The Cult of Swaggartism

By Mark W Swarbrick

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Facts Don’t Matter to a Cultist

There is an interesting correlation between Mormonism and Swaggartism. I have often tried to present the gospel to Mormons. This often results in them telling me about their great prophet of God, Joseph Smith. They tell me he was a righteous holy man who talked face-to-face with God, but was martyred for no reason by a wild angry mob. After they tell me this, I show them the historical facts about their prophet.

I explain that Joseph Smith secretly cheated on his wife, that he was a child molester and a polygamist, that he had married 14-year-old children and women already married to other men, that he dabbled in the occult, was convicted in a court of law for fraud, that he was a murderer, that he was wanted in Missouri for escaping from jail, where he was being held for the attempted murder of the Missouri governor, that he defied the laws of Illinois and was arrested again, but had a gun smuggled to him in jail, and as militia from Missouri came to take him to face a Missouri court, he drew his hidden revolver and killed a man, which resulted  in a raging gun battle which left him dead. Then I show them where the historical proof of all this is to be found in their very own church records, so they don’t have to just take my word for it.

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One would think this would be sufficient to give a Mormon pause about following a so-called prophet who lived such a duplicitous life. But not so. They refuse to believe it.  The have a plethora of excuses.

One justification they employ is to claim that Joseph Smith did so much good. He founded the great Mormon Church, a huge world-wide organization. Surely Joseph Smith could not have accomplished such a great work if God had not been with him.

The most often used dodge is this one, “I testify to you that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and I have the testimony and the burning in my bosom that it is so!” They are trained to say that of course. It is part of their brainwashing. It is a mantra they are taught to recite as a programmed defense mechanism to be employed whenever the evidence becomes overwhelmingly stacked against their belief system.

The point is, once a person is indoctrinated into a cult, the brainwashing is so thorough that plain facts and truth are often of no avail. In fact, I had a Mormon tell me once, “Facts don’t matter.”

This is where we see a similarity between Mormonism and Swaggartism. Facts don’t matter to a died-in-the-wool Swaggarite. I have often received a response from Swaggarites that is very similar to what I get from Mormons. “Jimmy Swaggart has led so many to Jesus and has such a great world-wide ministry. I feel so blessed when I hear him sing and preach. He must be anointed of God or he could not have built such a great ministry.”


The Bible clearly tells us that having a great ministry and leading people to Jesus does not prove anything, as we shall now see.

Jesus pointed out that we should expect deception in the last days and that this deception will come from ministers of the gospel. When the apostles asked Jesus, what would be the sign of the end of the age, he responded first with this statement:

Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name…and will deceive many. (Matthew 24:4-5)

Deception by so-called Christian ministers will be one of the main attributes of the last days. Speaking of false teachers, Jesus said: “Many will come in my name…” In other words, some people will present themselves as Christian ministers, yet they will be deceivers, wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Consider this passage:

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:22-23)

Note that Jesus says here that there will be people with great Christian ministries – they will lead people to Jesus, cast out demons, prophesy and do “many mighty works” in the name of Jesus. Yet Jesus will tell them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Let’s put all this together:

  • Many deceivers will come as Christian ministers
  • Just because a minister leads many to Christ, prophesies, casts out demons and does many mighty works, that does not mean they are not a deceiver. It does not prove that they are even saved.

Yet, Swaggarites say they “feel” that Jimmy Swaggart is a great prophet of God. Of course, this begs the question: Since when is a feeling the standard to judge teaching by?

Consider this:

“Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him…” (1 John 2:4)

If someone is not keeping the commandments of Jesus, then the truth is not in them. That is why Jesus said we would know false teachers by their fruits. You cannot get truth from someone who does not have it in them to begin with.

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When we consider Swaggart’s wayward life, and realize that he received his cross revelation during the 1990s, the same time period in which he was caught two more times seeing prostitutes, we can conclude that the truth was not in him when he began teaching his revelation. That’s what God’s word says. Jimmy was not keeping Jesus’ commandments; therefore, the truth was not in him. This is one more proof that his revelation cannot be from God.

Scripture is the Standard

Scripture is the standard by which we are to judge all doctrine. How we feel is not the standard. How famous a teacher is, that is not the standard. How good someone sings or preaches or how many people have been saved through their ministry – none of that is the standard. The Bible and the Bible alone is the standard.

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20)

“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11)

The mouthpiece for God on earth today is the Holy Bible. God’s mouthpiece is not a man, a group of men, or even an entire church. The Bible and the Bible alone is God’s infallible word. That has been the Protestant watchword since the beginning of the reformation. The problem is, Jimmy apparently didn’t get that memo.  He thinks he is God’s mouthpiece.

Phrases which Jimmy Swaggart uses often are:

“The Lord told me…”

“God showed me…”

“God revealed to me…”

“God explained to me…”

“God revealed to me…”

Whenever you hear Jimmy preach or when you read his writings, watch out for these statements. Often Jimmy teaches some doctrine with no biblical basis. He simply says God told him such and such.

The most notable time Jimmy used this prefix is when he was caught the second time with a prostitute in Indio, California. He told his church, “The Lord told me that what happened in Indio was flat none of your business.”[1]

He intends to get people to believe that God speaks directly to him, as though he were Moses or the Apostle Paul. The idea is to increase reverence for Jimmy Swaggart and get people to see him as an infallible prophet.

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Don’t be fooled. The Bible says “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. (1 Corinthians 14:29). Unless what someone says is backed up by scripture, it has no doctrinal value and the people of the church are to sit in judgment over anything that is said by anyone.

Crossianity versus Christianity

When you run into a Swaggarite, they will tell you that Jimmy Swaggart is a great prophet of God with a new revelation and that you need to come to the cross.

If you read Swaggarite material, you will see that Jimmy claims he has been given more light than the Apostle Paul, more light than anyone in all of church history, that he has a new revelation for the church, and no one else has it but him, and that his revelation actually is the gospel, and that his revelation is the most important thing for Christians to know.

What is this revelation? Instead of Christianity, it is Crossianity. It is to put all your faith exclusively in the cross. Jimmy wrote, “It is required of the Believer that our Faith be exclusively in the Cross…”[2] In his Expositor’s Study Bible, Jimmy’s commentary on Galatians 6:14 says, “The only way, is by placing our Faith exclusively in the Cross of Christ, and keeping it there.”

Like most cultists, Jimmy Swaggart engages in the use of duplicitous double-speak, for in other places he says to put faith “in Jesus Christ and the cross.” That is contrary to his own words, for to put faith exclusively in the cross would exclude Jesus. Some of his followers do just that. They exclude Jesus by putting more emphasis upon Jimmy’s doctrine than upon a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The purpose of the double-speak is to attetmpt to fend off legitimate criticism from discerning Christians.

Swaggarites likewise will use double-speak. They insist on putting faith exclusively in the cross, but when we complain that faith should be in Christ, they say, “Oh yes, we mean Jesus too when we say the cross.” This is nothing but semantic obfuscation. If “placing our faith exclusively in the cross” includes Jesus, then why does Swaggart sometimes say to “put faith in Jesus Christ and the cross?” Clearly this statement shows that he differentiates between the two. So “putting faith exclusively in the cross” is not the same as calling for faith in Christ. And it is worthy of note that Swaggart uses the the phrase “faith exclusively in the cross” more often. Why does Swaggart say “exclusively?” Why? I think it is because faith in the cross can be done without a personal and real relationship with Christ, for He is excluded. This puts the emphasis on a magic formula instead of on walking daily with the Lord.

Jimmy’s Delusion

All Christians believe that Christ’s death on the cross was the act that Jesus did for us to be the propitiation for our sins. But Jimmy says one other thing happened on the cross, that Jesus’ death purchased our sanctification, and that if we will simply believe that, then we will magically not sin anymore. And that is the core of Jimmy’s revelation. This is nothing more than the false doctrine of sinless perfection dressed in new clothing.

The problem is, it isn’t true. The Bible very clearly teaches that our sanctification is a process that goes on throughout our life. The development of our Christian character is a process, one that requires personal cooperation with the Holy Spirit for its efficacy.

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The New Testament repeatedly adjures us to use our will power, to pray, to go to church, to avoid evil, to be at peace, to obey, to do good, to take up our cross and to accept suffering as a means to maturity.

God works all things together for our good, but this work is frustrated if we quench the Spirit and rebel against God. The Holy Spirit cannot sanctify people that refuse to walk in the Spirit. The Bible says “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12)

Jimmy’s fantasy of just imaging we are made good by believing in his revelation is a cultic form of self-delusion. Once a believer swallows this trickery entirely, they are effectively brainwashed against recognizing sin in their own life. They image their sins are gone. Jimmy’s doctrine requires them to believe that.  Putting faith in the cross means believing that you don’t sin because of what Jesus did on the cross. The Swaggarite might feel better temporarily, but instead of dealing with their sin, all they have done is short-circuit their conscience.

Jimmy’s teaching actually stops people from doing things essential for sanctification, such as co-operating with the Holy Spirit through prayer and self-denial. In fact, Swaggart’s Message of the Cross says that trying to do anything to stop sinning is actually trying to live by the law and this denies grace. That is, of course, utter nonsense.

Jimmy Swaggart’s revelation is a demonic delusion. Its end result is that Swaggarites become immunized against introspection. Their conscience is dulled. They become spiritually lazy. Imaging they are holy and sinless, they sin even more while being oblivious to their own failings. The deterioration of their relationships with family and friends is clear testimony of this.

Sanctification does not happen by osmosis through believing what Jimmy Swaggart says. Peter the apostle makes it clear what the path to sanctification is:

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind…for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” (2 Peter 1:5-10)

Overcoming sin does not happen by believing Swaggart’s twisted theology. In fact, following Swaggart often leads to increased sin without the Swaggarite even realizing it, as numerous people attest:

“My husband has gone from a sweet Christian man, then after getting into Jimmy Swaggart’s Message of the Cross, he is hard to get along with. He never laughs, smiles or acts happy!” — Margaret

“I am one of many who has a family member that is what I call “drinking the Jimmy Kool Aid.” My mother has left her church, turned her back on her family and friends and watches the Swaggarts 24/7…my heart is broken that she is living such a dark and lonely life. She is truly missing out on the joy and freedom which comes from Jesus’ cleansing blood.” — Michelle

I don’t know how to fix my relationship with my mom since she has started her Jimmy Swaggart movement. Please I need advice.” — Melissa

Cultic Tendencies

With Swaggartism we see three marks of a cult. First, we see a single central prophet who claims to be the sole mouthpiece of God on earth. That is an aspect of nearly every cult. This is antithetical to the prescription given in scripture for the church, wherein we are all brothers and are not to put individual people up on a pedestal.

Secondly, a seedy background of the cult leader is also very common among the cults. Joseph Smith of the Mormons was a pedophile, adulterer and murderer. Ellen G White of the Seventh Day Adventists was a plagiarist. Charles T. Russel, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, was an adulterer.[3] The sexual and financial scandals of Jimmy Swaggart rank right up there with Joseph Smith’s.

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Last but not least, is the fact that cult followers invariably refuse to look at historical facts and biblical truth concerning the life and teachings of their adored leader. The allure and charisma of the cult leader has overwhelmed the discernment of the follower. We see this clearly in Swaggartism. Swaggarites are every bit as devoted to Jimmy Swaggart as Mormons are to Joseph Smith.

Jimmy Swaggart cannot be criticized. He is heralded as a great man of God. Anyone who dares question his life and teachings is viciously denounced as a reprobate for daring to sit in judgment of God’s holy prophet. Like the Mormons, Swaggarites have a mantra also: “Touch not God’s anointed!” Anyone who questions Swaggart’s strange teachings is hatefully attacked and told that God’s vengeance is about to fall upon anyone questioning God’s anointed prophet.

Within Swaggartism we see a central prophet, one with a seedy background, and we discover unquestioned devotion by adherents to this central leader. These three attributes are an unholy trinity which we find combined with a dangerous heterodox teaching that impairs Christian growth. Taken together, it is a satanic soup and its consumption can be harmful to a Christian’s development. In light of these facts, It is correct to identify Swaggartism as an emerging cult within Christendom.

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Strange Doctrines of the Jimmy Swaggart Expositors Bible, The Expositors Study Bible, Jimmy Swaggart Study Bibles, The Expositor's Study BibleIf you found this article interesting, you would enjoy my book, Swaggartism: The Strange Doctrines of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, available now on Amazon for only $6.99. For information click HERE.

Available in Paperback and Kindle eBook – 266 pages of documented facts! 






Other books by Pastor Mark Swarbrick, click the image below…

The Expositors Study Bible, Jimmy Swaggart Study Bibles, The Expositor's Study BibleThe Expositors Study Bible, Jimmy Swaggart Study Bibles, The Expositor's Study BibleThe Expositors Study Bible, Jimmy Swaggart Study Bibles, The Expositor's Study Bible


[2] Swaggart, Jimmy, The Evangelist, September, 2010, 9 How Could David Do What He Did?


One Comment

  1. Great research and article. I followed Swaggart for more than 30 years. I began acknowledging the cultic markers before my visit in May 2012; at which time, the confirmation was undeniable. Absolutely no love at Family Worship Center. Swaggart is guarded and unapproachable. Swaggart is a most dangerous man because of his charm, deception and delusion. Indeed it is strange that religious people can be discerning in professional and private aspects, but so easily deceived in religion.


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