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Eastern Lightning (东方闪电) or the Church of Almighty God is a Chinese cult based on Christianity who believe that Jesus Christ has been reincarnated as Yang Xiangbing (1973–), a Chinese woman. It was founded in 1989 by Zhao Weishan (赵维山) (1951–), who currently resides in the United States where he continues to lead the church. The name Eastern Lightning is derived from Matthew 24:27.
As the Second Coming of Jesus, Yang Xiangbing will guide mankind through the end times. Eastern Lightning preaches salvation through her third testament, The Word Appears in the Flesh. Eastern Lightning refers to the Chinese Communist Party as the "Great Red Dragon" of the Book of Revelation, and some members predicted that the world would end on December 21, 2012. The leaders of group, however, rejected that prediction.
The group's theology divides time into three ages: that of the law (the Old Testament), that of grace (the New Testament), and that of Kingdom (the current age). It teaches that the "Age of Grace" has been superseded by the "Age of Kingdom", during which humans will not only be forgiven of their sins, but also cleansed of their sinful nature. There is also a separate "Age of the Millennial Kingdom", which is supposed to occur after God's work in China has ended; during that age, the apocalyptic events in the Book of Revelation are to occur.
The sect essentially excludes mainstream Christians who are not part of the group from salvation, stating that those who hold on to conventional Christian beliefs are "guilty of opposing God" and do not truly believe in Him.
The group implicitly denies absolute Biblical inerrancy and explicitly denies the notion that the Bible provides a sufficient understanding of God, condemning such views as Bibliolatry that restricts God via the Bible. Videos on the group's channel render quotations of Jesus in yellow, similar to Red Letter Christians, but also render the group's own The Word Appears in the Flesh in yellow captions to emphasize their belief that the piece of literature is from God rather than a cult leader. The group's view of the Bible as limited and fallible is, however, likely not rooted in rational skepticism of religious dogma and should not be confounded with efforts by progressive Christians to re-interpret the Bible to suit modern science and values. Rather, this is likely intended to prop up the group's theology despite its contradictions with the Bible. For example, the name of the group is, ironically, quote mined right out of a passage about false [[prophets[[ and teachers in Matthew 24:22 that appears to imply that groups like it are following false messiahs.
Despite believing that all Christians following mainstream beliefs are going to Hell forever, videos on the sect's channel frequently identify the group's members as simply "Christians" or "people who believe in God". The group also denies evolution.
However, unlike Falun Gong, Eastern Lightning has been accused of explicitly engaging in acts of violence. For instance, in 2002 Eastern Lightning allegedly kidnapped 34 members of a Chinese house church network, the China Gospel Fellowship, for two months by pretending to be a Christian training center. According to a victim of the kidnapping, the cultists initially claimed to be theologians from Singapore but later revealed they were actually members of Eastern Lightning; after the victim rebuked them for heresy (cult members had allegedly beaten four Christians in his hometown and left them disfigured), he was called a "Pharisee" and moved to a locked room in a residence where he was subjected to verbal abuse. The victim was left pale and emaciated.
In a more widely publicized event in 2014, cultists identifying as believers in "Almighty God" beat a woman to death at a local McDonald's for simply refusing to give them her phone number. The sect tried to distance itself from the murderers, noting that the suspects testified that they had never come into contact with the church; the sect further accused the Communist Party of being behind the attack. A close look at the testimony shows that the murderers may have been influenced by some of the literature produced by the sect but did not consider the sect to be the true representatives of "Almighty God" (Splitters!).
The sect produces slick, high-budget "Christian" films and uploads them to YouTube. In those movies, all characters, good or bad, invariably use Apple products. Why they have such an obsession with Macs and iPhones remains unexplained.
- Inside China's 'Eastern Lightning' cult Global Times, June 03, 2014
- China cracking down on doomsday group Los Angeles Times, December 17, 2012]
- "Church of Almighty God". CenSAMM. https://censamm.org/resources/profiles/church-of-almighty-god.
- "Knowing the purpose of the three stages of work of God’s management of mankind". The Church of Almighty God. June 13, 2017. https://www.holyspiritspeaks.org/gospel/three-stages-of-work-1/.
- "Only He Who Experiences the Work of God Truly Believes in God". https://www.holyspiritspeaks.org/recital-kingdom-selection-000/#.
- ""My Father, the Pastor" A Truth Debate on the Bible (English Dubbed)"". July 3, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zEGM3nt0n8.
- Deceived by the Lightning Christian Research Institute, 2005
- What is the Church of Almighty God? Got Questions
- Testimony of "Younger Shen" from China Gospel Fellowship Of His Experience in Confinement (Chinese) China For Jesus
- The Chinese cult that kills 'demons' BBC News, 13 August 2014]
- ""The Truth Exposed Behind the May 28 Zhaoyuan Case"". January 29, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHFGlPQXzCM.
- ""山东招远血案被告自白：我就是神"". August 22, 2014. http://news.sohu.com/20140822/n403692654.shtml.