"God wants that candle set on a candlestick, a base, and that base is the Assembly, the family of God. Many are born again, and some progress to serving God and being a witness for Him. A few even reach the point of a family altar, reading the Word of God and prayer. But few ever progress to the house of God, to the Assembly of the living God, to the family of God, to an expression of the body of Christ. Few ever progress to getting that candle on a candlestick. Yet that is the only way the world is really going to see it. God says that we are engaged in something bigger than any one of us."
Every aspect of what George Geftakys refers to as his Heavenly Vision is alluded to in the above paragraph, taken verbatim from page 4 of The Candlestick of Pure Gold, by George Geftakys, Torch and Testimony Publications.
The reader may ask, "What's the big deal? Don't you have anything better to do than pick apart some unknown religious leader's ideas? Does anyone really care?"
My answer is that George Geftakys teaches that his Heavenly Vision is nothing less than God's eternal purpose in Christ Jesus! Yes, the whole reason God created man, and redeemed him at the cross is for the Heavenly Vision. There are a number of people all across the country that have dedicated their lives to obeying this "heavenly" vision. I was one of them, and along with my family, still bear scars from my service to George's ministry. Biblically, it is "open season" on those who desire to bring God's people into bondage or who teach another Gospel, as the Judaizers of Galatia did. I believe that this is the case with the Geftakys ministry.
George Geftakys' ministry, which is made up of small groups, is primarily based in the USA and Canada, one in Mexico, one in the UK and possibly one in Indonesia. There are also members outreaching in China and there are a number of affiliated groups in Europe and Greece. Although not all of the European groups are completely involved in George's ministry, they host him yearly for one of his preaching journeys. In addition, there are missionary teams that are sent out by the ministry to Europe for the purpose of instructing and strengthening the Work there. The main emphasis is that everyone, everywhere, becomes aware of and obedient to the Heavenly Vision.
The Assemblies, which is the term I will use for the various churches that comprise the ministry of George Geftakys, are small gatherings of Christians that meet in what appears to be a very simple way. They have meetings throughout the week for Worship, Bible Study, Prayer and outreach. The people involved are definitely Born-Again Christians. The level of commitment that the members exhibit is very uncommon and total.
There are 3 tiers to membership:
Average members are engaged in every aspect of the group that doesn't pertain to leadership. They do almost all the footwork, and generally have the most consistent attendance. Average members disciple "new ones," especially college students.
Leaders do much less work, but they do almost all the teaching, preaching and discipling of members. Leaders do all the decision making to a point. No serious decisions are ever made without consulting "The Work."
“The Work" is another class of members who comprise the inner circle of membership. People in the Work hear about all sorts of problems and scandals that the regular membership could not bear. In addition, they are privy to some of the confidential, delicate matters that need to be handled carefully. In this, I am referring to potential PR problems, like how to explain why a prominent member has left the ministry, etc.
Almost all Workers are also leaders in their Assemblies, with the exception of women, who can be involved in the Work but are not allowed to lead in the Assemblies for Biblical reasons. Workers have the privilege of spending far more time under George's teaching than the average member, allegedly having more understanding of The Heavenly Vision. Much of what is discussed in worker's meetings is not at all for public consumption.
I expect that the Workers will discuss this very paper behind closed doors, if it ever comes to their attention. In light of this fact I would like to challenge every member of the ministry to read this paper and compare every claim I make with George's own books, especially the Testimony to Jesus trilogy. I will use painstaking carefulness to accurately quote in context from George's publications.
This paper is not a theological critique, because like all the other members, except George, I am not a seminary graduate or a theologian. One very excellent premise that George holds is that Christians do not need seminary degrees in order to serve God. I agree with him in this respect. Also, every seminary graduate that I have asked to comment on George's writings have unanimously remarked that they found them very confusing and full of outrageous statements. These things, after all, are not taught in seminary, and as such have been quickly refuted by a number of theologians over the years. However, Geftakys members are taught to despise those who have seminary training. George's term for seminary is, "theological cemetery."
I will attempt to be a plain reader and a plain writer, taking statements for what they say and commenting on them from the perspective of one who was totally involved for a long period of time. If I have made any mistakes, I invite criticism and will gladly retract anything that warrants it. Much of what I write is verbatim from The Testimony to Jesus and other Geftakys publications, so if it sounds familiar, it is because you may have read it once upon a time. Almost all of the most outrageous statements that condemn God's own blood-bought people are direct quotes from George's writings. It is the reader's job to check my statements against what Mr. Geftakys has published in his books, which were written for him, transcribed from his lectures.
The way I once learned it, the Heavenly Vision is supposedly all about Jesus Christ, crucified, buried, raised and exalted and now seated at the right hand of The Father in heaven, head over all things to the church. In other words, the Heavenly Vision is nothing less than the main topic of the Bible. "For the testimony to Jesus is the spirit of Prophecy. It is not about a testimony to a man, or a ministry, or a movement, but a testimony to Jesus! That is how it begins and ends." Any Christian would agree with this statement, as all Christians should worship and serve Jesus Christ. However, George's unique idea of a 'Testimony to Jesus', and just what that means, is what separates him from all other evangelicals.
God's purpose is not just to save sinners, but also to raise up a "corporate" Testimony to His Son in the Church. To quote George Geftakys, ”This does not refer to just any kind of church. In Christendom today there are many churches, but we are referring to the church as God has revealed it in His Word.1
According to George, "...most of God's people are oblivious to what His purpose is for today. They may have their sins forgiven but are entirely unable to give a spiritually intelligent answer if asked what God's purpose is for today."2 "It is easy to see that our situation today is one of hopeless division, contradiction and rivalry." Again, most churches have no vision and are full of man' methods and ideas. "In contrast to this kind of simplicity, we believe that all ecclesiastical organizations, missionary societies, public lists of membership and funds, etc. are a denial and departure from a walk of faith and dependence on the Lord for all things." Most other churches are but sorry products of the lawless age we live in. The Assemblies, however, are true testimonies to Jesus, upholding the Word and glorifying God. At least this is what one concludes when reading George's books and hearing him speak.
The Heavenly Vision is a "macro" expression. "Heavenly Vision" has become somewhat of a slogan in the Geftakys Assemblies that embodies all of the "real" meaning of the Bible, with regard to every aspect of a Christian's life. The phrase alone suggests a great many ideas and symbols that have supreme importance, while remaining quite vague.
Why do I say vague? Because most people are ignorant of it, even those involved in the ministry. The Heavenly Vision is, "a vision of Christ seated in the Heavenlies!" What does this mean? The author is not really sure, except that it definitely means the Geftakys ministry has something that most other born-again believers do not have.
This extra "something" has to do with a greater understanding of Christ. In spite of the vision’s vagueness, everyone has an idea in their mind of what sort of things are heavenly, as opposed to earthly. In practice, the idea goes like this: Things in the Assembly are heavenly, while almost everything outside is earthly. The Assembly does things differently because they see "Christ." Other Christians lack spiritual intelligence and barely know Christ. They are taken up with the earthly things.
If a member is bored in an Assembly meeting it is because they are not minding heavenly things. How can we enjoy heaven if we don't enjoy His presence here? Of course, the very idea that the meeting could be boring is never entertained. Bored members need to repent of minding the things of the earth and set their minds on the things that are above. This will cure boredom in the meetings. However, in practice this may take a very long time, perhaps decades. Quite a few never seem to reach the spiritual state where the meetings are refreshing; instead the meetings remain an unpleasant duty. This produces guilt, because believers are supposed to be joyful in God’s House. They never seem to ask themselves why the meetings are so boring in God’s House, they just assume that they have a problem with “self.”
Of course, there are some saints who simply love the meetings. Some have arrived, others must pursue. I find this interesting, because this elusive quality is just what is needed to keep members pressing on year after year, while never getting any closer to the goal. It reminds me of the verse that says, "...ever learning, yet never able to come to the knowledge of The Truth." More on this later.
According to the Heavenly Vision, God's purpose is to reveal His Son through the church. The only way the world will ever see Christ is through the church. For this to happen, the church must have vision. This is why God has supplied apostolic ministry in the person of George Geftakys. George does not make outright claims to be an apostle, like Peter or John, but he has made it clear that he brings prophetic ministry. Furthermore, because he is involved in the raising up of New Testament churches he claims to have an apostolic ministry.
Along with apostolic ministry comes apostolic authority, and George has quite a bit of this, especially in the minds of his followers. This separates him from virtually all other evangelical leaders, as most of their churches are not following the "New Testament Pattern," and "Apostolic tradition,” as taught by George. Also, very few other leaders hint around at apostleship, in any of its forms.
The Proverb says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." This refers to, of course, Heavenly Vision, as taught by George Geftakys. Mainline churches, which have no vision, are "simply working for God, which God does not honor." Since Christ is the Work, according to George, "If they fail to see the church as God sees it, they will never amount to anything for God."4 "Therefore we conclude from Scripture that the New Testament sanctions no other fellowship than the local Assembly, no other rulers than its local elders."5 "In light of the above, it is obvious that much of the evangelical world must repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand."6
It is interesting to note that in recent years, those men who proclaim themselves apostles, or specially anointed from God, with unique revelation regarding the Bible are almost always found out to be rascals. Any one of us, if not held accountable, could fall into all sorts of deception. It becomes very difficult to be accountable to God's people, who can't give a spiritually intelligent answer, when I view myself as apostle-like, at the cutting edge of God's Eternal Purpose! George teaches that the very first sign of apostasy is, "rejecting apostolic authority."7 By this he clearly is referring to himself, because he has rejected virtually every other Christian leader. By isolating himself from all other Christians, and labeling any dissent, or disagreement to his teaching as a satanic attack against "The Testimony" he is all but lost. I believe that this is clearly the case today regarding the Geftakys ministry.
Even Martin Luther, the great reformer, fell into real error and abuse. He began with faith and through him God did an amazing work that still influences us today. Yet, later in life he furiously clung to his position of power and such silly doctrines as con-substantiation. Even when others around him saw the ridiculous aspect of this view, he held on in pride, even persecuting other believers. If a giant of the faith like Luther is not immune, how much more people such as us?
The church that George describes is one that, first and foremost, has Christ in the midst. The over-riding characteristic is that God is present. I totally agree with this aspect of the Heavenly Vision. If God is there, then it must be safe for me to be there too. If there are problems, He can cleanse and heal. I have no quarrel with any church where this is the case.
However, George goes on to say, quoting Mat 18:20 that only where the people "are gathered" is Christ in the midst. George teaches that the Holy Spirit must gather the church. It is not enough for Christians just to gather themselves together and praise the Lord; God must gather them. I have heard many members say that they don't know if those other churches down the street have God's presence, but they KNOW that "this Assembly" does. Better be safe and only fellowship somewhere that you know God is present.
Because the spiritual pedigree of the non-denominational group down the street is not clear, it is risky to be in fellowship there as they may be just gathering themselves and not gathered by God. Perhaps the reader, at times, may have said in his heart, "Thank God that I am in fellowship at a place that is gathered by God, not one like some of those other places. "
This thinking is revealed most clearly when member’s children must choose a college campus to attend. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever considered fellowship with “other” Christians as a viable option. College bound members either attend a college where they can help support an existing Assembly outreach, or they plan to begin a brand new one, with approval and support from “the Work.” Assembly kids would never go off to college with the idea of being involved in Campus Crusade or Intervarsity. It just isn’t done. Of course, there are also the backsliders who don’t walk with the Lord when they go off to college, which also is not considered a proper choice.
Here is a question: Putting passive and active verb tenses aside; if God is present, does it matter whether the church gathered itself or if God gathered them? I mean, if God Himself is pleased to be there who am I to say that they are not true expressions of the Body of Christ? It is a moot point as to whether they gathered themselves or "were gathered." Why make the distinction? If some people make a habit of playing guitar, singing worship songs and praying at the beach on Sunday, and God is present, what is the problem? After all, George teaches that the Kingdom is where the King is.
On the other hand, let us suppose that a very serious group of Christians, informed in the Heavenly Vision, following the pattern, and meeting in God's appointed way, were to form a perfect church. But if most other Spirit filled believers who visit detect strangeness, and not God's presence, there is a big problem. Remember, the Bible says it is the uninformed that are supposed to testify, "God is here!"
Contrarily, my experience over the years, which has been confirmed many, many times since leaving, is that other Christians think Assembly meetings are bizarre and cult-like. Of course, why should they be expected to understand? They are merely saved, indwelt by the Holy Spirit and adopted into the Family of God. They have not yet progressed into Heavenly Vision.
The Heavenly Vision church that expresses Christ has only God appointed leaders, "no human selections or appointments, nominations or elections, councils, committees, or boards have a place in the Assembly. Nor do congregational business meetings have any place in the church...All of these New Testament "setups" are but substitutes for the headship of Christ. No matter how right and scriptural they may seem, if they become a substitute for Christ's government, they are evil."8 No, the Assembly must only have "God-appointed and God-prepared men." This means that Christ is able to fully exercise his headship. Consequently, George explains that there is supposed to be a powerful demonstration of God's authority, which causes people to say, "God is in you of a truth!"
I find this subtle twist of 1 Corinthian’s to be very interesting. The Bible does not say that people recognize God’s presence because of a “powerful demonstration of God’s authority.” It says they recognize His presence because the Holy Spirit convicts them of Sin and directs them towards the Savior, who is in the midst of a gathering of Christians. The Bible passage George refers to in his book, which I have quoted, says nothing about “powerful authority.”
Therefore, churches that hire pastors, or vote for elders are a hindrance to God's government, being evil. This means that, according to George Geftakys, almost all other churches are severely compromised, to the point of being evil! "The House of God is not a democracy." "When government in the church is by popular vote, you see a world church. Democracy may be good for the world, but not for the church. Satan is behind this intermingling of the religious and the political,”9 These ideas clearly label the majority of Christianity as evil and satanic. At best, Christ has only a primitive, weak expression in these churches that vote on something, or have committees and business meetings.
God, however, appoints leaders in the Assemblies. God, through George, who was appointed by God Himself, appointed the early leaders. The more recent leaders may have been appointed through an earlier leader, thus through George and ultimately through God. Do you see the difference? Some evil churches, who follow the Presbyterian or Congregational models of church government, pray and appoint leaders with some of, or the entire congregation "voting" depending on the type of church government. According to George, because they do it this way, God has no part in it! It is democratic, designed by Satan, and evil.
In contrast, Assembly leaders are "appointed by God," even though the other leaders all give their assent before adding a new face to the leading brother’s meeting. (If the reader is confused as to the contrast, the author must confess that he too is confused with regard to the difference from other “evil” churches) I suppose that since none of the Assembly leaders are voted for or selected by average members, they are God's appointments. Surely this is the only difference from other evangelical groups, because to suggest that others don't pray and agree before "hiring" a pastor is ludicrous.
Many Assembly members are not aware that there are 3 types of church government described in the Bible. In the Episcopal model, which is when an Overseer (Episkipos) leads the entire flock, the Bishop, or overseer is appointed by The Holy Spirit to lead the church. How do we know God has appointed him? Simple, because the fruit of this man’s life and the edification of the flock he is overseeing is undeniable. This is essentially identical to the idea of a godly Pastor in a modern Evangelical church. This is clearly seen in the Bible in several passages, 1Tim 3:1, Titus 1:7 and others. The weakness in this form of government is that you basically have a “One man ministry.” If this overseer is a scoundrel, not being accountable to anyone, serious abuse is likely to occur. Supposedly, the next form of church government takes care of this problem.
The next idea we see in the Bible is the presbyterian form of government. This is when the elders, or presbytery, lead the church. George proclaims that this is what the Assemblies practice, although in reality they are more of an Episcopal group due to George’s power and position as “The Lord’s Servant.” The danger of the presbyterian form of government is that any pastor or Leading Brother the elders may appoint is essentially a hireling. If the elders don’t like him, for any reason, they can simply remove him from his position. This is what happens when a Leading Brother or “doorkeeper” in the Assembly has a serious difference with George. Such a one is asked to “step down.” Thus, when new Leading Brothers are added in the Heavenly Vision church government model, they are no better than hirelings, as they must say and teach only what George approves of, or else they will be removed.
The third type of government is the congregational model, which is when the whole congregation votes. This is attractive due to the accountability it brings into the picture. The dark side of congregational rule is that politics often pollute the leading of the Holy Spirit. The majority party can hire or fire anyone.
It is the author’s opinion that perhaps all three forms of government should be in practice in a healthy church. The Holy Spirit has appointed the Pastor. He, while working with other members, appoints a board of elders who are clearly godly men. The wise pastor does not choose “yes men,” but real men of God who can help him and hold him accountable. Then, the congregation can “vote” with their feet. If they are being fed, they will keep coming, bring others with them and church growth will occur. If the pastor is a scoundrel, or if there is something hindering the Holy Spirit, they will go elsewhere. In order for this to happen, the church must allow freedom in the members’ lives.
A twisted form of the above has occurred in the Heavenly Vision form of church government. George is the episkopos, supposedly appointed by God, yet he doesn’t admit this, instead he claims to be “just a brother among brothers.” The Leading Brothers and elders are the presbytery appointed by George and those he previously appointed. They claim to lead the Assemblies, but in reality they are merely administrating George’s wishes for his ministry.
The saints, who make up the congregation, are supposedly free to “vote” on all this by choosing whether to attend. However, they are taught that not attending “The Lord’s Appointments,” is a sign of spiritual complacency. Should they decide to leave the ministry, they will lose their friends and be labeled as divisive, or lacking in some spiritual essential. Many do not attend out of freewill, but due to coercion. In essence, members are not at all free. This explains why there are so few members in this group, despite thousands of hours of prayer and outreach.
If the members would just be honest and admit that George is the leader, and the Leading Brothers are administrators and lieutenants things might improve. At least then everyone would understand why decisions happen the way to do. It is confusing, to say the least, when one is taught that Leading Brothers lead the Assembly, but one sees that, in reality, George Geftakys and his Heavenly Vision is leading. The fact that the Heavenly Vision is twisted scripture makes it all the more dangerous, as it is hard to sort all this out in one’s mind without any previous experience or education.
Now, returning to the “evil” of “human selections or appointments,” Matthias was chosen by the apostles themselves, by the casting of lots, in Acts 1:23-26. Yes, I know all the arguments about why Matthias was not really an apostle, because if the apostles had only been patient they would have seen that God's choice was Paul. The reader is free to adopt this argument, and the author agrees it has merit. Yet, did God call the other eleven apostles evil at this time, after they made a "human selection or appointment?" Do we conclude that Matthias never amounted to anything for God? Certainly the Bible says no such thing.
I suppose one could argue that Stephen's associates, who were full of faith and the Holy Spirit, being selected by the multitude, (evil, congregational church government here) were not real leaders. I don't know what more anyone might want in a leader besides someone who is full of faith and the Holy Spirit. After all, isn’t Christian leadership all about serving? God Himself is going to serve His people at a grand table someday. Why not recognize that these faithful, Spirit filled leaders were serving God, in spite of being selected by the multitude? I suppose that because they were serving food and not involved in apostolic ministry, or teaching the Heavenly Vision, they are not leaders?
The true Apostles were present, why didn't they step in and exhort the people about avoiding "human selections and appointments?" Certainly, they should have at least made sure that these Spirit Filled men were never referred to as a committee. Committee's are "New Testament set-ups," and being "substitutes for the headship of Christ, are evil." Contrary to what George Geftakys might teach, it is a clear, undeniable fact that there are examples in the Bible of God blessing other types of "leadership selection," and church government besides the Heavenly Vision method.
Indeed, the very idea of accountability requires something like a vote. Whether it is the elders, the entire congregation, a Bishop or a denominational administration, there must be some sort of consensus regarding matters of discipline and accountability.
Again, the idea of accountability is twisted in The Heavenly vision. In the Assembly system, there must be unanimity among the Leading Brothers and elders. Supposedly, if one brother doesn't go along, there is not unanimity and thus God isn't moving yet. For example, if all the elders and Leading Brothers thought that the ministry should give a public account of finances, but George disagreed, God would not be leading that way yet, as there is not unanimity, and thus finances would continue to remain secret, as they are to this day.
On the other hand, if a leading brother thought that something should change, and was firm in his conviction, he would be removed from leadership for “not standing with the brothers.” This differs not at all from "democracy" except that in "evil" churches they may only require something like a three-fifths majority instead of unanimity. In practicality, the Leading Brothers simply follow George's lead and vote along with him, or else they “step down.”
I would be surprised if the reader is able to see the huge difference in church government that the Heavenly Vision describes. In the Assembly, the Leading Brothers and elders vote, whereas in the satanic churches, the elders and, in some places, the congregation votes. The author confesses that he is confused as to the difference; except that in the evil, satanic churches it seems more difficult that one man should have veto power. But my Heavenly Vision, which I still remember quite well, tells me that "The Lord's Servant" has special wisdom and revelation and therefore should have autocratic veto power, even when he claims to be “just a brother among brethren.”
To the best of my knowledge, the only New Testament leaders who made a practice of denouncing other leaders were the Judaizers of Galatia, the sectarians of Corinth, and Diotrophes, who we are told, "loves to have the pre-eminence." The practice of calling most other Christian leaders "human selections, substitutes for Christ's government and evil," puts a person in very colorful company, biblically speaking. Oh, yes, Paul pointedly denounced Peter for being a hypocrite and putting up with these false leaders. Peter, who is my favorite apostle, repented. Praise God! However, Paul in no way made a general practice of putting down other churches or leaders. Yet, when one reads the first chapter of Testimony to Jesus, they will get a very clear picture of how the Heavenly Vision views other gatherings and their leaders.
The method, or pattern of meeting is also very important in the Heavenly Vision. Everything must speak of and glorify Christ, while demonstrating the heavenly nature of the church. Therefore, women must wear head coverings; only acapella singing is proper, all brothers should be exercised in preaching, etc. This aspect of the Heavenly Vision is no problem at all. It is simply an important part of "The Pattern," much of which is quite Biblical. George teaches his followers that the Bible has a very specific “New Testament Pattern.” This goes way beyond New Testament Principles and gets into details about the right kind of bread for communion, how chairs should be set up and other externalities. The Heavenly Vision teaches that God is so concerned about the external pattern that he will reject His people who don't follow it.
While it has never been taught that a folding card table should be used to support the bread and wine on Sunday, it seems as traditional in the Geftakys ministry as polished wood altars are in some evangelical churches. Every Assembly in George's ministry meets in precisely the same way, because the pattern is so important. "If God cannot get His pattern expressed in us, He will bypass us until He finds those through whom He can get what He wants. God will not honor slovenly, careless stewards of His mystery."10 "There is only one course that will certainly command the endorsement of the Lord. Namely, to go on with the testimony to Him, as individuals and as a corporate Assembly, Scripture being our pattern and authority."11
By these statements, not only is Mr. Geftakys insinuating that his Assembly has “commanded the endorsement of the Lord,” but also that God has definitely bypassed the majority of churches, who can't give intelligent answers, have evil substitutes for the headship of Christ, who have refused God’s pattern, who don't express His government and throne rights, and are slovenly, careless stewards. It is a good thing the Assemblies are out there, otherwise God would not have an expression of His Son on the candlestick!
Let the reader note above that Heavenly Vision is required in order to "command the endorsement of the Lord." Surely, this is what the Lord Jesus meant when He said, "I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life." Clearly he was speaking about the church properly expressing Christ, right? According to the Heavenly Vision, Jesus must have meant to say that we don't get all the Life, or the endorsement, unless we do things the right way. The Heavenly Vision becomes the way to "command the endorsement of the Lord." The vision comes from, "scripture being our pattern and authority."
Other churches think that they get approval from God, solely in the person of Jesus. Contrarily, The Heavenly Vision teaches that we must do things a certain way in order to “command endorsement from The Lord.” This is a very dangerous thought as it takes away from Christ’s finished work and teaches that God is not pleased with His blood-bought people unless they set up the church correctly.
All evangelicals agree that scripture is our only authority. What is really meant by the above quotation is that George’s interpretation of scripture is our pattern and authority. Of course, it follows that those who don't have George’s interpretation don't have the vision either. In conclusion, these others would not have the testimony to Him, and would not command His blessing either.
Above all, the Heavenly Vision must begin with The Cross of Christ. Nothing of man, or the flesh will ever express Christ. We must see the cross as the threshold of something that transcends our wildest imagination, the house of God and the testimony to Jesus. In order for us to be people of vision, and people who are able to serve God acceptably, we must first be broken and only then can He make us new and have mercy upon us.
Simply being born-again is not enough. "Many are born-again, but few progress to the family of God, the house of the Living God, the testimony to Jesus."12 The Heavenly Vision, therefore, is much, much greater than just you or me. It is all about a "corporate" expression of Christ. For this to happen, we must essentially hate ourselves, counting anything that is of self as not pleasing to God. The Heavenly Vision version of God is like a father, looking down at His children:
Imagine a little child who brings her parent a hand-made present. Usually the parent's first question is, "What is it?" "It's a fish, Papa." "Oh, I knew that." "Would you like a bite?" "I don't think so sweetheart." It's a funny situation with a child, but much more serious with us. When we present this hammered and distorted image of the self-life to the Lord, His response will be, "What is it? It doesn't look anything like My Son," and great will be our loss as a result. Pg. 14, 'The Sin That Entangles', Dan Notti, Torch and Testimony Magazine.
It sounds to me like those in the Geftakys ministry may have God's Father-like character confused with some bad earthly fathers. If God despises our "selves" so much, why did He die for us when we were still sinners? Is it because He loves us, or because He is so disgusted with our "selves" He had to do something about it? The Bible says it is because He loves us.
If we are washed and cleansed in the Blood of The Lamb, does He still hate self and will we suffer great loss as a result? The Bible says His blood brings us near. Is this only so He can reject our "hammered image?" Orthodox Christian theology says a loud, clear "NO!" to the above questions. However, George's Heavenly Vision indicates in a round-about way that Christ is not enough, we need Heavenly Vision too, or we will perish.
Although George does say in the same books I have been quoting from that salvation is in Christ and Christ alone, he goes on to make the “work” as described in the Heavenly Vision, Christ as well. "In much Christian work today, we have lost sight of Christ; yet it is only as we see Him in the Work that we can truly call it God's work. Without a vision of Christ, our labor is nothing more than our own difficult and painful labor."13 "He wants companions of the heavenly calling, those who have grasped the Heavenly Vision, and are determined to take their place of sonship. With men and women like this, God can get an expression of His purpose in Christ Jesus."14
These quotes, in context, suggest that most other believers, who do not "see" the Heavenly Vision version of Christ, are simply laboring in vain. To be born-again, and ignorantly believe that God has called you to be involved in a pro-life pregnancy center, rather than a Geftakys Assembly means, that "self" is working and, due to the lack of vision, the labor is in vain. Because we don't see Him in the Work, we can only conclude that it is not God's work.
Simple and straightforward, the Heavenly Vision can sift through all the Christian activity today and end up with only those precious few who have God's endorsement. The Heavenly Vision fits the "hammered and distorted image" referenced above much better than simple believers who think that God loves them and serve Him out of love, even though they may not have thought much about the self-life or "corporately" expressing Christ.
Another way that this idea can be twisted is by using it to confuse and manipulate people who are concluding that their Assembly service is becoming “difficult and painful labor.” According to the Heavenly Vision, the reason members are unhappy with the Assembly is because they lack vision. Never, ever is it because there is something wrong with the ministry. Anything less than total satisfaction is due to a personal flaw or sin on the member’s part, not due to the leadership or the ministry.
Let the reader understand that the author in no way subscribes to the idea that everything is OK to God. The Bible clearly lists the Works of the flesh, and sins of all types, of which Christians must repent. By God's grace, we are His workmanship, created for good works, not sinful behavior. However, The Bible never goes to the extreme of the Heavenly Vision in regard to "self" and "the way of the cross." While George is not the only teacher who espouses "deeper life" ideas, he is one of the few that has applied them to a ministry, instead of individuals. He is also one of a few, (Witness Lee's Local Church and the International Church of Christ come to mind), who have denounced all other churches as "fleshly," "worldly," and "evil," due to their differing ideas.
There is much more that can be said regarding the Heavenly Vision, but I believe I have touched on the main points. Others may disagree and feel I have left out some key or other. However, the vision is vague and no one sees it all. Get a copy of "Testimony to Jesus" and read it carefully, it is the best source of Heavenly Vision available.
I would like to list some of the chief perspectives held and taught by those who are advancing in Heavenly Vision:
1. A "corporate" mentality. God's promises and, most importantly, the direction of His love, are toward a group, and not toward mere individuals. He did not die for me; he died for the church, but not just any church. "The church, His body, is one new man....What is that new man? As we have seen, together Christ and His church are the new creation, the new man." 15 Note carefully that George is teaching that the new man is not a Christian, as opposed to a Jew or Gentile, but a "Corporate man." It is not enough that I walk with God, but that "we" walk with God in a "corporate overcoming testimony." This goes way beyond just being saved. Not all churches are God's house, George teaches. God's house is where His government and throne rights are expressed, where He is preparing His bride. Therefore, not all Christians will be part of His bride because they lack this vision, being unprepared. According to the Heavenly Vision, most of the blessings of the Christian life are corporate, not individual. Individuals will miss out on God's best unless they are involved in a "corporate testimony," clearly meaning a Geftakys Assembly. Please pray for the author, as I can't help thinking of the Borg in Star Trek when I think of a "corporate man."
2. A "heavenly" mentality. What I mean by this is that members tend to look at everything in a rather disconnected way. Mundane things become highly important. Small failures may become huge, like being 5 minutes late serving dinner 3 times in a row. Huge failures may become insignificant, like George's predictions that The Great Tribulation will be in the 1980's, or that the US armed forces will be destroyed by Iraq in Desert Storm, or predicting that, "This is my last Bible; The Lord told me so. He will come before I wear out this Bible." This last prediction was 2 Bible's ago as of this writing. I checked carefully every time I saw George, because I once considered him to be one who brought "Prophetic Ministry."
I am speaking about gnats and camels here. The gnats are strained out consistently, but no one seems to notice the camel stench. Nothing much at all may be happening, but our "heavenly" mentality shows us that all heaven and earth have moved due to the prayer meeting. Anyone, or anything that stands in opposition is due to spiritual warfare in the heavenly places. Satan hates those who dwell in heaven, therefore when someone has something bad to say about the ministry it is because the enemy is raging. The enemy, members are taught, only rages against the ministry when it is being effective. Therefore, since the ministry has never done anything wrong, all negative comments are always from the enemy. The ministry is so "heavenly" that it is not possible that they could be teaching something wrong or earthly. People who disagree are dismissed as having fleshly wisdom, being deceived and of course having a good dose of bitterness.
Please note that I in no way mean that Christians should not, "set your mind on those things which are above." I simply mean that everything in George's group is viewed and judged against the Heavenly Vision. In the thinking of a member, the Heavenly Vision has become a spiritual analogy to the laws of physics. Let the reader take note that Jesus Himself had some negative things to say about some churches of Asia, not every negative comment is "the enemy."
3. A hermeneutic that is extremely mystical and has the Heavenly Vision as its gold standard. In my years of involvement I never heard anyone approach a passage from a cultural perspective, helping us to better understand to whom the letter was written. The possible exception to this was that we understood that Corinth was just like Southern California, full of wealth and immorality. Because everything was profoundly heavenly, any insight that could be gained from the cultural perspective was entirely lacking. God is not interested in man's ways, He is only interested in His ways, and His culture is heavenly. Many passages of the Bible were interpreted in very unique ways, because if taken at face value they seemed to contradict the Heavenly Vision. Everything was a "type" of one aspect or another of the Heavenly Vision. Since leaving the group I have been enjoying hearing God's voice afresh by learning about to whom different books were written to and just what their "earthly" situation was at the time.
4. A view of reality that is not quite real. Huge outreach productions are called a success, yet they result in no growth. God is often said to be working powerfully, yet nothing is happening, or people may be leaving! Other churches are seen as worldly and immoral, yet gross, blatant sin in the Assembly leadership is ignored. In one book George explains that it was after David sinned that God revealed to David that He wanted His house on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. This type of teaching is sometimes used to excuse behavior that is sinful on the part of some leaders. It actually can be twisted so that it seems good that leaders sin, because then they can be "broken." Yet, other churches are denounced for having loose dress codes or "worship teams." Cannot God reveal to them the greater secrets due to their "sin" as well? This borders on teaching that we should sin more so that Grace may abound. Apparently, sinners in other churches don't repent properly, because they don't see the Heavenly Vision the same way. The "heavenly" view of reality results in an inaccurate assessment of what is actually going on. Members think God is doing something great, but somehow the fact that a leader is involved in gross, devastating sin matters little or nothing at all.5.
Heavenly "authority" that is merely authoritarian and many times crosses the line into abuse.George Geftakys is an intelligent man with strong, black and white opinions. Since his opinions happen to be God's opinions as well, it becomes easy to be very forceful and adamant. If we are going about God's business, and it is His eternal purpose, should we be lax about it? Should we not be firm and uncompromising for God? Any abuse that occurs in this system is due solely to the independent, stubborn, self-willed, fleshly attitude of the person sitting across the table from God's appointed leader. Most of the Assembly leadership exemplifies "lording it over the flock," which we are commanded not to do. How can they not, if the leaders must be obeyed, even if they are wrong? Truly, this is a peculiar authority unique to a group of "corporate testimonies."
At this point, some members will be thinking that the author is hopelessly carnal, having lost his vision and given place to the enemy. Because of this, the author has been taken captive by Satan, to do his will and has attacked all things heavenly, especially the government of God, which is where Satanic attacks are always focused and most fierce. Let me assure the reader that I am in my right mind, enjoying true fellowship with many other believers and am very happy to be a Christian. Because I believed the very things I am "denouncing" for many years, I understand exactly what you members are thinking. You see, the Heavenly Vision has its own built-in mechanism to stave off any criticism. If you will believe that The Enemy always attacks the leaders, then anything negative about a leader is most assuredly a satanic attack. Never will it be the truth; never will the "attack" be a result of someone trying to bring the leader into account due to the leader's error or bad behavior.
This thinking flies in the face of the idea that leaders should be humble. This is nothing more than a classic recipe for disaster, and it will surely lead to disaster as it has is the past with many other groups that have similar practices.
What is the fruit of this group after it has been pursuing the Heavenly Vision for over 30 years? As already stated, there is an amazing degree of conformity. Dress codes, manner of speech, style of meeting, days and times of meetings are absolutely identical across North America. This is because the members have given themselves whole-heartedly to the Heavenly Vision, at least as far as the mechanical aspect goes. Churches in other ministries have quite a different flavor from one place to another. There are people of all ages and walks of life in them. In the Assemblies, most of the members are either college age, or married and in their 30's and early 40's. There are very, very few elderly people to speak of yet. It is almost unheard of for a family to join. Most new members are from college campuses. Interestingly, the Assembly's campus outreaches are usually much smaller than their evangelical counterparts. Most of the Assemblies have very small membership. It is interesting to look at the book of Acts, and see how part of the New Testament pattern involved growth, which was at times quite explosive. This is but one aspect of "the pattern," which is so very important to God that the Assemblies have not been able to express.
The Assembly leaders have recognized this for decades, and have taken steps to remedy the lack by praying, earnestly and consistently that God would, "do above all that we could ask or think." God is petitioned to "bring out the visitor," and behold, sometimes there are visitors. I think it is simply a matter of the members getting bolder in prayer, and asking God to save, say, 10 people a week, and then the ministry will experience the explosive growth as seen in the New Testament.
Now I would like to address the current members: Do not let the enemy cause you to reflect on some of the evil churches in your community where this kind of salvation and growth has occurred, sometimes quite rapidly. These churches are not really expressing Christ and God is not honoring them, according to the Heavenly Vision. Numbers don’t mean anything! (That is why Geftakys group members pray for “new ones” to come out. They say on the one hand that numbers mean nothing, yet they get totally excited when a few visitors show up.)
The growth of some of the non-denominational beach churches is simply due to the flesh. The flesh is not weak, and can often duplicate the work of The Spirit. People flock to these churches only because they have music and programs, not because they are seeking God. That is why music is used in Assembly outreaches; it is an interest producer, and brings out hundreds of visitors. (That is certainly what is prayed for) Of course, when these visitors hear the gospel, they are immediately offended and do not return. The author is not sure how to explain why whole stadiums full of people do not get up and walk out when the singing is over and Billy Graham starts to preach the Gospel. Of course, Reverend Graham does not understand the distinction of, “The Church as God has revealed it in His Word.” No doubt, if he did, the outreaches Reverend Graham is involved in would be of a much more manageable size.
On the contrary, rest assured that it is only a matter of time, until you members grow in vision, till God gets New Testament growth and other aspects of the pattern in the Assembly as well. 30 years of ministry and outreach are a drop in the bucket of eternity; let patience have its perfect work. Perhaps in another 30 years God will have prepared the ministry for regular visitors and double-digit salvation on a weekly basis. God will sustain and edify His church. The gates of Hell shall not prevail against God's true church, as expressed in His Word. Do not consider your ways. Above all, do not let The Enemy suggest that you have sown much and brought home little. This is simply not true, is it?
Another characteristic of the group is that a large percentage of members are willing to sacrifice anything and everything for the Heavenly Vision. This is quite remarkable and is to be commended on one level. George has some extremely loyal followers who are willing to do anything for God. They are also willing to do anything for God's servant, namely George. I hope he uses extreme discretion in the decisions he makes, because he has the power to radically change people's lives with a 2-minute phone call.
The Heavenly Vision has fostered an extreme idea of self-loathing among members. Because so much emphasis is put on "dealing with self," members often lose sight of who God is and His attributes. Consequently, there is a lot of anxiety, fear, depression and sickness among members. Members give it their best shot, then fail, due to "self "getting in the way. They are so tired of self, they want to be done with self, and they want to be filled with Christ: they repent and pray the selfer's prayer and they still don't have real joy. The extreme emphasis on the Heavenly Vision has resulted in many people not thinking and meditating on Christ, but on the "things" that belong to Christ. A common line of speaking goes like this: "Because Christ is my life, there is just no room for me or my things." The gospel becomes more of a tool to help deal with "self" than the love of God poured out on mankind in the person of Jesus Christ. Does it say in the Bible that there is no room for "me?" What did Jesus mean when He said, "I go to prepare a place for you?" Did He mean me in the personal sense, or was He referring to a "corporate man?"
The Heavenly Vision teaches that God's purpose is being carried out in His House, which is the church. Therefore, everything in a member's life revolves around the meetings. Where I live, the hours I work, what I teach and train my children to do, what I do with my time, everything revolves around the house of God. This sounds good on a certain level, but what we mean by "God's House" is critical, if our lives are to be centered on it. Our lives should be "centered" around Jesus Christ and Him crucified. A ministry, no matter how doctrinally sound, simply becomes an idol if we arrange our lives around it and serve it without reservation. I find it interesting that the Bible teaches that believers themselves are His House, yet the Heavenly Vision becomes blurred on this point, indicating that the meetings and group activity is the House of God. The people become secondary to the system, instead of the system serving the people.
Because so few of God’s "other" people have been blessed with this vision, members have a genuine superiority complex. This starts from the top down. Virtually every message preached by George includes a good dose of broad, negative comments directed toward other Christians.
Closely related to the above is a persecution complex. Any negative news about the group or one of its leaders is persecution. It doesn't matter if it is true, or if the "targeted" leader is committing sin. If it is bad news it's persecution, period. This makes it very hard to learn or change.
Many of the activities that are necessary in order to serve the ministry must be kept secret. One very clear example of this is child training. How "encouraged" would most visitors be if they could see what No-Fussing and Mat Training look like? Would they say, "God is in you of a truth!" Or would they think that perhaps people are a little harsh with the children. The only way a person can do that sort of thing to a precious child is if they understand the Heavenly Vision. It just isn't normal. This is one aspect of the "light" that members really don't want set on the candlestick.
It would be very hard indeed to defend these practices before a judge. Spanking is legal, and there are many evangelical leaders who have successfully defended its practice, due to the fact that The Bible instructs us to "use the rod." However, there are not any verses that come to mind regarding No Fussing and Mat Training, yet these have been the single biggest aspect of "child training" in the Assemblies for many years. Does this idea come from The Bible, or is it developed from the Heavenly Vision? In the New Testament, most of the verses that deal with Jesus and children don't portray Him No-Fussing the kids, but rebuking those who wanted to silence the children. If the reader can biblically explain the Assembly's child-training ideas I would love to listen.
Remember, for years the author diligently trained his children and was quite successful. I rarely had Scripture as my guide, but lots of Heavenly Vision ideas and technique. As a child of God, I am very thankful that He doesn't no-fuss me when I come to Him and pour out my heart, telling Him all of my complaints and bitterness. Instead, He forgives and comforts me. He has never put his hand over my mouth and said, "NO FUSS!"
While keeping the above in mind the author believes it is imperative to state that although Heavenly Vision child training is authoritarian and overly strict, it in no way constitutes physical child abuse. It is not the author’s goal to in any way cause legal problems for members or their families, but only to point out that the child training practices are not clearly seen in the Bible and must be hidden from public view because they look strange to most people. The acts of No-Fussing and Mat Training might be construed as psychological abuse according to modern liberal thinking, but they are not physically harmful to children over 6 months of age.
The Heavenly Vision does not teach the beating of children. However, it definitely does teach over utilization of spanking. If some members cross the line into physical abuse it is not due to what they were taught by the leadership, but due to overzealous practice of spanking, or perhaps they are merely child abusers to begin with, apart from their Assembly involvement.
There is a parallel application with what was once called “Wife-training” in the Assemblies. Husbands were never taught to physically beat their wives, only to “train” them by establishing a firm authority over them. Some husbands, due to their angry nature, crossed the line into physical abuse. Although it is quite true that this was often excused and covered up due to the wife-training mentality, it was never flat out taught that husbands should beat their wives.
The closest thing to condoning abuse was when George’s son David, along with Betty Geftakys, George’s wife, taught that it was acceptable to slap one’s wife if she was “hysterical.” Since that time, this teaching has been revoked, mainly due to the fact that David Geftakys was discovered to have been regularly beating his wife, even though she was not “hysterical” at the time. Many Assembly members correctly viewed this as wife beating, in spite of their adherence to The Heavenly Vision.
Another very interesting practice the Assemblies have is that the gospel is preached every Sunday afternoon. Rarely does one hear a powerful, interesting gospel message. The Gospel is always the weakest, least interesting message shared. A younger, less experienced brother usually preaches the gospel message. However, these less experienced men sometimes share very strong messages about the Heavenly Vision. This, I believe, is a real snapshot of what the extreme emphasis on the Heavenly Vision has done to this group. Hearing about why God became a man, and was willing to be crucified to save me, hearing about His great love, how He loved me even when I was dead in sin, how He loves me even more now that I am washed and cleansed in His blood should move me.
However, because the Heavenly Vision states that we are engaged in something much bigger than any one of us, God's love for the sinner is denigrated, but His determination to have a "Testimony to Jesus" is elevated. This results in viewing the Gospel message as "mere salvation," or "simply the beginning." Jesus did not say, "I Am the Alpha, but the corporate expression of me is the omega." He said, "I Am The Alpha and The Omega."
The Gospel message is that we have been redeemed, at His expense. He is all in all. What could be more heavenly than that? What else is there? If we have Him we lack nothing. Why does the Heavenly Vision teach that salvation is only the beginning, when Jesus Himself said He is The Beginning and The End? "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him. For in Him dwells all the fullness of The Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power." The passage I quote above is clearly talking to individual men and women in the church at Colossae.
The apostle Paul is saying that we end the same way we started, in Him. Furthermore, we are complete in Him. If the Heavenly Vision were so critical one would expect that The Holy Spirit would have said something plainly here, regarding corporate truth, or perhaps the peculiar authority that God gets when the church truly expresses Christ or how very few will ever get the candle on the candlestick.
Instead, the passage goes on to describe how we should relate to one another in love. It is very simple and beautiful. Reading it is no problem; the real miracle is living it. When God gets His love increasingly expressed in me, will not this testify of Jesus far more than setting up chairs in a semi-circle and having a high view of my church? Serving the vision makes it proportionally more difficult to serve one another in love. After all, God's purpose is much larger than you, my dear brother.
If the reader is a well-read evangelical he will no doubt agree that much of what George calls the Heavenly Vision is true and Biblical. God does want the church to glorify and magnify His name. He is using His church to carry out His work in the earth today. His church is indeed defined by His presence through the Holy Spirit. However, I believe that George goes on and makes distinctions and divisions among God's people that are simply not scriptural.
The Heavenly Vision, and the whole Geftakys ministry in general, suffers from a peculiar sort of extremism. This is a type of "more is better" thinking. In effect, George seems to have transferred to himself the role of prophet, and the role of faithful remnant to his followers. This, by itself, is not so bad, but all other born again believers become the unwashed masses in the Heavenly Vision. This is nothing more than a division in the Body of Christ. The Heavenly Vision has simply taken the "I am of Christ" aspect of age-old sectarianism. The author has arrived at this conclusion based on what he has been able to deduce after knowing George and those closely associated with him for 17 years.
George is a very serious, driven man who does not relate to people except as a pastor/teacher. I know of no one who considers himself to be his close friend, and he has no peer in his ministry, or anywhere else. He has reproduced this character trait in many of those who follow him. In general, relationships influenced by the Heavenly Vision are totally defined by mutual involvement in church activities. This, of course, applies to the leadership more than to the rank-and-file members, who may actually have normal friendships that survive even when one party leaves the group. This is not at all common, but has happened in some rare cases.
Leaders generally have their closest relationships with other leaders, and rarely with regular members. Any friendship among Workers will be cut off instantly the moment one of the parties "leaves fellowship." I find it interesting that George has few, if any, friendly acquaintances that are not in his ministry. Certainly he has no friends who are leaders in other groups. Speaking with his family members who are not involved in his ministry is very revealing. They have many things to say about George that do not inspire confidence in his "Apostolic Authority."
People involved with George Geftakys in the years before he began his ministry say that, among other things, he was always very zealous and enthusiastic. He became easily frustrated with others who did not adopt what he considered a proper zeal for God. This trait has definitely carried over to the Heavenly Vision. George quickly writes off anyone who leaves or disagrees with him, and he would have us believe that God does too. Hence the idea that God bypasses those who don't follow the correct pattern, or those who aren't willing to be dead to all the world's methods in the church. There is no room for debate over what might be the world's methods, only a pronouncement of God's displeasure and ultimate judgment on those churches that are compromised, according to the Heavenly Vision.
If one studies the history of the Plymouth Brethren, real light is shed on why the Geftakys ministry tends towards elitism and exclusivity. The Brethren were a movement that sprang up in the midst of the darkness of the Church of England. Their very refreshing ideas about the simplicity in worshiping God apart from the liturgy and control of the State religion was fertile ground for what would become a powerful, world-wide movement of the Holy Spirit.
For a time, the Plymouth Brethren were indeed a unique spiritual movement amongst a society that was largely ignorant of much of the New Testament teachings of salvation, the church and fellowship in Christ. This was an exciting time to say the least.
I am sure that George was quite taken up with this historical fact when he first became involved with the Plymouth Brethren. I don't think that I am taking too much liberty by suggesting that he transferred the spiritual condition of 19th century England upon Orange County, California in the late 1960's. In his mind, the Assembly became the Plymouth Brethren of their day, all the other evangelical churches became like the Church of England. I defy anyone who has been under George's ministry for any length of time to deny that he repeatedly criticizes, condemns, and even makes fun of other Christians.
Sometimes churches need criticism and rebuke. Certainly this paper qualifies as both. However, this is much different than saying that, "most of God's people today are oblivious." Yes, some of God's people need to repent. But one cannot forget that George and the members of his Assemblies qualify as God's people too. Is it possible that they might need to repent?
Some of what George teaches regarding the church is wonderful. But by going to the extreme and condemning virtually every other church, he betrays the true spirit behind his Heavenly Vision. The Bible declares there is one body, one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all. George's teaching communicates that his ministry exemplifies this with precious few others.
He readily admits that in ages past God always had a faithful remnant. In the current age, according to George, this remnant is the Assemblies; all other Christians are analogous to the Roman Catholic Church of ages past. The Plymouth Brethren could rightfully say that the high church did not obey the scripture, and in fact was not of God but of man's tradition. However, the moment they started applying this sort of reasoning to their fellow believers, God’s Glory departed.
George has taken this same spirit, which might have been appropriate for a certain time and place in the mid 19th century, and has applied it to the modern evangelical world. Whatever problems might be present in some of the larger evangelical groups today, they are still Christians, and to their own Master will stand or fall. Just as with the early Plymouth Brethren, the sectarian, exclusive spirit of the Heavenly Vision, has stunted the growth of what should have been a very powerful movement of God. Certainly, if commitment is any gauge, the Assemblies have hundreds of members who would be willing to die for Christ, yet it is clearly evident that the power of God does not anoint George's ministry.
I believe that the extreme emphasis on the Heavenly Vision, and its application is the reason that the Geftakys ministry sows much, but harvests little. Effort and effect are not at all in proportion. The isolation of the members keeps them from seeing this plain fact. It is truly shocking to see how powerfully God moves in other evangelical groups. While the Geftakys ministry prays for visitors, many other churches must pray for larger places to meet and for more people to minister to the growing numbers of believers in their churches. This is due to many visitors, who not only come out, but also come into fellowship. The contrast is stark.
The Bible says, "You must be born again." This is the simple, blessed message that is preached every Sunday at thousands of evangelical churches across the land. This is not good enough for George, because this is what the mainstream is doing. He has taken salvation to another level. The Heavenly Vision also has much to say about sanctification and inheritance. Suffice it to say that the key to sanctification is that one is involved in a, "corporate overcoming testimony."
In other words, the Heavenly Vision promises a deeper, more spiritual walk that is more pleasing to God than those other evangelicals who are only justified. This is perhaps the most subtle and dangerous aspect of the Heavenly Vision.
Not only does it produce pride and blindness in the members, but also it has led to shipwreck in the lives of some who have left the Geftakys ministry. People who thought they were growing spiritually all those years become discouraged and dismayed when they learn that the Heavenly Vision had no value against the indulgence of the flesh. Upon leaving the group they discover that what was keeping them from "sin" was really no more than social pressure. Inner transformation did not take place, merely outward change of behavior. Instead of concluding that they may be the victims of false teaching, they doubt the reality and goodness of God. This outward conformity is precisely the principle from which a "Training Home" in the Geftakys ministry operates.
"We must be training in our homes. The purpose of the home is to train, to mold and change behavior."
Changing behavior from the outside, through training and molding is the opposite of what The Holy Spirit does. I find this astonishing when compared to the strong "death to self" teaching that George communicates. A member could easily come from a Saturday tape meeting, hearing George preach about how self control, or changing outward behavior is of no spiritual value, and come home to labor in George’s training home, which is designed to "mold and change behavior!" I ask the reader, how is it that the Bible clearly says that God changes us from the inside out, but the Heavenly Vision teaches that by changing outward behavior we can become more Christ-like?
The zealous member will spend years in a training home, sincerely believing that he is maturing spiritually, when in fact he has merely adopted a modern form of monastic life. Members of monastic orders are usually sincere about getting to know God in a deeper way, yet a student of the Bible knows that the monastic lifestyle is no more spiritual than that of fast food worker. The Geftakys member will have a difficult time coming to a proper understanding of God's character, because of the confusing messages sent by the Heavenly Vision.
For example: Is it in keeping with God's character that He save us by His Grace alone, totally apart from our works of righteousness, only to tell us that we are now obligated to meet an impossibly high standard that only a few will ever meet? Does our Christian life begin with Grace, but continue with the Heavenly Vision? Certainly not!
I know that members of the Assembly are practically shouting right now, marking up this paper with a red pen. "We believe it's all grace!" they say. However, the reader should keep in mind that the Judaizers in Galatia also taught that we begin in faith but are then "made perfect" by observing certain aspects of the law, avoiding some behaviors, practicing others, coupled with faith. Consequently, the Galatians lost their joy, were becoming alienated from other believers, and were thinking themselves "more perfect” due to their deeper walk that went beyond mere salvation by faith. Paul called this "another Gospel, which is not good news at all." It is either grace or works, not both.
Is the Heavenly Vision true? In part it may very well be, but the truthful aspects of it will never come about by setting up strict patterns to observe, putting down others who belong to the family of God and isolating ourselves from much needed input and help from other members of Christ's body. Does not the Bible say that we need the other members? Isn't it wrong to say to the Christian community: "You don't know how to worship. You don't have God appointed leaders. You are ignorant of God's purpose today?" This is tantamount to the eye saying to the hand, "I have no need of you."
"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." 1Cor 13:2
This topic is reminiscent of the Pharisees, who were offended because the disciples plucked grain on the Sabbath. Jesus answered them by saying that man was not created for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man. The Pharisees had much knowledge regarding the symbolism and teaching regarding God's purpose in the Sabbath. They had so much advanced insight that they got things way out of proportion and lost a fundamental truth. God never intended us to serve ideas about the Sabbath, as wonderful as they are. No, He created the Sabbath to bless and benefit man.
Today, Jesus Christ is our Sabbath, not church meetings, or a man's ministry. He freely gave Himself at the cross to bless and eternally save His sinful creation. God did not create man to serve His church, or the Heavenly Vision or whatever we might call it. No, He created all of that for our building up and for us to richly enjoy. We are not to be in bondage to some ideas about the church, for that is exactly what the Heavenly Vision has become. It has become a cause to which we are to give our allegiance.
However, God intends for us to have a love relationship with Him. He created us in order that He might bless us in true union with Himself. Yes, it is absolutely true that we should worship and serve Him, but we are not obligated to and will never match the blessing and service that He poured out on us in Christ. The way we serve God is by responding to Him out of love. Faith works through love, and no other way. Of course, if we do respond to Him out of love, we will find that we bless God's people as well, many times without even knowing it. Any Christian, no matter how little Heavenly Vision he may possess, who responds to God out of love will be in perfect step with God's eternal purpose. After all, before any real church testimony can take place we must be rooted and grounded in love.
The Heavenly Vision, in my opinion, has become a stumbling block for many. The extreme emphasis put on it has resulted in a stagnant, isolated group of people plagued by elitist thinking. To make matters worse, the people who are serving the vision are sincere believers who want to please God. Although they put forth sincere effort, the Heavenly Vision and the "testimony" remain unattainable ideals, largely due to misunderstanding of what God really wants from His people.
The emphasis changes from time to time, but it always results in people feeling inadequate and in need of repentance. Repentance is fine when there is sin to repent of, but the Heavenly Vision results in false guilt, shame and feelings of inadequacy. "I asked God to save me, and I believe He did, but I still have so much self! I am such a wretch!" Does God cleanse us from all unrighteousness? When do we become new creations in Christ? After we get Heavenly Vision? This is not the way the Holy Spirit works. The Spirit directs us into the love of God, not into the loathing of self. My heart grows burdened when I think of how members could just step out of that system and see that God is doing some wonderful things today. However, what I have written here will most likely just be considered another attack from the adversary.
I hope that this paper helps the ministry find its way back to the Love of God and His unlimited Grace, but I fear that recent events point to much more hardship and loss for the Geftakys ministry.
I invite the response of members and ex-members alike.
May 19, 2001
Page 165, Testimony to Jesus, George Geftakys
3 Page 7, Testimony
4 Page 13, The Sufficiency of The Scriptures, George Geftakys
5 Page 16 ibid,
6 Page 32-33, Royal Overcomers, 1st edition, George Geftakys
7 Page 33, Getting Back-Perils and Onward, George Geftakys
8 Page 12, Testimony
9 Page 86 Getting Back
10 Page 119 Testimony
11 Point 5, page 15, Sufficiency
12 Page 4, The Candlestick of Pure Gold, George Geftakys
13 Page 178 Testimony
14 Introduction to The House of God , George Geftakys
15 Page 91 Testimony