Background: This group appeared in the early 90’s in China’s Heilongjiang province. Eastern Lightning (Dongfang Shandian) was founded by Zhao Weishan. Breaking away from a Christian sect, the group began to call themselves “Church of the Everlasting Fountain.” After being outlawed, Zhao and his followers fled to Henan province. In 1993, Zhao claimed he had received a divine revelation from Matthew 24:27, which refers to “lightning from the east.” Hence, the group became known as “Eastern Lightning.”
Sacred Book: Eastern Lightning (EL) was founded on a twisted interpretation of Matthew 24:27, which at first impression seems to indicate their adherence to the Bible. However, they refuse to accept the authority of scripture and attack the Bible vehemently. They also claim that since we have entered into the “kingdom age,” (see “The Nature of God” below) all the words of Jesus Christ are worthless.
The Nature of God: They believe that there is only one God, but there is no trinity. They believe God has manifested himself in three Eras: the Era of Law, the Era of Grace, and the Era of Kingdom. During each Era, God had different names, Jehovah, Jesus and the current almighty god. In this “third age,” they believe God has changed his name again to “Lightning.” According to their beliefs, Jesus has already returned, disguised as a 30-year old Chinese female. Anyone who does not believe in this female messiah will not be saved. However, since no believers have actually seen this “female messiah,” she is probably a fictional character rather than a real person.
Human Condition: Eastern Lightning divides people into five groups:
1) The Many Elder Sons come from God and were somehow “born of God” before creation. They have the nature of God, including the ability to judge, punish and curse.
2) The Many Sons were sinners, but now accept the female messiah. The spend “all their good” and “all their energy” for her. They are believed to have obtained the “ten standards.” These include having a pure understanding, a sensitive conscience, a willing submission and a deep love for God.
3) The People have heard the Word of God (as EL interprets it) and are seeking to obtain the ten standards.
4) The Servants are those who believe in Jesus and reject the female messiah. According to the cult, they are “servants of Satan” and will not enter the kingdom of God. All Christians who refuse to join the movement would be put in this category.
5) The Damned are those who reject the female messiah and strongly reject her teaching. They will be thrown into the lake of eternal fire.
What is Salvation? Salvation believes in and following this “female messiah.” According to the cult, in this third age there is “only judgment and punishment, without any grace.”
How is a person saved? Salvation is achieved through the female Christ, a woman in Henan, China. A believer must unquestioningly obey the orders of this messiah to receive salvation and avoid eternal damnation.
Notes: The Eastern Lightning cult steals all of its followers from the Christian church. While they do target nominal Christians, their main targets are church leaders. Their “insider handbook” contains detailed instructions for spying out and infiltrating existing churches in order to “convert” their members. EL members enter a Christian church pretending to be a sincere seeker, but once they have gained the trust of the members, they begin pushing EL beliefs on the members. Because most Christians are not willing to convert, Eastern Lightning reverts to blackmail and torture to convince people to join the cult. There is evidence that thousands of Christians across China have been physically tortured by EL. Believers are often separated from each other to weak their resistance.
Although the cult is still young, much has been published on their group. Clear doctrinal statements are difficult to find, but reports of abuse, blackmail, torture and unethical behavior are too numerous to count. *Much of this information was taken from the article “When Christians Wish They Were in Prison: An Examination of the Eastern Lightning Cult in China.” by Paul Hattaway. It was published on the website of Asia Harvest.