Why So Many People Study with Shinchonji. Why Doubt it?

Dear reader,

Thank you for taking these topics to heart.

In the New Testament, there is a comment about angels being eager to know the full implications and meanings of our future redemption.  In the same way, we can assume that the supernatural kingdom of darkness is also interested in these events.

For the last two hundred years, accounts of supernatural entities (angels, Jesus, a spirit of prophecy) have appeared to apocalyptic leaders with detailed explanations about the last chapter of Christianity - information about the Messiah's return to earth and the true meaning of ambiguous prophecies.

What makes these supernatural visions so appealing to people?

The visions are intriguing because they unlock puzzling Bible predictions on the end-times.  Ironically, they give answers to questions the Bible itself does not answer on its own.  This makes it interesting.  Further, the information is used by their leader to convince others it must be from God.  Leaders then recruit people with detailed studies about the revelation-vision, which becomes their primary focus.

With discernment, of course, we know that just because explanations come from a supernatural experience or vision, it does not necessarily mean that it is true.  Anyone who studies recent Christian history knows that many sincere leaders have been deceived by spirit entities and visions.  The Apostle Paul warned that Satan and his messengers can masquerade as legitimate servants of God (2 Cor. 11:14,15).

In addition, many leaders who receive such revelations from spiritual sources exalt themselves above all other Christian ministers, missionaries, or followers (and, in some cases, even above Jesus himself).  They contend that the reason Christians do not accept their teachings is because Satan has deceived the Christian world. Only the revelation in their new movement, which opens seals and end-time prophecies, can give true light.

But, before rushing ahead, let's get back to the appeal and attraction people feel.

The new prophecy model and information the final leaders focuses on brings a new freshness to the Bible. One young lady admitted that she started studying with Shinchonji because she was attracted to the freshness and newness of it all.  The Bible had become routine at that point in her life.

Others on the SCJ testimonial page have said that it was amazing to hear Shinchonji give such clarity and sureness when talking about biblical prophecies.  They wrote that no Christian minister was able to answer their Bible questions.  Only SCJ's explanations and details were found to be clear.  Newness and certainty (in explaining the Bible and complex prophecies) are two strong reasons.

Another case is that some believers join final groups with a sincere heart.  They desire to be a part of something big or they are tired of the mediocrity in Christian circles.  To paraphrase a SCJ member, ¨If you hear that Revelation is being fulfilled in front of your eyes, why wouldn't you want to test it out for yourself?¨ Members are very passionate zealous, which is commendable.  As pointed out by many Christian thinkers, followers in apocalyptic groups often have much more zeal than a large percentage of church-goers today.

So, why would many simple Christians or Christian thinkers doubt the veracity of these visions to end-time leaders?  Why doubt SCJ?  What causes devoted believers not to join an apocalyptic group?

Let´s look briefly at five reasons, although many more could be given.

First, Jesus Christ´s revelation in the New Testament contains many warnings of deception, false messengers who come as Jesus´ final representative, and spiritual lies from spiritual beings (Mt. 24:4,5, I Tim. 4:1, Lk. 21:8, I John 4:1, 2 Pet. 2:1, etc.).   

If your government issued out warnings about gang leaders dressed up as clowns in parks around your city, how would you react if you noticed several clowns in a park near your house?  Naturally, you would have a healthy dose of skeptism or would flee just for the sake of precaution.  Warnings, by definition, save people from harm.  This is how many Christians feel about Jesus´ warnings regarding apocalyptic leaders.

Second, the central teaching in Christian circles, based on God´s revelation, is that Jesus returns himself, not through another human (I Thess 4:16, Acts. 1:11, Mt. 24:30).  This is why Jesus admonished all believers not to follow someone who embodies or represents his own expected return (Mt. 24:4,5, Lk. 21:8).  It´s the first sign Jesus Christ gives about the end-times in his Olivet discourse.   

Shinchonji, like other groups, discredits that God glorified Jesus' humanity.  They teach that Jesus is now only a spirit who returns to earth and invisibly leads them or uniquely incarnates their leader.  This is why the leader is considered Jesus´ mouthpiece on earth.  In SCJ thinking, Jesus' spirit works through Manhee Lee's flesh.  Seeing Mr. Lee is like seeing the Lord Jesus (see Shinchonji's article on Rev. 1:7).  Mr. Lee believes that he is the human flesh (symbolized as a white horse) in Rev. 19 which Jesus uses to return to earth.

In contrast, in the written word, which is the final authority for Christians, God affirms that ¨this same Jesus¨ who left earth is the one who is returning (Ac. 1:11), not a spirit Jesus in another flesh.

Third, as Christians, we should be aware of Satan´s schemes and patterns throughout Christian history.  One Christian cult observer once said that all new Christian cults are models of Gnosticism.   Gnosticism was one of the early and demonic attempts to distort Christianity through ¨secret knowledge¨ - hidden information about Christ and the universe that the early Christian communities didn't know about.  The gnostic leaders prided themselves on having secret information about salvation.

But, in the midst of this information, Christians recognized that their secrets distorted true salvation and Jesus´ identity.  Today deceptive spirits follow the same pattern.  Secret knowledge is given to apocalyptic leaders about Jesus´ returin in the last days, but introduce changes to Jesus, God, or the Holy Spirit.

In Shinchonji, the Holy Spirit is not the Holy Spirit and Jesus is not divine like God the Father.  The revelations Christians see from God´s Word (Tit. 2:13, John 20:28, Heb. 1:3, Col. 1:16, etc.) are replaced by Manhee Lee´s revealed word.  This is a problem.  True followers of Christ should honor Jesus' identity since he is worshiped in heaven and Christ Jesus is the same and will be the same forever (Heb. 13:8).

Another problem Christians see is when the leader is the final authority above the Bible.  Even though SCJ and other groups claim they only go by  the Bible, in practice, they are actually being guided by the leader´s interpretations of the Bible.  This is two separate concepts.  If a group is only going by the Bible, they fully submit to clear portions of God´s revelation that all see and interpret, not just what one leader sees.

In practice, we can see how leaders justify interpretations through spiritual explanations, new connections between verses (often ignoring the context), or forcing meanings on words that the words do not make on their own.  See other articles about interpretation issues with end-time leaders.   

The point is that the leader´s interpretations are seen as inspired.  But, more often than not, the revelation from the leader is saying something about a text, but Christians see God's voice in the Bible saying something else.  A case in point is when Mr. Lee claims that the ¨one who overcomes¨ is an individual in Rev. 2,3 instead of its wider use in context of members in different church communities.

One person wrote us and said that a particular Shinchonji instructor had told him to put aside everything he thought the Bible was revealing.  He was instructed only to listen to the revealed word from SCJ.  But, in Christian thinking, this is backwards.  We are supposed to use the written word (2 Tim. 3:16, Mt. 4:4,7,10) to refute spirit-inspired errors, not let revelations be the authority over the written word.

Finally, Christians doubt messages from visions that are contrary to God's heart and character.  When you know someone intimately, you can easily recognize messages that are not from that person.  An example of this is when someone hacks a friend´s e-mail account and sends messages that they would never write.  The content itself reveals the error.     

Some people who wrote us said that they started the Shinchonji studies, but the heavy emphasis on knowledge of prophecies didn't seem right.  Others mentioned feeling uncomfortable about using deception and dishonesty when recruiting others for the SCJ Bible studies.  Still others noticed a harsh and arrogant tone on the SCJ website and in Manhee Lee's books.

In summary, although leaders with revelations from the invisible world bring freshness and new explanations to Bible prophecies, as is the case in Shinchonji, it is important to be alert when these signs appear.  We should not minimize or dismiss them.

In the articles that follow, we look at these and other points in more depth.

Our Story/This blog.

Dear reader,

This blog came into existence some years ago when one of my brothers discovered that we had several other family members involved in a group known as Shinchonji.  

We are from a large, Christian family in the United States.  One family member moved to South Korea, met and married a South Korean, and then he and his wife became involved in Shinchonji.  Later, they influenced two other family members who also joined Shinchonji. 

The information we present here is a result of many conversations and e-mails with these family members.  We love them deeply and have no desire to belittle them or other SCJ members, who are certainly loved by God too.  However, we also believe it is important to test end-time leaders and groups who claim to be Jesus´ sole voice on earth (Lk. 21:8).  We also felt other people around the world might be experiencing contact with Shinchonji and be interested in assessing what we have observed.   

End-time leaders usually speak harshly against any Christian who disagrees with their message, labeling them as Satan´s agents or tools.  Manhee Lee, the SCJ chairman, and the SCJ website are no exception.  They reflect this tone in their books and publications, but Mr. Lee also writes, ¨Christians should sincerely try to find out if this testimony is true¨ (Creation of Heaven and Earth, p. 566).  

People who join end-time groups eventually come to accept their leader´s voice as God´s voice of truth.  They become so enthusiastic that they often overlook details other Christians see.  They become desensitized to unfulfilled promises and predictions their leaders make.  It is also easy for them to be fearful of not being a dutiful follower of their group and losing eternal life.  They spend much time recruiting others and not as much time examining parts of God´s Word that are not emphasized by their group.   

In this blog, we assess some of the big teachings (and smaller issues) in Shinchonji that we found to be problematic.  We quote from two of Mr. Lee´s books, ¨Creation of Heaven and Earth,¨ and ¨The Truth Regarding Revelation´s Fulfillment,¨ and from articles accessed on Shinchonji´s website in 2010.  For those who want to get Shinchonji´s fuller perspective, please consult their website articles. 

In our hearts, we have no intention to unkindly attack or make fun of Manhee Lee or other Shinchonji members, many of whom are zealous and sincerely desire to see God´s kingdom come to earth.  Like many members in other final movements, we can easily appreciate their dedication and spiritual interest.  

Many of us in our family have had a special interest in Christian cults, Christian history, and Christian teachings.  So, it was very saddening and troubling to see family members get involved in Shinchonji.

In the blog, we try to write from a basic, Christian perspective - common to people from all different Christian backgrounds and denominations.  We are inter-denominational believers in Christ and do not promote any denomination.  All those who love and follow Jesus belong to his one body (Eph. 4:4).  

We firmly hold that God´s message and clear voice in his written word is the safest authority for Christians and can be used to correct ideas from spirit revelations to end-time leaders (Gal. 1:8, 2 Tim.3:16, I Jn. 4:1). We also hope to communicate the information in a gentle, kind tone with much love and concern.  

Thank you for your interest in these topics.  

Best wishes in Christ,       

Jason Matthias Schmitz 

The Parable of the Two Seeds in Mt. 13.

Dear reader,

When a final prophet says that an angel, Jesus, and God gave them a revealed word/revelation, Christians must be cautious and test it with the Bible.  The Apostle John said to test the spirits (I Jn. 4:1).  Testing, of course, is not physically persecuting a leader (or their followers), who are loved by God, but it is necessary to avoid deception.  To paraphrase one Christian brother, bad teachings lead to bad experiences.

One discerning test is to see how the spiritual entities (the angel, Jesus, and God) treat the Bible.  Do they submit to God's Word or do they reveal new meanings that are outside the idea communicated in context?  Does a prophet's revealed word provide meanings that the written word does not reveal on its own?  Does the prophet's voice connect verses that seem unrelated or controlled?  Is the revealed word a different voice than the voice in God's written word?

With this in mind, let's test Shinchonji's revelation about the parable of the two seeds.

According to Manhee Lee, the parable of the two seeds in Mt. 13:24-29 is the first parable people should learn in the Bible (Creation of Heaven and Earth, p. 289).  To understand the background, Mr. Lee teaches that God prophesied in Jer. 31:27 that he would plant the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast.  Mr. Lee says that this was fulfilled in Jesus' first coming.

¨Approximately 2,600 years ago, God prophesied through the prophet Jeremiah that the day was coming when he would plant the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast (Jer. 31:27, NKJV).  This prophecy was fulfilled roughly 600 years later in Jesus' first coming (Mt. 13:24,25)¨ (Creation of Heaven and Earth, p. 289).

Manhee Lee explains that the two seeds planted in the parable (Mt. 13:24-29) represent Jesus' word (a good seed) and Satan's word (a bad seed).  At the end, Christ harvests the good/wheat-like seeds. These seeds symbolize believers in God's word, seen as Shinchonji's revealed word at spiritual Mt. Zion (Shinchonji).  Those who do not enter Shinchonji belong to Satan's seed.

¨Those born of God's seed (i.e. the wheat-like believers) will be harvested into the barn of heaven.  The barn of heaven is Mt. Zion where God's people sing the new song.  On the other hand, anyone who is not harvested at the time of the harvest has proven they belong to the weeds, which are born of the devil's seed. ...Jesus prophesied that he would come back to harvest the field where he had sown the seed.  This prophecy is finding its fulfillment today after 2,000 years.¨ (Creation of Heaven and Earth, pp. 302,303).

In addition, Manhee Lee teaches that Jesus' seed and Satan's seed are in the same field, which represents Christian churches.  According to Mr. Lee, people must leave their churches, which have Satan's seed in them, and come to Shinchonji.

¨In this parable the good seed is the word of God, and the man who sowed it is Jesus.  The field is Jesus' church, and the enemy is the devil.  The weeds the enemy sowed represent the words of the devil.  Since the weeds were sown among the wheat, it is clear that the good seed and the weeds are planted in the same field.  This tells us that the word of God is mixed with the word of Satan within the churches of Jesus.  Again, Satan's word has been sown in the church...The true grain (wheat) refer to true believers who are born again of the word of God.  The weeds are church congregation members who are born of the word of Satan....  Which of these two groups of churchgoers will the angels harvest when the time comes? Certainly it will be the wheat-like believers, born of the word of God, who are harvested (Mt. 13:30, Rv. 14:14-16).  The children of Satan (the weeds) will be left behind in their churches¨ (Creation of Heaven and Earth, pp. 300, 301).

Since this is a revelation to Manhee Lee, what do we notice when we test it with the Scriptures?

First, using parables to give revealed meanings has been a characteristic of apocalyptic leaders and end-time groups in South Korea for a long time.  See article on the history of Manhee Lee before Shinchonji.  Mr. Lee was associated with (and studied under) apocalyptic leaders before Shinchonji.

Second, Manhee Lee's revelation does not take into account the meaning of the planting in Jeremiah 31. In context, God's voice is prophesying a final restoration for Israel (Jer. 30, 31).  In Shinchonji thinking, physical Israel is fully rejected by God, not fully restored.  The opposite is true in the written word.  God's voice (in five of the minor and three of the major prophets) speaks of a final restoration.

The promises in Jer. 31 were partially fulfilled when the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile and partially fulfilled in the Messiah's first coming via the new covenant.  Yet, on account of God's loving faithfulness, he promises to reveal his glory through a final restoration of Israel in the end: spiritual renewal, Jerusalem's exaltation, a Jewish return to their land, rescuing Israel from their enemies, and peace under the Messiah's reign.

Jesus told the Jews that they would not see him again until they blessed his return (Lk. 13:35).  For a more in depth study on a final restoration, consult Lk. 1:32,33, Ac. 1:6,7, Ac. 3:19-21, Rom. 11:1,11,12, Rom. 11:25-28, Ezek. 34, 36,37, Micah 4:6-5:5, Zeph. 3:9-20, Is. 9:7, Is. 10:20-11:16, Is. 14:1,2, Is. 27:6, Is. 35, Zech. 8:7,11-13, 20-23, Zech. 13:1,2, Jer. 30, 31,32, Jer. 33:6-16, Amos 9:11-15, Joel 3.
The two seeds in Jer. 31:27 refer to the promise that God would restore Israel (the house of Israel and the house of Jacob) in the future.  The references to planting and the seed of man and beast (people and animals) is a common analogy of restoration and future prosperity.  Similar symbols are used in Ez. 36:9-11.

¨I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor; you will be plowed and sown, and I will multiply the number of people upon you, even the whole house of Israel.  The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I will increase the number of men and animals upon you, and they will be fruitful and become numerous.  I will settle people on you as in the past and will make you prosper more than before (Ez. 36:9-11).

God also makes use of the imagery of sowing in reference to Israel in Hos. 1:10,11 (using a play on words with the name Jezreel).  See Hos. 2:21-23 and Hos. 14:4-7 for a future restoration.  In the prophets, the references to sowing, planting, and building carries positive connotations of future blessing and stability.

Manhee Lee's revealed word misses the context in Jer. 31 and reveals that the beast (NKJV's translation of Jer. 31:27) refers to what Satan would sow.  Mr. Lee calls Satan a beast and applies it to Jer. 31:27.  ¨Revelation figuratively calls Satan the devil, the dragon, and the ancient serpent (Rev. 20:2).  This is why the weeds Satan sowed are called the seed of beasts (Jer. 31:27)¨ (Creation of Heaven and Earth, p. 291).

When we look at the verses surrounding Jer. 31:27, God is the one who is planting, not God and Satan.  God will plant (restore) Israel among the people and animals.  It will not be a desolate time, but a time of rebuilding and prosperity.  In the written word, it does not mention Satan in this context.

Third, Manhee Lee's revealed word states that the field in which Jesus plants his seed is the church.  ¨In this parable the good seed is the word of God, and the man who sowed it is Jesus.  The field is Jesus' church...¨ (Creation of Heaven and Earth, p. 300).  However, the written word declares that the field is the ¨world¨.  Jesus answered, ¨The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the world¨ (Mt. 13:37, 38).  Even though some believers see a secondary application to Satan's influence in Christian churches that do not honor Christ Jesus, the text speaks of his kingdom in the world.

Lastly, Shinchonji's revealed word makes the ¨good seed¨ in the parable refer to those who are born of Shinchonji's revealed word.  To Christians, this is an example of an end-time movement appropriating the Bible to make it refer to their group's situation or message.  The revealed word in Shinchonji makes the good seed in the parable refer to those who believe in the revealed word, which is circular interpretation.

In the written word, the two seeds are the righteous and the unrighteous (Mt. 13:38), similar to the good and bad fish in the parable of the net and the lake (Mt. 13:47-51).  Jesus' point is that there will be a final separation of the righteous and the wicked in the end.  It doesn't define righteousness as ¨believing and obeying a final revelation¨.  Christian righteousness is much deeper than that.

After testing this parable, we see how the revealed word from a prophet figure is giving meanings by quoting the written word, but not by submitting to what the voice in God's written word is saying.  In Christian thought, the written word is superior to the voice of prophets since the written word is more reliable.

Should Shinchonji Lie About Their Bible Studies?

Dear reader,

What would you think of a missionary who invented conversion stories to obtain funds for their work overseas?  How would you feel if a minister lied about his seminary studies so that a publisher would publish his book?  These and other questions deal with an important, ethical question.

Is it appropriate to use deception and associate it with the name, message, and person of Jesus Christ?

Any serious Christian around the globe (and even moral, non-Christians) would agree that using dishonesty with Jesus´ cause is wrong.  In Rom. 12:17, Christians are held to a higher standard.  Paul writes that we are to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  This means that using dishonesty or lies to further Christ´s cause is a serious problem and contradiction to Christians.

Shinchonji, when examined closely, excuses using secrecy and lies to further their mission.

Several Shinchonji participants have admitted that they recruited Christians by inviting them to a Bible study or by saying that some seminary students (SCJ teachers in disguise) needed to conduct a Bible study with new people for graduation.  Others mentioned that Shinchonji instructors purposefully avoided telling people who they were, coming across as just another Christian group or even creating false names.  One Shinchonji teacher posed as a pastor and started a non-denominational church abroad to attract believers.

When confronting SCJ about this issue, one Shinchonji member argued that deception was justifiable because churches today are full of spiritual lies, traditions of men, and Satan's seed.  Thus, deception is necessary to lead Christians to SCJ (and even to outsmart the devil).  This person also mentioned that they do not reveal their real name because of false information on the internet and in the media about Shinchonji.

What is the problem with this type of reasoning?

First, according to the Bible, which is the standard for Christians everywhere, God's voice instructs Christians to speak truthfully to one another (Eph. 4:25) and rid themselves of all deceit (1 Pet. 2:1).  This is an underlying and basic principle in Christian living and moral behavior.

Shinchonji breaks the principle of ¨no deceit¨ when they have SCJ members (called ¨maintainers¨) pretend to be taking the SCJ Bible study for the first time along with newcomers when, in reality, they are already SCJ members.  They influence others and make it seem like everything is logical and amazing.  See our other article about Mannam, a volunteer organization, and problems with deceit in international circles.

Another problem with deception is that it is a poor testimony.  It casts doubt on other areas of the organization.  It´s like a leader who is dishonest at home but is supposedly honest at work.  The problem with people who find out about deception is that it diminishes credibility in other areas.  One lady said that SCJ´s deceptive practices made her not want to listen to anything else they taught.   

Thirdly, using deception goes against Jesus himself and the example of the apostles. 

The first century was a world full of darkness and evil influences, but the apostles and early Christians relied on the beauty of Jesus himself, the power of his message, and power from the Holy Spirit to convince listeners (I Thes. 1:5, Rom. 1:16, I Cor. 2:4, Ac. 1:8).  Paul and the other disciples did not resort to deceptive measures but spoke boldly and openly (see the book of Acts). 

Fourthly, why would Jesus resort to lies in the end to attract Christians?  Is it like Jesus to use lies so that his sheep hear his voice?  This undermines Jesus´ character and the power of his message.  To most Christians, lying is from the evil one since righteousness and unrighteousness do not mix (2 Cor. 6:14).

One Shinchonji instructor replied that since Shinchonji's message was true, they were willing to even ¨cut off someone's hand¨ to avoid them from going to hell.  But, undoubtedly this person would disapprove of lies by other groups or organizations who tried to use the same reasoning.  Imagine if society worked this way.  The end does not justify the means, especially when related to something as big as Jesus' kingdom.

Lastly, God revealed over and over to Israel that he detests all forms of lying and deceit (Prov. 6:16-19).  Lying and deception involve withholding information, hiding something, or misguiding others for an ulterior purpose. 

With this in mind, what are we to think of angels who appear to a final leader and promote deception to recruit their message?  Messengers of God promote truth, not deception.  Using lies to spread truth is spiritually inconsistent.  The Apostle John writes, ¨I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and you know that no lie comes from the truth¨ (I Jn. 2:21).

For Christians, Jesus would not approve of a recruitment program that included deception and lies. It is inconsistent with his character.  A final movement that approves of lying is a sign that something is wrong.

History Before Shinchonji: Where was Manhee Lee?

Dear reader, 

One phenomenon in Christian history is how apocalyptic leaders and movements give birth to other movements that attempt to be the final movement in Christianity.

The following report sent by a professor in California substantiates Manhee Lee's involvement in three other Korean end-time movements before Shinchonji.  According to this record, Mr. Lee was associated with (and studied under) apocalyptic groups for many years.

One SCJ member did not dispute this information.  He did correct that he believed Manhee Lee's health was not in danger.  (According to SCJ thought, Mr. Lee will never see physical death.) He also pointed out that Mr. Lee never condoned the previous movements and should not be totally evaluated based on his previous associations.    

Nonetheless, the information is helpful to understand Manhee Lee's past influences.     

A Short Genealogy of the Shinchonji Church of Jesus (1)

Here is some information on historical and theological connections between the Shinchonji Church of Jesus and other apocalyptic Korean movements.  Manhee Lee (b. 1931), the founder of the Shinchonji Church of Jesus, originally belonged to a faith-healing group begun by Tae Sun Park (b. 1915) (S. Lee 139).  This group was known as the Olive Tree Movement, because Mr. Park linked himself to the return of Christ as one (or both) of the two witnesses or olive trees in Revelation 11 (Grayson 209; Moos 117).  (His followers, in fact, revised Wesley’s hymn to read “Joy to the world, the Olive has come” [Moos 116]).  Mr. Park also identified himself as the mysterious, ever-victorious figure who comes from the east in Isaiah 41:2 (Grayson 209).  His followers called him the “Righteous Man of the East,” and they (or he) claimed he would never die—or, at least, that the last day of the world would come within his lifetime (Moos 120).

The Olive Tree movement was the largest and fastest growing of the new, syncretic Korean religions after the Korean War (Grayson 208).  By 1963 it had gained from 800,000 to 2,000,000 followers in over 300 congregations (Moos 119).  Many of the followers lived in specially constructed industrial communities outside of Seoul that made a variety of “Zion” products—everything from blankets and underwear to caramels and artificial flowers (Moos 113).  The movement also had a popular presence in rural areas, where Mr. Park’s distinctive white churches, with crimson crosses painted atop crenellated towers, dotted the countryside (Grayson 207). By the mid-to-late 1960s, it seemed to some observers that Mr. Park’s movement would supplant mainline Protestant groups in South Korea (Grayson 208).

Mr. Park was an industrialist and elder in the Presbyterian Church who was attracted to revivalist movements.  He himself had a growing sense that there must be more to Christian faith than the Presbyterians seemed to offer.  While helping to lead an all-night revival meeting for 20,000 people in southern Seoul in 1955, he received a vision of fire and water descending from heaven.  He then came down from the platform and massaged the head of a man identified as a cripple, and Mr. Park’s helpers then cried out that the man could walk.  By sunrise, after Mr. Park had circulated among the crowd and massaged many heads and limbs, his helpers shouted to great applause that he had healed 1,000 people (Grayson 208; Moos 115-116).  Thus the Olive Tree movement was born.

Park was expelled from the Presbyterian Church in 1956 on charges of heresy.  He claimed in return that he was a truer Christian than the ones who denounced him, and his followers continued to call him Elder Park.  It should be noted here that a vexed relationship with the Presbyterian Church has marked not only Mr. Park’s movement but also all of his successor movements, all of which have regarded themselves as supra-denominational (Grayson 208; Moos 117).

The worship services that evolved in the Olive Tree movement were somewhat Presbyterian in form but came to involve hours of frenzied hymn-chanting, hand-clapping, and drum-beating.  Many followers, both women and men, deserted their families to donate all their worldly possessions in order to gain eternal life on Mr. Park’s terms.  According to the anthropologist Felix Moos, “Women followers were observed to be especially eager to offer whatever possessions they had—rings, watches, clothing; some ardent believers were even seen shedding their skirts during revival services since they had nothing else to give” (119).

Mr. Park was accused, among other things, of injuring and defrauding his followers, and he was sentenced to two and a half years in jail in 1959.  But a regime change resulted in a swift pardon, and Mr. Park spent only a few months in prison (Grayson 208; Moos 117-18).  Scandals connected with Mr. Park and his family from the 1970s onward, however, resulted in mass defections (Grayson 208). 

By 1969, Manhee Lee had already abandoned the Olive Tree movement to join another—the Tent Temple movement.  The Tent Temple—or the Temple of the Tabernacle—was founded by Jae Yul Yoo (b. 1949), also known as the “Young Servant.”  Mr. Yoo had previously been a follower of Jogkyu Kim and his Hosang prayer house.  When Mr. Kim became involved in a sexual scandal with a female member, however, Mr. Yoo left the group with a handful of members and started his own (S. Lee 138).

According to Mr. Yoo, Jesus spoke only in parables and secrets.  Since the end times were now said to be imminent, these parables and secrets needed to be illumined, and Mr. Yoo alone could properly do this. His method of interpretation was to match each passage of Scripture with its hidden twin.  For, according to Mr. Yoo, all verses come in secret pairs (S. Lee 139).

Mr. Yoo also taught that the Lord had prepared a secret room near the reservoir of Mt. Chungkye, on the southern outskirts of Seoul, as a refuge of escape from the battle of Armageddon.  After the chosen saints entered this valley, the world would be covered by fire.  Then the saints would be made into kings to rule the world (S. Lee 138-39). 

Mr. Yoo’s Tent Temple movement grew to 5,000 members in the 1970s.  The group shrank when Mr. Yoo was accused of fraud.  Mr. Yoo subsequently gave up his leadership of the movement, donated its assets to the Presbyterian Church, and moved to the United States in 1980, where he now pursues a private business and denounces the teachings of Manhee Lee, in part because Mr. Lee was critical of Mr. Yoo’s defection from his own movement (S. Lee 139, 143).

Manhee Lee’s Shinchonji Church of Jesus is one of several apocalyptic groups that came out of Mr. Yoo’s Tent Temple movement.  Two other such groups are Poong Il Kim’s Saegwang Central Church and the late In Hee Koo’s Heaven Gospel Witnessing Association (S. Lee 139). 

Mr. Kim, founder of the Saegwang Central Church, was originally an evangelist for Mr. Park and then a follower of Mr. Yoo.  He founded his own movement in 1974.  Like Mr. Yoo, he held that all passages in the Bible are secretly paired—and that one must know these secret pairings to be saved.  He named himself “The Counselor” or “Another Counselor.”  According to Mr. Kim, the Kingdom of Heaven would soon be established in Korea, and the abode of salvation would be in his church alone.  In 2009, he publicly confessed in a newspaper that he was not the divine Counselor after all, and he repented and apologized.  However, he has maintained leadership of his movement, and he continues to insist that believers can only receive their salvation through the Saegwang Central Church (S. Lee 140-42).

Like Manhee Lee, In Hee Koo of the Heaven Gospel movement had been part of Tae Sun Park’s group and, also like Manhee Lee, had joined the Temple Tent movement in the late 1960s.  He started his own Heaven Gospel movement in 1971 after receiving a vision in which he was commanded to “receive the worship of the nations.”  He was imprisoned as part of a government crackdown on pseudo-religions in 1975, and he died in prison in 1976.  Among his teachings: (1) the Korean flag was a symbol for God and contained the meaning and message of Scripture; (2) Scripture itself was a system of parables, secrets, symbols, and mirrored shadows;  (3) the saints should learn the words of God directly from those who had received the Spirit of God; (4) the second coming of Christ would take place in Korea; (5) Mr. Koo himself embodied that second coming; (6) judgment day would arrive on November 10, 1973.  When judgment day did not arrive as predicted, many of his followers literally wanted their money back.  Other followers, however, even after Mr. Koo had died, continued to believe that they had witnessed in him the second coming of Jesus (S. Lee 141-43).

After Mr. Koo’s death, the Heaven Gospel movement divided into many branches.  Among them, The Korean Jesus Churches of Heavenly Gospel Evangelical Association became the best known.  This group was headed by Chong Il Choi, who represented himself as the “wife “of Mr. Koo.  He was regarded as the “Lamb” who embodies the second coming of Christ in Revelation.  Mr. Choi also claimed that he could perfectly interpret all sixty-six books of the Bible.  Each of the branches of the Heaven Gospel movement vigorously asserts itself as the only path of true belief (S. Lee 141).

Manhee Lee’s Shinchonji Church of Jesus is the third main offshoot of the Tent Temple movement.  In addition to being a follower of Mr. Sun and then of Mr. Yoo, Mr. Lee subsequently followed Man Bong Baek, who claimed to be God and was referred to by many as “Solomon.”  Mr. Baek, like Mr. Koo, also stipulated a date for the end of the world.  When this date came and went, Mr. Baek’s followers deserted him.  Mr. Lee gathered some of these to form the Shinchoji Church of Jesus (SCJ).  Manhee Lee dates the official beginning of SCJ as 1984, which, he says, is “the year that the universe completed its orbit and returned to its point of origin” (M. Lee 44).

Like others from the Tent Temple movement, Manhee Lee asserts that the Bible is made up of parables and secrets, and that one must understand the exact meaning of these passages in order to be saved.  Manhee Lee, as the “promised pastor,” is the only one who can impart a complete mastery of the scriptures.  Also like others from the Tent Temple movement, Mr. Lee asserts that the new heaven and new earth will begin in Korea.  When the number of the saved reaches 144,000, the era of Shinchonji will begin at Gua Chun City, located in the same valley designated by Mr. Yoo.  At this time, or by this time, the souls of 144,000 martyrs, having waited in heaven, will enter the bodies of the 144,000 SCJ saints.  Mr. Lee himself, like Mr. Sun before him, claims that he will never die, and that his followers will partake of his “fleshly immortality,” a sort of redefined resurrection, through becoming the recipients of the spirits of the dead martyrs.  At present, Manhee Lee is in his early 80s and not in good health.  Recently, several leaders within SCJ have departed from the organization to begin their own movements, each leader claiming to be divinely anointed and uniquely possessed of the truth of the scriptures (S. Lee 140-43).

In summary, then, SCJ is one of three Korean apocalyptic movements that were all derived from Mr. Yoo’s Tent Temple movement.  In addition, the leaders of all three of these movements were originally involved in Mr. Park’s Olive Tree movement.  At least two of these third-generation movements, including SCJ, have in turn given rise to further, somewhat similar movements.  

Also in summary, it can be seen that SCJ demonstrates a number of common features with one or more of these related movements:

  • A leader who claims divine appointment or divine identity, revealed through a vision.
  • This leader’s claim of complete and exclusive understanding of the scriptures.
  • A focus on the parables of Jesus and other figurative or “secret” portions of scripture—or other portions understood by the leader as figurative.
  • An understanding of the leader’s exact interpretation of the parables and other figurative portions of scripture as prerequisite to a person’s salvation.
  • The claim that no other leader or group offers the way of salvation.
  • The claim that the leader will never die.
  • The claim that the leader has a messianic role in the end times, which are imminent or in fact have already begun.
  • The claim that Korea is a focal point of action in the end times.
  • The claim that the valley of Mt. Chungkye in particular will be a refuge and gathering place for believers in the end times.
  • The future role of these believers as rulers of the world.                                                                                                                                                                                                  
Works Cited

Grayson, James Huntley.  Korea: A Religious History.  London: Routledge Curzon, 2002.

Lee, Man-Hee.  The Creation of Heaven and Earth.  Republic of Korea: Shinchonji Press, 2009.

Lee, Seung Yun.  “The Genealogy of Cults: ‘The Tabernacle-Temple Denomination.’”  Modern Religion April 2011: 138-43.

Moos, Felix.  “Some Aspects of Park Chang No Kyo—A Korean Revitalization Movement.”  Anthropological Quarterly July 1964: 110-20.

(1). Researched by professor Paul Willis, willis@westmont.edu, revised July, 2012.

Is Gen. 1-3 a Parable for a Chosen Pastor?

Dear reader,

When spiritual entities (i.e. angels, Jesus, or God) appear to a final prophet, it is important to test them.  Many leaders have been sincerely deceived.   Testing is not attacking a leader, whom God loves, but it is necessary to avoid deception.  
According to Manhee Lee, he received a revelation (a revealed word) about the Bible´s last prophecies and their physical fulfillment.  In Mr. Lee's writings, he teaches a simple, biblical pattern where God chooses a pastor, creates a people, the people betray God, God´s people are destroyed, and then this process is repeated (until the last pastor, Manhee Lee, and a last people appear in Revelation). 

Manhee Lee claims that the first pastor chosen was Adam.  He teaches that Genesis 1-3 is a figurative account of how God chose this first pastor.  ¨Thus, understanding Genesis 1 literally and thinking that it records the creation of the natural world raises many contradictions.  The order of creation is recorded figuratively to hide the secret of the creation of God's world from the evil one¨ (Creation of Heaven and Earth, p. 33).

The following description is a simplified version of Manhee Lee's explanation of a pastor in the beginning.  This summary of the six days comes from the book cited above, pages 33-51.

1st Day – God is looking for a light, which represents a pastor.  Jesus, a chosen pastor, also claimed to be a light (Jn. 12:46, Jn. 8:12).

2nd Day – God creates the expanse/sky, which represents the tabernacle/heaven of the chosen people.  The sun, moon, and stars are part of the expanse/sky, which refer to Jacob and the chosen people in the Bible (Gen. 37:9,10).  Water represents the ¨revealed word¨ from the pastor (Dt. 32:1,2, Am. 8:11).  The water above is the revealed word and the water below is lies. 

3rd Day – The land that appears refers figuratively to the chosen people and their tabernacle.  Both the tabernacle/sky and the land refer to the chosen people.  ¨The dry land that appears on the third day and the heaven created on the second day both refer to God´s tabernacle¨ (Creation of Heaven and Earth, p. 39).  The vegetation, plants, and trees refer to believers (Is. 40:6-8, Dt. 32:2). 

4th Day – The great light of this day is the chosen pastor.  The moon represents evangelists in the position of a mother.  The many stars are believers in the position of children, but they have different levels of glory (I Cor. 15:41).  They are given authority to rule over the world.

5th Day – The water represents God´s word (Am. 8:11), the fish represent believers (Hb 1:14, Mt. 4:18-22; Mt. 13:47-50), and the birds represent the spirits that belong to God.  On the fifth day the holy spirit comes as a bird to carry out its work.  Filling the earth means that people are evangelized. 

6th Day – The cattle, creeping things, and wild animals represent the four beasts in Rev. 4:6,7.  The four living creatures of the spiritual world are heaven´s army.  On this day an organization, like the four living creatures in the spiritual world, is created on earth.  This is what Moses did when he built the tabernacle on earth (Ex. 25:8,9). 

Manhee Lee summarizes the creation account saying, ¨Once again, the creation account of Gn. 1 is a spiritual re-creation, stated in the terms of a physical creation.  This creation is not limited to a specific generation.  It is repeated over and over until all of Revelation is fulfilled.  This process of creating heaven and earth takes six thousand years, which is likened unto six days.  The re-creation of heaven and earth in Gn 1 is completed six thousand years later in Rv 21 (Rv. 21:6)¨ (Creation of Heaven and Earth, p. 47).     

What is the problem with this summary?  What do we discern?

First, when we look up the passages used to support this figurative explanation, it seems like it is a model or explanation forced on the Genesis account instead of the Genesis account forcing itself on Christians.  For example, just because Jesus said that his disciples would be fishers of men, it does not mean that ¨fish¨ figuratively refer to men in Genesis.  Jesus used this figure for fishermen to help them understand spiritual truths, the same with the parable of the net (Mt. 13:47-50).

Another example that seems misapplied is the metaphor of beasts (those who lack knowledge) in Prov. 30:2,3 and applying it to beasts (animals) in Genesis.  This comparison is a forced ¨interpretation¨ that the Bible does not make on its own.  It is based on the revealer´s authority, not the Bible´s authority (i.e. the voice in God´s word).  If everything is truly according to the Bible, the Bible makes it known to the world, not a leader.   

A second problem is that when a final prophet provides figurative meanings, it puts all the interpretation power in their hands.  Their voice is God´s voice.  They can make any symbol into a figurative or spiritual truth (as long as a verse is cited or a spiritual explanation is given for support).  But, simply citing Bible verses does not mean that this is the right meaning or connection.  Many end-time groups move from verse to verse in new ways to tie themes together and use spiritual definitions to back their explanations.  But, there comes a point when Christians sense that the connections and explanations are from the prophet´s authority, not from God´s voice in the written revelation. 

Third, in Manhee Lee's book, he uses different arguments to show that Genesis must be figurative (i.e. millions of years of life on earth, Cain´s wife and fear of being killed by other people, the appearance of light on the fourth day, etc.).  This is important because Mr. Lee needs Genesis to be figurative to show that it refers spiritually to a pastor-people model. 

For example, Manhee Lee teaches that Adam was not the first real man.  Adam was only the first man to receive God´s word (i.e. the first chosen pastor).  Mr. Lee states that other beasts (men without God´s word) existed before Adam.  Further, Adam even had parents.

¨Second, the Bible implies that Adam had parents.  God told Adam to leave his parents and unite with his wife (Gen. 2:24).  If Adam really was the first human God created, how could he have had parents? Clearly, Adam was not the first humanAlthough there were people living before Adam, because God gave Adam the breath of life that makes him a living being, God decided that Adam was the first ¨man¨.  Anyone with a physical body that lacks God´s breath of life is a mere lump of earth…The fact that no man had yet been created in this passage means God had not yet chosen a pastorThere were many people before Adam, but because they did not know God and they did not have God´s word, they were considered beasts.¨ (Creation of Heaven and Earth, pp. 58, 59, 61).

If true, this means that God created beasts (humans) who did not have his word before Adam appeared.  Think about this.  Why would God do this?  Why would the first humans not have God´s words?  How long did these humans exist without God´s Word?  These and more questions arise with his figurative explanation.  

Another point is that Manhee Lee makes Gen. 1-3 a spiritual parable about the creation of a pastor instead of a real account of God's glory and power in creating a physical world from nothing.  Instead of believing the simple and straightforward voice in the first chapters of Genesis, Shinchonji asks Christians to trust another voice about the beginning.  It changes the story. 

In the biblical record, Jesus is called the second Adam (the second perfect man of a new race of people, not a second pastor).  Adam was the first literal man (I Cor. 15:45).  The written word refers to Adam as the first person to exist.  ¨Thus, it is written, ´The first man, Adam, became a living being´¨ (I Cor. 15:45).  Before Adam, there were no other living humans.  This is why he is called the first.

Before Adam's time, there was no sin in the world (Rom. 5:12).  So, there could be no sinful humans existing (without God's Word).  One Shinchonji member responded by quoting Rom. 5:13 and said that ¨sin¨ was not taken into account when there is no law (i.e. before Adam's time).  But, this verse is out of context.  In Rom. 5, Paul refers to the time between Adam and Moses, not before Adam (See the time frame in Rom. 5:14).        

A fourth problem with a figurative explanation is circular reasoning and self-validation.  Many final prophets interpret symbols or words to self-validate themselves or their group.  For example, Joseph Smith said that the ¨stick¨ in Ez. 37:15-17 was a figurative symbol for Joseph Smith's revelation.  But, Christian thinkers notice this as circular since the ¨revealer-prophet¨ is the one who reveals these meanings instead of the written word.  This is what we notice in Gen. 1-3 with a final pastor revealing a ¨chosen-pastor model¨ for a final pastor.

Lastly, Manhee Lee's arguments against a literal Genesis are not new.  Many secular professors and scholars contend that Gen. 1-11 is mythical and use similar points.  However, other Christian and Jewish thinkers see that such conclusions create more problems.  See articles on how Jesus and the apostles viewed Genesis 1-11 as primarily historical (e.g. http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab3/literal-genesis) .

Even if Gen. 1-3 has figurative aspects, what is the main point?  The message God reveals is the need for a sin-redeemer.  It is a promise repeated to Abraham in Gen. 12 - a remedy and blessing for humanity.  Early Jewish sources recognized an emphasis on the Messiah´s coming in Gen. 3:15.

¨The Palestinian Targum testifies that in Gen. iii.15 there is promised a healing of the bite in the heel from the serpent, which is to take place "at the end of the days, in the days of the King Messiah." In the Palestinian Midrash to Genesis (Bereshith Rabba xii) we read: "The things which God created perfect since man sinned have become corrupt and do not return to their proper condition until the son of Perez (i.e. according to Gen. xxxviii. 29, Ruth iv. 18 ff. the Messiah out of the tribe of Judah) comes." (1)

This is what nations and individuals need, a remedy for sin, which destroys the physical world and humans.   In Christian thinking, it is the greatest evil.  Although Manhee Lee understands in Gen. 3:15, his focus is on a model that leads to Shinchonji, not a person. 
(1)  http://hadavar.org/drupal/book/export/html/107, Accessed July, 2013.

Listen to Podcasts Evaluating Shinchonji.

Three family members took the time to create the podcasts below (please scroll down).  Here are a few comments to add to what they point out.

1. Podcasts: The Doctrine Devoid of Repentance/God´s Holiness and Justice.

They mention how end-time groups focus heavily on prophetic knowledge and de-emphasize repentance and the solution humans need - Jesus' remedy for sins in our place.  This is the focus in the New Testament revelation - the importance of being ¨united to Christ¨ and ¨having the Son¨.  Although Manhee Lee's two books in English acknowledge that Jesus died for our sins, the real emphasis is on the ¨revealed knowledge/word¨ as the final requirement for salvation (See pages 328-333 in ¨Creation of Heaven and Earth¨).

¨Those who receive the word of revelation from the new Apostle John, believe it, and obey are freed from their sins¨ (The Truth Regarding Revelation's Fulfillment, p. 5).  ¨No one attains salvation simply by claiming to have been saved or to be orthodox....Only those who believe in and keep the revelation of the New Testament will go to heaven¨ (The Truth Regarding Revelation´s Fulfillment, pp. 57, 94).

2. Podcast: Shinchonji's Fruit of Deception.

They mention how Shinchonji uses and justifies deception. Most followers of Christ (and even non-Christians) see this as a bad testimony.  

3. Podcast: A Different Jesus.

Throughout the history of Christianity, revelations from the spirit world have been giving end-time prophets a different definition of Jesus Christ, God, or the Holy Spirit.  Instead of letting the written word correct spirit-guided revelations, end-time leaders use spirit-guided revelations to correct what Christians throughout the centuries have seen in the written word.

Here are the broadcasts.


How should Shinchonji and Christians Interpret the Bible?

Dear reader

If you have ever interacted with end-time groups before (and you see how they move from one Bible verse to another), you may ask yourself, ¨How did they get that explanation from this verse or that word?¨  It´s a very strange feeling that leaves Christians puzzled and frustrated.

Dialogues can seem pointless when believers spend hours pointing to meanings in certain verses, but members in apocalyptic/end-time movements point to other verses (or even use the same ones with opposite meanings).  For example, Christians see the use of lightning for visibility in Mt. 24:27, but Shinchonji sees it as invisibility (using other verses, like Lk. 10:18, for support).  In I Thess. 5:1-8, SCJ explains those in the light as those with the revealed word, but Christians see this as referring to all genuine believers.

Many Christians as well as followers in apocalyptic/end-time groups do not realize that they are using different ¨glasses¨ (or approaches) to explain meanings in the Bible.  This leads to some big questions about biblical interpretation.

What method should people who love God´s Word use to interpret it?  What approach do Christians and final prophets use to explain meanings in the written word?  Why are the interpretations/explanations so different?  Finally, how can we truly know what God´s voice is saying?

Although there are different methods of Bible-interpretation, two are unsafe and dangerous.  The other one honors God's Word the best and lets his voice be the final authority.  Understanding these three methods sheds light on why interpretations are so different.

1.  The first method is the leaders-guided approach.

This is when it is believed that God's presence guides a group of leaders to explain the meaning of the Bible to common people.  The Watchtower Society or the Catholic Magisterium are examples.  The leaders become the authority since they are directed by God´s Spirit to explain the written word.

In Christian thinking, this method is not the best because every Christian should know God's Word for themselves.  It also detracts believers from looking to the Bible and the supernatural voice of the Holy Spirit for answers.  Instead, they turn to the leaders as the primary voice of instruction.  In addition, groups with this interpretation method often fall prey to traditions or rules that become equal or more important than God´s voice in the written word itself (2 Tim. 3:16).

2.  A second method is a ¨revealed-word¨ approach.

This is when it is believed that God reveals meanings in the Bible to a final prophet.  Spirit entities (angels or Jesus) open seals and give revelations to final prophets.  The meanings center around the last stage of Christianity (i.e. prophecies about Christ´s return to earth).  The prophet's voice becomes the voice in the written word, which is why members learn and memorize the prophet's interpretations.  Even when the written word appears to communicate something different, the prophet's explanation is the right one.

In Christian thinking, this method is dangerous because spirit entities have been revealing new and fresh information about the end of the world for a long time.  Also, it puts too much authority in the hands of one source, the prophet.  The prophet becomes a ¨revealer¨ of God's Word and can even give meanings that the Bible does not give on its own.  For example, Manhee Lee reveals that the ¨east¨ in Rev. 7 refers to Korea because the Apostle John (Mr. Lee) ¨knows where the east is since he saw it from heaven¨ (Creation of Heaven and Earth, p. 194), but the independent voice in God's Word does not make this clarification.

In practice, this method makes the prophet's revelation/revealed word the final authority since his voice is the interpreter of God's Word.  To Christians, this is backwards.  The voice in God's written word should correct spirit-revelations, not the other way around.

Shinchonji instructors might object and reply that everything is backed by the Scriptures.  But, this overlooks two points.  All groups with a revelation-leader quote the Bible profusely.  Even non-Christian religions, like Islam and Bahaism, quote the Bible to support their leaders.  The problem is when the connections, meanings, and verses cited are controlled by the revealer/interpreter.  Many Christians suspect the verses are being misrepresented when the revealed meanings disregard the context and seem forced on the Bible.  Just because a revealer-leader uses the written word or spiritual definitions for support does not mean it is according to the Bible.

Second, Christians discredit new meanings when the revelation/revealed word subtly distorts two important ideas in the Bible: Jesus' identity and the requirements for final redemption from sins.

Lastly, both the leaders-guided method and the revealed word approach use circular interpretation.  They explain a key verse as a secretive/hidden meaning for their own authority, which is circular and self-appointing.  Properly read by other Christians, the written word does not support the interpretation.  For instance, the Watchtower Society claims to the be the ¨wise and faithful¨ servant in Mt. 24:45-47, but Christians see the passage referring to all faithful disciples in the end.  Similarly, the SCJ pastor interprets verses for a final pastor, which only the final pastor sees as true prophecies for a final pastor.

3.  The Bible-Only Method.

Most believers rely on God's presence in their lives to help them understand the important truths from Christ Jesus, and not necessarily ¨all the information¨ in the written revelation.  God does not hide his important truths from those who love him. The Scriptures communicate God´s voice (2 Tim. 3:16) to those who seek him with a pure heart, which is why the truths regarding sin, repentance, God´s love, redemption, the cross, life in Christ, eternal life, the Holy Spirit's presence, and a human-divine relationship with God can be understood without an authoritative leader or group (1 Jn. 2:27, Ps. 119:97-104).

Both authoritative groups and revelation prophets argue that this Bible-only method leads to many interpretations and denominations.  However, it is still superior because it allows God's voice to reveal the ¨big and important truths¨ to believers on their own.  Secondary issues in Christianity can be debated ¨in-house¨ since everyone has the same authority (the written word).

When a revealer-prophet, like Manhee Lee in Shinchonji, is the final interpreter of the Scriptures, it becomes the voice of God (even above the independent voice in the written word).  This is also why Christians find it hard to correct spirit-revelations with the voice in the Bible.  It's comparable to a judge who identifies himself as the sole interpreter of the U.S. Constitution.  As a result, other judges will find it hard to correct the authoritative judge.

In Christian thinking, the first voice we must listen to is God's voice in the written word (2 Tim. 3:16), which is more authoritative than spirit-revelations to final prophets.

In closing, realizing that Shinchonji uses a different interpretation method helps understand why their interpretations are so different.  This is also why Christians and SCJ members can have Bible discussions and seem to get nowhere.  They are using two different methods to interpret God´s Word.

Thanks for considering this analysis about interpretation philosophies.

Will Manhee Lee Never Die?

Dear reader,

The pictures here are a reminder of a teaching in Shinchonji that would probably astound most Christians around the world.  

It has been known in Shinchonji that Manhee Lee, a man in his 80's, is prophesying that he will physically live forever.

Why is this SCJ prediction important?

First, this is common among end-time leaders. They genuinely believe that they will witness or are witnessing the final events happening in the last stage of human history and Christianity - the tremendous promises in Revelation, which includes death being destroyed.

In Manhee Lee's case, he believes that he has experienced a flesh-spirit union with Christ's spirit, meaning he is the flesh (or human body) that Jesus' spirit works through in these last days.  It is the first flesh-spirit union of many more to come in the last days.  It is a time when death will be destroyed.  The true members of Shinchohji will also see death destroyed and live forever, like their leader.  As one SCJ recruiter told me, ¨Mr. Lee will never die.¨      

This Shinchonji prediction is significant because it is a sign that can be tested in the real world.  In Christian thinking, prophecies or predictions made in God's name, especially by end-time leaders, are important to test.  It constitutes one of God's safest signs to believers around the world.  In fact, the biggest leaders of deceptive end-time movements have never seen their predictions come true.

Unfulfilled predictions prove that no matter how amazing the prophetic explanations from the leader seem to be, God was not the source of the information.  According to Dt. 18:22, prophecies that do not materialize in the real world mean that either the leader did not receive a revealed word from God or he or she spoke presumptuously.

¨If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him¨ (Deut. 18:22a). 

The reasoning behind this point is simple.  When God promises to do something, nothing stands in his way.  He makes sure his words come true, especially when he wants us to trust him or his messengers.  In Isaiah 44:24-26, God says that he fulfills the predictions of his messengers but foils the signs of false prophets.  ¨I am the LORD who foils the signs of false prophets... who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers ¨ (Is. 44:24b, 25a, 26a).  This is spiritually logical to most Christians.

If this is so, why do a large percentage of insiders stay faithful to an end-time group after a false prophecy is made?  Why doesn´t the movement end?  Why do many ignore this sign?

In many cases, end-time leaders are viewed as Jesus´ voice on earth and their members are captivated by his words.  When a prophecy is changed or modified (because it goes unfulfilled), many devoted members continue without much of an uproar.  They are so convinced that not even a false prophecy can shake them.

A case in point is Joseph Smith, who saw none of his big predictions come true.  Yet, thousands of members of the Church of the Latter-Day saints still believe he was a true prophet.  Followers who become absorbed in high spiritual expectations (and see their leaders as God's truth) ironically become desensitized to God´s biggest sign of error.

One person in Shinchonji told me that if Manhee Lee died, it would mean that God's word had failed.  They did not see their logic was backwards.  If Mr. Lee's big prediction fails, it is a sign that his revelation was not God's Word from the start.

Some people suggest that Shinchonji will just continue if Manhee Lee dies (and appoint a successor who will give a new explanation to why Mr. Lee fulfilled his mission).  One former member of an end-time group confessed that even when her leader died she continued to believe he was still God's instrument in heaven and was watching over her.

How will Shinchonji react if Manhee Lee dies in the next few months?  Have SCJ instructors warned members about God's safe test in Dt. 18:22 to keep us from deception and harm?

It is important for people inside Shinchonji to keep this prophecy in mind.  History shows us that other apocalyptic groups, when false prophecies have occurred, deny that they made the prophecies, or modify their meanings, or appoint leaders with new light and the old prophecies are unimportant.  However, to sincere Christians, we must be more spiritually sensitive to God's Spirit and to end-time predictions that do not come true.

Pictures courtesy of Modern Religion Monthly (현대종교 http://www.hdjongkyo.co.kr/html/index.html) and www.jmscult.com.

Verses Used to Defend Deception.

Dear reader,

According to the Christian Scriptures, God made men and women in his image and gave us a conscience (Rom. 2:15, Job 27:6). The Apostle Paul, one of the greatest missionaries of all times, wrote that he tried to do everything with a clear conscience (Ac. 24:15-17, I Cor. 4:4, 2 Cor. 1:12).

One young lady who studied with Shinchonji admitted that she struggled with this point.  She was instructed to be secretive, elusive, or deceitful with other Christians.

When confronted about this, one Shinchonji instructor responded that God justifies deception.  They quoted verses and used biblical examples to support this.  For example, God's ways are different from ours (Is. 55:8,9).  Abraham lied about his wife and was considered righteous.  Jacob deceived his family and was honored by God. Moses killed an Egyptian and was chosen by God, and Paul became everything to win everyone (I Cor. 9:19). They also cited Mt. 9:30, Mt. 10:27, Mt. 12:15-16, Mt. 17:9, and 2 Cor. 6:8.

When the Scriptures are the highest authority, in their totality, God's voice does not endorse deception.  On the contrary, God instructs believers to put off falsehood (Eph. 4:25) and get rid of all deception (1 Pet. 2:1).  Further, when we study the passages and examples cited above, we see they are being used out of context.

1) Isaiah 55:8,9 does not mean that God allows people to be deceitful (i.e. about Shinchonji's Bible studies). God's point is that his ways are higher, not lower, than ours. God's standard of holiness and righteousness is much higher and wants us to imitate him. Heb. 6:18 teaches us that it is impossible for God to lie.

2) Abraham's deception about his wife (Gen. 12, 20) was not approved by God. Abraham sinned (Is. 43:27). He lied about Sarah because he was acting cowardly and lacked trust in God's protection, which is why people often lie - to get out of a sticky situation instead of trusting in God. Galatians 3 and Romans 4 show that Abraham was declared righteous because of his faith against all odds, not because of his deception.

3) In the same way, Jacob was not honored by God because of his cunning actions. On the contrary, at a critical moment in his life, he was personally confronted by God (Gen. 32).  This encounter forced him to come to terms with his dishonesty by answering a question about his name. Jacob had to be broken.  In return, God declared that Jacob's name would be changed to Israel.

4) Moses was a murderer, but the Scriptures do not praise Moses for this action. The point is that God used people throughout the Old Testament not because of their sinful actions but in spite of them. God's grace redeems even the worst of sinners and sinful situations and turns them around for his glory. This shows how God's purposes can overcome our weaknesses and failures.

5) As the Messiah, Jesus was discerning enough to withhold information from his audience, but this is different than lying to the religious leaders. Christ confessed before the high priest that he had spoken openly about his teachings in the synagogues (Jn. 18:20). The written word also says that Jesus had no ¨deceit in his mouth¨ (I Pet. 2:21,22).

6) Does the Apostle Paul's phrase in I Cor. 9.19 of becoming ¨a slave¨ to everyone justify trickery?  Paul was referring to working within the customs of these groups to win them. His conduct with these groups is much like what a missionary does today in a foreign culture. They work within the culture as a way to win them.  Paul also testified that he never used trickery or deceit (2 Cor. 4:2) and his conduct was pure and blameless (1 Thes. 2:3-10).

When we reflect on the way Jesus exemplified morality, honesty, and love, it is easy to discern that his voice would not promote lies, trickery, or deception to spread truths about Revelation and his return.

End-Time Errors: Is Jesus only a Spirit?

Dear reader,

One of the earliest counter movements in Christian history was Gnosticism.  In its simplest and reduced form, these leaders and schools of thought claimed to be more ¨Christian¨ than Christianity itself.

Gnostic leaders announced that they had hidden knowledge (gnosis in Greek) about who Jesus was, what the universe was about, and how to be saved from evil/physical matter.  In response to this, early Christians wrote the first creed in Christian history.  

One of the reasons early Christians did not listen to the Gnostics was because of their errors about Jesus' identity.  The Apostle John wrote that any spirit that did not recognize Jesus coming in the flesh was a spirit of the antichrist (I Jn. 4:2,3).  The Apostle Paul also warned of philosophies that did not recognize the fullness of deity in Jesus' body (Col. 2:8,9).

Throughout the New Testament, there is a voice that warns of a different Jesus (2 Cor. 11:3,4).  The Apostle Paul wrote that no Christian worker could ¨lay any other foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ¨ (I Cor. 3:11).  The written testimony reveals that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday (in the first century), today and forever (Heb. 13:8).

One Christian researcher made the statement that the same Gnostic pattern is detected today in revelations from heavenly entities (angels, Jesus, or God) to final prophets.  They have insight that no one else possesses about the world or Jesus, but they distort who Jesus Christ is in the Scriptures.

In Christian thought, since the Bible is the highest source of authority, the voice in the written word corrects spirit revelations about Jesus to prophets (2 Tim. 3:16), not the other way around.  Also, if we analyze this from a spiritual perspective, it is suspicious when spiritual entities appear to final prophets, enter and guide them, and reveal a different concept of Jesus.

What is one of the most common errors about the Son of God?

It is very common for final movements to reveal a spirit-Christ who is either resurrected as a spirit or becomes a spirit after he ascends into heaven.  Since Jesus is a spirit, he then returns invisibly to earth to incarnate the end-time group's leader or invisibly guide their movement.  

Shinchonji's chosen pastor states that when Jesus returns, he returns invisibly and enters the flesh/body of (unites with) the SCJ pastor.  ¨Jesus promised that when the gospel of heaven is spread to the ends of the earth, he will return in spirit to unite with his promised pastor¨ (Mt. 24:27).  (Creation of Heaven and Earth, p. 143).  One Shinchonji instructor said that Jesus was transfigured after his ascension and became a spirit (quoting the figurative vision of Jesus in Rev. 1).

What are the problems with this view?

First, as mentioned above, many deceptive spiritual entities from heaven have taught this view of a spirit Jesus to other groups.  It is interesting to contrast that various end-time groups who rely on a revelation to their prophet view Jesus Christ as a spirit.  However, Christians throughout the centuries, who have only relied on the written word, see God's voice revealing something different.

In Christian thought, the written word is the final authority.  In the written word, Jesus is not just a spirit. Something bigger happened to him.  He became the first human to be glorified by God (Col. 1:19, I Cor. 15:20).  Christ Jesus became the first human of a new order of higher humans. This is why Jesus predicted something would happen to his body (Jn. 2:19-21).

When Christ rose from the dead, he demonstrated that he was not a spirit (Lk. 24:39).  His human body was not destroyed (Ac. 2:31) or converted into a spiritual being.  Jesus' resurrected body was a higher human model in glory, not subject to normal human limitations.  In Phil. 3:21, Paul reveals that Jesus continues to possess his body of glory.  It was not destroyed (Ac. 13:34).  More on this below.

Second, after the ascension, the disciples continued to call Jesus a ¨man¨ (albeit a glorified man).  They did not refer to the Messiah as a resurrected spirit, but a resurrected and glorified human (I Tim. 2:5, Acts 17:31).  In Heb. 2, the written word states that Jesus became humanity's high priest forever, a unique mediator who shares our human nature.

Third, Shinchonji misses the bodily/individual concept of resurrection.  According to the Christian idea of the resurrection, it involves God giving the righteous a new and higher human body with an indestructible nature (I Cor. 15:42-44).  If true, this is what happened to Jesus, which is one of Paul's points in I Cor. 15.

When Christians asked about the new resurrection body in I Cor. 15, God's Word says that it's a new physical body (a higher human body) than the mortal, corrupted body (15:42-44).  The word ¨body¨ in the original language in I Cor. 15 is used of a physical, material body, not an immaterial spirit-body.

End-time groups mistake the word ¨spiritual body¨ for spirit body in I Cor. 15:44, which is not what the written text affirms.  The term ¨spiritual body¨ in I Cor. 15:44 is used to refer to a higher, glorified human body, in opposition to a physical, sinful, mortal body.  Jesus' resurrection body was physical (Jn. 20:27).  

How do final leaders justify their teachings of Jesus being a spirit?

First, they condition members by arguing that Christianity is in spiritual darkness and they need to ¨reveal¨ the true meanings in the Bible.  This means that even when the written words ¨appear¨ to communicate something different, only the leader's revealed meaning is the correct one.

Second, instead of harmonizing all the passages about Jesus in the Bible, final leaders utilize selected verses that speak of the Spirit of Jesus.  The written word states that Jesus is both divine and a glorified human, not just divine.  Christian churches everywhere see that written word reveals that Jesus Christ is the first human of a new kind of existence, the first man to rise from the dead in glory (Col. 1:19, Rev. 1:5).

According to the angels in Acts 1:11, this Jesus is the same one coming back, not a different, spirit Jesus. Jesus, the Messiah, is not just a spirit.  He is much more.

Part I/Addtional Points.

Shinchonji teaches that Jesus is a spirit, citing the image of Jesus in Revelation 1, which is symbolic.  They also say that after Christ's resurrection, he was transfigured like in Matthew 17 (i.e. transfigured into a spirit).

First, the image in Revelation 1 is an image of a glorified Jesus, but it is not a literal description.  It reflects Old Testament images of God in glory (Dan. 7:9).  Second, when Jesus was transfigured in Mt. 17, he did not become a spirit.  He did not lose his physical humanity.  Rather, his glory was shown through his humanity.  Even Manhee Lee mentions that Jesus was still flesh.  ¨On the mountain of transfiguration Jesus and his disciples were still flesh, but Moses Elijah, and God were spirits¨ (p. 425, Creation of Heaven and Earth).

Third, the Bible teaches that even after the ascension, Jesus still possesses his human (and new glorified) body.  The Apostle Paul makes this point at the end of Phil. 3:21.

¨But we are citizens of heaven. And we can hardly wait for a Savior from there. He is the Lord Jesus Christ. He has the power to bring everything under his control. By his power he will change our earthly bodies. They will become like his glorious body.¨ 

From these points, we see that the Bible shows that God did not destroy Jesus' humanity. On the contrary, he glorified it. I Peter 1:21 reads, ¨Through him (Christ) you believe in God, who raised him from the dead, and glorified him.¨  God gave him an imperishable resurrection body in glory, unlike our frail, sin-infested, and mortal bodies.  Christ Jesus is the first human to put on incorruption (I Cor. 15:20).
Part II. Question/Answer format.

1. How could a normal physical body (¨flesh and blood¨) enter heaven, a spiritual place?

Jesus did not have a normal body. He had a resurrected body that was made for glory (a superhuman body made for a place of glory).  In some ways, it was the same (physical) and, in some ways, it was superior (defying physical limitations).  This is why it is not a normal human body.  The written word reveals that a Messiah that was glorified was taken up in to heaven (Heb. 1:3).  Regarding the phrase ¨flesh and bones¨ in I Cor. 15:50, it is a synonym for a ¨corruptible¨ body.   The Apostle Paul is saying that a weak, dying body (i.e. flesh and blood) cannot enter heaven because it needs to ¨put on immortality¨ first (i.e. be glorified).  Since Jesus had put on immortality, it wasn't a problem.   

2. How do you explain the fact that Jesus appeared in a different form in Rev. 1 and Mt. 17?

As mentioned above, the descriptions of Jesus in Revelation are figurative, not literal. In Rev. 1, the language is similar to the figurative language used to describe God in the Old Testament (see Dan. 7:9). In the same way, the experience on the Mt. of Transfiguration revealed the Messiah's glory through his humanity, not the fact that he was transformed into a spirit.  Neither of these two passages teach that Jesus is not a glorified human.  The voice in the written word says that he still has his body (Phil. 3:21).

How do you explain that Paul says that there is a spiritual body in I Cor. 15:44?

The meaning of the ¨resurrection¨ involves a new human body  (Is. 26:19).  So, keep this in mind when thinking about a resurrected ¨spiritual body¨.  It is not people becoming resurrected spirits.  The phrase ¨spiritual body¨ in I Cor. 15:44 refers to a higher human body, in contrast to mortal bodies, which are frail, corruptible, and sinful.  Further, the word ¨body¨ in Greek refers to a physical body, not an immaterial body.  When Jesus was raised, his body was not a spirit (Lk. 24:39).    

A spiritual body, as a resurrection body with no human body present, is like a wedding without a bride.   By spiritual body, Paul is affirming that the resurrection body is not natural or normal.  It is superior to the sinful body, as already mentioned.  The verses before and after v. 44 indicate that he is talking about a different kind of human body.   It is ¨spiritual¨ in the sense that it is a higher make up than the natural body. In Romans 8:11,23, the Bible says our mortal bodies will experience a change, like Jesus' did. 

(1) See Shinchonji's first article on the Trinity on their website where they say that Jesus is a spirit after his ascension.