Branhamism

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"Branhamism" is a pejorative term which refers to the religious movement based on the distinctive doctrines of William M. Branham (1909–65),[1] an American faith healer and preacher of the mid-twentieth century. The term is disliked by adherents, who refer to themselves as Message Believers, or simply Christians, and to Branham's teachings as "The Message".[2] Followers of William Branham can be found around the world and, because of his teachings, generally eschew any formal denominational affiliation.

A central teaching of Branham's followers is that Branham was the final major prophet to the Christian church as a fulfillment of Malachi 4:5-6 and Revelation 10:7, and had a divinely appointed ministry of restoring the true apostolic faith to the church which had been lost by denominationalism. Major teachings include the Godhead, the baptismal formula, the serpent seed doctrine, the role of women, moral decay, marriage and divorce, and eschatology.

Sermons and books[edit]

The primary source for the distinctive doctrines are the more than one thousand recorded sermons of William Branham.[3] All his known sermons have been transcribed and are available online.[4]

In addition to his recorded sermons, William Branham also preached a series of sermons in December 1960 on the Seven Church Ages of Revelation chapters 2 and 3 (sometimes referred to as "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" series). These were later made into a book in what he called "grammarised" form, titled "An Exposition of the Seven Church Ages",[5] which explained his major doctrines.

Some followers believe that William Branham's most important work is "The Revelation of the Seven Seals". They believe that following a commission from Seven Angels who appeared to him in Arizona, he journeyed back to his home church in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and from March 17 to 24, 1963, opened (explained) the Seven Seals of Revelation chapter 6.[6]

Size and distribution[edit]

Branham's preaching against denominationalism has deterred the formation of widespread formal associations of groups of Branham’s followers. This makes it difficult to establish how many followers exist today.

Voice of God Recordings, the distributor of materials related to William Branham's ministry, currently produces print, audio, and video materials in more than 60 languages,[7] maintains offices in over forty countries,[8] and sends direct shipments to more than 170 countries.[9] Cloverdale Bibleway, based in British Columbia, also conducts an extensive international outreach with Message materials.[10]

The Voice of God website claims that "upwards of 2 million people worldwide believe Brother Branham’s Message".[11] According to Joseph Branham, more than 500,000 Message Believers are found in Africa. [12]

Major doctrines and teachings of the Message[edit]

Because William Branham stressed the complete autonomy of each local assembly, there is some disparity among Message fellowships around the world, as well as a core similarity. Any attempt to describe a doctrine will reflect a particular viewpoint, and for that reason cannot be thought of as definitive. A central belief is that the Bible is God's Word and was written by men inspired by God and is thus an Absolute to the Christian Faith as written in 2 Tim 3:16 and 2 Pet 1:20-21 [13]

The prophet-messenger[edit]

A major doctrine that unites all Message Believers is the central role of William Branham who is a Word prophet and the messenger (angel) of the Laodicean church age. As a Word prophet they believe he was given revelation (understanding) of the meaning of the Scriptures. As the messenger, they believe he was sent to lead the Bride (the true Church) and to prepare them for the pre-tribulation rapture. It is said that William Branham fulfilled the Elijah prophecies of Malachi 4:5-6 (turn the heart of the children to their fathers) and Matthew 17:11(restore all things). They see his ministry as the messenger to Laodicea (the last church age) identified in Rev 3:14 and Rev 10:7. Branham taught that his gift of discernment was typed in Luke 17:28-30 which speaks of the days of Lot. In those days, God appeared to Abraham in a human form and revealed the secrets of the heart. (Genesis 18).[14]

Vindication[edit]

All of Branham’s followers are convinced that his ability to tell people personal details about themselves,[15][16][17] especially those coming for prayer for healing, was one of the most important forms of vindication of his ministry as a prophet and evidence that he was speaking the truth.[18] Branham claimed that this knowledge (which he called discernment) was given to him through visions.[19]

The Godhead and incarnation[edit]

One of the most distinctive features of The Message's teaching is the rejection the Trinitarian view of the Godhead. The Message followers believe that there is One God who is the Father, and that God Himself is a Spirit. They believe that the Holy Spirit and God the Father are the same being but in different manifestations.[20] They also believe that the Holy Spirit is a portion of God Himself that dwells in Christians when they receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

Their doctrine also states that Jesus is the Son of God just as Adam was a Son of God (a perfect human being), and also he was God (a perfect God) so that He could suffer and die as a mortal. It was because God the Father was in Christ that He could speak as though He was God, because God was literally dwelling within Him and using Him to speak.This doctrine is also tied to the serpent seed doctrine to show that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice because He was a perfect human and had no link to the serpent. Message followers believe that the revelation (i.e. understanding) of the Godhead was formally abandoned with the Nicene Creed.[21][22]

This doctrine was often summed up by Branham saying: "Jehovah of the Old Testament is Jesus of the New".[23] In the Church Age Book, he calls this the "Supreme Deity of Jesus Christ".[24]

Serpent's Seed Doctrine[edit]

See also: Serpent Seed

The Message followers believe that the original sin resulted from Eve having sexual intercourse with an upright 'Serpent' which was not a snake but the human-like animal between apes and man. They believe that the serpent's current form is a result of God's curse in Genesis 3:14. From this relationship, it is said, Cain was conceived and born. Abel, fathered by Adam, was born at the same time.[25][26][27]

The Message followers do not accept any of the potentially racist implications of the doctrine, nor do they accept any of the racist tendencies that exist in the world in general. They believe that all humankind is created equal and is equally able to become Christian.[27][28]

Branham identified "the tree of knowledge of good and evil" as being Satan, and the "tree of life" as being God himself.[27] Not all of the message followers interpret these teachings in the same way, particularly the followers of Junior Jackson who believe the two trees were spiritual laws.[29]

The Message followers believe that one basis for the assertion that Eve had sexual intercourse with the serpent was Eve’s claim that the serpent had ‘beguiled’ her (Genesis 3:13; 2 Cor 11:2-3). Branham taught that ‘beguiled’ actually meant sexually ‘seduced’ or ‘defiled’ rather than ‘deceived’ (which most contemporary translations give). The original Hebrew word is ‘hishi’ (from the root נשא) which literally means to lead astray or to mentally delude, with a secondary meaning to morally deceive. Genesis 3:13 is the only place where it is translated ‘beguiled’. Elsewhere in the Old Testament the word is usually translated ‘deceive’.[30]

In response to the argument that Eve said she had "gotten a man from the Lord" (Genesis 4:1), Message believers claim that all life comes from God. They see the Biblical account as allegorical, with "eating" being equated with sexual relations, as in Proverbs 30:20.

Predestination[edit]

The Message of the Hour includes a variation of the doctrine of predestination. Followers believe that God, being omnipresent in the past, present, and future, knows what choice a person will make before the person is presented the choices. They believe that in the beginning of time, God knew every event that would occur and the outcome of each event. That would include God knowing before people were born whether or not they would voluntarily serve God. This is taken to show that God has given man free-will but knows what the individual will choose. This doctrine is used to explain how in many different scenarios that people are in control of their own destiny, but God already knows what that destiny is before it occurs.[27] See Ephesians 1:5.

Doctrine of presence[edit]

Many in The Message adhere to a teaching that The Message of the Hour was God declaring He had come down in Spirit form before the second coming (the "Rapture") and that the literal presence of God's Spirit was necessary to prepare the true Christian Church (the Bride) for their "rapturing" away from the earth before the tribulation. The Scriptural support for this doctrine is said to be 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 where it is stated that "the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout". This "shout' is believed to be the Message preached by William Branham.

This is applied with varying degree throughout the followers of The Message. One fringe uses this same doctrine to conclude that Branham was equal to Christ, or an incarnation of God himself. However, most believe that Branham, like other prophets such as Moses and Paul, was given a lesser degree of the Holy Spirit than Christ. In the same way, all born again Christians are given the Holy Spirit, but Branham was just given a greater portion to fulfil his prophetic ministry.

The seven seals[edit]

The Message of the Hour includes a set of doctrines that encompass a unique interpretation of the seven seals in Revelation chapters 6 and 8. The mainstream of the followers believe that the meaning of the first six seals was revealed to Branham in 1963, but that the details of the seventh have not yet been revealed. The first four seals are concerning the four horses and is taught that each one represents the means by which Satan will try to delude or destroy the true Church. They are counteracted by the four beasts, which represent the Spirit of God combatting the influence of these "horses". The other three seals have quite different meanings.[31]

The First Seal: The doctrine teaches that the first seal concerning the white horse is referring to the spirit of antichrist that entered into the churches after the death of the original apostles. It is also taught that the means of counteracting this spirit is the Lion beast, representing the pure Word of God with which the elect would overcome.

The Second Seal: The doctrine teaches that the second seal concerning the red horse is referring to the spirit of persecution that affected the church during the second church age. The Calf Beast is the means of counteracting this horse. A calf, as the beast of burden and sacrifice, indicates that God's Spirit would give them strength to endure.[31]

The Third Seal: The doctrine teaches that the third seal concerning the Black Horse is referring to the spirit of corruption in the organised church that permeated the "Dark Ages". The means for counteracting this spirit was the beast with the face of a man, indicating that through the ministry of anointed men, such as Martin Luther and John Wesley, God would guide the true Church out of darkness into the truth.[31]

The Fourth Seal: The doctrine teaches that the Grey Horse is referring to the spirit of the red, black and white horses mixed together to present a deceiving mixture of truth and error. The means for counteracting this spirit is the Beast that is as a Flying Eagle, representing a return to the pure Word of God through the ministry of a prophet.[31]

The Fifth Seal: The doctrine teaches that the fifth seal provides the means of salvation for Jews who did not accept Christ. By living faithfully to the light they have received and by losing their lives because of the persecutions made against them, they may still be saved.[31]

The Sixth Seal: The doctrine teaches that the sixth seal is a description of the wrath of God, which will occur during the last half of the 70th Week of Daniel, often referred to as the Great Tribulation.[31]

The Seventh Seal: Most followers of The Message do not believe that the full understanding, or revelation, of the seventh seal has been given yet. It contains the details concerning the return of Jesus Christ for the Bride (the true Church) in the Rapture. Most also believe the seventh seal, chronologically, will occur before the sixth seal, but it is placed as the seventh because it was to be the last to be revealed.[31]

The Seven Church Ages[edit]

The doctrine of the Seven Church Ages is a teaching that the seven messages to the seven churches in Asia stated in Revelation 2 & 3 are describing ages of time which the church will pass through and what would occur in those ages. The angels sent to each Church Age are understood to be human messengers, beginning with Paul and ending with William Branham. Their messages were intended to be used as a means to escape the troubles of the those times. This is closely linked to the first four seals in the doctrine of the six seals.[32]

The basic flow is that at the end of the first age Christians started losing some of their zeal. In the second age their lack of zeal led to false doctrines being introduced and left unchecked. In the third age, when the church became recognized by the Roman Empire, they became slowly incorporated into the empire and the church began to be more interested in politics than the souls of men. Then in the fourth age complete apostasy slowly set in and much of the original revelations were lost and the church became completely corrupt. In the fifth age the reformation began and some of the lost revelations were rediscovered (viz, justification by faith alone). By the sixth age, many true Christians were separating from the old church in an attempt to return to the original church values and doctrines (viz, sanctification). Finally, in the seventh age, which is present day, all of the denominational churches become apostate by refusing the full Word of God, and out of them will come the final church (the Bride) restored to the original Christian doctrines and faith.[32]

These are the men said to have led the various church ages: Paul was said to have led the first, the Ephesian Church Age that spanned from 53 A.D to 170 A.D. Irenaeus led the Second Church Age which was called Smyrna and spanned from 170 to 312. St. Martin or Martin of Tours led the Third Church Age of Pergamos from 312 to 606. Columba led the Fourth Church Age of Thyatira from 606 to 1520. Martin Luther led the Fifth Church Age of Sardis from 1520 to 1750. John Wesley led the Sixth Church Age of Philadelphia from 1750 to 1906. And the final and Seventh Church Age of Laodicea was said to have been led by William Marrion Branham from 1906 to rapture. William Branham recognized the Azusa Street Revival as the start of the last church age. Some theologians disagreed with William Branham on the dates of the start and end of the Church Age for the Fourth Church Age, as Columba died before the start of that church age. Branham defended himself by saying that the messenger to every age, regardless of when he appears or goes, is the one who influences that age for God by means of a Word-manifested ministry.

Church order[edit]

Church order is doctrine,a method in which church services are conducted. It was originally developed by Branham to limit the use of the Gifts of the Spirit during a service and was then spread to many of the churches that became associated with him and his teachings. It is not followed strictly by all followers of The Message and completely ignored by others.[33]

Church order primarily limited the use of the gift of tongues, interpretation, and prophecy. People who were inspired to, or wished to use those gifts had to go into a side room where the gift would be used and recorded. If it was deemed noteworthy it would then be given to the congregation as a whole. It also limited other expressions of the Holy Spirit, like those in Pentecostalism, in the open congregation.[27]

Water baptism[edit]

Followers of The Message believe in water baptism according to Acts 2:38. They fully submerge the individual in water and baptize in the name of The Lord Jesus Christ. The doctrine rejects baptizing in the titles of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost because Christ says to baptize in the name (singular) of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Message believers claim that this name is Jesus Christ, and that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are not names, but titles of the one God. They also point to the fact that no one in the Bible was baptized using these titles. On the basis of Branham's understanding of Acts 19, new adherents to the Message are encouraged to be rebaptized.[34]

Anti-denominationalism[edit]

One of the central themes of The Message is from Revelation 18:4 "... Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins". This is taken to mean that Christians should come out of the denominations which will be judged and punished by God. The Great Whore is interpreted to be the Modern Catholic Church and the Harlot Daughters are interpreted to be the various other apostate denominations. This belief is similar to that of the Churches of Christ, although derived from different sources.[35]

Even though Branham was strongly opposed to denominationalism, he nevertheless encouraged all believers to attend the church of their choice on a regular basis, and said that there were Christians in every denomination. It is accepting the creed, or Statement of Faith, of any particular denomination (rather than the full Word of God) that is wrong according to Message Believers, not which church one attends.[36]

The belief that denominationalism is the mark of the beast [37] has prevented The Message from taking on a formal organization of its own lest the followers be judged by God. It is because of this lack of high level organization that lines between the different groups are not clear to observers from outside The Message.

The role of women[edit]

Message believers hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible’s references to the role of women.[38] Women are not allowed to preach or teach behind a church's pulpit (1 Timothy 2:12) although they may testify, teach Sunday School, pray aloud, and operate the vocal gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:10). Wives are taught to be in subjection to their husbands, to hold them in respect (1 Peter 3:1), and that a wife dishonors her husband by cutting her hair short (1 Corinthians 11:3-5).[39] Women are expected to dress modestly which means avoiding tight or revealing clothing as well as any garment that pertains to a man (Deuteronomy 22:5), such as pants, shorts, slacks, overalls, etc.[40] Branham's followers reject the use of cosmetics because they believe the only woman in the Bible who painted her face was Jezebel. [41]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Larson, B., Larson's Book of Cults, Tyndale House Publishers Inc, 1982. (See Bob Larson)
  2. ^ The Message, Voice of God Recordings, Jeffersonville, Indiana
  3. ^ Message Audio, Voice of God Recordings, Jeffersonville, Indiana
  4. ^ The Table, Voice of God Recordings, Jeffersonville, Indiana
  5. ^ Branham, W. M., An Exposition of the Seven Church Ages (Jeffersonville, IN: Voice of God Recordings, 1965)
  6. ^ Branham, W. M., The World is Falling Apart (Jeffersonville, IN: Voice of God Recordings, 1963)
  7. ^ Voice of God Recordings: VGR International
  8. ^ Voice of God Recordings: VGR International
  9. ^ Voice of God Recordings, Catch the Vision Update 14 April 2010
  10. ^ Cloverdale Bibleway
  11. ^ Voice of God website: About Us Retrieved 2 Dec 2012.
  12. ^ Branham, J., Absolute, YouTube video Retrieved 2 Dec 2012
  13. ^ Branham, W. M., Jesus Christ the Same Yesterday Today and Forever, VGR, 1958
  14. ^ Weaver, p. 102
  15. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DG56uQfTJcE
  16. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpDcJ7mnp5M
  17. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIIzxX1_xC0
  18. ^ Kocourek, B., Message Doctrine: Vindication Retrieved 21 March 2009.
  19. ^ The Deep Calleth to the Deep (video - discernment begins at 30 minute mark)Voice of God Recordings, June, 1954
  20. ^ Brahnham, p. 19
  21. ^ Weaver, pp. 119–121
  22. ^ Branham, p. 17
  23. ^ Branham, W. M., An Exposition of the Seven Church Ages, VGR, Jeffersonville, 1965, p. 26
  24. ^ Branham, W. M., An Exposition of the Seven Church Ages, VGR, Jeffersonville, 1965, pp. 17–18
  25. ^ Larson, p. 78
  26. ^ Branham, W. M. (August 1964). "Questions and Answers". p. 30. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  27. ^ a b c d e Weaver, pp. 107–111
  28. ^ Branham, W. M. (July 1963). "He Cares, Do You Care?". p. 21. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  29. ^ Turner, Louis B. "The Two Laws of Eden". Faith Assembly Church. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  30. ^ Branham, p. 26
  31. ^ a b c d e f g Weaver, pp. 131–140
  32. ^ a b Weaver, pp. 99–102
  33. ^ Weaver, p. 107
  34. ^ Weaver, pp. 119–120
  35. ^ Weaver, pp. 116–117
  36. ^ Weaver, p. 117
  37. ^ Branham, W. M., Lean Not Unto Thy Own Understanding, VGR, Jefersonville, 1965
  38. ^ Branham, W. M., An Exposition of the Seven Church Ages (jeffersonville, IN: Vopice of God Recordings, 1965) p.215
  39. ^ Branham, W. M., A Testimony on the Sea (Jeffersonville, IN: Voice of God Recordings, 1964)
  40. ^ Weaver, p. 109
  41. ^ And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window. (2 Kings 9:30, KJV)

References[edit]

  • Branham, W. M., An Exposition of the Seven Church Ages Voice of God Recordings, Jeffersonville, Indiana, 1965.
  • Larson, Bob (2004). Larson's Book of World Religions and Alternative Spirituality. Tyndale House Publishers. ISBN 0-8423-6417-X. 
  • Weaver, C. Douglas (1987 (Reprinted 2000)). The Healer Prophet, William Marrion Branham: A Study of the Prophetic in American Pentecostalism. Mercer University Press. ISBN 0-86554-710-6. 

External links[edit]