Note: Some consign William Branham to 'false prophet' status, giving him a rather ruthless historical review. This is a kinder, balanced text that does not skimp on his errors. A friend whom I know who lived during the Latter Rain movement and observed it's fall into heresy, and who was not a disciple of Branham, have testified to me that this may be the best brief review of Branham's life they have ever read.
The text was originally sent to Strom's revival discussion list, and
is reproduced here as a supplemental to the discussions of Bob
Jones in articles in our website. In specific, we have noted Jone's
California earthquake 'prophecy', his prophetic promises of the return
of the healing days of Latter Rain days of the "'40's and 50's", and his
claim of seeing people sins and faults during the previous Shepherd's
Rod heresy of the Kansas City Prophets, as reported by others. Sections
that apply are blued.
THE ENIGMA OF WILLIAM BRANHAM
by Andrew Strom.
William Branham was an evangelist this 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. And there is still a great deal of controversy surrounding his life, death and teachings. To some of his most ardent followers (who are still around today), he seemed to assume almost semi-divine status,- a damaging and tragic fallacy that has frightened many sound Christians away from studying his life. On the other hand, even in his heyday some believers were sceptical and suspicious of the tremendous power and unusual signs and miracles that accompanied his ministry. There can be little doubt that Branham went astray in his ministry in the latter part of his life. (The fact that God took him home early, and that the cause of death was a car-crash in which his body became horribly tangled in the wreck, though he lingered on for a few more days - bears this out). However, it is my belief, and the belief of many who have studied his life, that in his early years he was one of the most anointed men of God that has ever lived in modern times.
As Gordon Lindsay wrote in his 1952 biography of Branham's early life and ministry: "The story of the life of William Branham is so out of this world and beyond the ordinary that were there not available a host of infallible proofs which document and attest its authenticity, one might well be excused for considering it far-fetched and incredible." (G. Lindsay, 'William Branham - A man sent from God', pg 9). Even his birth and childhood had unusual aspects to them. Born in 1909 in Kentucky, his family soon shifted to the state of Indiana, where they eventually settled not far from Jeffersonville. Branham's family were the "poorest of the poor". When he was seven years old, he experienced the first of many godly visitations: "It seemed to be a very still afternoon. I stepped back from the tree and noticed that in a certain place about the size of a barrel, the wind seemed to be blowing through the tree leaves. Then there came a voice saying: 'Never drink, smoke, or defile your body in any way, for I have a work for you to do when you get older.'" (Pg 30).
Branham obeyed these strictures, but he had still not been truly converted. When he was about twenty years of age, the death of his brother Edward caused him to again turn his thoughts toward God's call upon his life. However, he carried on the way he was going (essentially running away from God) for a couple of years. Finally, he ended up seriously ill - at death's door, in hospital. And suddenly God visited him again: "Closer the wind came, louder and louder... I heard that same voice that said, 'Never drink or smoke.' And the leaves I heard were the same that blew in that tree that day. But this time the voice said, 'I called you and you would not go.' The words were repeated the third time. Then I said, 'Lord, if that is you, let me go back again to earth and I will preach your gospel from the housetops and street corners. I'll tell everyone about it!'... When this vision had passed, I found that I felt better." (Pg 40-41).
However, Branham was not completely healed at this time. But he was now filled with a great hunger after God. "I started out to seek and find God. I went from church to church trying to find some place where there was an old-fashioned altar call. The sad part was I could find none... One night I became so hungry for God and a real experience that I went out to the old shed back of the house and tried to pray... All at once there came a light in the shed and it formed a cross, and the voice from the cross spoke to me in a language I could not understand... as I prayed it appeared again. Then it seemed to me that there had been a thousand pounds lifted from my soul...
"I knew then that if God wanted me to preach he would heal me, so I went to a church that believed in anointing with oil, and I was healed instantly. I saw then that the disciples had something that most of the ministers do not have today. The disciples were baptized with the Holy Ghost and so could heal the sick and do mighty miracles in His name. So I began to pray for the baptism of the Holy Ghost. One day about six months later God gave me the desire of my heart. He spoke to me in a great light telling me to preach and pray for the sick and He would heal them regardless of what disease they had. I then started preaching and doing what He told me to do." (Pg 41-42). Branham began tent meetings in his home town of Jeffersonville, and for a 24-year-old who was just starting out, these were astonishingly successful, with up to 3000 people being attracted to the meetings at one time, and scores of conversions.
Afterwards when Branham was baptizing 130 converts in the Ohio River, a heavenly light, like a blazing star, appeared above him just as he was about to baptize the seventeenth person. This was witnessed by the vast 4000-strong congregation that stood on the banks of the river looking on. Some of them ran for fear, while others shouted or fainted. A report of this unusual event appeared in the local newspaper shortly afterwards. It has also been reported that a voice spoke from within the light, saying, "As John the Baptist was sent to forerun the first coming of the Lord, so you are sent to forerun His second coming..." What is certain is that a heavenly light was seen, and it seems likely also that something along these lines was spoken over him.
It was in this same year of 1933 that a number of significant visions were given to William Branham. In June 1933 he was given a series of seven visions relating to world events that lay immediately ahead (and he told his congregation of these visions at the time). In the first of these he saw the Italian dictator Mussolini successfully invading Ethiopia, but eventually coming to a terrible demise - murdered and spat upon by his own people. In the second he saw America being drawn into a world war against Germany, which would be headed up by an Austrian. The war would overthrow this leader, and he would come to a mysterious end. The third vision showed the three 'isms' in the world - Fascism, Nazism and Communism, and that the first two would come to nothing, but that Communism would flourish. He was told, "Watch Russia. She will become a great world power." In the fourth vision he was shown some of the tremendous advances in Science that would come after the Second World War.
The fifth vision showed the rapid moral decay in the world, relating especially to women. He was shown this decline from the beginning of the feminist "liberation" movement of the late 19th century, and the gradual gaining of worldly power by women, to the eventual election of a 'boy president' (probably Kennedy - known to have been elected because of the women's vote) and after this the progressive decline in the way women dressed - deliberately exposing their bodies more and more in an ever-increasing display of brazen sensuality. With true womanhood so little valued, a terrible decay of all flesh came upon the earth, and every form of perversion arose, just as is prophesied for the Last Days.
In the sixth vision there arose in the United States a beautiful woman, clothed in splendour and royal robes - a woman given great power, and beautiful - yet cruel, cunning and deceitful. She dominated the land with her authority. Branham felt that she represented either an actual person, or else a particular organization (perhaps the Catholic church?) However, surely there is also the possibility that she represents a great "Jezebelic" spirit that utterly dominates the landscape? In the seventh and final vision, he witnessed a great explosion that rent the entire land and left America a smouldering, chaotic ruin, with no humanity in sight. This final vision then faded away. (This last one reminds me of another Branham vision/prophecy, which he referred to often in later years, that showed that the day would come when the entire state of California west of the San Andreas Fault, would be wiped out and sent into the Pacific Ocean by a massive earthquake).
The amazing thing about this series of seven visions is that they were given at a time (June 1933) when Branham had no way at all of coming to these conclusions through mere guesswork. In 1933 Germany was by no means ready for war, Russia was by no means a dominant world power, and Communism was a relatively minor force in the world. Some of the details given in the visions were just too extraordinary to pass off as mere coincidence. (See 'The Acts of the Prophet' by Pearry Green, pg 48-51, for a fuller description). Also, the fact is that these visions were given to an uneducated, simple man in the back-blocks of Indiana, a man who had little understanding at all of political complexities. And the fact that at least five of these visions have now been precisely fulfilled, means that we should surely take the others seriously also.
After the baptisms, a church was built for Branham to pastor in Jeffersonville. The next few years were a fruitful time in his life and ministry, during which he married a lovely Christian wife and they had two children. However, several years later Branham came to a crossroads and made a serious error of judgement that was to have serious repurcussions for his family and ministry. After attending a Pentecostal convention for the first time (up until then he had been an independent Baptist), Branham was invited by these Pentecostals to become a travelling evangelist for them, and he felt that this was definitely a call from God. However, he allowed himself to be persuaded by friends that the Pentecostals were "trash" (they were known as 'holy rollers' at the time - the lowest of the low), and he drew back from joining with them.
"It was at this time that the anointing of God which had come upon me left me. It never really returned until five years later... Everything went wrong. With my church going down, I didn't know what to do. Then began the dark period of my life when the Ohio River flood that took so many lives, came, and was responsible for the death of two of those that were the dearest to me in all the world." (G. Lindsay, 'William Branham - A man sent from God', pg 51). The great Ohio River flood of 1937 claimed the lives of Branham's wife and baby daughter, and Branham was left heartbroken, with only his infant son left. This was only eight months after he had drawn back from obeying God and joining with the Pentecostals, and he himself acknowledged the tragic connection.
For a number of years after this, Branham continued to preach and also work at various jobs. He remarried, and when a new visitation of the angel of God came in 1946, he was working as an Indiana state game warden. This was to be the beginning of his international miracle ministry: "I must tell you of the angel and the coming of the Gift. I shall never forget the time, May 7, 1946, a very beautiful season of the year in Indiana, where I was still working as a game warden. I had come home for lunch... and while walking around the house under a maple tree, it seemed that the whole top of the tree let loose. It seemed that something came down through that tree like a great rushing wind... My wife came from the house frightened, and asked me what was wrong. Trying to get hold of myself, I sat down and told her that after all these twenty odd years of being conscious of this strange feeling, the time had come when I had to find out what it was all about. The crisis had come!
"That afternoon I went away to a secret place to pray and read the Bible. I became deep in prayer; it seemed that my whole soul would tear from me. I cried before God...I laid my face to the ground...I looked up to God and cried, 'If you will forgive me for the way that I have done, I'll try to do better... I'm sorry that I've been so neglectful all these years in doing the work you wanted me to do...Will you speak to me someway, God? If you don't help me, I can't go on'... Then along in the night, about the eleventh hour, I had quit praying and was sitting up when I noticed a light flickering in the room... the light was spreading out on the floor, becoming wider... as I looked up, there hung that great star. However, it did not have five points like a star, but looked more like a ball of fire or light shining down upon the floor. Just then I heard someone walking across the floor...
"Now, coming through the light, I saw the feet of a man coming toward me, as naturally as you would walk to me. He appeared to be a man who, in human weight, would weigh about two hundred pounds, clothed in a white robe. He had a smooth face, no beard, dark hair down to his shoulders, of rather dark-complexion, with a very pleasant countenance, and coming closer, his eyes caught with mine. Seeing how fearful I was, he began to speak. 'Fear not. I am sent from the Presence of Almighty God to tell you that your peculiar life and your misunderstood ways have been to indicate that God has sent you to take a gift of divine healing to the peoples of the world. IF YOU WILL BE SINCERE, AND CAN GET THE PEOPLE TO BELIEVE YOU, NOTHING SHALL STAND BEFORE YOUR PRAYER, NOT EVEN CANCER.'" (Pg 76-77).
The angel told Branham that he would now have two special signs or gifts operating in his life, given to him by God. The first would enable him to detect or discern illnesses in people - a visible violent reaction in his left hand which would make it red and swollen whenever it came into contact with sickness. The second sign would be a gift that would enable him to discern the thoughts and deeds in the past life of the individual - specific sins that needed to be repented of, etc. It was often found that as Branham challenged people over such specific sins, and they confessed them to God, they would regularly be healed of whatever ailed them even before he had a chance to lay hands on them.
This angelic visitation marked the beginning of Branham's incredible international miracle ministry, and also led directly to the great American Healing Revival of 1947 through 1955, in which many well-known ministries were raised up, and thousands upon thousands of people were saved and healed. As Branham himself said, "The great things which have taken place during these months are too innumerable to ever be recorded, but God has confirmed the angel's words time after time. Deaf, dumb, blind, all manners of diseases have been healed, and thousands of testimonies are on record to date. I do not have any power of my own to do this... God always has something or someone to work through, and I am only an instrument used by Him." (Pg 78).
Right to the end of his life, William Branham was renowned for his transparency, his simplicity and his genuine humility. No doubt this was due in part to his early life of hardship, brokenness and poverty - a great advantage when it came to his eventual ministry. I have read several of his early sermons, and they often appeared to be little more than personal testimonies accompanied by a simple (yet effective) gospel message. There was little sign of the somewhat strange, divisive and controversial teachings of his latter years. After all, the angel had told him that part of his commission was to help UNIFY Christians of differing backgrounds. Speaking of Branham's "outstandingly humble spirit", one observer wrote: "There is nothing boisterous or arrogant about him. He is a meek and humble man... He is a man loved by all. No-one begrudges him any of his success or is envious of his great popularity." (David Harrell Jr, 'ALL Things are Possible', pg 39).
Over the following months and years, Branham travelled widely in the USA, and also to Europe and South Africa, etc. Thousands came from far and wide to hear him preach and to witness the many outstanding healings, miracles and 'words of knowledge' that accompanied his ministry. Often, he would call out the name, city of origin and background information of people in the audience whom he had never met, who had come to hear his preaching or to be healed. Of all the thousands of such 'words of knowledge' that he gave, none was ever known to be wrong or inaccurate. His gift was reportedly "exactly 100%". The deaf were healed, the blind received their sight, and even the dead were raised. There were also a number of meetings where Branham was photographed with bright 'haloes' or strange lights around him. It became standard for Branham to have the angel of God standing beside him as he ministered, and he would often wait for the angel to arrive before he began. It was also commonplace for Branham to see specific miracles enacted before his eyes in vision form several days before they actually occurred, so that when he found himself in the precise circumstance pictured in the vision, he would know exactly what to do. Astounding! And everywhere he went, God was glorified in the most profound way.
There can be no doubt that Branham was the initial pioneer and the key leader of the great Healing Revival of 1947 through 1955. During this Revival, literally dozens of healing ministries were raised up all over America, some well-known and others less prominent, but all of them inspired by the example of Branham and others. Thousands were saved and healed, not just in America, but in many other nations also. And the mighty 1954 Argentina Revival under Tommy Hicks (with meetings of up to 400,000 people) also had strong links with this Revival. Even amongst the better-known evangelists who came into prominence at that time (such as Oral Roberts, T.L. Osborne, A.A. Allen, Jack Coe, etc), William Branham was acknowledged as something special - something extraordinary. "The younger deliverance evangelists viewed him as a man set apart, like Moses. 'He was number one,' said Richard Hall, 'of the common run of evangelists that we have now, put twenty of them at one end and William Branham on the other; he would outweigh them all.'" (Winkie Pratney, 'Revival', pg 220-221).
Later in the 1950's, when a number of healing evangelists were drifting into showmanship, hype, 'prosperity' doctrines and begging for money, Branham would have none of it. He was unchanged in his attitude toward these kinds of excesses right to the very end. One observer wrote of him in 1959: "On my last visit I mentioned how 'car conscious' American preachers are, almost judging a man's success by the car he drives. At this particular conference, where Brother Branham was the principal speaker, they all came up in their nice cars, the picture of elegance, but Brother Branham drove up in a truck. He doesn't seem to worry about these things..." (D. Harrell Jr, 'ALL Things are Possible', pg 162).
However, there were crucial weaknesses in the practices and ministry of William Branham, which tragically began to manifest themselves in the mid-1950's. In 1955, largely through his own carelessness and lack of good management, Branham fell into financial difficulty. He had always been nonchalant, almost naive, toward all business matters. "He sometimes missed scheduled meetings and was totally unconcerned about business details. Some of his business associates came to feel that he was culpably irresponsible. At any rate, Branham came to write: 'For nine years, the Lord met every need without my having to pull for money. Then, in 1955, in each of three of my greatest meetings, the income fell far short of expenses and others stepped in to make up large deficits'... Branham's difficulties became more complicated in 1956 when the Internal Revenue Service filed a tax evasion suit against him... The unsophisticated Branham, apparently little interested in personal wealth, had made no systematic effort to account for the thousands of dollars that flowed through his ministry." (Ibid, pg 39-40). For the remainder of his life, Branham worked under the burden of a $40,000.00 debt to the IRS. (Which was an enormous amount of money in those days).
It is obvious that God was little able to financially bless Branham's ministry any longer, due to the careless and dubious state of his financial management. This had clearly become a "legal gateway" through which the devil could now disrupt and tie-down Branham's ministry. And one of the most devastating results of this was that when most of the other prominent healing evangelists were called into large, mobile tent ministries (which God used very effectively at that time), Branham was unable to make this jump, due seemingly to the parlous state of his finances. Thus, his ministry immediately began to lose momentum, and it seemed that he was no longer on the 'cutting edge' of what God was doing.
By 1958, William Branham (along with many of the other healing evangelists) was deeply re-assessing his ministry. It was clear that the great Healing Revival was now well and truly over, and there can be little doubt that the decline in Branham's own ministry had contributed to this. You can never afford to lose such a leader in any move of God, as history clearly shows. It was after this that Branham began to gradually withdraw into his own little circle, where he had an adoring and loyal following. (Essentially this circle was made up of "Oneness" or 'Jesus-Only' Pentecostals). And instead of his previous unwillingness to speak about contentious or divisive 'minor' issues, he now gradually began to emphasize such things more and more in his preaching. Slowly, these teachings became ever-more alarming and extreme.
As early as 1957, Branham had received a dream in which he was ministering in a 'white disk' above a pyramid. A voice from heaven proclaimed that no other man could stand in the disk "unless he die or be killed", and that Branham was "the only one who can and will stand there." Branham apparently considered this dream to be of 'spiritual significance'. (Ibid, pg 41). By the 1960's, he had clearly become convinced that he was the end-times "Elijah" and the true "Messenger of the Covenant". And the adoring followers in his tight little circle were certainly not going to contradict him. A number of writers believe that it was when Branham took a 'teaching' ministry upon himself that he fell into error. It is clear that he had been anointed and commissioned by God to have a prophetic / evangelistic ministry, but never one of teaching. And as soon as he got into this area of teaching doctrine, he began to trespass into realms to which God had never called him, thus opening himself up to ever-increasing deception. It has been reported that towards the end, some of his teachings almost bordered on the occult. However, the original sign-giftings that God had given him never left him, right up until the time of his death in 1965.
There were a number of men who tried to warn Branham, and to bring him back into some form of balance, including his respected colleague and old friend, Gordon Lindsay. But Branham would not listen: "Brother Lindsay said, 'I begged him not to teach. I said, "... Leave the Bible teaching to the teachers. Just go ahead and preach and exercise the word of knowledge and gifts of healing as the Spirit wills, and be a blessing to the Body of Christ.''' This prophet said to Brother Lindsay, 'I know I'm not a teacher, but I want to teach. And I'm going to teach!'
"It's dangerous to intrude into a ministry office to which you are not called. In the Old Testament, if people intruded in to a holy place that was reserved for those who held certain offices, they instantly fell dead. Under grace, people in disobedience can last for a while, but sooner or later, those who intrude into ministry offices to which they are not called will be judged. It is dangerous to intrude into another man's office." (K. Hagin, 'He Gave Gifts unto Men', pg 164-170).
A full TWO YEARS before Branham died, Kenneth Hagin, who was renowned for his accurate prophetic ministry at that time, was given a prophecy about Branham which he took to Gordon Lindsay. The prophecy read: "'At the end of 1965, He who now stands in the forefront of the healing ministry as a prophet will be taken out of the way. He'll make a false step and Satan shall destroy his life, but his spirit will be saved, and his works will follow him. Ere 1966 shall come, he shall be gone.'
"I took that prophecy to brother Lindsay, because it's scriptural to have other spiritual men judge prophecy. I never made it public. Prophets make a mistake by publicly broadcasting some of these things." God later told Hagin: "I had to permit him to be removed, because of the damage he was causing in the body of Christ..."
"... Then brother Lindsay related something else to me that had happened regarding this same prophet. He said to me, 'This past year, I was praying with my wife and sister Schrader about the work of the ministry. (Sister Schrader was a prophetess who has since gone on to be with the Lord.) We were praying about different projects in our ministry. Right in the middle of the prayer, Sister Schrader blurted out, 'Go warn Brother [Branham]... he's going to die.' Brother Lindsay said, 'I was busy, and I let that get by me, and I didn't go warn him like I was supposed to. Then later, my wife and I and Sister Schrader were again praying about ministry projects. Again Sister Schrader blurted out right in the middle of prayer, 'Go warn Brother [Branham]... he's going to die. He's walking in the way of Dowie.' After his morning meeting, Brother Lindsay said, 'I talked to him as the Lord had instructed me, but I saw that he wouldn't listen...' (K. Hagin, 'He Gave Gifts unto Men', pg 164-170). Please remember that Dowie had also got into error, proclaiming that he was the end-times "Elijah".
Gordon Lindsay's wife also confirmed the account given by Kenneth Hagin: "One day Kenneth Hagin came into our offices. He handed Gordon a piece of paper on which was written a prophecy he said the Lord had given him. The prophecy stated that the leader of the deliverance movement was soon to be taken in death, because he was getting into error and the Lord was having to remove him from the scene for that reason. Gordon took the prophecy and placed it in his desk. After Brother Hagin left I asked, 'What do you think about this? Is this Branham?' Gordon answered gravely, 'Yes, it is Branham. He is getting into error. He thinks he is Elijah. He thinks he is the messenger of the covenant. The sad thing is that unscrupulous men around him are putting words into his mouth, and due to his limited background he is taking them up.'" (Mrs Gordon Lindsay, 'My Diary Secrets', Sixth Edition, pg 152).
Two years later, when driving to Tucson, Arizona, William Branham was
involved in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. His wife was badly
injured in the smash, and Branham's body was horribly tangled in the wreck.
He lingered on for a few days in hospital, though his head became terribly
swollen and a tube was placed in his throat to assist his breathing. William
Branham died on Christmas Eve, 1965, just before the turn of the year,
exactly as the prophecy had predicted. Once more - "How have the mighty
fallen". Satan had again succeeded in 'taking out' one of God's great servants.
And there can be little doubt that God's full purposes for Branham's life
and ministry remained at least partially unfulfilled. There was talk amongst
a few of Branham's followers that he might rise from the dead after several
days, but it is clear that only a relatively small number believed this.
(Such Branham-followers can still be found around the world today, some
of whom adore him with a fervour bordering almost on idolatry - a sad and
tragic epitaph to a once-mighty man of God).
THE LESSONS WE MUST LEARN
Some people believe that the coming move of God will be so powerful and so awesome that it will be almost impossible for the ministries involved in it to fall into error or into sin. I simply cannot go along with this. History clearly demonstrates that the greater the power, the greater the potential for subtle pride and error to enter in. This is why God has taken so long in preparing His future (now hidden) ministries for the coming move. Please remember that Satan himself was once one of the most splendid and powerful creatures in all of Heaven - an 'anointed Cherubim' of the highest order, who walked in the very presence of God. The Creator Himself said of him: "You were the ANOINTED CHERUB who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were PERFECT in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you" (Ez 28:14-15). "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" (Is 14:12). If such a creature as this - walking in the very presence of God - can fall from grace, then so can we, even at the height of a powerful God-given ministry.
'PROPHETIC/REVIVAL' Discussion List:-
WEBSITES - 'New Zealand Revival Bulletin':-
'DREAMS & VISIONS' SUPERSITE:-
EDITOR - Andrew Strom:-
|To HarvestNET 'Look Back' page||To HarvestNET's Open Rebuke to Joyner||To HarvestNET main page|