What In The World Is Happening To Us?
Selected Stories & Teachings From The History Of Revival

by Bill Jackson (1994)

Questions arising out of the current phase of renewal commonly called the "Toronto Blessing" often deal with the Biblical and historical viability of exotic phenomena such as laughter and falling. In this paper, Bill Jackson presents the argument that there is a precedent for these phenomena, and that these phenomena have been documented both in Scripture and in historical texts.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

  1. Historical Review
    1. Randy Clark is the founding pastor of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in St. Louis, MO. After years of seeing little fruit and power in his ministry he became desperately hungry for God. Hearing of unusual manifestations of God's presence through the ministry of South African evangelist, Rodney Howard-Brown, Randy attended one of Rodney's meetings in Tulsa, OK. Randy was powerfully touched and, in going home, began to see a similar outbreak of the Spirit among his people.
    2. At the Regional meeting of Midwestern Vineyard churches at Lake Geneva, WI, in October, 1993, the Regional overseer, Happy Leman, asked Randy to share what was happening in his church. Again, a powerful demonstration of God's power broke out at the meeting. There was a limited outbreak at the Champaign Vineyard the following Sunday.
    3. At the Vineyard National Board meeting in November, Happy shared the results of the regional meeting with John Arnott, pastor of the Airport Vineyard in Toronto, Canada, and Area Pastoral Coordinator of the Vineyards in Ontario. John immediately went home and invited Randy to come to Toronto to speak and minister in January. Two days of meetings in Toronto turned into what, to date, have been 90 days of almost continuous meetings in numerous locations in Ontario and in the United States.
    4. The meetings have been dubbed a "renewal" rather than a "revival" by psychiatrist and author John White and by John Wimber, international leader of the Association of Vineyard Churches. Randy and those who have been associated with him say that this move of God is more associated with refreshing the church and calling home the prodigals than salvation for the lost. People are coming to Christ but not in the numbers one typically sees in times of revival.
    5. On March 4-5, Randy spoke in Marion, Illinois, and several people from the Champaign Vineyard, including Bill and Betsy Jackson, went to hear him. Bill and others from the church were deeply impacted and came back to share with the church on Sunday what had happened. Again, there was an outbreak during the Sunday ministry time, this one larger than the one in the fall.
    6. Happy and his wife Dianne went to Toronto on Bill's recommendation. Happy wound up staying for almost a week and, in coming home saw an even larger outbreak than the previous two. Manifestations of God's presence have continued every week since. Happy Leman has reported that he has seen more changed lives in one month than in all his years of ministry.
  2. Our purpose in putting this paper together is to develop a biblical apologetic for what we see happening among us. Much of what we are seeing is strange to the natural mind. The following are some of the phenomena that we have seen in our meetings.
    1. Falling
    2. Shaking
    3. "Drunkenness"
    4. Crying
    5. Laughter
    6. Prophetic revelation
  3. Any thinking believer is going to ask some basic questions.
    1. Is what we are seeing biblical?
    2. What are these phenomena for?
    3. How can you be sure it's God?
  4. Even if satisfying answers can be given to these questions, still more objections can be raised. How could it be God if:
    1. It's hard to understand?
    2. It makes me afraid?
    3. It causes division?
    4. He overrides my faculties?
    5. It's so emotional?
    6. It causes me to be the center of attraction?
    7. It's so disorderly?
    8. It doesn't happen to me?
  5. We will now take up these questions and objections in order and try to give some biblical answers.

2. Are These Manifestations Biblical?

  1. First, it needs to be said that it is perfectly normal and even necessary to inquire into the biblical nature of Christian experience. It is also OK to admit that much of this looks "weird" as long as we don't prematurely judge it. When Paul first went to the Greek city of Berea, the book of Acts says that the Bereans were more noble than the other Jews Paul had encountered in Greece because they "searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul was saying was true" (17.11).
  2. When we ask, "Is it biblical?," we're probably asking for what is commonly called a "proof" text. A proof text is a portion of Scripture that, when taken in context, validates a particular position we are taking. In order to ascertain whether these phenomena are biblical, we need to lay down some ground rules for solid interpretation.
    1. There are three basic doctrinal headings in the Bible
      1. Christian theology (what Christians are to believe)
      2. Christian ethics (how Christians ought to behave)
      3. Christian experience or practice (what Christians do)
    2. You can call a verse/passage a proof text when the writer clearly states what God wants us to believe, do or practice. These texts can be labeled "primary."
    3. There are many beliefs, behaviors and practices, however, that are not clearly taught but rather are implied. These texts can be labeled "secondary." This doesn't mean unimportant, only that a clear statement cannot be found.
      1. Let's take baptism for instance. The Bible clearly states that Christians are to be baptized. There is a primary text that says so (Mt. 28.19).
      2. How we are to be baptized, on the other hand, is never explicitly stated. This is why different groups baptize different ways. There are, however, clear biblical passages that show that it was normal in the early church to immerse people in water. Even the word "baptize" means to immerse. This doesn't prove that this is the way the church should baptize for all time. It does, however, imply it. At the very least it illustrates that this is what was done. The mode of baptism, therefore, is a secondary, not a primary issue.
    4. When dealing with supernatural phenomena, we are dealing with the area of Christian practice.
    5. While there is a primary text dealing with prophetic revelation, there are no primary texts that clearly state that Christians are to fall down, shake or look drunk during seasons of divine visitation.
    6. There are, however, a number of secondary (remember, secondary does not mean invalid or unimportant) texts that illustrate that these were some of the responses people had during moments of divine visitation. We will examine some of these passages where they relate to a particular phenomena.
    7. There are also numerous examples of similar phenomena in church history, especially in seasons of revival. We will also briefly examine them. All historical quotes are taken from two sources. Material concerning Jonathan Edwards comes from his original writings as gleaned from a paper from church historian, Guy Chevreau. Guy is currently researching these phenomena in church history. The other quotes are taken from a priceless out of print volume by James Gilchrist Lawson called Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians (copyright 1911).
  3. Falling
    1. The most common phenomena we have seen in our meetings is people falling down, commonly called "resting in the Spirit." Often they remain conscious but engaged with the Lord. They feel weak and find it difficult to do anything but rest with God. We have seen that as they lay with the Lord, they have had significant changes in their lives. What , if any, biblical precedent is there for this?
    2. Gen. 15.12: "Abram fell into a deep sleep and a thick, dreadful darkness came over him." This literally reads, "a deep sleep fell on Abram." The Hebrew word radam means to be in or fall into a deep sleep. This is the same word that is used when God put Adam to sleep when he made Eve (Gen. 2:21; cf. 17.17: "Abraham fell facedown").
    3. 1 Sam. 19: "Saul walked along prophesying...he stripped off his robes and also prophesied in Samuel's presence. He lay that way all that day and night. This is why people say, 'Is Saul also among the prophets?'" This text shows that for something close to a 24 hour period Saul lay in a prone position with God speaking through him.
    4. 2 Chron. 5.13-14: In the context of the temple priests worshiping and praising God, all of a sudden "the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God." This is a fascinating text. It never says that the priests fell but it does indicate that under God's glory they were essentially immobilized, physically unable to perform their duties. What happened seems to be connected to the Hebrew word for "glory" (kabod) which means "a weight." The phenomenon of falling in God's presence might be understood as being overcome by the weight of God forcing them to the floor.
    5. Ezek. 1.28: "This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it I fell facedown..."
    6. Ezek. 3.23: "...And the glory of the Lord was standing there, like the glory I had seen by the Kebar river, and I fell face down."
    7. Dan. 8.17: "As he (Gabriel) came near...I was terrified and fell on my face."
    8. Dan. 10:9: In another divine encounter with an angelic being, Daniel says, "When I heard the sound of his words I then was lying stunned (radam) on the ground and my face was toward the ground."
    9. Mt. 17.6: When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. 'Get up,' he said. 'Don't be afraid.'"
    10. Mt. 28.4: "The guards were so afraid of him (the angel) that they shook and became like dead men."
    11. Jn. 18.6: As Judas and the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, they had an interesting encounter. "When Jesus said, 'I am he,' they jumped back and fell to the ground." Here we see an immediate falling back in response to the presence of Jesus. They were apparently able to get up shortly thereafter because they went on to arrest Jesus.
    12. Acts 9.22-26: When Paul was apprehended on the road to Damascus by a light from heaven, he says, "I fell to the ground and heard a voice." Again we see that falling was a normal response to a divine visitation.
    13. Acts 10.10: While Peter was on the roof of Simon the tanner, it says that "he fell into a trance."
    14. In 2 Corinthians 12.1-4, Paul describes an amazing experience where he didn't know if he was in his body or not. He was "caught up in paradise" where he heard inexpressible things that he was not permitted to tell. Again, while the text does not say that he had fallen, this experience was not described as a dream which happened to him when he was asleep, but rather as a vision/revelation (12.1). This implies that he was awake when the revelation came and that for whatever time the experience lasted, he was in some sort of trance-like state, most likely in a prone position.
    15. Rev. 1.17: In the visionary experience that resulted in the book of Revelation, John, speaking of his angelic encounter, says, "When I saw him I fell at his feet as though dead." Here we see an experience similar to Adam's and Abram's where the person not only falls but is also unconscious for an extended period of time.
    16. Jonathan Edwards, the main instrument and theologian of the Great Awakening in America (1725-1760), says in his Account of the Revival of Religion in Northampton 1740-1742:

      Many have had their religious affections raised far beyond what they had ever been before; and there were some instances of persons lying in a sort of trance, remaining perhaps for a whole twenty-four hours motionless, and with their senses locked up; but in the mean time under strong imaginations, as though they went to heaven and had there a vision of glorious and delightful objects.

      It was a very frequent thing to see outcries, faintings, convulsions, and such like, both with distress, and also admiration and joy.

      It was not the manner here to hold meetings all night, nor was it common to continue them till very late in the night; but it was pretty often so, that there were some so affected, and their bodies so overcome, that they could not go home, but were obligated to stay all night where they were.

    17. Charles Finney (1792-1875) was one of the most powerful revivalists since the reformation:

      At a country place named Sodom, in the state of New York, Finney gave one address in which he described the condition of Sodom before God destroyed it. 'I had not spoken in this strain more than a quarter of an hour,' says he, 'when an awful solemnity seemed to settle upon them; the congregation began to fall from their seats in every direction, and cried for mercy. If I had had a sword in each hand, I could not have cut them down as fast as they fell. Nearly the whole congregation were either on their knees or prostrate, I should think, in less than two minutes from the shock that fell upon them. Every one prayed who was able to speak at all.' Similar scenes were witnessed in many other places.

    18. Conclusion: In light of the biblical data, the things that we are seeing now are both similar and dissimilar. It is clear from the text that there is a precedent for sometimes falling during a manifestation of God's presence. The cause of the biblical falls seemed to vary from God putting man to sleep for a specific purpose, to falling out of holy fear, to falling as almost a forced prostration in the face of human arrogance and rebellion. Interestingly, the majority of biblical men fell facedown. The examples from Edwards and Finney seem to support this varied pattern. In Edward's account, the people were overcome by the presence of God while in Finney's, it was clearly a falling out of holy fear. The kinds of falling we are seeing now seem to parallel more the action of God to put to sleep for the purpose of divine intervention, rest and healing rather than contrition. While some fall facedown, the great majority fall backwards. John Wimber believes that falling facedown is some kind of indication of a man's stature in the Lord. Francis McNutt (Overcome by the Spirit. Grand Rapids, Baker, p. 85) thinks that the more common falling backwards comes from the heaviness of the glory (kabod: weight) of God.
  4. Shaking
    1. Shaking is also common in our meetings and is one of the hardest phenomena to understand. The kinds of shaking vary greatly. Sometimes the shaking is accompanied by all sorts of bodily contortions; sometimes mild, sometimes almost violent. What, if any, biblical precedent is there?
    2. Dan. 10.7: "I, Daniel, alone saw the vision. For the men who were with me did not see the vision. But a great quaking/trembling fell on them so that they fled to hide themselves."
    3. Ps. 99.1: The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake."
    4. Ps. 114.7: "Tremble O earth at the presence of the Lord."
    5. Jer. 5.22: "'Should you not fear me?' declares the Lord. 'Should you not tremble in my presence?'"
    6. Jer. 23.9: In speaking of his prophetic experience, Jeremiah says, "My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man overcome by wine because of the Lord and his holy words." This is a significant verse because Jeremiah is relating that what happened to him on at least one occasion involved a trembling/shaking of his bones. His wording seems to imply that he shook from the inside out. It would take a powerful force to cause his bones to quiver inside his body. The analogy to being overcome could also be a reference to being entranced by the coming of a prophetic word. This text is an answer to God's plea in Jer. 5.22.
    7. Hab. 3.16: "I heard and my heart pounded; my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones and my legs trembled."
    8. Mt. 28.4: See above
    9. Acts 4.31: "The place where they were meeting was shaken."
    10. Js. 2.19: "The devils also believe and tremble."
    11. George Fox (1624-1691, founder of the Quakers): After a life-changing experience with the Holy Spirit, Fox had some remarkable experiences.

      After passing through the experience described above, Fox was mightily used of God, and great conviction of sin fell upon the people to whom he preached. "The Lord's power began to shake them," says he, "and great meetings we began to have, and a mighty power and work of God there was amongst people, to the astonishment of both people and priests." Later, he says, "After this I went to Mansfield, where there was a great meeting of professors and people; here I was moved to pray; and the Lord's power was so great, that the house seemed to be shaken."

      A remarkable power seemed to accompany the preaching of Fox wherever he went, whether in Britain or America, Germany, Holland, or the West Indies. He usually went about the country on foot, dressed in his famous suit of leather clothes, said to have been made by himself, and often sleeping out of doors or in some haystack. He was ridiculed and persecuted, beaten and stoned, arrested and imprisoned, more frequently perhaps than any other man, and yet the Lord seemed to greatly bless and own his labors. Describing his meetings at Ticknell, England, he says: "The priest scoffed at us and called us 'Quakers.' But the Lord's power was so over them, and the word of life was declared in such authority and dread to them, that the priest began trembling himself; and one of the people said, 'Look how the priest trembles and shakes, he is turned Quaker also.'

    12. Conclusion: There is a biblical precedent for shaking in God's presence. In the verses where the cause of shaking is mentioned, it has to do with holy fear. The shaking we are experiencing seems to be related more to prophetic ministry and impartation of spiritual gifts of which parallels can be seen in Fox's ministry.
  5. "Drunkenness"
    1. See Jer 23.9 above
    2. Acts 2.13ff: "Some, however, made fun of them and said, 'They have had too much wine.' Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd...These men are not drunk as you suppose. It is only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'In the last days I will pour out my Spirit.'" Compare Acts 10.44-46 where apparently the same kinds of phenomena occurred with the Gentiles. That the 120 newly filled believers were acting in a "drunken" manner is what is know as an argument from silence. The text never says that they were but it is obviously inferred. They would not be accused of being drunk because they were speaking in different languages. They would have been accused of such because they were acting like drunks, i.e., laughing, falling, slurred speech by some, boldness through lack of restraint, etc. The analogy of the gift of the Spirit being "new wine" would lend itself to the connection.
    3. Eph. 5.8ff: In a passage dealing with the Ephesians putting off their old carousing lifestyle, Paul exhorts them, "Do not get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled (Greek present tense: "keep on being filled") with the Holy Spirit."

      Paul is contrasting carnal drunkenness with spiritual filling. Given the tense of the Greek verb, he appears to also be making an analogy as well as a contrast. Being filled with God's Spirit is similar to being drunk on wine. The difference is that the former is holy while the other is sinful.

    4. Conclusion: While there is not much to go on here, the two NT passages are important texts. The possibility of being "drunk" in the Spirit is consonant with the overall flow of biblical precedent.
  6. Crying
    1. Neh. 8.9: "All the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the law."
    2. 2 Chron. 34.27: "Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself...and you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you."
    3. Acts 2.37: "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart..." This text doesn't say they wept but it's hard to imagine "being cut to the heart" as not evoking that emotional response.
    4. John Wesley (1703-1791, Founder of the Methodists):

      On April 17, 1739, there was another remarkable case of conviction of sin, in Bristol. Wesley had just expounded Acts 4, on the power of the Holy Spirit, "We then called upon God to confirm His Word," says he. "Immediately one that stood by (to our no small surprise) cried out aloud, with the utmost vehemence, even as the agonies of death. But we continued in prayer, till 'a new song was put in her mouth, a thanksgiving unto our God.' Soon after, two other persons (well known in this place, as laboring to live in all good conscience towards all men) were seized with strong pain, and constrained to roar for the disquietness of their heart. These also found peace." Many other wonderful cases of conviction of sin attended Wesley's preaching. It was a frequent occurrence for people to cry aloud or fall down as if dead in the meetings, so great was their anguish of heart, caused, no doubt, by the Holy Spirit convicting them of sin.

    5. Conclusion: Crying is a natural and normal response to the movement of the Holy Spirit. They come as a result of the Spirit's ministry to release grief, bring repentance or as a sign of joy.
  7. Laughter
    1. While there are not a lot of texts that describe laughter as a response to divine visitation, the key passage of Scripture on this subject comes at a very important moment in redemptive history. Both Abraham and Sarah had laughed in unbelief when God told them respectively that they would have a child in their old age. When God performed a miracle in giving them the child of promise, Abraham named him "he laughs" (Isaac). John Wimber believes that laughter accompanies revivals because it represents God's sovereign activity to heal the barrenness of his people.
    2. Ps. 126: A Psalm of joy and laughter. "Our mouths were filled with laughter...those who sow in tears will reap in joy."
    3. Ecc. 3.4: "A time to weep and a time to laugh." (See Js. 4:9 for the opposition progression)
    4. Jn. 17.13: "I am coming to you now but I say these things while I am still in the world so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them." If there is any prayer in the Bible that will be answered, it is the high priestly prayer in John 17. Certainly the full measure of joy within the Trinity is full of laughter.
    5. Jonathan Edwards:

      It was very wonderful to see how person's affections were sometimes moved, when God did as it were suddenly open their eyes, and let into their minds a sense of the greatness of His grace, the fullness of Christ, and His readiness to save...Their joyful surprise has caused their hearts as it were to leap, so that they have been ready to break forth into laughter, tears often at the same time issuing like a flood, and intermingling a loud weeping. Sometimes they have not been able to forebear crying out with a loud voice, expressing their great admiration. The manner of God's work on the soul, sometimes especially, is very mysterious.

    6. Conclusion: Again, laughter fits within the general flow of Scripture. Christians can be so filled with the joy of the Lord that they are given over to fits of laughter.
  8. Prophetic revelation
    1. One of the things we are seeing is that people are having visions, dreams and prophetic words while under the power of the Spirit. All throughout the Bible, prophetic revelation occurs during periods of divine visitation. There is no way we can cover this subject in this context so a few key passages will have to suffice.
    2. Num 11.29: In response to Joshua's complaint that some of the elders were prophesying outside of the tent of meeting when the Spirit rested on them, Moses says, "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would his Spirit on them!" This is a very significant passage. It shows that prophecy can be a response to the Spirit's coming. The phrase, "when the Spirit rested on them" (v25) is also reminiscent of the Spirit alighting on Jesus like a dove at his baptism.
    3. Num 11.6: When Miriam and Aaron opposed Moses, God revealed how he speaks to the prophets in contrast to speaking face to face with Moses: "When a prophet is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams."
    4. 1 Sam. 10.10: In fulfillment of Samuel's prophetic word to him, Saul met a procession of prophets. The text says, "...the Spirit of the Lord came on him in power, and he joined in their prophesying."
    5. Acts 2.17-18: On the day of Pentecost, Peter quoted the prophetic word of Joel saying, "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy." This is the only primary text concerning the phenomena that we have been able to find. Peter conveys quite plainly: "God says" that when the Spirit comes upon his people, they will prophesy and receive dreams and visions.
    6. 1 Cor. 14: An entire chapter of 1 Corinthians is devoted to the exhortation to be eager for spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. When an unbeliever comes into a meeting and hears someone prophesying, Paul says that, "he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, 'God is really among you!'"
    7. George Fox:

      And a report went abroad of me, that I was a young man that had a discerning spirit; whereupon many came to me, from far and near, professors, priests, and people; and the Lord's power brake forth; and I had great openings and prophecies; and spake unto them of the things of God, and they heard with attention and silence, and went away, and spread the fame thereof.

    8. Conclusion: When the Spirit comes in power, God's people will prophecy.

3. What Are The Phenomena For?

  1. Signs of the Lord's presence
    1. In Ex. 33.14-16, in response to Moses it says, "The Lord replied, 'My Presence will go with you.'" The promise of God's Presence is the distinguishing mark of God's people. Moses says to God, "What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth" (v.16).
    2. The abiding presence of the Holy Spirit is in each Christian and since Acts 2 has been continually active in the Church. Jesus, speaking of the Spirit, says to the disciples, "he is with you and will be in you" (Jn. 14. 17). There are times, however, when God allows us to see His presence to build our faith and show us where He is working.
    3. 2 Ki. 6.17: When Elisha saw that his servant was afraid of the surrounding armies, it says, "And Elisha prayed, 'Oh Lord, open his eyes so he may see.' Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." Here God allows his Presence to manifest. The phenomena we have been describing are biblical manifestations of God's presence.
    4. The phenomena can best be described as prophetic signs, even as Ezekiel and Jeremiah were signs that pointed to God.
    5. Those that have moved in these signs have noticed over time that certain phenomena mean specific things, especially shaking.
      1. Certain shaking motions preceding prophetic utterance
      2. Certain shaking meaning empowerment
      3. Certain body movements indicative of demonic presence
      4. Etc.
  2. God is shaking us to wake us up!
    1. In Eph. 5.14 Paul says, "Wake up O sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you." This command precedes the exhortation to be filled continually with the Holy Spirit. We are to wake up and seek to be continually filled with the wine of God's Spirit.
    2. If we haven't heeded God's previous wake up calls, perhaps He is now shaking us to arouse us and get our attention.
  3. To humble us
    1. When Randy Clark asked God why He was bringing all the phenomena to Toronto, God replied that He was looking for people who were willing to look publicly foolish for the honor of His name. Paul Cain said, "God offends the mind to reveal the heart."
    2. The bottom line issue is one of control. God wants to know who among his people will be willing to play the fool for his glory.
  4. Anointing
    1. The filling of the Holy Spirit is a repeatable experience and one we are commanded to continually experience (Eph. 5.18).
    2. God will sovereignly move on us to impart supernatural ability to do certain things.
    3. See 2 Tim. 1.6: "I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands."
    4. Charles Finney:

      ...the Holy Ghost descended on me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love; for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me, like immense wings. No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. The waves came over me, and over me, one after the other, until I recollect I cried out, "I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me." I said, "Lord, I cannot bear any more;" yet I had no fear of death.

      Finney continued for some time under this remarkable manifestation of the Holy Spirit's power. Wave after wave of spiritual power rolled over him, and through him, thrilling every fiber of his being.

  5. Note: Signs are pointers to a destination, not the destination itself. Our destiny is to become conformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8.29). We have also been called, as the Church, to bring the gospel to every nation and then the end will come (Mt. 24.14). When the Holy Spirit comes in power, He comes to make us like Jesus, to heal us and empower us for our particular roles in the mission. The results are what He's after, not the phenomena. If, under God's sovereignty, He chooses, during seasons of divine visitation, to do His work without phenomena, that is his choice. So also, it is of no benefit to shake or fall and have no long lasting fruit. Ultimately, what God is after is a willing, humble heart. He decides how to sanctify, heal and empower.
    1. Jonathan Edwards:

      Neither a negative nor a positive judgment should be based on the manifestation alone because the Scripture nowhere gives us any such rule.

    2. John White, When the Spirit Comes With Power, InterVarsity Press, 1987, p. 81-82:

      ...manifestations, while they may be a blessing, are no guarantee of anything. Their outcome depends on the mysterious traffic between God and our spirits. Your fall and your shaking may be a genuine express of the power of the Spirit resting on you. But the Spirit may not benefit you in the least if God does not have his way with you, while someone who neither trembles nor falls may profit greatly.

    3. Just remember Lk. 10.20: "...do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

4. How Can You Be Sure It's God?

  1. Options
    1. People do it to themselves (psychological)
    2. Preachers do it (mass hypnosis)
    3. Devil does it
    4. God does it
    5. Mixture
  2. Biblical warnings
    1. Mt. 24.24: "For false Christians and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible."
    2. 2 Cor. 11.14: "...Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light."
    3. 1 Jn. 4.1: "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world."
  3. Key texts for proper discernment
    1. Lk. 11.9-12: "So I say to you, ask and it will be given to you... Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
      1. Simply put: If we ask for God, we aren't going to get the devil.
      2. Remember Mk. 3.24, "A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand."
    2. 1 Jn. 4.2-3: "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God."
      1. Simply put: If the person praying exalts Jesus, the Holy Spirit will be the one who will come to answer his/her prayer.
      2. The devil wants to slander Jesus' name, not exalt it.
    3. 1 Cor. 12.10: Discerning of spirits is a spiritual gift.
      1. We have demonstrated that when we pray and ask for God, the Holy Spirit will come in answer to our prayers.
      2. The next question is whether the manifestation we are seeing is God blessing, empowering, etc., or whether it is what missionaries have called a "power encounter," i.e., the light of God exposing an area of darkness. In the case of sin, this would call for repentance. In the case of demonization, this would call for deliverance along with repentance.
      3. Another possibility is that the person is performing acts of manifestations himself. In this case, proper pastoral judgment must be used.
    4. 1 Cor. 14:40: "Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way."
      1. This criteria concerns the way the meeting is being conducted. The "everything" Paul is referring to is the coming of the gifts of the Spirit into the meeting. By nature, this looks a bit messy at times.
      2. Look for the way the meeting is being conducted. Are the leaders humble? Exalting Jesus? Maintaining order in the way the gifts are moving? If they are, and the atmosphere is peaceful and not carnal and hyped, then it will be the Holy Spirit who will come to build Jesus' Church, not the devil.
    5. Mt. 12.33 "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit."

      Gal. 5.22: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."

      1. Simply put, if the long term fruit is Gal. 5.22, it's God.
      2. The character of Jesus is the destiny of the Church (Rom. 8.29).
  4. Summary of judging criteria
    1. Are the people being prayed for asking for God? They will get God.
    2. Are the people praying asking for God and exalting Jesus? The Holy Spirit will come in answer to their prayers.
    3. Are you asking for the gift of discernment?
    4. Are the leaders humble and exalting Jesus? Is the atmosphere peaceful, even though perhaps noisy? If yes, then these are signs of the Holy Spirit's presence.
    5. Is the fruit good? Then it's God.

1. It's Hard To Understand

  1. Our presupposition: If it were God, I would understand it.
  2. All throughout the Bible, God revealed Himself in ways that were hard to understand
    1. God's chosen people for the most part missed Jesus. The Pharisees called Him "Beelzebub" which was a term for the devil.
    2. The disciples didn't understand the mission of Jesus until the Holy Spirit came in Acts 2
    3. The Jews as a whole never understood that God's heart was for all the nations. Even the disciples were shocked that God would offer the gospel to the Gentiles, law free. They muse in amazement in Acts 11.18, "So then God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life!"
    4. Historically, God has moved in ways that are hard to understand. The classic example of this is martyrdom. Martyrdom has always been an explosive key to church growth. One of the early church fathers, Tertullian, said, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."

2. It Makes Me Afraid

  1. Our presupposition: If it were God, I wouldn't be afraid.
  2. Visitations produce fear throughout the Bible.
    1. Lightning, thunder, and smoke on Mt. Sinai (Ex.19)
    2. Daniel in Chapter 10 had a great vision: "I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale, and I was helpless." The angel, Gabriel, had to say, "Don't be afraid," because he was terrified.
    3. Great fear seized the whole church in Acts 5 when Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead through a prophetic word when they lied to the Holy Spirit.
  3. Note: This fear is not the same fear as that which comes from Satan. 2 Tim. 1.7 says that God has not given us a spirit of fear. The devil's fear robs us of faith and hope and renders us incapable of love. There is, however, a godly fear that the Bible says is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9.10). It is this kind of fear that is produced by divine visitations. It results in a more godly life.
  4. How could a visitation of a holy God on sinful men not produce fear?
    1. An infinite God
      1. How could our finite minds expect to understand the infinite ways of God?
      2. He is completely beyond us and holy.
    2. Fear is caused by:
      1. The holiness of God coming in contact with our sinfulness.
      2. Our anti-supernatural world view: since we have no category in our western world view, when we encounter the supernatural, we encounter the fear of the unknown. It causes the psychological state known as "cognitive dissonance." We receive data that does not fit and it causes feelings of insecurity.

3. It Causes Division.

  1. Our presupposition: If it were God, there would be no division.
  2. There are two kinds of division
    1. When the kingdom of light clashes with the kingdom of darkness, it causes godly division. Jesus said that he had not come to bring peace but a sword. "A man's enemies will be the members of his own household" (Mt. 10.36).
    2. Backbiting, slander, and rebellion are ungodly because they cause the kingdom to be divided against itself.
  3. Godly division is thoroughly Biblical:
    1. Korah was judged for his rebellion against Moses in Numbers 11.
    2. Jesus caused division wherever He went.
    3. The inclusion of Gentiles caused division (Acts 15).
  4. Godly division is thoroughly historical:
    1. The Great Awakening broke out in New Jersey in 1725 and was violently opposed by more traditional churches.
    2. G. Campbell Morgan called the Pentecostal Movement "the last vomit of Satan."
    3. The last move of God usually persecutes the present one.

4. He Overrides My Faculties

  1. Our presupposition: God is always a gentleman and would never force anything upon us.
  2. The Bible seems to say something else.
    1. God is God and He does what He wants. In Isaiah, God says, "I say my purpose will stand and I will do all that I please" (46.11).
    2. God overrode Balaam in Numbers 23 and caused Balaam to prophesy against his will.
    3. God overrode Saul and his men in I Samuel 19 and caused them to prophesy instead of killing David.
    4. Jesus blinded Paul on the road to Damascus against his will.
    5. God's killing of Ananias and Sapphira is the ultimate override.
    6. Far from treating us gently, God has promised his people persecution.

5. It's So Emotional

  1. Our presupposition: If it were God, there would be very little or no emotion in it
  2. Again, the Bible says something else:
    1. Pr. 4.3: "Above all, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life."
    2. There is a full range of emotion seen in the scripture:
      1. David danced, wept, fought
      2. Jesus wept, was joyful, angry
      3. Peter wept, rejoiced, felt convicted
      4. God is emotional because we are. We have been created in his image.
  3. Historically, emotions have been seen in the movements of God.
    1. Jonathan Edwards saw no distinction between the head and the heart: "Nothing of religious significance ever took place in the human heart if it wasn't deeply effected by such Godly emotions."
    2. John White says, "The lack of emotion is just as sick as being controlled by emotion."
  4. Emotion comes from seeing reality (truth) clearly. When the Spirit of truth comes, we see things as they really are which opens up our emotional being.

6. It Causes Me To Be The Center Of Attention

  1. Our presupposition: If it were God, He would not do it publicly.
  2. Quite to the contrary, God often uses the person to be the message.
    1. In Ezekiel 4-5, Ezekiel is told by God to lie on his side, naked, to shave his head and beard, etc. God made him the center of attention because he, himself, was the message.
    2. Jeremiah was told to smash a jar in Jer. 18-19 to draw attention to his message.
    3. Hosea was told to marry a prostitute as a message to the nation of Israel.
    4. Ananias and Sapphira can be used as yet another example because their dead bodies were the message.
    5. Stephen was "glowing" when he was killed.

7. It's So Disorderly

  1. Our presupposition: If it's God, it would be always spiritual, tidy, and orderly.
  2. Both the Bible and history show just the opposite.
    1. Until Christ returns, there will always be a mixture of the Spirit and flesh. This is why we are told to pray that the kingdom would come. We are at war and war is always ugly.
    2. The disciples were rebuked for their mixed motives. They wanted great position while genuinely trying to serve Jesus.
    3. Paul rebuked Peter to his face in Galatians 2 for being in the flesh but this didn't discredit Peter's ministry.
    4. Paul and Barnabas split up over the issue of taking John Mark with them on the second missionary journey. Luke never tells us whether either Paul or Barnabas was in sin. The point is that the kingdom continued to advance despite division in the ranks.
    5. John Wesley himself had bitter disputes with other godly men over issues of doctrine.
  3. Remember Satan's trick is to try to discredit what's true by infiltrating it with what's false.
    1. He wants to tempt the flesh that is at war with our redeemed spirit in its attempt to serve God.
    2. He wants to expose the sinful character within us.
    3. This fact does not negate the genuineness of our ministries any more than it did Peter's or Paul's.
  4. It always smells in a nursery.
    1. The very nature of discipleship is trial and error. We have grace for our children as they learn to walk. Praising the good and reprimanding in love the bad is part of parenting. To debunk a new movement for not getting it all right is not fair. Godly correctives, on the other hand, are necessary to keep that movement on course.
    2. We need a "free to fail" environment in order to learn.
    3. I Cor. 14.40 says, "Let everything be done in order." Let's put the emphasis on "everything" and later focus on the "order." The biblical order is that you build the fireplace around the fire, and not vice versa. Function always precedes form.

8. It Doesn't Happen To Me

  1. Our presupposition: When God moves, the same things happen to everyone.
  2. Biblical perspective
    1. It's simply not true that some people seem to be "favored" while others are not. God's love is for the whole world. Under his sovereignty he treats everyone in a way that is beneficial for them. God ultimately determines what is best for us.
    2. Jesus healed only one man by the pool of Bethesda despite the fact that there were many more sick present (Jn. 5). This in no way meant that God loved the man who was healed more than the ones who weren't. Jesus said that he only did what he saw the Father doing and the Father was somehow loving all those at the pool that day.

9. A Final Caution

  1. It's OK to have questions about what is happening but we must try to be honest about the motive behind our questions.
    1. If it's because of your personality, that's OK. But let's not let our personalities keep us from being touched by God during this season of divine visitation.
    2. If it's because you are a "noble Berean," that's to be commended.
      1. Search for the truth diligently.
      2. When you find it, press in.
    3. If it's because you are afraid:
      1. Ask God why.
      2. Don't run -- if this is God, then you would be turning your back on Him.
  2. After the crucifixion, the disciples had questions too. The Jesus who walked with two of them on the road to Emmaus and opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures is the same Jesus who walks in our midst by the person of the Holy Spirit (Lk. 24. 13-35) . He will open our minds as well.

10. A Final Word

When we ask the question, "What in the world is happening to us?", it is clear from what we are seeing and hearing from all over the United States and Canada, that we are in a sovereign move of the Holy Spirit. Peter told early onlookers to the Spirit's activity to repent so that times of refreshment would come from the Lord's presence (Acts 3.19). What should be our response to such a season of divine visitation? The clearest passage in the NT on the subject of a local church's response to the coming of the Holy Spirit is 1 Corinthians 12-14.

  1. 1 Corinthians 12-14
    1. Paul's purpose in writing 1 Corinthians was to answer a set of questions delivered to him in the form of a letter from the church (see 7.1; 16.17 ). He had also received some oral information from "Chloe's people" ( 1.11). When Paul proceeds to answer their questions about spiritual gifts, he does so in a section where he is dealing with questions related to when they gather together for church ( 11.17 ).
    2. In chapter 12 , Paul encourages the activity of spiritual gifts when they gather together. He also said that the church was Christ's body which was to be built up as spiritual gifts are exercised.
    3. His admonition in chapter 13 is that they exercise gifts in love. Herein lies the most important point of all as we press into the season that is upon us: without love it profits us nothing.
      1. In chapter 3 , Paul had already established that whoever co-labors to build on Paul's apostolic foundation will have his/her works weighed on the day of the Lord. Some works will be labeled "gold, silver and precious stones." Others will be labeled "wood, hay and stubble." It is the quality of each man's work that will make the difference. How do we know that our work is the kind of quality that will pass the fire test on that day? I believe the answer is in the motive. In chapter 13 , Paul says that the motive must be love.
      2. In Matthew 7.15-23 , in a passage dealing with false prophets who would be known for their fruit, Jesus said, "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me you evil doers.'" This passage allows for a category of person in the church that amazingly are able to move in spiritual gifts but at judgment day will be counted among those that do not know Jesus. The difference is that they are not doing the will of the Father. Their motive is not one of love for God or men, but is self serving. Jesus is clear: self serving activity, no matter how powerful, doesn't count.
    4. Paul finishes his response to the Corinthian question of spiritual gifts in chapter 14 where he says that the sign of a loving exercise of gifts is the building up of Christ's body. If the exercising of gifts does not, in the end, build up the church, it has been counter productive. Whether because of ill motive or because the leaders have not been facilitating the operation of the gifts in the meeting "decently and in order" ( 14.40 ), the fact of the matter is that the gifts have not been allowed to work to build up the church for the common good.
    5. Conclusion: The final word, then, about the season that is upon us, belongs to the apostle Paul. He calls us to embrace the Holy Spirit's ministry in our midst. He exhorts us to exercise the gifts with a loving heart posture in such a manner that the church is edified. The leaders need to see that this is done in an orderly way. What counts in the end is not whether someone fell or shook or even was healed. No, what counts ultimately is whether they are loved and built up. What happens as a result of the Spirit's sovereign intervention is up to God. This is his work, not ours. Our job is to love and pray in faith for the kingdom to come, watching, as we do, for the what the Father is doing so we can bless it.

11. Postscript

So what has Father been doing during this season that has been upon us? As we conclude, we need to ask whether we are seeing any long term fruit. This is the ultimate test in determining if it is God. In Acts 3.19, Peter called his onlookers to repentance so their sins could be wiped out. The result in their lives was that times of refreshing would come to them from the presence of the Lord. One of those seasons of refreshment is upon us now. In talking to John Arnott, the pastor of the Airport Vineyard in Toronto where this visitation has continued non-stop for over three months, the overriding theme has been joy. This is thoroughly consonant with the New Testament which sees joy as a sign of the presence of the Spirit in the believer's life (there are over 60 references to joy in the NT). God's people are simply having fun in him. In the early days of the apostles, as they were searching for a word that would communicate to the Gentiles the ecstasy in having their sins forgiven and being in right relationship with God through the atoning blood of Christ Jesus, they choose the word euanggelion which we now translate "gospel" or "good news." It was a completely secular word that was used in reference to the emperor's birthday. It was a holiday, a day of good news. The apostles traveled throughout the ancient world preaching that the day of God's party had come.

  1. We are learning to party in God again because the Spirit of the Lord has come among us to teach us grace, mediate forgiveness and reveal the Father's love in Christ. The second characteristic of this renewal, then, is a return to our first love, Jesus. Reports are coming from every corner about people falling in love with Jesus in a whole new way, about a new love for the Bible, about being taken up into heaven in the form of visions and dreams. In the arms of Jesus is fullness of joy.
  2. The third characteristic of the renewal is healing. Reports too numerous to count tell of physical healings, deliverance from demonic influence and deep emotional wounds being touched. It seems that as people spend "floor time" with God, he meets them where they are, at their point of need. He is removing barriers that have kept us from moving forward with God.
  3. Much of the shaking has to do with empowerment for service. Spiritual gifts are being imparted through the laying on of hands. We have seen impartations for intercession, evangelism, healing, prophecy and pastoral care.
  4. Finally there has been a significant return of prodigals to the church. God is healing old wounds and drawing lost ones back into fellowship with himself and with the church.
  5. There have been numerous salvations but not enough to characterize this as a genuine revival. Revival is characterized by masses coming to Christ. Those that have been on the vanguard of this move of the Spirit believe that its purpose is to refresh the church and to prepare it for the mighty and genuine revival that is on the horizon.

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