THE HIGHER LIFE
OF RICK JOYNER
CHASING THE DELUSION OF POWER AND DOMINION
by G. Richard Fisher
“[Rick] Joyner is one of a new breed of ‘super-prophet’ in our day, a breed which desires nothing less than to redefine biblical Christianity in these last days of the church.”1
Any well-taught, well-grounded Christian finds it ludicrous to think that believers ever will get to the place where they no longer need the words of Jesus Christ and the teachings of Scripture.
Yet, there is a growing group of teachers who are self-proclaimed prophets and self-anointed apostles insinuating in many ways that Scripture is outdated and no longer applies. Though these teachings are not along the lines of “Get rid of the Bible,” the prophecies and revelations are touted as fresh, exciting and what is really needed today. These teachers also promote a false gospel of self-aggrandizement and empire-building. Someday, they promise, the wicked will forfeit all their wealth to Christians.
An example of this disregard for Scripture is popular author Tommy Tenney. Tenney is from a Oneness2 background and brazenly states in his best-selling book, The God Chasers, that: “A true God chaser is not happy with just past truth. He must have present truth. God chasers don’t want to just study from the moldy pages of what God has done; they’re anxious to see what God is doing.”3 Tenney has emerged as one of the notable celebrities within the Charismatic world and has been promoted by Charisma magazine and at the Pensacola Revival.
So God’s Word is denigrated and characterized by Tenney as “moldy pages of what God has done.” This is but one example of how God’s Word is trashed by these new apostles. They would have us believe that Scripture is passé and no longer relevant for our day. At times they speak out of both sides of their mouths and may play up the Bible so as to not alarm their more conservative followers. However, the way they exalt their prophecies and revelations makes the Bible seem uninteresting in comparison.
Any serious reading of 1 Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy 3 would show us that this is what we can expect as the present age wears on. The one revival we can expect is not one of “super prophets and apostles” but of heresy, deception and confusion.
Such thoughts of demoting the Bible and elevating man’s imagined prophecies of dominion have their origin in the heresies of the Latter Rain Movement originating in the 1940s4. The bizarre ideas of Latter Rain were rejected by most thinking Pentecostals, including the Assemblies of God, but today many who once denounced such teachings now embrace them.
AN INCREASE IN PROPHETS
Rick Joyner, founder and Executive Director of MorningStar Publications and Ministries in North Carolina, is another proponent of these ideas of a new breed of super prophets and end-time restorationists. Joyner says his conversion to Christianity came in 1971 and from that time has “an ability to foresee certain future events accurately” and “occasionally look at people and know details about them such as problems they were having or spiritual callings on their life.”5 He associates with other self-proclaimed prophets such as Paul Cain and Mike Bickle.
Despite his “prophetic” calling and service in full-time ministry, Joyner acknowledged that he “was shallow in [his] personal relationship to the Lord” and his “lack of intimacy with the Lord had caused [him] to lean more on formulas and procedures than the anointing that is essential to giving life to truth.”6 This crisis of conscience caused him to leave the ministry in 1980 as he “drifted from the Lord” until 1987, when he “was again called back into ministry by the Lord with the word that [his] commission would be given to another if [he] did not return at that time.”7
MORE PROPHETABLE THAN SCRIPTURE
Joyner leaves no doubt as to where he thinks the “Voice of the Lord” is found and it is not in Scripture:
“It is typical of our Western mind-set to want a clear formula for how to get to know the voice of the Lord. There must at least be an obvious ‘how to’ in the Scriptures, we think. Many have attempted to wrestle one out of the Word, but it is not there. The only way we can come to know the voice of the Lord is the same way that the sheep came to know their shepherd’s voice — through time spent in His presence.”8
Joyner further disparages the Bible by teaching that while Scripture is used for constituting doctrine, it is unable to provide wisdom and counsel in our daily lives. He states:
“The Scriptures alone are used for establishing doctrine, while ‘the voice of the Lord’ is used to give us day-to-day guidance as well as revealing the strategic will of the Lord. The Bible does not address some of the most important decisions we must all make — whom we should marry, our choice of professions, where we should live.”9
Joyner is far afield here. Every Epistle gives us direct commands or principles for every single aspect of living. The Apostle Paul was forthright that Scripture was not just for doctrine but for “reproof, correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Psalmist also records for us a truth which every elementary Sunday school student has memorized: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).10
Joyner puts Christians on a slippery slope by disparaging the Reformation and encouraging believers to follow “dreams and visions.”11 His advice is reckless when he suggests:
“...many Protestant and Reformed theologies not only hinder, but actually prohibit, Christians from knowing God’s voice. These theologies can be traced to the extreme interpretation of the prime Reformation motto sola scriptura, which means ‘Scripture alone.’”12
Joyner sows even more confusion by admitting, “We all would like to have a basic formula for interpreting dreams, but there simply is none.”13 There is none? This is as bad as the old quip that says: “There are only two ways to please a woman — and nobody knows what they are!” God help us when we lock people into impossible dilemmas and offer them “guidance” with no map or chart. In the end Joyner offers a quagmire.
The Wilkes Journal Patriot, a newspaper that publishes three times a week in North Wilkesboro, N.C., featured several articles on Joyner and his MorningStar ministry. These detailed reports provided insight into the mystical environment and activity of Joyner. One of the articles revealed:
“MorningStar already has bought over 300 acres in the [Pores Knob, N.C.] community with moving its headquarters there from Charlotte. Joyner and his family moved to a house near the intersection of Price and Broyhill roads in late 1997 and there are plans to provide housing for 40 to 50 other families moving here with MorningStar ... Joyner has said events leading to the move to the Pores Knob community began with a man in Kansas City dreaming Joyner moved to a place in North Carolina ... The man also dreams Joyner would meet recording star Ricky Skaggs. A few weeks later, Joyner met Skaggs. ... Skaggs is on the MorningStar’s board. ... Joyner said he felt God was leading him to visit the Pores Knob section of Moravian Falls and he did so in 1989. ... Joyner said it caught his attention when he learned that Moravian Falls was a center of newspaper publishing around the turn of the century and that one of the early newspapers was called The Morning Star.”14
SHARING THE PROFITS
Joyner recently had a hand in relaunching the career of failed and then jailed televangelist, Jim Bakker. Charisma magazine reported:
“Jim Bakker, who says he is ‘nearly 100 percent healed’ from the PTL downfall and his subsequent prison term, now wants to help restore other ministers who have fallen or who suffer from stress or burnout. Thanks to a donation of property by Rick Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries, Bakker and his wife, Lori Beth, will get that chance. Joyner’s ministry donated a 17,000-square-foot log lodge in Charlotte, N.C., to the Bakkers’ New Covenant Fellowship Ministry in May.”15
True to the modern-day prophetic movement, Joyner claims he is led by dreams, visions and revelations as well as Jesus Himself. In the Introduction to The Harvest he tells his readers:
“Some of the revelation came in ‘open visions.’ These were visible, external visions that were like watching a cinema screen. Others were gentle, internal visions that are like having the ‘eyes of your heart’ opened. I now have frequent visions and dreams that are filled with symbolism requiring interpretation like most of the biblical visions, but these were not that way; many of the details that you read in this book I actually saw in the visions. ... Some of the understanding shared in this book came in literal conversation with the Lord. I did not hear His voice audibly but it was more intimate and real than I could ever remember knowing before.”16
Yet, ironically, Joyner warns us about “The Wizard Spirit.” He identifies wizards as “one of the primary forms of false prophets who try to infiltrate the body of Christ. They will usually have a clean, professional appearance, and will often establish their credibility by ‘prophesying’ information that they know in the natural.”17
Joyner is not really much of a prophet and it appears that the following must have been done “in the natural.” In the late 1990s, Joyner jumped onto the Y2K bandwagon as he claimed that the Lord “finally did begin to speak” about the issue. According to Joyner, God supposedly revealed that, “The most severe difficulties will come from the panic generated by the situation” and “The Lord told me to observe the problems that Y2K will cause in the natural world as a reflection of the problems we have in the body of Christ.”18
Thus, according to Joyner’s revelation, the Church must not have had problems since Y2K was a non-event. Was God wrong or was Joyner just pretending and speculating “in the natural”?
On the Joyner organization’s web site, the MorningStar Prophetic Bulletin is advertised as a publication “devoted to the distribution of strategic prophetic words, dreams and visions that have critical timeliness.”19 Many of these are nothing more than Joyner’s sermonettes hyped up as “prophetic words.”
The vague and general nature of Joyner’s revelation is illustrated in a portion of his “prophetic” word for New Zealand in 1991: “Your name is prophetic - there is a NEW ZEAL that will arise from the church in New Zealand. This zeal for the Lord and His purposes will help to bring conviction upon the worldwide body of Christ for her Laodicean spirit of lukewarmness. ... Your zeal will be a NEW zeal,” and so on.20
Joyner offers the worn and faulty cliché predominant among Charismatic superstars such as Benny Hinn and others when their theological ignorance begins to show or their prophecies fail. Joyner says of himself: “Even though I have not been able to go to journalism school, or even Bible school, in many ways I would not trade my education for anyone’s. Like Paul, I can say that what I received I did not receive from men.”21 Scripture anticipated these self-assuming prophets and warned of their foolish rationale (Zechariah 13:4-5).
Even with that, Joyner leaves himself a back door by suggesting that New Testament prophets are different than Old Testament ones and make mistakes and are not infallible. In reality the whole thing dissolves since it is anyone’s guess when the prophet is right or when he is wrong. It really is a speculative subjective guessing game after all.22
Joyner and others in the modern prophetic movement have created a huge fiction that New Testament prophets can be right some of the time and wrong some of the time. Using 1 Corinthians 14:29 (“Let the others judge”), they say the message has to be sifted and evaluated and the good taken from the bad. This is a blatant misunderstanding of the text as Paul is actually saying that they must discern between true and false prophets.
New Testament professor Thomas Edgar states that “there are no direct statements of Scripture to support the ‘fallible prophet’ concept” and says of the 1 Corinthians 14:29 passage:
“In any case, how this [passage] can indicate that New Testament prophets are inferior to Old Testament prophets is not clear, since the entire congregation of Israel was also told to scrutinize their prophets (Deut. 18:22). ... The word diakrino does not imply that there is both good and bad to be sifted out. It is often used in a context such as this in reference to rendering judgment between two people, that is, determining which one is right and which one is wrong. ... [D.A.] Carson’s statement that ‘discern’ refers to judging the prophecy itself, if correct, would mean to judge whether the entire prophecy were true or false. It would mean not to sift out the good from the bad and consider the good parts as from God and the prophet as a genuine prophet. This is contrary to biblical practice. ... It does not imply that there are true and false statements in all New Testament prophecy or that a genuine prophet may give false prophecies.”23
Even if one takes the liberty to judge the prophet and his message, you are labeled a “pharisee,” or worse yet possess a “religious” and “Jezebel spirit.” PFO director Steve Cannon points out a recurrent theme in Joyner’s writings, a concept called “The Two Ministries.”24 Joyner describes the second of the two ministries as “faultfinders” and says they are a “destructive force.” Cannon maintains, “This doctrine ... is used, I think, to intimidate any who may criticize, into thinking that by doing so, they are operating under the spirit of Satan.”
Joyner also incorrectly employs Jesus’ instruction for confronting a brother who has sinned against you (Matthew 18:15-17) as a way to squelch questioning of his erroneous doctrine.25
His use of Matthew 18 (albeit out-of-context) is a tactic that PFO has encountered again and again and responded to in this Journal.26 Those, such as Joyner, who assert that they should be approached privately — rather than have their doctrine and practice exposed publicly — are really not willing to do so. It is merely a smokescreen. They hide behind legions of assistants and make themselves unavailable for contact. PFO personally encountered this in early 1999 when we tried to make contact with Joyner.
In January 1999, PFO director Cannon telephoned MorningStar Ministries to try to get an interview with Joyner. Cannon’s call was put through to James Arquit, one of Joyner’s assistants. Arquit was told of the purpose of the call. Cannon was told that Joyner was out-of-town at that moment, that he was a very busy man, and that the best way to secure an interview was to submit the request in writing.
This PFO did on Jan. 7, 1999.27 That letter was followed up with a phone call two weeks later. As this article is published (more than a year and a half later), PFO has yet to receive a response to the request.
Though Joyner’s doctrinal statement is a rather standard one, we will see that in many places his writings and books contradict and undermine it. One can only wonder if his doctrinal statement is merely window dressing and subterfuge; or if perhaps his allegiance to a movement which views itself as a superlative extension of the Church has moved him away from a more stable and orthodox foundation. Joyner is like a child musician playing many sour notes with the good ones while telling us he is an accomplished prodigy. When we object, he will call attention to the few good notes. Joyner’s trumpet is off-key and giving out an “uncertain sound” (1 Corinthians 14:7-8). Had he lived in the Old Testament era, he would have been stoned by now (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:20-22).
Joyner unabashedly promotes his more bizarre and unrealistic ideas this way:
“In the near future the church will not be looking back at the first century church with envy because of the great exploits of those days, but all will be saying that He certainly did save His best wine for last. The most glorious times in all of history have now come upon us. You who have dreamed of one day being able to talk with Peter, John and Paul are going to be surprised to find that they have all been waiting to talk to you! You have been chosen to see the harvest, the fruit of the seeds that they were planting.”28
Joyner is so bold to state that nations will be overwhelmed by the newly appointed apostles and that “Miracles which exceed even some of the most spectacular biblical marvels will cause whole nations to acknowledge Jesus. ... The appearances of angels will be so common that they will cease to be related as significant events. The Lord Himself will appear to councils of apostles and elders to give them directives.”29
Author Hank Hanegraaff reviews Joyner’s doctrine and practice and gives him the status of a “Counterfeit Revival leader.”30
Joyner has two major obsessions: “Prophetic Restoration” and “Apostolic Restoration.” He explains these as follows:
“A new wave of ministries is about to be released with extraordinary prophetic gifts. Others with revelatory gifting who were sidetracked because of controversy, or other problems, are about to get back on the fast track. ... The apostolic ministry that opened the church age will be raised up at the end to complete it. The Lord is restoring the apostolic authority to the church, and soon this will become a major emphasis. There will be almost a general openness to this as men of true apostolic authority, with a true apostolic lifestyle, take their place in leadership.”31
Glaringly absent from Joyner’s agenda is any biblical warrant for his words. There is no Scripture offered as proof for this self-serving illusion. Ephesians is clear that the Church is built on “the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets” (Ephesians 2:19). Why would God have to lay the foundation all over again? The Church, since the time of Paul, is described as “God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9-10). A building, especially God’s Church, is not in need of another foundation. No wonder Joyner gives no Scripture for his grandiose imaginings.
Joyner asserts that his book, A Prophetic Vision for the 21st Century, was “the result of the last ten years of hearing from the Lord both in visions and revelations.”32 He claims that the Lord said, “I have allowed you to see a little into the future.”33 Joyner further makes the breathtaking claim: “At the end of the vision in The Call, I saw the glory of all ages in a single moment.”34
Joyner’s ideas of ongoing revelation and prophecy bears a striking resemblance to the “continuing revelation” of the Latter-day Saints (Mormons) as journalists Richard and Joan Ostling define:
“Religious authority, in Mormonism, includes the concept of continuing revelation through the current church president, who holds the titles of seer, prophet, and revelator. Earlier doctrine may evolve, but a previous prophet, though superseded, is not ‘wrong.’”35
However, Joyner does not just get messages directly from the Lord but sees omens and mystical meanings in all kind of strange things and at strange places. Imagine getting “prophetic” truth from a ballgame. It may sound silly but Joyner unashamedly teaches just that:
“In the spring of 1995, Bob Jones, a prophetic friend, told a number of us that the Atlanta Braves baseball team was going to win the World Series that year as a message for the church in America. This prophecy was fulfilled, and there indeed was a message in it. ... I think it was also significant that it was David Justice who hit that home run. He is a black man, and I do expect young, black ‘Davids’ to arise and slay the spiritual Goliaths who have been intimidating and holding back the armies of God in America. ... In the spring of 1996, Bob Jones received a word that the Braves would not win the World Series again that year and that this would be a message. When I was offered tickets to go to Game Five of the 1996 World Series in Atlanta, I knew that the Lord was going to show me something important. I was not disappointed.”36
We will not go on with the silliness. Would Paul have thought it spiritual to predict the winners of the Greek games? Do you think he ever sat at the Corinthian games to try to discern God’s messages and directions? Did he go to the Coliseum in Rome and try to discern truth and the will of God as the chariots whizzed by, asking himself what the event might have meant? Joyner makes a travesty of the concept of biblical prophecy. The message for America is still Christ and the Scriptures, not who won last year’s World Series.
One of Joyner’s other major themes, addressed in the apologetic newsletter Vanguard, is the “CIVIL WAR.” In an article titled “Rick Joyner: Christian Gnostic,” author Neil Richardson zeroes in on one of Joyner’s major themes. Richardson writes:
“His ‘big thing’ is The Great Christian Civil War: Like the American Civil War, the coming spiritual civil war will also be between the Blue and the Gray. In dreams and visions, blue often represents heavenly mindedness — the sky is blue; and gray speaks of those who live by the power of their minds — the brain is often called gray matter. This will be a conflict between those who may be genuine Christians, but who live mostly according to their own natural minds and human wisdom, and those who follow the Holy Spirit. (The Morning Star Prophetic Bulletin, May 1996, 2).”37
Joyner’s prognostications about the upcoming Christian “civil war” are many and various. The most widespread publication of these is in his books, A Prophetic Vision for the 21st Century and The Final Quest.38
CRN Journal ponders and summarizes Joyner’s intent:
“The violent images Joyner adopts are, it seems, to be directed, not against liberals in the church, as we might suppose, but against those who are ‘not open’ to the new visions and prophecies — those who ‘religiously’ stand on the written Word alone.”39
So the railing of Joyner is not against heresy or false teaching but against believers who disagree. Moreover, Joyner teaches that demons direct and ride Christians who think, reason and discern.40
NEW PACKAGE, SAME OLD HERESIES
Joyner’s concepts are not just repackaged Latter Rain ideas but have even deeper roots. Though the prophetic and apostolic movement is being called new, most people are not aware that this whole move of super apostles and super prophets is not new at all. Satan constantly puts new window dressing on old errors. Every heresy (even the repackaged ones) has been met and refuted by the early Church.
The Apostle Paul faced this very thing in Corinth as we see in 2 Corinthians 11. He confronted men who boasted that they were super apostles. Frederick Dale Brunner explains the situation as described by Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:5-15:
“For the first time in this letter Paul ventures a name for the new evangelists in Corinth: they are ‘superlative apostles’ . They were spiritual ‘hupermen.’ They were superlative because they claimed to go beyond Paul (and others) in both message and life. Paul made Christians in name, they made Christians in Spirit; Paul accented a crucified Messiah who gave grace, they brought a glorified Messiah who gave power; Paul brought the Spirit, but they brought him fully; Paul, in other words, brought something of the gospel, but they brought the full gospel. Yet Paul now declares — and the fact that he must even say it strikes us as somehow pathetic — ‘I think that I am not the least inferior to these’ (II Cor. 11:5)! However, his commendable self-control will not last much longer.”41
“Paul finally explodes: those who found him worldly because weak, less Christ’s because less their ‘more,’ and who knew how to make full what he only knew how to begin, i.e., to over-(huper)-do him, he must now call by name: they are not only super apostles, they are ‘sham apostles’ and ‘crooked in all their practices, masquerading as apostles of Christ’ (11:13 NEB).”42
So the new pseudo-apostles step on and disregard God’s Word and promise not only new revelations but dominion over the unsaved world through their promises of utopia. They claim to be greater than Paul and the biblical prophets.
At the “New Millennium Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders” held November 30, 1999, 12 “prophecies” were brought forth, some as muddled as the television psychics or the supermarket tabloids about floods and earthquakes. The “Apostolic Council” present consisted of C. Peter Wagner, Cindy Jacobs, Dutch Sheets, Tommy Tenney, Mike Bickle and Jim Goll. (Other members not present but on the council include Paul Cain, James Ryle, John and Paula Sanford, Bill Hammond and Gwen Shaw.)
A report submitted by council member Goll included:
“This move of God will be so powerful that the church will gather in stadiums to worship, both the church in given regions as well as some local churches which will grow so large that they will fill stadiums for their celebration worship services. ... The Government of God [sic] kingdom will be established through the apostolic and prophetic authorities in cities and nations. ... We will see tremendous transfers of wealth into the Kingdom of God through the ministry of market apostles (those with apostolic anointing for business and other areas of society).”43
Surely these are strong delusions of grandeur.
There is no doubt that Joyner has aligned with the growing chorus of those who malign and destroy biblical authority and set themselves above the Word of God. Their agenda seems to be — get rid of Scripture and scriptural authority since something new and more direct has come. This they do by exulting their self-proclaimed “prophecies” as a way of finding truth and direction today. Even though they may drop in a line at times about following the Scriptures, it seems to be only gratuitous against the larger agenda.
Joyner’s stated view is that we will need this direct revelation and prophecy “to accomplish the last-day mandate of the church.”44 The Church has found the Scripture adequate for its mission for 2,000 years (2 Timothy 3:15-17), however that is no longer good enough for doctrine and practice according to this new message. We now have a more up-to-date and immediate “prophetic vision for the 21st century” given by Joyner.
Why bother with the Bible when we have men with a direct pipeline to heaven? Joyner reiterates in his 1999 Prophetic Vision the claim he made a decade earlier:
“I have experienced a considerable amount of prophecy in my own life. After my conversion in 1971, I have had, at times, an ability to foresee certain future events accurately, but usually in a very general sense. I could also occasionally look at people and know details about them, such as problems they were having or spiritual callings on their life.”45
Joyner here sounds like a garden-variety fortune teller, tea leaf reader or hotline psychic.
In 1994, Joyner offered another example of his “buckshot” prophecy:
“These great prayer movements will result in such extraordinary advances for the church, and deliverance for the world, that the world’s great and mighty will come to the church for prayer. Even the public schools in the United States will beg for prayers to be made in their halls again.”46
The indefinite time frame adds to the aura of the prognostication.
During his hiatus “from the Lord,” Joyner’s prophetic skills likewise abated. Joyner describes to his readers the resurgence of his revelatory abilities:
“Then, after seven years with no prophetic revelation, I had a three-day prophetic experience in which I felt the Lord tried to catch me up on all I had missed. ... Since then, I have had other visions and revelations that were published in books like The Final Quest and The Call. ... All of a sudden, I knew many details about future events, as though they had been poured into me. In all of this, I have been trying to determine God’s call on my life and His purpose for His church.”47
How sad that a Christian leader would try to determine God’s call and God’s purpose for His Church apart from Scripture. All that Joyner talks about could be produced by sleep loss, a vivid imagination, Satan or deceiving spirits, emotions run riot, drugs, hallucinations or just out and out deception. Man’s emotions and experiences are no determiner of truth since “God’s Word is truth” (John 8:32, 17:17). “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” the Apostle Paul declared (Romans 10:17).
Joyner also overstates the role of apostleship in saying “Because apostles are called to be evangelists, prophets, pastors and teachers, they usually have a more balanced nature, and are given for the purpose of keeping the Church on the right path.”48 The twelve apostles did not fit into all these categories and there is no Scripture teaching that they did. Ephesians 4:11 is clear that some can fill any one of these offices but no one is all of them. By Joyner’s own definition (“keeping the Church on the right path”), he cannot be an apostle because as this article demonstrates, he has led us down many wrong paths.
NO DOUBT ABOUT IT
We need to pause to deal with the fundamental concern as to whether we ever will get beyond the need of the Scriptures at any point in time. Consider Christ’s “Great Commission” which is really the marching orders of the Church. Having “all authority in heaven and on earth” Jesus commands His apostles and followers in Matthew 28:20 to teach new disciples “all things that I have commanded you.” This is the ongoing job of the Church, that is to teach the teachings of Christ to others — all of His teaching.
How long is the Church to do this? It becomes clear when we listen to Jesus and take His words seriously. He says, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (v. 20). Jesus is clear that this commission is age-long. As long as we are in the age of grace and until Jesus comes, we are to keep teaching His Word and commands. These are only found in the Bible so we conclude that we are to teach the Bible until the Second Coming. There is no question. Who would dare to supplant and usurp the sayings of Jesus? Only the arrogant new apostles and prophets.
Further Paul warns: “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing. ... from such withdraw yourself” (1 Timothy 6:3-5).
Still further, Paul says his words (in the Word) are the commands of God (1 Corinthians 14:37), as does Peter (2 Peter 3:2). It is clear what the new prophets are up to. Paul commanded the emotionally driven Corinthians “not to think beyond what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:16).
DOING THE TWIST
Even when Joyner does handle the Word of God, he distorts it terribly and comes up with weird subjective interpretations. The interpretations are esoteric, off the mark and ignore the cultural setting and context. Everything is twisted to fit into the Dominion message. His ideas have been variously labeled as Joel’s Army, Kingdom Now and Dominion Theology, although it is more gnostic ramblings than theology. So much of the repackaged Latter Rain teaching demotes Christ and the Scriptures and deifies man.
One of the keys to understanding Joyner is realizing that his earlier books were more conservative, biblical and mainstream. In fact, in his 1992 book, The Journey Begins, he has three pages on the “Fundamentals of Bible Interpretation.” His ideas have definitely evolved or more correctly devolved since then.
Joyner is at times reckless in his use of Scripture. He sets up a most unlikely scenario that the Apostle Peter equals the early Church, Paul equals Church History until now and the Apostle John equals the end time prophetic move preparing the Church for Christ’s return.49 This kind of spiritualizing or allegorizing the biblical text is pathetic. We must never make a “spiritual” premise at the price of proper interpretation of Scripture. Using this type of interpretation, one can make the Scripture say or mean anything. It is just a made up and self-serving eisegesis.
Pentecostal minister and host of the Open Bible Dialogue radio broadcast, Joseph Chambers concurs and says of Joyner’s books:
“Reading his material is similar to reading New Age materials. His approach is to take anything in Scripture and make it mean anything that suits his theological aims. There is no faithfulness to established facts of interpretation. It is a smorgasbord of ideas loosely connected with the generous use of out-of-text Scripture to prove his point.”50
Joyner also twists Scripture to teach a convoluted view of two “gospels.” He is very confused as he bends to the breaking point the statement of Hebrews 6:5 concerning, “the good word of God and the powers of the age to come.” Joyner claims that “the good word of God and the powers of the age to come” were preached both by John the Baptist and Jesus but became obscured after the first century A.D. He then connects this message willy-nilly to Revelation 11:15 and says this true message “will soon be released in the church.”51
In reality, “the good word of God and the powers of the age to come” is something believers have already tasted. Joyner connects this to the recovered message of the new prophets causing the Church to be equipped to do exploits, like the ability to “walk on water” and even “walking on air,”52 though they are not doing that just yet.
The Apostle Paul declared: “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). We cannot improve on that and that message has never been lost. Even a superficial study of the Church Fathers shows a continuity of message. Though muddled during the Middle Ages, the Reformation corrected the course.
The idea that the true Gospel message has finally been found by Rick Joyner after 1900 years is no different than the position of every quasi-Christian group of the past two centuries. Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith Jr., Ellen G. White, Charles Taze Russell and Herbert W. Armstrong have claimed the same thing.
Joyner says that “the church will be a great hospital with the power to heal every kind of wound and disease. She will have a cure for every plague,”53 though they are not doing that either.
Unfortunately for Joyner, the concept of “the world to come” was a common well-known phrase in the first century and is still known by orthodox Jews today. It is a synonym for the Messiah’s millennial reign and the new heaven and new earth or the golden age of the Messiah. The “age to come” will not be the work of Rick Joyner, his prophetic colleagues, or any other human as Greek scholar and linguist Kenneth Wuest explains:
“The age to come is the Millennial Age. What a change there will be when God the Son reigns on earth personally, and His Chosen People are saved. These Hebrews had seen attesting miracles performed, the performance of which proved to them that the New Testament was from God. This was another factor which made their guilt so enormous. It is interesting to note in passing that attesting miracles will again be performed in the Millennial Age when the Lord Jesus comes back to earth.”54
Most commentators agree that the age to come is just that — the age to come and identify it with the Millennium or heaven or both.55 The age to come will not be ushered in by kings of the earth but by the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16). Joyner is confusing his ambitions with the return of Christ. The first century world had a “taste” of the “age to come” in Christ and His miracles. We have a “taste” of the age to come in the recorded events of Christ and the Apostles as well as all the biblical promises of a bright and glorious future at the return of Jesus (Romans 8:23, Philippians 3:21, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15). The Christian’s urgent message is the Gospel (Romans 1), not Millennium Now or heaven on earth.
POSTMILLENNIALISM GONE SOUTH
The old historic postmillennial position attributed to Daniel Whitby (1638-1726) and the classical variations of postmillennialism56 all dreamt of an evangelized, Christianized world before the return of Christ. They taught that this would be accomplished by the spread of Christianity through Gospel preaching.
According to the postmillennial view, the Gospel of Christ is still the power of God unto salvation and the old foundations are recognized. Additionally, this preaching would produce a world of peace and universal virtues of the fruit of the Spirit with no more wars (Isaiah, chapters 2 and 11). All of this was to usher in the return of Jesus in the typical postmillennial framework.
Sounding almost like he has a touch of megalomania and for no apparent reason, Joyner states that we are to preach the last trump message of Revelation 11:15. He writes:
“Those who live in the reality and power of His kingdom now will preach the message of the kingdom. We do not wait for the millennium for Jesus to reign over us. His kingdom is already ‘at hand.’”57
He then claims that God instructed him that in building his Moravian Falls Community: “What you build will need to last for a thousand years!”58
This “kingdom now” message, according to Joyner is bigger than any other message:
“His message was the kingdom, and this is the message we have been given to preach. This does not belittle the importance of our salvation, nor negate the high place of the church in His plan. However, the message of the kingdom is bigger than these.”59
Joyner’s emphasis on the kingdom is noticeably similar to the gospel message of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who ignore the King in their quest for the kingdom. However, strikingly different from the Watchtower is that this radical charismatic postmillennialism has created an illusionary scenario where miracle workers take over society and the wealth of the world through the power of signs, wonders and creative miracles. The sheer miracle power and dynamism of Joyner’s prophetic “blues” will obliterate the opposition. Nevertheless, Joyner has yet to walk on water, raise the dead or multiply food to authenticate his Millennium Now message.
At times Joyner sounds a lot like metaphysician E.W. Kenyon, who was a follower of New Thought heresies. Metaphysicians, like Kenyon, believe in tapping into “spiritual laws” for dramatic results. Joyner teaches in true metaphysical fashion that:
“There are spiritual principles at work in the spiritual realm just as there are natural laws at work in the natural realm. These spiritual principles will work for anyone that uses them. In fact Satan’s power is completely dependent upon God-ordained principles of spiritual power.”60
D.R. McConnell speaks of Kenyon in words that could apply directly to Joyner:
“Through his ‘Revelation Knowledge,’ Kenyon hoped to create ‘supermen,’ a master race of Christians no longer bound by ‘Sense Knowledge’ or by demons, disease and poverty. This hope is a central thrust of all Kenyon’s writings.”61
MANY MORE QUIRKS
Joyner teaches that one’s personal prophecies do not have to be connected to the Scriptures at all. For example, he claims that, “Some argue that personal prophecy should always come as confirmation based on the Scripture. ... This misconception is simply the result of faulty hermeneutics.”62 Knowingly or unknowingly, he is degrading and disrespecting God’s Word and putting impressions, mystical leadings, promptings and imagination above it.
Still going further afield, Joyner warns that cult research is dangerous and ought not to be pursued. This would surely keep the discerning off his case. As much warning as there is in the Bible against false religions and heresies (e.g., “test the spirits,” 1 John 4:1), Joyner’s words are ill-advised and foolish:
“Few who devote themselves to studying cults or deviant doctrines are able to distinguish the true word of the Lord, and usually their hearts are ultimately darkened by the very evil they seek to expose. We will be changed into that which we are beholding (II Corinthians 3:18). There is an implied warning in the Lord’s message to the church in Thyatira about ‘knowing the deep things of Satan’ (Revelation 2:24). The more we focus on what is wrong, or the practices of the evil one, the more we, ourselves, will be changed into the nature of what we are seeing.”63
Thus, according to Joyner, to be discerning — to be a Berean — is to go into darkness. That’s what Jehovah’s Witnesses say of Bible study apart from their literature — they too discourage any type of discernment. Once again Joyner sounds more cultic than Christian.
Moreover, in the above citation, Joyner demonstrates yet another example of his frightful handling of God’s Word. The people of Thyatira did not “know [know by experience] the depths of Satan,” which in the context was idolatry and sexual immorality (Revelation 2:20), simply because they were discerning! They did not practice these things since they were able to discern their evil nature and avoid them. Knowing the depth of Satan is not the study of false teachers like Joyner but the practice (knowing by experience) and promotion of immorality and idolatry.
A PROPHET WITHOUT DISCERNMENT
Though Joyner claims to be a prophet, at times he seems to be just winging it and is really unaware of the misinformation he is disseminating. Joyner would have us believe that one of the models of discernment and truth was Germany’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945). Bonhoeffer, a German theologian, was part of the resistance movement against Hitler in the early 1940s.64 He was involved in a failed plan to assassinate Hitler, was sent to prison and was hanged there for treason. At age 39, Bonhoeffer, just before going to prison, proposed marriage to a 17-year-old parishioner.65 His story is very sad. From a human standpoint he was justified in helping Jews and being against fascism but that is not the problem.
Joyner applauds Bonhoeffer for having “an extraordinary grip on the truth” and goes on to say:
“Bonhoeffer’s life is one of the twentieth century’s greatest examples of how a few who hold to the truth without compromise, standing against the most powerful political and military machines in history with nothing but spiritual power, will ultimately prevail. What was said of the righteous Abel can now be said of Bonhoeffer, ‘Though he is dead, he still speaks.’”66
Did Bonhoeffer have a “grip on the truth”? Did he “hold to truth without compromise”? What kind of legacy did Bonhoeffer leave in his books?
By Bonhoeffer’s own admission (in his writings), he did not hold to biblical truth. He was ambiguous about the resurrection of Jesus and outspoken in his denials of major fundamental doctrines of the faith.
In an article, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer Rejected Classical Christianity,” David Becker investigates the writing of Bonhoeffer and states:
“I don’t mean to be critical of people, but I do want to speak the truth in love, and one of my pet peeves is when I see people, especially those who consider themselves to be, and present themselves as, theologically conservative, praise Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer espoused a so-called religionless Christianity, and expressed doubt about God as a working hypothesis. He was a father of the so-called ‘death of God’ ‘fad’ of a few years ago. He wrote a lot and also wrote some things that sounded orthodox but he consistently had a low view of the Bible, considering a lot of it myth.”67
In reviewing one of Bonhoeffer’s books, Becker writes:
“In his book, Christ the Center (1960, Harper & Row), Bonhoeffer wrote: ‘So if we speak of Jesus Christ as God, we may not speak of him as the representative of an idea of God who possesses the properties of omniscience and omnipotence (there is no such thing as this abstract divine nature!)’ (p. 108). So Bonhoeffer didn’t really believe that Jesus is God. ... Bonhoeffer didn’t think that Jesus is sinless either. ‘The assertion of the sinlessness of Jesus fails if it has in mind observable acts of Jesus. His deeds are done in the likeness of flesh. They are not sinless, but ambiguous. One can and should see good and bad in them’ (p. 113). ... So Bonhoeffer rejected classical christology, had a low view of the Bible, denied the deity of Christ, doubted the virgin birth of Christ, denied the sinlessness of Christ, and doubted the physical resurrection of Christ.”68
How can Joyner be trusted when he upholds someone as a paragon of discernment, virtue and truth and that person does not even hold to the essentials of the Christian faith? Joyner is a flawed false prophet with no discernment or wisdom. His claims and boasted position are false. No wonder he discourages discernment among his followers.
FORGIVENESS WITHOUT REPENTANCE
Apparently Joyner believes that some can be saved apart from repentance and confession of sin. Some can be saved apart from the preaching of the Gospel. Unlike Joyner, the Apostle John declared that forgiveness and cleansing were based on confession of sin (1 John 1:7).
Is anyone automatically forgiven somehow? Joyner teaches:
“Jesus looked down from the cross at His tormentors without wrath or retaliation ... but with mercy. He prayed, ‘Father forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing’ (Luke 23:34). These were not idle words — He meant it! He is not waiting until He comes again to get even. He forgave them.”69
It is unhealthy and totally misses the point to even use the words “waiting to come again to get even.” The opposite of that is not forgiveness since Christ does not have to “get even” as an alternative. However, the larger and more important question is, did Jesus automatically forgive those who crucified Him? Is it true that “He forgave them”? If not, then what did He really mean?
It is unlikely that Jesus would have forgiven them and then taken it back, yet Peter says to those very people in Jerusalem: “Him ... you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death” (Acts 2:23). He then calls on them to “repent,” in verse 28. If they were already forgiven, as Joyner suggests, why do they have to repent for crucifying Jesus? According to Peter, they were not forgiven but needed to be forgiven and saved.
The only possible way to understand the words of Jesus in Luke 23:34 is to understand them from the standpoint of potential forgiveness. All sins can be forgiven, even one as heinous as consenting and even participating in the very death of Jesus. Jesus held out hope to them and a potential forgiveness that was realized on the day of Pentecost and based on their repentance and acceptance of Christ. Even Christ killers can find forgiveness. This is the only understanding that fits with the rest of Scripture. We must be careful to properly define the true meaning of “forgiveness.” It is a common misconception that as Christians we are “to forgive and forget” even if our forgiveness is not sought. We need remember that “forgiveness” is a transaction (1 John 1:9).
In a chapter titled, “Forgiveness is Conditional,” Dr. Jay Adams delves into the issue of Christ’s prayer on the cross:
“If, indeed, Jesus unconditionally forgave those who crucified Him, then, of course, that would mean they had been forgiven without hearing or believing the Gospel. Clearly that teaching is heretical. ... On the cross, Jesus did not forgive; He prayed. The same is true of Steven. If forgiveness is unconditional, Jesus, Stephen, and others would have forgiven their murderers rather than use what, if true, would be a roundabout way to do so. ...we believe also that His prayer was answered. How could that be? Not apart from the means, but by them. Jesus’ prayer was answered in the response to the preaching of Peter and the apostles on the day of Pentecost, ... They were not forgiven the sin of crucifying the Saviour apart from believing that He was dying for their sins, but precisely by doing so in response to the faithful preaching of the Gospel in Jerusalem. We do not have to resort to some strange doctrine of the forgiveness of sins apart from faith in Christ in order to explain Christ’s prayer.”70
MANIFEST SONS OF SATAN
It is chilling to hear Joyner use words that apply to and are addressed to Satan and address them to believers. Isaiah 14:13-14 reveals the awful pride and arrogance of Lucifer:
“I will ascend to heaven. I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the sides of the north. I will ascend the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
To be like God was the delusion held out to Eve by the serpent in the garden (Genesis 3:5). Yet Joyner, after having addressed the prideful inclinations of Satan and the deception of Eve, without a blush says:
“Let us understand, the Lord wants us to ascend to heaven; He wants us to sit on the mount of the assembly; He wants us to be raised above the heights of the clouds, and He wants us to be like Him (to have His nature).”71
Here Joyner gives away his orientation toward Manifest Sons and Little God doctrines. Why was what was off-limits to the devil any less off-limits to us? Ezekiel 28 gives God’s answer to Lucifer and the five “I wills” of Isaiah 14 are responded with the five “I wills” of God’s judgment for wanting to usurp the very throne of God and become like God.
DENIAL OF THE BODILY RESURRECTION OF JESUS
Joyner’s false teachings abound and multiply. It may be sloppy writing or unclear theology but it becomes even more serious as Joyner slips into teachings that would be welcome in a Kingdom Hall.
How should we view Jesus? We should view Him as the Bible does. John 2:21-22 and Luke 24:39 make it abundantly clear that Jesus arose in His physical body. The bodily resurrection is a foundational truth in the Christian faith. Jesus, as our mediator, exists in a glorified resurrected body. He is forever the God-man.
This truth of the two natures of Christ is called the hypostatic union and has always been defended by the Church. Christ exists in two natures, human and divine (Philippians 2:6-7).
Apparently Joyner either denies this or simply does not understand it. He proposes:
“There is a tendency to continue relating to Him as ‘the MAN from Galilee.’ Jesus is not a man. He was and is Spirit. He took the form of a servant and became a man for a brief time.”72
Joyner couldn’t be clearer in his declaration: “Jesus is not a man. He was and is Spirit” (emphasis added). Joyner finds himself closely aligned with Gnosticism, one of the most threatening heresies of the early Church. More specifically, he is bordering on a form of Docetism, a view which denies Christ’s true humanity by saying that Christ only appeared to have a physical body. However, based on a multitude of Scriptures, theologian Louis Berkhof summarizes the view of historical orthodoxy:
“The incarnation constituted Him a complex person, constituted of two natures. He is the God-man. ... The one divine person, who possessed a divine nature from eternity, assumed a human nature, and now has both.”73
Surely no true prophet of God would deny the human nature of Christ or that Jesus is in a resurrected glorified body. Paul reminds us in 1 Timothy 2:5, “There is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” How can Joyner say, “Jesus is not a man”? If we accept Prophet Joyner, then we have eroded the doctrinal truths that separate Christianity from the cults.
AND IT JUST DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER
Joyner may not know much about neo-Orthodoxy and Karl Barth but his view of faith is amazingly close to it and biblically off the mark. He takes us down the path to neo-Orthodoxy or what is called new liberalism.
While Joyner contends that “True faith can only come with spiritual vision,”74 God says that “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Our faith is founded on the Word of God and flourishes and grows on God’s Word. Faith is trust in God’s Word.
Joyner would deny this and says, “Faith is not just believing the words of the Lord, but believing the Word Himself.”75 Again, Joyner demeans the Scriptures and sets up a false dichotomy between Jesus as the Word and the written Word. He plays this incorrect dichotomy out when he says that, “It would be impossible to put a value on this most marvelous gift the Lord has given to us, but the Bible was given to lead us to Jesus, not to take His place.”76
How can we separate the words of the Lord in Scripture from the Word (Jesus) since the words in Scripture are His words and he uttered them. If you love someone, you love their words as well and there is no false distinction between the two. Joyner is subtly suggesting that we can get a fresher word, a more up-to-date word right now and directly from the Spirit Jesus in an unmediated way. So again the Bible is belittled.
Joyner also parallels neo-Orthodoxy and Karl Barth in Barth’s demeaning Scripture with his view of God creating a contact point in man where He can give special direct divine revelation. Barth’s separation of the Word (the Bible) from the Word (Jesus) is similar, if not the same as Joyner’s emphasis.77
All the words that Jesus spoke will judge us in the last day: “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). The Church has always looked upon the Scriptures as God’s means of grace. Joyner is trying to rob us of that means.
It is truly amazing to hear Joyner say the following:
“The Church must be ruled and guided by the Head rather than by formulas. He is purposely vague concerning even important issues so that we have to seek Him. The New Testament is full of the best counsel the world has ever heard, but the Lord and His apostles were careful not to lay down many general rules and regulations for the churches. They knew that every rule could prevent that church from seeking the Lord for themselves.”78
In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul states the purpose of his letter:
“I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
Jesus’ message — His “rules and regulations” — to the churches is given in Revelation 1-3. Matthew 18 gives us directives for discipline and conflict resolution. First Corinthians gives rules and confronts error helping to straighten out their doctrine. The book of Titus structures church life some more. Every Epistle is designed to direct the Church in some way. It is appalling to hear Joyner claim, “the Lord and the Apostles were careful not to lay down many general rules.” Joyner misses also that when God directs, He also gives grace as motivation and empowerment to obey.
THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE CONCLUSION
Rick Joyner is neither a true prophet nor apostle. He teaches too much error to be either. He holds out (by his many books) an appearance of taking us to higher ground when in reality he robs us of a rich doctrinal heritage as well as the Bible. His dominionism is false and utopian and he confuses the resurrection and reign of Christ with the present state of the Church, thereby misleading Christians with false hope.
Joyner’s claims of revelation knowledge produce a dulling effect in regard to a desire for the Scriptures. He is a “broken reed” and will pass away like other purveyors of error. He will leave them with nothing but “rabbit trails,” distractions and illusions. Our Bibles are a far safer bet. Joyner’s books are a jumble of confusion. One has to wade through a lot of sludge to find a few nuggets of truth.
The CRN Journal says that Joyner is peddling a “dark mysticism” and they conclude:
“Joyner leaves us no middle way. Either we treat him as God’s chosen super-prophet for the end-times, or we treat him as a man in the grip of evil deceit and seek to expose him as such.”79