Australian Alan John Miller, Miami-based José Luis de Jesús Miranda, Brazilian-born Inri Cristo, Russia's Sergey Anatolyevitch Torop and Wayne Bent, who is currently imprisoned in New Mexico – these are men from different parts of the world all claiming, like dozens long gone before them, to be Jesus Christ, God's Messiah and even in one case, both Christ and the end-times figure, the Antichrist.
Perry Noble, pastor of the nondenominational NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C., told The Christian Post last week, when asked for his reaction to Miller's claim, that part of him could hardly believe it.
"But then part of me goes to Matthew 24 where Jesus said other people are going to come in my name claiming I am he," he added. "Then he basically says don't fall for it. Jesus says when he comes back, we'll know it."
"The first time he came, he came in a very obscure way — you know, baby in a manger in a sheep cave outside of Bethlehem. But when he comes back again … he will come as king, and we will know him. There will not be any doubt in our mind. … He said until that time, don't fall for people who claim that they are Jesus. He said it would happen."
Despite such warnings, dozens of figures over time claiming to be Christ have attracted a following, with detrimental consequences, such as with Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple and David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. Below is a list of five men, still living, who have managed to attract followers with their claims to be the reincarnation or second coming of Jesus Christ.
1. Alan John Miller
Alan John Miller, a former IT specialist from Australia in his late 40s, raised brows when it was reported by Sky News that he has been attracting a following with his claims to be Jesus Christ reincarnated. Miller, who claims to have memories of the crucifixion, also says his companion, fellow Australian Mary Luck, is actually Mary Magdalene, a figure counted among Jesus' followers in the Bible. Miller's movement is called the Divine Truth, and on his website and YouTube page the former IT worker shares his teachings about "life, God and the universe." Australian cult experts have grown alarmed over the following Miller has attracted, suggesting that these people's social lives and family relationships could be ruined, and that they could suffer financial loss. In one previous report, Miller was noted as saying in one of his videos: "There's probably a million people who say they're Jesus and most of them are in asylums. But one of us has to be." Watch the Sky News report on Miller below.
2. José Luis de Jesús Miranda
Puerto Rican-born José Luis de Jesús Miranda, 67, not only claims to be the second coming of Jesus Christ but also the Antichrist. He and his worldwide followers embrace "666," traditionally viewed by Christians as a diabolical symbol, with tattoos as a "number of wisdom." Miranda first claimed in 1988 that he was the Apostle Paul before claiming to be Jesus Christ. He teaches that there is no sin, devil or hell. His Miami, Fla.-based operation, Creciendo en Gracia (Growing in Grace), shares its information at a URL presented as the "official website of the Government of God on Earth, The Man Christ Jesus, Dr. Jose Luis De Jesus." Miranda's movement is so pervasive and well organized — it has been in operation for 27 years — that among their teachings, one of which positions followers as "the super race of the man Christ Jesus," are curricula for children. One teaching on Religion, in which Miranda is referred to as "Dad/Daddy," reads: "The people that haven't listened to Dad and don't know they are blessed, congregate in a building we call religion (they are also called Catholic, Evangelic (sic), Adventist), we call them 'the system.'" Having been featured in numerous news reports, such as one on Miranda's claim about the end of the world, the movement appears to be flourishing despite being banned from three countries. Members are present mostly in Latin American countries and receive Miranda's messages via 24-hour radio and satellite television broadcasts. A CNN video report on Miranda's movement is below.
3. Inri Cristo
Brazilian-born Álvaro Theiss, 65, has been claiming for more than 30 years to be Jesus Christ reincarnated although he started out in the late 60s by proclaiming himself a prophet and the French seer Nostradamus. He claims that in 1971 he heard the voice of God tell him that he was Jesus Christ, and it was at that point he adopted the acronym INRI for the Latinization of "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews," which the Bible says Pontius Pilate had written to identify Christ during his crucifixion. Theiss, who calls beliefs in the physical resurrection of Jesus "absurd" and "a delirium," has been expelled from several countries for his activities, including the United States, but he appears to remain popular in Brazil. The reported several hundred followers of his movement, the Suprema Ordem Universal da Santissima Trindade (the Supreme Universal Order of the Most Holy Trinity), or SOUST, are said to be mostly women. He is usually recognized by his long hair and beard, "crown of thorns" and long, white robe. In response to having been called crazy for claiming to be Jesus Christ, Theiss has said: "I can be crazy but not dumb. Madness is different from dementia. It is the mother of philosophers, prophets and inventors." A news report on Inri Cristo is below.
4. Sergey Anatolyevitch Torop
Sergey Anatolyevitch Torop, called Vissarion by his followers, has publicly claimed since 1991 to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. The Russian leader, 52, named his movement the Church of the Last Testament, and reportedly has 5,000 followers worldwide. His teachings reportedly reflect elements of various faiths, such as Russian Orthodox and Buddhism, and his stated goal is to unite all religions. Torop, married twice and having fathered six children, was reportedly a traffic cop before developing a community in Siberia. He told The Washington Post in 2007 that "it was painful to remember the end of his last life, in which he says he walked the Earth as Jesus Christ." In an even earlier Guardian report, Torop is quoted as saying, "It's all very complicated, but to keep things simple, yes, I am Jesus Christ. That which was promised must come to pass. And it was promised in Israel 2,000 years ago that I would return, that I would come back to finish what was started. I am not God. And it is a mistake to see Jesus as God. But I am the living word of God the Father. Everything that God wants to say, he says through me." A VICE documentary on the Church of the Last Testament, published online in May of 2012, has been viewed more than two million times.
5. Wayne Bent
Wayne Bent, who also uses the name Michael Travesser, is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for criminal sexual contact of a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Bent claims that in 2000 he heard God declare him to be "the messiah," and the former Seventh-day Adventist pastor has presented himself as God's divine messenger. His New Mexico-based movement, called the Lord Our Righteousness Church, referred to as Strong City by members, was raided in 2008 by state police and Bent was arrested. National Geographic produced a documentary titled "Inside a Cult" on Bent and the Lord Our Righteousness Church, in which the self-proclaimed messiah says, "I am the embodiment of God. I am divinity and humanity combined." Although hundreds of members have abandoned the Lord Our Righteousness Church since Bent's arrest, his messages from prison have been published online, with postings dated as recent as March. In one such message, Bent writes: "I know that if I die or 'change' the final doom of man will closely follow, for the Holy One who possesses me will leave the earth with His possessed ones. Then all of the world's pent-up hatred and finger-pointing will be unleashed as a flood against each other and their fire will devour them. All of their self-righteousness will come back upon them as a plague, as men do to them double what they have done to me. Their wealth will perish like the snow in the summer sun."
More information about cults can be found at Christian question-and-answer website GotQuestions.org's entry on cults and sects.