Fresh Fire or False Flames
(September 2008 – Volume 14, Issue 10)
Are you ready for the third wave – again? You might recall that, in the 1980s, C. Peter Wagner termed John Wimber’s Vineyard Movement the “Third Wave.” Wagner claimed at the time that the first wave of modern stirrings by the Holy Spirit began at the turn of the century with Pentecostalism. This led to establishing various Pentecostal denominations such as the Assembly of God. The second wave, which started in 1960, was the charismatic movement which brought the power of the Holy Spirit to the major denominations. Then Wagner said, “I see the third wave of the eighties as an opening of the straight-line evangelicals and other Christians to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that the Pentecostals and charismatics have experienced, but without becoming either charismatic or Pentecostal. I think we are in a new wave of something that now has lasted almost through our whole century.”
In 1994 the so-called waves of the Holy Spirit began to take a back seat to the high-octane revivals that swept across much of the world. The Toronto Blessing was the first revival to make big headlines, as the Toronto Airport Vineyard church exploded with bizarre manifestations attributed to the power of the Holy Spirit such as uncontrollable laughter and shaking, people making animal noises, swooning and being stuck to the floor in “Holy Ghost glue.” These and other strange demonstrations were the supposed evidence of the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit. Millions ultimately came from all over the globe to catch the spirit of the “Laughing Revival” and take it home.
Three years later the Holy Spirit apparently decided to move south to Pensacola, Florida. There at the Brownsville Assembly of God “revival” again broke out with even more unusual phenomena than at Toronto, including reports of seeing the Shekinah Glory showing up at the meetings, not to mention angels. Again millions traveled to Florida to experience the supposed workings of the Holy Spirit.
Now a third revival, being called the third wave by “super prophet” Bob Jones, has occurred, this time in Lakeland, Florida. John Arnott (pastor at the Toronto Airport Vineyard during the Toronto Blessing) says this is “another wave of revival…coming to North America.” This revival, now termed the “Florida Healing Outpouring,” is being lead by 32 year old Canadian evangelist Todd Bentley who heads up a ministry called Fresh Fire Ministries International. He began holding one week of revival meetings at the Ignited Church in Lakeland on April 2, 2008, but soon the revival exploded and is now attracting up to 10,000 nightly. Its popularity has been greatly enhanced by the church’s website, web casts, GOD TV and numerous videos on YouTube.
There is really not much to distinguish this revival from the former two except that, if anything, it is even more bizarre. Bentley is a wild man with virtually no restraints – and thanks to YouTube and the internet you don’t have to take my word for this. Just Google Bentley’s name and you will have at your disposal more crazy antics, all in the name of Christ, than any reality show producer could ever dream up. Bentley claims that he has raised over 20 people from the dead, that one person has been healed so that he can see through a glass eye, and that the Lord tells him to kick people in the face and choke them in order to bring about the Spirit’s power in their lives. He is big on visits from angels and he is known for his trademark screaming “bam” when he supposedly throws the Holy Spirit on someone, who then falls to the ground often in convulsions. Bentley is closely associated with many in today’s false prophet movement. He also has connections with the healing rooms of John Lake, as well as pretty much all wings of the hyper-charismatic movement (by whatever name they might go).
That many are being deceived by such frolics shows the level of biblical discernment to which many claiming to be Christians have stooped. Just a quick reading of the New Testament would reveal that this revival is not of the Holy Spirit because it fails the test of Scripture. I believe A. W. Tozer had it right when he wrote:
Any of [the teaching] that is good is in the Word of God, and any that is not in the Word of God is not good. I am a Bible Christian and if an archangel with a wingspread as broad as a constellation shining like the sun were to come and offer me some new truth, I’d ask him for a reference. If he could not show me where it is found in the Bible, I would bow him out and say, “I’m awfully sorry, you don’t bring any references with you.”
 Peter Wagner, “The Third Wave?: An Interview,: Pastoral Renewal, 8 (July-August 1983), pp. 1-5.
 As quoted in Larry Thomas, No Laughing Matter, (Excelsior Springs, Missouri :Double Crown Publishing, , 1995), p. 67