The Marks of a Cult: How To Know That You Are Dealing With A Cult


All false cults begin by attacking the King James Bible. The Mormons began by claiming the King James was corrupt and the Book of Mormon straightens it out. Jehovah’s Witnesses were told by Charles Taze Russell to look to the Watchtower instead of the King James Bible before eventually producing the New World Translation (comparable to the New American Standard Version in John 1:18, 1 Timothy 3:16, etc.) taken from the corrupt Alexandrian texts that produced the new translations of apostate Christianity.

Cults are religious organizations (some of whom deny being organized) which claim to teach a plan of salvation, or a pathway to God. But, unlike trustworthy Christian organizations, these groups lead a person away from the Bible and the Biblical teachings on God and salvation.

The problem we face is that one would be hard-pressed to find any of these genuine cults advertising themselves as dangerous. All cults pretend to be good and from God. None see themselves as cults. You would not read a Yellow Pages ad for a cult that says, “We are your local, satanic cult organization!” They portray themselves as being “right” or “correct”.

Are you in a cult? Is someone you know in a cult? You might think that you can tell if you are in a cult by the name over the door. But the fact is, I have seen cults with the name “Christian”, “Holiness”, “Jehovah”, “Church”, “Jesus”, “Baptist”, “Pentecostal”, etc., over the door of their meeting place. But once inside, the discerning Christian sees the marks of a cult and gets out of there quickly! Sadly, too many others do not recognize the marks of a cult and become entangled in false teachings. Names can mean nothing!

We must learn that identifying cults is not a matter of simply knowing the names of a handful of organizations. Most of us recognize the “BIG” cults by name. Most books on cults identify a dozen or so of these groups for us. But, the fact is, the estimated number of different cults in America alone is in the thousands. It would take a large encyclopedia to name and describe them all. These are available, but getting one in every home is impossible.

Therefore, the only real defense we have is two-fold:

1. Know the truth of God’s Word.

2. Know the identifying marks of a cult.

The Four Marks: A-D-D-S

There are four identifying marks that a person should avoid when joining himself or herself to a church (assembly, congregation, organization, etc.). We have them outlined with a simple acronym:


Authority other than Scripture.

Deviation from the Trinity doctrine of God.

Departure from the true Bible Doctrine of Jesus Christ.

Salvation by works and not by grace through faith alone.

Authority Other Than Scripture Bible Christianity is based upon the premise that God has revealed His will to mankind in a set of 66 individual books. This collection of books is called The Holy Bible, or Holy Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16 in the King James Bible tells us that Scripture is “given by inspiration of God.” It is literally “God-breathed.” It is not some unknowable, untouchable “original manuscripts”. The Scripture was in the hands of Timothy in his day and is in your hands in the 21st century, if you are holding an AV 1611 King James Bible. (Other languages would include the Spanish Valera 1865, Luther’s German Bible, etc.)

Bible Christians further believe that since a perfect God gave us His word, it must be without error. A perfect, holy God cannot err. “The words of the Lord are pure words.” (Psalm 12:6 kjv) God has kept His word pure and will do so “for ever” (Psalm 12:7). The Bible has been tested and attacked for thousands of years. But it has never been destroyed and has never been proven to be anything less than perfect.

Revelation 22:18 declared the writing of God’s word complete around 100 A. D. saying, “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this Book.” (Revelation 22:18 kjv) There is no “new revelation” or “new word from God” to be heard today. The Psalmist said, “For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in Heaven.” (119:89 kjv)

But the mark of a cult is to reject this Biblical teaching and do one of two things:

1. Corrupt the words of God.

2. Add to the words of God.

Cults corrupt God’s inspired words in several ways. First, cults publish new translations which contain twisted readings that support their “new” teachings. The Watchtower cult publishes the corrupt “New World Translation”. Liberals (apostates) in mainline denominations promote the New Revised Standard (per)-Version. All new translations derive from the society of scholars (“SS troops”) known as the Alexandrian Cult.

A second way cults tamper with the words of God is to publish books and magazines that re-interpret God’s words. The cult follower is told that they should not attempt to interpret the Bible without the aid of these publications. The result is, the cult follower’s understanding of God’s word is clouded with the words of men. Again, the Watchtower cult has it’s magazines (Watchtower, Awake) and most smaller cults rely on newsletter type papers to spread their “new revelation”.

Cults also add to God’s word in more than one way. Some publish additional “sacred writings” comparable in their own view to the authority of the Bible. The LDS (Mormon) cult has it’s Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, as well as other “temple” writings, etc. Christian Science elevates the writings of Mary Baker Eddy to the status of “scripture”. Many Seventh Day Adventists elevate the writings of Ellen G. White to “inspired” status. The Roman Catholic Cult adds the Apocrypha, Ex-Cathedra statements of the Popes, Councils, Creeds, etc.

Some Cults also have so-called “prophets” that speak new revelation. David Koresh, Jim Jones and the Pope all have claimed this “gift” which enables them to ignore the Bible and build their false religion.

Whatever church, “denomination,” or organization you may belong to or follow, you should be alarmed if they place anything next to the Bible as an authority. That is a cult practice.

Deviation From The Trinity Doctrine of God

The first recorded conversation is between God. “Between God?” Yes. The first conversation in the Bible is found in Genesis 1:26 where, “God said, Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness.” (Emphasis ours.) From this we see that God is one, but is a plurality of personalities.

Now if a human being has multiple personalities, we think them to be insane, or at least mentally ill. But God is not a man (Numbers 23:19). God is a Spirit (John 4:24) and He is above knowing and fully understanding. We only know about Him what He tells us. He reveals Himself to man, but man can only grasp this awesome God to a certain extent. He is just bigger than our minds can fathom. And He is one God who exists in three personalities: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

In His revelation of Himself to man, God tells us:

1. He is One God: Deuteronomy 6:4, Ephesians 4:5.

2. He is three persons: Matthew 28:19, 1 John 5:7

3. The Father is God: Isaiah 63:16, Philippians 2:11

4. The Son is God: Isaiah 9:6, 1 Timothy 3:16

5. The Holy Ghost is God: Acts 5:3-4, Ephesians 4:30

But cults refuse to accept this doctrine, most times simply because they refuse to accept a God that they cannot comprehend and explain in simple terms. My first response to that kind of thinking is to say this: Any so-called “god” that can be understood and fully explained by our finite minds is not a real God at all. God is above us. But cults create a false God made in man’s own image!

There are two ways in which most cults deviate from the doctrine of the Trinity. One way is to claim that the Trinity is a “pagan” doctrine. They will misrepresent the doctrine of the Trinity and claim that it teaches “three gods”. Of course the Trinity does not teach this, but that doesn’t stop the cults from giving unwary subjects this false impression as though it were the truth.

Another way they might misrepresent the truth of the Trinity is to give people the idea that Trinitarians believe in a sort of “three-headed” God. In either case, the doctrine of the Trinity is purposely distorted with plenty of artwork and illustrations to further malign the true teaching of the Church on the Trinity.

Another way in which the cults deviate from the Trinity is to give lip service to a belief in “The Father, Son and Holy Ghost” while adding heretical and unbiblical teachings. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses turn the “holy spirit” into a FORCE of God instead of a Person Who is all-powerful. Other cults follow this same line of heresy, adding the cult leader (Moon, Koresh, etc.) to the level of ‘godhood” and, thus, being polytheistic (belief in many gods) in all reality. The Catholic cult adds Mary as Co-redemptrix and turns Jesus into a strange Zues-like character who needs a “mother” to direct him.

The bottom line is simple. The Trinity must be rejected so that the cult can support its departure from the Biblical doctrine of Jesus Christ.

Departure From The Biblical Doctrine Of Jesus Christ

While the Biblical teaching that Jesus Christ is divine is indirectly attacked when cults deviate from the doctrine of the Trinity, cults directly attack this truth as well. The practice is simply to speak of Jesus in the highest human and religious terms, while refusing to give him the title and/or position of “the Almighty God”.

Most cults refuse to give Jesus the place of “full deity”. All of them allow Him to be spoken of in terms of high spirituality and even use the term “divine” to describe Him. But when it gets right down to it, Jesus is relegated to be less than God.

Some of these cult leaders assume a position of equality with, or replacement of, Jesus Christ. Hindu-based cult gurus use Christian language and Biblical terminology while claiming to be “the reincarnated Christ.” The Pope is called “Vicar of Christ” which is “Anti-Christ” or “in the place of Christ”. Mormons believe that on Judgment Day we will stand before Elohim (heavenly Father), Jesus and Joseph Smith!

Other cults teach things about Jesus that are just as absurd and just as unbiblical. There are racist cults who want us to believe that Jesus was white, black, oriental, etc. ANYTHING but a Jew! There are so many departures that they seem endless. But if you know the real Jesus, you will recognize these false Christs. Know Jesus and know peace!

Salvation By Works And Not By Grace Through Faith Alone

John 3:16 is one of the most well-known verses in the Bible. It says that “whosoever believeth in him (Jesus) should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Other verses are as crystal clear on this matter and teach us that salvation comes by faith alone in the death, burial and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here are two clear examples:

Ephesians 2:8-10 “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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us,…”

The simple fact of the matter is that we are saved to do good works, not by our good works. As Paul said in Romans, “…if it be of works, then is it no more grace.” In other words, if you are saved by works then you would actually be saving yourself—which is not possible!. But the Bible says we are saved by God, not by our own works or merit. Notice in Ephesians 2:9-10 (above) that we are saved “by grace…through faith” and THEN come the “good works.”

But cults twist this around. They do teach that we must believe in Jesus in order to be saved, but they go beyond this and teach that we must also add certain other works in order to be saved. If you will read the book of Galatians, you will see that Paul fought this cultic mentality in his day. In Galatia, there were men saying that we must believe in Jesus AND be circumcised Jewish law-keepers. But Paul called this “another gospel” and pronounced those who add works to salvation “accursed”.

The cults will add works to the Gospel and make it “another gospel: which is not another” (Galatians 1:6-7) but is a FALSE “gospel”. They will say that you must:

-Believe and be baptized.

-Believe and join their organization.

-Believe and tithe (give money).

-Believe and perform sacraments or ordinances.

-Believe and continue in their cult until you die.

-Believe and …….

The poor souls trapped in the cults are told that the work of salvation is not finished. They are told that they are saved by faith AND works. This is BONDAGE.

Don’t be fooled! If works of any kind are added to the message of salvation, then salvation is no longer of God but of man. Repeatedly, salvation is called a “free gift” (Romans 5:15-18). Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Yes, death is the wages of sin. We EARN our place among those who die without salvation and end up in a place called Hell. If a person goes to Hell, God did not send them there. They chose to go there and earned their way by sinning and not turning to God.

But salvation is NOT a matter of wages. Salvation CANNOT be earned. Salvation must be received. It is a gift. And if works are added to the message of salvation, then it is no more a gift. And if salvation were not a gift, then Romans 6:23 would be in error!


Dear reader, do not allow anyone to blur your vision of the Bible. If they point you away to an Authority other than the Bible, Deviate from the Trinity, Depart from the Bible Doctrine of Jesus Christ OR teach Salvation by works and not by grace through faith alone in the death, burial and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ….GET OUT!!

Cults are a danger to your soul. And if you fall prey to them, you’re liable to lead others into their hands as well. We pray that all who read this will be made free by faith in the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1