by Andrew Strom

We all know what is meant by "Toronto". I am speaking here of the 'blessing' or "manifestations" movement that has become so popular in recent years - involving people falling down laughing, jerking or shaking uncontrollably, making strange noises, crying, drunken, etc. Some have even been known to "roar" like lions, to 'cycle' or wave their limbs around strangely, or to have their bodies distorted like Cerebral Palsy, etc. There are different "branches" of this movement (i.e.. Rodney Howard- Browne, Toronto, Sunderland, and more recently - Brownsville, Pensacola). These branches vary in some ways, but they all involve the same 'spirit' which brings about these unusual manifestations.

Some writers point out that these kinds of manifestations have occurred in past Revivals, thus "proving" that these phenomena are fine and godly. However, I have been studying Revival history now for fourteen years, and I would have to say that history shows the exact opposite result from these manifestations entering in. In fact, as we shall see, SUCH MANIFESTATIONS HAVE DESTROYED MANY TRUE REVIVALS.

Let me just say here that I am not opposed to genuine activity of the Holy Spirit. I am not opposed to tongues, miracles, falling down under the power of God, dreams, visions, or anything else that is genuinely caused by God's Holy Spirit. I do believe that God sometimes does 'strange' things. But where I draw the line is when things become "weird" or ugly.  Strange, maybe - 'weird' or ugly, never. That's my policy. I do not believe that God ever goes against His holy character in this way. We are expressly warned in the Bible, again and again, that the Last Days will be days of great deception and seduction in the church, "lying signs and wonders", etc. Why on earth, then, do so few Christians seem even slightly suspicious of a movement which involves such weird manifestations? Surely these are days when we must be more vigilant and alert for such dangers than ever before?

There have been many great Revivals that have ended well before their time, either infiltrated, swamped or stymied by the dirty tactics of the enemy. Many Revivals, instead of lasting decades as they could have, instead only lasted a matter of a few years (if that). Having read accounts of many of these Revivals, I have noticed that one of the devil's favorite tactics in destroying Revivals is to flood them with counterfeits, deceiving spirits, bizarre manifestations, disputes, excesses, etc. This is not a front-on attack as such, but rather an "attack from within", where the bizarre goings-on that arise from within the Revival either swamp it or bring such discredit on the whole thing, that the Revival soon grinds to a halt. Satan can often finish Revivals off very quickly when he gets them to this stage. And alarmingly, these counterfeits and excesses are often ABSOLUTELY IDENTICAL to the manifestations we have seen with "Toronto".

The great U.S. 'camp-meeting' Revivals of the early 1800's, which began with deep repentance, were finally finished off when bizarre manifestations were allowed to enter in. Eyewitness TAW. Casey wrote of these manifestations:  "The whole congregation by some inexplicable nervous action would sometimes be thrown into side-splitting convulsions of laughter and when it started, no power could check or control it until it ran its course. At other times the nervous excitement set the muscles to twitching and jerking at a fearful rate and finally settle down to regular, straight-forward dancing. Like the 'Holy Laugh' it was simply ungovernable until it ran its course. When a man started laughing, dancing, shouting or jerking, it was impossible for him to stop until  exhausted nature broke down in a death-like swoon..."  Eventually the whole thing was swamped and discredited by such bizarre goings-on, resulting in the death of the movement.

A very similar thing had taken place in the Great Awakening of the 1700's which was begun under the preaching of White field, Edward's, Tenant, etc. A preacher by the name of James Davenport arose during the Revival, gaining great notoriety for himself with his strange preaching and behavior - and definitely helped to bring an end to the whole Revival. As the Boston Evening Post of that time wrote:  "He has no knack at raising the Passions, but by a violent straining of his lungs, and the most extravagant wreathings of his body, which at the same time that it creates laughter and indignation in the most, occasions great meltings, screamings, crying, swooning and fits in some others... they looked more like a company of bacchanalians after a mad frolic than sober Christians who had been worshipping God..." These and other goings-on soon brought such controversy upon the whole Revival, that the Great Awakening ended in a deluge of bitter wrangling and disputes. Surely one of the devil's all-time favorite methods for killing Revivals stone-dead.

And the 1904 Welsh Revival suffered a similar fate (as you will see if you read "War on the Saints" by Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts - a disturbing book which probably places too much emphasis on the devil, but vividly describes many counterfeit manifestations very similar to what we are seeing today). In fact, the mighty Welsh Revival lasted JUST ONE YEAR, before the devil was able to infiltrate and destroy it. Once the leader Evan Roberts was out of the way, the devil had a field day, flooding the whole thing with excesses, controversies and counterfeits. What a disaster! And thousands of young converts were lost.

The great Revivalists Charles Finney and John Wesley were also well aware of how quickly Revivals can "go to seed", and the danger of counterfeit manifestations entering in and ruining moves of God. Charles Finney wrote:  "I have known some cases where persons have rendered themselves highly ridiculous, have greatly injured their own souls, and the cause of God, by giving themselves up to an enthusiastic and fanatical following of impressions."  And John Wesley stated, "At the first, revival is true and pure, but after a few weeks watch for counterfeits."

Speaking of phenomena in his own day that seemed likely to bring the true Revival into disrepute and danger, John Wesley wrote:  "It is chiefly among these enormous mountains that so many have been awakened, justified, and soon after perfected in love; but even while they are full of love, Satan strives to push many of them to extravagance. This appears in several instances: ... Some of them, perhaps many, scream all together as loud as they possibly can... Several drop down as dead; and are as stiff as a corpse; but in a while they start up, and cry, "Glory! glory!" perhaps twenty times together. Just so do the French Prophets, and very lately the Jumpers in Wales, bring the real work into contempt."  Historian Henry Baird wrote of these so-called French Prophets:  "Such persons would suddenly fall backward, and while extended at full length on the ground, undergo strange and apparently involuntary contortions; their chest would seem to heave, their stomachs to inflate."  And George Lavington wrote of them:  "I don't remember any of these laughing-fits among Papists. But they were very common among the French Prophets in their agitations."

The obvious danger that John Wesley could see, was that these bizarre manifestations might bring into contempt and thus endanger the real Revival. As I have said, similar counterfeits have destroyed Revivals in the same way on many occasions, so Wesley was right to be alarmed. This danger of counterfeits has existed in every Revival. As Frank Bartleman of the 'Azusa Street' outpouring wrote:  "A true 'Pentecost' will produce a mighty conviction for sin, a turning to God. False manifestations produce only excitement and wonder... Any work that exalts the Holy Ghost or the 'gifts' above Jesus will finally land up in fanaticism."  And of course, many times there are also immature or deceived preachers who rise up in Revivals, who go off on dubious tangents and eventually bring discredit upon the whole Revival through their folly.

I hope you can see why I have been so concerned with the current 'blessing' movement which has brought these weird manifestations into our churches. Not only has it disturbed me to see this movement sweep through many Charismatic groups, but I am also very aware of how easy it would be for this movement to also infiltrate the true Revival that is just about to hit. If these manifestations do gain a major foothold in the coming Street-Revival, then the whole thing will be in grave danger. I am convinced that these manifestations do not come from the Holy Spirit, but rather from an alien spirit that is infiltrating the church.

To all those who hope to be involved in the coming Revival, if you have been touched or involved in any way with these manifestations, I would urge you to utterly RENOUNCE (with your mouth, but also from the depths of your heart and soul) any links or involvement with this 'manifestation' spirit or anointing. Speaking personally, I would not want to see any leader who has not done this, ministering to the youth in the coming Street-Revival. It's just not worth the risk.

I do not want to appear in any way to be negative about GOD doing unusual things in the coming Revival. It is only the counterfeits I am worried about. I'm sure there will be a fair number of unusual occurrences in the Revival, and I am open to these (though we are told to "test all things" and I will certainly be doing that). And there is no way we should even try to stop EVERY fleshly or counterfeit manifestation. There will always be dubious things happening on the fringes of any move of God. It's when they start to gain a larger foothold that we need to get concerned. And that's when the leadership MUST step in gently but firmly, to address the issue. If the leadership does not act at this crucial moment, then the whole Revival can be lost.

But if counterfeits are not a major problem for the time being, then it can be best just to leave the subject alone, otherwise people can become so scared of counterfeits that they hinder the Holy Spirit from moving also. But I am looking forward to a move of God where speaking in tongues, dreams, visions, prophecies, miracles, falling down and crying out to God in sorrow and conviction of sin, etc, become quite common. What a glorious Street-Revival this will be - a Revival of DEEP CONVICTION AND REPENTANCE, of THOROUGH CLEANSING, and of 'JOY UNSPEAKABLE AND FULL OF GLORY'.
No wonder the devil hates true Revival!

Andrew Strom                                              astrom@revival.gen.nz

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