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Where Did Eastern Lightning Come From?

Eastern Lightning is a Chinese cult that proclaims that Christ has already returned as a Chinese woman. The cult started in Henan Province in the early 1990s and reportedly has one million followers in mainland China.1

Eastern Lightning has been a source of distress to mainland churches because of the cult's dedicated efforts to recruit followers from the churches.

I have personally experienced the pain of seeing brothers in Christ drawn into the cult. My family and I lived in the Mainland for eight years. During that time I came to know some students who became close friends. We often studied the Bible together. After I left the Mainland in 2006, two of them joined Eastern Lightning. In addition to being deeply saddened, I also thought to myself, "What a strange thing! Where on earth did this come from?" This painful experience is what moved me to study Eastern Lightning in the hope that I could help my friends.

Eastern Lightning has been known by different names. Though in this article I primarily refer to the cult as Eastern Lightning, nowadays it is more commonly known as "The Church of the Almighty God" (). In the early days it was also known as "The Real/Concrete God" () cult (as opposed to the "remote" God of the Bible).

The teachings of Eastern Lightning are fairly simple. The core teaching can be briefly summarized as follows. The Trinity is a false doctrine. Instead, one God simply used different names in the three different ages:

  • God was called "Jehovah" in the Age of Law (the Old Testament period).
  • He was called "Jesus" in the Age of Grace (from the time of Jesus until, presumably, the early 1990s when Eastern Lightning started).
  • He is called "The Almighty God" in this final Kingdom Age (and currently The Almighty God is a certain Chinese woman).

My main purpose in writing this is to help people see that Eastern Lightning is not something new but is merely one more permutation of other cults already in existence. I will try to do this by explaining:

  • where some of Eastern Lightning's ideas come from (Section 1);
  • who its leaders are and how the cult got started (Section 2); and
  • some ways in which various Eastern Lightning teachings contradict the Bible (Section 3).

My hope is that this explanation will help a few people who have joined the cult or are considering joining the cult to see the cult for what it is.


1 Vicky Feng, "Hong Kong Christians 'Harassed' by Mainland's Church of Almighty God," South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), published August 5, 2013, updated August 29, 2013. (Published in print edition as "Churches Fight Back Against 'Evil Cult.'")

Note: Earlier English versions of this article published at:

  1. and

Earlier Chinese versions of this article published at

  1. and
  2. the Chinese-language counterpart to in four parts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4).

I am very grateful to my good friend Ted Spaeth for encouraging me with this project and Linda Chen for her great initiative and wonderful Chinese translation of the earlier version of this article.

Image credit: Screenshot from the video Shipo xiejiao “quannengshen” 识破邪教“全能神” (Seeing through the “Almighty God” cult).

William Bennett

William Bennett is a US attorney and Hong Kong solicitor who has lived with his family in Hong Kong and the China mainland for a combined 23 years. View Full Bio