Most of the members of Branch Davidians were former Seventh-Day Adventist which can be track down to the Millerites Movement back in the nineteenth century. The Millerites movement was founded by William Miller who was a Deist turned Christian convert. He was convinced that information about the end of the world and then the Second Coming of Jesus are all coded in the Bible. With this in mind he felt his obligation to spread this finding to others. One of the main text that he interpreted was the Book of Daniel 8:14 where he believed that the Second Coming would occur between March 1843 and March 1844. Unfortunately this prophecy did not come true and this became known as the AGreat Disappointment@. Their leader William Miller later on withdrew from the leadership and what was left in the congregation called themselves the AAdventists@ which was later joined by Ellen Harmon known as Ellen White.
Ellen White formed the new movement called the ASeventh-Day Adventist@. She believed that the prophecy of 1844 was just a prelude to the Second Coming of Jesus. She referred to this as the Astart of an investigative judgement@ (Seventh-Day Adventist p.2) This is a period when Christ judges the dead and the people on earth according to their holiness which will then be followed by the return of Christ. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church is well known for their belief in the impending return of Jesus Christ to earth. The Seventh-Day contain the dogma of Christianity. This dogma consists of the bringing into existence, the transgression of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, the divinity of God, Satan as the fallen angel, resurrection of Christ, the Bible being infallible, and salvation by the redemption of Christ.
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church was later joined by Victor Houteff. Houteff believed that he was a messanger of God to carry out the task of purifying the Church from within and to gather the remaining 144,000 just before the coming of Christ. This idea was taken from the book of Ezekiel 9 in which the purification of Jerusalem by angels was to take place. He believed this prophecy to be the purification of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and believed that he was the angel that is to carry this task. Houteff believed that the return of Christ would occur only when a small number of Christians have been completely purified. According to Tabor and Gallagher, this was one of the interrelated teachings that Houteff developed. His second precept consists of the Kingdom of God. He believed that the Kingdom of God will be set on earth specifically centered in Palestine where the chosen 144,000 led by him would meet Christ at his return in the land of Israel. In contrast to this idea, Ellen White and other Seventh-Day Adventist taught the Kingdom of God was a spiritual phenomenon and they would spend the Millenium with Christ in heaven while the earth waits for new heaven and earth after the judgement day.
Houteff=s movement took the name Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists. The name Davidian referred to the sect=s teaching about the Aimminent restoration of the Davidic Messianic Kingdom in Palestine@.(Tabor, Gallagher p.35)
The movement later on split further and eventually led to the organization of the Student of the Seven Seals, well known as the Branch Davidian. Branch Davidian is a sect that sow dissension from the more mainstream Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
Branch Davidians believe that they are the chosen people of God in the Last Days before the end of the world. With this belief, they believe that there will always be a prophet send by God to show them the way or what they call Athe new light@. They believe that prophets are sent by God to reveal to them new light or new revelation. Branch Davidians believe that God has two revelations to mankind one in Jesus Christ and one at the end of time. The identity of the Lamb at the end of time can be established as the one who is able to give explanation of the Seven Seals of Revelation. Because Koresh was able to explain the Seven Seals, his followers were convinced that he was the second Messiah.
One element of Koresh teaching is his claim to be able to unlock the Seven Seals of the Book of Revelation. The Davidians understood the sealed book to the Entire Bible. The sealed book was the most important to the sect since they explained the Book of Revelation and predicted the end of the world. They believed that opening these seals involved two things: AGod=s plan of salvation through Koresh, the Second Christ figure and the final events of the end of history@.(Tabor , Gallagher p.54)
Koresh pointed out to his followers that although the Book of Revelation was written by John and revealed by Jesus Christ, it was only supposed to be understand and fulfill before the end of history. Therefore, Koresh taught that the Book of Revelation would remain closed and sealed until the Lamb figure appears at some point who would open the seal and fulfill the prophecy.
In their view, the entire Bible was sealed and hidden from full understanding until the time of the seventh messenger believed to be Koresh that would open it all and announce it to the world.
One of Koresh=s teaching was called the ACyrus Message@ (Tabor, Gallagher p.59) in which Cyrus, the King of Persia destroyed the ancient Babylon. This was a history in which the Jews were held captive by the Babylonians who were perceived as their merciless enemy. Cyrus was distinguished as Messiah and had a divine task to the conquer the Great Babylon, oppressor of God=s chosen people.
Like many evangelical Christians, Branch Davidians recognized Babylon as the symbolism of Adominant political, economic, and military might of the West@ (Tabor, Gallagher p.61) The Davidians believed that the Branches would suffer persecution at the hands of the Government. Koresh taught the followers that they are living in the end times and that God=s return was imminent. Preparatory to his return, the faithful would be tested and persecuted. When the Government agent raided the compound this served as the fulfillment of the prophecy.
In Koresh belief, the First Coming of Christ was submissive and self-abasement. Jesus did not fight against his enemy and allowed himself to be killed. This approach is to come to an end and indoctrinate his followers to acquire weapons. He was convinced that the Second Coming of Christ would involve a lot of violence and with force. They believe that they are the chosen people of God that would confront their enemies in the last days. According to Koresh, Jesus nonresistance served as sacrifice for all the sins of mankind during his existence. He taught that resistance to what is evil (for example Babylon or Government) is required by the chosen people of God. With this teaching in mind, the followers believed that it was wrong to actively oppose a conflict. They believe that when the Great War takes place in Palestine, they would fight alongside with the Israelis to battle the United Nation Force. They were taught not to initiate violence actively until that final conflict comes but they were allowed to defend themselves against evil force when persecuted or assaulted.
Another teaching of Koresh focused on sexual abstinence. As the AMessiah@, Koresh ordered that the women and men be separated with no sexual relation including those who are married. Only he himself was allowed to have sexual relation with the women. He believed that his children with these women would serve to fulfill the prophecy of the kingdom of God that is to be set up in Israel. Since Koresh strongly believed that they were living in the last days, he strongly insisted on the policy of celibacy. The Branch Davidians believe that when Adam was created he represents both male and female but was later separated into two. In the new creation, the male and female would become one again and in perfect harmony. Human Sexuality is considered as a disappointing temporary state that would later be overcome by the new creation. ANo one really finds the right mate in this life but in the Kingdom of God all will receive his or her true lost self whether male or female, for whom each longs@ (Tabor, Gallagher p.69)
Sex is perceived as a mean to continue the generation of species and therefore it was okay but before the world ends, the followers must turn form their normal human pattern of life in anticipation of the new creation. He taught them that sex is evil and how it wrongfully enter human=s life prohibiting them close relationship with one another. He taught that human sexuality leads to deceit and disruption in human relationship. He stressed the idea of a purified person free from sinful thoughts in his mind. They believed that by abstaining from sex they were being transformed into a pure spirit. By going back to the idea of the creation of Adam. Koresh further taught that since Adam is an embodiment of both male and female. He has female spirit in him and is actually married to the Lamb or Koresh in a spiritual male side. This work with women too since they have the male spirit in them it expresses itself by marrying the female spirit found in Koresh. The product of Koresh=s sexual union with the women who were considered pure in body and spirit was the most sacred aspect of their community life.
The tragedy in Waco which involved deaths of David Koresh and many of his followers led to many preachers making the event the central focus of their Sunday sermons, denouncing the cult and its leader for straying from the right path. By looking at Christianity and the Branch Davidian one could ask just what is the difference between a religion and a cult. First Religion by its definition is the service and worship of God, it is a system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. While cult on the other hand by its definition is a system of religious beliefs and rituals. What makes one a cult. People that belongs to a cult believe in a supernatural being that dictates his commands to the leader. The leader claims to have personal relationship with the higher power and no one is to question it. They believe that the higher power is all good and there must be an evil figure. The evil represents the antithesis of the goals of the cult. Satan is considered to be the primary evil force in Christianity and many Christians believe that he has agents on earth. There is always a charismatic leader that gives orders which claims to come from the higher power. The leader convinces his followers that they are unworthy and this leads to lowered self-esteem. This characterized a psychological manipulation. In the end one could ask a possible question whether Religion is simply just a cult that has attained an acceptance among the general population.
Tabor, James D.and Gallagher, Eugene V. Why Waco: cults and the battle for religious freedom in America. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1995
Tabor and Gallagher explains what happened in Waco. Who were the Branch Davidians what their beliefs are and what led them to Mount Carmel.
Outline of Branch Davidian Teachings
This outlines the teachings of Branch Davidians. They believe that they are the chosen people of God for the last days before the world ends. Due to this they believe that there will always be a prophet to lead them the way.
This gives information about their religious beliefs and their interpretation of the passages in the Book of Revelation.
This article outlines the points in the teachings of Adventist and Davidian leaders. It shows how Branch Davidians evolved from the Seventh-Day Adventist.
This article summarizes the beliefs and practices of Branch Davidians