THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST

Previous: Revelation 2:20 continued - 2

20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. - Revelation 2:20

"Pontifex Maximus" and the Papacy

We have already discussed these digressions from biblical truth in the notes about the Church at Pergamum (see chapter 2, verse 15), but to put them in chronological order, we need to recall two of the most important developments of all: the assumption of the old Babylonian office of "Pontifex Maximus" (meaning "greatest high priest") by Damascus I, the Bishop of Rome in AD 382; and the beginning of the use of "Pope" in AD 445 to designate the Bishop of Rome as the official head of the Church.

Pontifex Maximus is a Latin title but it was used to describe the succession of pagan priests from Babylon, where all false religion began after the Flood of Noah's time; to Pergamum, where Satan's throne was; and to Julius Caesar and the Roman Emperors who would follow him. During the reign of Gratian (AD 375-383) the title was discarded by the Emperor, who considered it no longer appropriate. However, it was accepted about AD 382 by Damascus I, and passed on to all future Bishops of Rome (later called Popes). This opened the door for sorcery, idolatry, and all the other perversions of paganism.

Then, in AD 445 Emperor Valentinian III issued a decree applying the description "Pope" ("Papa") to the office of the Bishop of Rome. Leo I therefore became the first official Pope of the Church. Catholics consider all the Bishops of Rome to have been Popes, going all the way back to Peter, but there are several problems with this claim.

First, there is no biblical or convincing extra-biblical evidence that Peter even visited Rome, much less became Bishop there.

Secondly, Peter did not consider himself head of the church. But it is true that he was the natural leader of the Apostles, and as such was given the "keys of the kingdom," which turned out to be the privilege of preaching the Gospel and being present when the Holy Spirit was first given to believers in Jerusalem, to those in Judea and Samaria, and to the Gentiles (Matthew 16:19: Acts 1:8; Acts 2:14-41; Acts 8:14-17, 25; Acts 10:1-46).

Catholics believe that what Jesus told Peter after his "Great Confession" is a prediction that Peter would be the foundation of the Church.

15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. - Matthew 16:15-18

Jesus said "You are Peter." "Peter" (masculine Greek petros) was the word for a stone, or rock. Jesus had given him that name when he first called him to be His disciple (John 1:41-42). But the word for the rock upon which Jesus would build His Church was a different word (feminine Greek petra) meaning a "fixed rock, ledge or shelf of rock." This is the description of a firm foundation. Peter explained his own understanding of this concept in his first epistle.

4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
"Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame."- 1 Peter 2:4-6

According to Peter, Jesus is the chief cornerstone, the foundation upon which the Church is built, and all of us, including Peter are "living stones" as part of the spiritual building. Note also that he designates all believers as part of a "holy priesthood."

Paul agreed with Peter's interpretation about the rock, and he clearly taught that Jesus was the head of the Church.

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. - 1 Corinthians 3:11

For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. - Ephesians 5:23 also: Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 2:19;

Thirdly, Peter taught Christian leaders not to "lord it over" other believers. They should be faithful shepherds, but Jesus is the Chief Shepherd.

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. - 1 Peter 5:1-4

And finally, the concept of "Papa," like the earlier mistake of calling priests "father," is precluded by Jesus warning not to call mere men "father" because we have one Father, who is in heaven (Matthew 23:9).

Join us next time as we continue to explore this verse (Revelation 2:20). We will list other unfortunate developments during the Middle Ages.


Next: Revelation 2:20- continued 4


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