There seems to be a never-ending parade of folks hearing from God. I would say “these days” but it has been happening from the beginning of time. There are those who sit at the bus stop claiming to talk to Jesus (or BE Jesus). Those guys are mentally unstable, right? What about the guy in the suit standing behind a lectern who tells you that God told him something? Crazy? Prophetic?
Let’s look at a few, actual, historical examples. The pattern is obvious and changes little over the course of history. Some of this might surprise you. If you thought a guy in a suit is more credible, what about 3 of the largest religious affiliations on the planet? Are there lessons to be learned here? Let’s take a look:
1. In 610 AD, nearly 6 centuries after the death of Christ, a 40-year-old prophet from the Arabian Peninsula began receiving messages from God from the angel Gabriel. He was believed (and his followers continue to believe today) to have been the restorer of the original monotheistic faith; that of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.
The problem? The information supposedly imparted in this direct revelation, when speaking of the errors of Christianity, is inaccurate in regard to what Christianity actually teaches. When these writings speak to matters of historically objective Christianity, they don’t contain what is written in the Old and New Testaments, rather what was understood about these writings in the Arabian peninsula during this period in history. If you want to quickly identify a man-made historical document, you can validate (or disprove it) in light of information which would have been available to a *man* at the time, and contrast that with what was actually true yet little known, but would be known to an omniscient *God* at that point. How does this play out?
In the content above, we have descriptions of christianity which are not only inaccurate, but in direct conflict with the christian faith. Without going into the errors of the infancy gospels or the divinity of Christ, here’s an example that should be obvious to anyone: In condemning the teaching of the trinity, the Koran identifies the trinity as God (the father), Jesus, and Mary.
So, either God somehow changed (or forgot) the persons of the trinity, or the author of this content had a historically limited view of the christian faith.
The result? Islam, the second largest religion on the planet and it’s revelation from God, The Koran.
How about on the American shores?
In 1835, a 30-year-old New York man, who had previously received direct revelation, multiple times from God himself and angels, began translation work on what would later be known as “The Book of Abraham”. This translation was from ancient Egyptian Papyri which had been found, sent to America, and purchased by the young man. Even more surprisingly, this young man was enabled to not only translate the ancient text, but to codify the alphabet and grammar from this single document. Quite impressive!
The problem? While egyptian hieroglyphy was unknown in the mid 1800’s, it was later developed substantially and experts were able to go back and view both the papyri and the supposed translation. In 1912, these documents were sent to 8 scholars who all identified the papyri to be an ordinary funerary document. Their feedback on the young man’s supposed translation:
Egyptologist Dr. James H. Breasted of the University of Chicago noted:
“… these three facsimiles of Egyptian documents in the ‘Pearl of Great Price’ depict the most common objects in the Mortuary religion of Egypt. (his) interpretations of them as part of a unique revelation through Abraham, therefore, very clearly demonstrates that he was totally unacquainted with the significance of these documents and absolutely ignorant of the simplest facts of Egyptian writing and civilization.”
Dr. W.M. Flinders Petrie of London University wrote:
Dr. A.H. Sayce, Oxford professor of Egyptology,
The problem? The author is Joseph Smith, founder of the 3rd largest religious denomination in the United States, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), better known as “Mormons”.
And finally, one that may surprise you as it hits within “mainstream” Christianity:
In October of 1900, a 27 year old Kansas man named Charles Fox Parham formed a Bible College in Topeka, Kansas. The only textbook was the Bible and the only teacher was the Holy Spirit, with Parham acting as the spirit’s “mouthpiece”.
In December 1900, Parham sent his students (who had been at the Bible College less than 3 months) to diligently search the scriptures for the Biblical evidence for his theory of the “baptism in the Holy Spirit”. The students returned with the view that “baptism in the Holy Sprit” was evidenced by speaking in unknown tongues.
With this view, Parham called a “watch night” prayer service on December 31, 1900 to pray fervently through the night. According to Parham, after midnight on January 1, 1901, a student named Agnes Ozman asked that hands be laid upon her in prayer.
“I had scarcely repeated three dozen sentences when a glory fell upon her, a halo seemed to surround her head and face, and she began speaking in the Chinese language, and was unable to speak English for three days. When she tried to write in English to tell us of her experience she wrote the Chinese, copies of which we still have in newspapers printed at that time.” – Charles Fox Parham
I’m sure you can guess where this is going. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your view) we DO still have copies of what Agnes wrote during those three days:
The problem is predictable and follows the pattern. While Chinese was obscure on the Kansas plains in 1901, it is not obscure today. What you see above is most certainly not chinese. I personally submitted this paper, with no background story, to a colleague who holds a PhD in Chinese from The University of Texas at Austin as well as several Chinese chinese co-workers. Their responses were uniform:
“This is gibberish.”
“This isn’t Chinese.”
“This is actually quite funny. Someone said this was Chinese?”
The woman, Agnes Ozman was a student of Charles Fox Parham and her experience is now known as the Topeka Revival which began the modern Pentecostal-Holiness movement. Parham’s ministry moved several times to areas which continue to this day to be hotbeds of the pentecostal movement, notably southwest Missouri and Houston, Texas and in 1914, Parham’s “Apostolic Faith Movement” merged with several other pentecostal groups to form The General Councils of the Assemblies of God, the largest pentecostal denomination in the world.
Parham’s view of this “baptism in the Holy Spirit” was its necessity for assurance of the salvation of the believer and that ONLY those exhibiting this baptism would be raptured at Christ’s second coming ,whose total number would be 144,000. (A view later rejected by the Assemblies of God.) The problems here are obvious and many as there are significantly more than 144,000 people speaking in tongues. There are more than 280 million pentecostals globally. 1 in 4 professing Christians identify themselves as pentecostal.
Of interest is the fact that Parham believed these utterances to be literal, known, human languages which would eliminate the need for missionaries to receive language training prior to their placement on the mission field. Parham labeled this as “xenoglossae”, or “foreign languages”.
The most notable and documented cases of this belief was of A.G. Garr.
The following is from Dr. Gary McGee (Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church History and Pentecostal Studies at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary):
“God is solving the missionary problem,” trumpeted the Apostolic Faith newspaper,published by the Azusa Street mission in Los Angeles, California. Indeed, “the Lord has givenlanguages to the unlearned, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Zulu and languages of Africa, Hindu and Bengali and dialects of India, Chippewa and other languages ofthe Indians, Esquimaux, the deaf mute language and . . . the Holy Ghost speaks all the languages of the world through His children.”
The best-known attempt to demonstrate this proficiency came when Alfred G. (“A. G.”) Garr, pastor of the Metropolitan Holiness Church in the city, and his wife Lillian, left for the east coast in July 1906 to board ship for India, the first missionaries to leave Azusa for the “regions beyond.”
Unlike their Protestant missionary counterparts who often struggled to learn the necessary languages for mission work, the Garrs insisted they had already received the ones they needed directly from the Holy Spirit before they even left the shores of America. They could now avoid the time-consuming delay of formal language study—usually requiring several years—and begin preaching once they arrived.
Though a missionary to India visiting Los Angeles had challenged Alfred’s ability to speak Bengali, he went still confidant that he could not only speak the language, but Chinese as well. Lillian claimed Tibetan and Chinese.
Early in the Calcutta revival, A. G. Garr not only had to face his inability to speak Bengali, but also had to re-examin the actual meaning of speaking in tongues.
The young student, Agens Ozman later spoke of her experience, which began the modern Pentecostal-Holiness movement (which birthed the Assemblies of God, Church of God, Church of God in Christ, and the United Pentecostal Church) and summed up the problem with the errors we see in the following article published in 1909:
“Some time ago I tried but failed to have an article printed which I wrote calling attention to what I am sure God showed me was error. The article maintained that tongues was not the only evidence of the Spirit’s Baptism. When that article was refused I was much tempted by Satan, but God again graciously showed me He had revealed it to me, and satisfied my heart in praying that He might reveal this truth to others who would spread it abroad. For awhile after the baptism I got into spiritual darkness, because I did as I see so many others are doing these days, rested and reveled in tongues and other demonstrations instead of resting alone in God.”
And here we see the common thread in all “direct revelation” from God. At best, it leads to unorthodox theology and a misfocus on the “new” message over the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sin, such as…
“The biggest thing for us in our exegesis of Scripture is that we believe in baptism in the Holy Spirit.” – Greg Mundis, executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions
…and at worst leads to outright rejection of Christ’s atoning work (Islam and Mormonism).
I challenge you to look at the message of any ministry which received such “direct revelation” from God, do they point to Christ’s atoning work on the cross for the forgiveness of sin? Do they confront the unbelievers with their sin and plead for their repentance, salvation, and rest in Christ?
I believe that you’ll find, as the Mother of the Pentecostal movement herself found and repented of later in life that they do not. “New Revelation” will always, always, replace the gospel.. and it will replace it with faith in yourself; your “feelings” and your works. If these revelations are truly “from God” then they would, be definition, be on par with commands of scripture. In other words, they would be law and to disobey them would be sin. These “new revelations” may be as seemingly obvious as someone claiming that a 900 foot Jesus appeared and commanded them to build a medical center which would be a success (and which actually closed 8 years later) like Oral Roberts.
Others, like the current “Vision Casting” phenomenon are a bit more subtle. Either way, looking for direct/extra-biblical revelation is a recipe for disaster. Either way, we’re obscuring the gospel taught by the apostles, and putting people under new “law” outside of scripture.. all because of a “vision” or something “in our spirit” or “laid on our heart”.
God speaks to you. He speaks to you every time you open scripture and begin to read of the faith once and all delivered to the saints.
Don’t be deceived by your subjective emotion. The heart is wicked above all things and certainly not the place to look for “nudges”. Open the word, the very “breath of God”.