The House of Yahweh (HOY), headquartered on a compound in Eula, Texas, is a cult founded in 1980. In some ways, the movement resembles the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), from which it split. Its main focus is on Old Testament law-keeping as a means of justification. The group’s emphasis on rule-keeping and apocalyptic destruction resembles Jehovah’s Witness’ doctrine. Their belief in polygamy and the superiority of House of Yahweh elders also suggests Mormon influence.
In 1974, J. G. Hawkins, who later changed his name to the Jewish-sounding Yaaqob, visited Israel and claimed he had found “proof” that Yahweh was God’s only recognized name. His younger brother Bill legally changed his name to Yisrayl and began the House of Yahweh in his home. The brothers claimed that they were the two witnesses prophesied in Revelation 11 to prepare the world for the second coming of Christ, whom they call Yahshua. According to Revelation 11:3–6, the two witnesses “will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. . . . If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. . . . They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.” Neither brother has ever produced any miracles, and the 1,260 days has long passed. So has Yaaqob. The elder Hawkins brother died in 1991. That, however, has not deterred Yisrayl or the House of Yahweh.
Yisrayl Hawkins believes himself to be an end-time prophet sent to deliver the world from the coming destruction. Only those who are part of his sect will survive. All Christian churches are heretical and of Satan. He focuses on apocalyptic prophecies and interprets them as he sees fit. The group is cult-like in its strict authoritarianism, insisting that rebellion against House of Yahweh leaders is rebellion against Yahweh Himself. They teach that salvation can be obtained by strict adherence to the Torah, obeying all of “Yahweh’s 613 laws,” and keeping the Jewish feasts and festivals. They keep the Saturday Sabbath and label all traditional Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter “pagan.”
The House of Yahweh is not a Christian group. Some of the critical issues which separate the House of Yahweh from true Christianity are as follows:
1. The Nature of God. They call the Creator “Yahweh” and believe all other names by which He is commonly known (God, Elohim, Lord) are actually names of idols or pagan gods mistakenly applied to Yahweh. They deny God’s triune nature and insist that Yahweh had a wife, Lucifer, who rebelled against Him and became Satan.
In truth, the ancient manuscripts from which all sound translations are derived use numerous Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words to identify God. He Himself gives many of those names such as El-Shaddai (Exodus 6:3), I AM (Exodus 3:14), and Elohim (Ezekiel 34:31). In Psalm 91:1–2, the psalmist uses five different names for the Lord. Moses called Him “the God of gods and the Lord of lords” (Deuteronomy 10:17).
2. Jesus. The House of Yahweh teaches that Jesus (Yahshua Messiah) is not God nor was He pre-incarnate with God before He came to earth. This teaching is in direct conflict with John 1:1 and Philippians 2:6–7. Jesus Himself said, “Before Abraham was, I am!” (John 5:58). He also stated that anyone who had seen Him had seen the Father (John 14:9) because “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). First John 2:22–23 says, “Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” If this single doctrine was the only way in which the House of Yahweh differed from Christianity, it would be enough to classify it as a false religion.
2. The Bible. The House of Yahweh has produced its own Bible translation, The Book of Yahweh: The Newly Restored Original Bible, which they claim to be the only accurate translation. They state that all other translations have been corrupted by pagans and idol worshipers. However, Yisrayl Hawkins is neither a Hebrew scholar nor a professional translator and has twisted his book to fit his agenda, removing words or adding them as desired.
3. False Prophecies. Yisrayl Hawkins has made numerous “prophecies” projecting the end of the world. Those dates come and go with no fulfillment of his words. He predicted that the Israeli Peace Accord signed on October 13, 1993, began a seven-year tribulation period (Matthew 24:21) that would end on October 14, 2000, with the return of Christ. His most recent failed prediction was that a nuclear war would begin on Thursday, June 12, 2008.
God has harsh words for those who falsely prophesy in His name. Deuteronomy 18:20 says, “But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.” Jeremiah 29:8–9 says, “‘Do not let the prophets . . . deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD.” In Ezekiel 33:33, the Lord says, “When all this comes true—and it surely will—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.” The reverse is also true. When a so-called prophecy does not come true, the “prophet” who spoke it is not of God.
4. Salvation. The Bible presents salvation as the forgiveness of sin and conciliation with God (Romans 5:1). The goal of the House of Yahweh is peace on earth and the appeasement of Yahweh by strict adherence to the Mosaic Law. It is very clearly a works-based theology.
Yisrayl Hawkins has been under investigation for sexual misconduct, suspected polygamy, and child-labor infractions. According to his former wife, Kay, Hawkins began to preach polygamy after he was caught in an affair with a church secretary. In 2008, according to an ABC News article, “The 73-year-old founder and pastor of the House of Yahweh, was charged by the Callahan County district attorney with having multiple wives . . . charges of sexually abusing a teenager, bigamy and welfare fraud. Questions have also been raised about at least two deaths within the sect.” Authorities suggest that this sect closely resembles the Branch Davidians.
Galatians 5:4 says, “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” Scripture is clear that nothing we can do will justify us before God. Salvation is a gift of God bought for us by the blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9). We find peace with God by repenting of our own attempts to justify ourselves and accepting God’s gift by faith (John 3:15–18). The House of Yahweh has failed to heed Scripture. “No one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law” (Romans 3:20). Acceptance of that truth alone would dismantle the House of Yahweh.