Isn’t it amazing how far we can drift away from the Word of God when we stop reading His Word and start mouthing the traditions of men?
As I kept making one discovery after another in God’s Prophetic Word that ran contrary to what I had been taught, I began to wonder about the origin of the doctrines on death that I had learned. It didn’t take me long to discover that the source was Greek philosophy.
The first attempt to mix the concepts of Greek philosophy with the teachings of God’s Word came very early in the history of the Church. The attempt was called Gnosticism. The Gnostic heresy arose among the first Gentile converts because they tried to Hellenize the Scriptures; that is, they tried to make the Scriptures conform to the basic tenets of Greek philosophy.
The Greeks believed that the material universe, including the human body, was evil. This negative view of the creation was diametrically opposed to Hebrew thought, as revealed in the Bible. To the Hebrew mind, the world was created good (Genesis 1:31). And even though the goodness of the creation was corrupted by the sin of Man (Isaiah 24:5-6), the creation still reflects to some degree the glory of God (Psalms 19:1). Most important, the creation will someday be redeemed by God (Romans 8:18-23).
The Gnostic Heresy
When the first Gentiles were converted to the Gospel, their Greek-mind set immediately collided with some of the fundamental teachings of Christianity. For example, they wondered, “How could Jesus have come in the flesh if He was God? God is holy. How can He who is holy be encased in a body which is evil?”
In short, because they viewed the material universe as evil, they could not accept the Bible’s teaching that God became incarnate in the flesh. Their response was to develop the Gnostic heresy that Jesus was a spirit being or phantom who never took on the flesh and therefore never experienced physical death.
This heresy is denounced strongly in Scripture. In 1 John 4:1-2 we are told to test those who seek our spiritual fellowship by asking them to confess “that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.”
The Augustinian Corruption
About 400 A.D. a remarkable theologian by the name of St. Augustine attempted to Hellenize what the Scriptures taught about end time events and life after death. Augustine was very successful in his attempt. His views were adopted by the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. and have remained Catholic dogma to this day.
The influence of Greek philosophy would not allow Augustine to accept what the Bible taught about life after death.
For example, the Bible says the saints will spend eternity in glorified bodies on a New Earth (Revelation 21:1-7). Such a concept was anathema to the Greek mind of Augustine. If the material world is evil, then he reasoned that the material world must cease to exist when the Lord returns. Augustine solved the problem by spiritualizing what the Bible said. He did this by arguing that the “new earth” of Revelation 21 is just symbolic language for Heaven.
Augustine’s views are held by most professing Christians today, both Catholic and Protestant. That means that most of Christianity today teaches Greek philosophy rather than the Word of God when it comes to the realm of end time prophecy and life after death.
Read the next part!