Jim Jones and the Malachi 4 Prophecy of Elijah

(John Collins is a regular contributor to the jonestown report. His collections of articles for this site may be found here. His most recent book is Jim Jones – The Malachi 4 Elijah Prophecy, available on Amazon.com, upon which this article is based. More information about Rev. Branham prepared by John Collins may be found at the informational website, https://william-branham.org. Additional information is also available at the Freedom of Mind website at The Message.)

During a Peoples Temple service in late 1973 or early 1974, an unknown woman approached Reverend Jim Jones to receive her healing. Suffering from back trouble and kidney pain, she came earnestly seeking a special touch from the “healer.” The pain was so intense that she had been confined to her home, unable to work. She knew that her prayers had been answered when Jones called her out of the audience by name. With just a simple touch of his hand, she accepted her healing by faith, and went home rejoicing. For three months, her faith was stronger than her pain. She went back to work, believing that she was fully cured. Later, when the back pain returned, she attended the healing meetings once more, seeking another “cure” from her special access to divine healing power.

As she approached Jones, she explained to him what had happened. But she wasn’t speaking to Reverend Jim Jones, she was speaking to a divine spirit, a “deity” made manifest in the human vessel that the world knew as the leader of Peoples Temple. She called him by name: “Elijah.”[1]

To anyone familiar with Jim Jones and his theology, her usage of this name would not have seemed strange. During Jones’ early years as a “Latter Rain” minister in the post-WWII Healing Revival, the name “Elijah” carried great significance. Elijah was their healer; Elijah was their leader; Elijah was the prophet for their day; Elijah was the Messiah, who came with the “Spoken Word.” No longer were their King James Bibles necessary. They had direct access to the “Living Word,” which they believed was made manifest in Jones.

But did this strange theology originate with him?

In 1911, on a cold October night off the coast of Portland, Maine, a crippled yacht made its way into port. As it docked, men quickly scrambled to aid the vessel. To their surprise, they found fifty men, women, and children in critical condition, suffering from sickness and starvation. Death had already entered the vessel; scurvy had started to claim the lives of the malnourished. Deck hands once strong and capable were reduced to skin and bone. The crew and passengers were so exhausted and weak that they could barely stand. Had the ship not made port that night, it was doubtful they could have kept the craft afloat for even a day longer. Rescuers were shocked when they found mere skeletons working the pumps, alternating between three shifts.[2]

They were even more astonished when one single passenger emerged, well-nourished and well cared for. While everyone else had struggled to survive, this particular passenger, viewed by the rest as their leader, had lived sumptuously in his luxuriously furnished cabin.[3] This leader was Reverend Frank Sandford, known to those in his religious cult as “Elijah the prophet.”[4]

At the same time, just outside of Chicago, Illinois, people were flocking to a religious community known as “Zion City” to hear the Reverend John Alexander Dowie as he ministered his “gospel of divine healing.” Dowie’s religious sect had become so popular that in 1895, he had purchased $500,000 worth of grounds and developments towards a religious temple, “Divine Healing Homes,” a series of schools ranging from kindergarten to university prep, a printing and publishing house, library, and more. [5] To many, Dowie became known as the “richest man in the West.” [6] To his followers, however, Dowie became known as “Elijah the prophet.” [7]

The “Elijah” ministries of these men were not unique, and their claims to being the reincarnation of Biblical prophets were nothing new. Interpreting the ancient Hebrew scroll of the prophecy of Malachi with modern application, ministers such as Dowie and Sandford successfully convinced their listeners that the fourth chapter of Malachi predicted their rise to supernatural power. The doctrinally illiterate, captivated by the charismatic preaching of the ministers, became captives to fear through misuse of their own Bibles. Further amplifying this fear, the “Elijahs” began announcing that the world was ending, and only they knew the hour. [8]

Charles Fox Parham, one of the founders of the modern Pentecostal religion,[9] found this phenomenon to be fascinating, so much so that he took a sabbatical from his own “divine healing” ministry in Topeka, Kansas to study it. Parham was a supply pastor in the Methodist Church, but left the denomination in 1895 shortly after Dowie’s rise to fame at his Zion establishment. In 1898, Parham visited Dowie’s highly publicized “healing homes” and Sandford’s land-based commune called the “Holy Ghost and Us Society.” [10] Later, he returned to Topeka to create a faith healing home he called “Bethel,”[11] modeling it after the techniques he witnessed. Before long, he announced his own doomsday prediction, [12] and made his own claim to be the reincarnation of Elijah. [13] It was Parham’s ministry that would inspire William Joseph Seymour, leader of the Azusa Street Revival which would later become known as the birth of the Pentecostal faith in 1906.

Years later, after the Pentecostal Revival had almost fizzled out, a young minister from Jeffersonville, Indiana would ignite the flame once more in a second revival. Reverend William Branham, also heavily influenced by the ministries of these “Elijah prophets,”[14] held a series of meetings in the United States and Canada from 1947 through 1948. These meetings would later become known as the catalyst for the “Latter Rain” Pentecostal movement, [15] which claimed to be the answer to the “former rain” at the Azusa Street revival. Like those who paved the way before him, Branham promoted himself as another “Elijah for this day.”[16] Though many ministers including William Branham[17] later denied involvement with the “Latter Rain” sect, hundreds of ministers participated. Within only two years of its creation, the “Voice of Healing” business entity created for Branham to publish and advertise his campaigns became one of the primary vehicles for the Latter Rain movement itself. Through “Voice of Healing,” independent evangelists were suddenly united in the quickly growing Healing Revival of 1948. Because of this, the revival became known as the “Voice of Healing Revival” or the “Latter Rain Revival.”[18]

It was within this movement[19] that Jim Jones’ “Elijah ministry” was launched.

Jones was ordained into Branham’s “Latter Rain” movement through the Independent Assemblies of God by Reverend Joseph Mattsson-Boze of Chicago.[20] Shortly before being ordained by Mattsson-Boze, Jones announced the upcoming 1956 healing revival meetings that he and Branham would hold in Indianapolis, Indiana. This revival would serve as an official induction into the ministry, with blessings of “divine prophecy.”

In a series of “Latter Rain” sermons during June of 1956, William Branham lifted Jones into power by “prophetically” launching his ministry. As the sermons progressed throughout the week, Branham pleaded with men and women to leave what he called “cold formal churches,”[21] comparing them to less-than-favorable passages from the Christian Bible. He went so far as to compare the Indianapolis churches to “pigs,” pleading with the people to separate themselves from their churches:

You wouldn’t want to see a lamb go to dinner with a pig, would you? Be something strange, but it wouldn’t be strange for the pig be eating there. So where your nature is, there’s where you eat. What’s your diet? If you’re Abraham’s seed, you believe God and like heavenly things. You see it?… Separate yourself. Come out and be a pilgrim and a stranger.[22]

At the very end of the week-long revival, in a sermon he titled “An Exodus,” Branham claimed to have been struck by a vision describing this “exodus” to Jones’ ministry as divinely inspired by the “Holy Ghost.” According to Branham, the audience seated before Jim Jones and himself were either going to break out into “spontaneous healings,” or there was going to be the “sending forth of a ministry.” Those in the audience familiar with Jones’ new leadership in the “Latter Rain” sect were well aware Branham was referring to the minister of Peoples Temple:

I believe that God’s going pour out here in a few moments, something. I don’t whether it’s going to be a spontaneous healing, whether it’s going to be a filling with the Holy Ghost, whether it’s going to be a sending forth of a ministry. I don’t know, but something’s fixing to happen. Remember, I told you. I never felt this right in the prayer line. Ask anybody. Here’s men that’s been with me since I was early in the ministry. You never seen that. It picked up and I feel strong enough, look like, till run a mile (See?), run through a troop and leap over a wall. I never felt that way, never come back like that. Something started. Something’s happening. And I seen a vision of people swarming down the aisles with their hands up, and here they are, just exactly the way it was showed in the vision. Come on, friends. I feel someone else. … Do you feel strange? I’m not going by feelings, but I’m going by that vision, and something’s happened here.

–William Branham, with Jim Jones[23]

Following William Branham’s “vision,” Jim Jones’ evangelistic ministry quickly began to grow. Carloads of his Peoples Temple congregation traveled with him as he kept the road hot from Indiana to Ohio to recruit new members[24] to the “Latter Rain” faith – or as Branham’s extremist sect of “Latter Rain” was called, “The Message.”[25] Jones would plead with those who thought of leaving the sect, telling them that “The Message” “is God.”[26] Like Branham[27] – and like John Alexander Dowie, Charles Fox Parham, and Frank Sandford – Jones began claiming to be the reincarnation of Elijah.[28] Also like Branham (and possibly the others), Jones referred to himself as the “Spoken Word,” or the “Living Word.” Branham had convinced his cult following that he was a “Voice of God to [them],”[29] and Jones was intent on doing the same.

It was this theology that eventually separated their ministries from the main trunk of the “Latter Rain” and, finally from each other. In Branham’s version of the “reincarnation of Elijah,” it was faith in the “healer,” or more specifically, the “Word” made “manifest” in the “healer,” that brought salvation. [30] Jones decided to replicate this strategy, telling his own followers that the “spoken word of God” – that is, his own words – was the “spirit of the life of God.” [31] Eventually, doctrines surrounding this “manifestation” labeled their splinter sect of “Latter Rain” as the “Manifest Sons of God.”[32]

Jones adopted many ideas and doctrines from the Pentecostal ministers of his time, some of which were quite popular. Ultimately, it would be Branham’s Latter Rain “Manifest Sons of God”[33] theology that would stick with Jones from his days as a “Message” and “Latter Rain” evangelist to the massacre at Jonestown. Both Branham[34] and Jones[35] taught their followers that the earth was waiting for them to be “manifested” as gods to rule – and that they had already achieved this status.

While it is clear that Jim Jones abandoned Christianity in its traditional form, it is also evident that he never abandoned “The Message.” Jones believed he was a “Manifested Son,” the “Spoken Word” that came to a “prophet.” As such, he believed that he had power to speak the “Word for his day,” rendering the Bible obsolete. “The Message” had empowered Jones to rise as the destructive leader of a doomsday cult.

When the victims at Jonestown took their lives, they were fully devoted, not the mortal human named James Warren Jones, but the “Elijah” spirit, or the “deity” that was “manifested” in Jim Jones. They were trusting the “Spoken Word” for their day, and believed that “Word” was in the beginning with God. As they drank the fatal dose, they were trusting and believing that this “deity” could not only speak them back into existence, but that he could speak an entire world into existence. They believed that they were asked by God Himself to sacrifice their life, and that God would take care of them.

There is no doubt that Branham’s “Latter Rain” theology continued to resonate with Jones from the time they held their first “Latter Rain” meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, until his final breath on November 18, 1978. And there is no doubt that the “Malachi 4 Elijah” prophecy was the premise for this type of belief system. Jim Jones truly believed that he and over 900 victims at Jonestown could escape to a “higher plane” simply by faith. But Jones’ god-like authority was the result of an ideology passed down through decades, and one that still continues today. The “Message” that Jones once claimed to be “God”[36] is growing and spreading around the world, with millions of followers.[37] Children are being taught to believe that the reincarnation of “Elijah” is a reality[38], and are educated on the “manifestation of the spirit.”[39]

Unless we, as a society, help educate those who are easily taken captive by those who use this “Malachi 4 Elijah” theology, others will rise into power. The tragedy at Jonestown, though horrific, stands as a beacon that shines its light of warning throughout time. All who are willing to heed its warning can escape, if they are only willing to open their eyes.


[1] Q1023 Transcript. Accessed 2017, May 30, 2017.

[2] 1911, Oct 22. “Endure Privations On Religious Craft.” Anaconda Standard.

[3] 1911, December 20. “The Religious Grafter.” Allentown Democrat.

[4] 1910, August 2. “’Holy Ghosters’ All at Sea; No Place on Earth to Land!” The Wichita Beacon.

[5] 1895, June 7. “He Will Call It Zion.” The Inter Ocean.

[6] 1901, January 6. “A Prophet for Profit.” Honolulu Adviser.

[7] 1902, November 30. “A Record $15,000,000 Profit Makes John Alexander Dowie, Alias Elijah III, The Merchant Prince of Faith Healers.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

[8] 1909, July 12. “Ends In September.” Arkansas City Daily Traveler.

[9] Healing and Pentecost. Accessed 2017, April 17.

[10] Nelson, Shirley. The Story of Shiloh. Accessed 2017, April 17.

[11] Healing and Pentecost. Accessed 2017, April 17.

[12] Charles Fox Parham Facts. Accessed 2017, April 17.

[13] 1906, November 3. “Kansas Faith Cure Worker Loses Out.” Topeka Daily Capital.

[14] Collins, John. 2017. Jim Jones – The Malachi 4 Prophecy. Dark Mystery Publications.

[15] Riss, Richard M. 1979. “The Latter Rain Movement of 1948 and the Mid-Twentieth Century Evangelical Awakening.” Vancouver, BC: Regent College, MA Thesis.

[16] Behold I Send You Elijah The Prophet. Accessed 2017, June 30.

[17] Example: Branham, William. 1953, June 14. “I Perceive That Thou Art A Prophet.” Accessed 2017, May 30 from http://table.branham.org/.

[18] Crowder, John. 2006. Miracle Workers, Reformers, and the New Mystics. Destiny Image Publishers.

[19] Reiterman, Tim and John Jacobs, Raven: The Untold Story of Jim Jones and His People. (New York: Dutton, 1982).

[20] Certificate of Ordination. 1956, February 5. Independent Assemblies of God.

[21] Branham, William.

[22] Branham, William.

[23] Branham, William. 1956, June 15. “An Exodus.” Accessed 2017.

[24] Reiterman.

[25] The Message. Accessed 2017, June 13.

[26] Jones, James. Handwritten note to Earl Jackson. RYMUR 89-4286-1099, pp. 6-7. Accessed 2017, May 30.

[27] Elijah Has Already Come. 2013, May 20. Accessed 2017, May 30.

[28] Ex: Woman 7 in Jones’ prayer line calls Jones “Elijah.” Q1023 Transcript. Accessed 2017, May 30.

[29] Branham, William. 1951, May 5. “My Commission.” Accessed 2017, April 29 from http://table.branham.org/.

[30] Branham, William. 1952, February 24. “Believing in God.” Accessed 2017, May 30 from http://table.branham.org/.

[31] Jones, Jim. 2017, May 30. Annotated Transcript Q1053-6. Accessed 2017, May 30.

[32] Collins, John. 2017. Jim Jones – The Malachi 4 Prophecy. Dark Mystery Publications.

[33] Collins, John. (Examples of theology at end of book in transcripts section.)

[34] Branham, William. 1961, April 16. “Abraham and His Seed.” Accessed 2017, May 30 from http://table.branham.org/.

[35] Jones, James. 2017, May 30. Annotated Transcript Q1057-5. Accessed 2017, May 30.

[36] Jones, James. Note to Earl Jackson, RYMUR 89-4286-1099, pp. 6-7. Accessed 2017, May 30.

[37] According to Branham’s “Message” statistics, 2 million people believe the “Message.” Frequently Asked Questions. Accessed 2017, May 30 from http://branham.org/en/faq

[38] Example: YoungFoundations.org. Accessed 2017, June 14.

[39] 51-0717 The Manifestation of the Spirit. Accessed 2017, June 14.