By Nathan Jones
What are some of the reasons people join cults?
I was recently interviewed by Vic Batista, senior pastor of the Miami-based Calvary Chapel Aventura on his radio program "The Truth Will Set You Free" via TWave Radio. "Pastor Vic" (as he likes to be called) was born in the Dominican Republic and is as active in planting churches and helping orphans there as he is in southern Florida, reaching out with the Good News of Jesus Christ to both the English and Spanish speaking audiences.
In this "The Truth Will Set You Free" episode, we'll look at the very first sign Jesus gave in Matthew 24 which tells us that we are living in the end times — the sign of false teachers.
Reasons to Join a Cult
Vic: There were certainly cults in Jesus' day, but many more have risen up as we get closer to the end of the Church Age. Nathan, can you give us the number of cults here in the United States alone?
Nathan: Sure, if you go to watchmen.org, which is a cult-watching website founded by a Christian man who was a former Mormon named James Walker, he states that there are over 1,200 non-Christian religious organizations in the world today and 500 cults are in the United States alone.
Like you so well stated, Pastor Vic, the rise in the number of false teachers proves that we are getting closer to Jesus' return at the Rapture. Because Jesus said in Matthew 24 that there would be more false teachers and more false prophets in that day, and the number of cults continues to swell, that's an important indicator showing we are in the last days. Satan is doing everything he can to try and confuse people and keep them from the true God of the Bible and His salvation through Jesus Christ.
Vic: The Bible says in 1 John 3, "By this we know love because He laid down His life for us, and we also are to lay down our lives for our brethren." And 1 John 4:1 says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirit whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."
These false, occult religions that are rising up today don't share the same Jesus that we share. Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses don't either, though they tell us they do. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life and no man comes to the Father but through me." Cults do not believe that.
In our ear we've seem false messiahs like Jim Jones gather many followers. People just seem to flock to them. Why is this the case?
Nathan: There are a few strong reasons.
1) Told They'll Become a God — Well, take Joseph Smith, for instance. He's the man who founded the Mormons. He went back as most of these cults do to the lie that Satan told Eve in the Garden of Eden, and that is that we'll all become gods one day. That kind of thinking resulted in the fall of humanity, and that sin nature still lives in us today. We burn with a desire to be more than just humans. We wish to be gods, and guys like Joseph Smith taught that we will indeed become gods one day.
Joseph Smith also taught other heretical teachings that don't jive with the Bible. He passed Jesus off as the brother of Satan and said that one day we will be just as "evolved" as Jesus to become gods of our own planets. People loved hearing that lie. They loved the idea of becoming their own god. Isn't it amazing how we still fall for that old lie from the Garden of Eden that Satan told Eve.
So, the promise of godhood is one of the reasons people tend to go for cults.
Vic: Even Oprah taught that in a sense, right?
Nathan: Oh, don't get me started on Oprah. Can you believe she grew up in the Church? But, she got to a point in her life where she heard the verse about Jesus being a jealous God. You remember God often said that He is jealous of other people worshiping others and not Him. She misinterpreted what God said to mean that Jesus is jealous of her. She was like, "Why would I want to follow a God that is jealous of me? I must therefore be a god myself."
As long as Oprah has been on the air, she's brought in as guests every New Age teacher and astrologer. She brought on her show anyone who would teach that we are gods or will become gods one day. Oprah is a huge, huge factor influencing primarily women across the world, teaching them that we are going to become gods one day. She is very much into the New Age scene.
That mankind are really gods is basically what the New Age teaches. It has an occult background in Satanism, of course. They are looking for this Lord Maitreya, this false Christ, to come and usher in a new age — this Age of Aquarius. During this age humanity will transcend ourselves and become like gods.
New Agers are anxious for the rapture of the Church to happen because they want all believers off this planet. They believe that Christians are holding the world back from finally evolving into the gods they were meant to be.
2) Become Part of a Family — Another reason people get swept up into these cults is because they are disenfranchised with society. They tend to be lonely people, outcasts even, looking for something to believe in. Cults seem very warm and welcoming to these people. They give them a purpose.
As a matter of fact, we were reading recently about the first American who was killed in Iraq fighting for ISIS. This is the very Islamic terrorist organization that's slaughtering Christians left and right. You wonder, how can American's join such a blood thirsty Islamic group like ISIS? This man's step-brother said it was because he was lonely and disenfranchised and these people showed him attention and love and a sense of brotherhood. That's what some of these people who join cults go for — a sense of family.
Vic: That's exactly what these cults do. They try to make you feel good. They lure you in.
Vic: That's why when we talk about deception, I'm still amazed that people don't seem to understand what is truth and what is a lie. We have these modern-day false prophets and false teachers; these individuals who are filling people's hearts and minds with feel-good lies. How could so many people be swallowing it?
Nathan: To answer that, I used to have a supervisor at another job who was a Jehovah's Witness. We talked about Jehovah's Witness theology a lot.
3) Lose Everything if You Leave — Jehovah's Witnesses is another cultic group that was founded by Charles Taze Russell. He taught that Jesus was the Archangel Michael. They say that Jesus isn't the Son of God. He's just Michael the Archangel. They also deny that there is a Trinity — Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. They've prophesied that the world would end multiple times. They said the world would end in 1914, and then again in 1918, 1925, 1975 and 1989, but nothing happened. Again and again and again the Jehovah's Witnesses have said that the world would end.
All we have to do is go back to Deuteronomy 18:21-22 where God told the Jews, which they've passed on to us, how we are to know if a message is from the Lord. God said when a prophet speaks the name of the Lord, if the things they say do not happen or come to pass, then that is a thing that the Lord has not spoken. If the prophet therefore has spoken presumptuously, you should not be afraid of him. Using that passage as our guide, we know from all the failed prophecies that Jehovah's Witnesses are following a false teaching group, which is the Watchtower Tract Society out of New York City. Their followers need to leave this group because it is unbiblical in its teachings.
The reason members of cults rarely leave is because the are pulled into that sense of community, that sense of family. This is another reason why people stay in the cults, Pastor Vic. If you try to leave one, you're not just giving up your faith in whatever they teach, but you're also giving up your family. If you do leave, you are shunned by everyone in the cult, and that can include your immediate family and best friends. If you leave them they will disown you.
Vic: Nathan, that's what a lot of people don't understand. That's the trap they fall into when joining a cult. These cults come to us as very family-oriented organizations.
I was doing some thrift shopping with my wife the other day, because we cannot afford the malls, and when I went to the thrift store I saw the Watchtower's magazine all over the place. On the front page of the Watchtower's magazine, they have this great picture of three young guys along with those guys as older, portraying how they are friends forever. Who wouldn't want to when looking at that inviting cover to open and start reading it?
Nathan: Satan is described in the Bible as an angel of light. He doesn't come as some ugly, bent-up, old, forked-tongued, pale, demon creature. He comes as himself — the most beautiful being that God ever created. Satan knows to use family and beauty to attract people into the cults.
4) Dynamic and Controlling Leaders — Another trait that cults have is their leadership. They are almost always founded by very dynamic, charismatic type people. These leaders either consider themselves to be Jesus Christ or at least the last prophet of God. Amazingly, people are swept up under their leadership.
Do you remember a cult called the Branch Davidians back in the early 90's. That's only about three hours from here in Dallas down to Waco, Texas. They followed a man by the name of David Koresh. David Koresh was a well-liked, dynamic and charismatic founder. He believed that he was Jesus, and everybody who followed him believed he was, too. But, then people started wondering, especially when he began molesting the daughters of the members. They were then like, "We need to get out of here!" But they couldn't. This cult would send out hit squads if anyone tried to leave and say, "You're not going to leave our group."
It's not long before people find out it started out pretty good, but soon you realize you're trapped, and you lose everything. When people finally do leave a cult, they not only lose their friends, but all of their possessions. They are basically shunned from their society. They literally have to give it all up to follow the true Jesus of the Bible.
In the sixth and last part of this discussion with Pastor Vic on the end times sign of false teachers, we'll discern where all these prolific deceivers are leading us.