Someone I met at a subway station in Seoul invited me to a Bible study. Since I had actually been wanting to study the Bible more, I agreed to check it out. The first day I went, nothing was out of the ordinary. They did seem a bit lost when it came to studying the Bible. They would ask random philosophical questions like “How do you know God’s your Father?” and then each person would share a story or Bible verse that made them feel like they were children of God. They kept going back to that question, so I suggested studying a book of the bible. Because of the question they had asked I recommended 1 John.
The following week a “missionary” came to join our study. She went by the name of Terry, and said she had actually studied theology at a Christian university (although she never got around to mentioning the name of that university). Whenever I would try to ask her what denomination she was currently involved with, she would start talking about how she had tried so many different denominations in the past, but would never get around to answering my question. After they found out that I was going to a Korean Presbyterian Church, they started calling Terry Pastor instead of Missionary, which I thought was odd. Shortly thereafter, she casually mentioned she was an ordained Presbyterian pastor. I also heard her talk about how she was teaching a Baptist pastor, back in California, over Skype. Can you imagine? A Baptist pastor receiving Bible study lessons from a female pastor of a different denomination??
As soon as we finished the book of 1 John, she started teaching us the parables. What she taught was extremely interesting. I stuck with it studying with them once or twice a week from the end of September to mid-February. At first I was interested because what she was teaching seemed to be a brand new perspective. It was fresh and thought provoking. Next I felt drawn to it. Every week, I was waiting for the next Bible study. I went from feeling confident that I was a Child of God to wondering if I had enough knowledge and understanding to be saved. My prayers, which used to be outward focused, had become extremely inward focused. I used to spend 90% or more of the time praying for others, but this group had such an effect on me that it was backwards. I spent most of my prayer time begging and pleading with God to save me. I was becoming more and more dissatisfied with my own church and pastor, and I felt an ever increasing desire to go to a church where I could learn more of what Terry was teaching us.
Finally our little Bible study group needed to change the location from Gunpo (where I live) to Ansan (about a 30 minute subway ride away). I finally saw the place where Terry’s Church met every Sunday. It looked more like a learning center than a church. I felt such a warm and comfortable feeling when I was there. Terry, however, did not want me to stop going to my church. She encouraged me to stay, and keep going to my own church.
I was drawn to it, like a bug trying to fly into a light bulb. I couldn’t resist the artificial light. Thankfully, a friend from my church showed me that, what I was trying to follow, wasn’t the Son. Wanting to prove that my Bible study was not a cult, and ever so slightly curious as to if they might actually be one, I asked for the name of the cult she had mentioned. She wrote it for me in Korean and the next day I did a little research. I very quickly found out that all the things that Terry had been teaching us, were in fact, Shincheonji.
I read more and more about it, both positive and negative points of view. I found out what all these teachings were leading up to, and I knew that it was totally and clearly not Christian. There is much dispute as to what a cult is. I suppose there are many ways to define the word cult. To me it means religious groups that claim to be what they are not. For example, a religious group that says they are Christian, but they don’t’ worship Christ. That’s what Shincheonji is. They say they are Christian, but actually they are followers of Lee Man-hee. They believe that this Korean man is the second coming of Jesus Christ.
I believe that the same Jesus that the disciples saw ascend into the clouds will return in the same way in which they saw him leave.
“This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven,
will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
I also believe that the second coming of the Christ will look very different from the first coming.
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
The Bible clearly says that everyone will see him when he comes the second time.
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”
and all peoples on earth
“will mourn because of him.”[b]
So shall it be! Amen.
For these reasons I could not continue attending the Bible study. I did attend one more class after reading about Shincheonji. In that class my eyes were truly opened. As usual, Terry asked questions that she expected us not to know the answers to. To her surprise, I knew some of the answers. This was because I had read about the beliefs of Shincheonji, including some of the very things she was teaching in that last class I attended.