In the late 1970s, Benjamin Creme of Scotland began announcing the coming of Lord Maitreya, calling him the “world teacher” and “cosmic Christ” awaited by all major religions. In 1979 the Nation of Yahweh set up shop in Liberty City, Florida. Hulon Mitchell Jr., founder and leader of the black supremacist movement, conferred on himself the title Yahweh ben Yahweh (Hebrew for “God son of God”).
Although many would scoff at these messianic wannabes, others have flocked to them. Outlining events that would take place prior to His Second Coming, Jesus warned, “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Mt. 24:24).
Benjamin Creme studied art and esoteric philosophy, particularly the writings of Helen Blavatsky and Alice A. Bailey, before joining a UFO cult. In 1959 he claimed to have been contacted by an “ascended master” who supposedly outlined Creme’s possible role in the disclosure of Maitreya’s identity.1 Creme claims he is Lord Maitreya’s mouthpiece today.
Recently Creme, now 87, began announcing that Maitreya—whom he calls the “cosmic Christ”—has “stepped forward into the open arena of the world and has appeared several times in full view of the television cameras.”2 Purportedly, he “will declare Himself openly to the world when sufficient of humanity has responded to His message for justice, peace and sharing, and are bringing these into effect.”3
Members of Share International, a religious organization Creme founded, point to Raj Patel, whom they say is “the living embodiment of…Maitreya.”4 However, Patel, author and self-proclaimed food activist, categorically refuses the job and hopes Creme’s group “will leave him alone so that he can get back to normal life.”5
Unlike Creme, who claims to be announcing the coming messiah, others actually think they are the messiah.
Sung Myung Moon
Sun Myung Moon established the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity in Seoul, Korea. Known today as the Unification Church, the organization grew rapidly from its inception in 1954 to 30 church centers by the end of 1955. Within four years, Moon began sending missionaries to Japan and the United States; and by 1975, they were in 120 countries.6
A professed communication from Jesus to Christians, replicated on the church’s official Web site in 2001, admonishes, “Reverend Sun Myung Moon [now 90 years old] is the returning Messiah for whom you have been waiting and waiting. He inherited my mission at the age of 16. Dear Christians, are you still looking up and waiting for Christ to return on the clouds? Reverend Moon travels throughout the world on the clouds. He is investing all of his heart and soul for the realization of world peace.”7
Christ’s supposed message also says, “Dear fellow Christians, fellow Buddhists, and believers of various religions!The four great religious founders, Jesus, Buddha, Confucius, and Mohammed, and saints such as Socrates, Augustine and others…are united as one, through the Messiah who appears on Earth….In order to bring peace on Earth, it will be necessary to break down the barriers among all religions on Earth….Sun Myung Moon…is the Messiah.”8
In contrast to the flamboyant Reverend Moon, Mitsuo Matayoshi is an obscure Japanese politician who campaigns from a minivan outfitted with oversized loudspeakers. Promoting himself as “the only God Mitsuo Matayoshi Jesus Christ” or “Jesus Matayoshi,” he established the World Economic Community Party in 1997.
His platform is a mix of pseudo-Christian eschatology coupled with moralistic conservatism. Aspiring to be the world’s savior, his first goal is to be prime minister of Japan, although he has never won an election. After reforming Japanese society, he expects the United Nations to offer him the position of secretary general, through which he plans to rule the world both religiously and politically.9
Yahweh ben Yahweh
Perhaps one of the most frightening messianic pretenders was Oklahoma-born Hulon Mitchell Jr. who served prison time for racketeering and was implicated in more than a dozen murders. “All so-called Black people of America, who are descendants of slaves,” he said, “are the tribe of Judah.”10
According to the Nation of Yahweh website, Yahweh ben Yahweh “has restored our remembrance of our common history, culture, language, and our common surname Israel, as found in the King James Version of the Holy Bible.”11
Although he took a vow of poverty, his organization amassed a $250 million empire in seven years, with “disciples, followers, and supporters in over 1,300 cities within the U.S. and 16 foreign countries.”12
Yahweh ben Yahweh taught, “The Kingdom of Heaven is when Yehuwdah (Judah)—the so-called Black people of America, descendants of slaves—become [sic] the ‘chief’ ruler (1 Chronicles 5:2). He stressed that until Yehuwdah becomes the ‘chief’ ruler, there will be no heaven on earth…[and] we cannot have heaven without the King of heaven making it happen.”13 His followers agreed, “He alone is the king of heaven.”14
In his writings, Mitchell routinely replaced the word Christ with the Hebrew letters for Yahweh ben Yahweh when quoting Scripture; and on the Nation of Yahweh Web site, he is pictured before a backdrop of the Greek symbols alpha and omega. The caption under his photo reads, “Yahweh ben Yahweh The Prince of Peace” and “Isaiah 9:6.”15
A hero to some, Hulon died in 2007 at the age of 72, but not before journalist Sydney P. Freedberg won a Pulitzer Prize for her book Brother Love: Murder, Money and a Messiah that reported on the beheadings, beatings, and sordid activities associated with Mitchell.
Although baby boomers may not have heard of George Baker Jr., their parents would be familiar with his alias—Reverend Major Jealous Divine—aka Father Divine. He created the International Peace Mission; formulated its doctrine; and took it from a small, ethnic congregation to a multicultural, international movement claiming millions of adherents around the world.
Divine’s eclectic theology asserted that Jesus failed to effect the “universal emancipation” of man during His First Advent, so He had to “come yet again in the power of the FATHERSHIP Degree of expression for this universal resurrection and complete redemption of all mankind.”16 His followers believe “HE is that One come again”; he never disputed the claim.17 His goal was the “amalgamation of all religions and the amalgamation of all organizations by scientifically working cooperatively and working in unison.”18
Baker is hailed as an incarnation of God; and his widow and remaining followers always refer to him in the present tense, although he died in 1965.
Mother Ann Lee
Ann Lee founded the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing—the American Shakers. Because their worship involved ecstatic dancing or shaking, they were dubbed the Shaking Quakers.
Lee taught the Holy Spirit caused this shaking while purging sin from the body. Maintaining she had a vision of Adam and Eve’s transgression, she preached that sex was the original sin and “lust has been the root of all evil.”19
She fanatically taught that life with God begins with confession and is perfected by denial of the lust of the flesh through celibacy. Referring to herself as Mother Ann or Ann the Word, she professed to be the female successor to Jesus and the incarnation of Christ’s Second Coming.20
Headquartered in the land of the Bible on the slopes of Mount Carmel, the Baha’i espouse the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, acknowledged as “the Promised One foretold in all the world’s religions.”21
Bahá’u’lláh claimed royal Persian lineage through the Sasanian Dynasty, while also asserting he was a descendant of Abraham through Keturah. He presented himself as a messenger from God purportedly fulfilling the eschatological expectations of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism.
He advocated “mutual understanding and fellowship among nations, cultures, and peoples” and developed a strategy for world peace, which included new social structures designed to eliminate conflict and stifle disunity.22 His utopian dream envisioned an international court system, a world legislative body, and a universal leader.
In 1992, 100 years after his death, followers of Bahá’í commemorated “the centenary of His ascension [death].”23 They believe Bahá’u’lláh fulfills the promise of the everlasting Davidic kingship and that he is “the second coming of Christ in the potency of the Everlasting Father seated upon the throne of David.”24
Today He is regarded by millions as the manifestation of God or divine teacher for this age who will ultimately usher in a new society of tolerance, love, and world peace.
Don’t Be Deceived
These individuals differ from one another; yet they all cried out for global unity, the amalgamation of religions, social justice, and economic equality. But are these qualifiers for messiahship?
The historical landscape is littered with people claiming to be the Messiah. But take heart. Identifying Him is not that complicated! When Jesus ascended into heaven, the attending angels declared, “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Jesus said, “If they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Mt. 24:26–27).
Anyone proclaiming to be the Messiah without the distinguishing physical scars and spectacular, visible return in the clouds is merely a wannabe (Mt. 24:29–30). Jesus will return with the nail prints in His hands and feet, along with the spear wound in His side (Zech. 12:10; Rev. 19:11–16). And His return will be so spectacular no one on the planet will miss it.
- Bobbie Johnson, “I’m not the messiah, says food activist—but his many worshippers do not believe him,” Guardian, March 19, 2010 <tinyurl.com/2bb2vz7>.
- Cited as “by the Master, through Benjamin Creme, “The Awakening,” March 2010 <tinyurl.com/26sp4nq>.
- “Who Is Reverend Moon?” The Unification Church <unification.org/rev_mrs_moon.html>.
- “Jesus’ Message to Christians and All People on Earth,” in “Part III: Messages from the Principals at the Seminar,” April 5, 2001 <tinyurl.com/293jbdp>.
- “Matayoshi, Mitsuo ‘Jesus,’” Our Campaigns <ourcampaigns.com/CandidateDetail.html?CandidateID=116421>.
- “Who Is the Nation of Yahweh?” <yahwehbenyahweh.com/pdf/WhoIsTheNationofYahwehEnglish.pdf>.
- “The Nation of Yahweh” <yahwehbenyahweh.com>.
- “What Is the Kingdom of Yahweh—the Kingdom of Heaven—Like?” The Good News of Yahweh 7, no. 71, (September/October 2007) <yahwehbenyahweh.com/GN/GnewsSepOct07.htm>.
- “Mother Divine’s Concept of God” <libertynet.org/fdipmm/mdbook/godtx.html>.
- “Americanism as taught by father and mother divine” <libertynet.org/fdipmm/mdbook/americtx.html>.
- “Mother Ann Lee” <answers.com/topic/ann-lee>.
- “Bahá’u’lláh: Manifestation of God” <info.bahai.org/bahaullah-manifestation-of-god.html>.
- “Abandoning Prejudice” <info.bahai.org/article-1-3-2-14.html>.
- “Bahá’u’lláh: Manifestation of God.”
- “Bahá’u’lláh—The Return of Christ” <uhj.net/bahaullah.html>.