What would you think if someone told you that a man in his 80´s would never see death? Most Christians around the globe would be astounded to know that Manhee Lee has taught he will physically live forever.
This claim is made within an apocalyptic context, but it is also one that Christian historians have seen in other end-time groups.
End-time leaders have commonly taught that they would never die. They were certain that they were experiencing the last events of human history and Christianity - the tremendous promises in Revelation, including death itself being destroyed.
This belief should be taken seriously because, as time progress, the world will be able to see if it comes to pass or not. In Christian thinking, prophets who make prophecies or predictions in God's name are to be carefully scrutinized. It constitutes one of God's safest tests to believers.
If the words of the prophet do not happen, regardless of how amazing the prophetic explanations from the leader seem to be, God is not backing the leader or their teachings. According to Dt. 18:22, prophecies that do not materialize mean that either the leader did not receive a revealed word from God or that they spoke presumptuously.
¨If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him¨ (Deut. 18:22a).
When God promises to do something, he carries out his words. When it is a false messenger, he foils them. Isaiah 44:24-26 declares, ¨I am the LORD who foils the signs of false prophets... who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers ¨ (Is. 44:24b, 25a, 26a). This is a very simple and logical principle.
If so, we might ask why a large percentage of insiders remain faithful to an end-time group after a false prophecy is made. Why doesn´t such a group disintegrate? Why would members not be influenced by this?
First, many members are under a powerful spiritual spell which is not easily broken. End-time leaders are viewed as Jesus´ voice on earth. When a prophecy is changed or modified (because it goes unfulfilled), many devoted members continue without much of an uproar. They are so convinced that not even a false prophecy shakes them.
A case in point is Joseph Smith, who saw none of his major predictions come true. Yet, members of the Church of the Latter-Day saints still believe he was a true prophet. Followers who become absorbed in high spiritual expectations ironically become desensitized to God´s surest sign of spiritual error.
One person in Shinchonji mentioned that if Manhee Lee died, it would mean that God's word had failed. They did not see their thinking was backwards. If Mr. Lee's big prediction fails, it is a sign that his revelation was not God's word.
What will happen if Manhee Lee dies?
Some Christians think that Shinchonji will just continue and appoint a successor, who will give a new explanation behind Mr. Lee´s mission. One former member of an end-time group confessed that even when her leader died she continued to believe he was still God's instrument in heaven who was watching over her.
Have SCJ leaders taught members about Dt. 18:22? It is important for people inside Shinchonji to keep God´s safe test in mind.
History shows that apocalyptic groups, when false prophecies occur, deny they made the prophecies, modify their meanings, or appoint leaders with new light and the old prophecies are either forgotten or become unimportant. However, as Christians, we must be more spiritually sensitive to God's Spirit and to end-time predictions.
Pictures courtesy of Modern Religion Monthly (현대종교 http://www.hdjongkyo.co.kr/html/index.html) and www.jmscult.com.