As the Southeast Asia representative for David Jang's organizations—pastor of his churches, proprietor of his businesses, and editor of his Christian news website—Edmond Chua believed that Jang was a new Christ, a messianic figure establishing the kingdom of God on earth.
Just after midnight on September 6, 2005, Chua had completed a series of Bible studies, and his teacher, Susan Hu, was leading him through a crucial final lesson.
"I think Susan asked me, 'So who is Pastor David?' And I probably said something like, 'He is the Second Coming Christ!' I fully believed it. The [Bible studies] just seemed to point that way. It was very logical and deep. For the first time I felt that I knew the love of God intimately, strange as that may sound, considering who Jang is."
Chua told Christianity Today, "I actually thought of him as God and prayed in his name instead of Jesus'. And whenever I typed something about him, I would use the upper case on pronouns."
He doesn't believe it anymore—nor does his teacher, Susan. The two married on David Jang's birthday, October 30, 2006—the 14th anniversary of the founding of Jang's movement—along with 69 other couples, Susan said.
Like most of the other couples, the Chuas' marriage was arranged by the movement's leaders. "We are a lucky case: We knew each other for very long already," Susan said. "Some couples, the two never met each other before, but were recommended and they accepted with faith and obedience."
As Christianity Today reported in August, several former members of Jang's organizations similarly described encouragements to believe that Jang is the Second Coming Christ. But most spoke on condition of anonymity. Now, in exclusive in-depth interviews with Christianity Today, the Chuas are among the first to speak out on the record about their experience in Jang's group, the theology behind their belief that he was the Second Coming Christ, and why they left.
Employees of Jang-founded Olivet University counter that the community has no secret teachings that Jang is Christ or the Second Coming. Meanwhile, a National Association of Evangelicals committee is meeting again today in its ongoing inquiry into whether Olivet is theologically compatible with the Southern Baptist Convention's LifeWay Christian Resources.
In 2003, Susan was already a university graduate and a Christian. A year earlier, while attending Xiamen University in Fujian, the Chinese mainlander had been baptized by a Korean evangelical group unaffiliated with Jang. While studying one day, she was approached by a couple and invited to a Bible study.
"I was baptized but did not know the meaning of baptism, sin, or have a clear understanding of salvation," she said. "I was only a bit scared of the end—Judgment Day—because I wondered what would happen to my grandparents who had never heard the gospel."
The Jang-connected Bible study was a revelation. "Wow," she said. "They teach you one by one from beginning of the Bible to the end. I felt the teaching was so clear, unlocking the verses."
A month of intensive study later, Susan's teacher, Li Zhihong, introduced the 22-year-old to a key teaching she calls the "New Israel" message. The content, Susan said, was essentially the same as a July 20, 2002, sermon delivered by Jang's chief teaching associate, Borah Lin, at a church retreat in Berkeley, California. (The Chuas provided a transcript of the sermon, as well as other Lin sermons, to CT. Susan said she received the Lin sermon texts in Chinese and English later, when she was a missionary. Similar sermons had once been available as audio recordings on the community's internal websites, the Chuas said, but they did not have copies.)