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Foreign Invasion

"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and 4.

Gnosticism and the Early Church — A gradual "falling away" from pure doctrine

Gnosticism is an heretical philosophy of religion, a mythological theosophy, which seeks to intellectually interpret things of God. As it developed in the Middle East it melded various elements of heathenism and paganism into one syncretistic and comprehensive form of religion. It contains elements of Oriental mysticism, Zoroastrian dualism, Greek philosophy, Alexandrian, Philonic, and Jewish Kabbalistic philosophies, along with a smattering of Christian ideas on salvation. In the immediate centuries after Christ and the apostles, it gradually became the Christian mythological tradition. From the second to the sixth centuries, as the "universal church" was in its infancy, it sought to make out of Gnosticism's diverse elements some new thing, and thus incorporated and exalted Gnosticism's philosophies into the early church’s doctrines.

As the early church attempted to systematize her doctrines, and solve the mysteries of God and Christ, she leaned toward the vastly popular Gnostic views on God and the world, spirit and matter, idea and phenomenon, the origin of evil, and the end of the world. However, these problems can only be solved through the true Christian doctrine of redemption through the Son of God, who came to earth as truly man in fallen flesh. But Gnosticism’s revulsion at this very idea of matter and spirit combined,(1) led to a confusion of Biblical truth on the nature which Christ assumed in His incarnation and, therefore, the very core truth of salvation from sin became obscured. Because it assumes an antithesis between the real world and spirit, presumes that sin arose from matter simply because matter itself is evil, and that redemption frees the spirit "soul" from the fetters of the materialistic body, Gnosticism cannot accept that Jesus could come to earth and take upon Himself fallen human nature.(2) Thus, the Ladder to heaven is made many rungs short of God's reality in Christ.

Human Rationalism Dictates "Truth"

Gnostic rationalism, which makes natural human reason the judge of revelation and reality,(3) rejects the specific doctrines of the Bible as unreasonable to the human mind, and denies all things supernatural and miraculous. Instead of relying upon God’s Word as it was given to us, Gnosticism seeks to solve the deepest metaphysical and theological conundrums through reason alone. Gnosticism overvalues reason and knowledge at the expense of faith. Spiritualizing the words of Scripture means believing that the language of the Bible contains two meanings. It claims to resort to a direct spiritual intuition through which speculation and semi-poetic interpretation is applied to the words of the Bible.

Type, symbolism, and allegory all are used in a quixotic fashion to bring forth profound meaning from the sacred text. Correspondingly, Gnostic spiritualizing of the word of God presents two ideas on understanding the Bible. The first is the obvious thought and corresponds with the direct intent of the words used, which any one can ascertain. The second is assumed to be obscure and concealed under the words and only comprehended by those who are trained in mystical philosophies. During the development of the early church, the Gnostic method of exegesis (or more correctly, eisegesis) soon became the dominate approach to the word of God , cutting off the historical understanding of the Old Testament for more than 1500 years.

Key for Understanding the "Mystery of Iniquity"

The Gnostic method of Bible study furnishes us with the very key, not to a higher knowledge of Scripture’s significant truths, but a key to unlock the mystery of lawlessness spoken of by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Gnosticism, or Oriental pagan mysticism, is the secret source from which the antinomian spirit—the spirit of lawlessness—emanated and flowed into the general church during those early centuries, until her doctrines became permeated with this philosophy. Thus we see fulfilled the prophecy of Daniel: "Yea, he magnified [Hebrew: gadal] even to the prince of the host, and by [Hebrew: "from"] him [the "prince of hosts"] the daily [Hebrew: hatamid] was taken away [Hebrew: exalted; raised up, extolled], and the place of his sanctuary [Hebrew: miqdash, whether of God or idols] was cast down ["set in place," see Daniel 7:9]. And an host was given against the daily ["in"] transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.” (Daniel 8:11-12; translator supplied words not quoted as they do not appear in the original Hebrew text). The hatamid of these verses is paganism which was incorporated in to and exalted by the gradually apostatizing church.(4)

The resemblance between the Roman Catholic ceremonies and those of Pagan Rome has been often noticed. The Roman Catholic Church has borrowed from Paganism saints’ days; incense; lustrations; consecrations of sacred places; votive offerings; relics; winking, nodding, sweating, and bleeding images; holy water; vestment; etc. But the Church of Rome itself, in its central idea of authority, is a reproduction of the Roman state religion [the worship of the caesar as god on earth], which was a part of the Roman state. The Eastern churches were sacerdotal and religious; the Church of Rome added to these elements, that of an organized political authority. It was the resurrection of [pagan] Rome,—Roman ideas rising into a higher life.(5)

Roots of Compromise

Seeking to accommodate the pagan world in which it found itself, early Christianity compromised on its pure and simplistic worship practices. The early church elders purposely multiplied sacred rites for the sake of making the new church appealing to the Jews and pagans. Both Jews and pagans had been accustomed to magnificent temple structures, and splendid rituals in their worship services. For this reason, the early Christians were called atheists because they were destitute of temples, altars and an endless procession of bloody sacrifices, priests to minister between the gods and the supplicant, and all the pomp and ceremony that accompanied paganism, and Judaism prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70.

These circumstances opened the door for the importation of Gnostic pagan mysteries, assumed by the early Christians to impart dignity to their religion. By slow degrees these new views had particular effect on the truths of the Lord's Supper and baptism, justification by faith, and the nature of Christ. Gnosticism, which the first century Christians rejected, became incorporated as part of the system of the church by the third century after Christ as the controlling influence of the original apostles waned, and people placed more emphasis on traditions instead of the Word of God. [for more discussion on this topic see What Is the Mystery of Iniquity?]


J. N. Andrews and L. R. Conradi. History of the Sabbath and First Day of the Week. Review and Herald Publishing Co. Washington, DC. 1912.
James Freeman Clark. Ten Great Religions: An Essay in Comparative Theology. Houghton, Mifflin, and Co. Boston. Cambridge Press. 1889. (read a section from this text as a PDF)
Philip Schaff. History of the Christian Church. (No date or pub. information).


1. A revulsion which had deep roots all the way back to ancient Babylon. When Nebuchadnezzar sought counsel from his cadre of soothsayers, all trained in Eastern mysticism, they replied to his unusual request with this: "And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh." Daniel 2:11. [return]

  2. From these Gnostic beliefs about God and man spring the misunderstandings on the state of the dead, redemption in this life FROM sin, and the basic concept of righteousness by faith in a God who is more than able to deliver us and sanctify our characters. [return]

  3. We find this same idea in the eighteenth century "Enlightenment" philosophy and the French Revolution, and in its current iteration, Postmodernism, and theological higher criticism, and modern versions of "Christian" pantheism and panentheism, including the "openness of God" theory. [return]

  4. From this we learn that Christ can not be the "prince of hosts" referred to in this vision, simply because paganism could never have any part of Christ or His true church. Neither can the "daily" which was "taken away" be Christ's ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. For a further discussion on "the daily" please visit this page. [return]

  5. James Freeman Clark. Ten Great Religions: An Essay in Comparative Theology. Houghton, Mifflin, and Co., 1889, p. 350. [return]

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