Branhamism is a religious movement based on the teachings of William Branham, an American Christian minister who lived from 1909 to 1965. Branham preached a blend of Pentecostal revivalism, manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and an uncompromising message of God’s healing power. He attracted large crowds during his healing ministry in the 1940s and 1950s.
Though Branham considered himself a faithful Christian minister in the Pentecostal tradition, some of his teachings went beyond mainstream Christianity. He claimed to be divinely inspired and appointed by God as a prophet to the modern church. Central to Branham’s message was an emphasis on the end times, divine healing, and restored apostolic authority.
Here are some key teachings of William Branham and Branhamism:
End Time Prophecy
William Branham proclaimed many prophecies and visions concerning the end times. He believed he was called to announce the second coming of Christ. Some of Branham’s prophecies included:
– The rise of communism, Nazism, and fascism as manifestations of the antichrist spirit that would pave the way for the coming one-world government. He cited the books of Daniel and Revelation as the basis for this prophecy.
– The restoration of the state of Israel was seen as a sure sign of the end times. Branham declared this was the fulfillment of biblical prophecy that Israel would be re-gathered before Christ’s return.
– Branham predicted various natural disasters, wars, and social upheavals that would precede the rapture of the church and second coming of Christ. His prophecy of judgment striking the western coast of America was interpreted as being fulfilled in the 1964 Alaskan earthquake.
– He claimed to have had a prophetic vision of future developments in science and technology, including solar energy, air conditioning, and transportation advances.
Branham and his followers were convinced they were living in the final days. His movement looked for signs to confirm Branham’s prophecies about the end times unfolding rapidly.
Branham is best known for his healing ministry during the 1940s and 1950s. Huge crowds gathered in stadiums and overflow tents to witness the healings and miracles that Branham claimed manifested during his meetings. Many of Branham’s followers considered him to have a unique God-given gift of healing that had not been seen since biblical times.
Key elements of Branham’s healing ministry included:
– Praying for the sick while he walked along long lines of people hoping to be healed of various illnesses and disabilities. Dramatic scenes of people falling, crying out, and claiming healings would take place.
– Discerning details about people’s lives before praying for them. Branham would call out specific illnesses and details he claimed God supernaturally revealed to him. This built expectation in the crowd.
– Teaching that complete obedience and unwavering faith released God’s power to heal sickness and disease. Lack of faith could hinder healing.
– Relying on the leading of the Holy Spirit rather than set methods or rituals. Branham believed this allowed God to work freely.
– Rejecting traditional medicine. Branham discouraged his followers from seeing medical professionals or taking medication, telling them to look to God alone for healing.
Branham pointed to the healing ministry of Jesus Christ as the model and biblical basis for God’s power to heal through faith.
End of Denominationalism
Branham harshly criticized organized religion and denominational divisions in the church. He believed God wanted to bring an end to thousands of conflicting denominations. In place of rigid religious institutions and hierarchies, Branham called people to come together under the direct leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Key aspects of his teaching against denominations included:
– The belief that denominations were of human origin, stemming from organizational divisions rather than inspired by the Bible. He associated denominations with the spirit of Babylon in the book of Revelation.
– A warning that Christians were forming “nests” around gifted leaders and theological differences, rather than coming together in unity.
– A call to return to the simplicity and purity of the New Testament church before divisions occurred. He wanted practices based solely on biblical patterns.
– The view that organizational systems hinder the Holy Spirit from leading and speaking directly to every believer. Branham called for less structure and more freedom in worship.
– Looking to modern apostles and prophets to provide dynamic leadership, not formalized clergy roles. He claimed God was restoring the 5-fold ministry offices mentioned in Ephesians 4.
In place of denominations, Branham wanted all Christians united under the leadership of the Holy Spirit and biblical principles.
Serpent’s Seed Doctrine
One of Branham’s most controversial teachings centered around the “serpent’s seed” doctrine. This was Branham’s version of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden:
– Branham taught that Eve’s eating the forbidden fruit involved sexual relations with the serpent. He interpreted the “fruit” as an illicit sexual act that introduced sin into the human bloodline.
– The serpent’s seed doctrine claims the offspring of Eve’s sin, Cain, was biologically the son of the serpent, not Adam. The two bloodlines of Cain and Abel represented good and evil spiritual lineages.
– Intermarriage over history between the two bloodlines is said to explain inherited sinful dispositions and diseases. Branham linked many modern ills to trace amounts of the serpent’s seed in humanity.
– Ultimately, Branham believed the serpent seed bloodline would manifest in an end time personification of the antichrist. Meanwhile, others carried the pure bloodline of God that Branham claimed he possessed.
Branham first hinted at this unusual doctrine in the 1950s. But he began openly preaching his version of the fall of man and the serpent seed late in his ministry in 1965. The teaching became quite controversial and added to concerns about Branham’s unorthodox claims.
Prophets and Apostles
Branham taught that God would restore the leadership roles of apostles and prophets in these last days. He believed the church had been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets described in Ephesians 2:20. The absence ofmodern equivalents to biblical prophets and apostles had led to weakness and error in the church.
Key components of Branham’s teaching included:
– The offices of prophet and apostle are essential to the spiritual health and growth of the church. He pointed to Ephesians 4:11-13 about their role in equipping the saints.
– God speaking through modern prophets would help prepare the church to become a spotless bride before Christ’s return. Apostles provide vital leadership.
– Prophets must be free to share what God reveals, even if it means rebuking churches and leaders for failing to follow biblical patterns. Apostles direct and ordain under the Spirit’s guidance.
– He pointed to himself as an example of a prophet called to bring healing, perform signs and wonders, reveal hidden truths in the Bible, and turn people’s hearts to God before the coming judgment.
– Branham authorized several leading ministers in his movement as apostles and prophets to oversee the Branhamite work. They were seen as God’s chosen leadership gifts.
Branham warned that those who rejected his prophetic revelation would face being cut off from the bride of Christ and miss the rapture.
Though Branham saw himself as a follower of historic Christian creeds, he rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. Branham’s view of God aligned more closely with Oneness Pentecostal theology. Key elements included:
– There is only one God who simply chose different roles or manifestations throughout history. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not distinct persons within the Godhead.
– Branham emphasized “God is One” and that Jesus Christ was the fullness of God bodily on earth. The Father indwelt the Son, rather than being a separate divine person.
– He utilized water analogies to describe God revealing himself as Father in creation, Son in redemption, and Holy Spirit filling the church. But these were merely roles or forms God assumes.
– Jesus Christ was the human name and body of the Father revealing himself on earth. God was veiled in flesh as the Son, not a separate second person equal to the Father.
– Branham strongly opposed Trinitarian language and baptism formulas as unbiblical creeds. His followers baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” rather than the Trinitarian formula.
Branham’s Oneness belief about God aligned him with certain Pentecostal groups that rejected the Trinity. But his version of Oneness theology included unique elements related to his other teachings.
The Spoken Word
Branham taught that the most important way God reveals himself to humanity is through the “spoken Word.” Branham used this term in an expansive way. Key aspects included:
– The belief that God reveals his will by speaking through anointed prophets and preachers. Branham considered his own sermons to contain the very voice of God.
– Faith comes by hearing God’s Word spoken in a divinely anointed way. This truth was more important than the written Scriptures alone. Only the living spoken word could produce faith and spiritual life.
– Branham’s sermons were seen as the voice of God for the age. His followers treasure his recorded spoken teachings, believing they contain restored revelation directly from God’s lips to Branham.
– The spoken word was part of restoring apostolic authority, signs, and truths that had been lost since the early church. Branham claimed God spoke new revelations to him as a modern prophet.
– Ongoing revelation through modern prophets was needed to shed light on and unlock hidden mysteries in the Bible. Branham’s sermons contained new interpretations of Scripture.
The exaltation of the spoken word paved the way for Branham’s controversial new doctrines to supersede biblical orthodoxy for his followers. The voice of Branham was equated with the voice of God.
The Seven Seals
In 1963 Branham preached a series of sermons expounding upon the meaning of the seven sealed book in Revelation chapter 5. He taught that the unopened book contained hidden mysteries of future events that would be revealed by God in the end times. Branham proclaimed he had received divine revelation explaining the contents of each seal. He considered this disclosure of the seals to be the “revelation of Jesus Christ” mentioned in Revelation 1:1.
Key aspects of his teaching on the seven seals included:
– The first seal contained mysteries about the early church that Branham claimed were revealed to him. The next seals envisioned major stages of church history filled with judgment.
– Branham associated the fifth seal with the souls of Jewish martyrs crying for justice. He linked the sixth seal to natural disasters and the tribulation period.
– The greatest mystery was said to be hidden behind the seventh seal. Branham believed it revealed coming judgments, truth about the Godhead, and other secrets that would restore and empower the end time Bride of Christ.
– Only a divinely authenticated prophet could break the seals and unlock mysteries required for the last days. Branham claimed God anointed him for this prophetic task.
– Revelation of the seals gave Branham’s followers unique wisdom and status as God’s end time people. But it meant judgment on those who rejected Branham’s revelation.
Branham’s teachings on the seven seals were foundational to his movement. Followers believed he fulfilled prophecy by disclosing hidden truths contained in the unopened book of Revelation.
The Bride of Christ
Drawing on marital imagery in the Bible, Branham often talked about the importance of the end time “Bride of Christ.” He taught that a subset of true believers would be specially prepared and chosen by God to be part of the raptured bride of Christ.
Distinctives of Branham’s teaching included:
– Emphasis on purity and obedience to God’s Word were required to be part of the elect bride of Christ. Going along with denominational compromise or worldliness could disqualify a believer.
– The bride would recognize Branham’s revelations as the voice of the Spirit and Bridegroom. They would conform fully to his vision of doctrine and practice instead of traditional creeds.
– Branham associated the bride with having the revealed “word of the hour.” Other parts of the church who failed to follow his teachings were not ready. Only his message could fully prepare and unite the bride.
– The revelation contained in the opening of the seven seals gave enlightenment and power to the end time bride. These sealed mysteries separated the bride from those who rejected Branham’s revelation.
– The bride was to be a vibrant portion of believers functioning in true apostolic faith and power before Christ’s return. Branham’s followers saw themselves as the foreshadowing of the raptured bride.
This emphasis on endtime separation between those who recognized Branham’s revelation versus those who did not remains a core belief of Branhamites today. Adherence to Branham is seen as essential to being part of the bride of Christ.
Implications of Branham’s Teachings
The unusual doctrines and emphases promoted by William Branham led many mainstream Christian leaders to denounce him as a heretic and false teacher. Yet he continues to attract a devout following through Voice of God Recordings which distributes his taped sermons worldwide.
What are some of the implications and outcomes of Branham’s teachings?
– By claiming to be God’s prophet and placing his own words on a par with Scripture, Branham was viewed as undermining the authority of the Bible.
– His followers look to Branham’s teachings as both equal to and unlocking the Scriptures. The Bible is interpreted through the lens of Branham’s recorded sermons.
– Lines between adherents and critics of Branham were sharply drawn over his controversial doctrines like serpent seed. Harsh judgments on those not accepting Branham’s teachings caused divisions.
– Seeking sign gifts, mystical revelations, and modern prophets over sound doctrine led to fanaticism. Some followers claimed their own prophetic authority.
– Branham’s wounded reputation from failed healings and false prophecies was a liability to Pentecostalism as critics lumped the excesses together.
– The hierarchical structure Branham’s organization took on raised concerns about authoritarian control over members.
Branham aspired to be a unifying voice pointing people to Christ’s return and the healing power of God. Yet the controversial nature of his ministry ultimately yielded mixed spiritual results for his followers. Reactions to Branham continue to this day.
Since William Branham’s death in 1965, his followers have looked to his spoken and published sermons as the guide for their beliefs and practices. This has resulted in:
– Sustained devotion to Branham as God’s major prophet to this age. His recorded sermons are treasured as divine revelation relevant for today.
– Fragmentation into a number of churches and groups claiming to represent Branham’s vision. Infighting over who has proper succession of his mantle has been an issue.
– Continued failed predictions about Branham’s supposed resurrection and return. Some followers still expect him to head an end time ministry.
– Use of technology like the internet and translation to disseminate Branham’s teachings globally, especially from developing world bases like Africa and Latin America.
– Isolation and separatism from mainstream Christianity. Beliefs like serpent seed and hostility to the Trinity identify Branham followers as fringe sects in some nations.
– Flirtation with other fringe groups. Some Branhamites find common ground with elements of the Hebrew Roots movement, sacred name theology, and even occult teachings.
Though the movement is relatively small and fragmented, William Branham continues to exercise influence over thousands of devotees as they anticipate end times prophecies being fulfilled. The Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship also spread awareness of his healing ministry and teachings. His ideas keep circulating decades after his death.