In the early days of the International House of Prayer of Kansas City, the term “billion soul harvest” was thrown around a lot. Many believed it came from a word connected to Bob Jones, a questionable prophet that became part of the Kansas City Prophets. Did it start with him, though?
This is a wider question about the integrity of some of the prophets that made up the Kansas City Prophets. (Oddly, that term was never part of them, it came from an article in Christianity Today and later a book called Some say it thundered.) Did all the prophetic words from men like Bob Jones, John Paul Jackson, Augustine Alcala (that got AIDS from homosexual relationships), and Jim Goll actually happen? The wider question is did they really hear from God?
At least, the word about the billion soul harvest seems to not be the case. The theological concept dates back to 1658 and the Savoy Declaration. It was used as encouragement for ending slavery, social gospel movement of 1907 and later the Christian Reconstructionism teachings. The truth is that it started in the early days of the reformation and it was hold by many before Bob Jones met Mike Bickle in 1983.
So where did Bob Jones get it?
Prior to meeting Mike Bickle, Bob was attending several Pentecostal churches in Kansas City. One of them had a pastor that spoke often about and even had Leonard Ravenhill speak yearly. As a result, Bob was in the pews when Ravenhill would talk about the coming revival. The number that was thrown around was a billion people would come to Jesus. However, did it start with Leonard Ravenhill?
What we do know is that he openly credited it to E.M. Bounds. This was an evangelist in the Methodist movement about the Civil War era. He passed away shortly after the Azusa Street revival broke out. For years, Bound would rise at 4am to pray for lost people until after 7am. His heart for the lost and his theological training convinced him that there would be a billion people come to Jesus before the Lord returns. Ravenhill was a student of Methodist preachers in his early years before becoming Pentecostal.
Now, where did E.M. Bounds get it? No one really know. It does not seem that John Wesley used the number. The theological concept had been around for 200 years but the phrase billion soul harvest does not seem to predate the later part of the ministry of E.M. Bounds.
It is logically to suggest that it did begin with him and that Ravenhill read something in his letters or sermons, quoting him (with credit) and on one of the many trips to Kansas City in the 1970’s, Bob Jones heard it and claimed it as personal revelation. “Borrowing” (more like stealing) people’s ideas about revival has been quite common in what became known as the Kansas City Prophets and later the prophetic movement. This is just one very clear example.
Is the Billion Soul Harvest biblical?
Nowhere will you find the phrase in the scriptures but I do believe you can make the case a massive revival before the rapture of the Church! There is prophetic promises like Joel 2:28-30, for example,
…I will pour out my Spirit on all people…before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord… everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved….
We do not know how many will be saved but there is a great end-time revival that will happen right before the rapture of the Church. It is clear that what Joel saw was before the day of the Lord. (What we call the “Great Tribulation.”) In other words, the idea of a great ingathering of souls at the end of the age of the Spirit is biblically based.
The truth is that Matthew 24:14 remains unfulfilled. The gospel of the Kingdom has not been preached to every people group in the world and that must happen to set the events of the end times into play. The gospel being preached to all people will be a great harvest of lost people. I do not know the number that will come to the Lord but it will be a massive group of people.
This has started to happen. Reinhard Bonnke, for example, saw a million people come to Jesus in one meeting. This was unthinkable for centuries and now seeing tens of thousands saved in a single meeting has become somewhat common to missionary evangelists.
So what do we do with Bob Jones claims?
As a student of the Kansas City Prophets from an academic perspective and someone who believes in prophecy, I have serious concerns about many of the prophetic words that Bob Jones claimed in the early days of what became the International House of Prayer. Many of the prophetic words were stolen from others and re-branded as if they heard from God themselves. At least one of them was operating in a new age spirit from the beginning.
Now, the wider question is about the personal prophecies that Bob Jones gave. What do you do with them? An example was the sharing of the intimate details about Pat Bickle’s care. There is only two options: he got it from the Lord or he got from the spirit of divination. Personally, I believe that Bob did hear from the Lord but he stole ideas about revival from other people like Bounds and Ravenhill without giving them credit for it.
I do not believe this discredits everything that Bob Jones said in the days of the Kansas City Prophets. However, we must look back and call into question some of the things that were said and where they got it from. This is an issue of integrity. If you heard another man of God give the word of the Lord, credit it; don’t claim it as your own.
Bottom Line: The concept of the end time revival is biblical. The phrase about the billion soul harvest comes from E.M. Bounds; not Bob Jones.