Martyrdom & the New Apostolic Reformation

Because of the ten years I’ve been associated as a volunteer with Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), I’ve gotten a perspective of the church and of Jesus Christ that, frankly, few Christians are privileged to witness. In this time, I’ve read the classic book by Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured For Christ, a couple of times and his more in-depth narrative titled In God’s Underground.  I’ve gone through Jesus Freaks multiple times as a devotional, along with Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and read a number of other books recounting the lives of those who faithfully followed Jesus through persecution and suffering.

Additionally, I’ve studied Islam to better understand its ways and how it is so aberrant in its theology.  VOM has many regional conferences around the country every year, and I’ve gone to most of those in my area.  At these events I’ve heard the stories of those who have experienced much mistreatment at the hands of those who hate Christ and met some of them.  All this has had a profound impact on my faith.

In these years I’ve had the opportunity to bring some of the VOM story to various groups of Christians, including church congregations. Inevitably there are a very few who are touched by these accounts of martyrs for the faith. For the most part, however, the vast majority of those who listen would rather not hear. The incidents of torture and severe maiming are too much for them—too graphic. Others are seemingly not touched at all. It’s like the proverbial water rolling off a duck’s back. Some people will give money to the cause because they care; some—forgive my cynicism—perhaps because they want it to go away, and by donating they assuage their conscience.

I finally had the opportunity to watch the movie of Tortured For Christ that VOM recently released.  Other than the heartrending scenes of evil and grace, none of it surprised me since I’ve been immersed in the environment for years. What watching it did do is make me come away thinking of my recent studies.

I’ve spent some time lately examining NAR and its beliefs. The New Apostolic Reformation, along with its brothers, Dominionism and Kingdom Now theology, all have a preterist and mainly amillennial mindset.  Beyond that, they tend to be hyper-charismatic.

I have a Pentecostal view of the times in which we live. I believe the gifts we see operative in the Book of Acts are very much alive today. In fact, it floors me that people think they ceased at the end of the first century with the death of the Apostles. The truth is that we need those gifts today more than ever to witness to the power and authority of Jesus Christ in order to combat the very active powers of darkness around the world. If you’ve spent any time reading about or listening to the miraculous conversion stories in Muslim nations, you know what I’m saying. (Read Tom Doyle’s Dreams and Visions, if you want an inside view of this.) Jesus, today, still appears in dreams and visions. God heals those who are dying. He shows up where Allah is silent. Our God, our Savior, is a God who cares and moves in the midst of the most difficult of circumstances.

All that said, hyper-charismania is off the charts for me. As far as I’m concerned, the purpose of these gifts of the Spirit is to point people toward Christ and to draw them into His kingdom, not to glorify our experiences and feelings.

When I see the foolishness of the NAR “apostles” and “prophets” (that’s another issue; don’t get me started on that) as to how they operate, it blows me away that people are so drawn in and deceived. I recently viewed a video of a service at Bethel (one of my favorite whipping boys) where the preacher spoke of the gold dust of heaven. Lo and behold! Out of the heating ducts, gold dust blew around for a while, awing the congregation with the wonder of God that He would do something so incredible. Bill Johnson subsequently came out and spoke. For him this was so commonplace that he basically ignored the remaining particles that floated down. All I can say is: “Is this the best that God can do?”

But no! Other Bethel videos show devotees being slain by the spirit. Similar to what happened at the Toronto Blessing, they roll around, do somersaults, and bark like dogs. Oh yes, God is so glorified I want to retch. Why lowercase “s” for spirit in this instance? Well, what spirit is this? Then the participants are urged to call down angels: “Come down! Come angels, come!” I keep looking in vain in the Bible for these examples of true Christianity. Since when do we command God what to do?

The comparison of these who claim that God is moving in their midst set against the backdrop of those who are tortured for Christ is stark. God will not be mocked. There are, no doubt, many serious people seeking the Lord who have been deceived by this faux strain of faith. Are there some actual healings and utterances of prophetic words? Yes. Satan allows the mixing so as to claim a mantle of truth. Tares with the wheat. But look at how far from a deep understanding of what God actually desires for His people these teachings lead.

Does gold dust point to Jesus? Is my heart posture enhanced when I bark and roll like a crazy man? One of NAR’s female prophets speaks while shaking her head back and forth so fast that it gives me a headache just seeing it. Oh yes, she also kicks off her shoes for added effect. Where, oh where are Isaiah and Jeremiah? I’ll bet they’d have something to say about all this.

God wants a people who love Him and love others. It’s evident in the way He sustains those who endure for Him. It’s this witness that grows the church and makes serious disciples. All this other stuff is distraction and one more piece of evidence that the hour is late. Our Savior is coming soon.

Gary Ritter