Thursday, January 16, 2014

David Jang Summary

Over the last two years, I’ve done several deep dives into the theological distinctives of David Jang and his community. There was a lot of detail in those posts, and it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees. So I think it makes sense to summarize briefly my theory about David Jang’s community.

  1. To a great extent, and certainly within the hearing of any outsider, David Jang and his churches teach recognizably orthodox Christian doctrine. If you visit any of their churches, you will find nothing obviously amiss.
  2. However, until 2006, within this reasonably orthodox framework, the highest leaders in David Jang’s community encouraged a very heterodox teaching that David Jang was a key eschatological figure worthy of the title “Second Christ”. This belief was not universal but was very widespread, being taught explicitly or implicitly to new members in (at least) Asia, Europe, Africa, North America and Latin America.
  3. Although David Jang probably (and privately) continues to claim a role for himself more significant than any mainstream Christian would be comfortable with, he has never explicitly claimed to be “Christ”.  He currently disavows this teaching entirely, but there is evidence that he knew others were making this claim on his behalf and allowed them to do so.
  4. Since 2006, the community has ceased to actively promote the doctrine of a “second Christ”, though some members have made it clear as recently as 2012 that they still believed Jang to be Christ.
  5. David Jang and his community initially denied outright that this teaching had ever occurred, have continued to minimize and obfuscate its extent, and respond harshly and even viciously to silence anyone who brings it up.

So that’s the theory. But is it true?

You know – I think it is. Perhaps not in every particular. There may be nuances which I’ve missed or mistaken, and the evidence for some claims is more solid than for others. (I have the most questions around #3.) As I gather more information, I may need to revise portions of it. I first wrote this summary almost two years ago, and have continued to revise it periodically, as additional evidence came to light. I will continue to do so. But as it stands, it’s my best explanation of the facts as I have them.

Of course, I may be wrong. There may be other theories which cover the facts as well or better. Maybe the 20 or so people who have made this charge are just lying. Maybe they think they’re telling the truth, but badly misunderstood what they were told. Maybe Jang’s leaders just went horribly off the rails, and kept Jang so completely in the dark that he honestly knew nothing about it. Maybe they intercepted all the confessions people sent to him. Maybe this is all just some huge misunderstanding.


I’ve done something over the last year and a half that I had never imagined I would do: I’ve all but accused a significant figure in American Evangelicalism of serious heresy, and done it in a public forum where I was confident he and lots of other folks will hear about it and pay attention to it. This is a very sobering thing to do. Given the fate of Jang’s other critics, I continue to share my sources’ fears of retribution, that I’ll be on the receiving end of more personal attacks or even a lawsuit. And even more, I have worried throughout that I might be wrong, that in leveling these charges  I have been slandering the name of good Christians and needlessly stirring up dissent and division in the body of Christ.

But even with those risks, I cannot stay silent. The evidence for the key charges seems to me not just strong, but indisputable. And the charges are serious enough that I feel eminently justified in bringing them to the attention of the Christian world at large.

And I suppose that’s why I’m bothering to wade into this fight again, after a year of sitting on the sidelines. I’m worried about the fact that despite the extensive evidence, many mainstream Christians continue to have close ties with Jang’s community. It is true that many have withdrawn. Around the time of the original Christianity Today article, Al Mohler and Daniel Akin removed themselves from the Christian Post board. The sale of Bethany University to Jang’s Olivet University eventually fell through; and Lifeway declined to sell them their Glorieta conference center. But many other groups and individuals have continued their affiliation. The World Evangelical Alliance is only the most notable and worrisome example. Walker Tzeng, a senior leader in Jang’s community, is on the board of both the Association for Biblical Higher Education and the National Association of Evangelicals. Richard Land, the president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, has continued on as the Executive Editor of The Christian Post. Will Graham (Billy Graham’s grandson) and Joel Hunter (megapastor and occasional spiritual advisor to the President) continue to allow themselves to be listed as a part of the CP’s “senior editorial advisors”. Donald Tinder, a former editor at Christianity Today, teaches at Olivet University, along with many other Christians whose orthodoxy is unquestionable.

I would feel very differently about Jang’s community if they were honest, transparent and apologetic – in a word, repentant – about what had occurred. But given the extent to which the group continues to dissemble about their past, and their scorched earth tactics against their critics, I am uncertain as to why any orthodox Christian would continue to lend them their support. Their chances of playing a constructive role in the body of Christ seem diminishingly small so long as they have not mastered simple honesty.

You will of course need to make up your own mind. But whatever your conclusion, I and everyone else involved will certainly need your prayers.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

David Jang’s Defense

The numerous blog posts I’ve dedicated to David Jang’s community have probably made this abundantly clear, but I suppose it’s time I say it outright: I don’t trust David Jang.

It wasn’t always this way. I was thrilled back in 2011 when I heard that Olivet University was negotiating to buy my poor, defunct alma mater. I had never heard of Olivet, but I was impressed with their website, and loved their focus on using technology to evangelize the world. But an off-hand comment by one of my fellow alums made me look deeper into the school, and into the community with which it was associated; and something - it was hard to say what - didn’t quite seem right. But I didn’t start to worry until Olivet came out with a new Bethany website, in which they blatantly lied about what was happening. And then they bizarrely threatened to sue me for pointing this out, and it went downhill from there. In subsequent blog posts, I laid out my growing concerns about David Jang’s community and its growing influence amongst American Evangelicalism. This research culminated in a pair of articles in Christianity Today - co-authored with the wonderful Ted Olsen - reporting on accusations that David Jang’s community believed him to be a “second Christ”.

In my day job as a programmer, I’ve learned to depend on a concept called “code smell”. Coding is as much about aesthetics as anything else, and after many years of swearing at code, I’ve learned to use how a codebase “feels” as a rough shorthand for how reliable and well-architected it will prove to be. It’s a feeling you learn to trust.

After several years of researching David Jang’s community, I think I’ve developed a similar sense of smell. And I don’t trust David Jang. Nor do I trust his community, their practices, their websites, their avowals, or their denials. Sometimes I have very good reasons for this, sometimes reasons that I haven’t yet talked about publicly. Sometimes it’s more of a hunch or gut feeling. But the end result is the same: I’ve learned to look askance at nearly anything David Jang or his community says promoting or defending themselves.

Let me give you an example of what I mean.

Among the thousands of documents that I’ve received from former members, some of the more interesting are those in which David Jang attempts a defense of his community against criticisms of the sort that I’ve leveled. I’ve placed these documents in a Google Drive folder. The oldest (which I’ve called 2004a) is undated, but based on internal evidence seems to be from between 2003-2005. Two others (2008a and 2008c) are dated to August 2008; and another appears to be from c. 2008, though the precise time is uncertain. (I should note that three of the documents do not explicitly identify David Jang as the speaker, but their content leaves room for no reasonable doubt as to who was talking.)

In these sermons, David Jang responds to a variety of criticisms of his community. Some of these criticisms are, in my opinion, well-founded, but concern aspects of the group that I haven’t focused on, such as their practice of arranged group marriages (what David Jang refers to as “Holy Matrimony”).

Other criticisms appear to me to be less well-founded, such as the allegation that the group doesn’t believe in Jesus, or that Jang taught that the cross was a failure. That last is an allegation which I’ve seen frequently made by the various Asian investigations, but none of the ex-members to whom I’ve spoken confirmed it, nor have I seen any reference to it in any of the thousands of documents which these former members have provided. One possibility is that this was an interpretation -- or misinterpretation -- of Jang’s theology which gained currency only in Asia. Not being able to speak any Asian languages, I’ve been somewhat limited in my ability to independently review the primary source material in Korean, Japanese or Chinese. But in the many, many sermons of Jang’s that I’ve read, he gives abundant evidence of having a strong faith in the person and work of Jesus, and in the efficacy of the cross. I have zero quarrels with that aspect of his theology.

At other points, however, David Jang attempts to defend his community against allegations very similar to those that I have leveled, namely, that the community believed they were the 144,000 of Revelation 7, and (more worrisome) that they were being led by a “Second Coming Lord”. Those of you who’ve been keeping up with my blog should recognize both of those claims by now.

The defense which he mounts against these allegations is quite interesting, and worth examining at length.

First, David Jang effectively confirms that his group did in fact teach that they were the 144,000 of Revelation 7 (a teaching clearly reflected in the New Israel documents). In 2008a, Jang describes a conversation he had with one critic:

Then, after then, [the critic] brings out a different card, you taught New Israel. 144,000 - it's not in the Bible. Did the lecturer make this? Actually, it is written in the Bible. YD say they are 144,000. Isn't it something that you should compliment? Should we not teach that there will be election/selection of God? Should we not teach about it? They say the center of the world is Jerusalem and Moscow. All the denominations say they are the center of the world. Center of the world is China. Why do you say something like that? In that way, you lead the history. We will become 144,000 before you Jesus and we'll lead. We will become your 144,000 and we'll lead your people. Will Jesus say no? Can we do this? Jesus will of course say, do it right away. He will never say who gave you that kind of authority?

Note that Jang doesn’t deny that the group taught this. Rather, he tries to downplay its significance, saying in effect that it is OK because every denomination does this (though that is hardly the case). And besides, he continues, when we actually do lead all of Christianity, Jesus is hardly going to complain that we did such a good job for him. As a defense of a rather problematic ecclesiology, Jang’s response doesn’t really work: but it does provide additional confirmation of what other sources and documents had already made clear, that he knew about the “New Israel” teachings, and affirmed them, at least in their broad outlines.

But while a screwy ecclesiology can be dangerous, it isn’t really heretical - though it is worth noting that the only groups I’m aware of that that have claimed to be the 144,000 are all groups that have departed from Christian orthodoxy (such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses). On the other hand, the second charge, that of believing in the advent of a “second Christ” or “Second Coming Christ” or “Second Coming Lord” would, I believe, raise orthodox eyebrows semper, ubique et ab omnibus. (And of course, it is the “New Israel” teaching that provides the context for the “second Christ” teaching, because the second Christ will both bring into being and be acclaimed by this 144,000.)

In the case of this second allegation, it is the specifics of what David Jang denies and what he does not that is the most interesting. In 2008a, Jang responds to the charge by repeatedly denying that he has ever used the phrase “second coming lord”:

I've never even used this word once, second coming lord. If there is any record, bring it out.  I graduated from this famous theological seminary, but then enemies, they sent spies and they stole our notebooks and things like that. Secretly, they said, he is the second coming lord. It's very comical.

And again:

They said we don't believe in Jesus and regard Christ as failure, therefore, we believe in me, in pastor. So a second or third Christ must come out. That's why they believe in me.  We said, we don't believe in the second coming lord; we don’t believe in this term.  There was a great fight. So they said, we don't believe in Jesus or the cross and Pastor is the second coming Lord. Is this Christianity? Do we belong to Christianity? Some people say they want to meet us and identify whether we are Christian or not. We are! Are we not? Why don't you guys answer? If they say something like this, I was almost about to faint.

And again:

Why do you attack me? Then you guys say, we are similar to the Unification Church, but what kind of relationship do we have with them? We have no relationship at all! They don't believe in Jesus or the cross! They believe in the Second Coming Lord, but we believe in Jesus and the cross and we don't even use this word, second coming lord.

And again:

So I sent the legal document to the three people. I am not the second coming lord. You should know this. I sent the legal document to them.

His insistence upon denying the precise phrase “second coming lord” is worth noting, and it relates to what I’ll call “denial smell”. Read his words carefully (doing your best to work around the awkward translations, which aren’t his fault). Neither in these documents, nor in any of the other denials that I’ve seen from him around this time period, does he actually deny that the group taught that they were to expect a “second Christ” or “second Messiah”. He denies that the group uses the phrase “second coming lord”, and he denies that he ever taught that he was the Christ, but (so far as I’ve seen) he does not deny that he or others taught about a generic “second Christ”, nor does he deny that others have taught that this is who he was. Taken by themselves, these omissions are quite possibly innocent; but in the larger context, possibly not. Like I said, denial smell.

This emphasis on the exact phrase is interesting, because as it turns out, the language that members of the group used about Jang seems to have varied quite a bit: the most common terms I’ve seen are actually “King” (or “King David” or “the great King”) rather than “Christ”, though I’ve also seen  “Christ David”, “the head of the Church”, or “the one who is to come”. The only places I’ve seen the specific phrase “second coming Christ” or “second coming Lord” in primary sources originating with Jang’s community (as opposed to his critics) is in a series of documents that came from one particular Chinese source; in comparable places in the English-language documents, the phrase “second Christ” or “second Messiah” is usually used. So in the absence of further evidence, I’m perfectly willing to grant that David Jang is speaking the truth when he insists that he has never used the phrase “second coming lord”. Whether that denial is adequate is another matter.

At least one reason for questioning its adequacy is that David Jang basically does affirm that his group assigns to him a position and an authority that ought to make any Christian leader nervous. In 2004a, Jang quotes a critic who, in a meeting with another senior leader, made the following accusation: “It seems you guys believe in your pastor more than Jesus.” Jang continues the story:

Then this one senior member said, what's wrong with it? Their eyes became so big. This is it. That senior member said, because our pastor believes in Jesus so well, I can go to Jesus through him when I follow Jesus. My pastor and Jesus are one. Do you know in Catholicism, they say the pope is like a king. He has a big crown, a big robe, fine linen and this cane. When you are a phd, you wear this robe and it's very difficult to walk. You are very holy and majestic because you're like a king. They put on a really high hat. It's like 50 centimeters higher. They look so tall. Big cross. I'm the delegate of the authority of Christ on earth, he said. But then they don't criticize them or regard them as ugly.

Note that Jang appears to quote with approval this senior member’s affirmation that “My pastor and Jesus are one.” His defense of that claim is to compare himself to the Pope: since Catholics believe the Pope exercises the authority of Christ on earth, he basically says, why are you complaining about my followers when they do something similar? That is a defense which ought to appeal neither to Catholics (who believe the Pope to be unique in this regard) nor to Protestants (who don’t believe that about anyone). But more than that, the logic of the comparison only works if Jang saw himself as standing in a relationship with Christ that was almost - or perhaps absolutely - without peer. (I have also been told that he continues to use this analogy when explaining his role to insiders.)

The other thing that should make folks approach Jang’s denials with a “hermeneutic of suspicion” is that he explicitly encourages his listeners to lie about their beliefs. In 2008b, Jang is discussing Prov. 26:4-5, and describes a confrontation between some critics and one of Jang’s followers. The question at issue was whether he had attended a specific church - my guess is that the reference is to the Unification Church, but I don’t know that for sure. The follower had denied attending this church, but eventually changed his story. Jang defends the initial lie this way:

Did you go to that church? No, I didn't. But they were fighting and they thought we were winning. Then this person answered different and said I did go to that church. Then the enemies responded that you said before you didn't go to that church but now you said you went, so you are a liar. This person was  confused. But then I said you did something good. I showed him this verse. [Prov. 26:4-5]. So to the person who said this church is bad, you can say you didn't go to that church. But if a person thinks the church is good then you can say you went to the church. What does this mean? If you have this evil motive of fabricating and making up and criticize then you can say that I didn't go to that church you think of. But I did go to the church that taught me faith, Christ, the precious blood - I went to that church. Then this person suddenly gained strength and speaks well. I went to that church but I didn't go to that church.

In other words, if you’re dealing with critics who are asking with malicious motives, Jang says, it’s OK to lie to them.

With that in mind, it’s worth reading this particular denial offered by Jang in 2008 to one of the Asian investigating committees:

I give praises for the grace of Jesus Christ. By the grace of Jesus Christ, I accepted Jesus as my one and only Savior, and since I was forgiven of my sins, I have never abandoned faith in Jesus Christ. Also, I have never preached any other gospel other than that of Jesus Christ. Furthermore I have never taught that I am Christ. I clearly confess that there is no other way than through Jesus Christ to receive salvation and gain freedom.

This denial is more direct and succinct than the ones offered privately to his own community, and also more general. Among other things, it doesn’t perseverate on any specific term, and says specifically, “I have never taught that I am Christ”. Nevertheless, if one is inclined to be suspicious, you’ll note that in between its affirmations and denials, there’s still an awful lot of wiggle room - denial smell again. Look at it this way: every statement in that paragraph is perfectly consistent with the concerns that I’ve raised in my recent blog posts. Even if you assume that every conclusion I’ve drawn about Jang’s group is true, that paragraph above would be technically accurate - as technically accurate as it would be misleading.

Now, all that was back in 2008, and I don’t believe David Jang would offer precisely the same defense today. After the Christianity Today articles in 2012, the evidence became overwhelming that at least some members of his community had in fact believed that he was a second Christ. And from what I understand, from talking both to former members of Jang’s community and to other researchers, David Jang and his leadership have more recently begun to offer up a limited acknowledgement that some very small number of people in the group did in fact believe that he was a “second Christ”, though he has disavowed any responsibility for those beliefs. The explanation that he and other leaders are offering for this, I am told, is that it was a small and isolated problem, the result of some enthusiastic missionaries misreading some of the group’s eschatology lessons. Tracy Davis’ quote in the New York Times is emblematic of this: “People somehow insinuated that though no one explicitly told them”. I’ve been told by former members that internally he blamed the confusion on Borah Lin, whom he accused of teaching eschatology incorrectly. There are also a couple of videos of a Korean press conference in which Jang apparently addresses the question. I haven’t found an English translation of what he says, but I’m told that he simultaneously acknowledges and minimizes the problem.

Not having access to direct quotes from Jang, I can’t say with any certainty exactly what truth there is in this cluster of new explanations, though I can make a few comments. On the one hand, it is quite possible - indeed, it is virtually certain - that members were confused by the teachings they received. In the ambiguity and secrecy surrounding this belief, and in the absence of a public creed, they assumed David Jang to be even more significant than their leaders had told them. The lessons, for instance, for all their insinuations, never claim that David Jang is divine in any Chalcedonian sense; and yet it’s quite clear that some members prayed to him, worshiped him, believed that they could communicate spiritually with him, and even thought of him as God incarnate. Others thought of him as a “second Jesus”, which is almost certainly not what Borah Lin and other leaders had in mind, as the key concept in the lessons is Christ - a title - rather than Jesus - a name.

On the other hand, it’s not really plausible to claim that the problem (in either its confused or semi-official capacities) was isolated, either geographically or organizationally. The evidence I’ve laid out in my last three posts indicates more-or-less conclusively that the belief was present from the lowest to the highest members of the group, was spread across at least four continents, and continued for many years. Several people have told me that every member of their particular local branches believed Jang to be the Christ, and this in an organization which emphasized communication and control. (As David Jang once said, rather memorably, “We know all things together, so in Pusan in Korea, when someone farts, everyone in Seoul knows.”) And quite a number of folks have told me that they had sent David Jang letters or emails in which they laid out their belief in him as the Christ. All this taken together makes it hard to believe that this teaching was was happening entirely without Jang’s connivance.

And there, we get to the heart of the matter. The heart of Jang’s defense seems to be that he didn’t know that any of this was happening. Even with my doubts, I can’t say precisely what David Jang knew or when he knew it, so for the moment, let’s grant this explanation in its rough outlines. Given that, what I would really like to know is how Jang reacted when he became aware of what his followers were saying about him. I have heard from several sources that he scolded those who believed he was Christ, and there’s no doubt that by 2006 he had put a stop to the teaching of the history lessons. But again, there’s that denial smell. For even with that acknowledged, there’s little evidence that David Jang ever mounted a firm, vigorous and decisive response to the undoubted presence of heterodox beliefs in his group. If I’m wrong, and if David Jang did actually mount such a campaign, he could do a great deal to re-establish his credibility by talking openly and honestly about what happened. Rather than minimizing and misleading, attacking and suing, he could allow a free and transparent investigation into the the history of his community’s beliefs and practices, including access to the group’s email and document archives. Until that happens, I confess that I have a hard time taking much that he says on this topic at face value.

For comparison purposes, try to imagine that you were a Christian leader who heard credible reports of such beliefs in your organization. Can you imagine that your response would be other than white-hot and immediate? Imagine what you would say: “I’ve heard that some of you are spreading the idea that I’m some sort of Christ or King or what-not. That is not true, you should all know better, it’s not just heretical, it’s blasphemous, it’s evil and filthy, and if I hear anything more about it, you’re out the door, because I won’t have anything to do with that kind of nonsense. And you’re all going to march out of here right now and make sure everybody knows exactly that. Have I made myself clear?” And would you not then go out of your way to lay the teachings, their causes, and your response open to the outside world? And then publicly and repeatedly repent of any behaviors or teachings that had led to the error? And be immensely grateful to any external or internal critic who had helped to identify what was going on? Would you not do this, if for no other reason than to save your own soul, so that it wouldn’t be smirched with such a foul blasphemy when you one day stood before your Lord?

Do I need to bother to point out that this is not exactly how David Jang has reacted? Instead, his response was first to deny the allegations completely and cover them up; and when that became untenable, to minimize them. And throughout, he or members of his community have viciously attacked his critics, and have repeatedly threatened legal action (and repeatedly carried through on their threats) against even the mildest criticism. I am not aware of a single critic or former member who has gone public who has not been threatened with a lawsuit: my sources have very good reasons for wishing to remain anonymous. Last year, Ted Olsen and I were each threatened with lawsuits, and the Christian Post published an article about me that could reasonably be described as libelous. Other critics have been subjected to vicious public attacks. (Quite wonderfully, several, including yours truly, have been accused of being in cahoots with the North Koreans. I’m not making that up.) Numerous Korean and Japanese Christian news organizations have been sued. Other journalists or newspapers investigating Jang’s community have also been threatened, and I know at least one English-language journalist that was thus bullied into staying quiet.

As Jang says in 2008a:

So now, we should sue them and after the trials, we have to punish them. We have many organizations so if they compensate, they should compensate a lot. After one is over, another organization will sue them again so all their lives they will be sued… So from here, there, in Japan, you have to sue them with laws. Then they will be silent.

Or in 2008b:

So why are these guys saying this? We should just sue them and get it over it.

Or in 2008c:

They have this faithfulness that what they're doing is correct. They are in the limit of 666. When they challnege and attack us, we have to settle it well and attack back and think of them are amalekites and then you have to follow them until the end and kill all of them.

This is not how a responsible Christian leader behaves.

And that is why I do not trust David Jang.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Community's Understanding of David Jang

One of the things that first confused me about David Jang’s community when I first started researching them is the wide disparity between the claims that their critics were making about their beliefs, and what Jang’s community themselves say that they actually teach. I remember reading all these people saying that Jang’s group was teaching that Jang was a second Christ (or “second coming Christ”); but whenever I asked any current members about their group’s beliefs, they unanimously insisted that they didn’t teach this, that they never had taught this, and that their community is perfectly orthodox.

As I said, this left me confused. And my initial conclusion was that the critics must be wrong, and I argued as much publicly. How could a group deny something that, if true, had to have been absolutely central to their belief system? If they actually believed their leader was the Messiah, why wouldn’t they just come out and say it? Like I said, it didn’t make any sense.

But then the first ex-member contacted me. And then another. And then another. And then lots, lots more. I think I’ve probably talked to something like 20 former members, but I’ve actually stopped keeping track, because it doesn’t seem important anymore to document every contact or take detailed notes on every conversation. Every former member I’ve talked to who was a part of the group before 2006 (at least a dozen of them) has told me fundamentally the same story. And the story is basically this.

Prior to 2006, they’ve told me, many and perhaps most members did in fact believe that David Jang was a second Christ. But it wasn’t normal for them to talk about it openly, even amongst fellow insiders. And the leaders, I’ve been told consistently, would almost never quite come out and say it. But when it came time to induct new members who were believed ready, a core member would sit down with the initiate and walk them through a series of lessons that were designed to bring them to a confession of faith in David Jang as a second Christ. Again, these lessons would never precisely come out and say it: but they left little doubt as to the conclusions they wished the new member to draw. (These lessons included the “New Israel” and “Genealogy of Christ” documents which I’ve recently analyzed.)

One source described it this way to me:

[T]he missionary on chage teach it until the studend hear certain number of messeges and is ready to hear "the truth" they certanly don't teach you that Jang is the second coming christ, directly... it's an inderect teaching, they allways are telling you this great word comes from our great pastor david!! And at the end when you hear the history messages about "new israel" and "christology" the missionary whrite a question mark ?? And ask you, do you know who is the second coming christ? And you ask, is your pastor, the david one? And the missionary will ask you, not you shall tell me, do you know or not? So after you get it from all the shocking thing, if you got the messeges correctly you will answer is Pastor David the second coming christ... they make you confess it, otherwise is not valid, you shall confess it like peter did it to Jesuschrist... and after you confess it, they will tell you, but shhhh, don't tell it to anybody, is a secret, we don't want that the world will kill the second coming lord as they did it to the first one.... we shall protect him...

Another source I interviewed said that after several weeks of directed Bible studies, her mentor walked her through one of the lessons which pointed towards Jang being a “second Jesus” (her words). These are the notes I took in my conversation with her (with “A” and “B” replacing the names of my source and her mentor respectively to preserve my source’s confidentiality).

[T]hen B finally asked, “What do you think about that?” A didn’t really follow what she meant, and said so. B had a sort of surprised look on her face and said, “So you don’t understand?” So A responded, “So are you saying that...?” And B responded, “No, really, absolutely.” Then B told about how an angel came to his mother, and how he is here to fulfill the ministry that Jesus didn’t complete. David was here to complete God’s work on earth. A didn’t believe her, but then they prayed, and then had lunch together. A says that she should have gotten up and left, but she didn’t.

Later on, at the conference, A asked B about it [David Jang being the Christ] again, and B would say it pretty much straight up. And she talked to some people at one of the Christmas retreats, and the girl was talking about how PD appeared to her in her sleep, hovering above her bed, and gave her an assignment. His spirit would float into their rooms.

Edmond Chua, the former editor of the Singapore edition of the Christian Post, wrote this in a chat session (CT described this, but this is a fuller version of the quote):

I made my confession on September 6, 2005, in the wee hours, just after midnight
I made it to Susan, who was my teacher
she then had me write a letter to Jang thanking him for bringing me into the Kingdom of God
this was after a long series of messages that evening
and explanation and counselling
I think Susan asked me so who is Pastor David?
And I probably said something like He is the Second Coming Christ!
I fully believed it
the '12 steps' Basic Bible studies I learned just seemed to point that way
it was very logical and deep
for the first time I felt that I knew the love of God
strange as that may sound, considering who Jang is

Ma Li, a former member from Beijing whom I interviewed at length, wrote this description of her experience.

On that day, we studied for a long time, ZNW did not permit us have slight wander time, and she drew pictures, wrote something on the white board, and asked us to make sure we were clear about what she was talking.… In the end, they added the clues in the “New Israel” which gives further reasoning, which said that David Jang will be the 'second coming Christ' who could clearly explain the 'eternal gospels'; hence those who have had the luck of following him and understanding the 'gospels' he was talking about would be the New Israel’s, and will write the new history of the 'Eternal Gospels', which will added right after the New testimony.

I was totally attracted by what she was talking, the way to analyze human's history, and the gospels relates to the future of the human beings. However, I am the person without any religion backgrounds, which meant that I didn’t have any previous theory to compare and analyze, and so was happy with ignorance; because I suddenly found myself became a selected person, who is living in the New time, and will write the new history.

Surprise, exciting, on the fortune I thought I had. Even though I had not learned the Bible for the previous years, I could meet 'Christ's fellowship' during the first time I learning it. When ZNW looked at me and LLJ seriously and asked us: "Have you understood? All the content?" I answered firmly: "Yes". Then she asked me separately: "Who is the Pastor David?" I answered without thinking, just followed what I heard just now and answered: "The second coming Christ!" She said 'shhh' calmly, and then, 'Dont tell others'.

I felt like a little bit like cold waters had been poured on my head: why could she be so calm? Isn’t this a big event? And it is such a great thing! But the cold feeling soon disappeared totally, because to be 'New Israel' was such a big blessing, that I would like to sacrifice myself to protect it.

ZNW then told LLJ and me formally: "You are born today!" I didn’t know what was meant by 'born'; but my feelings told me that it was a good thing. ZNW then explained that as soon as we understood the 'gospel', the new life starts; and are our 'birthday of spiritual lives'; and each day today on the followed years would be our new lives' birthday, which should be remembered.

My feelings of being surrounded by the big happiness could not been explained, and I appreciated it so much, that I could neither laugh nor cry, just jumped and ran to the kitchen and told Haiyang (HY) who is preparing the breakfast for the second day 'I was born!'



'So fast, and you are so much blessed'

'is it?'


Within few minutes, the whole Center knew that LLJ and I had been born, and we filled the 'Body Card', NaWenZhang (ZNW) announced us as 'Bodies', and others sang the song of 'Blessing Song'. We got blessings and encouragement from each one, and LLJ and I were standing on the right and left side of the ZNW, while others joking calling ZNW was our 'mother' because she fed us, and joked to let us call her 'mother'. ZNW did not accept because she was shy. XZ asked us to sleep earlier, and said to us in mystery way: "You might have dreams in the night, and see what you will dream of."

However, we could not sleep at all. In the sisters' rooms, LLJ and I talked all the time. LLJ was not as excited as me, and seemed she was holding back something. I was too self-centered at that time, and did not understood what it was, but thought if I was happy, she must be happy too. After the lights were turned off, Jifang Bing and TT Lu came in, after hearing LLJ and me discuss about the three gospels and the conclusions, they joined in our discussions.

Other former members whom I am not at liberty to quote directly have told me very similar stories about their confessions that David Jang was the Christ, sometimes to very senior leaders of the community. And a surprising number of them have told me that they sent written copies of these confessions to David Jang himself.

As I’ve said, there’s substantial evidence that the group stopped teaching these lessons around 2006. But even after that, there was apparently confusion amongst members as to what they were supposed to believe. One former member told me that around 2007 or 2008:

I was kind of exposed [to the “second Christ” teaching], but by another member, he told me in a conversation
one simply told me, like a comment and stop talking, it was weird. It was even more weird I didn't ask him before hand, he just popped up the topic. It was like that, I was a "lamb" learning and I felt I wasnt able to ask things.
He said something like:
You know, PD is Christ.
I thought he was crazy.
So I asked to leaders.
And they just asked me "What do you think?"
They never said yes or no
just tried to put it into my mind making me to answer myself

Another member was frustrated at Jang’s subsequent denials, and said, in reference to a particularly difficult choice:

And i accepted that time bc hey made me believe jang was christ
If not i wouldnt do it
And then ...
And jang denied he is the christ?
So many years of my life believing a lie?
Everyone where I worked believed it
And now he is dening?
It was a shock for me

All of this goes some way towards explaining why I was so confused. Jang’s community - and Jang himself - have genuinely adopted the language and to a great extent the content of orthodox, mainstream Christianity. There are very real and important differences in this respect between Jang’s community and, say, the Unification Church. If you compare Jang’s sermons fairly with those of Sun Myung Moon, you’ll find that Jang’s messages inhabit a very different world of discourse: no teachings about a “Divine Principle”, no references to him invading the spirit world to finish Jesus’ work, no talk of “True Parents”. My Southern Baptist friends would find nothing objectionable in at least 99% of what I’ve found in Jang’s sermons, whereas I can hardly go a paragraph in one of Moon’s sermons without finding something to raise my theological hackles. Yes, many of the group’s members and senior leaders did in fact believe and teach that David Jang was a second Christ; but that belief was never formalized into anything like a public creed, and however unorthodox and dangerous it may be, it seems to have been awkwardly inserted into an otherwise reasonably orthodox theology. Jang’s identity really was secret, certainly the biggest and most important secret in a community that seems to have more than its share.

One way of the ways of bridging this gap between an orthodox soteriology (say) and a highly unorthodox Christology seems to have been a novel application of the New Testament principle of “Now and Not Yet”. At least some members may have believed that while David Jang would eventually be proclaimed Christ, this hadn’t yet happened: it was something that was going to happen, but only if they did their jobs and got on with making the Kingdom of God. And until then, they were eager to enter fully into the life and community of mainstream Christianity, so as to eventually lead it altogether. David Jang’s identity thus wasn’t something that should be proclaimed, at least, not yet; the rest of the Christian world would acknowledge it soon enough and in its appropriate time. Until then, to reveal it too soon was to risk becoming a “Judas”, endangering their leader’s mission and their leader himself.

That David Jang was to be crowned king or anointed Messiah only at some point in the future may have been what many members believed (and is implied in many of the lessons). But there is no doubt that others went a great deal further. Edmond Chua says that he prayed to David Jang, and thought of him as God. Others have said that they felt like they could communicate spiritually with him. I mentioned in a previous blog post that I have a very personal document from a current member, something like a journal entry, which repeatedly refers to David Jang as “Christ”, and is full of praises for a man the author clearly regards as divine. Unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to reproduce that document more specifically to preserve the confidentiality of its source. I’ve recently seen portions of several similar documents, from a different author, which I am also not at liberty to fully describe or quote from. However, I can say that in these documents the writer unambiguously refers to David Jang in Messianic terms, for instance, as “the One who is to come” or “the King”, and at one point, even expresses a desire to worship him.

I was recently shown portions of a chat session from 2005 in which someone identified as “[SF]Tracy” makes the following comment about Africa “receiving her King, at long last”:

[Praise Report!] God has given me a special reason to rejoice. Pastor announced earlier this week that he would pay for me to go with him to Kenya for the retreat taking place there December 2005! Thank you Pastor David for this opportunity!! ^^ I feel like all of Africa is already dancing in anticipation of receiving her King, at long last. And I am overwhelmed to be a witness to this historic event. Thank you again and again…

Tracy’s reference to Africa’s “King” is, I suppose, technically ambiguous. However, since Africa has had a Christian presence for just about as long as there have been Christians, it seems pretty unlikely that anyone reading it would have understood “King” to refer to anyone other than the David Jang who is apparently about to make his first visit to Africa. (And even in the unlikely event that “King” refers to Jesus rather than Jang - what, it’s only when Jang gets there that Africa is going to become Christian?) It is also worth noting that Tracy Davis, the President of Jang’s flagship Olivet University in San Francisco, told the New York Times, “People somehow insinuated that [Jang was a messianic figure] though no one explicitly told them”. One does wonder how they could have gotten that impression.

Other documents make it clear that members considered Pastor David to be, at the very least, a uniquely significant teacher. One document from 2006 describes the newly established Olivet University this way:

Now, the time is changing and in order to be a leader at all, someone must train at Olivet. Because Pastor will train leaders himself when they come to Olivet, the learning our members receive here is another dimension from the world like the difference between clouds and water in a lake.

The group also sometimes describes itself as playing a role parallel to the early apostles. For instance, in a lesson on how to evangelize, members are reminded of the importance of keeping good notes:

When we write down the messages we must do it with awareness of history. The future generations are going to look at out notes and they will see this is what they studied and learned.... the letters of apostle Paul became part of the NT. You think he knew? It’s not like that. Later the future generation and the Holy Spirit, because in the letters there was such precious meaning, it became part of the bible that the next generations could read. Even our notes, the future may look at it.

This desire to preserve the group’s early teachings as something approaching holy writ is probably the explanation for some of the stranger documents I’ve seen. In March 2004, for instance, David Jang visited California, and spent time with some members of the group. They apparently recorded and later transcribed some 13 pages of Jang’s ramblings, so that future generations might be able to share in such edifying pronouncements as:

Do you know about our history? We should know our history. Do guys teach these things in SD? Tennis player, I should play tennis with them before they go. SF and here is so different. It feels like I came to a different country. There is like jet lag. Atmosphere and climate is different. It’s really strange. Same state. In America, it’s 50 countries. In California, even within same state, I drove all the way down from Vancouver, it was so difficult…

And there’s more. But after a while, more evidence just becomes more evidence. And if this isn’t enough to convince someone that the group has very shaky foundations, I can’t quite imagine what will.

I should reiterate that this belief was not universal amongst members of the community, even before 2006; and indeed, some members from that time seem to have been kept entirely in the dark about what the others believed. I’ve heard this sort of thing from lots of people, but most recently one of my sources wrote this (names changed):

the one I hear that didn't confess that Jang was christ was A, the one that did Jubilee mission for a while... I knew it because B told me that... oh he doesn't know about Pastor...

To return to the question with which I opened this post, given that the belief was present and encouraged, why was it never openly proclaimed? My suspicion is that the community’s tradition of secrecy, circumspection and studied ambiguity was largely pragmatic. I think they knew instinctively that they would have difficulty recruiting new members, and probably even in retaining some existing members, if it was clear to all and sundry that they regarded their leader as a second Messiah. It’s also pretty clear that they were aware of just how controversial such a claim would be, and knew that if wind of it reached the larger Christian world, their group would have difficulty attaining its larger goals. As one of my sources wrote:

David or Borah tell you, “Don’t write this down, if it gets outside…” then there will be “misunderstanding.” They had in mind to censor this from the beginning. They keep all the “history” messages private and do not allow any copies of these controversial messages to be distributed. This is not even revealed to people such as Wagner and the like.

Another motivation may even have been that members of the group harbored greater aspirations for their “King David” than David Jang harbored for himself. But that’s a topic for another blog post.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

David Jang and the “Genealogy of Christ”

In my last blog post, I analyzed the various sermons entitled “The New Israel” that were given at different times and by various leaders from David Jang’s community. In this post, I’ll be walking through another set of documents from the “History Lessons” his community used to give to new members, these with the title “Genealogy of Christ”. In the process, I’m going to need to do a deep dive into some weird corners of eschatology and Biblical numerology, so I have to ask you to bear with me. I really am heading somewhere, and (I think) somewhere important.

To start off, let me briefly describe the six instances of the lesson that I have. They range from 2001 to 2005. Two of them are in German; one is a rough set of Japanese notes, with an English translation; the rest are in English. I received these lessons over two years from four independent sources, sometimes including the same document from different sources.

As befits messages delivered by at least four different speakers, in at least three different locations, times and languages, there are differences between the various documents. But the similarities significantly outweigh the differences, and there is no doubt that they all share a common, well, genealogy. To take just a few examples, they all focus their attention on Matthew’s genealogy of Christ and entirely ignore Luke’s; they all see Matthew’s 14/14/14 generational pattern as critical; they all compare the resulting 42 generations to the 42 months/1260 days of the prophecy in Daniel 12; all but the oldest (critically) describe Jesus’ ministry as fulfilling 1293 of the 1335 “days” mention in Daniel 12:12; and they all strongly imply that the remaining 42 days which Jesus’ ministry left undone will be completed by Jang’s community, if not by Jang himself.

I’m bothering to point all this out to drive home my conviction that the documents taken as a whole genuinely represent a consistent teaching of the community, at least over the years in question.

Obviously, the best way to get a sense of what these documents teach is to go read them yourself, and I encourage every interested reader to do so. But I thought I’d summarize what they have to say, and highlight some of the more, well, interesting theological moves that they make.

Despite their names, the documents that comprise this lesson don’t really focus on the genealogy of Christ in any normal sense, though they do use the 14/14/14 generational scheme of Matthew’s genealogy as a way to introduce the Messianic number 42 (i.e., 14+14+14=42). This is important, because it’s how they connect Matthew’s genealogy to the “1260 days” – i.e., 42 months - of Daniel 12. As 2005b puts it:

Let’s say I am waiting for someone, when is he going to come.  When is that time?  So Daniel 12, there is this saying, when is Christ going to come.  There is an answer to this.  It says after 42.  The number 42 comes out.  When number 42 is all fulfilled, Christ would come.  Then, as soon as they read Matthew 1, they are really amazed.

Jesus came after 42 generations.  This is the fulfilment of the prophecy of Daniel. 

The idea being there, of course, that Daniel 12:7 says the end will come after “a time, times and half a time”, which is widely understood to mean three and a half years, i.e., 42 months. Nor is Jang’s group the first to point out the connection between Matthew’s 14/14/14 schema and Daniel 12:7.

I suspect - though I’m no expert - that Jang’s group is also not the first to make the second theological move: that of connecting the second number of the Daniel 12 prophecy, namely, the “1290” days of 12:11, to Jesus’ life and ministry. If Jesus was born after “1260 days”, and was 30 years old when he began his ministry, then that makes for “1290 days”. As 2004b says:

*1260 -  it was Jesus coming to this earth (baby Jesus) and 1260 was fulfilled by his coming

*1290 - was the number (1260 + 30 years later) when Jesus started public ministry – fulfillment of 1290

And 2005a:


Moving on, all four documents say that since Jesus’ public ministry lasted for three years, then “1290+3” actually gets us to 1293 days. And that’s important, because it means that Jesus’ ministry actually left another 42 “days” unfulfilled out of the 1335 total days mentioned in Daniel 12:12 (e.g., 1335-1293=42). The Japanese notes (2004a) very helpfully include a diagram:


2005b doesn’t have a diagram, but is working with the same ideas:

1335 days.  When was Jesus born?  He was born in 1260.

Do you understand?  Daniel prophecied that Daniel would come after a time a time and a half.  42.  HE came finally.  Then how long do you have to go for the temple to be recovered completely.

1335.    This was the prophecy of Daniel.  If you go up to here then you will be blessed.  Don’t you want to be blessed like this.  Christ finally came.  He lived for 30 years.  30 years of Private life, he lived 33 years.  So then what remains is 42. 

Their math is as impeccable as their interpretation is implausible, but it’s their next theological move that’s critical.

After introducing this problem of the “missing” 42 years, the 42 years that Jesus was unable to finish, the lessons then make a startling suggestion. Perhaps those 42 years are supposed to be fulfilled by someone else, or some other group. Or maybe even their group.

2005b makes the connection explicit. Although it doesn’t quite say, “We’re the ones that are going to fulfill the missing 42 years,” it leaves no room for doubt as to how it’s going to play out:

The time has come.  Actually going around the big circle came back.  The time that we have been waiting for has come.  We must make this remaining History.  What remains?  The 42 remains.

The ones who go up to this.  Now we have got to look at the History of our Church.  It started in 1992.  It was a historical time.  How old were you.  You lived with no thoughts.  At that time, it was our spiritual conversion. Really, there were so many spiritual things that happened. 

2004b follows the same pattern, but starts by asking a question:

Everyone, who will fulfill the remaining 42 years of history?

And then immediately answers:

This time, right now, this is the time to fulfill this remaining history.
Pastor, taught us what the true life of Jesus Christ was. He taught us that his cross was great victory and not failure. He was the one who testified amazing obedience, sacrifice and love inside of Jesus Christ. And he was the one who let us know that this is the time of emergency. And that there is the history that remains. And the time has come to fulfill this.

I don’t see any way to read those paragraphs except: “Who will fulfill Jesus’ unfinished ministry? Pastor David will!”

This interpretation is confirmed by numerous passages later in the documents, which describe the group’s own (past and future) history in terms of precisely those “missing” 42 years. 2005b says that the “42” self-understanding was revealed over time:

Riught now we are speaking of the 42 year History.

The first 7 years.  1992-2000, for the first seven years, Pastor never spoke of 42, no one would have come.  At that time, he only spoke of 7 years.  Just go seven more years.

And during those initial seven years, it was the members’ close connection to David Jang that made the difference:

There is this Grace of the HS.  Because they were all close to Pastsor.  When we are close, when we are away, we lose all our strength.

In 2004b, “Pastor Deborah” described their community’s current status with a reference to the “first 14 years”:

So following Pastor, people who wanted to follow the will of God started to increase, so now our church has become 12 years. So first 14 years is almost over. 2 years remain.

And 2005b uses a typology found commonly amongst the lessons, that of dividing up the 14 years into “stalk, head and fruit”:

Now, among the 42 years, we are going in the 1st of the 14 years.  We are going on the 1st of the 14 years.  It is stalk head and fruit.  Right now, we are going on stage of stalk.  We are thankful that we came right now within the first 14 years.  Those who go until the 1335 will be blessed.  It will be thirty years from now.

So what does all this mean? And what is its significance? Anybody who’s actually made it this far has to know that there are few areas where there is more disagreement amongst Christians, or more creativity and diversity of interpretation, than eschatology. So let’s grant that David Jang’s group has a weird eschatology, and thinks that some obscure apocalyptic numbering scheme refers to them. David Jang himself has said repeatedly that the only real difference between his group and most Christians is in their different understandings of what the end times mean. There are lots of Christian groups with weird eschatologies whose fundamental orthodoxy has never been impugned. Who cares?

Well, for starters, most Christian denominations don’t believe that they are the specific group that is being called upon to initiate the end times; nor am I aware of any that have dated the initiation of said end times to their pastor’s birthday. Against a shifting backdrop of weird eschatologies, that one stands out as particularly notable. And more than that, particularly dangerous. If you want to manipulate impressionable young people, that’s a pretty good way to start.

But even putting that aside for the moment, it’s critical to understand that for Jang’s group, at least in these lessons, eschatology is Christology; and nobody thinks that Christology is a secondary issue. You can get a sense of this just from the great emphasis these lessons place on David Jang, and on his 43rd birthday (October 30, 1992) being the turning point which initiated the final 42 years. But it’s also critical to note that in the group’s reading, the number “42” is inherently Christological. It was 42 generations that have brought about Christ; and it is new 42 years that will anoint a second Christ. 2005a calls this figure the “second coming Jesus”:

What was JS supposed to accomplished? He was supposed to accomplish 1260, 1290 and 1335. all this prophesies in numbers were supposed to be accomplished.

We must know about the second coming Jesus. The 2nd coming son in the continuation of Christ. it is like running a relay.

We first need to know how far the first runner went up to. The second one continues from the point and finishes the race. We need to know how far Jesus went.

If Jesus finished his running, the second son does not need to come. However, he will come to finish what Jesus did not accomplish.

2005c says that “the second Christ” – “der zweite Christus” - will pick up where the first left off:

Wir müssen die Geschichte verstehen.

Es war eine Prophezeihung, aber im bestimmten Punkt dieser Prophezeihung endete Jesus, weil Er umgebracht wurde.

Also in diesem Punkt, in dem Er aufgehört hat, wird der zweite Christus anfangen.

In English:

We need to understand the history.

It was a prophecy, but at some point this prophecy stopped referring to Jesus because He was killed.

So at this point where he left off, the second Christ will begin.

This “Christ”, 2005c goes on to say, will emerge from the “New Israel”, which in this context is clearly code for Jang’s community:

Jeder fragt über das zweite Kommen von Christus.

Wie wird es sein?

Wird Er ein Mensch mit langem Bart sein.

Nein, der zweite ist ein Mensch, der das fortführen wird, was Jesus angefangen hat.

Ein Mensch, der die neue Welt öffnet.

Ein Mensch, der mit Neuem Israel ist, der ist Christus.

Der Neue Israel.

Von dort kam Christus.

In English:

Everyone asks about the second coming of Christ.

What will it be ?

Will He be a man with a long beard?

No, the second is a man, one who will continue what Jesus started.

A man who opens the new world.

A man who is with the New Israel, this is the Christ.

The New Israel.

From there came Christ.

It is worth pointing out that this is also the fundamental message of other important documents, such as the “Two Stone Tablets” lesson from Borah Lin, which collapses Christology not just into eschatology but also into ecclesiology. This second Christ is the head and center of the renewed Church (i.e., David Jang’s community), which is also the Second Coming.

The first Messiah God sends.  God sent him.  That is Jesus.  He has come.  But his own people did not receive him.  They rejected him. He will come again.  Messiah will come again.  This is prophesized.  How will the second Messiah come?  We need to carve it out like the first one.  The second Messiah needs to be made on this earth… The Kingdom of God and the great body of Christ needs to be established and from their Christ will come out. . . Who is that one Christ?  The one who started this body of Christ, the one who becomes the center of that body of Christ, becomes the Christ.. . The body that makes the Kingdom of God is the body of Christ.  That becomes Christ.  That is why we need to make and establish it.

That we need to establish the Kingdom of God is pretty close to heretical, in and of itself. To say that in doing so, we somehow create a “second Messiah” is not pretty close to heresy. It’s heresy, straight up, no shaker. It’s not a pedantic debate over some obscure detail of timing, like those interminable pre- or post-trib debates that haunted my youth. No, this is as fundamental as it gets. In Christianity, there only gets to be one Christ, and that job is already taken.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

David Jang and “The New Israel”

It’s been a while since I published anything about David Jang’s group. There are a variety of reasons for that, most clustering around the notion of having better things to do. I’ve already laid out enough evidence that anybody who looks at it fairly can hardly avoid the conclusion that the group has in the past taught doctrines that mainstream Christians would consider heretical. (And I use that term advisedly, not just meaning doctrines that I happen to disagree with, but doctrines that conflict with the basic, fundamental teachings of Christianity.)

The key issue, of course, is whether Jang’s community ever taught or encouraged members to believe that David Jang is a second Christ. In recent years, the group has repeatedly denied ever doing so. And as I’ve said before, I’ve heard from nearly a dozen former members who confirm that the group did in fact stop teaching this after 2006 or so (when it first became public in Asia and Africa and began to threaten Jang’s relations with the wider Christian world). But these same members also confirm - and I think it’s undeniable - that prior to 2006, these beliefs were in fact taught and encouraged by senior members of Jang’s community, repeatedly and consistently. And it is a serious problem that the group has refused to acknowledge this and repent.

I don’t want to rehash all the evidence I’ve already laid out that initially drove me to these conclusions. You can read my last major blog post on the group for more of that. But I do think it’s worth following up on a few points I made. After I wrote that post, something like half a dozen additional members of the group have reached out to me, most of those having joined prior to 2006, and everyone from that time has confirmed that this belief was common (though not universal) throughout the group.

One former member in particular has recently provided me with a great deal of information, documents, and even audio recordings of the group’s “history lessons”. Now, most of this information is not precisely new, and the majority of the documents he’s given me are variations on lessons that I already had, especially the “history lessons” that were given to new members. Because these lessons were given at different times, by different members, and in a variety of different languages, there are many versions of these history lessons floating around in members’ personal archives. There are of course divergences between these instances, but also undeniable, overarching similarities.

One of the more interesting examples of these lessons is entitled “New Israel”. Some five different sources have given me a variety of different “instances” of this lesson, and I’ve thrown deduplicated versions of those instances out onto a single shared Google Drive folder, so that folks can peruse them at their leisure. These files include 11 different English versions, two German versions (one with the original audio files), and English translations of separate Japanese and Chinese versions. To distinguish the various documents, I’ve chosen to identify them using a combination of the year the message was given, followed by a distinct letter, e.g., “2002a”, or “2005g”. Reading through them all is admittedly mind-numbing, but it should disabuse anybody of the notion that the teaching was limited in scope to just a few over-eager students in one or two places.

As I mentioned, despite the differences that you would expect, there are important, critical similarities. Every version I’ve found lays out some variation on the idea that there are in fact “three Israels”: (1) the original, historical Israel; (2) regular Christians; and (3) Jang’s community, the 144,000 of Revelation 7 and 14. This is a rather idiosyncratic - not to say alarming - ecclesiology, not least because several of the lessons explicitly state that this “third Israel” will be brought into being by (or will itself bring into being) a “second Christ”.

2005b describes the “third Israel” this way:

Because already the inheritance of the vineyard was passed over to the second Israel. All the blessing of God has already passed. So now the selection for the new era, this is being chosen from the second Israelites. This is the third Israel, New Israel. So they are the ones 144 000 and they will start New era.

2005d (delivered by “Pastor Deborah” in London, apparently to someone named “Xia”) also uses the language of the “3rd Israel”:

So then, there is this 3rd Israel, among the many Christians in this world, he chooses and chooses.  This one group is being made, this is the hope of God.  Through them, god wants to make a new world.

2002d - notes from a sermon delivered by David Jang himself - doesn’t specifically use the language of a “third Israel”, but does make it clear that he endorsed this basic scheme:

1.ISRAEL----------------------------------2.NEW ISRAEL----------------------------------------3.NEW ISRAEL

Jacob = 12 tribes                  Jesus=12 disciples                                144 000 chosen people

However, in 2004d, David Jang does explicitly use the “third Israel” language, and says that it is this third Israel who will “make the kingdom of heaven”:

This is about Satan’s number 666, they say look at this well. And in Revelation 14, it increases to 144,000. Who are they? They are creative minority, and they will receive the eternal word. That is the third Israel . . . What is he looking for? The true olive tree. What is the symbolic of true olive tree? It is the third Israel, the people who will make the kingdom of heaven . . . I will even tell you the things that Apostle Paul did not talk about. But this is the form: first, second and third Israel.

2005e (a German translation from an English original that I don’t possess) describes the selection process this way:

Die Offenbarung spricht von der 3. Auswahl .

Von allen Christen Gott wählt Menschen, wofür ?

Für das HR. Die Menschen, die HR bilden.

Gott hat Israel gewählt und sie versagten, deswegen Christen sind da, aber Gott sagt, das ist nicht alles. Gott wird die Inneren auswählen und das ist das 3. Israel.

Or in my translation back to English:

Revelation speaks of the 3rd selection. Of all the Christians, what is it that God chooses people for? For the Kingdom of Heaven. It is people that build the Kingdom of Heaven. God chose Israel, and they failed; Christians came next, but God says that’s not all. God will select the Inside, and this is the 3rd Israel.

2005g describes the “Third Israel” this way:

The twelve disciples of Jesus were all Jews, right, but it is not that all of the Jews followed Him, but this remnant, with the centre of the remnant, the history of Second Israel is opened up. It is that these remnants became the foundation when the Second Israel was opened up. They became the foundation for the Christians, the Second Israelites are the Christians, even among them God is choosing the remnant, the 144,000 refers to the remnant. Even now there are as many Christians as the sand of the sea. God will choose the remnant, they become the foundation for the new history, there is a centre again, the history of the Third Israel starts, the name didn’t come out, we just say: “New Israel”. These remnants belong to New Israel. God will choose these people, when? At this important turning point, when we enter the era of fruits, at this important starting point God will choose this remnant and with them as the centre God will open up a new history.

The same document makes it equally clear that this “third Israel” is to be identified with Jang’s community.

These remnants, they received the eternal Gospel first. They received the glory of receiving the EG first. It is the new Word. God gives them the Word, the new Word, the EG. They are the ones who proclaim this. This is New Israel. What kind of hope should we have? Let’s be the new Israel. We have this hope. What kind of church is our church? Our church is kind of different. Our identity is different. What is the identity of our church? We are the new Israel. This is the identity we have.

This identity is closely connected to the fact that Jang’s community is destined to open a new era in the divine history. 2004a identifies an “important turning point”:

The 140000 is referring to the remnant. The Christians are so many like the sand by the sea. Among them God will choose the remnants. They will become foundation for new history, with them as the foundation, history of third Israel comes out.

3rd Israel : New Israel

God will choose these people. When? At this important turning point. When we enter the era of fruit, at this turning point, at this time of beginning, at this starting point, God will choose these remnants, with them as the center, God will open up the new history. How good if we could be one of them.

2005c says that we are living at this “turning point” that will “open up the new era”:

So this place right now, in Revelation 7, is here. The 2000 years of the history of NT came, and among the Christians, he will choose again. And will open up the new era. This is the same type. So we are living at this turning point.

Similarly, 2004c says:

So right now 2000 years after the New Testament has passed by. So now we are in kind of new era.  So it is era when something is beginning again. So the history of God we can separate into 3 periods. There is Old Testament, New Testament and New Era. So where are we right now? We are standing in this New Era. And New Testament was 2000 years ago, and now it is even 2005. So already the New Era has started.

The speaker in 2004c (identified as “Pastor Deborah”) then asks where this new era will begin, and answers her own question with a creative exegesis of Revelation 7:1-4:

In v.2 it says that angel will come from the east, sun rise from the east, when you look in this world, where is it? Do you know where it is right? Far east Asia. In Korea sun rises very quickly, really early. And right now in Korea is already evening, it is 8 hours faster. Already it is evening. It is because it is in the far east, so angel appeared from there.

The reason that this can begin now is that the “Eternal Gospel” (see Rev. 14:6) has been revealed to Jang’s community, though not yet to the wider Christian world.

There was this pain in Jesus, he couldn’t say everything, many people doubted him and attacked him, and wanted to kill him, so he couldn’t  say everything, but now. So he promised this later time, I will come again and reveal everything, therefore, when the time will come, this is when the eternal gospel will be proclaimed and everything will be clear. So this day when everything becomes clear will come and this is the time.

Once the 144,000 have been gathered, they will become the “mold” in which the rest of the Christian world will eventually be remade.

We are making the form of the Kingdom of God that has been lost, we are making sample, in everything you need sample. When you have sample, you can follow. So making first is very hard.

So first it needs to be complete and than everything will go easily. So 144 000 they are making small Kingdom of God. It is like a mini-sample. For example going to this one city, they made it small, they made  a small sample of the whole city.

So there is this huge world, but this is the fallen world, so from here, we are really making the small world, small sample, 144 000 people gathered together. So following the word of God and making this small world.

2005j says something similar:

The second coming is the one who continues the dream of God and continues the Kingdom of God and brings the Kingdom of God, building the sample Kingdom of God. It is not like the second will come the same way of Jesus - Jesus already fulfilled His commission. The Kingdom of God means it's a community. It's a church. Ultimately the ones who become the sample, the Kingdom of God are the 144,000, the New Israel.

Even the term, Christ. That term Christ can't be termed until the Kingdom of God is established. Through the sample if the Kingdom of God, that term Messiah can come out.

That one person cannot do everything. It's that group of people that come together to establish the model of the Kingdom of God. This is the responsibility of the New Israel.

The connection between this renewed people of God and David Jang becomes clear in 2002b, which states that the “second Christ” will only (publicly?) acknowledge his identity after the group’s mission has succeeded and Christianity has been renewed:

This body has to rise up.  This Kingdom of God has to rise up.  This second coming of the great body of Christ has to stand up.  After that, we can call him the Christ.  After that, the term second coming of Christ can come out…

The stone tablets symbolize Christ.  The first Christ, God sent.  How about the second Christ?  We must make him.  On earth, he has to be made.  Then God will write on him.  God will then acknowledge him.  Make one and make the Kingdom of God.

In other words, the one who creates this new community, who inaugurates this new age in eschatology, will be acknowledged as a second Messiah. The Chinese lesson (2004b) similarly uses the language of a “second coming Christ” to identify this figure:

The first coming of the Lord and second coming Christ will be separated with the everlasting gospel. We should know the Time and Era. God spend six days for the creation. A thousand years is as one day and one is as a thousand years. Now is the year 2000. The second coming Christ will use “Everlasting Gospel” to open a new era. What the gospel are you listening now, a metaphor gospel or a clear explained gospel? Where are these sermon coming from?

2005i distinguishes between “Jesus” (who is not the subject of the second coming) and “Christ” (who is):

Wir sagen, dass Christus wieder kommt, nicht Jesus. Es heisst, dass Elias wieder gekommen ist. Aber nicht wirklich, sonderrn in Johannes dem Täufer kam er. Dieser hat die gleiche Aufgabe.

In English:

We say that Christ is coming again, not Jesus. It’s like when the Bible says that Elijah was to come back, even though it was really John the Baptist. This works the same way.

It then goes on to describe what “this angel, this Christ” will look like:

Wir sind schon in der neuen Zeit, aber es muss auch jemanden geben, der dieses Wort gibt, diesen Engel, diesen Christus. Der schon in der Kindheit in Gottes Wort gewachsen ist, immer nach Gott gefragt hat, immer mit Gott gelebt hat.

Die, die als erste das tiefe Wort bekommen, sind das Neue Israel. Jesus fand Seine Jünger, gab ihnen das Wort, versiegelte sie mit dem Wort und sandte sie aus, um das Wort zu predigen. Genauso war es mit unserer Gemeinde.

Es gab eine Frau, Pastor Borah, die wirklich Gott verstehen und für Gott arbeiten wollte. Sie wusste aber nicht wie. Dann hörte sie von einem Lehrer, der lehrt und wieder weiter zieht. Sie entschloss sich, diesen Menschen zu suchen und zu sehen, ob er ihre Fragen beantworten könnte. Sie fand Pastor David. Sie hatte so scharfe Fragen, aber PD konnte alle erklären. Dann weinte sie so sehr und sagte: dieses Wort müssen wir verbreiten, gründen wir etwas.

Pastor David und Pastor Borah verbreiteten das Wort. Die Mission verbreitete sich nicht nur in Asien, sondern nach 7 Jahren auch in Amerika und in Europa.

So hat alles angefangen.

In English:

We are already in the new era, but there must also be someone who gives this word, this angel, this Christ. He has spent his childhood in God's Word, has always asked God, has always lived with God.

Those who receive the first depth of the word are the New Israel. Jesus took His disciples, gave them the word, sealed them with the Word and sent them out to preach the word. It was the same with our community.

There was a woman, Pastor Borah, who truly understood God and wanted to work for God. But she did not know how. Then she heard of a teacher who taught and moved on again. She decided to look for these people and see if he could answer her questions. She found Pastor David. She had such sharp questions, but PD could explain everything. Then she cried so much and said: We must spread this word, we have found something.

Pastor David and Pastor Borah spread the word. The mission spread not only in Asia , but after 7 years in America and in Europe.

And that is how it all began.

I won’t draw any more general conclusions at this point, other than to note once again that none of this is particularly new. It’s basically just confirmation of the concerns that Ted Olsen and I raised in the two Christianity Today articles we wrote last year. But sometimes just having more evidence of what was already pretty convincing is worth noting.

[Edit 1/3/14 – Since posting this, I’ve received two more instances of the “New Israel” teaching. I’ve added a quote from one of them above, and updated the paragraph about how many of what sort I had.]