5 February 2011 (Shibi'i/Sukkot)|
Day #326, 5934 AM
The Religions of our Age
The Similarities with Yah'shua's World
I long ago dismissed any belief I once had in the 'coincidences' or the 'accidents' of life. The more I look at our cosmos the more I see purpose beyond even the smokescreen of apparent randomness that we have had rammed down our throats as 'gospel fact' through constant and repetitive indoctrination by evolutionists. And one thing that has recently struck me is just how similar Yah'shua's (Jesus') age was to our own.
To all intents and purposes, the old Greek and Roman religions of the first century A.D. were dead. There were three ways by which the spirit of the age sought to meet its own need: one came from the government, a second from philosophy, and the third and most potent from Eastern mysticism. The imperial religion of Rome did not merely consist in adoration of a sometimes brutalised emperor - it had its idealist core, for it expressed devotion to a Roman world-brotherhood, of which the emperor was symbol. At first it was the late emperor who was worshipped - later it was the reigning emperor.
There can be no question as to its popularity in the East, where the emperor's face was seldom seen because of the problems of distant travel at that time. 'The birthday of God was the beginning of good tidings of great joy to all nations' is not a Catholic, Protestant or Eastern Orthodox sentiment - it is an inscription in honour of the emperor's birthday. He was 'King of kings, and Lord of lords', 'God manifest in the flesh', his birthday was 'the Lord's Day', his coming to a town 'an Advent'. Towns satisfied their local pride by competitively splendid celebrations of the emperor's birthday. This kept men quiet, gave them something innocuous to do, but did not satisfy their minds or hearts.
A strong and continuous appeal to the mind of learned and unlearned alike was made by the philsophers of that bygone age. For the middle classes there was the 'Sophist', who gave lectures, like Tyrannus of Ephesus, in the morning and evening, no doubt for a fee. His chief subject would be religion and morals. Among the upper class spiritual directors were common - but to me the most interesting of these self-appointed moral teachers were the 'Cynics', street-preachers who have been called 'the Salvation Army' of the pagan world by some. Some of them were charlatans and laid great emphasis on the collection, but others, like Demonax of Athens, were really unselfish moralists, throwing down the gauntlet to a materialist age.
But the appeal of reason of man has never been enough, least of all to an age like that one and ours. Ever since Alexander the Great had broken down the barrier between East and West, Eastern cults had been rushing into the vacuum left by the decay of faith. They were many and various, but were all alike connected with the yearly miracle of life through death, winter the mother of spring. A young god comes from the East, is set upon and torn to pieces by the rude Western gods, but comes to life again, and at his table his worshippers eating his flesh and drinking his blood become themselves immortal. This immortality is attained by a series of initiations, all of which symbolised more or less clearly the ultimate mystery of life through death. There were baser sides to these cults, as was inevitable in religions so closely associated with the idea of fertility, but they were obviously a most effective preparation for Christianity. The gentile world to which Paul preached was already steeped in sacramentalism and familiar with the idea of a god who died and rose again. The temples where these rites were held and these ceremonial meals partaken of were cafés, and in Corinth, as in Paris today, friends are entertained to dinner at a restaurant rather than at home. As there was nowhere else to go, Christians were placed in a difficult position. Paul at first tells the Corinthians not to go to these places at all, but afterwards changes his mind - for such a course of action would mean coming out of the world altogether - telling them to go if they want to, and eat everything kosher placed before them, asking no questions about what had been done with the meat before it came to the table, unless they were challenged.
The Christian housewife was also in difficulty. To prevent it from contagion by evil spirits, the meat exposed for sale in the market had been consecrated to one of these gods, and so from her point of view would be tainted. Again Paul says that she is not to ask questions, and buy freely, unless she was challenged. Christian Trades Unionists were embarrassed by the fact that their meetings were held at these places - in fact, they could not altogether be escaped
It was an age, like ours, of freak religions and strange secret cults, of higher thought and theosophy, of dabbling in magic and the occult. Men passed from one of these cults to another, getting some good, as they supposed, and then moving on. No religion had a chance in the world that was not a religion of redemption, not so much redemption from sin as from death and decay. Whether we consider its achievements or its disillusioned restlessness, its aspirations or its despair, no age has ever been more like ours, and, if Yah'shua (Jesus) came to such an age, the most matter-of-fact among us may be set wondering if He may not come again to ours.
As believers, we ought not to be purturbed by these similarities. Life and death are motifs in every culture the world around, and attempts to reconcile them have been made by every religion and philosophy that has ever existed. That man should seek escape from death in some way is a desire placed in man by the Creator Himself. Where Christians and Messianics differ from all other system of belief and practice is in their insistance that there is only one authentic rescue plan, that all attempts by means of ritual and initiation into occultic mysteries are doomed to failure. The authentic path has been revealed not only by the historic, physical resurrection of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), attested to by numerous witnesses, but by the empowerment of authentic believers' lives that outshines by orders of magnitude all the counterfeit paths in demonstration of its authenticity.
Today, as then, the three avenues sought by people are government, philosophy and the occult. True, the monotheistic religions still command a large following, especially Islam, which is having a resurgence as its fleshy goal of world domination (like that of counterfeit Papal Christrianity before it) appears attainable by breeding and violence. Used as an instrument to create instability in the world by the ruling élite, it will itself be turned upon - and in a bloody way, no doubt - by its manipulators to prevent it from unseating its own plans for global hegemony, unless means be found to give Muslims some dramatic counterfeit religious experience to convince them of the élitist path. The revolutions being waged in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere, even as I write this, attest to a critical political mass being reached that will need directing or defusing if the élite is to successfully effect its globalist agenda.
True believers face major challenges as the global village shrinks and they are forced to operate more and more in the world system until the cities of refuge are built for them. As then, counterfeits of the true faith are everywhere, sometimes requiring keen discernment, as gnosticism, occultism, Christianity and Messianism are craftily blended together.
"Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving...Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith" (Col.4:2; 1 Peter 5:8-9, NKJV).
 Sir Norman Anderson, Jesus Christ: The Witness of History (Intervarsity Press, Leicester, England: 1985)