Critics of William Branham sometimes assert that he was a leader or central figure in the Latter Rain Movement of the late 1940s and was the originator of the “Manifested Sons of God” teachings that gained acceptance among Charismatics beginning in the 1960s. While these groups were certainly influenced by Bro. Branham and they did share many common beliefs, he was not their leader and did not fully endorse their teachings. Critics use the connection between Bro. Branham and the Latter Rain Movement to try and deceptively connect Bro. Branham to some of their more radical teachings.
Latter Rain Movement
The Latter Rain Movement began in western Canada among people who had been present at the Azusa Street revivals when the Pentecostal movement began. They believed the Pentecostal movement was fading away and viewed their Latter Rain movement as a revival of early Pentecostalism.
The founders of the Latter Rain movement were inspired to begin their movement after attending a William Branham campaign meeting in 1947. Bro. Branham himself was not directly involved in their meetings and did not endorse them or their teachings. Latter Rain researcher Archibald Thackeray described Bro. Branham’s relationship to the the Latter Rain movement in this way:
They were influenced by what they observed in Branham’s meetings, but they had no relationship with him – he certainly was not their leader.Archibald Thackeray in The Latter Rain Movement of ’48
Writer Michael Moriarty described Bro. Branham’s relation to Later Rain in the following way.
Probably the major influence on the Later Rain movement was William Marrion Branham (1909-65). Entrenched in the neo-Pentecostal revival, his prophetic message of healing and deliverance received a warm greeting from similar movements all around the world.Moriarty, Michael (1992). The New Charismatics. Zondervan. ISBN 978-0-310-53431-0. p. 47
The leadership of the Pentecostal churches viewed the teachings stemming from the Latter Rain movement has heretical and moved quickly to shut it down by discrediting their teachings and cutting them off from any denominational support. The Latter Rain movement was short lived and by 1950 it has ceased to be an independent movement and its member melted into the broader Pentecostal world.
Manifested Sons of God
In the 1960s some of the teachings of the Latter Rain movement were revived, primarily led by Paul Cain, Kenneth Hagin, and Ern Baxter. Cain advanced a false teaching by which outsiders came to refer to him and his followers: “Manifested Sons of God”. According to the teaching, followers of Paul Cain and his fellow ministers’ teachings, could become just like Christ and be able to perform great miracles and would ultimately form an army which would then conquer the world and usher in the millennium.
Paul Cain, and the ministers associated with him became known as the Kansas City Prophets and developed a large following. Paul Cain himself was eventually forced to step down from his office after immorality was discovered in his life, but other men continued to carry on related forms of his teachings. Mike Bickle and Bob Jones became the leading “prophets” of the movement. In the 1980s the Kansas City Prophets merged with the Vineyard Association of Churches and introduced their doctrines there where many of them gained broad acceptance. Popular televangists and ministers Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn, have also played prominent roles and are related to this movement. Both have cited Bro. Branham as a major influence on their ministries.
In 2018 the Vineyard Association had over 2,500 churches.
Paul Cain was influenced in his early ministry by Bro. Branham, and the two men traveled together and ministered together briefly. Bro. Branham did preach a sermon on Manifested Sons of God in 1960, but he connected the fulfillment of the Manifested Sons of God to the resurrection and rapture. This is contradictory to the Manifested Sons of God doctrine taught by Paul Cain. There is sufficient evidence to show that William Branham and the Kansas City prophet’s teachings on the Manifest Sons of God was substantively different by simply reviewing their sermons on the topic.
Kenneth Hagin’s Word of Faith Movement is closely related to the Manifested Sons of God doctrines, as Hagin believed in men becoming “little gods”. Hagin does not believe in an army of Sons of God conquering the world, but teaches that men like Christ will perform many miracles as the millennium is ushered in.1
The critics who allege Bro. Branham is a central figure in these movements also allege he is a forgotten person who has no legacy outside of the Branham movement. These two positions are not compatible and demonstrate the fallacy of the critics arguments. The Vineyard Association, Word of Faith Movement influenced churches, and Kansas City Prophets influenced churches, and Latter Rain influenced churches are the majority of non-denominational churches in the Charismatic movement and includes tens of millions of Christians.
Bro. Branham is not the central figure of these movements, but he did pass to them some of their key doctrines, including their views on Christian Restorationism.