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Hi my name is Dean Smith and in this podcast entitled: I blame Gehazi for grave soaking!, I hope to answer three important questions:
First – what in the world is grave soaking?
Secondly – who in the world is Gehazi?
Thirdly – what is the strange connection between Gehazi and grave soaking?
Grave Soaking is strange phenomena that started in a Bible college associated with Bethel church based in Redding, California. The popular Charismatic mega church is currently pastored by Bill Johnson. The church is best known for its Bethel and Jesus Culture worship music used by thousands of churches around the world.
In recent years, I have seen people taking shots at Bethel. Now there have been the routine attacks from the fundamental Baptists who basically censure anyone who doesn’t 100% agree with their opinions. I have actually seen video of a fundamental Baptist saying Billy Graham wasn’t a Christian.
So if they are taking shots at Billy Graham, I am not shocked they are lobbying stones at Bethel.
But recently I have also seen Charismatic Christians writing articles warning people off using Bethel music.
One of things that often comes up in these discussions is a reference to Grave Soaking or Grave Sucking.
The practice originated at Bethel’s Bible college where they would go to the graves of dead saints, and pray that God would give them the anointing of these long dead men and women of God.
So where did the idea of grave soaking come from?
The idea is based on an odd incident that took place several years after the death of the prophet Elisha recorded in 2 Kings 13:20-21.
A bunch of Israeli men were burying a friend when they saw a band of Moabite raiders in the area.
Fearing attack, the panicked men quickly dumped their friend into the Prophet Elisha’s tomb with the intent of coming back later to properly bury him.
They were in such a hurry, that instead of carefully laying the body in Elisha’s tomb, probably a cave, they tossed the body in and it accidentally touched Elisha’s bones.
As soon as this happened, this dead man immediately sprung back to life. He was literally raised from the dead and considering this was one of the ten recorded instances in the Bible where a person was raised from the dead, it is noteworthy.
Because of this, the theory developed that even though the great prophet Elisha was dead there was still a Holy Spirit anointing on his bones.
If this was true, it was then suggested that there may be an anointing on the remains of other deceased men and women and God.
People started going to the graves of great Christian leaders such as England’s great revivalist John Wesley and General John Booth founder of the Salvation Army praying for some of their anointing and in some instances even lying on the grave as they did so.
In his book, The Physics of Heaven, Bethel’s senior pastor Bill Johnson described grave soaking this way:
“There are anointings, mantles, revelations and mysteries that have lain unclaimed, literally where they were left, because the generation that walked in them never passed them on. I believe it’s possible for us to recover realms of anointing, realms of insight, realms of God that have been untended for decades simply by choosing to reclaim them and perpetuate them for future generations.”Bill Johnson, The Physics of Heaven
Now to be fair, many of the current leadership at Bethel are not fully onside with grave soaking.
However, those critical of grave soaking often liken it to the Roman Catholic practice of praying to the saints. But I don’t think that is a fair comparison because those participating in the grave soaking are not praying to the deceased, they are praying that the Holy Spirit would give them their anointing.
Now that I have explained what grave soaking is all about, who in the world is Gehazi.
Well, Gehazi was the Elisha’s prophet in training or Elisha’s prophetic apprentice. He was the man that many believe was chosen to carry on the prophetic anointing of Elisha.
Because this is exactly what happened to Elisha who was called to serve as Elijah’s prophetic apprentice when the prophet threw his mantle on Elisha (1 Kings 19:19-21).
Many of the prophets wore mantles or an outer robe including the prophet Samuel that was symbolic of their prophetic office and Holy Spirit anointing.
Elisha actually received a double anointing after he picked up Elijah’s mantle when the senior prophet dropped it as he was carried to heaven on a chariot of fire. But it is important that we understand the mantle did not have magical properties, but symbolized the transfer of the office from Elijah to Elisha.
Having experienced the process, Elisha understood he needed to transfer his anointing to another man. It seems Elisha’s assistant, Gehazi, was the most like candidate.
But Gehazi ran into trouble and it started with the arrival of Naaman, a Syrian general who had contracted Leprosy, one of the most feared diseases of that time. Naaman was healed after obeying Elisha and dipping in the Jordan River seven times.
In a show of gratitude, Naaman wanted to give an offering to Elisha but Elisha said thanks, but no thanks.
However, after Naaman departed, Gehazi ran after the Syrian general and lied saying Elisha had changed his mind and conned Naaman out of two talents of silver and four changes of clothes.
After God revealed what Gehazi had done, Elisha cursed his apprentice with leprosy.
So how can Gehazi be blamed for grave soaking?
Well Gehazi was the next in line to receive Elijah’s prophetic anointing that passed through Elisha, but Gehazi disqualified himself because of his greed and it makes you wonder if because of this the anointing still rested on the bones of Elisha.
Now it is possible for inanimate objects like bones to carry a Holy Spirit anointing.
We see it even happening in the New Testament.
In Acts 19:12, we are told that the Apostle Paul would touch cloth and aprons and that were then taken to people who were healed and even had demons cast out.
But what concerns me a bit about all this is an article on Catholic.org, a Roman Catholic website, entitled Why on Earth do Catholics venerate the relics of Saints? In this article, the author quoted Father Carlos Martins who pointed to the incident with Elisha’s bones and the passage in Acts as the justification for Catholics venerating relics that often included the bones of saints. Several Catholic churches have become pilgrimage sites, because of their claim to house a bone or bones of a venerated saint.
I remember when we were in a large Roman Catholic Cathedral in Peru several years back, we saw what was claimed to be a mummified body of a saint publicly displayed in a large glass case. They claimed this dead body had performed miracles and each year it was paraded through the town in an annual festival marking the woman’s death.
But we know what happened with Elisha’s bones was a one off. It never happened again even though there are records of bones of the patriarchs being touched and moved.
And as we move into the New Testament, we see a dramatic change in how the Holy Spirit anoints people. We see the Holy Spirit falling upon people on the Day of Pentecost and on the people meeting in Cornelius’s home as the Apostle Peter was speaking. In another instance, the Apostle Paul laid hands on people, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues (Acts 19).
We are all Temples of God as the Holy Spirit inhabits our bodies because of Christ’s perfect redemption. And along this vein, in 1 John 2, the Apostle John says that we are all anointed. We have full access to the Holy Spirit’s anointing without praying over graves.
So how are we to respond to Bethel’s grave soaking?
Well I am going to turn to a staunch Southern Baptist for an answer to that question.
This is a man who doesn’t even believe the spiritual gifts are for today, so I can only imagine what he thinks about grave soaking.
But I believe Dr Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, probably has the best explanation on what to do with this type of Biblical teaching.
Mohler has come up with what he describes as a theological triage. He got the idea from a visit to a hospital emergency room where he noticed that when a person came into emergency, a triage was immediately implemented where the person was quickly analyzed and then prioritized in terms of the severity of their condition.
And in his article entitled A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity, Mohler said that because of the diverse opinions in the Christian world that we need a similar Theological Triage, where we rank our theology according to its importance.
And along those lines Mohler developed three levels of theology.
The first level, of course, is the most important level and includes the essential theology of Christianity. It is what makes a person Christian.
According to Mohler, this would include theology involving Jesus including His Deity, death for our sins, bodily resurrection from the dead and justification by faith. If you don’t believe in these essential doctrines, you can’t be saved.
In addition, he also includes other doctrines such as the authority of Scripture in this first section.
The second level is also made up of important doctrines but they are not essential to salvation or the Christian faith. But Mohler adds that these doctrines or beliefs are significant enough to divide believers into separate churches or denominations.
Examples would include the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There are churches that believe the gifts, such as speaking in tongues, are for today and there are churches that don’t. Both groups hold to the first level doctrines of Jesus and salvation and because of this are Christian.
There are many other things that can fall into this category including styles of Church government where some believe in Apostles and prophets and others don’t and even modes of baptism.
The final category is made up of third level doctrines that are minor in the sense that people can hold different opinions on particular doctrines or teachings and still attend the same church. There are hundreds of beliefs that could fall into this category.
This includes the end-times view of the rapture. I know people who believe in the pre-trib rapture, an opinion I don’t hold, but despite this difference I fellowship with these people regularly.
But of course, predictably some Christians don’t agree on what doctrines should be put into what levels. In the comment section discussing Mohler’s three categories, some people were arguing that certain aspects of the end times theology should be upgraded to level two. On the other hand, I am immediately leery of anyone who claims to fully understand the end times.
But here is what I appreciate about Mohler’s perspective. He said though we can disagree on doctrines or opinions, we have to make sure our level of disagreement does not exceed its importance.
If a person comes into emergency with a quarter inch sliver in a finger, we don’t send them immediately into emergency surgery, while making a person having a heart attack stay in the ER waiting room.
In other words, don’t overreact to our disagreements. There are doctrines that we need to draw the line on, but we don’t draw the line on every doctrine.
My niece gave me some great advice recently, she said if everything is important, then nothing is important.
So when we look at grave soaking what level would I throw it into. Well it is clearly not a first level doctrine, essential to the Christian faith.
Neither is it a doctrine that could result in the formation of a separate denomination called the Grave Soaking Missionary Fellowship. In fact, within Bethel itself there are people who don’t agree with grave soaking, but they don’t break fellowship over it.
Kris Vallotton, a senior associate leader at Bethel, is one of those who doesn’t agree with grave soaking. In a Facebook post in 2015, he described it as a bit of an inside joke at Bethel saying:
“I mean if God wanted us to receive some kind of impartation from people who have already passed then certainly we would have some New Testament examples or instruction on it.
“Furthermore, if you could receive some gift from people after they died, then why did Joseph want Jacob to lay hands on his sons before he passed if they could have just as easily received an impartation at his funeral?”Kris Vallotton, Bethel
Vallotton finished off his post by saying:
“Personally, I think we should take flowers to the grave of our loved ones, pay our respect and leave it at that.”Kris Vallotton, Bethel
Grave soaking clearly falls into Mohler’s third level. Let’s treat grave soaking as it truly is, a minor teaching. Though, I may not agree with it, it is certainly not important enough to break fellowship over.