Mystery of Iniquity

By COGwriter

What is the 'mystery of iniquity'?

How could iniquity be a mystery?

What has been going on for many centuries that is that the mystery of iniquity has affected Christianity from the beginning in the first century A.D.

Has this affected the Church of God (COG)?

If this mystery of iniquity has to do with lawlessness, how could this apply to the Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics?

Is this something that you need to know about?

This article contains a lot of historical documentation which helps show that there were many teachers that improperly contributed to the 'mystery of iniquity' over the years. A related sermon is also available: The Mystery of Iniquity.

The Mystery of Iniquity

The English expression "mystery of iniquity" is found in some Catholic and Protestant translations of what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians:

7 For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way. (2 Thessalonians 2:7, Douay-Rheims)

7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. (2 Thessalonians 2:7, KJV)

The word in Greek translated as "iniquity" above is anomia and it basically means "against the law" or "illegality."

More modern translations have tended towards the use of the term lawlessness:

7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. But the one who restrains is to do so only for the present, until he is removed from the scene. (2 Thessalonians 2:7, NAB, a Catholic translation)

7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. (2 Thessalonians 2:7, NKJV throughout unless otherwise indicated)

How can iniquity or lawlessness be a mystery?

Well, it is a mystery because most people who profess Christ do not understand what Paul meant by using the term anomia.

A few verses earlier, the Apostle Paul warned about "the man of sin" "the son of perdition" (2 Thessalonians 2:3), yet many do not understand that sin is related to anomia.

The Apostle John used the word anomia. when he wrote about sin:

4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John 3:4, KJV)

4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4, NKJV)

4 Whosoever committeth sin commmitteth also iniquity; and sin is iniquity. (1 John 3:4 , Douay-Rheims)

Anomia is shown to be the iniquity of lawlessness--transgressing God's law. Sin and lawlessness are mysteries to many who profess Christ.

Many rely on 'traditions' and 'traditional explanations' of portions of the Bible, without realizing that they are guilty of practicing sin and believing in lawlessness.

In Jesus' day, the Pharisees were considered to be the strictest, law abiding, religious people. The Apostle Paul affirmed the strictness of that sect himself (Acts 26:5).

Yet, Jesus said that because of their traditions, they were guilty of lawlessness:

3 "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' 5 But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God" — 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. 7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

8 "These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" (Matthew 15:3-9)

Notice that Jesus condemned the Pharisees as lawbreakers. The Pharisees thought that they kept the Ten Commandments, but they really did not. (For details about how the Pharisees violated each of the Ten Commandments, see the article Were the Pharisees Condemned for Keeping the Law or Reasoning Around it?)

Many who profess Christ that believe they keep the Ten Commandments today are, sadly, like the Pharisees. They think because of their traditional 'exceptions' to God's commandments (which they normally do not consider to be exceptions) that they are not partakers of the 'mystery of lawlessness.'

But many do not understand the mystery of iniquity.

Jesus Taught that Many Would Not Understand

Contrary to the views of many, Jesus said He spoke in parables so that many would not understand what He was saying:

11 And He said to them, "To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12 so that

'Seeing they may see and not perceive,
And hearing they may hear and not understand;
Lest they should turn,
And their sins be forgiven them.'" (Mark 4:11-12)

Jesus said many would not see. So, notice also the following:

23 Then one said to Him, "Lord, are there few who are saved?"

And He said to them, 24 "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open for us,' and He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know you, where you are from,' 26 then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.' 27 But He will say, 'I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.' 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. 29 They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last." (Luke 13:23-30)

So, notice that Jesus was saying that very few would go the right way.

Jesus pictured this same condition when He said:

13 "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

That isn't what the world believes, is it?

Probably that isn't what you have always heard and come to assume.

But it's what JESUS SAID!

Now, although God has a plan for all (e.g. Luke 3:6; Isaiah 52:10), God knew that most in this age would be deceived.

When Jesus was asked about the future, the very first event He foretold would to come on the world would be -- GREAT DECEPTION -- climaxing, in our day now just ahead, in GREAT TRIBULATION in Matthew 24:21!

Notice that Jesus warned:

5 "for many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and they shall lead many astray," (Matthew 24:5, Young's Literal Translation)

How deceived this world has become!

Satan is pictured in the Bible as the god of this world:

3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

Satan has blinded people's minds so they really do not understand the truth. Instead nearly all people reason around it!

Satan appears, not as a devil, but as a GOD -- an angel of LIGHT:

14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)

Satan's ministers look like GOD'S MINISTERS to most of the world. That is part of the mystery of iniquity--many are deceived and have convinced themselves that they are NOT following Satan, but God when they follow Satan's ministers. The idea that leaders who often sound nice and have certain public works actually being led by Satan is something most dismiss as absurd.

Although the Bible says, "all Your commandments are righteousness" (Psalms 119:172). Satan's ministers try to appear righteous, but they really do not obey all that God's commands!

Other Warnings in the New Testament

In Revelation 12:9, you read of "Satan, who deceives the WHOLE WORLD."

Yes, the MANY would come in Jesus' name, proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ — yes, preaching CHRIST to the world! And yet, without realizing it, DECEIVING the world!

The Apostle Paul wrote that when it comes to Satan, Christians "are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11).

What are some of Satan's devices?

Subtle mixing, confusion, inuendo, vanity, lust, peer pressure, twisting the word of God, persecution, and deception.

God gave instructions to Adam and Eve:

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17)

Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command. Notice the logic of Adam's wife Eve whom Satan deceived:

4 Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:4-6)

Eve fell for Satan's tactics, as did Adam (the Bible says he was not deceived in 1 Timothy 2:14, so 'peer pressure' seemed to be the device that got him to sin).

The Apostle Paul wrote:

3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted — you may well put up with it! (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)

Satan deceived Eve and Paul warned that a different Jesus and a different gospel would be preached that he was afraid many would accept!

In Acts 20:17, we read that the Apostle Paul gathered the elders (ministers) of the Church at Ephesus to deliver them a final message concerning their responsibility over the local congregations.

Notice some of what he said to them:

29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (Acts 20:29-31)

Notice that people were prophesied to arise who would "draw away disciples after themselves." To gain a personal following for themselves! To start a new denomination or church!

Do you catch the full significance of these verses?

The elders or ministers were especially assembled because, immediately after Paul would leave Ephesus, there would come within the local Church congregations false ministers, wolves in sheep's clothing, to make a prey of Christians; and even from those elders already in the Church congregations some would pervert the doctrine of Jesus to secure a following for themselves.

Not only Paul, but also Peter, warned the churches that MANY would be misled:

1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. (2 Peter 2:1-3)

There were false teachers among Christians who would bring in heresies. And there are even claimed Church of God leaders today that are fulfilling those prophecies.

But also there were teachers that would combine more direct paganism with what they claimed to call Christianity.

At the time of the original apostles, the Roman world was being filled with numerous mystery religions which stemmed from the old sun-worshipping mysteries. False teachers secretly professed to giving a hidden, yet easy, way to evade the consequences of breaking God's Law.

Jude had to include in his letter the admonition that every Christian "should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. FOR THERE ARE CERTAIN MEN CREPT IN UNAWARES, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, TURNING THE GRACE OF GOD INTO LASCIVIOUSNESS, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. ...These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit" (Jude 3, 4, 19 KJV).

Jude says these preachers separated their followers from the body of believers.

By the time the Apostle John wrote his epistle, he had this sad note to include about those preachers who at first crept in unawares:

19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. (1 John 2:19)

It is well documented in early church history that there were those who followed the Apostle John related to Passover and those who chose to do something else.

Although numerous deceivers, like those called Gnostics, left the Church, drawing away disciples after them, there was an even more dangerous apostasy which infiltrated the true Church.

In instructing the evangelist Timothy, the apostle to the Gentiles instructed him:

2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

This was in the days of the apostles and evangelists. MANY who fellowshipped in the local congregations of the early Church, after about two generations, did not endure sound doctrine because they had not repented and received the Holy Spirit. They elected teachers who, for the sake of money, pleased their wishes by preaching fables — the enticing fables of mysticism, sun-worship, and other aspects of paganism that were engulfing the Roman Empire.

To this day, many believe fables over the Bible, especially when it comes to holidays vs. God's holy days. Many also believe twisted understandings of scriptures, which have misled many.

But instead of leaving the local congregations and forming their own sects, as some Gentiles did at first, some of the false preachers remained within the congregations and soon began to expel the true Christians. In the letter of the Apostle John to Gaius, we read:

9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. (3 John 9-10)

The true Christians, who alone comprised the true Church, were being put out of the visible, organized congregations. They were the SCATTERED ones of whom John said:

1 Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. (1 John 3:1)

Because many did not know what Jesus really taught and how He really expected His followers to live, most in the world do not recognize true Christians to this day!

Both Paul and John warned Christians against being improperly involved with the those of the "other" group:

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 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."

Notice that Christians are NOT to be linked with practices associated with idols. Also notice:

17 Therefore

"Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you. (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)

4 And I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. 5 For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 6 Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. (Revelation 18:4-6)

In the Western Roman Empire, where Paul died, the state of Christianity was even more advanced along the paths of error. The name Christian was being borne away by leaders who crept into the fellowship of the Church of God and who, in the name of Christ, deceived the MANY into following their false teachings.

The truth was obscured by error! Historian Jesse Lyman Hurlbut gives us even more details in his book The Story of the Christian Church, page 41: "We would like to read of the later work of such helpers of St. Paul as Timothy, Apollos and Titus, but all these. ..drop out of the record at his death. For fifty years after St. Paul's life a curtain hangs over the church through which we strive vainly 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 Peter and Paul." (as cited in Hoeh H. Why So Many Denominations? Tomorrow's World magazine, April, 1972).

But that was how the Greco-Roman-Protestants viewed what they saw. If they would pay more attention to the Bible and selected early Church writings, it would be clear that several of the major claimed 'Christian' groups to appear in the second century, in places like Alexandria, Rome, and even Jerusalem, were NOT contending for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Biblical Warnings Began to Fulfilled in the Early Centuries

The Apostle John wrote:

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. (1 John 2:15-16)

Many people who started to profess Christ ignored this warning. People Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-13), had the pride of life and were not real Christians.

It has been claimed that this Simon was high priest of the Babylonian-Samaritan mystery religion (Stump K. THE HISTORY OF EUROPE & THE CHURCH Part One THE CHURCH STRUGGLES FOR SURVIVAL. Plain Truth, June 1983).

The Bible shows that the Apostle Peter condemned Simon Magus:

19...Simon...20...Peter said to him, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity." (Acts 8:19,20-23)

Even those now considered to be early supporters of the Roman Catholic Church condemned Simon Magus and his followers for doctrines such as statues, revering a woman, the doctrine of the immortal soul, incantations, mysteries, mystic priests, claiming divine titles for leaders, accepting money for religious favors, preferring allegory and tradition over many aspects of scripture, having a leader who wanted to be thought of as God/Christ on earth, and divorcing themselves from Christian biblical practices considered to be Jewish. And it appears that Simon Magus directly influenced Rome. The religion of Mithraism also had some of these same practices and Rome was highly influenced by the follower of Mithras, Emperor Constantine. For documented details, please see Simon Magus, What Did He Teach?

It should be noted that versions of many of the teachings that Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholic saints condemned Simon Magus for were later adopted by their churches, and some of those also by the Protestant churches.

Now, perhaps it should be pointed out that just because went to Rome (see Simon Magus, What Did He Teach?) that does NOT mean that the early elders (later called Bishops of Rome) were all part of his movement. There were faithful Christian leaders in Rome in the first and second century, though sometime in the second century the leading leaders were affected by heresy.

But it was not just Simon Magus who affected Rome and other lands. Many false leaders and teachings crept in through various means. Many were confused and remain do today.

In the first century, a heretic named Cerinthus arose and taught allegorizing of scripture, that non-biblical tradition was more important than scripture, blended Gnostic teachings with the Bible, claimed to be an apostle, and claimed that angels gave him messages. Irenaeus taught that John was very seriously opposed to the heretic Cerinthus:

There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within." (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 3, Verse 4)

John, thus, really opposed Cerinthus and those who had teachings like him. It is also reported that Cerinthus was the first to come up with the idea of a December 25th Christmas, though Rome did not adopt that until centuries later.

While the Church of Rome considers Cerinthus and Simon Magus heretics, they ended up with certain doctrines which were similar to what those leaders taught.

Gnostics claimed to have special intellectual knowledge that made them better than others. This phenomena of intellectual vanity was a problem that the Apostle Paul himself warned the evangelist Timothy about:

20 O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge — 21 by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. (1 Timothy 6:20-21)

It has been said that Satan is not much of an original thinker, because he continues to use what he has found to work repeatedly with each generation.

Even today, many claim that their own knowledge justifies them not being real Christians (though they do not word it that way--and, like the Pharisees of old, many consider themselves to be true followers of God). Many Protestants believe that because of their acceptance of the knowledge of Jesus' sacrifice, that they are true Christians, despite them not willing to live as He instructed (cf. Matthew 7:21-23).

Alexandria

While many consider that Alexandria, Egypt was an early Christian center, research shows that little, if any, real Christianity was in that region.

Alexandria was basically the intellectual capital of the Roman Empire.

The late French Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie Danielou noted the following related to Clement of Alexandria and those there:

It remains to decide to what type of community Clement's Elders belonged. It seems to have been very different from that of the Asiatic Elders. There is no trace of millenarianism among them... It must have been founded, in part at least, by Essene Christians who came from Palestine after A.D. 70. This would explain their theology... (Danielou, Cardinal Jean-Guenole-Marie. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Translated by John A. Baker. The Westminster Press, 1964, p. 52).

The Essenes were NOT true Christians. Allegedly they "did not believe in the remission of sins via Jesus' sacrificial death" (http://www.essene.org/Yahowshua_or_Paul.htm viewed 02/24/16). Many scholars have essentially concluded that the Essenes were the ones that Philo called Therapeutæ.

Whether or not that is strictly the case, it does need to be understood that, in the first century, Philo reported that there were problems with those who were in Alexandria. Here is some of what Eusebius said Philo taught about the ascetic followers (who he seems to improperly allege followed Mark) in Alexandria (any bolding mine):

3. In the work to which he gave the title, On a Contemplative Life or on Suppliants, after affirming in the first place that he will add to those things which he is about to relate nothing contrary to truth or of his own invention, he says that these men were called Therapeutæ and the women that were with them Therapeutrides. He then adds the reasons for such a name, explaining it from the fact that they applied remedies and healed the souls of those who came to them, by relieving them like physicians, of evil passions, or from the fact that they served and worshiped the Deity in purity and sincerity.

4. Whether Philo himself gave them this name, employing an epithet well suited to their mode of life, or whether the first of them really called themselves so in the beginning, since the name of Christians was not yet everywhere known, we need not discuss here...

7. Philo bears witness to facts very much like those here described and then adds the following account: "Everywhere in the world is this race found. For it was fitting that both Greek and Barbarian should share in what is perfectly good. But the race particularly abounds in Egypt, in each of its so-called nomes, and especially about Alexandria...

9. And then a little further on, after describing the kind of houses which they had, he speaks as follows concerning their churches, which were scattered about here and there: "In each house there is a sacred apartment which is called a sanctuary and monastery, where, quite alone, they perform the mysteries of the religious life. They bring nothing into it, neither drink nor food, nor any of the other things which contribute to the necessities of the body, but only the laws, and the inspired oracles of the prophets, and hymns and such other things as augment and make perfect their knowledge and piety."

10. And after some other matters he says:

"The whole interval, from morning to evening, is for them a time of exercise. For they read the holy Scriptures, and explain the philosophy of their fathers in an allegorical manner, regarding the written words as symbols of hidden truth which is communicated in obscure figures.

11. They have also writings of ancient men, who were the founders of their sect, and who left many monuments of the allegorical method. These they use as models, and imitate their principles"...

15...Philo's words are as follows:

16. "Having laid down temperance as a sort of foundation in the soul, they build upon it the other virtues. None of them may take food or drink before sunset, since they regard philosophizing as a work worthy of the light, but attention to the wants of the body as proper only in the darkness, and therefore assign the day to the former, but to the latter a small portion of the night.

17. But some, in whom a great desire for knowledge dwells, forget to take food for three days; and some are so delighted and feast so luxuriously upon wisdom, which furnishes doctrines richly and without stint, that they abstain even twice as long as this, and are accustomed, after six days, scarcely to take necessary food." These statements of Philo we regard as referring clearly and indisputably to those of our communion.

19. For they say that there were women also with those of whom we are speaking, and that the most of them were aged virgins who had preserved their chastity...by their own choice, through zeal and a desire for wisdom...

20. Then after a little he adds still more emphatically: "They expound the Sacred Scriptures figuratively by means of allegories. For the whole law seems to these men to resemble a living organism, of which the spoken words constitute the body, while the hidden sense stored up within the words constitutes the soul. This hidden meaning has first been particularly studied by this sect, which sees, revealed as in a mirror of names, the surpassing beauties of the thoughts"...

23. In addition to this Philo describes the order of dignities which exists among those who carry on the services of the church, mentioning the diaconate, and the office of bishop, which takes the precedence over all the others (Eusebius. Church History, Book II, Chapter XVII. Translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1890. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

So Eusebius claims that Philo (c. late 1st century) reported that those in Alexandria were ascetic, had mysteries, seem to have been gnostics (ones who claimed to have special knowledge/wisdom was essential for salvation), had some promotion of celibacy, allegorized scripture, and had a bishop--and Eusebius seems to claim that they are part of the Catholic Church (see vs. 17 above)--even though the Roman Church did not have celibacy rules at that time (please see the article Was Celibacy Required for Early Bishops or Presbyters?). This seems to have been where a major departure from the true faith occurred.

Even Irenaeus condemned the practice of allegorizing:

11...But if any one, "doting about questions," do imagine that what the apostles have declared about God should be allegorized, let him consider my previous statements, in which I set forth one God as the Founder and Maker of all things, and destroyed and laid bare their allegations; and he shall find them agreeable to the doctrine of the apostles, and so to maintain what they used to teach(Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book III, Chapter 12, Verse 11. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

The Apostle Peter had warned about people who twisted scriptures to give another meaning than intended:

15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation — as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16).

The early Alexandrians did that as have many who have followed them.

The Alexandrians bring to mind something that the Apostle Paul warned about:

5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:5-7)

When the Alexandrians first had a bishop who had successors is not clear--and if Anianus was such a bishop, it appears that he led a group that did not teach the Bible the same way that the apostles did. Since the Orthodox Church claims an unbroken link of bishops here, they are apparently including individuals who overly allegorized scriptures and taught other doctrines contrary to those of the apostles.

It perhaps should be noted that there is a document, claimed (but often doubted) to be from the Roman Emperor Hadrian in roughly 134 A.D. that states:

8:1 From Hadrian Augustus to Servianus the consul, greeting. The land of Egypt, the praises of which you have been recounting to me, my dear Servianus, I have found to be wholly light-minded, unstable, and blown about by every breath of rumour. 2 There those who worship Serapis are, in fact, Christians, and those who call themselves bishops of Christ are, in fact, devotees of Serapis. 3 There is no chief of the Jewish synagogue, no Samaritan, no Christian presbyter, who is not an astrologer, a soothsayer, or an anointer. 4 Even the Patriarch himself, when he comes to Egypt, is forced by some to worship Serapis, by others to worship Christ. 5 They are a folk most seditious, most deceitful, most given to injury; but their city is prosperous, rich, and fruitful, and in it no one is idle. (Vopiscus, Vita Saturnini, 8 as published in Loeb Classical Library, 1932.)

Whether or not that letter is authentic (Walter Bauer claimed that some, like Harnack accepted it, while others did not; see Bauer W. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christianity, 2nd ed. Edited by R. Krafy and G. Krodel. Sigler Press, Mifflintown, PA, 1996, pp. 46-47), the reality is that the area of Alexandria was not particularly known for having truly faithful Christians.

Alexandria was the original home of the heretic Valentinus (who later went to Rome), and it seems like some of the leaders in Alexandria adopted some of his traits. The historian HOJ Brown noted:

Alexandria was the home of the celebrated gnostic Valentinus. Valentinus adopted Philo's method of allegorical interpretation...For a time, Valentinus and his followers existed with the orthodox Christians of Alexandria. (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 86).

Valentinus, even though condemned by Polycarp of Smyrna, when Polycarp visited Rome, ca. 155, was also tolerated by, and existed in, the Roman Church until at the 170s A.D. when he was finally put out after he had greatly influenced the church there.

One man who was affiliated with Valentinus was Marcus (also can be spelled Markos in English). Notice what Irenaeus wrote:

I showed thee, my very dear friend, that the whole system devised, in many and opposite ways, by those who are of the school of Valentinus, was false and baseless. I also set forth the tenets of their predecessors, proving that they not only differed among themselves, but had long previously swerved from the truth itself. I further explained, with all diligence, the doctrine as well as practice of Marcus the magician, since he, too, belongs to these persons (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book II, Preface, Verse 1. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Eusebius claimed:

In Alexandria Marcus was appointed pastor, after Eumenes had filled the office thirteen years in all (Eusebius. Church History, Book IV, Chapter 11, Verse 6. Translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1890. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

One researcher noted:

Marcus, the seventh bishop listed by Eusebius, could just as well have been the famed disciple of the second-century Valentinus (Coulter Fred. The New Testament In Its Original Order, Appendix U. York Publishing, Hollister, CA, 2004, p. 859).

And that is possible. While the Eastern Orthodox venerate the memory of a Marcus they claim was bishop of Alexandria from A.D. 144-154, Roman Catholics consider that there was a leading Gnostic heretic named Marcus in the second century:

Marcus The name of three leading Gnostics...The founder of the Marcosians and elder contemporary of St. Irenæus, who, c. A.D. 175, in his refutation addresses him as one apparently still living (Adv. Haer., I, xi, 3, where the "clarus magister" is Marcus, not Epiphanes; and I, xiii, 21). Irenaeus, from whom St. Epiphanius (Haer., xxxiv) and St. Hoppolytus (Haer., VI, xxxix-lv) quote, makes Marcus, a disciple of Valentius (q.v.), with whom Marcus's aeonology mainly agrees...Clement of Alexandria, himself infected with Gnosticism, actually uses Marcus number system though without acknowledgement (Strom, VI, xvi) (Arendzen JP. Transcribed by Joseph P. Thomas. Marcus. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

The fact that Clement of Alexandria (a contemporary of Marcus) apparently used Marcus' numbering system, suggests that it is possible, but does not prove, that this could be the same Marcus (for more information on him, please see Marcus and the Marcosians: Developers of the Eucharist?).

Irenaeus even condemned the Gnostic Marcus who had been acquainted with Valentinus for coming up with some type of a "eucharistic -like" mystery. Notice:

1. In the first book, which immediately precedes this, exposing "knowledge falsely so called," I showed thee, my very dear friend, that the whole system devised, in many and opposite ways, by those who are of the school of Valentinus, was false and baseless. I also set forth the tenets of their predecessors, proving that they not only differed among themselves, but had long previously swerved from the truth itself. I further explained, with all diligence, the doctrine as well as practice of Marcus the magician, since he, too, belongs to these persons (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book II, Preface, Verse 1. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

1. But there is another among these heretics, Marcus by name, who boasts himself as having improved upon his master...

2. Pretending to consecrate cups mixed with wine, and protracting to great length the word of invocation, he contrives to give them a purple and reddish colour, so that Charis, who is one of those that are superior to all things, should be thought to drop her own blood into that cup through means of his invocation, and that thus those who are present should be led to rejoice to taste of that cup, in order that, by so doing, the Charis, who is set forth by this magician, may also flow into them. Again, handing mixed cups to the women, he bids them consecrate these in his presence (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book I, Chapter 13. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

If these two Marcus's are the same person, it is clear that one in the list of Alexandria's Orthodox successors was condemned by Irenaeus as a heretic (for more information on him, please see Marcus and the Marcosians: Developers of the Eucharist?).

And even if they are not, the practice of consecration with mysterious invocations was condemned in the second century--even though this is a practice somewhat adopted by the Roman and Orthodox Churches. And very similar to practices associated with Mithraism, as Tertullian noted:

By the devil, of course, to whom pertain those wiles which pervert the truth, and who, by the mystic rites of his idols, vies even with the essential portions of the sacraments of God…Mithra there, (in the kingdom of Satan,) sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers; celebrates also the oblation of bread, and introduces an image of a resurrection, and before a sword wreathes a crown (The Prescription against Heretics, Chapter 40. Translated by the Rev. Peter Holmes, D.D., F.R.A.S.).

In spite of claims from the Orthodox Church of Alexandria, little is known about those it claims as early leaders, but possibly they were influenced by followers of Mithra and Egyptian gods.

The Bible tells of a vain leader named Nimrod who founded ancient Babel (Genesis 10:6-12). Those in Babel, under Nimrod's leadership, rebelled against God (Genesis 11:1-4). From there something known as the Babylonian mystery religion formed and affected much of the world, after God confounded people's languages to get them to spread out as He commanded. The ancient Babylonian mystery religion affected Egypt and much of the world. Many were comfortable with a religion that was truly not God's. (For more on Nimrod and early civilization, see the article on the Mystery of Civilization.)

Consider also the following:

The false often appears as true. It is made to resemble the genuine. Edward Carpenter, in Pagan and Christian Creeds, p. 25, says: "The similarity of ancient pagan legends and beliefs with Christian traditions was so great that they excited the attention and undisguised wrath of the early Christian... not knowing how to explain it, they fell back to the theory the devil, centuries before, caused the pagans to adopt certain beliefs and practices.

He also quotes Tertullian, one of the early church fathers living between A.D. 160 and 220, as saying, "The devil, by the mysteries of his idols, imitates even the main part of the divine mysteries." Furthermore he says, "Cortez, too, complained that the devil had possibly taught the Mexicans the same things that God taught Christiandom."

Since the practices of today's churches are not the same as the early true Church recorded in the New Testament, it is vital to know if there has been a purposeful mixing of the false practices of paganism with the true teachings of Christ, the apostles, and the Bible.

Many writers of history, including Edward Gibbon in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 1, chap. 15, state that there has been a change brought about by great numbers of pagans flocking into the early Christian Church and mixing their similar pagan customs and beliefs with those of the true Church.

The important question, then, is this: As the churches are teaching beliefs and customs not commanded by God and which, although similar, do not really lead to our placing ourselves as obedient servants to Him — being ruled over by Him now so that we may be eligible to obtain eternal life — it is vital that we know it, so that we may return from the counterfeit to the right way. (Meredith CP. Satan's Great Deception, Part 1, 1959)

“Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. The Greek mind, dying, came to a transmigrated life in the theology and liturgy of the Church; the Greek language, having reigned for centuries over philosophy, became the vehicle of Christian literature and ritual; the Greek mysteries passed down into the impressive mystery of the Mass. Other pagan cultures contributed to the syncretist result. From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity… and a personal immortality of reward and punishment; from Egypt the adoration of the Mother and Child, and the mystic theosophy that made Neoplatonism and Gnosticism, and obscured the Christian creed; there, too, Christian monasticism would find its exemplars and its source. From Phrygia came the worship of the Great Mother; from Syria the resurrection drama of Adonis; from Thrace, perhaps, the cult of Dionysus, the dying and saving god.… The Mithraic ritual so closely resembled the eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass that Christian fathers charged the Devil with inventing these similarities to mislead frail minds. Christianity was the last great creation of the ancient pagan world.… [The Eucharist] was a conception long sanctified by time; the pagan mind needed no schooling to receive it; by embodying the ‘mystery of the Mass,’ Christianity became the last and greatest of the mystery religions” (The Story of Civilization, Vol. 5, Durant, pp. 595, 599).

Groups like the Church of Rome dismiss this by claiming that the pagan Greek philosophers and pagan religions were preparing people for Jesus. Notice the following from CatholicOnline:

Why would a pope put the Catholic celebration of the dead on top of the pagans’ celebrations of the dead? Because the Catholic feasts are in continuity and fulfill the meaning of the pagan ones. This is why C.S. Lewis said that Christianity was the fulfillment of paganism.

So we don’t reject the use of trees at Christmas time because they were pagan...

(Killian Brian. Halloween, as autumn celebration, reminder God’s name is hallowed. Catholic Online International News. 10/31/06. http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=21818).

But utlizing pagan practices was condemned by early Christians.

The Apostle Paul warned about using demonic practices instead of the biblical ones for Passover:

20 Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons. 22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He? (1 Corinthians 10:20-22)

Protestants who do not believe that they need to keep the Ten Commandments falsely considered themselves stronger spiritually than people who believe they do need to keep them. Peer pressure is something Satan used since he got Adam to sin. But we are not to walk in the pagan ways, even if we did before:

1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles — when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. 4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. (1 Peter 4:1-4)

The Gnostics felt that they could do whatever they pleased as they felt that they were stronger, and that those who disagreed were weak. The Apostle Paul apparently ran into that device of Satan already and warned about it. But that remains part of the mystery of iniquity--reasoning around what God expects.

Consider something that James wrote:

15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. (James 1:15-18)

Does that sound like God wanted humans to accept Satanic worship practices? Of course not. But notice that James warned of desires leading to sin. Satan uses desires for self, lust, money, family, security, etc. to encourage sin--and he has done this to people and churches.

How Alexandria developed claiming Christ is not clear, but it did not develop as it did directly from teachings from Mark the gospel writer as many there claim.

Notice also the following:

Eusebius who “found nothing in his sources about the history of Christianity in Alexandria” had in any event searched very diligently for them...Eusebius who calls Annianus, the immediate successor of Mark...does not raise the tradition above the zero point...We first catch sight of something like “ecclesiastical” Christianity in Demetrius, the Bishop of Alexandria from 189-231. (Bauer, pp. 45, 53)

Harnack is perhaps right in saying that the worst gap of our knowledge of early Church History is our almost total ignorance of the history of Christianity in Alexandria and Egypt till A.D. 180. (William J, Wand C. A history of the early church to A.D. 500, 4th edition. Routledge, 1990, p. 70)

Serapion of Antioch thought a group near Alexandria was faithful, then concluded otherwise when he visited them:

For we, brethren, receive both Peter and the rest of the apostles as Christ Himself. But those writings which are falsely inscribed with their name, we as experienced persons reject, knowing that no such writings have been handed down to us. When, indeed, I came to see you, I supposed that all were in accord with the orthodox faith (Serapion of Antioch. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. From the book concerning the Gospel of Peter--Eusebius Church History VI,12. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors; American Edition copyright © 1885. Copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby).

So the false Gospel of Peter was being used. Relying on sources outside the actual Bible as equal or superior to the Bible was a mistake that those in Egypt and elsewhere have made.

The Catholic Encyclopedia reports:

Demetrius is the first Alexandrian bishop of whom anything is known...Demetrius encouraged Origen when blamed for his too literal execution of an allegorical counsel of our Lord, and is said to have shown him great favour...In 230 Demetrius gave Origen a recommendation to take with him on his journey to Athens (Chapman J. Transcribed by Gary Mros. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Demetrius is in the list of successors for the Orthodox Church of Alexandria from 188-231. During that time, Demetrius encouraged the heretics Clement of Alexander and later Origen (before eventually renouncing Origen) with their Alexandrian Catechetical School. Thus, no one in the genuine Church of God would consider that those who claim to be his successor are truly successors of the apostles.

Even many Protestant leaders know that the old Alexandrian Catechetical School clearly had problems as the noted Protestant theologian John Walvoord has pointed out:

In the last ten years of the second century and in the third century the heretical school of theology at Alexandria, Egypt advanced the erroneous principle that the Bible should be interpreted in a nonliteral or allegorical sense.  In applying this to the Scriptures, they subverted all the major doctrines of faith...the Alexandrian school of theology is labeled by all theologians as heretical...(Walvoord, John F.  The Prophecy Handbook.  Victor Books, Wheaton (IL), 1990, pp. 9,15).

Clement mixed gnosticism with his form of Christianity:

Unlike Irenaeus who detested it, Clement refers to secret tradition, and his affinities to gnosticism seems to go beyond mere borrowing of gnostic terms. (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 87).

The Catholic Encyclopedia reported:

Clement was an early Greek theologian and head of the catechetical school of Alexandria...Alexandria was, in addition, one of the chief seats of that peculiar mixed pagan and Christian speculation known as Gnosticism...Conservative scholars are inclined to believe that Photius has thrown the mistakes of Clement, whatever they may have been, into undue relief. Clement's style is difficult, his works are full of borrowed excerpts, and his teaching is with difficulty reduced to a coherent body of doctrine...

In the "Miscellanies" Clement disclaims order and plan...God's truth is to be found in revelation, another portion of it in philosophy. It is the duty of the Christian to neglect neither. Religious science, drawn from his twofold source, is even an element of perfection, the instructed Christian -- "the true Gnostic" is the perfect Christian. He who has risen to this height is far from the disturbance of passion; he is united to God, and in a mysterious sense is one with Him. Such is the line of thought indicated in the work, which is full of digressions...

Some scholars see in the chief writings of Clement, the "Exhortation", "The Tutor", the "Miscellanies", a great trilogy representing a graduated initiation into the Christian life -- belief, discipline, knowledge -- three states corresponding to the three degrees of the neo-Platonic mysteries -- purification, initiation, and vision...

Photius in the "Bibliotheca" censures a list of errors drawn from his writings...when the Roman Martyrology was revised by Pope Clement VIII his name was dropped from the calendar on the advice of Cardinal Baronius. Benedict XIV maintained this decision of his predecessor on the grounds that Clement's life was little known that he had never obtained public cultus in the Church, and that some of his doctrines were, if not erroneous, at least suspect (Havey, Francis. "Clement of Alexandria." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 17 Nov. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04045a.htm>).

In other words, many scholars understand that Clement of Alexandria, who is often listed as a major leader in Alexandria held a lot of gnostic and other heretical views.

Origen was one of the first major scholars to oppose the literal understanding of scripture (an article of related interest may be What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation?)--which he may have gotten from the gnostic Valentinus.

It should be noted that many historians do not believe that there was an actual succession of bishops in Alexandria prior (or much prior) to Demetrius (see Bauer W. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christianity, 2nd ed. Edited by R. Krafy and G. Krodel. Sigler Press, Mifflintown, PA, 1996, pp. 44-45 and Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah, NJ, 2001, p. 15).

The idea that there also was NOT a succession of apostolic teachings from the apostles through any early bishops of Alexandria appears to be confirmed by the following account of Clement of Alexandria who wrote:

Now this work of mine in writing is not artfully constructed for display; but my memoranda are stored up against old age, as a remedy against forgetfulness, truly an image and outline of those vigorous and animated discourses which I was privileged to hear, and of blessed and truly remarkable men.

Of these the one, in Greece, an Ionic; the other in Magna Graecia: the first of these from Coele-Syria, the second from Egypt, and others in the East. The one was born in the land of Assyria, and the other a Hebrew in Palestine.

When I came upon the last (he was the first in power), having tracked him out concealed in Egypt, I found rest. He, the true, the Sicilian bee, gathering the spoil of the flowers of the prophetic and apostolic meadow, engendered in the souls of his hearers a deathless element of knowledge.

Well, they preserving the tradition of the blessed doctrine derived directly from the holy apostles, Peter, James, John, and Paul, the sons receiving it from the father (but few were like the fathers), came by God's will to us also to deposit those ancestral and apostolic seeds (Clement of Alexandria. The Stromata (Book I, Chapter I. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

The above account shows that Clement claims that he basically has apostolic knowledge based on him coming upon a variety of individuals who claimed to know the apostles. Notice that Clement never even hints that this information was preserved by a line of early bishops in Alexandria.

Why?

Well, amongst other reasons, because there is no proof that there ever was no real apostle to bishop to bishop transfers in Alexandria (though there appears to have been proof of some heretical bishops). And even the Bible disagrees with the position that Mark could have been there much from 42-62 A.D.

It gets even worse. "Patriarch DIONYSIOS" (also spelled Dionysius) specifically rejected the Book of Revelation as he considered that it was likely a work of fiction. Eusebius recorded the following about Dionysius:

1. Afterward he speaks in this manner of the Apocalypse of John.

Some before us have set aside and rejected the book altogether, criticising it chapter by chapter, and pronouncing it without sense or argument, and maintaining that the title is fraudulent.

2. For they say that it is not the work of John, nor is it a revelation, because it is covered thickly and densely by a veil of obscurity. And they affirm that none of the apostles, and none of the saints, nor any one in the Church is its author, but that Cerinthus, who founded the sect which was called after him the Cerinthian, desiring reputable authority for his fiction, prefixed the name.

6. After this he examines the entire Book of Revelation, and having proved that it is impossible to understand it according to the literal sense, proceeds…

26. I do not deny that the other writer saw a revelation and received knowledge and prophecy. I perceive, however, that his dialect and language are not accurate Greek, but that he uses barbarous idioms, and, in some places, solecisms. (Eusebius, The History of the Church, Book VII, Chapter 25, verses 1,2,6,26, p p. 160,162)

How can a person who so discounted a book of the Bible be a true successor of the Apostles? Obviously, he cannot be. There never was apostolic succession in Alexandria.

Later, the Church that Demetrius led split in the year 451 into the Coptic Church and the Orthodox Church of Alexandria.

We in the genuine Church of God do not consider that either of the two leaders who now claim to lead the Alexandrian church could be truly faithful to the original teachings from the apostles. The gnostic practice of allegorizing scripture was encouraged in Alexandria, as were many parts of Gnosticism in general.

Thus, any claims to physical apostolic succession (which cannot be proven) are made irrelevant by doctrinal and other compromises as this particular church is definitely not the spiritual successor of the apostles.

On the other hand, perhaps it should be noted that by the early 3rd century there was someone
who opposed Origen and his allegorical approach: an African named Nepos from the area of Arsinoe. Here is what The Catholic Encyclopedia reported:

An Egyptian bishop, Nepos, taught the Chiliastic error that there would be a reign of Christ upon earth for a thousand years, a period of corporal delights; he founded this doctrine upon the Apocalypse in a book entitled "Refutation of the Allegorizers". (Chapman, John. "Dionysius of Alexandria." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 14 Aug. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05011a.htm>. )

Since it was Origen who really popularized the allegorical approach regarding the millennial teachings of the Bible, this work by Nepos dealt, to a degree, with Origen and others of his view.

The following from Dionysius clearly shows that Nepos was still respected after he died and really did not refute him from a biblical perspective: Nepos died prior to Dionysius’ mid-3rd century writing of the following:

But as they produce a certain composition by Nepos, on which they insist very strongly, as if it demonstrated incontestably that there will be a (temporal) reign of Christ upon the earth, I have to say, that in many other respects I accept the opinion of Nepos, and love him at once for his faith, and his laboriousness, and his patient study in the Scriptures, as also for his great efforts in psalmody, by which even now many of the brethren are delighted. I hold the man, too, in deep respect still more, inasmuch as he has gone to his rest before us…(Dionysius of Alexandria. From the Two Books on the Promises. Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Knight. Viewed 8/14/08)

In other words, Nepos knew his Bible, but did not hold to the same position that allegorists like Dionysius of Alexandria held. Yet, Nepos was still held in respect.

Interestingly, those who held to what are called “Judeo-Christian” beliefs, while slightly chastised, were almost never condemned by the early allegorists.

Why?

Because most KNEW that the apostles and early faithful followers had what are called “Judeo-Christian” beliefs and practices.

Yet, because many mixed non-biblical beliefs with what they called Christianity, the origins of many of the Greco-Roman beliefs is a mystery to most.

Jerusalem Accepted Changes in the Second Century to Avoid Persecution

Since the Bible tells of two groups, if one looks throughout history, it is clear that others saw two groups as well.

It was because of the threats of Imperial Roman persecution that in 135 A.D. there was a major split between the faithful and the unfaithful in Jerusalem.

The historian E. Gibbon states (bolding mine):

The first fifteen bishops of Jerusalem were all circumcised Jews; and the congregation over which they presided united the law of Moses with the doctrine of Christ. It was natural that the primitive tradition of a church which was founded only forty days after the death of Christ, and was governed almost as many years under the immediate inspection of his apostle, should be received as the standard of orthodoxy. The distant churches very frequently appealed to the authority of their venerable Parent, and relieved her distresses by a liberal contribution of alms...

The Nazarenes retired from the ruins of Jerusalem to the little town of Pella beyond the Jordan, where that ancient church languished above sixty years in solitude and obscurity. They still enjoyed the comfort of making frequent and devout visits to the Holy City, and the hope of being one day restored to those seats which both nature and religion taught them to love as well as to revere. But at length, under the reign of Hadrian, the desperate fanaticism of the Jews filled up the measure of their calamities; and the Romans, exasperated by their repeated rebellions, exercised the rights of victory with unusual rigour. The emperor founded, under the name of Alia Capitolina, a new city on Mount Sion, to which he gave the privileges of a colony; and denouncing the severest penalties against any of the Jewish people who should dare to approach its precincts, he fixed a vigilant garrison of a Roman cohort to enforce the execution of his orders. The Nazarenes had only one way left to escape the common proscription, and the force of truth was on this occasion assisted by the influence of temporal advantages.

They elected Marcus for their bishop, a prelate of the race of the Gentiles, and most probably a native either of Italy or of some of the Latin provinces. At his persuasion the most considerable part of the congregation renounced the Mosaic law, in the practice of which they had persevered above a century. By this sacrifice of their habits and prejudices they purchased a free admission into the colony of Hadrian...

When the name and honours of the church of Jerusalem had been restored to Mount Sion, the crimes of heresy and schism were imputed to the obscure remnant of the Nazarenes which refused to accompany their Latin bishop. They still preserved their former habitation of Pella, spread themselves into the villages adjacent to Damascus, and formed an inconsiderable church in the city of Bercea, or, as it is now called, of Aleppo, in Syria. The name of Nazarenes was deemed too honourable for those Christian Jews, and they soon received, from the supposed poverty of their understanding, as well as of their condition, the contemptuous epithet of Ebionites...The unfortunate Ebionites, rejected from one religion as apostates, and from the other as heretics, found themselves compelled to assume a more decided character; and although some traces of that obsolete sect may be discovered as late as the fourth century, they insensibly melted away either into the church or the synagogue...

It has been remarked with more ingenuity than truth that the virgin purity of the church was never violated by schism or heresy before the reign of Trajan or Hadrian, about one hundred years after the death of Christ (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I, Chapter XV, Section I. ca. 1776-1788).

It should be noted that, because of this revolt, Emperor Hadrian outlawed many practices considered to be Jewish. The Christians in Judea had a decision to make. They either could continue to keep the Sabbath and the rest of God's law and flee or they could compromise and support a religious leader who would not keep the Sabbath, etc.

Sadly as E. Gibbon's reported, most, but not all, made the wrong choice in 135 A.D.

There is an old Arabic Islamic manuscript that reports about those considered to be Judeao-Christians. It was published in English in 1966 by Shlomo Pines as The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity according to a New Source. It was originally written by an Arabic Muslim around the tenth century named Abd al-Jabbar and called Tathbit Dala'il Nubuwwat Sayyidina Mahammad. One chapter of it is believed to be an Islamic interpretation of a lot of "Judeo-Christian" writings (some probably from true Nazarenes, others from Essenes, etc.).

Shlomo Pines translated much of the one chapter of it into English, that discussed Arabic Judeao-Christians (see Arabic Nazarenes May Have Kept Original Christian Practices) who seemed to have practices like other Nazarene Christians (Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?).

A Harvard journal indicates that the source document came may have originated from the fifth, sixth, or seventh century (Howard G. The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 81, No. 1 (Jan., 1988), pp. 117-120), while others have claimed that part of it could have originally came from the first century or first half of the second (Pines, p. 21).

Here is the translation of one section:

(71a) 'After him', his disciples (axhab) were with the Jews and the Children of Israel in the latter's synagogues and observed the prayers and the feasts of (the Jews) in the same place as the latter. (However) there was a disagreement between them and the Jews with regard to Christ.

The Romans (al-Rum) reigned over them. The Christians (used to) complain to the Romans about the Jews, showed them their own weakness and appealed to their pity. And the Romans did pity them. This (used) to happen frequendy. And the Romans said to the Christians: "Between us and the Jews there is a pact which (obliges us) not to change their religious laws (adyan). But if you would abandon their laws and separate yourselves from them, praying as we do (while facing) the East, eating (the things) we eat, and regarding as permissible that which we consider as such, we should help you and make you powerful, and the Jews would find no way (to harm you). On the contrary, you would be more powerful than they."

The Christians answered:"We will do this."

(And the Romans) said: "Go, fetch your companions, and bring your Book (kitab)." (The Christians) went to their companions, informed them of (what had taken place) between them and the Romans and said to them: "Bring the Gospel (al-injil), and stand up so that we should go to them."

But these (companions) said to them: "You have done ill. We are not permitted (to let) the Romans pollute the Gospel. In giving a favourable answer to the Romans, you have accordingly departed from the religion. We are (therefore) no longer permitted to associate with you; on the contrary, we are obliged to declare that there is nothing in common between us and you;" and they prevented their (taking possession of) the Gospel or gaining access to it. In consequence a violent quarrel (broke out) between (the two groups). Those (mentioned in the first place) went back to the Romans and said to them: "Help us against these companions of ours before (helping us) against the Jews, and take away from them on our behalf our Book (kitab)." Thereupon (the companions of whom they had spoken) fled the country. And the Romans wrote concerning them to their governors in the districts of Mosul and in the Jazirat al-'Arab. Accordingly, a search was made for them; some (qawm) were caught and burned, others (qawm) were killed. (As for) those who had given a favorable answer to the Romans they came together and took counsel as to how to replace the Gospel, seeing it was lost to them. (Thus) the opinion that a Gospel should be composed (yunshi`u) was established among them…a certain number of Gospels were written. (Pines S. The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity according to a New Source. Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Volume II, No.13; 1966. Jerusalem, pp. 14-15).

The above, if accurate, would seem to have taken place in the second century (130s A.D.) as a separation did take place in 135 A.D. (see also Marcus of Jerusalem: Apostolic successor or apostate?).

It is interesting for a number of reasons. It shows that there were two group that professed Christ then. One called "Christians" above, and the other (the faithful ones) called "companions." The fact that the companions would no longer associate with the compromisers showed that in whatever area the above occurred in, there were definitely two groups.  One group that got the Romans to persecute and the other group that fled the persecution.  It is also interesting to note that the “companions” were the ones with all, or at least part, of the New Testament. It also shows that those associated with the Romans developed false gospels, which is probably why it took a while for the Greco-Romans to get their NT straightened out as well as why they allowed improper doctrines to be taught from an early time.

Notice what Johann Lorenz Mosheim also wrote:

Nothing, in fact, can be better attested than that there existed in Palestine two Christian churches, by the one of which an observance of the Mosaic law was retained, and by the other disregarded. This division amongst the Christians of Jewish origins did not take place before the time of Hadrian, for it can be ascertained, that previously to his reign the Christians of Palestine were unanimous in an adherence to the ceremonial observances of their forefathers. There can be no doubt, therefore, that this separation originated in major part of them being prevailed upon by Marcus to renounce Mosaic ritual, by way of getting rid of the numerous inconveniences to which they were exposed, and procuring for themselves a reception, as citizens, in the newly formed colony of Ælia Capitolina. (Mosheim JL. Commentaries on the affairs of the Christians before the time of Constantine the Great: or, An enlarged view of the ecclesiastical history of the first three centuries, Volume 2. Translated by Robert Studley Vidal. Publisher T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1813. Original from Princeton University Digitized Apr 28, 2010, p. 197)

It was not "Mosiac ritual" that Marcus insisted upon, as the most of what would be so considered were gone earlier. It was other biblical practices such as the Sabbath (Hebrews 4:9), Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7-8), and religious separation (2 Corinthians 6:17; Hebrews 7:26) that Marcus denounced. Yet, those had been kept by the actual 15 Jewish bishops that the Eastern Orthodox claim that Marcus succeeded. Marcus failed heed Jude's warning to "contend of the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). More on Marcus can be found in the article Marcus of Jerusalem: Apostolic successor or apostate?

There were TWO GROUPS in Jerusalem for a time, but only one of which was faithful. And since one did not have the full New Testament, it created other books and relied on sources that were not biblical.

The tendency for many who professed Christ to compromise clearly led to a separation between the Christian faithful and those who preferred a form of Christianity more acceptable to the Roman world. But the truly faithful Nazarenes did not compromise (for more on the Nazarenes, please see the article Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?).

Rome and Asia Minor Had Issues

Sadly, about this same time, it appears that some compromises were also getting started in Rome, which still was NOT lead by a single presiding bishop according to many respected Catholic scholars (for details see What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History?). Also notice concerning that time that:

J.B. Lightfoot explains that Rome and Alexandria:

the Churches of Asia Minor which regulated their Easter festival by the Jewish passover without regard to the day of the week, but with those of Rome and Alexandria and Gaul which observed another rule; thus avoiding even the semblance of Judaism (Lightfoot, Joseph Barber. Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Macmillan and co., limited, 1910. Original from the University of California. Digitized Oct 16, 2007, p. 331).

Despite Hadrian's decrees, true Christians did later return to Jerusalem from time to time (and the few faithful in Rome kept Passover on the correct date for decades), but were eventually again driven out by Roman supporters--but they never ended up in the "list of bishops" (after 135 A.D.) that the Orthodox claimed were faithful leaders in Jerusalem.

Jesus was a Jew and did not teach to avoid even the semblance of Judaism. His faithful followers kept Passover on the 14th, but those who compromised switched to Sunday.

The Apostle Paul told those in Ephesus:

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk… (Ephesians 4:17). 

Yet certain ones did not heed this. 

While living in Ephesus, around 135 A.D., a philosopher trained in the ways of the Greeks, who professed Christ, named Justin recorded this accusation against himself:

But this is what we are most at a loss about: that you, professing to be pious, and supposing yourselves better than others, are not in any particular separated from them, and do not alter your mode of living from the nations in that you observe no festivals or sabbaths…(Justin.  Dialogue with Trypho. Chapter X. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume 1 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors); © 1885. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1999 printing, p. 199)  

While the Ephesians were told to live differently than the other Gentiles in whose nation they co-existed with, those with Justin could not be distinguished.   Thus, Ephesus, who Christ later commends (Revelation 2:1-3) and not Rome, who embraced Justin as a saint (Lebreton J.  Transcribed by Stephen William Shackelford.  St. Justin Martyr.  The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company, NY.  Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor.  Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York, pp. 580-585) would seem to have been the place where the early teachings of the true Church were being preserved. 

Although Justin ended up in Rome and became influential there, this discourse between the Jewish Trypho and Justin took place in Ephesus (Ibid)--a major city in ancient Asia Minor.

This discourse shows that there were two very different professing Christian groups in Ephesus as Justin specifically claimed his group did not observe the Sabbath or keep the Feasts:

For we too would observe the fleshly circumcision, and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined you,—namely, on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your hearts (Justin Martyr.  Dialogue with Trypho. Chapter XVIII, p. 203).

The Bible nowhere says that the Sabbaths and Feasts were given because of the hardness of the hearts of the descendants of Israel.

History shows that Passover was continually kept on the 14th and unleavened bread was still eaten annually by the Christians who were the followers of Polycarp and John in Ephesus for at least a century (Eusebius.  The History of the Church, Book V, Chapter XXIV, ,Verses 1-7, p. 114). Polycarp, who probably was the highest ranked and most esteemed faithful Christian leader in the world at that time, did keep the seventh-day Sabbath and the Holy Days (for more information, please see Polycarp of Smyrna: The Heretic Fighter).

Justin had many other problems. For example, even The Catholic Encyclopedia admits that Justin seemed to quote the false “Gospel of Peter”:

Justin…He seems to use the apocryphal Gospel of Peter…(Lebreton, p. 580-585)

This was also not the case for the faithful in Ephesus and Smyrna (there are no quotes, for example, of the Gospel of Peter in Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians).

Furthermore, here is a clear admission from Justin that there were two groups:

“…But if, Trypho”, I continued, “some of your race, who say they believe in this Christ, compel those Gentiles who believe in this Christ to live in all respects according to the law given by Moses, or choose not to associate so intimately with them, I in like manner do not approve of them…” (Justin.  Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter XLVII, p. 218)

Justin clearly admits that there were two groups in Ephesus, one that kept all the law and the other that did not. And since Justin is considered to be a saint by the Catholics and Orthodox (but not the genuine Church of God) and he admitted he was in the less law abiding group, which group would be proper?

Perhaps, it should be noted that Justin endorsed various practices that were associated with Mithraism. Here are three quotes from Justin’s writings:

For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water...And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings…

And this food is called among us Εύχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished...Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn…

Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly... (Justin.  First Apology, Chapters 61,66,67).

Lest anyone think that there are not Mithras connections, notice what the historian and scholar K. Latourette observed:

One of the earliest descriptions of the Eucharist, that by Justin Martyr, not far from the middle of the second century, recognizes the similarity to what was seen in one the mystery cults, Mithraism...it has been repeatedly asserted that in baptism and the Eucharist Christians borrowed from the mysteries and that Christianity was simply another one of these cults...The similarity is striking… baptized, which Justin calls "illumination" (Latourette KS. A History of Christianity, Volume 1: to A.D. 1500. HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1975, pp. 198,200).

So, one group kept to practices that many now associate with Judaism, while the other group adopted practices that the old followers of the Sun-god Mithra had. Which would be the faithful one to Christ?

Those who suspect that Justin might have been correct are strongly advised to study his writings, especially as shown in the article Justin Martyr: Saint, Heretic, or Apostate? It may be of interest to note that even though Greco-Romans still call him a saint, Justin condemned a belief that they later adopted.

Justin later left Asia Minor and went to Rome. And he had a lot of influence there (cf. Eusebius Church History. Book IV, Chapter 11).

But he was not the only one.

Marcion was written about by the apostate Justin (who most Protestants consider to be a saint), who, probably by the mid-second century wrote:

And there is Marcion, a man of Pontus, who is even at this day alive, and teaching his disciples to believe in some other god greater than the Creator. And he, by the aid of the devils, has caused many of every nation to speak blasphemies, and to deny that God is the maker of this universe, and to assert that some other being, greater than He, has done greater works. All who take their opinions from these men, are, as we before said, called Christians; just as also those who do not agree with the philosophers in their doctrines, have yet in common with them the name of philosophers given to them. And whether they perpetrate those fabulous and shameful deeds--the upsetting of the lamp, and promiscuous intercourse, and eating human flesh--we know not; but we do know that they are neither persecuted nor put to death by you, at least on account of their opinions. But I have a treatise against all the heresies that have existed already composed, which, if you wish to read it, I will give you. (Justin. First Apology, Chapter XXVI. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

The term "these men" from Justin refers to Simon Magus, Meander, and Marcion. Marcion also went to Rome.

Irenaeus also noted that the faithful Church of God leader/bishop Polycarp opposed Marcion:

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time -- a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles -- that, namely, which is handed down by the Church. There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within." And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, "Dost thou know me?" "I do know thee, the first-born of Satan."(Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses. Book III, Chapter 3, Verse 4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Polycarp, and other true early Christian writers, kept all the ten commandments that were first mentioned in the Old Testament (an article of related interest may be The Ten Commandments and the Early Church). This is how Polycarp (and others) differed from many of the early heretics like Marcion (more on Cerinthus can be found in the article Cerinthus: An early heretic).

Polycarp personally wrote:

But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, falsewitness; "not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing," or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter II. from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).

"But the love of money is the root of all evils." Knowing, therefore, that "as we brought nothing into the world, so we can carry nothing out," let us arm ourselves with the armour of righteousness; and let us teach, first of all, ourselves to walk in the commandments of the Lord. Next, [teach] your wives [to walk] in the faith given to them, and in love and purity tenderly loving their own husbands in all truth, and loving all [others] equally in all chastity; and to train up their children in the knowledge and fear of God. Teach the widows to be discreet as respects the faith of the Lord, praying continually for all, being far from all slandering, evil-speaking, false-witnessing, love of money, and every kind of evil (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter IV. from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).

Knowing, then, that "God is not mocked," we ought to walk worthy of His commandment and glory ...For it is well that they should be cut off from the lusts that are in the world, since "every lust warreth against the spirit; " and "neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God," nor those who do things inconsistent and unbecoming (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter V. from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).

I exhort you, therefore, that ye abstain from covetousness, and that ye be chaste and truthful. "Abstain from every form of evil." For if a man cannot govern himself in such matters, how shall he enjoin them on others? If a man does not keep himself from covetousness, he shall be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as one of the heathen. But who of us are ignorant of the judgment of the Lord? (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter XI. from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).

“For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist,” and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from the beginning (Polycarp.  Letter to the Philippians, Chapter VII).

The 'vanity of many' was related to the 'mystery of lawlessness' that the Apostle Paul warned about in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 and that apostates like Simon Magus and Marcion of Pontus promoted.

Another to specifically oppose Marcion was Church of God leader/bishop Theophilus of Antioch (late 2nd century). The Syriatic version of Eusebius' Church History notes:

BUT as to Theophilus, concerning whom we have said that he was Bishop of Antioch, there are three treatises by him against Antolycus, and another which is inscribed "Against the heresy of Hermogenes," in which he uses testimonies from the Revelation of John; and there are other books by him which are suitable for teaching. But those, who pertained to heretical doctrine, even at that time like tares were corrupting the pure seed of the doctrine of the Apostles; but the Pastors which were in the churches in every country, were driving them like beasts of the wilderness away from the flock of Christ; at one time by teaching and exhortation to the Brethren, but at another time openly before their faces they contended with them in discussion, and put them to shame; and again, also, by writing treatises they diligently refuted and exposed their opinions. But Theophilus, together with others, contended against them; and he is celebrated for one treatise, which was ably composed by him against Marcion, which, together with the others that I have already mentioned, is still preserved. And after him Maximinus received the Bishoprick of the Church of Antioch, who was the seventh after the Apostles.

But Philip, respecting whom we have learned from the words of Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, 2 that he was Bishop of the church of the city of Gortyna, he also composed with accuracy a treatise against Marcion (Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History, Syriac version, Book 4 (Extract), Chapter 24. Spicilegium Syriacum (1855). This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2003. Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font/Polytonic Greek).

This is of interest because it shows that both Philip and Theophilus also wrote against the heretic Marcion (though the document, while apparently available to Eusebius, is currently unavailable).

Notice what the Protestant historian Kenneth Latourette stated:

Marcion insisted that the Church had obscured the Gospel by seeking to combine it with Judaism (Latourette KS. A History of Christianity, Volume 1: to A.D. 1500. HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1975, p. 126).

In other words, the original true Church of God truly did combine faith in Christ with practices that Marcion considered to be to Jewish.  And Marcion was denounced by leaders from Asia Minor for rejecting the true faith.

In the third century, Hippolytus of Rome wrote:

But Marcion, a native of Pontus, far more frantic than these (heretics), omitting the majority of the tenets of the greater number (of speculators), (and) advancing into a doctrine still more unabashed, supposed (the existence of) two originating causes of the universe, alleging one of them to be a certain good (principle), but the other an evil one. And himself imagining that he was introducing some novel (opinion), founded a school full of folly, and attended by men of a sensual mode of life, inasmuch as he himself was one of lustful propensities. This (heretic) having thought that the multitude would forget that he did not happen to be a disciple of Christ, but of Empedocles, who was far anterior to himself, framed and formed the same opinions,--namely, that there are two causes of the universe, discord and friendship. For what does Empedocles say respecting the plan of the world? Even though we have previously spoken (on this subject), yet even now also, for the purpose, at all events, of comparing the heresy of this plagiarist (with its source), we shall not be silent. This (philosopher) affirms that all the elements out of which the world consists and derives its being, are six: two of them material, (viz.,) earth and water; and two of them instruments by which material objects are arranged and altered, (viz.,) fire and air; and two of them, by means of the instruments, operating upon matter and fashioning it, viz., discord and friendship. (Empedocles) expresses himself somehow thus:- "The four roots of all things hear thou first: Brilliant Jove, and life-giving Juno and Aidoneus, And Nestis, who with tears bedews the mortal font." (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies (Book VII), Chapter XVII. Translated by J. H. Machmahon. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight)

Marcion taught against the law and the Creator's Sabbath--the seventh-day Sabbath. Marcion eliminated or overlooked many portions of the Bible. His attitude seems to have been similar to Luther's in this respect (Martin Luther's attitude toward the Bible can be found in the article Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible?).

Perhaps I should add that even though Marcion was condemned by Polycarp and Melito as a heretic about two decades before Eleutherius became “Bishop of Rome,” apparently he and his heresies were long tolerated by the Roman Church. Why? Well reportedly he gave that church a lot of money, And while the Church of Rome claims that it eventually returned the money (and that is questionable), it seems that money was used as a way to get iniquity accepted, as it allowed Marcion to spread his lies for decades. We all know that Bible warns that lust for money is a root for all kinds of evil:

6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

Money lust caused many to accept lies instead of the true faith. Notice that it is tied in with evil and perdition.

Yet, well Rome accepted some of his views, Marcion is somewhat considered to have been the first Protestant.

In the 1800s, Johann August W. Neander, after writing that Marcion had taken certain doctrines from Gnostics (Gnostics have been condemned by nearly all Protestant and Roman Catholic scholars; and the initial condemnations seem to have been in the New Testament: cf. 1 Timothy 6:20) wrote that Marcion was a Protestant:

"Marcion...a genuine Protestant (if we may transfer to this ancient day this appellation...)" (Neander JAW. The history of the Christian religion and Church during the three first centuries, tr. by H.J. Rose [from vol.1 of Allgemeine Geschichte der christlichen Religion]. Translated by Henry John Rose. 1841. Original from Oxford University, Digitized Aug 21, 2008, p. 121).

A. Harack later interprets A. Neander as calling Marcion the first Protestant, a view he also tended to hold:

In his first monograph on Marcion, Adolf von Harnack quoted approvingly the opinion of August Neander according to which Marcion was the "first Protestant." (Marcion and his impact on church history Volume 150 of Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literature. Editors: Gerhard May, Katharina Greschat, Martin Meiser. Walter de Gruyter, 2002, p. 131).

Though celebrated as “the first Protestant” by Adolf von Harnack for his radical interpretation of the Pauline distinction between Law and gospel, Marcion was the most formidable heretic of the 2nd cent. and the spiritual father of a perennial danger for Christian theology. (Soulen R & R. Handbook of Biblical Criticism. Presbyterian Publishing Corp, 2011, p. 122)

Marcion was a heretical 'Protestant' that Rome tolerated for some time. He was allowed to be part of the church of Rome for decades AFTER he was denounced by Polycarp of Smyrna, Melito of Sardis, and Theophilus of Antioch (for more details, see Marcion: The First Protestant?).

Marcion essentially taught that the ten commandments were done away and burdensome--like many Protestant leaders do this day. Yet, the Bible teaches:

1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. (1 John 5:1-4)

While God's commandments are not burdensome (see also The Ten Commandments Reflect Love, Breaking them is Evil), various heretics arose in the world.

The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions another heretic:

Valentinus, the best known and most influential of the Gnostic heretics, was born according to Epiphanius (Haer., XXXI) on the coast of Egypt. He was trained in Hellenistic science in Alexandria. Like many other heretical teachers he went to Rome the better, perhaps to disseminate his views. He arrived there during the pontificate of Hyginus and remained until the pontificate of Anicetus. During a sojourn of perhaps fifteen years, though he had in the beginning allied himself with the orthodox community in Rome, he was guilty of attempting to establish his heretical system. His errors led to his excommunication, after which he repaired to Cyprus where he resumed his activities as a teacher and where he died probably about 160 or 161. Valentinus professed to have derived his ideas from Theodas or Theudas, a disciple of St. Paul, but his system is obviously an attempt to amalgamate Greek and Oriental speculations of the most fantastic kind with Christian ideas. He was especially indebted to Plato (Healy P. J. Transcribed by Thomas M. Barrett. Valentinus and Valentinians. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Irenaeus, though himself a heretic (though considered as a saint by Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholics), in the late 2nd century claimed that the Valentinians came from Simon Magus:

Thou hast indeed enjoined upon me, my very dear friend, that I should bring to light the Valentinian doctrines, concealed, as their votaries imagine; that I should exhibit their diversity, and compose a treatise in refutation of them. therefore have undertaken -- showing that they spring from Simon, the father of all heretics -- to exhibit both their doctrines and successions, and to set forth arguments against them all (Book III, Preface, Verse 1).

Irenaeus wrote that Polycarp strongly renounced the Gnostic heretics:

Valentinus came to Rome in the time of Hyginus, flourished under Pius, and remained until Anicetus. Cerdon, too…Marcion, then, succeeding him, flourished under Anicetus.

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna…always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time -- a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles. (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 4, Verse 3 and Chapter 3, Verse 4).

Polycarp came to Rome around 155 A.D. We in the Churches of God consider that Polycarp was the predominant leader of the true Church at this time. Notice that Polycarp condemned Valentinus at that time and that there is no indication that any of the Roman Catholic leaders did this prior to Polycarp's visit. It should probably also be noted here that Polycarp objected to Roman Bishop Anicetus at this time for changing the date of Passover based upon tradition.

Notice what it is recorded that a one-time Catholic bishop named Marcellus of Ancyra wrote on the nature of God around the middle of the fourth century,

Now with the heresy of the Ariomaniacs, which has corrupted the Church of God...These then teach three hypostases, just as Valentinus the heresiarch first invented in the book entitled by him 'On the Three Natures'.  For he was the first to invent three hypostases and three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he is discovered to have filched this from Hermes and Plato (Source: Logan A. Marcellus of Ancyra (Pseudo-Anthimus), 'On the Holy Church': Text, Translation and Commentary. Verses 8-9.  Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Volume 51, Pt. 1, April 2000, p.95).

Well, you might say that this was good as you might be 'trinitarian,' but notice that it was considered to be a heresy that the heretic Valentinus introduced. Furthermore let me add that in the early third century, Roman bishop Hippolytus was called a 'ditheist.' And the The Catholic Encyclopedia claims that Hippolytus is a Catholic saint and was “the most important theologian…of the Roman Church in the pre-Constantinian era” (Kirsch, Johann Peter. “St. Hippolytus of Rome.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.) Also, at the Council of Nicea that Emperor Constantine called, most attendees were also ditheists/Semi-Arian/binitarian.

Hippolytus also pointed out that "Pope" Callistus (217-222) lowered standards to get more into his church:

The impostor Callistus, having ventured on such opinions, established a school of theology in antagonism to the Church, adopting the foregoing system of instruction. And he first invented the device of conniving with men in regard of their indulgence in sensual pleasures, saying that all had their sins forgiven by himself...

About the time of this man, bishops, priests, and deacons, who had been twice married, and thrice married, began to be allowed to retain their place among the clergy. If also, however, any one who is in holy orders should become married, Callistus permitted such a one to continue in holy orders as if he had not sinned...

And the hearers of Callistus being delighted with his tenets, continue with him, thus mocking both themselves as well as many others, and crowds of these dupes stream together into his school. Wherefore also his pupils are multiplied, and they plume themselves upon the crowds (attending the school) for the sake of pleasures which Christ did not permit. But in contempt of Him, they place restraint on the commission of no sin, alleging that they pardon those who acquiesce (in Callistus' opinions). For even also he permitted females, if they were unwedded, and burned with passion at an age at all events unbecoming, or if they were not disposed to overturn their own dignity through a legal marriage, that they might have whomsoever they would choose as a bedfellow, whether a slave or free, and that a woman, though not legally married, might consider such a companion as a husband. Whence women, reputed believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility, and to gird themselves round, so to expel what was being conceived on account of their not wishing to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time! And withal, after such audacious acts, they, lost to all shame, attempt to call themselves a Catholic Church! And some, under the supposition that they will attain prosperity, concur with them (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies, Book IX, Chapter VII. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

So, apparently Callistus lowered standards. Many accepted the lower standards, and the Church of Rome gained followers and influence. In time, more and more in the Greco-Roman churches considered exceptions to God's laws as normal and acceptable.

Furthermore, despite being denounced by Polycarp of Smyrna, the Church of Rome tolerated Valentinus for decades (for more details about him, check out the article Valentinus: The Gnostic Trinitarian Heretic). So, the desire for people and influence affected Rome in the second and third centuries.

Montanus arose from the outer edge of Asia Minor and a promoted some type of trinitarian heresy related to himself personally. Notice that he said:

“I am the Father and the Son and the Paraclete.” (Didymus, De trinitate iii. 41.1.) (Assembled in P. de Labriolle, La crise montaniste (1913), 34-105, by Bates College, Lewston (Maine) http://abacus.bates.edu/Faculty/Philosophy%20and%20Religion/rel_241/texts/montanism.html 01/31/06).

Montanus was denounced by Church of God bishop Thraseas (whom the Greco-Romans consider to be a saint). Yet, he was tolerated by Rome for decades.

Being influenced by heretics affected Rome's view of the Godhead and other doctrines.

History records, until some time in the third century, Asia Minor was led by Church of God leaders who would not compromise with Rome as Eusebius records that Polycrates of Ephesus wrote:

We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead ? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ' We ought to obey God rather than man'...I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book V, Chapter XXIV, Verses 2-7 . Translated by A. Cushman McGiffert. Digireads.com Publishing, Stilwell (KS), 2005, p. 114).

But eventually there was a change in Asia Minor.

There was a murderous persecution by Decius (249-251) and some other factors (like a false apparition) that resulted in most of the true believers to leave Asia Minor.

Shortly after that persecution ended, Dionysius of Alexandria (248-265 A.D.) writes that this is basically when the areas of Asia Minor (which he mainly calls the East below) ceased being part of the Church of God, but became in unity with Rome and Alexandria.

Notice that Dionysius reported that "the churches of the East" had been divided (from Rome and Alexandria) prior to this time:

But know now, my brethren, that all the churches throughout the East and beyond, which formerly were divided, have become united. And all the bishops everywhere are of one mind, and rejoice greatly in the peace which has come beyond expectation. Thus Demetrianus in Antioch, Theoctistus in Cæsarea, Mazabanes in Ælia, Marinus in Tyre (Alexander having fallen asleep), Heliodorus in Laodicea (Thelymidres being dead), Helenus in Tarsus, and all the churches of Cilicia, Firmilianus, and all Cappadocia. I have named only the more illustrious bishops, that I may not make my epistle too long and my words too burdensome (Cited in Eusebius. Church History, Book VII, Chapter V, Verse I).

So, by the time that Dionysius of Alexandria (248-265 A.D.) wrote the above, those considered to be the primary leaders in Asia Minor were no longer those with original Christian doctrines, but instead were part of the Greco-Roman confederation.

What was left as the more 'visible church' in Asia Minor had been affected by the mystery of iniquity.

The Church of God Opposed the Heresies and Apostates

True Christian, Church of God leaders, opposed the mystery of iniquity. They understood that they were not to be of the world, tolerate pagan practices, and were to not to be unequally yoked with apostates.

Table of Early Heretics/Heresies Generally First Denounced by Leaders of Asia Minor

2nd Century Heretic

Heresy

Heretic/Heresy Denounced By Asia Minor Leaders

Tolerated by Rome Until

Simon Magus,* Nicolaitans,* Marcion, Montanus, Valentinus

A different gospel.

Peter (Acts 8:20-23), Paul (2 Corinthians 11:4), Church of God in Ephesus (Revelation 2:6), Polycarp, Melito, Thraseas, and Theophilus.

Variations of the different gospels have been accepted by essentially all of the Greco-Roman faiths.

Cerinthus

Allegory,  improper tradition, improper festivals, and   improper apparitions sometimes sources of doctrine.

Apostle John in Ephesus.

Variations adopted by Greco-Roman faiths.

Marcion

Sabbath and Ten Com- mandments done away.

c. 155 A.D. by Polycarp and later by Theophilus.

Rome tolerates anti-Sabbath teaching to this day.

Marcion

Jesus not coming for millennial reign.

c. 170 A.D. by Melito.

c. 180 Marcion excommunicat-ed, but heresy later accepted.

Valentinus

God is three hypostases.

c. 155 A.D. by Polycarp.

Still accepted; adopted by Council in 381.

Heretic      

Heresy

Denounced By

Rome Until

Valentinus and Anicetus

Traditions in conflict with the Bible can be source of doctrine.

c. 155 A.D. by Polycarp; c. 170 A.D. by Melito.

c. 180 A.D. Valentinus was excommunicat-ed, but heresy still accepted.

Anicetus, Victor, and other early Roman leaders

Passover is on Sunday.

c. 155 A.D. by Polycarp;
c. 195 A.D. by Polycrates.

Still accepted.

Montanus

False prophecies.

c. 157 A.D. by Thraseas and later others,  like Apollonius.

c.206-218 A.D. Montanists finally denounced.

Montanus

God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

c. 157 A.D. by Thraseas and others.

Later adopted and now still accepted.

Tradition originated in the “Gospel of James” circa 120-200 A.D.

Mary remained a virgin after giving birth to Jesus or Mary is a perpetual virgin.

c. 200 by some in Asia Minor and Jewish-Christians.

Adopted as the 5th General Council of Constantinople in 553 granted “perpetual virgin” title to Mary. Now a Catholic dogma.

Noetus/
Sabellius

Father is same as Son.

c. 200 by Smyrna presbyters.

c. 220 A.D. finally denounced; though a  version still accepted.

“Gospel of Peter”

Considering false gospel as scripture.

c. 200 by Serapion of Antioch.

Probably into 4th century.

Platonic-Gnostic and pagan sources, including Justin Martyr claiming Plato.

Cross is a Christian religious symbol of signing and/or veneration.

c. 4th-7th centuries by Paulicians of Armenia and Asia Minor.  It could have been denounced prior, but practice was not so widespread in Asia Minor earlier.

This heresy started to appear in the 2nd century and was essentially finally formally adopted at a council in 843.

* While these were originally 1st century heretics, their heresies lasted and versions of them were denounced in Asia Minor/Antioch in the 2nd century and by other COG leaders in later centuries. Although Greco-Roman supporting leaders outside of Asia Minor/Antioch sometimes denounced these particular heretics, their churches often ended up adopting portions of their heresies. 3rd century African Bishop Nepos stood for the millennium and the Bible and denounced allegorical Greco-Roman opponents.There were other heresies introduced in the 2nd to 4th centuries that were never accepted by the faithful Quartodeciman successors to the 2nd century Asia Minor leaders, as they did not teach the Jewish apocrypha, special dress for the clergy, clerical celibacy, immortal souls going to heaven, baptism by sprinkling, unclean meat consumption, military service for Christians, a mystic Eucharist, or a winter holiday somewhat coinciding with Saturnalia ceremonies, etc. Even certain Catholic/Orthodox “saints” in the first few centuries originally condemned many of those particular doctrines. Variations of such teachings are now accepted by the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholics.

Historical evidence shows that leaders in Asia Minor denounced heresies generally before Rome did. And sadly, Rome adopted or later accepted some version of many of these denounced heresies.

Would the leaders of the true Church be more likely to tolerate or denounce heretics?  The answer should be obvious (and to those it is not, recall that Jesus, Peter, Paul, Jude, John and others denounced false religious leaders in the New Testament.

(By the way, the chart shown above is in edition 3.3 of the free online booklet Continuing History of the Church of God.)

What About Now?

How have modern churches been affected by the mystery of iniquity?

Well, recall that Adam and Eve sinned when they are of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Thus, all that they learned was not evil, but also some good.

Today, the world's churches do some good. Many have given their lives to promote what they felt was right. Many have tried to serve others. Often the clergy makes statements that are good or at least seem good.

That is part of why this is the MYSTERY of iniquity. If it was always clearly bad, people would tend to recognize that. But when good and bad are mixed together, this is harder for most to see.

Some believe that casting out demons, speaking in tongues, apparitions, various wondrous signs are the proof a church is true. But that is NOT what Jesus taught:

21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' (Matthew 7:21-23)

Notice that despite the claims of mainly Protestants, simply calling Jesus 'Lord' is not sufficient. The word translated as lawlessness is the same word anomia that this article has been pointing to.

Notice something that Jesus warned about:

12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:12-14)

Notice that lawlessness, from the Greek word anomian, will abound in the time of the end. The love of many waxing cold seems to be a reference to the Laodiceans--they tend to think because they keep the law and society is going further away from it, that they are fine--but they are not according to Jesus (Revelation 3:14-18) and they are not truly supporting getting the witness of the gospel of the kingdom out--their hearts are really not in it--they are not opposed to it, but not hot (lukewarm) about it).

Very few moderns understand the mystery of lawlessness, though a thorough search of scriptures (Isaiah 28:10-13) will help explain it (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). The “mystery of lawlessness” is related to professing Christians who believe that they do not need to keep God’s Ten Commandment law, etc. and/or there are so many acceptable exceptions to it and/or there are acceptable forms of penance to break God’s law, so while they think that have a form of God’s law, they are not keeping a form of Christianity that Jesus or His apostles would recognize as legitimate.

The Greco-Romans are like the Pharisees who violated God’s commandments, but claimed their traditions made this acceptable—Jesus denounced that approach (Matthew 15:3-9)! Isaiah also warned that people claiming to be God’s would rebel against His law (Isaiah 30:9). This something we, sadly, see this to this day.

This “mystery of lawlessness” was “already at work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7) when the apostles were alive. This is also related to something that the Bible warns against in the end times that is called “Mystery, Babylon the Great” (Revelation 17:3-5).

It is a mystery to the Greco-Roman Protestants because they normally officially do not believe that they need to keep the law. Officially, Protestants tend to claim Jesus 'fulfilled the law' and 'nailed it to the cross.'

Protestants tend to believe that if they "love Jesus" that is how they are keeping the law. But those that believe that have deceived themselves:

3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6)

Lawlessness is a mystery to nearly all who consider themselves Protestant. Also, since many Protestants have historically believed that since a pontiff will be the final Antichrist, the references to the mystery of lawlessness is not something that relates to them.

It is a mystery to the Greco-Roman Catholics (the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics) because they officially believe that they actually teach the Ten Commandments, thus they do not believe that they teach lawlessness. Many of them tend to believe that is what the Protestants do, hence they feel that if this reference has to do with Christianity, it relates to Protestantism. They fail to realize that because of their 'traditions' they reason around them. As do Protestants that claim that they keep the Ten Commandments. The Catholic Frederick William Faber (died 1863) taught, "Protestantism {is} an anticipation of Antichrist" (Connor, Edward. Prophecy for Today. Imprimatur + A.J. Willinger, Bishop of Monterey-Fresno; Reprint: Tan Books and Publishers, Rockford (IL), 1984, p. 88)

One issue I with my former COG affiliated group is that they did not teach properly about the mystery of iniquity. A booklet that they had on the Antichrist made it seem to Protestants that the Antichrist was Roman Catholic (it had an outline of a Roman bishop), yet made it seem to Roman Catholics that the reference was to some type of Protestant because of its incomplete explanation of lawlessness.

Let's consider some of the Ten Commandments and how the Greco-Roman-Protestants violate them.

Let's start with the first one from the Book of Exodus:

2 "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

3 "You shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:2-3)

There are many ways that the Greco-Roman-Protestants violate this one. The most obvious is that they put traditions of humans above the word of God. They do this in many ways, including the fact that the Greco-Roman-Protestants normally observe re-labeled pagan holidays (Christmas, Easter, Halloween, etc.) as opposed to God’s Holy Days. They mix scriptures along side modified pagan rituals, which most seem to accept.

Ishtar, also known as Easter/Oster/Ostern was the goddess of fertility and war. Ishtar also has ties to the ancient Babylonian mystery religion and Nimrod. She was also called Beltis. Belits was the wife of Bel-Nimrod. She was called “the Queen of Fertility” and also known as “the Great Mother” (similar to how some revere Mary, the mother of Jesus today) and essentially was also Ishtar in the Assyrian triad (Clare IS. Ancient oriental nations, Volume 1 of The Unrivaled History of the World: Containing a Full and Complete Record of the Human Race from the Earliest Historical Period to the Present Time, Embracing a General Survey of the Progress of Mankind in National and Social Life, Civil Government, Religion, Literature, Science and Art. Unrivaled Publishing Co., 1889, pp. 222-223).

Let's look at the second one:

4 "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; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6)

This one is interesting. The Greek/Eastern Orthodox claim that since Jesus came physically, that this commandment is no longer particularly relevant (see also Some Similarities and Differences Between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Continuing Church of God), so they now have churches filled with idols and icons. This is despite the Apostle John's warning to keep away from idols (1 John 5:21).

The Roman Catholics have decided that they can combine this command to be part of the first, even though early Christians realized that these were two separate commands (see The Ten Commandments and the Early Church).

Now while Protestants do not have the same idols and icons, there is some idolatry associated with many Protestant churches (steeples, a sun god symbol, and crosses come to mind--see also What is the Origin of the Cross as a 'Christian' Symbol?). Certain Protestant preachers seem to make an idol of money.

Let's look at the third one:

7 "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

Notice:

5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?"

6 He answered and said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

'This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
7 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'

8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men — the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do." (Mark 7:5-8)

The Greco-Roman-Protestants put traditions of humans above the word of God.

Furthermore, notice what Jesus taught:

33 "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37)

Yet, most Greco-Roman-Protestants will swear oaths.

Here is the fourth commandment:

8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11)

The Greco-Roman-Protestants do not believe that this one is meant to be observed literally. They do not believe it is wrong to work on the Sabbath, plus they usually claim that Sunday is the Sabbath.

This is despite what their own translations of the Bible teach (using two Protestant and three Catholic translations):

3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work." 5 And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest." 6 It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience...9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience (Hebrews 4:3-6,9-11, NIV).

3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS”; 5 and again in this passage, “THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.” 6 Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience,.. 9 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:3-6,9-11, NASB)

3 We, however, who have faith, are entering a place of rest, as in the text: And then in my anger I swore that they would never enter my place of rest. Now God's work was all finished at the beginning of the world; 4 as one text says, referring to the seventh day: And God rested on the seventh day after all the work he had been doing. 5 And, again, the passage above says: They will never reach my place of rest. 6 It remains the case, then, that there would be some people who would reach it, and since those who first heard the good news were prevented from entering by their refusal to believe…9 There must still be, therefore, a seventh-day rest reserved for God's people,  10 since to enter the place of rest is to rest after your work, as God did after his.  11 Let us, then, press forward to enter this place of rest, or some of you might copy this example of refusal to believe and be lost. (Hebrews 4:3-6,9-11, NJB)

3 For we, that have believed, shall enter into their rest; as he said: As I sware in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: and truly the works from the foundation of the world being perfected. 4 For he said in a certain place of the seventh day thus: And God rested the seventh day from all his works…9 Therefore there is left a sabbatisme for the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, the same also hath rested from his works, as God did from his.  11 Let us hasten therefore to enter into that rest; lest any man fall into the same example of incredulity. (Hebrews 4:3-6,9-11, The Original and True Rheims New Testament of Anno Domini 1582)

3 For we who believed enter into [that] rest, just as he has said: “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter into my rest,’” and yet his works were accomplished at the foundation of the world. 4For he has spoken somewhere about the seventh day in this manner, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works”; 5 and again, in the previously mentioned place, “They shall not enter into my rest.” 6 Therefore, since it remains that some will enter into it, and those who formerly received the good news did not enter because of disobedience,... 9 Therefore, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God. 10And whoever enters into God’s rest, rests from his own works as God did from his. 11 Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:3-6,9-11, New American Bible)

Thus, the New Testament clearly shows that the command to keep the seventh day Sabbath is in the New Testament. It also shows that only those who will not observe it because of their disobedience argue otherwise. And that is why Paul observed it.

Even Origen understood some of this as he wrote:

But what is the feast of the Sabbath except that which the apostle speaks, "There remaineth therefore a Sabbatism," that is, the observance of the Sabbath, by the people of God...let us see how the Sabbath ought to be observed by a Christian. On the Sabbath-day all worldly labors ought to be abstained from...give yourselves up to spiritual exercises, repairing to church, attending to sacred reading and instruction...this is the observance of the Christian Sabbath (Translated from Origen's Opera 2, Paris, 1733, Andrews J.N. in History of the Sabbath, 3rd edition, 1887. Reprint Teach Services, Brushton (NY), 1998, pp. 324-325).

One reason that many today do not understand this is that certain translators have intentionally mistranslated the Greek term sabbatismos (ςαββατισμóς) which is actually found in Hebrews 4:9 (Green JP. The Interlinear Bible, 2nd edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1986, p. 930).

The Protestant KJV and NKJV mistranslate it as does the CHANGED version of the Rheims New Testament, also known as the Challoner version (changes in the 18th century)--all three mistranslate the word as 'rest,' whereas there is a different Greek term (katapausin), translated as 'rest' in the New Testament. Sabbatismos clearly refers to a 'sabbath-rest' and honest scholars will all admit that. Because of the mistranslations, most today do not realize that the seventh-day Sabbath was specifically enjoined for Christians in the New Testament.

If you are Roman Catholic, consider the following:

Codex Amiatinus The most celebrated manuscript of the Latin Vulgate Bible, remarkable as the best witness to the true text of St. Jerome...(Fenlon, John Francis. "Codex Amiatinus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 21 Apr. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04081a.htm>)

Here is the Latin from the Codex Amiatinus:

9 itaque relinquitur sabbatismus populo Dei (Hebrews 4:9, Codex Amiatinus. http://www.latinvulgate.com/lv/verse.aspx?t=1&b=19&c=4 accessed 10/22/15)

It is clear, even to non-Latin readers that Hebrews 4:9 is definitely talking about the Sabbath.

Decades ago, a Protestant told me that the reason he did not keep the seventh-day Sabbath was because it was not taught for Christians in the New Testament. I handed him a Bible *RSV) and read him Hebrews 4. He then looked at the verses himself. After doing so, he said because his grandmother was a "good Christian" in his view, and because she did not keep it, he felt that he did not. He failed to truly rely on the Bible, but instead on false tradition (see also Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings). Sadly most who profess Christianity do not keep the seventh-day Sabbath and rely mainly on improper traditions, whether they realize it or not.

For those interested in another source, here is a translation of Hebrews 4:9 from the, Eastern Peschitta, which is an Aramaic text (Roth AG, Daniel BB. Aramaic English New Testament, 5th edition. Netazari Press, 2012):

9. For there remains a Shabat for the people of Elohim.

Whether we look at translations from the Greek, the first Latin Vulgate, or Aramaic, it should be clear that the Bible does enjoin Sabbath-keeping for Christians.

Now although many Protestants mistakenly believe that despite what the Bible says, the Sabbath commandment is done away, even Martin Luther, the famous Protestant Reformer, believed that Christians had to keep the Sabbath. But he taught it for the wrong day and wrong number, and wrong way as he wrote about it:

This Sabbath has now for us been changed into the Sunday, and the other days are called work-days; the Sunday is called rest-day or holiday or holy day. And would to God that in Christendom there were no holiday except the Sunday" (Luther, M. A treatise on Good Works together with the Letter of Dedication, published 1520. In Works of Martin Luther. Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed, Henry Eyster Jacobs, et Al., Trans. & Eds. Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915, Vol. 1, pp. 173-285)

God requires Christians to worship together...He has not specified any particular day...The church worships together especially on Sunday because Christ rose from the dead on Sunday (Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation. Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 1986, p.67).

Martin Luther believed Protestants should keep the Sabbath commandment as Sunday, but no scripture says that.

Anyway, another mystery of iniquity is partially keeping Sunday as the Sabbath. Sunday was used to honor the pagan sun gods, and was not kept truly as a Sabbath by the Sunday pagans. Nor do many actually attempt to keep Sunday as a Christian would truly keep the seventh-day Sabbath.

Many think making some effort to keep Sunday fulfills the Sabbath commandment. But that is based on human tradition and outward appearances, not the Bible.

As far as the fifth commandment goes, the Greco-Roman-Protestants do believe that they teach children should honor their parents. But since God is our Father, they will not go far enough to honor Him by obeying His word.

Now let's look at the sixth commandment:

13 "You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13)

In the New Testament, we see more about aspects of this.

John the Baptist addressed the military this way:

Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, "And what shall we do?" So he said to them, "Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages" (Luke 3:14).

The word translated as 'intimidate' is the Greek word diaseio which the KJV translates as violence. Strong's translates it to shake thoroughly, to intimidate, to do violence to. It comes from two Greek words 'diagnosis' and 'seio'; diagnosis is translated as examination and seio as to rock, agitate, to throw in a tremor. There is no way a soldier can not 'agitate/intimidate' if they are trying to kill someone.

And Jesus?

"You have heard that it was said to the ancients, 'Thou shalt not commit murder', and whoever commits murder will be answerable to the magistrate. But I say to you that every one who becomes angry with his brother shall be answerable to the magistrate; that whoever says to his brother 'Raca,' shall be answerable to the Sanhedrin; and that whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the Gehenna of Fire. (Matthew 5:21-22, Weymouth New Testament)

18 Jesus said, "'You shall not murder..." (Matthew 19:18, NKJV)

35 Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?" 36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here" (John 18:35-36).

Now Jesus was a Jewish citizen, but His kingdom, His true citizenship, were not of this world--the same reasoning applies to His servants, true Christians, which is why we do not fight.

While many might want to reason around that, the fact is that early Christians, including the Greco-Romans who claimed to be one, would not fight in the military and kill. They also would not even watch violent sports (see Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare or Encourage Violence?).

Christians ARE NOT to be of this world! But the mystery of iniquity has persuaded people that this is God's world and that military service is appropriate for Christians.

But up until some time in the third century, even the Greco-Romans did not believe that they could be in the military. Now this all changed in the fourth century when the warring pagan Emperor Constantine persuaded them to become militaristic. Because of Emperor Constantine, we began to see serious persecution FROM the Greco-Romans against those who help to the original Christian faith. The Protestants, under Martin Luther (see The Similarities and Dissimilarities between Martin Luther and Herbert W. Armstrong), continued the view that they could be murderous soldiers and persecutors.

But real Christians have always been the persecuted, not the persecutors. This differs from the Greco-Roman-Protestants (see also Persecutions by Church and State).

The seventh commandment states:

14 "You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14)

Jesus taught:

27 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.

31 "Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. (Matthew 5:27-32)

Jesus expanded the common definition of adultery and put restrictions on divorce.

The Roman Catholics supposedly do not allow divorce, but their annulment and remarriage practices make a mockery of that. That church is in violation of keeping the seventh commandment.

The Protestants do not even pretend to prohibit divorce and remarriage--and that is actually why the Church of England was founded. King Henry the VIII wanted a divorce that the Bishop of Rome would not grant him, so he left that faith and started a new one in his country. And most of the Catholic clergy converted and joined him.

The Greek/Eastern Orthodox church claims to be against divorce, but it allows/encourages priests to put away their wives if they are to become bishops. That is wrong:

4 Yet you say, "For what reason?"
Because the Lord has been witness
Between you and the wife of your youth,
With whom you have dealt treacherously;
Yet she is your companion
And your wife by covenant.
15 But did He not make them one,
Having a remnant of the Spirit?
And why one?
He seeks godly offspring.
Therefore take heed to your spirit,
And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. (Malachi 2:14-15)

The Greek Orthodox priests who drop being married are dealing wrongly with their wives, yet this is officially encouraged.

Here is the eighth commandment:

15 "You shall not steal. (Exodus 20:15)

In addition to having a history of stealing land and property from real Christians (see Persecutions by Church and State) the Greco-Roman-Protestants generally do not believe in fully tithing.

Jesus taught that tithing should be done (Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42). In Malachi God says that not tithing is stealing:

8 "Will a man rob God?
Yet you have robbed Me!
But you say,
'In what way have we robbed You?'
In tithes and offerings.
9 You are cursed with a curse,
For you have robbed Me,
Even this whole nation.
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,"
Says the Lord of hosts,
"If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it. (Malachi 3:8-10)

The 'mystery of iniquity' indicates that since you 'cannot afford' to tithe that you do not have to. This seems good to some.

More on tithing can be found in the article Tithing Questions and Some Answers.

The ninth commandment states:

16 "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16)

Many doctrines of the Greco-Roman-Protestants bear false witness against the Bible. Satan's tactics include the use use inuendo name calling. Satan has long gotten people to speak against the true faith:

22 But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere. (Acts 28:22)

2 When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented the charges against Paul in the following address to the governor: "Your Excellency...5 We have found this man to be a troublemaker who is constantly stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the cult known as the Nazarenes...

10...Paul said, "I know, sir, that you have been a judge of Jewish affairs for many years, so I gladly present my defense before you. 11 You can quickly discover that I arrived in Jerusalem no more than twelve days ago to worship at the Temple. 12 My accusers never found me arguing with anyone in the Temple, nor stirring up a riot in any synagogue or on the streets of the city. 13 These men cannot prove the things they accuse me of doing.

14 "But I admit that I follow the Way, which they call a cult. I worship the God of our ancestors, and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets. (Acts 24:2,5,10-14, New Living Translation ®, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust.)

Some of the Greco-Roman-Protestants call groups like the Continuing Church of God a cult (see also Is the Genuine Church of God a Cult?) and imply it is outside of genuine Christianity, which is false witness.

The Roman Catholic practice of confession, while appearing pious on its surface, has the tendency to teach people it is okay to lie if pressured as all they have to do is to go to confession and repeat memorized prayers as the penalty to get over it.

The tenth commandment states:

17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's." (Exodus 20:17)

While most of the Greco-Roman-Protestant faiths officially oppose covetousness, the reality is that their societies tend not to see this as a problem. They also get involved improperly with worldly politics. Furthermore, how the Church of Rome handles matters related to death, specifically its doctrine of purgatory, is covetous and seems to be something that Jesus' warned against (Luke 20:46-47, see also Did the Early Church Teach Purgatory?). Its acceptance of Marcion, after he was denounced by Polycarp, because Marcion gave money, has affected it to this day. The Bible warns about a mother church that is too involved with money and political power in Revelation 17.

Over time, more and more in the Greco-Roman churches considered exceptions to God's laws as normal and acceptable.

The mystery of lawlessness/iniquity is that the religious Greco-Roman-Protestants reason around many of God's laws and commandments, yet still think they are fine.

The Purgatorian Gospel?

The following article claims that ‘Purgatory’ is part of the Gospel!:

The great good news of Purgatory

May 3, 2017

Far from a “cheap grace,” Purgatory is the sensible and just means of becoming fit for the mercy we receive.

When Jesus walked out of the Tomb, he opened the door to Purgatory. We don’t think about this when belting out “Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia,” at least I don’t, but we should. It’s Gospel, as my Evangelical friends say.

I tried to write a new verse for the hymn. I got as far as “Jesus Christ is risen today, Purgatory is here to stay,” and gave up.

Besides being Gospel, Purgatory attracts people to the Church, too. It supplies a need we all feel, at least when we’re at our best. The Protestant C. S. Lewis saw this at the very end of his life. In his last book, Letters to Malcolm, he says that “Our souls demand Purgatory.”

We want it. We feel the need of it. …

Not cheap grace

Purgatory’s not cheap-grace Christianity. We have our versions of that just as the Evangelicals do, with their get-out-of-jail-free conversions and wipe-the-slate-clean view of grace. The Evangelicals themselves accuse us of using the sacraments mechanically, and that can be fair hit. For that matter, we can think of Purgatory as the place we’ll pay the bill for the indulgences we enjoy now. …

The Purgatorian Gospel

I said that Purgatory was “Gospel” and that it attracts people to the Church. It’s one of the great distinctive Catholic doctrines. You want the Purgatorial cleaning Lewis wrote about, come to the Catholic Church. http://aleteia.org/2017/05/03/the-great-good-news-of-purgatory/

Jesus spoke of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Notice the following from a Roman Catholic translation:

14 Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the gospel from God saying, 15 ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel.’

Purgatory, as the Church of Rome teaches it, was not part of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

One of the reasons that Aletia (an online Catholic news and information website) claims Purgatory is “one of the great distinctive Catholic doctrines” is precisely because what the Church of Rome teaches about Purgatory does not come from the Bible--and this doctrine has been unique to them.

Furthermore it should be noted, the Church of Rome still does offer indulgences related to Purgatory (see Vatican offering ‘indulgences’ to reduce time in ‘purgatory’ for following Pope Francis on Twitter, etc.). My wife and I were actually offered an indulgence for each of us if we attended Pope Francis’ Wednesday message in Vatican City a couple of years ago.

The 'Purgatorian Gospel' essentially seems to be that it is fine to sin and not truly repent as God will have you suffer enough in Purgatory to earn your salvation. Although promoters of it deny this, that is the end result of their doctrine and that is a false gospel. The 'Purgatorian Gospel' promotes iniquity as it does not result in proper repentance for sin in this life--which is something Christians must do (cf. Acts 2:38; Hebrews 12:14-17).

The Apostle Paul warned that "the mystery of lawlessness is already at work" in his time (2 Thessalonians 2:7), but that it would worsen (2 Thessalonians 2:6-12). The 'Purgatorian Gospel' is part of that 'mystery of lawlessness.'


The Mystery of Iniquity Will Accelerate

The mystery of iniquity will worsen in the end times. That is something that the Apostle Paul was warning about:

3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12)

Notice that there is restraint on the 'mystery of lawlessness' (the mystery of iniquity) until some time towards the end (to know who that might be, see What is Restrained and Who is Restraining in 2 Thessalonians 2:7?). And that miraculous signs will be used as deception. This likely will include apparitions claimed to be Mary (cf. Isaiah 47; see also Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apparitions) as well as an image that will speak (Revelation 13:15). This will be a mystery to many that something that appears publicly and is 'supernatural' will persuade people to overlook the Bible and accept more falsehoods!

This 'son of perdition' who exalts himself above God in 2 Thessalonians 2 is called the King of the North in the Old Testament (though many COGs fail to see that Who is the Man of Sin of 2 Thessalonians 2?). Notice some of what he and God's people will do:

31 And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation. 32 Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. 33 And those of the people who understand shall instruct many (Daniel 11:31-33).

Notice that the King of the North uses deceit, a violation of the ninth commandment and that God's people will instruct many. God's people will be instructing many about the mystery of iniquity, the mystery of lawlessness. This will include teaching aspects of church history that many do not grasp (so studying the booklet Continuing History of the Church of God would be helpful), warning against false apparitions, signs, and lying wonders, explaining what the true gospel is (so studying the booklet The Gospel of the Kingdom of God would be helpful), and explaining how to determine where the true Christian church is (so studying the booklet Where is the True Christian Church Today? would be helpful).

This is why we in the Continuing Church of God have emphasized some of those subjects more than other groups.

If you consider yourself an end time Philadelphian Christian (Revelation 3:7-13), you need to know about the mystery of iniquity/lawlessness! You need to be able to "instruct many"!

Notice more about this King of the North.

36 "Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done. 37 He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all. 38 But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. 39 Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain. (Daniel 11:36-39)

We see that the King of the North will obviously not be observing the first, second, and third commandments above. He will also persecute and be militaristic and thus violate the sixth commandment. He will invade and distribute lands he did not own in violation of the eighth commandment.

Here is more about him from Revelation:

4 So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"

5 And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. 6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. 7 It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:4-8)

He will also have one promoting him that will have perform signs, but who looks like a lamb to the world:

11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. 12 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. 14 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. 15 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. 16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, 17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:11-17)

The above leader will promote iniquity and make a deal with a church called Mystery Babylon the Great--a church that has been a persecutor along with its offspring:

5 And on her forehead a name was written:

MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

6 I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.

7 But the angel said to me, "Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. 8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

9 "Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. 10 There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time. 11 The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition. (Revelation 17:5-11)

Yet, eventually supporters of the Beast will turn against that seven-hilled based church:

15 Then he said to me, "The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. 16 And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17 For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. 18 And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth." (Revelation 17:15-18)

As that leader will blame it for problems and decide that he is the one to be worshiped that the Mystery church needs to be eliminated.

Under the 'Babylonian system' views of rulers take precedence over everything, including all religions. God will not approve of that and will destroy this power:

12 "The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. 13 These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful." (Revelation 17:12-14)

Christians are NOT to be part of the Babylonian mystery faith:

1 After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. 2 And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! 3 For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury."

4 And I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. 5 For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 6 Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. 7 In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, 'I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.' 8 Therefore her plagues will come in one day — death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her. (Revelation 18:1-8)

God will destroy it as well as the final Beast:

19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:19-21)

Do not be part of that system now. Avoid being involved with the mystery of iniquity.

God will also deal with Satan:

1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. (Revelation 20:1-3)

Do not wait. Stop being deceived by Satan now Do not allow yourself to be seduced by the mystery of iniquity.

The mystery of iniquity is practicing a false religion that looks good to Satan and various others, but not to God.

A related sermon is also available: The Mystery of Iniquity.

Thiel B. Mystery of Iniquity. COGwriter (c) http://www.cogwriter.com/mystery-of-iniquity.htm 2016/2017 0504

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