It is interesting to me that Todd Bentley and the Lakeland Revival brought charismatic revivalism into the spotlight, which inadvertently put a magnifying glass on Peter Wagner’s apostolic reformation. Now only weeks later, charismatic theology and new apostolic reformation are once again in the spotlight due to connections with Sarah Palin.
It looks to me like it is time for charismatics to pay attention and examine their theological foundations. Is it possible that perhaps God is initiating a type of charismatic reform? I am not the only one suggesting that it is time for an Extreme Charismatic Makeover.
I want to take a closer look at where and how latter-rain doctrine has influenced charismatic christianity. As I said before, when I started reading about some of this, I wondered about where the heresy line was drawn. What was the difference between kingdom now and kingdom theology, between dominionism and new creation, between manifest sons of god and incarnation? Knowing that I was heavily influenced by latter-rain teaching, I wondered how much of my understanding of scripture was wrong.
The following list of latter-rain doctrines is taken from my earlier post describing the charismatic family tree. These are charismatic doctrines that trace their roots directly to the latter-rain movement. I have included some commentary about each of these ideas. Obviously this is not a thorough treatment of every aspect, but it will at least give you an overview of the history and influences of latter-rain beliefs on charismatic doctrine.
Typological interpretation of OT scripture
This leads to a lot of error among charismatics. Brother Maynard addresses the gnostic handling of scripture in his post Charismatic Clean-up. Latter-rain teaching is entirely based upon “prophetic” revelation and typological interpretation of OT scripture. The book Post-Charismatic explains how latter-rain doctrine developed from teachings about the Feast of Tabernacles and the Tabernacle of David.
This type of interpretation of passages in Isaiah, Joel, and Revelation, in particular, is the basis of the doctrine of restorationism and end-time philosophies of dominion such as Joel’s Army. While typology can be interesting, it is not a solid foundation upon which to form doctrine and can lead to aberrant beliefs.
Laying on of hands (impartation)
Obviously we understand the benefits of laying hands on people for prayer, blessing, and healing. The recent Lakeland situation revealed error in charismatic mentalities about impartation and the transfer of the “anointing.” There can be a form of idolatry in revivalism when impartation is pursued from special places or special people and a lack of understanding about the indwelling presence of God and operation of the Spirit in the life of every believer.
Personal prophecy emphasizing gifts and ministry
The latter-rain movement was the original prophetic movement and a precursor to the prophetic movement of the 1980’s. The most important thing that the prophetic movement restored to the church is the understanding that it is possible and necessary for the individual believer to hear and know the voice of God. I have seen both the blessings and benefits of personal prophecy and the abuses and extremes. There is much that could be written on this topic. Some of my thoughts about it are in this article written by Brother Maynard.
Latter rain teaching broke away from dispensationalism (rapture theology). Views on eschatology vary greatly among charismatic believers. Many pentecostals were dispensationalists and considered the denial of the rapture to be heresy (and still do). Among charismatics, there is also a mishmash of teachings about the Second Coming, the millenium, the tribulation, the role of Israel, and other endtime events. Much of the prophetic language and mentality comes from latter rain ideas, yet it is often mixed with other doctrines.
Latter rain specifically refers to an endtime outpouring of supernatural power on a select group of believers. The essence of latter-rain doctrine is this:
It is believed that the latter rain move of the spirit will cause the church to be victorious resulting in the Second Coming of Christ.
The remaining doctrines we will discuss are elements of this central belief.
The belief that the doctrines of Christ (Heb.6:1-2) and the five-fold ministry (Eph.4:11) were lost during the Dark Ages and are now being restored to the church. The restoration of the doctrines of Christ is used to support the eschatological framework just discussed. There is believed to be a progression of events that will lead to the Second Coming of Christ. The restoration of five-fold ministry is an important aspect of that progression.
It is believed that the “true church” will develop under the leadership of newly-restored apostles and prophets. This latter-rain doctrine is the reason that the prophetic movement and the new apostolic reformation exist today. They are the result and ongoing expression of this teaching in the charismatic church. The people involved are convinced that their role as apostles is vital in the development of the church and fulfillment of its purpose. I have already said plenty about apostolic reformation here and here.
Manifest Sons of God
Also referred to as Joel’s Army, the Elijah or Joshua generation, etc. Many charismatics believe they are now in training as God’s end-time army and are being made ready for coming events. Most have been around this type of militant language for describing spiritual warfare, prayer, and worship. Latter-Rain teachings promise a second outpouring to empower this group to be victorious in overthrowing the powers of darkness.
The more extreme version of this teaching is that there is a select remnant, a kind of super-breed, who will incarnate Christ to the degree that they will become perfect. Achieving this degree of perfection is what will allow for the return of Christ.
I hope that gives you a bit of an idea of how prevalent these ideas are within normal charismatic christianity and enough information to make your own determination about the accuracy of various beliefs.