"Paul [cannot be] both claimant and witness [for himself]." Tertullian, Against Marcion 207 A.D.

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What Do Jesus' Remarks In Revelation Imply About Paul?

Paul claimed to be an apostle in his letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:1). Ephesus was the largest city of Proconsular Asia -- modern Western Turkey.

However, later on, in Paul's second letter to Timothy, Paul declared that "all those in Asia have turned away from me" (2 Timothy 1:15). In Acts 19, Luke tells us the Ephesian synagogue where Paul taught for three months and where there were substantial converts to Christ finally expelled Paul.

So this means that at some point after Paul wrote his epistle to them, the Ephesians for some reason ceased to regard Paul as a genuine apostle. Note that he does not say that the believers in Asia abandoned the Christian faith. Paul does not say that they abandoned the original Apostles of Jesus. Paul says only that the believers in Asia abandoned himself. For some reason, the Ephesians ceased to regard Paul as a genuine Christian leader.

Renan in his famous book St. Paul in the 1870s mentioned that chapters two and three in Revelation imply that Paul was rejected in Asia Minor by the time John wrote Revelation. The book of Revelation places Paul's doctrine out of sight and implicitly rejects it. See our page on Renan's analysis.

One clear cut example is what Jesus says about idol meat to the church of Ephesus in Asia. In Rev. 2:14, Jesus clearly commends this church of Ephesus for rejecting the one who taught it was acceptable to eat meat sacrificed to idols -- something Paul at least two times expressly approved eating. (For background, see our webpage on this issue.)

Thus, Renan's analysis that chapter 2 of Revelation implies the rejection of Paul in Asia completely comports with Paul saying that "all those in Asia have turned away from me" (2 Timothy 1:15).

Now turning specifically to the book of Revelation, we find it is written by the Apostle John. It starts off with the resurrected Jesus instructing John to send messages to seven churches within Asia (Revelation 1:11). The first Asian church to be given a message is the church at Ephesus.

If Paul had been a genuine apostle, then surely the resurrected Jesus would have reprimanded the Asians for abandoning his genuine apostle if Paul were a genuine apostle of Jesus. However, turn to Revelation 2:2 and read how the resurrected Jesus commended the Ephesians instead:

"I know...that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false."

So in essence, this is how the dialogue proceeded:

Paul says to the Asians: "I am an Apostle." (Ephesians 1:1)
The Asians reply to Paul: "No you're not!" (2 Timothy 1:15)
Jesus says to the Asians: "You got that right!" (Revelation 2:2)

[Adapted from Klement 2007]

 

Jesus' Words to Thyatira Mock Paul's Words

Jesus condemns the prophetess, the false Jezebel, who teaches her followers to "eat meat sacrificed to idols." Rev. 2:20. Jesus implies that this freedom from the Law proclaimed by the prophet is by appealing to a higher knowledge. Who made a similar appeal, and identically taught eating meat sacrificed to idols was ok?

Paul.

Amazingly, Jesus in Rev. 2:24 mocks Paul's words in 1 Cor. 2:10 about such higher knowledge, and knowing the "depths of God."

Paul in 1 Cor. 2:10 had written that "God has revealed it to us by His Spirit" and "the Spirit searches all things, even the depths (Gk "Bathe") of God." (See Greek tab at Bible Hub for 1 Cor. 2:10.)

The IVP New Testament Commentaries at this link does not even withhold from us that Jesus' pointed critique of Paul is "possibly" involved because Jesus in verses 23-24 speaks that this doctrine to eat meat sacrificed to idols comes from the "depths ("Bathe") of Satan": 

Possibly with Paul's statement in view [in 1 Cor. 2:10], the risen Jesus announces, not just to Thyatira but to all the churches (v. 23), that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds [i.e., works]adding that the "deep things" of such groups as this are not the profound truths of God, but the deep secrets  [Bathe "depths"] of Satan himself (v. 24). [See Greek tab at Bible Hub for Rev. 2:24.]

 

If we dig a bit deeper, the reason why IVP had to mention this connection becomes even more obvious. Jesus mentions to Thyatira that the depths of Satan were taught by the Nicolaitans, and "you have some that hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans in like manner...." And then Jesus commends the "rest" of the church at Thyatira for not following the teachings of the Nicolaitans -- extolling the "many ... have not this teaching [i.e., of the Nicolaitans], which know not the deep things of Satan, as they [i.e., the Nicolaitans] say "I cast upon you none other burden." Rev. 2:24.

What  did Jesus mean the Nicolaitans taught "the deep things of Satan," and the Nicolaitans also said "I cast upon you none other burden?"

Jesus is actually referring to a known historical doctrine of the Nicolaitans that is independently a recognized fact about them. Roberts, a Baptist mainstream scholar and Paul-fan, acknowledges in his famous and highly regarded Word Pictures about the Nicolaitans: 

These early Gnostics [i.e., believers that gnosis, or knowledge of facts, saves you] practiced licentiousness because they were not under the law, but under grace. Word Pictures on Rev. 2:14. 

The Nicolaitans imposed mere knowledge of facts, or gnosis,  as all that is necessary for salvation, and insisted "I cast upon you no other burden," says our Lord Jesus. Our Lord is talking about a portion of the church at Thyatira were obviously swayed by words in Paul's epistles. Paul clearly says in 1 Cor. 15:1-5 that "you shall be saved if you hold steadfastly in mind that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead." GNOSIS -- knowledge of facts," with "no other burden" on you, saves you, so Paul taught there.

 

Incidentally, to save Paul, in the 10th Century, these words -- "put no other burden on you" -- were added by later Paulinists to Acts 15:28 to make it appear the official decree of the Council of Jersulem was limited to Gentiles obeying only four laws. See link. This is what Jesus said was a false teaching going on at the time of Revelation -- 68 A.D -- more than 20 years after the conference in Acts 15.

Ironically, this backfires on those late pious fraudsters who changed Acts 900 years after the fact. For if this portion of the decree were truly made in Acts 15:28, then Jesus condemned it 20 years later as originating from the "depths of Satan."  Jesus was quoting those very same words that now appear in Acts 15:28 to describe a group who taught 'grace' does away with the law -- the Nicolaitans -- a group known to have existed in the earliest period of Christianity. But in fact, Jesus is not referencing Acts 15:28 as existed then for these words were only added centuries later.

Yet, could our Lord have actually been prophesying as well? Jesus surely would know what would be fraudulently added later. Did Jesus arguably condemn the alteration to give a false impression to Acts 15:28? Of course. Thus, it is always worth remembering that if someone ever tries exploiting the fraud in Acts 15:28 -- Jesus condemned it  prophetically already nine centuries before it even appeared. He also condemned it in the form it appeared among the Nicolaitans - the grace, not law gospel.

In any event, Renan was the first scholar or commentator to point out that Revelation's "depths of Satan" reference is aimed at Paul. He placed it alongside numerous other subtle yet obvious critiques on Paul in Revelation, mirrored in the Epistle of Jude and elsewhere as follows: 

“Paul from this moment was for a section of the Church one of the most dangerous of heretics, a false Jew, a false Apostle, a new Balaam, a Jezebel, a villain who prophesied the destruction of the temple, in two words, a Simon Magnus...They were accustomed to designate the Apostle of the Gentiles by the sobriquet of Nicholas (Conqueror of the People), a name akin to Balaam. His disciples for the same reason were called Nicolaitans...His gospel was a false Gospel...Paul was the ‘frivolous man’ of whom the Gentiles have received the doctrine which is opposed to the Law; his visions, which he calls ‘depths of God,’ they qualified as the ‘depth of Satan,’ his Churches they named the ‘Synagogues of Satan;’ in spite of Paul, they proclaim boldly that the Twelve on are the foundation of the Church of Christ.” (Renan, History of Christianity 

Vol. III St. Paul [ca. 1871]at 73.) 

Hence, Renan draws Jesus' words about the "depths of Satan" to be an obvious arrow at Paul's identical language in 1 Corinthians 2:10 to turn these words against Paul. And note Jesus is quoting from Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians about "deep things" -- the same epistle that Paul teaches it is ok to eat meat sacrificed to idols (see 1 Cor. 8:4-12), and the same epistle which says you are saved by mere "gnosis" -- holding "steadfastly in mind" a couple of facts about Jesus as true -- the facts of his atonement and resurrection -- facts which carry no moral burden of any effort on you to repent in Paul's scheme of salvation. See 1 Cor. 15:1-5.

 

However, Renan could not help but defend Paul. Thus Renan attributes these words to hatred by John, the Apostle, toward Paul, rather than Jesus giving a message to his loyal flock.

 

I, on the other hand, respect Jesus' message to Apostle John over Paul. Renan should have realized that Paul has a nebulous claim to having met Jesus in a physical "appearance"  in the wilderness where those with him "hear" the voice in version one, but in the second version do not "hear" the voice and see no one. Didn't Jesus tell us not to believe those who after His ascension claim he has physically returned in a private meeting not universally seen? See Matthew 24:4-8, 24-27.

 

 

Pardon the Interuption: Note on Inconsistent Translations:

Please observe how the King James obscured you seeing the link between Rev. 2:24 and 1 Cor. 2:10. In the latter, the King James has Paul made to say "deep things of God" when all it says is "bathe (depths) of God." Then when Jesus uses the identical word to condemn the false teacher in Rev. 2:24 because the false teacher allows you to eat meat sacrificed to idols, as Paul clearly does, the King James has Jesus say this came from the "depths of Satan" -- the "Bathe" of Satan -- rather than consistently as the "deep things of Satan." 

Why the disparity in translating the identical word as "deep things" when Paul says it but as "depths" when Jesus uses the same word? Such inconistent behavior matches the purpose behind KJV's many mistranslaitons that aid Paul. See Mistranslation to Aid Paul. 

End of Note.

 

The IVP commentary then explains that this false prophet came into the congregation, but was not part of it. It appears this false prophet was "a separate community trying to entice away its members." (Id.) IVP mentions this to support its prior statement of why Jesus appears to be talking about Paul in Revelation -- someone who approached them as a Christian, but had the doctrines that came from the depths of Satan, Jesus says.

 

Why did Jesus not name Paul? Wouldn't that help us better?

Why didn't Jesus tell us the names of the ones at Ephesus who were tried and found to be false claimants to being Christ's Apostles?

First, God allows false prophets specifically to "test" whether we love Him with our whole mind, soul and heart. The test is by comparing the false prophet to the words of a prior true prophet. (Deut. 13:1-5.) By comparing Paul for example to the words of Jesus. To give us the name of Paul point blank is just too easy, frankly.

If one still believes Jesus must have a duty to tell us the name of the false apostle found at Ephesus in Rev. 2:2 or we refuse to consider the possibility, think again. First of all, we know Jesus did not give us the names. So how can we gainsay our Lord's purpose in being mysterious?

Second, if we could impose such a duty on our Lord, then Jesus's warning of the ravening wolf/false prophets to come in His name fails to be worthy of Jesus because He did not tell us their name point blank. But Jesus knew their names just as much before they emerged as He would after.

So at least one reason Jesus did not tell us their names before-the-fact has to be the same reason He did not tell us their names after-the-fact.

This first reason is simple. It is explained in Deut. 13:1-5. That passages says it is up to us to TEST those who claim to be prophets and apostles, just like the Bereans were doing with Paul early in his ministry. This is a test whether we love God with our "whole mind, soul and spirit." Jesus complimented the Ephesians for passing the test of their charachter by rejecting the false-claimant to being an Apostle of Jesus, and for rejecting his teaching to eat meat sacrificed to idols.

This is still present today to test each of us. It allows every age of the church to be under a test of our obedience to Christ. We need to try Paul's claim of apostleship and his claim we can eat meat sacrificed to idols.

This is WHY God will not tell us the name of the offender point blank. It would utterly defeat His purpose in allowing such false prophets/apostles in the first place. 

 

Another possible reason is that God knew there would be an age of Paul that would censor this passage if it bluntly named Paul. So by being oblique and hiding it in plain view, necessitating pulling together several puzzle pieces to decipher, just as all the Messianic prophecies fit Jesus only as a puzzle solution, God left us this message about Paul to be revealed in a final winnowing test for God's people to strengthen our faith. 

 

Further Resources

See posting of Michael Eden on Paul in Revelation of John.