Redeemed Or Destroyed Re Evaluating The Social Dimensions Of Bodily Destiny In The Thought Of Charles Parham

Redeemed Or Destroyed  Re Evaluating The Social Dimensions Of Bodily Destiny In The Thought Of Charles Parham

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Redeemed or Destroyed: Re-evaluating the Social Dimensions of Bodily Destiny in the Thought of

Charles Parham

Leslie D. Callahan


Because Charles Parham is widely revered within Pentecostal circles, scholarly and ecclesiastically, as the person who articulated the theolog- ical position that speaking in tongues is the initial, physical evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he is known by many as a and by some as the founder of modern Pentecostalism. This attachment to Parham per- sists despite the significant evidence of his espousal of white supremacist teachings and his promulgation of other theological positions that the majority of Pentecostals rejected in Parham’s own era and in contempo- rary times. The ability to simultaneously embrace Parham’s role as prog- enitor and to reject certain aspects of his theological position rests on the assumption that the essential elements of his Pentecostal pedigree can be divorced from the more extreme aspects of his social and theological vision. This paper argues, to the contrary, that Parham’s social subscrip- tion to white supremacy in the form of Anglo-Israelism and his theolog- ical extremism in believing in the bodily annihilation of the unregenerate at Christ’s coming are inextricably connected with his understanding of the full gospel, including sanctification and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The Thought of Charles Parham

In a 1912 sermon about the “sources of disease,” Charles Parham pro- claimed that the vitality of life obtained in sanctification foreshadows the coming glory of the final age:

© 2006 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden pp. 203–227


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God has provided a sanctified body for you, anticipating the redemption. He says: “Ye received not the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption.” The sanctified body is the spirit of adoption. What is adoption?… Adoption permeates, not only the soul, but the body.1

The prominence of the “sanctified body” in Parham’s writings and ser- mons derives from the sanctified body’s role in signaling preparation for Redemption. Sanctification represents the “earnest of redemptive glory,” Parham concluded, “and if you want to obtain that Redemption, get a sanctified body.”2 Parham perceived “Redemption,” which he always cap- italized, as the process at Christ’s coming when “immortality and incor- ruption” overwhelm human mortality and frailty, transforming human bodies into the body of Christ. The plan of God in salvation and the goal of human life culminate in this future triumph of the spirit over the flesh, but only to the extent that individual lives conform in the present to sanctification, resisting the operations of fleshly performances.3

Judging by the number of pages he wrote and the sermons he gave, nothing seemed more vital to Parham than the end of time and prophecy concerning it.4 The power of Christ to save, heal, and baptize with the Holy Ghost formed an incomplete picture without the fourth element in the full gospel: the hope of Christ’s Second Coming. For Parham, as for others, eschatology was an essential component in understanding God’s work and purpose in the world. In Parham’s thought, not only are the souls of human beings ordained to bliss or to hell, but also the human bodies of men and women play an equally significant role in humanity’s final drama. Indeed, Parham’s vision of the culmination of human history is rife with corporeal images. These bodies, moreover, were particularly racialized and politicized in his thinking. The saved, who tended to be white, to embrace sanctification, and to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, will enter eternity through Redemption, the immortalization and perfection of the human body. The damned have no eternity; rather, they will be utterly destroyed, both soul and body. Most striking, perhaps, was that this racialized and political conception of the redeemed and the damned pervaded Parham’s theology of the past, the present, and the future.


Charles F. Parham, “Sources of Disease,” Apostolic Faith (Baxter Springs), August 1912, 4–5.


Ibid., 5.


Ibid., 4.


In both Voice Crying in the Wilderness and The Everlasting Gospel, more than half of the chapters detailed eschatological events.



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Scholars of the Pentecostal Movement have frequently noted the impor- tance of eschatology in defining early Pentecostal theology and practice, but none has produced a study that concentrates on the bodily destiny of the saved and the damned. According to Grant Wacker, Pentecostal escha- tology conforms generally to dispensationalism with three modifications. First, Pentecostals claimed that only believers who had experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit would be taken up in the rapture.5 Second, they contended that Christ would not return until the “full gospel” mes- sage of salvation, baptism in the Holy Spirit, healing, and the coming of the Lord had been preached to the whole world.6 The anticipated eschatological future, thus, had present implications in the emphasis on evangelism. Third, they redefined what dispensationalists regard as the dispensation of grace as the “Age of the Holy Spirit.”7 Charles Parham’s eschatology generally reflected these modifications, although he, like many other Pentecostals, added distinctive elements, which included a racial- ized distinction between the saved and the unsaved and which culminated in the bodily annihilation of the unregenerate.

Emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit led to the terminology of the “latter rain” that pervaded early Pentecostal writings. The “latter rain” theology modified dispensationalism by supposing that what dispensa- tionalists called the “great parenthesis” represented the divine plan rather than simply an interruption in the plan occasioned by human disobedi- ence.8 The “latter rain” was itself a reference to the prophecy of Joel, based on the growing seasons of Palestine in which there was an earlier rainy season and then a later rainy season that yielded a more plentiful harvest. According to Pentecostal historical thinking, the first or former rain occurred in the apostolic era beginning on the day of Pentecost. The latter rain referred to the final harvest at the end of the age. For Parham and others like him, the Pentecostal Movement represented that final out- pouring of the Holy Spirit.

Tongues were the principal sign of the latter rain, according to Parham and many of his Pentecostal cohorts. In a chapter in The Everlasting Gospel, Parham’s second publication, titled “The Early and Latter Rain,” Parham defended the Apostolic Faith movement against the criticism that while the first-century Pentecost included languages that were understood


Grant Wacker, Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 253.




Ibid., 254.





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by bystanders, the modern Pentecostals could not be understood. Parham charged that “two-thirds of this tongue stuff over the country is not Pentecost.”9 Parham viewed the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom to all the world as the primary reason for speaking in tongues. He, like others in the premillennialist camp, viewed worldwide preaching as a pre- cursor to the Second Advent of Christ. Premillennialists derived this doc- trine from a literal reading of Matthew 24:14 when Jesus said, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached to all the world as a witness unto all nations; then shall the end come” (KJV). More than being sim- ply a sign of God’s presence in restoring apostolic gifts, tongues heralded the imminence of the culmination of the age. The time was too short for God to await the lengthy process of language instruction for missionar- ies. Instead, God provided a supernatural means of language acquisition that also insured that God’s own words would be heard in the preaching.

The emphasis on the preaching of the gospel to all the world, includ- ing the heathen, also explains how Parham could continue to encourage evangelism even when some racial and ethnic groups were seen as being predisposed to refuse it. Historian David William Faupel explains the ori- entation of early Pentecostals in this regard by distinguishing between “converting” and “evangelizing” the world. Pentecostals, Faupel contends, were primarily concerned with hastening the return of Christ. As he put it, “Instead of concentrating on the conversion of humanity, for which they did not feel responsible, the early Pentecostals proclaimed their mis- sion to be the evangelization of the world.”10 Parham’s skepticism about the world’s ability to be converted held back any optimism about the suc- cess of evangelism, but to spread the gospel, to evangelize the world, remained his responsibility nonetheless.

Evangelism was not the only present implication of Parham’s gazing into the prophetic future, nor was the “former” rain the only reference to the past. Parham’s vision of the future was intimately connected to his interpretation of the present and his understanding of the past. In an inter- esting departure from Christian orthodoxy, but one that squared with a tradition of white supremacist nineteenth-century theology in the United States, Parham subscribed to the view that God created two different species of humanity during two different epochs of creation.11 The first


Parham, The Everlasting Gospel (n.p., n.d.), 31.


David W. Faupel, The Everlasting Gospel: The Significance of Eschatology in the Development of Pentecostal Thought, Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series 10 (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 21.


Parham, though generally a biblical literalist, subscribed to the position that the



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inhabitants of the earth were created on the sixth day, human beings in God’s image who had dominion and authority, as well as everlasting life. On the eighth day, the Adamic race was formed from the dust of the ground. It was Adam’s race that fell, and Adam’s race was promised a savior. Parham used the sixth-day created and eighth-day formed beings to explain such mysteries as where Cain got his wife, claiming that the first child of the eighth-day humans married a woman of the sixth-day creation. The consequences of this intermarriage were damning, Parham contended: “Thus began the woeful inter-marriage of races for which cause the flood was sent in punishment.”12

Creation’s pristine character will be restored, Parham prophesied, at the end of time when the sixth-day created and the eighth-day formed humans are again separated. Redemption provides the immortality that the created beings forfeited by mating with the inferior sixth-day beings. The “meek” return to the purity of the eighth-day beings in the Garden of Eden, enjoying perfect human life but not immortality. The present is the proving ground for eternity, as conversion, sanctification, and the bap- tism of the Holy Spirit elect those who will participate in Redemption and distinguish among them. Present apostasy and ungodliness determine damnation as well.

Before moving to the specific chronology of “last things,” as Parham conceived it, it is useful to make two observations about his theology. First, Parham’s description of the end of time is often confusing because of his unique perspective as an Anglo-Israelite and an interpreter of Scripture. Parham modified characters, reorganized events, and interpreted the already difficult apocalyptic passages of the Old and New Testaments in ways that were singularly his own. Second, Parham was not always internally consistent even in this. It is not surprising that Parham amended certain details over time. What is more difficult is that he never ceased to print the older view. In some instances, Parham stated incompatible views in the same book. The rest of the article relies primarily on Parham’s writings in a Voice Crying in the Wilderness and The Everlasting Gospel. Where inconsistencies seem to change the order of events, I note them either in the text or in the footnotes.

Parham’s views of the past and future were influenced by an array of religious, political, and social transformations occurring in the late nine- teenth and early twentieth centuries. Particularly, conceptions of the body

“days” of creation were “periods” rather than twenty-four-hour days. See Parham, Voice Crying in the Wilderness (n.p., n.d.), 81.


Ibid., 83.



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and religious approaches to racial distinctions played an important role in his understanding of human existence throughout the past, the present, and the future.

Because dispensationalism viewed the restoration of the Jews to Palestine as a historical prerequisite to the culmination of history, renewed interest in the fate of the Jews became one of three elements in the millenarian revival of the nineteenth century.13 Without a resolution of Jewish history the eschatological future would be an incomplete salvation history. Within the dispensational model, Jewish salvation history and the promise of God to the Jews were interrupted and Daniel’s seventieth week postponed indefinitely in order to allow Gentiles to receive Christ. Thus, the end times and latter rain refer to Gentile chronology, and their culmination effectively removes the pause button from Israel’s history. One of the few futurist signals of the approach of the coming age was the restoration of the Jews to Palestine. As a consequence, many dispensationalists watched and encouraged the Zionist movement among the Jews.

Following World War I, interest in millenarianism generally and Israel particularly intensified.14Attention focused even more keenly on the appar- ent fulfillment of prophecy regarding Israel, especially in the wake of the Balfour Declaration of 1917. In the declaration, Arthur James Balfour, the British foreign minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister David Lloyd George, expressed official British support for Zionism and the establish- ment of a “Palestinian national home for the Jewish people.”15 After General Edmund Allenby’s capture of Jerusalem for the British in 1917, ending Ottoman rule over the Holy City, millenarians organized a prophetic conference in Philadelphia in 1918.16 Among the articles of faith adopted by the 3300 participants in the Philadelphia conference was an affirma- tion of the “gathering of Israel to her land in unbelief” after which “she will be converted by the appearance of Christ on her behalf.”17 In a New York prophetic conference held the same year, Arno Gaebelein, a funda-


Timothy P. Weber, Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming: American Premillen- nialism, 1875–1982 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 12.


Ernest Robert Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism, 1800–1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 233.


“Balfour Declaration,” Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000 http:// 1997–2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.


Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism, 233. Parham referred specifically to Allenby in The Everlasting Gospel, 40.


David A. Rausch, Zionism within Early American Fundamentalism, 1878–1918: A Convergence of Two Traditions, Texts and Studies in Religion 4 (New York: E. Mellen Press, 1979), 116–17.



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mentalist Zionist, defined the significance of Allenby’s military success as the rebirth of Zionism which had seemed to die during the World War.18

While many in the Christian world observed with interest as events unfolded in the Holy Land, Parham’s focus was even more keenly attuned to events there because of his conviction as an Anglo-Israelite that he too was one of Abraham’s descendants. Anglo-Israelism, also known as British- Israelism, emerged as a movement in the nineteenth century. Its specific dimensions are often difficult to grasp because it was, as historian Michael Barkun has stated, “a movement without a center.”19 Its core tenet was that Anglo-Saxons were, as a race, the lineal descendants of the “Ten Lost Tribes” of Israel.20 In Israelite history, the Ten Tribes of the Northern Kingdom were exiled from Palestine into all the world following the Assyrian invasion of Samaria, Israel’s capital, in 722 BCE.

Barkun traces the beginning of the British-Israelite movement to the work of John Wilson, whose Lectures on Our Israelitish Heritage, issued in 1840, purported to trace the migration of the lost tribes to Europe from the Near East.21 Although Wilson viewed evidence of Israelite origins among many of the European groups, the British were, in Wilson’s view, the inheritors of a special blessing as they were the descendants of Ephraim, one of Joseph’s sons.22 In the hands of Edward Hine, a self-proclaimed disciple of Wilson, Wilson’s doctrines took on an increasing Anglocentrism, eventually becoming identified with England and the United States.23 Barkun also credits Hine with the organizational skills that allowed for British-Israelism to become a movement in England and North America.24

Lacking a center, the dissemination of the ideas of Anglo-Israelism depended on the networks of adherents, “on the chance acquaintance indi- viduals made with its teachings.”25 For Parham, at least two sources inter- sected to influence his subscription to the tenets of Anglo-Israelism: his friendship with J. H. Allen, who served as his mentor in these matters, and his studies at Frank Sandford’s Holy Ghost and Us Bible school in Shiloh, Maine. Frank Sandford cited Totten’s work as most influential to


Ibid., 113.


Michael Barkun, Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement, rev. ed. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 14.


Ibid., 4.


Ibid., 7.


Ibid., 8.


Ibid., 10.


Ibid., 9.


Ibid., 20.



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his own thinking.26 Although Sandford’s biographer does not give sub- stantial attention to the specifics of Sandford’s understanding of the impli- cations of Anglo-Israelism, William Hiss does assert that Sandford subscribed to a more racially benign form of Anglo-Israelism in which anyone who was subject to the English crown or American law also participated in the promise of God to those groups. In this way, national affiliation or citizenship was the theological marker, not perceived racial or alleged physical differences.27

Michael Barkun describes J. H. Allen as one of the most influential proponents of Anglo-Israelism in the United States, a patron of the British- Israel World Federation, and the author of a central text for the move- ment, Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright.28 In it, Allen explicated the distinction between the “sceptre of Judah,” the blessings and promises attendant to the royal family of Israel’s race and passed through the Jews, and “Joseph’s birthright.”29 Joseph’s birthright refers to the promise of God to Abraham that he would become the father of “many nations.”30 According to Allen, the symbol of the birthright accompanied Joseph’s descendants throughout history in the form of the “Bethel stone.” According to Allen, the same “Bethel stone,” upon which Jacob slept when he had his dream of the ladder into heaven (Genesis 28), has passed down through the ages from Jacob, to his children, to the British crown as the emblem of royal authority.31 Allen went so far as to declare that Queen Victoria had been crowned twice upon that “coronation stone,” first as Queen of England and again as Empress of India.32Although Parham never explained his choice of the name Bethel for his healing home and Bible school beyond its literal meaning, “house of God,” it is possible that the choice was related to the Bethel stone’s significance in Anglo-Israelism.

Parham’s earliest book, Kol Kare Bomidbar: A Voice Crying in the Wilderness, first published in 1902, contains a chapter titled “Ten Lost Tribes.” Parham traced the dispersed Israelites to the Saxons, whom he deemed “Isaac’s sons,” and identified England as “Ephraim” and the


William Charles Hiss, “Shiloh: Frank W. Sandford and the Kingdom, 1893–1948” (Ph.D. diss., Tufts University, 1978), 58.




Barkun, Religion and the Racist Right, 21.


J. H. Allen, Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright: An Analysis of the Prophecies of Scripture in Regard to the Regard to the Royal Family of Judah and the Many Nations of Israel, 4th ed. (Boston, MA: A. A. Beauchamp, 1917), 36.


Ibid., 56–57.


Allen traces the stone through the generations between Jacob and Queen Victoria. Ibid., 230–51.


Ibid., 251.



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United States as “Manasseh,” the sons of Joseph upon whom the spe- cial blessing was bestowed. In this chapter, he also disputed the theory that the “Red-men of America” were among the lost tribes because of God’s promise that “He would make them the head and not the tail of nations.”33 Thus, in Parham’s view, the conquest of the Americas rendered Native Americans ineligible to be the descendants of Abraham. He clarified this view later in the same chapter: “The Saxon conquest of Great Britain (and today coupled with the United States) of nearly all the world, proves the scriptures; they were to be the ‘head and not the tail of nations.’”34 Parham further justified the imperial pursuits of Great Britain and the United States in deterministic language when he declared that biblical prophecy was being fulfilled as “the Anglo-Saxon race have and are push- ing the natives of Asia, Australia, Africa, and America to the ends thereof and possessing them, yet do have their general good will.”35 Parham believed that the conquest of the nations so comported with God’s will for and promise to Israel’s descendants that even conquered nations expressed good will toward their conquerors.

In the same chapter cited above, reprinted in the Apostolic Faith as late as 1926, Parham identified all of the lost tribe descendants and con- trasted them with Gentiles and the heathen.

Today the descendants of Abraham are the Hindus, the Japanese, the high German, the Danes (tribe of Dan), the Scandinavians, the Anglo-Saxon and their descendants in all parts of the world. These are the nations who have acquired and retained experimental salvation and deep spiritual truths; while the Gentiles—the Russians, the Greek, the Italian, the low German, the French, the Spanish and their descendants in all parts are formalists scarce ever obtaining the knowledge and truth discovered by Luther,—that of justification by faith or of the truth taught by Wesley, sanctification by faith; while the heathen—the Black race, the Brown race, the Red race, the Yellow race, in spite of missionary zeal and effort are nearly all heathen still; but will, in the dawning of the coming age, be given to Jesus for an inheritance.36


Parham, Voice Crying in the Wilderness, 105.


Ibid., 106.


Ibid., 107.


Ibid. See also [Charles F. Parham], “The Tribe of Judah,” Apostolic Faith (Baxter Springs), September 1926, 10. In the Apostolic Faith (Topeka), April 14, 1899, Parham wrote: “The Old Testament distinction of the peoples of the earth remain [sic] almost the same to-day. The Hebrews, Jews and various descendants of the ten tribes—the Anglo- Saxons, High Germans, Danes (Dan), Swedes, Hindoos [sic], Japanese, and the Hindoo- Japanese of Hawaii, and these possess about all the spiritual power of the world. The Gentiles—French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Russian, and Turkish. These are formalistic, and so are their descendants in all parts of the world. Heathen are mostly heathen still—the



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Parham conflated race and nationality in ways that make it difficult to view his Anglo-Israelism as anything other than a racial ideology. In blur- ring the distinctions between race, ethnicity, and nationality, Parham was typical of the late nineteenth century in which he came of age. For many Americans and Britons in the period, the demarcations between race, eth- nicity, and nationality ranged “from vague to non-existent.”37 At the same time, “Anglo-Saxon” was not simply a nationalist identity to Parham. It was also a theological one, as one’s race was intimately connected with one’s propensity for receiving spiritual, theological truth, including justi- fication by faith (Luther) and sanctification by faith (Wesley). The mani- festation of race in color and phenotype, in short, signified political and spiritual destiny.

Parham’s claim in Voice Crying in the Wilderness also delineates a hierarchy of races that included at least three levels. On the highest level were God’s chosen people, gifted with political and military ascendance as well as theological insight. In ascribing military and political ascen- dancy as the destiny of the Anglo-Saxon race, Parham participated in the discourse of racial Anglo-Saxonism that credited success to superior lin- eage rather than environmental or accidental factors.38 On the second level were the Gentiles. Although Parham did not remark on their strength, the nations who fit in the “Gentile” category had substantial political and mil- itary strength, despite Parham’s disdain for their theological predisposi- tion to formalism, presumably evinced in their Catholic identity. The third level, the “heathen,” exhibit neither political and military strength nor a proclivity for theological truth. For Parham, so recalcitrant was this bot- tom group in the hierarchy that despite significant evangelical efforts they remained “nearly all heathen still” and could only find hope in the promise of being “given to Jesus for an inheritance.” Parham’s reference to the “coming age” suggests that in his mind neither the racial nor theological distinctions of this present age were to be dismissed in the hereafter.

Although Parham continued to reprint this article in his later years, proving that his views remained stable, his racial language was not always completely consistent. In another article from the same book, Parham wrote:

Negro, Malay, Mongolian, and Indian.” The repetition of the statement as early as 1899 and as late as 1926 illustrates again the stability of Parham’s beliefs over time.


Barkun, Religion and the Racist Right, 123.


Reginald Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981), 62.



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[B]y the inter-marriage of the Israelitsh nations, Israel’s blood has found its way among the races. In the Body and Bride of Christ there seemingly will be people from all races, in whose veins flow the blood of Abraham.39

Parham implied that all races can participate in the experience of sal- vation, a position that stands in tension with his other statements about the national and racial identities of those in whom Abraham’s blood flows. Still, a note of uncertainty remains in Parham’s statement that there “seemingly” will be people from all races. Whether all races of humanity participate as Abraham’s blood descendants is of crucial importance as elsewhere Parham opined: “We believe it to be an impossibility for any one to have adoption, to-wit: the redemption, or membership in the Church all of gold which is His Body, who are not of His own blood, the seed of Abraham.”40 Parham’s ambivalence about the relationship between the races and the Church calls into question his fundamental understanding of the possibility for all of humanity to participate in the highest levels of spiritual attainment.41

Parham’s views of the past and his theological approach to racial dif- ferences informed his interest in contemporary political issues and future heavenly ones. Given his perception that a biological as well as theolog- ical connection existed between the Anglo-Saxons and the Jews, Parham was consistently concerned about the restoration of the Jews to Palestine. His interest was intensified because he believed that “[s]even years from the time the Jews return, or from the day they are proclaimed a distinct nation, or possibly a member of the League of Nations,” Christ’s foot would touch Mount Olivet.42 Parham kept abreast of unfolding events in the Zionist movement and reported them in the Apostolic Faith. On May 17, 1899, two articles appeared, detailing the progress of the Zionist move- ment since the Basel meeting.43 Other articles connected the restoration of the Jews with the rapture of the church.44 Like other premillennial dis- pensationalists, Parham expressed an interest in the Jews that related to


Parham, Voice Crying in the Wilderness, 86. See also Charles F. Parham, “An Old Message Re-Enforced,” Everlasting Gospel (Baxter Springs), August 1917, 3.


Parham, Voice Crying in the Wilderness, 73.


It is important here to note that for Parham the “Church” is not a generic term for all Christian people; rather, it is a specific designation for those whose lives exemplify unblemished consecration. The distinction between the Church and the Saints, which lat- ter group includes those who were converted and sanctified but who did not live consis- tently consecrated lives, is discussed in chapter 5.


Parham, The Everlasting Gospel, 50.


“Colonizing Palestine,” Apostolic Faith(Topeka), May 17, 1899, 4, and “The Zionist Movement,” in ibid., 5.


See, e.g., “Return of the Jews,” Apostolic Faith (Baxter Springs) May 31, 1899, 7.



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his understanding of the Jewish role in prophecy; however, Parham’s inter- est was more profound than his counterparts’ because of his Anglo- Israelism. Voice Crying in the Wilderness, for instance, included a chapter called “Zionism,” in which Parham combined a concern for the fulfillment of prophetic events with a kinsperson’s commitment to the Jews. “We feel it an impossibility to describe to our readers the mingled feelings of joy and sadness—joy because of her coming glory, sadness over her pre- sent conditions and probably no one but a Jew can understand the great love and affection we bear Jerusalem.”45 Parham continued with an expla- nation of how Jewish resettlement in Jerusalem was a necessary compo- nent in fulfilling the prophecies concerning the Jews and the Bride of Christ. He concluded with the assertion that anyone who sought to settle the Jews “permanently or otherwise” without looking toward Jerusalem was a “false teacher, who is seeking only self-advancement.”46

Parham closed the chapter with an important discussion of the rela- tionship between Jews and Anglo-Saxons (the lost tribes) at the end of time. A rabbi asked Parham whether Jews would become Christians or vice versa. Parham answered, “Neither.” Parham explained that God never intended for the entire Jewish community to accept Christ at his first com- ing, when he came as “Priest and Savior.”47 At the end of time, when all of God’s plans both for the Jews and the Christians have been fulfilled, then the promises and desires of both peoples will also be realized. “But when He, the desire of all nations shall come (Hag. 2:7.) the Jew in Him will behold their longed for Messiah, while the Christian in ecstasy, behold their Savior, and together He will unite them in the Messiah’s Sabbatic Kingdom of one thousand years.”48 Parham’s understanding of the “con- version” of the Jewish people contains a different nuance from that of other Christian Zionists in the period, in that while Parham agreed that the restoration of the Jews to Palestine would occur during their “un- belief,” Parham assumed the priority of Israelites (all twelve tribes) in eternity.

Although Parham retained much of dispensationalism’s taxonomy of epochs, he revised it to include a view of salvation history consistent with latter rain theology and supportive of his specific modifications of the characters in prophetic literature. For dispensationalists, the dispensation of grace will close with the rapture of the Church, commencing Daniel’s


Parham, Voice Crying in the Wilderness, 101.


Ibid., 102.


As Wacker demonstrates, this was a consistent Pentecostal modification. 48

Ibid., 104.



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seventieth week and a seven-year period of tribulation. The Tribulation ends with the battle of Armageddon and the Millennium begins. The Judgment Age and then eternity follow. In Parham’s modified chronol- ogy, the Church era closes with the Redemption of the body instead of the secret rapture. For him, the rapture only applies to the most elite group of Christians, the Man-child.

In order to understand the unfolding of events as Parham understood them, it is important to identify the distinctions Parham made not only between the saved and the damned but also among the saved. Grant Wacker speaks of the “invidious claim” of Pentecostals generally that the expe- rience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, signified by speaking in tongues, marked them as especially chosen even among their Protestant Christian and Radical Holiness siblings.49 Most early Pentecostals were convinced that only they would comprise the “Bride of Christ” and that the Pentecostal baptism prepared one for the marriage of the Lamb.50 Moreover, they saw the baptism of the Holy Spirit as the prerequisite for participation in the rapture and the avoidance of the Tribulation. Yet for Parham, even this distinction would not have been fine enough to identify the players among the chosen people. (Parham’s scheme is certain to offend almost every- one.) There were four significant categories of the saved, whom I am identifying as those who experience the glory of Redemption, in Parham’s eschatological framework: the Church, the Bride, the Man-child, and the Saints.

The Church refers to all persons in all ages who lived faithfully after having experienced conversion to Christ and who, at the sound of the trumpet, will experience what Parham describes as Redemption. Only those who have been born again and lived holy lives will be resurrected at this time, while all other dead must await the judgment that follows the Millennium.51 Within the standard dispensationalist model, the trum- pet’s sound signals the rapture of the Church. For Parham, Redemption of the body occurs apart from rapture. Rather, the majority of those who experience Redemption remain on earth to spread the gospel in anticipa- tion of the cataclysmic events of the Tribulation. Only a select element of the redeemed are raptured. Yet Redemption makes possible the blessed- ness that all the Church will enjoy at the end of the age.


Wacker, Heaven Below, 253.


Faupel, The Everlasting Gospel, 26–27.


Parham,The Everlasting Gospel, 50. Parham modified his views in this regard. Earlier, in Voice Crying in the Wilderness, he had stated that only the living members of the “Bride” receive Redemption, 86–87.



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Redemption appeared to Parham in a corporeal form that indicates much about its theological importance as well as Parham’s understanding of heavenly bodies. Although Parham did not specify the date when he had the vision of Redemption, he described his experience as follows:

Some time ago feeling that God was about to reveal something important to us, we withdrew from men to commune with and wait upon Him. One night, whether awake in vision or in dream, we know not, we beheld a form, beautiful, glistening, neither male or female, whose features resem- bled a friend, while just beneath was the earthly person it represented. This beautiful form descending, completely encased the earthly body, and when I beheld my friend not unclothed but clothed upon, I said: “Lord, what is this?” The answer came, “Redemption.”52

Redemption in Parham’s thinking is the crucial act of transformation by which the faithful in all generations are instantaneously brought into absolute unity with one another and through the resurrection power of Christ are made the Body of Christ. In this way, Parham makes literal the New Testament corporeal analogy for the Church. The Church mysteriously takes on a new physical identity as individual human bodies metamorphose into the physical perfection and glorification Jesus himself embodied following his resurrection. “This is the maturity of Redemption, that all who are worthy should be changed by this resurrection power into the condition of Jesus after He rose from the tomb; thereby being united in one glorious Church.”53

In a process reminiscent of the way in which sanctification overwhelmed and replaced the sinful nature and its fleshly inclinations, Redemption will overwhelm fleshliness itself and clothe it with perfect glory and beauty, so that the body is capable of defying all natural limitations of time and space. Just as sanctification provided for the healing of the body, Redemption transforms it and completes the perfecting process that sanctification and healing began. Parham makes this connection when dis- cussing Redemption. In 1914, he wrote that “[t]he body must be consid- ered in the preparation [for Redemption]. The Bible not only teaches an occasional healing, but a pure, sanctified body, freed from every taint of disease, both inbred and acquired.”54 Attention to Parham’s description of his vision of Redemption illustrates his understanding of the limitations of human corporeality. Redemption itself appears to Parham, as the emblem


Parham, Voice Crying in the Wilderness, 72.


Ibid., 70.


Charles F. Parham, “Redemption,” Apostolic Faith, December 1914, 19.



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of unity, embodying the statements of Galatians 3:28: “There is neither male nor female… but all are one in Christ.”

Redemption represents the solution to everything that ails the Church and individuals who people it. By its very activity, it will resolve the prob- lem of sectarianism and disunity that plagued Christianity and invited the world’s derision and God’s judgment.55 This unity is Redemption’s first act. Not just disunity, but every sinful inclination of the Church will for- ever be dissolved in Redemption’s glory as the Church becomes the “pure gold” representation of God’s work in the world. Powerful preaching will convict and convert thousands who hear the word at once. Skeptics will realize their vanity. Higher critics, whom Parham dubbed “agnostic imps,” will fall in defeat before the rejuvenated elect. In addition, every mater- ial need of the Body of Christ will be met as the Church spreads this power throughout the world. Gone will be the kinds of troubles Parham himself was having even as he wrote his book in 1902 amidst a struggle for material survival.56 Moreover, Redemption will eliminate the separa- tion between the living and the dead, as those who died in Christ are raised and made partakers of Redemption’s power. Parham put the mat- ter succinctly: “The living changed, the dead raised, the unity of the Body accomplished by the glorious church without spot or wrinkle, having the same mind, judgment, seeing eye to eye, led by the true Elijah (who will have arisen to the utter confusion of all imitators) go forth with the Ever- lasting gospel, preaching in all languages, clothed with all power.”57

A subset of the Redeemed, the Bride of Christ, Parham regarded as a distinct company taken from within the redeemed Church and sealed by the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.58 Parham justified the distinction between the Church and the Bride, traditionally viewed as


The chapter in Voice Crying in the Wildernessthat precedes “Redemption” is “Unity,” in which Parham described an unrealized vision for his own role in the eradication of sec- tarianism which, lamentably, he saw even among his holiness comrades.


Parham alludes to this struggle: “In the past and even now, the best of us need money for clothes, shelter, and to travel.” Parham, Voice Crying in the Wilderness, 74.


Ibid., 76. To be sure, Sandford and Dowie must be in Parham’s mind when he dis- cusses the “imitators” of Elijah, but whom does he view as the real Elijah? There is much in this quotation to suggest that Parham may think of himself as a contender for the title. Faupel points out that while Parham never adopted the title for himself, he did identify as the “Voice Crying in the Wilderness,” which refers to Elijah. David W. Faupel, The Everlasting Gospel: The Significance of Eschatology in the Development of Pentecostal Thought, Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series 10 (Shef field, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 167. Parham’s second book was The Everlasting Gospel which he himself connects with Elijah’s witness in this same quotation.


In 1899, Parham described the Bride using the same Genesis motifs, though with- out specific reference to speaking in tongues as the seal of the Bride of Christ.



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a metaphor for the Church, by appealing to the Genesis story of Adam and Eve. “Adam’s bride was a rib taken out of his side; the second Adam Christ’s bride will be a small company, One Hundred and Fourty-Four [sic] Thousand, taken out of His Body (the Church).”59 Another Genesis story depicting the betrothal of Isaac, Abraham’s son, and Rebekah pro- vides the precedent for the relationship between Christ’s Body (the Church) and the Bride. In the Genesis account, upon his deathbed Abraham sent his servant to his home country to select a bride for Isaac on Abraham’s behalf. Likewise, God sends the divine Spirit into the world to select a bride for God’s Son. As early as 1899, Parham had used these Genesis stories in describing the Church and the Bride, but he had not as yet artic- ulated speaking in tongues as the specific sign by which the Spirit sig- naled the Bride’s identity.60

The appeal to the story of Isaac and Rebekah enabled Parham to empha- size the racial component in God’s choice: “[The Bride] must be chosen from among His own blood relations, His own house Israel, and no one who has not Israelitish blood in their veins will have in part or lot in the [B]ride of Christ (there seemingly will be people from all races).”61

In this passage, Parham revealed his racialized understanding of the Bride of Christ, and identified the role of the baptism of the Spirit in seal- ing God’s elect partakers of covenant blessings. Although much of early Pentecostal eschatology identified the Bride of Christ with the 144,000 of Revelation 19, Parham was distinctive in regarding the 144,000 as a literal number.62 In the paragraphs that follow, Parham clarified that the elite 144,000 designated by God to be Christ’s Bride through “the seal- ing” escape the plagues and wraths of the last days. While the rest of the world, including the non-Bride Church, will fall prey to the chaos of the Tribulation, the Bride will escape into the wilderness and become preg- nant with the Man-child, Parham’s third classification.

Because Parham’s schematic for the ending of the age required that a literal fulfillment of prophecy occur and his designations of the actors in the drama existed as personalities rather than simply as symbols, Parham had to make sense of the natural laws of reproduction in understanding the conception and delivery of the Man-child. Redemption of the body


Parham, Voice Crying in the Wilderness, 86.


See Apostolic Faith (Topeka), May 17, 1899, 4.


Parham, Voice Crying in the Wilderness, 86. It helps here to recall that Parham believes that “Saxon” in Anglo-Saxon derives from “Isaac’s Sons,” making the appeal to Isaac’s story more striking.


Faupel, The Everlasting Gospel, 25 n. 22.



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explicated the way in which the company of 144,000 persons could func- tion as the singular “woman” of Revelation 12, whom Parham dubbed “The Bride.” Yet the body Parham described as Redemption’s represen- tation is neither male nor female. The biology of pregnancy Parham avoided through the use of yet another biblical trope, that of the Virgin Mary espoused to Joseph and pregnant with the child Jesus. The Bride, espoused to Christ as Mary was to Joseph, will become pregnant with the Man-child, who, like Jesus, is destined to rule. The Bride will flee again into the wilderness, that is, Palestine, to live in peace for three and a half years while the Church endures the hardships of evangelism to a hostile world. Another cosmic battle will ensue after the three and a half years when the dragon, having failed to destroy the Bride’s offspring, seeks again to destroy the Bride. The Bride will flee into the wilderness to escape the dragon’s ire, and will remain there until the “personal coming of Jesus Christ,” when his feet strike the Mount of Olives, again in Palestine. Upon this personal coming the Bride “swings up, meets the Lord in mid-air,” in fulfillment of Paul’s writing in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Following the final battle Armageddon, the Bride will become Christ’s queen and reign with him in the Millennium in David’s royal city.

Parham distinguished the Man-child as the most elite of the company of believers, very few in number. How one could become a part of the most elect group, the Man-child, was never clearly explained in Parham’s writings. Their select status is partially demonstrated by the fact that they alone will be completely exempted from the troubles of the world fol- lowing Redemption since they remain at the throne of God while the Church evangelizes the world and the Bride hides in the wilderness. The Man-child is the only group who will experience the rapture.63 Following his rapture, the Man-child will not reappear as an actor until the Millennium, when the Man-child, Church, and the Bride will reign with Christ. The final judgment age differentiates among the redeemed, when the Apostles judge the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Man-child judges the Gentiles.

At precisely the moment when one thinks one has identified all of the Christian believers in Parham’s end-time drama, one realizes that the Church, the Bride, and the Man-child do not cover even the majority of those who identify themselves as Christian, nor even those whose con- version and sanctification Parham deemed initially authentic. Like his Holiness and Pentecostal counterparts, Parham assumed the apostasy of contemporary Christianity, whose adherents had been blinded by their


Parham, Voice Crying in the Wilderness, 90.



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own interests and lulled to sleep by money-hungry professional preachers (especially postmillennialists). These “saints,” whom God will remember even in their apostasy, have the scales fall from their eyes and arise from their stupor, awakened by the catastrophic events of prophecy fulfilled.64 Having risen from their lethargy, the saints’ martyrdom at the hands of the Anti-Christ must “take the place of consecration.”65 Rather than expe- riencing “sanctifying power” in their daily lives, the saints will receive their sanctification and their part in the first resurrection (Redemption) through martyrdom.

The role of the saints brings into sharp focus Parham’s reason for attending to the destinies of all Christians with such specificity. Parham expected his writings to serve as a warning for his readers inciting them both to have their salvation secure and to live consecrated lives so that they will be found in the company of the Church, the Bride, or the Man- child, and avoid the plagues of Daniel’s seventieth week. Parham made this explicit:

We who have offered our lives as a “living sacrifice” must learn that our every moment must as certainly be a “burning sacrifice,” in the Master’s service, as our brethren who shall endure it literally. No one who is not thus constantly consumed in consecrated sacrificial service, will ever have part in the Redemption of the Body [i.e., the Church], the Glory of the Bride, o[r] the rapture of the Man-child.66

The term living sacrifice refers to Romans 12:1, which enjoins the believer to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service.” Thus, Parham advised those who wish to par- ticipate in the bliss of the “first resurrection” that they must present their bodies either for sanctification now or martyrdom later.

In many ways, Parham’s understanding of the bodily destiny of the saved placed him within the general framework of early Pentecostal escha- tology. Only hints of racial and political difference emerged in his descrip- tion of the saved. When one examines Parham’s discussion of the “unsaved,” though not necessarily “damned,” the assumption that most, if not all, of those who will participate in Redemption share the Anglo-Saxon race and ethnicity becomes more apparent.

Just as Parham’s tableau includes a cast of the saved, the unsaved too have their portion in the culminating story. Although the unsaved had not


Parham discusses the “Saints” in chapter 17 of Voice Crying in the Wilderness, 124–26.


Ibid., 126.





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nearly so many distinguishing characteristics as existed among the saved, Parham assumed that they will play a crucial role, enlivening the apoca- lyptic drama with their bodies—one lain in the street of the Holy City, others peopling the new earth, and still others destroyed by unquenchable fire. The signal personification of evil in the cosmic drama is the Anti- Christ whose appearance will mark the turning point in the story. Parham distinguished the character Anti-Christ from anti-Christian sentiments, religions, and personages. Although the animating spirit of anti-Christian teachers and teachings prepares the way for the Anti-Christ, those teach- ers and their doctrine were not the same as the devil incarnate whose ulti- mate defeat Parham prophesied and anticipated. The role of the Anti-Christ as a human individual rather than a symbol is important as it corresponds to the personal Christ.67 Christ incarnated good and God; the Anti-Christ will incarnate evil and the devil.68

Consistent with Parham’s general attention to the role of human gov- ernments and nations in salvation history, Parham’s Anti-Christ will act as a ruler of rulers and enjoy nearly worldwide popularity and esteem. In Voice Crying in the Wilderness, Parham offered an initial, vague descrip- tion of how the world government would emerge. In The Everlasting Gospel, World War I and the League of Nations provided a plausible real- world analog to Parham’s vision. Although Parham disputed that Wood- row Wilson’s vision of the League of Nations was completely consistent with Parham’s understanding of biblical prophecy, Parham declared that “[t]he Bible really teaches that there will be a League of Nations, but the accomplishment of the same is utterly foreign to the plans held by Mr. Wilson….”69 In part, Parham viewed the failure of the League of Nations as inevitable for the same reasons that he disputed postmillen- nial visions of ushering the kingdom of God into the world: humanity is too disorganized and God’s purpose is fulfilled in the failure of human plans.70 The irony is, of course, that in Parham’s vision, humanity actu- ally prides itself into thinking that it controls its own destiny, a delusional pride that precedes and facilitates humanity’s destruction.


Ibid., 121.


Scholars of dispensational premillennialism note that dispensationalists departed from Protestant tradition with respect to the Anti-Christ in that they did not identify the Pope as the Anti-Christ. See Rausch, Zionism within Early American Fundamentalism, 69.


Parham, The Everlasting Gospel, 20.


Ibid., 21. By the time he wrote The Everlasting Gospel, Parham was considering the war between capitalism and socialism and articulated much of his political commentary in those terms.



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Three and one-half years into Daniel’s seventieth week, at the same time that the ire of the dragon is unleashed and the Bride forced to flee into the wilderness, this world monarch will be killed in the streets of Jerusalem during an event that Parham described as a kind of World’s Fair. The king’s soul will pass away, as do other human souls, but as his body lies in state it will be reanimated by the spirit of the Anti-Christ. This spirit is the reincarnated spirit of Judas Iscariot. When the wound of the king is healed and his life resumed, the resurrection event will be so significant that the whole world will venerate the beloved ruler as a God, and even the Pope will recognize the Anti-Christ as the real Christ. The devastating power of the Anti-Christ derives from this consolidation of political, economic, and ecclesiastical power. The Anti-Christ, also identified as Revelation’s “Beast,” even seems to exert authentic spiritual power when the devil cedes authority over demonic forces, thus enabling the Anti-Christ to perform miracles and other magical deeds. The “Beast” then will persecute all who refuse to take his mark, including Christians who have not been sealed by the Holy Spirit.

Once the power of the Anti-Christ is thus acknowledged, an imperial battle will ensue between his forces, reaching from his headquarters in Jerusalem all the way to the United States, and the rival political leaders of the world. This war will lead to the famed Battle of Armageddon, itself the war to end all wars. Engaged in their battle, rival world powers will see the sign of Christ’s coming in the heavens and agree to fight Christ together.71 Following this armistice, the combined forces of world power will then be defeated by the descent of Christ to the Mount of Olives. The defeat will be bloody and Parham’s description was graphic as he imagined the blood and bodies of those slain by Christ’s sword as a feast for the scavenger beasts of the field and fowls of the air. Even the bod- ies to be buried will require seven months of labor in which all who are able-bodied are employed in the business of burial. The Beast and the False Prophet, who will perform miracles to solidify the Beast’s domi- nation, will then be consigned to the Lake of Fire along with all who wor- shipped the Beast or received his mark.

Following the millennial reign of Christ, the unsaved dead are resur- rected to enter the age when human beings will be judged by their works not by their faith. Even so, they are not all damned. Although they are ineligible for the perfected, elite life and Redemption that comes to the faithful, by their works they may be eligible for what Parham viewed as


Parham, The Everlasting Gospel, 25.



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perfect human life as “the meek” who will inherit the earth and live in the Edenic paradise that Adam and the rest of the eighth-day creation lost. Interestingly, Parham did not define this group simply as those who did not receive Christ as savior. Indeed, he explicitly distanced himself from this simple designation and said, “Multitudes that orthodoxy… consign to an endless hell, will be found on the right side among the meek.”72 Among this group are babies, people from “formalistic churches (?) [sic],” “wretched harlots and publicans,” and the “darkened heathen” whom Christ deems worthy of life.73 For Parham, this life will correspond to the life of Adam whom God formed on the eighth day of creation not to the sixth-day created beings who enjoyed immortality. Life on the divine plane will belong only to those who by Redemption take part in the first resurrection.74 Parham wrote that the meek have neither immortality and “joint heirship” with Christ nor a place in Holy City, which is reserved for the elect.75

What is it that babies, formalists, harlots and publicans, and the dark- ened heathen have in common? I contend that it was their inferior capac- ity for accepting the truth, which meant that they were not as accountable as others. The case of babies is obvious—they never reached an age when they could acknowledge Christ and commit to his gospel. Formalists and the darkened heathen have a proclivity for misunderstanding that is par- tially rooted in their racial identity. Recall that Parham associated for- malism with ethnicity as well as faith tradition, just as he assumed an inferiority of the darkened heathen to the whitened Anglo-Saxon. Harlots and publicans prove a more difficult category. Perhaps the explanation for their inclusion relates to their presence as sympathetic characters in the gospel stories.

Still, the contingency of everlasting, perfected human life remains far preferable to the fate of those found unworthy of even the human life of the meek at the White Throne Judgment. Their final destination is hell, where they will be utterly destroyed, both bodies and souls. In anticipat- ing a final destruction rather than eternal torment, Parham disputed the nearly unanimous opinion of Christian orthodoxy. Although orthodoxy did not project a pleasant future for the damned, Parham did not antici- pate a future for them at all.


Ibid., 51–52. 73

Ibid., 51. 74

Ibid., 93. 75

Ibid., 51.



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He will utterly destroy them, root and branch, soul and body, where they shall be the ashes under the soles of your feet, or, in other words, fertilizer to enrich the soil for the inheritance of the meek.76

Those who will become “fertilizer” Parham defines largely as those who have heard and rejected the gospel, including reprobates, back-sliders, and apostates.

Parham’s unorthodox view of the fate of the wicked, known as con- ditional immortality, formed in his earliest pastoral ministry under the influence of Sarah Parham’s grandfather David Baker. Although Baker’s background was in the Quaker tradition, he and his family frequented Parham’s parish and he and Parham became friends. Throughout his life, Parham demonstrated a willingness to dispense with orthodoxy, even tak- ing proud pleasure in his unorthodox conclusions. Thus, when Baker illus- trated to Parham that the concept of eternal damnation was inconsistent with Scripture, Parham quickly adopted the unorthodox view that the wicked will experience bodily annihilation at the day of judgment. Parham attributed the orthodox doctrine of eternal punishment to Roman Catholic absorption of pagan philosophy and Protestant retention of Catholic teach- ings.77 Moreover, he castigated orthodoxy for having produced a God who could bring creatures into being and then take perverse pleasure in observ- ing their eternal torment.78

Catholics and Protestants have given us a God more impossible than Moloch, god of the ancient Canaanites, in whose arms human beings were burned, but we are supposed to believe in a God who, after bringing creatures into existence, will cast them into a lake of eternal torment; who is possessed with such a diabolical character that He is able to sit upon the throne of His glory, listen to their howling and screeching, and view them sizzling, stewing, frying, browning, without surcease throughout the countless cycles of Eternity.79

By contrast, Parham envisioned a Hell “hotter than orthodoxy teaches,” which would utterly destroy the wicked.80 In this way, God would satisfy the demands of justice in punishing the wicked but would not ask any more, even of the wicked, than “the wages of sin, which is death.”81


Ibid. 77

Ibid., 111. 78

Ibid. 79

Ibid. 80

Ibid., 112. 81




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As he did with all of the disputed doctrines, from healing to the bap- tism of the Holy Spirit, Parham attributed the sorry, apostate state of con- temporary Christianity to the false teaching that people have immortality (that is, immortal souls) apart from saving faith in Christ. He concluded that the belief that people are immortal without Christ had led nonevan- gelical Christians to accept into membership persons who had never been born again and seduced evangelical Christians into the pernicious prac- tice of receiving unregenerate members as well.82

Although Parham did not cite any influences other than his wife’s grandfather and the Holy Scriptures in developing the doctrine of condi- tional immortality, he did acknowledge that this reading of Scripture was not new. Ernest Sandeen notes in his study of premillennialism the “con- siderable following” this doctrine had among evangelicals in the 1860s and the attempts of John Nelson Darby to combat the annihilationist posi- tion, especially among New Englanders.83 Moreover, in the Niagara Bible Conferences, prophetic conventions that substantially increased the num- ber of dispensationalist adherents, annihilationists participated freely.84 Comparing Parham’s relatively scant teaching to others who espouse con- ditional immortality one discovers that Parham’s thinking generally fol- lows others who share this view. A book published in 1853, titled Bible vs. Tradition, presented precisely Parham’s opinion when discussing the promise of everlasting life: “But, if God had already given to the wicked endless life, in giving them an ‘immortal soul,’ he would not have offered it as the PECULIAR PRIVILEGE of the righteous.”85

Although it is not clear that Parham’s grandfather-in-law Baker relied on this method, Parham rooted the doctrine of “conditional immortality” in his belief about human origins. “Conditional immortality teaches that Adam was a perfect human being, without Immortality, that had he obeyed God, [h]e would have continued to live forever, a human being in Eden.”86 Having disobeyed, Adam forfeited physical life and everlasting existence. Thus Adam’s descendants are merely and thoroughly mortal, having only physical existence without spiritual or eternal being. For Parham, the spiritual in humanity comes to be as a part of the regenerative work of conversion:


Ibid., 94.


Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism, 77.


Ibid., 140.


Aaron Ellis et al., Bible vs. Tradition: In Which the True Teaching of the Bible Is Manifested, the Corruptions of Theologians Detected, and the Traditions of Men Exposed, 2d ed. (New York: Published at the office of Bible examiner, 1853), 52.


Parham, The Everlasting Gospel, 92.



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Conditional immortality teaches that all Adam’s descendants are mortal, possessing only human existence, but with a possibility of a spiritual being conceived in the womb of the soul at the time of conversion. Man, the mor- tal possesses the organs of reproduction of physical being, so the soul pos- sesses the organs making possible the conception of spiritual being….87

Comparisons of the spiritual life to reproduction present several prob- lems, as do most analogies, which Parham never addressed. It did not seem to bother Parham at all that in reproduction the being that is cre- ated is another person, not just the formation of another aspect of the pro- creators. Even what he said directly was incredibly stark: unsaved people have no inherent spiritual identity, only the potential for one.

Parham’s perspective relies on an interesting twist. For Parham, exis- tence and life are equivalent, that is, eternal existence even for the pur- pose of damnation equals eternal life. As he put it, “In a word, the teaching that everyone has an immortal soul denies Christ and makes Him an unnecessary factor in the plan of salvation.”88 If both the saved and the damned were resurrected for eternal life, blessed or damned though it may be, then Jesus Christ as the giver of eternal life would become incon- sequential and extraneous. Fundamentally, what Jesus Christ’s atonement accomplished was salvation for the worthy dead who could people the earth through eternity and Redemption for those who are born again. In this way, Parham completes the theological circle in eternity and the divi- sion between sixth-day creation and eighth-day formation is reinscribed as the Redeemed resemble the divinity of the sixth-day creation and the meek restore the eighth-day formation.


Observing Parham’s eschatology, we observe the theological continu- ity between his attitudes about the baptism of the Spirit, Anglo-Israelism, and conditional immortality. We can also see why his criticism of what he viewed as inauthentic expressions of the Pentecostal baptism, such as those he observed at Azusa Street, was so vociferous. Because the true baptism of the Holy Spirit, accompanied by missionary tongues, served the dual purpose of enabling the propagation of the gospel to all nations and sealing the Bride of Christ, its proper exercise had both temporal and eternal significance. Counterfeit tongues embarrassed the missionary and impeded the spread of the gospel.


Ibid., 93. 88

Ibid., 94.



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Redeemed or Destroyed: Re-evaluating the Social Dimensions of Bodily Destiny in the Thought of Charles Parham

In addition to the implications of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the ability to speak in unlearned human languages for the propagation of the gospel, the restoration of tongues was itself a signal that the end of times had come. Tongues provided the special sealing of the Bride.89 Without the true baptism of the Holy Ghost, no Redemption could occur. In addition, the figure of Redemption was “neither male nor female,” sup- porting the foundation of Parham’s egalitarian position with respect to women empowered by the Holy Spirit. Because human gender does not accompany humans into eternity, its meanings for current human life are less important.

By contrast, racial identity does determine eternal destiny to some degree. Anglo-Saxons, in Parham’s understanding, accompany their kinsper- sons the Jews into the eternal reign. Parham identified the Church and the Bride with the Anglo-Saxon race, while the heathen and the Gentiles are not only spiritual but also racial-ethnic classifications, whose identity follows them through eternity. Parham undisputedly advocated an evan- gelical mission to the heathen, yet he repeatedly remarked on the futility of that mission.90 “[T]he heathen—the Black race, the Brown race, the Red race, the Yellow race, in spite of missionary zeal and effort are nearly all heathen still; but will, in the dawning of the coming age, be given to Jesus for an inheritance.”91 Although the heathen do not find themselves among the annihilated “damned,” they also do not enjoy the perfection of the “redeemed.”

Even as the theology of sanctification and the body intersected in the practice of divine healing, Parham’s theology of conditional immortality provided a decisive destiny for the bodies that remained unperfected by salvific and sanctifying grace. Although the Holy Spirit transforms the bodies of the faithful to eternal life and redeems them to a destiny of joy, their transformation destroys individual physicality along with gender identity. In the end, examining the destiny of the human body reveals an ambivalence toward the human body that marked Parham’s entire life.


Parham, Voice Crying in the Wilderness, 32.


This counters Goff’s claim regarding the relationship between race and Parham’s evangelical mission: “His goal was the radical salvation of Christianity in the twentieth century through the renewal of Pentecostal power. Missionaries would be endowed with the gift of language to ensure the glorious endtime revival. Such a revolutionary goal, of necessity, included all races.” James R. Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest: Charles F. Parham and the Missionary Origins of Pentecostalism (Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 1988), 111.


Parham, Voice Crying in the Wilderness, 107 and also [Charles F. Parham], “The Tribe of Judah,” Apostolic Faith (Baxter Springs), August 1926, 10.



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