The Last Reformation
By Jim Allen
A person wrote to Got Questions asking about a movement known as "The Last Reformation." He wanted to know if it was the real-deal or just another "signs and wonders" movement like so many others. Of course, I had no idea. From what's available online in videos and articles, it looks like a relatively new movement in Christianity that's gaining popularity world-wide.
After watching the videos and reading the articles, I knew the context and narrative describing this movement would be hard to defend or acclaim. The reviews on the Internet are mixed. Most praise The Last Reformation movement as a move of God while some are not so sure and others say it's pure heresy. Laced between the videos and articles are testimonies telling of healings, speaking in tongues, casting out demons, and water baptism. The movement appears genuine. But could it be a deception, an artificial light?
One way to think about deception is to observe real life. Consider the sea turtle hatchlings. When they emerge from their sandy nest they use the light of the moon or sun to find their way to the life-giving sea. In our modern era, and especially at night, hatchlings are easily confused by artificial lights the moment they emerge. Instead of following the light of the moon, turtles scamper toward a house light or street light. Confused and unaware of the danger, they go to the artificial light, away from the safety of the sea. In the ensuing hours of the next day, the hatchlings become easy meals for crabs, sea gulls, and all manner of predator.
Torben Søndergaard began The Last Reformation from his home country of Denmark in 2011. From what I understand, Torben believes the reformation led by Martin Luther in the 16th century had today resulted into organized religion smothering the congregants with tradition without the power to heal and save anyone. Torben wanted to see his faith in action and believed he was called to lead the church back to the full gospel message taught by Peter in Acts 2:38 which, as they interpret it, requires baptism to be saved. SØndergaard's zeal and commitment are admirable traits, but to seek after signs and wonders is troublesome in view of what Jesus had to say in Matthew 12:39: "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah."
After watching The Last Reformation — The Beginning, I was moved by the testimonies and alleged healings in the video. The lady who mourned her decision to abort her child was genuine. Her salvation testimony and those of others were equally convincing. The narrators, Torben Søndergaard and others, claim the church in Acts was bold because it was led by the Holy Spirit, resulting in healings, water baptisms, and salvations confirmed by speaking in tongues.
So the question becomes, is God doing a new work or is this movement an artificial light?
Is the Holy Spirit really working this way today as claimed by Torben SØndergaard? It's a challenging question to answer because the movement has an eerie sense of reality buoyed with soundbites of truth including undeniable signs and wonders and miracles. Even more so, it has the hallmarks of being biblical at a time when many religious institutions are being examined for legitimacy. But the movement shares the same disturbing features as the Charismatic Movement which gives me cause for a long pause.
What single measure might we use to discern the validity of this movement without over-complicating the answer with pages of exhaustive research? We need only ask one question: Has Søndergaard added any requirement to the plan of salvation outlined by the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 2:8)?
While SØndergaard's leading for what he is doing may sound biblical, it begins to unravel when we journey into the Pauline Epistles. The Apostle Paul wrote that the gospel was given to him by revelation from Jesus Christ and that his gospel would focus on the inward change without the outward displays of water baptism and tongues promoted by Torben.
Paul plainly teaches we are saved when we believe according to his gospel (Romans 16:25). And he rarely mentions or associates water baptism with baptism in the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues as the "moment of salvation." Paul did not teach nor practice it (1 Corinthians 1:17-18)
Søndergaard is adding water baptism to faith as a precondition for salvation followed by speaking in tongues as the moment of salvation. This is baptismal regeneration. Evangelical water baptism (by immersion) follows salvation as an outward sign of what Christ has already done within the true convert.
Are the Salvations Real?
Maybe the best way to look for an answer to the questions surrounding this movement is to talk about the general stages a person would typically follow before salvation. For each stage, I'll briefly list what happens and compare it to what I saw in the video. When I finish making the comparisons, you be the judge. But remember, these are general stages. God doesn't always follow a fixed plan. Consider the thief on the cross in Matthew 27, then consider Saul knocked from his horse in Acts 9. God is able to save anyone at any time for any reason.
First — The Call
Let's begin with the disciples. Jesus approached the twelve and called them by name to follow him. They heard his voice. They followed. To this Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice and I know them...and they follow me" (John 10:27). The disciples demonstrated faith and followed. Jesus did not perform miracles to get their attention; although he did later perform miracles to prove he was the Messiah (John 3:2). Jesus called the twelve and they followed.
Søndergaard (and his disciples) most often approach a person or group by performing a healing of some type. Amazement to the healing is the reaction of the person or group. So right here we have a division between faith and experience. The disciples responded in faith to Jesus' call, and those approached by Torben responded to the experience (Matthew 16:4).
In many instances (in the video) I did not see the message of the Gospel preached. It may have been, but without the word of God going into the heart there can be no true call to salvation and no saving faith to follow. Paul says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).
Is that a big deal? It could be.
Second — Discipleship — Getting Grounded in the Truth
The disciples followed Jesus for three years. They walked the dusty trails, ate what was available, and slept under the night stars. They were with him day and night. They got to know him; they loved him. They question him. They didn't always understand when he answered. They were often mystified. Even so, they were not sanctified (made clean) until Jesus breathed on them in John 20:22 and said: Receive the Holy Spirit.
People baptized during the video attended a short class of instruction ranging from a few hours to a few days or more. Most did not share a personal testimony. Is it possible to know and place ones' faith in the Lord Jesus Christ after such a short time of instruction? It's possible. But according to Dan Lirette*, many of the people being baptized were already professing believers. Why would they need to be baptized again?
Regardless, discipleship takes time. One needs to be grounded in the truth (Colossians 2:7). In fact, Jesus uses time to examine the heart to know when the soil of the heart is prepared for the seed of life (Matthew 13). Jesus said to those who followed in him, "...If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed" (John 8:31). To continue means to walk in the light as He is in the light until our life becomes true to the Light (1 John 1:6).
Third — Regeneration — A Born Again Experience?
In the video, people (young and old) were jumping into the water to be baptized in water and filled with the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues. There was no way to know what they believed or for how long they believed it or if they still believe it. Søndergaard is using water baptism as the decisive moment when a person is born again with the evidence of speaking in tongues (Romans 6:1-4).
One verse cited to support this view is John 3:5-6 wherein Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). People reason this verse is a reference to water baptism. But one verse later Jesus explains: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). When born of your mother, the water released from the placenta marks the beginning of new life. The use of the word "water" in John 3:5 is not a reference to water baptism but natural birth.
Fourth — Speaking in tongues — Evidence of salvation?
As the GotQuestions.org article says:
...if the gift of speaking in tongues were active in the church today, it would be performed in agreement with Scripture. It would be a real and intelligible language (1 Corinthians 14:10). It would be for the purpose of communicating God's Word with a person of another language (Acts 2:6-12). It would be in agreement with the command God gave through the apostle Paul, "If anyone speaks in a tongue, two — or at the most three — should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God" (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). It would also be in accordance with 1 Corinthians 14:33, "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints."Søndergaard spins a new movement out of a doctrine that says a person can only be saved during water baptism when the Holy Spirit baptizes them into Christ with evidence of speaking in tongues (Acts 2:38). In contrast, the Apostle Paul teaches we are saved through grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8). Water baptism follows salvation as an ordinance, an outward witness to what has already taken place in the heart.
God most definitely can give a person the gift of speaking in tongues to enable him or her to communicate with a person who speaks another language.
Did not Jesus say, "Many will come in my name and say I am the Christ...and deceive many" (Matthew 24:4-5)? Can a teaching with a little error become an artificial light beckoning those wandering in darkness to come to another light (2 Corinthians 11: 14-15)? The warning from Paul is clear. Some will go after signs and wonders believing it is the true light of the gospel (1 Timothy 4:1).
So then and in closing, which gospel should we follow? Salvation by baptism with tongues as proof or salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? I think you know.
Note 1: No Christian need judge Torben Søndergaard and The Last Reformation movement as true or false. The Word of God does that. My only reason for writing this article is to encourage you to pause and seriously ponder all you read and see and experience based on what the Bible says before involving yourself in a person, movement, or doctrine.
Note 2: John MacArthur writes:
There's no way to be saved except through the truth, except through the gospel, the Word of God. It is the Holy Spirit who does the work but the gospel is the means by which that work takes place. This seed planted in us is of a heavenly origin not an earthly one. And it is a permanent and eternal seed through the preaching of the Word of God...Note 3: Any church or movement allowing the signs and wonders of experiencing God to overshadow the truth and spirit of believing God is the question at hand (John 4:24). In the final analysis, God wants you and me to be like the noble Bereans and search the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so (Acts 17:11).
ůSo the simple principle is this. True believers have a pattern of righteousness in their life. The pop gospel is void of this truth. It only wants to acknowledge an emotional moment, an event, and affirm people's salvation on the basis of that event, that prayer, that moment rather than on life transformation. (Source)
* See Dan Lirette's post "WHY I WILL NOT BE ATTENDING THE TORBEN SØNDERGAARD MEETINGS IN MONCTON."
vdhulstshanna; untitled; Creative Commons
Torben Søndergaard; Taken from a screen shot from the video inteview. To his credit, perhaps, there aren't a lot of portraits or official photos of Søndergaard.
Title shot of the full-length The Last Reformation documentary; The Last Reformation doesn't even seem to have a logo.
Tags: Biblical-Salvation | Biblical-Truth | Controversial-Issues | Current-Issues | False-Teaching
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