Jesus foretold that his own church [Matthew 16:15] or “kingdom” [Matthew 13:41] would become corrupt. He taught the demon Satan would be responsible for this. [Matthew 13:37-39] This fermentation would continue, resulting in scandal and lawlessness, until the Harvest at Christ’s Return and the subsequent parousia-judgment. [Matthew 13:42, 43] Likewise, the inspired disciples of the Nazarene foretold the same thing -- the falling away from the doctrine, order, and worship-devotion of the primitive Church. [Read 2 Peter chapter 2 as an example.]
In this connection Paul predicts that “teachings of demons” would mark such a falling away. He does so in 1 Timothy 4:1-3, “The Pneuma expressly states that in later periods of time some will fall away from the Faith, giving heed to deceptive inspirations and demonic doctrines, and this by means of hypocritical persons who speak lies with a cauterized conscience. They will forbid marriage and command abstinence from certain foods.” In truth priesthood celibacy and refraining from meat on Fridays became part of Church teaching.
Paul identifies other teachings, which could be characterized as “teachings of demons.” For example, in 2 Timothy 2:16-18: “However, continue shunning worldly, futile phrases because such will lead on to greater depths of irreverence. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Hymenaeus and Philetus are this type. They have left the path of the truth and preach that the resurrection has already begun. They play havoc with the Faith.” [Modern Versions]
The beloved apostle John also identifies teachings which he associates with “antichrists.” Consider what he has to say as what he calls the approach of “the last hour.” [1 John 2:18-21; 4:1-3] -
“Young spiritual children, it is the final hour. As you have heard already, the antichrist is coming. Already many antichrists have materialized. It is from this we know it is the final hour. These antichrists abandoned us because there were never really part of us. If they really had been part of us they would have stayed with us. In order to manifest these antichrists and make it clear they were never part of us. All of you have an anointing from the Holy One have an intimate relationship with Him. ... My dearly beloved friends, do not put your trust in every ‘inspiration’. Rather, test out these ‘inspirations’ to know whether they originate with God. The need for this is because many false prophets have proceeded from the world. This is the way you will recognize the inspiration of God: every inspiration that confesses Jesus Christ came in the flesh has its source in God.” [21st Century Version of the Christian Scriptures - NCMM]
It was within two hundred years that many Christian church fathers adopted Greek philosophies -- really older Egyptian teachings. These included doctrines on the “nature” of God, the immortality of the human soul, and, eternal torment of the damned.
Paul describes Satan as the “god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the Gospel’s enlightenment concerning the Christ -- the image of God -- may no longer shine.” [2 Corinthians 4:4] One of Satan’s major instruments for blinding believers are those “weeds” -- or, children of the Wicked One -- right there within the Church itself. [Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Corinthians 11:14, 15] Some of these teachers would crave worldly honors, and not satisfied with the Bible’s simple answers, create doctrines which found approval among the world’s philosophical thinkers. This also served as a tool to control the Church in general: by creating doctrines that were “mysteries” these elders elevated themselves above the church membership. It was not long before the bishops of the Church claimed only they could determine doctrine and that God was using them as His channel. [2 Thessalonians 2:3-9]
Jesus described Satan as the “father of the lie.” [John 8:44] The very first lie told in Eden was, “You will not die.” [Genesis 3:4] While it was God who told disobedient Adam, “Dust you are and to dust you will return.” [Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:19-21] The Bible does not teach that the human soul is immortal, nor that God torments the wicked in an eternal fire. Plato writes: "Do we believe that there is such a thing as death? . . . Is it not the separation of soul and body? And to be dead is the completion of this; when the soul exists in herself, and is released from the body and the body is released from the soul, what is this but death? . . . And does the soul admit of death? No. Then the soul is immortal? Yes." [Plato's "Phaedo," Secs. 64, 105, as published in Great Books of the Western World (1952), edited by R. M. Hutchins, Vol. 7, pp. 223, 245, 246]
Where did these doctrines find their origin? Since it was not with God we may judge it was from a demonic source. What to scholars and their commentaries report?
"The concept of immortality is a product of Greek thinking, whereas the hope of a resurrection belongs to Jewish thought. . . . Following Alexander's conquests Judaism gradually absorbed Greek concepts." [Dictionnaire Encyclopédique de la Bible (Valence, France; 1935), edited by Alexandre Westphal, Vol. 2, p. 557]
"Immortality of the soul is a Greek notion formed in ancient mystery cults and elaborated by the philosopher Plato." [Presbyterian Life, May 1, 1970, p. 35]
"The problem of immortality, we have seen, engaged the serious attention of the Babylonian theologians. . . . Neither the people nor the leaders of religious thought ever faced the possibility of the total annihilation of what once was called into existence. Death was a passage to another kind of life." [The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria (Boston, 1898), M. Jastrow, Jr., page 556]
Encyclopaedia Judaica reports on the source of these doctrines: "It was probably under Greek influence that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul came into Judaism. ... Basically the two beliefs of resurrection and the soul's immortality are contradictory. The one refers to a collective resurrection at the end of the days, i.e., that the dead sleeping in the earth will arise from the grave, while the other refers to the state of the soul after the death of the body. ... It was held that when the individual died his soul still lived on in another realm (this gave rise to all the beliefs regarding heaven and hell) while his body lay in the grave to await the physical resurrection of all the dead here on earth."
Regarding the doctrine of the Trinity -- described by the Catholic Church as the “central doctrine of Christianity” -- commentaries also credit pagan sources and Greek philosophy for this doctrine.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia states: "The formulation 'one God in three Persons' was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title the Trinitarian dogma. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective." [(1967), Vol. XIV, p. 299]
In The Encyclopedia Americana we read: "Christianity derived from Judaism and Judaism was strictly Unitarian [believing that God is one person]. The road which led from Jerusalem to Nicea was scarcely a straight one. Fourth century Trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was, on the contrary, a deviation from this teaching." [(1956), Vol. XXVII, p. 294L]
According to the Nouveau Dictionnaire Universel, "The Platonic trinity, itself merely a rearrangement of older trinities dating back to earlier peoples, appears to be the rational philosophic trinity of attributes that gave birth to the three hypostases or divine persons taught by the Christian churches. . . . This Greek philosopher's [Plato, fourth century BCE] conception of the divine trinity . . . can be found in all the ancient [pagan] religions." [(Paris, 1865-1870), edited by M. Lachâtre, Vol. 2, p. 1467.]
John L. McKenzie, S.J., in his Dictionary of the Bible, says: "The trinity of persons within the unity of nature is defined in terms of 'person' and 'nature' which are G[ree]k philosophical terms; actually the terms do not appear in the Bible. The Trinitarian definitions arose as the result of long controversies in which these terms and others such as 'essence' and 'substance' were erroneously applied to God by some theologians." [(New York, 1965), p. 899.]
For more details on what the Bible teaches about death and the Trinity see the online publications, Where Are the Dead? and De Trinitatis Erroribus in Nazarene Commentary.
The above would strongly point to the source of inspiration for many doctrines within Christendom as being Satanic or demonic. Near the end of the year 100 CE the beloved apostle John warned the Christian Church: “Test inspirations whether they originate with God because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.” [1 John 4:1] How can we do this in this advanced age of the Church when so many “teachings of demons” prevail?
First, when we read something published or printed by Church teachers, do what John directed above: test them. Paul did not object to having his teachings examined as to their authenticity. Acts 17:2, 3, 11 records: “Paul reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and quoting passages to prove that it was a necessity for Messiah to suffer and rise from the dead. ... They accepted the message most eagerly and made a daily study of the Scriptures so see if what Paul said was true.” We may “test” what we hear, first by the Scriptures. If we find a teaching or doctrine is not found in the Bible, we may wonder where such a thing originated. Often a simple study of encyclopedias will reveal the true background of a doctrine, ceremony, or holiday.
Some may argue that such a stand -- calling certain Christian doctrines as “teachings of demons” -- is too harsh and that doctrines should not divide Christians. Well, the truth is, the Church is already divided into ten thousand sects, one often calling the other a “cult.” [1 Corinthians 1:10] We have seen that Paul already had predicted that such “teachings of demons” would arise with the falling away from the Faith. [1 Timothy 4:1-3] Paul warned that these erroneous teachings would lead others astray from the truth. [2 Timothy 2:16-18]
How can we expect the Devil to corrupt the Christian Church? Things Satanic and demonic do not always appear obvious. Paul writes in this regard to the Corinthian church: “I fear that just as the Serpent beguiled Eve by its craftiness, your minds might also be corrupted away from the simple purity belonging to the Christ. ... I wish to remove the claim of those [Corinthian elders] who wish to give the impression they are equal with us in the apostolic office. These [elders] are pseudo apostles, deceptive workers, changing themselves in Christ’s apostles. This should not surprise you because Satan himself continues to change himself into an angel of light. It is not difficult, then, for Satan’s ministers to continually change themselves into ministers of righteousness. However, their end will be in harmony with their deeds.” [2 Corinthians 11:3, 12-15]
Thus, every disciple must be on guard against the deceptive teachings and prophecies of some within the Christian Church. Jesus himself warned that it is possible that even some of the Elect could be misled. Consider his warnings in the Gospels: “Be on the watch you are never misled. Because many will come claiming my authority, preaching, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not join their ranks. ... For pseudo anointed and false prophets will rise with signs and miracles to mislead, if even possible, the Elect. You watch out. I have warned you about all this in advance.” [Luke 21:8; Mark 13:22, 23] Often these demonic teachings contain some complex time-chronology which makes little sense to most people but it nevertheless adopted in trust. The result is not only deception but also generally the loss of finances, and, in the end “great disappointment.”
Why does God permit such teachings within the Church? Paul answers this and gives us two reasons: a) to manifest the approved; and, b) to judge those who do not really love the truth. Note the former in 1 Corinthians 11:17-19: “But, in giving you these injunctions I must mention a practice which I cannot commend. It is actually worse that you even meet as a congregation. My first reason is because when you do gather in assembly I hear that schisms exist among you, and I believe there must be some truth to it. It is necessary, also, that heresies should exist among you so that those approved may become manifest among you.”
By permitting these “schisms” and “heresies” it will be revealed to God who those are who love and stick to the truth as taught by His Son and his inspired disciples. Those who fail will be judged by God because they did not love the truth. [2 Thessalonians 2:3-12]
Paul also cautions several times to avoid those who teach things contrary to that doctrine received from Christ and his apostles. Romans 16:17, 18 reads: “However, I exhort you, brothers, to watch those who cause divisions and scandals against the teaching which you learned and turn away from the. For such persons are not slaving for our Lord Christ. Rather they [slave] for their own bellies. By means of smooth speech and compliments they seduce the hearts of the innocent.” [See notes in Nazarene Commentary.] And in Titus 3:10, 11, he commands: “Shun a heretical person after two warnings. Realize that such a person has been perverted, and in sinning, is self-condemned.” [See Nazarene Commentary 2000©.]
Does this mean there are Christian teachers and Church members that should be avoided in fellowship? Paul gives a lesson to Timothy on this very matter: “Now in a grand house there are vessels of both gold and silver as well as wood and clay. Some of these are used for honorable purposes and some for dishonorable uses. Therefore, if anyone keeps clean from these [dishonorable vessels] will be an honorable vessel, sanctified and useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. So, take your flight from youthful desires and rather pursue righteousness, conviction, loving concern, peacefulness in fellowship with those who call upon the Lord with pure hearts.” [2 Timothy 2:20-22] And a bit later, “They have an appearance of reverence but deny its power. Stay away from these people.” [2 Timothy 3:5]
Jesus once asked his disciples a thought-provoking question: “When the Son of Humankind arrives will he actually find The Faith on earth?” [Luke 18:8] It is our prayer that whenever our Lord comes he will, indeed, find the original faith he started two thousand years ago still alive and vigorous.
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
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