By Pastor Dennis Dills


how to identify a cult

Booklet Number 4B



In a day when we see so many of our family members and fellow church members fall into the prey of cults, this booklet is sent forth in order to help train and inform what a cult is.  We fully believe that there are so many who would not recognize a cult if they actually saw one. 


     We hope this booklet will be a help and a blessing.  It is sent out FREE for distribution.  Please help us distribute this into the hands of as many as you can.

                                       Pastor Dennis Dills

  How to Identify a cult


1 Timothy 4:1, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;"


     There are so many in this day that are falling for everything that comes along if it sounds good or looks good.  Multitudes who have been in Churches all their life are being led astray by many religious groups.  Many who have appeared to be anchored in the faith have turned to cults.  This makes one wonder why. 


     Some of these who have become involved in cults, have come out of dead liberal churches because they were looking for something.  The cults were there to help them find answers to their questions even though they had the wrong answers.  There have been many who have left good fundamental churches to fall into the cults as well.  Why?  Possibly, they were never saved and their innermost being never satisfied.  Perhaps they had never been taught how to recognize a cult and therefore did not realize what was going on until it was too late.  If you do not know the enemy you are treading on dangerous ground.  This booklet is sent forth to help identify a cult and recognize the enemy.  If the Child of God does not know his enemy, he will surely fall by the enemies hand.


     Many have watched members of their own family fall victim to these cults.  All the warnings and pleadings you offer seem to fall by the wayside when these cults have their grips on them.  The tool of deception is a tremendous tool that Satan is using especially in these last days to con, deceive, and control the minds of men. 




     Cults are everywhere.  Some are mainstream and widely accepted.  Others are isolated and hidden.  They are growing and flourishing.  Cults are big news in these days.  People are searching desperately for spirituality and there are some real dangerous frauds and  religious con-men out there to lure them astray.  In this booklet we will attempt to point out some identifying marks of a cult so that one can identify them when they pop up their head.  Remember the Bible is the final authority and the basis on which we will base the facts.  It matters not what you or I think, but what thus saith the Lord.


     Please pray earnestly over these facts that are presented and allow the Holy Spirit to speak with full authority to your heart. The Bible says in John 17:17, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."   It also says in John 8:32, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."




     A cult is a religious group which claims harmony with Christianity but either denies or misinterprets basic and essential biblical doctrines.  A cult can not only be a religious group but a secular group as well which uses unscriptural methods to recruit members and unscriptural methods to manipulate and control to keep its members.


     In general, all cults will have a strong devotion to a person, an object, or a set of new and many times strange ideas.  Often, a cult will use isolation from family, friends, and other so-called religious groups to control their members physically, intellectually, financially, and emotionally.  Sometimes a cult will cause the membership to focus on future events or a special purpose in which they are to give their undivided attention and affection.  Cults are always teaching new doctrines and ideas that are revealed by their leader.  For example, they may teach something that cannot be verified such as a space ship behind Hale-Bop comet or that God, an alien, or an angel appeared to their leader and gave him or her a revelation.  They are constantly teaching and drilling their beliefs and standards into the minds and hearts of their members.  This is a reinforcement process so that they will be able to have an answer to those who pose questions concerning their beliefs.  This is the reason many come to our doors and are able to twist and confuse the average church member today. 




     The leaders of cults are filled with charisma and are considered very special for different reasons.  The leader may claim to have received special revelation from God.  The leader may claim to be the incarnation of a deity, an angel, or some other special messenger.  The leader may claim to be appointed by God for a specific mission.  The leader may even claim to have special abilities.  These cult leaders do good works and promote their followers to do the same.  These leaders are usually moral and  most of the time but not always possess a good standard of ethical teaching.


     These leaders will claim to hold to the Bible although they will use additional revelations as well.  Even the portions of the Bible that they use will be distorted or be dressed up with their own private interpretations.  2 Peter 1:20-21, "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."  Cults will major on certain scriptures and even take them out of context to make it read what they want it to.




     Cult members can be the rich, the poor, the educated, the un-educated, the old, the young, the religious, or the non-religious.  Many join cults because they are tired of conventional religious establishments.  Others join because they are confused over issues and doctrines and do not know the truth either because they have never been taught or have never had a desire to learn what the Bible says.  Some may join because they are simply disturbed with society as a whole.  Others join because they have become discouraged or hurt and have allowed themselves to become emotionally disturbed.  You can rest assured when this happens the Devil will see to it that some cult member or leader will show up at your door or on your job with just the right things you think you need.  Even others join because of financial needs.  They have been promised that their financial problems will be solved after they join the cult and begin to follow their teachings. 


     Members are recruited in many ways.  It is sad to say, but true, cults will show more attention to the ones they are seeking to recruit than will be shown in the average  so-called fundamental Church.  Cult members will lend emotional support to those in need and help them in whatever ways are needed in order to win them into their membership.  Cults will court their prospective members at length in order to win them.  They will spend hours upon hours in Bible study to convert you into their ranks.  It is very sad that Christians will not do the same in trying to win the lost to Jesus.  


     Cults will give their members approval, acceptance, purpose and a sense of belonging.  The cult will appear to satisfy the various needs of the membership psychologically, emotionally, and intellectually.  Since these needs are supposedly met, it is hard to break away from these cults when once committed to it.  Cults affect the lives of people like alcohol and drug addiction.  Many after joining their ranks find it almost impossible to come out of it.




     Cults keep their members by various methods.  Listed are a few of the means used.


1.  Dependence.  People often want to stay because their needs appear to be met as stated before psychologically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.  It becomes difficult to come out of something that appears to meet your needs.  Cults can only offer false hopes and dreams.  God can give you real hope.  Prior to joining the cult, the lives of these people were in a turmoil.  Either they had never been born again and never experienced real happiness in the Lord or they had never been shown from the Word of God the dangers of cults.


2.  Isolation.  Outside contacts are reduced and more and more of the life of the member is built around the cult.  It then becomes very easy to control and shape the member.  The cult knows the more they can keep the member occupied with their group the more they have control of them.  Cult leaders and other dedicated cult members get real nervous when a cult member becomes influenced by those outside the cult.  They will try to keep you away from these outside influences whether it be family or friend.


3.  Brainwashing.  Once the member is indoctrinated, their thinking processes are reconstructed to be consistent with the cult and to be submissive to its leaders.  Hours upon hours are spent drilling and teaching their doctrines.  The cult leaders want their members to become possessed with their teachings.  In fact, they want their members to become so obsessed with their teachings that they will reject everything else and label them as cults.


4.  Substitution.  The cult leader often takes the place of mother, father, preacher, priest, teacher, and healer.  Often the member takes on the characteristic of a dependent child seeking to win the approval of the leader and or the group.  These members then become controlled by the leader or leaders of the cult.


5.  Indebtedness.  At some point the member will feel that he or she has been blessed and helped by the cult that they will feel they must stay in the group because of a feeling of indebtedness and obligation.  This is exactly where the cult leaders want their members to be.


6.  Guilt.  Many times the member is told if they leave the group they are turning their back on God, the leader, and the truth.  They may be further threatened with the judgment of God.  With this sense of guilt upon them, they are held like a magnet in the group.  These fear tactics have held many for years in false and dangerous teachings.




     How can one identify a cult?  In the light of Charles Manson, Jim Jones (Jonestown), David Koresh (Waco), and Applewhite (Hale-Bop), one may wonder how can we recognize a cult if we see one?


     All of the following characteristics may not be present in any one  cult, but many of them will be.  With an open mind and heart please seek the truth from the Word of God concerning the cults.


1.  The Bible is not their final or total authority.  Many will go through the motion of saying that they believe the Bible when in reality they rely on the Bible plus other writings and so-called revelations of others.  The Christian Biblical view of the Word of God is found in 2 Timothy 3:16, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" 


2 Peter 1:21, "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."

Hebrews 1:1-2, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,  Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;"


     God’s Word is forever settled and we need no new revelations, we have all that we need.  Jesus Christ is the author of Christianity and the hope of the world.  He is the Living Word and the Bible is the written Word of God.  We need nothing else.  Jesus said in John 14:6, "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."  The way into truth is through Jesus.  The way into life eternal is through Jesus.  The way into heaven is through Jesus.  He is all we need and the Bible is our Rock to stand upon.  Study it to be wise.


2.  Cults will teach a salvation by works of some sort.  They will teach that eternal life depends upon something other than the Atonement.  They will teach that faith in the finished work of Christ on Calvary is sufficient to obtain eternal life but will have some other practices or doings to obtain it as well.  Their doctrines of salvation will be some act of obedience to, an abstention from, or certain other obligations and practices instead of the Grace of God.


The Biblical view is found in the following passages of Scripture:

John 3:3, "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."


Acts 4:12, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."


Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast."


3.  Cults will teach no assurance of salvation.  A cult member’s salvation is never settled, but is constantly affected by the changing circumstances of life.  The cult leaders are able to obtain continued obligation from its members and keep them in spiritual bondage.  Actual assurance of salvation will bring you liberty and not bondage.  Many cults have the philosophy that you will be saved if you keep some commandment or do some good deed.  If you have to do something to get saved, then you will have to keep doing something to stay saved.  This is not the way the Grace of God works.


4.  Cults will have some great leader or prophet that they will adhere to.  The cult leader is almost always looked at as the infallible interpreter of Scripture.  Many will not admit this but most of the time the followers of a cult will quote their leader rather than the Bible.  Cult leaders will have a sort of divine authority that cannot be violated. 


5.  Cults will practice Spiritual Deception.  In order to gain favor with the public and recruit new members, cults will not be quick to reveal certain teachings at first.  They will only tell you what they think you need to know in order to get you to join.  Then little by little they will reveal other things and by that time the new member is in so deep he cannot find his way out.


6.  Cults will denounce all other groups around them.  A real cult will declare that they are the only true way and if you are not part of their group and belief then you are against God and the Bible.  They will declare all other groups as dishonest, deceitful, deluded, and must be put down.  They will denounce all other groups and declare them as satanic and corrupt.  The facts are they are the ones that are satanic and corrupt.


7.  Cults will have claims of special discoveries and additional revelations.  Christianity accepts the Bible as its sole authority and accepts it as being complete.  Christianity needs no new revelations.  Cults on the other hand are always referring to and leaning upon revelations their leader has received from visions, dreams, or private discoveries.  These new revelations often become official written documents and are considered as valid as the Word of God.  It is not “what saith man”, but “what saith the Lord” that should capture our attention.


8.  Some cults will deny the deity of Christ.  Cults will have a false view of the nature of the Person of Jesus Christ.  They will deny the humanity of Christ.  Jesus Christ came to this earth born of a Virgin.  In His earthly sojourn, He was God in the Flesh, a Divine fact.  Human minds have a hard time accepting this but He was all God and all Man at the same time.  1 John 4:1-3, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.  Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:  And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world."


     Cults draw people away from this truth in a number of ways. 

¨ By denying Jesus Christ is God and saying that instead He is the archangel Michael or Satan’s brother conceived when the Father had sex with Mary.  How absurd!

¨ By saying that Jesus was god with a small g and that we all can become god, as the Mormons (Latter Day Saints) teach and believe.

¨ By saying God is “The Force” or some sort of evolving energy and not a personality who has the ability to love and forgive.

¨ By saying that Jesus was just a good man, a prophet, or a teacher only. 


9.  Cults have the wrong view of the nature of man.  Most cults do not see man as an immortal being, instead they see him either as an animal without a soul or as a being which is going through a process of becoming a god.  Therefore, you will find the teaching of reincarnation, soul-sleep, and a host of other false ideas.


10.  Cults will use only certain portions of Scripture to prove their teachings.  Cults will take verses of the Bible out of context to prove their ideas and false doctrines.  For instance, those who teach salvation by baptism will major on the scriptures that mention baptism.  Those who teach keeping certain commandments will major on the verses using that commandment. 


11.  Cults will teach wrong views of life after death and punishment for sin.  Many cults will teach soul sleep, that hell is the grave, complete annihilation at death, or some compromising place like purgatory.  The punishment for sin in an eternal literal hell is out of the question for cults although it will become a reality to them one second after they leave this life. 



12.  Cults will sometimes have the wrong views concerning donations.  Many cults will lean to the idea that money contributed to the cause will earn the contributor certain gifts, powers, and abilities.  No amount of money can purchase favor with God.


13.  Cults will exhibit certain “odd” behaviors.  1 Timothy 4:1-7, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;  Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;  Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.  For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:  For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.  If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.  But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness."  We see these things demonstrated in the (1).  Forbidding of marriage as Roman Catholics teach concerning their priests.  (2).  Dietary restrictions of certain foods as the Seventh Day Adventists teach concerning the eating of pork. 


     So, we see cults forbidding marriage, or arranging marriages, or in the case of David Koresh claiming all women belonged to him.  Most cults have some dietary restrictions and forbid certain kinds of foods not out of common sense or health reasons but because of their twisting of the Scriptures.


Matthew 7:15-20, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."




     There are certain things that one must do in order to avoid being caught up into the cults.

¨ You need to be born again.  If you are not saved, you are a likely candidate for the cults.  You have never met the truth so therefore, you may fall for anything, especially if it sounds good.

¨ You need to be established in a good fundamental Bible believing, sin-hating Church.  God has placed the Church (His Bride) on this earth to teach and train you in the Word of God.  If you are not currently saved and in a firm fundamental Church you may be led astray by the cults.

¨ You need to be a student of the Word of God.  Get yourself a Bible (King James Bible) and study, study, and study.  Learn the Word of God.  Ignorance of the Word of God has caused many to be led into the hands of the cults.

¨ You need to pray, pray, and then pray some more.  God will bring you into the truth through His Word and prayer.  The Holy Ghost will teach you as you pray.  Those who are saved, studying, praying, and anchored in a good fundamental Church will be a hard target for Satan to tear down.


     With a prayerful heart and an open mind, please allow the God of Glory to reveal His truth in your heart.  Ponder these things over and let the Holy Ghost speak to you concerning these things.





Booklet Number 4B

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