Introducing the Man Who Thinks He’s the Real Jesus
Since the crucifixion and the end of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, according to Christian belief, several individuals have claimed to be Jesus in a second Advent.
Many of these new Jesus figures would often start a sect, enjoy a large followership, and after a while, fizzle away. However, one such individual has been convincing in the past few decades. Could he be that Christ?
Jesus Promised to Return
In the Holy Book of Christianity, Jesus Christ promised his disciples that he would return to the Earth after leaving. This promise gave credence to the many entities that have come forward in his name.
Interestingly, the same Messiah of Christianity that promised a second advent to Earth equally forewarned his disciples. In another portion of the Bible, he warned them of false prophets and deceivers who would come in his name.
The Siberian Jesus
Around 33 BC, history has it that Jesus, the son of Joseph, was born into the world to a newly wedded couple in Bethlehem. His birth has been symbolically celebrated, in the past few centuries, as the Christians’ Easter.
However, in the cold frontiers of Siberia, a Russian man has successfully convinced his thousands of followers that he is Jesus. His influence in that circle is so strong that the entire sect started a commune of their own.
Who’s This New Jesus?
Here’s what we learned about the 21st-century Jesus. His given name is Sergei Anatolyevitch Torop, but his disciples have made a habit of calling him Vissarion.
The name ‘Vissarion’ is common in Russia and of Greek origin, meaning “wooded valley.” However, Torop’s official website states that the name Vissarion means ‘he who gives new life.’
How Torop was Transformed to Jesus
Before his sudden epiphany in 1991, which made Torop see new light, he was a 31-year-old traffic officer in the town of Minusinsk, Siberia.
He, however, claimed to have had an otherworldly experience that marked his rebirth as Christ. Though born in January 1961, Torop didn’t have his awakening until August 1990. It was after this period that he became inspired to start a fellowship of like-minds called The Church of the Last Testament.
Son of God or Just Plain Jesus?
During the earthly life of Jesus Christ, there were several charges brought against him before the mob action that led to his death. He was reported to have claimed to be the Son of God and to be one and the same as God.
So, since Vissarion had been acclaimed to be Jesus, journalists have seized every opportunity for an interview to ask him if he really is that same Jesus. Torop, unlike the Biblical Jesus, states that he is the ‘Word of God’ sent by the supreme being, but not God himself.
The Minusinsk Commune
After his spiritual awakening in 1990, Torop felt compelled to preach an impending doom to the world. He then provided his listeners with the appropriate measures to prepare them for the inevitable end.
To give substance to his ministry, Torop started a church in 1991 and made Krasnoyarsk the headquarters. In the over 30 years of its existence, the ‘Community of Unified Faith’ or ‘Church of the Last Testament’ has enjoyed a followership of over 4,000 in Siberia alone.
What they Teach
The sect’s other name: Community of Unified Faith, hammers at its doctrinal mission. The church was initially conceived as an effort to unify people from different religious backgrounds.
In fact, the teachings of Vissarion borrow from Buddhism, Orthodox Christianity, and a fair share of Stoicism. Ever since Vissarion’s church gained traction, there has been a compilation of his talks and sermons. It has been published in a volume called The Last Testament.
The Very Mind of God
Members of the Church of the Last Testament venerate Vissarion as the very oracle of God. While he has brushed off the perception that he is God, he strongly declares that he knows God’s mind.
So, when the Siberian Jesus laid down certain rules of conduct for his followers, they obediently followed. For example, members of the sect are not permitted to dorn expensive wear, they are to steer clear of alcohol and debauchery, and they maintain a strictly vegetarian diet.
A Commune with An Oath of Secrecy
When one of the commune’s ex-members was interviewed after Vissarion’s arrest, another peculiarity of his sect was made public. Apparently, members were sworn to secrecy. So, whatever happened within the commune stays there.
How the provisions are sourced and allotted, how the commonwealth is used, and other details about the running of the commune were shrouded in secrecy. Vissarion had a team of right-hand men who assisted him in the sect’s administration.
No Christmas in the Last Testament
The Church of the Last Testament was able to attain the status of a self-sustaining commune, under Vissarion’s leadership, at their Siberian headquarters. The implication of this separation is that they started creating rules that were peculiar to their community.
For example, Vissarion scrapped Christmas and replaced it with the anniversary of his first sermon (August 18). The sect also created a new calendar that started on Vissarion’s birth anniversary in 1961.
Preparing Teens for Virtuous Motherhood
This portion may not go down well with the average feminists, and we strongly doubt if Vissarion has any in his sect. As it turned out, the Siberian Jesus made it part of his calling to groom young ladies to be obedient wives.
In a 2017 interview granted by Vissarion, he called this band of young girls under his tutelage ‘noble maidens.’ In effect, women of the sect are expected to act shamefacedly and depend on the men.
A Graveyard for the Career Woman
After interacting with a couple of the commune’s female members, you’ll come to realize that it would be extremely difficult for a career-driven woman to exist in that kind of environment.
Going by the taught virtues of the ‘noble women,’ female members of the sect are not allowed to exert themselves in laborious or tasking activities. Consequently, their needs are catered for by the men.
This Jesus Got Married
The biblical Jesus was recorded to have died at the age of 33 without a wife or children. However, Vissarion not only carried himself like Jesus but proceeded to break his records.
A while after Vissarion’s spiritual epiphany, he put away his first wife. As a follow-up, he married a 19-year-old girl, who happened to have been a noble maiden in his sect since age 7.
How the Tides Changed for Vissarion
The commune of Vissarion’s followers in Siberia was dwelling together in serenity and peace until a string of events began to unravel in late 2020. It was almost as if the wave of COVID-19 ushered in trouble for the sect.
It turned out that allegations had been earlier filed against Torop, and the Vissarion was arrested in September 2020. Elite members of the Russian armed forces dropped into the remote town of Minusinsk and arrested Sergei Torop in an air raid.
No One Could Come to His Aid
Apparently, Vissarion had been under investigation for a while, and operatives of the Russian special forces were seen as the best option to bring him in for interrogation.
During the arrest, members of Vissarion’s sect were told to stay away. It was later reported in the news that two other leaders of the commune were taken in on the same day as Torop.
The Rumored Allegations
The allegations against Sergei Torop, the Siberian Jesus, were not immediately made public. However, it was rumored after the arrest was made because Torop was accused of running an illegal organization.
However, the charges laid against him involved manipulation of his followers emotionally and financially, and two individuals claimed to have experienced personal loss due to their affiliation with Vissarion’s sect.
Death Resulting from Health Complications
Sergei Torop was reported to the authorities by ex-members of the commune, though the identity of the said family has been concealed. Members of Vissarion’s commune were discouraged from seeking orthodox medical attention.
Consequently, some medical conditions of members deteriorated so much that they ended up dying. However, the commune’s leadership always has a way of convincing members that such deaths were God’s will.
Still Lounging in Prison
It is true that several allegations have been laid against Sergei Torop; however, no one knows for sure which one(s) he is being remanded for. However, it was confirmed that two top administrative members of Vissarion’s church were equally arrested.
Since his arrest in September 2020, Vissarion has been unable to access any form of bail privileges. Consequently, he has been behind bars for the past three years. One would think the sect would break into fragments after their leader’s imprisonment, but no.
Disciples Rationalizing Commonalities
After Vissarion’s arrest, many of his followers stood their ground and kept their faith in him. Instead of identifying the implication of the charges laid against Torop, they instead began to cook up theories to explain away his predicament.
According to Vissarion’s followers, their leader is only experiencing similar persecution as the first Jesus did.
The Beginning of the End
Adherent members of the Church of the Last Testament have made it a point to call attention to some of Vissarion’s sermons before the arrest. He had stated in some of his teachings that the end of the world was near.
So, with the COVID-19 pandemic and Vissarion’s arrest and imprisonment, his followers believe that those events serve as signs of the apocalypse. Contrary to predictions that the sect would disperse after Vissarion’s arrest, a sizable population still remains, with their convictions strong as ever.
Keeping A Sect Going without Its Imperial Head
The sect founded by Vissarion has always maintained an official website: vissarion.world. Before Vissarion’s arrest, the website was used majorly to educate non-sect members about the values of the religious organization.
However, the website has taken on a new purpose since its leader’s absence. The remaining members of the church keep attracting traffic to the website by hosting Vissarion’s messages there.
Meditatively Communicating with Vissarion
Vissarion has not been accorded rights of visitation since his arrest. So, his followers have not had direct access to their leaders. All they can avail themselves of are his recorded and documented teachings.
However, in addition to those, followers of the sect interviewed by journalists have claimed that they have a daily meditative ritual. During the daily ceremony, they try to connect with Vissarion and hear from him.
Coming to Terms With Reality
Members of Vissarion’s church are in full acknowledgment of what happened to their leader. Interestingly, there is a message to that effect on the church’s website.
It is essentially a message offering solace and encouragement to members of the Church of the Last Testament around the world. They are obviously in earnest anticipation of Vissarion’s release and hope his name will be cleared soon.
Faithful to the End
While no one knows for sure what the final fate of Vissarion would be, his remaining followers have been dogged in their resolve to stand by their leader’s teachings.
Journalists, tourists, and visitors have been paying more visits to the sect’s commune in the remote region of Minusinsk, Siberia. They have found them in abiding resolve to wait for Vissarion’s return.