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.]

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