William Marrion Branham (April 6, 1909—December 24 1965) was a Christian minister, usually credited with founding the post World War II faith healing movement . Today, he is considered a Scriptural prophet by those Christians around the world who believe that his ministry and teachings were supernaturally vindicated by God.
The declared intention of William Branham's ministry was to turn Christians back to what he believed to be the original apostolic faith of the Bible, as stated in Malachi 4:5-6 His theme was from Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and for ever.
From his early childhood Branham claimed to have supernatural experiences including prophetic visions. He recalled that in his early childhood, while assisting his father at a backyard moonshine still, he heard the voice of the Angel of the Lord who told him 'never to drink, smoke or defile himself by living immorally with women'. On one occasion during his teenage years, he remembered being approached by an astrologer telling him that he was 'born under a special sign' and that they predicted an important religious calling for him. Later he came to understand this to be similar to Paul's experience with the "damsel with a spirit of divination" in Acts 16:16-17
Leaving home at nineteen, Branham worked on a ranch in Arizona and also had a short career as a boxer, reportedly winning 15 fights . At the age of twenty-two he had a Christian conversion experience and later was ordained as an assistant pastor at a Missionary Baptist Church in Jeffersonville . When he disagreed with the pastor about the role of women preaching, Branham held a series of revivals on his own in a tent. Later, the meetings moved to a local hall until they were able to construct a building in 1933 which the congregation named 'Branham Tabernacle' (photo) .
In May 1946, Branham reported receiving an angelic visitation, commissioning his worldwide ministry of evangelism and faith healing. His first meetings as a full time evangelist were held in St Louis, Missouri in June 1946. Professor Allan Anderson of the University of Birmingham, has written that “Branham’s sensational healing services, which began in 1946, are well documented and he was the pacesetter for those who followed” . Referring to the St Louis meetings, Krapohl & Lippy have commented: "Historians generally mark this turn in Branham’s ministry as inaugurating the modern healing revival
During the mid 1940s Branham was conducting healing campaigns almost exclusively with Oneness Pentecostal groups . The broadening of Branham's ministry to the wider Pentecostal community came as a result of his introduction to Gordon Lindsay in 1947, who soon became his primary manager and promoter . Around this time several other prominent Pentecostals joined his ministry team including Ern Baxter and F. F. Bosworth . Gordon Lindsay proved to be an able publicist for Branham, founding The Voice of Healing magazine in 1948 which was originally aimed at reporting on Branham's healing campaigns.
In June 1947, the Evening Sun newspaper of Jonesboro, Arkansas reported that "Residents of at least 25 States and Mexico have visited Jonesboro since Rev. Branham opened the camp meeting, June 1. The total attendance for the services is likely to surpass the 20,000 mark". Several newspapers carried reports of healings in the meetings His success took him to countries around the world. According to a Pentecostal historian, "Branham filled the largest stadiums and meeting halls in the world.
In Durban, South Africa in 1951 he addressed meetings sponsored by the Apostolic Faith Mission, the Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal Holiness Church, and the Full Gospel Church of God. Meetings were conducted in eleven cities, with a combined attendance of a half million people. On the final day of the Durban meetings, held at the Greyville Racecourse, an estimated 45,000 people attended and thousands more were turned away at the gates. Many healings were reported in the local newspapers.
U.S. Congressman William Upshaw, crippled for sixty-six years, publicly proclaimed his miraculous healing in a Branham meeting in a leaflet called "I'm Standing on the Promises". William Branham also claimed that God's miraculous intervention healed King George VI of England through his prayers.
From the mid 1950s onwards Branham taught that neither Oneness theology nor Trinitarianism were correct, but that God was the same Person in three different offices - in the same way that a husband can also be a father and a grandfather. As he began to speak more openly about doctrine, such as the Godhead and serpent seed, the popularity of his ministry began to decline
From July 1949, ministers working with Branham in his meetings, testified that he was able to reveal the thoughts, experiences, and needs of individuals who came to the platform. Branham himself explained that this knowledge was given to him through visions.. In a 1978 interview, Ern Baxter (who worked with William Branham from 1947 to 1954) stated: "Branham had a tremendous word of knowledge. Before praying for a person, he would give accurate details concerning the person’s ailments, and also details of their lives - their home town, activities, actions - even way back in their childhood. Branham never once made a mistake with the word of knowledge in all the years I was with him. That covers, in my case, thousands of instances".
Branham told of supernatural experiences that went back to his childhood. As a young boy he was considered "nervous" because from an early age he spoke of "visions" and "a voice" that spoke to him out of a wind, saying, "Don't ever drink, or smoke, or defile your body in any way. There will be a work for you to do when you get older." Shortly after being ordained, Branham was baptizing people on June 11, 1933 in the Ohio River near Jeffersonville. He described how people along the bank saw a bright light descend over where he was standing, and that he heard a voice say, "As John the Baptist was sent to forerun the first coming of Jesus Christ, so your message will forerun His second coming.
Branham recalled that as he prayed alone late one night during his search for personal meaning in May 1946, an angel of light appeared, saying: "Do not fear. I am sent from the presence of the Almighty God to tell you that your peculiar birth and misunderstood life has been to indicate that you are to take a gift of Divine healing to the peoples of the world. If you will be sincere when you pray and can get the people to believe you, nothing shall stand before your prayer, not even cancer. You will go into many parts of the earth and will pray for kings and rulers and potentates. You will preach to multitudes the world over and thousands will come to you for counsel. His successful career around the world and his meetings with world dignitaries are claimed to be fulfillment of this prophecy.
In 1948 Branham reported seeing a vision of a boy being raised from the dead. He related the details to his audiences and asked them to write those details down in the flyleaves of their bibles. One of William Branham's biographers, Gordon Lindsay, records that the vision was fulfilled two years later during a speaking trip to Helsinki, Finland in 1950 at the scene of a street accident near Kuopio, Finland, where a boy on a bicycle had been struck by a car and killed. Branham's party had come upon the scene and he then asked that the sheet covering the boy's body be removed, as he recognized the boy as the one he had seen in his vision. Lindsay, a member of this party, relates that Branham prayed over the boy and the child was raised from the dead. The boy's name is Kari Holma and he is alive and well today
On the night of January 24, 1950, an unusual photograph was taken during a speaking engagement in the Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston, Texas. A photograph, the only one of its film roll that developed, showed an apparent halo of light appearing above Branham's head. George J. Lacy, an investigator of questioned documents, subjected the negative to testing. In his report he said, "Based upon the above described examination and study I am of the definite opinion that the negative submitted for examination, was not retouched nor was it a composite or double exposed negative. Further, I am of the definite opinion that the light streak appearing above the head in a halo position was caused by the light striking the negative. The original of the photograph is in the archives of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.. A number of photos were taken during Branham's ministry that displayed the same phenomenon.
Branham regarded his series of sermons on the Seven Seals (Rev 6:1-17 and Rev 8:1) in 1963 as a highlight of his ministry. He said a cluster of seven angels met him on Sunset Mountain in Arizona to commission the opening of the Seals , which he believed was in fulfilment of a vision he had told his church several months earlier. Two men who were nearby at the time related hearing a loud noise like an explosion and seeing a cloud rising into the air. Branham interpreted an unusual cloud formation resembling the head of Christ which had been photographed several days earlier , and was featured in Life and Science magazines, as vindication of his experience. Some critics have claimed that the cloud was the result of a rocket explosion in California 500 miles to the west. Those who believe the cloud was of a supernatural origin point to Scriptural references that connect the return of the Lord Jesus Christ with clouds .
William Branham preached thousands of sermons, of which almost 1,200 have been recorded and transcribed. His sermons dealt not only with the doctrines that would secure his place in modern religious history, but with staples of Pentecostalism such as personal prophecy.
Along with some other Bible commentators , Branham believed that the seven churches described in The Revelation, chapters two and three represent seven historical ages of the Christian church, from its beginning to the present time. These ages were outlined in his book An Exposition of the Seven Church Ages as (beginning after the time of Christ) Ephesus (53-170), Smyrna (170-312), Pergam (312-606), Thyatira (606-1520), Sardis (1520-1750), Philadelphia (1750-1906), and finally Laodicea (1906-present). He further identified the "angel" of each church as a human messenger. The first six he named as Paul, Irenaeus, Martin, Columba, Martin Luther, and John Wesley. While he never explicitly claimed to be the seventh angel, his followers today believe him to be the final messenger to this the Laodicean church age
William Branham said he had received seven major prophecies in 1933. When revealing them in later sermons, he said that the first five had already come true, and that they would all be fulfilled.
Other notable prophecies by Branham include:
Wm. Branham also went outside traditional Christian theology in his rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity and in his denunciation of the "Oneness" or "Jesus Only" concept that Jesus was his own Father, and that Jesus and God were one like your finger is one. . From the late 1940s to the early 1950s it appears that Wm. Branham did not publicly denounce the Trinity in his campaign meetings, however to his congregation in Jeffersonville he was more open regarding his preference to the 'Oneness' position (although he said that both Trinity and 'Jesus Only' doctrinal positions were not scriptural).
Many of you people listening to this would say, "Brother Branham is a Oneness." I am not. I think you're both wrong, both oneness and trinity. Not to be different, but it's always the middle of the road.
The hour has approached where I can't hold still on these things no more: too close to the coming. See? "Trinitarianism is of the Devil." I say that THUS SAITH THE LORD. Look where it come from. It come from the Nicene Council when the Catholic church become in rulership. The word "trinity" is not even mentioned in the entire Book of the Bible. And as far as three Gods, that's from hell. There's one God. That's exactly right.
Many claim that Wm. Branham taught a form of ‘modalism’ (sabellianism) with regard to the Godhead, claiming that there are no personal distinctions between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and that the 'persons' of the Godhead are just the same God in three different offices or manifestations. God manifesting Himself in the pillar of Fire as God the Father, in His Son revealing Himself as the son of God, and in the believer in the form of the Holy Spirit. Three dispensations of the same God. God above us (in His office as Father), God with us (in His office as Son) and God in us (in the form of the Holy Spirit).
The Blood of God brings Jesus Christ in our midst. The Blood of God brings the Holy Ghost, not the blood of a Jew or a Gentile, but God's own creative Blood. Jesus, the Man, was His Son that He created Himself, and God tabernacled in that Tabernacle.
Wm. Branham taught the Supreme Deity of Jesus Christ ; that Jesus had the fullness of God dwelling bodily in Him:
God created Himself a body, His Son, and came down and dwelt in that body: God in Christ "Not Me that doeth the works, it's My Father that dwells in me. He shows Me what to do, and I just act in His Presence, in His place." See John 5:19 .
Wm. Branham held that if you were baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost you were baptized wrongly, and that you had to be re-baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ based on Acts 2:38 and Acts 19:5 The Lord Jesus Christ IS the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, he said.Lord (Father), Jesus (Son) and Christ (Holy Ghost).
Branham believed that his ministry was to declare that God was here as in the days of Abraham. He quoted Genesis 18:9-15 as Scriptural support for this statement in that during the appearance to Abraham, God knew what was in Sarah's mind in the tent behind him . He believed this foreshadowed the gift of discernement in his own ministry, and is indicated in Luke 17:28-30 After this supernatural sign was shown to Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. In the same way, William Branham believed the discernment in his ministry was a sign of the coming judgment on the earth (usually called the Great Tribulation).
I'm convinced that the same Angel that come down in the form of a Man and talked to Abraham with His back turned to the tent, is the same One here tonight. He promised it would be. I believe that that same Angel anoints us, because It was God. Do you believe it?
Branham quoted Scriptural support for the significance of his ability to discern people's needs and personal details by referring to the incident of the woman at the well (John 4:16-19), and Jesus' greeting of Nathanael (John 1:47-49). The validity of Branham's gift of discernment has been questioned by some , but the noted Pentecostal historian, Walter Hollenweger, who acted as a translator for William Branham in one of his campaigns in Switzerland, stated: "I am not aware of any case in which he was mistaken in the often detailed statements he made
Branham taught that Hebrews chapter 1 shows God becoming One who could be touched. Touching the man "Jesus" was not touching God, but the very image of God: the 'outraying', the expression of God in His Son (Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person Hebrews 1:3)
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever (Hebrews 13:8) was a central theme of Branham's preaching. Here in one of his sermons he speaks for himself:
E-12 And what is fatherhood? Is an attribute of God. Then if we be God's children, then God wants us to love one another. In doing so, we love God. Is that right? We love His Church... Now, how many of you are expecting our Lord Jesus to do a great work with His people here tonight? Let's see your hand. How many of you is praying? Let's see your hand. Now, if you'll pray, if you'll pray, and believe with all your heart, just a simple story of the appearing of this supernatural One... And as I trying to speak this afternoon, you'll draw from It, when you believe in It. Is that right? If Jesus was standing here, the Son of God, He could do no more for you than what He can right now, when you believe it, when you believe it. Faith...
E-13 Some of them come up to Jesus, one time... Do you believe He was a Prophet? Well, they put a rag around His face one day, and smote Him on the head, and said, "If You be a Prophet, tell us who hit you, and then we'll believe you." Jesus didn't clown for no one. He had the will of the Father to do. But yet, He stood and told a woman her sins. He told... He knowed where there was a fish that had a coin in its mouth. He knew where two mules was hitched, where two ways met. Is that right? See? He knew those things, but He didn't clown it for people. See? It was too Divine. It's the Father's will. And now, tonight you might be setting there just for curiosity, and saying, "Well, Brother I just wish you'd turned around tell me something." God will never do that.
E-14 But you get real deeply sincere, and say, "Dear Lord, You know my condition. And that would help my faith so much if You'd just have our brother just turn around here and say something to me. Let it appear a vision by me, that he will tell me, and let me see what's going be my outcome and what my conditions is. Then our heavenly Father, will grant that to you. See? Anywhere in the meeting, any place, He will do it. Be sincere. I can't make Him. I can only ask Him. Are you ready now? All right.
Branham vehemently believed that the Bible was the infallible Word of God. He stated that anything contrary to the Word of God was Satan's kingdom. He insisted that everything was based on Scripture, which he said included listening to an angel, another minister, or accepting a church creed. He based everything on the Word of God being fully vindicated.
Branham's doctrine of serpent seed is still regarded as very controversial. He taught that eating the "fruit" in the Garden of Eden was taking heed of the devil's words. This resulted in a sexual union between Eve and the devil-possessed serpent, which produced Cain as a result of their union.. Branham preached that the Bible says a woman is the "weaker vessel" and he taught them that as Christians, they should wear modest clothing, keep their hair uncut, not teach or preach, and be obedient to their husbands. Men should take their role as head of the house.
Branham predicted (as opposed to prophesying) "that 1977 ought to terminate the world systems and usher in the millennium." He explained on several occasions that these were only his words and not the words of God, and that he might quite easily be wrong.
Although William Branham encouraged people to attend the church of their choice, he also spoke strongly against religious organisations. He believed that denominationalism would prove to be the mark of the beast
Criticism of Branham's ministry has focused not only on doctrinal differences, but on an assumption that he supported astrology . This is based on his comment that "God wrote three Bibles. He said these were the zodiac (see mazzaroth), the great pyramid and the Holy Bible. He believed the first two predated any written Scripture, and are not for Christians today .
It may be difficult to measure Branham's influence on other evangelists in his time period, but he certainly led the way in the pioneering of tent revivals, which would lead into the era of televangelism. Branham is often mentioned as the leader or first revivalist preacher of the second wave of Pentecost that swept the country after World War II (the first wave being Charles Fox Parham, William J. Seymour, and others). Among those who began around the same time as Branham, and part of the Second Wave of Pentecostalism (late 1940s to the mid 1950s), were Jack Coe, Oral Roberts, and A.A. Allen. It is interesting to note that Branham was one of the first "faith" preachers and evangelists who not only preached a latter day visitation of God’s Spirit, but also emphasized faith for healing, as did Coe, Roberts and Allen .
D.R. McConnell, although a critic of William Branham's teaching, expressed this opinion about his ministry: "Branham, one of the original and greatests evangelists of the post-World War II Healing Revival. Branham worked astounding miracles of healing in his crusades. To this day his gifts of supernatural knowledge of those to whom he ministered remains unparalleled, even among modern healing evangelists".
Andrew Strom, another theologian who disagreed with Branham doctrinally, nevertheless concluded: "William Branham was another evangelist mid-way through last century who was mightily used of God for a number of years. In fact, there can be little doubt that he was endued with power to a degree that has rarely been seen since the days of the apostles."
The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements contains these comments: "The person universally acknowledged as the [WW11] revival’s `father’ and `pacesetter’ was William Branham. The sudden appearance of his miraculous healing campaigns in 1946 set off a spiritual explosion in the Pentecostal movement which was to move to Main Street, U.S.A., by the 1950s and give birth to the broader charismatic movement in the 1960s, which currently affects almost every denomination in the country Today, there are an estimated 500 million Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians in the world.
The followers of William Branham tend to distance themselves from controversial exclusiveness and maintain their homes in their communities. There is no headquarters. These churches have no membership or members and have little, if any, organisation. William Branham sums this by saying: "We're no denomination. We have no law but love, no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible: no membership; just fellowship through the Blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all unbelief".
The major distributor of materials related to William Branham's ministry (usually referred to as the Message) is Voice of God Recordings located in Jeffersonville, Indiana. They currently produce printed, audio and video materials in a total of 57 languages with direct mailings to 177 countries . Bible Believers Missions based in British Columbia also conduct an extensive international outreach with Message materials.
The largest concentration of Christians following William Branham is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it is estimated that there are some 750,000 followers . Large groups are existent in Trinidad (one congregation in excess of 2,000 people), Vancouver, Canada (around 900 in one congregation), and Harare, Zimbabwe (Close to 7000), Johnson City, Tennessee (600 Members) , Iran (About 200 Members) as well as many other places. There are numerous churches following William Branham's message in the United States and around the world.
Believers Christian Fellowship in Lima, Ohio operates 'Global Answers' which provides movies, books and other material. In the summer they hold a week-long family camp, with thousands of people from all over the world attending.
In recent times, the Message of William Branham has begun to take a foothold in China.
Branham's followers should not be viewed as entirely monolithic as beliefs and interpretations of Branham's teachings vary somewhat between groups.
In Latin America Branham's teachings are also being spread rapidly.
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