Most people who believe they are Jesus present bigger threats to themselves than others, but most modern prophets are not like Sergey Anatolyevitch Torop, aka Vissarion, the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. As the Soviet Union crumbled in the early '90s, the Russian people worried about the future of their nation, if such a future existed. The miasma of uncertainty and fear allowed Vissarion and Church of the Last Testament to emerge as figures of benevolence and hope. Facts about Vissarion, the cult leader who claims to be the reincarnation of Jesus, remain few and far between. His name roughly translates to "he who gives new life," and he looks like the West's revisionist version of Jesus: white. Even though he records all his teachings to his own Bible, Vissarion's teachings practically feel intentionally obscure, giving open-ended ramblings more confusing than Old Testament lingo.
Out of all the cult leaders who claim to be Jesus - be it Space Jesus or Russian Jesus - Vissarion, or "the Teacher," appears particularly creepy and dangerous. Over the course of his "second coming," he frequently makes note of the doomsday in store for his followers, which rarely ends well for cult members.
Vissarion knows the secret to a cult following lies in building the cult up from the inside. The Church of the Last Testament allows men to take on more than one wife so they can have more children, thus boosting the numbers. However, if you want to upgrade from one wife to two, you need to follow the Teacher's ground rules.
In order to form a "Triangle" with one man and two women, the husband must ask permission of wife #1 to allow wife #2 into their house. Once she gives her blessing, everyone gets together and start building a bigger, happier family. Vissarion himself fathered six children between two wives. He "rejected" the first wife for an unknown reason. His second wife started living with Vissarion when she was seven-years-old and married him at 19.
The followers of Vissarion adhere to a set of beliefs that feel a little bit theistic, sci-fi, and Williamsburg hipster. They're vegans who don't smoke or drink, and they believe the universe formed from two separate big bangs. They basically think the natural world spawned from one catalyst, while the soul arose from something else, possibly God. Vissarion remains vague about the facts.
They also believe in the "outer-space mind," a kind of extraterrestrial presence Vissarion also fails to explain clearly. "The outer space mind does not have a soul," Vissarion told Vice. "Technological progress for them is a natural form of development." Make of that what you will.
Vissarion, the Russian Jesus copycat, records nearly everything he ever says in the "Last Testament." This never-ending collection of thoughts takes up thousands of pages and ten volumes, and it reads like someone trying to recite the Bible from memory.
One of the group's core beliefs outlined in Vissarion's text states that an apocalyptic flood is eminent. When the flood washes over the Earth, the only people who survive are those living with Vissarion on his compound in Siberia. After the waters recede, the Vissarions will repopulate the Earth and turn it into paradise.
Plenty of cults exist in this world, but what is a cult without its followers? Vissarion has thousands of followers in Russia. Depending on who you ask, he has between 5,000 and 10,000 followers, most likely closer to the former. His followers refer to him as "the Teacher," and they how he looks like a Jesus painting look-a-like. Pictures of Vissarion adorn not only every follower's home, but also public spaces such as classrooms.
According to Newsweek Vissarion's followers pray to his portraits and celebrate his birthday, January 14, as their most holy of days. The Vissarions strictly follow his every proclamation in order to make sure they get a good spot during the end of the world.