Satan's Great Deception -- Part 8
Why Israel was Deceived
Why did God allow Israel, which He Himself had called out of "Babylon" (Egypt), to be deceived? In Leviticus chapter 26, God said He would bless Israel above all nations if they would obey Him -- five would chase a hundred of their enemies and one hundred would put ten thousand to flight (verse eight); they would dwell safely (verse 5) and have much material wealth (verse 10). He reminded them that He had brought them out of Egypt, the land where they had learned the Devil-inspired worship of old Babylon, and had been in captivity both to this pagan religion and to the Egyptians.
God, bringing them out, warned them that if they would not obey Him, He would punish them more than other nations of the earth; they would be slain before their enemies (verse 17), suffer famine (verse 25), and be scattered among the heathen (verse 33). He would punish them "seven times" (verse 18) -- each "time" a year of 360 days, and each day a year -- a total of 2520 years.
We have seen that they were deceived by the Devil into worshipping his idols. God says, "They rebelled against Me . . . neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt . . . they walked not in My statutes . . . My sabbaths were greatly polluted . . . I lifted up Mine hand . . . that I would scatter them among the heathen" (Ezek. 20:8, 13, 23).
God did "scatter them among the heathen." The ten tribes, Israel, "worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal . . . therefore the Eternal was angry with Israel, and removed them" (II Kings 17:16-18). Israel was taken captive by the Assyrians, the ancestors of modern Austria and Germany. And as the Assyrian king was ruler of Babylon and other areas, he repopulated Israel's country with people from these countries (II Kings 17:24). Israel later migrated from Assyria. She was scattered into the "Babylonish" world -- the pagan world that was saturated with the customs of old Babylon and the Mysteries of Semiramis -- they were scattered in the world of Babylon the Great (Rev. 18:2). The two tribes (Judah) were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon about a hundred and thirty-five years later because of the same sins.
Why did God allow all of this? We need not guess -- the Bible, as usual, tells us. It is explained hundreds of years later in the New Testament times. Stephen, speaking to the Jews, the present-day descendants of Judah, said: "Our fathers would not obey, but thrust Him (God) from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt . . . then God . . . gave them up to worship the host of heaven" (Acts 7:39, 42). Continuing with verse 43 in the Moffatt translation, "So now I will transport you beyond Babylon." God was doing this. God says He has fixed the nations allotted periods, and boundaries of the nations (Acts 17:26).
Why then did He remove Israel? Paul says of Israel, "with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters . . . and they are written for our admonition" (I Cor. 10:5-7, 11). Idolatry is defined as worship of anything that is not God (Webster's Columbia Reference Dictionary ). God is building historical examples of the great penalty of worshipping anything other than Him, and of the great reward for worshipping Him only!
Remember, Abraham worshipped God only after God called him. Through these many historical examples, God was building for the time when He will really start to save the people of this earth. He was then using Israel as this example to the world, just as He had used the people existing at the time of the Flood!
Satan Knows He Has But a Short Time
God has allotted six thousand years for Satan to rule and deceive this earth. The demons knew this time was not up when Christ came the first time. They asked Christ, "Art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?" (Matt. 8:29).
Satan was well aware of the importance of Christ's first coming to this earth. He knew hundreds of years in advance what it would do to his own rule! Note this prophecy! "A great red dragon . . . stood before the woman . . . to devour her child as soon as it was born" (Rev. 12:3-4). It was primarily Satan's idea to destroy Christ and save his own kingdom. Herod, who sought to slay the infant Jesus, was only a tool of Satan. Later Satan tried to influence Christ to worship him when he tempted Him in the wilderness (Matt. 4:8-9). Had Christ yielded, the devil could have retained his rule! Christ would not have ruled this earth as God's representative, for He would instead have been serving Satan (verse 10). Had Christ yielded to Satan's temptation, Christ would have had to pay with His own life for His own sin (Rom. 6:23).
But Christ resisted! And He thereby made salvation possible for humanity.
When Satan saw Christ "caught up unto God" (Rev. 12:5), he knew he was defeated.
Satan became wrathful with Christ's Church. And especially is he angry today! God warns of Satan's deceptions now! "Woe to the inhabiters of the earth . . . for the Devil is come down unto you having great wrath, because he knoweth he hath but a short time . . ." (Rev. 12:12).
The Devil knows his period of rule is now almost up -- he has but a short time. He is even now casting out a torrent of false doctrines. He would have succeeded in destroying the early True Church entirely, had it not been for divine, supernatural, intervention (verse 6). Even so, only a "remnant" -- a very small number -- are to be left keeping the commandments of God. "The Dragon" (Satan, see verse 9) "was wroth . . . and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 12:17).
God watches over this earth in as far as His overall plan and immutable laws are concerned. But Satan is allowed to rule it through suggestion until Christ's second coming. Satan now is intensely active and he has all but a remnant -- a very small number -- deceived!
Perversion of the True Church Teachings
Have you ever noticed Ephesians 2:19-20? This scripture tells us that the household of God is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone."
Do you really grasp the meaning of this? Whatever Christ or the apostles of this original Church taught or did, we must do today if we are going to belong to the household of God! If Satan could counterfeit or otherwise delude people from following these original, true Church practices, he would destroy their hope of salvation! He would thus strike at the very foundation of the purpose of God's creation -- Sons of God who are to rule with Him! No wonder Satan started to strike at the teachings of God from the very time of Adam and Eve!
We have already seen how the Mysteries of Semiramis -- the pagan counterfeit of Christianity -- were everywhere when the true Church was founded. Did these seep in? Paul wrote the Thessalonians "the Mystery of iniquity doth already work" (II Thes. 2:7). Semiramis' Mysteries had started to infiltrate the teachings of Christ and the apostles. But they did not infiltrate the headquarters Church at Jerusalem during the time the apostles were there. This Church of God, whose practices are recorded in the New Testament for our benefit, became the example for all to follow. Both Christian Gentile and Jew scattered abroad "became followers of the Churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus" (I Thes. 2:14).
Yet notice what happened!
Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, p. 389, says, "It was natural that the primitive tradition of a Church which was founded [little more than] forty days after the death of Christ, and was governed almost as many years under the immediate inspection of His apostles, should be received as the standard of orthodoxy."
The Bible tells us, as we have seen, that this Church was to be the standard or foundation for all future Churches of the True God. What they did, we are to do. Gibbon, the authoritative historian, discovers this same fact.
Where, then, were the Mysteries creeping in? In the outlying Churches. In the Church at Ephesus -- idolatrous practices (Rev. 2:6); in the church at Pergamos -- the doctrine of Balaam (Rev. 2:14); in the Church at Thyatira -- idols (Rev 2:20). These are a few of the examples pointed out to us by the Bible.
How did this perversion of the Gospel come about? Here is the answer of history! "The Jewish converts who laid the foundations of the Church, soon found themselves overwhelmed by the increasing multitudes that from all the various religions of polytheism [religions having many pagan gods] enlisted under the banner of Christ" (Gibbon, vol. I, chap. 15). Edward Gibbon further states that these pagans, when they first associated with members, asked the upright Christian members to tolerate their pagan practices. Later, after they became greater in number, they became INtolerant of the true teachings. Thus paganism crept in.
Are Majority Deceived Today?
Are all to enter the Kingdom of God now? Doesn't the Bible say, "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the Kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it" (Luke 16:16)? "Doesn't this mean all must be saved now or be lost forever?" some ask. This would be true if the Bible did not have other scriptures amplifying this same subject. Scripture shows that God, as part of His great purpose, has allowed the spiritual blindness of the vast majority now. God has given the Gentiles over to a reprobate, or blinded, mind (Rom. 1:28). The god of this age -- Satan -- has been allowed to blind the minds of those who do not believe (II Cor. 4:4). All of Israel (except a very small number) are now blinded (Rom. 11:7) and have been given over to their own laws that are not good (Ezek. 20:25).
Did you know that Christ spoke in parables lest this blindness should be removed from the people of His day? (Mark 4:11-12). But in the 1000 years of the world tomorrow, God says He will remove all blindness. "He will destroy . . . the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations (Isa. 25:7). But you personally can, if you are repentant, pray to God that He will remove this blindness from you (Matt. 7:7).
Since the beginning of this world, God has called only a few in various times. God removed the blindness from them and they saw the truth and accepted salvation. Enoch, Abraham, and David are examples. The few are called now (I Cor. 1:2). For what purpose were they called? Christ will use them -- as well as the New Testament Church -- to rule and instruct the unsaved when He comes (Rev. 2:26, 5:10).
How False Churches Arose From Apostatizing Congregations of True Church
"Just how, step by step, did the pagan customs get into the churches of today?" you ask. We shall now see the unbelievable answer. The professing Christians of apostolic and post-apostolic times " . . . found a new occupation in the government of church . . . The ambition of raising themselves or their friends to offices of the church was disguised by . . . laudable intention" (Gibbon, vol. I, chap. 15). Selfishness was beginning to assert itself in a strong way within the early Church.
Gibbon shows that the Churches and their daughter congregations which had been founded through the work of the apostles began to form themselves into larger and larger groupings. Faithful members were ex-communicated. The size of the town within the boundaries of a group of churches had much to do with the power exercised by this group.
Naturally Rome, being the largest city, became the headquarters of this system of pseudo-Christianity. In the struggle for influence there arose among the elders at Rome, a Roman "pontiff" who gradually became the supreme head of these congregations. In order to increase church membership and power, a patronizing attitude was taken toward both pagans and "Christians." "Worship, at first very simple, was developed into elaborate, stately, imposing ceremonies having all the outward splendor that belonged to the heathen temples . . . The Imperial church of the 4th and 5th centuries had become an entirely different institution from the persecuted Church of the first three centuries. In its ambition to rule, it lost and forgot the spirit of Christ" (Halley's Pocket Bible Handbook, p. 671). The true teachings of Christ were cast aside!
"To conciliate the pagans to nominal Christianity, Rome, pursuing its usual policy, took measures to get the Christian and pagan festivals amalgamated, and, by a complicated but skillful adjustment of the calendar, it was found no difficult matter, in general, to get paganism and Christianity -- now far sunk in idolatry . . . to shake hands" (Hislop's The Two Babylons, p. 105).
The parent of present-day religion was taking form!
The famous advice of Pope Gregory I was that "by all means they should meet the pagans half-way, and so bring them into the Roman Church" (Hislop, p. 113). Note this was to be done by a fusion of fragments of truth with overwhelming error.
"If, in the beginning of the fifth century, Tertullian or Lacrantius [early Catholics] had been suddenly raised from the dead, to assist at the festival of some popular saint or martyr, they would have gazed with astonishment and indignation on the profane spectacle which had succeeded to the pure and spiritual worship of a Christian congregation" (Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. V, chap. 27).
Indeed, the forerunner of present day churches had departed far from the practices of the Church in Judea which the New Testament describes for us. But let us consider more evidence of the paganism of this Transition Church which stands midway in the path of development of Protestants and other churches of today. These contradicting and competing churches claim they go completely back to the original New Testament Church, but they hide the facts that they observe festivals and practices derived from paganism which are found in the Roman Church.
Paganism supposedly "disappeared" in the Roman area about 450 A.D. "So rapid, yet so gentle was the fall of paganism, that only twenty-eight years after the death of Theodosius, the faint and minute vestiges were no longer visible to the eye of the legislator" (Gibbon, vol. V, chap. 28). Where did paganism go? Gieseler's Ecclesiastical History, vol. II, p. 40, 45, has the answer. "In exact proportion as paganism has disappeared from without the church, in the very same proportion it appears within it."
Hear what Hislop (p. 224) has to say: "The system, first concocted in Babylon, and thence conveyed to the ends of the earth, has been modified and diluted in different ages and countries. In Papal Rome only is it now found nearly pure and entire." The system is a "Mystery" as we have seen. How does it masquerade? "It (Rome) . . . admits Christian terms and names; but all that is apparently Christian in its system, is more than neutralized by the malignant paganism that it embodies" (Hislop, p. 282).
Mankind on earth today is deceived by Christian-sounding names that Satan has put on practices of his own devilish system! Indeed Satan is active -- more active than ever!
Small Church of God and Great False Church
We have now seen how the old Babylonian system of Semiramis and Nimrod engulfed the true teachings of Christ and the apostles within a relatively short time after Christ's death. We have read that only a remnant -- a very small number -- are to keep the commandments of God (Rev. 12:17).
Down through the centuries have come two different churches, side by side, described by the Bible. One is the true little Church, always persecuted -- "If they persecuted Me they will also persecute you" Christ said in John 15:18-20. It has been so scattered, that it has seemed almost invisible -- the members often not knowing each other (Acts 6:1, 8:1; Rev. 12:6, 15; Dan. 12:7; Ezek. 34). These are they who keep the commandments of God.
But the other is the Great Church -- that Great False Church described as a great whore (Rev. 17:1) who has wielded great power in this, Satan's world (verses 2, 15). She will continue to do so with suddenly increasing power, now for a short time (verses 12, 18). She is described as the mother who has given rise to many protesting denominations (verse 5).
Daughter Churches Blinded
The woman sitting on the beast in Revelation 17:3 is a world-ruling church. On her forehead is the name "Mystery Babylon The Great, The Mother of Harlots" (verse 5).
Who are the Harlots? What offspring has the mother church given rise to? It is well-known that they are Protestants -- "a name given to the party who adhered to Martin Luther during the Reformation in 1529 and protested, or made a solemn declaration of dissent, from the decree of Emperor Charles V and the Diet of Spires . . . The name now applied generally to those Christian denominations that differ from the Church of Rome and sprang from the reformation" (Roach and Robertson's New Practical Reference Library, vol. IV, subject, "Reformation").
This same source says of this Reformation that it "is a term applied to a revolt in Europe in the Sixteenth Century against papal supremacy and certain doctrinal tenets of the Church of Rome."
This started similar movements in Hungary, France, England, and Scotland at that time. From these, the various modern Protestant groups have arisen. This, then, is where the Protestant churches of today have originated. They did not begin with Christ!
The Protestant churches come out from Papal Rome where the system, first concocted in old Babylon, is "now found nearly pure and entire" (Hislop, p. 224). By protesting against "certain doctrinal tenets" (Roach and Robertson's New Practical Reference Library, vol. IV, "Reformation") they claimed to get back to the teachings of the New Testament. But they did not do so!
The matter is easily proven. All one has to do is take his New Testament and check point for point what the true Church kept, and what these competing churches are now keeping. Satan has the world's churches deceived now!
Many a church today claims to be founded on "the ancient, original, apostolic Christian Church in its present-day form and appearance" (Karl Kreuschmar's What Lutherans Teach, p. 3). But doctrines foreign to the original true Church are followed, and doctrines followed by the original Church are not observed.
We have seen how Satan, knowing that his time for ruling this earth is now short, quickly substituted the deceptive doctrines of Semiramis' Mysteries for the true doctrines that Christ and His apostles taught. But we have also seen in Scripture, the way by which the few now called can recognize deception.
Satan, using the churches that arose after the apostles' time, was able to deceive the world, but the original Church at Jerusalem has given us The Bible despite all Satan's attempts to have it stamped out.
What God Requires of You
Are you fulfilling God's requirements for salvation? The very fact that you are reading this shows that God is revealing Himself to you. What should you now do?
Consider these facts! The household of God is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone" (Ephesian 2:19-20). Note that what Christ and the apostles said or did was the foundation for the household or Kingdom of God. If one desires to enter the Kingdom of God, composed of spirit beings, he must build his actions on this foundation. God has commanded it! Paul, inspired by God, commanded this to the Ephesians -- converted Gentiles -- after the death of Christ. It is for everyone and is for us now.
Make this comparative "spot check." Beginning with the Book of Acts, there is much concerning how the disciples of Christ founded and conducted the New Testament church. Obtain a Bible concordance and try to look up the words "Christmas" or "Sunday" or "Halloween." (You need not look up these words for they do not appear once in your Bible!) By contrast, look up the word "Sabbath." Then look up the word "Pentecost." Was it being kept? As Christ formed the chief part of this "foundation," the things that He observed are to be kept also. So include the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in this word research. The practices observed by Christ and the apostles were the final instructions to this world. It is time you quit being deceived by false teachers! It is time to wake up to the shocking fact that the churches of today have departed from the doctrines of the ancient, original, apostolic Christian Church!
And it is time to do something about it. Quit these foolish, heathen customs masquerading under Christ's name and begin to OBEY YOUR BIBLE!
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR -- This is a collection of a series of eleven articles originally published in The PLAIN TRUTH in November, 1959 through September, 1960. It was put together in its present form in March, 1996, and revised in September, 1998. The recap (summary) information beginning each of the original articles was the only omissions. May God open your eyes and your heart, and light the way for your feet to follow Him to salvation. God Bless!