A Rebuttal of Branch Davidian Theology
Jesus warned his disciples, "Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many." And again, He said, "And many false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many." David Koresh claimed to be a prophet and he went so far as to claim for himself the mantle of Christ.
Koresh challenged the world to show him where he was wrong, "If they (the prophets in the Bible) teach contrary to what we think or feel we better exchange our thinking or our feelings for them, because they claim to have the Spirit of the Living God. You see, that's what the test is... If I'm deceived please, please, show me from the Scriptures, please" (Confusion, by David Koresh [taped message], 18 July 1987).
It is too late to show David Koresh his errors in doctrine but there are many Branch Davidians who are still waiting for the challenge to be answered.
The Branch Davidian plan of salvation through gnosis (knowledge) is definitely contrary to the plan of salvation by faith (John 3:14-18; Ephesians 2:5, 8-10; 1 Peter 1:5; Romans 3:28; 4:5; 5:1; 10:9; Titus 3:5, 7; Galatians 2:16, 21) through grace (Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:5, 8-10; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:7; Romans 3:24; 5:15) taught in the Scriptures.
The "gnosis" (knowledge) plan of salvation is strongly rebuked by Paul who wrote "...keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science (Greek gnosis) falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen." (1 Timothy 6:20-21). The Gospel of salvation by faith through grace is not temporary, but is an everlasting Gospel (Hebrews 5:9; Revelation 14:6).
Another unbiblical doctrine of the Branch Davidian theology is it's offer of Godhood, a doctrine commonly called "exaltation." Satan's original sin was in trying to exalt himself to Godhood (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-19). In the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted man to pursue exaltation to Godhood (Genesis 3:5). Later, at the Tower of Babel/Babylon (same word in Hebrew) man again attempted to exalt himself to Godhood (Genesis 11:1-9).
The pursuit of exaltation to Godhood is the very core doctrine of Satan's Babylonian system. God's word is very clear on the subject, God will not give his glory to another (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11), God says:
"Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour" (Isaiah 43:10-11).
Against Koresh's "Other Gospel"
It is evident that David Koresh admittedly taught "another Gospel" (see 2 Corinthians 11:3-4; Galatians 1:6-10). Koresh wrote: "...the opening of the seven seals by Christ is as much or more important for our salvation as any other former gospels." (The Decoded Message of the Seven Seals of the Book of Revelation; by David Koresh p. 6 emphasis added)
Koresh misuses 1 Peter 1:3,5 in an attempt to prove that a new plan of salvation would be revealed in the last days, but this passage in context really says that the believer's salvation will be revealed, or displayed, at the last day. The Scriptures have forewarned of those who would claim to teach "another gospel" different from the one already received, particularly one which turns us from grace (Galatians 1:6-10).
Elsewhere Paul compares such an "other gospel" to that of the serpent, who like Koresh, offered exaltation to Godhood (see 1 Corinthians 11:3-4). It should be remembered that Koresh claimed to have "new light" and to have "the seventh angel's message," while the Scriptures forewarn that such an "other gospel" should not be accepted even if offered by an "angel of light" (Galatians 1:6-10; 1 Corinthians 11: 3-4, 13-14).
Against "Christ Consciousness"
Another erroneous Branch Davidian teaching is their doctrine that Jesus was not born Christ, but that he later obtained the Spirit or "consciousness" of Christ (this is often placed at his baptism). This doctrine is similar to the heresy of Adoptianism and New Age theories of "Christ Consciousness." The truth is that Jesus was born Christ (Luke 2:11) and was already Christ at his baptism (1 John 5:6). Jesus has always been, and always will be Christ (Hebrews 13:8)
Against Jesus Failing
The Branch Davidians also believe that Jesus was crucified because he failed in his original mission to teach the seven seals. The Bible, however, is clear on this matter. Jesus' crucifixion was part of the successful completion of God's original divine plan (Luke 22:22; John 17:4, 18:37, 19:30; Acts 2:23-24; Hebrews 10:14, 12:2; 1 Peter 3:18, Revelation 13:28.)
Against Koresh as a Christ
The Branch Davidian claim that David Koresh was the Lamb of Revelation 5 and the messianic figure with iniquity of Psalm 40:6-8, 12. The Scriptures reveal to us that Jesus is the Lamb (John 1:29, 36; Acts 8:30-35; 1 Peter 1:2, 19). The Messianic figure of Psalm 40 is also Jesus (see Hebrews 10:5-7 compared with Psalm 40:6-8). His iniquities (Palms 40:12) are not his own but the sins of the world which he bears (Isaiah 53:5-6, 1 Peter 2:24). Furthermore, the figure mentioned in Isaiah 45:1 is not surnamed Koresh (as Koresh argued based on Isaiah 45:4) the surname referred to is that of Israel (Isaiah 44:5). The Lamb that returns in Revelation is Jesus. He declares Himself, "...the root and the offspring of David..."Revelation 22:16).
When he comes it will be in the sky for all to see, not in the "inner rooms" of Mt. Carmel "in the wilderness/country" (Matthew 24:23-27). The Bible plainly teaches that Messiah would not be slain again, and would not reappear as a figure with iniquity. As the Bible says:
"So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation" (Hebrews 9:28).
It will not be a Messiah from Waco who will return. As the angel told Christ's disciples at his ascension: "...why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11 emphasis added).
Against Circular Reasoning
The Branch Davidian's basic theology is a classic case of circular reasoning. They teach that man must have unity with the Mind of God in order to understand the Scriptures. "Scripture is written from the perspective of God, not man. To truly understand its teaching it is necessary to have the Mind of God" (letter from Livingstone Fagan, 12 April 1994).
But, conversely, one must understand the Scriptures to obtain unity with the Mind of God, as Fagan states: "Through the Knowledge of God, as revealed in the Scriptures, humanity becomes a partaker of the divine nature.... And until they receive that Spirit which was commended in the hand of the Father, they can not have that element of God within them..." (Fagan interview 24 July 1993).
Thus one must have the Mind of God to understand the Scriptures and one must understand the Scriptures to obtain the Mind of God. The error in logic should be obvious. If one wishes to understand the Scriptures, too bad, you can not do that without the Mind of God. If one wants to receive the Mind of God, too bad, it is necessary to understand the Scriptures first.
Many see the Branch Davidians as a tragic footnote in history. Actually they are still a viable and evangelistic movement. They have a mailing list of over six hundred and continue to win converts since the destruction of their home and the deaths of their church family in April 1993.
Christians can learn important lessons from the Branch Davidians concerning the dangers of twisting the scriptures (2 Peter 3:16).
Beyond that, believers must be prepared to give an answer to everyone who issues a challenge and to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered" (Jude 3).