A Response to Scott Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home

Dear grandpa and grandma,

I received your gift and the book you sent me. I am familiar with Scott Hahn and I hope you will not mind me sharing my thoughts about his book.[1]First I want to tell you that you will never understand what I believe if you see it through the lens of Scott Hahn. I am not sure if you have read the book or not, but the misrepresentations, the straw man arguments, the half-truths, and the double standards in his writings are far too many. For now I simply want to clarify the points where my faith has been misrepresented in Scott Hahn’s book so that you can understand more clearly what I believe.

For Scott Hahn it seems that prior to his conversion, being a protestant for him was all about being, as he says, “anti-Catholic;” but I do not read much about solid convictions concerning the heart of what shaped the Protestant Reformation. He knew what he was against, but not what he was for. One is not saved by being “anti-Catholic” but by believing that Christ is the only savior who died on a cross not just to make our salvation possible, but to actually save completely and to the uttermost! But as for the term, “anti-Catholic,” I am not sure what it means anymore, because it seems to me that almost anyone who disagrees with the Roman Catholic Church these days is labeled “anti-Catholic” and the term is thrown around to make us look as if we hate all Roman Catholics. So far I have never heard of those who disagree with the Jewish religion called “anti-Semitic,” but the truth is that by standing for the gospel we stand against not only the Roman Catholic Church, but against the whole world. When we say that Jesus Christ is the only savior, every other religion looks at us as being intolerant, bigoted, narrow minded, and for this reason even the early Christians were called atheists for proclaiming Christ as the only savior to the world!

What I find strange is that Scott Hahn’s conversion seems to turn around the issue of contraception. Although he is right when he says that all the reformers, like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli, Knox and all the rest opposed contraception, he then goes on to say, “I grew disturbed. The Roman Catholic Church stood alone as the only “denomination” in all the world with the courage and integrity to teach this most unpopular truth.”[2]First, you run into problems when you see the church only as “denominations,” but I would like to know if Scott Hahn has ever looked for Protestants who oppose birth control. Has he ever conducted a pew research to see how many Roman Catholics not only think that birth control is okay, but who actually use birth control? Go look at the statistics and you will see that although the pope says one thing, it is only a public image because a large amount of Roman Catholics out there are using birth control. On the other hand, I have Protestant friends who oppose birth control more than Roman Catholics do. Some go as far as opposing what is often called “natural family planning” because it too is a form of birth control which is unnatural and mechanical. You can go online and find many articles written by Protestants who oppose all form of pills and injections, and others who oppose all forms of birth control. 1stCorinthians 7:4-5 speaks of times of abstinence for prayer, not for the avoidance of bearing children. But I wish that discussions about birth control went beyond this or that method and instead focused on the very issues of life and death. As for me, I believe that all pills and injections are the pharmaceutics of Satan! Research has shown that all forms of birth control pills are abortafacient. The IUD is the new instrument of infanticide. But I ask you to research how many Bible believing Evangelicals use these things compared to Roman Catholics. I’m not talking about the non-Bible believing liberals who have turned their backs on the Reformation. Doctors have often encouraged my wife’s uncle to start using birth control but he always refused. Why? Because he reads a Bible that tells him that children are a blessing from God and not a curse.

In the book you sent me it also becomes very clear that Scott and Kimberly Hahn do not care about accurately representing what Martin Luther believed concerning justification by faith alone. As for Scott Hahn, he has no excuse if he claims to have been a serious student of Luther. As for Kimberly, I wonder why she does not provide references to where Luther said the things he supposedly said, and why she also does not tell the whole story. She says that Luther “declared that a person is not justified by faith working in love, but rather he is justified by faith alone.”[3] I would like to know what exactly Kimberly is talking about, but no reference is provided. I also wonder why she does not tell the whole story concerning Luther calling James “an epistle of straw.” First, it must be understood that the common misconception that Luther did not believe that James was canonical is not true. For the Old Testament Martin Luther had a separate Apocrypha section in his German translation of the Bible. He had no such section for the New Testament. Luther made distinctions between the more important parts of the Bible which clearly communicate the gospel, and the less important sections concerning less important matters, which is why Luther called James an “epistle of straw” in his early preface for the New Testament. But I wonder why Kimberly does not provide the context of Luther’s comment. In context his comment on James reads as follows:

In a word St. John’s Gospel and his first epistle, St. Paul’s epistles, especially Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, and St. Peters first epistle are the books that show you Christ and teach you all that is necessary and salvatory for you to know, even if you were never to see or hear any other book or doctrine. Therefore St. James epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it. But more of this in the other prefaces.[4]

As you can see, the context really changes the meaning of that quotation, since Luther is comparing James to the other books of the Bible. Does this mean he thinks James is not a good book? Not at all, because in his preface to the epistle of James he says, “I praise it and consider it a good book, because it sets up no doctrines of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God.” He says that although he cannot include James among the chief books, he also says, “I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him.”[5] What Kimberly also fails to mention is that Martin Luther later removed his comment on James being “an epistle of straw” from his preface to the New Testament in all his later editions of his German translation. The comment only appears in his original 1522 edition. He removed the paragraphs that made value judgments among the books of the Bible in all his later editions. But I wonder why Roman Catholic apologists ignore the fact that the Roman Catholic Erasmus and Cardinal Cajetan questioned the authenticity of James. Kimberly also seems to be saying that Martin Luther did not believe that faith enables us to do the good works that God has planned for us to do.[6] But concerning what Martin Luther believed concerning the relationship between faith and works, here is Martin Luther in his own words:

Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. “Faith is not enough,” they say, “You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.” They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working, creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, “I believe.” That is what they think true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn’t come from this `faith,’ either. Instead, faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words. Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they’re smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools. Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.[7]

In The Disputation Concerning Justification, Martin Luther answers the following spurious argument: “Faith without works justifies, Faith without works is dead. Therefore dead faith justifies.” Martin Luther answers as follows:

The argument is sophistical and the refutation is resolved grammatically. In the major premise, ‘faith’ ought to be placed with the word ‘justifies’ and the portion of the sentence ‘without works justifies’ is placed in a predicate and periphrase and must refer to the word ‘justifies,’ not to faith. In the minor premise, ‘without works’ is truly in the subject periphrase and refers to faith. We say that justification is effective without works, not that faith is without works. For that faith which lacks fruit is not an efficacious but feigned faith. ‘Without works’ is ambiguous, then. For that reason this argument settles nothing. It is one thing that faith justifies without works; it is another thing that faith exists without works.”[8]

Martin Luther also wrote a treatise on good works, but instead many want to portray him as an antinomian.

For me it is very painful to see Scott and Kimberly Hahn misrepresent the reformers, but what is far more painful is when Scott Hahn misrepresents the very words of Christ in the Scriptures! Scott Hahn says,

But after lots of prayer and study, I realized that Jesus could not have been speaking figuratively when he taught us to eat his flesh and drink his blood. The Jews in his audience would not have been outraged and scandalized by a mere symbol. Besides, if they had misunderstood Jesus to be speaking literaly – when he meant his words to be taken figuratively – he could have easily clarified his point. In fact, since many of his disciples stopped following Jesus because of this teaching (v.60), he would have been morally obliged to explain the saying in purely symbolic terms. But he never did.[9]

I answer: but he did! In John 6 verses 60-63 it says,

Therefore many of his disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that his disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”

Furthermore, who is Scott Hahn to judge what Jesus would have been morally obliged to do? Scott Hahn continues saying, “Nor did any Christian, for over one thousand years, ever deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”[10] I want you to know that Martin Luther and John Calvin also believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but they did not believe in transubstantiation; and in the same way just because the church fathers believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist does not mean they believe in transubstantiation. Scott Hahn is making giant leaps to jump to conclusions without doing a proper investigation. I have no idea how Kimberly Hahn’s interpretation of John 6:63 later in the book[11] makes any sense in light of the biblical context of the passage. If we can define physical existence as something that cannot be detected in time or space (as the doctrine of transubstantiation demands) then we can make out even Christ’s incarnation to be a mere phantom. Jesus was not telling us to eat his flesh and drink his blood only once a week but every single day and every single moment of our lives through faith! Jerome shows that my interpretation is not new. He says,

We have heard the sacred Scriptures. I think the gospel is the body of Christ; Holy Writ, His teaching. When he says: ‘He who does not eat my flesh and drink my blood,’ although the words may be understood in their mystical sense, nevertheless, I say the word of Scripture is truly the body of Christ and His blood; it is divine doctrine. If at any time we approach the Sacrament the faithful understand what I mean and a tiny crumb should fall, we are appalled. Even so, if at any time we hear the word of God, through which the body and blood of Christ is being poured into our ears, and we yield carelessly to distraction, how responsible are we not for our failing?[12]

There is no doubt that Jerome treats the Lord ’s Supper with much reverence so as not to let even a tiny crumb to fall, but he defines the gospel and the Scriptures as the body of Christ and says that these are poured into our ears.

Perhaps the part that shows most clearly that Scott Hahn had no solid convictions prior to his conversion to Roman Catholicism is when he says that he broke into a cold sweat when a student asked him “where does the Bible teach that “Scripture is our sole authority?””[13] First of all, if the student used these exact words it shows that he did not understand what sola Scriptura really means. Sola Scriptura does not mean that Scripture is our sole authority, but our sole infallible authority. Pastors have authority to teach the Scriptures and the church has authority to teach the truth so long as they agree with Scripture. Every doctrine must be tested in light of Scripture. Scott Hahn seems to be ignoring what 2nd Timothy 3:16-17 is saying. It says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” It says that the Scriptures make the man of God complete, not partially complete, but complete! The Scriptures contain the fullness of the truth which God has delivered to the church. What Scott Hahn also ignores is that for at least the first 500 years the church always understood the traditions it must follow to be nothing other than what is contained in Scripture. The problem is that in the later middle ages the word Tradition came to be known as something outside of Scripture. In the original Greek of the New Testament the word tradition can also mean teaching, and therefore 2ndThessalonians 2:15 can also read as follows: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the teachings which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” Why should we be surprised that the apostle Paul wants the Thessalonians to remember his teachings? He was an apostle and had authority to teach by writing or by word of mouth. But if the Roman Catholic Church claims to have some Tradition passed on by word of mouth which is not contained in Scripture, then the Roman Catholic Church bears the burden of proof. But this is the same claim made by the Gnostics of old. Scott Hahn’s translation of 1st Timothy 15 is also inaccurate. Scott Hahn quotes it as saying that “the church is the pillar and foundation of truth”, but in reality it says that the church of the living God is “the pillar and support of the truth.” Protestants have never denied that the church is “the pillar and support of truth”, but the question is, what is the church and how does it support the truth? The answer is that the church has always proclaimed the light of the gospel in this dark world, and the church is God’s chosen people called out of the world to proclaim the truth for his glory.

Scott Hahn also confuses the keys of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 16:19 with the key of David spoken of in Isaiah 22:22.[14] Notice that one is plural and the other is singular. The keys of the kingdom of heaven spoken of in Matthew 16:19 represent the power of binding and loosing by the proclamation of the gospel. These keys are later given to all the apostles in Mathew 18:18 where Jesus says to all his disciples, “Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” But who has the key of David? In the book of Revelation it says that Jesus has the key of David, as it says, “He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens says this: I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept my word, and have not denied my name” (Revelation 3:7-8). Jesus says this long after he has given the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter and the other apostles. There is only one key of David and Jesus has it!

Scott Hahn says that he saw covenant at the center of Scripture.[15] I ask, what about Christ at the centre of Scripture? Scott Hahn says, “I’m absolutely convinced that the covenant is central to all of Scripture, just as the greatest Protestants like John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards have taught.”[16] I answer: They taught Christ crucified and God’s sovereignty as the centre, without which there can be no covenant.

Scott Hahn also makes a claim that has been refuted so many times, yet Roman Catholics keep using the same argument no matter how many times it has been refuted. He says, “Ever since the Reformation, over twenty five thousand different Protestant denominations have come into existence, and experts say there are presently five new ones being formed every week.”[17] Where is Scott Hahn getting his information from? No reference is provided. Many Roman Catholic apologists point to the World Christian Encyclopedia[18] as their reference for such a claim, but go and read it for your-self and see how many Roman Catholic denominations there are.[19] You’ll be surprised. Roman Catholic apologists jump to conclusions when they see such a big number and they assume that one is Roman Catholic, another is Eastern Orthodox, and the rest are Protestant. But I remind you that the word protestant came from a historical context where the heart of their doctrine was well defined. You cannot assume that just because one is not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox it makes them protestant. You cannot be a protestant if you deny the non-negotiable tenets of the Reformation. Unfortunately, many today do this very thing, and the world refuses to see the difference between them and us. The vast majority of denominations out there deny the principle of sola Scriptura, which shows clearly that the denial of sola Scriptura is the blueprint for anarchy! If only Roman Catholic apologists would do their research before making claims that are refuted when you look at the very sources they cite! Scott Hahn asks, “what would it take to govern a worldwide church?”[20] I answer: Christ!

Scott Hahn argues that one is born again by physical water baptism. If Scott Hahn’s argument that one is born again by physical water baptism were true, then it still stands true that the vast majority of Roman Catholics out there have never been born again, because in the original Greek of the New Testament the word to baptize literally means to dip, and the vast majority of Roman Catholics have not been baptized by immersion. But why is it so hard to see that to be “born of water and the Spirit”[21] refers to the spiritual cleansing waters of the Holy Spirit, especially when compared to Ezekiel 36? For example it says,

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will be careful to observe my ordinances.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

As you can see, the new birth is a change of heart. Jesus said that “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). But if one is born again by physical water baptism, how is it that the apostle Paul said “Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel…”? (1 Corinthians 1:17).

Kimberly Hahn says that baptism highlights justification by grace alone,[22] but you cannot have justification by grace alone or salvation by grace alone without justification by faith alone, which Scott and Kimberly Hahn both deny and the council of Trent has anathematized![23] The Roman Catholic Church has redefined grace in a way that includes works. For example, the Council of Trent says,

CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.[24]

The Catechism of the Catholic Churchalso says,

Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and Justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increases of grace and charity and for the attainment of eternal life. (2010)[25]

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that we can merit grace. It sees God’s grace merely as God’s help to get merit to earn further grace. This is in total opposition to the apostle Paul who says, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6). Grace cannot be mingled with works for salvation. When works are added, grace is lost. Grace must be the unmerited favor of God. Although grace produces good works, good works can never earn or merit grace! But as can be seen from the council of Trent and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church has rejected the biblical definition of Grace.

Scott and Kimberly Hahn say much about the intercession of saints. I can find one example in the Bible where the intersession a saint is sought, and that is where Saul seeks Samuel’s intersession through a medium at En-dor. What was Samuel’s response? The Bible describes Samuel’s response to Saul was as follows:

Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” And Saul answered, “I am greatly distressed; for the Philistines are waging war against me, and God has departed from me and no longer answers me, either through prophets or by dreams; therefore I have called you, that you may make known to me what I should do.” Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has departed from you and has become your adversary? The Lord has done accordingly as He spoke through me; for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, to David. As you did not obey the Lord and did not execute His fierce wrath on Amalek, so the Lord has done this thing to you this day. Moreover the Lord will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines, therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. Indeed the Lord will give over the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines!” (1 Samuel 28:15-19)

Samuel is obviously not happy that Saul sought his intercession. Where Scripture says, “Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?”[26] it is obviously speaking of those who are physically dead, not spiritually dead. But if Kimberly Hahn’s interpretation[27] were true, where then is the biblical support for prayers to the saints? Why is it that the only form of valid prayer found in Scripture is prayer directed to God?

Kimberly Hahn claims that the woman in Revelation 12 is Mary, but I ask, where does it say that’s Mary? Interestingly, Kimberly Hahn has come up with an interpretation that plainly contradicts the interpretation of the early church. The early church understood that the “woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars”[28] is the church. For example, Hippolytus says,

By the woman then clothed with the sun, he meant most manifestly the Church, endued with the Father’s word, whose brightness is above the sun. And by the ‘moon under her feet’ he referred to her being adorned, like the moon, with heavenly glory. And the words, ‘upon her head a crown of twelve stars,’ refer to the twelve apostles by whom the Church was founded. And those, ‘she, being with child, cries, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered,’ mean that the Church will not cease to bear from her heart the Word that is persecuted by the unbelieving in the world. ‘And she brought forth,’ he says, ‘a man-child, who is to rule all the nations;’ by which is meant that the Church, always bringing forth Christ, the perfect man-child of God, who is declared to be God and man, becomes the instructor of all the nations. And the words, ‘her child was caught up unto God and to His throne,’ signify that he who is always born of her is a heavenly king, and not an earthly; even as David also declared of old when he said, ‘The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.’ ‘And the dragon,’ he says, ‘saw and persecuted the woman which brought forth the man-child. And to the woman were given two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.’ That refers to the one thousand two hundred and threescore days (the half of the week) during which the tyrant is to reign and persecute the Church, which flees from city to city, and seeks conceal-meat in the wilderness among the mountains, possessed of no other defence than the two wings of the great eagle, that is to say, the faith of Jesus Christ, who, in stretching forth His holy hands on the holy tree, unfolded two wings, the right and the left, and called to Him all who believed upon Him, and covered them as a hen her chickens. For by the mouth of Malachi also He speaks thus: ‘And unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.’[29]

In his commentary on the book of Revelation Marius Victorinus says,

The woman clothed with the sun, and having the moon under her feet, and wearing a crown of twelve stars upon her head, and travailing in her pains, is the ancient Church of fathers, and prophets, and saints, and apostles, which had the groans and torments of its longing until it saw that Christ, the fruit of its people according to the flesh long promised to it, had taken flesh out of the selfsame people….[30]

The twelve stars can also be interpreted as being the twelve tribes of Israel. I wonder how the Roman Catholic Church can claim to be the 2000 year old church when it teaches things that are never mentioned in Scripture and are unknown to the church fathers.

In the conclusion of Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s book they refer to Evangelical Christians as “separated brethren,” and this has been the talk of the Roman Catholic Church ever since the second Vatican council. But this will never mean anything until the Roman Catholic Church is at least willing to retract the anathemas of the council of Trent where the very gospel itself has been anathematized! For example the council of Trent explicitly anathematizes those who believe in justification by faith alone with the following anathema:

CANON XXIV.-If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.[31]

Until the Roman Catholic Church is willing to retract such anathemas then their referring to us as “separated brethren” is mere wolf talk and double talk. I do not say this because I have only read the anathemas without the explanation prior to them. I have read the entirety of the 6th session of the council of Trent. The Roman Catholic Church speaks from both sides of its mouth when it anathematizes us and then confuses the gullible by calling us “separated brethren.” As for me, I cannot endure such double talk any longer. Even Kimberly Hahn said that the Roman Catholic Church is “either true or diabolical.”[32] Until it is willing to retract the anathemas of the council of Trent I must say that it is diabolical because it has anathematized the gospel itself! Other religions have not gone that far.

There is more that can be said about Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s book, but I will refrain because I think I have already mentioned the most important parts. For now I think I will only say that I expect better from someone with a PHD. I understand that the book is meant to be a personal testimony, but no references are given where it really matters, and the misrepresentations, half-truths and straw man arguments are inexcusable. I at least thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify my faith in light of Scott Hahn’s book, and hope that you will correct others who misunderstand us. But more importantly, I want you to know the gospel, and wish that one day you can have the same faith as I do. For now I will explain what our response is to those who use James to say that one is justified before God by faith and works.

James says, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14). James thus makes it clear that such a faith is not a true faith but a dead and counterfeit faith which cannot save. True faith is not barren and inert but moves us to action, as he says, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” (James 2:15-16). James thus demonstrates the difference between a true and a counterfeit faith, as he continues saying, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may say, You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:17-19). With these words James makes it clear that true saving faith is not merely a faith in the existence of God or that God is one, or that God is three in one, for even the demons believe these things. True saving faith is a faith that trusts in Christ as our perfect high priest and in his finished sacrifice for our salvation. This kind of faith the demons do not have, for how can they trust in the mercy of God when they hate him and his gospel? James goes on saying, “But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?” (James 2:20-21). We must remember that James is not talking about how one is justified before God but how one is demonstrated to be genuine. It is useful to understand how the word “justified” is used in different ways throughout Scripture. Most are familiar with the sense in which the apostle Paul uses the word in order to teach that one is declared righteous before God even though he has no righteousness of his own. The context and the teaching of the apostle Paul make this understanding of the word ‘justify’ necessary. Another use of the word ‘justify’ is when one who is truly righteous is declared to be so, or demonstrated to be so, or when something that is genuine or true is demonstrated to be so. In some contexts, the word justified can also be translated as, “vindicated.” For this reason where James says, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?” the context makes it clear that a perfectly reasonable translation is “Was not Abraham our father vindicated by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?” In other words, Abraham was demonstrated to be a man of genuine faith by his works. James goes on to say, “You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.” (James 2:23). Here we see clearly that James is in agreement with the apostle Paul that one is considered righteous by faith, for Abraham was declared righteous long before he offered Isaac on the altar. From this we can clearly see that Abraham’s works were a result of his faith. James then says, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” (James 2:24-25). Again, here James is not using the word “justified” to explain how one is justified before God, but how one is demonstrated to be genuine and true. Therefore a perfectly reasonable translation is, “You see that a man is vindicated by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also vindicated by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” (James 2:24-25). Rahab’s faith was thus demonstrated by her actions, for she truly believed that the God of Israel was powerful and able to destroy Jericho and she would rather trust in the God of Israel than the walls of Jericho. James then says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). It is just as if James is saying, has your faith changed your life? because if your faith has not changed your life, then your faith is nothing more than a bunch of empty words! Christians long before the Protestant Reformation also interpreted James in the same way. For example, Bede says,

Although the apostle Paul preached that we are justified by faith without works, those who understand by this that it does not matter whether they live evil lives or do wicked and terrible things, as long as they believe in Christ, because salvation is through faith, have made a great mistake. James here expounds how Paul’s words ought to be understood. This is why he uses the example of Abraham, whom Paul also used as an example of faith, to show that the patriarch also performed good works in the light of his faith. It is therefore wrong to interpret Paul in such a way as to suggest that it did not matter whether Abraham put his faith into practice or not. What Paul meant was that no one obtains the gift of justification on the basis of merits derived from works performed beforehand, because the gift of justification comes only from faith.”[33]

The Christian church believed in justification by faith alone long before Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other reformers. For example, Ambrosiaster (commenting on 1stCorinthians 1:4) says, “God has decreed that a person who believes in Christ can be saved without works. By faith alone he receives the forgiveness of sins.”[34] John Chrysostom says, “But what is the “law of faith?” It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only.”[35]When I look at the Christians of old I see that they believed all the non-negotiable tenets of the Christian faith, that they had the same faith I have; the same faith that survived the devouring lions of the Roman persecutions is the same faith that survived the burning fires of the Roman Catholic inquisitions.

I do not mind you sending me books, but I tell you that I will be more easily convinced by people like Augustine, John Chrysostom and Jerome than Scott Hahn. So far I have gone through all of Augustine’s confessions, his treatise On the Predestination of the Saints, Athanasius’ On the Incarnation of the Word, The Martyrdom of Polycarpand Polycarp’s epistle as well as parts of other books here and there. I see that their catholic faith is very different from what the Roman Catholic Church teaches today. I wish that instead of reading Scott Hahn Roman Catholics would go back and read the church fathers in their own books and in their own words; or better yet, that they would read the God-breathed Scriptures. As for me I tell you plainly, Rome is not my home. The heavenly Jerusalem is my home. The pope is not my father, because I am a child of God. Christ is the head of the church, not the pope. I know that I am not going to purgatory because I am not cleansed by purgatorial fires but by the blood of Christ! The testing fire is not a punishment (in 1st Corinthians 3), but the testing of the Spirit for eternal rewards! The Bible describes a hope that is far greater than what the Roman Catholic Church offers. A hope that is grounded not in a mere possibility, but in a reality! As it says in the epistle to the Ephesians,

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved, and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

In the letter to the Romans it says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Romans 5:1). The best the Roman Catholic Church has to offer is a mere ceasefire that can be broken anytime you commit a mortal sin, and according to Roman Catholic teaching even what they call venial sins must be punished. Roman Catholicism robs men of peace with God by denying the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus Christ did not come to make a ceasefire, but to make “peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20). I do not need an infallible list of infallible books because as a Child of God I can recognize the voice of the good Shepherd in the Scriptures, as Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me…” (John 10:27). And as he had said earlier, “A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 9:5). I know that the voice of the Roman Catholic Church is the voice of a stranger because it teaches a false gospel that cannot save. In his letter to the Galatians the apostle Paul says,

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (Galatians 1:6-9)

But I am not surprised that Scott Hahn and many others like him are leaving the gospel of Christ for the false gospel of Rome. It is as it says in the 2nd letter to the Thessalonians, “For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). From Scott Hahn’s own testimony it is clear that prior to his conversion to Roman Catholicism he hated the Roman Catholic Church, but did he ever love the gospel? It seems to me that strong delusion overcame him because he “did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). As for me, it does not matter if even the whole world were to convert to Roman Catholicism, I cannot desert him who called me by the grace of Christ for a different gospel. “The love of Christ controls” me.[36] I am his because he died for me. I am purchased by his blood, therefore my life is not my own. The decision has already been made. My Lord will not allow me to return to the Roman Catholic religion. I have crossed the ocean and burned the boat. I am not going back, but I press on to follow Christ to the heavenly Jerusalem, which is my home.

Sincerely yours,

Pierre Bruneau

[1] Scott and Kimberly Hahn, Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism. Ignatius Press, San Francisco. Copyright 1993.

[2] Chapter 3. P-28

[3] Chapter 3. P-41

[4] LW 35:362

[5] LW 35:395-397

[6] Chapter 3. P-42

[7] An excerpt from “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522 by Martin Luther, 1483-1546 Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith from DR. MARTIN LUTHER’S VERMISCHTE DEUTSCHE SCHRIFTEN. Johann K. Irmischer, ed. Vol. 63 (Erlangen: Heyder and Zimmer, 1854), pp.124-125. [EA 63:124-125] August 1994

[8] LW 34:175-176

[9] Chapter 4. P-50

[10] Chapter 4. P-50

[11] Chapter 8. P-139

[12] (FC, Vol 48, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 1, On the Psalms (at Psalm 147), Homily 57 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1964), p. 410.

[13] Chapter 4. P-51

[14] Chapter 5. P-71

[15] Chapter 5. P-72

[16] Chapter 5. P-72

[17] Chapter 5. P-73

[18] The full title is: World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World.

[19] The encyclopedia states: “A denomination is defined in this encyclopedia as an organized aggregate of worship centers or congregations of similar ecclesiastical tradition within a specific country; i.e. as an organized Christian church or tradition or religious group or community of believers, within a specific country, whose component congregations and members are called by the same denominational name in different areas, regarding themselves as one autonomous Christians church distinct from other denominations, churches and traditions. As defined here, world Christianity consists of 6 major ecclesiastico-cultural blocs, divided into 300 major ecclesiastical traditions, composed of over 33,000 distinct denominations in 238 countries, these denominations themselves being composed of over 3,400,000 worship centers, churches or congregations.” (Barret et al, volume 1, page 16, table 1-5)

[20] Chapter 5. P-73

[21] John 3:5

[22] Chapter 8. P-137

[23] See the 6th session of the council of Trent

[24] Retrieved from http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct06.html

[25] CCC, 2010.

[26] Isaiah 8:19

[27] Chapter 8: p-149

[28] Revelation 12:1

[29] Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 61

[30] Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John, 12:1-2

[31] 6th Session of the Council of Trent

[32] Chapter 8. P-142

[33] Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament XI: James, 1-2Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 31.

[34] Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VII: 1-2 Corinthians (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 6.

[35] NPNF1: Vol. XI, Homilies on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, Homily 7, vs. 27

[36] 2nd Corinthians 5:14

Taken from https://christcrucifiedforthenations.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/a-responce-to-scott-hahns-rome-sweet-home/

How Peter D. Williams Denied Solus Christus and Sola Gratia in his Debate with James R. White on Indulgences

By Pierre Bruneau (1689 London Baptist Confession)

I just finished watching the debate between Dr. James White (the Protestant debater) and Peter D. Williams (the Roman Catholic debater) on the topic of indulgences. Throughout the debate both sides claimed to believe in the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice and the sufficiency of grace. I am not surprised by this because Rome has historically claimed to teach these things. What does this mean, that both sides have reached a kind of consensus or agreement? Absolutely not! The debate between James White and Peter D. Williams clearly demonstrated that while Roman Catholics and Protestants often use the same words and phrases they mean entirely different things by them. The difference between the two debaters can be summarized as follows: Peter D. Williams was saying that grace is sufficient to make our salvation possible but that we then have to do certain things to make it a reality, and although Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient we must do certain things for it to become effective or remain effective. Dr. White, on the other hand, was saying that grace not only makes our salvation possible, but an accomplished reality that requires no work on our part, and that it is on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice alone, which has actually removed the debt of all punishment and given us peace and access to God on that basis alone. You see, for Rome grace is only sufficient to make salvation possible, while the Reformation has always taught that it is sufficient to make it an accomplished reality. There is a vast difference between the two!
A good way to illustrate this is to use an illustration used by Peter D. Williams during the debate. I will summarize it here but you can watch the debate to listen to his full argument. He likened God to someone who provides all the necessary funds and materials to build a building, but the builders still have to build the building. But the analogy breaks down when you bring it to the light of Scripture, because if the builders have to build the building, it means that they have to work, but Scripture clearly tells us that “if it is by grace it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6). Not only that, but if the builders are working, then they deserve a wage, and if the funds provided are analogous to God’s grace or Christ’s merits, then the builders would be earning God’s grace and Christ’s merits! Is this the conclusion Peter D. Williams intended us to come to? Did he not realize how such horrible blasphemy can be communicated through his seemingly innocent illustration? But the reality is that the Catechism of the Catholic Church explicitly asserts that we can use grace to earn further grace, and the Council of Trent and many other official Roman Catholic Church documents have consistently claimed the necessity of works for salvation (for example see the CCC section 2010 and the 6th session of the Council of Trent). But to make any kind of work necessary for salvation is to make God out to be our debtor, as Scripture says, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor but as what is due. But to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness…” (Romans 4:4-5).
Towards the end of the debate Mr. Williams also plainly denied the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. While he affirms substitutionary atonement he denies its penal nature. Again, I am not surprised by this because I have heard and read many Roman Catholic apologists say the same thing. Although Dr. White responded adequately to this and other arguments made by Mr. Williams during the debate, I would also like to point out the passage of the suffering servant where it says that “he was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon him, and by his scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but YHWH has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him” (Isaiah 53:5-6), and it goes on to say that this was “for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due” (53:8), and it says very clearly that “YHWH was pleased to crush him, putting him to grief…” (53:10). Anyone who fails to see that God is punishing Christ for the sins of his people in this text is clearly wearing a blindfold of false presuppositions!
I will not summarize the whole debate between Dr. White and Mr. Williams here, but I recommend that people watch it because it clearly shows the difference between Roman Catholicism and the biblical gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria!

What is a Protestant?

Pierr Bruneau

(1689 London Baptist)

There are many people out there who think that the word Protestant is only negative word of opposition, and Roman Catholics often criticize the Reformation as being only a negative movement of protest based on this one word. This, however, ignores both the historical reality of what happened when Protestants were first called Protestants and the meaning of the word itself.
The historical reality is that the Second Diet of Speyer in Germany sought to forbid any further reforms in what was called the Holy Roman Empire. As a result the princes of the Lutheran states, known as the Protestant princes, opposed this and wrote the Letter of Protestation. But this was not just a protest; it was an affirmation of their right and duty to proclaim the gospel and to stand on the word of God when it was contradicted by the words of men. They believed firmly that when the law of God and the laws of men contradicted each-other “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Therefore, the protest resulted because they saw that the liberty to proclaim what they affirmed was endangered, and not the other way around. The Second Diet of Speyer in 1529 sought to repeal the Edict of Toleration from the previous Diet of Speyer in 1526 which allowed the free exercise of religion until a General Council was held. The Protestant princes saw that this repeal would mean the death of many Protestants throughout the empire. Their protest was actually a stand on the word of God for religious freedom, and the freedom to obey one’s conscience rather than the tyrannical laws of men.
When it comes to the word Protestant, it is important to note that the meanings of words often change or shift over time. This is what happened with the word protest which has led to some confusion as to what a Protestant actually is. The word Protestant comes from two words: Pro-testari. The word testari meant to testify, and the word pro meant forth, and thus a Protestant was one who testifies forth. The Online Etymology Dictionary shows us how this word has changed over time. It says, ” protest (n.) c. 1400, “avowal, pledge, solemn declaration,” from Old French protest (Modern French prôtet), from preotester, and directly from Latin protestari “declare publicly, testify, protest,” from pro- “forth, before” (from PIE root *per- (1) “forward,” hence “in front of, before”) + testari “testify,” from testis “witness” (see testament). Meaning “statement of disapproval” first recorded 1751; adjectival sense of “expressing of dissent from, or rejection of, prevailing mores” is from 1953, in reference to U.S. civil rights movement. First record of protest march is from 1959.” When it comes to the verb protest it says the following: “protest (v.) mid-15c., “to declare or state formally or solemnly,” from Old French protester, from Latin protestari “declare publicly, testify, protest” (see protest (n.)). Original sense preserved in to protest one’s innocence”

(Protest Etymology).

Therefore, even by the meaning of the word itself, a Protestant is one who testifies forth, and yes there are times when protest is necessary, but it it necessary because of what we affirm and testify forth, not the other way around. A protestant is one who testifies forth the truth of the gospel based on God’s Word. Anyone who does not do this is not a Protestant no matter how much he may be opposed to Rome’s papal claims. As Protestants, it is vital for us to keep our eyes on what we are for, and that is Jesus Christ, otherwise we run the risk of forgetting our “first love” (Revelation 2:4). Instead, may our “love and faith and service and perseverance” and “deeds” grow “greater than at first” (Revelation 2:19) as we fix “our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Soli Deo Gloria!

INFANT BAPTISM IN CHURCH HISTORY

Anthony W. Brooks

Baptism is always a hot topic. In the Baptist church I was an avid opponent of Infant Baptism and saw it as part of a corrupt papist false gospel. So, what changed my mind? Well, Biblical consistency and covenant relationships helped… Also, the Biblical consistency of Covenant Theology. But I am also an advocate of historical theology as well. I believe that it doesn’t matter how much sense an argument makes, but if it isn’t believed in the first 500 years of the church, it shouldn’t be believed.

One of the greatest arguments against paedobaptism is that there is no explicit command in scripture to baptize our children…. and this is true. But that would mean that many other doctrines that we believe to be true in scripture can’t be believed because they aren’t explicit (e.g. Trinity, Hypostatic Union, Sola Fide, etc…). So I will post a list of Early Church quotes that date back to 125 AD.

Disclaimer**The quotes listed are not representative of the beliefs of this blog as they contain perspectives not accepted or defended by this blog, but are mere quotes that support the historicity of Infant Baptism**Disclaimer

Irenaeus

“He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age” (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 189]).
“‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]” (Fragment 34).

Hippolytus

“Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]).

Origen

“Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous” (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3 [A.D. 248]).
“The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [A.D. 248]).

Cyprian of Carthage

“As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born” (Letters 64:2 [A.D. 253]).
“If, in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another” (ibid., 64:5).

Gregory of Nazianz

“Do you have an infant child? Allow sin no opportunity; rather, let the infant be sanctified from childhood. From his most tender age let him be consecrated by the Spirit. Do you fear the seal [of baptism] because of the weakness of nature? Oh, what a pusillanimous mother and of how little faith!” (Oration on Holy Baptism 40:7 [A.D. 388]).
“‘Well enough,’ some will say, ‘for those who ask for baptism, but what do you have to say about those who are still children, and aware neither of loss nor of grace? Shall we baptize them too?’ Certainly [I respond], if there is any pressing danger. Better that they be sanctified unaware, than that they depart unsealed and uninitiated” (ibid., 40:28).

John Chrysostom

“You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his [Christ’s] members” (Baptismal Catecheses in Augustine, Against Julian 1:6:21 [A.D. 388]).

Augustine

“What the universal Church holds, not as instituted [invented] by councils but as something always held, is most correctly believed to have been handed down by apostolic authority. Since others respond for children, so that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete for them, it is certainly availing to them for their consecration, because they themselves are not able to respond” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24:31 [A.D. 400]).
“The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 [A.D. 408]).
“Cyprian was not issuing a new decree but was keeping to the most solid belief of the Church in order to correct some who thought that infants ought not be baptized before the eighth day after their birth. . . . He agreed with certain of his fellow bishops that a child is able to be duly baptized as soon as he is born” (Letters 166:8:23 [A.D. 412]).
“By this grace baptized infants too are ingrafted into his [Christ’s] body, infants who certainly are not yet able to imitate anyone. Christ, in whom all are made alive . . . gives also the most hidden grace of his Spirit to believers, grace which he secretly infuses even into infants. . . . It is an excellent thing that the Punic [North African] Christians call baptism salvation and the sacrament of Christ’s Body nothing else than life. Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture, too. . . . If anyone wonders why children born of the baptized should themselves be baptized, let him attend briefly to this. . . . The sacrament of baptism is most assuredly the sacrament of regeneration” (Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:9:10; 1:24:34; 2:27:43 [A.D. 412]).

Council of Carthage V

Item: It seemed good that whenever there were not found reliable witnesses who could testify that without any doubt they [abandoned children] were baptized and when the children themselves were not, on account of their tender age, able to answer concerning the giving of the sacraments to them, all such children should be baptized without scruple, lest a hesitation should deprive them of the cleansing of the sacraments. This was urged by the [North African] legates, our brethren, since they redeem many such [abandoned children] from the barbarians” (Canon 7 [A.D. 401]).

Council of Mileum II

“[W]hoever says that infants fresh from their mothers’ wombs ought not to be baptized, or say that they are indeed baptized unto the remission of sins, but that they draw nothing of the original sin of Adam, which is expiated in the bath of regeneration . . . let him be anathema [excommunicated]. Since what the apostle [Paul] says, ‘Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so passed to all men, in whom all have sinned’ [Rom. 5:12], must not be understood otherwise than the Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith even infants, who in themselves thus far have not been able to commit any sin, are therefore truly baptized unto the remission of sins, so that that which they have contracted from generation may be cleansed in them by regeneration” (Canon 3 [A.D. 416]).
Soli Deo Gloria!
Photo: My Son’s Baptism at Christ the King Presbyterian Church (OPC)

Why all believers should spend some time in the King James (Authorized) Version

By Anthony W. Brooks

There was a time in my life where all I read was the KJV. When I was in private school, I learned the history of the King James translation, and was sold on it’s accuracy. I carried this conviction all the way into college where my New Testament professor threatened me with failing grades if I didn’t use a modern translation. Of course, I did eventually make use of other translations like the ESV. But recently the Lord has been reviving my love of the Authorized Version. And because of this, I want to encourage all believers to make use of the King James and spend at least some time exploring this historic translation.

  1. It is the translation of our forefathers of the Faith.

As protestants we can look throughout history and see the AV as the translation of our forefathers. This can go deeper than just translation into discussions of the Critical Text vs the Majority Text traditions but lets just say that the manuscript and translational traditions are what was in use until the dawn of the Critical Text. This should bring a certain nostalgia into our minds to look back and experience the past of our faith. What did Matthew Henry or Charles Haddon Spurgeon read when they were writing their sermons? How about John Edwards or John Wesley? They used the AV.

  1. It is a difficult read.

This translation has at least a 12th grade reading level, higher than most of us can comprehend (believe it or not). But this has an added benefit of forcing us to think about what we are reading as we read it. Translations with lower reading levels are often seen as hard to comprehend because they are breezed through by the reader and they come out not comprehending what they read. With translations of higher levels, they force the reader to contemplate the meaning of words and sentences so as to understand the meaning of the text. The AV is no different. When I read the AV I actually have to think about the words I am reading and try to understand them so I don’t butcher them while I read.

  1. It is poetic.

The AV is actually considered a literary masterpiece in the world of literature. It is poetic and uses high Elizabethan English. This makes it a work of art and beautiful to read.

All in all, I believe that the common believer should spend some time reading the King James (Authorized Version). I believe doing so will allow the believer to appreciate where the church has been and where it is going. It will also allow the believer to see and appreciate the history of the English Bible and give insight into the common Bible you hold in your hand.

The Lord’s Day And Why It Stands

Maverick Victor Witlouw

The church has historically held that Sunday, the Lord’s Day is the Christian day of worship (Rev 1:10). It is the challenge of dispensational and New Calvinism’s “New Covenant Theology” that makes this affirmation difficult. Various New and Progressive Covenanters, if they could even be called “covenantal” propose that the Sabbath has been “abolished in Christ.” Why do those of us in the Reformed confessional streams of theology deny this claim?

An Arbitrary Hermeneutic

“New Covenant” theologians lament that somehow only the reinstated commandments found in the New Covenant are those we should keep. They continue that only 9 commandments, rather than all 10 are mentioned. What can we say about this?

Firstly, this hermeneutic is absurd flat on its face. It is based solely on an assumption that cannot be proven. The Old Testament was legitimately seen as canonical and relevant to the New Covenant church (2 Timothy 3:16 cf. Rom 13:10; Galatians 5:14; 1 Cor 14:21; Eph 6:1-3; 1Tim 1:8-10). Even at the Acts 15 Council, the Law was seen as useful, “For Moses from generations of old has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:21) Waldron rightly points out, “the Christian is under the Law as a rule of life. He is obligated to obey its instruction in righteousness.” (2017:18) The Old Testament was seen as inspired, and a rule of faith, the apostolic/prophetic revelation and tradition, namely the New Testament should be seen as an authentic and inspired commentary of the Old Testament not as a replacement.

Second, Christ’s own admission refutes any claim that Sabbath would be abolished: “”Don’t think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18. For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished. 19. Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 20. For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt 5:17-20) The only laws that the Scriptures present as being “not for today,” are those positive laws (ceremonial and civil laws), “For the priesthood being changed, there is of necessity a change made also in the law.” (Heb. 7:12 cf. Ephesians 2:15) It is important to note here that the Reformed distinction between moral, ceremonial and civil laws are not arbitrary; but rather they present a dichotomy between essential/moral laws which are transcovenantal, and positive laws which are time-bound expressions of the one covenant of grace. The New Covenant presents a positive institution of the Lord’s Supper and baptism (Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 11:25), which replaces the positive institutions of the ceremonial law of the Old Covenant (Heb 8:6; 12:24).

Third, Christ himself points to the natural or moral aspect of the Sabbath law. He states, “He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Matt 2:27) Christ furthermore identifies himself as the Lord of the Sabbath, indicative of the fact that the Sabbath was a divine institution rather than a time-bound Old Covenant practice (Matt 2:28). Considering this alongside the Sabbath’s consecration at creation, it is hard to simply dismiss the on-going validity of the Sabbath law (Genesis 2:2-3).

A proper Christological hermeneutic does not assert something arbitrary. NC Theologians need to indicate to us why the Sabbath has been abolished when the emphatic teaching of the New Testament implies something else (Matt 5:17-20). The Decalogue by necessity stands, as Christ demonstrated. The conclusion of NCT theologians is one that therefore leads to a precarious and dubious premise, the premise of Genesis proclaims a Sabbath rest before the Mosaic covenant, and Christ does not seem to water this down in his own declaration,

Sunday or Saturday?

I do not intend to go into lengthy discussions and proposals as to why the Reformed church has historically held to a first-day observance/administration of the Sabbath. But I will point a few things out:

Firstly, the Sabbath is a creation ordinance (Genesis 2:2-3). The consecration of the Sabbath at the creation did not have specific stipulations. The Mosaic stipulations came after the giving of the Law, before that the rationale or stipulations for the Sabbath were not positive spelled out as is here found (Exodus 20:8-10; 35:2). These Mosaic stipulations are bound to the Mosaic covenant, therefore the New Covenant administration of the Sabbath need not be seen as the necessity of the seventh day (Waldron 2017:22-25). At the same time, I concede Waldron’s other point, “It is possible to argue for a Christian Sabbath without necessarily presupposing the creation ordinance. One need only see that as the Sabbath memorialized the redemption of Israel from Egypt to rest in Canaan, so the Lord’s Day memorializes the redemption of the Church in Christ to the resurrection-rest of the Eternal Sabbath.” (2017:60) No matter how someone is able to spin it, the Sabbath stands on both the fact that it was consecrated at creation, and at the same time the covenantal unity between Old and New covenants.  The NCT hermeneutic unnecessarily over spiritualizes the clear practice of Sabbath-keeping, something which is not warranted by the text. A proposition that supposes that the Sabbath has been abolished in Christ is as valid as saying that we no longer keep the rest of the commandments, simply because they have been fulfilled. It is altogether dubious.

Secondly, the Sabbath is natural as marriage. Marriage just like the Sabbath, was instituted at creation, yet in the same sense and the same (or similar) way, marriage did not have specific stipulations, expect the essential stipulations given at Genesis (Genesis 2:24). Christ when correcting a faulty understanding of marriage did not point to the Mosaic administration, he rather alluded to natural/moral law, as it was in the beginning (Mark 10:6). When NCT and dispensationalist theologians propose their understanding of the Sabbath, we have only to point to the way it has always been – that from beginning, there has always been one day in seven that had to be kept as holy.

Third, the church gathered on the first day of the week rather than the seventh (Rev. 1:10; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2). At least, this is what we know historically and it is found upon the premise that Christ was risen on the first not the seventh day (Matt 28:1; Mark 16:2-9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1-19). The apostolic/ecclesiastical pattern shows that the first day, was the day of corporate worship and rest for the church. Historically also, the term “Lord’s Day,” “κυριακη ημερα” (Rev 1:10) coincides with the “the Lord’s Supper,” “κυριακον δειπνον” (1 Cor 11:20) in the original Greek.  Here then we view the Lord’s Supper as a Sunday institution of the church. It needs to be rightly pointed out that the term “Lord” in both are adjectives not nouns. It is the “Lord’s-day” and the “Lord’s-Supper,” not merely the day and supper of the Lord. Herein, there is a separation between the eschatological day of the Lord and the Lord’s Day (2 Peter 3:10). Remember the Lord’s Supper; namely “the breaking of bread” was the practice for the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) “They are marked by the only two occurrences of the strong possessive form of “Lord” in the New Testament, κυριακος. In 1 Corinthians 11:20, we read of the Lord’s Supper, and in Revelation 1:10 of the Lord’s Day—both memorialize the redeeming work of Christ. Just as the Passover memorialized the sacrifice that secured the redemption, so also the Lord’s Supper recalls the great sacrifice that finished redemption. As the Sabbath memorializes the blessing purchased in the Exodus, so also the Lord’s Day reminds us of Christ’s resurrection as the first fruits of redemption.” (Waldron 2017:58) In the mind of the Jew, what Christians were doing, was in fact, functionally, a Christian Sabbath, “and make my Sabbaths holy; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am Yahweh your God.” (Ezekiel 20:20)

Important also is Waldron’s other comment, “Jews, like the disciples of Christ, were prepared to see the significance of Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week by the peculiar significance of first and eighth days in the Old Testament economy. These days were not necessarily, of course, the first (or eighth) day of the week—but that is not the point. Despite this, the fact remains that, in a pervasive way, the Old Testament economy was fitted to give the impression of a special religious significance associated with first and eighth days in succession. It is this general impression that prepared the Jewish disciples of Christ to give more than passing interest to the fact of Christ’s first-day resurrection. With reference to the first day, a number of considerations are significant. The first day of Passover was a holy assembly (Exo 12:15-16; Lev 23:7; Num 28:18). The first day of the Feast of Booths was a holy assembly (Lev 23:35, 39).” (2017:72)

Explicit Sabbatarian Expectations in the New Testament

Finally, there are positive commands in the New Testament which indicate that principle of Sabbath-keeping stands for Christians.

Hebrews 4:9, “There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God.”
Hebrews 10:25, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching.”

The explicit teaching here is that there remains a “Sabbath-keeping” for the people of God (the new covenant church – 4:9), paralleled by “not forsaking our own assembling together.” (10:25) Waldron remarks, “In fact, precisely because it is fulfilled in Christ, it is continued in the Lord’s Day. We have to do here with the peculiar effect that the overlapping of the ages (the old and new creations) have upon the typical institutions of the Old Covenant. Notice how the following diagram of the relations of Sabbath and Lord’s Day parallels that of Passover and Lord’s Supper.” (2017:59) Hebrews 4 notes that the people of God (in the Old Testament) needed faith to enter into the rest, this is comparable to us who need to enter into the rest as well. Hebrew’s point is that there remains a Sabbath-keeping for the people of God, as we wait for the Day (the eschatological Sabbath coming in the future) – Hebrews 10:25. The term for “sabbath-keeping” (4:9) is “sabbatismos,” Richard Barcellos, graciously making a snippet of his book available on the Confession Baptist site remarks,

“That which “remains” is “a Sabbath rest.” The noun “a Sabbath rest” (σαββατισμὸς [sabbatismos]) is used only here in the Bible. Various cognate forms of it are used in the Septuagint (LXX) in at least four places (Exod. 16:30; Lev. 23:32; 26:34; 2 Chron. 36:21). Each use in the LXX, when referring to men, refers to Sabbath-keeping in terms of an activity in the (then) here and now… Something interesting occurs in the LXX version of Leviticus 23:32a. The LXX text reads as follows: σάββατα σαββάτων ἔσται ὑμῖν (sabbata sabbatōn estai hymin). The NASB translates this verse: “It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you.” The word σάββατα in the LXX compliments the verb “to be” (ἔσται). The word σαββάτων (“of complete rest”) modifies σάββατα. Both nouns clearly refer to an activity, a Sabbath-keeping to be rendered by those addressed in the passage. In Leviticus 23:32b of the LXX a verb is followed by its direct object as follows: σαββατιεῖτε τὰ σάββατα ὑμῶν (sabbatieite ta sabbata hymōn [“you shall keep your sabbath”]). Here a Sabbath for the people of God to keep is pressed upon them, explicitly by verbs and implicitly by nouns. Also, in each case the word “Sabbath” is the same used by Moses in Genesis 2:2, “and He rested on the seventh day” (emphasis added). Pertinent to our discussion as well is the fact that God’s creational rest in the LXX of Exodus 20:11 is referred to with the verb κατέπαυσεν (katepausen), the same word translated “rest” in Hebrews 3 and 4. In the LXX, what for the Creator is “rest” implies a Sabbath day to be kept for creatures. Hebrews 3 and 4 seem to follow this septuagintal pattern” (Barcellos 2016:n.p.).

Just as the Sabbath of the old covenant looks back to the Sabbath at the old creation, the New Covenant’s Lord’s day looks forward to the eschatological Sabbath in eternity.

Furthermore, my final consideration is based on the Decalogue itself. On what premise do we base that the law of the Decalogue has been superseded by a new law? The transcovenantal nature of the Decalogue is clearly seen in the Messiah’s own point, which namely the Law will always stand (Matthew: 17-20). It is interesting that Christ never once really attacks the Mosaic Law; he rather puts the erring application of the Law in his time on trial. He has an issue with “what is said,” (Matthew 5:38; 42) but not what “what is written”. These Matthew 5 points which Christ speaks about is emphatically not Christ criticizing the Law as I have heard, but rather the erring application of the Law, probably the currently Rabbinic interpretations or some erringly Jewish understandings. Christ hereby interprets what the Law is really about, and interprets it giving it a better understanding. I propose that this is what is meant by “the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). The Law of Christ is not some kind of ethereal kind of commandment floating in the air applied by some kind of subjective feeling of love, nor is it utterly distinct from the Decalogue (2 Cor 3:3).

Conclusion

It is hard to fight a theological position which is propagated ad nauseam in Christian book stores. Dispensationalism and her daughter NCT continue to influence theological academia. As for those of us in the Reformed tradition, we propose a strong antidote to a theological position which hinges upon a faulty assumption. The Sabbath, the Lord’s Day stands. The Decalogue has not been abolished, and I find no basis to conclude that NCT can legitimately present itself without some drastic error. I would rather do what God commands, than build a theology of the Sabbath on silence.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Bibliography

Waldron S 2017. The Lord’s Day: Its Presuppositions, Proofs, Precedents, and Practice.  Chapel Library. Pensacola, Florida

Barcellos R 2016. Getting the Garden Wrong: A Critique of New Covenant Theology on the Covenant of Works and the Sabbath. Founders Press, from a forthcoming book. (http://confessingbaptist.com/upcoming-book-snippet-on-the-remaining-sabbatismos-for-the-people-of-god-heb-49-richard-barcellos/)

The Beast of Revelation and His Mark (666)

Anthony W. Brooks

 

No doubt, many see this subject as thrilling and terrifying. This is mostly due to the majority of Americans (and possibly evangelicals around the world) holding to a dispensational view of eschatology. The futurism of the majority of mainstream evangelicals paired with the Late Great Planet Earth and Left Behind have turned the question of the Beast of Revelation and His Mark (666) into a superstition instead of an exegetically answerable question.

Possible answers to the question

I will be leaving out the Futurist point of view. Mainly that they don’t offer answers to the question at hand but conjecture. The two typical camps that do offer answers are the Historicist and Preterist camps. Lets define terms:

Known Postmillennialist, Doug Wilson, provides accurate and short definitions for these two terms in his “Primer on Eschatology”.

Historicism– A historicist is one who believes the prophecy of Revelation was fulfilled, and is being fulfilled down through church history.

Preterism– A preterist is one who believes that the prophecy of Revelation was largely fulfilled in the first century.

So with these two definitions in mind we are ready to reveal our case for a fulfilled prophesy for the Beast of Revelation and His Mark (666).

 

Revelation 11: 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. 11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13 And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

This is the first mention of the beast of Revelation. Here you have the witnesses pouring out their testimony over the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt which we assume is the Earth. The witnesses have fire proceeding from their mouths that devour their enemies. 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. The beast rises from the pit and makes war on the witnesses to conquer and kill them. Their bodies lay in the street of the city where their Lord was Crucified. It is obvious that the Lord killed here is our Savior Jesus. And this symbolically makes the city mentioned here Jerusalem. Typically we can apply a larger and more current context of this city here being the world. In other interpretations this is significant because of verse two. 2 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. This is either foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD or the persecution of the Church under Nero Caesar. Our next text will open this up more.

 

Revelation 13:1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. 2 And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. 4 And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” 5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear: 10 If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

The beast rising out of the sea is representative of his persecuting power. He was like a leopard with feet like a bear, and a mouth like a lion. This is an obvious parallel to the Book of Daniel 7:1–8, 17–27. The dragon gave authority to this beast and the people worshipped the dragon and the beast. This beast could be the governments of Asia who persecuted the churches in Asia. The beast was allowed to exercise his authority 42 months, again, this could be the persecution under Nero Caesar for the 42 months of his reign which could make him the dragon mentioned here. Also this passage mentions that if anyone slays any with the sword then he will be slain with the sword. Nero persecuted the church greatly from 64 AD to June of 68 AD (42 months). This is too exact to miss. And Nero committed suicide with the sword in 68 AD.

This parallel gets more interesting in our next passage.

Revelation 13:11 Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. 13 It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14 and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. 16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

We have another persecuting beast rising out of the land. This beast had two horns like a lamb. This beast could be a false prophet who points people toward a false messiah. This is even more likely when we see the mortal wound of the first beast healed. This beast had committed a false miracle like the Resurrection of Christ to deceive the nations. Next we see the mark of the beast. Exactly who the beast is that represents this mark is uncertain as of yet, but we can assume who the mark historically belongs to. The common belief was that this is the numeric value of Nero’s name in Hebrew. נרון קסר or “nrvn qsr” is the normal way of numericizing it. The value of Nero’s name in Hebrew characters is 666. There is a textual variant of 616 which can also be numericized into Nero’s name. “נרו קסר” or “nrv qsr”. Either way it is clearly Nero. Nero is also hypothesized to be the beast of the sea. Namely because he has a resurrection legend that would mirror the healing of the mortal wound.

Revelation 17:1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” 3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. 5 And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” 6 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

This is interesting. There is a prostitute sitting on the waters. All the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, probably better to say fornication sense she is a prostitute. The dwellers of the earth have become drunk. There is another woman sitting on a scarlet beast. This beast had 7 heads and 10 horns. This woman held a golden cup full of abominations and impurities of her sexual immoralities. Her forehead had the inscription that called her Babylon the Great, mother of prostitutes and of Earth’s abominations. She was drunk with the blood of the saints and martyrs. This probably means she was responsible for the martyrdom and persecution of the church.

 

When I saw her, I marveled greatly. 7 But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. 8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. 9 This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; 10 they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. 11 As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. 12 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. 13 These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

The beast is called “was, and is not, and is”. This phrase makes a deliberate statement that this is symbolic language. About to rise from the bottomless pit. This is connecting this beast with the beast of chapter 11. The people of the earth who are not the saints of Christ will marvel at this beast and probably idolize him. John makes an exceptional statement here… This calls for a mind with wisdom… This means that John is deliberately inviting us to interpret what he says next. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. So the seven heads of the beast represent 7 mountains upon which one woman sits. Rome is known as that city that sits on 7 hills so this woman is Rome. Why do I say this? Well, because if John is asking for the mind of wisdom to interpret this in a first century context it makes perfect sense to say it is Rome, the imperial power of their day. They are also seven kings… as in emperors of that great city, Rome. Five of whom have fallen… In the context of Rome this could be Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius, Nero (one is), and Galba is the other has not yet come. Also, Galba fits the bill in the next phrase “and when he does come he must remain only a little while”. This is because he only ruled Rome for seven months in between Nero and Otho in the year 69 (which was known as the year of four emperors). It goes on to mention the ten horns that have yet to receive power as rulers. These will give authority to the beast and will make war on the Lamb (Christ).

 

15 And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. 16 And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, 17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. 18 And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”

The water is explained for us in the text as peoples, multitudes, and languages. The beast and the horns hate the prostitute. It is the will of God from all eternity for them to rise up and destroy her. This has been assumed to be the destruction of Jerusalem, but could also be the sacking of Rome or Constantinople (depending on whether you use a preterist or historicist interpretation)

 

Conclusion:

The futurist interpretation does not take into account the obvious historical evidences that the Christians of that day would have pointed to for understanding of this book. The evidences of Rome being the city on seven hills. The seven heads of the beast being the 7 emperors. It is rather evident that john was inviting his immediate readers to reason the meaning of these things (Revelation 17:9a). In the immediate context of these statements, Rome was the only city on seven hills, the value of Nero’s name in Hebraic characters is 666 or 616 (which to anyone familiar with the language and its quantities would have been aware of).

Of course, this is just one possible interpretation. There are many others that are possible senarios to view this passage. Eschatology is not a monolith… there has to be limits, but there can be disagreements. Apocalyptic literature can be tiring and confusing. A beast can have seven heads in one passage and ten in another. A woman can sit on land in one section and water in the other. There is a mortal wound in one verse and it is healed in the next. Keeping up with it all is confusing but exhilarating. But let’s not come away with anything novel without realizing the implications of historical theology.

Soli Deo Gloria!