For many years from the time it began, Pentecostalism was a sideline within Protestant Christianity, regarded as an aberration by many Christians; part of the “lunatic fringe”, as some saw it. Indeed, “G. Campbell Morgan referred to pentecostals as ‘the last vomit of Satan’, while R. A. Torrey accused them of being ‘founded by a sodomite’” (White, J, 1992, p. 41). And it is still so regarded by many Evangelical Christians, with any number of books written against the movement by well-known and popular authors. But ironically, Pentecostalism’s worst enemies are those within its own walls, men and women who not only do not display the fruit of the Spirit but exemplify the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19-23). These frauds are the face of Pentecostalism and its leading and most public figures. They are the televangelists who live like kings and queens in their huge palaces, ruthlessly fleecing their devoted and gullible followers of their hard-earned money to feed their insatiable lust for earthly possessions and power.
Peddlers of God’s Word
Many men and women televangelists have made themselves rich at the expense of the faithful Christians who follow them and believe their teaching. Promising healing and wealth, they brazenly lie to their audiences that if they will be faithful and sow a seed of faith in the form of a cash donation to them, God will open the windows of heaven and pour out his blessing on them. Their personal wealth has become so great that they can and do build extravagant homes for themselves, dress in the most expensive clothes, own their own personal jet airplanes, and spend fortunes on themselves to indulge their every fancy; and they can build huge church buildings on huge properties to accommodate huge congregations.
In this vein, the pastor in a local Pentecostal church near where I lived told his congregation they should “wear their wealth” so that everybody could see the blessing of God on them. A well-known televangelist, John Avanzini, spoke contemptuously of poor (i.e. non-wealthy) pastors, and said that he wouldn’t even talk to such a pastor (DVD – “The Blind and the Dead” by Texe Marrs). But God loves all his people, and John Avanzini’s sin is discovered in these words from God: “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons….Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him….But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” (Jas 2:1, 5, 9).
On this same DVD is a televangelist named Marjoe Gortner giving out the same promises of wealth if the audience would give him their money. Marjoe had been trained by his parents from a little child to preach and to fleece the people in the audience; there is footage on the DVD of Marjoe as a child of possibly 6-8 years old, preaching to the audience while his mother sat in the front row and, with the use of pre-arranged secret signals, told him what to say, how to say it, and when to hit on the audience for their money. Marjoe tells of how, when he was working the circuit as a young pseudo-evangelist, he met another Pentecostal evangelist who had a programme on a radio station which reached 41 states in the USA. This evangelist told Marjoe how he could get even more money. He told him that in 41 states there would be at least 3000 or 4000 poor women who had a small amount of money in a cookie jar which they’d put aside for emergency use. He said he tells these women that God says there is a woman out there with $10 in a cookie jar, and that God wants her to take this money and send it to him, the speaker, and God would bless them financially. He said to Marjoe that even if only 200 or 300 think that they’re that woman and send him their precious $10, you’ve made $2000 or $3000 in a moment. Then the DVD shows Marjoe preaching to a smallish congregation and afterwards shows him in his hotel room with a big pile of cash (no coins, just notes) on his bed and he’s running his hands through it and letting it run through his fingers as he sings hymns and repeating “Praise the Lord” and so on; it was reminiscent of Walt Disney’s Scrooge McDuck diving into the cash in his money bin. This man was an unashamed charlatan, fake, fraud, and ruthless thief whose god was money and who used the gospel to prey on naïve and gullible Christians who believe that he speaks to them from God. However, unlike the ruthless hucksters posing as Christian pastors and evangelists among whom Marjoe lived and moved, Marjoe felt guilty about his hucksterism and did a film and a book in which he admits that he is an unbeliever and wanted to put the record straight.
On TV I saw a black pastor in an African country wringing his congregation for all he could get from them, trying to tantalise them by holding out the prospect of their owning a Ferrari if they would give him money. What on earth would a poor African villager want or do with a Ferrari?
Even now (2017), Benny Hinn still has a lengthy segment on his show in which he uses the same old techniques and promises to fleece faithful and gullible Christians of their money. It is so transparently fake and so brazen that it is disgusting, yet it works and the money continues to pour into his yawning coffers as he uses the word of God to squeeze his followers for more and yet more. In the DVD “The Blind and the Dead”, we see Benny Hinn talking to an audience and laughingly saying he doesn’t want to wait until heaven where the streets are paved with gold; he says “I want it now! By the time I get there, my bills will be paid and the gold on the streets won’t help me. I’ve got bills to pay here. I need it now!” Laughing as he speaks, he unashamedly reveals his covetousness and repudiates the scriptures which say such things as: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which, while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim 6:10).
He also reveals his hostility to those Christians who dare to expose him on their own programmes. He says to his audience that he’s searched the scriptures through and through to find just one verse that says he can kill them; and he says he wishes he had a “Holy Ghost machine gun; I’d blow their head off”. This from a leading figure in Pentecostalism; and his audience loved it. Also, his wife, Suzanne, is shown waddling up and down the stage in a most undignified and degrading manner as she rages against his critics, saying they need a “Holy Ghost enema”; and then falls over in an apparent fit of impotent rage, which would no doubt be interpreted by them as the Holy Spirit coming upon her in power.
The apostle Peter warned of the danger of spiritual blessing for personal gain; when God poured out his Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands by Peter and John, a well-known magician and occultist named Simon saw the results and wanted to purchase the power for himself (Acts 8:19-23).
These greedy televangelists need to take heed of Peter’s warning to Simon and repent quickly because they’re in great danger. Paul also warns, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Phil 3:18-19). Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt 6:24).
Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers
These televangelists are also false prophets and scripture abounds with warnings about them. Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt 7:15-20). And Paul warned “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds” (2 Cor 11:13-15).
Benny Hinn is one such false prophet. He can use scripture to deceive his devoted followers – and he does. He is arrogant as he struts around on the stage, whether using real spiritual power from an unclean source or not as he throws people to the ground with a touch – I once saw him on TV face the choir who were up in a balcony. He drew his hands back and then thrust them forward towards the choir as if he was hurling invisible thunderbolts at them, and every one of them fell to the ground in a heap. On another occasion he took off his coat and swung it around his head and towards the men who were catching the people who were falling at his hands. These men didn’t just drop to the ground – they appeared to be picked up by invisible hands and thrown along, something which looked difficult to fake. Hinn has spiritual power alright, but it’s not of God. He was acting as if possessed, frantically hurling power in every direction so that even great sections of the audience were being bowled over and scattered like skittles. It was pure showmanship but also real power emanating from him. But most of these Pentecostal televangelists have this power and ability to an equal or lesser degree and, like Hinn, are characterised by abounding arrogance, superiority and pride as, god-like, they strut around the stage, bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost, of whom they’re the self-appointed custodian and dispenser, to a devoted and gullible people over whom they hold sway. Even Judas Iscariot, betrayer of Jesus, was able to cast out demons and heal people (Lk 9:1-6); but he was a thief and helped himself to the donations of Jesus’ supporters (Jn 12:1-6).
Of his many false prophecies, Hinn once told his audience and the world that the Lord told him that in 1994 or 1995 God was going to destroy the homosexual community of America by fire. He also told them that God told him Fidel Castro would die in the 90’s – see link:
Obviously these prophecies have not been fulfilled and the time prophesied for them has long since passed. According to scripture, this makes Benny Hinn a false prophet (Deut 18:20-22).
If the people who support Benny Hinn took heed of this command and warning, Benny and the others like him would disappear and both the Church and the world would be better for it. But Christians are too ignorant of doctrine now, and experience means far more to them. Indeed, one Pentecostal man, owner of a bookshop which sold Pentecostal books exclusively, once told me this very thing, that experience carries more weight with him than doctrine. As long as they see Benny doing his fake miracles and speaking words of scripture to which he has no right, not being a saved and godly man, he will continue to fleece them. As the saying goes, “a fool and his money are quickly parted”.
Along with fellow televangelists such as Kenneth Hagin, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Oral Roberts, and all those others of the Word of Faith theology, one of Pastor Copeland’s heresies states that Jesus’ death on the cross did not atone for sin; atonement was achieved after he died when he descended to hell and was born again.
“Kenneth Copeland explains that————In hell he (Jesus) suffered for you and me. The Bible says hell was made for the Devil and his angels (Matt 25:41). It was not made for men. Satan was holding the Son of God there illegally. The trap was set for Satan and Jesus was the bait. (Ken Copeland, Walking in the Realm of the miraculous, 1979, page 77).
Copeland says further, Satan and every demon in hell tortured Christ’s “emaciated, poured out, little, wormy spirit” without legal right. (Kenneth Copeland, “What happened from the cross to the throne”, Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland ministries, 1990, audiotape#02-0017, side two), Copeland says, and this was exactly the opening God had been looking for. Seizing the moment, He spoke His faith-filled words into the bowels of the earth, and suddenly—-that word of the Living God went down into that pit of destruction and charged the spirit of Jesus with resurrection power! Suddenly His twisted, death-wracked spirit began to fill out and come back to life. He began to look like something the devil had never seen before. He was literally being reborn before the devil’s very eyes. He began to flex His spiritual muscles….Jesus was born again–the first born from the dead. (Kenneth Copeland, “The price of it all,” Believers voice of victory, Sept.91).
Copeland shares this bit of Revelation knowledge when he said, The spirit of God spoke to me and He said, “Son, realize this. Now follow me in this and don’t let tradition trip you up.” He said, “Think this way—a twice born man whipped Satan in his own domain.” And I threw my Bible down and I said, “What?” He said, “A born again man defeated Satan, the firstborn of many brethren defeated him.” He said, “you are the very image, the very copy of that one.” I said, “goodness, gracious sakes alive!” And I begin to see what had gone on in there, and I said, “Well now you don’t mean, you dare not mean, that I could have done the same thing?” He said, “Oh yeah, if you’d had the knowledge of the Word of God that he did, you could’ve done the same thing, cause you’re a reborn man too.” (Kenneth Copeland,” Substitution and identification, tape#00-0202, side 2)”. (Author’s emphases).
There is not a word of any of Copeland’s idea of what Jesus did in hell in scripture. Jesus achieved our salvation from the cross, not from hell. The gospels tell us that Jesus’ last words were, “It is finished….Father, into your hands I commit my spirit….And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Jn 19:30; Lk 23:46; Matt 27:51; Heb 10:20). All these references reveal that Jesus had accomplished the work of atonement as a result of his death on the cross. This is confirmed in the letter of Hebrews: “Who being the brightness of his glory, and express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:3). This purging refers to the cross, as seen in Heb 10:14. And Paul also assures us that it was by his death on the cross that Jesus reconciled both Jews and Gentiles to God and to each other (Eph 2:11-16). Paul also specifically says that Jesus accomplished it in his flesh, not his spirit, as Kenneth says (see verse 15). Furthermore, Paul tells us that Jesus did the very opposite of what Pastor Copeland would have us believe: “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col 2:15).
And, so far is the truth from what Pastor Copeland says about Jesus’ “emaciated, poured out, little, wormy spirit without legal right”, that the apostle Peter writes of Jesus going to the underworld in power and triumph: “being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison” (1 Pet 3:18-19). Jesus, in between his death and resurrection, went to the underworld (Jude 6) to proclaim his victory over them and to assure them of their final judgment.
And as for God having “faith-filled words” to speak into the depths of hell, God doesn’t have faith! God is God! God didn’t create the universe by faith-filled words either, as Pastor Copeland says in his Study Bible (Genesis 1) and other places. Rather, the bible tells us: “The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by his understanding hath he established the heavens” (Prov 3:19-20). God speaks and his command must be fulfilled – not by Gods’ faith but by his sovereign command! God doesn’t speak by faith because this implies there is room for doubt; only humans need faith, a faith that is in God. It suggests that there is the possibility of the desired end not happening if the right faith is not exercised. It suggests that there is someone or something more powerful than God in the universe; that God doesn’t have full control over all things, even “things that do not appear”. In whom or what would or could God have faith anyway? The universe? Fate? NO! A thousand times NO! God is God and therefore there is absolutely no possibility that what he declares or orders or commands will not happen. God is God and he “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph 1:11).
The Source of Their Power is Obvious
The presence of demons in churches has become more blatant and obvious now as we see the new breed of Pentecostal leaders with “Christian” mediums posing as prophets brazenly bringing her victims under the power of demons in the name of Jesus, and brutes like Todd Bentley, a sorry figure trying to cultivate a “bad boy” image by covering his skin with tattoos and shaving his head. “Ye shall not make any cuttings on your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD” (Lev 19:28). God doesn’t need us to do these things to preach the gospel; this is just worldliness and witchcraft. He wants us to avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22).
On YouTube, for example, you can watch Todd Bentley laughingly boast how the Holy Spirit pointed out an old woman who was praying, facing him as she stood close to the platform; the Spirit told him to go and kick the woman in the head. So Bentley did just that. He demonstrated how, with his big biker boots on, as he states, he ran at the woman and gave her a mighty kick in the head. As he related this brutal attack, both he and his audience were laughing over the image he was conveying to them. In another YouTube video you can see a man who had been brought to Bentley for healing. He had advanced cancer in the stomach and had to be supported by another person because he was so ill and weak he could hardly walk. Bentley, looking at him, ran up to him and punched him in the stomach as hard as he could. Needless to say, the man doubled in agony and dropped to the floor. Bentley made a feeble gesture of excuse for this brutality, saying it was necessary, and that was that. The man probably died before he even got back home.
It is far beyond reasonable to expect that Jesus would have instructed Peter or Paul or any other apostle to kick one of his people in the head, or to punch a person who had come to them for healing. All those who were healed went away whole and rejoicing. What a condemnation of Todd Bentley.
Bentley sees angels everywhere and even knows them by their names; he also has pagan drumbeat music in his services, and to the beat of these drums he presents a woman who has all the signs of a demon-possessed and controlled medium who prophesies in a drunken, slurring way and who can hardly stand erect because she is so overcome by a spirit – an unclean spirit – although Bentley claims it is the Holy Spirit.
And during “ministry time”, he arrogantly parades himself along the line of people waiting for healing or some other blessing from God, hitting them on the forehead with the heel of his hand, and shouting “BAM!” as he does so – and down they go. And this alone betrays him and his church as part of the New Age movement; the place on the forehead where he puts his hand is the “third eye”, an occult chakra point. Sadly, this weekly scenario is all about Todd Bentley and has nothing of God in it. It is his regular platform where, while he may pay lip service to Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit, he is in reality promoting himself. It is “The Todd Bentley Road Show”. He does not display a shred of humility, nor holiness, as he has his church members metaphorically lapping out of his hands. And his adultery and immoral lifestyle is all over the net.
I’m dumbfounded as I wonder how Christians accept such a brute as this as a Christian and a leader – even the secular world is not so stupid. No wonder Satan is so cocky as he sends his now barely disguised ministers to do their work in the churches of God – with Christians like these, his work is nearly done. What must the world think of this carnal man masquerading as a Christian? And what must they think of the Church for regarding him as a leader and a man worthy of being followed? There must be gales of laughter in hell as the demons look approvingly on Todd Bentley and his antics.
Baker is a more appealing figure in that she doesn’t have the gross appearance of Bentley but has a kind of motherly demeanour; but this is merely a deceptive outward appearance. To see her on YouTube is alarming and sickening as she goes into seeming demonic trances herself and brings her victims to the same point. There is one particular young man on whom she lays hands, following which he goes into paroxysms, writhing and screaming as the demons either leave him or take hold of him – who can tell? These are nightmarish scenes one would expect to see only in horror movies, yet here they are in reality disguised under the name of Jesus. Baker and Bentley are just two of the many figures who are leaders of the current Pentecostal movement; there are far too many more like them. Their behaviour not only detracts from their own personal testimony but brings the name of Jesus and Christianity into derision.
Foolish and gullible Christians accept all this as the work of the Holy Spirit and not only condone it but join it and encourage it. And it is happening universally, not just in the West but in Africa and Asia. Millions are caught up in a Pentecostal parody of Christianity which presents a false gospel and is promoted by false teachers and false prophets. No doubt, some of these Christians will be saved and go to be with Jesus when they die; but too many have simply fused their shamanistic religions with Christianity and what they think is the Holy Spirit, and will perish in their sins.
I’ve only been able to mention a few of them in this article, but too many have been tainted by one or more of these characteristics which are rampant within Pentecostalism: immorality, adultery, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, embezzlement, theft, fraud, lies, deceit, arrogance, pride, hatred of any who expose them, greed, covetousness, and false teaching. Their false witness causes those who admire and love them to become discouraged and confused, they grieve the Holy Spirit, and open the gospel to the ridicule of its enemies.
New Agers have exactly the same experiences as Pentecostals – falling down in great bursts of ecstasy, love for the world and for the universe, a feeling of “love” for all, violent shaking with the head frantically shaking from one side of the body to the other, pogo-sticking, howling like dogs, and so on. The only difference is that whereas the New Agers have an increased love for the universe, Pentecostals have an increased love for Jesus. Catholics, likewise, have exactly the same kind of baptism in the Spirit as Pentecostals and New Agers, the difference being that they become even more devoted to Mary.
So experience alone is no indication of a person’s spiritual state or of their relationship with God. As can be seen with people like Todd Bentley and Benny Hinn, experience can be, and frequently is, Satanic in origin rather than of the Holy Spirit.
This is not to say, however, that I think all Pentecostal Christians and pastors are not saved. There are many Pentecostal Christians and churches in the world who are promoting the gospel joyfully and passionately. The body of Christ has many members and each have their part to play in the whole. In this article I’ve merely highlighted some of the things which I see as dangerous and definitely not Christian, and too many Pentecostal Christians accept these modern-day shamans and mediums as being great men and women of God when in fact they’re anything but, and are bringing Satan into the church on a huge scale.
Chips off the Old Block
As I think about what is happening in these large Pentecostal ministries and churches, and compare it with the local Pentecostal churches or with “good” Pentecostal pastors and ministries such as David Wilkerson, there seems at first sight to be a reasonable disparity between them. On the one hand there is the chaos, greed, fraud, theft, sexual immorality, false teaching, false prophecies, contempt of any Christians who dare to speak against them, etc. which seem to characterise the public face of Pentecostalism; and on the other are lovely Christians in local Pentecostal assemblies who have a vibrant faith. And it seemed to me at first as I considered all this recently, that the Pentecostal televangelists from the 80’s and 90’s were not as bad as the new breed.
But as I watched the DVD “The Blind and the Dead”, and “The Great Apostasy: The Lost Sign”, I was absolutely appalled as I was slapped into reality. Here I saw the chaos, insanity and utter ungodliness of even the most senior and well-known Pentecostal leaders such as Kenneth E. Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, John Avanzini, Rodney Howard-Browne, and many others whose names and ministries I’ve not heard of before, displaying everything that the bible is against. It was sickening to see the antics that went on in their “worship” meetings. I felt like I was looking at scenes from hell. And watching Copeland and Hagin, along with other Pentecostal leaders and a whole congregation laughing uncontrollably, barking and howling like dogs, men and women moving around the open floor space on hands and knees like animals, one man on his hands and knees with a leash around his neck as another held on to his leash There were people rolling on the floor in uncontrollable fits of laughter, and men and women were sliding off their chairs onto the floor – it sounded and looked like the cackling of demons – hideous, ugly, degrading, and frightening. I wondered how these people can call themselves Christians and teach in the name of Jesus when everything they do is so totally opposed to everything he exemplified and taught. And I saw, finally, that the current expression of Pentecostalism is no different to that of the earlier period. I also saw that the local Pentecostal churches are no better, in general, because they do exactly the same only on a smaller scale. “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom 3:12).
So I hope that Pentecostal Christians will understand when I say I can’t tell the difference between the good and the bad in their version of Christianity; and much of what I see therein frightens me. The question I ask of Pentecostals is what spirit do they have? If their most prominent leaders and teachers can give notably false prophecies, teach false doctrine, are led by their spirit to behave like animals, while many of them have been caught up in sexual immorality, adultery and divorce, or been caught stealing large sums of money or embezzling from their own churches, what does this say about them and the Pentecostal movement at large? What does it say about the spirit that motivates and energises them?
And what of the televangelists who deceive their followers, steal their money, and leave them with a false hope? Jesus tells us. He says “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt 7:21-23).
White, J, 1992, “When The Spirit Comes With Power”, publ. Hodder and Stoughton, London. Copyright 1988 by John White
Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the bible