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Cults and World Religions

The Doomsday Cults



We opened this study with the story of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of Uganda and their apparent mass suicide. It seems appropriate as we finish these series of chapters on Satanism and the Occult to make a few specific comments about these groups.

Just as Martin’s Kingdom of the Cults has dropped Rosicrucianism from its pages, it has added a chapter on what has been entitled “The Apocalyptic Cults.” 229 The word “apocalyptic” comes from the Greek apokalypsis, which properly means nothing more than “uncovering.” In religious terms, the apokalypsis has come to mean the uncovering of the end times. In Christian terms, this uncovering is related to the Revelation, or the Apokalypsis, of Jesus Christ.

We have already seen that many of the cults have their formation, in one form or another, in end times prophecy. This has always been a major theme of discussion, as is obvious from all of the book shelves in the waning months of 1999. Great disasters were to occur come January 1, 2000. It is now May, 2000 and these terrible events are yet to arrive. Still, this is the stuff of the formation of the Seventh Day Adventists and a point of contention among the Russellites and the Rutherfords of the Jehovah Witnesses. Every cult and religion faces the question of the end times.

The first of these was Montanus, a man ultimately labeled a heretic by the early church and whose teachings appear to have been completely overcome by A.D. 400. Many others followed throughout the centuries. As Hanegraaff writes:

The number of end-time prognosticators from centuries past is so high that it is impossible to mention them all in a chapter of this size. However, one can get an idea of just how many “prophets” have risen to popularity from a partial listing of the various years that were supposed to bring “the end”: 500, 999, 1100, 1200, 1245, 1260, 1420, 1528, 1656, 1734, 1844, 1874. Most disturbing is the fact that this list of “prophets” and predictions continues to grow. 230

This list includes Christian prophecy teacher Edgar Whisenant, who predicted Jesus would return between September 11 and September 13, 1988. When the September prophecy failed, he revised the date to October 3. He continues to revise the date yearly. In 1992, Christian radio personality Harold Camping predicted a return about the year 1994. The Korean-based Hyoo-go (Korean for “rapture”) movement predicted a return of Christ on October 28, 1992. The list is seemingly endless.

While, as we have seen, concerns over the Return of Jesus make for bad theology and are contrary to the express statement of Scripture, most are apparently “harmless.” For example, consider the following quote of noted very conservative evangelist John R. Rice:

Is Mussolini the Antichrist? He may be. I know of no reason why he would not fit the description of this terrible Man of Sin. He is an Italian. He is evidently an atheist. He once debated for atheism. He has the ruthless disposition, the ruling genius. He has an obsession to restore the Roman Empire. Furthermore, he is already in power in Rome. If Christ called for His saints today and if every saved person should be taken out to meet Christ, then soon Mussolini might have a mandate over Palestine, make the prophesied treaty with the Jews, and in three and one-half years, forty-two months, over the whole world. Mussolini is somewhat past fifty, neither too young nor too old for the brief but meteoric rule of the horrible Man of Sin. The Man of Sin must be a ruler at Rome, and Mussolini might be the man. 231

Rice was wrong, but did his “prophecy” do any damage? It potentially made both he and the Christian community look foolish, but probably did little else. But, on the other hand, how many people did it drive away from Christianity when it did not come true? Only God knows the answer. 232

The Ugandan experiences have been played out in lesser detail in the U.S. over the past several years. We are probably all familiar with the Branch Davidian cult whose self-proclaimed “Son of God” leader, David Koresh, had for many years prophesied that “the end” was near. This cult is an off-shot of a branch of the Seventh Day Adventists. This is the cult in Waco, Texas invaded by the FBI in 1993, after a long siege. While the religious side of the prophecies had little to do with the invasion, the cult had stockpiled a massive cache of weapons (including many illegal ones) in preparation for Armageddon. Consider Hanegraaff’s description of the result and partial cause of the end of the invasion.

David Koresh and nearly one hundred of his followers, including approximately two dozen children, met a torturous end. Coroner reports indicated that although many Davidians had perished from the flames and smoke inhalation, a significant number of them, including Koresh himself, had died from single gunshot wounds to the head. Among the dead were several well-educated individuals: an attorney, a nurse, an engineer, and a former police officer.

Recorded conversations made with government listening devices hidden by the FBI prior to the fire revealed that the Davidians started the conflagration by spreading and igniting flammable liquid in the building. Why would they do such a thing? The answer is simple: fire played a major role in their understanding of the biblical features of eschatology (doctrine of the end times, or last things).

According to notes scribbled in the margins of a Bible owned by Koresh follower Robyn Bunds, one of Koresh’s wives, Koresh linked Armageddon (which he believed would be a confrontation with the government) to the sixth seal mentioned in Revelation 6:12, 17.15-21 He then tied this seal of judgment to passages such as Joel 2:1–5 and Jeremiah 50. Koresh even quoted Jeremiah 50:22 to the FBI in an April 9 letter he sent out from the compound.

Additional notes made by Robyn, when compared with information contained in teaching tapes made by Koresh, indicate that the Davidian leader and his followers expected some type of genetic mutation to take place during the sixth seal judgment. Koresh apparently believed and taught that as God’s representative on earth, he would loose fire upon the faithful, killing off their old nature and transforming them into flaming beings of divine judgment who would smite the enemy. 233

In October, 1994, the Solar Temple in Quebec was destroyed by fire. Less than twelve hours later, the Solar Temple in Switzerland was also destroyed by fire. More than twenty-five people died in the fire in Switzerland. Recorded messages showed the fires related to a belief that the end of the world was imminent. Forty-six-year-old Luc Jouret, had promised his followers that the world’s demise lay just ahead and that he, as the “new Christ,” would be the one to lead them to glory. Jouret is quoted as saying, “We have arrived at the hour of Apocalypse.” 234

On March 20, 1995, members of the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo (“Supreme Truth”) reportedly released a Nazi-invented nerve gas called sarin into the Japanese subway system. In a 1995 book entitled Rising Sun Country: Disaster Approaches, the cult’s leader, Shoko Asahara, prophesied that nerve gas would be the weapon of choice during Armageddon. The subway attacks were meant apparently as a precursor to the world’s end. The final battle originally was set to begin sometime between 1997 and 2000. Twelve people died and 5,000 was injured in the subway attack. Asahara had characterized himself as “today’s Christ.”

On March 21, 1997, a cult now called Heaven’s Gate committed suicide while awaiting a UFO to arrive, an event apparently announcing the end of the world. Thirty-nine people died. 235

All of this is frightening, for these are cults much like those already studied, but with an added element. Here the Satanic influences at work in the cult leader, create a stifling atmosphere which forces cult members to the extreme. There are a lot of strange and mysterious cults at operation in the world. We have only covered a few of them, but hopefully we have covered them in a form which allows the student to better understand the nature and make-up of cults. This knowledge hopefully will instill a desire and fire in the student to better learn God’s Word so as to discern the theology and doctrine of cult leaders before they do any real damage. Unfortunately, in today’s climate the voices of warnings are often too few and too late. 236

The WEB site ReligiousTolerance.org gives considerable space to the Destructive or Doomsday cults. They define these groups as those who are religiously based, very high intensity, controlling groups, usually with dominant leader, that have caused or are liable to cause loss of life among its membership or the general public.

They see the following factors as leading to the Doomsday nature of these groups:

One of the groups where the cries of warnings came too late is the largest example of Doomsdayism and leadership control. This is the People’s Temple of Jim Jones which saw the largest mass suicide of a religious group on November 16, 1978 at Jonestown, Guyana. Mel White considered this tragedy in his book Deceived and reflects upon the types of difficulties faced in attempting to overcome the cult leaders. As with other groups, the victims were led to the People’s Temple by a loneliness in their lives filled by the Temple. They found a group who would support their emotional and spiritual needs. In Jones they found, however, much more than they ever sought. Consider: 237

By the time Jonestown arrived, it was too late. The followers had been brainwashed and would do anything Jones asked. This is the sorrowful fate of the extreme cults. The overall traits of these cults are no different than the traits of all the other cults we have studied. 238 The difference is the extreme degree to which Jones practiced all of the traits.

Interestingly enough, while ReligiousTolerance.org paints the events at Jonestown in as favorable light as possible to Jones and the Peoples Temple, the site admits that the use of drugs and the mental instability of Jones were contributing factors to the tragedy. The WEB site also expresses that fear of the end of the world and extreme isolation of the community as contributing factors. 239

In the case of Jonestown and the other Doomsday cults, the major difference is the instability of the leaders. These cults have undertaken, in essence, a mass sacrifice to Satan. This is Satanism at its finest. We must all be ever alert and fearful less we fail to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and fail to help a lost soul in time of need.

Footnotes: 229. Walter Martin, Hank Hanegraaff, Gen. Ed., The Kingdom of the Cults (Revised), Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1965, 1977, 1985, 1997, Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1997, Parsons Technology, Inc., PO Box 100, Hiawatha, Iowa., Chapter 15.
230. Ibid.
231. Ibid.
232. A long list of others have been called the Anti-Christ. Kingdom of the Cults has quotes or references calling Henry Kissenger and Anwar el Sadat the Anti-Christ. Others have called Saddam Huessin the Anti-Christ. And, of course, the Pope has been a favorite target over the years.
233. Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, STEP electronic edition, Chapter 15.
234. Ibid.
235. Please see the chapter on New Age for a further discussion of UFO cults.
236. For a discussion of some of the more peculiar cults, see Egon Larsen, Strange Sects and Cults, New York: Hart Publishing Company, Inc., 1971. Hart covers such groups as the Dukhobors, the Thugs, The Assassins, The Castrators, The Amish, , and Snake Handlers.
237. Mel White, Deceived, Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1979.
238. In an interesting aside, it is to be noted that ReligiousTolerance.org classifies mass murder Charles Manson and his group as a Doomsday cult.
239. http://www.religioustolerance.org/dc_jones.htm

 

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