by Mike Ratliff
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)
I have debated Pelagians. I have debated Atheists. I have debated Agnostics. I have debated Campbellites. I have debated Semi-Pelagians and Arminians. I have debated Antinomians. I have debated Hyper-Calvinists. In every case I must say that I would much rather debate believers who have the same respect for the Word of God that I have. The hardest to debate are those whose Bible knowledge is superficial at best. What little they have has been spoon-fed to them from their favorite teacher of whatever Biblical error they hold. Instead of searching the scripture to see if what I say is so, they quote Brother So and So or read some commentary or book that supports their doctrine.
The Word-Faith adherents are the worst that I have encountered. If you counter what they say or teach with scripture that clearly refutes their point, they simply say they know I’m wrong and I just need to give them time to find out what passage says that I’m wrong then they will get back with me. Well, we must never forget that using scripture out of context is the mechanism of some of the worst heresies. I have yet to have one of them successfully counter the truth from God’s Word. Since they are obviously not following what God’s Word clearly teaches us, their errors continue to get worse and worse. Sadly, the numbers of their followers also seem to continue to expand.
Yesterday we left off with the Word-Faith movement’s demotion of Christ. We saw that their doctrine, such as it is, is based entirely on elevating Man to the status of God and demoting God to the status of Man. I pray that you see the parallel of that blasphemy with this statement about Satan himself.
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ (Isaiah 14:12-14 ESV)
If we couple a very shallow Bible knowledge that is man-based and not inhabited by the working of the Holy Spirit with Satan’s work we find a religious brew that sounds good and feels good to people who are flesh based. The largest Church in the United States is in Houston, Texas. Joel Osteen pastors it. This man’s ministry is based on one thing, being positive. He tells those who listen to him exactly what they want to hear. His ministry is Word-Faith based as his father’s was.
We must remember that none of these Word-Faith preachers would have a ministry if they didn’t have millions of dollars pouring in from those who have hired them to tickle their ears.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)
One of the myths that they hear is that Jesus was recreated from divine to demonic, taking on the very nature of Satan.
Benny Hinn claimed that the Holy Ghost personally told him: “Ladies and gentlemen, the serpent is a symbol of Satan. Jesus Christ knew the only way He would stop Satan is by becoming one in nature with him. You say, ‘What did you say? What blasphemy is this?’ No, you hear this! He did not take my sin; He became my sin. Sin is the nature of hell. Sin is what made Satan…It was sin that made Satan. Jesus said, “I’ll be sin! I’ll go to the lowest place! I’ll go to the origin of it! I won’t just take part in it, I’ll be the totality of it!” When Jesus became sin, sir, He took it from A to Z and said, “No more!” Think about this: He became flesh, that flesh might become like Him. He became death, so dying man can live. He became sin, so sinners can be righteous in Him. He became one with the nature of Satan, so all those who had the nature of Satan can partake of the nature of God.” (Benny Hinn, Benny Hinn program on TBN (December 15, 1990).
Kenneth Hagin also claims that Jesus Christ took on the nature of Satan, “[s]piritual death means something more than separation from God. Spiritual death also means having Satan’s nature…Jesus tasted death—spiritual death—for every man.” (Kenneth E. Hagin, The Name of Jesus (Tulsa, OK: Kenneth Hagin Ministries, 1981), 31.
Fredrick Price alleges that Jesus Christ was re-created spiritually—not on the cross, but rather in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Somewhere between the time He [Jesus] was nailed to the cross and when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane—somewhere in there—He died spiritually. Personally, I believe it was while He was in the garden.” Price, who was reared in a Jehovah’s Witness environment mimics the Mormon Apostle James E. Talmage, who taught precisely the same thing in his book Jesus the Christ. (Frederick K. C. Price, Identification #3 (Inglewood, CA: Ever Increasing Faith Ministries, 1980), tape #FP545, side 1.
Copeland says that Jesus became a sign of Satan when He was hanging on the cross: “The righteousness of God was made to be sin. He accepted the sin nature of Satan in His own spirit. And at the moment that He did so, He cried, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” You don’t know what happened at the cross. Why do you think Moses, upon instruction of God, raised the serpent upon that pole instead of a lamb? That used to bug me. I said, “Why in the world would you want to put a snake up there—the sign of Satan? Why didn’t you put a lamb on that pole?” And the Lord said, “Because it was a sign of Satan that was hanging on the cross.” He said, “I accepted, in My own spirit, spiritual death; and the light was turned off.” (Kenneth Copeland, What Happened from the Cross to the Throne (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1990), audiotape #02-0017, side 2.
Jesus did not take on Satan’s character. He was the Lamb of God, sinless and perfect, whose sacrifice paid the penalty for MY sin. God imputed MY sin to Jesus and imputed His righteousness to me. He was the propitiation for us. A parallel to this from the Old Testament took place on Yom Kipper when the scapegoat was taken out of the city, the High Priest would lay his hands on the goat symbolically transferring the sins of the people to the poor animal. Then it was driven away. Christ did that for us. However, He did it once for all. We don’t have to repeat our belief in Him annually and symbolically be saved. Christ died on the cross, was buried then was resurrected by God. Where was He during that time between His death and resurrection? The Word-Faith teachers tell us that Jesus went to Hell.
In the words of one Faith teacher, “Satan conquered Jesus upon the Cross.” Proponents of Faith theology say that Jesus endured three days and nights of unimaginable abuse at the hands of Satan and his hordes of demons in hell. This was God’s payment to Satan so that He could get back into a universe from which He had been banished.
According to Frederick Price: “Do you think that the punishment for our sin was to die on a cross? If that were the case, the two thieves could have paid your price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God…Satan and all the demons of hell thought that they had Him bound and they threw a net over Jesus and dragged Him down to the very pit of hell itself to serve our sentence.” (Frederick K.C. Price, Ever Increasing Faith Messanger (June 1980), 7.
Kenneth Hagin’s version: “He [Jesus] tasted spiritual death for every man. And His spirit and inner man went to hell in my place. Can’t you see that? Physical death wouldn’t remove your sins. He’s tasted death for every man. He’s talking about tasting spiritual death.” (Kenneth E. Hagin, How Jesus Obtained His Name (Tulsa, OK: Kenneth Hagin Ministries, n.d.), tape #44H01, side 1.
Kenneth Copeland’s version: “When Jesus cried, ‘It is finished!’ He was not speaking of the plan of redemption. There were still three days and nights to go through before He went to the throne…Jesus’ death on the cross was only the beginning of the complete work of redemption.” (Kenneth Copeland, Jesus—Our Lord of Glory, Believer’s Voice of Victory 10, 4 (April 1982):3.
Jan Crouch, the wife of TBN president Paul Crouch, approvingly recited the following words from Paul Billheimer’s book during a live communion service aired on TBN: “Because He was “made sin,” impregnated with sin, and became the very essence of sin, on the cross He was banished from God’s presence as a loathsome thing. He and sin were made synonymous…[I]t was not sufficient for Christ to offer up only His physical life on the cross. His pure human spirit had not “descend” into hell…His spirit must not only descend into hell, but into the lowest hell…The Father turned Him over, not only to the agony and death of Calvary, but to the satanic torturers of His pure spirit as part of the just dessert of the sin of all the race. As long as Christ was “the essence of sin” he was at Satan’s mercy in that place of torment…While Christ identified with sin, Satan and the hosts of hell ruled over Him as over any lost sinner. During that seemingly endless age in the nether abyss of death, Satan did with Him as he would, and all hell was “in carnival.” (Paul Billheimer, Destined for the Throne, special edition for TBN (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1988 [orig. 1975]), 83-84. Quoted by Jan Crouch during the “Praise the Lord” program TBN (August 20, 1987).
Where did this come from? I used the following passage in a lesson I taught in a Youth Sunday School class back in the early 1990’s.
“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. (Acts 2:29-33 ESV)
At the end of my lesson one of the boys asked me if Jesus went to Hell when He died. I said that He was not condemned to Hell like a lost person. He then quoted part of the passage above along with 1 Peter 3:18-20, which is below.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. (1 Peter 3:18-20 ESV)
It was then that I remembered that this young man’s father was always quoting Kenneth Copeland. Do you see how someone can be deceived and follow false teachers if they do not know their Bibles very well? Satan did not defeat Christ at the cross. Our Lord’s death on our behalf was a tremendous victory. He was not in Hell those three days and nights as a prisoner. He was a conqueror. Hell is not Satan’s funhouse where he rules and reigns. It is a prison for those who disobey God. Our Lord never did that.
However, according to the Word-Faith teachers Jesus was recreated from a divine to a demonic being. At this point the Trinity was destroyed and the deity of Christ utterly demolished. According to the Faith teachers, the Lord Jesus’ passion on the cross proved insufficient to redeem humankind. Therefore, He had to be trapped and hauled down to the very pit of hell by Satan. It is there that Jesus is tortured and tormented by Satan and the demons.
Copeland explains that, “[I]n hell He [Jesus] suffered for you and for me. The Bible says hell was made for Satan and his angels. It was not made for men. Satan was holding the Son of God there illegally…The trap was set for Satan and Jesus was the bait.” (Kenneth Copeland, Walking in the Realm of the Miraculous (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1979), 77. Satan blew it on a technicality, according to Faith theology, because Satan had dragged Jesus into hell illegally. As Copeland puts it, “The Devil forgot to take into consideration that Jesus hadn’t sinned Himself but, rather, had merely become sin as a result of the sin of others.” (Kenneth Copeland, What Happened from the Cross to the Throne (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1990), audiotape #02-0017, side 2. Satan and every demon in hell tortured Christ’s allegedly “emaciated, poured out, little, wormy spirit” without legal right. (Kenneth Copeland, Believer’s Voice of Victory program (April 21, 1991). And this was exactly the opening God had been looking for. Seizing the moment, He spoke His faith-filled words into the bowels of the earth, and suddenly—“[t]hat Word of the living God went down into that pit of destruction and charged the spirit of Jesus with resurrection power! Suddenly His twisted, death-wracked spirit began to fill out and come back to life. He began to look like something the devil had never seen before. He was literally being reborn before the devil’s very eyes. He began to flex His spiritual muscles…Jesus was born again—the first-born from the dead.” (Kenneth Copeland, The Price of it All, Believer’s Voice of Victory 19, 9 (September 1991):4-6. Kenneth Copeland called upon revelation knowledge when he said: “The Spirit of God spoke to me and He said, ‘Son, realize this. Now follow me in this and don’t let your tradition trip you up.’ He said, ‘Think this way—a twice-born man whipped Satan in his own domain.’ And I threw my Bible down…like that. I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘A born-again man defeated Satan, the firstborn of many brethren defeated him.’ He said, ‘You are the very image, the very copy of that one.’ I said, ‘Well now you don’t mean, you couldn’t dare mean, that I could have done the same thing?’ He said, ‘Oh yeah, if you’d had the knowledge of the Word of God that He did, you could’ve done the same thing, ‘cause you’re a reborn man too.” (Kenneth Copeland, Substitution and Identification (Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1989), tape #00-0202, side 2.
Benny Hinn, too, received some “revelation knowledge” on the “rebirth” of Christ in hell: “My, you know, whoosh! The Holy Ghost is just showing me some stuff. I’m getting dizzy! I’m telling you the truth—it’s, it’s just heavy right now on me…He’s [referring to Jesus] in the underworld now. God isn’t there, the Holy Ghost isn’t there, and the Bible says He was begotten. Do you know what the word begotten means? It means reborn. Do you want another shocker? Have you been begotten? So was He. Don’t let anyone deceive you. Jesus was reborn. You say, ‘What are you talking about?’…He was reborn. He had to be reborn…If He was not reborn, I could not be reborn, I would never be reborn. How can I face Jesus and say, “Jesus, You went through everything I’ve gone through, except the new birth?” (Benny Hinn, Our Position ‘In Christ,’ Part 1 (Orlando, FL: Orlando Christian Center, 1991), videotape #TV-254.
Jan Crouch read Paul Billheimer’s commentary on TBN stating, “[I]n order to be made alive unto God and restored to fellowship with His Father, He [Jesus] had to be reborn—for He had become the very essence of sin. Since sin had totally alienated Him from the Father, the only way He could be restored to fellowship with the Father was through a new birth to new life.” (Paul Billheimer, Destined for the Throne, special edition for TBN (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1988 [orig. 1975]), 83-84. Quoted by Jan Crouch during the “Praise the Lord” program TBN (August 20, 1987).
Do you see how they base this on tiny bits of scripture taken out of context then embellish it with their “revelations from God?” Copeland says that if he had had the same knowledge of the Word of God that Jesus had that he could have died for my and your sins. Really? Where is that in the Bible? Don’t waste your time looking for it. It isn’t there. No where does it says the Jesus was Reborn or Born Again. The Word does tell us that Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, becoming a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:20) However, it does not contain any of the myths these false teachers are espousing.
If we shine the light of truth into the darkness of the Word-Faith movement we best expect a backlash. The Word-Faith teachers expect everyone to accept their authority and teachings without criticism or testing. If anyone challenges them they immediately claim that they are being divisive and refuse to discuss anything. For example, Christian Research Institute, a very reputable and trustworthy counter-cult and apologetic ministry, devoted a week of radio programs to exposing the errors of the Word-Faith movement. Immediately after the shows were aired, Paul Crouch had this to say about CRI during his televised “Praise-a-thon” program amid shouts of “amen” and “you tell ‘em brother” from the studio audience:
“I think God’s given up on a lot of that old rotten Sanhedrin religious crowd, twice dead, plucked up by the roots. I think they’re damned and on their way to hell and I don’t think there’s any redemption for them…the heresy hunters that want to find a little mote of illegal doctrine in some Christian’s eye and pluck that little mote out of their eye when they’ve got the whole forest in their own lives and in their own eyes. I say to hell with you! Oh hallelujah. Get out of God’s way, quit blocking God’s bridges or God’s gonna shoot you if I don’t! I refuse to argue any longer with any of you out there. Don’t even call me. If you want to argue doctrine, if you want to straighten out somebody over here, if you want to criticize Ken Copeland for his preaching on faith, or Dad Hagin. Get out of my life! I don’t even want to talk to you or hear you. I don’t want to see your ugly face! Get out of my face in Jesus’ name.” Paul Crouch, “Praise-a-thon” broadcast on TBN, recorded 4/2/91
Now let us back away from this for a bit. Consider this, The lies and false teachings of the Word-Faith sound unique, but if you take a close look at the Emergent movement, the new Evangelism, the ReThinking of Christianity movement via the Norman Vincent Peale/Robert Schuller teachings, etc., is there a common denominator? Are we talking about various aberrations of Christianity or are we seeing the multifaceted work of our enemy, Satan, bearing fruit in the fertile soil of apostate, professing Christians?
I have a close relative who is deep into the Word-Faith movement. I watched him jump from a very conservative SBC church in the late 1980’s to church after church with each one going deeper and deeper into Pentecostalism ending up in Carlton Pearson’s New Dimensions Church in Tulsa for a while before going full-bore into Word-Faith. I confronted him about it several times, but I was rebuffed each time with his condescending attitude that he knew much more about Christianity than I would ever know. However, when I used scripture to prove my point, the conversation would abruptly end. It is heartbreaking.
What can we do? We must never stop praying for the truth to penetrate the darkness these people are in. We must never stop telling the truth in love to them. We must always be alert that our own walk is true and that we are abiding in Christ, fully obeying Him in all things. If we try to confront these folks without our own walk being where it should be, we are asking for trouble because demonic forces protect these “ministries”. However, that is nothing compared to God’s power.