What is the Church of Almighty God?
Question: "What is the Church of Almighty God / Eastern Lightning?"
Answer: The Church of Almighty God (Quannengshen in Chinese) is a secretive, theologically aberrant religious movement that started in China in 1991. Although it has been banned by the Chinese Communist Party for its anti-government stance, it continues to grow and is considered an influential doomsday cult.
The Church of Almighty God is also known as Eastern Lightning, a name based on Matthew 24:27: “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” The group believes that God has again become incarnate, this time as a Chinese woman named Yang Xiangbin, who also calls herself “Lightning Deng.” Yang is the nominal head of Eastern Lightning, but the true leader is probably her “high priest” and lover, Zhao Weishan, the man who first began proclaiming that Yang was divine.
In 2000, Zhao Weishan and Yang Xiangbin moved to the United States, and they currently oversee operations of the Church of Almighty God from New York City. Yang Xiangbin is called “Christ of the last days” and “Almighty God” in the belief that she is the second coming of Christ to finish the work of God. Yang gives utterances that are recorded as God’s word for the last days. (Although Yang is seen as an incarnation of God, she is considered separate from Jesus Christ, who was a different incarnation of God.) The Bible is seen as an obsolete record of God’s work in the past. “It is nothing more than a historical record of God’s work, and a testament to the previous two stages of God’s work, and offers you no understanding of the aims of God’s work” (from Eastern Lightning’s official website). Thus, the Bible is insufficient and must be supplemented by the utterances of Almighty God, or “Christ of the last days.”
The group teaches that in the Old Testament God was known by the name Jehovah. In the New Testament era, God was known as Jesus Christ. Now, in the last days, He is properly known as Almighty God. His work, through the female Christ, is qualitatively different from the work of the apostles. Although God used the apostles, they could only do what men who are used by God can do. The Church of Almighty God is the work of God Himself. According to their official website, the group “was entirely founded by Almighty God personally, and is personally led and shepherded by Him, and it was by no means set up by any man.” Currently, in the Kingdom Age, God is carrying out His White Throne Judgment. All Christian denominations and sects have lost the Holy Spirit, and His power is now concentrated in the Church of Almighty God.
The Church of Almighty God denies the Trinity, teaching a form of modalism. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are seen as three different manifestations of the one God, not three distinct Persons. “The Trinity does not exist anywhere in this universe. God has no Father and no Son, much less is there the concept of an instrument jointly used by the Father and the Son: the Holy Spirit. All of this is the greatest fallacy and simply does not exist in this world!” (op. cit.).
According to the teaching of the Church of Almighty God, Jesus forgave mankind’s sin in the Age of Grace, but His salvation was not complete, because the sin nature remained in mankind. Now, in the Age of the Kingdom, through the teaching of the Christ of last days, mankind can finally be delivered from sin and made fully clean. This is true salvation, available to those who will obey Almighty God’s teaching as revealed in the last days. From the group’s official website, it is hard to pin down exactly what allows one to attain this final level of true salvation. It appears that the most important thing is simply believing the teachings of the Church of Almighty God.
The Church of Almighty God has a presence in Hong Kong, New York, and San Francisco, as well as mainland China. There are disturbing reports of the group using sexual seduction, kidnapping, bribes, brainwashing, and blackmail to coerce new members into the group and keep them there. The group especially targets housewives, the poor, and house churches in China, first befriending believers and then slowly trying to convince them that Yang Xiangbin is God incarnate. In 2002, Eastern Lightning members allegedly kidnapped thirty-four leaders of an underground Christian network, the China Gospel Fellowship, and held them captive for two months. In August 2014, five members of the Church of Almighty God went on trial in Yantai, Shandong, for the murder of a 37-year-old woman in a restaurant—the woman was beaten to death for refusing to join their group. In February 2015, two of the five were executed for the crime.
In summary, the Church of Almighty God is a dangerous group that denies the sufficiency of Scripture and supplements it with additional, supposedly inspired teachings. The new teaching comes from a woman who is seen to be a second incarnation of God and who actually calls herself Almighty God. The Trinity is denied. Jesus’ sacrifice is denigrated, and His work on the cross considered powerless to fully save. While the group pays lip-service to the sacrifice of Christ, true and final salvation is only available through adherence to their new teaching. The Church of Almighty God is shrouded in secrecy, and its members use strong-arm tactics and have committed atrocious crimes in the name of their group. The Church of Almighty God has all the hallmarks of a cult, and Christians will do well to heed Scripture’s warning: “Certain individuals . . . have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. . . . These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit” (Jude 1:4, 19).
Recommended Resource: The Kingdom of the Cults, revised and updated edition
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