by Travers and Jewel van der Merwe

Chapter 1: Strange Fire

"And Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord, when they offered strange fire before the Lord, in the wilderness of Sinai, . . ."

(Numbers 3:4).

Even though Nadab and Abihu were the sons of Aaron the high priest, they failed when they presented their offering to God. They knew they were in the wrong. However, like Cain, they thought their way was better! They had obviously taken up with a "new thing" with which they thought God would be pleased.

God created man and woman to live on this planet called Earth. In his Infinite Wisdom, He set forth the laws of nature, looked upon His creation and was satisfied. He said, "it is good". The universe continues day by day, ordered by God's commands that issued forth in the first book of the Bible.


God's Plan and Purposes

From the beginning God set forth His PLAN and PURPOSES in clear unmistakable language. Beginning with His directives to Adam and Eve, and throughout Scripture, He did not do anything that was not explicitly laid out to His creation, who were the inhabitants of this planet. What an all-Wise and all-Knowing God! He made known His Ways to the children of men!

Every prophecy given in the Old Testament concerning the coming of the Messiah was fulfilled literally and in minute detail at the coming to earth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. God's PLAN and PURPOSES were on course!

Down through the annals of human history, man in his disobedience, has continually tried to take matters into his own hands. Eve desired to eat of the fruit that God had commanded Adam to avoid. Cain determined that his sacrifice was sufficient as it was the fruit of his labours. Even to this present day, man continues to try in his own strength to replace God. God is abandoned from his thoughts and replaced instead by his accomplishments. Man becomes tired and impatient. He does not like to wait for God and instead tries to help God along in His work. Man's efforts at the best are not sufficient! However hard he tries, his wisdom comes to naught.

Despite the attempts of mankind to improve on His wisdom and programme, the PLAN and PURPOSES of God move steadily forward with infinite precision. The courses of empires are ordained by God. All things are created by HIM and for HIM. Even the heathen king Nebuchadnezzar had to come to acknowledge this fact. After his humiliation he declared

I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? (Daniel 4:34,35)

Every Scripture concerning Christ's return to this planet, this planet Earth that God loves, will be literally fulfilled. God gave His Son, His only Begotten Son to die for this sinful Earth in order to fulfill His PLAN and PURPOSES. Because man was corrupt in all his ways (having forfeited God's commands and reign) God in His infinite Mercy gave His only begotten Son to die for corrupt man in order to redeem him and thereby fulfill His PLAN and PURPOSES.

The supernatural realm has always been held in fascination. Imagine being able to partake of the supernatural! Experiences of the bdyond continue to titillate ahd imagination. Yet man was not created to live in that (the invisible) realm. He was created to glorify God on this Earth. Man's obedience in the natural world and faith in God's Word serves as a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to man (1 Cor. 4:9). The supernatural realm regards God's creation in wonder. The angels are amazed at God's glorious plan of salvation as they see mortal man (through Jesus Christ) faithfully follow the Word that God has spoken. As believers we are being closely watched by angels and men - as the revelation of redemption unfolds as the prophets foretold:

Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:12).

To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: (Eph. 3:10-11)

To live according to God's PLAN and PURPOSES here on this Earch takes faith! It is the faith of Hebrews 11 that trusts unquestionably in the God whose mercy endures forever. In the face of trials, whether by tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword - we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us! The child of God rests in the knowledge that God is faithful!


Heresy Hunters or Bereans?

As menacing teachings permeate the fibre of the Church, there is a vigorous attempt being made to silence anyone who opposes the status quo! Labels are handed out freely if you question what is happening. The most popular label is "heresy hunter". Anyone who does not "go with the flow" for unity is considered "divisive". Whatever happened to the ability to contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints? Many pastors who are "going with the flow" refuse to even read an article that will question some of the popular practices posing as "new revelation" and "deeper truths".

When asked if they have read a book or an article documenting some of the heretical thoughts being propagated, pastors will invariably have several excuses among which are: (a) "the author only wants to sell books", (b) "I'm too busy", or (c) "I'm not really interested". In the meantime the hole in the dyke has given way to an avalanche of false teaching and heretical thought.

It is frightening to realise that beliefs can be created merely by passively accepting information without attempting to analyse if what is preached or taught is truth! Unfortunately today much depends on the personality delivering the message. If it is a charismatic figure with a certain appeal, he/she can say anything they want and get away with it! The only criteria for truth seems to be if a book has been published and sold many copies, the author must be right.

This is why the knowledge of the Word of God is so important. It is not enough to parrot off someone else's teaching and sound like a great name in miniature. Any man can lead you astray - no matter how nice or how spiritual he sounds. You have to stand before God yourself! The Word of God says explicitly, Study to show thyself approved, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. (1 Tim.2:15). Listening to hours and hours of tapes or watching "Christian TV" is not a substitute for honest and earnest study of the Word of God. Be like the Bereans who checked out everything they heard to see if those things were so. (Acts 17:10-11). They were commended for doing so - not told they were divisive, critics, fault-finders and "heresy hunters".

An astonishing event was an outburst by Paul Crouch on the world's largest Christian TV network as he denounced anyone who would speak out for sound doctrine and against the "gnostic" trends in the church today.

. . . that old rotten Sanhedrin crow, twice dead, plucked up by the roots . . . they're damned and on their way to hell and I don't think there's any redemption for them . . . the hypocrites, the heresy hunters that want to find a little mote of illegal doctrine in some Christians' eyes . . . when they've got a whole forest in their own lives . . .

I say, 'To hell with you! Get out of my life! Get out of the way! Quit blockin' God's bridges!' [CIB Bulletin, vol.7, no.7, July 1991]

There is a concentrated attack on those who have been labelled "heresy hunters". Unfortunately there are those who hold to the contention that "most Christian truths were formulated and defined in response to heretical half-truths. Thus, heresy comes before orthodoxy - and may in fact be a precondition for orthodoxy." ['Confusing the Roots with the Fruits', William L. DeArteaga, Ministries Today, July/August 1991, p.56]

The DeArteaga article also said that

The critics have tragically misunderstood how the Holy Spirit accomplishes His work in instructing, reminding and moving the body of Christ into truth. From a biblical and historical perspective, the process is plain: The Holy Spirit sovereignly uses both heathen and heretics to move the church from a status quo of theological laziness and conventionally accepted error to a position of corrected, renewed and invigorated truth.

So the author actually says that:

The idealist cults understood the critically important role that the mind, acting in faith, had in prayer and the miraculous - especially in healing. Christian Scientists, regardless of their heretical view of sin and evil and their muddled view of God, did have successes in their healing ministry . . . it was semipagan, but persistent enough to channel God's healing power.

He continues by saying that New Thought leaders "moved steadily closer to biblical reality". Among these he included Emmet Fox and Glenn Clark, yet he admitted they never separated from their Gnostic origins. In mentioning Agnes Sandford he said that:

Her healing theology might best be considered a second-level 'Bible filtration' by which the half-truths of Christian Science were discerned, separated and amplified in a biblically valid form for the Christian community.

So DeArteaga's conclusion is that:

The church has experienced heightened power for ministry and evangelisation - all because God chose to repeat the ironic heresy-before-orthodoxy process that has occurred many times before in the life of the church. ['Confusing the Roots with the Fruits', William L. DeArteaga, Ministries Today, July/August 1991]

This is pure "Gnosticism" and it was in response to the impact of Gnosticism in the early church that the church decided on the "Canonicity of Scripture" and the "Apostles Creed". Most of the heretical trends in the church can be traced to the ancient religion of Gnosticism. Benjamin Walker writes: "There are few unorthodox, schismatic or heretical movements in Christian history that cannot be traced back to gnostic sources." [Benjamin Walker, Gnosticism: Its History and Influence, The Borgo Press, 1983, p.163]

This was precisely the philosophical and mystical religious concept of the Gnostics, propagated in John the Revelators day. It was called "the doctrines of the depths of God", while in fact it was the doctrine of the depths of Satan. (Revelation 2:24).


What is Gnosticism?

Gnosticism was an esoteric religious movement that flourished during the second and third century A.D. and presented a major challenge to orthodox Christianity. Most Gnostic sects professed Christianity but their beliefs sharply diverged from those of Christianity in the early Church. To its adherents, Gnosticism promised a secret knowledge of the divine realm. Sparks or seeds of the Divine Being fell from this transcendent realm into the material universe, which is wholly evil, and were imprisoned in human bodies. Re-awakened by knowledge, the divine element in humanity can return to its proper home in the transcendental spiritual realm. [Gnosticism, Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, Vol.12, p.10]

The definition of Gnosticism is "a system of religion mixed with Greek and Oriental philosophy (1st-6th century A.D.), intermediate between Christianity and paganism, which taught that knowledge, rather than faith, was the greatest good, and that through knowledge alone could salvation be attained." [Webster's Encyclopedia of Dictionaries; Baltimore, Maryland, Ottenheimer, 1978]. Basically what is being said here implies that man's redemption and justification is not by faith in God according to the Scriptures, but rather in "mystical knowledge" acquired by a personal experience. This is the theme that is intrinsically intertwined in all the doctrines of the cults and occults.

The issues at stake are serious. It is not merely a "cosmetic" problem. The "roots" are not only being threatened, they are being "chopped off". As this dreadful surgery is being carried out, the life is slowly sapped and in its place is another gospel. This is a gospel that puts man on the throne. A gospel that does not need the cross, the blood or even acknowledge the deity of Jesus Christ.

The more you get to be like Me, the more they're going to think that way of you. They crucified Me for claiming that I was God. But I didn't claim I was God; I just claimed I walked with Him and that He was in Me. Hallelujah. That's what you're doing. [Voice of Victory, Feb.1987, Kenneth Copeland prophecy, Dallas, Texas]

This "divine utterance" is given in the first person. We must take this as Jesus Himself speaking to the Church. But, if Jesus didn't claim to be God, who was He?

The Scriptures are very clear:

Jesus is called God. Isaiah 9:6 says:
For unto us a child is born, and unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and hi name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

2. Jesus accepted worship. Jesus expressed to Satan in Matthew 4:10 that:
Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Jesus accepted worship in Matthew 14:33:
Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, of a truth thou art the Son of God.

Are we to sit by and let these strange teachings develop without a word? Must we just ignore what is happening and smile passively in agreement without a protest?

A popular evangelist will stand before a congregation and ask, "how many here have read my books?" As hands go up, the evangelist will nod his approval and continue. He will give a Scripture text, but does not refer to it again. Instead he will quip out phrases that are met with cheering and clapping from an adoring audience. Before long it sounds like a pep rally with enthusiasts ready to jump on whatever bandwagon is presented with no thought to what has even been said.

The more vociferous the participants become in proclaiming useless verbalisation of nonsensical half-truths, the more the cry goes out, "Do not name names". In other words, you can freely quote the heretical statements, but just don't let anyone know who is preaching the error!

We have to use caution and not lump many names together and paint them all with a single brush. The Latter Rain Movement will be alluded to in the course of this book. Within the movement were many children of God who remained true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, there were those that started out well, but along the way were influenced by "strange" fires that has brought the church to accepting so many different teachings today.