The Origins of the Mass of Christ & the Fulfillment of Bible Prophecy
The Origins of Christmas
December 28, 2013 - Audio, 25.00 MIN
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This weeks Bible in the News focuses in on the origins of Christmas. In these origins lies a dark and mysterious secret which exposes modern Christianity as a religious system which has fallen away from the true Gospel revealed in the Bible. This is Matt Davies joining you for a special Christmas edition of the Bible in the News.
The Mass of Christ
If one really wants to understand the origins of Christmas a logical place to begin would be with the word “Christmas” itself. This is a compound word invented by the Catholic Church which means “Christ’s Mass” or “The Mass of Christ”. The mass is a celebration of the Eucharist, the small loaf of bread which the church teaches changes, by the process of “transubstantiation”, into the very flesh of Jesus. By Christ of course is meant the third part of a Trinity God.
This “Mass” is one of many special Masses the Catholic Church dedicates to various saints , angels and events throughout the year. For example, amongst others, the following Masses are observed by most Catholic churches :
• Candlemas - Celebration of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple - Feb 2
• Lammas - The festival of the wheat harvest - August 1
• Marymass - The celebration of Mary’s assumption - August 15
• Michaelmas - The Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels - September 29
• Hallowmas - All Saints' Day - Nov 1
• Martinmas - St. Martin's Day - Nov 11
• Childermas - Holy Innocents' Day - Dec 28
Christmas is just another specially named Mass therefore in a series of Masses which are conducted throughout the year.
A Pagan Festival
So with this background of the festival firmly steeped in the Church tradition you would not be blamed for assuming this festival was “Christian”. Well you would be wrong. The real origins of Christmas go back much further to the pre-Christian times of the Roman Empire and before. The roots of Christmas are in fact steeped in Paganism.
Pagan’s believed in lots of God’s and many of the Pre-Christian religions, with the exception of Judaism would be considered Pagan.
Many of the concepts of Paganism can be traced way back in time through the ancient cultures of the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians and Babylonians. According to the Bible it was the Babylonian leader Nimrod in Genesis 11 who first corrupted God’s truth and brought in a rival system of worship and rulership which is why God caused the confusion of the languages at the religious “tower of Babal". The ideas from Nimrod went with all the peoples as they clustered together in the languages they had been given. This is why similar myths and pagan rituals can be found across many of the cultures of the ancient world.
Two of the key doctrines from the Pagan times worthy of note would be the idea of an ‘immortal soul’ that lives on after death and an idea of a ‘bad god’, with legs of a goat and horns - but more on this later.
In the wintertime around December 25th the Pagans used to celebrate a festival. This celebration and the meaning of it varied from place to place and evolved down through time. The general idea behind the celebration was the victory of the gods of light over the gods of darkness as the nights began to get lighter.
In Roman times, throughout the Roman Empire the festival had turned into the holiday of “Saturnalia”. Saturnalia was a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17th to December 25th. During these dates the Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the days of the celebration. An ancient Greek writer called “Lucian” records what this festival was like. Amongst acts of gross immorality the main theme was enjoying much food and drink. It seems the population of Pagans really enjoyed their festival - which makes sense. It was something to look forward to in the darkness of winter and most rituals were based around lights which brighten up the gloom. Behind the lights though, false worship was being performed to pagan gods which is an abomination to the God of the Bible, the true and living God, who had revealed a true way of worshipping Him. Indeed in the law He gave to His people He clearly decreed that:
"Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them:for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God" Exodus 20:3-5
In Gods eyes this worship of the pagan gods in the winter festival and the practices which went with it were not honouring to Him. God’s people of Israel were often lambasted by the prophets for following the ways of the Pagan heathern nations around them. God called for holiness and separation from their ways. It is inconceivable that the faithfuls of old like Abraham or Moses would have indulged in the pagan festivals of their days.
The great compromise
In the year 313AD a Roman emperor called Constantine changed the state religion of Rome from all out paganism to become tolerant of Christianity. He did this for political reasons and like most politicians, the key to success is compromise. The Christians supported him and even joined his armies believing they were fighting for Christ. This was helped further when Constantine claimed he had seen a vision of a Christian symbol which led him to victory.
Christianity had now entered into the halls of power and was no longer simply a religion but a political tool attached to power and wealth.
In the 4th Century, in an endeavour to convert pagans to the new state religion of Christianity, Christians imported the Saturnalia festival promising pagans they could continue with their celebrations as Christians. The main issue with this though was there was nothing remotely Christian about saturnalia. The remedy to this was that Christian leaders named Saturnalias last day, December 25th, as the birthday of Jesus and the job was done. Compromising a pagan festival and giving it a legitimacy for new converts.
Around 350 AD the bishop of Rome (Pope Julius I) declared in a letter to the Bishop of Jerusalem (Cyril) that December 25th was the time of Christ’s birth. This decree was eventually accepted by the whole of Christianity except for the Armenian church in the East, who believe that Christ’s birth should be celebrated on the 6th of January. The only reason therefore that our Western culture celebrates Christ’s birth on December 25th is because of an ancient Papal decree.
This compromise with Paganism is not unusual and is a clearly documented strategy of the Roman Catholic church. For example Pope Gregory wrote to a British Missionary ‘ Abbot Mellitus’ the following decree in AD601:
“I have, upon mature deliberation on the affair of the English, determined upon... that the temples of the idols in that nation ought not to be destroyed; but let the idols that are in them be destroyed; let holy water be made and sprinkled in the said temples, let altars be erected, and relics placed.... that the nation, seeing that their temples are not destroyed, may remove error from their hearts, and knowing and adoring the true God, may the more familiarly resort to the places to which they have been accustomed... they may build themselves huts of the boughs of trees, about those churches which have been turned to that use from temples, and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasting, and no more offer beasts to the Devil, but kill cattle to the praise of God in their eating, and return thanks to the Giver of all things for their sustenance; to the end that, whilst some gratifications are outwardly permitted them, they may the more easily consent to the inward consolations of the grace of God. For there is no doubt that it is impossible to efface everything at once from their obdurate minds; because he who endeavours to ascend to the highest place, rises by degrees or steps, and not by leaps”.
We can see here then an early glimpse of the operations of the Church. They would not seek to convert people from Paganism in one go. They would simply superimpose their ideology on top of the pagan ideas rituals and holy places so that Christianity would become palatable to a Pagan. The Pagan could continue to enjoy the things he liked but the Church would allow him to do it under the mantle of Christianity. They would compromise in order that they would retain popularity. This is the reason why people still celebrate a festival in December. The only reason it is associated with the birth of Christ at all is because a Pope decreed it 300 years after the event took place on the basis of a pagan festival . There is no Bible verse which suggests otherwise!
Because of its obvious pagan and popish origin, Christmas was actually banned by the Puritans in England between the years 1642-1660. Christmas was also banned for this reason in many parts of America by early settlers who took the Puritan ideas with them as they migrated. Also in Scotland the Scottish Presbyterian churches believed there was no Biblical foundations for Christmas and so right up until 1958 the 25th of December remained a normal working day and not a public holiday. However even though these ideas of non compliance to the compromise that the church had made were promoted in these small pockets of time, for the most part, the ideas and rituals of the winter celebration continued to be practiced. The winter celebrations were so loved and longed for due to the emotions they stirred that it meant Christians continued to observe the winter festival and eventually all resistance to the origins of Christmas failed. It is now considered a very strange thing for anyone, even non-Christians to not observe the celebration of the Mass of Christ.
So what does the Bible say? When we turn to the scriptures we find they are silent about celebrating the Birth of Christ. Nowhere in the Bible do we find examples of the early believers of Christ celebrating his Birth. In fact, in Eccleisastes we read:
“A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.” Ecclesiastes 7:1
In this vein the scriptures do tell us to remember Christ’s death when he had accomplished his mission to overcome sin rather than his birth by which he had accomplished little - for example in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25.
If one were to even attempt to calculate the Birth of Christ using solely the Bible, the best we might do is to find that Christ was born around Autumn.
The customs of Christmas
If we were to look at the idea of celebrating Christ's birth and even though the concept is not Biblical conclude we might like to mark this occasion then, if we just used the Bible how would we go about doing so? Well if you did do this it would be very surprising if you concluded to cut a tree down from a forest, bring it home, decorate it with lights and gold and silver tinsel and then put presents under it. You certainly would not conclude that weaving a holly wreath and hanging it on your front door was also a legitimate form of celebration. Why? Because none of these rituals are Biblical. Many of the customs of Christmas are clearly pagan and have their origins way back to even before the Roman times.
For example the custom of Christmas trees find their origins as a pagan ritual. Pagans had long gone out and worshipped trees in the forest by decorating them with candles (helping the gods of light). They also brought them into their own homes and decorated them. We know this was an ancient pagan practice because, in fact, this is mentioned in the Bible in Jeremiah:
“Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.” Jeremiah 10:1-4
Other traditions are the remnants of ancient pagan ideas also. For example the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe harks back to ancient fertility celebrations. Another one is holly wreaths which hark back to pagan signs which help to ward off and keep evil gods at bay. These are all customs which find their origins firmly in paganism.
Some of these have been “Christianised” but most of the customs have remained true to their original form although their meanings have mostly faded from most peoples consciousness.
So what is the purpose in considering the origin of these things? Well one point which we might take away with us from this brief consideration is that it really exposes the compromises that early Christianity made with pagan ideas and practices.
When considered in the light of the Bible we actually find many of the ideas of paganism, not just a winter festival, have filtered through to modern Christianity. Ideas like the immortality of the soul for example are not Biblical (for a simple proof of this fallacy read Ezek 18:20). The concept of a bad God with horns and goat legs are seen in Ancient Greek mythology. The god Pan for example took the form of a man with goats legs and horns and he was the god of mischief and naughtiness. This idea was popularised by the church in its teachings of a fallen angel devil.
Sometimes, after considering the truth of the Bible we can wonder how that modern Christianity has fallen so far away from the true Bible teaching on these matters by compromising so obviously with Pagan ideas. However we must realise this is in fulfilment of Bible prophecy. One of the most amazing things about the new Testament record is the prophecies that the truth of the gospel would in fact become corrupted.
The Apostle Paul for example is recorded to have said this in Acts:
“For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock… For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 20:27-30
Again in Timothy we read:
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4
We read from Peter:
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” 2 Peter 2:1-3
Therefore with these Bible prophecies in mind we can see the fulfilment of the truth of these things in the demonstration of the celebration of Christmas.
The celebration of the mass of Christ is an example of the corrosion of the truth and explains how the gospel message is all but lost to those who have put their trust in Church systems which compromised with pagan ideas.
The change of times and laws
The inspired apostle Paul warned believers in Thessalonia of a false system which would arise with a man of sin at it’s figure head who would deceive people so that they would believe lies. He says in verse 3:
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come (the return of Christ), except there come a falling away first…” 2 Thessalonians 2:3
When we read 2 Thessalonians fully, we see it links with the characteristics of a religious power which the prophet Daniel prophecies would grow out of the system of the politics of the Roman Empire. In Daniel 7 we read of the Roman system which is described as a “dreadful and terrible” beast in v7.
Out of this beast arise various “horn” powers and this is said of one of them:
“And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” Daniel 7:25
The only religious system which fits the requirements of this prophecy is the rise of the Roman Catholic Church with it’s figure head, the Papacy. One of the times that God permitted this system to have control over was clearly the time of the winter festival when this system declared that Christ was born. Society has followed this law ever since. However this way of things will not continue. There will be an end to this systems times and laws for we read on in Daniel:
“…they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” Daniel 7:26-27
The Mass of Christ will not be part of that coming Kingdom of God on the earth. We are indeed thankful to God for revealing and preserving his truth in His Holy word. That word which has remained pure even though those who profess to follow it have compromised themselves with false ideas. Surely it should be our endeavour to be able to adopt the words of the Psalmist as personal prayers of our own as we read in Psalm 25:
“Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me. Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause. Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.” Psalm 25:1-5
This has been Matt Davies joining you. Join us again next week God willing for another Bible in the News.
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