Thursday, November 09, 2006

What does "gathering" mean?

gather (verb): 1. to cause to come together in one place or group 2. to get or collect gradually from various places, sources, etc. amass accumulate …4. to pick, pluck, or collect by picking; harvest.
gathering (noun): 1. the act of one that gathers (Websters)

The use of the terminology "gathering" has been growing exponentially the past few years in evangelical circles. It is word that is included in the names of various organizations, conferences, prayer events, etc. Believers assume that it simply means "where two or three are gathered together in my name" (Matthew 18:20).

That is one traditional meaning of the term. But it also has a "transitional" and "transformational" meaning. A transitional meaning is "new understanding" put on a traditional biblical concept. A transformational meaning is often hidden or veiled because it parallels a New Age concept.

So how do we find out what is meant by the term "gathering"?

Whenever one wants to know the meaning of a new doctrine, or the meaning of a new interpretation of Scripture, the most readily accessible source is the Latter Rain "prophets." This history of this group of men is chronicled in the Joel's Army booklet published on the Discernment Ministries website. The heresies of these men have been incorporated into the doctrines of C. Peter Wagner's New Apostolic Reformation. These Gnostic Latter Rain "prophets" seem to write more openly on their mystical doctrines.

Francis Frangipane, one of the leading Latter Rain "prophets" described what this word "gathering" meant in August 2005, in an article that entitled "Repairers of the Breach" that ended up on the Elijah List, one of the chief organs for this group's agenda. This word is connected with a new eschatology that is taught by the New Apostolic Reformation. Frangipane's definition of "gathering" has to do with the Latter Rain version of the "rapture" of the Saints before Jesus returns:

"Most of true Christianity shares a doctrine commonly called the 'rapture' of the Church (I Thessalonians 4:16). …Scripture assures us that it will occur before Jesus Himself returns.

"However, before we are 'caught up' to meet the Lord, there will be a time of unusual grace in which the living church of Jesus Christ, like a bride, makes 'herself ready' (Revelation 19:7). In this unparalleled season of preparation, while we will not become 'perfect,' we shall realize a new level of holiness of the quality in which Jesus Himself walked (I Thessalonians 3:11-13; Ephesians 5:26, 27; Philippians 1:9, 10).

"The result of this new spiritual fullness will be a new level of unity."

"…It is my passionate conviction that the Church which will ultimately be raptured will be free of strife and carnal divisions -- it will be a bride "without spot or wrinkle" made ready for her bridegroom. [emphasis added]

COMMENTS: Notice that no mention is made of the fact that the visible church of the last days will be characterized by a great falling away (2Thessalonians 2, 1Timothy 4;1), by a religion that has a form of godliness but denies the power of true godliness (2Timothy 3:5), by all manner of evil and sin (2Timothy 3:1-4) and by a lack of faith (Luke 18:8).

Also, keep in mind that nowhere in Scripture can be found the possibility that there will be a super-race of Christians who will achieve a level of holiness unparalleled in the history of the church. The true church has always had those who have lived very holy and sanctified lives. Noah and Lot did not reach a higher level of holiness before judgment fell in their time and the rapture will be no different. Is Frangipane suggesting that only those who have reached this level of holiness “in which Jesus walked” will be raptured? Will there not be new believers who are yet babes and carnal? He quotes a number of Scriptures that make it appear that these texts support his hypothesis. A thorough reading of the quoted Scriptures however do not support his position, but perhaps he is gambling on the possibility that the reader will not bother to check the Scriptures for himself.

Frangipane stresses that it is “our” responsibility to prepare the spotless bride for the coming of the Groom and that we are to do that through breaking down barriers and seeking closer fellowship. Once again he only quotes part of the passage. The more complete quote is: “…that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5:26,27). Jesus Christ, not we, will sanctify and cleanse the church and He will do that “through the washing of water by the word.” Not only is Frangipane promoting the wrong agent (we and not Him) but he is also promoting the wrong method. Frangipane’s “preparation” is through compromise and a diluting of Scripture while the true preparation of the bride will be through the washing of water by the Word.

Note his suggestion that the church has to reach a level of perfection by it's own efforts before the Rapture. He is placing undue confidence in the flesh. Surely this is a work of the Lord Himself which will only be completed at the moment He gloriously transforms the believers, at the moment we see Him.

Frangipane continues:

"During the rapture, our bodies will be changed. But our character -- that is, the essence of who we have become -- will remain intact.… "

COMMENTS: This is rank heresy. Will heaven be populated by people who are bitter, unforgiving, vengeful, greedy, etc.?! Or is he implying -- as Latter Rain writers believe -- that heaven will be brought to earth? In 1Peter 2:1-10 Peter speaks of those who are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (verse 9) and the people of God (verse 10). Yet to these same people he writes that they need to lay aside deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and evil speaking (verse1). It is evident from all of Paul’s letters that true believers are not sinless and that they retain many of the marks of the carnal nature. The reality is that no man has ever achieved a perfect character before he died. If Frangipane’s assertion is correct then each one of us will enter heaven -- or bring heaven to earth -- with those carnal aspects present in us for all eternity. We would thus turn heaven into hell as we continue forever to struggle with our carnality, as we do here and now on earth.

Yet the Scripture is clear that nothing imperfect can enter into the New Jerusalem: “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie” (Rev 21:27a). 1John 3:2 says: “[W]hen He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

Now that Frangipane has laid the eschatological foundation, note how important the word "gather" becomes. Frangipane writes:

"It is highly significant that the scriptural term for the rapture is called the 'gathering together' (II Thessalonians 2:1; Matthew 24:31). What ultimately will be consummated in our gathering together physically to the Lord will be precipitated by a spiritual gathering together of His body on earth. Concerning the era known as the 'end of the age,' Jesus taught that the 'good fish' shall be 'gathered . . . into containers' (Matthew 13:48). And in the context of spiritual warfare, Jesus warned, 'He who does not gather with Me, scatters' (Matthew 12:30)." [emphasis in original]

COMMENTS: Note in the first sentence above that that this "gathering" concept is linked to the new "rapture" doctrine.

Theologically there are problems with this paragraph. Yes, the good fish will be gathered but not by men, but by the angels. The verses following Matthew 13:48 explains the parable in no uncertain terms: “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 13:49,50). The parable Frangipane refers to is set in the context of a series of parables that clearly teach that the visible church of the last days will be populated by good and bad and that the “gathering” is the process whereby the Lord and His angels sort the good from the bad (those saved from those damned).

Notice that this "gathering" in Scripture is done by the Lord and his angels. But there are Latter Rain teachings that ominously indicate that this "sorting" or "harvesting" process will be done by the self-proclaimed leaders. In fact, Frangipane states it quite plainly:

"The pastors of the last Christian church will be under-shepherds to the Lord Jesus; they will be anointed to gather together His remnant and, under that anointing, shall be 'fruitful and multiply.

"Indeed, right now, in the context of humbling ourselves and submitting our hearts to His will, we are participating in being 'gathered together.' This process will progressively increase until the barriers between brethren are melted by the overcoming nature of Christ's love. Before Jesus returns, we will truly be 'one flock with one shepherd.' We will be a holy and blameless sheepfold, meeting in different buildings, but baptized into one body." [emphasis added]

COMMENTS: The Lord Jesus specifically forbids any attempt to preempt the final sifting and gathering together that the Lord will do at His return. One of the parables that is directly linked to the parable of the sorting of the fish, quoted by Frangipane, is the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30). The disciples proposed to do exactly what Frangipane is proposing: “The servants said to him, `Do you want us then to go and gather them up?” (Matthew 13:28). The Lord specifically forbids this process and says: “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matthew 13:30). Keep in mind that the reapers in this verse are the angels of Matthew 13:48, not men!

"Gathering" also appears to mean ecumenical unity. In the opening section, Frangipane writes, "The result of this new spiritual fullness will be a new level of unity." Later, Frangipane returns to this meaning:

"…In every city, town, and village, each of us need the other churches if we are going to stand in the day of battle.

"You may be thinking, 'You don't understand, I have revelation of the end-time move of God. These churches barely believe in Jesus.' The Word tells us that 'without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater' (Hebrews 7:7). If you are truly 'greater,' without a hint of pride, you will seek ways to be a blessing to other churches. Your Christlike love will cast out fears. You will truly have a burden to see the entire body of Christ brought forth, not just your local assembly; you will respect the diversity of ways through which Christ reveals Himself in the Church. In truth, Jesus said that the greatest among us would become the 'servant of all'" (Mark 9:35; Matthew 23:11)." [emphasis in original]

COMMENTS: What he is proposing is the typical ecumenical soppy compromise which unites believer and unbeliever, Christian and Muslim, and sinner and saint. Yes, we can bring about a gathering or unity, based on the lowest common denominator. The only question is, what is the uniting factor going to be? Is the unity he proposes something like the unity shared by millions under the banner of the National Association of Evangelicals? Is this the kind of super-spiritual grand gathering Frangipane suggests? Especially in the last days true believers are required to “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you” (2Cor 6:17).

The New Agers also have gatherings. They teach that mankind uniting and gathering together creates a synergy that will birth a new man. They hold events like the Harmonic Convergence to bring this about. They also teach about an end-time "harvest" of those who won't evolve.

The Truth:

"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20)