Let us consider for a moment how pagan doctrines were able to find a place in this counterfeit religious system that Satan introduced. Because a mark of the dragon power is to counterfeit and substitute, we will be able to see in this religio-political system t he operation of Satan at his infernal best. Just as was the case with Cain, substitutes were fashioned to meet the commandments of God. Many relics of sun worship actually came to be accorded Christian status. A whole set of counterfeit doctrines was added so that the papacy could gain prestige with the pagan peoples of that age. Pagan idols were left at the door, but idols of Peter, Mary and the saints took their place.
As an example of the way in which pagan concepts came into the church, consider the example of Christmas. Do you know where the observance of Christmas originated? Christmas, as a festival, existed long before Jesus was born into this world. December
25 was actually celebrated hundreds of years before Christ was born. The pagans worshiped the sun, and they noticed that in December, the days were becoming shorter and shorter and the sun was getting farther away from them. Fearing that the sun would leave them altogether, they prayed and offered sacrifices. Then on December 25, for the first time, they could tell that the sun was coming back closer; the days were beginning to lengthen out again. So these people said, "The sun is reborn to us." They called December 25 the birthday of the sun or sun god. It became a great religious festival with them.
Only the pagans celebrated the day until the counterfeit papal system was taking form. At that time, the day was adopted by the papacy and called the birth of the SON, instead of the birthday of the SUN. Dr. Gilbert Murray, M.A., D. Litt., LL.D., F.B.A., professor of Greek at Oxford University, has written this: "Mithraism had so much acceptance, that it was able to impose on the Christian world its own Sunday in place of the Sabbath; its Sun's birthday, 25th of December, as the birthday of lesus." History of Christianity in the Light of Modem Knowledge, Chapter III; cited in Religion and Philosophy, pp. 73, 74. New York: 1929.
Actually, we do not know the date of Christ's birth. As you can readily see, the adoption of December 25 was based purely upon the heathen observance of the festival of sun worship. Please take note how easily a pagan institution can slip into Christian churches and can even be passed along in Protestantism.
And what about Easter? It is a well-known Christian observance in our modem churches. Yet, it was also celebrated by pagans long before the resurrection of Christ. All Christian groups recognize that Easter Sunday is often as much as five weeks apart from one year to the next. Few know that it is all governed by the heavenly bodies. Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox.
The pagans of long ago noticed that everything seemed to take on new life in the early spring, as soon as the sun crossed the equinox. So they designated a day in the spring to honor the goddess of reproduction. That day was dedicated to Ishtar, the goddess of reproduction, because of the new life and growth in nature. The very word Easter has been transliterated from the name of the goddess Ishtar, whose worship was memorialized by the adoption of Easter.
Many times Christian laymen have asked just what the bunny rabbit and Easter egg have to do with the resurrection of Christ. Of course, they have nothing to do with it. Those pagans chose the rabbit as a symbol of Ishtar's day because it was the most prolific reproducer. The egg was also chosen because it was a symbol of fertility. Among the heathen, the day was associated with the most licentious practices.
During the time the papacy was developing, Ishtar's day was adopted by the Church and called Easter. Even the symbols, the bunny rabbits and eggs, are retained as reminders of its pagan origin. These examples have been presented merely to show how easily the devil was able to impose pagan ideas upon that church. As the papacy developed, it was open to the reception of unbiblical customs that marked it clearly as the real counterfeit power described by God in Revelation 13.
The question comes to our minds at this point: Are we really following the Bible in all our doctrines? If tradition and heathen custom have crept so easily into the church, what about other doctrines? The things mentioned so far have not been opposed to the direct commandments of God. We do not have any commandments concerning the observing of Christ's resurrection or His birth. We can think of His resurrection and birth at any time and on any day of the year. In the next chapter we shall discover, though, that other pagan doctrines were introduced which strike at the very heart of true Bible religion. We are not so concerned, except for those things which contravene a plain command of God.
The growing power of the papacy continued its program by counterfeiting some of the most vital truths contained in God's Word. May our eyes be opened to recognize these counterfeits and to remain loyal to the exact truth in its original form.
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