How Cults Are Born
by C. Parker Thomas
(Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the September-October 1975 issue of the Midnight Cry Messenger. Although it was written to address a particular issue, the principles set forth are timeless and ever needed.)
The purpose of this article is to make an honest assessment of a situation that has developed within the ranks of the followers of the late William Branham. Although we do not desire to set at nought the man or his ministry, an examination of some of his teachings is necessary. Looked upon as a fortuneteller and religious charlatan by some, he was thought to be a great prophet and even a reincarnation of Jesus Christ by others.
I hope all who read this article realize I didn’t choose this subject because of any personal controversy involving Brother Branham, his followers, or myself. Naturally speaking it would be much easier to pretend this situation didn’t exist. I think so much of Brother Branham and many who believe in him until it is with a heavy heart I undertake this task.
Although I can’t say that I ever agreed with Brother Branham on everything, such differences did not keep me from receiving, honoring and respecting him. However I must, in all due honesty, add that there was a noticeable change toward the last few years of his life.
The most noticeable thing was the over emphasis in his teaching concerning the last day messenger that was supposed to have the pure Word of God to the Church. Although Brother Branham would not come right out and say that he was that prophet, it was very obvious that he, as well as his followers, believed that he was. Along with this strong emphasis, Brother Branham began to do more teaching than he had ever done before.
Before and after his death it became obvious that many of his followers were not interested in anything other than what Brother Branham taught. After his death they tried to live on the past, listening to his tapes and hearing only ministers who closely identified themselves with Brother Branham.
Our real purpose here is to set forth truth and divine principles which, I believe, are greatly needed by all of God’s people and especially those who may be caught in the web of some Satanically inspired cult.
It is my conviction that Brother Branham himself would, for the most part, say amen to what we are setting forth in this article. Knowing that all of us shall give an account to God on that appointed day, I humbly and respectfully ask every reader to prayerfully examine these things in the light of the holy scriptures.
Although we have heard Brother Branham personally, and listened to his tapes many times, much of our assessment in this article is based on his teachings which were put into the book called “An Exposition of the Seven Church Ages.” Because of this we will make note of the page number in parenthesis where our references can be confirmed.
Like all ministries that attract the attention of men, all kinds of followers gravitated to this man and his ministry. Many of them followed him because of the signs, the wonders and the phenomenal nature of his ministry. Some were after loaves and fishes and some aspired to do a similar work. John 6:26-30.
As usual many of the people attracted to such a ministry have a spiritual vacuum to begin with. With little faith, they are drawn to such ministries because of the spiritual phenomena. Having bounced around from one place to another, they think they have at last found their Moses who will lead them to the promised land. It is very easy for such people to look to the man more than they do to God.
In addition to this, this man and his ministry was abused and exploited by self-seeking people who didn’t agree with him at all. Beyond doubt he was invited to many places simply because he drew a crowd. But there were a few genuine sheep who respected and loved him because of the spiritual reality that was manifest.
Although I have felt a great need for someone to deal with this subject I never intended to do so personally. Due to the fact we had Brother Branham with us in meetings and I endorsed his ministry publicly and otherwise, people have come to me for some answers that I am obligated to give. The receipt of the following letter was just another link in a long chain of circumstances that triggered the inspiration for this article.
C. Parker Thomas
The Midnight Cry Messenger
Southern Pines, NC 28387
Dear Brother Thomas:
We have a problem and we are seeking advice and counsel. Some very dear friends of ours have recently become “followers” of the late William Branham. We are referring to Mr. and Mrs. ---- in whose home you preached to us in Rapid City some 5 years ago now. Frankly, they are extremely zealous about their new “faith” and are just bombarding us from all sides with tapes and literature about and by William Branham.
We are writing to you and to other ministries that we feel are trustworthy and proven ministries for advice and counsel about the matter.
Please share with us some of your own feelings and experiences with Branham and with those who are zealously following him. We are just about worn down with all that they are presenting to us. And, yet, we don’t want to cut them off or ignore this completely on the chance that there may be some truth to it.
We eagerly await your answer.
Sincerely yours, WEB, South Dakota
This idolatrous spirit was manifest many years before Brother Branham died. One of Brother Branham’s managers, who visited with us in meetings many times and was instrumental in Brother Branham coming to us twice in meetings, was greatly alarmed by this during the time he worked with him. In one place where they were holding meetings it was discovered the people were saying that Brother Branham was a reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Our friend was so disturbed by this until he went to Brother Branham and asked him to publicly rebuke the people and disclaim the idolatrous contention.
It is well known that Brother Branham’s body was not interred for a long time after his death from the automobile accident. It is said a large number of his followers gathered at Jeffersonville, Indiana on the Easter following his death believing he would rise from the dead.
Convinced that Brother Branham was the seventh and last messenger sent to the Church before the second coming of Christ, his followers believed that he alone had the Word of the Lord and could interpret the Bible correctly. Even today many little groups in various places gather together and play his tapes believing that he alone had the Word of the Lord.
As the letter points out, once converted to this persuasion, people become extremely zealous of their new found faith. I might also add that it is well nigh impossible to talk or reason with people who are Branhamites in this sense. They are so convinced in their minds that Brother Branham alone had the truth until they literally discount and despise any church or ministry that does not follow his teaching.
Avid followers of this cult are more interested in convincing you that Brother Branham was God’s major prophet and messenger than they are that Jesus is the Christ. I have had them to talk to me for hours and this was their main concern. They even believe and teach that you must believe this or you will miss the rapture and not be a part of the bride of Christ.
Their belief that Brother Branham was the last day Elijah that was to come before the coming of Christ is very similar to the Mormon’s belief concerning Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith was supposed to be the latter day prophet that God sent an angel (Moroni) to with the last day revelation for the church.
Although I am by no means putting Brother Branham in the same category as Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church, these similarities certainly exist. This exaltation of men in their own minds or by their followers is quite common. Believe it or not, others have come and gone who thought they were Elijah also. And without doubt some of the men who have been exalted to such positions of preeminence by the subtle conspiracy of Satan have been basically good men.
Like most cults that have arisen in the earth, the main thrust of their teachers and preachers is something other than Christ and him crucified. Like the Mormons, who are more concerned with people’s acceptance of Joseph Smith as God’s latter day prophet, Branhamite teachers are more concerned with your acceptance of Brother Branham and his ministry than they are with Christ.
I am afraid that Brother Branham, who decried the papacy and the supposed infallibility of the Pope, became a victim of this same snare a few years before his death. Foolish and unlearned followers gladly exalted him to that untenable position. I believe if he were here today and knew what was going on he would react as Paul and Barnabas did when the people of Lystra attributed deity to the apostles. Acts 14:8-18.
It is most amazing how some men, who had contrary convictions and personally decried this blind idolatrous following of men, have abandoned their former positions and wholeheartedly embraced the Branham phenomenon. No doubt some have done this because they aspired to a place of leadership within the ranks of the Branham followers.
One itinerant preacher who got on the Branham band wagon after Brother Branham’s death would use a blackboard in outlining and diagramming his teachings. Although this man had only casually met Brother Branham a few times he gave the impression that he was a close associate. In his discourses, he would impress his listeners by saying, “the prophet told me this.”
After Brother Branham’s death many would-be leaders emerged hoping to take his place. However, this resulted in much confusion with many divergent splits within the camp, all claiming to be the true followers. There are three different groups of Branham followers in the city of Columbia, S.C. alone.
Cults are born when men come to believe in a man or a manifestation more than they do God. Any spirit that causes men to ascribe too much wisdom, power or authority to some man or group is a form of idolatry that God hates. Jesus himself taught men to accept him on the basis of what the scriptures taught. John 5:39.
The fact that God condescends to reveal himself to us through human vessels does not mean we are to blindly follow, worship, or ascribe infallibility to them. God alone occupies this unique position. Even the apostles and prophets were not to be blindly followed, much less worshipped as deity. Acts 17:11. Rev. 22:8-9.
Although very few Branhamites would confess to idolatry in their belief and devotion to Brother Branham, this is very definitely the case with many of his followers. Without doubt their strong belief that he was the last day Elijah or messenger to the church is greatly responsible for this.
Although I personally believe Brother Branham was a prophet with the gift of a seer, I do not believe his ministry was ever intended to supersede the collective wisdom of the church. The Church is a many-membered body made up of varied ministries and gifts, with none of them complete apart from each other.
We need the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor and the teacher. Eph. 4:11-14. And we need the ordinary saint who also has something to contribute to the body as a whole. The eye cannot say to the hand I have no need of thee. I Cor. 12:12-22.
Let’s remember it is by the church that God has purposed to make known the manifold wisdom of God. Eph. 3:10. This of course includes the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor, the teacher and every member of Christ’s body.
Over emphasis and wrong interpretation of scripture that Brother Branham was that great prophet that was to come has resulted in many of his followers losing sight of the church as the habitation of God in the earth. Eph. 2:19-22. And I fear that it has also resulted in many of them losing sight of Christ as the head of the church.
The Great Prophet
One scripture used to substantiate the claim that Brother Branham is the last day prophet is actually prophetic of Christ. A careful reading of Acts 3:19-26 will reveal that Christ alone occupies the unique position of being the prophet that we are to hear in all things. He alone is the head of the church.
Whether in the ministry or through the testimony of an ordinary saint, it is his voice we are to listen to. When the Father spoke out of the cloud that day on the mount of transfiguration, he said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” Matt. 17:5.
It is the Prophet Jesus Christ that men must hear if they are to live. As Acts 3:23 says, “And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” Certainly it can be seen by the most naive that this scripture could not apply to Brother Branham in a unique way.
Let’s remember “...it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” Did this happen to those who would not hear Brother Branham, or Jeremiah, Isaiah, Elijah, John the Baptist or any of the prophets or apostles for that matter? But this will happen at the end of this age. All who have refused to hear his voice, whether through a prophet or the least of his servants will be destroyed.
Compared to earth’s great multitude, only a very few people were able to personally hear Jesus or Brother Branham. Most of mankind has had to hear the voice of God through other vessels chosen of God in their generation.
Despite the fact that the message was often clouded over by human error, fear, ignorance and many types of bias and prejudice (religious, political, racial, national, etc.), God has spoken to men’s hearts. The Holy Spirit can take a small measure of truth and speak loud and clear. The imperfection of the vessel or the lack of clarity in the message did not keep it from being the voice of God to those that heard.
Subject To Err
We need to understand that all men are subject to err, even prophets. God alone is infallible. It is my conviction that, when necessary, God permits men to fail that their infirmity might be made manifest. This is done that we might see the folly of trusting in the arm of flesh and be made to look to God alone who does not fail. This is why Isa. 45:22 says, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”
He is God and there is none else. Although we are to recognize, respect and receive those sent from God we must never forget that God alone is the fountainhead of all truth and righteousness. When the rich young ruler called Jesus “good master,” Jesus answered and said, “...Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” Mark 10:18.
The weakness and failure of man was manifested in such great Bible characters as Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, John the Baptist and the Apostle Peter. Brother Branham himself makes note of this in his teachings (p. 252). This in no wise means they were not God’s servants. It simply proves they were men and not God. A man can speak by divine inspiration one minute and by the inspiration of Satan in the next. A good example of this is found in the life of Peter, the apostle. Matt. 16:16-23. No wonder Paul said, “...Let God be true, but every man a liar....” Rom. 3:4.
Should Be Judged
Because men are subject to err we are responsible to examine and judge their ministries in the light of God’s Word. John said, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” I John 4:1.
Please note it was because of the many false prophets in the world that had access to the church that their spirits were to be tried.
Men professing to be servants of the Lord should be free to give out their message, and God’s people should respectfully hear what they have to say. At the same time it is the responsibility of the church to prove all things by the Spirit and by the Word. I Thess. 5:19-21 says, “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
The fact that we are to prove all things and hold fast to that which is good suggests there may be some things that are not good. All ministries, in varying degrees, are a mixture of good and evil, truth and error.
The Holy Spirit commends the people of Berea by saying, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11.
Instead of considering it a personal affront and being insulted by the Bereans examining Paul’s preaching by the Word, he calls them more noble than the people of Thessalonica. According to this, it is pleasing to God to receive the Word with all readiness of mind and examine what is preached by the Word itself.
The Lord himself taught us to examine the claims of men (including himself) by the Word of God. John 5:39 says, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”
Although Brother Branham was instrumental in helping this preacher form some doctrinal convictions that remain until this day, I could not, in good conscience, accept everything he believed. I must say, in all honesty, I do not personally agree with everything Brother Branham taught. This is especially true of some of his teachings that evolved toward the end of his ministry and life.
I might add that his strong emphasis that every teaching must line up with the Word of God is the very thing that keeps me from being able to accept all of his teachings. Every man that is called of God to preach his Word should prayerfully search out the truth and preach the convictions of his own heart. This is also true of Christians in general. As Paul says in Rom. 14:5, “...Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”
It is wrong to teach something simply because someone else believes and teaches it. Until a doctrine becomes a revelation to our own heart based upon the Word of God, we had better leave it alone. It is no shame to leave something alone because we do not have a God-given conviction of our own. We need to learn to wait on God in these things as well as all others. The secret things belong to God and we need to be careful about kindling our own fire and walking in the sparks of the fire we build. Deut. 29:29. Isa. 50:11-12.
According to our minister friend who was closely associated with Brother Branham for a while, Brother Branham, himself, changed his mind about some of the things he taught. At one time he believed the church would go through the tribulation and that he (Bro. Branham) would lead it through. Later he came to believe the church would be raptured before the tribulation.
During Brother Branham’s first visit with us I was urged by our mutual friend to share my convictions with Brother Branham relative to the end time events and the coming of Christ. At that time he had, more or less, come to believe the traditional concept of these things including the restoration of the Jews, the millennium, etc.
However, I would like to add that it is no disgrace to change our minds in the matter of doctrinal beliefs. I have changed mine and may change some more before God gets through with me. None of us has arrived at the place of perfect illumination and spiritual understanding. More than we realize, we still see through a glass darkly. We have by no means arrived at the place where we know even as we are known. I Cor. 13:12.
There is usually great delusion when an individual or group becomes convinced that they have the final word in the matter of spiritual revelation. This essentially is what every cult comes to believe. Then instead of preaching Christ and him crucified, they very adeptly spend much of their time convincing their listeners that they are God’s special emissary in the earth. And, because of their special revelation and authority from God, men must listen to them or perish.
In the book (page 329) it is clearly stated that this messenger-prophet would have the power of infallibility to reveal the mysteries contained in the Word. It is also said that this prophet will be more thoroughly vindicated than any prophet in all the ages from Enoch to this day.
It is truly ironical that Brother Branham could see the delusive tragedy of the Roman Catholic Church and others who come to believe in their infallibility.
On pages 372 and 373 Brother Branham says, “Their college of bishops, etc., wrote vast treatises, their popes declared themselves infallible and said they received revelation from God and spoke as God to the people. All this was taught to the priests who through fear made the people believe it. To dissent was death or excommunication which might be worse than death.”
The irony of this is that a very similar condition has developed and come forth in the Branham movement. Like the brother from South Dakota who wrote the letter in this article, people are afraid to question or reject the claims of the Branham teachers. Much emphasis is put upon receiving the prophet-messenger if we are to be in the Bride (p. 365). On page 376 the book says, “And to her, God is sending the prophet-messenger with the vindicated ministry that he (Bro. Branham) might be accepted by the elect.”
It is evident that all who do not believe in and accept the prophet-messenger are considered false professors. On page 380, in reference to the false church world with their false prophets, the book says, “They preach the second coming of Christ, but deny the advent of the prophet-messenger, though in power and signs and true revelation he eclipses them all.”
Although I do not believe Brother Branham would purposely intimidate people or bind them to him instead of Christ, this is what happens when too much emphasis is put on the greatness of the man, the ministry or the church. As Brother Branham himself points out in his teaching, many preachers and many groups have bound the people to themselves instead of Christ. I certainly agree with this, including the Branham movement itself.
Wrong or over-emphasis is often a subtle form of legalism that ministers fear to the people and puts them in great bondage. Christ must ever be exalted as the head of the church and as much as is possible the people must be set free to accept or reject the message according to the dictates of their own conscience. As Paul says in Rom. 14:5, “...Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”
Valid Or Not?
Beyond doubt, the belief that Brother Branham is the major prophet or seventh and last messenger to the church age is greatly responsible for the delusive persuasion of the more avid Branham followers. And of course the supernatural phenomena that attended his ministry helped to confirm this belief in many.
Although I will not be dogmatic about many of their claims relative to this belief, I certainly feel responsible to question these claims on the basis of what the scriptures actually teach.
In the first place, I am not at all sure that the seven messengers of Rev. 1-3 actually has reference to seven specific men that can be identified by any process of deduction. Everyone knows that the Book of Revelation is highly symbolical, containing many figures of speech, types and shadows that cannot possibly be taken literally.
Naming the seven messengers to the seven churches is going beyond what God has revealed. It is comparable to some of man’s prophetic date setting. With the exception of Brother Branham (obviously believed to be the seventh messenger) none of the men named as messengers were recognized or acclaimed as such by themselves or their followers. This includes the Apostle Paul.
Oh, I am aware that at times Brother Branham tried to tone down the belief that he was the seventh messenger, but it is so very obvious that he as well as his followers believed that he was. They are convinced that he was more than just a prophet or even a major prophet. As the major prophet with the capstone ministry he was supposed to be personally vindicated by Jesus Christ at his return.
This is exactly what is taught on page 326 of the book “An Exposition of the Seven Church Ages.” And I quote, “Though he will not be popular, he will be vindicated by God. As Jesus authenticated John, and the Holy Ghost authenticated Jesus, we can well expect this man will be first of all authenticated by the Spirit working in his life in acts of power that are indisputable and found nowhere else; and Jesus Himself, in returning, will authenticate him, even as He authenticated John. John witnessed that Jesus was coming -- and so will this man, like John, witness that Jesus is coming. And the very return of Christ will prove that this man indeed was the forerunner of His second coming. This is the final evidence that this indeed is the prophet of Mal. 4, for the end of the Gentile period will be Jesus, Himself, appearing. Then it will be too late for those who have rejected him.”
Since several years have passed since Brother Branham’s death and Jesus hasn’t returned yet, I don’t know how the Branham followers will interpret the above teaching. To be authenticated by Jesus Christ, as John the Baptist was, means that Brother Branham would have to be alive at the second coming of Christ.
Out of the thousands of illustrious saints, mighty men of God and many others who died for their faith, Brother Branham chose Paul, Irenaeus, Martin, Columa, Luther and Wesley as the first six messengers. Although Brother Branham’s name is not under the seventh star of the diagram (see front of book) depicting the seven messengers to the seven church ages, it is so very obvious it is believed that the seventh star represents him.
Who is to say that these men out of thousands of great men of God, known and unknown by historians, are actually the seven messengers of Rev. 1-3? Out of their total life span of approximately 500 years they have ministered a total of 300 years. We are now in the 20th century with over nineteen hundred years having elapsed since Paul began his ministry.
This means that 1600 of these years went by without such a messenger. In view of this could it not be possible that these seven messengers are simply types of the ministry and message of Christ to the church during the entire church age. Most everyone agrees that the number seven symbolizes perfection or completeness. Brother Branham himself believed the seven churches named actually pointed to the seven church ages already totaling over nineteen hundred years.
I also question the teaching that these messengers were major prophets to their respective church age. The only true and infallible prophet (Christ) has spoken by the anointing throughout the church age as typified by the seven churches and the seven messengers. This anointing has rested upon the ministry given to the Church by Christ as he ascended on high. Beyond doubt there have been hundreds of these ministries of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Eph. 4:9-15. God alone knows their true identity.
The idea that one special man has to come before we can have the pure Word of God does not seem right in the light of what the Bible itself says. II Tim. 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
I personally believe the canon of scripture is a complete divine source of truth that the man of God might be thoroughly furnished unto every good work. All we need to know for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness is in the Word. This is why we are instructed by the Word itself to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” II Tim. 2:15.
Although I definitely believe in the ministries of apostles and prophets for this day, it certainly seems there was a change from the major prophet type of the Old Testament with the coming of Christ and the beginning of the church age. If this is not so, what did Jesus mean in Luke 16:16 when he said, “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it”?
None will deny that the coming of Christ and the kingdom of God ended the dispensation of the law. Rom. 10:4. Gal. 3:24-25. If there was a change with respect to God dealing with his people through the law, then there must have been a change with respect to the role of the prophet.
Beyond doubt the New Testament Church with every member indwelt by the Spirit of God (John 7:39) was a new thing in the earth. Prior to the birth of the church at Pentecost, God spoke to his people by the prophets. Heb. 1:1. With the formation of the church, a many-membered body, the burden of ministry came to rest upon the church as a whole. The keys of the kingdom were given to the church, which became God’s voice of authority in the earth. Matt. 16:18-19, 18:17.
Ministry To Church
This is by no means meant to imply that every member of Christ’s body is the same so far as ministry is concerned. Paul makes this very clear in I Cor. 12 when he likens the body of Christ to the human body with its various members -- each having its own particular function within the body. To get a complete whole, every member is needed including those we may deem less honorable. I Cor. 12:23. The order of ministry given to the church is set forth in Eph. 4:11.
It will be noticed from I Cor. 12:28 that the apostle is placed first in the church and the prophet second. “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”
In every instance in the New Testament where the apostle and prophet are linked together the apostle is placed first. I Cor. 4:9. Eph. 2:20, 4:11.
However, I would like to add that these ministry gifts are not a matter of one gift to the person. An apostle would, by virtue of his office, be more gifted than the others. To found and establish a New Testament Church, he would have to be a great teacher with the zeal of an evangelist and the heart of a pastor. He could also have the gift of the seer or prophet. The evangelist would have to be a fervent teacher of the gospel but not necessarily hold the office of a teacher. A teacher would have unusual ability to rightly divide the Word of truth but not necessarily be an evangelist, prophet, pastor or apostle. The prophet with the gift of a seer would have visions and be able to foretell things but not necessarily be a teacher, evangelist or apostle. The pastor would have a shepherd’s heart for the sheep. He may have limited ability to teach but be capable of personal counsel and exhortation.
The supernatural ability that Brother Branham had to tell people things about themselves was said to be the sign of Messiah. The scriptural basis that he used for this is found in John 4:25 where the Samaritan woman said to Jesus, “...I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.”
I do not believe we can make a doctrine out of the saying of this unregenerate woman. Perhaps it was because of the emphasis of this ability as the sign that some began to think that Brother Branham was a reincarnation of Jesus Christ. It is also evident this was taken as a sign of vindication of Brother Branham as the messenger-prophet (p. 329).
Such a gift in varying degrees can accompany the office of a prophet. II Kings 6:8-17. Acts 11:27-28, 21:10-13. Beyond doubt others were prophets like John the Baptist who did not have the gift of the seer. Through the gift of the word of knowledge we can also know things supernaturally. I have actually seen such ability operating in the church through children.
However, I do not believe that any one sign or supernatural ability is to be classified as the sign of Messiah. The exaltation of any sign of manifestation usually attracts sign seekers who believe in the sign and the wonder more than the Word of God.
In fact it will be the unbelief of man in the last days that enables the Antichrist spirit to come forth in lying signs and wonders. This condition in itself is a sign of apostasy. It was the condition of the Jews at the close of the Jewish dispensation and the first coming of Christ. Matt. 12:38-39. I Cor. 1:22. And it will be the condition of man as a whole at the close of the Gentile dispensation and the second coming of Christ. Matt. 24:24. II Thess. 1:9-10. Rev. 16:13-16.
The intense interest in witchcraft, spiritualism, and the supernatural in religion today is symptomatic of apostate unbelief. When the apostate Jews desired a sign from Jesus as proof of his Messiahship, “He answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matt. 12:38-40.
If any one sign is to be classified as the sign of Messiah or Christ it would have to be the resurrection. The fact that he died and rose from the dead distinguishes Christ from all other men. Of all the signs and supernatural manifestations, no one other than Christ could say, “...Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19.
Without Christ’s resurrection there would be no basis for our faith. This is why the Holy Spirit made the resurrection a part of our confession of faith. Paul said, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Rom. 10:9.
This is also why Satan hates the resurrection: it puts God’s stamp of approval upon Christ’s death on the cross for our sins. This is why Satan made such a strong effort to keep Jesus from rising from the dead by having his tomb sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers. Matt. 27:62-66. This is also why the Jews bribed the soldiers to lie and say that Christ’s disciples came by night and stole Jesus’ body from the tomb. Matt. 28:11-15.
Of all the miracles performed by Jesus, the prophets, or the apostles, it is the resurrection that is constantly referred to in the New Testament as the crowning mark of Christ’s deity and his atoning death on the cross. You will be amazed at the importance of the resurrection of Christ and the many scripture references to it. Matt. 16:21, 17:23. Luke 9:22. John 2:19, 11:25. Acts 1:22, 2:24-32, 3:15, 3:26, 4:2, 4:10, 4:33, 5:30, 10:39-40, 13:30, 13:33, 13:34, 13:37, 17:18, 17:31, 26:8. Rom. 1:4, 4:24-25, 6:4, 6:9, 7:4, 8:11, 10:9. I Cor. 6:14, 15:15-17. II Cor. 1:9, 4:14. Gal. 1:1. Eph. 1:20. Phil. 3:10. Col. 2:12. I Thes. 1:10. II Tim. 2:8. I Peter 1:3, 1:21, 3:21.
Of all the founders of all the religions of the world, only Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, rose from the dead to die no more. Although we marvel and stand in awe of the virgin birth, it is the resurrection that is pointed to almost exclusively as the basis for our faith and hope in God. Truly, beloved, this is the sign of signs that vindicates Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. Made of the seed of David according to the flesh, he was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Rom. 1:3-4.
Vague And Contradictory
To say the least, some of Brother Branham’s teaching is vague and contradictory. Many people, besides myself, who had high regard for Brother Branham witnessed this same thing. Our mutual friend, who worked so closely at one time with Brother Branham, admitted to me one day while discussing this by saying, “Sometimes it’s hard to understand what Bill Branham believes.”
For example on page 294 he says, “Now works are fine, but they don’t save you. They don’t make you perfect. It is Christ or perish. And it is not even Christ and works. It is Christ alone.”
On page 277 he speaks of another group who will be saved or lost on the basis of their treatment of the brethren. I quote: “Now we do not need to guess about those who in the second resurrection are given life. We are told it is given to them on the grounds that they have been kind and good to the brethren. Those who are raised and cast into the lake of fire will be so treated because of their mistreatment of the brethren.”
This makes salvation a matter of works and not by grace through faith. Eph. 2:8-9. It is also completely contradictory to what he states about being saved by Christ alone apart from works.
On page 279 he speaks of another group such as the Jews who were killed by Hitler who will be saved even though they didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah. This group, he says, were blinded by God for the Gentiles’ sake, yet they will be saved because they were faithful to all the word they knew. No doubt this belief is based partly on Paul’s teaching in Rom. 11.
A casual reading of this chapter will reveal that the Jews who sought after righteousness by the works of the law (Rom. 9:31-33 and Rom. 10:1-4) were (as natural branches) broken off because of unbelief. Rom. 11:20. There is no possible way this scripture can be interpreted to mean they would be saved.
Because of unbelief their eyes were blinded that they should not see, their ears were stopped that they should not hear and their table (religion) was made a snare, a trap and a stumbling block. Rom. 11:7-9. In this chapter alone they are said to stumble, fall, be cast away and broken off. If this doesn’t mean these people are lost what does it mean?
According to this teaching, he believes in three different groups who will be saved. Firstly a bride group who believes in Christ and accept the prophet-messenger who nurtures them on the pure Word of God (p. 376). Secondly a group who have been good and kind to the brethren, and thirdly the Jews who don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah but have been faithful to such truth as they have.
Eph. 4:4-6 says, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all and in all.”
I believe it is a great mistake to divide God’s people up into different groups. This is a doctrinal deception of Satan’s that is old as the hills.
Some in a group that I belonged to believed they were the Bride, and other denominations only friends of the Bridegroom. They believed these saved of other denominations would walk in the light of the city but not be a part of it. They used such scriptures as John 3:29 and Rev. 21:24 to confirm their doctrine. Along with such scriptures they supposedly traced their religious heritage back through history to John the Baptist. I might add that it was my refusal to accept this doctrine that caused me to be expelled from this group.
And of course we have those who believe Israel is the wife of Jehovah and the Gentile church is the Bride of Christ. A comparatively newcomer to the ranks of divisive doctrine is the Sonship or Manifested Sons doctrine.
Whether it be tongues evidence, eradication of the carnal nature (sanctification), Brideship, Sonship, etc., they all have scriptures they base their doctrine on.
There are several things that characterize false doctrine. It usually exalts a man, the group or the movement. It emphasizes a special revelation, visitation, ministry or experience. It divides the body of Christ by putting its own group in a higher spiritual realm. Lastly the major emphasis becomes something other than Christ and him crucified.
Jesus’ prayer that we might be made perfect in one, even as he and the Father were one, must be fulfilled. John 17:21-23. The house of God is neither Jew nor Gentile, it is one. Gal. 3:28. We Gentiles are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. Eph. 2:19-20.
I Cor. 12:12-13 says, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
I also believe that God has one plan of salvation. John 3:36 says, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
I am totally in agreement with Brother Branham’s statement on page 294, “...it is Christ or perish. And it is not even Christ and works. It is Christ alone.”
It is also obvious that Brother Branham believed the creation of new heavens and a new earth would be the beginning of the millennium. I quote from page 332.
“For behold I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. This is about New Jerusalem. This is the millennium. But as we go into the millennium....”
Now everyone knows that the millennium (1000 years) precedes the destruction of the present heavens and earth. And the creation of new heavens and a new earth ushers in eternity. With this the scripture says, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Rev. 21:1-4.
This has to be eternity because death itself is banished from the universe. The lake of fire, which is the second death, has already taken place. With no pain, sorrow, judgment, nor death to face at the end of a millennium the redeemed can truly rejoice.
This sequence is made plain in II Peter 3, Rev. 20:11-15 and Rev. 21:1-5. I do not see how anyone can believe the new heavens and the new earth is the millennium when it is made so plain that the creation of new heavens a new earth follows the destruction of the old.
Although Brother Branham could see much of the error of organized religion, it is my conviction his interpretation of scripture was influenced by religious tradition. This is especially true with respect to the supposed restoration of the Jews, the millennium and other endtime events. His effort to harmonize religious history with the Bible was, no doubt, also a factor.
Perhaps the greatest factor of all was the impelling conviction that he was the messenger-prophet whose destiny as the forerunner of Christ was to reveal the mysteries of the Word. Believing that he was destined by God to bring the true Church back to the pure Word of God, he actually believed he was fulfilling prophecy.
Just when and how Brother Branham came to believe that he was this special messenger I do not know. Like those who desired to make Jesus a king (John 6:15), his followers gladly exalted him to the position of the last day Elijah. If not suggesting it to begin with they certainly encouraged it later on.
Today they are as convinced concerning him as Catholics are the Pope, Mormons are Joseph Smith, Jehovah Witnesses are Charles T. Russell, Christian Scientists are Mary Baker Eddy and the Church of Christ is Alexander Campbell.
Devout members of all these groups believe they have special revelations from God beginning with their founders.
In varying degrees they all believe their founders were especially called and sent of God to lead them out of the wilderness of religious confusion.
A cult can very easily be the offshoot of a genuine ministry or visitation of God. Israel’s worship of the brazen serpent, which in the beginning was used to bring deliverance, is a good example.
It was under the reign of Hezekiah, 800 years later, that the brazen serpent was destroyed and this idolatry was brought to an end. At that time in history, the people had actually become worshippers of the serpent of brass. II Kings 18:4.
Desires Earthly King
Being an unbelieving idolater by nature, man seeks something that is visible to his senses that he can worship and follow. It was this spirit that caused Israel to desire a king like all the other nations during the days of Samuel the prophet. I Sam. 8:7. And it was this spirit that caused the people to want to make Jesus an earthly king. John 6:15.
This is also the reason spiritualism, witchcraft and other forms of the occult have always been so popular with mankind. Man wants something that affords him contact with the other realm without having to walk by faith. This is also why the people wanted Aaron to make them a golden calf to go before them when Moses disappeared in the mount. Exodus 32:1-4.
Unbelieving man’s desire for a God that can be seen is the cause for this idolatry. It is hard on the flesh to endure by seeing him who is invisible. Heb. 11:27.
When their god -- or the human personality they identify with their god -- passes off the scene, they want to live in the past. Having learned to look to their leader more than to God, they either give up and quit or go back to the past for spiritual substance.
His Voice Today
On the mount of transfiguration, Peter wanted to build three tabernacles: one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. The Father put a stop to this by speaking out of the cloud and saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” Matt. 17:1-5.
This is still the rule for today. God does not want us to build monuments to the past. Images of Christ, Mary, the apostles, the prophets or any of the saints are a form of idolatry. What they said and did may have been fine, but that was for the day in which they lived.
Even the Word of God teaches us to not live in the past. We must forget those things which are behind and press forward to the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Phil. 3:13-14. Beyond doubt many have been spoiled by the blessing of yesterday. The blessing of yesterday may have been real and of God, but today it may be a lifeless tradition that keeps us from hearing the voice of God.
It is not what the Holy Ghost said yesterday, but, as Paul says in Heb. 3:7-8, what he is saying today. As symbolized by the seven churches of Asia, the Spirit of God speaks throughout the church age to those who have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying. Rev. 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:29, 3:6, 3:13, 3:22. The Holy Ghost did not leave the earth when Brother Branham died. I believe he is speaking through anointed lips today and we need to hear what he is saying.
No matter how great men are, God is greater. In fact he alone is perfect and abides forever. The Church needs to be taught to look to Christ as head before and after the passing of great men. Men with ministries come and go but he is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Editor’s note: In a volume called “Lying Signs and Wonders,” we have come to grips with some of the issues covered in this article. If you would like more detail on what we believe concerning the millennium, the coming of Christ and other endtime events, you should have this book. Those desiring the book should write to:
Midnight Cry Ministries
P.O. Box 685
Southern Pines, NC 28388 USA
A small offering will help with the expense of publishing this book and mailing it to you.
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