HISTORY OF GOD’S ORIGINAL CHURCH. What does Church history have to do with Xmas? It shows us it was one of the pagan practices added. Let’s review the origins of the true and the false churches. HISTORY OF GOD’S ORIGINAL CHURCH. THE EPHESIAN ERA – 31–100 A.D.
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What does Church history have to do with Xmas? It shows us it was one of the pagan practices added. Let’s review the origins of the true and the false churches.
THE EPHESIAN ERA – 31–100 A.D.
“To the…church of Ephesus, write, “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars, and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolatians, which I also hate” (Rev. 2:1-6).
The book of Acts shows us God’s original church started in Jerusalem and then went to Samaria.
From there the gospel spread throughout the Roman Empire and beyond.
But in Samaria, Simon Magus became a convert and then rejected God’s truths. Later writers mentioned he vowed to build his own Christian church.
In Acts 8, Luke reveals the leader who later established the counterfeit Christian religion—Simon Magus. This is one of the reasons the Apostles in their Church letters mention the false system as already in existence. Paul says, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (2 Thes. 2:7). This group is identified by the risen Christ in Revelation 2:6 as “the Nicolatians,” a sect historians trace to Simon Magus and his followers.
Hastings’ Dictionary of the Apostolic Church says Simon Magus was "a false Messiah, who practiced magical arts and subsequently attempted, by the aid and with the sanction of Christianity, to set up a rival universal religion" (Vol. 11, p. 514).
What Luke tells us about Simon Magus: Acts 8:9-23
Dr. Ernest Martin, an expert on Simon Magus, explains:
1) Simon was a Samaritan, not a Jew. The Bible tells us salvation is of the Jews--not of Samaritans (John 4:22). Samaritans practiced a mixture of Babylonian and biblical religions.
2) Simon Magus used demonic powers to do miracles.
3) The whole population of Samaria gave heed to him and looked to him as a great prophet.
4) The Samaritans worshipped him as "the Great One"-- or a god, and he practiced his power for a long time.
5) Luke tells us Simon Magus nominally became a Christian and was baptized -- that is, he outwardly "entered" the Christian Church and knew its truths.
6) Simon recognized that Christ’s power was greater than his but wanted to associate with that great name and power.
7) Simon, waited until the authorities, Peter and John, came to Samaria and then offered to pay them money to obtain that power and an apostleship in the Church.
8) Peter perceived that Simon was in the "gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity [lawlessness]." William Ramsay says, "Peter rebuked him in strong and prophetic terms. The prophecy is concealed in the ordinary translation: the Greek means ‘you are for a gall of bitterness and a fetter of unrighteousness” (Pictures of the Apostolic Church, p. 60).
Lange’s Commentary adds: "Peter’s words literally mean: ‘I regard you as a man whose influence will be like that of bitter gall [poison] and a bond of unrighteousness [lawlessness]’" (Vol. 9, p. 148).
9) Even after Peter’s strong rebuke, Simon did not repent! And Peter knew that he wouldn’t!
Conclusion: Simon thought he deserved to be an apostle in the Christian Church. He became baptized which, in a physical way, made him a "member." But he did not repent of his errors and with his later followers--called himself “a Christian.” It is because of the later deceptive activities of this would-be apostle that Luke was compelled to show his ignominious beginning and to reveal what Peter prophesied about him.
This prophecy is the KEY that opens to our understanding the ORIGINS of the heresies mentioned in the letters of the Apostles.
No wonder Jude later says, speaking about the very men who followed Simon Magus (including Simon himself): "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation" (Jude 4). See also the prophecy of the wheat & tares in Mt. 13.
The later history of Simon Magus shows that Peter’s prophecy came true in a most remarkable way as Simon Magus made his way to Rome.
The Dictionary of Christian Biography says about Simon Magus, "When Justin Martyr wrote [152 A.D.] his Apology, the sect of the Simonians appears to have been formidable, for he speaks four times of their founder, Simon; and we need not doubt that he identified him with the Simon of the Acts.
“He states that he was a Samaritan…a formidable magician, and tells that he came to ROME in the days of Claudius Caesar (45 A.D.), and made such an impression by his magical powers, THAT HE WAS HONORED AS A GOD, a statue being erected to him on the Tiber, between the two bridges, bearing the inscription ‘Simoni deo Sancto’ (i.e., the holy god Simon)" (Vol. 4, p. 682).
Hastings adds, "But it need NOT be supposed that when Simon broke with the Christians he renounced all he had learned. It is more probable that he carried some of the Christian ideas with him, and that he wove these into a system of his own. This system did contain some of the later germs of Gnosticism.
“Thus he became a leader of a retrograde sect, perhaps nominally Christian, and certainly using some of the Christian terminology but in reality anti-Christian and exalting Simon himself to the central position which Christianity was giving to Jesus Christ" (Vol. 2, p. 496).There was a Simon in Rome, but not Simon Peter!
Historian Jesse Hurlbut writes, “For fifty years after St. Paul’s life, a curtain hangs over the church, through which we vainly strive to look;
and when at last it rises, about 120 A.D., with the writings of the earliest church fathers, we find a church in many aspects very different from that in the days of St. Peter and St. Paul” (Story of the Christian Church, p. 41).
This is when Simon Magus and his successors took advantage.
A curtain falls around 70 A.D.
When it rises again around 120 A.D., it is a very different church.
THE SMYRNA ERA 100-325 A.D.
“I know your troubles; I know that you are poor---but really you are rich! I know the evil things said against you by those who claim to be Jews but are not; they are a group that belongs to Satan!
Don't be afraid of anything you are about to suffer. Listen! The Devil will put you to the test by having some of you thrown into prison, and your troubles will last ten days. Be faithful to me, even if it means death, and I will give you life as your prize of victory” (Rev. 2:9-11, Good News version).
Church historian Lamson says of the writings of most of the 2nd century Christian writers, called Church fathers: “Many of them were learned, but few of them knew how to apply their learning to any good purpose…
“The theology of most of them exhibited a strange and unnatural union of Christian doctrines with the philosophy taught in the Platonic schools of Alexandria, the most worthless that ever tasked the speculative intellect; and they were, almost without exception, addicted to the fanciful modes of interpretation, and particularly the allegorizing spirit. There is no species of absurdity, in the interpretation, reasoning, faith, or opinion, of which their writings do not furnish abundance of examples” (Church of the First Three Centuries).
2nd Century -- Church historian Henry Chadwick: “Victor of Rome’s intervention in 190 [to change the Passover to Easter] was successful…But it was a long time before those who kept [Passover] on the 14th day (nicknamed Quartodecimans) died out. The group still existed in the 9th century despite the vigor of church councils that deplored them…
There can be little doubt that the Quartodecimans were right in thinking they had preserved the most ancient and apostolic custom. They had become heretics simply by being behind the times” (The Early Church, p. 85).
In the 3rd Century, “The renewed zeal of the true followers of Christ was accompanied with an increase among the number of apostate Christians. The breach between the true Church of God and the sects was widening, and the churches were taking form, which eventually materialized into the Roman Catholic church and the Greek Catholic church.
“The holy Sabbath was still observed in the true church in this century, and was generally retained by many of the sects which had sprung up in this and the preceding centuries” (Dugger & Dodd, A True History of the True Church, pp. 70-72).
The 4th Century -- On 312 A.D., in the eve of a battle, Constantine had a vision and saw a cross of light imposed over the sun. Attached to it was the saying: “In this sign you shall conquer.”
The prophetic 10 years of terrible persecution of the Smyrna Church under Diocletian was from 303 to 313.
In 325 A.D., Constantine gave support to the Roman Catholic Church. By 380, it was compulsory to be a Catholic.
4th Century – British historian Adrian Hilton writes, “It was not until Constantine began a process of syncretism that Christians began to understand the nature of the beast which was evolving. The Saturday Sabbath was replaced by Constantine’s edict forbidding work on ‘the venerable day of the sun’ (Sunday), and the celebration of the Passover was declared illegal—on pain of death.
“It was replaced by ‘Easter,’ celebrated on a Sunday and inherited from a Babylonian cult to the goddess Ishtar. The Roman pseudo-Christianity caused many faithful believers to flee into the mountains of Europe and Asia Minor to escape persecution and death, and there they continued, away from the world’s view, as the true church of Christ” (The Principality & Power of Europe, 1997).
“The type of Christianity which first was favored, then raised to leadership by Constantine was that of the Roman Papacy. But this was not the type of Christianity that first penetrated Syria, northern Italy, southern France, and Great Britain.
“The ancient records of the first believers in Christ in those parts, disclose a Christianity which is not Roman, but from Palestine and Asia Minor” (B.G. Wilkinson, Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, pp. 25-26).
Dr. Samuel Bacchiocchi: “Let us note that the Church of Rome pioneered not only the observance of Sunday and Easter-Sunday, but also the new date of December 25 for the celebration of Christ’s birth.
In fact the first explicit indication that on the 25th of December Christians celebrated Christ’s birthday, is found in the Chronograph of 354 A.D. (300 yrs. later).
“The adoption of the date of December 25th for the celebration of Christ’s birth shows not only of the influence of the Sun-cult, but also of the primacy exerted by the Church of Rome in promoting the adoption of the pagan holidays of the Day of the Sun and the birthday of the Invincible Sun held on December 25.”