Another way Satan attempted to confuse the evidence was through the ancient “mystery religions.” Even before the earthly ministry of Jesus, Satan was at work to undermine and confuse the evidence by counterfeiting Christ’s first coming. In the mystery religions the central figure was a dying, rising savior who had been supernaturally born. He died a cruel and violent death, was exalted up to heaven, and there mediated supernatural help to his followers on earth. Later that savior would return, resurrect his followers and annihilate the forces of evil. These mystery religions even had the equivalent of the Lord’s Supper, baptism, washing in the blood, and many other things.
One of the main researchers in this field was a professor who taught at the University of Chicago just before I got there. His name was Shirley Jackson Case. He wrote a book entitled, The Origin of Christian Supernaturalism. He observed, “Of the Gentiles it might truly be said that there was no salvation without the shedding of blood.” And they were doing this even before Christ came. Let me share a quote or two:
Long before Christianity arose, there were many Gentile religions inviting those who felt the need of divine assistance for the inward man. The rites of the various mystery religions offered an especially good opportunity for the attainment of a new emotional experience, readily interpreted as an effective acquisition of fresh divine power. The stimulation of the senses by music and processionals, the play upon the feelings attending various acts in connection with the rites of initiation, the pledge to secrecy, solemnly imposed upon all the candidates, the wild orgies connected with some of the cults, all served to produce the desired emotional agitation. The necessity of presenting oneself voluntarily for membership as well as the purifications and the other preparatory acts only heightened the effect.
Everything that was done happened to one as an individual. This strong emphasis on the personal relations between the devotee and his god gave precisely the sense of divine interest which alone could produce in needy humanity feelings of solace and satisfaction. Initiation into the mysteries was likened to the experience of death itself. It filled one with terror, but issued in triumph. It was easy for the members of the mystery cults to believe that they were under the protection of divinities who had successfully engaged in a mighty cosmic struggle with the forces of evil and men spoke of being born again, born unto eternity. Shirley Jackson Case, The Origin of Christian Supernaturalism, 166-167.
Does all of that sound familiar to you? Before Jesus came, Satan was already working to distract people from the revelation about God that was coming in Christ. I believe we will see brilliant counterfeits of Christ’s second coming as well. Popular and apparently spiritual movements are using the wonders of technology to distribute “every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14, ESV) all over the globe. Even the most important beliefs and teachings of Christianity are being bent to support Satan’s position against our God. Even faith, the subject of sin, the atonement, the cross, law, judgment, Christ’s intercession, the destruction of the wicked, all God’s emergency measures, are being twisted just enough to obscure the real truth about God.
Do you feel ready for this? Have we oversimplified? Are we in danger of being overconfident? Are we interpreting these truths in such a way that we are leaving ourselves vulnerable and leading the people we win to be vulnerable with us? That is why, in the very next chapter, we are going to talk about why “God Waits for His Children to Grow Up.” You can trust our God to wait for that to happen.