Question 3 (ABM) - The Brown Bear Vision
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The following are a series of questions and answers between one of our editors (referred to as BTS) and an anonymous Branham minister (referred to as ABM). This series of Q&A relates to William Branham's prophetic ministry. The full text of this question and its answer is below.
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I am sure that you have heard of this issue but I think for completeness we should include it in our discussion. I will eventually send some follow-up questions on these initial questions but want to get the substantive issues on the table first. I have been quite busy which has delayed me in sending my next question.
Question 3 - The Brown Bear Vision
William Branham shot a silver-tip grizzly bear while hunting in British Columbia in May of 1961.
On April 1, 1962, in the sermon "Wisdom versus Faith," he stated:
- Coming home the other night, or the other day, or just 'fore I come home, I was--fell into a vision; and I seen some little fellows, thin, looked like young boys or something, had on caps. And we were standing hunting. And I'd shot a mammoth, big, brown-looking bear. And then, they turned around and said to me, said, "But there's some confusion about the meeting." And I said, "No matter what the confusion is, if I was supposed to go, wherever it was, I'll go anyhow. (See?) It doesn't matter." And the vision stopped. I don't know where that's at, but this is on tape. It's going to happen. See? Just remember; it's going to happen; it's a vision.
On May 6, 1962, in the sermon "Possessing All Things," he further stated:
- Many of you remember the vision that I had, where I had shot the grizzly bear, nine-foot grizzly bear (And the church remembers me telling it here.) and the caribou. I had another. Remember it's on tape here, I seen a great huge brown bear. That might be a Kodiak and it wouldn't have worked down there in Canada, 'cause they're not there. You see? But wherever it will be, it'll be. It will be; that's THUS SAITH THE LORD. It will be. See?
Finally, on June 10, 1962, in the sermon "Presuming," he said:
- Now, I'm going back into the country, that you might know, when I come back next year. I'm going to get a brown bear that's almost twice that size. You see if it's right or not. I seen it. When we was standing, put my hands on his haunches laying on the ground, like that. And I could put my hands on his hips like that, and him laying down. Now, you find out if that's right or not. There's a whole lot to that. But I just happened to think, I'm supposed to be teaching Sunday school. See? Oh, friends. You all see these little visions around here? No wonder you minister brothers sometimes get suspicious. "Well, it might be mental telepathy. It might be psychology." Show me somewhere else it's going on. What about these great psychologists, telepathists? They guess. It sometimes happens, sometimes it never. And it's this, that, or the other. But God's perfect and never fails.
William Branham returned to British Columbia in late July 1962, preached six services on Vancouver Island, and then went hunting in northern British Columbia but did not fulfill the vision at that time. He returned to British Columbia again in October of 1964 with Pearry Green, but did not fulfill the vision at that time either. When William Branham passed away on December 25, 1965, the vision had never been fulfilled.
People who believe that William Branham is a true prophet explain away this vision in the following ways.
- Some claim that he will rise from the dead to fulfill this vision.
- Others defend William Branham by saying that a failed prophecy has a Biblical precedent in the prophet Jonah, because God told him to prophecy the destruction of Nineveh but it was also never fulfilled.
- A third group believes that William Branham’s disobedience resulted in the vision not being fulfilled.
But there are significant problems with these explanations:
1. Returned Ministry
William Branham died in 1965, and a large stone pyramid now sits on top of his grave in Indiana. There is no scriptural precedent for God raising someone from the dead just to shoot a bear.
2. The Jonah Excuse
“God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon” the people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:10) because they repented. Applying this scripture to William Branham’s life might make sense in the context of the vision of the destruction of Los Angeles (although there was no mass-repentance in L.A. as there was in Nineveh). However, this scripture does not work in the context of the hunting vision, as it would mean that the brown bear repented of its evil ways.
Years before the Jonah went to Nineveh, the prophet Jeremiah said that God would withhold his judgment to a Nation that would repent. "The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it." (Jeremiah 18:7-8) There is no scriptural precedent that says God will relent of a vision that involves the destruction of a brown bear.
The problem with this excuse for a failed vision is that a false prophet could NEVER be held accountable for failing Deut 18:20-22:
But any prophet who falsely claims to speak in my name or who speaks in the name of another god must die.’ But you may wonder, ‘How will we know whether or not a prophecy is from the LORD?’ If the prophet speaks in the LORD’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the LORD did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared. 
Any prophet whose vision failed could simply say: "I am terribly sorry. I disobeyed the Lord so my vision failed. You can't kill me now."
Of course in the Old Testament, such an excuse would not be acceptable and the false prophet would have been stoned. As a result, this excuse is simply that – a non-biblical explanation that must be rejected.
3. William Branham's Disobedience Resulted in the Failure of the Vision Ed Byskal, who accompanied William Branham on several of his hunting trips, has stated publicly that William Branham discussed his disobedience and the resultant failure of this vision in the sermon, Countdown (62-0909M):
- So I, in these thirty--going on thirty-two years of ministry, I have tried to stay true to the Word. I don't know of one thing I've ever had to alter on, because I just read it out of the Bible, said just what the Bible said, and let it go like that. And so I haven't had to take back or rearrange, because I just said it the way that the Bible says it. And I find out, if God has spoken anything, then we must go with that Word in order to make It be fulfilled. We seen that, as I told you last night, of a vision just recently (See?), that it... I had to be there, and warning to be there, and telling me six months before to be on that spot, and stand there, and saying, "Go down there (three times) with them." And I just walked on with the other men. And the vision passed right through exactly, God's part; and I was left standing. So we want to remember; you've got to stay on the Word, just stay right with the Word. And where the Word leads, you go right with the Word, then It'll bring you out all right. I'm sure.
This explanation fails on a number of levels:
- 1. The quote above is vague and does not specifically address the issue. William Branham stated publicly that he would shoot the brown bear and that it could not fail because it was "Thus Saith The Lord", yet it failed.
- 2. Ed Byskal quotes William Branham as stating:
- "I am the Jonah in this group. This is only the second time in my life that I know that I have disobeyed a vision."
- By this, the minister stated that prophets like Moses failed God and disobeyed direct commands of God but were still prophets.
- However, this statement does not adequately deal with the fact that William Branham said something would take place in the name of the Lord and it did not.
- Moses disobeyed and struck the rock instead of speaking to it (Num. 20:9-11), but God honored the word of his prophet and. despite his disobedience, water still came forth.
- Ed Byskal's method of explaining away the fulfillment of this prophecy has no biblical basis.
- 3. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 is very clear:
- But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. (KJV)
- Excuses for disobedience were not permitted.
- 4. Ed Byskal, who publicly testified of his personal experiences relating to William Branham's disobedience, has serious credibility problems. The majority of his congregation, including almost the entirety of the church leadership, left the church because of his personal moral failures. As a result, anything that this minister states must be view as highly suspect.
- 5. “Thus Saith The Lord” should be stronger than an individual’s lack of obedience. Does God permit a prophet to say, "I did something wrong personally and that is why the vision did not come to pass"?
- We can find no example in scripture that suggests this is the case. There is only one exception for a prophesy not being fulfilled – and this involves repentance by the person (or nation) being judged. If it was acceptable for one prophet to say "Oops! I made a personal mistake, and that’s why the vision was not fulfilled," then every false prophet would claim this as an easy-out excuse.
- For this reason, the Word of God only permits one explanation for a failed vision – repentance that satisfies the wrath of God. That is why Ezekiel says, “Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.” (Ezekiel 18:30)
- 6. We also looked in the scripture for the spiritual significance of shooting a bear, and could not find one. This vision was set up to vindicated and promote William Branham’s own status as a prophet. But God would not stand behind William Branham's "Thus Saith the Lord and allowed the “vision” to fail.
The only scriptural conclusion is that William Branham spoke presumptuously. In the Old Testament, he would have been stoned.
How do you still accept William Branham as a prophet, given the failure of this vision?
Thank you for your continued dialogue.
This is one of the oldest "controversies" surrounding Bro. Branham's "prophecies". This issue was first pointed out in the mid 1970s to the best of by knowledge. There is more than one plausible explanation for this "issue". I will give you my preferred explanation first, but also give you rationale for the others.
This will be fulfilled when Bro. Branham is resurrected
Bro Branham will most certainly not return to fulfill a further ministry. This is a teaching the idolaters began to develop immediately following his death and led to the first split in the Branham movement following his death. The majority of the attendees of the tabernacle left when Lee Vayle and Pearry Green began to advocate this doctrine. Bro. Neville rebuked it multiple times and was eventually forced out as pastor of the Tabernacle by the deacons because of his refusal to go along with the teaching. This was the first great division to occur in the Branham movement, and I continue to encourage you to look into the side of the movement that did not fall into idolatry.
However, Bro. Branham will of course return to earth one day - if you accept that he was a saved believer in Jesus. He will return to earth with Christ at his coming, along with all the other saints of all ages. (Rev 19:11-14, Matt 24:29-31) Then he will rule and reign on earth with Christ for a thousand years, along with the other saints. So could the vision be fulfilled then, during the millennium? In John 21:1-14 the glorified Jesus participated in fishing with the Apostles. He also cooked and prepared caught fish for them to eat. If you accept Ezekiel 47 as literal, then you will find in Ezekiel 47:8-10 that there will be fishing in the millennium. Is it not reasonable to assume that if there is fishing in the millennium, there would also be hunting? There is ample evidence in the scripture that men will continue to eat meat in the millennium. We see the glorified Jesus eat multiple times after his resurrection, including meat. I see no scriptural reason to say this vision cannot be fulfilled after Bro. Branham's resurrection. This is my preferred explanation.
So your statement: "There is no scriptural precedent for God raising someone from the dead just to shoot a bear" is incorrect. Our Lord Jesus was raised from the dead and went fishing. According to 1 John 3:2, when we are glorified "We shall be like him."
Maybe the vision was fulfilled already
My less preferred explanation follows. I am not personally certain about the facts of all of his hunting trips. Several of the key individuals in these stories have proven themselves untrustworthy multiple times over the years, and we have to treat their statements with some degree of suspicion as a result. For example, how can we trust a man who has a history of covering up sexual abuse? Or how can we trust a man who repeatedly been caught modifying the tapes before they were released to the public? Everything such a person says is suspect. Additionally, most of Bro. Branham's true close companions in those days are dead. (Bro. Jackson, Bro. Neville, Banks Woods, etc), and there is no possibility to get their input. So, I am not certain that this vision was not fulfilled in Bro. Branham's life. It may have been fulfilled, and I am just unaware. I want to leave open that possibility. I think the known facts point towards it not being fulfilled. But I believe if you are intellectually honest, you have to admit we do not have hard evidence that it was not fulfilled. It is difficult to prove a negative. But, if it was not fulfilled, I see no reason it cannot be fulfilled in the millennium.
Failure because of disobedience
Finally I will give my least preferred answer, but I also see it as a possibility. There is a distinction between a prophecy and the personal leadership of God in someone's life. God can show people a possible future for them, which is contingent on them obeying him. One example is Moses and Israel. In Exodus 3:14-17 God plainly says that he was going to bring Israel's elders and Moses into the promised land. But ultimately they fail God and he does not fulfill to them what he offered. (Did God tell Moses to prophecy a lie?) Much of what God offers to mankind is in the form of a covenant. Both sides have a responsibility in their covenant. If both sides fulfill their obligation under the covenant, then the promised offered by it is granted. But if one party fails, then the reward offered by the covenant is withheld. God offers us very few things unconditionally. Just because the conditions were not told by Bro. Branham does not mean there were none. In the example of Moses and Israel, we see there is no mention of conditions at the time the promise is made to take them to the promised land. But we see that God ultimately lets all Israel and Moses die in the wilderness and raised up another generation to enter the promised land. In Bro. Branham's case though, I do not know on what grounds Bro. Branham failed God to cause this vision to fail to come to pass, so this explanation would also have to rely on conjecture.
I personally disagree with your interpretation of this brown bear vision as a prophecy. Visions are not necessarily prophecy. Bro. Branham's statement of Thus Saith The Lord was in reference to his belief the vision was from God. I believe there is a scriptural distinction between a prophecy and God's personal leadership in someone's life. This vision clearly has no value or meaning to anyone but Bro. Branham. This is clearly something personal towards him.
Ultimately I have to reject your conclusion: "The only scriptural conclusion is that William Branham spoke presumptuously." There is scriptural grounds to say the fulfillment could occur in the millennium, as I have provided. Additionally, we cannot with complete confidence say the vision was not fulfilled. Finally, by conjecture we could view this as part of a covenant between Bro. Branham and God, then there is a potential for him to fail in his part and thus have the blessing withheld. Your conclusion that he would have been stoned is also flawed. Bro. Branham would not have been stoned in the old testament because of this "prophecy", because only his death could prove a failure of the vision. They would not stone a dead person.
I put this issue in the category of "petty silliness".
I look forward to your next issue,