Religions in the New Testament
In Jeremiah 51.53, God tells this prophet that ‘though Babylon (used to mean satan’s kingdom) were to ascend up to heaven, and though she were to fortify the height of her strength, yet from Me plunderers would come to her.’ (See also Isaiah 14.12-15.) In the New Testament, you see God’s ‘plunderers’ overcoming satan’s various deceptions of mankind. Thus, you hear the prophesied cry of Isaiah 21.9: ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen! And all the carved images of her gods He has broken to the ground.’ So, Immanuel continued His salvation of mankind while walking on the earth!
Jesus and the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes
- In Matthew 16.6, Jesus warned the Twelve to ‘beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.’ Verse 12 says that they understood Him to mean the ‘teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ What is the ‘agenda’ of teachers you listen to or read? Consider God’s criteria in Jeremiah 8.8-9.
- Jesus described and condemned the Pharisees and Scribes in Matthew 23 1-39. The Scribes were translators, editors, and interpreters of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, who practiced between the 5th Century BC and 1st Century AD.
- The Pharisees believed that the scriptures were ‘alive’ and should mold to the changing times; hence, their friendship with the Scribes. Jesus identified their true allegiance in John 8.30-59.
- Sadducees, however, accepted only the written Law of Moses. Also, they believed the soul died with the body, so there was no resurrection (why they were sad, you see). Jesus countered their argument in Mark 12.18-27. See, also, Acts 23.8.
- It is interesting that the wealthy of society were likely to be Pharisees, while the poorer favored the Sadducees.
- The Sadducees were first seen about 150 BC and are no longer heard about after the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD.
- The Essene sect is not directly mentioned in the Bible, although it is thought that Matthew 19.11-12 and Colossians 2.8 refer to their teachings. They (and the Pharisees, but not the Sadducees) believed that fate governed all of life. They held all things in common and practiced self-denial for purposes of virtuous works. The Dead Sea Scrolls were probably written by them.
- Jesus summarized the condemnation of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes in John 3.16-18, 5.44-47, and 15.22-25.
- Jesus was the victory! See Acts 10.38 and Colossians 2.15.
Apostle Paul was called to confront satanic belief systems (Acts 26.16-18).
- He understood the problem with the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and pagan belief systems and summarized it in 2 Corinthians 4.3-4. This is true today, as he prophesied in 1 Timothy 4.1-5, 2 Timothy 3.1-7, Galatians 5.1-4, 19-21, and Colossians 2.8.
- In Romans 15.20 and 2 Corinthians 10.14-16, Paul stated that he wanted to preach the Gospel of Jesus to people who had never been exposed before. And, 1 Corinthians 2.4-5 probably was his strategy in each location, as historian Luke records in Acts 13.1-14.28. Thus, Paul followed Jesus’ example in John 15.24 and commission in John 17.18. See the foundation for this in Exodus 34.10.
- Acts 17.16-34 show the Holy Spirit’s logic and knowledge of local culture (Matthew 10.19-20) through Paul in discussions with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in Athens, Greece. Notice his arguments against their gods in verses 29-31. Note, too, the ‘Sadducee’ understanding of resurrection in verse 32; this view was common to both philosophies. Stoics were self-controlled and disciplined and believed in equality of persons and in doing right in all occasions, regardless of personal pleasure or wealth. Epicureans were more hedonistic and searched for knowledge to answer life’s riddles. The result of Paul’s discussion was salvation for some of his hearers. Some people did not want to be freed from the death grip of satanic belief systems!
- Paul was always concerned that philosophies would become intertwined with the Gospel to dissuade believers (Galatians 1.8 and Hebrews 2.1-4). Note the process of devolution in Jeremiah 13.10, and Paul’s similar statement in Romans 6.16. His advice can be summarized by God’s words to Cain in Genesis 4.7: overcome and master sin!
Jesus’ Letters to Seven Churches in Revelation 2-3
- The Bible headings summarize the satanic deception in each church, as follows from the New King James Bible.
- ‘The Loveless Church’ at Ephesus; Revelation 2.4. Do you, also, love the protocols of the Sunday service more than Jesus Christ?
- ‘The Compromising Church’ at Pergamum; Revelation 2.14-15. What non-Christian worldview practices do you see in some churches? (The practices of Balaam and the Nicolaitans are discussed in Jude 1.1-25 and 2 Peter 2.1-22. No wonder God hates them! The Jerusalem Council warned against them in Acts 15.20, 29.)
- ‘The Corrupt Church’ at Thyatira; Revelation 2.20. What wickedness do you allow to corrupt your spirit? (1 Kings 21 25-26 and 16.30-33 tell of the influence of Jezebel over her husband. 2 Peter 2.8 describes wickedness as torment to your righteous mind, will and emotions.) Reflect upon Proverbs 4.23.
- ‘The Dead Church’ at Sardis; Revelation 3.2. What works resulting from your faith in Jesus do you no longer produce as an offering to Him? Consider Paul’s plea in Romans 12.1-2 to change your ways!
- ‘The Lukewarm Church’ at Laodicea; Revelation 3.15-16, 19. What keeps you from being zealous for Jesus? Paul encouraged zeal in Hebrews 12.1-2 and criticized someone in Colossians 4.16-17 for not being zealous for Christ. Should your name be substituted in this verse?
- It is interesting that the same command is given in all seven letters: overcome!
Praise God!!! Copyright © by Maurice L. Painter, 2012.