In his role as the Second Messiah, Koresh was perceived as the deliverer of God's message, and revealer of the "truth." He often led 12-hour Bible studies preaching this newfound truth to his disciples. The Book of Revelations was at the core of his teachings, in which he emphasized the Seven Seals, and that he was the chosen ruler of the House of David to open the seal. Death would allow Koresh's followers to reach salvation and live in God's Kingdom, for they would be following his law, as told by Koresh. Koresh became increasingly manipulative, and began to instill fear of an end time ushered in by the cult. Koresh moved his congregation to a complex in Waco that they named Mt. Carmel. Here he fostered a new enemy, the U.S. government, deemed to be the locus of evil in the world. His paranoia of the government fueled his teachings to take a different direction, one that involved preparation for death. All members acquired firearms and learned how to use them. Children who survived Waco recounted how at the age of 3, they knew the caliber of guns, and demonstrated for psychologists how they were to die, by taking a pistol in their mouth. The children within the cult were never exposed to the outside world, were taught that the outside was evil and that they were the "good guys" who had to fight the evil outsiders. The children were also forced into obedience by use of the "Helper," a wooden paddle used to beat them, as adults were told by Koresh that God wanted them to do so.
Koresh also used sex as an instrument of control. Some of his twenty wives were spouses of his disciples. He ordered celibacy for the men, as only he could procreate with their wives, as ordered by God. This measure of control furthered his status as undisputed leader, and tested the obedience of his followers. Koresh fueled the desire for his utopian community with the idea that history would evolve into an ideal human community, which is grounded in the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation (20-22), The Assurance of the Second Coming (Rev 16:15/Acts 1:11), The Resurrection of the Dead (Rev 20:12/Dan 12:2), Last Judgment (Rev 20:12/Matt 25:31-33), and the Antichrist figure (1 John 2:18, 4:3-2/Rev13: 1-18). These Biblical passages were instrumental in Koresh's teachings to his disciples. His knowledge of the Bible and gift of rhetoric inspired his followers to support his cause and his beliefs that they were living in the time of the Apocalypse.
The FBI became wary of the Branch Davidians, mainly owing to reports of weapons caches and systematic child abuse, including Koresh's marriage to a 10-year-old. There was a 51-day siege, during which lists of demands were exchanged. On Wednesday, April 19, 1993, Koresh's waiting period ended. Members were calm but enthusiastic while awaiting their final act, their exodus to death. FBI agents raided the compound; gunshots were fired by both Koresh's disciples and the FBI, and cult members set the compound on fire, a fire that raged almost instantly.
Television viewers around the globe watched in horror as the compound burned. A total of eighty members died, including twenty children. Autopsy reports disclosed that many had died from asphyxiation from the intense fires that consumed the compound. Women and children who hid under wet blankets were killed by falling debris. Other members were shot to death in acts of suicide or apparent mercy killings. The pattern of death in Waco was one of hysteria, and not typical of the mass suicide as seen at Jonestown. In the end, Koresh died by shooting himself in the head, following through with the lesson that he had once taught his disciples.
The spectacular mass violence seen in Jonestown, Guyana and the Branch Davidian disaster in Waco, Texas are very rare. Violence, although on a smaller scale, has been associated with various cults in recent decades, including the Manson family, Synanon, Hare Krishna, London Group, Heaven's Gate, and Order of the Solar Temple. These religious organizations made their quest for a new spirituality, religious expression, and apocalyptic theory the focal points around which they shaped their belief systems and notions of the future.
The leaders of these cults shaped a new worldview of the cataclysmic end of the world based on themes of destruction and salvation in religious texts such as the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelations as a foundational tool to justify their predictions of future events and their own actions. Apocalyptic literature is a profoundly powerful collection of images, visions, and dialogues that has the ability to leave one in fear of both modern times and the coming end times. The inspirational battle of the forces of good and evil, and the rewarding of the righteous have led many to develop and follow a spiritual quest and their own path to salvation.