False Teachers and Destructive Heresies

2 Peter 2:1, False teachers…destructive heresies. When did several prominent but destructive, non-biblical heresies creep into the early church, which are now major doctrines in mainstream Christianity? Here is a partial list along with the approximate times the early church fathers began teaching these doctrines.

False Teachings and Destructive Heresies in the Early Second Century Church

The Human Soul Is Immortal

The immortality of the soul was not a Hebraic concept, but originated from the ancient Greek philosophers. This pagan concept made its way into the church as Gentiles who were steeped in the thinking of the Greek philosophers gained control of the early church after the death of the last apostles.

A.D. 130— The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, ch. 6

Ca. A.D. 155—The First Apology of Justin Martyr, ch. 18

Ca. A.D. 180—Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book Two, ch. 34 

Ca. A.D. 180—Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book Five, chaps. 7.1; 31.1

Teachings Against the Sabbath and Biblical Feasts

A.D. 130—The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, ch. 4. The author calls the Sabbath and biblical feasts “utterly ridiculous and unworthy of notice.” 

Ca. A.D. 130—Epistle of Barnabas, ch. 2 (also ch. 14). The author says that the Sabbaths (weekly Sabbath and biblical feasts) are abolished.

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians, ch. 14

Observance of the Lord’s Day (Sunday) Advocated Over Sabbath Observance

There is no record in the Bible of the early New Testament believers replacing the seventh-day Sabbath with Sunday. To say so is wishful thinking, a twisting of the Scriptures and biblical revisionism. It wasn’t until the fourth century at the Council of Nicea under Roman emperor Constantine that the Sunday officially replaced the Sabbath in the early church. Until that time, many Christian churches still observed the Sabbath throughout the Roman empire. The process of transitioning from Sabbath to Sunday observance was a slow one beginning in the early second century and had its roots largely in antisemitism.

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesian, ch. 9. The author says to keep the Sabbath on Sunday.

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians, ch. 9

Ca. A.D. 130—Epistle of Barnabas, ch. 14

Ca. A.D. 155—The First Apology of Justin Martyr, ch. 67

Teachings Against the Torah

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, ch. 6. The author declare, “If anyone preach the Jewish law, listen not to him.”

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesian, ch. 10

Ca. A.D. 155—The First Apology of Justin Martyr, ch. 47. The author states that out of “weak-mindedness,” some Christians observe the Mosaic law. Sabbath and feast days observance are optional, but not encouraged.

Anti-Semetic/Anti-Torah Theology

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesian, chaps. 8, 10

Ca. A.D. 180—Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book Four, ch. 16.4. The author declares that the Decalogue was not cancelled by the New Covenant, but the statues and judgments of the Torah were a bondage to the Israelites and are no longer binding on Christians.

Teachings Against the Biblical Dietary Laws of Clean and Unclean Meats

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, ch. 6. The author states that one who adheres the biblical dietary laws “has the apostate dragon dwelling within him.”

Easter Celebration Established a Christian Holiday

Ca. A.D. 150—The celebration of the resurrection within the early church began in the middle of the second century (History of the Christian Church, vol. 2, pp. 207–8, by Philip Schaff). The date of Easter and its formal establishment and disconnection from Passover occurred in A.D. 325 at the council of Nicea.

Sabbath Officially Changed to Sunday

A.D. 321—Sunday officially becomes the weekly day of worship (in place of the Sabbath) by a legal enactment of Emporer Constantine (History of the Christian Church, vol. 3, p. 378ff, by Philip Schaff; History of the Christianity, vol 1, p. 93, by Kenneth Scott Latourette)

Christmas Established as a Christian Holiday

Ca. A.D. 354—Christmas originated in the middle to the end of the fourth century as a Christian holiday as an outgrowth of a pagan festival celebrating the birth of the pagan sun god.

 

“Slavery” in the Bible

Leviticus 25:42, Slaves. The Hebrew word slaves or bondmen is ebed meaning “slave, servant, man-servant, worshiper (of Elohim), servant (of Elohim, e.g. Levite, priest or prophet).” Ebed derives from the basic Hebrew root word and verb, abad, meaning “to work or serve.” The word abab refers to service that can be directed toward people, things or Elohim. In biblical usage, if directed toward things, abad can refer to tilling the earth, dressing a vineyard, working flax or constructing a city. When abad is used in reference to serving YHVH it can refer to Levitical and priestly service. In Hebraic thought, such service is considered joyous, not bondage. This same service can be directed toward pagan deities as well. When used in reference to serving another man, abad transforms into the noun ebed meaning “slave or servant.” As discussed below and as pointed out by The TWOT, the concept of Hebrew slavery isn’t akin to the modern concept of slavery where the slave possesses no basic human rights. This was not the case in ancient Israel. The Hebrew slave, on the other hand, occupied a position of status involving rights and trust. The Torah required this to be case as this and other Torah passages demonstrate.

Leviticus 25:45, You may buy. This passage advocates “slavery” among the Israelites. Yet, this is not the slavery the American Negroes, for example, experienced prior to the Civil War. It must be remembered that slavery was rife in the ancient world. Often slaves, however, were able to own homes and livestock and to maintain families as was the case with the Israelites in Egypt and the Jews in Babylon. In this case, these slaves were more like servants or feudal serfs. For example, in Israel, the Gibeonites became the slaves of Israel, but they continued to dwell in their own cities, and enjoy Israel’s military protection (Josh 9). Also, it must be remembered that when Israel conquered an opponents’ land or army, they often inherited slaves from those countries or slaves from other countries the conquered country itself had enslaved. What were the Israelites to do with these people who had been dispossessed of their lands? Send them back to countries that no longer existed, or to which they were no longer welcome? Send them back into heathen situations? Instead, YHVH allowed Israel to bring these captured people into Israel where they could live among a Torah-obedient people who worshipped the God of Israel, YHVH Elohim, where they would be taught to love Elohim totally and their neighbors as themselves. In time, these slaves would be assimilated into the tribes of Israel through intermarriage and become part of Israel and thus be elevated in their social status. In this sense, slavery was a means of evangelizing those who found themselves in the lowest echelons of the ancient world. It was ostensibly a way to bring them into the ways of the Torah thereby elevating them spiritually and socially from their previous enslaved heathen condition.

Leviticus 25:55, Are my servants [or slave.] Here YHVH declares that “the children of Israel are my slaves [or servants, Heb. ebed], whom I have taken out of the land of Egypt—I am YHVH, your Elohim.” Here YHVH states dogmatically that he brought or redeemed the Israelites out of slavery to Egypt so that they could become his slaves. Does this trouble you? Being a slave of YHVH didn’t seem to trouble the apostles of Yeshua who referred to themselves many times as YHVH’s bondservants or slaves (e.g. Rom 1:1; Tit 1:1; Jas 1:1; 2 Pet 1:1; Jude 1:1; Rev 1:1). Perhaps their view of slavery is different than ours. Did they not see two categories of slavery and that all humans fall into one or the other category: slavery to the world, flesh and the devil that leads to death as compared to “slavery” to the Word and the Spirit of YHVH that leads to life? There is no escape. One is either a slave to the law of sin and death or to the law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua (Rom 8:1–2). Those who have been redeemed by the blood of Yeshua have become Yeshua’s purchased possession as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20:

What? Know you not that your body is the temple of the Set-Apart Spirit which is in you, which you have of Elohim, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify Elohim in your body, and in your spirit, which are Elohim’s.

Do you live your life, make choices, do or don’t do things, say or don’t say things every day with the realty that your are a slave to YHVH? Is Yeshua truly your Lord and Master? It is easy to make the claims that he is, but living out the reality is a totally different things!

 

The Eight Steps to Spiritual Maturity

2 Peter 1:5–7, Add to your faith. This list of seven character qualities shows us the progressive steps one must go through to become mature spiritually. 

Faith: First there is initial faith in YHVH Elohim, which is the starting point in our spiritual walk. This is the same faith Abraham had when YHVH told him to leave Babylonia, and it was accounted to him for righteousness sake (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3).

Virtue: Second, initial faith in Elohim is “filled out with” (as J. P. Green translates it) virtue, which is defined as “moral excellence.” This can be no less than one’s learning to conform one’s lives to the high standards of the Torah, which tells us how to walk in relationship with Elohim (as summarized by the first four of the ten commandments) and our fellow man (as summarized by the last six of the ten commandments). Virtue is the opposite of sin, and the Torah shows us what sin and moral excellence are by showing us what to do (the path of blessing and life) and what not to do (the path of curses and death).

Knowledge: Third, as one begins to walk out Torah-obedience, one gains a deeper and more perfect understanding of the heart, will and mind of Elohim as expressed in the Creator’s instruction manual for living—the Torah, which is Truth and is the path that leads to life. At the same time, one gains an understanding of the opposite side, which is that of sin and leads to death.

Self-control: Fourth, as one gains a fuller understanding of the difference between good and evil, right and wrong as defined by YHVH’s instructions in righteousness, the Torah, and as one fortifies oneself morally by choosing consistently to do the right thing, one gains self-control. One learns to control or master one’s fleshly passions and desires including selfishness, pride, greed, anger and lust and all the other works of the flesh (Gal 5:19–21).

Perseverance or patience: Fifth, as one becomes proficient and consistent in self-control, one begins to learn patience or perseverance, which is steadfastness, constancy and endurance. At this stage in one’s spiritual development, one becomes less likely to be buffeted around or thrown off balance by one’s own carnal impulses or by those of other people that are directed at us (persecution).

Godliness: Sixth, as our life more consistently begins to reflect the heart, mind and will of YHVH Elohim as exemplified in his Torah and the rest of his Word (the Scriptures) and as walked out by Yeshua, the Living Torah-Word of Elohim, then our words, thoughts and actions will begin to reflect the very character and nature of our Father in heaven, which is godliness, to those around us, even as the moon reflects the light of the sun into the darkness of the night world. At this point, who we are is more defined by the character of Elohim than by the carnal, sin nature of the typical man.

Brotherly kindness: Seventh, obedience to the Torah naturally results in our being kinder and gentler to those around us, since the Torah demands that we treat others how we want to be treated and tells us how to love our neighbor as ourself (Matt 7:12; Mark 12:28–30; Rom 13:8–10). After one has completed these seven steps, one becomes perfect or complete in biblical love, which is the eighth step.

Love: The eighth step to spiritual maturity is love (for Elohim and our fellow man), which is the summation of all the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–24) and is the highest level of spiritual attainment (1 Cor 13:1–13) and is the summation of the entire Torah (Mark 12:28–30; Rom 13:8–10). The previous eight steps are the components of a complete or perfect biblical love. Biblical love isn’t some nebulous or ethereal concept based on some heady concept, lofty emotions or vague feelings. Rather love is a concrete idea that is rooted in one’s actions toward one’s brother as delineated in the previous seven steps. This type of love is unconditional, and is an unselfish love for others even when there is no personal benefit to be gained as Paul succinctly and concretely teaches in 1 Corinthians 13—the love chapter. This is the love of Elohim—the love that he has for men, and the love that he wants us to develop, so that we will be like him, so that he can live with us forever in his eternal kingdom. After we have matured through these eight steps, we become spiritually and morally complete or perfect and are prepared to spend eternity with YHVH Elohim in the New Jerusalem of heaven on earth. Love is the eighth step, and eight is the number signifying new beginnings and infinity; therefore, love is the character trait that launches us into a new beginning of a immortal life in Elohim’s eternal kingdom of the heaven on earth of the New Jerusalem.

 

A Second Chance for Some of the Unsaved?

1 Peter 4:6, Who are dead. This verse seems to indicate that certain categories of dead and unsaved humans will stand before YHVH’s judgment seat (the white throne judgment of Rev 20:11–15), and will be accepted into his eternal kingdom at some basic level. Perhaps if their hearts showed a willing disposition toward YHVH while they lived, but they hadn’t gone all the way in choosing him for one reason or another, they will be rewarded for the good that they did in their lifetime and will be given an opportunity to accept Yeshua on judgment day. 

It is possible that these are the ones Yeshua who declared would be least in his kingdom (Matt 5:19). Was Paul making a reference to this in Romans 2:12–16 when he talks about those Gentiles who sinned without the law, and who will be judged based on whether they lived up to the basic law of Elohim written in their consciences? Will these people, who lived according to the basic tenets of the Torah (e.g. not stealing, lying, committing adultery, murdering, coveting, honoring parents, living according to the golden rule and, in their own way, and adhered to a concept of a Supreme Being before whom they walked in fear without worshiping idols) be given an opportunity on judgment day to make their faith complete by accepting Yeshua’s sacrifice for their sins? Perhaps this explanation would help us to understand Hebrews 12:23, which speaks of the spirits of just men made perfect, as well as the salvation of the thief on the cross.

With regard to the thief on the cross who professed faith in Yeshua, let’s go one step further. Next to this thief was another thief whose heart remained obdurate toward Yeshua. On Golgatha, we have three categories of people, even as Peter describes three categories of people in 1 Peter 4:18: the righteous, the ungodly and sinners. The first category is self-evident. The second category seems to imply those who lived a decent life, but who never professed faith in Yeshua the Messiah, while the latter category were unrepentant and hard-hearted individuals who made no effort to live up to even the most basic standards of right and wrong that was written in their conscience. This verse seems to describe three categories of people on earth, which are the same three categories of people who were crucified on Golgatha: Yeshua the righteous, the repentant and ungodly thief, and the unrepentant second sinful thief.

With regard to those who never came to faith in the God of the Bible, different biblical religions treat these folks differently by pronouncing different fates on them. For example…

  • The Roman Catholic Church deals with these folks by consigning them to a non-biblical purgatory where, apparently, they can work out their salvation.
  • Rabbinic Judaism consigns these folks to the book of the undecided as opposed to the Book of Life and the Book of the Dead. What happens to those in the middle book, is not clear in my mind, but I assume that they get a second chance.
  • The Protestants consign everyone to everlasting torture in hellfire who never accepted Yeshua while alive physically. There is no second chance for them.
  • Armstrongism had these folks resurrected at the end of the Millennium where they were given “a hundred year period” to come to faith. 
  • My theory, on the other hand, is a middle of the road approach where the wholly wicked will be destroyed in the lake of fire, while those who lived faithfully according to whatever light of spiritual truth they had will eventually be given an opportunity to accept Yeshua. This seems to square with Paul’s statements in Romans 2:12–16 and view of YHVH’s Elohim as being a merciful and just Being.
 

Baptism—A Pledge of Loyalty and a Renunciation

1 Peter 3:19, Baptism.This passage is equating baptism with a pledge of loyalty to the risen Savior. 

In the cosmic struggle between good and evil, between Satan and Elohim as specifically noted in the larger context of this passage as regards the sins of the angelic “sons of Elohim” in Gen 6:2, baptism is the public oath a new believer takes in favor of Elohim and against Satan. 

This is why the baptism ritual in the early Christian church included a renunciation of Satan (and his minions) and involved literally turning one’s back on the setting sun and facing the rising sun. This wasn’t an act of sun worship, but an acknowledgement of Yeshua, the Creator of the sun who is the Sun of Righteousness (Mal 4:2) and whose face shines like the sun (Rev 1:16) and who is the spiritual light of the world (John 8:12; 1:1–9), and who came to dispel the spiritual darkness (John 1:1–9) introduced into this world by Satan at the tree of knowledge (Gen 3) and by those angels that rebelled against Elohim and attempted to corrupt humanity both physically and spiritually (Gen 6:1–6; Jude 6; 2 Pet 2:4).

 

The “Spirits in Prison” Explained

1 Peter 3:19–22, Preached to the spirits in prison. Did Yeshua preach to the spirits in prison while he was dead? No. Verse 18 states that Yeshua was put to death, was then quickened or made alive by the Spirit (i.e. was resurrected from the grave), and then, in the spirit, he went to preach to the spirits in prison. From the context of this passage, we learn that Yeshua preached to the angelic spirits who rebelled in Noah’s time after he was resurrected from the dead. In this place of restraint, which Peter refers to as tartaroo (2 Pet 2:4 cp. Jude 6) and which in the ancient near east world referred to a subterranean or underworld prison, these evil spirits await Elohim’s final judgment (Jude 6).

Likely, Yeshua went there to inform these evil spirits that despite his resurrections and offering of salvation for human sinners, there is no redemption for these fallen demonic spirits because of the evil deeds they committed as recorded in Gen 6:2–4. Interestingly, the ancient Book of 1 Enoch gives us some additional background information that these same demons appealed their sentence in times past, but to no avail (1 Enoch 6:4; 13:12–3; 14:4–5). 

This passage in First Peter ends in verse 22 with Yeshua taking his position victoriously at the right hand of Elohim above angels, principalities and powers. In other words, Yeshua has overcome all the rebellious plans and machinations of Satan and his evil demonic spirits to subvert Elohim’s plan of redemption for man. The end result of YHVH’s plan of salvation for man will be the glorification and exaltation of man at Yeshua’s second coming to a position above the angelic realm (Heb 2:6–7; 1 Cor 6:3), which is something that Satan attempted to prevent through his attempted subversion of the human race and the thwarting of Elohim’s plan of salvation of man as recorded in Gen 6:2–4. By Yeshua’s resurrection and his victory over sin, death, hell, the grave and Satan, he has defeated all the enemy’s plans. Through our acceptance of and identification with Yeshua’s death, burial and resurrection through the spiritual ritual of baptism for the remission of sins (1 Pet 3:21), we have access to this glorious victory over evil and the potential to become the glorified children of Elohim (John 1:12; Rom 8:14–15; 23; 9:4; 2 Cor 6:18; Gal 4:5–6; Eph 1:5; 1 John 3:1–2; Rev 21:7).

Prison. (Gr. phulake) There are no instances in the Bible of disobedient human souls being placed in an other-worldly prison (Gr. phulake). On the other hand, Satan is bound in a prison (Gr. phulake) for a thousand years during the millennium (Rev 20:7).

 

The Social Welfare System in the Torah

Leviticus 25, The Biblical social welfare system. Leviticus 25, in part, lays out Israel’s social welfare and economic system. Basically, it was a free market capitalistic economic system where private individuals owned property and small businesses and controlled the means and productions of goods and services, and the central government’s involvement in the lives of people was minimal. This is not the case in a purely socialistic (a Marxist or communistic) economic system where the government owns much or most of the property and controls, to one degree or another, the means and distribution of goods and services, and where government regulation of people’s lives is tremendous. The capitalistic system that YHVH gave to Israel, however, contained some quasi-socialistic checks and balances in that greedy or even exceptionally gifted and ambitious individuals couldn’t become excessively rich at the expense of the poor. 

Socialistic economic philosophy demands that the wealth of the nation be equally distributed among everyone including the poor. This may sound good in theory, but it doesn’t work. In reality, socialism stifles individual initiative by punishing (often through taxation and other means of wealth confiscation and redistribution by the government) those who, through hard work, sacrifice, initiative, and inventiveness have become wealthy. So, it stands to reason, why should the wealthy work hard if the fruits of their labors will only be confiscated and be given to the poor or the “have nots, ” or to those who refuse to work? 

At the same time, capitalism is also a flawed system, since in time, the wealthy often end up owning much of the land and control most of the wealth. Human nature being what it is, the greedy wealthy will turn a capitalistic system into oligarchic capitalism where only a few rich capitalists control nearly everything including the economic and political systems. This is the end times system that is described in Revelation 13 and 18 and is called Babylon the Great. Such a system ends up enslaving people through economic and political means, thus creating a veritable feudalistic-type serfdom where rich and powerful business oligarchs who control the government are the new nobility (see Rev 18:13, 23).

With these things in mind, as you are reading through chapter 25, notice how YHVH instructed the poor to be cared for. There was no government welfare system based on taxing the producers and giving to the non-producers. Everyone worked for their living. In fact, the Torah commands everyone to work for six days, and then to rest on the seventh day (Exod 20:9). Sloth and laziness weren’t optons. Even the extremely impoverished were expected to harvest food from the agricultural fields. At the same time, those who owned the fields were to leave the corners of their fields unharvested and not to glean their fields, so the poor would have something to harvest (Lev 23:22; the Book of Ruth). In the Testimony of Yeshua, fathers were expected to provide for their households. Those who didn’t were considered worse than heathens (1 Tim 5:8). Similarly, widows under the age of 60 were expected to support themselves through their own work, while those over the age of 60 could be supported by the local church, but they had to recompense the church through acts of service (1 Tim 5:9–14). Once again, the Bible in no way allows for or promotes a system of government handouts. Except in rare situations, everyone was expected to work.

In this chapter, we also see how the Bible handles the issue of debt, and how it requires people to work to pay off their debts. Bankruptcy wasn’t an option. The Torah allows those in debt to sell themselves into servitude to their debtors through a system called bond service. The debtor would work for the lender until the debts were paid and at the end of seven years all remaining unpaid debts had to be forgiven. This system taught fiscal responsibility to debtors, yet at the same time, it required lenders to show mercy and grace to the poor. Again, the Bible in no way promotes a system of government welfare handouts. Everyone had to work. If you didn’t work, you didn’t eat (2 Thess 3:10). Only the extremely poor who were unable to make a living (e.g. widows and orphans) were cared from the public coffers (Deut 14:28–29; 26:12–13). The Levites were care for publicly as remuneration for caring for and teaching the people spiritually. They also worked as farmers and tradesmen.

Notice how the jubilee year prevented the wealthy from acquiring all the land, and how every 50 years there was a redistribution of land, so that those who through sloth, mismanagement of their resources, or through unfortunate circumstances lost their land could get their land back. Such individuals were mercifully given a second chance to start over again and to learn from their past mistakes. Lending to the poor was encouraged, and the charging of interest to them was prohibited. 

As you read through this chapter, consider how YHVH deals with the perennial social and economic ills that have plagued the world from time immemorial compared to how men currently deal with these same problems, and usually end up making matters worse.

Though it would be difficult to implement such a system in our highly collectivized and industrialized society of today, it is likely that in the future, during the Millennium, when the Torah will be the rule of the earth and an agrarian society will likely be the dominant economic paradigm, that such a Torah-based system will once again be put in place.