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What Do Jesus' Remarks In Revelation Imply About Paul? 

 

[Audio by volunteer, Daniel.] [YouTube by volunteer, Daniel.]

 

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 Paul 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. In fact, Paul insisted the Christian with a "stronger" conscience is the one who realizes it is perfectly within our "liberty" to eat meat sacrificed to idols, while Paul says Christians of a "weak conscience" are afraid to do so. (For background, see our webpage on this issue.)

Thus, Renan's analysis of chapter 2 of Revelation implies the rejection of Paul in Asia. Hence Revelation 2 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."

This is completely consistent with the fact that Paul is never appointed as an apostle by Jesus in Luke's three versions of the Damascus Road Account. 

 

In fact, Paul concedes he is not one of the 12. 

In 1 Cor. 15:5-8, Paul says that after the "twelve" saw the resurrected Jesus pre-Ascension, Paul became one who out of time (post-Ascension) also saw Christ. See 1 Cor. 15:5, 8.

Paul necessarily thus did not consider himself one of the 12. He implicitly recognized the validity of Matthias' election by lots  to be the 12th, as the 11 true apostles asked Jesus in Heaven through the Holy Spirit to make the decision on the 12th. This is recorded in Acts chapter one.

Specifically, Luke informs us in Acts 1:21-26 that the eleven prayed for Jesus to choose a replacement for Judas between two candidates. Calling upon Jesus to decide the new replacemement, the eleven used the Biblically approved method of choosing by lots. Jesus chose Matthias. The other was not accepted as a thirtheenth apostle. Why were the 11 determined that their number not exceed 12?  

Because the number 12 was unique, and none who died thereafter were ever replaced. Jesus in Revelation also speaks of the 12 foundation stones of the New Jerusalem being the 12 apostles -- meaning Mathhias, not Paul, replaced Judas. Revelation 21:14 CEV then says:

The city was built on twelve foundation stones. On each of the stones was written the name of one of the Lamb's twelve apostles.

There is a clear correspondence of one apostle for each of the twelve tribes, gates, and foundation stones. The number each time is only twelve. It implies there are not supposed to be more than twelve apostles. You cannot have thirteen or fourteen apostles judging the twelve tribes. 

Jesus made this clear during His earthly ministry as well. Jesus in Matthew 19 verse 28 said the role of the twelve apostles was to "sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." For more proof, see Was Paul A True Apostle of Jesus Christ?

See also our article Matthias was Chosen by Holy Spirit to Replace Judas.

 

So in essence, this is how the dialogue went with the Ephesians:

 

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...." The Nicolaitans were a notorious early Pauline sect, as we shall see.

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 were Paulinists. They imposed mere knowledge of facts, or gnosis,  as all that is necessary for salvation (as Paul does in 1 Cor. 15:1-4), and insisted "I cast upon you no other burden," so our Lord Jesus quotes them as teaching. (Rev. 2:24.)

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. 15:1-4 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.

 

 

Renan Continued: More Prophecies in Rev. 2 Against Paul by Jesus.

 

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 of 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 parallel language in 1 Corinthians 2:10 ("depths of God") 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 generally 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" three facts about Jesus as true -- the facts of his death, burial, 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.  See Renan's deflection of this passage at this link.

 

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. See our article on that issue at this link.

 

 

 

IVP Commentary Continued On Whom Jesus Is Talking About.

 

The IVP commentary quoted above 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. IVP says this shamelessly, with neither defending or criticizing Paul. It just lets you know Jesus could possibly be talking about Paul by quoting him in part to cast a negative light on Paul.

 

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.

 

Pro-Paul Scholars Say Revelation is Obviously Anti-Paul 

 

Yet, if you think Jesus must say it more clearly, just be aware pro-Paul scholars say Revelation is crystal clear as a work that is anti-Paul. 

The Christian professor Ezra Palmer Gould in a book entitled The Biblical Theology of the New Testament (MacMillan 1900) unhappily admits: 

The Apocalypse [i.e., Revelation written by Apostle John] ... represents an unqualified opposition to Paul....The Apocalypse [is] anti-Pauline." [Page 125.] "[Revelation is] a writing distinctly anti-Pauline. [Page 131.] 

 

This same scholar goes on to claim we just know this must be a judaizer who changed this to suit rejecting Paul. The scholar cites no proof. Obviously, his confidence is because he accepts Paul, and thus if Jesus rejects Paul it must be false.

 

But what is most obvious is that it is a test from our Lord-Master Jesus. For Jesus confirms in Revelation 2 the ruling in Acts 15 that Gentiles should not eat meat sacrificed to idols. Paul speaks contrary to not just the 12 in Acts 15, but also against Jesus in Revelation 2. And Jesus says in Revelation 2 and 21 that the number 12 for apostles is the same as the 12 understood from Acts 1:21-26. The ruling of Jesus via the Holy Spirit  excluded the second candidate as an apostle. The 11 and Jesus only acceptedg Matthias. Hence, simple math excludes Paul as a thirteenth, and yet in Rev. 2:2 Jesus tells the Ephesians they did right rejecting those who "claim" - self-appointed proof -- to be apostles but "are not but are liars." Ouch!  

 

END

 

Comments  

 

Revelation is what "sealed the deal" for me in seeing contradictions between Jesus and Paul that just can't be resolved. (Daniel 8/24/2020).

 

 

Further Resources

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

 

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 translating it as 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 inconsistent behavior matches the purpose behind the KJV's many mistranslations that aid Paul. See Mistranslation to Aid Paul.