William Branham, the founder of the Message Cult, was the face of the Voice of Healing pentecostal movement in the early to mid-1900s. Branham professed new revelations from God, teaching them as doctrine. Believing himself to be a specially chosen prophet, he began gathering attention and followers to himself.
Some of Branham’s lofty ‘revelations’ included grandiose delusions of being the new John the Baptist (or new Elijah) who would, personally, usher in the second coming of Christ. His special revelation also included a denial of the trinity, of the doctrine of Hell, and an odd belief that Eve had had sexual relations with the serpent to conceive Cain. These more farcical ideas developed into incoherent assertions of the serpent as the missing link between chimpanzees and man, and that somehow education and immoral women were the greatest sins of modern culture. (See here)
These claims might seem obviously false, even laughable, to most Christians, but there in lies the most common misconception, and danger, of cults; that only a foolish or naive minority fall victim and that the knowledgable, educated majority are immune. Many would be surprised to discover that cults often hold respectable, contributing members of society within their ranks, including doctors, lawyers, and even celebrities. Like a frog sitting in a pot of slowly boiling water, followers were waded into the leader’s ideology which, despite being absurd and heretical, were made more plausible by psychological tricks in the guise of signs and wonders.
In the case of Branham, his meetings included seeming ‘supernatural’ and uncanny insight into peoples lives:
Cold reading, crowd baiting, info probing, and subjective validation are just a few of the ways in which false teachers will try to convince the unsuspecting audience member of their ‘special anointing’. That is one of the reasons why Jesus strongly spoke out against the use of signs and wonders to validate faith (Matthew 12:39), opting that a servant of Christ ought to be judged by their actions as opposed to sensational demonstration (Matthew 7). It was in the spirit of false prophets that Jesus coined the expression, “wolves in sheep clothing” (Matthew 7:15) and why the apostles implored that disciples, “Question everything, and cling to that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
Still, even today there are those who continue to regard Branham as a prophet. In the clip below, faith-healer Benny Hinn tries to explain away Branham’s dubious teachings. The justification is weak, chalking up self-serving false doctrine as insanity brought about by a ‘third wave’ anointing. Yet the bible depicts God as one who renews minds (Romans 12:2), not one who ruins them.
It is seldom easy to spot a false prophet. Such a leader may, superficially, appear to represent traditional Christianity, but upon critical examination are revealed to be based on little more than un-corroborative claims that, if examined closely, fails to harmonize with scripture. In instances where scripture is incorporated, the verses are twisted out of context to conform and confirm their revelations. (See here)
To question the leader or the leader’s revelations is condemned as, not having faith or being disobedient to God; the false prophet is above reproach and will not tolerate dissension of any sort. Yet discipleship to Christ is not about a glorified individual (John 3:30), nor is God for closing doors nexton those who seek truth (Matthew 7:7-8)