Dallas Burdette

September 22, 1999

 

 

                On April 19, 1993, a final raid on Mount Carmel center by the FBI led to a fire that killed seventy-four Branch Davidians, including twenty-one children.[1]  Many people, for the first time, including this author, were made aware of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians.  Who were and are the Branch Davidians?[2] Where did they originate?  Who were the original leaders behind the Davidian movement?  What did they believe about the end-times?  Did they rely upon the Old and New Testaments prophecies for their beliefs?  Who was Koresh?  Did they accept modern day prophets/prophetesses?  These are questions this essay seeks to answer in order to understand more clearly what brought this cult to such a fiery end.  An example of the Branch Davidians’ awe and admiration for Koresh is found in the writings of Livingstone Fagan. He boldly claims:

 

David Koresh is Messiah, being first amongst men to be born into God Consciousness. Having been born under the first creation into this consciousness, he was established as a sign post (sic) before this creation, to show Adam’s race a way out should they fall short of the standard set at the beginning. Hence the phrase “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth.” As a matter of fact, Adam was created like unto God the Son at the conclusion of the first creation, which is the material image of God. God the Son, of the first creation, has been raised up from death for the salvation of man. This time however he is to be made Messiah over the coming kingdom of God on earth. The Spirit of God is to dwell in all it’s citizens.[3]

 

 

THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE BRANCH DAVIDIANS

 

Victor Houteff

 

The Branch Davidians is not a recent cult.[4]  Its history begins with a splinter group that broke away from the Seventh Day Adventist Church in 1930.[5]  Originally, the splinter group assumed the name, “The Shepherd's Rod, or Davidian Seventh-day Adventist.” Its founder, Victor T. Houteff was born March 2, 1885, in Raikovo, Bulgaria, and died at Waco, Texas on February 5, 1955.   According to the Seventh Day Adventist Church: “Victor T. Houteff, then an Adventist church member, introduced personal ideas into his Sabbath school classes, ideas he taught at private meetings as well.  Following earnest efforts to reason with him, the congregation finally dropped him from membership in November 1930.”[6]

            Within two years, following his expulsion from the Adventists, Houteff produced and circulated two large documents titled “The Shepherd's Rod”; these documents promoted beliefs contrary to the Seventh Day Adventists.  He claimed that the messages contained in these documents were genuine revelations from God.  He also claimed that he was the antitypical David and possessed the prophetic gift.  This break off band adopted a new name, The Shepherd's Rod.[7]

            In 1935, Houteff and eleven followers moved to a farm (189 acres) in Waco, Texas, which they called Mount Carmel Center.[8]  By 1937, this religious body embraced a fresh name: The General Association of the Shepherd's Rod Seventh-day Adventists.  In 1942, the leaders dropped their claim to be regular Seventh-day Adventists and registered with the United States government under the name Davidian Seventh-day Adventists.[9]

 
Florence Houteff

 

Shortly before Houteff's death in 1955, he announced to his followers that following a period of 1260 days that Christ would initiate His kingdom.  Following his death, his wife Florence, who succeeded him in leadership, identified the 1260 days as extending from November 9, 1955 to April 22, 1959.  She encouraged the faithful to sell their property and come to Mount Carmel Center to await the end of the “1260 days mentioned in Revelation 11 as well as the beginning of the judgments in Ezekiel 9.”[10]   Approximately 800 arrived and brought the sale price of their possessions with them.   But the day came and went with no visible manifestation of anything extraordinary.  As a result of this disillusionment, the Shepherd's Rod fractured into smaller groups, the largest remaining at Waco and adding the name “Branch” to the name Davidian, thus, the name Branch Davidians.  Following this disappointment, many of this original group returned to the Seventh-day Adventist churches.[11]

            Late in 1961, Florence Houteff renounced the teachings of the Shepherd’s Rod as error and sought to disband the fellowship.  However, one of the groups of dissidents gained control of Mount Carmel Center and eventually came under the authority (in 1984) of Vernon Howell, who had been disfellowshipped in 1981 from the Tyler (Texas) Seventh-day Adventist Church.  Howell later changed his name to David Koresh.

 

Benjamin Roden

 

The largest faction from the 1959 break up of Houteff’s Davidian Seventh-day Adventists remained near Mount Carmel.   Benjamin Roden founded this new-sprung party and announced himself to be the one sent by God to announce the report of the fifth angel spoken of in the Book of Revelation.[12]  He proceeded to name the splinter group the Branch Davidians.  Sample points out:

 

The “Branch” part of the group’s name apparently came from a 1955 episode in which Roden allegedly heard God's “audible voice” say “Jesus’ new name is Branch.”  Ben Roden also claimed to be the antitypical[13] David of the Old Testament.  Consequently he kept the name “Davidian.”[14]

 

            Prior to his joining the Davidians in 1946, he was head elder of an Adventist church in Odessa, Texas.  He claimed that his arrival on April 22, 1959 at Mount Carmel was the “sign” for which Houteff's followers had been waiting; in other words, he was, as noted above, the fifth angel mentioned in the Apocalypse of John.[15]  He took his followers even farther from mainline Adventism.  For example, he demanded that his recruits observe the Old Testament Jewish feast days and dietary rules that were more stringent than even the Adventist ones already being honored by the Davidians.[16]  He, like Victor and Florence Houteff before him, tried to capitalize on the Adventist desire for another prophet.  According to Ben Roden, God gave him a “new light.”[17]

 

Lois Roden

 

 When Ben died in 1978, Lois, his wife, assumed leadership of the Branch Davidians.  She fell in line to deliver the message of the sixth angel in the Book of Revelation.  One of the most notable additions to the theology of the Davidians was the concept that the Holy Spirit was a female personage.  Sample draws attention to this belief:  “She arrived at this novel bit of  ‘new light’ through a 1977 vision that happened while she was studying Revelation 18:1 at 2 A.M. one day.  In her words, she looked out her bedroom window and saw a ‘vision of a shining, silver angel fly by.’”[18]  She kept the group on course on an unwavering journey toward Armageddon.  Like her husband, she placed heavy emphasis on “last days” and prophesied frequently about “the end.”[19]

 

Vernon Howell.

 

David Koresh was born Vernon Wayne Howell in Houston, Texas in 1959 to a fifteen year old single mother.[20]  His childhood was disruptive; his mother Bonnie eventually married Joe Golden (not the father of Vernon), her first husband.  Shortly after the marriage, Joe’s relationship with Bonnie became, as it is alleged, abusive.  Joe, according to Samples, frequently beat two-year-old Vernon.  Approximately a year later, Bonnie divorced Joe and left Vernon in the care of his grandparents.  After Bonnie married Roy Haldeman, she took full custody of her son and moved to Richardson, Texas with her new husband. [21]

            When Vernon was nine, he began attending a local Seventh-day Adventist church, the denomination of his mother’s childhood.  From this dedicated training, he derived a foundation upon which to build his own religious system.  His belief system included a remnant mentality, that is to say, the idea of one small pack faithfully preserving God’s truth throughout a period of apostasy.  He also developed an unhealthy preoccupation with prophecy and a strong belief in modern-day prophets.  His Seventh Day Adventist teachings on prophecy and modern-day prophets set the ultimate stage for his bizarre behavior and ultimately fiery end in Waco, Texas.[22]

 
Vernon Howell and His Search for Answers

 

            During the Haldemans’ stay in Richardson, Vernon completed grades one through six at the Dallas Seventh-day Adventist Academy.   He was officially baptized in 1979 in the Tyler church.[23]  While still in his teens, Vernon became enamored with the Adventist's stand on prophets.  If the Adventist accepts the legitimacy of prophets, then why is there an absence of such prophets in the denomination after the death of Ellen G. White in 1915, reasoned Vernon.  Vernon speculated that perhaps there were prophets somewhere.  For Ellen G. White said, “The Lord will raise up men who will give the people the message for this time.”[24]

            According to Samples, since Koresh’s denomination could not respond to all his questions, he simply came up with his own answers.[25]  As a result of his eccentric interpretation of certain Bible passages, he encountered discipline from the church authorities in which they tried to “shut him up,” but they could not.  On one occasion, in a Sabbath service, Vernon took advantage of the situation and delivered “a seemingly endless sermon,” writes Samples.[26] Samples continues, “The ushers ultimately had to remove him physically.”[27]

 

Vernon's Introduction to Mount Carmel

 

            During his final years with the Adventists, he resided with Harriet Phelps, a good friend of Bonnie and a member of the Tyler congregation.  About the middle of 1981, Vernon expressed his longing for a living prophet.  He questioned the belief that there were no prophets since Ellen G. White died.  He related to Phelps that he believed in current prophets and he was looking for one.  It was at this point that Harriet responded that she knew of such a prophet, Lois Roden, the leader of a group called the Branch Davidians living at Mount Carmel, a commune located about ten miles east of Waco.[28]  Later that afternoon, Vernon met Lois Roden and heard her teach for the first time.  Finally, Vernon found what he had been looking for, a modern-day prophet, who claimed to be the successor to William Miller and Ellen G. White.[29]

            Vernon relocated to Mount Carmel[30] within a few months after his initial visit.  His visit brought new life into the group.  The group was no longer in touch with reality.  The end should have come much earlier, but didn’t.    It was not uncommon for the Davidians to go for days without uttering a word to one another.  They simply just kept waiting, waiting, and waiting for the end to come.  Even Lois Roden’s studies had become lifeless.  She taught the same things over and over again and everyday she would draw the “seven-year prophecy chart” on the board.[31] As Samples puts it: “Vernon breathed new life into a dying message and a bored people.”[32]

 

Endorsed by the prophet

 

            Little did Lois know that by her giving Vernon a helping hand that eventually he would gain control over the Davidians. The group inevitably followed Vernon as a result of Lois.  As time passed by, she allowed Vernon to lead a few Bible studies.  She even went so far as to sit down and listen to his teachings.  Why did this elderly prophet give him such singled out treatment?  The answer lies in her becoming romantically attracted to him.   During 1983, she continuously gave him opportunities to teach.

            This endorsement paved the way for Vernon to assume leadership as the seventh angel mentioned in the Book of Revelation.  The Davidians held to the teachings of Houteff that the seven angels in Revelation 1-3 symbolized seven modern-day prophets within the Davidian lineage.  Samples writes:

 

     The angels’ messages, in turn, prefigured each prophet’s special teaching.  William Miller, the father of American millennialism, held the position and preached the message of the “First” and “Second Angel.”

 

     Ellen G. White, the galvanizing leader of the Seventh-day Adventist church, fulfilled the role of the “Third Angel.”

     Victor Houteff, who broke away from the Adventists in 1929 to start his own group (the Shepherd’s Rod Seventh-day Adventists, later renamed the Davidian Seventh-day Adventists), was the manifestation of the “Fourth Angel.”

     Benjamin Roden, the head of the largest faction (the Branch Davidians) originating from the 1959 split of Houteff's group, claimed to be the “Fifth Angel.”

     Upon his death, Benjamin's wife, Lois, assumed leadership of the Branch Davidians and labeled herself the “Sixth Angel.”

     One final “Angel” remained: Vernon Howell.[33]

 

 

Budding Relationship with Lois and Other Female Members

 

Wife Number One: Rachael Jones

 

            In 1983, Vernon, twenty-four years old, moved in with Lois, who was sixty-seven at the time.  During this time, Vernon declared himself to be the “Seventh and Final Angel.”    The following month the two took a trip to Israel, but upon their return, Vernon gained more and more control over the members.  In 1984, Vernon informed Perry Jones that God told him that he must give his daughter, Rachel, now fourteen years old, to him as a wife.  Jones conceded to the demands of Vernon since God had indeed instructed “the Seventh Angel” to marry the fourteen-year-old Rachael.[34]

            Lois Roden’s eldest son, George,[35] was not happy with the actions of Vernon.  When his mother related to him about her romantic involvement with Vernon, he exploded.  In spite of the criticism of Lois and George, Vernon gained more and more ground in his role as leader.  Lois had drilled her followers since 1977 that something outstanding would come to pass in 1984, which her followers later interpreted as Vernon’s succession.  Also, Lois taught that 1981 would be the start of something big – which was the year that Vernon arrived at Mount Carmel.  Finally, the conflict between Lois and Vernon came to a head.  While Vernon was teaching on chapter eight of Isaiah, Lois stood up and told all of the sordid sexual escapades she had with him.  But, in spite of this revelation, his followers said that he must have been either bamboozled by God or led by God into it.

            Eventually, Lois lost her hold on the Davidians, and the members looked elsewhere for guidance.  Vernon, the “Seventh Angel,” became their new leader.    Throughout the following year, Vernon continued to crystallize his footing of domination.  Following his return from Israel with Rachael, he claimed that Cyrus spoken of in the Old Testament prefigured him.  In May of the same year, Vernon purchased a small tract of land in Palestine, Texas.  His group started purchasing guns since they had no other means of protecting themselves in the wilderness.

 

Wife Number Two: Karen Doyle

 

            In 1986, following the celebration of Passover, Vernon took wife number two, Karen Doyle, who was thirteen years old.[36]  In his justification for the two wives, he claimed that after having reviewed the charts of Victor Houteff, “the Fourth Angel,” he discovered that the woman in the chart, described in Revelation 12, appeared to be a cross between Karen and Rachel, Vernon's first wife.[37] 

 

Wife Number Three and Four: Michelle Jones and Robyn Bunds

 

            Near the end of 1986, Vernon took wife number three, Michelle Jones, Rachel’s younger sister.  Robyn Bunds became his fourth wife.  His lust for women became even more unquenchable.  In order to justify his sexual desires, he relied upon the reference to “threescore queens” in the Song of Solomon.  He then declared every unmarried woman in the group to be his wife.  He called his harem “The House of David.”[38]

 

All Unmarried Women in the Compound Became His Wives

 

Vernon sought to wipe out any negative criticism about polygamy by calling attention of the prophecy chart in which two women and one man dwelt in a small hut.  He argued that the two women represented Karen and Rachael.[39]  Following a lecture on August 5, 1989, he announced that all ought to want his “seed” within them. 

 

All Married Women Belonged to Him

 

Upon his return trip from California, he separated the men from the women.  As Samples has made clear: “According to Vernon, men who refused to surrender their wives would have a male emerge from them instead of a female.”[40]   One of the first married women Vernon took was the fifty-year-old Jeanine Bunds, mother of David and Robyn (his fourth wife).[41]  Again, Samples graphically depicts the afflicted intellect of Vernon:

 

Vernon also employed various intimidation tactics to insure compliance, including verbal abuse, condemnations to hell, and threats of losing one’s salvation.  “You’re a bitch because you don’t want to make babies for God!”  Vernon yelled at fourteen-year-old Misty for hesitating to have sex with him.  She eventually gave in, as did most of the others.[42]

 

Vernon continued to lay claim to all the women upon the pretext that “Only the Lamb is to be given the job to raise up the seed of the House of David.”[43]

 

David Koresh and His Branch Davidians

 

            Vernon Howell (1959-1993) changed his name to David Koresh in 1990.  He declared himself to be the antitype of two kings mentioned in the Old Testament: David, the king of Israel, and Cyrus, or Koresh, the leader of the Medo-Persian empire.[44]  This group also called themselves “Students of the Seven Seals (meaning the scroll protected by the seven seals).  The term Branch Davidians was derived from Roden’s expression “Get off the dead [Shepherd’s] Rod and move onto a living Branch.”  In 1993, Koresh renamed Mount Carmel “Ranch Apocalypse,” because of his belief that the final battle of Armageddon mention in Revelation would start at the Branch Davidian compound.[45]


Church Practices

 

·        The BDs at Waco led a communal, highly regulated and disciplined life: raising (sic) early, eating together, growing their own food, committing long intervals of time to Bible study, etc.

·        They published a periodical “Shekineth Magazine.”

·        They held conventions, which were synchronized with the Jewish feast days, defined in Leviticus 23:4-43.

·        Following Koresh’s “New Light” doctrine, he began to persuade married women within the group to join him as “spiritual wives;” this involved sexual access. Couples were separated and their marriages dissolved. All but Koresh and his spiritual wives were required to remain celibate.

·        They assembled large supplies of arms; one source estimated 11 tons of arms including antitank rifles.[46]

 

 

Characteristics of Doomsday cult

 

            In the “Branch Davidians (Students of the Seven Seals),” the author of an Internet article (“Branch Davidians: Students of the Seven Seals”) enumerates a number of cultic characteristics that were prevalent in the Davidian compound.  He notes that all but one of the elements generally associated with cults was present at the Ranch Apocalypse.[47]  The elements commonly found in doomsday groups is given by http://www.religoustolerance.org/dc_branc.htm as follows:

 

·        Apocalyptic Beliefs:

 

The leader’s preaching concentrates on the impending end of the world, often at a great battle (e.g., War of Armageddon). Alternately (as in the case of the Solar Temple and Heaven’s Gate groups) the leader preaches that through group suicide at the right time, they will all be transported to a wonderful place and escape the devastation that is about to come to the earth.

 

The group is expected to play a major, elite role at the end time.

 

·        Charismatic Leadership:

 

They are led by a single male charismatic leader.

 

The leader totally dominates the membership, closely controlling them physically, sexually and emotionally.

 

·        Social Encapsulation:

 

They are a small religious group, not an established denomination.

 

The group (or at least the core members) lives together in an intentional community which is isolated from the rest of society.

 

There is often extreme paranoia within the group; they believe that they are in danger and that they are being closely monitored and heavily persecuted by governments or people outside the group. People on “the outside” are demonized.

 

Information from outside the cult is severely curtailed.

 

·        Other Factors:

 

The group leadership assembles an impressive array of guns, rifles, other murder weapons or weapons of mass destruction. They prepare defensive structures.

 

They follow a form of Christian theology (or a blend of Christianity with another religion), with major and unique deviations from traditional beliefs in the area of end-time prophecy. [48]

 

The one element, according to the above author, that was missing was the “strict control of information into the compound.”[49]  He continues to express the volatile nature of the group:

 

Ranch Apocalypse was a powder keg, awaiting only a spark.  Some BDs observe the approach of 76 heavily armed employees of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and interpreted it as related to the Apocalypse and the Battle of Armageddon which they so devoutly had been studying and anticipating for years.  Given their religious beliefs, no other interpretation was possible.[50]

 

 

Church Beliefs

 

            The basic beliefs of the Branch Davidians follow the Seventh Day Adventist church with its stress upon the immanent return of Jesus Christ, dietary rules, and the inerrancy of the Bible.  However, there are a number of additional, bizarre concepts advanced by the Davidians that deviated even from the Adventists.  The author of an article “Branch Davidians: Students of the Seven Seals” sets forth examples of distinctive beliefs that are unique:

 

·        God has provided prophets whose pronouncements are to be regarded on a par with the Bible.

·        Christ’s death on the cross provided salvation only for those who died before 32 CE.  People who have died since will only be saved through the activities of the current BD prophet.

·        They believe that the “lamb” mentioned in Revelation 5:2 is not Jesus Christ (as essentially all Christians believe) but is David Koresh himself.  The lamb is to open the seven seals and trigger the sequence that ends the world, as we know it.  This belief caused a great deal of misunderstanding; many Christians believe that Koresh viewed himself as Jesus Christ, and was thus psychotic.

·        After the breaking of the seals, Christ would return to earth.  A battle would occur in which the BDs would play a major role.  The BD members alone would ascend to heaven to be with God.[51]

 

Koresh not only claimed that he was the antitype of King Cyrus in the Old Testament and that he was prefigured by the Song of Solomon, thus providing the rationale for the numerous collection of wives, but now he claimed to be “the Lamb” of the Book of Revelation.[52]  Samples further writes:

 

One of the most important doctrines ever taught by Vernon involves the “the Lamb,” mentioned in Revelation 4-5.  Christians have traditionally viewed “the Lamb" as a symbolic representation of Jesus Christ.  In 1988, however, Vernon began identifying “the Lamb” with someone else.  In a formal letter to the Seventy-day Adventist church, he wrote, “All the prophets of the Bible speak of Me.  I Am the Branch . . . The Lamb.”[53]

 

            David Bunds, a former member of the Branch Davidians,[54] explains how David arrived at his conclusion:

 

The way he [Vernon] became the Lamb is a long story.  Isaiah 16 [in the Old Testament] talks about a lamb, it’s a prophecy. . . .  He [Vernon] takes it out of context, twists it around, comes out with the ideas that the Lamb is an actual person. . . .  So he ended up being “a” lamb with a little “l”.  He was  “a lamb” . . . like a follower, lake a lamb of God, like a symbolic lamb.  And then from that point he progressed. . . .  He came to the point where he was teaching that he was “the Lamb” of the Book of Revelation.[55]

 

Koresh relied heavily upon Ellen G. White, as well as other so-called prophets, in his teachings.  In a Letter to the Wisconsin Brethren, transcription by Mark Sweet, titled “The Teachings of David Koresh,” Koresh cites White: “I’d like to refer you to Second Selected Messages page 52 where Sister White says: ‘Those who do not accept the word of God just as it reads will be snared in the devil’s trap.” So, that’s the statement I want to read from Ellen White at this season.”[56]  In this letter he quotes from the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation to develop his ideas about the seventh angel.

Mark Sweet transcribes another letter to the Wisconsin brethren, “The Teachings of David Koresh: The Seventh Angel Enters Into Rest,” recorded by David Koresh in Jerusalem on January 31, 1985. In this letter he quotes profusely from the Shepherd’s Rod charts by Victor Houteff.  Koresh laments the fact that while he was in Jerusalem (1985) that the Knapps had not gotten beyond “fifth and sixth angel’s messages.”[57]  Then, Koresh proceeded to develop studies about the seventh angel’s message.  In developing his beliefs, he said:

 

We as Branches and Davidians have been taught for some years that all the books of the Bible meet and end in the book of Revelation.  We know a message came to new Mt. Carmel beginning ten days prior to the Atonement 1983.  And this message brought with it evidence to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that all the books of the Bible do verily meet and end in the Revelation.  And we know this being so Branches; the next part of the question should be—where? And then once establishing this, where it’s at, there is a necessity. You need to understand the full meaning of each passage of scripture, of the prophecies, and it’s relationship to the book of Revelation.  This is the only way that we can have a complete understanding of prophecy and Revelation and the way that they both work together.  I'm sure that we can all agree on this.[58]

 

Koresh’s Theology Centered on the Seventh Angel.

 

 In this sermon, he says, “Let’s take a look at the Branch movement and the Davadian movement; that is, those who first joined the Davadian movement.  The main subject was inspiration wasn’t it?  If they had just held on to the main doctrine they would have realized that God was gonna send them another prophet.”  Again, Koresh says,

 

Now notice.  When Brother Houteff died God sent another voice didn’t he?  But it’s the same voice, just another administration.  The fifth angel’s message.  When Brother Roden passed away we had already on the ground the sixth angel’s message.  Now things have take place which have caused the biggest shaking that the Branches have ever had.  Sent many of them back to their Bibles.  But, sad to say, many just went to hear the garbage and trash that’s not even true.  But we won’t go into that right now.  Let’s just take a look at this. Verse 16: (Koresh cites Hebrews 3 – RDB).[59]

 

Again, Koresh says, “After Sister White was dead nobody know what the present truth was.  Everyone wanting to interpret Sister White’s writings the way they think that they should be interpreted in all this.  Everyone fighting amongst themselves – divisions.  Well, God sent the fourth angel – the prophetic voice.  The only way to enter into rest would be to join Victor Houteff, and then to join Brother Roden, and to join Sister Roden which is the sixth angel.”[60]  His theology centered on the seven seals[61] with special emphasis upon the seventh angel.  Once more he clearly states his feelings about the former prophets:

 

Now Brother Houteff, he generally gave us an interpretation, but he thought he was the last message didn’t he?  Brother Roden gave us an interpretation, but he also thought that his was the last.  Just goes to show that men by learning by searching cannot find out God.  Sister Roden said point blank hers was not the last.  She pointed forward to the seventh angel.  Now the seventh angel which was the last message of mercy should reveal the Sabbath.  And for us to understand how this works according to Revelation 7 – we find that these four angels are standing on the four corners of the earth.  And they are keeping persecution of the world from the church.  Because there is an angel here ascending from the east having the seal of the living God.[62]

 

Koresh maintained that the seventh seal in the Book of Revelation represents the punishments of the wicked[63] He lamented the fact that the world itself would not accept the above so-called truths.  He himself claimed to have the seventh angels message.[64]  Trimm also writes:

 

Koresh inherited Zech. 14:2 which hadn't occurred yet.  David also claimed to be the ‘angel ascending from the east’ of Rev. 72.  Since the Branches see Rev. 7 and Ezekiel 9 as speaking of the same event, Koresh was also seen as the “man clothed in linen” of Ezekiel 9.  Now in Ezekiel 10 this same “man clothed in linen” is told to take “coals of fire”…and scatter them over the city  (Ezekiel 10:2).  This parallels Rev. 8:5 which states: “And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it onto the earth.”  All of this can be seen in quotes from Koresh's taped Bible studies.[65]

 

Livingston Fagan writes:

 

David Koresh is Messiah, being first amongst men to be born into God Consciousness.  Having been born under the first creation into this consciousness, he was established as a sign post before this creation, to show Adam's race a way out should they fall short of the standard set at the beginning.  Hence the phrase “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth”.  As a matter of fact, Adam was created like unto God the Son at the conclusion of the first creation, which is the material image of God.  God the Son, of the first Creation, has been raised up from death for the salvation of man.  This time however he is to be made Messiah over the coming kingdom  of God on earth.  The Spirit of God is to dwell in all it's citizens.  .  . .  In conclusion, the process of Salvation has been a “progressive” revelation of God.  David Koresh represents Man before he became God as Son, who became God as an angel – Michael, who became God – pure spirit, the light between the Cherubs..[66]

 

The Book of Revelation

 

            The Branch Davidians cited the Book of Revelation to give credence to their theology.  Angela Koaha, not her real name, a former Branch Davidian, said in her interview with Richard Abanes:

 

They were all sadly, sadly misguided.  I believe we should, we should know how to [pause], we should be taught how to read the Scriptures.  Two main things are to read Scripture for what it says and in context, and certainly to balance that Scripture out with the rest of the Bible and we will not go wrong.  Going back to the very reason why we got into the group was because of the Scriptures.  We felt this man was imparting truth.[67]

 

It is significant that she bemoaned the fact that she was never taught how to read the Scriptures.  Had she learned how to read the Bible, she would not have fallen into this cult.  David Bunds, a former member of the Davidians, said in his interview with Abanes, “They thought a lot. They did a lot of thinking, a lot of analyzing, and a lot of data processing, but their entire base, their entire worldview, their presuppositional base was completely crazy.  It was false.”[68]  Then Debbie Bunds, also a former member of the Davidians, said in this same interview, “it was crippled by their beliefs.”[69]  Then David spoke again and said, “Yeah, it was crippled.  They had faulty programming, so to speak.  They were not able to properly analyze the information they received.”[70]  As outlined above, David Koresh based his eschatology upon the Book of Revelation, especially his interpretation of the Seven Seals and the Seven Angels.

 

Date of the Book of Revelation

 

            The date assigned to the Apocalypse of John is extremely important in ascertaining the true meaning of the book.  This author assigns a pre- AD 70 date for its composition.  It appears that the book should be divided into three major sections: (1) Introduction (chapters 1-3) – letters to the seven churches; (2) Emphasis upon the victorious Christ (chapters 4-11); and (3) Emphasis upon the victorious church (chapters 12-22).  In other words, the Book of Revelation is comprised of two parts – two visions.  The first vision surrounded the conquering Christ; the second vision surrounded the victorious church.

            Unlike Koresh in his interpretation of the seven seals, it appears that the opening of the seven seals and the sounding of the seven trumpets signaled the events of divine judgment in the symbols of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the temple of the Jews.  The opening of the seals represented the beginning judgment of God upon the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants with its temple.  In chapter five, only Christ could open the book with the seven seals.  In chapter six, six of the seals are thrown open. 

 

·        The first seal: The white horse and its rider symbolized Christ.

·        The second seal: The red horse and its rider represented the persecutor waging war against Christ.

 

·        The third seal: The black horse and its rider portrayed distress, calamity and deadly famine.

 

·        The fourth seal: The pale horse and its rider signified death, not death by martyrdom, but by pestilence and scourge.

 

·        The fifth seal: This seal reveals the martyr scene of souls "under the altar" crying out for justice.  Revelation twenty is the answer to the "how long" question by the souls under the altar.  In other words, they are resurrected in chapter 20, which is the second vision of the victorious church.

 

·        The sixth seal: This seal signified the shaking of the existing powers of government by insurrections.  The darkened sun, the falling stars and the scrolled heaven meant the folding up of the powers of oppression and the fall of Jerusalem, symbolized this.

 

·        The seventh seal: This seal (chapter 7) displayed seven angels standing before God, to whom seven trumpets were given.  These seven angels prepared themselves to blow the seven trumpets to signal that the time had come to accomplish the seven seals.

 

·        The seven trumpets: The seven trumpets of the seven (chapters 8-9) angels announced the judgments that were attended by the woes declared in the advancing vision of the seven seals.

 

·        The culmination of all the events of the first vision (chapters 4-11) was depicted when the seventh angel sounded the seventh trumpet (chapters 10-11).  The rider of the first horse had overthrown Judaism, the arch antagonist of Christ had diminished; the stars of Jewish rulership had been plucked from their orbits of sovereignty; the Jewish state was terminated; the temple was no longer standing; the New Jerusalem and the spiritual temple of the New Israel had prevailed. 

 

·        From the apocalypse of the Conquering Christ (chapters 4-11), the second vision turned its attention to his tortured but triumphant church (see chapter 21).  John's vision of the “new Jerusalem, coning down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (v.2) represents the church in its victory over Judaism.[71]

 

The Branch Davidians did not apply any sound rules of biblical exposition to their interpretation of the Book or Revelation.  Their presuppositions crippled any correct understanding of the Apocalypse of John.   Koresh and his followers read back into the Revelation letter their own culture heritage from the Seventh Day Adventist church and the two splinter groups headed by Victor Houteff and Benjamin Roden.  An illustration of their wild assertions about the fulfillment of prophecy is evident in an article written by a member of the Branch Davidians, ‘Bring Forth Your Strong Reasons.’  This author writes:

 

Yes. The chosen Vessel through whom this Doctrine was revealed, is a survivor of the fire, one of those written of in Daniel 11:33 (they shall fall by sword, by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days).  The information to be found here, is the Little Help (Little Scroll) of Daniel 11:34.

 

David Koresh fulfilled the prophecies written of him.  Now is the time of His Bride, the Woman of Revelation 12:7,14 who fled the sanctuary to the spiritual wilderness and is fed with the Little Help for the 42 month period.  The 42 months is also the time period for which John is told he must prophesy again.  See Rev. 10:11 (John typifies the Bride.[72]

            The complete commentary on the Seven Seals is now available by the Branch Davidians on the Internet.[73]  The editor (no name given – even though I requested this information before writing this paper, the editor refused to give his name) states that “To reject the explanation of prophecies contained in the Seven Seals, which are found in this book, is to reject the Holy Spirit.”[74]    There is no reference, as far as I have been able to observe, to the time frame that John assigns to the writing of the Book of Revelation. 

 

Conclusion

 

            As a result of reading a number of writings by David Koresh and his followers, it seems more so than ever before, that it is imperative that Christians learn how to read the Bible.  In order for one to determine the counterfeit interpretation, one must first learn the Word itself.  If one does not know what the Book of Revelation is saying, how can one correct someone’s erroneous interpretation?  If one has not studied the Book of Daniel, how can one know if someone is making application(s) that is not in harmony with the whole of God’s written Word?

            One should confront those who are date setters with the numerous date setters that have failed miserably in their mathematical calculations.  To do this, one must study the history of the millennial movements throughout the history of the church.  Also, Christians should read commentaries that look at the historical background to the books of the Bible.  Every person should also look for internal evidence that might give a clue as to the time of writing.  Finally, a study of Daniel 9:24-27 should assist one in understanding that at the coming of the Messiah, God sealed visions and prophecy as His way of revealing His Word.  This understanding should guard one against the so-called modern-day prophets.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

BOOKS

Samples, Kenneth R.   Prophets of the Apocalypse.    Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994.

 

Wallace, Foy Jr. The Book of Revelation.   Nashville: The Foy E. Wallace Jr. Publications, 1966.

 

 

JOURNALS

 

Seventh Day Adventist Conference. "The History and Teachings of the Shepherd's Rod."  USA: Biblical Research Institute, 1995.

 

---------"The Branch Davidians – Who Are They?"  USA: Biblical Research Institute, 1993.

 

Tabor, James D.  Bible Review (October 1993) "Apocalypse at Waco: Could the Tragedy Have Been Averted?"

 

 

INTERNET

 

Koresh, David (1999). “Early Writings of David Koresh: Blow Ye the Trumpet in Zion.” [On-line]. Available: http://www.home.maine.rr.com/com/waco/trumpe.html.

 

No Name (1999). “Biography: David Koresh.” [On-line]. Available: http://www2.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/waco/davidkoresh.html.

 

No Name (1999). “Branch Davidians (Students of the Seven Seals).” [On-line]. Available: http://www.religioustolerance.org/dc_branc.htm.

 

No Name (1999). “The Millennium, and 103 Failed End-0f-the-World Predictions.” [On-line]. Available: http://www.religioustolerance.org/end.wrld.htm.

 

No Name (1999). “Common Signs of Destructive Cults.” [On-line]. Available: http://www.religioustolerance.org/cultsign.htm.

 

Sweet, Mark (1999). “David Koresh As Messiah.” [On-line]. Available: http://www.home.maine.rr.com/waco/dkam.html.

 

________ (1999). “The Teachings of David Koresh: The Seventh Angel Enter Into Rest.” [On-line]. Available: http://www.home.maine.rr.com/waco/rest.html.

 

Tabor, James D. and Eugene V. Gallagher (1999). “Why Waco?: David Koresh and the FBI’s Religious Intolerance” [On-line]. Available: http://www.home.maine.rr.com/waco/religious.html.

 

Tobias, Daniel (1999). “A Brief Stop at Mount Carmel.” [On-line]. Available: http://www.softdisk.com/comp/dan/davidian.html.

 

Trimm, James Scott (1999). “Fire in Branch Davidian Eschatology.” [On-line]. Available: http://www.home.maine.rr.com/waco/trimm.html.

 

 

ADDITIONAL LINKS FOR FURTHER STUDIES

 

“About the Branch Davidians.” http://www.ozemail.com.au/~mbreault/bd.html

 

“Common Signs of Destructive Cults.” http://www.religioustolerance.org/cultsign.htm

 

“Doomsday, Destructive Religious cults.”   http://www.religioustolerance.org/destruct.htm  

 

“Outline of Brach Davidian Teachings.”

http://www.homepages.anglianet.co.uk/johnm/outline.html         

 

“Seven Seals-Revelation-Book One.” http://www.sevenseals.com/

 

“Seven Seals-Revelation-Book Two.” http://www.branchdavidian.com/

 

Stephen O’ Leary. “Arguing the Apocalypse: A Theory of Millennial Rhetoric.” http://www.homepages.anglianet.cu.uk/johnm/apoc.html 

 

“Surfing the End of the World.” http://www.merlin.alleg.edu/acarr/lsw/endlinks.html       

 

“The Waco Tragedy: Information Page.”

http://www/uts.cc.utexas.edu/~thetruth/waco/waco.html           

 

“Top Waco Links.” [On-line]. Available: http://www.kreative.net/carolmoore/waco-links.html

 

“Waco Links.” [On-line]. Available: http://www.members.xoom/_XOOM/tienkuo/links.htm

 

“Waco Links.” [On-line]. Available: http://www.maine.rr.com/waco/links.html

 

“Welcome.” [On-line]. Available: http://www.members.zoom.com/_XOOM/tienkuo/index.htm

 

 

 

 



[1] Consult James D. Tabor and Eugene V. Gallagher, “Why Waco?: David Koresh and the FBI’s Religious Intolerance,”  Harper’s Magazine, July 1995, pp. 1 of 3 [ONLINE]. Available from http://home.maine.rr.com/waco/religious.html (accessed 31 August 1999).. For a comprehensive view of the Branch Davidians, see the following home page to access various articles on “Waco: The Inside Story,” http://www2.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/waco/ (accessed 3 September 1999).

[2] The present tense is used as well as the past tense to indicate that the Branch Davidians did not end with the fiery ordeal in Waco, Texas. This writer received from the Branch Davidians, July 23, 1997, a commentary on the Seven Seals Revelation setting forth the views of David Koresh.  This commentary may be ordered from Hidden Manna, PO box 789, Jesup, Ga. 31598.  Hidden Manna is a Branch Davidian group.  See “Seven Seals” [ONLINE]. Available from  http://www.sevenseals.com [accessed 30 August 1999]. See also “Branch Davidian Factions,” http://www.members.xoom.com/_XOOM/tienkuo/factions.htm (accessed 30 August 1999), pp. 5.

[3] “David Koresh As Messiah,” The Writings of Livingston Fagan, Transcription by Mark Sweet, pp. 2 [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.home.maine.rr.com/waco/dkam.html   [accessed 30 August 1999].

[4] For a brief overview of the Davidians chronology, see “Chronology of the Branch Davidians,” http://www.homepages.anglianet.co.uk/johnm/chronology.html (accessed 30 September 1999), pp. 2.

[5] See “The Story of `The Shepherd's Rod,” in The History and Teachings of The Shepherd's Rod, reprinted by the Biblical Research Institute (USA: Defense Literature of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist, October 1955), 3-15.   For an excellent overview of the Seventh-day Adventist church history, see “Torchbearers to Armageddon” in Kenneth R.Samples, Erwin M. de Castro, Richard Abanes, and Robert J. Lyle, Prophets of the Apocalypse: David Koresh and Other American Messiahs (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 109-119.

[6] Editors, “The Branch Davidians—Who Are They?”   Reprinted from Adventist Review [April 1, 1993] (Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute, 1993), 1 (page number of reprint paper). For an excellent profile report on the Davidians, see “Branch Davidians,” http://www.cti.itc.virginia.edu/~jkh8x/soc257/nrms/bran1.html (accessed 30 August 1999), pp. 5.

[7] Ibid.

[8] The geographical location is about ten miles northwest of Waco.

[9] Editors, “The Branch Davidians—Who Are They?”  Ibid.

[10] Kenneth R.Samples, Erwin M. de Castro, Richard Abanes, and Robert J. Lyle, Prophets of the Apocalypse: David Koresh and Other American Messiahs (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 117.

[11] Editors,  “The Branch Davidians—Who Are They?”  Ibid.

.

[12] Samples, Prophets of the Apocalypse, 118.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.,  119.

[19] Ibid., 30.

[20] See “Biography: David Koresh,” pp. 2 [ONLINE]. Available from http://www2.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/waco/davidkoresh.html [accessed 3 September 1999]. 

[21] Samples, Prophets of the Apocalypse, 19-20.

[22] Ibid., 22.

[23] Ibid., 25.

[24] Quoted in Samples, Prophets of the Apocalypse,  22.

[25] Ibid., 25.

[26] Ibid., 26. 

[27] Samples, Prophets of the Apocalypse, Ibid.

[28] Ibid., 28.

[29] Ibid., 31.

[30] .  For a description of Mount Carmel, see Daniel Tobias, “A Brief Stop at Mount Carmel,” pp. 5 [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.softdisk.com/comp/dan/davidian.html [accessed 30 August 1999]. See also Tobias, “Return to Mount Carmel: Going Back to the Scene of the Crime,” http://www.softdish,com/comp/dan/davidian2.html (accessed 30 August 1999).

 

[31] Ibid., 33.

[32] Ibid., 34.

[33] Ibid., 37.

[34] Ibid., 38-39.

[35] For a brief history of George Roden, see “George Roden,” http://www.members.zoom.com/_XOOM/tienkuo/george.htm (accessed 30 August 1999), pp. 4.

[36] Ibid., 46.

[37] Ibid., 47.

[38] Ibid., 52-53.

[39] Ibid., 48.

[40] Ibid., 64.

[41] Ibid., 65.

[42] Ibid., 65.

[43] Ibid., 67.

[44] See “Branch Davidians (Students of the Seven Seals),” pp. 15 [ONLINE]. Available from http://religioustolerance.org/dc_branc.htm [accessed 1 September 1999], p. 4.   See also, Samples, Prophets of the Apocalypse, 43, 60; and “The millennium, and 103 failed end-of-the-world predictions,” pp. 20 [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.religioustolerance.org/end_wrld.htm [accessed 1 September 1999]. This article is extremely helpful in cataloging end time predictions in chronological order.

[45] “Branch Davidians (Students of the Seven Seals),” p. 4 of 15.

[46] See  “Branch Davidians (Student of the Seven Seals)” for this data,  p. 5 of 15.

[47] Ibid.

[48] “Common Signs of Destructive Cults,” pp. 3 [ONLINE]. Available from http://religioustolerance.org/cultsign.htm ,  p. 2 of 3 [accessed 1 September 1999].

[49] “Branch Davidians (Students of the Seven Seals),”  p. 5 of 15.

[50] Ibid.

[51] See “Branch Davidians: Students of the Seven Seals,” p. 4 of 15.

[52] Samples, Prophets of the Apocalypse, 60.

[53] Ibid., 59-60.

[54] In the Prophets of the Apocalypse, 193-214, Samples gives a transcript of an interview with David and Debbie (Kendrick) Bunds.  In this interview, David said, “If you're out of the group you're an apostate” (207); again, he says that Koresh was.  .  . “really very irrational.  And he was not willing to even look at the remote possibility that he was wrong on just the smallest, little, tiny thing.  I mean, he would not give on anything” (203); another reason for following Koresh was, as David said, “. . . his awesome skill at quoting Scripture without even opening up the Bible”  (189).  Finally, David said, “He talks like he really knows what he’s talkin’ about.  He can quote the Bible profusely.  He will barrage you.  He’s probably ten times better than the most elite Jehovah’s Witness.  He will just barrage you with text” (205).

[55] Quoted in Samples, Prophets of the Apocalypse, 60.  For an example of his quoting of Scriptures, see David Koresh, “Early Writings of David Koresh: Blow ye the Trumpet in Zion,” pp. 8 [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.home.maine.rr.com/waco/trumpe.html [accessed 3 September 1999], pp. 1 of 8.

[56] See “The Teachings of David Koresh: Letter to the Wisconsin Brethren,”  transcription by Mark Sweet, pp. 7 [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.home.maine.rr.com/waco/wscn.html [accessed 3 September 1999], p. 1 of 7.

[57] See “The Teachings of David Koresh: The Seventh Angel Enter Into Rest,” pp.  16 [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.home.maine.rr.com/waco/rest.html  (accessed 3 September 1999), p. 1 of 16). I, Dallas Burdette, have not corrected the sentence structure nor the grammar of the various quotes from the Davidians.  Sometimes their statements are rather awkward.

[58] Ibid., 2.

[59] Ibid., 5.

[60] Ibid., 6.

[61] See, Samples, Prophets of the Apocalypse, 77-96.

[62] Koresh, “The Teachings of David Koresh: The Seventh Angel Enter Into Rest,”  8-9.

[63] Ibid.

[64] See James Scott Trimm,  “Fire in Branch Davidian Eschatology,”  pp. 6 [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.home.maine.rr.com/waco/trimm.html [accessed 3 September 1999).  This is an excellent article about the eschatology of David Koresh.

[65] Ibid., 2-3.

[66] Fagan, “The Writings of Livingstone Fagan: David Koresh as Messiah,”  transcription by Mark Sweet; pp. 2 [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.home.maine.rr.com/waco/dkam.html [accessed 30 August 1999], p. 1 of 2.

[67] Samples, Prophets of the Apocalypse, 192.

[68] Ibid., 202.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Ibid.

[71] I am indebted to Foy E. Wallace, Jr., The Book of Revelation (Nashville: The Foy E. Wallace Jr. Publications, 1966), 234-236 for this recapitulation of the first apocalypse.  This commentary is written with the pre AD 70 date.  Wallace also holds to the view that Revelation is but an enlargement of Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.  The author of this essay also holds to this general understanding of Revelation.

[72] See "Bring Forth Your Strong Reasons: Isaiah 41:21-24" [ONLINE]. Available from http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/777HIDDENMANNA777/qu.htm [accessed 23 July 1997].

[73] See http://www.sevenseals.com/ [ONLINE]. [Accessed 30 August 1999).  This author, Dallas Burdette, requested a hard copy from the Davidians and received both Book I and Book II on 7 July 1997.  There are no charges for these two volumes. 

[74] Ibid., 1.