Mark 13:22 tells us to be watchful, because many false prophets and false messiahs would come to deceive. These leaders of deception would come so far in leading people astray that even the very elect would be deceived if it were possible.
William Branham was a very knowledgeable study of these false prophets, and wanted to become like them. For an unknown reason that he took to the grave, Branham modeled his doctrines, his teachings, and even his life after men that have been deemed a false prophet after their prophecy failed. One such study is that of John Alexander Dowie of Zion, Illinois.
Both Gordon Lindsay and F. F. Bosworth were Zionists, followers of Dowie. Together, the two and Branham promoted Dowie's doctrines in the Voice of Healing magazine that Branham edited and sold. Both Lindsay and Branham were on the board of directors for the magazine. Lindsay went on to write books praising Dowie for his ministry of healing.
To his followers, John Alexander Dowie was the "Elijah" of Malachi 4, the end time messenger preparing the way for the coming Christ. Like Branham, Dowie claimed that he was visited by an angel, and was told that he would be the fore-runner of the second coming of Christ, just as John the Baptist was the fore-runner of the first coming.
Dowie had a tremendous healing ministry, one that dwarfed William Branham's ministry of miracles, signs, and wonders. Dowie's following grew to over a hundred-thousand people, and engulfed a large section of the city. As Dowie continued to purchase land, he started calling it the "land of Zion," which would later become Zion, Illinois.
As his fame spread, Dowie began to heavily promote himself as the Elijah and began speaking presumptuously in the name of the Lord. One such prophecy was a doomsday prophecy describing the end of America in 1954. This prophecy was one Branham took to heart:
But look, let's take historically speaking. The first two thousand years, the world order come to a climax, and God destroyed the world with water. You know that? Then it come forth as a new world. And the second two thousand years, it came to its end again and God sent Jesus. Is that right? This is the end of the next two thousand years, 1954. And the Gospel, Jesus said, "The work would be cut short." For what? "The elect's sake, or no flesh would be saved," it would so wicked. So we're at the end time. And then the seventh, in type, is the Millennium, a thousand years.
Branham, 54-0513 THE.MARK.OF.THE.BEAST
Preaching in Dowie's commune-city, Branham promoted himself as the "Elisha" to Dowie's "Elijah."
Just recently, this afternoon, one of the brothers that's on the platform now, handed me a letter from a lady, said... A very saintly looking, motherly lady, aged, was standing in the hotel lobby, said, "Give this personally to Brother Branham." She was acquainted, of your, our great renowned brother that's--that's sleeping tonight, no, not sleeping (his body is); his soul's with Jesus: Doctor Alexander Dowie. "And forty years before... When he died, he prophesied," she said.
He said, "It'll be forty years after my death, that this city shall go on the rock, but after that forty years there'll come a revival, that'll be more glorious than it was in the first place." And I have the writings here in--in--in just in part that I might read there. It's kinda... "Doctor Dowie prophesied that some forty years after his death, that the churches would be restored in more power and glory than they were in--in the former."
"He said that in the meantime the churches, and the church and the town would go to the rock, and the glorious truths would be trampled in the dust and spoke that; but after forty years, he said, that there would come a revival that would make the city more glorious than at ever."
Branham, 1949, ZION.IL
Dowie had long since been deemed a false prophet, even by many of his own followers. In violent teachings against Islam, Dowie declared spiritual war in publications that quickly spread throughout Europe and America. In a publication in 1903, Dowie wrote, "If I am not a messenger of God on this earth, then no one is."
The violent end came when Dowie accepted a challenge with a prophet of Islam. While Dowie was standing on his own false words, the prophet of Islam was standing on his un-Christian religious beliefs. Without Christ on his side, Dowie was not under the protection of the Holy Spirit.
Dowie was instantly paralyzed, completely unable to move. Once the great healer, Dowie lie helpless and unable to heal himself.
When the followers began to question, they started digging deeply into everything. Not only his teachings and false prophecies, but they investigated his personal life as well. It was found that Dowie had misappropriated over a million and a half dollars. It also appeared that he had given presents worth more than $300,000 to young girls in the town.
Upon these findings the leading follower of Dowie decided to depose Dowie. They sent him a telegram which said: "Unanimously the organization seriously objects to your expensive habits, hypocrisy, misstatements, exaggerations, and ill-temper. Therefore, you are hereby deposed from your office."
Dowie's following dropped from over a hundred-thosand to less than two-hundred.
Though Dowie's false prophecy led him into a dreadful end, Branham, Lindsay, and Bosworth continued to promote him with both the Voice of Healing magazine and in Branham's sermons. Branham continued to visit Zion, Il to promote himself by promotion of Dowie:
How Doctor Dowie, in his death, prophesied that I would come to that city forty years from the time that he died. Not knowing nothing about it, he died on one day, and I was borned on the next. And forty years to the day I entered the city, not knowing nothing about it. Oh, how God's great move is coming together. I hear the sound of abundance of rain.
And said... Brother Bosworth was raised up here in Zion, under Doctor Dowie, and--and so forth. And he--he believed it. And I believe he's one of the greatest teachers today on Divine healing.
52-0725 EXPERIENCES_ ZION.IL
I can picture him looking something like Dr. Dowie, a long, white, flowing beard. He had an outstanding name as a teacher in Israel, a wonderful old church father.
52-0727 LED.BY.THE.HOLY.SPIRIT_ ZION.IL
Look at Dr. Dowie in Zion City. Why, today they'd laugh in the face of Divine healing, when the--the city was based upon it.
Like Dowie, Branham's promotion of a false prophet had no value. We find scripture to describe his folly:
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.
Though Dowie claimed to have been visited by an angel, and Branham used the same tactics, the Bible warns us of such men and their teachings:
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind
Like Dowie, Branham was faced with a dreadful end, one that the real prophets of the Bible had prophesied about. God does not stand for false teachings, and He takes false prophets out of our midst. So the elect are not lead astray, God removes these false teachers from the face of the earth.
But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And you may say in your heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken? When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
As Christians, we should ask ourselves. Why did we follow a false prophet? Why did we follow a false prophet that promoted other false prophets? Had the words of a man replaced the Word of God in our hearts?