[The text below represents an edited transcript of this Tomorrow’s World program.]
Confusion in Christ?
Have you ever wondered WHY there are so many Christian denominations? Why isn’t there just one Church on which everyone can agree? An April 2017 Pew Research report found that there are about 2.3 billion professing Christians around the world. That’s 31 percent of planet Earth’s population at the time (“The Changing Global Religious Landscape,” PewForum.org, April 5, 2017). Listen to this amazing fact: The World Christian Encyclopedia identifies at least 33,000 Christian denominations, with 9,000 of those classified as “Protestant” and 22,000 as “Independents” (Vol. 1, Oxford: University Press, 2001, p. 10).
WHY are there so many Christian denominations? The answer is found in the Olivet prophecy in your Bible, and in many other prophecies as well. When Jesus’ disciples asked Him about the end times, He gave them several key signs. But what was the FIRST sign He gave them? Matthew 24:3, “‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.’”
Yes, many DO come in His name, calling their religion Christianity and saying that Jesus is the Christ, but at the same time deceiving many. There are a few imposters around the world claiming to be Christ Himself, but what Jesus REALLY said was that many would proclaim Jesus as the prophesied Messiah, the Christ or the anointed one of God, yet preach against His true teachings.
Did you know that Jesus and the New Testament Church He established did not keep Sunday as the day of worship? Did you know that the original first-century Church of God did not keep Christmas or Easter? How can there be such a vast difference between original Christianity and the so-called Christian traditions we see today? My friends, what happened to original Christianity? Wouldn’t you want to be a part of the Christianity revealed in your Bible? What happened to the Christianity of Christ?
The First Century Church, Gone?
Warm greetings to all our friends around the world!
If you were living in Jerusalem when Christ’s apostles were preaching, would you be observing Christmas and Easter? Would you be meeting on Sunday morning for church services? As shocking as it may seem, the answer to both questions is NO! So, how did today’s popular Christianity add so many strange customs and doctrines that Jesus Himself never knew or taught? We’ll answer that question on today’s program, and we’ll be offering you our inspiring free study guide Restoring Original Christianity. This booklet reveals the little-known history of the early Christian Church and how compromisers and conspirators brought into it pagan and licentious practices that Jesus condemned! Be sure to write down the contact information to request your free copy. Be sure to request Restoring Original Christianity.
My friends, do you know where God’s true Church is today? Can you find it among the thousands of denominations claiming to be Christian? The World Christian Encyclopedia identifies at least 33,000 Christian denominations, with 9,000 of those classified as “Protestant” and 22,000 as “Independents” (Vol. 1, Oxford: University Press, 2001, p. 10).
Today, we’ll consider the practice, doctrine, and traditions of the early New Testament Church. For example, did the Apostles observe Easter? Celebrations of Easter Sunday vary around the world. Easter customs include the coloring of eggs and the popular Easter egg hunt. We all know that rabbits do not lay eggs, but parents share these fables with their children anyway.
Some traditionally celebrate the day with a new set of clothes and display the fashion of an Easter bonnet or a creative hat. Obviously there were no bunnies or eggs at the resurrection. But was it even a Sunday resurrection, as so many claim? NO! How do we know that? Remember that Mary Magdalene went to Christ’s tomb Sunday morning. Did she see a sunrise resurrection? If you have your Bible, turn to John 20:1. What did Mary see? John 20:1, “Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.’”
Our Lord was not resurrected Easter Sunday morning, according to your Bible. He had fulfilled the sign He gave to the scribes and Pharisees to prove His Messiahship. Do you realize, my friends, that a traditional Friday crucifixion and an Easter Sunday morning resurrection deny the very sign Jesus gave in Matthew 12:39, the “sign of Jonah”? My friends, Jesus was resurrected Saturday evening just before sunset, exactly 72 hours, three days and three nights, after He was placed in the tomb before sunset on Wednesday evening, just before the beginning of an annual Sabbath. As the Apostle John recorded, “Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” That’s John 19:31).
The “high day” was an annual Sabbath or Holy Day observed that year from Wednesday at sunset until Thursday at sunset. Jesus did fulfill the sign of Jonah. And there was no Sunday resurrection to celebrate as Easter! So, what Holy Day did Christians observe? Some are confused because the King James Version of the Bible uses the term Easter in Acts 12:4. But LISTEN to this. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia explains: “EASTER (AV Acts 2:4). An anachronistic mistranslation of the Gk. pascha (RSV, NEB, “Passover”), in which the AV followed such earlier versions as Tyndale and Coverdale. The Acts passage refers to the seven-day Passover festival (including the Feast of Unleavened Bread). It is reasonably certain that the NT contains no reference to a yearly celebration of the resurrection of Christ” (Vol. 2, p. 6).
Notice what the Apostle Paul wrote to Corinthian brethren who were abusing the sacred observance. “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” That’s in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8.
My friends, the original New Testament church founded by Jesus Christ and led by His trained and ordained apostles never observed Easter Sunday, but they did observe the annual memorial of our Lord’s death, the New Testament CHRISTIAN Passover following the example of Jesus Christ Himself.
The Sign of Jonah
Jesus was in the heart of the earth, the tomb, for exactly three days and three nights, 72 hours, just as He said. You can read about the sign of Jonah in Matthew 12:39-40.
Did the Christianity of Christ observe Sunday as its weekly day of worship? We already saw that Jesus was resurrected on a Saturday evening, not on Sunday morning. Then how did the masses of professing Christianity start observing Sunday? Did the Apostle Paul teach the Gentiles to avoid the so-called Jewish Sabbath and encourage them to observe Sunday as the Christian day of worship? Let’s look at what day the Gentiles actually observed as they followed Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.
If you have your Bible, turn to Acts 13:42. In the first century AD, Paul preached on the Sabbath in the Antioch synagogue. Notice that his audience included BOTH Jews and Gentiles. After the Jews left, the Gentiles made a request. Now, this was YEARS after Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Surely, if Christians were to keep Sunday, these Gentiles would have met with Paul the very next day, Sunday. But did they? Acts 13:42, “So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them….” WHEN? The next day, Sunday? No! Verse 42: “The Gentiles [not the Jews] begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.” Read that again in your own Bible. “The Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath,” NOT SUNDAY!
Read it in your own Bible! Acts 13:44: “On the NEXT SABBATH almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.” Paul met with Gentiles, not on Sunday, but on the Sabbath. New Testament Christians observed the seventh-day Sabbath. The first and second century Christian churches consistently observed the seventh day Sabbath! It was not until the second and third centuries AD that we find a tiny hint that some churches began to observe Sunday as a day of worship. Yet it was much later, in the fourth century AD, when the Emperor Constantine ENFORCED Sunday worship throughout the Roman Empire. Constantine had been a pagan sun-worshipper. He gave the following edict in 321 AD, “Let all magistrates and people… REST on the venerable day of the sun” (“Roman Legislation for Sunday,” Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Volume XI, p. 147).
Just a few years later, the Roman church passed a startling decree in the Council of Laodicea. They declared: “Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, but shall work on that day; but the Lord’s day they shall especially honour, and, as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ” (A History of the Councils of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 316). In other words, Christian Sabbath-keepers who followed the example of Christ and the Apostles were declared to be heretics.
But on what authority did the Roman church make this change? The noted Catholic theologian, James Cardinal Gibbons, wrote this bold statement: “But you may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. [Listen to this!] The Scriptures enforce [the] religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify” (The Faith of Our Fathers, 1917, pp. 72-73). That’s a quote from Gibbons’ The Faith of Our Fathers, first published in 1876.
In other words, Gibbons is saying, if the Bible is your authority, you have NO basis for observing Sunday. The Scriptures, as he states, “enforce the religious observance of Saturday.” We agree with his statement. Do you? But his church rejected the divine authority of the Bible!
My friends, the original Christianity of Christ emphasized obedience to the Holy Scriptures, not the later traditions, many of them pagan, that were contrary to the Scriptures. The noted historian Will Durant comments on the transition from original Biblical Christianity to the professing traditional Christianity we see about us today: “Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it” (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. 3, p. 595).
But what about the so-called “Reformation”? If you really want to know how the Protestant Reformation failed to reform traditional Christianity, I urge you to read [the late] Dr. Meredith’s series on our website at TomorrowsWorld.org. Just go to the search bar and type in the title of that series, “The Plain Truth About the Protestant Reformation.” You will be amazed at the depth of research and the shocking historic developments that rejected the Christianity revealed in your Bible. You will find many answers to the question posed by this program: What Happened to the Christianity of Christ?
A Kingdom Here on Earth!
We’ve seen major changes from first-century Christianity to its modern corruption that includes traditions and doctrines that were even condemned by Christ. Let’s summarize a few of these changes.
The original Christians, Jews AND Gentiles, observed the New Testament Passover. Today, mainstream Christianity observes a pagan-inspired Sunday Easter. Original Christianity embraced the only sign of Jesus’ Messiahship, His statement that He would be in the heart of the earth (or the tomb) for three days and three nights. Mainstream Christianity today denies Jesus’ sign with the false idea of His spending Good Friday to Sunday in the grave. The original Christians observed the original seventh-day Sabbath before the Roman church enforced Sunday worship in the fourth century AD.
My friends, you need to study your Bible and history. Do you want to follow the Jesus Christ of the Bible and His original teachings and Way of life? He stated in Luke 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” Jesus said this when the New Testament was not yet written. He was talking about what we call the Old Testament. Yes, if you are going to live by every word of God, you need to read and obey the WHOLE Bible, Old and New Testaments!
What other changes were deceptively made to the practice of original Christianity? Jesus and His apostles observed the annual Sabbaths, biblical festivals and holy days. They did NOT observe the day of Jesus’ birth--they did NOT observe Christmas. Most any reputable encyclopedia documents the original pagan celebrations surrounding December 25. One of the major festivals celebrated throughout the Roman Empire was the Saturnalia, in honor of Saturn, god of agriculture. The Encyclopedia Britannica states that “… the Saturnalia… became the most popular of Roman festivals, and its influence is still felt throughout the Western world. Originally on December 17, it was later extended to seven days. It was the merriest festival of the year: all work and business were suspended; slaves were given temporary freedom to say and do what they liked; [Notice!] certain moral restrictions were eased; and presents were freely exchanged. The influence of the Saturnalia upon the celebrations of Christmas and New Year have been direct” (“Saturn,” The New Encyclopedia Britannica, Micropaedia, Volume VIII, p. 916).
Most scholars will admit that Jesus was not born in the winter, but in the fall, in September or October. And just WHY was He born? The commercial, pagan customs surrounding the winter holiday obscure the very purpose for the Messiah.
What purpose was revealed to Mary, Jesus’ mother? LUKE 1:30, “Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; [and the] Lord God will give Him the THRONE of His father David. And He will REIGN over the house of Jacob forever, and of HIS KINGDOM there will be no end.’”
The angel Gabriel told Mary that Jesus would be a KING! He was born to be King of a Kingdom that would never end! About 30 years later, Jesus began His public ministry. He began preaching a specific gospel! Turn in your Bible to the book of MARK. MARK 1:14, “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching [and what did He preach?] the GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”
There is another major difference between original Christianity and the modern counterfeit: The original Church preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom that will rule on earth for a thousand years under the King of kings and Lord of lords before the White Throne Judgment (Revelation 19:16; Revelation 20:4). Yet at least one major denomination believes IT is NOW the Kingdom of God on earth. My friends, if you’ve been following our regular Tomorrow’s World programs, you know the King’s earthly rule over all nations will NOT be proclaimed until the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’”
My friends, most people have overlooked the true gospel Jesus preached. He will return to this earth as King over all nations on earth! The angel Gabriel proclaimed in Luke 1:33, “Of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Real Original Christianity: Straight from the Bible
On today’s program, we’ve seen how pagan changes from Jesus Christ’s original Christianity led to the popular modern faith we see around the world today. During the first century after Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, the Church He established grew rapidly under the apostles. But deceivers and infiltrators later influenced Christians to compromise and follow false doctrines. The Apostle Paul warned the church at Thessalonica; “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work…” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). That same lawlessness is taught in many of today’s churches; that supposedly Christ did away with the Ten Commandments and since we are under grace, we can practice lawlessness! My friends, grace does not permit you to murder, lie, commit adultery, or steal! Jesus told the young rich man who was seeking eternal life: “But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). Jesus then mentioned several of the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments reflect the two great commandments: to love God and to love your neighbor.
Here’s a short excerpt from today’s free literature offer: “In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus certainly did not ‘do away’ with God’s spiritual law (Matthew 5:17). Rather, He ‘magnified’ the Ten Commandments. He explained that we must not only refrain from killing other human beings, we must not even look on them with contempt or hatred (vv. 20–23), as that is the ‘spirit’ of murder. We are not to ‘hate’ even our enemies. As Jesus said clearly: ‘But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.’ (v. 5:44).” That’s on pages 17 and 18. Be sure to order your free copy today!
Original Christianity is a way of love and a Way of life. Jesus stated, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
My friends, which will you choose, the Christianity of your Bible? Or a false religion promoting pagan holidays and lawlessness? You need to seek the truth. Check up on the references we give you on this program. Prove for yourself, from your own Bible, what is the truth!