For over 1900 years, the Book of Revelation has fascinated and intrigued both Christians and non-Christians. Due to its prophetic declarations, many approach the reading of Revelations with reverence and even fear.
And yet, this final book of the Bible continues to allure not only scholars of eschatology and apocalypticism, but also individuals who feel displaced from society, who are experiencing a personal crisis, and those who are keen to follow a prophetic roadmap — albeit encrypted — for the impending apocalypse.
These individuals and others become primary targets for sects and Doomsday cults such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, the Church of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church), Unification Church (the “Moonies”), and Seventh Day Adventists, who present themselves as Bible-based Christian churches or organizations.
However, they in fact follow a Doomsday doctrine that includes integrating other religions, contorting Scripture, and making claims that are spiritually unsound.
The primary teaching source of these cults is the Book of Revelation, which is used, unbiblically, to brainwash members through thought reform and thereby systematically break down their sense of self.
Consequently, members are forcibly coerced into engaging in activities that promote the narcissism of cult leaders and aid in fulfilling their sociopathic agenda.
However, what makes the unbiblical and false teachings of the Book of Revelation such an effective brainwashing tool for sects and cults?
What Is the Book of Revelation?
The Book of Revelation was written around AD 95 by the Apostle John whilst in exile in a penal colony on the island of Patmos.
John’s purpose in writing this book was to correct, teach, and encourage the seven persecuted churches in Asia Minor, as well as reveal the visions that the Holy Spirit had given him regarding the current time as well as the future.
The book’s name is derived from the Greek word apokalypsis, of which its most accepted translation is “revelation.”
True to its Hellenistic derivation, the Book of Revelation uses the genre of apocalyptic literature to declare End Time prophecies such as beasts ruling the earth (Revelation 13:4), imminent global catastrophes (Revelation 16), man waging Armageddon on God under demonic leadership (Revelation 16:16), and the judgment of mankind before the throne of God (Revelation 20:12).
These prophetic declarations find their origins in the Old Testament (Daniel 12.11; Matthew 5:17) and are enciphered through fragmented formulations, graphic imagery, and a heavy use of symbolism and numbers.
Why Is the Book of Revelation Falsely Used in Cults?
Due to its complexity, the Book of Revelation is widely considered to be difficult to understand and is thereby subject to a vast range of interpretations, which can be influenced by personal bias. For this reason, this book is selected by cults that claim to be Christian.
Cults find recruits all too easily amongst the lonely, the unemployed, the transient, and the socially displaced.
Through diligent applications of mind control and alienation, members are manipulated into abandoning independent thought and self-identity in favor of submitting to the higher purpose of the sect, which is derived from the latter’s interpretation of Revelation.
Jehovah’s Witnesses teach members shifting timelines regarding the apocalypse. The members of the Branch Davidian accepted that their leader David Koresh was given sole divine authority to open the seven seals.
The Shincheonji Church encourages believers that they are the 144,000 “sealed Jews” referred to in Revelation 7:4 that have divine protection from the wrath of the Antichrist.
Seventh-Day Adventists proclaim that unsaved people will be annihilated, whilst the saved will live on a recreation of the earth for all eternity.
Further consequences of a cult’s teachings of Revelation are that members are brainwashed into offering finances, sexual services, and even their very lives in executing actions that will satisfy the narcissistic whims of cult leaders and fulfill their sociopathic ambitions.
One such catastrophic example was the Waco siege of 1993, whose leader was David Koresh.
How Can l Protect Myself from Being Lured into a Cult?
As Christians, we always need to be aware that false prophets are amongst us (Matthew 7:15). The following are some characteristics that can help you discern whether a church you are considering joining is, in fact, part of a sect or Doomsday cult.
1. They assertively prey on the vulnerable. Cult members aggressively seek recruitments who are vulnerable and naïve as to what a cult is and who display a lack of knowledge of biblical principles.
Jehovah’s Witnesses former recruitment strategies included “proselytizing,” which is doorbell knocking; however, lately, they tend to set up stands at train stations.
The Shincheonji Church boldly approaches people on the streets or infiltrates existing churches in order to poach congregants. Forty percent of their victims are the youth, whilst 60% are people in their 50’s and 60’s.
2. They don’t tell you that they are a cult. Sects hide their cult status from unsuspecting recruits. The Unification Church has front groups such as the “Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles.”
The Mormon Church uses “friendshipping,” which is influencing friends and romantic interests to join them by accrediting their good works and behavior to their church.
3. Their leaders claim to be divinely chosen. Cult leaders claim to have been selected by God to lead and accurately interpret the Book of Revelation.
David Koresh of the Branch Davidians declared himself to be the final Messiah and the anointed Prophet of the Restoration, Joseph Smith of the Latter Day Saints proclaimed to be the “promised pastor” and Lee Man-hee of the Shincheonji Church insists that he is God-like and immortal.
4. They offer exclusive Bible studies. Cults pertain to the façade of being a Christian church through their in-depth, exclusive Bible training.
Jehovah’s Witnesses offer free online Bible studies or penetrate households to teach their own translation of the Bible. The Shincheonji Church has Bible study centers where they teach their own version of the Bible through intense and time-consuming courses.
5They isolate you. Sects use social isolation to cut new members off from family and loved ones.
The Unification Church “love bomb” recruits with attention and affection whilst at the same time keeping potential members under constant surveillance.
The Shincheonji Church exerts pressure on new members to cut off ties to their former life through “plotting” — their term for the teaching of lies.
A Divine Warning
It is heartbreaking to know that God’s Truth, which is intended to set us free, is in fact being twisted and corrupted by false prophets to instead lead people into confusion and despair.
We can only pray for a renewal of these leaders’ hearts and leave the rest to God as He outlines in the epilogue of the Book of Revelation.
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll” (Revelation 22:18-19).
For further reading:
What Are the Seven Seals and Seven Trumpets in Revelation?
Why Do Cults Use God Falsely in Their Mission?
Who Are the 144,000 in the Bible and Is This Number Symbolic or Literal?
Why Are Cults Often Associated with Christianity?
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Marinela Malcheva
Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog. She was born in England but currently lives in Germany with her husband, Solomon. As a response to the fear, anxiety, and despair generated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jacob’s Ladder Blog has written a free EBook titled “More than Conquerors through Christ” to encourage, strengthen, and give hope in the midst of this pandemic. You can download the EBook or read it online at www.jacobsladderblog.com.