Pagan Philosophies vs. God’s Word
Greek creation myth
The theology that profoundly influenced Greek thought and ultimately Plato, was the ancient myth of the creation of man. In the myth, Zagreus, the son of Zeus, fell under the power of the Titans, the wicked enemy of Zeus. To evade the Titans, Zagreus changed into the form of a bull; but his deception was discovered by the Titans; he was captured, torn into pieces and devoured.
Zeus, in revenge for his son’s murder, blasts the Titans with a bolt of lightning, turning the Titans into ash. From this ash pile the human race arose. Mankind therefore consists of two opposing elements: The wicked element of the Titans, and the divine element of Zagreus.
So, humanity is raised from the ashes, which results in the Orphic theology, i.e. the dualism of the body and soul. The body (sōma), inherited from the Titans, and a divine spark or soul (psychē), inherited from Zagreus. Orphic Theology held that mankind must free themselves from the Titanic elements, and after purification, return to the gods the fragment of good that is living within them. There is a form of reincarnation in this belief, as the soul that is not purified at death will have to seek a new body in which to free themselves from the Titanic forces (through ascetic purification), thus becoming divine and breaking free from the wheel of reincarnation.
Plato believed that the soul of a person belonged to the higher world (the mind [nous]), not to the lower world (the body – the courageous part [thumos], and the appetitive part [epithumia]). The soul according to Plato, therefore strives throughout the life of the individual to attain its proper place in the higher world. George Eldon Ladd gives an excellent description of this conflict within Plato’s dualism: “Plato likens this struggle to a charioteer driving two winged horses, one noble and the other ignoble. The noble horse wishes to mount up to the sky, to the realm of the divine eternal realities; it represents the divine immortal part of the soul whose proper realm is the region above the heaven, where all true knowledge is concerned. The ignoble horse — the lower part of the soul — drags downward toward the earth, and, if it is not disciplined, corrupts the soul with impurities. There the utmost toil and struggle await the soul” (1).
So, according to Plato, the body was a mass of evil that was a toxic poison for the soul, which for him meant that the body will always be the enemy of the soul. The ultimate concern then for Plato was that the body, unless brought under control would be a hindrance to the attaining of wisdom.
- (1) George Eldon Ladd; The Greek Versus the Hebrew View of Man, Present Truth Magazine, Volume Twenty-Nine — Article 2.
Plato’s Philosophy vs. Scripture
Eldon explains the difference between the Greek world view and the Hebrew world view writing: “The Old Testament view of God, man, and the world is very different from Greek dualism. Fundamental to Hebrew thought is the belief that God is the creator, that the world is God’s creation and is therefore in itself good. The Greek idea that the material world is the sphere of evil and a burden or a hindrance to the soul is alien to the Old Testament” (1).
The Greek view is that “god” can be known only by the flight of the soul from the world and history; the Hebrew view is that God can be known because He invades history to meet men in historical experience. Plato’s philosophy is introspective, and humanistic, where the individual seeks to self-actualise and uses the world around them to achieve this. Yeshua taught that we must not find ourselves, we must find Him!
- (1) (George Eldon Ladd; The Greek Versus the Hebrew View of Man, Present Truth Magazine, Volume Twenty-Nine — Article 2).
The influence of Ancient Greece on the West’s world view
Western civilization has in the past been called Judeo-Christian – grouping Christianity and Judaism together, in reference to Christianity’s derivation from Judaism – because Christianity used to be the dominant faith determining ethics – a code of conduct among Western cultures. However, in terms of civilization, the West is basically Greek. Examples of Greek influence in the Western world view are:
- Civic architecture, before the coming of steel and glass, it is based on Greek Temples with columns and porticos.
- Art is based upon Greek concepts, and the term Classical refers to the Greek style.
- Our concept of sport is drawn from the Greek Olympics and the gymnasium (the Ancient Greek term gymnós meaning “naked “).
- Our Philosophy is heavily influenced by the Greek philosophers, and it has coloured Christianity through the teachings of academics who value sophistication and the approval of man.
- Our Politics, social structures and government are Greek – democracy is Greco-Roman; the Bible never advocated rule by consensus of the people.
Greek versus Hebraic World View
- The Hebrew world view is that mankind is created in the image of God, and thus requires mankind to become holy, as God is Holy. While the Greek world view has the god’s created in the image of man (anthropomorphic), and therefore the Greek gods have similar moral failings as mankind. The result of Greek theology is that man is the centre of their universe, which has led to secular humanism.
- Hebrew reliance is on God and His Torah, while the Greek mind does not accept revelation – only reason. The age of enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason, was an intellectual and philosophical movement in the 17th and 18th centuries. During this period of history European thinking was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy, that emphasized reason over superstition and science over blind faith. The result was the birth of liberal theology, with a deistic God. Scripture was no longer a divine record, but rather according to Immanuel Kant, nothing more than a system of ethics.
- The Hebrew mind thinks of the beauty of holiness, while the Greek mind seeks the holiness of beauty.
- The pursuit of individualism with a focus on achievement and self-actualisation is the foundation of the Greek world view. Jewish (Biblical) aspirations are towards a body of people following and serving God.
- The Greek world view holds that the spirit is immaterial and in constant conflict with the body, while the Hebraic view is that the body is able to become the temple of the Holy Spirit, which then starts a process of transformation.
- The Greek mind believes that the physical is sinful, while in Hebrew thinking, the physical was created by God and is seen to be good.
- In Greek thought there is separation between the spiritual and the physical. In Hebrew thinking there is no distinction between the sacred and the secular. If a Christian has fully committed their lives to God, they can’t then say that they have a secular job.
- The Hebrew view of ultimate virtue is to follow God, whilst the Greeks seek self-expression.
The Greek mind in comparison with the Hebrew mind
- The Greek mind describes form by picturing what it looks like – which is a static perception. The Hebrew mind describes form by function – a dynamic perception. A common example used is when asked to describe a pencil, a Greek mind will refer to shape size and colour, while the Hebrew mind will answer that the pencil is an object used for writing.
- The Hebrew mind asks “What must I do?”, but the Greek mind asks “Why must I do it?”
- The Greek mind categorizes and differentiates (either/or). The Hebrew mind is able to link apparent discrepancies (both/and). Is God our father, or our Lord? Is God transcendent, or near? Did God write scripture, or did man, does man choose God, or did God choose man?
By interpreting scripture using a world view that has a Greek philosophical bias creates theological problems, some with far reaching effects. An example would be predestination – the belief that God has ordained salvation for some and not for others. In other words, God chooses us, we do not choose him. This has resulted in Christians tolerating slavery in the pre-civil war Southern states of America, and Apartheid in 1900s South Africa. The logic being God had predestined blacks to serve whites.
In his famous work Republic, Plato uses a cave as an allegory to reveal the lack of knowledge and understanding people have regarding life’s truths. Plato described a cave with a permanent large fire burning on one side of it, prisoners kept in the cave are chained in such a manner that all they can see is the back wall with the fire burning behind them. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a bridge along which puppeteers can walk. The puppeteers control the movement of the puppets, which cast shadows on the back of the cave. The restricted prisoners are only able to see the shadow of these puppets moving on the wall, which they believe is reality. Then, one of the prisoners succeeds in freeing himself, he escapes his bonds and sees the physical objects that are causing the shadows. He now realises how he has been ignorant of the truth, and returns to free his fellow prisoners. By releasing them from their bondages, he enables them to turn their heads and see the forms, the real objects that had been causing the shadows.
What we need to understand from this allegory by Plato, is the idea of forms. According to Plato, what we view when we see the world is a shadow of the reality. Plato believed there were two realities: The first is the world in which we live, the second is a non-physical realm in which the forms exist. Everything in our world is a copy or attempt to represent a form. So, for example, the perfect form of a sphere is in this other reality (perfect mathematics and physics). In our world we have but copies that don’t quite hit perfection, for example a ball or a planet are not perfect spheres. What we perceive is an imperfect version of the reality. So, our realm is subjective and the other realm is objective.
This allegory is all important in understanding Greek philosophy and its difference from scripture. But what is also important is that Plato believed that only a Philosopher has the gnosis – the knowledge – to interpret the world for us. This belief was to infiltrate Christianity, where the priest became the individual with the gnosis, and was therefore the only one allowed to read the Bible. Scripture refers to those who practice this belief as Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6, 14-15), nike being Greek for victory, and laity is Greek for people. The name refers to a dominance (victory) over God’s people, which is something man loves to attain, but which God never intended. Bishops, elders, presbyters whatever the title you wish to give to them, are to be servants not masters.
God hates Syncretism!
In scripture syncretism occurs when mankind mixes, amalgamates and substitutes God’s Word with man’s wisdom. God hates syncretism, He detests when mankind allows our humanistic philosophies and ideology to taint His Word. Laodicea, is the last Church in the list of seven churches that John wrote to in the beginning of the book of Revelation. The name Laodicea comes from the Greek Lao Dictaomi, which means “people’s opinion.” The contamination of God’s Word with man’s wisdom within this church causes Jesus to spew them out of His mouth:
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15-16).
Most of the letter to the Laodicean church is divine denunciation. The Lord’s first rebuke points directly at the foundations of their problem – the Laodiceans had allowed syncretism into their church. In Leviticus 19:19 the Jews are told not to mix wool and linen in their garments – on the surface this seems a strange request, but God is driving home an important message – do not mix that which is from God (wool), with that which is from man (linen). Right from the beginning in Genesis we see that man’s wisdom is flawed and insufficient. Adam and Eve sowed fig leaves together to make clothes for themselves. Mankind’s covering of their sin becomes corrupted and falls away. God had to provide the skins of an animal to be an appropriate clothing for them – an innocent party had to die to cover the sins of another. Another example from Genesis, is when Cain offered a sacrifice of vegetables because he was too proud to go to his brother Able and ask for a lamb to sacrifice – he, as a farmer had worked harder for his offering, than his shepherd brother had for his lamb sacrifice. In Leviticus 17:11 and Hebrews 9:22 God makes it abundantly clear “…without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sins.” Cain was creating his own offering – which he thought to be superior – but it did not meet the requirement of an innocent party dying for the sins of another.
The contamination of syncretism explains why Yeshua says to the Laodiceans that He wishes they were either hot or cold, as the mixture is so dangerous. People in the Laodicean church believed they were worshipping God, but were serving self and losing out on attaining salvation.
The letter to Laodicea needs to be studied alongside the epistle to the Colossians. Paul wrote the letter not just for Colossae, but for the church at Laodicea as well (Col. 4:16). The reason being that the theological error, labelled the “the Colossian heresy,” existed in both churches. Paul does not give exact details of the deception that took hold of the church at Colossae, but we are able to glean enough information from the letter to know that this heresy was syncretistic. This cosmopolitan city with its many different faiths and beliefs had contaminated the Colossian Church. The letter’s aim was to reveal the stupidity of this error, the idiocy of taking their eyes off Yeshua and looking at the philosophies of the world. Paul is the spiritual doctor writing a prescription requiring the ill patient to change from a diet of fast food, to a diet that meets the needs of the food pyramid. Paul is telling them to ignore the neon lighted advertising of the false doctrines (deception) that were on every street corner and to go to the market to obtain a healthy, and nutritious diet, that gives health and longevity to life. Just as you are what you eat, the Colossians had opened themselves up to a diet of false beliefs, a diet of philosophical garbage, and their spiritual health was in a dramatic decline – they were deceived by the world and man’s wisdom.
Yeshua’s rebuke directed at the Laodicean church reveals that Paul’s warning to them had been ignored, and syncretism – man’s wisdom – had contaminated God’s Word and had moulded a new man-made theology.
The Gates of Hell will not prevail
In Matthew 16 we have the first use of the word “Church” in scripture, when Yeshua starts to explain the authority the disciples will have as leaders in the newly formed “Church”. In His explanation to the disciples Yeshua makes a powerful statement, that “the gates of Hades will not overcome (the Church).”
To understand this proclamation, we need to study it in the context of where Jesus and the disciples were when the statement was made. They were at Caesarea Philippi, a city at the base of Mount Hermon, which is next door to Panias, a cave believed to be an entrance to Hades (a gateway to hell) by the Greeks – here four pagan temples had been erected namely to the Emperor of Rome, to Zeus, to Nemesis and the fourth to Pan.
In our Western understanding a gate is a barrier, but to the Jews of the Second Temple era, a gate was where the leaders of a city would congregate to govern and rule. Yeshua is warning that the plans of Satan will contaminate the Church with man’s wisdom – syncretism. The “gates of Hades” was significant evidence of how the worship of Yahweh by the Jews had become contaminated by the Greek pantheon. Yeshua repeated this warning in the parable of the mustard tree, the wheat and the tares, and the leaven and the dough (covered in part 5 of this series). Ultimately, the fulfilment of the “Gates of Hades” contamination occurred in the Roman Church becoming 70% pagan, and this corruption saw the Church descend into the Dark Ages. However, just as Yeshua prophesied, the syncretism of His Church did not prevail, and revivals such as the Reformation, the Great Awakening, and most recently the Pentecostal and Charismatic revivals have brought the Church step by step out of the quagmire of man’s wisdom. The Church needs to heed this warning and recognise that we are now in the last days where Yeshua is working to further refine His Bride, so as to be totally free of all man’s wisdom. The Church needs to recognize the vestiges of paganism and man’s wisdom that still cling to our Faith and eradicate them once and for all.
Syncretism in the Church
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8)”
Greek ideology started to impact the Christian Church between the second and fourth centuries. Before that time the Church had been rooted in Hebrew thought and belief. Greek/Hellenistic ideas and philosophy has always been seen as more sophisticated, and the church fathers started to be seduced by it. This occurred mainly in Alexandria.
There was no more cosmopolitan city than Alexandria, trading with cultures from India to the Atlantic. Alexander’s general Ptolemy I, believed in this sharing of ideas, and built a massive library at Alexandria. Ships entering the port had to hand over all their manuscripts, which would be copied by scribes in the library. The library became the centre of knowledge in the ancient world, where academics would congregate to study, debate and share ideas and beliefs. From this caldron of philosophies rose ideas that would result in the contamination of God’s Word. The two greatest threats to the existence of the fledgling Church arising out of Alexandria, were Arianism and Gnosticism:
Arianism (see also Getting to Know Yeshua 1): Arius a presbyter of Alexandria, was the force behind the heresy that came to be named after him. The essence of the heresy was that Arius denied the hypostatic union of Jesus, i.e. that He was both all man and all God. Arius believed that Jesus was created by God the Father, so even though He was the first and noblest of created beings, He was still inferior to the Father both in nature and dignity.
Gnosticism: Most theologians would argue that there is no one single point for the origin of Gnosticism, but the heart of the cult was certainly Alexandria, with the two most brilliant Gnostic teaches, Valentinus and Basilides, both connected to Alexandria. Gnosticism has Jewish Christian origins and believed that God was pure and holy and that the world – matter – was evil, so God could not have been directly involved with creation, as a holy God could not create that which is evil. The Greek influence within the heresy of Gnosticism is seen in Platonic dualism – the belief that matter is evil, and the spirit is pure. Salvation for the Gnostics then could only be attained through overcoming that evil – a doctrine of works.
Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis which means “to know,” as Gnostics claim to possess an elevated knowledge, a “higher truth” known only to a certain few. The “higher truth” of the few is not from the Bible, but acquired on some mystical higher plane of existence – once more reflecting Plato’s influence. Gnostics see themselves as a privileged class elevated above everybody else by their higher, deeper knowledge of God. It is only these few deeply spiritual people that were then able to pass on this gnosis to others. This belief was attained from Plato’s ideology that only a select few were able to grasp the fullness of the spiritual realm, and in turn free others from the chains of ignorance.
The influence of eastern religions in Gnosticism can be seen in the belief that Yeshua was a man who attained divinity through gnosis and taught his disciples to do the same – much as a guru (enlightened, god man) would do in India.
The purpose of identifying the two heresies of Gnosticism and Arianism is to emphasize the ease with which man’s wisdom can contaminate God’s Word, the great harm it can cause, and how Alexandria was the centre of these evil deceptions in the Roman world.
Factors that influenced Alexandrian theology:
- Heavily Influenced by Platonic Philosophy of the Graeco-Jewish traditions.
- The rise of the allegorical school of interpretation in Alexandria replaced the literal method used in the first two centuries of the Church. This was to have a major effect on Biblical eschatology.
- Man’s attraction to Mysticism.
- Tendency to believe in Tritheism (the three persons of the Trinity are three distinct Gods).
- Opposed the literal and historical method of the Syrian Antioch Church.
These heresies caused much harm and disruption within the Church and it was the main motivation behind Constantine calling for the gathering of minds at the council of Nicaea in AD 324.
It should come as no surprise then, that the Greek philosophers were held in high esteem by the academics of Alexandria, and their ideology played a major part in the founding of Alexandrian thought. With a sharing of ideas being common, the Church in Alexandria was drawn into the error of syncretism, where man’s philosophies began to mix with and contaminate God’s Word. This saw the rise of allegorical (underlying, deeper meaning) interpretation of scripture, as opposed to a literal interpretation.
Evidence of Syncretism among Church Fathers in Alexandria:
Clement of Alexandria (AD. 150-215), a theologian and philosopher who was influenced by Platonic dualism and adopted Greek allegorical methods of interpreting scripture. Note the conflict in his areas of study; as a theologian he would have studied God’s wisdom, as a philosopher he would have studied man’s wisdom. The end result is that syncretism contaminated his theology – the mixing of man’s wisdom into God’s Word.
The consequence of his syncretism was that Clement agreed with Gnostics in believing religious knowledge, or illumination, to be the chief element of Christian perfection. The only true knowledge up until this time had been Apostolic in its foundation, and possessing Divine revelation. He supplemented this presupposition with the ideas of Greek Platonic philosophy.
A star pupil of Clement was Origen (184-253), who took Clement’s teachings even further, integrating them into Christian theology. Influenced by Platonic Dualism, Origen believed that an earthly kingdom of Christ would be something evil. The seed of the doctrine of amillennialism had been planted.
Origen, was the first theologian to spiritualize the future earthly reign of Yeshua due to the following:
- Platonic philosophy, which emphasizes the spiritual over the material, viewing the materialism as a shadow of a greater non-physical significance.
- Personal tactic of defending the authority of the Bible by means of interpreting difficult passages non-literally.
- Rejected the interpretation of Scripture through the use of Jewish literalism which to him was “elementary knowledge”. He believed a higher sense is obtained by interpreting the text “spiritually.”
- Belief that the kingdom of heaven is to be interpreted as growth in faith and life by the Christian in the present. Therefore, the “kingdom” is not a physical geographic concept so much as it is a spiritualized realm in the hearts of God’s people
- (The above four points are from John Hannah, Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine, Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2001).
History records that Origen castrated himself, and scholars believe that he did so, either so that he could tutor young women without suspicion or temptation, or because he took Matthew 19:12 literally. However, the core motivation for this action would have been Platonic dualism, i.e. desiring to bring his body into submission to the spirit.
Augustine the Father of Amillennialism:
Augustine, although a renowned Roman Catholic theologian, is considered by many Protestants to be a part of the Protestant Reformation due to his teachings on salvation and divine grace. This is a grave error:
It was Augustine (354-430), who was to become known as the ‘Father of Amillennialism’ – the rejection of Yeshua’s thousand-year Kingdom rule, and believing that the Kingdom is ‘here and now’ in the Church. Augustine moved to Rome in 383 at the age of 29 to debate philosophy. As a lover of Plato, he became influenced by the neo-Platonic philosophy in Rome. Within three years of his move to Rome, Augustine converted to Catholicism and was quick to rise up the ranks of the Catholic Church to become one of its great theologians. As Augustine was a Neo-Platonist he was strongly influenced by Origen and his use of Greek philosophy in the interpretation of scripture, including his allegorical methods of interpretation. Because of his belief in Platonic dualism, Augustine could not tolerate the idea of a Millennial Kingdom where believers had earthly pleasures. These ideas led Augustine to establishing amillennialism as one of the doctrines of the Catholic Church.
What is important to remember, is that the early Church’s support of premillennialism (the return of Yeshua to earth to establish the millennial Kingdom), was eventually squashed by Augustine’s amillennialism, through the dominance of the Roman Church at the time and its claim to be the New Israel (replacement theology). The mediaeval Catholic Church built its system of eschatology on Augustinian amillennialism, where Christ rules the earth spiritually through his triumphant church. This belief by the Roman Church was the motivational force behind the popes instigating the crusades (1095–1291), with the goal of capturing the Holy City of Jerusalem.
To attempt to use scripture to correct Augustine’s doctrine of amillennialism would have proved fruitless, as Augustine believed the final authority in Christianity was the Church of Rome, not the Bible, so Augustine’s claim that the Roman Church was the new Israel could not be countered by scripture.
Augustine, compared the Jewish people to Cain who murdered his brother and became the first criminal in biblical history. The Jews, St Augustine wrote, were ‘a wicked sect’ and should be banished because of their evil. Amillennialism, which goes hand in hand with replacement theology, rejects the idea of the Son of David ruling from Jerusalem, over the restored nation of Israel during the millennium. Unfortunately, the curse of anti-Semitism continued in the Reformation Churches with both Luther and Calvin being admirers of Augustine.
Other errors of Augustine are:
- He taught that there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church, along with its traditions and sacraments.
- He encouraged the use of relics.
- He encouraged the belief in purgatory, which Pope Gregory I eventually initiated into the Roman Catholic Church in AD 593. This is a hideous doctrine which is still being used by the Roman Church to extort and manipulate their followers. The belief that souls must pass through stages of cleansing before being able to attain heaven is a belief that is common in various forms of paganism. The Bible, however, has no mention of a need for such cleansing, as this is done by the blood of Yeshua after a person accepts Yeshua as their Lord (Romans 8:1; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:1-3).
- Augustine was involved with Manichean who adopted the Greek idea that the flesh is evil, therefore sex was seen by them as a necessary evil. Hence the idea of repressed sexuality has been institutionalized in Roman Catholicism to this day. The attitude that all sex is wrong originated here. Augustine’s idea of sex in marriage was that it was only for procreation, so the Church could have celibate priests. The false idea that he conveyed by this message was that the sin of Adam and Eve was sex. To this day Roman Catholicism has a had to deal with a multitude of problems raised by this doctrine, especially with the large number of paedophile priests in their church.
- Augustine believed in the union of church and state.
- For Augustine, the final authority in Christianity was the Church of Rome, not the Bible.
- Augustine wrote “The City of God.” The theology places the emphasis on the Church as the Kingdom of God, declaring that Christ was already reigning with His saints, and that the resurrection was of dead souls to spiritual life (allegory). The Church was encouraged to assume rulership of the nations, and instead of carrying the gospel to the world, church leaders began to seek prestige and power by political intrigue. The Dark Ages was the inevitable consequence. This theology resulted in the interpretation of the entire world as the city of God (the kingdom of the world).
- Plato believed that what we view when we see the world, is a shadow of the reality, and that only the philosophers are able to see and accurately interpret that reality. From his being heavily influenced by Platonic philosophy, Augustine took this understanding and developed the belief that only priests had the knowledge to interpret scripture. This resulted in the laity being banned from having Bibles and reading scripture.
Through the pride of the Bishops of Rome, the political manipulations of Emperor Constantine, and the syncretism that was allowed to contaminate the Church, what had been Christianity was transformed into Christendom.
Does Your Church Practise Replacement Theology?
Most churches that hold to replacement theology do not openly advertise the fact, so how will you know if the church you are attending practises replacement theology? Here are some factors that will help you identify if this vile doctrine is in your church:
The Church will not treat Israel as special: They will reject the concept that Israel will have a great prophetic significance in end times events, which will effect the Bride of Christ – the Church. Replacement theology considers Israel to be the same as any other nation. The promised land is therefore often referred to as Palestine and not Israel. After the Romans crushed the Simon bar Kokhba and destroyed Jerusalem in AD 136, emperor Hadrian as further punishment to the Jews, renamed the land Palestine after the great enemy of the Jews, the Philistines. There should never be an occasion for believers to call the covenant land by the cursed name Palestine, even when the land came under the Ottoman empire, or British colonial rule – the territory is always Eretz Israel – The Land of Israel (Gen. 15:18). The end times theories that replacement theology has spawned, do not accept that there will be a millennial kingdom rule by Yeshua, with Israel receiving the covenant promises of God (e.g. The fulfilment of the land promise). The formation of Israel as a nation in 1948, the restoration of Jerusalem to Israel in 1967, and Jews returning to Israel from all nations of the world, were body blows to the doctrine of amillennialism, but their blinkeredness continues, so these fulfilments of prophecy are not seen as indicators of a millennial Kingdom return by Yeshua.
The more radical replacement theology churches will refer to Israel as an apartheid nation that persecutes the Palestinians, and will look to financially support the Palestinians – thus, knowingly or unknowingly, providing funds to Hamas for terrorist activities. Any Christian who contributes funds to the Palestinians in the belief that it will be used to eradicate suffering and uplift Palestinian quality of life, is sadly mistaken. Palestine is a festering sore, that is used by the Islamic world as propaganda against Israel, any money contributed to the Palestinian movement will go towards the eradication of the nation of Israel, which includes killing innocent Jews, and is some cases tourists. More militant churches practice liberation theology and raise money to support the terrorist groups, to enable them to free themselves of the Zionist oppression!
The full gospel message is neglected: Replacement theology churches focus on salvation and an individual’s relationship with God, ignoring the important doctrine of eschatology (end times events). For them the return of Jesus will happen when it happens, there is no premillennial rapture, Tribulation or Antichrist to focus on. Scriptures that require the Church to “watch and pray” (Luke 21:36) are forgotten, and the need to pray into prophecy as Daniel did for his people, and his nation is ignored (towards the end of the seventy years of captivity, Daniel was motivated to pray regarding Jeremiah’s prophecy – Daniel 9:1-3).
When a church ignores end time prophecies, the focus becomes the here and now, it results in Christians that are not eternally minded looking expectantly for the return of the Bridegroom. The result is a life divided between the world and their church – a chameleon i.e. one colour on Sunday, another for the rest of the week. A believer becomes more eternally minded, selfless and willing to endure hardship when they understand that this life determines the eternal rewards received in the next life. If an Elder wants their church to be motivated and alive – teach pre-millennialism.
The repeated use of replacement theology scriptures: There are a number of scriptures that are common in replacement theology churches which reinforce the belief, and indoctrinate the congregation, without openly teaching on the topic of replacement theology – it is subtle and deceptive. I have even come across two churches that were using teaching material that reinforced replacement theology and the elders did not even know it! The scriptures are:
- 2 Corinthians 1:20 “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory”. This scripture is interpreted that the promises of God “find their yes in Jesus,” and as the Jews do not believe in Jesus, all the promises of God therefore belong to the Church. This is an extremely dangerous belief, as if all the blessing now belongs to the church, the Jews are left with just the curses, which propagates anti-Semitism. Surely no Christian in their right mind can claim the land covenant that God had with Abraham for the Church?
- Favourite texts of replacement theologists are the ones where Christians are called ‘sons of Abraham’ and ‘Abraham’s offspring,’ such as Romans 9:6-8 and Galatians 3:7-9. Also Romans 2:28–29 where Paul writes that circumcision of the heart determines a Jew, not the outward evidence of the physical circumcision. Proponents of replacement theology state that these passages mean that Christians are now Abraham’s offspring instead of the Jews. Their logic is that this must therefore mean that the Jews are excluded from the promises and covenants that God made with the patriarchs in the Old Testament. This is a very convenient interpretation as it ignores the many passages of Scripture that directly contradict it. These scriptures must be seen in context, for example the book of Romans is a letter to the Roman Church dealing with the problem of conflict between Gentiles and Jews within that Church, an early form of replacement theology. A careful reading of Romans 9 reveals that it is not that believing Gentiles are now considered Israelites, but rather, that not everyone who is physically a Jew will share in the promises made to the Jewish people, only believing Jews will inherit God’s promises. In no way does Paul imply that Gentiles suddenly become Jews as part of a “New Israel!”. Paul also points out to the Gentiles in his letter to the Roman church, that the Jews are the first-born adopted sons of God (Romans 9:4), and later emphasizes that God would never reject His people (Rom. 11:1-2). In fact, God has a plan to restore Israel back in relationship with Him which Jeremiah calls “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” (Jeremiah 30:7), and is referred to as the “Tribulation period” by pre-millennials (Matthew 24:15–31; Revelation 7:14). Three times in Romans 11:11-24, Paul warns the Gentiles not to be arrogant over the Jews having been “broken off,” God’s calling is irrevocable (Romans 11:29), the Church should be praying for Israel, not lording over them as their replacement. God does not break His covenant promises, man does. Isaiah states that the name of Israel is engraved on God’s hand (Isaiah 49:16a), He cannot forget them. Zechariah warns that those that touch Israel touch the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8), a strong warning to those who hold to the ant-Semitic doctrine of replacement theology. Rest assured, our covenant keeping God has a plan to restore the Jews back in relationship with Yeshua, their Messiah. The formation of the State of Israel and the return of Jerusalem to the nation as their capital is prophetic evidence of that.
The Hebrew word from which we derive the name “Satan” means “adversary”. The clear implication being, that he will stand in opposition to all that is of God. A detailed study of scripture will reveal that the main focus of Satan’s attack is on the Word of God.
The Gospel of John, which focuses on Jesus as the Son of God, begins with a great poem of creation that associates Light and Life:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:1-5).
With these verses, John introduces the theme of a war between spiritual light and darkness that runs through his Gospel. This is the Spiritual War that rages throughout the history of mankind. The Word brings light and truth resulting in eternal life. The seed of Satan counters with deception and lies, aimed at contaminating and extinguishing the light. The light characterises God’s glory and actively attacks the darkness, which is made most visible by the light of Jesus in the midst of mankind. “Darkness” in John 1:5 seems to be darkness personified in both the prince of darkness, Satan, as well as those he has held captive in spiritual darkness. The light is shining but they haven’t “understood it.”
When John refers to Yeshua as the Word of God (John 1:1: 14) he is using the Greek word logos (written word), implying a more objective meaning. For the Greeks the word logos refers to one’s “mind,” “reason,” or “wisdom,” it is John’s intention in using logos to convey to us that Yeshua is the revelation of God to the world. Yeshua is the Wisdom of God manifest, and Satan the deceiver looks to contaminate that truth with his lies and deception. This study has revealed examples of how easily Satan has been able to pervert God’s Word with man’s philosophies. The Dark Ages revealed the extent to which that perversion could go. One of the aims of that deception is to sever Yeshua from His Jewish roots, and His claim to the throne of David with the authority to rule over a restored creation; instead the deception aims to manufacture a Gentile Jesus who will only have a kingdom in the hearts of men. The Bride of Christ in preparation for the return of Yeshua, needs to establish herself in the culture of her Bridegroom, and seek to eradicate the contamination of man’s philosophies that so stain her wedding gown, so that she appears pure and spotless before her Lord at His return.
- The theology that profoundly influenced Greek thought and ultimately Plato, was the ancient Greek myth of the creation of man.
- This belief formed the Orphic theology of the dualism of the body and soul.
- Plato believed that the soul of a person belonged to the higher world of the mind, not to the lower world of the body, and it strives throughout the life of the individual to attain its proper place in the higher world.
- Greek philosophy has had a major influence on the West’s world view.
- Plato said we see only a shadow of reality, which he called “forms”.
- The Ancient city of Alexandria was a centre of knowledge in the days of the early Church. This resulted in the early Christian fathers living in Alexandria being affected by the philosophies of the pagan world, especially Greek philosophy.
- Syncretism became a major problem for the early Church with the Word of God being contaminated by man’s wisdom. Examples of which were Arianism and Gnosticism. God hates syncretism!
- There are methods that can be used to identify the doctrine of replacement theology within a church.
- A major goal of Satan the deceiver is to contaminate God’s Word with man’s wisdom. The main aim being to pervert the Word to such an extent that salvation through Yeshua is no longer the message, and secondly to dilute the Word to minimise its power and authority.