeds and thorns, viruses, cancer, death everywhere—tornadoes, earthquakes, drunk drivers. God made this universe and it was very good. Someday He is going to put it right.
Paul clarifies what it is we are groaning about (8:23b): we are waiting for the “redemption of our bodies.” Now we know that our redemption has already been paid for on the cross of Jesus. Paul admonishes the Corinthians to remember that they are bought with a price (I Corinthians 6:20). But the full impact of that redemption has yet to be realized, especially in our bodies. That awaits the resurrection. “In this hope we were saved.” (8:24a) That could be taken in more than one way. One way to understand it is: “We were saved into a complex of salvation benefits which included the hope of the resurrection.” Another way to understand it is: “We were saved through our belief in the gospel message, which included a belief in the resurrection of Jesus and our eventual resurrection.” In other words our faith is a faith that has a future component, and that future includes our resurrection (see I Corinthians 15). That future is obviously not our present. We hope for something that will be ours some day, but is not ours now (8:24b). So, we wait patiently for the resurrection (8:25).
In this present order of existence, we are aware that we are not yet whole. “We know in part and we prophecy in part.” (I Corinthians 13:9) So, in this time we have the Holy Spirit, who is our helper. We do not even know what to pray for. Though that may seem strange to some, I have found myself many times recognizing that I really did not know God’s will for a situation or how God was going to work, and so I could only name the person or the situation and say, “Lord, I just pray for that,” and give it to God. In this condition—not seeing or knowing or understanding, only sensing an inward groaning—the Spirit deep within us also groans and prays (8:26). And so God the Father knows us and knows the Spirit and receives the perfect prayers of the Spirit who intercedes for us (8:27).
This remarkable passage gives us a perspective on the present order of existence. It looks forward to a new day, a great day of victory, but it also looks with eyes wide open at how we live today. Now we know that someday Jesus is going to come back for the saints. Those who have died will rise and those who are alive will be changed and we will meet the Lord and be with Him forever (I Corinthians 15, I Thessalonians 4:13-18). We have these assurances from Scripture of the Rapture/Resurrection. We generally understand that the present order of existence will continue until that day. I cannot see anything in Romans 8:17-27 that changes our concept of that. It seems that when we experience that new body and our son-ship is fully manifested, the universe itself will also experience a transformation (8:21). If one advocates that Christians will be transformed in advance of the Second Coming, then how could the universe be renewed in that time frame? I believe that the proper understanding of Romans 8:19 is that, when the church is raptured and the deceased saints are resurrected (either at a Pre-Tribulation or Post-Tribulation time setting), then will take place the “manifestation of the sons of God.”
I do not believe that an understanding of the timing of the Rapture/Resurrection as Post-Tribulational affects my interpretation of Romans 8:19. Furthermore, I do not want to be misunderstood. When I present evidence for a Post-Tribulational Rapture/Resurrection, I am not attempting to give support for the various theories of the New Apostolic Reformation or the Manifested Sons of God teaching.