The error of prosperity theology comes down to one question: Does the Christian receive all the benefits of the cross now, or are some benefits of salvation kept for us until Christ returns? That's it. How you answer that question determines if you embrace prosperity theology or not.
Prosperity preachers have been around a long time. It is true that modern American prosperity preaching is a relatively new thing, but the root of their error goes deep into history, all the way back to 2 Timothy 2:16-18: “But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.”
There it is, right there in the first century! Hymenaeus and Philetus were teaching that the resurrection had already happened. But wait, isn't that true? Jesus hadalready been resurrected. The fact that Jesus is alive is the legitimizing fact of the Christian faith! So, what was their error? These two men were teaching that our resurrection has already happened. It's the same mistake prosperity preachers make today. They were teaching all the future promises are for now, not later.
It may not seem like a big deal, so let’s put some flesh on it. If these men were preaching today, they would say something like, “You should not be sick! Jesus died for your health and your wealth! You should be reigning now!” Sounds like those “super apostles” in Corinth, doesn't it? This doctrine was not just a problem in Ephesus, where Timothy pastored; it was also a problem in Corinth. Modern prosperity teachers are teaching the same things today. They teach that the believer has access to everything Jesus purchased for us right now! Prosperity pundits promise us if we will only have faith, we can experience heaven on earth now! It was upsetting the faith of some in Ephesus, and it is still upsetting the faith of people today.
What is so wrong about this? Let's consider Ephesians 1 together.
In verse 11, Paul writes, “In him, we have obtained an inheritance…” Notice the past tense. We have obtained an inheritance. In Christ, we have an inheritance right now! This is a fantastic truth we need to consider.
Now read just three verses down, verse 14: “…who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it…” Clearly, being in Christ guarantees a future inheritance as well. When we consider both verses, we see that we have obtained an inheritance and we will obtain an inheritance. Theologians call this the “already-not yet.” We must wait for some of what Jesus purchased for us. It is there for us in eternity future, but we must longingly wait for it.
Cast your eyes back up a few verses to verse 3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Christian brother and sister, right now, God the Father is blessing you with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Right now! He is blessing you with spiritual blessings. But he is not yet blessing you with every physical blessing in the heavenly places. For that, we must wait.
We can almost hear Hymenaeus and Philetus bark back: “Now is our resurrection! Now we have every physical blessing as well!” Modern prosperity preachers bark their mistaken lies as well. Don't listen! Oh yes, to be sure, we have been spiritually resurrected and blessed with every spiritual thing. To be sure, we are physically blessed and God promises to take care of our physical needs, often physically blessing us lavishly! But the promise of our resurrection, although secure, is out there. So, we wait.
Our resurrection is coming! Every physical blessing in the heavenly places belongs to us. It is coming for us, but not yet. Maranatha!