Does Rev. 8,9 Refer to a Church in South Korea?
Shinchonji teaches that an angel and a spirit-Jesus appeared to Manhee Lee on a mountain in South Korea. Also, SCJ believes that the Counselor-Holy Spirit promises in Jn. 14,16 are fulfilled by the Spirit uniting to Mr. Lee's flesh in the end-times. Thus, Mr. Lee is an important figure in the end.
In Shinchonji thinking, he is the Apostle John figure in Revelation through whom Jesus' spirit works in the last days. He is one of the two witnesses in Rev. 11, the main fulfillment of the one who overcomes in Rev. 2,3, and the white horse (flesh) that Jesus' spirit uses to return to earth in Rev. 19. The appearance of an angel and a spirit-Jesus to Manhee Lee is believed to be the physical fulfillment of Rev. 1:1-3 and Rev. 10.
When a pastor in the Christian world makes these claims, we must be cautious as Christians and test the revelations with the Bible (I Jn. 4:1, I Tim. 4:1). Many leaders have been deceived by voices from the spirit world. Of course, testing is not unkindly attacking a leader or their followers, who are loved by God. But, it is important to avoid deception.
One of the most effective tests is to see if a revealed voice (i.e. the leader's message) matches the voice in God's written word. In Christian thinking, God's voice found in the written word is far superior to spirit-revelations to end-time leaders. Let's look at an example in Revelation 8 and 9.
According to Manhee Lee's book, The Truth Regarding Revelation´s Fulfillment, Jesus chose a special church in South Korea (the Church of the Seven Lampstands). However, this church betrayed Jesus' words and was invaded by a false pastor and his associates. (The intruders are known as the ¨destroyers¨ or ¨Nicolaitans¨ and the church members who betrayed are the ¨betrayers¨.) These are two of the important mysteries in Revelation.
Manhee Lee interprets Rev. 8 and 9 to refer to the betrayal and destruction of the Church of the Seven Lampstands. Since these church members betrayed Jesus (and refused to repent after being warned about the destroyers/Nicolaitans), they are punished. The plagues in Rev. 8 and 9 refer to the punishment of those in the Church of the Seven Lampstands who refused to repent.
¨This plague of the seven trumpets is a punishment for the church of the seven golden lampstands (Rv. 6:15,16). They are punished because they entered the caves and rocks of the gentiles even after receiving Jesus' letter telling them to repent and overcome the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2,3). The church of the seven golden lampstands was specially chosen by God, but they failed him. If God's chosen church betrayed him, just imagine the condition of the rest of the world's churches¨ (Creation of Heaven and Earth, p. 198).
What follows is a condensed, figurative explanation of Rev. 8 and 9 from Manhee Lee's book, Creation of Heaven and Earth (pp. 197,198). For a fuller description, please consult his book.
1. In the first trumpet (Rev. 8:7), God's chosen people who betrayed represent the earth, trees and grass.
2. In the second trumpet (Rev. 8:8,9), the creatures in the sea symbolize the chosen people who betrayed, and the ships are the churches of the chosen people.
3. In the third trumpet (Rev. 8:10,11), the springs and rivers refer to pastors and evangelists from the chosen people.
4. In the fourth trumpet (Rev. 8:12), the sun, moon, and stars represent the pastors, evangelists, and congregation members of the tabernacle of the chosen people (from the church of the seven lampstands). They are destroyed.
In Rev. 8:13, Manhee Lee teaches that when the eagle speaks of the people on earth and the next three trumpet sounds, it refers to the people of the tabernacle of the seven golden lampstands. ¨An eagle flying in midair calls out three loud ´woes´ to those who live on the earth...The people of the earth are the people of the tabernacle of the seven golden lampstands¨ (Creation of Heaven and Earth, p. 198).
5. In the fifth trumpet (Rev. 9:1-11), the locusts are interpreted as false pastors who torture the betrayers. The abyss refers to the churches of the Nicolaitan destroyers (who invaded the Church of the Seven Golden Lampstands).
6. In the sixth trumpet (Rev. 6:13-21), the heads of the horses are interpreted as seven pastors and their tails are false prophets (i.e. pastors who betrayed) that belonged to the seven pastors. The fire, smoke, and sulfur are the doctrines of the false pastors who kill people's spirits.
Manhee Lee summarizes chapter 9 in this way, ¨In this chapter, Jesus judges the chosen people from the church of the seven golden lampstands that betrayed (Rv. 6), and these betrayers enter a gentile church. Even after seeing a third of their spirits killed there, they still refuse to repent¨ (Creation of Heaven and Earth, p. 201).
What problems do we discern with these interpretations from the spirit revelations Manhee Lee received?
First, Manhee Lee's perception of the Church of the Seven Lampstands is a problem since it was an apocalyptic movement in South Korea. (See the article about the history of Mr. Lee before Shinchonji.) Mr. Lee was involved in this movement and others before founding Shinchonji.
Second, when Christians read through Rev. 8 and 9, the voice in the Scriptures does not correspond to Manhee Lee's explanation in several points.
For example, God's voice in the written word does not suggest the events are happening in a local area on earth (i.e. South Korea), but the earth at large (Rev. 8:7, 8:13, 9:18). Manhee Lee interprets ¨earth¨ and ¨inhabitants of the earth¨ as symbols for the congregation members of the Church of the Seven Lampstands, but the meaning in the written word refers to all the people in the world. In the Olivet discourse, Jesus also confirmed that a time of universal distress unparalleled in history would come in the end (Mk. 13:19,20).
The context of Rev. 8 and 9 is one of great distress on the whole earth where humans seek relief from their suffering. After the fifth plague, people ¨seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will allude them¨ (Rev. 9:6). Shinchonji's pastor interprets these deaths and suffering in spiritual terms, but who would seek spiritual deaths because of suffering? Interpreting ¨deaths¨ as dying ¨spiritually¨ and ¨people on earth¨ to ¨people in the Church of the Seven Lampstands¨ is a voice that differs from the Bible's revelation.
This point leads to a conclusion that many Christian apologists notice in end-time groups. The leader's interpretations of the Bible become the meaning of the text instead of the Bible's self-revelation. Apocalyptic leaders claim that they have an anointing that gives them a hidden, deeper meaning that has been sealed in Revelation. Thus, in their groups, their explanations are more inspired than the meanings from the text.
For instance, when Rev. 9:20,21 says that the inhabitants of the earth refused to repent, Manhee Lee teaches that it is because they betrayed Jesus. However, there is no indication from the text that they were Christians (from a church congregation, like in Rev. 2 and 3). The written word states that they did not repent of their great evils and sins - worshiping idols, committing murder, acts of sorcery, sexual behavior, and thefts (Rev. 9:20,21). The Bible does not reveal that they used to be a chosen people, but humankind at large.
¨The rest of humankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands or give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk. And they did not repent of their murders or or their sorceries or their fornication or their thefts¨ (Rev. 9:20,21, NRSV).
As mentioned above, end-time prophets with revelations from the spirit world (angels, Jesus, the Spirit of prophecy, or God) consider themselves ¨revealers¨ of the written word. They reveal the real, hidden interpretations to prophecies and make new connections that no Christian sees. Their voice is God's Word to their followers (even if the written word affirms something else).
In Christian thinking, this is a severe error. The voice in the written word is more reliable than a new voice from final leaders, especially when voices from the spirit world inspired the leaders. Jesus' first sign of the end is pastors or prophets who come in his name (i.e. as his spokesperson on earth) and demand all Christians to follow them (Mt. 24:4,5, Lk. 21:8). One of the most important ways to discern spiritual error is when the voice in the Bible does not match what the leader is revealing.