Understanding Bible History Pt 8: Jesus, Christians and the Roman World
Updated 29 June 2020
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, 7 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” (I Timothy 2) Jesus was born during the reign of Augustus Caesar/ Caesar Augustus, the first Emperor of the Roman Empire (Luke 2:1). Judah and Samaria were governed by the Romans (Mark 3:8). Augustus, also called Augustus Caesar or Octavian (until 27 BC) was born Gaius Octavius Thurinus on 23 September 63 BC in Rome. In 43 BC his great-uncle, Julius Caesar, was assassinated and in his will, Octavius, known as Octavian, was named as his heir. He fought to avenge Caesar and in 31 BC defeated Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium. He was now the undisputed autocratic ruler of Rome and controlled every aspect of Roman life. In 27 BC the Senate awarded him the honorific Augustus ("the illustrious one"), and he was then known as Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus. One of the quotes attested to him is “I found Rome a city of clay, but left it a city of marble”.
Tacitus, the Roman historian and politician, remarked on Augustus’ cult worship: “In the framework of ancient liturgy he was invoked like one of the ancient national gods of Rome…and he was surrounded with such an abundance of religious honour that many people thought there was nothing left for the worship of the heavenly gods (Stauffer, Christ and The Caesars, 96-97.).” Not only had he been declared “worthy of worship” but his father Julius was divinized after he died and this gave Augustus grounds for claiming the title: divi Iuli filius (son of the divine Julius) or simply divi filius (son of the god). Augustus was also the official head of the Roman religion, the chief priest (pontifex maximus).
We know as Christians that the accuracy and authority does not rest on when the gospels were written but on what they are: the divinely inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16). However, many secular and Jewish scholars doubt the content and authenticity of the Gospel accounts because none of the writers mention the destruction of the Temple in AD70 and therefore assert that these books were written after AD 70. Jesus himself prophesied in Mark 13:2, Matthew 24:2, and Luke 21:6 and here is Luke’s account of the prediction: “Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, ‘As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.’” But according to many biblical scholars the Gospels were written 30-35 years after Jesus death (33 AD) even dating the Gospel of Matthew much earlier.
Herod Archelaus (23 BC – c. 18 AD) was ethnarch of Samaria, Judea, and Idumea (biblical Edom), including the cities Caesarea and Jaffa, for a period of nine years (c. 4 BC to 6 AD). Archelaus was removed by Roman Emperor Augustus when Judaea province was formed under direct Roman rule, at the time of the Census of Quirinius. He was the son of Herod the Great and Malthace the Samaritan, and was the brother of Herod Antipas, and the half-brother of Herod II. Archelaus (a name meaning "leading the people") came to power after the death of his father Herod the Great in 4 BC, and ruled over one-half of the territorial dominion of his father.
In 6 AD, the emperor Augustus deposed king Archelaus, and his governor of Syria, Quirinius, established the province of Judaea (which became a territory of Rome).
It was Augustus who had issued a decree that the whole world would be counted (Luke 2:1-5) though many question Luke’s account, the evidence is given here by Tertullian. The month of August was named after him. Pontius Pilate served as the prefect of Judaea from 26 to 36 A.D. He convicted Jesus of treason with the support of the Jewish leaders and had Jesus crucified. Pilate died 39 A.D. Nearly all Biblical scholars and even secular historians who accept the historical Jesus believe the Crucifixion had to have happened sometime in 33 AD.
Tiberius was the Emperor during that entire period, and ruled until early in 37. "Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness." (Luke 3:1-2). In 26 AD he removed himself from Rome and left administration largely in the hands of his unscrupulous Praetorian prefects Lucius Aelius Sejanus and Quintus Naevius Sutorius Macro.
When Tiberius died, he was succeeded by his grand-nephew and adopted grandson, Caligula, followed by Claudius.
Claudius, birth name Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, (1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was the nephew of Tiberius; great-nephew and step-grandson of Augustus; proclaimed emperor by the Praetorian Guard. Claudius was afflicted with a limp and slight deafness due to sickness at a young age, his family ostracized him and excluded him from public office until his consulship, shared with his nephew Caligula in 37. The consensus of ancient historians was that Claudius was murdered by poison—possibly contained in mushrooms or on a feather—and died in the early hours of 13 October 54. Nearly all implicate his final wife, Agrippina the Younger, as the instigator to ensure the succession of Nero (5 December 37 – 9 June 68 AD). Nero reign from 54 to 68 AD, like Claudius, Nero became emperor with the consent of the Praetorian Guard.
The historical account of Jesus and the persecution of Christians, especially during time of the Great Fire of Rome and the reign of Nero, is given by the Roman historian and senator Tacitus who referred to Christ, his execution by Pontius Pilate, and the existence of early Christians in Rome in his final work, Annals (written ca. AD 116), book 15, chapter 44:
"Therefore, to stop the rumor [that he had set Rome on fire], he [Emperor Nero] falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were [generally] hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition - repressed for a time, broke out yet again, not only through Judea, - where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, whither all things horrible and disgraceful flow from all quarters, as to a common receptacle, and where they are encouraged. Accordingly, first those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of "hating the human race."
Tacitus published his book, Annals, few years after the event. Tacitus was a young boy living in Rome during the time of the persecutions. The fire destroyed much of Rome, and, in order to escape blame, the emperor Nero killed a “vast multitude” of Christians as scapegoats. The persecution and suffering of early Christians was also recorded by Suetonius, the official secretary of the Roman Emperor Hadrian around AD 121. He documented that they were expelled from Rome in AD 49 by Claudius: “Because the Jews at Rome caused constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus (Christ), he expelled them from Rome.”
Persecution of Christians in the Roman Emperors occurred intermittently over a period of over two centuries between the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD under Nero and the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, in which the Roman Emperors, Constantine the Great and Licinius, legalised the “Christian” religion. For 280 years of Christian history (until Constantine) Christians, under the reign of the Roman Emperors, find themselves the object hatred and violence against because they denied the gods who were thought to protect Rome, thereby bringing down their wrath. To regain divine protection, the emperors introduced the systematic persecution of Christians throughout the empire. The profession of Christianity was defined as a capital crime and pardon can only be gained by rejection of the faith once confessed and this must be demonstrated by offering sacrifice to the pagan gods or to the emperor. If this offer was refused, more severe measures such as scourging or other tortures were implemented. If these failed, the victim was led to the circus or theater and subjected to a horrible death for the amusement of the crowd and the placation of the gods.
The emperor Decius (reigned 249–251 AD) issued an edict requiring all citizens to offer sacrifice to the emperor and to obtain from commissioners a certificate witnessing to the act. Many of these certificates have survived. The requirement created an issue of conscience, especially because certificates could be bought. The great bishop-theologian Cyprian of Carthage was martyred during the next great wave of persecutions (257–259), which were aimed at eradicating the leaders of the church. Christians were denounced as enemies of men and the gods and therefore subject to the severest tortures.
Many wonder how the 12 disciples, who later became apostles died, but the New Testament tells of the fate of only two of the apostles: Judas, who betrayed Jesus and then went out and hanged himself, and James the son of Zebedee, who was executed by Herod about 44 AD (Acts 12:2). However, the death of seven apostles is known through tradition and Christian writings. Peter was exception in that Jesus foretold the manner of Peter’s death (John 21:18–19). The details of the deaths of three of the apostles (John, the Beloved, Bartholomew and Simon the Canaanite) are not known although John the Beloved, who wrote the book of Revelation was exiled as a result of anti-Christian persecution under the Roman emperor Domitian. According to Tertullian (in The Prescription of Heretics), an early Christian author and theologian from Carthage (North Africa), reports that John was plunged into boiling oil from which he miraculously escaped unscathed and then exiled to Patmos. The Apostle Paul's death is unknown, but tradition holds that he was beheaded in Rome and thus died as a martyr for his faith. His death was perhaps part of the executions of Christians ordered by the Roman emperor Nero following the great fire in the city in 64 AD.
Constantine’s State Religion = False Christianity = Babylonian Religion
“Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon;….. For you shall no longer be calledThe Lady of Kingdoms….. And you said, ‘I shall be a lady forever,’ 7 So that you did not take these things to heart, Nor remember the latter end of them. 8 “Therefore hear this now, you who are given to pleasures, Who dwell securely, Who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me; I shall not sit as a widow, Nor shall I know the loss of children’; 9 But these two things shall come to you In a moment, in one day: The loss of children, and widowhood. They shall come upon you in their fullness, Because of the multitude of your sorceries, For the great abundance of your enchantments. 10 “For you have trusted in your wickedness; You have said, ‘No one sees me’; Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you; And you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’ (Isaiah 47: 1, 5, 7-10)
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” 3 So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. (Revelation 17)
7 In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’ 8 Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her. (Revelation 18)
Persecutory laws were nullified by different emperors (Galerius with the Edict of Serdica in 311) at different times, but Constantine and Licinius' Edict of Milan (313 AD) has traditionally marked the end of the persecution. Constantine the Great, (27 February c. 272 – 22 May 337), also known as Constantine I, was a Roman emperor who ruled between AD 306 and 337. He was born almost three centuries after Jesus. He worshipped the pantheon of Roman gods as all his predecessors had done and especially the Roman sun god, Sol. However, as he was traveling to battle his most powerful rival in Italy, Maxentius, at the Tiber River in A.D. 312, he had a vision. In that vision, he reported seeing the cross of Christ superimposed on the sun with the words, in hoc signo vinces - "in this sign you shall conquer." After winning the battle, he became a strong champion of Christianity. Constantine was the first Roman emperor to convert to “Christianity”. The vision of Constantine is not a new phenomenon by any means. During Constantine’s travels, he also had a vision of Apollo near Marseilles. Visions of deities by oracles, emperors, and everyday Roman citizens were commonplace. The life of a Roman citizen was purged in religious affairs. Traditional Roman gods had been a part of life since the foundation of the city by Romulus and Remus, and Constantine was no exception.
Constantine met with Emperor Licinius, the ruler of the eastern provinces, to sign the Edict of Milan giving equal rights to all religious groups within the Roman Empire. Just as Constantius could not completely end persecution because of Galerius, Constantine could not end pagan worship because of the masses. To eliminate pagan worship would be to undermine 800 years of religious tradition.
The alliance of the apostate church with the political powers of the world during this future period of time not only debauches the true spiritual character of the church and compromises her testimony in every way but has the devastating effect of inducing religious drunkenness on the part of the inhabitants of the earth. False religion is always the worst enemy of true religion, and the moral wickedness involved in the union of the church with the world imposes a stupefying drunkenness as far as spiritual things are concerned. The hardest to win to Christ and the most difficult to instruct in spiritual truth are those who have previously embraced false religion with its outward show of a worship of God. The concept here presented, enlarging on the previous revelation in 14:8, makes plain that the apostate church has eagerly sought and solicited the adulterous relation with the world political powers and therefore is primarily to be blamed...... The doctrines of the mystery religions of Babylon seem to have permeated the ancient world, giving rise to countless mystery religions, each with its cult and individual beliefs offering a counterfeit religion and a counterfeit god in opposition to the true God revealed in the Scriptures. Babylon as an evil woman is portrayed in the prophecy of Zechariah 5:1-11 where the woman of verse 7 is described as personifying wickedness in verse 8.Dr. John Walvoord - Revelation 17. The Destruction Of Ecclesiastical Babylon
Constantine sought to blend Christian and pagan traditions. At that time, two prominent pagan winter festivals were celebrated. The first, starting on December 17 and lasting seven days, honored Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture. The second, starting on December 25 and lasting through January 1, commemorated the birth of Mithras, mystery religion,, the Persian god of light. Some scholars have stated that initiates of Mithras were marked with the sign of the cross on their forehead. The basis for the idea is found in Tertullian, who states that followers of Mithras were marked on their forehead: “if my memory still serves me, Mithra there, (in the kingdom of Satan, ) sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers; celebrates also the oblation of bread, and introduces an image of a resurrection, and before a sword wreathes a crown”. Constantine lived much of his life as a pagan, and later as a catechumen.
The catechumenate was the ancient church’s process for Christian (the catechumenate) initiation in preparation for adult baptism and leading up to the first Eucharist. The earliest post-apostolic picture of the catechumenate comes from The Apostolic Tradition, written by Hippolytus of Rome (235 AD). When newcomers came to the church, Hippolytus insisted that they be interviewed, along with those who brought them, later called sponsors. Christianity became less a matter of conscious decision (faith) and commitment and more a matter of birth and assimilation into the surrounding culture. As such all citizens were baptized at birth so that "Christian" became just another word for citizen. Constantine continued to put pagan symbols on all the coins that he had minted. On the back of these coins contains the inscription and the symbol of the pagan sun god, "Sol Invictus". He continued to mint these coins to commemorate the pagan sun god Sol Invictus right up until the day of his death.
Constantine viewed the Jews as the false Israel which had refused to accept Jesus as the Savior and laws were made against them. Stating in his letter after the First Council of Nicaea, he said:
"... it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul ... Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way." [Eusebius, Life of Constantine Vol. III Ch. XVIII Life of Constantine (Book III) (Catholic Encyclopedia)]
The New State Religion, the Rise of the Popes and Persecution
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; 5 for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4)
Although the persecution resulted in death, torture, imprisonment, or dislocation for many Christians, the majority of the empire's Christians avoided punishment. The persecution did, however, cause many churches to split between those who had complied with imperial authority (the traditores), and those who had remained "pure". Traditor, plural: traditores (Latin), is a term meaning "the one(s) who had handed over" and defined by Merriam-Webster as "one of the Christians giving up to the officers of the law the Scriptures, the sacred vessels, or the names of their brethren during the Roman persecutions". It refers to bishops and other Christians who turned over sacred scriptures or betrayed their fellow Christians to the Roman authorities under threat of persecution.
During the Diocletianic Persecution between AD 303 and 305, many church leaders had gone as far as turning in Christians to the authorities and "handed over" sacred religious texts to authorities to be burned. Philip Schaff says about them: "In this, as in former persecutions, the number of apostates who preferred the earthly life to the heavenly, was very great. To these was now added also the new class of the traditores, who delivered the holy Scriptures to the heathen authorities, to be burned" (Schaff, Philip (1910). History of the Christian Church, vol. 2, p. 69. SCHAFF.logos4: Charles Scribner’s Sons. pp. 2:68.)
The College of Pontiffs (Latin: Collegium Pontificum; see collegium) was a body of the ancient Roman state whose members were the highest-ranking priests of the state religion. The college consisted of the Pontifex Maximus and the other pontifices, the Rex Sacrorum, the fifteen flamens, and the Vestals. The word "pontifex" and its derivative "pontiff" later became terms used for Catholic bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, and the title of "Pontifex Maximus" was applied within the Catholic Church to the Pope as its chief bishop and appears on buildings, monuments and coins of popes of Renaissance and modern times. The official list of titles of the Pope given in the Annuario Pontificio includes "Supreme Pontiff" (in Latin, Summus Pontifex) as the fourth title, the first being "Bishop of Rome". During the reign of the Papal Church of Rome, millions of Christians were persecuted and killed, actioned by the popes, because they refused to bow to the "authority" of the Papal Church. This reign of terror lasted 1260 years. “Today, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope, is still called the Pontifex Maximus. It's a political or governing office that has been in existence and in perpetual use for nearly 3,000 years.” (See "Pontifex Maximus," UNRV History.)
The Papal supremacy, the “doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church that the Pope, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ and as pastor of the entire Christian Church, has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered”: [Paragraph 882 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997).]
that, in brief, "the Pope enjoys, by divine institution, supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls" and that, in brief, "the Pope enjoys, by divine institution, supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls. [Paragraph 937 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997).]
“The origin of the Catholic Church is the tragic compromise of Christianity with the pagan religions that surrounded it. Instead of proclaiming the gospel and converting the pagans, the Catholic Church “Christianized” the pagan religions and “paganized” Christianity. By blurring the differences and erasing the distinctions, the Catholic Church made itself attractive to the idolatrous people of the Roman Empire. One result was the Catholic Church becoming the supreme religion in the Roman world for centuries. However, another result was the most dominant form of Christianity apostatizing from the true gospel of Jesus Christ and the true proclamation of God’s Word.” https://www.gotquestions.org/origin-Catholic-church.html
Catholic tradition consistently overlooks the words of Jesus, "...making the word of God of none effect through your tradition" (Mark 7:13). Rome even dares to alter the word of God by removing the second commandment from its Catechisms. This commandment, which forbids idolatry, is removed so that the making of statues and the selling and bowing down to them can go on unrestrained. To worship God in the form of a wafer or statue would be to reduce the Creator to the substance of creation. The Apostle Paul said to do this is to become a fool (Romans 1:22-23). The prophet Isaiah warned us what God says about idolatry, "I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols" (Isaiah 42:8). Catholics will say they do not worship statues of Mary and the saints, instead they venerate them. Yet the Catholic Dictionary defines veneration as, "the word commonly used to express in English that worship given to saints either directly or through images or relics." Mike Gendron, Come Out of the Catholic Church
A golden bull or chrysobull was a decree issued by Byzantine Emperors and later by monarchs in Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, most notably by the Holy Roman Emperors. Such decrees were known as golden bulls in western Europe and chrysobullos logos, or chrysobulls, in the Byzantine Empire. The most distinctive characteristic of a bull was the metal seal (bulla), which was usually made of lead, but on very solemn occasions was made of gold, as those on Byzantine imperial instruments often were (see Golden Bull).
The four dogmas of perpetual virginity, Mother of God, Immaculate Conception and Assumption form the basis of Mariology.
The Catholic Encyclopaedia states, “In [Mary’s] Fiat of faith, she received salvation for all. . . . Mary’s mediatorship is to be understood on the level of the solidarity of all mankind which is in need of redemption. . . .The function of Mary in salvation determines her relation to the Church. . . . Mary is mother of the Church under this more individualistic aspect, since she is effectively concerned for the salvation of each individual” (pages 898–901).
Although many Catholic apologists deny that Mary is treated as deity, the Catholic catechism states, "God has exalted Mary in heavenly glory as Queen of Heaven and earth" (Catechism 966). "She is to be praised with special devotion" (Catechism 971, 2675).
Pope Pius IX said, "Our salvation is based upon the holy Virgin...so that if there is any hope and spiritual healing for us, we receive it solely and uniquely from her" ("The Encyclical of February 2, 1849," cited in Donald G. Bloesch, Essentials of Evangelical Theology, Vol. 1, page 196).
Mariological papal documents have been a major force that has shaped Roman Catholic Mariology over the centuries. Mariology is developed by theologians on the basis not only of Scripture and Tradition but also of the sensus fidei (meaning “sense of the faithful”) i.e the faithful as a whole. The papal documents have recorded those developments, defining Marian dogmas, spreading doctrines and encouraging devotions within the Catholic Church.
Consequently, millions of Catholics are simultaneously praying to and venerating Mary, something that should only be accorded to deity and are having Marian apparitions. Marian apparitions are reported supernatural appearances by Mary, many are officially approved and promoted by Popes. Are those apparitions really the Virgin Mary? - discussion about apparitions, particularly the apparitions of Mary, which have been going on over the centuries and are manifesting themselves around the world at an astounding rate these days.
From a black Roman Catholic Mary to a Chinese Roman Catholic Mary, the pagan “queen of heaven” of Roman Catholicism has statutes, shrines, Marian Apparitions, icons and devoted attendees globally. Yet we seeing prominent evangelic and church leaders signalling their support to the Pope, who falsely claims that he is representing Jesus Christ on earth.
Though they still continue to deny they worship there are numerous shrines, icons, titles and Marian Apparitions, globally.
The phrase queen of heaven appears in two passages of the Bible, both in the book of Jeremiah:
The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger.” Jeremiah 7:18
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: ‘You and your wives have spoken with your mouths and fulfilled with your hands, saying, “We will surely keep our vows that we have made, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her.” You will surely keep your vows and perform your vows!’ Jeremiah 44:25
Interestingly, the Catholic Church have chosen the exact title for Mary, a title, queen of heaven, that derives from the pagan Mesopotamian goddess known as Asherah or Ashtoreth, as Inanna or Ishtar (in Greek as “Astártē”) is the “Queen of Heaven and Earth”. The worship of Asherah or Ashtoreth is mentioned number of times in the Old Testament.
The rise of the worship of the “Great Mother of Gods” or the worship in ancient religions and cults is nothing new. Indeed, this belief is demonstrated by the Greeks and Roman mythologies. Whether a “Great Mother of Gods or as single entity they were known by a variety of names and was integrated into specific cultures. The Greeks worshipped her as Cybele, mother goddess. In Rome, Cybele became known as Magna Mater ("Great Mother"). Other mother goddesses are Rhea, Gaia, Demeter, Isis etc. In Greek mythology, Europa was the mother of King Minos of Crete, of a Phoenician origin, and after whom the continent Europe was named. Artemis (in Latin as Diana), is a “queen of heaven” goddess worshipped in Rome and Hellenistic religion, she is considered a virgin goddess and protector of childbirth. She is mentioned Acts 19:28 as the “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”.
The Romans adopted her worship at the end of the Second Punic War and called her Mater Magna, Great Mother. Her cult became one of the three most important mystery cults in the Roman Empire, along with those of Mithras and Isis. And as Christianity took hold in the Roman world, ritual elements of her cult were incorporated into the burgeoning cult of the Virgin Mary. The environmental and pagan movements also embrace a goddess worship of Gaia or Mother Earth. In 2019, the Pope released a book called "Our Mother Earth: A Christian Reading of the Environmental Challenge," in which he states that we need “ecological conversion”.
How does the Catholic church view other Christian churches?
Did you know that the Catholic Church states that anyone who believes the biblical salvation of "justification by faith" through Jesus' one-time sacrifice is anathemas, which means cursed/condemned?
The Catholic church regards itself as the one true church, with an objective of gathering back all Christians into it. In Unitatis redintegratio, other Christians are viewed as ‘Separated Brethren’. And again, taken from Vatican II Council statement on Unitatis redintegratio:
“…Catholics, in their ecumenical work, must assuredly be concerned for their separated brethren, praying for them, keeping them informed about the Church, making the first approaches toward them. But their primary duty is to make a careful and honest appraisal of whatever needs to be done or renewed in the Catholic household itself, in order that its life may bear witness more clearly and faithfully to the teachings and institutions which have come to it from Christ through the Apostles…”
“Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and with Him quickened to newness of life - that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation.”
All Catholics are expected to obey what is known as the Seven Precepts of the Church. These are regarded as the minimum requirements of a person who would be regarded as a practising Catholic. The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists 5 precepts. The last two are included elsewhere in the catechism but are not listed as precepts but are considered equally important:
1. To attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and resting from servile works.
2. To observe the days of abstinence and fasting.
3. To confess sins to a priest, at least once a year.
4. To receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist at least once a year during Easter Season.
5. To contribute to the support of the Church.
6. To obey the laws of the Church concerning Matrimony.
7. To participate in the Church’s mission of Evangelisation of Souls (The Missionary Spirit of the Church).
Papal Authority expanded to monarchies, nations, rulers and so on and those who refused this authority were ruthlessly persecuted, and even the mere idea of challenging the Church’s doctrine were branded as heretics and martyred. Teachings and reading were done by the Catholic Priests, who used this opportunity to enforced corrupt doctrines; the popes were no better!
In the Catholic Church, children have suffered systemic sexual abuse within catholic institutions all over the world for decades by priests, bishops, nuns, etc. The abusers were routinely shuffled from parish to parish in order to avoid scrutiny. Pontifical secrecy and widespread systematic cover-up by church officials denied the victims justice.
The Reformation - the unsung heroes
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them……Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11)
The spirit of Reformation started long before Martin Luther (1483 - 1546) through men like John Wycliffe (1320s – 31 December 1385), Jan Hus (c. 1369 – 6 July 1415), Jerome of Prague (1379 – 30 May 1416) and William Tyndale (c. 1494 – c. 6 October 1536). Although bible translation is credited to Wyclifee and Tyndale, the English Bible was first translated from the Latin Vulgate into Old English by a few select monks and scholars in the 7th Century. What Tyndale, Wyclifee and others did was amazing in that they translate it from Olde English into early Modern English, this was made possible through the printing press of Johannes Gutenberg (1400 - February 3, 1468), a German blacksmith, goldsmith, printer, and publisher who introduced printing to Europe.
The Gutenberg Bible was the first major book printed that was mass-produced. Preparation of the Bible probably began soon after 1450, and the first finished copies were available in 1454 or 1455. Tyndale's translation was the first English Bible to draw directly from Hebrew and Greek texts, the first English translation to take advantage of the printing press, and first of the new English Bibles of the Reformation. It was taken to be a direct challenge to the supremacy of both the Roman Catholic Church and the laws of England maintaining the church's position. In 1530, Tyndale also wrote the Practyse of Prelates, opposing Henry VIII's annulment of his own marriage on the grounds that it contravened Scripture. In 1611, the 54 scholars who produced the King James Bible drew significantly from Tyndale, as well as from previous translations. One estimate suggests that the New Testament in the King James Version is 83% Tyndale's and the Old Testament 76%.
Tyndale, the most dangerous man in Tudor England, was an extraordinary man, but he was persecuted and hunted by the Catholic church, and was later burn in the stake. These are some of his quotes in his writing, particularly the Preface to The Practice of Prelates (1531):
“Take heed, therefore, wicked prelates, blind leaders of the blind; indurate and obstinate hypocrites, take heed …. Ye will be the chiefest in Christ's flock, and yet will not keep one jot of the right way of his doctrine …ye keep thereof almost naught at all, but whatsoever soundeth to make of your bellies, to maintain your honour, whether in the Scripture, or in your own traditions, or in the pope's law, that ye compel the lay-people to observe; violently threatening them with your excommunications and curses, that they shall be damned, body and soul, if they keep them not. And if that help you not, then ye murder them mercilessly with the sword of the temporal powers, whom ye have made so blind that they be ready to slay whom ye command, and will not hear his cause examined, nor give him room to answer for himself.”
“I defie the Pope and all his lawes. If God spare my life, ere many yeares I wyl cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture, than he doust.”
The Obedience of A Christian Man (1528) - “Christ is with us until the world’s end. Let his little flock be bold therefore. For if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us, be they bishops, cardinals, popes, or whatsoever names they will?”…… “The preaching of God’s word is hateful and contrary unto them. Why? For it is impossible to preach Christ, except thou preach against antichrist; that is to say, them which with their false doctrine and violence of sword enforce to quench the true doctrine of Christ. And as thou canst heal no disease, except thou begin at the root; even so canst thou preach against no mischief, except thou begin at the bishops.”
For me, what is deeply doubly sad and tragic is that under the umbrella of “Christianity”, the Catholic church continuously waged a war against the Jews in many cases resulting in death, banishment, theft and oppression, forced conversions and because of the treatment by these people many Jews associate Christianity with Catholics, and as such are suspicious of any Christians. How anyone can claim this cult as Christianity is insane. Rome and the Roman Catholic church has been also responsible for the massacre of many bible believing Christians as Dave Hunt, the Christian apologist said “To deny that Roman Catholicism is a cult is to repudiate the Reformation and mock the millions of martyrs who died at Rome's hands, as though they gave their lives in vain..” John Fox's Book of Martyrs, details the lives, sufferings and triumphant deaths of the early Christian and the Protestant Martyrs.
Unfortunately, for many, the Reformation means Martin Luther. This is extraordinary, because he was chiefly a Jew “hater” like Haman, a reality that must not be ignored or glossed over. Luther was excommunicated after posting his essay, the Ninety-five Theses, outside a church. It appears that even Luther did not intend to circulate the posting widely and was uncertain about the content:
“You wonder I did not tell you of them. But I did not wish to have them widely circulated. I only intended submitting them to a few learned men for examination, and if they disapproved of them, to suppress them—or make them known through their publications, in the event of their meeting with your approval. But now they are being spread abroad and translated everywhere, which I never could have credited, so that I regret having given birth to them—not that I am unwilling to proclaim the truth manfully, for there is nothing I more ardently desire, but because this way of instructing the people is of little avail. As yet I am still uncertain as to some points, and would have gone into others more particularly, leaving some out entirely, had I foreseen all this.”
The Reformation-era and Major Protestant Theological Systems
What is the difference between theology and doctrine? Doctrine refers to a denomination’s or a church’s primary teachings.
The term, “theology,” literally means, “the study of God.” It is derived from two Greek words. Theos is the Greek word for God, while the word logos can mean “discourse,” or, “the study of.” It limits itself to the study of the living and true God of the Bible rather than the gods of other religions; for He is the only God who exists. The Bible is the only infallible source of Christian theology and not the wisdom of man.
Dispensationalism its literal hermeneutic, commitment to the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, and its doctrine of Israel and the Church, that the Church hasn’t replaced Israel and Israel must be re-established nationally, and must turn to the Lord, when he will fulfill his promises to them literally, in the last days. This is biblical Christianity, and though the word used to describe biblical history, it doesn’t been that the new theory, it’s just way to distinguished those that believe that the Bible is only inerrancy and infallibility of scriptures and those who choose to be selective in what they teach as biblical doctrine. The Canon of Scripture - hat Everyone Needs To Know About The Bible.
The doctrinal differences of Protestants, after the Reformation are: Calvinism, Arminianism, Lutheranism, and Anglicanism, covered here in more detail. But I want to comment on Calvinism and the acceptance is gaining in churches.
Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians. This article, Calvinism's Surprising Catholic Connection, documents John Calvin’s connection to the doctrine of Augustine. Presbyterian, Congregational, and Reformed churches, (like Reformed Baptists), embrace the theology of Calvinism.
The teaching doctrine of Calvinism is defined by five major points—called “the five points of Calvinism.” The acronym TULIP is often used. Each letter represents their teaching. As an acronym, TULIP represents the essence of the theological system known as Calvinism. The teaching of Calvinism is destructive to the biblical interpretation of salvation. With the advent of the internet and social media, the movement has become popular because of leaders like John MacArthur, David Jeremiah and others. Dave Hunt, that left Calvinism after many years, in “What Love Is This Calvinism's Misrepresentation of God”, alerts Christians about the unbiblical teachings of Calvinism and their doctrine, TULIP. It is often difficult to ascertain, who is a Calvinist. This is further complicated as they often use alternative terms.
Many Christians, concerned with the rise of false doctrines, are unwittingly, turning to popular discernment ministries’ websites and YouTube channels, that are actually Calvinists. There is nothing wrong with good biblical discernment ministries or Christian apologetics, and though their assessment may be valid, it is problematic because of their doctrinal beliefs and the lack of transparency. T.A McMahon, Berean Call, attended one of these “discernment conferences”, you can read his review of the conference here.
Ecumenical and Interreligious Movement
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4)
Nearly one in five people worldwide identify with the Roman Catholic Church. Many are serious practitioners while others have no idea what their church’s teachings include. But it is a very popular religion that feeds the need many people have to rely on good works. The problem is they miss the importance of the authority of Scripture, the true gospel, and justification by faith.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14: 6).
The Unbiblical Traditions of The Catholic Church
The church was built on Peter, who is referred to as the first Pope
The doctrine of purgatory after death to purge a person of sin.
Prayers to Mary and dead saints to mediate on our behalf.
Confession to a priest for absolution of sins.
The Mass and sacraments as necessary for salvation.
Salvation comes only through the Roman Catholic Church.
Penance and the selling of indulgences.
The Eucharist of the Mass and transubstantiation, the teaching that the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ when taken at Communion
Veneration and worship of Mary
Holy Water, The Rosary, Canonizing dead saints, celibacy of priesthood
Numerous attempts have been made to blend “Christianity”, with its various denominations, with other religions on a world-wide scale. Foremost in this agenda is the Catholic church spearheaded initially by Pope Paul II and Pope Francis.
In 2019, at the conference for the Pan-Amazonian Synod, Pope Francis, in front of the controversial fertility figure dubbed "Pachamama", oversaw a tree-planting and Mother Earth-worshipping ceremony in the Vatican Gardens performed by Amazonian natives. Pachamama is a pagan goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. She is also known as the earth/time mother. Multiple people prostrated before a Pachamama statue during the ceremony to open the Synod; a Pachamama statue featured prominently during an Amazonian-themed version of the Stations of the Cross; a Pachamama statue was present in the synod hall; and there were at least five statues at side altars inside the Church of Santa Maria del Traspontina. The Pope also recently added “Ecological Sin” to Church Teachings.
The first ecumenical council, the Council of Nicaea, (325 AD) was called by the emperor Constantine, the meeting was held in ancient Nicaea (now İznik, Turkey). There have been less than two dozen in Roman Catholic history; the most recent was the Second Vatican Council, held in 1962. Before the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church defined ecumenism as dialogue with other Christian groups in order to persuade these to return to a unity that they themselves had broken. All traditionalist Catholics reject the Second Vatican Council reforms and maintain the pre-reform sense of ecumenism. The Second Vatican Council's (1962-1965) decree on ecumenism, Unitatis redintegratio (Latin for "Restoration of unity") was passed by a vote of the bishops assembled, and was disseminated by Pope Paul VI on 21 November 1964.
The aim of the Second Vatican Council, as its initiator Pope John XXIII stated, was to seek renewal from within the Church itself, which would serve for those separated from the see of Rome as a "gentle invitation to seek and find that unity for which Jesus Christ prayed so ardently to his heavenly Father." The Council opened up an era of earnest endeavour not only to explain to others the Church's teaching but also to understand their outlook. While the Catholic Church sees itself as "the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church" founded by Christ himself, which "subsists in" (rather than simply saying "is identical with") the Catholic Church, it recognizes that: “Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and truth are found outside its visible confines. Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity.” Therefore, the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed to the modern ecumenical movement. The idea that the Catholic Church is the universal church and is the “Restoration of Unity” (Unitatis redintegratio), irrelevant of other Christians is clearly defined here.
There is also an official Catholic council for interreligious dialogues, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, heavily promoted by Pope Francis. The Interreligious beliefs include Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism and so on. The three major faiths that I want to highlight are Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Over the years, Catholic Popes, have been publicly organising unity within these faiths. More recently, a building has been commissioned to house these three faiths in response to Pope Francis’ visit to Abu Dhabi when he and a Muslim cleric signed a document to unite.
During the Reformation, the Catholic Church tried to silence the Protestant movement with refuting and silencing Protestant disagreements through a policy of “Counter-Reformation”. The result of this was the creation of the Jesuit Order also known as the Society of Jesus. The purpose of the Jesuits is the propagation of the Catholic faith by any means possible. Pope Francis, is the first Jesuit to become pope and his Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, “tipped to be next pope', has reportedly said, according to Reuters, that Vatican bureaucrats should be “more evangelical”.
The relations between the Catholic Church and Jews was transformed after the Second Vatican Council and the Declaration Nostra aetate in 1965. In 1967, Jewish advocacy and rabbinic bodies organized an International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) to represent the Jewish community to the Vatican and, later, other non-Jewish religions. This dialogue also included bringing together Jewish and Christians leaders through the World Council of Churches (WCC). According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs "full and formal diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See were established in 1993."
The World Council of Churches is a worldwide Christian inter-church organization founded in 1948 but the Ecumenical Movement met with initial successes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910 (chaired by future WCC Honorary President John R. Mott). At the First Assembly in 1948, there were 147 member churches. The first meeting of the Joint Working Group set up by the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church was in 1966. At the end of 2013, the membership stood at 345 churches. According to their website it was “Predominately Protestant and Western in its earliest years, the WCC's profile and identity evolved during the 1960s with the influx of many Orthodox churches from the East and newly autonomous churches from formerly colonial regions in the South…”
The Second Vatican Council was a watershed in terms of the Catholic Church's pastoral approach. Over two thousand bishops were called to Rome between 1962 and 1965 to discuss how the Church would face the challenges of the modern world. Seventeen Orthodox Churches sent observers to the council who participated in discussions, specifically on ecumenism between the two churches. Source: Bordeianu, Radu (2018). "Orthodox Observers at the Second Vatican Council and Intra-Orthodox Dynamics". Theological Studies. 79: 86–106. doi:10.1177/0040563917744818.
In 2018, Orthodox prelate ruled out unity with Catholics after considerable talks. However, though unity is opposed by the orthodoxy, in 2019 according to reports, Patriarch Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople of the Eastern Orthodox Church, “attempted to convince several Athonite abbots and monks that there are no dogmatic differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, and that reunion with the Catholic church is inevitable.”
Over the years, the Catholic Church has been courting Protestants, Word of Faith ministries and Evangelicals to unite. Some of the major advocates are the likes of Rick Warren and Kenneth Copeland. Many churches and leaders of today are encouraging New Age and Catholic practices like contemplative spirituality by embracing their leaders often in bible colleges, worship ministries, producing “Christian movies” and publishing books. Prominent leaders like Benny Hinn speak of bizarre practices. Apostasy continues to rise in churches: prosperity gospel, Dominion Theology, Seven Mountain Mandate, New Apostolic Reformation, Emerging Churches, and Hebrew Roots movement has spread in Christendom globally. I know that many will disagree with me on these issues that I have raised, specially these clusters of ministries. However, you can’t ignore the evidence. Its problematic and dangerous when scriptures are taken out of context or a particular word or scripture takes precedence over the overall message of the Bible, and then to used that as a basis for theology.
A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.
Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right. Charles Spurgeon
We are also seeing the rise of Chrislam, replacement theology, anti-Israeli policies in churches, Christian Palestinianism. In the secular media Jesus is even being promoted as a Palestinian, denying His Jewish heritage, and I daresay even some church denominations gave succumb to the latest propaganda.
Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, signed a Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, during a Global Conference on the topic in Abu Dhabi. It called for peace between nations, religions and races, in front of a global audience of religious leaders from Christianity, Islam, Judaism and other faiths. There are connections between Catholics and Muslims: they both revere Mary, use rosary in prayer; and “Our Lady of Fátima”. A Catholic title of the “Blessed Virgin Mary” based on the Marian apparitions in 1917 by three shepherd children at the Cova da Iria, in Fátima, Portugal. A place named after both a Muslim princess and the daughter of Mohammed. In 2016, Pope Francis, launched a video claiming that we all believe in the same god. Vatican Council and Papal Statements on Islam states that Christians and Muslims are “brothers”.
We are seeing the rise of One World Religion comparable to the times of the great Western European powers when religion was state sanctioned. But, unlike the previous times, it is now spreading its arms to the unities of all “Christian” denominations including evangelical churches, who have forsaken Jesus, and have become this great ecumenical system, the Universal Church, a counterfeit of the one and true Body of Christ, the true believers of Jesus Christ. The church of Jesus is not built on Peter but on Jesus who is the Head of His Church, the Bride.
For further reading, I recommend you visit Mike Gendron’s website, Proclaiming the Gospel ministries, “for over 34 years, Mike was a devout Roman Catholic. That all changed in 1981 while attending an evangelical seminar when he realized the Bible is the supreme authority for knowing truth. He exchanged his religion for a relationship with His all-sufficient Savior, preaches the gospel for a living, and hasn’t looked back.” Discover the Testimonies of former Catholics and priests, Confronting Catholic beliefs with the Word of God and the latest news from his blog.
The stage is Being Set
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was. (2 Timothy 3).
As world religions unite, we are also seeing the rise of World Government. Big techs are telling us that “we are connecting the world”. Our governments are setting agendas for mass surveillance of humanity, and are using China and India, as a testing ground, the same system is also being used against Chinese Christians and steps are being taken to have a Cashless society. These things are happening in preparation for a total control of humanity through governance, religion and economy. The 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic has made many of these systems possible in real-time and the elites are setting agendas to take full advantage of the situation, by controlling all aspects of our life.
Increasingly, we are seeing the control of media and Big Tech giants while governments put in place laws to prohibit free speech and labelling it as “hate crimes” that are then enforced by the media and big techs. The public are kept distracted with endless 24 hours news shows and print media that offers the latest shenanigans of Trump, constant steam of the left versus right politics, climate change, activism, etc. If we dare to question the official narrative, we are given fact checkers; rebutted here and here. The stage is being set for the man of lawlessness to make himself the central person of worship (2 Thessalonians 2:1–12).
Today, the push for unity and conformity is being formed at breakneck speed and it is difficult to keep track. Rarely is Christians news covered in the main stream media. Furthermore, it is becoming difficult, due to censorship and hate speech laws, to speak on issues facing Christians and to publicly defend the faith, but many of these issues are nothing compared to the suffering experienced by Christians today in the Middle East, China, Africa and Asia, and the early Christians and apostles.
Church, what does it mean?
In modern English the word church is used to signify a building, a place of worship, those who profess to be Christians, and a denomination. The biblical understanding is that the word congregation is a translation of the Greek work ekklesia, which is defined as “called-out ones”. The same phrase was used by Stephen in Acts 7:38 which states “This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us” before he was stoned.
The word “Church” is derived from the Greek “Kryiakon” meaning “The Lords House”. In Romans 16:5 Paul says, “Greet the church that is in their house.” Just as Israel was set apart, “called-out ones”, from the nations, we as Christians are also the “called-out ones” that represents the Body of Christ.
Just as Israel travelled with the portable tabernacle, that represented God's presence, in the Wilderness of Sinai, after they were delivered from physical bondage, we too as Christians are delivered from the spiritual bondage from the “law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2, Galatians 5:1). The Old Testament of the tabernacle was the shadow of a better tabernacle. The New Testament sees the tabernacle and its ceremonies as symbolising the saving work of Jesus Christ in his incarnation and death and in the experience of believers (Hebrews 8:2–5 and 9:2–26) for “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:7) and again “Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:5-18).
As Christians, we must rise above politics and the opinions of this world, which is full of hatred, division and lawlessness. Even in Christian media, we allow us to be consumed by the latest breaking news (I have been guilty of that!), the latest scandal etc and we forget that we have been called to be a light to nations and communities, to oppose darkness with the Truth of God’s Word. These are distractions, it devours our time! We have replaced love with opinion pieces rather than the Word of God. I’ve read articles, of well-known respected ministers, calling people “savages”, “barbarians”, “thugs” and so on, while using scriptures to define them and then proclaim that “Jesus loves you”. We forget their humanity, that we are called to bring the love of Jesus and to proclaim His message. We forget that it is the enemy that is pulling the strings, and that these people are in bondage, needing Jesus to free them. Our foremost goal is to “love God” and our “neighbour” irrelevant of their colour, belief system, culture, gender, sexuality and politics. These things only distort the truth, which is the reality that Jesus is the only “Way, Truth and Life” and that He came that they may have “Life”.
We have to reach out to people just as Jesus did; and He was mocked and despised for it. As we are living in these perilous times more than ever, we need to show the fruit of the Spirit, the love of Jesus, and to provide a way out for these troubled souls, we know what the acts of the flesh are (Galatians 5: 19-26). We don’t need endless commentaries to tell us this, but we confront these lies and oppose every form of evil, but our weapon is not made of flesh but is spiritual (Ephesians 6:10-20). Many are lonely, fearful, sick, confused, poor, full of hate and oppressed. This is what the Gospel is about. Jesus said:
“18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
I believe that things will get worse for Christians. We will be persecuted in the Western countries, maybe not like Christians in China, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, where people die for their faith, but it will be persecution of the mind. It will be a civic persecution i.e. your job, family, ability to witness to others, being jailed for civic reasons because we dare to uphold God’s Word rather than Caesar’s. We will be faced with the same choice given to John and Peter, when civic powers tell us “never to mention His name, again”. How will we respond? Will we lie to ourselves and opt to be “wise”? I highly recommend you watch this video – it is the testimony of Mohammad Yamout, former Sunni Muslim, and now serving as a community Pastor in the streets of Tyre, in Lebanon. Please pray and support him.
The Light of Christ’s Gospel
4 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Cast Down but Unconquered
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So then death is working in us, but life in you.
13 And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, 14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
Seeing the Invisible
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4)