The story of ETs & Demons and the plan to undermine and usurp the Kingdom of God on earth gets all wrapped up in the history of the Church. We ended last time with the mention that as the demographics of the Church began to be dominated by Gentiles, it at the same time began to manifest characteristics of anti-Semitism. The Body of Christ was changing. A little history is necessary to set the framework. The Church of the first century was organized around elders, (sometimes called bishops) and deacons. One respected scholar states the historical consensus that no Church centers, – not even Rome or Corinth, – sported a single presiding bishop. It was only over the course of the next couple of centuries that local elders began rising to the rank of presiding elder or bishop of a church, such as the one at Rome. Over time, the East produced five “important Christian centers” including Alexandria, Jerusalem, Caesarea, Antioch and Constantinople. In the West, there was only Rome. Over time the struggle for ecclesiastical authority between these various bishoprics led to the Church split between East and West. And because it was the one center for the West, Rome ascended to the top. In short, this means that the office of the Papacy was never occupied by Peter, but developed over time. It is not likely that Peter ever even served as pastor of the Church at Rome. As evidenced by Paul’s letter, that church was in existence before Peter even made it there.[i]
Yet over those early centuries we start to see a struggle by the various Bishops, especially those of Rome to assert their authority over the entire Church. The Bishops at Rome began to use the ceremonial authority granted them just by sitting in the seat of imperial Roman power. They began to be given primacy in church councils. Still nothing was settled and as late as the latter 6th century, the Bishop of Constantinople was demanding to be honored as “universal bishop.”[ii] Still by that late hour the writing was on the wall; – thanks in great degree to the sponsorship of the Emperor Constantine and those that followed. Over time the Roman Bishops consolidated their power into a supreme ecclesiastical monarchy. Constantine ushered in a new era in Christianity with the legalization of the Christian faith. It resulted in mass, – and sometimes forced conversions, – the centralization of Church authority; – and a syncretism between Christianity and the pagan practices of the masses.[iii] This was no longer the church of the Apostles. That fact had implications both for the present-day church and for the End Times religion of the Antichrist.
A Little Leaven
“A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” (Galatians 5:9) “For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2Coriinthians 6:14)
In the year 317, the Emperor Constantine of Rome made a decision that changed the direction of, and subsequently the whole historical character of the Christian faith. Caught in a power struggle for the supreme control of the Empire, Constantine responded to a vision of a Cross in the sky and immediately decided to fight under that banner, – the banner of Christ and the Church. In the event, he was victorious in battle. This set the stage for a transformation of both Roman society and the Church.
Though he championed the ‘Christian’ cause, his conversion remains somewhat in doubt, only accepting baptism on his deathbed. Throughout his life he was part of a pagan sun-god cult that worshipped Isis, a Madonna figure with a ‘divine’ son, – that mirrored what would become one of the dominating themes of Catholic theology. He even built a triumphal arch honoring the sun god after his supposed conversion to Christianity.[iv] In any case, Constantine was if nothing else, an astute politician. Genuine or not, he used the Christian faith to unite his empire. His aim was a revival of the religious / civil unified state that had been first dreamt of and established by Nimrod himself in Babylon. He was setting himself up as nearly a priest-king, placing giant statues of himself throughout the empire.
Pagan Friendly Christianity
So as he adopted Christianity he used the power of his office to adapt it to his, and the empires own ends. In 321 he put his approval on a practice that was already customary, moving the Christian day of rest from the Saturday Sabbath to Sunday, the day the Lord rose from the dead. By 430 Church councils had ratified this, making the change compulsory and outlawing any connection with the Jewish Sabbath. Other changes followed. Pagan religious traditions were over the course of time incorporated by the church including; the use of icons, festivals and holidays and rituals. Statues of the Queen mother goddess Isis nursing her child Horus were easily replaced by depictions of the Virgin Mary nursing Jesus at her breast.[v] The ‘Saints’ Peter and Paul replaced Romulus and Remus as the ‘patrons’ of Rome. Christ’s birthday celebration was conveniently celebrated on December 25th, – to coincide with the Sol Invictus festival, – a pagan celebration complete with decorations of green branches and lights and the giving of presents.[vi]
The new church was becoming pagan friendly to accommodate all of the ‘converts’ that were thronging into it by the early 5th century. Many church leaders felt they had to be in order to welcome these former worshipers of the “creature rather than the Creator,” – who brought their superstitions and pagan customs. By order of Gregory the Great, temples were cleansed before being transformed into churches and “devil-sacrifices” were to be replaced “by processions in honor of some saint.” Animal sacrifices were to be continued where necessary. Such were the cavalier orders and attitudes of the presiding church leadership.[vii]
Thus the Church that had once been populated by ‘outsiders’ of the imperial system now became the state church. The Church became dependent on Caesar’s coffers for its support. Formerly, those claiming to be Christians had to be committed to the truth of the faith, as any believers faced persecution and even death for their faith. This had now absolutely reversed itself. Mass and even forced conversions (sometimes of whole army regiments) replaced the Holy Spirit driven ‘change of heart’ that characterized earlier believers. Now out to please the masses, the Church began to assimilate Babylonian ritualism and mysticism. The rosary was adapted. Celibate priests and nuns, – hearkening back to the religious innovations of Semiramis, – made their way on to the scene. All were but imitations of polytheist practice that made their way into the Church.[viii]
Most dangerous to the faith however was the “satanic counterfeit salvation” message that crept into Church teachings. Recall that myth craftily constructed; – that Queen Semiramis, (wife of Nimrod), – was a divine being, and that she gave birth to a son, – a savior of the world, as it were, – who later died and came back to life.. It was the worship of Semiramis that spread across the ancient world, – even as the Queen of Heaven; – a practice specifically forbidden by God in the Bible. In the Roman / Greek system, Semiramis became Diana, – with the giant Temple in Ephesus. [Now huge obelisks were built to honor and symbolize the fertility aspect of this pagan religion. It found its way into Baal worship, which was dealt with extensively by God in the Old Testament. These obelisks (think of a giant phallic symbol) were adopted by Masonry. Masons believe that Nimrod was the spiritual founder of their ancient and mystical brotherhood. It is interesting that one of these obelisks eventually showed up in Rome, placed in front of St Peters, where it remains to this day. But all of this is another story.][ix]
Tim LaHaye, future co-author of the Left Behind series, compiled a list back in 1973 of some of the pagan practices that made their way into the Church during that era. Prayers for the dead, (never a teaching of Biblical Christianity), made their appearance in the year 300. The worship of saints and angels was approved in 375. The Mass first made its appearance in 394. Purgatory was officially declared in 593.[x] Significantly, as noted before, it was in 378 that Bishop Damusus of Rome accepted the title given the head of the here-to-fore Pagan Roman State ‘Church”, – that of Pontifex Maximus. It is the term from which we get the modern day title held by the Pope; – The Pontiff.[xi] That title had been held by the Emperor Constantine, who used that office, – according to one historian of the era, – to maintain “the right to regulate the Christian Church just as he would have regulated paganism.”[xii]
In fact, when Constantine held the office, he set himself up as sort of a ‘Super-Bishop’, influencing and molding the princes of the church to his will as he worked toward a “Romanized Christianity”. It was he who gave special preference to the Bishop of Rome, enduing him with enhanced authority, – under the auspices and approval of the watchful eye of the Emperor. In 325, it was Constantine who sponsored the first of the great ecumenical councils. The Emperor wanted unity, – in the Empire and the Church, – and the councils were the means to enforce that unity. The “independent voice” within the Church was silenced in favor of a “forced ecumenicalism”. Another Church council at Gangra, – again under Constantine, – outlawed “private assemblies outside of the Church.” The layman holding a private religious gathering was declared to be “anathema,” – or damned.
All now was under the control of Rome, – the religious and secular authority in all matters. Armed with the formerly pagan office of Pontiff, the Bishops of Rome accumulated power. As the Empire disintegrated the power of the Bishops and the now supreme Bishop of Rome grew. Over time the new office of Pope added both civil and military authority. It was a marriage of Church and State.[xiii] Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) However both civil and religious authorities became addicted to this compromised arrangement that enhanced power in both spheres.
The Ultimate Compromise
Most notable of all was what came out of the Church Council held in Ephesus in 431. It was this council that established the worship of Mary. As Noah Hutchings puts it, it was after this decree that “sanctioned the worship of the godmother of religion, [that] the churches of Asia became filled with idols.”[xiv] The use of idols or statues in worship is in direct contradiction to God’s Word as laid out in the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 20:4-5 God commands: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.” Romans 1, if you remember, tells us to worship the Creator alone, – not the creature. Bowing down to a “carved image” only cheapens our perception of the reality of just who God is. Recall the words of John 4:24: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
It is this lifting up of the image that links all idol-worshiping religions of all ages; – (Hindus, pagans ancient and modern, as well as those in the Church itself), – to the future supreme idol worship of the Last Days under the Antichrist as described in Revelation 13:14-15. “And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.”
It was from this jumping off point of idol worship that the Church entered what became known as the Dark Ages. Over the course of the following centuries, they wandered farther and farther from the doctrines of the Apostles and the practices and beliefs of the 1st century. Pagan encroachment continued. In 786 the worship of images and relics was instituted. In 850 it was holy water that was borrowed from the pagan playbook. Canonization of dead saints came in 995. Two centuries later Indulgences, (or get out of purgatory free cards) were put up for sale. Later, after the onset of the Protestant Reformation attempted to return the Church to its original teachings, – the Church of Rome declared Tradition as interpreted by the Popes to have equal authority with the Bible and added the Apocryphal books. The Apocrypha were historical, – though not inspired, – works that had never been accepted either by the early Church fathers or by the Rabbinical Jewish authorities. These latter just happened to sport some passages supporting Catholic teachings on Purgatory. Throughout all of this something that the Catholic Encyclopedia even referred to as the “Cultus of Mary” gained in ascendance as Popes or Church councils found more and more “truths” about Jesus’ mother, Mary.[xv]
Over the course of centuries, the organized Church had managed to transform its doctrine from that of the Apostles to a synthesis between Christianity and the paganisms from whence its people were called out. Almost a new faith had been built; – one constructed not so much on Jesus as on the good offices of what was called; The Mother of God. So next, we will look at just where that practice originated and to where it has led.
[i] Dr David Calhoun, Canon, Creed and Bishops, – Ancient & Medieval Church History, Covenant Seminary
[ii] J Michael Gainor, Origins of the Papacy, Homestead
[iii] Dr David Calhoun, The Church in the Fourth Century, – Ancient & Medieval Church History, Covenant Seminary
[iv] Scott Ashley, Modern Christianity’s Forgotten Roots, GN Magazine, Nov / Dec 1997
[v] Scott Ashley, Modern Christianity’s Forgotten Roots, GN Magazine, Nov / Dec 1997
[vi] John Romer, Testament: The Bible and History, 1988, pgs 230-231, – as quoted by Scott Ashley, Modern Christianity’s Forgotten Roots, GN Magazine, Nov / Dec 1997
[vii] John Romer, Testament: The Bible and History, 1988, pg 214, – as quoted by Scott Ashley, Modern Christianity’s Forgotten Roots, GN Magazine, Nov / Dec 1997
[viii] Tim F LaHaye, Revelation: Illustrated and Made Plain, 1973, pg 57
[ix] Noah Hutchings, Babylon In the Church
[x] Tim F LaHaye, Revelation: Illustrated and Made Plain, 1973, pg 57
[xi] Clarence Larkin, Dispensational Truth, pg 140
[xii] Dr Ronald Fanter, Pontifex Maximus (Origin of The Papacy), Cutting Edge Ministries (of Illinois)
[xiii] Dr Ronald Fanter, Pontifex Maximus (Origin of The Papacy), Cutting Edge Ministries (of Illinois)
[xiv] Noah Hutchings, Babylon In the Church
[xv] Tim F LaHaye, Revelation: Illustrated and Made Plain, 1973, pg 68