Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith…. – 1 Peter 5: 8-11
One day recently I did a search for ‘Messianic Worship’ on YouTube and the first video (1) to come up was one I had not seen before. Curious, I clicked on it and it began to play. I did not recognize any of the songs. The words were in unaccented, perfect Hebrew but the cadence of the music was not Hebraic. It seemed like the lyrics must have been translated from another language. It all appeared a bit odd so I began to pay attention to the lyrics, which were given only in Hebrew. I very quickly noticed that something was ‘off’. The songs were less praise and worship and more like indoctrination, and the lyrics clearly contradicted the Bible. This was not the gospel I knew. They were teaching something else. I wondered who ‘they’ were and spotted the tiny logo at the bottom of the screen. The logo contained the Hebrew words כנסיית האל הכול בכול which translates into English as the Church of Almighty God. I did not know of any Hebrew-speaking congregation in Israel by this name, and it seemed unlikely any Messianic congregation would use the word ‘church’ in its title, so I decided to try discover just who had made this video.
It didn’t take me long to discover that the Church of Almighty God, also known as Eastern Lightning, is a pseudo-Christian cult that was established in 1991 in China. That year, a woman called Yang Xiangbin began to disseminate among the Chinese house churches copies of prophetic revelations she claimed were coming from the Holy Spirit. In the same year she was joined by a man Zhao Weishan who quickly became the main leader of her small group. In 1992 Zhao announced that Yang Xiangbin was not just a prophet but, in fact, she was the second coming of Jesus Christ on earth and the incarnated Almighty God.
One of their key teachings derives from the verse Matthew 24:27 which says, “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be”, and they use this verse to support their claim that ‘Jesus’, the Son of Man, (namely Yang Xiangbin) has already come to the East, that is to say China. Ironically, they apparently do not read the context of this verse which says, “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be (Matthew 24: 23-27). The cult is careful to quote only the last verse, verse 27, and it is from this that their alternative name Eastern Lightning is derived.
In 1995, the group was banned in China and in the year 2000, both Zhao and Yang entered the United States where they were granted political asylum. Since then, they live in and direct the movement from New York (2). Zhao left his family and divorced his wife, marrying Yang Xiangbin, who is 20 years his junior. The ‘problem’ of having a female Christ has been ‘solved’ in that Yang has now undergone a sex change.
This fast-spreading cult now numbers many millions of followers all over the world, and it would seem they are now targeting the Hebrew-speaking Messianic believers in Israel. On the internet there are a large number of music and teaching videos produced by this group, all in Hebrew (see for example the references in 3 and 4 below). I do not know if there is an organized group of them here in the Land, but they clearly have some native Hebrew speakers on their team. It appears the Church of Almighty God even attempted to influence the 2019 Israeli election, but Twitter shut down dozens of their affiliated accounts (3).
You might wonder who would believe such a bizarre doctrine, but clearly there are many who do. The cult’s teaching material is confusing, and its core doctrines obscured by the many long, wordy statements which are almost impossible to understand (for example see 4 below). They use Biblical sounding words and concepts but take Bible verses out of context and twist their meaning. They prey on the illiterate, those believers who lack Bibles and those who do not have a good understanding of Scripture or truly know Yeshua. They tend to target vulnerable members of existing churches rather than unbelievers.
It is very telling and tragic that followers of the Church of Almighty God say that prior to getting involved in this group they had been “blindly submitted to following their pastors’ teaching” and admitted to being “ignorant”, “confused”, “muddled”, and that they “possessed no reality of the truth” (5). They hungered for understanding and reality in their walk of faith. I suspect that such a description would describe many Christian and Messianic believers today. Many today blindly follow the teaching of esteemed leaders and do not study the Word, discern the spirits or know how to find truth for themselves. Such a situation lays people wide open to a cult that claims to offer clarity together with fervent and total surrender to their god. Sadly their victims do not realize that by joining this so-called church they have entered into an even worse situation in which their leaders are controlling and manipulating their beliefs and actions, using brain-washing techniques, and leading them even further away from Truth and the true God. Furthermore, this cult teaches that only those who follow their new revelation and join the Church of Almighty God will be saved from God’s present work of judgement, thus playing on the fears of the insecure.
The Church of Almighty God teaches that God’s work takes place in three ages and in each of these ages God has a different name. In the first age, The Age of the Law, God was called YHWH, then in the Age of Grace he was called Yeshua (Jesus), and now in the Third Age, he is called Almighty God. In the first coming of Yeshua they say he saved humanity but did not eradicate its sinful nature. That will only happen in the Third Age, which is the age of God’s judgment of the world. They avoid stating it in their literature but their ‘Almighty God’ is the woman, Yang Xiangbin, the second incarnation of God, who began to bring forth the ‘Word became Flesh’ prophetic utterances in China in 1991. These utterances, known as the “Words of the Holy Spirit”, claim to be the collected works of the ‘Son of Man’, again Yang Xiangbin, and supposedly reveal and explain the mysteries of the Bible, bringing new revelation for the Third Age. They are also referred to as “God’s present (or current) words”. The church’s followers shifted from reading the Bible to reading a collection of mimeographed prophecies called the “Words of the Holy Spirit”, which were later collated into a bound volume called the “The WORD appears in the Flesh”, their ‘Bible’. A leader of the movement put it in this way,
I remember when Almighty God appeared and began to work in 1991. Back then we ate and drank of God’s present day words daily. We learned more about the truth we should be practicing in our faith, the things we should discern and the mysteries revealed by the Holy Spirit. We felt so fulfilled, for none of these words were in the Bible. Nor had we even seen or heard them when worshipping the Lord in the past. When eating and drinking of the current word of the Holy Spirit we felt we had been set free. …” (6 – my emphasis).
The Church of Almighty God demeans Yeshua’s work on the Cross and teaches that it was incomplete. As the words of one of their songs says “The main purpose of Yeshua’s first coming was to make the Word become flesh”(1). This is somewhat nonsensical – it is like saying that the main purpose of Yeshua’s incarnation is incarnation. There is no mention of His sacrifice and atonement for sin. Not only do they teach that Yeshua’s work was incomplete but that the work of both YHWH and Yeshua is now obsolete. For example, the words of the second song on the first music video referenced below (1 at 4.26 min) say this,
ישוע אמר שעבודתו של יהוה
היא מיושנת בעידן החסד.
עבודתו של ישוע התיישנה…
ישוע לא יכול היה להיצלב
ולא לגאול את האנשות
(In English “ Jesus said that the work of YHWH is obsolete in the Age of Grace. The work of Jesus has become obsolete … Jesus could not be crucified and could not redeem mankind.”)
This is nothing short of blasphemy. Jesus died once and for all, and on the cross proclaimed that his work was finished and complete,
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said… “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. – John 19: 28-30
For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. – Hebrews 9: 24-28
Those who join the Church of Almighty God are first thoroughly indoctrinated and then trained and sent out to proselytize new followers. They are taught how to infiltrate churches, initially posing as pleasant and harmless believers. They also carry out online and street evangelism. They have flooded the internet with their videos. Once a person shows any interest, even so much as gives them a phone number, they then pursue that person relentlessly until they are absorbed into the cult. Cult members have been known to harass, threaten and use violence, even kidnapping Christian believers, holding them prisoner and attempting to brainwash them. Many of those kidnapped have failed to escape their clutches and are listed as ‘missing persons’. The few who manage to escape claim they were subjected to violence, torture, and brainwashing techniques. It is alleged that in 2002 members of the Church of Almighty God kidnapped 34 evangelical Christian leaders belonging to the China Gospel Fellowship by posing as representatives of a theological institute from Singapore. They held them for two months in an effort to convert them, reflecting their strategy of trying to co-opt whole congregations by converting their leaders (7). They have also been accused of seducing, extorting and threatening pastors.
Some of the cult members have also been convicted of murder. In 2014 five members of the cult were trying to obtain phone numbers from customers in a MacDonald’s branch in China. When one woman refused to give them her phone number, the five beat her to death, saying she was a demon. This was caught on camera and two of these murderers were subsequently executed by the Chinese authorities and the other three imprisoned (7). Of course, the cult leaders deny any involvement and claim it was fake news and an act of persecution by the Chinese government, which they identify as the Great Red Dragon. This incident is not an isolated event however and there have been many other accusations of violent acts carried out by members of the cult.
It seems to me that Satan’s tactic in these days is to sow error and heresy amongst the Messianic and Christian believers all over the world. This creates confusion and division, and brings the name of God into disrepute, thus undermining the preaching of the gospel. Here in Israel we are under attack. We need to be aware of the various heretical teachings infiltrating our congregations and drawing away the vulnerable and unwary. Our leaders need to speak out against these teachings, and above all teach their congregations how to study the Bible for themselves, discern error and know Truth. Every true believer in Yeshua has a responsibility to search the Scriptures diligently and test everything we hear against the Word of God, the true Bible.
Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. – Acts 17: 10-11
4. More music videos from the Church of the Almighty God in Hebrew https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTVv-vdn6Co
5. Church of the Almighty God teaching in Hebrew https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZ4tbHRd7os
6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2x8B_Gm3n8o “The Origin and Development of The Church of Almighty God” | 2019 – in English
7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5DflS8Pq98 Document of the Church of Almighty God/ The Appearance and Work of Almighty God (Part 1) – in English
8. https://edition.cnn.com/2014/06/06/world/asia/china-eastern-lightning-killing/index.html Eastern Lightning’: The banned religious group that has China worried
By Tim Hume, CNN. Updated 0241 GMT (1041 HKT) February 3, 2015
China’s violent Christian cult: Church of Almighty God – BBC News
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iI-bNaBFtdg Channel 4 interview