In the previous installment, we discussed the biblical revelations about the religious organization that the “false prophet” will represent. We have seen that the last seven revivals of the ancient Roman Empire constituted a collaboration between religion (the Roman Catholic Church) and state (the political empires under military leaders), while the first three revivals of the ancient Roman Empire were not supported by the Catholic faith.
In this installment, we will address historical forerunners of the end-time “false prophet”—including Simon Magus.
The Greek word for false prophet is pseudoprophetes. According to Strong #5578, this word means, “a spurious prophet, i.e. pretended foreteller or religious impostor (cp. #5571 – pseudes = deceitful, false, liar and #4396 – prophetes = a foreteller, by analogy an inspired speaker).”
The Bible reports of false prophets in the past, and it warns of the appearance of many false prophets in the future. However, as we will explain in the next installment, there will also arise THE false prophet in the end-time, prior to Christ’s return, epitomizing the false prophets of the past, present and future.
Matthew 24:11 tells us that many false prophets will arise who will show great signs and wonders to deceive (Matthew 24:24). Luke 6:26 says that false prophets existed already in Old Testament times (compare 2 Peter 2:1). Acts 13:6-12 reports of a false prophet at the time of Paul, who was a Jewish sorcerer. 1 John 4:1 speaks of false prophets at the time of John; and Revelation 2:20 gives a warning to God’s church in Thyatira because they allowed the (false) prophetess Jezebel to seduce them.
When focusing on the Egyptian false prophets or magicians at the time of Moses, in Exodus 7, we may get an idea as to the extent of the Satanic powers which the end-time false prophet will possess.
Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible explains that the two Egyptian sorcerers did not resort to “trickery,” but that they somehow exchanged their rods for real serpents:
“There can be no doubt that real serpents were produced by the magicians… If the magicians threw down their rods, and they became serpents after they were thrown down, as the text expressly says, Exodus 7:12, juggling or sleight of hand had nothing farther to do in the business, as the rods were then out of their hands. If Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods, their sleight of hand was no longer concerned. A man, by dexterity of hand, may so far impose on his spectators as to appear to eat a rod; but for rods lying on the ground to become serpents, and one of these to devour all the rest so that it alone remained, required something more than juggling. How much more rational at once to allow that these magicians had familiar spirits who could… convey one thing away and substitute another in its place!…”
The Bible states that the rod of Aaron BECAME a serpent, and that the magicians did in like manner. Unless one wants to say that Aaron operated with a trick or performed an illusion (which would be ridiculous), the magicians did not operate in that way, either. Later, God changed water into blood, and the magicians “did so” as well. Also, God brought frogs over Egypt, and the magicians did so as well.
It is obvious that these magicians acted with the power of Satan the devil and his demons. One should not try to diminish or underestimate Satan’s powers, nor try to explain them as man-made illusions or trickery. The Bible shows that in the near future, powerful men will arise on the world scene—including “the” false prophet—who will be influenced and empowered by Satan to perform real miracles—not just illusions—but they will do so with the demonic purpose of deceiving mankind.
A forerunner of the end-time false prophet was Simon Magus, a Samaritan sorcerer. We state the following about him in our free booklet, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord” :
“Historical records establish the fact that Simon Magus, who had been baptized but had never truly repented (Acts 8:13–24), became a leader in the early Babylonian system. He had been a sorcerer, regarded as ‘the great power of God’ (Acts 8:9–10). Quoting from Millennium Prophecies, p. 59, let’s learn more about Simon Magus and the Satanic powers which he allegedly possessed. This should make us a bit more prepared for what is going to happen in the future and why the false prophet will be able to deceive so many people with his sorcery:
“‘The Samarian-born Simon Magus (15 BC–AD 53), son of a Jewish sorcerer, was educated in the cradle of Gnosticism, Alexandria. He was a disciple of Dositheus, who had been a follower of John the Baptist and contended with Jesus Christ for the title of Messiah. Simon traveled widely in Persia, Arabia [and] Egypt to learn all he could about magical lore. He was accompanied by a sorceress called Helena, whom Simon claimed was a reincarnation of Helen of Troy. In Samaria, even Christians spoke of Simon as ‘the great power of God’… Simon Magus performed many miracles, including healing the sick, raising the dead, walking through fire, flying through the air, turning stones into bread, creating phantom banquets, making himself invisible, animating stone statues, changing his own shape and, of course, reputedly commanding elemental spirits or possibly demons to do his bidding.’”
We are of course not claiming that Simon Magus did in fact accomplish all these things, quite literally, which are being described above. The above-stated description is an allusion to tradition and legend according to which Simon Magus accomplished these actions. We feel confident to say that through his magical powers, it appeared to people that he actually performed these “miracles,” including going through walls and making himself invisible. Today’s magicians or illusionists even appear to do some of these things, even though in most cases, they are just operating with tricks; how much more can a person accomplish some of it if he is used by Satan? We know of cases where Indian gurus levitate or where they walk on burning coals without their feet being burnt—obviously Satan is behind this. In regard to Simon’s “ability” to “raise the dead,” people might not have really died, but were perhaps in a coma, and Simon woke them up out of that coma, through Satan’s help.
As mentioned, Simon Magus became a leader in the early Babylonian system. Some mistakenly claim that Simon Peter was the first bishop of Rome, and that Christ founded the Roman Catholic Church through the Apostle Peter. But this is not correct, and as so often, truth is stranger than fiction.
First, Scripture fails to confirm that Peter went to Rome to minister in that area–which is in contradiction, of course, to the human tradition which places him in Rome as its first Bishop.
We read in Galatians 2:7-9 that Paul had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised (Gentiles, including those living in Rome, who were physically uncircumcised), just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (Jews who were physically circumcised). Rome was essentially Gentile–even though some Jews resided there–and it was Paul, then, who went to Rome. It is true, however, that Peter was led to OPEN the way to salvation to be offered to Gentiles, by baptizing Cornelius, following a miraculous vision (compare Acts 11).
Paul confirms in Romans 15:16-20 that he was a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, and that he made it “his aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ WAS named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation” (verse 20). Paul is telling us here that he would not want to establish or lead a church which was already being led by another apostle, including Peter. He emphasizes the same principle in 2 Corinthians 10:13-16. When Paul was in Rome, he preached to the Gentiles there. He tells us in 2 Timothy 4:11, while imprisoned in Rome, that ONLY Luke was with him. Peter is not mentioned, which would be strange, if Peter was in Rome at that time. The same can be said regarding Paul’s additional “prison epistles” which were written during his first imprisonment in Rome (about 60-62 A.D.)–Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. No mention of Peter can be found in these letters.
In Romans 1:7, Paul addressed his letter to all of God’s beloved in Rome, without mentioning Peter. In Romans 16, he again addressed greetings to twenty-nine specific persons–in some cases their collective households–but again, he failed to mention Peter. Paul wrote the letter to the Romans about 57 A.D.–probably from Corinth. And even though tradition tells us that Peter had established the church at Rome in the 40’s A.D., we find no mention of Peter in Paul’s letter to the Romans.
It is also noteworthy what is stated Acts 28:22. Jewish leaders residing in Rome asked Paul about the gospel, when he had been brought as a prisoner to that city: “‘But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.’ So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the LAW of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.”
When the Jews disagreed amongst themselves, after having heard this message, Paul announced to them that he would now preach the gospel to the Gentiles in Rome, which he apparently did for two years (verses 24-31). This passage tells us that, even though they had heard about the “sect” of the Christians, they had not been taught the gospel when Paul arrived in Rome. This shows that Peter could not have been there for 12 years, prior to Paul’s arrival, to preach the gospel in Rome.
It is for these reasons that Henry Chadwick concluded in his book, “The Early Church,” Volume 1, 1967, page 18, that the idea that Peter was in Rome for twenty-five years is merely a third-century legend.
If Peter, then, was not in Rome, where was he? In Acts 12 we see that Peter was cast into prison by King Herod in Judea around 50 A.D. After his miraculous release, we are told that he met Paul in Antioch (Syria) around 50-56 A.D. (compare Galatians 2:11). Still later, around 64 A.D., he resided in Babylon (1 Peter 5:13). Many Jews lived there at that time. Tradition, however, puts Peter in Rome during all this time, and some commentaries equate “Babylon” in 1 Peter 5:13 with the city of Rome. This, however, is in error. While John refers to Babylon, meaning the city of Rome, in the prophetic book of Revelation (compare Revelation, chapters 17 and 18), Peter actually resided in the literal city of Babylon at the time of his writing.
John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible points out:
“Some, by ‘Babylon’, understand Rome, which is so called, in a figurative sense, in the book of the Revelations… but that Peter was at Rome, when he wrote this epistle, cannot be proved, nor any reason be given why the proper name of the place should be concealed, and a figurative one expressed. It is best therefore to understand it literally, of Babylon in Assyria, the metropolis of the dispersion of the Jews, and the centre of it… there were great numbers [of Jews] which continued here, from the time of the captivity, who returned not with Ezra; and these are said by the Jews… to be of the purest blood: many of the Jewish doctors lived here; they had three famous universities in this country, and here their Talmud was written, called from hence… Babylonian.”
The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown agrees and adds:
“Babylon was the center from which the Asiatic dispersion whom Peter addresses was derived. Philo [The Embassy to Gaius, 36] and Josephus [Antiquities, 15.2.2; 23.12] inform us that Babylon contained a great many Jews in the apostolic age (whereas those at Rome were comparatively few, about eight thousand [Josephus, Antiquities, 17.11]); so it would naturally be visited by the apostle of the circumcision… Clement of Rome… mentions Paul and Peter together, but makes it as a distinguishing circumstance of Paul, that he preached both in the East and West, implying that Peter never was in the West. In 2 Peter 1:14, [Peter] says, ‘I must shortly put off this tabernacle,’ implying his martyrdom was near, yet he makes no allusion to Rome, or any intention of his visiting it.”
We have also been told that Peter died in Rome and is buried there. But as the BBC reported on March 23, 2008, this is highly questionable:
“St Peter’s journey to Rome led to the spread of Christianity in the West and the foundation of Roman Catholicism, so the Church has always taught. But a new documentary will challenge the link as nothing more than a ‘conspiracy of faith’. In it, prominent academics accuse the Vatican of misleading the world over the fate of the man regarded as Jesus Christ’s closest disciple… they accuse the Church of fabricating a connection with the apostle to validate giving ultimate power to the papacy.
“Catholicism has taught for centuries that Peter was martyred and buried in Rome and that all popes succeed him, but the documentary will challenge this by asserting that he never reached the Italian city. Instead, it will accuse the Church of ignoring the discovery of a tomb in Jerusalem that archaeologists believe contains the bones of Peter… Dr Robert Beckford, a theology lecturer at Oxford Brookes University, who presents the documentary, [said:] ‘We found that there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that Peter was buried in Rome, but yet the rival theory has not got out because it challenges the Church…
“It is traditionally believed that he was crucified in Rome and buried where the Basilica of St Peter was later built, beneath the high altar. In 1939, the Vatican announced that the bones of Peter had been found in Rome during an archaeological dig. But the documentary casts doubt on this, questioning why the dig was carried out ‘in total secrecy’, and led by a ‘personal friend’ of the Pope… The documentary… suggests that it is much more likely that St Peter was buried in an ossuary found in Jerusalem with the inscription Shimon Bar Jonah – Simon son of Jonah – the Hebrew name for Peter.”
Since Simon Peter was not in Rome, who was there and who occupied the position of “first bishop of Rome”?
This brings us back to Simon Magus, the Samaritan sorcerer who believed and was baptized, but who never received the Holy Spirit, because the apostles refused to lay hands on him, given the fact that he had not repented and had an evil and wicked heart. It was Simon Magus who went to Rome. He was given the surname “Peter” as a religious title, meaning “father” or “interpreter.” Many pagan religions referred to their priests as “peter” or a variation of that expression.
In his book, “Mystery of the Ages,” Herbert W. Armstrong wrote on pages 51-53:
“It seems incredible that a being like Satan not only could have deceived the whole world, but also ‘Christianity’–the very religion bearing Christ’s name and supposed to be his true religion. Yet, paradoxically, Satan did! He did it through his great false church, started A.D. 33 by Simon the Sorcerer, described in the 8th chapter of the book of Acts as the leader of the Babylonian mystery religion in Samaria… Simon had bewitched the people of that country, and they followed him as their leader in the Babylonian mystery religion ‘from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God’ (Acts 8:10)…
“Simon came to the apostles Peter and John, offering money as a bribe, asking them to give him the power to lay hands on people and have them receive the Holy Spirit. Peter rebuked him strongly. But Simon proclaimed himself a Christian apostle, nevertheless, and called the pagan Babylonian mystery religion ‘Christianity.’ He accepted the doctrine of ‘grace’ for the forgiveness of sin (which the pagan religions had never had), but turned grace into license to disobey God (Jude 4). He aspired to turn his pagan religion, under the name ‘Christianity,’ into a universal religion, to gain thereby the political rule of the world. Simon, the ‘Pater’ (Peter) of his counterfeit religion, did not accomplish this in his lifetime. But succeeding leaders, with the headquarters moved to Rome, did, later, gain political control over the Roman Empire and its medieval successor, called ‘The Holy Roman Empire.’ This empire is in process of again being resurrected in Europe now!”
Simon went to Rome where he impressed Nero and others with his magical powers. The Dictionary of Christian Biography, Vol. 4, p. 682, states: “When Justin Martyr wrote [in 152 A.D.] his Apology, the sect of the Simonians appears to have been formidable, for he speaks four times of their founder, Simon; and we need not doubt that he identified him with the Simon of the Acts. He states that he was a Samaritan, adding that his birthplace was a village called Gitta; he describes him as a formidable magician, and tells that he came to Rome in the days of Claudius Caesar (45 A.D.), and made such an impression by his magical powers, that he was honored as a god, a statue being erected to him on the Tiber, between the two bridges, bearing the inscription ‘Simoni deo Sancto’ (i.e., the holy god Simon).”
Even though some have later questioned whether that statute was erected to Simon Magus or to another Simon, it was most certainly not erected in honor of Simon Peter. And there can be no doubt that Simon Magus was in Rome and left a lasting impression on the people there. Hasting’s Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, volume 2, page 496, explains that there is “very slight evidence on which to reject so precise a statement as Justin makes; a statement he would scarcely have hazarded in an apology addressed to Rome, where every person had the means of ascertaining its accuracy. If he made a mistake, it must have been at once exposed, and other writers would not have frequently repeated the story as they have done.”
The Dictionary of Religion and Ethics, volume 11, page 522 tells us that Simon “prophesie[d] that Rome will be[come] the scene of his crowning glory, when he will be adored as a god.”
Hasting’s Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, volume 2, page 496, also states this: “But it need not be supposed that when Simon broke with the Christians he renounced all he had learned. It is more probable that he carried some of the Christian ideas with him, and that he wove these into a system of his own. This system is a mixture of pagan ideas wrapped with Christian names and identities.”
The Dictionary of Religion and Ethics says that Simon was “a false Messiah, who practiced magical arts and subsequently attempted, by the aid and with the sanction of Christianity, to set up a rival universal religion” (Apostolic Christianity, volume 11, page 514).
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible says that Simon Magus “offered [Peter] money; to purchase such a power of conferring the like gifts, on whomsoever he should lay his hands: hence buying and selling spiritual things, or what relate thereunto, are commonly called ‘simony’: a vice which has greatly prevailed in the church of Rome, and among its popes; and who therefore may be more properly called the successors of Simon Magus, than of Simon Peter.”
Continuing with our free booklet, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord” :
“Simon Magus was not the only leader within the Babylonian system who practiced sorcery. Millennium Prophecies tells of another famous sorcerer, Pope Silvester II, who lived at the end of the first century. Quoting from pp. 68 and 69: ‘Tradition has it that he was an advanced student of the black arts… It was said that he regularly conversed with the Devil… he was credited with possessing a ‘brazen head’ that spoke to him and could prophecy future events… [He] learned… to summon ghostly figures from the lower world… [The] demons obeyed him in all that he required of them day and night, because of the great sacrifices which he offered, and his prayers and fastings and magic books and great diversity of rings and candles.’”
In the book, “The Dark History: The Pope,” by Brenda Ralph Lewis, additional revelations are presented regarding prior popes.
When addressing Pope John XII, who became Pope in 955 A.D. and who in 962 A.D crowned Otto I as the “Holy Roman Emperor of the German Nation,” we read this:
“There seemed to be no sin that John XII did not – or would not —commit. He ran a brothel at the church of St John Lateran where he put one of his own lovers, Marcia, in charge. He slept with his father’s mistress and his own mother. He took golden chalices from St Peter’s church to reward his lovers after nights of passion. He blinded one cardinal and castrated another, causing his death. Pilgrims who came to Rome risked losing the offering they made to the Church when the Pope purloined them to use in gambling sessions. At these sessions, John XII used to call on pagan gods or goddesses to grant him luck with throws of dice…”
Another pope, Benedict IX, who was born in 1012 A.D., “was described as ‘feasting on immorality’ and a ‘demon from Hell in the disguise of a priest.’” He was later charged with rape, murder, homosexuality and bestiality.
Pope “Alexander’s coronation, which took place on 26 August 1492,” is summarized in this way:
“… the procession passed under specially erected carrying slogans, some of which were frankly blasphemous. ‘Alexander the invincible’, ‘Alexander the most magnificent’, and ‘The Coronation of the great god Alexander’ were among them. But all were outdone by the message inscribed in gold on another of the arches: ‘Rome was great under Caesar, greater far under Alexander. The first was a mortal, the latter is a god.’”
One of Alexander’s “successors,” Pope Pius IX declared during the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), that the statements of a pope were “infallible,” when announced “ex cathedra.” As Brenda Ralph Lewis explains in the before-mentioned book, the reaction was one of outrage:
“Ferdinand Gregorovius, the German historian and theologian wrote: ‘Many seriously believe that the pope is out of his mind. He has entered with fanaticism into these things and has acquired votes for his deification.’ Authoritarian Catholic rulers in Europe were horrified by the concept of papal infallibility… Here was a pope who could override them by going one step further and claiming that he was the voice of God.”
The false prophet will even claim that he will BE God, as we will see in the next and final installment in this series.
(To Be Continued)
Lead Writer: Norbert Link