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

Dear reader,

Thank you for taking these topics to heart.

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.

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 their revelation-vision, which becomes their primary focus.

With spiritual discernment, we know that just because explanations come from a supernatural experience or vision, it does not necessarily mean 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).

These apocalyptic leaders also contend that they have been given a unique anointing or have had seals opened and explained before their eyes.  Therefore, all Christians must now listen to them to receive eternal life and be a part of final salvation.  

The new information from the leader brings a new freshness to the Bible. One young lady I know 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.  

Others have joined SCJ with a sincere heart to be a part of what God is doing.  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?¨ The zeal and passion in the group often impresses people as well.  

So, why would many average Christians or Christian leaders question the veracity of these visions to end-time leaders?  Why doubt SCJ?  What causes devoted believers not to join them?

First, information directly from Jesus Christ´s revelation warns of deception, false messengers and spiritual lies from deceptive spirits all masked as Jesus´ final representative or revelation (Mt. 24:4,5, I Tim. 4:1, Lk. 21:8, I John 4:1, 2 Pet. 2:1, etc.).  This means that the Christian world is to stay away from any final messenger or spokesperson who appears in Jesus´ name.    

It is equivalent to a father warning his son never to open the door to masked strangers.  Yet, many masked strangers continually appear claiming to be sent by the father.  The warnings protect the son from harm.  The same is true with Jesus Christ and his words about final leaders in the end (Lk. 21:8).

Secondly, even though Christians have varying ideas about the end-times, one point that is evident in the Bible is that Jesus Christ returns himself without a mask, not as an invisible spirit via a human leader (I Thess 4:16, Acts 1:11, Mt. 24:30).  The same resurrected Jesus is the one who returns (Acts 1:11).  When leaders declare that Jesus Christ´s spirit is working through them, embodying his return, it is a different Jesus.

Third, Shincheonji follows the same pattern as other groups in history whose revelations and spiritual knowledge distort precious truths from Christ.  This casts doubt on the spiritual sources behind the information.  We observe this pattern in harmful movements in Christian history, such as Gnosticism, and in recent organizations such as the Watchtower Society.

These groups emphasize secret or revealed visions from God, yet the information distors elementary truths about salvation, Jesus of Nazareth, or some aspect of God´s identity.  Shincheonji does this with the Trinity, Jesus´ identity, the Holy Spirit, and redemption (i.e. more focus on being ¨in the know¨ than salvation from sin).

Fourth, another reason Christians distrust final leaders is because they become the final authority in their group.  They exalt themselves above the Bible (in practice, not theory) because they claim a unique anointing from God, which makes them the official interpreter/teacher of prophecies, parables, and other passages. This means the Scriptures can be made to mean anything the interpreter reveals them to mean.

The most obvious problem is when outside Christians see that meanings are ¨poured¨ into the Scriptures instead of letting the Scriptures give us the meanings.  One Shincheonji instructor told one individual to put aside everything he thought the Bible was revealing and only listen to the revealed word in SCJ.  In Christian experience, this is backwards.  God´s voice in the Scriptures correct end-time revelations (2 Tim. 3:16, Mt. 4:4,7,10), not the other way around.

Lastly, Christians disregard messages from visions that are contrary to God's heart and character.  When two people know each other well, it is easy to recognize messages which are contrary to the way they think or talk.  A case in point is when someone hacks a friend´s e-mail account and sends messages that they would never write.  The content proves the author is someone else.

In summary, although leaders with revelations from the invisible world bring freshness and new explanations to Bible prophecies, it is important to be alert when other inconsistencies and signs appear.

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

Thank you for your interest, and God bless.

Testimony of a Former SCJ Member.

Dear reader,

The following testimony, which is used with permission, was sent to us and describes various aspects of the Shincheonji movement.      

Testimony of a Former SCJ Member.
1.       Introduction.

Until recently I was involved in a religious group from South Korea called Shinchonji/ Shincheonji (Korean for “New heaven and earth”). Shincheonji (“SCJ”) is today operating in many countries around the world. In my opinion, this is a radical group that poses significant threats to society although many of the people involved are wonderful, humble people that are simply trapped in a cycle of continuous religious manipulation.

I have personally seen how SCJ has caused much damage to many people’s lives (advocating that people leave their jobs to take up the cause) and relationships (with the group even advocating that people must sever ties with their family members if they oppose the group).  Deceit and lies are the main tools used to further its primary goal: recruiting new members.

The purpose of this letter is to bring this religious group to the light.

My story is as follows:

2.       How I became involved with SCJ.

I became involved in a Bible study program last year after a friend told me about a Bible school/course that he highly recommended. I am a Christian and at the time I was feeling that my spiritual life was not where it should have been. I had not been a committed member of a church or a cell group. When this opportunity came along, I thought it would be a good opportunity to rekindle my relationship with God through His Word. I was told that I had to commit to attend two sessions per week for six months. 

I committed to this and after a few one-on-one sessions with introductory lessons (called “BB lessons”), I was interviewed by two senior members of the Bible school, because I was told that there were too many people interested in the program and that I had to effectively be “accepted” to attend. This almost made me a bit nervous but I was very relieved when I was accepted for attendance. I started the program with about 15 other people. I noticed that there were many Korean members in the Bible school moving between classes and assisting in different ways.

Fast forward a month and I was busy with the introductory part of the Bible school which I found fantastic – we looked at the structure of the Bible, the flow of history, the covenants, the consistency of prophecies and fulfilment, and also the figurative language in the Bible. It was very new, refreshing and very exciting and I felt that I could understand some things for the first time. By this time the lessons increased to three times a week and were close to three hours each, which I found a significant challenge due to my already busy schedule. Nevertheless, I pressed on as I had committed for six months and I believed that I was privileged as there were other people who weren’t accepted to attend the program.

As the weeks progressed it became apparent that there was a very clear flow that the instructors were following, and it felt like we were steering towards a specific conclusion, but I could not quite put my finger on it, and I received the same answer for many of my questions, namely, that everything will be answered when the time is right.

When, at this time, I asked the head instructor more about the name of the Bible school or its affiliations, he said that it is a very small organisation that you will not find anywhere on the internet, and that it is named “Parachristo/Para Christo¨. This, I would later find, was a lie.

Fast forward a further two months and we increasingly began to focus on the importance of the figurative language, parables and prophecies in the Bible. For example: Mark 4 from verse 11 says:
And He (Jesus) was saying to them, To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN.  From this the verse it was deduced that it is necessary to be able to understand figurative language and the parables in order to receive atonement and to be saved, which was something I could not get my head around.

It became clearer that the program was based on an intellectual interpretation of the Bible and the actual requirements for atonement. Simply put: you had to understand the parables and the figurative language as taught by this specific Bible school in order to be saved. We continued to ask many questions, but got the same answer: that everything will become clear when the time is right.

By this time I must add that our attendance to the classes were almost aggressively policed, and virtually no excuses were accepted for not being able to attend class, as we were told to decide what is more important: God or worldly things. There was a growing sense of urgency in an environment which was diligently managed by the group leaders. They were constantly asking us about our understanding and our thoughts, and in order to cement this, they attempted to meet up with us on a one-on-one basis every week, in addition to the normal classes.

Around this time we also examined specific verses relating to mountains, and that the interpretation of a figurative mountain is a congregation where people gather. For example Mark 13:14 says: When you see 'the abomination that causes desolation' standing where it does not belong -then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. We were then told about the physical reality of this figurative mountain being a specific congregation, and the instructor asked us if we were willing to go there.  We were told that we would then see the physical reality of what was promised in Hebrews 12:2, namely...  you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.

The instructor then posed the question again, asking whether we would like to go to this physical congregation. As if programmed to do so, one of our fellow classmates put up their hand and said, “Yes, let us go!”

Fast forward another week or so and the class was preparing to go to the physical Mount Zion. There was a great sense of anticipation among the instructors and some of our class members, and we had to prepare a short show that would be performed in front of the congregation. For the occasion we had to dress a certain way, black and white with ties. Before entering the temple, we watched a video that instructed us to conduct ourselves in a certain way, including the correct way to great each other by bowing, correct ways to sit and the correct way to kneel when praying. This really felt a bit weird but I pushed my uneasy thoughts aside.

When we arrived at the congregation, we were welcomed like celebrities. It felt a bit odd but we went with the celebration. We entered into a congregation of several hundred people that were singing in Korean and clapping and swaying in a certain way. We were welcomed as the first fruits in heaven, and told that we are in fact passing over from death to life. All of this was happening without me ever committing to anything other than a 6 month Bible school. Suddenly, now, we were part of a congregation which taught a new kind of salvation, which is only attained by their message, and this church was considered "heaven"- the physical reality thereof.

At this time it was revealed that half of our supposed class members were in fact already members of the congregation, and that they were effectively acting as agents among the other class members to ensure that everything was run smoothly. In fact, they were referred to as “Maintainers”. The person who put up her hand in class when we were asked if we would like to go to Mount Zion was, in fact, also a maintainer. This was a clear act of deception in my opinion. In class we also personally overheard testimonies of these maintainers, posing as if they have heard the content of these lessons for the very first time, which was not true.

Suddenly it was clear that the group’s true agenda was much more than simply a Bible school. We were recruited into a specific religious group by using false pretences. When asked about this, the group’s reasoning was clear: it is acceptable to use deceit and lies if it serves God’s purposes. They use the example of Jacob lying to Isaac when he said that he was in fact Esau, in order to obtain the prophesied blessing. They say that because God’s ways are higher than men’s, although we might perceive it as wrong, it can also be a tool used to fulfil God’s will (to substantiate this, they also used Isaiah 55:8 which states For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.

They also use the verse in Matthew 10, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes, which they interpret as being able to lie if a situation requires it.  But, they do not elaborate about the next part in the verse which says: and be as innocent as doves. In fact, later on, one of the Ministry Department leaders told me, “If Satan and his agents are able to use lies in this battle, why can’t we?”

3.       After “passing over” and becoming part of the congregation.

Our class was now accepted into the congregation and, henceforth, we were expected to attend the congregation’s services twice a week – on a Wednesday and a Sunday, as mentioned in Numbers 19, which says that whoever touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days. He shall cleanse himself with water on the third day and on the seventh day, and so be clean. They interpreted this explaining that any person that is not part of the congregation is, in fact, spiritually dead and because we would be in contact with them throughout the week, we should attend the services where the spiritual life-giving water (or the new word that we are being taught), is shared.

Church services consisted of singing certain prescribed songs, men and women sitting apart, and then lots of fervent prayer with a sermon broadcasted and translated video of the leader preaching usually somewhere in Korea. Often we would be asked to come an hour early before the three hour long service to get “training” and afterwards we met in cell groups or departments for another hour or two.

We were now attending five, three (3) hour sessions every week and once again our attendance was strictly enforced.  And now, a further requirement was set – we had to start introducing other people into the Bible school sessions. I told them that I did not yet feel comfortable inviting people as we had not yet seen the full picture and we have not yet received the answers that we were promised, but of course there is an arsenal of verses that can be used to reiterate the importance of spreading the gospel, which they duly utilised.

We further completed the intermediary and advanced sections of the program in order to get a full understanding of what was happening. At the time most of the teachings seemed feasible, especially due to the finely-planned and incremental nature of progression, and the path of least resistance was indeed to at least finish the program.  The pressure to invite new people into the Bible school increased, and at a stage we were required to give daily feedback on the progress on that front, which they refer to as “evangelising”.

I continued to be part of the congregation for some time after completing the six month program, in order to give it a fair chance and to make sure that I understand the teachings. In order to qualify as a full member, one needs to write three tests, and achieve a score of at least 90%, among other things. This includes signing a pledge and evangelising at least on person, after which you can “graduate” and become a true member of the congregation and have your name written in the “Book of Life”, which, believe it or not, is the church’s registry.

I wrote all three tests before deciding that there are too many inconsistencies with the congregation’s teachings and the Bible, and I quit.

4.       SCJ’s identity and basic theology.

Before I continue, I need to plainly state that the things that I will describe to you now will sound like utter and clear nonsense, but I can assure you that if you have been slowly and steadily indoctrinated with their teachings, it can be very, very convincing and powerful. The program of indoctrination is so cleverly put together that it appeals to intellectual people. The teachings start with things that most people would agree with, and then they gradually introduce the more eccentric doctrines. I believe that it is a very subtle form of brainwashing.

This theology is believed by over a 140,000 people around the world that sacrifice their entire lives, relationships, studies, careers, and families. I have heard of couples getting divorced on account of this group and friendships broken and families torn apart. And all this is justified by the group, using the scriptures where Jesus said His message will separate families.

I was convinced at a stage. I know of many professionals and educated individuals with many academic degrees, who have given up their careers in order to further this cause. But I now sincerely believe that this is a false doctrine.

Let me give you two examples used by SCJ to justify the dramatic nature of their claims and teachings, and also to get members to challenge their existing belief systems/way of thinking.

Firstly, in John 6:56-66, Jesus says “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” This was a difficult teaching for many of His disciples to comprehend, as it sounded bizarre to them, hearing it for the first time. It was outside of their frame of reference. For this very reason, many of His disciples stopped following Him – only twelve remained. This example is used to explain to SCJ members that even though a teaching may sound bizarre/ strange/ different to anything your frame of reference would allow – it can be in line with God’s will (God’s thoughts are higher than ours even if it does not fit in with our frame of reference or understanding). Another example used is that Jesus told his disciples to steal a donkey (as in Luke 19:29-34) – from which it is extrapolated that God’s ways may also involve doing things that humans perceive as morally wrong. This example is also used to justify lying.

In terms of the identity of the congregation I describe, it was a branch congregation of an international religious group called Shincheonji (SCJ). SCJ believes that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is here. The word Shincheonji is Korean for “New heaven new earth” and that is what they believe their congregation is: the physical reality of heaven; the mount Zion or new heaven and new earth as described in Revelation. In fact, they teach that the book of Revelation is a prophecy that is being fulfilled today, and that you need to be able to interpret the figurative language of Revelation in order to attain atonement.

The South Korean leader of this congregation, Mr. Man Hee Lee, is a well-known international peace advocate. He teaches that he is a messenger to the current generation (just like Moses was the messenger in Old Testament Times and Jesus was the messenger at the time of the First Coming). He teaches that an angel appeared to him and revealed to him the fulfilment of all the events of the Second Coming, as is prophesied in the book of Revelation.

Further, Man Hee Lee proclaims that he is the Advocate/ Comforter that is promised by Jesus in the book of John 14:16: And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever. Further, you need to accept him as such, and the messenger of this generation. All people who do not accept him as such are compared to the Jews who did not accept Jesus at the time of the First Coming.

Man Hee Lee is also referred to as the one who overcomes as mentioned in Revelation. He is also referred to as the physical fulfilment of the male child, the one who sits on God’s throne, and the one who is currently ruling all nations with an iron sceptre (all from Revelation).

Essentially, you have to be part of SCJ and accept the message of Man Hee Lee, who is referred to as Seon Saeng Nim or simply “SSN” (which is “Teacher” in Korean) in order to attain salvation. SSN calls all other churches "Babylon" and "Satan’s pastors" and basically says that the ¨Holy Spirit" as we understand it, does not exist – in fact “there are many holy spirits”. The Trinity is rejected.

5.       Summary of SCJ’s teachings:

-   God loves mankind, and has been looking for a way to reunite with humans as they have fallen in sin. God wishes to dwell with man as He did with Adam and Eve.
-        For the past 6,000 years, God has appointed different messengers in different generations: Adam, Noah, Moses, and Jesus. This messenger would be the one “where God is at” – the human used by God to reach His chosen people. God’s people had to listen to/follow these messengers in order to be saved. In Noah’s and Moses’ cases it was physical salvation – you had to listen to Noah to be included in the Ark and you had to listen to Moses in order to be saved from slavery in Egypt. In Jesus’s case, it was spiritual salvation – you had to follow Jesus in order to receive atonement. But, in each generation, the people God sends His messenger to, betray him.
-         Jesus was a messenger of God and came according to the Old Testament prophesies.
-         Jesus spoke in parables which were actually prophecies about the Second Coming: centred on the creation of SCJ and emergence of another messenger, namely Man Hee Lee (SSN); the Advocate/Comforter that Jesus promised in John 14:16.
-        SSN is God’s chosen pastor in today’s generation and the one “where God is at”. The Holy Spirit/ Spirit of Truth that Jesus promised in John 14:16 is only in him; the Spirit of Truth indwells SSN. Therefore SSN is the Advocate/Comforter/Counselor that will guide us in all truth and speaks on behalf of God (as in John 16:13). This is the full and true meaning of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus. The Holy Spirit, as understood by the rest of the world, is false.
-         Only SSN can bear testimony to Revelation’s physical fulfilment and give a new and inspiring interpretation about the Word and what it really means – as no one could before. This includes revelation about the current time, the time of the second coming of Christ. This has been revealed to SSN by an angel of God. SSN is proclaiming this message at the proper time, as the faithful and wise servant who gives food (spiritual food, the Word of God) at the proper time (see Matthew 24:45).
-        God, Jesus and SSN are working together to restore God’s kingdom on earth through establishing his New Heaven and New Earth spoken of in Revelation (after which the church is named) so that God can dwell again with humans on the earth.
-       SSN is gathering the elect: 144,000 chosen people who are being sealed with this new testimony (the 144,000 chosen people who are sealed as in Revelation 7). The 144,000 chosen people are divided into the 12 tribes of the new spiritual Israel.  These 12 tribes are the 12 main groups within SCJ.
-        The Holy Spirit at the Pentecost was just a foreshadow of the marriage between spirit and flesh that is to come, where Jesus and the 144,000 spirits of the martyrs will come and marry/merge with the bodies of 144,000 SCJ members who are fully sealed with the Word of Testimony of the Messenger (SSN). This is how the martyrs come to life to serve with God and Christ as per Revelation 20:4-6.
-        SSN is the one who overcomes, and is sitting on God’s throne. He is currently ruling all the nations (see Revelation 2:26-27).
-        All nations have drunk “the maddening wine of adultery” spoken of in Revelation.  In other words, they have accepted Satan’s doctrine (mixed teachings consisting of the thoughts of men and their interpretations of God’s word). If they do not accept SSN’s message, they are lost and will not be saved.
-        SSN pursues world peace as part of God’s promise in the Bible – to bring world peace.

6.       My reasons for leaving.

My first main reason for leaving was the blatant use of lies and deceit, and promotion of using it. This was a reason that was reasonably easy to formulate, as it is clear from many verses in the Bible that lying is not acceptable, even if good things result from lying (see Romans 3:7-8).

My second main reason, which was also relatively easy to formulate, was the veneration of a human being as the new Saviour (or as it was sometimes euphemised, you need to follow Man Hee Lee in order to be saved at the time of the Second Coming). Jesus said that He Himself would return, and therefore Jesus remains my sole Saviour. 1 Timothy 2:5 plainly states: For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.

Within SCJ, there is a new central figure: Man Hee Lee, and he is venerated and praised. For example, songs are sung in the congregation meetings, including the following excerpts of songs which refer to praising Man Hee Lee:

Let us praise the king of kings
Let us praise the Advocate of God
Let us praise Advocate, who will rule heavens and the earth
Thank you, the One Who Overcomes,
I will praise your name forevermore and evermore

My third main reason relates to reason two above – the fact that SCJ changes the fundamental gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is being preached that there is a new saviour: Man Hee Lee. Galatians 1:7-9 states plainly: Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

My fourth main reason was formulated by considering the following warning from Deuteronomy 18: when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him." Every year, Man Hee Lee releases a “slogan” for a particular year. Below is a photo showing the slogan of 2014:

During 2014, a big international peace summit was held in Seoul, called the World Alliance of Religions for Peace, or WARP Summit.  As you can see from the above photo, this was one of the events that Man Hee Lee indicated would occur in 2014, which it did. It was brought about by the effort, discipline and dedication of SCJ members (they organised it from all over the world). In retrospect, it was called a “heavenly promise that was fulfilled”. However, the completion of the 12 tribes did not take place. 

Therefore, one of the “heavenly promises” that was given by Man Hee Lee did not materialise.  One needs to question the reliability of a person who states that he has received the revelation of the fulfilment of all the events in the current times. As an aside, the completion of the 12 tribes refers to each of the 12 tribes (groups) of SCJ which needs to reach a number of 12,000 members each, which is also deduced from Revelation.

My further reasons for leaving were the many inconsistencies when compared to the Bible, and it took a bit more time to formulate. The six month course was mostly done in the form of a guided tour through the Bible, but we would focus on specific books, and we never focused on what Jesus did on the cross, for example. After completing the six month program, I finally had a bit of free time again to do Bible study on my own time (although one of the things that SCJ does is that they try to keep you as busy as possible with congregation meetings, evangelising, encouraging you to become a maintainer, etc. – so much so that in some cases they would ask for your schedule in order to see, when you have free time). 

When I made the time to consider other parts of the Bible, I found many inconsistencies with SCJ’s teachings. For example, looking at Acts, it is clear that the Advocate/Comforter that Jesus promised to the disciples, was in fact a helper in the form of the Holy Spirit that was sent to them after Jesus ascended, rather than an exclusive indwelling in a specific person, 2,000 years after Jesus ascended.

7.       A few reasons why SCJ is so successful.

Imagine a group of around 150,000 people around the world with a single purpose at heart – a purpose they deem more important than their lives/careers/families. People who are not afraid to use deceit in order to further their most important goal: growing the organisation. SCJ is such an organisation.

One of their primary strategies is their seemingly voluntary peace/community upliftment organisations and projects, which is used to lure prospective members. A very good international case study is called “Mannam”, which was a charitable organisation that was used as a front for Shincheonji, and is a subject that you can easily find on the internet.

Mannam has subsequently been replaced by other organisations, namely the International Peace Youth Group (IPYG), Heavenly Culture World Peace Restoration of Light (HWPL) and the International Women’s Peace Group (IWPG), which today are the main cover organisations for SCJ.

They have hosted several international peace rallies including the WARP summit mentioned above. This was a very big event, but the reality was that many of the attendees (if not most - I do not want to make up statistics), were SCJ members. Therefore, although the numbers of attendees created a spectacular scene, it was at least somewhat skewed by SCJ members who attended without disclosing the true reason for their attendance. Many of these attendees were sponsored to attend in some way (including international travel costs).

SCJ also has smaller scale and often community-based groups that also aim to involve new prospects, under the pretence of predominantly community upliftment projects.

Other strategies used by SCJ:

a)      They request that members continuously click on pro-SCJ websites in order to boost the rankings on Google, so that these websites appear first when SCJ is Googled. Further, members are told not to visit anti-SCJ websites, as it will corrupt them.
b)      They meticulously monitor members, using social messaging services such as Whatsapp. If members cannot attend services, it is done via Skype. If a member shows any signs of non-commitment or doubt, they would immediately escalate it to the congregation leaders. Some of the senior members are very strong manipulators. Emotion is often use to bring challenging individuals back in line.
c)       Much (if not most) of the time spent in the bi-weekly sermons, is spent by Man Hee Lee and other leaders reiterating the fact that SCJ is orthodox and really, really, really… the only true church of Jesus Christ. All other churches and pastors belong to Satan and is referred to as “Babylon”. SCJ members are continuously told that they are the chosen ones and because of this, they will face persecution, but that they must persist and be victorious, run harder, work harder, etc. because the work they are doing is of eternal importance and if they are victorious, they will rule all nations with the ¨One Who Overcomes¨ (Man Hee Lee).
d)      SCJ has training sessions, some of which are compulsory, teaching members how to “evangelise” new members, telling their members how to act/dress etc., and also how to handle confrontations/ challenges/ apologetics.
e)      As soon as there is an external group or a church that openly opposes SCJ, all members are warned rigorously.  In some cases, members have to memorise verses and write tests, for example we had to write a test about the Christian Council of Korea (CCK) – a church that opposes SCJ. Answers needed to be memorised and reproduced verbatim in this compulsory test. One dares not to ask about this, otherwise you are met with fierce questioning.
f)       There are many structures in SCJ: including the Men’s Department, Women’s Department, Youth Department, and so forth. Each person becomes part of a cell group, and it is driven home that anything your immediate superior requests of you or instructs you to do, should be considered an instruction directly from God, because the teachings/instructions, etc. flow like live-giving water (as in Rev 22:1 which states the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb). Rhetoric like this is continuously repeated and one is continuously told to not follow your own thoughts because you need to renew your mind and recalibrate everything according to God’s will (Romans 12:2 states Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind).
g)      The organisation is very coordinated and finely planned. Each of the 12 tribes has a specified geographic area and focus/target areas for expansion, and must give feedback on their expansion strategies and success on an ongoing basis. Non-performing leaders are removed/redeployed.
h)      The environment in SCJ is fear-driven. If you do not perform, specifically if you do not evangelise, there is a problem. Man Hee Lee himself said in one of his sermons, “If you do not evangelise, I will kick you out”. Unfortunately many people, especially younger members, simply cannot stand against such oppression and manipulation.

I pray that the above testimony may help members and former members of SCJ and their families in whatever way possible.

Shincheonji´s Deceptive Practices.

Dear reader,

How would you feel if you learned that a missionary was using distorted conversion stories to obtain financial support?  What if a youth minister used false degrees to get hired at a church?  Or, what if Christians invented stories about other religious leaders to enourage others to discredit those groups?

These questions deal with Christian conduct and behavior (or Christ-centered ethics).

One simple test to measure Christian ethics is the question, ¨What would Jesus Christ do, say, or think about the situation?¨ Although no devoted Christian is perfect, we all desire to model his kindness, forgiveness, honesty, love, etc.  In other words, believers should never act or promote that which opposes his character.

When we test what is happening (and what has happened) in Shincheonji, we discover that members resort to deceptive practices to recruit others and hide their identity.

In my own case, I remember a family member inviting me to a Bible study online by a seminar student (SCJ teacher) who needed to teach others to graduate from their seminary.  This is a line other SCJ members have used too.  Some people have testified that their SCJ instructor avoided telling them their organization´s name, or they used fictitious names.

One SCJ couple infiltrated churches to invite others under the guise of a normal Bible study.  A former SCJ member told us of a Shinchonji instructor who posed as a pastor in a non-denominational church.  Still another person mentioned that SCJ has ¨maintainers¨ who take the study with newcomers and pretend they are learning the teachings for the first time.

When I confronted one SCJ teacher about this, they replied that deception is justifiable because Christian churches are full of spiritual lies, traditions of men, and Satan's seed (teachings).  They said deception can lead Christians to SCJ and even outsmart the devil´s schemes.  They also said their identity should be kept secret because of so much critical information on the internet and in the media about SCJ.

However, to devoted Christians, these arguments are weak and unconvincing.  

Using deception goes against Christ´s righteous standards and even common ethics.  In Romans 12:17, Paul instructs believers to do what is right ¨in the eyes of everyone¨.  When people who are not Christians learn of SCJ´s deceptive practices, it is a poor testimony.

In Eph. 4:25 and 1 Pet. 2:1, those in Christ are instructed to never lie to other believers and to get rid of all deceit.  This is an underlying and basic principle in the Christian life.

Think for a moment how you would feel if someone from a religious group used deception to recruit you?  It actually backfires.  It casts doubts on the group´s credibility in the other areas too.  One Christian lady noted that SCJ´s deceptive practices made her not want to listen to anything else they taught.

In addition, SCJ´s argument that using deception is needed to outwit the kingdom of darkness is unimpressive.  

In Jesus´ time, the world was full of darkness and evil influences in the Roman empire.  Yet, the apostles and early Christians relied on Jesus´ example and sacrifice, the beauty of his message, his miracles, and the power of the Holy Spirit to convince outsiders (I Thes. 1:5, Rom. 1:16, I Cor. 2:4, Ac. 1:8).  In the book of Acts, the disciples spoke boldly and openly about Jesus.

If SCJ´s revelation is true, they should be able to rely on the truthfulness of the message to convince others. Jesus said that his sheep hear his voice (Jn. 10:16,27), which leads to another question.  Would the real Jesus approve of using deceit to attract Christians?

To devoted followers, it is spiritually contradictory and seems like something from lying spirits.  Deceit makes Christians more doubtful of Shincheonji since righteousness and unrighteousness do not mix (2 Cor. 6:14).

One Shinchonji instructor said that they are willing to do anything (even ¨cut off someone´s hand,¨ to quote Jesus´ words) to bring others into Shincheonji.  But, surely there is a limit.  The end does not justify the means, especially when related to something as significant as Jesus' kingdom.

One of the clearest moral teachings in Israel was that all forms of lying and deceit are detestable to God (Prov. 6:16-19).  Such conduct negatively impacts people who are important to God.  Lying involves withholding information, hiding something, or misguiding others for an ulterior purpose.

Christians outside SCJ can quickly discern that using deceit to spread truth is a sign of error.  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 more information on this topic, please listen to the podcasts on this blog.

History Before Shincheonji: Where was Manhee Lee?

Dear reader, 

One phenomenon in Christian history is how apocalyptic leaders and movements give birth to other movements that claim 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 Shincheonji.  

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,, revised July, 2012.


Why are SCJ Interpretations so Different?

Dear reader

If you are a Christian and have conversed with end-time groups, you may have asked yourself, ¨How in the world did they get that interpretation from this verse or that word?¨ It seems spiritually bizarre and puzzling.

Some people feel conversations with end-time groups are pointless because Christians show them one set of verses while members of these groups retaliate with other verses (or even use the same ones with different interpretations).  For example, Shincheonji interprets those ¨in the light¨ in I Thess. 5:1-8 to refer to SCJ members with the revealed word, whereas Christians view this as all believers in Christ Jesus.

The reality is that Christians and followers of end-time movements use different ¨glasses¨ (or approaches) to explain meanings in the Bible.  This leads to some important questions about biblical interpretation.

What method should Christians use to interpret the Scriptures?  What approach do final prophets or end-time groups use?  Why are interpretations so different?

There are two methods that have been historically unsafe and dangerous. Even though these approaches claim to possess divine help and guidance, they are based more on human authority.  Below is a brief description and analysis of them.

1. Group-Guided Approach.

This method is based on the notion that God guides a specific group of leaders to explain meanings and concepts of the Christian faith.  The Watchtower Society or the Catholic Magisterium are primary examples.  Leaders of these groups emphasize that God´s Spirit gives them interpretative authority, which is why Christians need them.

One result of this approach is that it forces Christians to depend more on human leaders as opposed to seeking God and relying on his help. In addition, leaders end up developing spiritual traditions, teachings, or rules that go beyond what is written.  Many of these traditions become the central focus of the group and are even elevated above the simple message of Christ.

Lastly, because these leaders consider themselves interpreters by divine appointment, they become the real authority above the Bible.  Moreover, they do not humbly receive correction from the Bible by devoted Christians outside their group.

2.  Prophet-Revealer Approach.

This method is based on the belief that God appoints a prophet to be Jesus´ final spokesperson on earth in the end.  Through visions, dreams, and revelations, this prophet brings new knowledge regarding Jesus´ second coming and salvation. They believe they are filled with God´s power and Spirit, much like the prophets in the Old Testament.

Members in end-time groups are taught to put aside previous concepts about God and the Bible as they learn new information from the prophet.  Their leader offers interpretations that ¨makes sense¨ of mysterious or unfulfilled prophecies.  The prophet´s authority is also magnified because they insist all other Christians are spiritually blind and in darkness.
What serious problems emerge with this method?

First, Jesus Christ cautions all Christians to stay away from final prophets who take his place and assume his authority in the end (Mt. 24:4,5, Lk. 21:8).  This is a common sign of error in all end-time groups.

Even so, prophets in end-time groups assert God has sent them as a final prophet. They point to ¨revealed¨ prophecies in the Bible foretelling their coming and authority.  One example in SCJ is the idea that the Bible has promises of a final pastor in the end. Yet, it is suspicious when only the prophet sees certain texts as prophecies and the language (and context) from the Scriptures communicates something else.

Unbeknownst to them, members subtly believe a prophecy based more on human authority than the Bible.

This leads to a second problem - too much interpretative authority in the hands of one person.  Interestingly enough, a prophet offers new light about Bible verses, words, Scripture connections, figurative meanings, prophecies, etc., almost entirely based on an, ¨I say so authority.¨  For instance, Manhee Lee says that the interpretation of ¨east¨ in Rev. 7 refers to Korea because he ¨knows where the east is¨ (Creation of Heaven and Earth, p. 194), but not based on the Scriptures.

As members become more and more involved in their organization, the danger is that the prophet´s interpretations are viewed as more inspired than the Bible itself.  Thus, any Bible verse or explanation which contradicts their prophet must be in error, especially from Christians outside their group.

Lastly, something is spiritually amiss when a final prophet is said to be filled with God´s Spirit, yet modifies Jesus´ identity and the clear message of salvation through Christ.  They make ¨prophetic knowledge¨ about the Bible a requirement for eternal life instead of being united to Christ Jesus.
3. The Christian Model: Holy Spirit and Bible-Method.

This is the safest and most efficient way to interpret the Scriptures.  As Peter said, ¨His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him¨ (2 Pet. 1:3).

As we give our lives to Jesus Christ, believers can rely on God's presence to help them understand the important truths from God (i.e. everything we need for life and godly living).  Regardless of one´s church or denomination, the important truths can be known and experienced by all believers.  The Scriptures preserve and communicate God´s redemptive message in Christ (2 Tim. 3:16) to all those who sincerely seek him.

Thus, the biggest and most important spiritual truths can be understood without an authoritative leader or group (1 Jn. 2:27, Ps. 119:97-104).  In Christian thinking, the clear language in the Bible is superior to a final prophet´s explanations, not the other way around.

In closing, understanding that Shincheonji uses a prophet-interpretation method explains why their interpretations are so innovative and puzzling.  This is why Christians and SCJ members can have Bible discussions and be talking past each other.  They are using two different methods to interpret the Bible.

Listen to Podcasts Evaluating Shincheonji/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: Shincheonji'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.


Is Genesis 1-3 a Concealed Prophecy for a Pastor?

Dear reader,

Many end-time leaders teach they are the final interpreters or prophets of the Christian faith due to a revelation given to them by heavenly creatures or Jesus Christ himself.  It is an extremely powerful spiritual assertion.  At the same time, Christ and the apostles give many warnings of deception from final leaders (Lk. 21:8, I John 4:1, Mt. 24:24, I Tim. 4:1).   
In Shincheonji, Manhee Lee claims to have received a revelation or revealed word from divine beings about the meaning and physical fulfillment of the Bible´s last prophecies.  

Manhee Lee holds that he is the final pastor in a long line of chosen pastors.  

To support this teaching, he uses Adam as the first chosen pastor.  Thus, Genesis 1-3 becomes a figurative account of how God chooses his 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 condensed version of Manhee Lee's explanation of a pastor in the beginning (Creation of Heaven and Earth, pp. 33-51).  Notice the figurative meanings.

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). 

On page 47 of his book, he concludes, ¨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).¨       

Is this revelation the true explanation of Genesis chapters 1-3?  Why doubt it?

First, although many Christian thinkers have used figurative meanings for Genesis in the past, this explanation seems far-fetched and beyond the simple meanings given.     

The verses used in support of his figurative meanings are disconnected and forced.  For example, Jesus said his disciples would be fishers of men, but this does not mean that ¨fish¨ refer figuratively to men in Genesis.  In context, Jesus used this analogy for fishermen to help them understand deeper spiritual truths, as with other parables (Mt. 13:47-50).  Another misapplication is connecting the metaphor of beasts (those who lack knowledge in Prov. 30:2,3) to beasts and animals in Genesis. 

These examples bring to light a central problem.  (See the article on SCJ Interpretations.)  The authority for making these connections is subtly based on ¨I say so¨ or ¨My revelation makes it so¨ authority (followed by Scripture connections or spiritual reasoning), but not based on the Scriptures themselvesWhen a final prophet is the one who makes these interpretations, it is subjective revelation, not proof-supported or objective.    

Another problem is that Manhee Lee´s figurative explanations and arguments against a literal interpretation (i.e. millions of years of life on earth, the appearance of Cain´s wife, Cain´s fear of being killed by other people, and the appearance of light on the fourth day) end up creading more spiritual problems than answers.

For example, he claims that Adam was not the first real physical 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.  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 human.  Although 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).

This means God created people at the beginning of time, before Adam appeared, who did not have his words.  This creates spiritual problems.  Why would the first humans not have God´s words?  How long did these humans exist without God´s Word?  These and more questions complicate things with his figurative explanation (1).  

Using figurative language to make Genesis 1-3 about a chosen pastor is a way to validate Mr. Lee´s claim about himself - the need for a final chosen pastor in Revelation.  This is not new. Many apocalyptic leaders interpret symbols or words to self-validate their group or authority. (Joseph Smith said that the ¨stick¨ in Ez. 37:15-17 was a figurative symbol for the Mormon revelation.)  But, this is circular since the ¨revealer-prophet¨ is the one who reveals these meanings instead of the written word.   

Another problem with this figurative explanation 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.  Shincheonji changes the story and focus.

The message God reveals is that the human race needs a savior to restore a broken creation and bring humans back into a perfect and beautiful relationship with God.  It is a promise and blessing repeated in Gen. 12 that finds its answers in the Messiah, not a final pastor who is not the Messiah.  Even early Jewish sources recognized the importance of the Messianic promise after the creation account (2).

(1) An unbiased reading of the Scriptures state that Adam was the first man to be alive, not receive God´s words.  ¨Thus, it is written, ´The first man, Adam, became a living being´¨ (I Cor. 15:45).  Before Adam, there were no other men.  This is why he is called the first. 

(2) ¨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.", Accessed July, 2013.