PTL founder, and former president, Jim Bakker, while in prison after his fall from grace, was forced to reevaluate his beliefs. He had nothing to lose at this point in his life. Perhaps, the loss of his ministry and his family gave him a unique perspective. At any rate, while in prison, he had a lot of time to think, to study the Word, and to seek after God. During this time, he slowly came to certain disturbing conclusions. First, that the prosperity theology he was known for, and which is still widely promoted in Charismatic circles, was a lie. And, this teaching was leading Christians away from the true gospel of Jesus Christ, setting them up for the last days apostasy predicted in the Bible. He personally had been responsible for untold damage to the body of Christ. Secondly, he became convinced that the pre-trib rapture doctrine, that he had promoted throughout his entire ministry, was also false. He concluded that belief in a pre-trib rapture was born out of the same mentality as the "prosperity" teaching -- that God wanted His children to be wealthy, healthy, and comfortable, and that God was there to service our needs and desires. The "God" of "prosperity theology" certainly wouldn't allow His children to suffer intense persecution in the tribulation. Jim discovered that this "God" is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible expects us to serve Him, to take up our cross daily, and walk in the footsteps of Jesus, a "man of sorrows, and aquainted with grief." And, if necessary, even to our own "crucifixion." Jim began to understand what Paul meant.
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
Now, Jim spends much of his energy trying to undo the damage he has done, warning Christians of the coming Apocalypse, and the danger of this materialistic / escapist mentality. His new book, "Prosperity and the Coming Apocalypse," describes his journey, and his new- found beliefs, which motivate his now very humble lifestyle, and new ministry for Christ. I have included a few excerpts from Jim's book below. I highly recommend this book. Jim's insight comes from a perspective that few Christians have, and is born out of experiences that few Christians can fathom. Jim has truly "been to the woodshed," and has come out a better man, and now serves the Master with a clear understanding, and singleness of purpose.
Pg. 27 "The more I studied the Bible, the more I had to face the awful truth: I had been preaching false doctrine for years and hadn't even known it. Tragically, too late, I recognized that at PTL I had done just the opposite of Jesus' words by teaching people to fall in love with money. Jesus never equated His blessings with material things, but I had. I laid so much emphasis on materialism, I subtly encouraged people to put their hearts into things, rather than into Jesus. I should have taught them to fall in love with Jesus. He is the only One who will never leave us nor forsake us when the money and possessions are gone."
"When I realized the truth, I was deeply grieved and repented over my error. How could I have been so wrong? How could I have missed Christ's true message so completely? His statements about material possessions in general, and money in particular, were clear. How could I have had the audacity to twist Jesus' statements into the opposite of what He taught?"
"I am now convinced that I did the body of Christ a great disservice. God can take care of His people. He promises to supply all our needs, and He has all the riches of heaven at His disposal. He can and does bless us, but our main focus should never be on material blessings. Our focus must be on Jesus and our total love for Him."
"By preaching "another gospel," with its emphasis on ease of living, material wealth, and sensational miracles, prosperity preachers and teachers have unwittingly set the Christian community up for the arrival of the Antichrist."
Pg. 122 "For me, belief in the Rapture played right into prosperity theology. It made for a perfect package: people could get saved by saying a few words, they could live in luxury and excess throughout this lifetime, and then Jesus would return to take them out of the tough times that others were to experience during the end-time tribulation. It was pure escapism."
Pg. 125 "The more I studied the Scriptures, the more I became convinced that we are living in the last days, and that we will soon begin seeing the fulfillment of the predictions in the prophetic books of the Bible, including the cataclysmic conditions on earth, which will precipitate the rise of the Antichrist."
"I also saw a connection between the escapist Rapture and those who espouse a materialistic gospel. I became convinced that we are wasting so much time and energy teaching people how to get rich and how to become self-fulfilled, we have not adequately prepared them for what is to come. Instead of the Church presenting a false hope by preaching the pretribulational Rapture, we should be spending this time informing believers that they will have to go through the Tribulation, or at least some part of it. We should be teaching people to fall in love with Jesus. We should be spending our time, energy, and resources getting spiritually ready for a severe period of persecution and a time of unparalleled upheaval."
Pg. 127 "When I speak on this subject nowadays, I facetiously tell audiences, 'I tried my best to keep us out of the Tribulation. For years I preached that we would escape it. In my studies while in prison, I searched for hours on end, trying to find some way that believers would escape the difficult times about to come on the earth, but I couldn't do it. I am convinced now that we are going through. Hold on tightly to Jesus. It's going to be a wild ride!'"
Jim's book is not a deep theological treatise on eschatology. He speaks from the heart. I believe God will use him and this book to get the attention of pastors who are not easily swayed by theological arguments. Perhaps you should buy a copy for your pastor.
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