The Seat of Satan to Apostasy in the Church
Part 6 analyses the fall of the Church into apostasy, starting with identifying the home base of Satan, and the two tactics that he has used in his efforts to destroy the Church. The study then goes on to give a detailed look at apostasy in the Church, which includes the step-by-step process Satan has taken in his successful efforts to contaminate the Church with man’s wisdom. The study ends by reviewing the false doctrines emphasised by Jesus in His seven letters to the seven churches.
The Seat of Satan
In the letter to the church of Pergamum Jesus reveals that Satan had his home base in that city, saying “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is” (Rev. 2:13). The Geek word for throne (θρόνος) was used to refer to the seat of the head of a household. The implication therefore, from Jesus’ statement to the church of Pergamum, is that Satan was the spiritual authority in Pergamum, and that he was comfortable among his “family”. Pergamum was rife with occult centres – there were three temples dedicated to the worship of Roman Emperors, there was the great alter for the king of the gods Zeus, and a temple each for his wife Hera and for his daughter Athena. There was also a temple for the god Dionysus, which meant that there was sure to be drunken debauchery in the city, because he was not only the god of the grape vine and, wine-making, but also fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy and theatre. However, the patron god of the city was Aesculapius, the “saviour god” or “divine healer,” represented by a snake, an appropriate symbol for the patron god of the city where Satan, the serpent deceiver, had his throne.
Jesus clearly indicates that during the time of the early Church, Satan was enthroned in the city of Pergamum. The motivation for Satan to claim this city as his home base was because Pergamum was a seat of learning, like Alexandria, the city was a gateway by which the religions that originated in ancient Babylon found their way into the Greco-Roman world. It is the geographical point where the paganism of North, East, West and South converged more than any other single location.
Scripture informs us that Satan was present in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, then there is no indicator of Satan’s location until mankind starts to settle in cities, Isaiah 14 then reveals that Satan set up his throne in Babylon, explaining that the king of Babylon was controlled by Satan. Then, ironically, at the time of Ezekiel recording his prophecy on Satan’s location while captive in Babylon, Ezekiel writes that Satan is manipulating the king of Tyre (Ezek. 28). Satan had moved from the city of Babylon to the Isle of Tyre, so Satan’s throne was in the city of Tyre prior to his moving to settle in Pergamum, which would most likely have occurred after the destruction of Tyre by Alexander the Great.
The History of Pergamum
The Attalid dynasty ruled over the powerful kingdom of Pergamum, and they were among the most loyal supporters of Rome in the Hellenistic world. Under Attalus I (241-197BC), they allied with Rome during the Macedonian Wars. For their support against the Seleucids (Syria), Rome rewarded the Attalids with all the former Seleucid domains in Asia Minor by Rome. The Attalids ruled with intelligence and generosity, allowing the Greek cities in their domains to maintain nominal independence. When Attalus III (138-133 BC) died without an heir in 133 BC, he bequeathed the whole of the Pergamum territory to Rome in order to prevent a civil war.
Along with the city of Pergamum, Attalus III bequeathed his title, “Pontifex Maximus,” to the Emperor of Rome. The title Pontifex, means “bridge maker,” Attalus, as king of Pergamum, was the “bridge” or link between the gods and people of Pergamum – he was a king and high priest. The Roman Emperor on accepting this title recognised the title’s responsibility. The Emperor became the bridge maker between the gods of the Roman pantheon and the people – an Emperor, and high priest. The Emperor was soon to be recognised as a “god” and required to be worshipped by Rome. A note of interest is that Pergamum was the first city to build a temple to the Emperor – no coincidence there!
In AD 378 the Christian, Roman Emperor, Gratian refused the title of Pontifex Maximus, as this would make him king, and high priest – a messianic title. Amazingly, the title was taken up by Damasus, the Bishop of Rome at the time.
Up to the year AD 313 each bishop had authority over their city or area, the largest and most influential Christian cities being Rome, Carthage, Constantinople, Syrian Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem. From AD 313 to 590 the Roman Bishop started to gain prominence amongst the bishops of the major cities, whilst still holding onto the same title as an equal in authority – a position of “first among equals,” was attained by Rome. From AD 590 the bishop of Rome claimed full authority over all bishops and held the position of head of the Church. One of the factors that influence this rise in dominance was the claiming of the title “Pontifex Maximus” by Damasus, which was a political move, to further enhance the claim of the superiority of the Roman bishop over the other city bishops. So, the Roman bishop claimed the title of “Pontifex Maximus,” a convenient but pagan title. An interesting point is that the Pope is now a political leader as head of the Vatican and religious leader as head of the Roman Catholic Church. He is therefore the “high priest” of the Catholic Church and also “king”’ of his own territory, making the Pope the ideal title for the Satan’s counterfeit messiah, the Antichrist.
To sum up, Satan has used the cities of Babylon, Tyre, and Pergamum as his base of operations over the years, and now the seat of Satan is in Rome!
The significance of the papal crown is that it is, first, a triple crown – the Pope is the Trinity on Earth. Second, it underlines his temporal authority as king over the Earth, he is a king, and high priest – a counterfeit messiah.
The Romans were very open about worship within the Empire. When a nation was conquered by the Romans, the idols of their gods were taken to the Pantheon in Rome and became part of the gods worshipped in the Empire.
The Roman imperial cult started at the death of Julius Caesar, when he was officially recognised as a Divine by the Roman state. However, it was Caesar’s adopted son Augustus, the first Roman emperor, who established the cult in 29 BC. Augustus allowed the culturally Greek cities of Asia Minor (Pergamum being the first) to set up temples to him, introducing Roman emperor-worship into the Empire.
When the Emperor became recognised as a “god,” all faiths were required to worship the Emperor. There became two distinctions in the Empire – legal religions (Religio Licita) and illegal religions (Religio Illicita), those faiths that included Emperor worship were legal, those that did not were illegal. The early Church did not worship the Emperor and so were classed as illegal and targeted for persecution.
The church of Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11), was a foretaste and microcosm of what would plague the Church throughout the Roman Empire for over two hundred years. The Church suffered through ten major persecutions, as was prophesied by Jesus in Revelation 2:10: “you will suffer persecution ten days.” The city’s name is matched with the prophecy of future suffering being derived from myrrh; the bitter tasting herb used for embalming. So, Satan’s first reaction to the Church was to become the dragon and attempt to destroy it through persecution. The Emperors who persecuted the Church were:
Nero (A.D. 67); Domitian (A.D. 81); Trajan (A.D. 108); Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (A.D. 162); Severus (A.D. 192); Maximus (A.D. 235); Decius (A.D. 249); Valerian (A.D. 257); Aurelian (A.D. 274); Diocletian (A.D. 303).
A Change in tactic
When persecution of the early Church only succeeded in increasing the numbers of believers, Satan turned to his other option – Satan the serpent deceiver. It is of great importance that the Church is aware of this tactic, as the seed of deception planted in the Church links to Babylon Religion. Regarding the spiritual deception of the last days, Gary Kahn, in his book The New World Religion writes: “what better way to deceive believers than through a false unity which has the appearance of Christianity, but is actually rooted in pantheism and the occult?” This deception must be identified and the Church cleansed of all traces of it.
Jesus warned that in the last days spiritual deception would be so strong that if it were possible “even the elect” would be deceived (Matt. 24:24).
It is critical that all Christians understand two important things regarding apostasy: (1) how to recognise apostasy and apostate teachers, and (2) why apostate teaching is so deadly.
“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it (the rapture) will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” (2 Thess. 2:3, NASB).
Apostasy means to fall away from the truth, it is a rebellion against God because it is a rebellion against His truth. In the Old Testament, God warned the Israelites about their idolatry and their lack of trust in Him. In the New Testament the epistles warn us about not falling away from the Truth. Apostasy is a very real and dangerous threat. As the faithful Bride, we should be looking for the return of Jesus. The major sign of the soon return of Jesus is the rise of the Antichrist. Paul specifically warns that the rise of the Antichrist will be preceded by apostasy. To ensure that the Thessalonians would not be deceived by false teachings regarding the Day of the Lord, he proceeds to give an extremely important revelation concerning the Last Days, and the Antichrist in his letter.
An important word that needs to be interpreted correctly to derive the full meaning of verse 3, is the Greek word apostasía: The four main ways that the different Bible translations interpret the word are:
Rebellion: New International Version; New Living Translation; English Standard Version; Berean Study Bible; Contemporary English Version; Douay-Rheims Bible; Good News Translation; International Standard Version; NET Bible; New Heart English Bible.
Apostasy: Berean Literal Bible; New American Standard Bible; NASB 1997; Amplified Bible; Christian Standard Bible; Holman Christian Standard Bible; Weymouth New Testament.
Falling away: King James Bible; New King James Version; American Standard Version; English Revised Version; Young’s Literal Translation.
Revolt: Aramaic Bible in Plain English; GOD’S WORD® Translation.
Billy Graham writes that “Most people think of an apostate as a person who has denied the theology of his faith. But the Biblical teaching about apostasy goes far deeper than that. The “falling away” mentioned by Paul to the church at Thessalonica indicates that apostasy affected every area of life. The word is so strong and so emphatic that it suggests a complete breakdown of morals, ethics and spirituality” (1). All four words used to translate apostasía refer to a falling away from the faith, with an apostate, rebellious, counterfeit Christianity becoming prominent in the last days, which would form the platform for the Antichrist’s rise to power.
Paul’s warning of the apostasy in the latter days is not the only warning in Scripture, in the series on Matthew 24 (part 1) the warnings by Jesus of deception in the last days were covered in detail, including evidence of the apostate Ecumenical Church; other warnings in Scripture are:
- 1 Timothy 4:1-2:
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared”.
- 2 Timothy 4:3-4:
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths”.
- Revelation 3:14-22: The seven Churches of Revelation were not only seven churches at the time the book of Revelation was written, but they also correspond to seven periods of Church history. All seven churches have existed through the two-thousand-year history of the church, but in turn, through the passage of time, each church has become the dominant type of church for a specific age. We are now in the last “Church age,” which is Laodicea, the wealthy church that believes they are rich, but are told by Jesus that they are “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” The last Church stage, the dominant “Church” of the Last Days, is in complete apostasy, with Jesus outside of the church knocking on the door. In support of this insight is the fact that Laodicea comes from two Geek words Lao and Dictaomi, meaning “people’s opinions” – apostasy is caused by man’s opinions replacing God’s word.
The repeated warnings by Paul of the apostasy of the last days point to more than a mere “falling away” from The Faith as the King James translation would suggest, which conjures up an image of people doing secular activities on a Sunday rather than attending church. The context of the Scripture in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 being connected to the rise of the Antichrist to power, emphasizes that there is more than an intellectual decision being made by people, but a philosophical change away from God towards self, that is driven by pride, and which results in moral corruption, and abandonment of Biblical values.
In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, & 7 Paul lists the moral degradation of mankind in the last days, which will be reflected in the apostasy of the Last Days Church:
- For men will be lovers of themselves.
- Lovers of money.
- Disobedient to parents.
- Without self-control.
- Despisers of good.
- Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.
- Having a form of godliness but denying its power.
- Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
After reading this detailed list, one would be able to say that the list is of the immoral actions of man throughout history, not just a warning of the moral decay of the Last Days. That would be very true, however, it must be noted that Paul is writing about the Church! God has given Paul this insight for the Church to take a long look at ourselves, it is those that proclaim that they are representatives of the Church that are under scrutiny in these verses.
In his book Unlocking the Bible, David Pawson writes “that if the letters to Timothy and Titus teach us anything is that the biggest battles we face are inside the Church. We need to contend for the truth of the gospel against some of subtle distortions, four in particular today. The Gospel is in danger of being:
- Polarised – The Kingdom of God as a social programme for this world only.
- Feminised – God as a doting mother rather than a disciplining father.
- Relativised – Without any absolute distinctions between true and false, right and wrong.
- Syncretised – Blended with other faiths in the name of world religions” (2).
There is a problem in many Evangelical Churches today where the focus is on “pastoring” the flock. Don’t get me wrong, having people with pastoral giftings is vital for the Church, the problem is that troubles arise in the Church when it is not matched by Church discipline. Love of others is essential in any church, but just as in a family where there is no discipline, and the focus is on only providing love, this results in spoilt children, or in this case congregants. Paul uses the metaphor of believers in the army of the Lord – any army needs discipline. Church leaders are to keep an eye out for the following ways apostasy can be entering their church:
- When people twist Scripture or pervert the truth to fit an agenda. They want to be allowed to do what they want.
- The individual’s lifestyle is contrary to Christian morals and values. Couples living together outside of marriage are a common example.
- A focus on worldly events more than the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
- Pride is the enemy of the Church, and is the root cause of all the problems listed above. Individuals filled with pride will continually elevate themselves above others, and expect the Church to give them special consideration. Their service in the church is not about honouring God, as much as attaining recognition and praise from other church members.
(1) Billy Graham, Todays Apostasy. https://decisionmagazine.com/todays-apostasy/. 03/10/21.
(2) David Pawson, Unlocking the Bible, Collins, 2003. P1109-10.
Examples of Apostate Christianity in the 21st Century are:
- The Prosperity Gospel, preaching faith in faith, rather than faith in God; they call the sin of covertness faith. They forget that Jesus does not teach that many possessions make a person rich, but rather that it is a commitment to serve the Kingdom that earns treasures in heaven and gives meaning to life.
- The Social Gospel, where alleviation of poverty supersedes evangelisation and saving the lost. They teach that Jesus will return when there is no longer poverty in the world.
- The post-modernist Gospel, with a focus on the individual designing the religion that best suits them.
- The hyper Charismatic and Pentecostal apostate movements, where the centre of attention is on experiencing the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit should never replace Jesus as the focus of the Church. Jesus came to serve, now the Holy Spirit has replaced him, and serves by pointing mankind to Jesus.
- Liberation Theology, has an ideology of relieving “the oppressed” by whatever means, including the purchase and supply of weapons to radicals. This apostasy is closely related to the Social Gospel.
- Liberal theology, where man is in charge of his destiny, and God must adjust to the progressive development of humanity.
- The Love Gospel – the accepting of differences as long as we all love Jesus (ecumenicalism). There is no such thing as a wrathful God who judges sin in the Love Gospel.
- Cults such as Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Scientists.
- Orthodoxy, where salvation is attained through faith in Jesus, and following the traditions of the church – a doctrine of works.
So, at the start of 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul explains that the rapture will not occur until there is an apostasy (rebellion) in the Church, which allows for the rise of the Antichrist (man of lawlessness). The words Paul uses to describe the Antichrist are very revealing:
- “The man of lawlessness,” connects the Antichrist with the apostate religion. The Antichrist will reject the Word of God, replacing God’s wisdom with man’s philosophies. The Antichrist needs the apostate faith as a platform to build on.
- “The son of destruction,” or the “son of perdition (KJV),” is a term used for only one other man in Scripture – Judas. Son of perdition means that Satan has possessed the individual and is controlling their actions. So, it was Satan who drove Judas to betray Jesus (John 13:27), and once the betrayal was complete, Satan left Judas. Then the gravity of his actions convicted Judas, and being filled with remorse, he committed suicide (Matthew 27:5).
“Judas went away and hanged himself” (Matt. 27:5)
If there is indeed an apostasy occurring in the Christian Church, we would not know it unless we first examined the Bible closely, and then compared the present-day Church to the Word of God. Many Christians are looking for the Antichrist, but they are not looking for signs of apostasy which will ultimately identify the Antichrist.
Religious apostasy has many facets:
- False gospels: Gal. 1:6-12; 2 Cor. 11:3,4.
- False doctrines: 1 Tim. 4:1,2; 2 Pet. 2:1; 1 John 4:3.
- False messiahs: John 5:43; Matt. 24:5.
- False prophets, teachers, and evangelists: 2 Pet. 2:1; 1 John 4:1; 2 Cor. 11:13-15.
- False rituals: 1 Cor. 10:20,21; Rom. 11:9; Isa. 1:10-14.
- False gods: 1 Cor. 8:5; 10:19-21.
- False righteousness: Phil. 3:9; Matt. 5:2-3.
Deception in the Early Church
Paul prepared God’s people for future turbulence when he told the elders of Ephesus:
“Take heed to yourselves to shepherd the church of God… After my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also, from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:28-30).
The seven letters to the seven churches of Revelation prove the accuracy of Paul’s warning. A study of the deceptions and false teachings that caused so much harm in the early Church is valuable, since they continue to be around today contaminating the truth.
Satan’s plan revealed in the seven letters:
John MacArthur in his lecture on the prophetic prospective of the Church, reveals the step-by-step process Satan has taken in introducing syncretism into the Church, which has grown into full blown apostasy (1):
Ephesus, Pentecost to about AD 100, Stage 1:
The first stage of Satan’s attack on the Church was to introduce “orthodoxy,” where man’s traditions become more important than God’s word, which results in dead works. The Ephesians began to serve the Church through duty and community pride. They did not serve through a love for their Saviour which formed cracks in the Church through which doctrinal error could flow. The relationship the Church had with Jesus was replaced by Church tradition – the life of the Church was determined by events manufactured by man. The natural consequence was that being a member of the Church and following the traditions of the Church, from baby baptism to last rights, determined one’s salvation.
Pergamum, Constantine (312 – 590), Stage 2:
There should be no surprise that the city where Satan dwells, is the city in which the Church compromised with the pagan religions. In the Garden of Eden, God said to the serpent (Satan) “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.” The seed of the woman is Jesus, the Word of God; logically then the seed of Satan must also be a person – The Antichrist, who is the counterfeit messiah. The demonic power of the spirit of the Antichrist has continually looked to oppose the Word of God. Compromise with the world is the spirit of the Antichrist at work in the Church. That is why we are warned not to conform to the pattern of this world but be renewed by the renewing of our minds. We are called to be Holy, that is to be set apart as holy people for God. There is a failure to separate from the world, it became acceptable for individuals in the Church to celebrate pagan festivals with their fellow countrymen and take part in showing reverence to idols and sexual immorality. Furthermore, the pride associated with the pomp and ceremony of pagan priests, with the grandeur of priestly gowns, decorated idols, and fancy rituals, became a very attractive prospect for a Church wanting to elevate its position in the community. The consequence is a religion with a priestly class, and a hierarchy within the church. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are lost as the congregation looks to the clergy to do the work, and the door is open for man’s wisdom (the seed of Satan), to implement church traditions.
Thyatira, The Dark Ages, (AD 590-1517), Stage 3:
There is a sinister adage that says, that if you are going to poison someone’s food, start with small doses, and then slowly increase the amount of poison – eventually the person being poisoned will enjoy the taste. This was the strategic plan of Satan, while in Pergamum the doors were opened to the influence of paganism in the church, in Thyatira the doors were thrown wide open. The presence of Jezebel, and her encouragement to compromise with the world led to deep sin. The corruption of the Church took time, but Satan was patient.
Sardis, The Reformation 1517 – 1750, Stage 4:
The slow poison of compromise has resulted in the death of the church. The church is like a zombie, that goes through the motions of being alive, running programs and keeping tradition, but they are spiritually dead. There are a few true believers in this church, but they have no support, there is no foundation for their faith, there is no platform for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to operate, and these believers are not even taught about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and ministering using the gifts. A dead church no longer focuses on salvation, but turns to worldly matters within their society, for example, they teach the social gospel, with the goal of ending poverty, rather than the spread of the Gospel message.
Laodicea, late 1800s onwards, Stage 5:
Satan’s goal has been achieved; he has redefined the word “church.” A church is no longer a functioning body of believers who gather to worship the Lord, it is an impressive edifice where the traditions of men are carried out with opulent pomp and ceremony. In other words, the “church” is no longer a church. The “Laodicean church” functions to support the desires of man, fuelled by the philosophies of mankind. The door has been slammed in God’s face, and mankind celebrates his freedom from a “constraint” to God’s Word, being able to follow arbitrary laws which adapt and change to the whims and wants of mankind. Satan the deceiver is the god of the Laodiceans, he has provided them with all that they have desired, they are independent of all support, they need nothing, including a relationship with God. Their worship is the worship of man’s traditions and philosophies. The seed of the Antichrist has established a home base from which to operate.
(1) John MacArthur: https://www.gty.org/library/study-guides/40-5115/the-church-in-prophetic-perspective (04/09/2021).
The Epistle to the Colossians
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
The heresy of Colossae was syncretistic – that is, the heresy was composed of elements drawn from paganism, Judaism and Christianity. The pagan element espoused a false philosophy (2:8) that appears to have been an early form of Gnosticism (man’s wisdom). This movement viewed matter as evil (Greek Philosophy – the body is sinful; the spirit is pure). They denied the divine creation of the universe, held to many angelic beings, or spiritual intermediaries existing between God and men, advocated the worship of these angelic beings (2:18), and stressed secret “knowledge” (received when initiated into their cult) as the means of attaining salvation.
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. The letter’s aim was to reveal the stupidity of this error, the idiocy of taking their eyes off Jesus 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-lit advertising of the fast-food, 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.
Jesus’s rebuke (Rev. 3:15-16) 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 Laodicean Church
Laodicea comes from two Geek words Lao and Dictaomi, meaning “peoples opinions.”
“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realising that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).
The deception of syncretism had changed the theology of the Laodicean church to such an extent that, they believed that because they were wealthy, they were blessed by God. This is the core of the prosperity gospel. They were seeing the world through man’s eyes. They did not recognise that God looks at the heart, not their wallet. They were a group of self-serving individuals who God saw as wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”
- Wretched – pride, the original sin. When a person continually places self (greed) above the needs of others, God labels them as wretched.
- Pitiable – their attitude was contemptible.
- Poor – spiritually bankrupt!
- Blind – The irony here is Laodicea was famous for an eye ointment, yet they are called blind by Jesus. They could not see their own moral and spiritual bankruptcy.
- Naked – The Laodiceans gained wealth through the sale of expensive garments, but their pride and greed left them naked and exposed to God’s critical gaze.
The Laodiceans had allowed “the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things (to) come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). In short, man’s wisdom chokes God’s Word. Jesus makes His feeling regarding this clear when He says that the contamination causes Him to vomit them out of His mouth (Rev. 13:6).
False doctrines emphasised by Jesus in the Seven Letters to the seven Churches are:
The doctrine of Balaam
In Revelation 2:14, the church of Pergamum is scolded for tolerating the “teaching of Balaam,” or the “doctrine of Balaam.” Balaam’s name is also invoked in 2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 1:11, both in warnings about the conduct and message of false teachers:
- According to 2 Peter 2:15, Balaam’s “way” is a choice to misuse God’s gifts for selfish financial gain. Balaam had the gift of prophecy, which he was willing to use for the purpose of financial gain.
- According to Jude 1:11, Balaam’s “error” was his willingness to accommodate pagan beliefs out of greed. Jude 1:4 also refers to the sin of those “who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality.” One trait of false teachers in the Church is that they attempt to turn Christian liberty into a “freedom” to bring error into the church.
The doctrine of Balaam is the attitude that one can be fully co-operative with the world and still serve God. The doctrine of Balaam teaches compromise, wanting Christians to forget they are called to be separate and holy (Lev. 20:26; 1 Peter 1:2); the doctrine makes believers indistinguishable from the unbelieving world (Matt. 5;13). It is a belief that “a little sin” doesn’t hurt (Gal. 5:9), especially if there’s some financial or personal benefit involved (1 Tim. 6:5). A person following the doctrine of Balaam is willing to compromise his beliefs for the sake of personal gain (Rom. 1:32).
In practical terms, the teaching, or doctrine of Balaam is the view that Christians can – or even should – compromise their convictions for the sake of popularity, money, sexual gratification, or personal gain. It’s the attitude that treats sin as “no big deal.”
A Jezebel spirit
“But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (Rev.2:20).
Jesus makes direct reference to the problems this false prophetess was causing in the Church. A very important trait of a woman with a “Jezebel spirit” is her obsessive passion for domineering, manipulating and controlling others, especially in the spiritual realm. She will seek to usurp the authority of the men in the church. Within the context of the Thyatira church, she was encouraging the men of the church to go along with the requirements of the trade unions of the town. These unions would meet in heathen temples, and would begin with a libation to the gods, and the meal itself would largely consist of meat offered to idols. The woman taught that they needed to submit to the pressures of the world around them in order to make a living, and that God would understand and overlook this. Her philosophy was what you often hear today: “Business is business.” If business practices collide with your Christian principles, then you must compromise your belief – because you have to make a living.
Gnosticism was a heresy that threatened the early church. They claimed to have additional knowledge above and beyond what scripture says – it is best defined as “man’s wisdom.” They believed that salvation was achieved through a secret “knowledge” or “Gnosis.” The heresy was heavily influenced by Greek philosophers such as Plato, and was based on two false premises:
- Gnosticism espoused Plutonic dualism regarding spirit and matter. The belief assert that matter was inherently evil and the spirit was good. As a result of this presupposition, Gnostics believe anything done in the body, even the grossest sin, has no meaning because real life exists in the spirit realm only.
- Gnostics claimed to possess an elevated knowledge, a “higher truth” known only to a certain few. Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis which means “to know.” Their higher knowledge did not come from the Bible, but was acquired on some mystical higher plane of existence. Their attaining a higher, deeper knowledge of God elevated them above everybody else.
Gnosticism spread through the whole church during the first two or three centuries after Christ. It had its impetus from the increasing number of Gentiles in the early church, and the strong influence of Greek philosophy they brought with them. This heresy was the opposite reaction to Judaism. It separated Christianity completely from Jewish influence, with the result that it tried to eliminate any connection to the true historical foundations of Christianity. Gnosticism denies the humanity of Christ, and it adulterates Christianity with pagan ideas and practices (syncretism). God hates the mixture of man’s wisdom with His word.
The meaning of the noun “Nicolaitans” is revealed in the fact that the Bible usually interprets itself, the Greek words “nico” meaning victory, and “laity” meaning ordinary people, as distinct from “experts.” The two words together mean “suppression of the people,” or “rulers of the laity,” which implies a priestly class that lorded it over their brothers. The application of this word relates all the way from the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church at the top, down to heavy-handed, dictatorial pastors in small congregations. The Nicolaitans were a clergy class that had power over, or above, the people. It was a Gnostic/pagan influence where there was a Clergy – laity separation.
Scripture tells us that all believers are priests unto God, Peter said, “…You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5). The priestly function of the individual Christian has been forgotten because of the clergy-laity divide. The Nicolaitan hearsay has crushed the effectiveness of the Church, with the believer being neutered by the belief that it is the clergy who are the conduit to God and must therefore do all the work – including prayer. Believers merely turn up for services on a Sunday.
The Church has developed a religious aristocracy in the class of the Pharisees; some churches will even have thrones on the stage for elders. This is a compromise with the world, led by pride.
Judaistic Christianity believes the New Covenant was a renewal of the Old Covenant, Jesus, the Messiah, restored God’s people back to the Mosaic covenant. Christianity then must be added to the requirements of the Old Covenant in order to please God. These Christians will celebrate all the feasts, practice circumcision and even observe certain kosher and Sabbath laws. This tends to cause Christianity to sink to the level of being bound to the law and legalism – a doctrine of works. The work of Jesus on the cross becomes tainted, as salvation becomes determined by the obedience of the individual to the law.
One must be careful, though, not to label those who seek to draw the Church back to their Jewish roots and draw on the richness of our heritage as Judaizers. This is not legalism, rather, it is coming to understand the culture and heritage of our faith. Drawing on the sap of the Olive tree into which we are grafted (Romans 11:17), enables each believer to attain a greater insight into the context of scripture.
A study of Bible prophecy reveals that we are living in the End Times, the fact that the majority of “Christian” denominations are forsaking God’s Word for the traditions of men is further evidence of this. It is time for true believers to wake up to the fact that as the Bride of Christ we have a responsibility to identify man’s wisdom and apostasy that is contaminating our churches, and put an end to these practices. I do not believe that Jesus is going to return for a Church that is a polluted river rather than a pristine stream, He has clearly stated that the contamination of man’s wisdom in churches causes Him to vomit (Rev. 3:16). The early Church which was focused on the Word of God, referred to themselves as “The Way,” it is time that the Bride of Christ returned to “the way the truth and the life” (John 14:6). The churches that make this change will be the churches that see the last revival of the Church period, that prepares the Bride for her Bridegroom’s return.