An Examination of Kingdom-, Dominion-,
and Latter Rain Theology
An Examination of Kingdom Theology - Part 2/3
Manifested Sons of God
One of the most militant movements attempting to establish the Kingdom of God on earth is the Manifested Sons of God. This aberration came out of the Latter Rain Movement under the "apostleship" of John Robert Stevens, a William Branham disciple whose church in Redondo Beach, California, operated for a number of years as the headquarters for the movement. The Manifested Sons of God teachings are perhaps the most definitive among Kingdom Now doctrines. They have all the elements of classical dominion theory: immortalization, restoration of the offices of apostles and prophets, absolute authoritarianism, attainment of godhood - you name it, the Manifested Sons of God have it. The Manifested Sons of God Movement suffered massive dissipation as the result of many scandals that attended the extreme cult status to which it had attained. Nevertheless, its devotees, fervent in their beliefs, covertly continue to spread its doctrines to other churches. Because association with the Manifested Sons of God Movement has proven a source of extreme embarrassment, there are few today who would admit they are Manifested Sons of God devotees. Much as a communist would deny his affiliation with the party because he doesn't carry a card, Manifested Sons of God adherents deny they are what they are. The test is what they believe and teach, however, not whether they are "officially" members of a Manifested Sons of God church. Central to Manifested Sons of God doctrine is the idea that sonship comes through higher revelation. The Christian life is fragmented into stages of maturity: the first step is that of servant of God; the next step is to become a friend of God; following this is to become a son of God and, ultimately, gods ourselves. Yet the Scriptures demonstrate that we are already all three: servants (Galatians 3:10), friends (John 15:14-15), and sons (I John 3:1). Yet there is nothing in Scripture to support the idea that Paul or any apostle or prophet ever put aside his servanthood to attain sonship (many epistles begin with the salutation by the apostle identifying himself as a servant of God), or that they ever believed they would become gods themselves. Apart from John Robert Stevens's disciples, there are many whose teachings would qualify them as Manifested Sons of God, the essential ingredient being a peculiar interpretation of Romans 8:19-23:
For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.As a doctrine crucial to the Manifested Sons of God, perfection (success in living sinlessly) will result in incorruptibility. This will qualify those who "overcome" as worthy to rule in the Kingdom of God. Whether Jesus will return at the beginning, during, or after the Millennium is open to conjecture. Some who have been touched by the Manifested Sons of God influence even believe He will not return physically, but rather that Christ and the Church are becoming one in nature and essence, and that the Church, as the incarnation of God, will manifest Christ on earth. There are even those who believe that they have already attained perfection and, as a result, will never die. They have attained a higher degree of spiritual evolution, so to speak. For all the elaborate surmisings with which these people have deluded themselves, a careful reading of Romans 8:19 will show that the "manifestation of the sons of God" alluding to the redemption of our bodies (verse 23) cannot be properly understood apart from I Corinthians 15:51-52, which states that we shall all be changed, "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." From these verses it is clear that the "manifestation of the sons of God" - immortality - will take place at the last trump. First Thessalonians 4:15 makes it even clearer that this will not occur before the resurrection of the dead at the coming of Christ:
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [go before] them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.The teachings of most Kingdom Now groups can be traced to the Manifested Sons of God. And not only do they come from the Manifested Sons of God, they must ultimately return to the "pure" Manifested Sons of God doctrine: man need not die; by taking hold of secret knowledge he can become like God. Whether or not the Manifested Sons of God will ever make a comeback as an organized segment of the Christian community only the Lord knows. But their influence has been more far-reaching through undercover proselytizing than it would have had there been no breakup. And they continue to affect more and more Christians who are sufficiently naive to think they can become immortal by acting spiritual. The grandiose promise of ruling over the world as implementers of God's righteousness holds special appeal for the prideful, "god-consciousness" persons who perceive authority as rulership rather than servanthood.