D. M. PANTON, B.A.
As the Age closes, few truths are more vitally important than all that God has said on the coming open battle of miracle between Heaven and Hell, and our preparation for this last conflict; and we do well to take a rapid, bird's-eye view of all the facts, as related in history and as perfected in prophecy. There is perhaps no subject on which evangelical believers are more unscriptural, though utterly unconsciously so; and the great Conventions, with the admirable aim of a deeper sanctity, use language on the 'baptism' and the 'filling' of the Spirit which gravely obscures the original miraculous nature of the Church, and the coming miracles of God. The result is mental twilight. The miraculous design in the Church has been ignored and dismissed; or else, discerning the error, a graver danger has been fallen into- demonic miracles have been welcomed in the belief that they are Divine.* We need not remind our readers of the fact of unutterable gravity that an official Commission of the Church of England has reported in favour of Spiritualism, though the Report has not been published.
[* The Montanists in the second century, the Camisards in the eighteenth century, the Irvingites in the nineteenth century, and the Pentecostals in this century - all have had among them true and devoted Christians, and all have had ‘gifts of tongues’; but none have miracles greater than, or different in kind from, the supernatural in the great demon movements of history - Witchcraft, Spiritualism, and Theosophy.]
The bedrock fact underlying all is the presence of a Person of the Godhead on the earth. Christ had foretold it. "When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, he shall bear witness of me" (John 15: 26); "if I go, I will send him unto you" (16: 7). The gathered Apostles witnessed the arrival. "Suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them" (Acts 2: 2). The Holy Spirit, having thus arrived at Pentecost, remains, carrying out the whole work of God on earth for two thousand years, until, with the first rapt, He returns to Heaven.
The Baptism of the Spirit
This arrival of the Holy Ghost involved what is called 'the baptism of the Spirit'. Our Lord foretold it. He charged the assembled Apostles to "wait for the promise of the Father; for John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" (Acts 1: 4). This 'baptism' is a 'filling': so we read at Pentecost, - "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2: 4). Totally distinct from the 'birth' of the Spirit, or regeneration, which is internal and invisible, this baptism or filling is an 'on-fall', or immersion, of the Holy Ghost, falling upon the man, and always producing miracles. "The Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word, because on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost; for they heard them speak with tongues" here was the proof - "and glorify God" (Acts 10: 44). There is no record of the baptism or filling of the Spirit which was not accompanied by miracles: where there are no 'signs' there is no proof that the Spirit has fallen: the baptism is a 'manifestation' of the Spirit (1 Cor. 15: 7) - that is, the Spirit's presence made visible and audible to the senses. This miraculous working of the Holy Spirit was but a fulfilment of our Lord's words: "These signs shall follow them that believe: in my name shall they cast out devils: they shall speak with new tongues: they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them: they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Mark 16: 17).
The Miracle-endowed Church
The consequence of the baptism in the Spirit was a supernatural Church, endowed with miraculous orders and gifts. "God hath set some in the church" - with no hint whatever that it would be for only two hundred out of two thousand years - "first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, divers kinds of tongues" (1 Cor. 12: 28). Miraculous gifts were distributed throughout the assemblies. "To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy and to another discernings of spirits; and to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues"(1 Cor. 12: 8). Thus we face the inexplicable fact that for at least eighteen centuries the Church has been devoid of all miracles; and this can hardly have been the Divine plan, for it is elsewhere explicitly stated, - "The gifts and the calling of God are without repentance" (Rom. 11: 29); that is, His gifts may cease to operate, but it is not that He withdraws them.
But just here is slipped, in a warning that is critical and vital. Miracle is not confined to God: "our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6: 12). Spiritualism itself at first put forward a claim to be Pentecost * Even Antichrist will work "all signs and wonders" (2 Thess. 2: 9). Therefore, most strikingly, one of the nine miraculous gifts is the 'discerning of spirits': that is, the power to detect, supernaturally, whether a spirit communicating is good or evil. With all the other miraculous gifts, this discerning power has disappeared; but by the mercy of God two infallible tests are put into our uninspired hands - tests which appear to be unknown to the modern Church. (1) There is a test for the spirit. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they be of God. Every spirit that confesseth" - in answer to the challenge - "that JESUS CHRIST IS COME IN THE FLESH is of God" (1 John 4: 1). The reply to the challenge must be given by the spirit, not by the person on whom he has fallen. (2) A second test is for the inspired. "Now concerning the inspired, ** brethren, I would not have you ignorant. No man speaking in the Spirit of God" - that is, no inspired man - "saith, Jesus is anathema; and no man [inspired] can say JESUS is LORD, but in the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12: 1). All untested spirits must be utterly avoided. The great apostasy from the Church itself, by millions of Christians, is to be based on direct intercourse with 'seducing' spirits (1 Tim. 4: 1).
[*See R.D. Owen’s Debatable Land Between This World and the Next.
** The word that follows - "no man speaking" - proves that pneumatikon refers to inspired men, not inspired gifts : the speaker must say, "Jesus is Lord," while provably under inspiration.]
The Coming Outpour
The dispensation of the Church disappears, and the Holy Spirit, having returned to Heaven with the watchful (2 Thess. 2: 6), is in a position to be 'out-poured' once more, when "the seven Spirits of God [shall be] sent forth into all the earth". (Rev. 6: 5) * Pentecost is to be repeated, for the prophecy of the last outpour is quoted as having an earlier fulfilment in Pentecost. "This is that which hath been spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall be in the last days, saith God, I will pour forth my Spirit upon all flesh" - all without distinction, not all without exception; - and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy: before the day of the Lord come" (Acts 2: 16). "The sending forth of the seven Spirits of God into all the earth is a full restoration of the entire ministry of the Holy Ghost. These seven Spirits of God are to be sent forth into all the earth: from this we see the coming of the great latter rain outflowing of the Holy Spirit which will restore the prophetic vision and bring about such a transformation in the ways and means of preaching that thousands of people, filled with the Spirit, will 'prophesy'; that is, they will preach by direct inspiration; not only forthtelling by the power of the Holy Spirit, but also fore-telling events to come. Can we not see how this will be in the order of God as the last warning and instruction just before His awful judgments are to fall on the world? Therefore we can surely look right ahead for the greatest outflowing of the Holy Ghost the world has ever known” (W. C. Moore). In the words of Lange:- "When the waves of the last agony of a submerging world break, yet once more, and louder than ever, goes forth the call of a vast and infinite compassion."
[* The Holy Spirit could not now be sent into all the earth, for He is there at this moment: this proves that His coming temporary departure from earth (2 Thess. 3: 7) is a fact.]
All closes with a wonderful revelation: namely, that the coming Kingdom of the Lord on earth will be one of miraculous gifts lasting throughout the thousand years. A single phrase proves it:- "THE POWERS OF THE AGE TO COME" (Heb. 6: 5): so characteristic are miracles of the coming Kingdom, so fully then in evidence, that they are the powers of the Age to Come. Their operation is not described but the works of the Two Witnesses, who have "power to shut the heaven; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to smite the earth with every plague" (Rev. 11: 6), reveal them.
One fact of enormous importance springs out of the original nature of the Church as God planned and made it. The Bible was born in an inspired Church. In assemblies where "men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet. 1: 21), the exact, God-given books of the Old Testament were finally determined, and all manmade apocrypha excluded; and the fresh inspirations that compose the New Testament were added, and closed: that is, we were given, for these two thousand years, the mind of God, revealed directly and infallibly and for ever.*
[* "God has not thought fit by a perpetual miracle to preserve the text from transcriptional errors. Having by extraordinary revelation once bestowed the gift, He leaves its preservation to ordinary laws, yet be His secret providence furnishes the Church, its keeper and witness, with means to ensure its accuracy and turns them into means of ascertaining approximately the original text. More materials exist for restoring the genuine text of the New testament than for that of any ancient work ... The variety of readings, so far from making precarious, makes almost certain the text." Canon A. R. Fausset.]