Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony is a very aggressive, high demand, secretive, Korean apocalyptic cult that has a long history of heresy, along with practicing deception, manipulation, and outright lying when it comes to their recruitment, historical claims, etc. Sometimes also going by the name “New Heaven, New Earth”, this movement was started by and is led by the “New John” or “Promised Pastor”, their elderly Korean leader Lee Manhee who is the only one who has “mastered the Bible”. In order to deceive and draw people in, they use different Christian sounding names so that they can “creep in unnoticed” (Jude 4).
Churches, pastors, parents, and Christians need to be on high alert about this little-known group (as well as other deceptive groups) that acts very friendly and is specifically targeting Christians to bring them into their cult through their Bible studies (mainly offering to teach about the Book of Revelation) both in online and in-person several month studies (Matt. 7:15).
Overview of Shincheonji Doctrines
The basic premise of Shincheonji is this – True Christianity disappeared from the earth shortly after the death of Jesus, but God chose to restore the truth to the world in 1966 in South Korea to a group of seven men who formed a church called the Tabernacle Temple, which also fell away through apostasy and betrayal, but then was again restored by Lee Manhee who overcame and was then and is now guided and taught by angels and by God and Jesus. The Book of Revelation is the New Covenant, and all of the events of Revelation have already been fulfilled in South Korea in the past few decades, except for some of the events of chapters 18 to 20 which will soon be fulfilled. We must believe the testimony of Chairman Lee Manhee and be sealed in Shincheonji Church in order to have eternal life.
Shincheonji (or “SCJ”) denies the central biblical doctrine of the Trinity, and also denies Christ’s deity, His bodily resurrection (SCJ teaches that Jesus rose with a physical body which soon became a sprit body, in contradiction to Col. 2:9), and His future glorious Second Coming (2 Cor. 11:3,4). They believe that Jesus has already returned in 1966 in spirit when he started teaching His message in South Korea, and then established His thousand-year Millennial Kingdom in 1984.
In order to be saved one needs to be a registered member of Shincheonji, understand the parables in which are hidden “the secrets of the kingdom of heaven”, and believe in the Testimony of Lee Manhee, as having faith in Christ alone is no longer enough to be saved as we are now under “the New Covenant of the Book of Revelation” in “the time of its fulfillment.”
To quote Lee Manhee – “”This means that no one can come to Jesus, gain eternal life, or enter heaven except through the one that overcomes…Today, Revelation is being fulfilled, and salvation can only be obtained through the promised one who overcomes.” (The Physical Fulfillment of Revelation, by Lee Manhee, pp. 10-11.)
Shincheonji believes that all other churches are “Babylon” and are “the kingdom of demons” that are being led by “false pastors” who “add and take away from the Book of Revelation”, and that they are the only true church.
Practices and Tactics
Shincheonji shares certain common tactics with other cults and high demand/high control groups, but often takes these practices to a whole new level. Love bombing a recruit is a very common practice where the prospective convert is aggressively befriended by the SCJ member who they just met and almost immediately becomes a new best friend. Instead of a casual friendship the “leaf” will be in extremely frequent contact with the new “fruit” through frequent calls, texts, and meet ups where they will be asked about many areas of his or her life, and they will frequently lie about such things as their hobbies or age just to build a relationship with that person. This information is gathered in an almost spy-like way to strategize on how to get them to join the group. But this goes even further to a sick level where “maintainers” are one’s supposed fellow students in the classes who are not students at all but are already Shincheonji members who are there to push the student along while watching/spying on and then reporting on the student to the class leaders. This watching/reporting continues after joining where other members pass on private information to their group cell leaders.
Manipulative and coercive techniques common to other cult groups is found throughout Shincheonji at all levels. Examples of this are:
- Not allowing outsiders to have access to their writings and materials, and sometimes making it difficult even for members to have certain materials. No outsiders can attend church services,
- Telling members not to look things up about them on the Internet because doing so is “eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
- Creating and reinforcing an Us/Them mentality in members and a deep hatred for Christian churches which they call “Babylon churches.” These churches are “married to Satan”, “sons of hell”, part of the “kingdom of demons” and are led by “Satan’s false pastors” who read commentaries which are the gold cup of the Great Prostitute in Rev. 17:4.
- Like most high control groups SCJ has a strong persecution complex which is entirely hypocritical. They speak of other churches in the harshest terms imaginable, but if you simply disagree with their doctrine you are persecuting them!
- When a member leaves the group he or she is typically immediately shunned where members will no longer talk to you, take your calls, or basically acknowledge your existence – often even within families!
Deception and Lying
Many cults excuse lying (like the Jehovah’s Witnesses in their “theocratic war strategy”) but Shincheonji does this perhaps worse than any other group. A righteous lie where the end justifies the means in furthering God’s kingdom is called “the wisdom of hiding” and is perfectly okay with God. The Bible is even used to justify lying (citing 1 Cor. 9:20-22 which is really about contextualized evangelism) even though God clearly hates lies (Prov. 5:6; 6:17).
Here are a couple of examples- First, a quote in a report from a training in Germany on how to approach pastors – “”Even if the pastor says something we do not believe, we should not directly say that it is not true. For example, if the pastor asks us, ‘What do you think about Trinity? I think Jesus is God.’ we should answer, ‘Yes, I think so too’.”
New recruits are even groomed to lie even before they become members. They are instructed to hide the facts about going to meetings and that they are going to Bible studies from their families and friends while they are learning about Shincheonji.
While Shincheonji claims that their members are the 12 tribes and the 144,000 mentioned in the Book of Revelation it is difficult to see how this can be referring to them because in Rev.14:5 we are told of 144,000 that “no lie was found in their mouth.”
Infiltration into Christian Churches and Recruiting Practices
Of all cult groups today, Shincheonji is proving to be the most aggressive in trying to specifically target Christians and will seemingly stop at nothing to do this, with an “ends justify the means” mentality. This group will systematically try to look for Christian churches in the areas that they are operating to sheep-steal congregation members and to go after church leadership with their “pastor evangelism teams.” Many churches in Korea have displayed signs at their entrances for years saying “Shincheonji Out”, and more and more reports are being made around the world of Shincheonji members either openly reaching out to church members, or infiltrating churches by hiding their identities in the effort to recruit new converts right under the noses of the church’s leadership to attend their “Bible studies.” (2 Pet. 2:1-3)
Despite now claiming to be “open”, SCJ generally uses Christian sounding names in their churches (like “Houston Christian Fellowship”), college campus outreach groups (where they will typically hide their name altogether), and in their other front groups (for example, “Parachristo”) that hide their identity and make them difficult to detect. SCJ online efforts are made using names like “Zion Christian Mission Center” or “Word and Life Theology School.” The goal is always the same – “come join our Bible study” to study the parables and the Book of Revelation (very important!) and these invitations are made by what claims to be a “non-denominational” organization (which is a deliberate and massive lie).
Having a “by any means necessary” mindset, Shincheonji is now going after the unsuspecting through the major social media platforms as well as on popular apps like “Nextdoor” or “Discord.” Sadly, SCJ is targeting and successfully recruiting young people by creating accounts on Christian dating apps like “United Young” (now “HOLY”) and lovingly inviting them to their online Zoom Bible studies.
Christian leaders, parents, and laypeople need to become aware of this insidious threat where believers are being aggressively targeted by love-bombing members of this dangerous group. Just as we should not take candy from strangers, in a world full of false teachers we must not be quick to study the Bible with anyone who comes along.
Shincheonji is a biblically and psychologically dangerous cult that is aggressively trying to recruit Christians and which is actively infiltrating churches and Christian groups to accomplish this. They will lie, hide their identity, and deliberately deceive in order to grow their group. Once someone joins the cult they are often constantly motivated by fear, guilt, and shame and will be subject to classic cult methods of manipulation and coercion.