Our church has a seniors’ ministry which I’ve studiously avoided. I certainly qualify in the appropriate age range, but I engage in a bit of denial. When I meet people and they ask me what I do or if I’m retired, I tell them I don’t use the “R” word; I’m too busy. That being said, our seniors’ ministry brought in a speaker that I felt I had to hear, so my wife and I attended the evening to listen to him.
I’ve recently been on the warpath about the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). I’ve written about it in this space and have serious issues with the whole movement. First and foremost, for me is its veering from Scripture as to how it views end-times events. NAR goes by other names including Dominionism and Kingdom Now, and those describe what its adherents believe will happen in the earth in the latter days. Many believe we’re in that period, but they also believe that through the efforts of NAR and its disciples that the world will turn en masse to Christianity. As a result of NAR’s evangelization of the world, they will bring it into submission so as to hand a Christianized planet to Jesus. In their theology, Jesus won’t return until they have brought the world to believe in Christ. It is their doing that heralds His return.
The speaker invited to the seniors’ event was a so-called apostle. It always raises red flags for me these days when someone is self-proclaimed like that. Because of some of the NAR discussions we’ve had of late, our interim pastor, who has many years of solid experience, has absolutely come on board watching for potential NAR applicants in our search for a full-time pastoral candidate. We’ve got our NAR antennae out because its tentacles reach far and wide. It’s a movement that is insidious and has subtly invaded many denominations, including the Assemblies of God, of which we’re a part.
Because our interim pastor has known the speaker for many years, he told him up front before his message, that we’re not “going there” with heavy NAR emphasis. During his message, the speaker made many good points, but as usual with NAR folks, because of how their unbiblical beliefs are slipped in, many people can miss them. That’s what I was on alert for.
He made several points that correlated for me with NAR teaching. Briefly, a couple of them that I won’t elaborate on were decrees and visualization. He said that when the Bible talks about proclaiming the Word of the Lord, this is the same as us prophesying or decreeing that things we say will happen. He also had the group innocently close their eyes to visualize a scene and ask God how that would apply to us. The problem with this is that visualization has Eastern religious/New Age roots. This particular exercise might have been harmless, but the continued practice could very well lead one into subsequent issues, such as visualizing Jesus as your constant friend and companion coming alongside you at all times to bring counsel. That’s an open door to acquire a demonic spirit guide.
The passages that our speaker discussed that really got me thinking were Acts 2:17 in which Peter at Pentecost is quoting Joel 2:28-29.
“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;’”
And here is Joel:
“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.”
What’s the difference between these two passages? Effectively nothing, except the audience.
Many believers look at Joel and they see the church in this end-times event. But that’s not right. Far too many pastors these days apply Scripture that pertains to Israel as if it were for the church. The problem is that what was meant for Israel was meant for Israel. We can and often should apply lessons learned in the Old Testament to today, but to consider Israel as symbolic for the church simply doesn’t wash.
God has not forgotten His chosen people; He has not abandoned them as many in the NAR camp believe, as do numerous other groups such as Catholics and mainline Protestants. No, God’s promises to Israel still hold; the Bible is very clear about that. All we have to do is read it and not spiritualize its message.
That begs the question: When will Joel’s prophesies take place since they obviously haven’t yet occurred? When will Israel’s sons and daughters receive the Spirit of the Lord so as to have dreams and visions?
If we properly understand Ezekiel 37, we realize that Israel has come together as foretold in that chapter. The dry bones, muscles, ligaments, and flesh have risen in Israel, but the nation is secular. It is far from having had the Spirit breathed upon it that the people might turn to the Lord.
This great last days revival for Israel can only occur during the Tribulation. It will only happen after God’s wrath and judgment falls upon the nation in the last 3½ years of horror upon the earth following relative peace for Israel in the Tribulation’s first half. It is only then that, as Zechariah 13:8-9 declares, Israel will finally turn to Jesus as Messiah:
“In the whole land, declares the Lord,
two thirds shall be cut off and perish,
and one third shall be left alive.
And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”
The great last days revival in Israel, which includes dreams and visions for many, will happen only during the Tribulation.
What about Peter’s prophecy in Acts? Some who believe in prophecy have stated that, since these are the last days, these prophetic dreams and visions must happen in this current time period. Or, as NAR would have us believe, they’ll sweep over the church so that the entire world will come to Christ.
That understanding, however, runs counter to the rest of what Scripture details will happen in these latter times. We’re told in various places that the world will grow increasingly lawless. The church itself will fall into great apostasy. A remnant of the church will be Raptured. The Tribulation will fall upon this world as God judges it for its unbelief. Where is the great revival in this scenario?
I believe, just as Joel’s prophecy speaks of occurring during the Tribulation, that Peter’s does as well. Revelation 7 outlines how a great multitude from every nation will come before the throne. We’re told specifically in Revelation 7:13-14 why they’re in heaven:
“Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'”
These are Tribulation saints—a great multitude—who have died for their having come to faith during this most awful of times where persecution of the followers of Jesus kills vast numbers.
Sounds like a great last days revival to me. Or, as Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins so aptly named it in the Left Behind series, it will be a Soul Harvest.
What I see in Peter’s prophecy correlated to Revelation is that when the sons and daughters have prophetic dreams and visions, they must happen during the Tribulation. What they then proclaim likely contributes to the persecution against them; thus the multitudes who perish and appear before the throne of God.
Rightly dividing the Word of God, particularly in these perilous times, is more important than ever. No one of us is ever going to completely interpret all Scripture correctly. There’s too much going on in it and too many mysteries that God has reserved to reveal only when we’re with Him. What we can do, is get right those things He has made clear.
God has plainly shown us the arc of what these last days will look like. The NAR folks have chosen to interpret that according to their own desires. When anyone does that, rather than follow God’s clear Word, they’re looking for trouble and inevitably end up with aberrant theology.
Gary W. Ritter is a lay pastor, Bible teacher, and serves as Missions Director at his church. He is also a prolific author. His Whirlwind Series is comprised of three books: Sow the Wind, Reap the Whirlwind, and There Is A Time. All these books are also contained in the collected volume of the Whirlwind Omnibus. Gary has a standalone novel of supernatural suspense, The Tattooed Cat. He released the award-winning Alien Revelation, the first novel in a new series: The Sons of God Chronicles in September 2019. His intent in all his writings is to bring a strong Christian witness to what people read. You can reach him via his website at www.GaryRitter.com or his Facebook Author page at https://www.facebook.com/gritter3390. You can also see his video Bible teachings on his Gary Ritter YouTube page – look for the fish symbol.