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Millennial Movements Gain Momentum In China

(ANS) As the year 2000 approaches, certain doomsday sects and cults within the church throughout the world believe that the change in millennium will herald the end of the world and the return of Jesus Christ. The church in China also has to contend with such sects rapidly spreading their message in certain parts of the country, bringing chaos and confusion to church congregations wherever these millennial groups operate. In China, the best known example of this at the moment is the Eastern Lightning sect (for background on this sect, see ANS 97.12.3 and ANS 99.5/6.4). In September's issue of Tian Feng, the magazine of the China Christian Council, several writers address the issue of millennial prophecies, the return of Jesus Christ and the methods of the Eastern Lightning sect. They warn believers not to fall under the influence of such teachings.

The Eastern Lightning sect believes that Jesus Christ has already come down to earth for a second time, in the bodily form of a Chinese woman called "Lightning". Although rejecting the authority of the Bible, writes Shao Guang, the sect makes use of scripture in order to "legitimize" its teachings in the eyes of those it tries to convert. For example, the group teaches from Jeremiah 31:22 ("For the Lord has created a new thing in the earth: a woman will play a man's part") and Genesis 1:27 ("in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them") in order to "prove" that Christ's second coming on earth will be in the form of a woman. The group uses Isaiah 41:2 ("who was raised up from the east") to show that Christ will return in China, and twists Matthew 24:27 ("Like a lightning-flash, that lights the sky from east to west, will be the coming of the Son of Man") in order to attribute the name "Lightning" to their "female Christ".

The Eastern Lightning sect concentrates its activities in rural areas and city suburbs. The reason for this is because many believers in churches in these areas either don't own a Bible, have never read a Bible or do not fully understand what they read in the Bible. Alongside this, many rural believers have a low educational level and a poor understanding of the faith. In this way, it is easy for sect members to dupe believers. Shao Guang and Wan Songji believe that many fall under the influence of the sect in China simply because they are ignorant and afraid of somehow being left behind or being cast out. They believe "just in case it turns out to be true."

Ignorance of the Bible and of the basic teachings of the Christian faith are only one factor which aids the Eastern Lightning cause. Jiang Shan writes how he recently got hold of two "instructional manuals" from a former sect member which detail the highly-developed methods employed by sect members when infiltrating a church congregation. Sect members are instructed to enter churches pretending to be eager new believers or seekers. They are encouraged to lie, giving large amounts of fake personal information in order to foster a sense of intimacy and trust with congregation members. At the same time, sect members must observe the situation in the church and target members who are weak in the faith and ripe for conversion to the sect's teachings. Once converts are made, sect members are ordered to keep quiet about them as they seek to build up their presence within the congregation.

Jiang goes on to mention how sect members use any kind of underhand deception in order to win people over. Female sect members are actively encouraged to offer their bodies to young male evangelists in order to tempt them and lure them into the sect. When sect members don't make any headway into a congregation, they turn nasty, mounting vicious attacks on church members. They accuse church leaders of various financial and relational improprieties and generally attempt to split the church through suspicion and accusation. Their aim is to destroy the church.

The writers all conclude that the best way the church can protect itself against the damage wrought by such millennial groups as Eastern Lightning is for every believer to arm themselves with Biblical truths. Jiang Shan gives details of Eastern Lightning teachings and how they contradict certain basic Biblical truths, and Ming Guang lists all relevant Biblical passages relating to Christ's second coming and the end of the world. All the writers stress that Christians should indeed eagerly await Christ's return, but that Christ will come again in glory, not in bodily form, and we will all be transformed in that instant. For now, we must simply pay attention to doing the Lord's will whilst guarding against the false prophets and false Christ's which God has warned us about.

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