Did you know that ancient pagan beliefs and practices in many ways bore a striking resemblance to the beliefs and practices taught and followed by Christ and the apostles? This is the very reason for the most amazing and least realized fact of all, which is easily seen by reading through the New Testament, that the teachings and practices of Jesus and the apostles in the original true Church are not the same as we see in today's churches! This CHANGE was due to the paradoxical fact of the astonishing resemblance between ancient pagan beliefs and those enunciated by Jesus!
Paganism Resembled Truth
The false often appears as true. It is made to resemble the genuine. Edward Carpenter, in Pagan and Christian Creeds, p. 25, says: "The similarity of ancient pagan legends and beliefs with Christian traditions was so great that they excited the attention and undisguised wrath of the early Christian... not knowing how to explain it, they fell back to the theory the devil, centuries before, caused the pagans to adopt certain beliefs and practices." He also quotes Tertullian, one of the early church fathers living between A.D. 160 and 220, as saying, "The devil, by the mysteries of his idols, imitates even the main part of the divine mysteries." Furthermore he says, "Cortez, too, complained that the devil had possibly taught the Mexicans the same things that God taught Christiandom." Since the practices of today's churches are not the same as the early true Church recorded in the New Testament, it is vital to know if there has been a purposeful mixing of the false practices of paganism with the true teachings of Christ, the apostles, and the Bible. Many writers of history, including Edward Gibbon in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 1, chap. 15, state that there has been a change brought about by great numbers of pagans flocking into the early Christian Church and mixing their similar pagan customs and beliefs with those of the true Church. The important question, then, is this: As the churches are teaching beliefs and customs not commanded by God and which, although similar, do not really lead to our placing ourselves as obedient servants to Him — being ruled over by Him now so that we may be eligible to obtain eternal life — it is vital that we know it, so that we may return from the counterfeit to the right way.
"Christian" Church Attitude
The churches today unwittingly, follow a great number of practices originating from ancient pagan Babylon — practices which are entirely opposite to those which Christ and the apostles taught. It is important to notice the attitude toward Paganism of the churches which consider themselves completely Christian. The following excerpts from Edward Carpenter's Pagan and Christian Creeds, show this attitude: "The Christian Church has kept itself severely apart from discussions of heathenism, taking the stand that it, the church, represents a unique and divine revelation and has persuaded mankind of this to such a degree that few people nowadays realize that it has sprung from just the same root as paganism and that it shares by far the most part of its doctrines and rites with the latter" (pp. 11-12). Notice today's churches have sprung from the same root as paganism! "The common idea is that the pagan gods fled away at Christ's coming, yet it is well known to every student that this is contrary to fact. At the time of the recorded appearance of Jesus, and for some centuries before, there were temples without and dedicated to Apollo or Dionysius among the Greeks, or Hercules among the Romans, Mythra among the Persian, Baal and Astarte among the Babylonians, and temples dedicated to many other gods. An outstanding phenomenon is apparent: not withstanding great geographical distances, racial differences between cults and in detail of services, the general outline of creeds and ceremonials were — if not identical — markedly similar" (p. 19-21).
Not only were these pagan creeds and ceremonies, which had existed centuries before Christ's coming markedly similar to each other, but they were also similar to true Christianity — a fact that cannot be considered accidental. As an example of this, of eleven main deities from seven countries, it was believed of all or nearly all that, "these deities' births were on or near Christmas, of a virgin mother, in a cave underground, that they led a life of toil for man. They were called light bringers, healers, mediators, and saviors. They were thought to have been vanquished by the powers of darkness, descended into hell or the underworld, to have arisen and become pioneers of mankind to a heavenly world... Krishna, the god of India is an outstanding parallel with the life of Christ" (p. 21-23). Mr. Carpenter, the author of Pagan and Christian Creeds, says: "The idea of God sacrificing His Son for the salvation of the world is so remote and remarkable — yet it ranges through all ancient religion and back to the earliest times and is embodied in their rituals" (p. 133). These unusual customs were so similar to the truth that they strongly suggest there must have been some guiding force behind them. It is evident that with such marked similarities to true Christianity, as are shown by the eleven deities from seven countries, that one should approach this subject with an open mind to see if a fusion of paganism and true Christianity is present today. In I Thessalonians 5:21, the Apostle tells us to "Prove all things: hold fast to that which is good." Jude 3 to 4 tell us to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares... ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." We are warned of a turning away from the truth of God which was starting to occur even in the time of the apostles.
Consider for a moment!
Is it probable that the pagans who had methods of worship, seemingly near in form and belief to that of Christ and the apostles, would come into Christianity and completely discard their pagan practices which often contained very pleasurable things, for teachings that did not appeal to them as much, even though God has commanded them? Of course not. Paul warned in II Thessalonians 2:7 "The mystery of iniquity doth already work." A mysterious perversion of the gospel had already started to work even in Paul's time! The pagans didn't give up their ideas! But when was the very beginning of this mysterious force for evil? Its origin dates from the time when Lucifer was created by the Eternal God to rule the earth. He rebelled and became Satan the deceiver. We will now see how this came about.
How It All Began
God, speaking to Lucifer, the archangel (who later became "Satan" after he had sinned) said in Isaiah 14:11-15, "Oh Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God." Now notice Ezekiel 28:12-16, which speaks of the king of Tyre, the type of this same Lucifer spoken of above: "Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God... . Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so... Thou was perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee... . I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire." There it is! Lucifer, whom God created as an archangel to carry out His will and government, was given rule of the earth. But he was not content — he wanted to exalt his throne above the stars of God. He wanted to be God! He ascended above the atmosphere to take God's place from Him, but Revelation 12:3-4, and Luke 10:18 show that God's angels met him and cast him down. Note Luke 10:18, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." Lucifer the archangel, whom God created, became Satan when he sinned. He is a deceiver of the whole world (Rev. 12:9).
Satan Retains Rule By Deceiving
Satan, however, has been permitted to retain rule of the earth. Christ did not deny this, for Matthew 4:3-10 says, "The devil taketh Him (Christ)... and sheweth Him all the kingdoms of the world... and saith unto Him, all these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me." They were the devil's kingdoms to give — he ruled over them. He rules over this earth! See also John 14:30 and 16:11. He was trying to bring Christ under his rule — "worship me." But notice something else very carefully here. It is the key to the understanding of the method by which Satan, through the organized churches, is deceiving the world today — a key to the Mystery of Iniquity which was already working in the Churches in Paul's time (II Thes. 2:7). In Matthew 4:6 Satan says to Christ, "If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning thee." God promises to aid those who find themselves in hazardous circumstances not of their own making, but He does not say He will protect those who deliberately place themselves in such circumstances in order to convince others. But Christ replies in verse 7, "It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Notice, Satan suggested an improper action for Christ — an act of disobedience to God — by twisting God's word to convince Christ it was the proper thing to do. Christ corrected him. Had Christ done as Satan suggested, He would have obeyed Satan — been ruled by Satan. So also today, Satan retains rule over individuals by having his agents misinterpret the Bible and otherwise suggesting false methods of self-justification to the individual for his own evil acts.
Eve was tempted by Satan in the same manner as Christ: Satan suggested an act contrary to God's command, then twisted God's word to make it appear the right thing to do. God said in Genesis 2:17, "But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." But the Devil twisted this. He said,"Ye shall not surely die... ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:4-5). Eve desired (lusted after) the fruit of this tree and obeyed Satan rather than God — he deceived her into doing it. Adam knowingly followed his wife's suggestion and obeyed her. Thus mankind came under Satan's rule. "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness" (Romans 6:16). Had they obeyed God they could of ruled the earth. Adam and Eve, for their disobedience, were driven from the garden of Eden where the tree of life was located (Genesis 2:9). They could have eaten and obtained eternal life, but were prevented by cherubim from returning (Genesis 3:24). Their chance of obtaining eternal life at the time was gone — they had sinned, disobeyed God — they would not come under His rule; therefore He would not give them the opportunity of obtaining it. They sinned by transgressing God's laws which were in the world from the beginning, for I John 3:4 says, "Sin is the transgression of the law," and Romans 3:23 says, "All" — including Adam and Eve — "have sinned and come short of the glory of God."
Opportunity of Salvation Revealed to Adam and Eve
A merciful God, He immediately revealed to Adam and Eve that One was to come who would again make it possible for mankind to have the opportunity of obtaining eternal life; for God said to Satan (Genesis 3:15), "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed, it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel." A male offspring of a woman only (Christ) — by a supernatural conception — was going to make it possible once again for mankind to come under God's rule and obtain eternal life. Proof of this is in verse 20 of the same chapter. Adam named his wife "Eve" which means, according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, "life giver." This referred to some special life-giving property which would be imparted to mankind through woman alone (as represented by Eve) — eternal life through her divinely begotten Son, Christ; for both Adam and Eve shared equally in the giving of mortal life to their offspring. This is the first reference given by the Bible to the coming of Christ as Savior. It was by faith and obedience that Enoch (Hebrews 11:5), David (Ezekiel 34:23), Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Matthew 8:11), all living in Old Testament times, understood the hope of salvation, and will rise to meet Christ at His coming (I Thes. 4:16). They obeyed God — came under his government — (Enoch "walked with God" — Genesis 5:24), and looked forward by faith to the Savior who should come — just as we, today, should look backward and believe Him. God spoke to Abraham (Genesis 22:18) of the coming Seed (Christ). The few being called then obtained "a good report through faith" by the same method as we today: they repented of disobedience and believed that the blood of the Savior would pay the debt of their past sins! This knowledge by which mankind could have faith in a Savior AND, like Enoch, be translated or transferred from Satan's rule (or "from the power of darkness") to God's rule (Col. 1:13 and Heb. 11:5) and ultimate eternal life, must be blotted out by all means if Satan was to retain rule of mankind on this earth.
Pagans Knew of Adam and Eve's Disobedience
There is evidence that the Pagans not only knew of the disobedience of Adam and Eve and that this disobedience was punishable by death, but also of the subsequent offering of Salvation again. Paul wrote in Romans 1:32 that the heathen sinned even though they knew "the judgment of God, that they which commit these things are worthy of death." Hislop's The Two Babylons, pages 322, 323, says that one of the names of Eve, worshipped in ancient Babylon as a primeval goddess, was "Thalatth" which signifies "the rib" or "a side." It comes from the verb Thalaa which signifies "to turn aside." Adam turned aside from obeying God because he took Eve who was made of a rib. It is in memory of Adam's turning aside from the right way that the pagan priests of Baal supplicated their god to hear them (I Kings 18:26) by limping (turning aside) at the altar, for "limping" is the exact meaning of the Hebrew word rendered "leaped." This, he states, is also the origin of Vulcan's lameness; for their pagan god Vulcan, as "Father of the gods," needed to be identified with Adam as well as Nimrod. The Pagans knew that this limping or turning aside implied death — eternal death.
Pagans Knew of Promise of Eternal Life
But just as the pagans originally knew of the penalty of death for sin, so they also knew of the promise of life eternal. While at the spring festival of Cybele and Attes (other pagan gods which were the types of Adam and Eve in mythology) there was great lamentation for the death of Attes, so on the Hilaria or rejoicing festival of the 25th of March, in honor of Cybele the mother of the Babylonian Messiah, mourning was turned to joy, on the occasion of the dead god being restored to life again. So we see how Lucifer, placed on earth to carry out God's rule, wanted, instead, to take God's place, but was cast down to earth and became Satan — the adversary. Also we have seen how Satan twisted the word of God by presenting to our first parents a counterfeit way which appeared as the TRUTH. From this point on to the flood, the records prove that the Devil was very active in deceiving mankind. The earth became full of sin. "All flesh had corrupted His way upon the earth" (Genesis 6:12). This brought on the flood to show us the terrible results of disobedience. Did Satan cease to deceive after the flood? No! Nimrod, under Satan's influence, founded the apostasy after the flood, and his wife Semiramis introduced the Mystery of Iniquity (II Thes. 2:7) which deceives the world today!
Nimrod Starts Apostasy After Flood
Noah and the seven people with him had survived the flood — the great punishment on the inhabitants of the earth for their disobedience to God's commands. Was there anyone who could keep the survivors in remembrance of obedience to God? Yes, for II Peter 2:4-5 says, "God... saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness." Psalm 119:172 says, "All Thy commandments are righteousness." Righteousness is obedience. Noah preached obedience to God. Noah was a preacher of obedience and through him the other seven were kept in remembrance of obedience to God. Everyone on earth after the flood knew of God and why He had drowned the wicked. They feared to do evil — at first. That they had lived under God's rule for some time is admitted by the ancients. "For many ages men lived under the government of Jove (God) without cities and without laws, and all speaking one language... Then discord began" (Hyginnius, p. 114). This group, composed of the only people on earth (for the others had all been destroyed by the great flood) began migrating from the mountains of Ararat (Gen. 8:4) where the ark had landed: "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there" (Gen. 11:1-2). These people now known as Sumerians (Miller's Ancient History in Bible Light , p. 51), pushing through the mountains of the east, came upon a prodigiously fertile plain built up by the deposits of the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers. This land of Shinar is now known as ancient Babylonia (Breasted's Ancient Times, p. 107). Here was a land that would produce all they desired in abundance. Did these people continue to live happily and peacefully under God's rule, or did they, like Adam and Eve, disobey God and bring trouble upon themselves? The land was productive, but the wild animals were multiplying faster than the people, due to the destruction of the former civilization by the great flood. Because of their primitive weapons, there was a great danger to life and possessions (Exodus 23:28-29). What could be done about it? Nimrod, the son of Cush, was a large, powerfully-built black man who developed into a great hunter. It was he who gathered the people together and organized them to fight the wild ferocious beasts: "He was a mighty hunter before the Eternal" (Gen. 10:8-9). In other words, the name of Nimrod was known everywhere for his might. He emancipated the people of the earth after the flood from their fear of the wild animals. His prestige grew. He became the leader in worldly affairs. He was ambitious.
Cush and Nimrod Build First City — Babylon
There was a better way to protect the people from the wild animals that roamed the earth than by constantly fighting them. Nimrod built a city of houses and surrounded this city with a high wall and gathered the people within. Thus the people were protected and Nimrod was able to rule over them. This arrangement was agreeable to the people, for "They said... let us build us a city and make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad" (Gen. 11:4). The people not only protected themselves from the wild animals by building a walled city but also established authority of their own — "let us make us a name." This was to be a central place of mankind's authority — the necessity of their obedience to God was not going to be recognized! Nimrod was their leader. Also they built a tower whose top was to "reach unto heaven." With a tower this high they could do as they wished — disobey God and still be safe from His punishment which had drowned the inhabitants of the earth before. This was mankind's first act of open rebellion against God after the flood — they thought they had placed themselves out of God's reach if they wished to disobey Him. They, like Satan, thought that if they could "ascend above the heights of the clouds," they could "be like the most High" (Isa. 14:14). Cush, Nimrod's father, also had much to do with the building of this tower and city (Hislop, p. 26). Then it was that Nimrod "began to be a mighty one" and a "mighty hunter before the Eternal" in a ruling sense (the Hebrew word for "mighty" is "gibbor" which means "tyrant," Strong's Concordance). Nimrod became a tyrant over the people. He made the laws. Not only that but he was "mighty... before the Eternal" (The Hebrew word "paniym" translated "before" here, should be translated "against" — Strong's Concordance. The Bible says Nimrod was against God! Conspiracy and sedition were carried on by him (Epiphanius, Book i vol. i p. 7). Nimrod kept growing in power, but the inborn desire of the people to worship him must be satisfied. Nimrod and his followers had turned against the true God. They wanted to glorify God in their own way! They "changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like... creeping things" (Romans 1:23) — the snake, and other things God had created. (They should have worshipped God in spirit and in truth and not through idols, John 4:24, Ex. 20:4-5.) With the civil power he wielded, Nimrod set himself up as the priest of the things worshipped by the people, to obtain a still stronger hold on them, and gradually put himself in place of the true God.
Nimrod Becomes Priest of Serpent-Sun Worshippers
Mankind immediately after the flood knew God, but they did not like His laws — they did not like to be obedient to Him. Their carnal minds rebelled. To whom did they turn to worship in His place? They remembered the Serpent of the Garden of Eden (man's adversary) — they would honor it, for had it not been through it that they had obtained the knowledge of good and evil? The Serpent had not commanded them to do anything. So it came about that the Serpent (Satan) was ultimately worshipped as the Enlightener of mankind (they were deceived!). The sun, too, became a favorite object of worship because of the light and heat that it gives. This being the case, the two enlighteners became associated together, for just as the Serpent was considered to be the Enlightener of the spiritual world, so also was the Sun the Enlightener of the physical world. Thus it came about that one of the commonest symbols of the sun or sun-god is a disc with a serpent around it (Bunsen's Hieroglyphics, vol. i, p. 497). Moreover the Serpent is universally the symbol of the sun (Davies' Druids, p. 437). Now we're beginning to understand why it is that sun-worship is Devil-worship! Satan, by deceptively inspiring mankind, was associating himself with objects mankind tended to worship in such a way to receive the worship himself! Mankind, at this earliest date, knowing God, did not like God's laws so they created gods of their own and ascribed to them laws which better suited their own desires. This is the time referred to by Paul when, speaking to the Romans he said, "When they knew God, they... changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts and creeping things. . . and worshipped... the creature (thing created) more than the Creator" (Rom. 1:21-25). The people then were worshipping the creeping things — the snake, and the created thing — the sun! To prevent the worship of the sun, the Eternal's original name for it was "shemesh" which means servant , but mankind later changed this name to Baal which means "the Lord" (Johann Clericus, Book ii. p. 199 and Vaux, p. 8). Fire, giving off light, was regarded by those after the flood as the earthly representative of the sun. It is said that Nimrod himself commenced the worshipping of fire or fire-worship (Johann Clericus, Book ii, p. 199). Do you remember the great red (fiery) "dragon" of Rev. 12:3? The dragon is identified as a serpent in verse 14 and is further identified as the Devil and Satan in verse 9. Here, symbolically, we see the Sun, the great Fire God, identified with the Serpent or Satan! The sun then, becomes the symbol of the Devil himself! The Bible says so! These, then, were the false beliefs into which the people in Nimrod's time, who did not wish to worship the True God, were being led. They were Sun-Fire-Worshippers. These were the beliefs Nimrod championed and which made him more powerful than ever. He became the priest of the Sun-god or Bol-Kahn, which means Priest of Baal. He did not claim to be the Sun-god himself but did spread the worship of this Pagan deity. He, being thus the priest of the devouring fire to which human victims were offered, and especially children, was regarded as a great child devourer. He became therefore the priest of Devil worship! (Only after his violent death was he set up as though he had been an immortal deity.)
World Cheated Out of Real Happiness
Just as Nimrod had emancipated the people from the fear of the wild beasts, so also, he emancipated them from the fear of the Eternal which is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10) and in whose laws alone can true happiness be found. He was the "mighty one," the acknowledged leader of the "great ones" or "giants" who, in their great apostasy, rebelled against heaven. He led those on earth to believe a real spiritual change of heart was unnecessary. Drunken and sexual orgies went hand in hand with his expansion of power. It is evident that he led mankind to seek their chief good in sensual enjoyment and showed them how they might enjoy the pleasures of sin without any fear of wrath of a Holy God. In his various expeditions he was always accompanied by troops of women, and by music and song, games and revelries, and everything that could please the natural heart and endear himself to the good graces of mankind (The Two Babylons, p. 55). "There is ample reason to believe that in his own day he was the object of high popularity. Though by setting up as a king... he invaded the liberties of mankind, yet he was held to have conferred benefits... that amply indemnified them for the loss of their liberties, and covered him with glory and renown" (Hislop's The Two Babylons, p. 50). In the carnal mind of man (Rom. 7:14) the Babylonian system was not so bad — it had brought a measure of happiness, they thought; but what did God do — God who knew the full measure of happiness mankind could have by obeying His laws? Was He going to allow man to destroy himself with his own sins before he had enough time to learn his lesson that sin does not bring happiness? (Rom. 6:23).
Confusion of Tongues
"The Eternal came down to see the city and the tower which the children of men builded. And the Eternal said, Behold, the people is one,... and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do... let us go down and confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Eternal scattered them... upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Eternal did there confound the language... and... did scatter them abroad" (Gen. 11:5-9). The word "Babel" means "confusion." God confused the language of this place and the city was named for that event. He did not destroy it but He did slow down its growth so that man would have time to learn the error of trying to rule himself. Thus by giving various groups of people various languages, He caused these groups to separate. This was the beginning of the nations as we know them today: the confusion of the tongues divided them "after their nations" (Gen. 10:5,20,31). The people of Babylon started to migrate outward from that point from that time. Each group took its idolatrous Sun-Fire-Serpent worship with them and its memory of Babylon and Nimrod.