Alex, thanks for reading. I believe your question is perhaps sincere, but it’s classic logical fallacy because the way the question is phrased you’re baiting someone into only replying with one response where they effectively have to say, “well of course that would be a cult!” When we make hasty generalizations or black-or-white/false dichotomies, we miss the truth in the middle. So let me address where that presumption falls apart.
- There are secular, non-biblical accounts of Jesus and his supposed miracles. The Babylonian Talmud claims Jesus was killed for “practicing sorcery.” Historian Josephus claims he “wrought surprising feats” and that some people claimed he resurrected from the dead. You also have historical evidence from the Roman senator Tacitus and Roman governor Pliny the Younger who confirm Jesus was killed and worshipped by his disciples and lived a virtuous life. Tacitus also claims Christians believed a “most mischievous superstition” in regards to the resurrection of Christ.
- Christ doesn’t teach the world is ending, it’s the exact opposite. He teaches that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and asks people to have a change of heart (the literal meaning of “repent”). His disciples are the ones who ask about the end of the world and what signs will occur. He only then answers their question.
- Christ teaches they way to life and freedom is through death to self. Buddhists and several other religions teach this as well. That doesn’t make them a cult.
- Jesus also uses parables and intentional overstatements to get across his message and has some pretty outrageous statements at face value. Yet, at examination they are warnings about everything from the love of money to making your family an idol and how it can destroy you. Several other religions do this as well.
- Remember that cult leaders are manipulative and power hungry. They desire control above all else. If there’s one thing that can be said of Christ it’s that he constantly gives up control and shriks any grabs at power. His followers believed him to be political messiah who would overthrow the Romans to which he consistently rebukes them for. He never once goes for power or manipulates anyone. In fact, it would appear to be the exact opposite as many people go away sad.
- There are over 14,000 early copies of the New Testament, in which secular papyrologist Carsten Peter Thiede said he can date certain fragments of the gospels back to AD 60. That means that’s a timeframe within 30 or 40 years after Jesus was actually walking the earth, while many of the eyewitnesses were still alive. Homer has 643 copies (which is the next largest number of copies compared to the New Testament). The earliest copies of Plato’s Republic are 1,300 years removed from the original. Aristotle’s work is 1,400 years removed from the original writings. We only have ten copies of Caesar’s work and the earliest copy is 950 years removed from the original. Tacitus—who I mentioned earlier — has only 20 copies and the earliest is about 1,000 years old from the original. If we were to apply the scrutiny we have towards New Testament reliability and eye witness accounts as we do to the Western Canon of Literature, we’d have to throw out Plato, Aristotle, and Julius Caesar.
So while I understand the gist of your question, it falls apart under closer scrutiny. Hope this helps explain it more thoroughly