In the recent sermon I gave in relation to the practices and beliefs of the New Apostolic Reformation, there is a practice that I wanted to devote time to exposing. However, as we often discover, time is fleeting and the allotted sermon time just didn’t allow me to give a full explanation of it. But I believe it is important to make you aware of it. It is the practice of “grave soaking” and to you and I, it sounds somewhat ridiculous.
Grave soaking – or mantle grabbing – is the act of lying across the physical grave of a deceased preacher or evangelist for the purpose of 'pulling out' the power of the Holy Spirit, a power that was supposedly 'trapped' within the body upon the person’s death. The aberrant practice of grave soaking was initiated within the Charismatic movement and Word of Faith teachings, which are an amalgamation of orthodox Christianity and mysticism. Videos and images across the internet show grave soakers kneeling at or lying across the graves or gravestones of famous figures such as C. S. Lewis, John Calvin and Charles Finney in the hope of 'grabbing' the abandoned spiritual mantle or 'soaking up' an anointing like a sponge.
Grave soaking is based upon the idea that the spiritual calling of an individual who has died may be reclaimed and used by another person. The theory is that God uses the Holy Spirit to 'anoint' certain believers with a specific purpose, such as healing or prophecy, but when the person dies God’s work is thwarted. The Holy Spirit is therefore 'wasted' – lying upon the bones and unable to continue the calling. Unrecovered anointing is apparently available to anyone who would physically come and claim it. This superstitious practice is blatantly unbiblical, spiritually dangerous, and tremendously misleading for uninformed believers.
All power comes from God, not from graves. Our individual life’s purpose is given to us by God: another believer’s empowerment cannot be 'pulled out' or 'grabbed' from a corpse. To ascribe spiritual power to the bones of the dead, no matter how godly the deceased was in life, is idolatry. The Holy Spirit resides in every believer, not just anointed saints. The Holy Spirit cannot be trapped by the death of a human being: the teaching of grave soaking therefore objectifies the Holy Spirit and limits His power to certain locales.
A possible proof text for grave soaking which proponents often use is 2 Kings 13:21, in which a dead man is thrown into an open grave and, when his body touches the bones of Elisha, the man is resurrected. This biblical account could be used to show that power (or anointing) is still present in a prophet’s bones after death. However, there is a major difference between the biblical event and the modern concept of grave soaking: namely, the recipient of the power was dead. No one was seeking a mantle or an anointing. God simply chose to resurrect someone, honouring the memory of His prophet in the process.
At its root grave soaking is founded upon a misunderstanding of the mantle that the prophets of the Bible sometimes wore as a sign of their calling from God. Most well-known is the story of the prophet Elijah passing his mantle on to his protégé Elisha: the Bible shows Elijah using his mantle as a symbol of his ministry and God’s authority. After Elijah was translated into heaven Elisha picked up the mantle and became Israel’s new prophet. The passing of the mantle was a symbolic act – a physical object has no inherent spiritual power. Like many Old Testament objects and events the mantle was a shadow of good things to come, not the very image of the things (Hebrews 10:1).
The grave soaking phenomenon originated in Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church in Redding, California: a 'church' associated with other unconventional practices such as Sozo prayer (from the Greek for 'save' or 'deliver', defined as a unique inner healing and deliverance ministry in which the main aim is to get to the root of those things hindering your personal connection with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and movements such as the Toronto Blessing and the New Apostolic Reformation. Conflicting sources claim grave soaking is an ongoing joke among students from the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, yet Bill Johnson says in the book Physics of Heaven: “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.” Whether it's sincere or facetious, the practice of grave soaking/mantle grabbing has led many believers astray.
The American non-denominational charismatic Bethel Church – established by Robert Doherty in 1952 and becoming an affiliate of the Assemblies of God in 1954 – has over 11,000 members. The church has its own music labels and Jesus Culture ministries, both of which have gained popularity for contemporary worship music. Its primary focus is on miracles. It teaches that all miracles described in the Bible can be performed by believers today and can happen regularly, including faith healing of everything from curing cancer to regrowing limbs, raising the dead, speaking in tongues and casting out demons. Its services usually have congregants laughing uncontrollably, lying on the floor, shaking, staggering, screaming and dancing, which they believe are signs of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Leaders claim to have witnessed angels appearing and 'balls of electricity' that throw people into the air. One of the most well-known phenomena is a cloud of what is claimed to be gold dust (called a glory cloud) that falls from the roof of the auditorium.
If that wasn't bad enough, in the autumn of 1998 Bethel Church began Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. The school trains its students in the supernatural and miracles in order that they may become revivalists upon graduation. The normal programme is one academic year and students have the opportunity to return for a second and/or third year. Approximately 15% of the students stay for the full three years. It was founded with 36 students and had grown to more than 2,400 students from over 70 countries by 2019. This school has acquired the nickname 'Christian Hogwarts' among students because of its focus on the supernatural.
All believers have the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide them in advancing God’s work. We need go no further than to our knees to find our true purpose from God. We walk by faith, not by sight and certainly not by grave soaking or attending some 'school of supernatural ministry'. Beware - there are many false teachers who stand ready to lead people into deception!