Irenaeus lived approximately 130 a.d. to 202 a.d. The exact dates of his life are not known. Nor is the exact date he wrote his greatest work, a five-book series titled Against Heresies. His outline of heretical teachings is known to have been composed late in the second century. Until the discovery of the gnostic gospels at Nag Hammadi in 1945, it was from Against Heresies that most information about the gnostics was learned.
Irenaeus provides us a glimpse into the state of Christianity less than a century after the death of the apostles. What is revealed through that glimpse, is a bizarre bunch of conflicting views. Many of the teachings he condemned are so alien to today’s Christians that we would regard them as perverse aberrations. Yet they competed in the early Christian market place for converts, and claimed to be a true reflection of Christ’s teachings.
Christ foretold there would be “children of the wicked one” who would be planted among His “wheat” while they both grew together. (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43.) The apostle Paul was astonished at how quickly the church at Galatia was corrupted with perverse teachings. (Gal. 1:6-7.) He predicted the entire falling away (apostasy) of the Christian church. (2 Thes. 2-3.)
While the apostles were alive and preaching, Christians divided themselves into contentious factions. Some followed one teacher, others another, and they emphasized their disagreements rather than their common beliefs. (1 Cor. 1:11-13.) “Ministers of Satan” were actively teaching inside the earliest bodies of Christians. (2 Cor. 11:13-15.) Paul lamented that “all of Asia” had fallen into error and rejected his teaching. (2 Tim. 1:15.) John warned of false spirits and false apostles who were spreading falsehoods that misrepresented Christ. (1 John 4:1-2.) By Nicaea, 324 a.d., the denial of Christ coming into the flesh was so widely accepted that a newly adopted and false teaching of the “Trinity” completed the overthrow of true doctrine regarding Christ who lived as a man in the flesh among us.
Even if falsehoods supplanted Christianity, John’s vision foretells that God’s patience will finally come to an end and the religions that worship devils, and gold, and silver and idols will be destroyed. (Rev. 9:20.)
If Christians were to examine the history of Mormonism, they would better understand how unclean spirits and false prophets overtook Christianity. (Rev. 16:13; also 2 Tim. 11:13-15.) Joseph Smith began Mormonism under the influence of one spirit, but upon his death, Brigham Young followed under the influence of another.
As a true shepherd would, Joseph gave his life for the sheep. (John 10:11.) Brigham Young declared he would flee and never surrender his life, a sign of a false shepherd. (John 10:12-13.) He proclaimed he was unwilling to lay down his life as Joseph did:
“But woe, woe to that man who comes here to unlawfully interfere with my affairs. Woe, woe to those men who come here to unlawfully meddle with me and this people. I swore in Nauvoo, when my enemies were looking me in the face, that I would send them to hell across lots, if they meddle with me; and I ask no more odds of hell to-day.” (July 26, 1857.)
“A mob killed Joseph and Hyrum in jail, notwithstanding the faith of the State was pledged to protect them… I have broken no law, and under the present state of affairs, I will not suffer myself to be taken by any United States officer, to be killed as they killed Joseph.” (August 12, 1857.)
“Do you expect to stand still, sit still, or lie still, and untimely let them take away my life? I have told you a great many times what I have to say about that. I do not profess to be so good a man as Joseph Smith was. I do not walk under their protection nor into their prisons, as he did.” (August 9, 1857.)
Brigham Young advocated controlling people by holding economic power over them. He explained how he envisioned keeping people in line and subordinate to him by getting them to consecrate their property to the church he led:
“If any man is in darkness through the deceitfulness of riches, it is good policy for him to bind up his wealth in this Church, so that he cannot command it again, and he will be apt to cleave to the kingdom. If a man has the purse in his pocket, and he apostatizes, he takes it with him; but if his worldly interest is firmly united to the Kingdom of God, when he arises to go away, he finds the calf is bound, and, like the cow, he is unwilling to forsake it.” (April 6, 1852.)
Brigham Young defied the US Government when its representatives were critical of his authoritarian rule in the Territory of Utah:
“What says the United States? ‘Let us send a governor there; let us send our judges there.’ But what do they cry? ‘We have no influence or power, for there are other men there who rule, and we cannot help it; they have the reins of government and turn the people whithersoever they will, and we cannot help ourselves.’ What did a gentleman say to [US President] Mr. Fillmore? Said he, ‘You need not send anybody there, for Brigham Young is Governor, and he will govern the people all the time; and there is no other man that can govern them.’ If there is any truth in this, it is, he will do so as long as the Lord lets him.” (October 3, 1852.)
On June 9, 1853, he threatened to kill any apostates or non-believers who opposed him in a public discourse. Beginning in 1855, God’s wrath at Brigham Young and his followers became evident in a series of natural disasters that caused famine and severe hardships. In response to these afflictions, Young increased his threatening and began a bloody period known as the Mormon Reformation. The Mountain Meadows Massacre was as a result, at least in part, by the fiery rhetoric Brigham Young preached during the Mormon Reformation.
Like the early Christians who were overcome by deceiving spirits, (Mark 13:5-6; 2 Tim. 3:13; 1 Cor. 15:33-34; Eph. 5:5-6) Mormonism was overcome by the lusts, appetites, and ambitions of Young, who was animated by a very different spirit than Joseph Smith. The result of leading by that spirit is aptly described in the Book of Mormon:
“For the time speedily shall come that all churches which are built up to get gain, and all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world, and those who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity; yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be consumed as stubble; and this is according to the words of the prophet.” (1 Ne. 22:23.)
LDS Mormonism not only has been built up to get gain, but is a multibillion dollar empire, able to undertake a trillion-dollar development for housing, and employing a population of 500,000 people in Florida on 133,000 acres. The LDS church is only partly religious, and has built a $2 to $5 billion dollar shopping mall-condominium housing-office complex across the street from its Salt Lake City temple. (The total cost depends on whether the retail establishment alone or the entire project is valued.) The LDS corporate church is now completing a similarly ambitious project in downtown Philadelphia adjacent to the temple it completed in September 2016.
Millions of faithful Mormons are entirely oblivious to the dramatic gulf between the scriptures, revelations, and teachings of the founder Joseph Smith, and the replacement religion created through Brigham Young. That transition mirrors what happened to early Christianity. By the time only one Christian orthodox faith survived, it was also making merchandise of men’s souls. The description of Babylon the Great whore in John’s revelation accurately describes both the false Christian religious empire founded in Rome in the fourth century and the false Mormon empire founded by Brigham Young in the late 1840s:
“The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, and cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.” (Rev. 18:12-13.)
Christianity did not survive the second century. Mormonism did not survive its third decade. The answer to the question ‘why’ is the same: Both became more interested in getting economic gain, power over the flesh, becoming popular in the eyes of the world, and infatuated by the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, than in practicing and preserving the faith taught by Christ. The Book of Mormon describes the corrupting influences infecting churches.
Christ’s religion requires sacrifice. Its reward is later, after this world. In this world, if we practice the faith taught by Christ, “we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Cor. 15:19.)
How can we support with our donations the false ministers who preach for hire and neglect the poor among us? How can we assume we will be saved by the smooth things we hear from our hireling priests? (Isa. 30:10.) How would we even recognize the truth after being taught lies pretending to define what it means to be “Christian”?
John the Baptist was the last messenger sent by God in the dispensation of Moses. (John 1:6.) He represents the end of one dispensation and the beginning of another. He overthrew the kingdom of the Jews and wrested all the authority that remained with the Jews from the original commission delivered through Moses.
John the Baptist’s message was to repent, warning that the “kingdom of heaven” was at hand. (Matt. 3:2.) The Jews were concerned at his message and sent representatives to inquire from him about the authority he had to start something new. (John 1:21-25.)
John the Baptist’s authority to baptize was recognized and accepted by Jesus Christ. He came to John and submitted to baptism because only by doing so would Jesus follow the requirements of righteousness. (Matt. 3:14-16.)
John was sent by God (John 1:6) and his right and authority was undisputed by both Jesus and the early Christians. Ignatius wrote about Christ’s baptism: “[He] was baptized by John, that He might ratify the institution committed to that prophet.” (Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter XVIII.) And, “was baptized by John, that all righteousness may be fulfilled.” (Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter I.)
Jesus posed the question to Jewish leaders of John the Baptist’s authority. He asked, “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?” A question that the Jewish leaders knew if they answered would expose the problem of rejecting John. “And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?” (Matt. 21:25.) They concluded that they could not answer this question. (Id., v. 26.)
Jesus Christ described John the Baptist in these words: “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist[.]” (Luke 7:28.) Jesus said of him: “He was a burning and a shining light[.]” (John 5:35.)
John was born to a Levite father. (Luke 1:5.) But he was taken into the Judaean wilderness and hidden there to protect him from the authorities. (Luke 1:80.) When he returned from the wilderness, he came dressed in camel hair, wearing a leather girdle, eating locusts and wild honey. (Matt. 3:4.) These details suggest he lived without employment, home, or wealth, surviving on what God provided, as if Christ had John in mind when He taught in the Sermon on the Mount:
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matt. 6:28-34.)
These things, which describe the life of John the Baptist, seem to us both fanatical and impractical. When cast out of the Garden, mankind was doomed to obtain bread by the sweat of our labor. (Gen. 3:19.) We are commanded to labor for our support (2 Thes. 3:11) and not steal (Eph. 4:28) nor expect another man’s bread to be given to us (2 Thes. 3:8). If a man will not labor, he should not eat what others produce through their labor (2 Thes. 3:10). Yet John seems to have abandoned everything to serve God, and in turn lived only on what God provided for him.
Would we have recognized and accepted John as a messenger sent by God? How would we have determined that this “homeless’ man was “‘sent by God”? If he had no pulpit, how could we know, that for a brief time, he alone could perform an ordinance required for salvation? If he was not part of the established system of religion, why would we give him any heed? If there was an existing temple, a presiding high priest, a governing board in the Sanhedrin, and established synagogues where scripture was recited and messages were delivered each week, why would we expect John to be more relevant to our salvation than the religious system in place? If the entire religious landscape was attributed to Moses, who was known to be a prophet (John 9:29), what makes us think we would choose to believe God sent the outsider, John? Why think salvation today will require anything less of a test than was required when John first appeared and began to preach? Why think we are any different than the Jews who rejected both John and Jesus? If our religion is a comfortable part of our lives, then what is its value?
Christ described what is required to follow Him:
Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. (Luke 12:51-53.)
And again, the Lord taught:
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matt. 5:10-12.)
If our religion does not cause others to revile us, members of our families to be offended, or help us understand the life of Christ and the prophets, it is not Christ’s religion. If religion takes us to a comfortable church each week where we are assured we will be saved in heaven, it is not truly Christian. If it does not require sacrifice, then we have nothing in common with either Christ or the prophets.
It is still possible to practice Christianity, but not in comfortable pews, listening to flattery and praise. The Bible warns that the time will come when God will: “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.” (Isa. 6:10; New American Standard version.) This happens every week in most “Christian” churches throughout the world.
Would we have recognized John the Baptist as a burning and shining light? How?
Today, the best estimate is that there are over 40,000 different “Christian” denominations or sects. No one knows for sure because there is no organized data-base that identifies them all. Many are as small as a single congregation. The total number of “Christians” is estimated at over 2.2 billion.
Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8.) God has made a point of explaining that He does not change. (Mal. 3:6.)
The pace at which “Christian” sects are dividing appears to be accelerating. The disagreements between “Christian” sects are pronounced enough that many of them claim they alone are “true” and only they can save your soul. They denounce other denominations as false, their followers unsaved, or worse, damned and followers of the devil.
The scriptures claim there is “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.” (Eph. 4:5.) Christians should compare what they see in “Christianity” of today with what the scriptures teach. How can messages from the various sects conflict so greatly that the Christian world is divided into more than 40,000 different bodies?
Christianity was never to be “preached” by just anybody willing to make a claim to be preaching the truth. A true messenger must be “sent” by God. (Rom. 10:14-15.) That does not mean they have some sentimental inclination to proclaim a message. It means that God sent them.
Paul was sent by God, and he explained the criteria. The qualifications have never changed, been rescinded or superseded. The unchangeable God requires the same today as anciently.
How can an unchangeable God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, be guiding these conflicting and contentious Christian denominations? The answer is simple: He is not.
The Christian sects are led by hireling priests who stir up conflict that prevents Christian believers from agreeing with one another. They flatter their congregations and keep them content. “Christians” are fed a weekly dose of vanity and lies by men and women expecting to be paid (by their followers) for their preaching. If you removed the profits from Christian churches, you would quickly see the pulpits abandoned by the hucksters employed there. If no one were paid to preach, conflicts would quickly end between the rank-and-file Christian.
I will be giving three talks later this year in California, Texas and Atlanta. I have been sent to give these three messages. I do know God. I have been ministered to by Him and He has prepared me to minister to others. Like Paul, who was sent by God, I will also tell you of an unchangeable God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. His message requires the same from you today as it did when Jesus Christ first taught in Galilee and Judea.
Anyone who claims to be a “Christian” may be interested in hearing these three talks. They are free and no donations will be solicited. Charity is wasted on hireling clergy. It should be used for the poor. Clergy ought to labor for their support as do other Christians. The sooner we stop paying a professional clergy, the sooner Christianity will lose its animosity and improve in spirit, function and value.