CLW-17 - How Paganism Merged with Romanism

As we open to Revelation 2:14-15, and see the next section of Christ's message to the saints at Pergamum, the story behind these words actually starts way back in the book of Genesis with the life of Abraham.

Revelation 2:14-15 (NKJV) But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat thingssacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

The saints at Pergamum had gotten too close to the wickedness of the idol worship around them. They had slowly gotten comfortable going back to the old haunts of those idols they had been saved out of and away from. Then, overcome by the temptations and lusts of the flesh, they gave in to sinful practices. Idolatry is very hard to resist.

Beware of Idols

Turn back a few pages with me to the last chapter of 1 John. Always remember that the very last warning the Apostle John gave to the Church was in v. 21:

1 John 5:21 (NKJV) Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

Abraham was Saved from Idolatry

About 2000 B.C. God called Abraham away from all the idolatry of Babylon. Abram lived in Ur of the Chaldees. Babylon was also known as the realm of the Chaldeans. Abram was an idolator, he worshipped the images of the gods of his land. God saved him out of that idol worship. Listen to Joshua:

Joshua 24:2-3 (NKJV) And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the river in old times; and they served other gods. 3 Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the river, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.

God saved Abram from idols, and then God led him into the Promised Land, and gave him the nation of Israel as his descendents.  But a thousand years later, in the ninth century B. C., Israel had returned to the same idol worship Abraham had been saved from, under the influence of wicked Jezebel (see 1 Kings 16:30-33).  At this time the cult was worshiped under the name of Baal.

By the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the idolatrous worship of Babylon's religion, Abraham was saved from, permeated the nation of Israel. Please turn with me to Jeremiah 44.

Jeremiah 44: The Queen of Heaven's Idolatous Religion

The words "queen of heaven" are found in five verses in the Bible (Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-19, 25).

In Jeremiah, we are introduced to this whole idolatrous form of worship.

Jeremiah 44:17-25 (NKJV) But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble. 18 But since we stopped burning incense tothe queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine."19 The women also said, "And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did we make cakes for her, to worship her, and pour out drink offerings to her without our husbands' permission?"

22 So the LORD could no longer bear it, because of the evil of your doings and because of the abominations which you committed. Therefore your land is a desolation, an astonishment, a curse, and without an inhabitant, as it is this day. 

Do you know where the queen of Heaven came from?  It came right out of Egyptian idolatry, Isis and Osiris.  It has nothing to do with the New Testament at all. And if you have ever heard that Roman Catholics say the Queen of Heaven is Mary, and wondered where that came from-look at these words inEzekiel 8:12-16

The prophet Ezekiel is taken by God into the temple, the house of God; and he sees that there are idols there and God is very unhappy.  And just to see what is offending God so greatly, he's shown this scene:

Ezekiel 8:13-14, 16 (NKJV) And He said to me, "Turn again, and you will see greater abominations that they are doing." 14 So He brought me to the door of the north gate of the LORD's house; and to my dismay, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz. 16 So He brought me into the inner court of the LORD's house; and there, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun toward the east.

There it is, the idolatry of Babel exported to Israel: the worship of the virgin goddess in Jeremiah 44, the worship of her son as they were weeping the 40 days awaiting his resurrection in Exekiel 8. 

Semiramis, Lent & Romanism

Let me just give you some interesting details from a book entitled, "The Two Babylons" by Alexander Hislop. The worship of Semiramis throughout history has often had these elements:

  • Semiramis was called the Queen of Heaven;
  • Semiramis was worshipped by the offering of a wafer, or cake;
  • Semiramis began the practice of 40 days of weeping over Tammuz before the feast of celebrating his resurrection. 
  • These mystery cults around Semiramis also had purgatory, which they taught and believed and adhered to. [1]  

The worship of Mary as the Queen of Heaven and the 40 days of Lent for her Son, has no basis in Scripture, but rather developed from the pagan celebration of Semiramis's mourning for forty days over the death of Tammuz before his alleged resurrection-another of Satan's mythical counterfeits.

The majority of those who call themselves Christians in our world today follow a way of worship that would have offended the apostles and early saints.  What do I mean? 

The statues of Mary, calling her the Queen of Heaven, the images of Christ and saints; and all of them being revered with candles and incense burning before them are idolatrous. God through His Word calls each of us to always be on guard and to:

Beware of the New Paganism in the Church

What are some of the pagan rites that have crept into the Church? To name a few would be:

The incense burning before images, the orders of priests and monks that are so contradictory to Christ-like humility, the calendar of observances that each originate with pagan events that have only been reneamed with Christian events, the titles of pagan priests like: Pontifex Maximus, pontiff, vicar, and most excellent.

Then there are also all the pagan originated and never recorded in the Bible practices like: holy water, purgatory, prayers for the dead, indulgences, and so much more. 

All of these names, observances, and practices came directly from the pagans; the very pagans that the early saints tried to convert!  Now look back at our text in Revelation 2:12-17 where we find:

Christ's ADMONITION (v. 14-15)

Revelation 2:14-15 (NKJV) But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

The saints at Pergamum had gotten too close to the wickedness around them. They had slowly gotten comfortable going back to the old haunts they had been saved out of and away from. Then, overcome by the lusts of the flesh, they gave in to sinful practices.

They were not being obedient to the clear commands Christ had already given them, thus they were not pleasing Him. What had Jesus already asked for them to do, and taught them through their pastor's ministry of the Word to them?

2 Corinthians 6:16-17 (NKJV) And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:  "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people." 17 Therefore "Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you."  

Christ said you are in sin "I have few things against you!" 

First, you have Balaam's doctrine = what is that?

  • "Put stumbling block..." Numbers 22-25 records how Moabites contacted Balaam a prophet for hire, he prophesied 4x promising Israel' s conquest of Moab and Christ's coming, they angrily fired him and God killed 24,000 of Israel with a plague.
  • What?  24,000 Israelites killed by God? Yes, that's the doctrine of Balaam, "If you can't defeat it, join it and defile it and God will judge it".  Balaam said get them involved in sexual sin and God will judge them and did...
  • Balaam's doctrine is still here, such as people who actually say they are Christians and yet continue to live in sexual sin.  Others say they belong to Christ yet support false doctrine that is completely opposed to Christ.
  • Today if you are living in such sin and drawing in others, to you Christ says, "I am coming to war against you".

Second, Nicolaitans, what's that? Nicolas supposedly started a cult but any record in church history is sketchy. Many Bible teachers through the centuries take this to be nike-laios, which translated means one who "conquered people." How can that be seen in the history of the Church?

  • This would cover the many who over the centuries have arisen as self-made prophets ruling with rods of iron, building ecclesiastical kingdoms of wealth and power. This type of disobedience is still with us today, sadly.
  • Just quickly a side note- How did it happen? How did the pure, simple gospel get in purple robes with gold rings and set in paganism, idols and adopt false "work your way to heaven" doctrines?

Balaam's doctrine is when sinful and false practices are brought into the Church and the Nicolatians are those who lord over Christ's Church instead of humbly leading and serving it.

So how did the Church inherit this wickedness? Hold on to your seats, here is an overview of world history in 3 minutes:

The Pagan Origins of Romanism

By the time of Christ, this cult had so influenced Roman life that the Caesars were not only crowned as emperors of Rome but also bore the title Pontifex Maximus, meaning, "high priest."  They were high priests of the Babylonian idol worship.

When Christ came into this world the mystery of iniquity was everywhere holding sway, save where the truth of God as revealed in the Old Testament was known.  Thus, when the early Christians set out upon the great task of carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth, they found themselves everywhere confronted by this system, in one form or another; for though Babylon as a city had long been but a mystery, her mysteries had not died with her. [2]

Babylon to Pergamos

When Medes and Persians moved in and took the city and temples of Babylon in 539 BC, the high-priest fled with a company of initiates and their sacred vessels and images to Pergamos, where the Symbol of the serpent was set up as the emblem of the hidden wisdom.[3] 

The chief priests wore mitres shaped like the head of a fish, in honor of Dagon, the fish-god, the lord of life - another form of the Tammuz mystery, as developed among Israel's old enemies, the Philistines.  The chief priest took the title Pontifex Maximus, and this was imprinted in on his mitre. [4] 

Pergamos to Rome

Three hundred years later, Rome moved into power, Julius Caesar had all the priestesses and priests of Semiramis moved from Pergamos to Rome. That's history. You can read that yourself. Julius Caesar had a great idea about having more power if he could combine a false religion with his system. You see, he knew what every good conqueror knows; you've got to get the people religiously. [5]

When the worship of Semiramis arrived in Rome, the chief priest of the Mystery Religions in Rome took the title Pontifex Maximum and it was imprinted on his miter. The title had to do with the worship of a god called Dagon the Fish-god. From then on, every emperor in Rome wore the title Pontifex Maximum. It had nothing to do with Christianity; it meant you were the chief priest of the worship of Semiramis. [6]

Constantine & Christianity

During the year A. D. 306 a Roman emperor named Constantine was threatened by a very powerful enemy army.  Realizing that his uneasy troops needed confidence, Constantine claimed to have seen a vision on the eve of the battle.  He saw a large blue flag with a red cross on it and heard a mighty voice that said In hoc signo vinces - "in this sign conquer." 

He thereupon marched his troops into a shallow river, claimed them to be officially baptized, and ordered the sign of the cross painted on all his weapons.  Thus inspired, he led his troops to victory and subsequently made Christianity the state religion of Rome.

Thus, for nearly 300 years the Devil had desperately attempted to destroy the church from outside by his terrible persecutions.  But with the advent of Constantine he changed his tactics, walking the aisle, applying for membership, and joining the church!

The Roman Empire's official priests of Tammuz soon discovered that they could easily make the transition into Christianity (with certain changes) and thereupon carried their traditions forward without interruption by promoting the Mother-Child worship concept, the holy-water sacrament, and many other practices imported from the pagan mystery religions.  

Up until the Roman emperor Constantine Christianity in the early 4th century A.D., were both head of the Roman empire and also Pontifex Maximus--head of the pagan church. Constantine's proclamation of Christianity led to the merger of Christianity and paganism in the Roman empire. As head of the pagan church, Constantine wore the garb and paraphernalia of Babylon's idolatry which had been passed down through the Babylonian empire, preserved in Pergamum, willed to Rome, and was worn by Julius Caesar and the subsequent Roman emperors. The Roman emperor Constantine had the fish hat, the crosier, and the keys of Janus and Cybele. [7]

Babylonianism to the Church

In 381 A.D., the Roman emperor Gratian refused to wear the paraphernalia of Babylonianism, but he passed it to the Roman Pope Damasus. Since Damasus, every Pope of Rome has worn the garb of Babylon--the fish hat, the crosier, and the keys of Janus and Cybele. In our days, Pope John Paul II and his most recent successor, Pope Benedict XVI, wears the garb of Babylonian idolatry. As the pagans had worshipped their gods (icons of their deceased pontiffs) in their pantheons and temples, they now worshipped their patron saints and their lcons in cathedrals and churches. [8]

Semiramis: who was Ashtoreth in Canaan, Aphrodite in Greece, Venus in Rome, known also as Astarte, Ishtar, Aurora, Diana, Rhea, Urania, and Isis: was worshipped now as Jesus' mother Mary. [9]

Historian Will Durant[10] states that paganism conquered Christianity, saying that paganism continued "in the form of ancient rites and customs condoned or accepted and transformed by an often indulgent Church."

Durant goes on to explain: "An intimate and trustful worship of saints replaced the cult of the pagan gods, and satisfied the polytheism of simple or poetic minds. Statues of Isis and Horus were renamed Mary and Jesus."

Many years ago as a professor of Church History at the Masters Seminary and College, I used to give a lecture series for 14 hours, from Church Hisory and the History of Doctrine called:

Seven Reasons I am not a Roman Catholic

  1. The first reason why the Roman Catholic church is wrong is because of the doctrine of Christ's being offered over and over in the Mass.
  2. The second reason is because of the inordinate place that Mary has been given.
  3. Thirdly, because they have elevated tradition over the Scripture. Mass, with their doctrine of Mary. They put it, their teachings which have become traditions, over the holy scriptures.
  4. Fourthly, because of the veneration or worship of images. The scriptures tell us that God is not to be reduced into a physical form. He is not to be worshipped by anything we can make with our hands.
  5. Because of the false teachings about the sacraments. The Roman church, teaches that grace is infused through the operation of these sacraments; and that grace can be earned instead of being imputed by God.
  6. Sixthly, the teaching of the Roman Catholic church about purgatory is a falsehood.
  7. Finally, many practices of Roman Catholicism are tied to ancient paganism's rites.

There are some people in the Catholic Church who have met Jesus Christ and I praise God for that, but they had to do it circumventing their own theology, if they even knew their own theology. 

Christ's message for them and to us today is: Stay separated from false doctrine and evil practices.

 

[1] John MacArthur preached this in a Mother's Day message on 5/14/72

[2] Henry Allen "Harry" Ironside (October 14, 1876-January 15, 1951) was a Canadian-American Bible teacher, preacher, theologian, pastor, and author. Found also on Lambert Dolphin's site at:http://ldolphin.org/semir.html This article copied from:http://www.biblelineministries.org/articles/basearch.php3?action=full&mainkey=BABYLONIAN+RELIGION+%28By+Harry+A.+Ironside%29

[3] Henry Allen "Harry" Ironside (October 14, 1876-January 15, 1951) was a Canadian-American Bible teacher, preacher, theologian, pastor, and author. Found also on Lambert Dolphin's site at:http://ldolphin.org/semir.html This article copied from:http://www.biblelineministries.org/articles/basearch.php3?action=full&mainkey=BABYLONIAN+RELIGION+%28By+Harry+A.+Ironside%29

[4] Henry Allen "Harry" Ironside (October 14, 1876-January 15, 1951) was a Canadian-American Bible teacher, preacher, theologian, pastor, and author. Found also on Lambert Dolphin's site at:http://ldolphin.org/semir.html This article copied from:http://www.biblelineministries.org/articles/basearch.php3?action=full&mainkey=BABYLONIAN+RELIGION+%28By+Harry+A.+Ironside%29

[5] John MacArhtur speaking at a Q&A 10/7/1973 said these things. http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/1332_The-Destruction-of-the-Nations-Part-3?q=lent

[6] John MacArhtur speaking at a Q&A 10/7/1973 said these things. http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/1332_The-Destruction-of-the-Nations-Part-3?q=lent

[7] Hislop, The Two Babylon's, page 241.http://philologos.org/__eb-ttb/default.htm

[8] Hislop, The Two Babylon's, page 241.http://philologos.org/__eb-ttb/default.htm

[9] Hislop, The Two Babylon's, page 241.http://philologos.org/__eb-ttb/default.htm

[10] William James Durant (November 5, 1885 - November 7, 1981) was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for The Story of Civilization, 11 volumes written in collaboration with his wife Ariel Durant and published between 1935 and 1975.  The Story of Civilization, Vol. IV, page 73.