THE LARKIN-BRANHAM CONTROVERSY
If a person is sick and the doctor says, “Your body lacks iron. You need to eat iron”, going out to look for some metal iron cores will not be a good idea. That will be a shameful story that will end up in tragic. The iron metal in its state is too hard and incompatible with the cell structure of a living thing. In His wisdom God designed a plant like spinach to take in the iron elements from the soil and provide it into an edible form for consumption. Now, just as we have physical food for the nourishment of our bodies, we also have God’s Word for the health of our spiritual lives – “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” says the Scripture (Mat. 4:4). Furthermore, like Iron which in one state can be edible and in another state not edible, God’s Word also exists in letter form as well as in spoken-word form. In letter form the Word does not impart Life for “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Cor. 3:6). For the letter to give life it has to come through the avenue of an anointed vessel to expound it. It is for this reason that the Ethiopian eunuch in the book of Acts could read the Scripture but fail to grasp its meaning. It took Philip to speak and expound the Word to him. The eunuch heard the voice of the Word, his heart was convicted, he believed Christ and was baptised (Read Act. 8:26-39). In all this, however, it is important to be aware that the eunuch received salvation not simply because his natural ears were capable of receiving the sound coming from the vocal cords of Philip. Receiving the Life of the Word is also much a matter of HOW one hears – does the person have spiritual ears to grasp what the Spirit of God is speaking through a human vessel?
Much of the confusion in religion revolves around how people hear and interpret things. Two people can listen to same words but yet have understandings which are as the East is far from the West. What causes this is mainly because of the complex nature of the mind – it can sieve words through what it assumes, what it has heard, and what it has been exposed to. Confusion and danger arises when the “sieve” of the mind consists of false assumptions. Some false assumptions are way out of touch with reality that it makes you wonder how people could afford to reach certain conclusions over some matters. I had an experience of this in Kolhapur in India.
One well known minister in India by the name of brother Solomon Jacob took to the pulpit to denounce the teachings of William Branham. This man has been in the Message for quite a long period but now has gone into what he believes is now the truth. Before an audience of scores of people he declared that the Seven Seals sermon of William Branham is a copied (plagiarised) work of Dr Clarence Larkin’s book. The man was so bold in asserting that Branham’s teaching of the seals in the year 1963 consisted of word-for-word statements taken from Larkin’s book which was published 43 years earlier in 1919. The objective was ofcourse to show that Branham lied when he presented himself to have received a special revelation concerning the seals.
Space does not permit me to narrate the whole episode of the strange drama that surprised ministers and congregants in Kolhapur. However, suffice to say that what this man did is not new to people who are up-to-date with what anti-Branham preachers have been propagating about the matter. Here is what is stated on one anti-Branham website which gives a good summary of what Solomon Jacob in Kolhapur was trying to proclaim to the audience (when I looked at the notes the man compiled which he photocopied and distributed to the audience as he preached, I had no doubt that he had spent a good time on Google – a ‘place’ where modern ministers seem to compile their sermons from):
Rev. Clarence Larkin (1850–1924) was a Baptist Bible teacher and author. His book ‘The Book of Revelation’ was published in 1919. William Branham mentioned that he had read Clarence Larkin’s work, and he appears to have relied heavily on Clarence Larkin’s material to form the core teachings of his supposed ‘End Time Message’. William Branham claimed that his teachings on the seven seals in the book of revelation were given to him by his angel, but in fact, those teachings were Clarence Larkin’s work published 44 years before, in 1919.
Most branhamites believe that William Branham is the only Bible teacher to teach that the first horse rider was the anti-Christ. Also, William Branham gives credit to his angel for the teaching that the souls under the alter in the fifth seal were the Jews (Rev 6:9-11). Both of these are Clarence Larkin’s teachings published in 1919.
For purposes of focusing on the subject matter at hand I will not respond to all the misleading statements in the above two paragraphs. Even so, this is a serious matter that leads me to say this: If it is true that what William Branham taught concerning the Seals was word-for-word what Larkin wrote then Branham lied about having received a direct revelation from God about the subject. Then we ought to give heed to what anti-Branham preachers say concerning this matter. If their new convert, Solomon Jacob, is right about what he boldly preached in Kolhapur, then Message Believers are a people most miserable! However, if I will be able to show that what Branham taught is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from what Larkin wrote, then someone has gone into vain jangling and his conscience has been seared with a hot iron.
THE LARKIN-BRANHAM CONTROVERSY
What says the facts?
Here is what the Scripture says about the First Seal:
“And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer” (Revelation 6:1-2).
Both Larkin and Branham interpreted the first horse rider to be an Antichrist. Now, is it true that by this and other similar statements we should conclude that Branham copied his teaching from Larkin? To do so, without revealing to the audience the full contexts of the two men’s messages and show how they actually taught very different things, will amount to not only intellectual dishonesty but deceit. Having read both books, THE BOOK OF REVELATION by Clarence Larkin and THE REVELATION OF THE SEVEN SEALS by William Branham, I have to say this: A person who would say Branham taught what Larkin wrote about the Seals has either only briskly skimmed through the two books to prove a preconceived opinion or he simply hasn’t even read the books of the two men!
The two men’s interpretation of the Seals is as different as black and white. You have one man applying the events of the Seals way into the future when the Seventieth Week of Daniel and the Great Tribulation will start, and the other man is giving a different interpretation, pointing back to historical events as the fulfillment of the visions. Larkin for example takes the “famine” of the Third Seal as a literal depravation of food that is yet to fulfill during a time of distress and war in the world. He also calls the Third Seal’s horse rider as the “preserver of food.” Branham, on the other hand said this rider was the same Antichrist spirit that rode the first horse in the First Seal. He pointed the fulfillment of the Third Seal not to the future but back to the Dark Ages as a period of spiritual famine when the true Word of Life was deprived from people as they got subjected to religious dogma and superstition. And what about the statement “See thou hurt not the oil and the wine” in the Third Seal? Larkin took these words, looked to some future war and famine to take place on earth and said:
“what is meant by not hurting the oil and wine, may be, that as the Olive tree and grapevine do not bear their fruit until some months after the wheat and barley harvest, and grow without much attention, their crops would not be so much affected by war, and therefore the Olive trees and grapevines were not to be ruthlessly destroyed by invaders for they were needed for medicinal purposes.”
This is not what Branham said about the “oil” and “wine.” Again he pointed back to historical events of the Dark Ages explaining that the oil spoke of the “anointing” and the wine as “the stimulation of revelation” upon the few elect whom God had protected from the religious traditions and falsehoods of that time.
Surely, in the light of these glaringly diametrically opposed interpretations, for someone to pull isolated similar words and statements in the words of the two men and conclude that Branham copied from the other man is not just a matter of misinterpretation but more a case of either determined dishonesty or simply a lack of simple logical reasoning . What I will do in this teaching is not what the man in Kolhapur did – picking catchy statements (many of which were quoted out of context) to try to dress up an opinion so that it makes a stronger appeal to a person who has never read Clarence Larkin’s book. As I said earlier that would amount to intellectual dishonesty and deceit. When I heard the man vigorously exclaim in accusing William Branham to have called himself Elohim, what puzzled me the most was this: How possible is it that a man could have been so many years in the Message and end up with such a warped view of William Branham and the Message he preached? It would have been more understandable for a man coming from a background of Bible School training where his mind was already fed with preconceived notions of anti-Branham views. Well, crazy things do happen sometimes. In this study we will endeavour to bring out whole paragraphs of what Larkin wrote, and then compare it to what Branham actually taught on the matter. In this study we shall begin with the First Seal.
The First Seal – Comparing what Larkin said with what Branham taught
In this message, we shall compare what the two men said about the following three things of the First Seal:
- Who the white-horse rider is.
- When the white-horse rider would be crowned.
- What manner of conquering would be accomplished by the white-horse rider.
- Around what period of time would the vision of the First Seal be fulfilled.
These three things should determine whether the two men taught the same thing or not. Please take note of the word we are using – “taught”; we are here not looking for similar words or phrases because that is expected to appear in Branham’s words if he read Larkin’s book. What we shall compare here are the overall interpretations the two men gave to the First Seal. We shall approach this part of the message in two stages; first we shall look at what Larkin taught and next what Branham taught.
1. WHO IS THE WHITE-HORSE RIDER?
- What Clarence Larkin taught:
“Who is the ‘Rider’ upon this White Horse? He is not Christ, as some claim, for Christ, as the LAMB, is holding the ‘Seven Sealed Book’ and breaking its ‘Seals.’ Christ does not appear as a White Horse Rider until chapter 19:11-16, when He comes with the armies of Heaven to engage in the Battle of Armageddon… this White Horse Rider is the ANTICHRIST.”
Surely, this seems striking as both Larkin and Branham here spoke the same thing. And it is actually more likely that when Bro Branham in his sermon of the First Seal said that he had read different books on the subject, Larkin’s book must have been one of the books – “I have read every book on it I could find….I got Smith’s book on Daniel , of revelations…and others, I read two or three” (The First Seal, page 139.Paragraph 265). Ofcourse this is not surprising as every good minister studies different writings in order to compare and study a subject matter at hand. Even when God promises that he will reveal something to you about a verse in the Bible it is not wrong to research about the matter. Daniel the prophet tells us that he “understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem” (Dan.9:2).
“This ‘Rider’ has a ‘bow’, no arrow is mentioned, and he is not crowned at first, but a crown will be given to him later, the ‘Stephanos’ or ‘Victor’s Crown,’ as a reward for his victories which are prolonged and bloodless.
These exact words again come out in Branham’s Seals book. There is no doubt but that he read Larkin’s book. However, as you move on in his explanation of how the Seal was fulfilled, what you get are two different interpretations by the two men. The most important thing to note here is that Larkin places emphasis on the rider being a person:
“This ‘White Horse Rider’ will be Satan’s ‘SUPERMAN.’ The Scriptures clearly teach that there is some day to arise a human being who shall be the embodiment of all Satanic power. He will be known as the ‘WILFUL KING’ because he shall do according to his own will”
- What William Branham taught:
Although William Branham used Larkin’s words to describe the white-horse rider as an “Antichrist” and “Superman”, what he interpreted about who the rider actually is and when the fulfillment of the Seal would be is completely different. In Branham’s teaching the rider is not a person but a spirit. He is not coming in the future at the time of the Great tribulation but started riding his horse way back in the early church age of Ephesus. Here is what Branham interpreted and emphasised (find these words in his Seals Book):
“‘A white horse rider went out’. See? Who is he? He is mighty in his conquering power. He is a great power in his conquering power. You want me to tell you who he is? He is the antichrist” (Paragraph 295).
“When he starts off, as a Nicolaitane spirit in the church he is a spirit. You can’t crown a spirit. But three hundred years later, he become a pope, and then they crowned him. He had no crown , to start with. But he got a crown, later, see, when that spirit become incarnate …Nicolaitane doctrine become a man, then they could crown him” (Paragraph 301).
2.WHEN WILL THE HORSE-RIDER BE CROWNED?
- What Clarence Larkin taught:
Speaking about the “crown” Larkin explained that this pointed to the time when the Antichrist, in the future, at the beginning of Daniel’s Seventieth week, will be made “Head of the Ten Federated Kingdoms of the revived Roman Empire.” Here are the full words of Dr Larkin:
“This is the picture of a brilliant, strategical, and irresistible conqueror, whose victories will dazzle the world, and elevate him to a leadership that will place him at the Head of the Ten Federated Kingdoms of the revived Roman Empire. As a subaltern, like Napoleon I, he will rise from the ranks until a crown will be given him. His triumphs will be due to his skilful diplomacy….In other words this White Horse Rider is the ANTICHRIST. He is the “PRINCE WHO IS TO COME” of Daniel’s Vision of the “Seventy Weeks,” and who will confirm the Covenant for “ONE WEEK,” the last or “Seventieth Week,” with Daniel’s people the Jews. Dan. 9:27.”
- What William Branham taught:
William Branham does not point to the future, to the Seventieth Week of Daniel, as the time when the White Horse rider will be crowned. He taught that the crowning occurred through the establishment of the papacy in the fourth century. This is what he taught throughout his ministry. Here is what he said when preaching the First Seal:
“He had no crown, to start with, but a crown was given him. Notice later he was given a crown…that was three hundred years later, at the Nicaea Council…When he started out, a spirit of Nicolaitane, to form an organisation among the people. And then it kept going on, going on, going on, become ‘a saying’, then it become ‘a doctrine.’” (Paragraph 297).
3.WHAT MANNER OF CONQUERING WILL THE WHITE-HORSE RIDER ACCOMPLISH?
- What Clarence Larkin taught:
“His triumphs will be due to his skilful diplomacy” explained Larkin. He saw this person’s conquering as a political and diplomatic accomplishment. On the converse, what Branham said about the conquering is as day is different from night.
- What William Branham taught:
Brother Branham interpreted the conquering to refer to a religious doctrine that enabled the clergy to rule over people instead of the Holy Spirit. Again he pointed back to the early stages of church history as a point when this practice began. He did not teach about this conquering being a diplomatic strategy of the Antichrist or that it will take place around the time of the Seventieth Week. Here is what he said:
“Remember, in the church ages…the Holy Spirit was against a certain thing they got started in that church age, and that was called ‘the deeds of the Nicolaitanes’…Nikao means ‘to conquer’. Laity means ‘the church’, the laity. Nico-laitane, ‘to conquer the laity.’ Take the Holy Spirit out of the church and give it all to one holy man” (paragraph 295).
4. WHEN IS THE FULFILMENT OF THE FIRST SEAL?
- What Clarence Larkin taught:
Now here is an important question to ask: In what proximity of time did Larkin place the fulfilment of the rise of the White Horse Rider? This is what he said:
“The rise of this White Horse Rider necessarily antedates the beginning of the ‘Seventieth Week,’ or the ‘SEVEN YEARS’ of his reign, for he must have reached a position of power to make a Covenant with the Jews at the beginning of the ‘WEEK,’ but he does not become ‘THE BEAST,’ as described in chapter 13:1-8, until the ‘Middle’ of the WEEK, that is, until after Satan is cast out of the Heavenlies and incarnates himself in him. His rise to power and the rebuilding of Babylon will take time, so the Rapture of the Church will doubtless antedate the beginning of the WEEK by some years. But while the establishment of the Antichrist’s power will be comparatively peaceful, that peace will be short-lived as is evident from the breaking of the ‘Second Seal.’”
Note that although Larkin states that “[the rise of the Antichrist] to power and the rebuilding of Babylon will take time”, he explains this with reference to (and in proximity of) the rapture of believers and the beginning of the seventieth week of Daniel.
- What William Branhan taught:
As has been seen in all the quotations of William Branham, he taught that the First Seal began its fulfilment way back in the first century when a wrong spirit that masqueraded as the work of God began to infiltrate among the saints. Note that although Clarence Larkin when teaching about Revelation Chapter 2 and 3 taught about the deeds of the Nicolaitane in the first church age, a thing William Branham read and also taught, he did not take that as the interpretation of the First Seal.
Dear brothers and sisters, what we have seen in this message is an attempt by men who are skillful at creating straw men and who then take great pleasure to dismantle it with great relish. As we move on to the other seals, what you will see are completely different interpretations of what the two men taught. We will talk about the other Seals in the next message. From there we shall approach the matter of the Mystery Cloud of 1963 and the various controversies which have risen about the matter. One thing is certain as we go through these matters – there are people who simply have a very poor way of hearing and critiquing something. Some are really standing on ‘thin ice’ but yet being very sanguine in emotionally expressing themselves on matters they have little understanding. Prudence requires that if you don’t agree with someone about something, be sure to get facts right before raising a finger. That is just a decent thing for any gentleman to do.
….CONTINUED IN PART III.
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