American Church Brands Members With ‘666’ Tattoos

Members of Growing in Grace, a controversial religious sect headquartered in Doral, said they were following the example of their leader, Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda, who has claimed to be Jesus and recently declared himself the Antichrist.

Critics have called De Jesus a cult leader who manipulates followers. Church members say he has brought them happiness and spiritual fulfillment.

“This is backing up what I truly believe,” said Alvaro Albarracin, 38, who heads a film production company and joined the church more than a decade ago. He showed a bandage that covered the freshly tattooed “666” on his forearm. “It’s like a brand. It’s like a sign.”

It’s a sign most Christians would shun, because for centuries the numbers have been associated with Satan. But for the 30 or so church members who branded themselves with 666 and SSS — the initials of De Jesus’ motto, “salvo siempre salvo,” or “saved always saved” — it’s a mark of their absolute faith in De Jesus.

Church members say the symbol doesn’t connect them to Satan but rather to De Jesus’ claim that he has replaced Christ’s teachings with a new gospel.

Scholars and critics of the movement say the tattoos offer frightening evidence of the influence De Jesus commands over his followers.

“What is he going to do next to call attention to himself?” asked Daniel Alvarez, an instructor in the department of religious studies at Florida International University who has studied the movement. “This means that his control over people is so great that no matter what he says to them, they’ll follow him.”

De Jesus was was not available to comment, said a church spokeswoman.

At the tattoo parlor, one woman wore a T-shirt with De Jesus’ picture and the phrase “The Lord Arrived” in Spanish. Others wore shirts and baseball caps marked with 666. Spanish rap music blared from a stereo in the back.

News cameras circled the tattoo chair as artist Jessica Segatto, wearing pink rubber gloves and a huge silver cross, carefully inked 666 on church members’ ankles, forearms, backs and one member’s neck. Some members said they decided to attend the tattooing session — which was prompted by a church announcement the previous week — to prove their commitment to De Jesus’ vision. Others said they hoped the symbol would provoke questions about the movement.

“I figured if I have it on my leg, people are going to notice it, 666, and they’re going to ask,” said church member and spokeswoman Axel Poessy.

De Jesus — who preaches that sin and the devil were destroyed when Jesus died on the cross and that God’s chosen already have been saved — has built a massive movement around his claim to divinity. Followers call him “Daddy” and “God” and lavish him with $5,000 Rolexes and sometimes 40 percent or more of their salaries.

Christian leaders have denounced De Jesus, saying he distorts the Bible. The Rev. Julio Perez of Nueva Esperanza, a faith-based community group in Hialeah, said De Jesus was promoting himself rather than helping members of his church. “What he’s doing is trying to create his own sect,” he said.

De Jesus had just a few hundred followers when he launched his church in a Hialeah warehouse about 20 years ago. Today, he commands a global movement from his Doral headquarters that boasts 335 education centers, 200 pastors, 287 radio programs and a 24-hour Spanish-language TV network that’s available to 2 million homes — including by special request from some U.S. cable companies. Only De Jesus and his right hand man, Carlos Cestero, are authorized to preach.

In his sermons, De Jesus emphasizes wealth and success as a sign of God’s favor. Many of his members are business owners who give a percentage of their corporate profits to De Jesus, said Alvaro Albarracin, who oversees corporate donations to the church and holds the title “entrepreneur of entrepreneurs.” Albarracin, who runs the film production company MiamiLa Entertainment, said he gave 20 percent of his profit to the movement when he sold his Web-hosting company, Dialtone, for more than $16 million in 2001.

Martita Roca, 25, a South Florida singer and actress from Guatemala, said she sometimes gives 40 percent of her salary to Growing in Grace. Giving a piece of her flesh by getting a tattoo was another way to prove her commitment, she said.

“For all of those people who pray for us to come out of this movement, this shows that this is it, there’s no going back,” Roca said of her tattoos. “This is to make sure that everyone relates me to that vision.”

Luz Fuentes, 51, a former Catholic who joined Growing in Grace in 1990, said she and her brother give Growing in Grace up to 50 percent of profits from their Hallandale mortgage company, Apos Mortgage. “Apos” is short for “apostle,” one of De Jesus’ monikers. De Jesus is listed on the company’s website as its CEO.

“Antichrist” is the latest in a string of titles De Jesus has bestowed on himself.

In 1988, De Jesus announced he was the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul. In 1999, he dubbed himself “the Other,” a spiritual superbeing who would pave the way for Christ’s second coming. In 2004, he proclaimed himself to be Jesus Christ. That claim caused some prominent members to defect from the movement — including De Jesus’ first wife, Nydia, and his son Jose Luis Jr., who started his own church in Puerto Rico.

In January, during a packed worship service at the church, De Jesus took off his coat and revealed the numbers 666 on his forearm.

“This is a congregation of Antichrists,” De Jesus said, drawing whistles and cheers.

The number 666 appears in the Book of Revelation, a portion of the New Testament that details the prophet John’s apocalyptic vision of the rise of the Antichrist, the tribulation and Christ’s return. In Revelation, a horned beast appears on earth and requires everyone to get his mark — 666 — on the right hand or forehead.

Experts on new religious movements say De Jesus’ opposition to other religions, and his claim to be the only legitimate spiritual authority, resemble the teachings of some cults.

“It’s clearly a personality-driven group,” said Rick Ross, an anti-cult consultant based in New Jersey. “It is defined by the claims of De Jesus Miranda.”

Nick Woodbury, director of the evangelical group Christ for Miami, said most mainstream Christians would reject Growing in Grace’s teachings as unbiblical.

“In the Christian evangelical sector, we would consider them a sect,” said Woodbury, who has served as a missionary in Colombia with the Mimai-based group Latin America Mission. “They take the Bible, but their interpretation is very warped.”

De Jesus’ followers have lashed out against organized Christianity because they believe their prophet holds the true gospel, they say. His adherents have disrupted Catholic processions on Good Friday and protested outside an evangelical church gathering in Miami’s Tropical Park. Last July, they tore up literature published by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Christian movements during a march in downtown Miami.

Scholars who are concerned about the movement’s growth say they hope De Jesus’ latest claim will insert doubt into the mind of some members.

“The symbol of the Antichrist is so negative, the only good thing that will come out of this is that people will say, ‘Hold on, this man is going off the deep end,”‘ FIU’s Alvarez said.

30 Comments

    • What else would we say?
      But there will also arise “false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell,…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment!

  • When I was reading abt church of satan, a comment attracted my curiosity. The comment was ” what is church itself….?”. Immediately I went to goggle to search for the word “church” which I implore everyone to check. To my understanding church does not belong to Christian-world, it is a general Term for a house to shelter anything and examples given such as church of shoes, church of wines and so on, then a satanist cld name their house of congregation CHURCH also Antichrist.
    Someone comment again ” does ur religion has a name in the bible, even during the life term of Jesus followers were know as NAZARINE, that y there is no word “CHRISTIANITY” in bible, bcos of its dilution, Christian was derived from the word “CHRIST” and “CHRISTIANITY” from “CHRISTIAN”.
    I believe in this statement ” seek for the truth and the truth shall set you free”.
    I check on goggle for the word “NAZARINE”, which tallied with the guy’s view. BUT WLD ANY CHRISTIAN POINT OUT WHERE GOD SAY THE NAME OF MY RELIGION IS CHRISTIANITY IN THE BIBLE FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION, EVEN ONLY THE WORD ” CHRISTIANITY” WLD HELP.
    THANKS LET US REASON.
    PLS GOGGLE ON 13 BLOODLINES OF ILLUMINITE.
    Seek the truth and the truth shall set us free.

  • It is the end time. Believers beware!Gentiles should accept the invitation of Jesus’ Christ, accept him as their Lord and saviour, confess Jesus as their Lord and they would be saved. Hallelujah!!!

  • I think anyone that cares know the truth. Chose ye this day who to follow for the end is here. God bless you as you decide today.

  • Believe it or not,God is real & Christ will come back again. If ds guy calling himsef Christ has two horns on his head then it means is d antichrist but if not he will dies one day lyk chicken & his church will scatter. The end tym has come my ppl, letz emulate Christ Jesus & b good. One love.

  • This man is a confused man seeking relevance in d whole world just like terrorist groups do. God is real nd His standard stands, this man is just a noise maker that need no attention

  • MY BROTHERS & SISTERS, DONT JUST SEE THIS WRITEUP AS A MARE JOKE, ITS REAL! IT WILL BE CIRCULATING GRADUALLY UNTIL IT GETS TO UR DOOR POST, ONLY THEN WILL CHOSE WHO U WILL WORSHIP. THOUGH THEY ARE NOT FORCING PEOPLE DUE TO THEY HAVE NOT GATHERED ENOUGH MOMENTUM YET, BUT BE PREPARED.
    OH GOD! EVEN IF WE GONNA DIE BY REFUSING THE BEASTS, IN YOUR BOSSOM WE WANT TO REST. HELP US OUR DEAR CREATOR…

  • @yetty
    Christianity is not a religion. It is a way of life. Christianity was never mentioned in the Bible because it is an English word meaning a monotheistic system of beliefs and practices based on the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus as embodied in the New Testament and emphasizing the role of Jesus as Saviour and our Lord.

  • Dear readers, end time is near, lets nt b weary in our faith. D bible tels our dat d love of many shal wax cold. Beloved, do nt flicker in wind of trials lets look up 2 GOD d author n finisher of our faith. Jesus z coming, REPENT

  • D leadership of d church knws dat dia falsehood is comin to a criplin end as dey hav milked d world wit such hopelesnes of heavn nd hell . A religion can only be serios in my own eyes wen d doctrine of tyte nd oferin is removed cos dis were our men of god receives dia call to servic. My advice to pple is dat they shuld read d world most selling book by dan brwn of america which had sold for 81million copies in europe nd america nd acounts for why every body in europe includin italy hav abandoned goin to church except 4 d aged. Lets b realistic like china japan who dont knw wot xtainity is all about yet ar gr8t nations today here we only enrich our pastors nd priest nd dats why dey ride jets nd flash car while we ridle in unemploymnt

  • Oh what a time? End time indeed. DEAR, people in HELL now are looking 4 dia 2nd chances which is NOT available. Why not make GUD out of ur OWN time now? LOOK: PLEASURES OF DIS LIFE WILL B 4GOTTEN IN D AGONY HELL. REPENT NOW! PLEASE!!!

  • Jose ‘is not charist of nizaret or anticharit. His. Name can b Jesus. We hve Bar Jesus and so many Jesus. What is surname?. He tried to. /answear charist ,but he COULD not sleep .,he. Now decide to answear. Anticharit? When. The. True beast comes. Out. This one will hide. The. Beast will b. A. Ruler. Of. A. Côuntry.’with his war wepons, he. Can. Win & defeat nations.and force them. To use his currencey ,micro_chips will. Be buried On once. Skin as u. Accept. His. Government. This will die like like chicken. And sect will scatter.

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