The expression “Third Wave” was coined by Christian theologian C. Peter Wagner around 1980, in his book The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit: Encountering the Power of Signs and Wonders Today, to describe what followers believe to be the recent historical work of the Holy Spirit. It’s part of a larger movement known as the Neo-Charismatic movement. The “Third Wave” involves those Christians who have received Pentecostal-like experiences, however Third Wavers usually claim no close association with either the Pentecostal or Charismatic movements. One of the largest groups in the Third Wave are the members of the New Apostolic Reformation.

  • The First “wave” occurred at the beginning of the twentieth century with the rise of the Pentecostal movement, beginning with the Azusa Street Revival.
  • The Second “wave” occurred during the 1960s as the Charismatic movement spread throughout mainline Protestant denominations, as well as the Roman Catholic Church. The Word of faith movement is also an expression of this movement.
  • The Third “wave” occurred during the mid 1980s and continues today, and is associated with Wagner’s own ministry, as well as the Vineyard Movement. The Toronto blessing and Eternal Grace are also an expression of this movement.

The Third Wave or New Apostolic Reformation Movement; which includes the church in which Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was baptized and spent more than 20 years, and the various churches she still chooses to attend, promote a theocratic world view, in which their particular brand of fundamentalism dominates all aspects of society, as a prelude to the return of Jesus. Their strategy for achieving domination includes infiltration and fracturing of traditional Christian churches. In his book, Civil War in the Church, Rick Joyner, one of the leading figures in the Third Wave Movement, claims that this war, like the American Civil War, will be fought between the “Grays” and the “Blues.” The Grays represent the institutionalized existing church which he claims is mired in legalism and lives by the power of their own brains, while the victorious Blues represent those joining in the new knowledge and supernatural outpouring of “signs and wonders.”

Four Features of the Third Wave

So what exactly is the Third Wave movement? According to a study committee of the Christian Reformed Church, the Third Wave movement is identified by four distinctive features:

  • Prophecy and hearing the voice of God. The Third Wave movement affirms the ongoing direct communication of God. Not only does God still speak to people, they are literally able to hear God’s voice (sometimes referred to as receiving a “word of knowledge” or “word of wisdom” from God).
  • Powerful prayer. The Third Wave movement emphasizes the “mysterious but undeniable ways in which God’s will is affected by the prayers of believers”. The power of prayer lies in its ability to create new realities which would otherwise not have been called into existence. “The faithful prayers of God’s people are the power to move the hands of God.” Think about that. Through prayer the faithful can force God’s hand, implying that Man can overcome the will of God.
  • Healing ministries. The Third Wave affirms the ongoing power of God to provide physical and mental healing. The experience of healing often occurs in the context of prayer, which provides an avenue for the power of God to restore broken lives.
  • Spiritual warfare and deliverance ministries. The Third Wave movement emphasizes the ongoing battle between good and evil, recognizing that both holy and demonic forces struggle to gain influence in our lives at every level of our experience. They think of this in literal terms.

From my article Sarah Palin & The Third Wave;

C. Peter Wagner, a central figure in the organization of the movement who considers himself one of its leaders, believes that a second Apostolic age began in 2001 and that it is “heralding the most radical change in the way of doing church at least since the Protestant Reformation.” He also claims that this international movement under the direction of his Apostles is the only large sector of Christianity growing faster worldwide than Islam. The three levels of spiritual warfare, according to Wagner, include the casting out of demons from individuals, “occult-level warfare” against “powers of darkness” (like New Age thought and Tibetan Buddhism), and “strategic-level warfare” against whole geographical areas thought to be controlled by Satan. They engage in a process called “Spiritual Mapping”, which is the practice of gathering information on patterns of belief and unbelief in cities and communities, and trying to gain territory for God. (Note to professor-types: spiritual mapping often finds demon-inspired unbelief to be centered around an area’s universities.)

Wagner and his Apostles monitor their progress through the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs, attached to the New Life church formerly led by Ted Haggard. Leading Apostles and Prophets with titles such as “Generals of Intercession” go on spiritual warfare ventures with names like “Operation Ice Castle” – to attack the territorial demons which they believe prevent Muslims and Roman Catholics from embracing the true faith.

“Operation Ice Castle” was conducted in the Himalayas in 1997. Several of the group’s top prophets and generals of intercession spent weeks in intensive prayer to “confront the Queen of Heaven”. This queen is considered by them to be one of the most powerful demons over the earth and is the Great Harlot of Mystery Babylon in Revelation. (The “Great Harlot of Mystery Babylon” theme also figures prominently in the sermons of Texas megachurch pastor and Christians United For Israel founder John Hagee, former endorser of John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid.) Wagner and his group claim that the Queen of Heaven is Diana, the pagan god of the biblical book Ephesians and the god of Mary venerated in the Roman Catholic Church. Following the “Operation Ice Castle” prayer excursion (which included planting a flag for Jesus on Mt. Everest), one of the lead prayer intercessors from the excursion, Ana Mendez, reported that there had been dramatic results including, “millions have come to faith in Asia… and other things happened which I believe are also connected… an earthquake had destroyed the basilica of Assisi, where the Pope had called a meeting of all world religions; a hurricane destroyed the infamous temple ‘Baal-Christ’ in Acapulco, Mexico; the Princes Diana died… and Mother Theresa died in India, one of the most famous advocates of Mary as Co-Redeemer.”

From a standpoint of public policy, it’s vitally important to understand that Third Wave doctrine teaches that their leaders are raising a generation of youth who will be imparted with supernatural powers and form a conquering Christian army. These youth, often referred to as “Joel’s Army” and as “the generation born after 1973”, will purge the earth in preparation for Jesus’ return. The movement features special gatherings of believers to use “spiritual warfare” to purge “territorial demons” and end “generational curses” in order to transform the cities of America and the world. Social reform thus takes place through the expulsion of demons.

Third Wave doctrine is an example of an extreme religious exceptionalism – not only are all other religious and philosophical belief systems on Earth seen as invalid and under Satanic influence, but Third Wave theology sees all competing branches, sects and denominations of Christianity, particularly other conservative Christians who refuse to join “the river” of these outpourings, as an obstacle to God’s divine will. Third Wave adherents believe that other Christian churches must drop their competing doctrines, which prevent them from joining this final end-time army, and group together under the new authority of the Apostles and Prophets of this final age. In other words, true believers will join together, in one triumphant end time church, to do battle against evil in the final generation.


Sarah Palin & The Third Wave
Third Wave Doctrines
C. Peter Wagner – Quotes & Notes
Joel’s Army & The Call
SPLC: “Arming” For Armageddon