Reprobation vs. Revival
Part 3: Dialog With Deception
A critical review of Lloyd Gardner’s book, Face to Face: A Dialogue with Jesus (Tollhouse, CA: Eliezer Call Ministries, 2009) 174 pages.
[To recap: Lloyd Gardner’s book claims to recount multiple in-the-body visitations the author had as a time traveler with Jesus at the future judgment seat of Christ.]
Throughout the book, Gardner laments the condition of today’s visible church, for being controlled by professional clergy (Gardner writing: “allowing one man to take control of the local church,” Face to Face, 74) and for being separated in buildings ("Jesus" speaking: “Now the people were separated away in buildings for the sake of controlling men,” Face to Face, 77). Lamentably, Gardner rightly diagnoses the mega-ism that infects pan-evangelicalism, something that resembles the “collectivity” by which the Supreme Soviet, by its intellectual indoctrination and geographical concentration, sought to control the people of Eastern Europe after World War II. History shows that people can be more easily controlled and corrupted en masse rather than in small groups. Presumably, that’s why God judged Babel (Genesis 11:6-8). There is potential for the mega church to spread mega error and corruption. On the other hand, the existence of vital micro-congregations can impede it.* So when reading the New Testament, one looks in vain to find big congregations or denominations, or for that matter, how to build them. Instead, one only sees small independent churches. The author’s point that the existence of smaller church fellowships will impede the spread of heresy and apostasy is right and in this concern he is not alone. I have also written:
It is my conviction that the evangelical movement is being leavened not only by Pharisaical hypocrisy (Note the prominent pastors whose immoral and private behavior belied their public profession.), Sadducean false teaching (Note the unorthodox and unbiblical teachings that are promoted through various media, parachurch ministries, and conferences.), Herodian scheming (Note the pragmatism in which the goal of church growth justifies any means to achieve it.), but also through musical experiences which cater to the fleshly impulses of Christians who confuse their emotional catharsis with worship.
While Gardner’s diagnosis of the disease plaguing the church accords with Scripture, his cure, at least on two points, does not.
No Replacement Revival
The author predicts the collapse of America. (Face to Face, 48-56, 171) But out of the ashes of America’s collapse, he reveals that a new order will emerge—church to the rescue! In that the church is viewed to be the ongoing incarnation of Jesus’ presence on earth, Dominionists—those who are convinced the church will be the instrument for realizing God’s kingdom on earth—believe the church will lead the end time revival that will help usher in God’s kingdom. Out of the chaos will emerge a new world order led by the church! After stating that one “common thread” of these neo-gnostics “is that they are expecting a ‘New Order'," the Van der Merwes quote Pentecostal historian Vinson Synan as having stated: “In all revolutions there are noisy and dangerous times as the OLD ORDER is replaced by the new . . . after the dust settles, we can proceed to build the beautiful kingdom that the Lord has purposed from the foundations of the world.” This scenario is the typical belief amongst members of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) who are departed and separated from historic Pentecostalism.
Coincidental with the coming collapse and necessary to the establishment of God’s kingdom, Gardner predicts a massive end time revival will sprout from the seed (i.e., the small churches) that he and other apostles are now planting. This coming revival will first sprout among smaller congregations, then spread into larger ones, and ultimately grow to effect a national revival on a scale unprecedented in American history ("Jesus" speaking to Gardner: “Son . . . you have a significant part to play in that success,” Face to Face, 27). But for a number of reasons, this schematic for revival seems too contrived for as John Rea noted, “genuine revivals . . . are the sovereign work of God.”
First, believing that revival will come through a multitude of small church plants—and please do not take this to be a critical of small churches for as has been stated, there’s spiritual safety in numbers of independent congregations—seems too mechanical, i.e., the more vital small churches that Gardner plants (no pun intended), the more prolific and widespread will be the outbreak of revival when America collapses.
The Word of God states that revival will not come via the mechanism of planting small churches below, but by the sovereign Spirit’s blowing from above. It is my conviction that today’s church does not stand in need of revival, but “vival”—of life! Jesus told religious Nicodemus: “You must be born from above” (John 3:7); and then added: “The wind [Jesus’ metaphor referring to the Holy Spirit] blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). Spiritual life only comes by an act of divine grace from above. Of the first Pentecost, Luke records: “And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Emphasis added, Acts 1:2, NASB). About revival, F. Carlton Booth stated: “No human being can kindle the interest, quicken the conscience of a people, or generate that intensity of spiritual hunger that signifies revival.”
We should also note that in His Parable of the Soils (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23), Jesus highlighted that seventy-five percent of soil/souls will not receive the seed. If in the revival metaphor the seed represents a collectively of small churches that Gardner and other modern day apostles are planting, then there will be a seventy-five percent failure rate. Such a malfunction hardly portends a coming revival on the magnitude Gardner envisions. Furthermore, where does one find such a scheme for revival in the Bible? This brings us to a second point.
Gone to Seed!
The Bible does not predict a triumphant church in the last days, but a church that in its apostasy has “gone to seed.” Scripture predicts the reprobation, not revival, of institutional Christianity. First, the church will be deceived. In the “last days” the visible church will hold “to a form of godliness” as “evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:5, 13, NASB; Read 3:1-13.). Second, what began with deception will culminate in delusion. “God shall send them strong delusion” (2 Thessalonians 2:11a). For reason of “counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders,” the church’s deception will be intensive (2 Thessalonians 2:9, NIV; Compare Matthew 24:24.). For reason “that they should believe a lie,” the church’s delusion will be extensive (2 Thessalonians 2:11b). The deception and delusion will be so pervasive that Jesus posed the question, “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).
Scripture does not predict in the last days, the time period between Jesus’ first and second comings, that the church will, in any form, bring revival to the world. Jesus and the Apostles predicted that as the end of the age arrives, escalating apostasy will have consumed the church. For reason of the radical depravity which resides in the human heart, the scale of the mounting apostasy can only be compared to what happened in human history before the Deluge, when only eight souls, Noah and his family, were delivered (Genesis 6:5; Matthew 24:37; 1 Peter 3:20). In light of the departure from the faith that the Lord and His apostles predicted would plague the church, the prospect for the unfaithful bride of Christ becomes only one of divine judgment. However, all is not lost, because in God’s plan for the end, the church has not replaced the Israelites.
God’s Olive Tree—the Symbol of His Work in the World
Among other metaphors taken from nature, Paul uses “the rich root of the olive tree” to represent the source of divine blessing in the world (Romans 11:17). Connected to the tree are branches that serve as conduits through which God, in His sovereign grace, brings His blessing to the world. The branches are of two types: natural and wild, those indigenous to the rich root and those that are not.
Natural Jewish Branches—Cut Off
In the olive tree metaphor, the natural branches represent the Jewish people. As Jeremiah informed Judah before divine judgment was to befall her, “The Lord called your name, ‘A green olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form’” (Jeremiah 11:16). In accord with God’s promise to bring spiritual blessing to the world through Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:1-3), Paul described the role the Israelites were to play in the unfolding drama of redemption, that to the Jews “belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:4-5). But in her appointed priestly role, Israel failed God. So He judged the nation, first by deporting Israelites to Babylon (586 BC), and second by dispersing Jews from the Holy Land in 70 AD, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. However temporary, God cut the natural branches off from being a conduit by which He brings spiritual blessing to the world (Romans 11:1-24). For failing to produce fruit, God cut natural branches off!
Wild Gentile Branches—Connected
But even as He removed natural branches from being the conduit of divine blessing, God was also grafting wild branches onto the olive tree to take the place of separated Israelites. Beginning at Pentecost, God would form a majority of Gentiles (wild branches) and a minority of Jews (natural branches) into one olive tree to continue His work of bringing spiritual blessing to the world. Elected by God and like Israel of old, the church too would become a kingdom of priests (Compare Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6.).
Wild Gentile Branches—Cut Off?
But from the beginning of the grafting, the potential existed for the church like Israel to fail in her divine calling to bring God’s blessing to the world. As predicted by Jesus and the apostles, the wild branches would over time become as deceived and deluded by false teachers as the natural branches had been by false prophets (2 Peter 2:1 ff.). That’s why Paul warned wild branches: “Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you” (Romans 11:20-21). The apostle also warned the unnatural branches (i.e., the Gentile Christians) that if they were not faithful, “you also will be cut off” (Romans 11:22).
Natural Jewish Branches—Connected Again
For reason of their sin, Israel, with the exception of a believing remnant, currently stands cut off from the olive tree of divine blessing. During the age between Christ’s two comings (e.g., “the last days”) and for reason of divine judgment, the Israelites have been cut off from the olive tree. Paul describes “that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25). Israel is not currently a conduit for divine blessing. But their hardening and separation from the olive tree are not to remain permanent, for the apostle wrote that after the times of the Gentiles were completed (Luke 21:24),
All Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. (Romans 11:26-27, KJV.)
In contrast to the Gentiles who’s engrafting to the olive tree was unnatural, the re-grafting of the Israelites will be natural (Romans 11:23-24).
The Coming Revival
While Scripture predicts there will be a revival during the last days, it portrays that Israel, not the church, will be the center of it. Micah prophesied:
But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Micah 4:1-2, KJV; Compare Isaiah 2:2-4; Jeremiah 3:17; Zechariah 14:16)
While the New Testament pictures that escalating apostasy will have consumed the church in the last days, that the vast majority within Christendom will have become deceived and deluded, the Scriptures predict that Israel will physically return to the Promised Land and there experience genuine revival (Ezekiel 36:25-27; 37:14; Romans 11:25-27). As the Lord told Zechariah, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born” (Zechariah 12:10).
At the end of the age God will re-graft the Israelites onto the olive tree after which their priestly appointment in the world will be realized (Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 7:6). Because their Messiah will have returned, God’s revived nation will again become the conduit of divine blessing to the world (Zechariah 2:11). According to Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28), there will dawn “a new era of revelation with the Israelites preaching to each other or, perhaps, even to the entire world.” In the revival of the end of the age, the church, contrary to Gardner’s revelation, is not a factor. This contradicts another New Apostolic Reformation tenet, that the church has in part or the whole replaced Israel in God’s unfolding plan to rescue the world. Jesus told His disciples, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28, NASB).
Lloyd Gardner claims to have had personal encounters (Face to Face) with Jesus. In light of his claim he chides readers, “Don’t simply pass these words through the judgment of your limited doctrinal understanding.” (Face to Face, 7) But should his claims be given a pass?
The author’s claim to have seen Jesus is suspicious for Peter wrote that the “proof” of faith will occur at “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). Then John tells us “every eye will see Him," not just Lloyd Gardner (Revelation 1:7). Until His future unveiling, we live by faith. Though we “have not seen Him, [we] love Him, and though [we] do not see Him now . . . [we] believe in Him” (1 Peter 1:8).
Though our understanding of the Bible’s teaching is limited, that does not mean that experience, whether mine or another’s, trumps doctrine. If any experience(s) defies a reasonable explanation based on Holy Scripture, it is not doctrine that ought to be questioned, but experience. If the experience does not align with Scripture, then it ought not to be embraced, but first questioned and then jettisoned.
The Puritan Thomas Watson (1620-1686) wrote of the necessity of believers to be settled in the Christian faith. He wrote:
There is a great need to be settled, for so many things unsettle us. Seducers are abroad . . . They possess a pretense of extraordinary piety, so others may admire them and suck in their doctrine. They seem to be men of zeal and sanctity, to be divinely inspired and pretend to new revelations.
As regards the Christian faith, this reviewer finds Face to Face to be an unsettled record in which the author claims to have had visitations more extraordinary than the apostles. As for me, I will choose not to take seriously a book based upon visitations someone has made and voices someone has heard. As the prophet pronounced: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20, KJV).
The Lord told Ezekiel: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, ‘Listen to the word of the LORD!’ Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing’.” (Ezekiel 13:2-3)
 Larry DeBruyn, Church on the Rise: Why I am not a “Purpose-Driven” Pastor (Indianapolis, IN: Moeller Printing Company, Inc., 2007): 180. Available HERE.
 Van der Merwe, Strange Fire: the Rise of Gnosticism in the Church (Lafayette, IN: Discernment Ministries, 1995): p. 27. Available online: http://discernment-ministries.org/StrangeFire.pdf
 John Rea, “Revive, Revival,” Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, Charles F. Pfeiffer, Howard F. Vos, John Rea, Editors, and Volume 2, K-Z (Chicago, IL: Moody Press. 1975): 1467.
 F. Carlton Booth, “Revival,” Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, Everett F. Harrison, Editor–in–Chief (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1960): 460.
 Bruce comments: “The ‘last days’ began with Christ’s first advent and will end with His second advent; they are the days during which the age to come overlaps the present age.” See F.F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1954): 68.
 Jesus prophesied that “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24; Compare Romans 11:1-10).
 Phillips comments: “When the Hebrew people finally return to the Lord in repentance and acknowledge Jesus as Messiah, Savior, and Lord, ‘then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people’ (Joel 2:18, italics added, KJV).” See John Phillips, Exploring the Minor Prophets (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1998): 77.
 Thomas J. Finley, Joel, Amos, Obadiah: The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary, Kenneth Barker, General Editor (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1990): 72.
 See Pastor Larry DeBruyn, “Strange Encounters: Do People Really See Jesus Today?” Guarding His Flock Ministries. Online: http://guardinghisflock.com/2010/05/27/strange-encounters/#more-1166.
 Patti M. Hummel, Glorifying God: Inspirational Messages of Thomas Watson (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2009): January 3.
[Ed. Note: Gardner's call for a revival based on small churches may be disingenuous. In both the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR, and the Leadership Network organization the idea of a small independent church is not acceptable. Rather, each small group or church plant must be tied in to a larger network. This is what is meant by the "apostolic" structure of the NAR, and it more closely resembles an Amway-style downline marketing model or a military command-and-control hierarchical model. Therefore, even though many of the evangelical leaders (NAR, business-gurus and Emergents alike) appear to emphasize the "small group" or "small New Testament-style church model" they do not intend to sever the umbilical cord. Herescope has published many articles on this subject, including an 8-part series "The Networking Church," of which Part 6 best explains this myth of local autonomy: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2007/03/apostolic-regions-spheres-of-authority.html]
This series was re-published with permission. The original article is posted HERE. Pastor Larry DeBruyn is the author of the following books: UNSHACKLED: Breaking Away from Seductive Spirituality and Church on the Rise: Why I am not a Purpose Driven Pastor, and Drumming Up Deception. All of these books can be ordered HERE.