The term Branhamism refers to the teachings of the “prophet” William M. Branham (1909–1965), although those who follow his teaching would not necessarily like the term. His followers might refer to themselves as Branhamites or Message Believers. They believe that William Branham, or “Brother Branham,” was the final prophet to the church, in fulfillment of Malachi 4:5. Branham, who was quite influential in the heretical Latter Rain Movement, was to be the one to restore the church to the true apostolic faith.
William Branham was born in 1909 in Cumberland County, Kentucky. He says his parents told him that a light hovered over him in his cradle. He claims to have had a revelation from God at the age of 3. After a nearly fatal accident, he claimed to have heard a voice—another revelation from God—and at that point he began to seek God. He got involved in the Pentecostal movement and eventually was ordained as an Independent Baptist minister, although he endorsed the teachings of Oneness Pentecostalism. He claimed to have regular visions and revelations from God.
Branham began a healing ministry in 1946 and as a faith healer made a number of incredible, high-profile claims that were later disputed or refuted (as the subjects of the healings died). He said that the same angel who followed the Israelites in the wilderness followed him—he even claimed to have captured this angel on film. The photographic “evidence” shows a kind of halo over Branham while he was preaching. In the mid-1950s, his following began to decline, and with the decline came more and more controversial and sensational teachings.
On Christmas Eve 1965, William Branham died as a result of injuries in a car accident. At first his followers thought he would be raised from the dead, and his burial was postponed. Finally, he was buried on April 11, 1966 (and has not been heard or seen since, except for messages recorded before his death). Branham is buried under a large pyramidal tombstone in Jeffersonville, Indiana. On one side of the tombstone are the names of the seven churches in Revelation, and on the opposite side are the names of the churches’ “angels,” which Branham and his followers interpreted to be various ages of the church and the primary minister to the church in that age:
The Ephesian Age – Paul
The Smyrnean Age – Ireneaus
The Pergamean Age – Martin of Tours
The Thyatirean Age – Columba
The Sardisean Age – Martin Luther
The Philadelphian Age – John Wesley
The Laodicean Age – William Branham
On the front of the tombstone are inscribed the following: “BEHOLD I WILL SEND YOU THE PROPHET BEFORE THE COMING OF THE GREAT AND DREADFUL DAY OF THE LORD” and “BUT IN THE DAYS OF THE VOICE OF THE SEVENTH ANGEL WHEN HE SHALL BEGIN TO SOUND, THE MYSTERY OF GOD SHOULD BE FINISHED, AS HE HATH DECLARED TO HIS SERVANTS THE PROPHETS.”
As evidenced by his tombstone, Branham saw himself as the seventh angel to the church of Laodicea—the apostate church of the end times.
There is no single “Branhamite denomination” or central headquarters. In fact, Branham taught that members of denominational churches had taken the mark of the beast. There are a number of groups today that still follow William Branham. These range widely in belief in practice.
One group, “Branham Christ” goes so far as to say that Christ is the “Alpha” and William Branham is the “Omega” and that Jesus is the “Only Begotten Son” and William Branham is the “First Begotten Son.” It is clear from their official website that they see Jesus and Branham as equal if not equivalent. Another group believes that Branham will be resurrected first and then call for the return of Christ. Another group listens to the recorded messages of William Branham as their only teaching. And there is at least one group that has great respect for Branham’s teachings but has attempted to correct them.
The teachings of William Branham are a bit jumbled and contradictory and difficult to categorize. But some of the most controversial doctrines are as follows: modalism (God exists as only one Person but reveals Himself in different modes), baptism in the name of Jesus only (believers baptized using the Trinitarian formula must be re-baptized), the serpent seed doctrine (Eve’s sin in the Garden was having sex with the snake), annihilationism (hell is not a place of everlasting punishment), Word Faith (sometimes dubbed “name it and claim it”), the idea that the zodiac and the Egyptian pyramids are equal to written Scripture, and of course his own exalted place in the plan of God and the history of the church along with his exaggerated claims to miraculous revelation and healing abilities.
Added to Branham’s occultism and heretical, anti-Trinitarian teaching is his false prophecy. Branham made a “personal prediction” that the end of the world would occur in or before 1977. The teachings of William Branham are a jumble of bad theology, twisted Scripture passages, and personal pride. Christians would do well to steer clear.