Normalization of the Apostolic
Just thirty-forty years ago, the term “prophetic” was only used to describe those things foretold in the books of Revelation and Daniel or the events leading up to Armageddon. There were a few prophetic conferences but nearly all of them were about end-time events and emphasized the rapture or mark of the Beast.
At that time the concept that “you may all prophesy” was gaining acceptance but only in a few small group settings. Public prophecy was relegated to a few bold enough to blurt out something (usually loudly) in the quiet between songs during worship and mainly of the “my children, my children” variety. Every charismatic church had one. Prophets were seen as odd, mystical types and the prophetic ministry limited to only a few. Based on an Old Testament model, prophets were seen as mystical and eccentric.
In charismatic churches then, the idea that somebody would be called a prophet or use the term prophetic to describe his or her ministry was considered a little far-fetched. Prophetic people were primarily those attending Revelation conferences and while most of Bible prophecy teachers were considered prophetic, most rarely prophesied. The prophetic ministry was considered legitimate but with few authentic models, was not widespread. But today, that has all changed as prophetic books, ministries and conferences proliferate in the church with the greatest increase of involvement coming from denominational Christians and leaders, hungry for more of God than they’ve experienced.
As Martin Luther’s revelation about justification transformed the status quo of his time and began the Reformation, successive generations have also seen a progressive restoration of God’s pattern for His church. Revelation and enlightenment concerning key truths about salvation and sanctification have been and are being restored and now foundational gifts and ministries are being recognized to accelerate this restoration.
“And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” 1Corinthians 12:28
This passage reveals God’s priority placement concerning 8 different gifts in the church .If we go back just 100 years we see an accelerated restoration of each of these gifts in reverse order with the last on that list being restored first.
“Thus the last shall be first, and the first last.” Matthew20:16
On New Years Day 1901 Charles Parham and over half the class at his Topeka Bible College began to speak in tongues over a three day period. Then, in 1904 William Seymour and others at the Azusa Street Church in Los Angeles ushered in the modern Pentecostal movement with the Azusa Street revival which was characterized with believers “speaking in tongues”. Today the Pentecostal segment of Christianity is growing at the fastest rate of any other in Christianity.
Administrations & Helps
While there is less interest in chronicling the restoration of these gifts, there is no question they two gifts are allowing churches and ministries to grow exponentially due to their activation.
In the 1940 and 50’s the healing movement paralleled the prolific spread of Pentecostalism. Healing preachers like A.A. Allen, F.F. Bosworth, Jack Coe, Gordon Lindsey and Oral Roberts are credited with bringing legitimacy to healing while William Branham is the one most credited with initiating the huge post-war healing movement.
Signs, Wonders & Miracles
With the advent of the Charismatic movement in the 60’s came a rise in reports of miracles. Missionaries like T.L. Osborn and Rheinhard Bonnke experienced extraordinary signs, wonders and miracles in their African crusades. African churches had amazing reports of people raised from the dead and restorative miracles. Deliverances of demons occurred regularly in charismatic & Pentecostal churches. With the renewal sparked by the Toronto and Brownsville Revivals in the 90’s, it became more common to hear of extraordinary miracles, such as diseased organs restored and deformed limbs growing back perfectly. Bizarre signs such as gold fillings, gold dust and even feathers appeared in meetings all over the US and Canada beginning right before the year 2000 rollover.
The 70’s saw a proliferation of teaching on faith, spiritual gifts, deliverance and prayer. To realize restoration in any given area, the Church must, in addition to teaching about the truth, must also be taught insights into God’s purpose and timing for each truth. Teachers began to flourish and brought understanding to place what was occurring in a biblical and historical context.
The restoration of prophetic ministry in the church has taken giant strides forward since the early 1980’s. Mike Bickle, Bill Hamon, John Paul Jackson,Rick Joyner, Graham Cooke and other leaders advanced the notion that all believers can hear the voice of God and exercise prophetic gifts. By training prophetic people, these ministries demystified the spooky and seemingly unattainable aspects of the prophetic. By their teaching and example, these and others took abstract concepts and made them understandable, practical and accessible.
From the very beginning, Pentecostal leaders such as Charles Parham, William Seymour and John G. Lake described themselves as “apostolic” because thousands of their followers were being sent with the Pentecostal message to the 4 corners of the globe. Since the Pentecostal movement had a clear identification with end-time revival and the “restoration of all things” described in Acts 3:19-21, it was not a big stretch for them to embrace the restoration of the prophetic and the apostolic. Peter Wagner announced recently that, according the Center of World Missions; more people have come to Christ worldwide since 1980 than have been saved since the beginning of the church! As we have seen worldwide advances the last few years in prayer, evangelism, Tabernacle worship and the prophetic, the restoration of the apostolic ministry is next on God’s list. It will be the last to be fully restored, but is the first in the order of God’s appointing in the church. The last day apostolic ministry is placed lastly like the final capstone of God’s building, the church. Ephesians 2:21
The Role of Apostle
The term apostle was first coined by Jesus. “And it was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him; and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles…” Luke 6:13
It was well known as a military or nautical term, not a spiritual one. The Greek word in its verb form, means “to send” and could be applied generally to anyone or anything that was sent. However in its noun form, an apostle was a specific title that referred to a specific function. Bill Scheidler in his excellent book, “Apostles” describes this: “The word “apostle” was originally a seafaring term that was most specifically applied to military expeditions. It at times referred to a fleet of ships and the officer that commanded the fleet. As time went on, it came to be applied to a man or group of men who were sent out on an official expedition that was authorized by the government for a particular purpose. It carried with it the idea of authorization and commissioning by the higher power to act on behalf of that power. Its meaning grew even more specific over time as the Greeks, and later the Romans, sought to spread their cultural influence into all of the regions that had been conquered by their armies. In order to bring Greek or Roman rule to alien cultures, apostles would be authorized by the state and sent on expedition with a fleet of ships filled with colonists. These colonists would then set up a model city or colony with a model culture in the newly conquered lands. These colonies became regional centers from which Greek or Roman culture could be spread to the smaller cities and regions round about. In this way those nations that had been conquered militarily could be conquered ideologically and culturally as well.”
An apostle later came to be an official ambassador or emissary for a higher authority. As such, he was to be the embodiment and true representation of the sender. The “sent one” was to be absolutely faithful to the purposes and intentions of the sender. This was a significant designation because the aspect of being sent to represent and further the advancement of the King and His Kingdom is seen In Luke 9:1-6 “And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons, and to heal diseases. And He sent them out (Greek word-apostello) to proclaim the kingdom of God, and to perform healing. And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. “And whatever houses you enter, stay there, and take your leave from there.” And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.
The Term “Apostle”
What other term could be better used that is so profoundly practical but also serves to describe the military and ambassadorial aspects of this gift? Our old view of what an apostle is must be adjusted to accommodate a more practical, biblical view rather than old, inaccurate concepts. The apostolic must be demystified and accepted as a normal part of church life.