by Bill Nugent
The doctrine of the manifestation of the sons of God is a Bible doctrine that has seldom been taught until recent decades. The teaching on the manifestation of the sons of God is often called the “Manifested Sons Message” the “Sonship Message” the“Kingdom Message” or “Present Truth.”
In a nutshell the sonship message is the teaching that there is great power beyond the Pentecostal or Charismatic experience and certain believers in the body of Christ will apprehend this greater power and will enter a higher realm of personal holiness and ministry power to bring great deliverance in the end-times.
The message has been taught since the 1950s by Bible teachers such as George Warnock, George Hawtin, Kelly Varner, Bill Britton and many others that have largely ministered in obscurity throughout their careers. The sonship message was preached in the outflow of the Voice of Healing Revival of 1948.
The message is still taught in the body of Christ today by such men of God as Buddy Cobb, Ron Cargil and Steve Everett. There are some prominent teachers in the Charismatic movement including Paul Keith Davis and Bobby Conner whose teachings contain some sonship message themes. I also have personally taught the sonship message for many years. My book on the subject, The Cross, Self-Denial and the Manifestation of the Sons of God is available for free download from my website at www.bnugent.org.
In my own teaching on sonship I have emphasized the role of sanctification in preparing the sons of God to come to full maturity to be ready to be released into the full measure of God’s power to bring deliverance to all creation.
It has saddened me that the sonship message hasn’t prospered over the years and remains a largely unknown fringe movement to this day. I have recently seen some encouraging signs though. The message and messengers have matured.
For years, many in the sonship movement (not necessarily those named above) were prone to elitism and strange doctrinal flourishes. There were some who claimed to be manifested sons and claimed to have attained sinless perfection when their lives did not reflect a high degree of sanctification.
In addition, many, if not most, sonship preachers saw no real place of significance for the restored nation of Israel. I think the tendency by many sonship preachers to hyper-allegorize scripture fed the tendency to minimize the place of physical, literal Israel. I remember one time, sitting in my church in Florida listening intently to a leading sonship preacher give a lengthy sermon filled with allegories of Bible historical narratives. The message was so hyper-allegorized I couldn’t make sense of it – and I’m a sonship preacher myself! The tendency to allegorize has sadly reduced the significance of the actual literal facts in the minds of many sonship preachers. I find the lack of support for Israel especially disappointing. Israel is a literal people to whom literal promises have been made!
Sanctification is the key to the maturing of the sons of God. All born again Christians are sons and daughters of God. All Christians are overcomers in the sense of being regenerated in spirit. Our spirits are regenerated and made righteous at the new birth. The soul of the believer is being sanctified day by day as we take up the cross daily and follow Christ. The body will be fully sanctified at the resurrection of the dead.
In Revelation chapters two and three, Jesus gives messages to the churches of Asia Minor. In His messages to Ephesus, Smyrna, etc. He starts by giving a message to the church and ends by giving a special promise to those who overcome. The implication is that there are those within the church who follow on to know the Lord in greater consecration and greater sanctification than the rest of the church. Those who overcome will receive greater spiritual privilege and power. I believe that the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation chapters seven and fourteen are the overcomer company of sons of God who will be manifested in great power just before the second coming of Christ.
God has provided many tools for use in our sanctification. One tool, perhaps the most important is the baptism in the Holy Spirit. During the Pentecostal revivals at Azuza street in 1906 and the Welsh revival of 1904, many saints hailed the arrival of the greater power as that which would utterly transform the body of Christ. They were right but God had other tools of sanctification that also needed to be implemented.
One of the ministers greatly impacted by the Azuza street revival, John G. Lake, experienced great spiritual power which he likened to manifested sonship. However, Lake’s glorious experience was not long lasting and he eventually died of a stroke at age 65 in 1935 at the end of an exemplary ministerial career.
The Voice of Healing revival of 1948 (often called the “Latter Rain” revival) brought even greater power than Azuza Street and people thought the second coming of Christ was at hand. There were some of the greatest healings and deliverances in all of church history during this great outpouring which lasted several years. Several prominent ministers of this era, including Bill Britton, began to teach the sonship message.
The 1950s and 60s brought a new depth of Bible teaching and many word of faith ministries were launched during this time. The Charismatic renewal spread to the old line Protestant denominations and to the Roman Catholics during those two decades.
The 1970s brought two major movements that touched on sanctification. These were the discipleship movement and the deliverance movement. Those in the discipleship movement of which I also was a part, taught that we need to get the body of Christ organized and regimented. People just off the streets need to be coached, mentored and discipled to bring their lives into order. Then they will be sanctified and released into ministry. Everyone needs to be connected, submitted and accountable. This was the clarion call of the discipleship movement and it bore fruit even though some had taken it to legalistic extremes.
The deliverance movement led by Derek Prince and others maintained that we have to cast demons out of people, even believers. They taught that deliverance is key to setting people free for right living, maturity and sanctification. God used deliverance at that time and He still uses deliverance as a means of sanctification.
The 1980s and beyond saw the rise of the prophetic intercessory prayer movement led by Mike Bickle of the IHOP in Kansas City and Cindy Jacobs of Generals of Intercession among others. The Kansas City prophets came to prominence in the 1980s.
Many other tools of sanctification include studying the Bible and living by biblical standards of integrity. The fifth chapter of Romans teaches us that trials and tribulations build patience, character and hope. Another tool is devotional prayer which is quiet time and shut in time to commune with God through Christ. I believe that shut in time is the single most powerful tool of sanctification. Fasting is a tool of sanctification. Celibacy, either temporary or permanent, is an oft neglected tool of sanctification.
As the church moves on and grows to greater maturity I foresee that God will hold us to higher standards of conduct. Most of us have left the Sermon on the Mount “up on the mount” and neglected it as Arthur Burt of Wales has said. However, those who press on to mature sonship will go up the mount and live by that famous sermon. Greater sanctification means greater ability to live by the highest standards of integrity.
In my book on the sonship message mentioned above, I teach about the prayer of consecration. The prayer of consecration is a devotional prayer in which a believer recommits his life to Christ. It is a prayer of radical commitment and of taking up the cross daily to follow Christ. The prayer of consecration is to be prayed first thing in the morning to start the day with radical commitment to Christ. The prayer of consecration is a tool of sanctification in which we deny self and take up the cross daily and follow Christ.
The 1990s and 2000s saw a new emphasis on apostolic ministry and the need for the rise of an apostolic church guided by apostles who hear from God. God will indeed have a church without spot or wrinkle but will this spotless church be the whole church or will it be an overcomer company within the church? I think the latter.
One final tool of sanctification I’d like to mention is crisis sanctification. Let me explain the difference between crisis sanctification and process sanctification. Process sanctification is the day by day experience of gradual growth unto maturity as we take up the cross daily and follow Christ. Crisis sanctification is a “divine boost,” an instant sanctification, a growth spurt given by God.
I heard the story of a pastor’s wife in Florida who experienced crisis sanctification in a very powerful way. Her husband, named Dave, was pastor of a small church that taught the sonship message. Her life was so bound up with her husband and his ministry that the people called her “sister Dave.” Sister Dave was rather weary and close to burnout when suddenly on a day that began like any other, she was touched by God with a baptism of love and she was instantly utterly transformed. Her family and church were thrilled to see this dramatic change in attitude and behavior. She walked in ecstasy for a time just loving everyone with great passion and joy but then one day the power lifted and sister Dave cried out to God: “Did I do something wrong, why are you leaving!?” God said to her some words to the effect that she would have to wait and work out her sanctification with all of the rest of God’s people.
The story of sister Dave is not unique. John G. Lake related a similar story of walking in great power and love. Bill Britton also testified that he was caught up for a time in great power and ministered from that realm. David Walters experienced a similar time of ecstasy early in his ministry in London. These men experienced temporary glory but I believe that there will come a time when those who have sought the Lord with their whole hearts will be caught up to a glorified state and will continue to walk in this love and power. These overcomers will be joined by saints from the past who surround us now in the great cloud of witnesses. The spirits, souls and bodies of the overcomer company will be fully sanctified at that point.
I’ve used the word “overcomer” in this message. What are we to overcome? The Bible teaches that we are to deny ourselves. Jesus said that if any man would come after Him he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Him. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23.) This is 100% commitment to God through Christ. It means becoming totally God-centered instead of self-centered. We must overcome the self. We must lay the self down on the cross daily.
The principle attribute of God is His holiness. How do I know this? It’s because of the thrice hagion in Isaiah 6:3. That is the passage where Isaiah sees the Lord high and lifted up and he sees the angels who never stop saying “holy, holy, holy.” The Bible says that God is love but it never says that God is “love, love, love.” The ancient Hebrews emphasized words by repetition. A threefold repetition is very strong emphasis. Holiness is the only attribute of God that is repeated three times.
Holiness is a difficult word to define. To some it is simply moral purity but I think that only touches the fringes of holiness. Holiness is the very nature and character of God. I believe that holiness can also be defined as “God-centeredness.” God is God-centered. God is self-centered. For a human to be self-centered is to be selfish and sinful. God, however, is the perfect self. For God to be self-centered is the highest virtue. God calls us all to be God-centered. This requires self-denial which means to lay our lives down on the cross which is death. The cross is the death of human self-centeredness. I write about how a Christian can experientially walk in self-denial in my book: The Cross, Self-Denial and the Manifestation of the Sons of God.
God is the perfect self before whom all other selves must be denied. Christian self-denial is something we must do every day. We experience the yielding of self each day as we pray the prayer of consecration at the start of each day. When we deny self, we experience the cross which is to experience the fact of our death with Christ (Rom. 6: 6-8). God raises us up from the dead with Christ. Our new self which is raised from the dead is God-centered which is true holiness. This is daily sanctification. This is the path to mature sonship.
To fully understand the eschatological significance of the sonship message we must understand the connection of the doctrine of manifested sonship to the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.
In the eighth chapter of Romans, Paul taught about the manifestation of the sons of God in a passage dealing with the resurrection of the dead. Romans eight contains the clearest verse in the Bible on the manifestation of the sons of God: “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19 NAS). Romans 8:11 & 23 teach specifically about the resurrection of the physical body. This clearly puts the sonship message in the context of the resurrection of believers.
Rick Joyner, Director of MorningStar Ministries of Fort Mill, South Carolina, has said that the resurrection is the most neglected doctrine in the Bible. My study of church history has caused me to tend to agree with Rick on this.
As Christians we long for heaven but we must remember that in heaven we are disembodied spirits and our bodies remain on earth in graves awaiting the resurrection. Hebrews 12:23 describes heaven as a place wherein we find “the spirits of just men made perfect.” In Revelation 21:2 &10 we read that the holy city, the new Jerusalem, will descend from God out of heaven. Heaven is coming to earth!
Planet earth is the place of our habitation for the ages to come. We will not be here as disembodied spirits but our bodies will have been raised from the dead and joined to our spirits in a glorified state.
When Jesus spoke about salvation in John chapter six He connected it to the resurrection of the physical bodies of the believers. Jesus said “Every one who beholds the Son, and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40 NAS). The phrases “Raise him up on the last day” or “Raise it up on the last day” occur no less than four times in this brief passage of a few verses in John six.
The phrases about the resurrection occur in verses 39, 40, 44 and 54 of John six. Jesus didn’t say “I’ll see you in heaven someday as a disembodied spirit.” Jesus’s view of salvation was salvation of the whole person: spirit, soul AND BODY.
The manifestation of the sons of God can be viewed as a resurrection of certain believers that occurs before the general resurrection of the dead. This is not without precedent in the scriptures.
In Matthew 27:52-53 we read “and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many” (NAS).
This passage is unique to the gospel of Matthew and the incident is not discussed anywhere else in the New Testament. We are not told if the risen saints were recognized or if they spoke or if they worked miracles or if they ascended with Christ. All that is mystery. It is also interesting that this is recorded in Matthew which is regarded as the gospel especially directed to the Jewish people.
I regard the passage in Matthew 27:52-53, describing the raising of a small number of dead saints, as a type or picture of the out-resurrection which is the manifestation of the sons of God. Paul writes about the out-resurrection in Philippians 3:11 “in order that I may attain to the [out-]resurrection from the dead” (NAS).
The word for resurrection in this passage is Strong’s #1815“exanastasis.” This is the only place that this word appears in the New Testament. The usual word for resurrection is Strong’s # 386“anastasis.” The “ex” in front of “anastasis” means “out” hence the “out-resurrection” which is the resurrection that Paul was pressing on to attain.
We can infer from this passage that Paul was pressing on to attain the personal sanctification necessary to qualify for the out-resurrection from the dead which is the manifestation of the sons of God. Each and every one of us should likewise press on in Christ to attain this supreme level of sanctification! When the manifestation of the sons of God occurs will we see Paul among them? We’ll have to wait and see.
In recent months a number of prophetic revelations have come through such seasoned ministers as Bobby Conner, Randy Demain and Heidi Baker that indicate that now is the time for the manifestation of the sons of God. None of these ministers are explicitly involved in the sonship movement to my knowledge. The prophetic words don’t necessarily mean that the manifestation will occur any minute but rather this is the general time for the event.
To bring this brief sketch of the sonship message to a close let me just say that we look forward to a resurrection before the general resurrection of the dead. It will be an “out-resurrection” of saints from past and present who will rise and do great exploits for the advancement of the kingdom of God. Let us press on through self-denial to know the Lord in holiness. I don’t presume to know exactly when or how the manifestation will occur but I’m sure it will be a glorious time!
I invite you to visit my website at www.bnugent.org. My books are displayed there. There is also an archive of my articles from a series titled: “Defending the Faith.” These articles defend the Christian faith from the assault by evolution, UFO cults and other false doctrines. The Defending the Faith“Special Issue” articles contain biblical teachings on evangelism, sanctification, manifested sonship and other subjects. I’ve written two other Defending the Faith Special Issue (DTF SI) articles on the sonship message. These articles are DTF SI #17 titled “The Perfect Jew, the Perfect Church and the Manifestation of the Sons of God” and DTF SI #14 titled “The Perfect Jew: A Picture of the Perfect End of Our Age.”All articles are available for free use by Christian teachers and evangelists.
Steps to salvation:
Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
Prayer to receive salvation:
“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:
“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!