A message given by Art Katz to a closely-knit group of community/fellowships known as “The Move” (The Move of the Spirit) in 1988, Lubbock, Texas. It is a message given in the context of a movement that celebrates the Holy Spirit while, at the same time, essentially ignores some of the classic doctrines of the faith. This message is equally valid for any individual or group that would seek to spiritualize away those plain, evident meanings of the scriptures.
I have so serious a word in my heart, that for the first time, in all the occasions I’ve had opportunity to share something in this movement, I actually wrote it out. I feel that it might well be my final and last, farewell statement—and I am speaking with an absolute candor.
I am unhappy if not distressed by things that I have been hearing expressed at this conference, including the character of the proceedings and various other things that I cannot even identify or enumerate. It is either my peculiar subjective way of viewing things, or it is a perspective that God intends for you to hear and to take into your own consideration. So I just want to pray, and ask you to summon the spiritual stamina to hear me out in this prepared statement, which strangely, after last night’s address, has got to do with the issue of doctrine.
So, Lord, I ask for that grace now, that mercy, that enablement, my God, to bring forth a statement of Your own heart—something that you have peculiarly impacted in me, and want now to be expressed to this people at the conclusion of this convention. May we enter into something, my God, that will bring honor and glory to Your name. Be with my mouth and give such amplification of this as shall please You. Give Your saints a freshness to hear, an acute ear to hear, and we just thank You and praise You for this now, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
I entitled this message, “An Expression of Loving Concern.” It begins with an acknowledgment of my appreciation for the relationship that I’ve had with this movement over these past years. God Himself birthed it; I never sought it, but by the ordinance of God, a place was made by which I was invited to share, and something has continued from that time in the various occasions when I have attended these conventions. My most recent experience was to be in Alaska, and to touch the life in the various communities there. I have always half-jokingly commented that your life is greater than your doctrine, and that in fact the quality of your life has saved you from the error or the deficiencies of your doctrine. That might be actually truer than I know, but how long can we lean upon that? There needs to be a bringing into symmetry and harmony both the quality of the life and the doctrines of the faith in order that the life might be preserved, be aided, and be made yet more full. I cannot think of a more inadequate vessel to express this than myself because I am not a man who promulgates doctrines. Ironically, I’m the kind of man that would be more in the tradition of what was expressed last night—eminently a man of the Spirit, eminently a man who trusts, who is willing to suffer the humiliation of failure, who just stands up and opens his mouth believing God. Therefore, for me to prepare statements with regard to doctrine is altogether unprecedented, and it may well be that there is such a dearth of men available to God to speak something of a corrective kind, that the Lord has to employ even one whose calling it is not.
As I said, God has birthed this relationship, and I think that it is an important one, all the more because of the differences that have all along through the years been expressed in it. The remarkable thing is our ability to continue despite the differences, and it may well be that God is wanting something in those differences that will bring us both to a better place. You have been gracious to allow me. You have not been defensive; you’ve not been exclusive; you’ve allowed statements to be spoken that come from another place. You have been willing to hear, and that has been a great virtue and a saving grace and a privilege for me. And I’m enjoying that privilege right now.
I want to take this occasion to state what I believe to be the historic, apostolic consensus on those points of doctrine for which this movement has been censured over the years. You have been looked upon with suspicion by those in the faith that represents a much more orthodox or conventional evangelical point of view. Maybe you are not even aware of that, but I am, and I’m just taking the liberty now to express that.
I never had the privilege of meeting your founder, Sam Fife. He was unquestionably a significant and great man. We can all see what was birthed through so extraordinary a personality, but we would be naive not to also acknowledge that Sam was the kind of man given to make exaggerated statements in order to express his point. He had a zeal of such a kind that he did not hesitate to make statements that sound fine at the time, but when you read them years later, it is enough to make the hair go straight up on your head. They are not only scandalous; they border on or actually constitute heresy. And yet, if you were there in the moment of the speaking, in the exuding of the spirit of that speaking, probably it made much more seeming sense. That is not, however, a reason to allow some of those statements to remain on the books, so to speak, without clarification or even repudiation, especially if they violate points of the truth of the apostolic faith made in the excitement or heat of the moment.
We know that there is a tendency toward hyperbole (an exaggerated statement) in order to make one’s point. But there’s a point in which exaggeration can become error. I believe it may well be that those points have been occasioned in the history of this movement, and that it’s not enough to swallow them down. They have a continuing effect and consequence for the health and for the life of the Body. If there was a courageous acknowledgment of some of the errors to which Sam himself was subject in his exaggeration, then healing might come to those who have been bruised by the misunderstandings that have flowed by statements of that kind.
For some, his statements may have given the impression of being sacrosanct. In other words, if Sam spoke it, it’s not to be questioned. That if anything comes forth from a vessel that is so richly “anointed,” we have to assume that everything that comes forth is to be unquestioned and to be equally as accepted. I think that would be a very dangerous and naive assumption, whether it’s for Sam or myself, or any speaker who enjoys the anointing of God. In fact, we might be identifying the very area of greatest danger by which the heresies of the end of the age will find their place in the Body of Christ. We will be so carried away by the impressiveness of anointing (both true and false) that we will not bring a critical examination of the words that are spoken, assuming that the anointing itself sanctifies or condones, affirms or approves all that is said. This, by the way, happens to be the very way by which I believe the heresy of a pre-tribulation rapture came into circulation in Christendom. Outstanding teachers like Darby and Scofield, and men of that kind, who were remarkably gifted and anointed teachers in certain areas of truth, began to venture into other areas that were not legitimate and began to formulate doctrines of which the early and historic church knew nothing. And because of the impressiveness both of their person and of their ability in the scripture and of their anointing, unassuming and naive saints took the bait and took everything that was spoken as being truth. Today, those doctrines have been established with such a kind of sanctity, that to question them is to question the very foundations of the faith. In fact, you are considered out of the faith to raise the question of whether a pre-tribulation rapture is indeed a biblical expectation.
We need to be careful, therefore, not to be wise above what is written or to speculate and to be fanciful. Men have a propensity to discover new turns and meanings to God’s words, especially when the old explanations seem conventional and ordinary. There is something about the very nature of conventions and conferences that almost “requires” an excitement; that “requires” either a new word or something hyped-up to give the people something to sustain them. It’s almost a challenge to resist the extraordinary dynamic that inheres in large meetings that almost promotes the exposition or the statement of some novel thing. Somebody said that those who profess to be apostles today try to establish their credentials by bringing some kind of doctrine or understanding that was not known to previous generations of saints, and I believe that that’s essentially true. My reaction to that statement was that my test of a true apostle is not one who brings a novel new exposition. It is rather one who recovers the old and the things that have been lost to the church and need again to be understood and to be insinuated into our consciousness and our life. It’s not novel things that we need, but the old ways and the things that have been historically and apostolically approved.
One of those doctrines is the doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ—the literal, physical return of the specific Lord, Jesus Christ, according to the scripture, as it was historically approved and understood apostolically by the church and the church fathers. By that I mean the glorified body of the resurrected and ascended Lord. I want to turn to some scripture:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus (Titus 2:11-13).
Now there was a reference made already this morning to the theme of hope, but the hope that was put before us was the hope of sinless perfection or the hope of immortality, which is not a historical, apostolic doctrine of the church. In fact, I would count that as the kind of novel innovation rather than an exposition that we need to be warned of in this very hour. You say, “What’s the difference—one hope or another—we’re so needing for a hope, that indeed, if the blood can be made to pound and a little excitement be incurred and a little incentive with it through talk of immortality, doesn’t that suffice?” No, it does not. There is a blessed hope. We are to look for “the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” That hope carries an inherent blessing. In other words, there is a dynamic that inheres in that hope and in that expectancy that is not to be found in any other. We need, therefore, to jealously guard this particular doctrine of the apostolic faith, for if we lose it, we lose a hope that brings with it a quotient of energy, dynamism, and expectancy. It was the distinctive character and life of the early church and has been sadly lost to our own contemporary Christianity.
One of the reasons we unconsciously excite speakers to promulgate novel views is because there is a lassitude and a grayness that hovers over our congregations. This condition would not exist if we were actually looking for something imminent—not the appearing of ourselves corporately in the Body—but the literal return of the Lord as Judge of the earth. And as I hope to show from the scriptures, and if we’ll be careful about the grammar and the plain evident meaning of the words, it is clear that we, as the church, do not constitute our own hope. It is rather the Lord Himself who constitutes that hope by which we are transformed by the very expectation of His coming. It is in the very moment of His coming, in the twinkling of an eye, that we shall be changed. No amount of pulpit thumping and hysterical notes and inflated hyperbolic preaching about immortality or perfection is going to obtain what only God Himself will confer in the moment of His own appearing.
“We shall be like Him when we shall see Him as He is.” This is the clear, traditional, historical understanding of the apostolic church. The word tradition in the biblical sense means that which was held by the church, the early church and its apostolic fathers throughout all of its generations. It was a tradition of understanding by men who were in unbroken continuum with those by whom the doctrine was originally given, namely, the apostle Paul himself. These are the traditions that need again to be restored to the faith. This looking for was meant to be a living and palpable expectation of such a kind as to actually hasten the day of His appearing.
…what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God…(2 Peter 3:11b-12a).
This is not some fixed chronological event that is going to take place; it waits on our looking for; it waits upon our expectancy. God is waiting for those who long for His coming. But if we have subsumed something else, and have another substitute for that hope, namely, our own coming in the Body in the fullness of the corporate man, then it is a strange contradiction. It must inevitably frustrate the very thing we desire. It makes us our own object and takes from Him the glory that should belong to Him alone. We cannot long for ourselves. It’s a contradiction in terms. There needs to be an object, one outside of ourselves and other than ourselves. It is the Lord Himself, as I believe the scriptures in all of these references clearly state if we take the literal, grammatical sense of the word.
And so, I want to ask, what is wrong with taking the literal and evident sense of the scripture, all the more as that is what was apostolically and historically understood by the early church-indeed the most glorious expression of the church in its whole history to this hour? If it was good enough for them, why is it not good enough for us? Why do we need to seek a hidden and deeper meaning that can only come by a spiritualizing of a text or a word when the clear and evident meaning stands for all to see in a first reading?
It almost borders on a kind of spiritual vanity. It’s a presumption that somehow we stand above the Word of God and impute to it a meaning that it does not have in its own statement. And that the secret of the things that we, by such a process, bring forth is really the deeper meaning of the faith. And that this is going to make us the end-time saints we ought to be. The fact of the matter is that we are not what we ought to be. I want to suggest, therefore, a return to the tested, approved, historical understanding of the faith, particularly in those statements that clearly require literal and evident meaning. The scriptures exhort us to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age. There is an implication of a moral quotient to this kind of apostolic expectation that nothing else can supply. Paul talks about being blameless in the day of the Lord’s appearing, and I think it’s becoming evident to us that anything less than blamelessness will not suffice. The only inducement, however, for blamelessness is to be in the condition that would be appropriate in the day of the Lord’s appearing. In other words, there is a dynamic in the blessed hope. The energy and the power of that expectancy brings to us a moral requirement that nothing else itself can give, and that will enable us to be found in that day blameless. But if we substitute other interpretations for these historical understandings of that hope, then we lose the moral power and incentive by which blamelessness itself can be obtained.
Not long after this statement, Paul says, “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you (Titus 3:15). These things need to be spoken; these doctrines need to be elaborated on. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with doctrine. There is a place in the whole balance of the faith for both doctrine and the primacy of the Spirit. Ministers of the Word need to be careful lest we leave our hearers with some kind of unbalanced understanding by which somehow they might think we are denigrating doctrine itself as being synonymous with the Law.
The doctrines of God are living, vital, powerful, and necessary. If you want a formula for deception and collapse, you can find it historically in the history of the church when certain groups celebrated the Holy Spirit to such a degree that they looked with extreme suspicion on anything that would be considered doctrine. They sought to rectify an indifference to the Spirit that seemed to be growing up in the church as it was moving toward a greater institutionalization. Bishops had begun to assert their authority as the church began to lose its original Pauline, prophetic and apostolic character. And so, in reaction against what seemed to be a movement away from the Spirit, they celebrated the Spirit to such an extent that indeed they went off the trolley altogether. They became so deranged that finally they and others like them have cluttered the dustbin of fallen movements in the history of the church. What might have been a salutary, life-giving and healthy input into Christendom became a kind of deranged excess because men probably were not careful in the right dividing of the word. They allowed certain understandings to exist by which, in time, doctrine itself became suspect.
We need to distinguish between the doctrines of men and the doctrines of God. Indeed, your movement’s doctrine of immortality and sinless perfection is, I believe, a doctrine of man. It implies that something can be obtained this side of the Lord’s coming by some painstaking attention to the issues of sin in our own life, short of that which comes from the resurrection of the dead and the receiving of glorified bodies in the moment of His appearing. This is some other doctrine of which the early church knew nothing, and you might already be dangerously close to encouraging something, even when you are talking against doctrine, yet at the same time expressing doctrines that are questionable.
If this movement has any virtue or distinctive, it is that you are so earnest about God, and the awareness of the shortness of the time we live in. I can, therefore, publicly take issue with you as Paul did with Peter to his face for the truth of the Gospel’s sake. It is noteworthy that in the very hour when that kind of reality existed in the church, the Spirit of God was so prominent and powerful that even the very shadow of Peter—the man whom Paul censured publicly—brought healing. The Spirit of God as the Spirit of power eminently infers the Spirit of truth before there is any other thing. And the time is so short that we cannot be so guarded, and indeed, I want to be searched as exactingly as I’m willing to search others, lest there be a leaven.
Are we eagerly awaiting the coming of the Lord? There’s something so peculiar to that expectation (presently lost to the church) for which there’s no other substitute given by God, and condemns, therefore, every other hope as false hope. Do we have it?
So that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints (1 Thess 3:13).
It does not say in all His saints, but with all His saints. I think we need to give very careful attention to the particulars of the Word, or we lose its meaning and with it, its hope. There is a blamelessness and holiness that comes with establishing our hearts at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. Though we should be striving to be sinless, we are not to think that we can attain it short of His appearing. This is already a novel innovation that is not part of the historically tested understanding of the church, in my opinion.
Reading further in the next chapter we have the very familiar verses about hope—that we should not be as those who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:14-18).
Can God be more explicit? If Himself no longer means Himself, then I can have no confidence that what God means He says. There can be no trust or assurance if the Word of God does not mean what the Word explicitly says here. The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. So we who are not dead and remain need to be seen as distinct from someone else whose coming actually brings the resurrection from the dead, which is not our appearing, but His.
When He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed-for our testimony to you was believed (2 Thess. 1:10).
This verse speaks of the Lord being admired by the saints. There is also a reference to the blessed hope, to the explicit event of the coming of the Lord, who will be glorified in His saints and be admired among them-not admire themselves. The Lord has given a safety device for our own sanity to save us from the final and ultimate spiritual deceit by which we almost elevate ourselves into deity. We have not yet understood that however glorious the genius of the Body of Christ is, there is yet a God who is a Deity apart from and distinct from us. He alone is to be glorified and admired and not replaced by a heresy that the Body of Christ fulfills that return in itself. If we confuse the two, we actually stalemate and frustrate the very maturation of the Body and the completion of its perfection that can only come because He is distinct and other from it.
And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence, and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming (1 John 2:28).
We don’t have to be a grammatical expert to recognize that there are distinct pronouns here that refer to different things. There is a He and a we. When He appears, we may have confidence—not “when we appear as Him.”
Beloved, now we are children of God and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is (1 John 3:2).
There is a now and a not yet and a shall be. It is not yet revealed what we shall be, but now we are the children of God. I believe that part of your error might be the impatience and the inability to wait for the perfecting that comes only by the power of God and the mode that He Himself has prescribed. This itch to obtain now, on this side of the resurrection of the dead, an immortality and a perfection that waits only at His coming, may be a statement of an inability to wait. This will make us susceptible to error.
There is something that occurs by the dynamic and power of God in that very moment, which transforms us and completes us into His image. This is the very hope to which we should cling and for which we should be looking and hastening with fervent longing and expectancy. It cannot be the mere issue of doctrine because it uses the language of longing. In other words, it is the language of devoted lovers! And everyone who has this hope in them purifies himself even as He is pure. This is the classic, traditional, apostolically approved and understood, clear, implicit, literal statement about the return of a literal Lord Jesus Christ. He will be recognized, not only by us, but also by my own Jewish kinsmen, for when they shall see Him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for Him as one mourns for one’s first-born son. If we are so bent on establishing the truth of our position that we take this kind of liberty in dealing with the word, it will be our undoing, especially when it comes to those who have a responsibility as ministers of the word. God says that they shall be held the more accountable.
There are ministers in your movement who cannot bring themselves to confess that they actually believe there is going to be a literal return of the crucified, resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus Christ. They cannot say with assurance, and yet I want to say that that kind of ambiguity is not tolerable, and I think that God would indeed have us to say and have us to confess. It’s very interesting that the very formula for the spirit of antichrist is the inability or the unwillingness to confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. I am wondering if I’m not taking a liberty now by suggesting that the inability and unwillingness to confess that He will be coming again in His glorified flesh is something of the heart of the same error and spirit. The spirit of antichrist is not only a spirit that is against Christ, it is a spirit that is like unto Christ. It wants to be as Him and like Him.
And if we have come to an exalted place about our own coming forth in the Body of Christ, then it is a dangerous flirt with a kind of unconscious self-deification. Something takes place in our own spirit that finds it very difficult to confess what the historical and apostolic church had no difficulty confessing at all and counted it as the blessed hope.
And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world (1 John 4:3).
Furthermore, anyone who thinks that he’s not susceptible to error or deception is himself the greatest candidate for the same. I don’t know of any people more likely to be subject to that than people who think they are the end-time people of God, and that they have a handle on truth and understanding that the Babylonian church does not see. It is a kind of exclusivity mentality. There are dangers that are peculiar to anyone who feels they are part of God’s end-time move, and we need to recognize them, or we will be victims of them.
There is a subtlety of exaltation that is not carnal, but spiritual. It can take its form through special meetings and innovative understandings that the early church never knew. So I’m very concerned when I find eminent ministers in your movement unable to bring themselves to the place where they could actually say and actually confess that, “Yes, the hope of the church is the literal return of the same One who was crucified and ascended to heaven and is coming again.” The failure to be able to confess that is the statement of a kind of egotism and arrogance that refuses to agree with what the historical church has all along been able to say.
What right have we to ascribe another meaning to that which has been so clearly articulated by the Lord and the apostles and understood historically by the church fathers as the hope of the church? Is that not itself the very essence of arrogance? Is that not itself a conceit, that we have to find a meaning which somehow they were not required to have? And if we have that kind of egotism, albeit not carnal, but spiritual, how then are we in His image? How is that the image of the Lamb of God, the meek One, when we ourselves have come to an exalted place in our own spirituality as to find hidden meanings for which the early church had no requirement? Or to encourage a hope for immortality that is biblically reserved for the Last Trump at the appearing of the Lord, when the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed? Why articulate another doctrine, another hope, and another way of obtaining what God has clearly already prescribed in the scripture when it is the way that He intends to provide it? Is that not an egotism and an arrogance? Is that not the kind of thing that can lend itself to deception?
There are bible commentators who link the restoration of Israel in the Last Days with the coming of the Lord—I believe that myself. Maybe it’s no coincidence that the very same people who oppose Israel’s yet future restoration out of a soon-coming devastation, a nation born in a day, are the same who have their own impatient agendas to bring in the “kingdom now,” “immortality now,” and “secret rapture now” theories. There is an impatience for a now, now, now, and that somehow this is going to be obtained by the quality and character of our life. So what about those of us who are slack? I have personally met in your movement, bruised and painfully harmed saints of God who have felt the onus and the weight of not being able to come to the perfection that is promulgated from your platforms. They have been made to feel guilty about it, and you will continue to experience that kind of damage and harm because it’s not the basis by which God says that perfection is to be obtained.
Therefore Paul says,
Preach the word, be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:2-3a)….
The sound doctrine spoken of here is not the doctrines of men, but of God.
…but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires (2 Timothy 4:3b).
And I would say that they turn their ears away from the apostolic and traditional truths and have begun to entertain fables of which the early church had no consideration at all. You know what our problem is? When we read verses like that, we think that it’s speaking about others. We never once have any disposition to think that it could mean us, and that we would have itching ears; that we would be looking for innovative and novel kinds of statements; that we ourselves would turn away from the truth of the historical, apostolic faith, and therefore, we need to suffer rebuke and exhortation. Even if I was exaggerating the need, I’d rather be willing for that unnecessary exhortation than we should have suffered for the absence of it. In this perilous hour of end-time deception, we do well to heed John’s ultimate test for truth:
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God (1 John 4:2-3a).
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:17-18).
These are the words with which we are to be comforted. These are the words of our hope; these are the words of our expectancy. These are the very words that are critical to the whole character of the church. It is this very enduring to the end that will enable us to stand blameless in the day of His appearing.
Let me pray.
Thank You, Jesus. Again, my God, let us not be guilty of repeating and reiterating what is already well-known and well-understood, rather than we should assume that we understand and that we hold the doctrines of the faith when in fact, there has been a slippage, a moving away, a turning away from the historical truth and a corresponding opening to other notions that are novel and innovative, that were not those things that were counted as blessed. Lord, I ask for a return in full of the blessed hope into the consciousness and life of this people and in Your church at large. My God, birth it, bring it to us, the longing for You and a jealousy that guards these precious doctrines of the faith and not to allow for any kind of false substitute or other hopes than that which has clearly been given in Your Word. Thank you for this reiteration today. Seal it, we ask. We thank You and praise You for the opportunity, for the clarity, for the freedom to sound our hearts before each other, knowing how fearful and perilous an hour this is. If we did not have that privilege, we would all of us be candidates for deception and falling. Help us my God in our great frailty and weakness. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
Transcribed and edited for clarity of reading.