- 1 How did Modalism begin?
- 2 Modalism or Docetism
- 3 Modalism was taught through a school
- 4 The Antichrist and Modalism
- 4.1 Christ was made our Lord and His Disciples worshiped Him as Lord (33 A.D.)
- 4.2 The Church appointed Bishops (60 A.D.)
- 4.3 The Church committed fornication with the kings (150 to 180 A.D.)
- 4.4 The Church at Rome was Exalted (180 A.D.)
- 4.5 The Sin that causes desolation (193 A.D.)
- 4.6 The Antichrist introduced Modalism to Rome (190–200 A.D.)
- 4.7 The False Prophet (180 A.D.– ?)
How did Modalism begin?
It began when people tried to make Christ equal to God.
When we look at our diagram, it is easy to see where people went wrong.
- They went wrong at stage 1, “You believe I came out of the Father”(John 16:27). They thought the Spirit of ELOHIM was the Spirit of the God, and therefore Jesus was God. So, John said, “he who denies the Son, does not have the Father also” (1 John 2:23).
- And they went wrong at stage 2, “Who was manifest in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16). They did not understand that the Holy Spirit of the Old Testament became a man. The Apostle John said they denied that “Jesus Christ came in the flesh” (1 John 4:2).
As we mentioned in Chapter 1, our earliest record of the early Church belief comes from Justin Martyr (110–165 A.D.).
Justin believed essentially the same truth we have been explaining:
But so much is written for the sake of proving that Jesus the Christ is the Son of God and His Apostle, being of old the Word, and appearing sometimes in the form of fire, and sometimes in the likeness of angels; but now, by the will of God, having become man for the human race.
(Justin Martyr, First Apology, Ch. 63)
However, within Justin Martyr’s time, there was still confusion about Christ. Justin echoed the words of the Apostle John, saying, “For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God.”
But, it was this kind of statement, “even God,” that brought a lot of confusion. We understand Justin’s meaning, that Christ was the ELOHIM or God of Israel, but many became confused by this.
Justin Martyr called the Father, “the most true God,” to make the differentiation. But many wanted to continue to recognize Christ’s status as YHVH ELOHIM. And some even wanted to say that He was the Father!
Modalism or Docetism
In the Apostle John’s day, the doctrine of Modalism, or Docetism, had already sprung up.
Those who believe in Docetism, or Modalism, believe that Jesus is God Himself. John’s first reference to this heresy was in 1 John, where he stressed the importance of a relationship with both the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ:
that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father AND with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)
His meaning became clear in the second chapter:
Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also (1 John 2:22-23).
The early idea of Modalism was called Docetism. It was the belief that Christ was the Holy Spirit who had no physical existence as a man. According to Bart D. Ehrman, 1 a renowned American professor of early Christianity, the form of Docetism held by some groups was a belief that the Spirit of Christ came on Mary and caused her to conceive and give birth to a man, called “the Son.” The Holy Spirit then returned to give Jesus power when He was baptized. When the Son was crucified, the power of the Holy Spirit left Him. Bishop Serapion of Antioch, in 190 A.D., told us the Apocryphal Gospel of Peter written in about 150 A.D. came from Docetists and wrote, “their ideas reflect their teaching” 2. In the Apocryphal Gospel of Peter, Jesus said, “My Power, My Power, why have you forsaken Me.” Bart Ehrman believes that this statement refers to the power of the Holy Spirit that departed from “the man,” when He was on the cross.
In fact, the idea that the Spirit of Christ did not come “in the flesh” is also the doctrine of Unitarians today.
To this, John said,
By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. (1 John 4:2-3)
In his Second Epistle, John attacked Docetism, saying,
For many deceivers, have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds (2 John 1:7,9-11).
In other words, if anyone’s doctrine is correct,
- he will understand that the Word, the Spirit of Christ, came in the flesh, and
- he will have a relationship with two separate “persons” or beings; he will have a relationship with the Father and with the Son.
The Apocryphal Acts of John, is believed to have been written by the same persons who wrote the Gospel of Peter. The Acts of John uses the expressions: “our God Jesus Christ” and “God, Lord Jesus Christ.”
This shows us the early idea of Modalism, or Docetism, was the same. It was simply the belief that the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of ELOHIM, was the Spirit of God Himself. To explain the truth that “no one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18), these believers said Jesus was only the Spirit who spoke through the man. They said the Spirit of ELOHIM “adopted” this man’s body, when the Holy Spirit descended on him during His baptism. To this, John said, “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ (the anointed one, the anointed man)? (1 John 2:21).”
The Apostle John’s words were echoed by Justin Martyr in 150 A.D.: “For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son.”
Modalism was taught through a school
After the passing of the Apostles, it was common to teach doctrines through schools. Justin Martyr also set up a school. According to the famous third-century theologian, Hippolytus of Rome (170–235), the first Modalism teacher was Noetus of Smyrna, who established a school.
Hippolytus wrote a tract called “Against Noetus” in which he began: “Some others are secretly introducing another doctrine, who have become disciples of one Noetus, who was a native of Smyrna, (and) lived not very long ago” 3.
He told us that Noetus died “not very long ago” and that Noetus was “puffed up with pride” and even called himself “Moses.” After Noetus told his fellow church members that Jesus was the Father who died on the cross, they excommunicated him. Subsequently “he was carried to such a pitch of pride, that he established a school.”
The Antichrist and Modalism
And they will be given into his hand for time, times and half a time.
Why did John call Modalism “the Spirit of the Antichrist?”
Hippolytus’ tract Against Noetus was similar to a tract written about the same time by Tertullian, called Against Praxeas.
Little is known about Praxeas, except what we know from Tertullian’s tract, Adversus Praxeas. But in his tract, we can see that Praxeas was actually the Bishop of Rome, who set up the Abomination of Desolation.
To properly understand this requires a little understanding of the Bible and History.
Daniel explained the beast as “coming out the four spirits/winds of heaven” (the spiritual world) in Daniel 7:2; and 8:8–9. Spirit and wind are the same Hebrew word. (We understand the true meaning of the Hebrew word RUAH in Daniel is spirit and not wind from Zechariah 6:5, 2:6, and Ezekiel 37:9.) The Spirit of the Antichrist is Satan himself, as indicated clearly in Daniel 8:10 and Revelation 12:4: “it . . . caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth.” Satan deceived the world through the authority of the Bishop of Rome (Revelation 13:2).
The Spirit of Christ was “manifest in the flesh” through the man Christ Jesus. He taught us for 42 months, three and a half years. The Spirit of the Antichrist was manifest through the Bishop of Rome. He took control of the Church and corrupted the truth for 42 Months, being “days” as “years.”
The “time, times and half a time” is 12 + 24 + 6 = 42 months, which is 1278 days. But we know from Daniel’s prophecy of the Messiah’s coming in 69 weeks, that his days are really years.
It was exactly 1278 years from 193 A.D. when the Bishop of Rome exalted himself and the Abomination of Desolation was set up, until 1471 A.D., when the first Protestant Church broke free from the Papacy. The date of 193 AD, is referenced by the Second Council of Rome, 193 AD, and the Council of Ephesus, 193 A.D. 4.
The Quartodeciman controversy is understood by most, including Catholic Theologians, as the confirmation of the “Primacy of the Bishop of Rome,” which we shall explain. The Abomination of Desolation refers to the departure of the Holy Spirit that occurred at this time.
To fully understand this, let us follow all the steps of it, and we will see how Modalism relates to “the Spirit of the Antichrist.”
Christ was made our Lord and His Disciples worshiped Him as Lord (33 A.D.)
After Christ endured the cross, He was made our Lord; Act 2:36; Philippians 2:8–11.
He became our Ruler, and as the Spirit of Christ, He also became the Ruler of the Spiritual world, the Angels. He became the Archangel.
In practical terms for us, He became the head of the Church, and our only teacher (Matthew 23:10).
After being made Lord, He told His disciples to go into the world, “make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20).
After being made Lord, Jesus directed His disciples to go to a mountain where they worshiped Him as their Lord. The Apostles worshiped God as their God, and Christ as their Lord.
The Church appointed Bishops (60 A.D.)
After Christ resurrected, the Church was under the care of the Apostles. But before Paul departed, he instructed the Gentiles to appoint bishops, in every city, as “overseers” (Titus 1:5).
These overseers were not to “lord it over” the flock, but rather to be “examples” waiting for “the Great Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4). They certainly had no authority to insist on man’s doctrines (Matthew 15:9; 1 Corinthians 11:16).
The Church committed fornication with the kings (150 to 180 A.D.)
“Come and I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,
with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication”
The Church underwent a lot of persecution, and it became a normal practice for renowned Church leaders to write doctrinal explanations to the Emperor, to appease the Emperor. These explanations were given to the Emperor.
The most famous of these was the First Apology of Justin Martyr.
His First Apology, written in 150 A.D. from Rome, described the practice of worship on Sunday. Socrates Scholasticus, in his fourth-century Church History, said that Sunday was observed by Rome and Alexandria “on account of some ancient tradition” 5. This support of Sunday, by Justin Martyr, would eventually result in “the mark of the beast” on every man, indicating the changing of God’s commandment.
Justin’s Second Apology was addressed to the Roman Senate.
Justin Martyr also told the Roman Senate that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were first, second and third place, “we reasonably worship Him, having learned that He is the Son of the true God Himself, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third, we will prove.”6
In short, Justin Martyr began both the “mark” and “image of the beast,” which was Rome.
Other famous writings to the Emperor came from Bishop Melito of Sardis. In 165 A.D., he wrote on many topics, including the observance of Easter 7. His explanation of Easter likely influenced the actions of the Bishop of Rome, as we shall see.
The Church at Rome was Exalted (180 A.D.)
“Here is the mind that has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits.”
These seven heads were seven kingdoms, the last of which was the extended Roman Empire, having ten horns, on which the great harlot sat. The harlot that committed adultery with the kings of the earth.
As a result of its political–religious activities, the Church at Rome became the “center” of the Christian world. All believers recognized Rome as the Church to be followed.
In 180 A.D., Irenaeus wrote:
the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.
Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 3, Paragraph 2
Ironically, in this famous Book called Against Heresies, Irenaeus committed one of the greatest heresies of all Christianity by exalting the Church of Rome. However, there are a few interesting comments he made in this Book, which impact our subject:
Then also Lateinos (ΛΑΤΕΙΝΟΣ) has the number six hundred and sixty-six; and it is a very probable [solution], this being the name of the last kingdom [of the four seen by Daniel]. For the Latins are they who at present bear rule: I will not, however, make any boast over this.
(He told us the beast should be the LATIN man.)
For if it had been declared by Him (the Holy Spirit), he (Antichrist) might perhaps continue for a long period
Book 5, Chapter 30, paragraphs 2 and 3
Irenaeus’ testimony about 666 is quite significant, because he was a hearer of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John.
Finally, Irenaeus told us that the evidence of the Holy Spirit was visible in his day, and speaking in tongues was the necessary evidence for the assurance of salvation, which he described as “being perfect.” But what is most significant is that Irenaeus was the last person to testify to the evidence of the true speaking in tongues:
For this reason, does the apostle (Paul) declare, “we speak wisdom among them that are perfect” (1 Corinthians 2:6), terming those persons perfect who have received the Spirit of God, and who through the Spirit of God do speak in all languages, as he used Himself also to speak. In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God . . .
Book 5, Chapter 6, paragraph 1
The Sin that causes desolation (193 A.D.)
Daniel told us that there would be a “sin that causes desolation.” The Abomination of Desolation, which Jesus spoke of, in Matthew 24:15, was the departure of the Holy Spirit from the Church.
The sin that caused desolation was described in Daniel 8:9–12:
And out of one of them (out of the four Spirits of heaven) came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land. And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them. He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host; and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. Because of transgression, an army was given over to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifices; and he cast truth down to the ground. He did all this and prospered.
The little horn, from Daniel 7:8, grew exceedingly great, even greater than Cyrus the Great, in verse 4, who conquered three kingdoms, and greater than Alexander the Great, in verse 8. In fact, this little horn was no “earthly king” at all.
His sin that caused desolation was that he “exalted himself as high as the Captain of the host,” being the Angel of YHVH, the Spirit of Christ.
Of course, the meaning of “his sanctuary was cast to the ground” is simply that the Holy Spirit was taken from the Church. Without the baptizing Spirit of truth, there is no body of Christ, no sanctified Church.
When did this event occur, as proudly acknowledged by Catholic theologians? In 193 A.D., Victor 1, the Bishop of Rome exerted himself above all of Christianity, and wrote letters of excommunication to all the Churches of Asia, because they did not agree with his view of observing Easter. Though many pleaded with him, and he eventually withdrew his letter, not one person challenged his authority to do so. Theologians refer to this as the “Primacy of the Bishop of Rome,” which you can read about on Wikipedia and several websites.
The saints had been given into the hands of the beast.
From this point onwards, it would be the Bishop of Rome, and not Jesus Christ, who had authority to establish the doctrines of the Church. The bishop of Rome became the Vicarius Christi, “substitute Christ,” which in Greek is “Antichrist.”
The saints, as Daniel prophesied, “were given into his hands for 42 months,” being 1278 years until the first Protestant Church broke free from the power of the Bishop of Rome. Jan Huss, and his Moravian brothers “self-declared” independence in 1467, but they were slaughtered and hunted in the forest like deer until 1471, when Archbishop Rokycana and King George Prodebrady died. Then they were finally free from the Antichrist, who held the saints under his power through an alliance with the 10 horns of Europe8
The successor of Jan Huss, Martin Luther, would not be martyred, as Daniel prophesied:
And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the Abomination of Desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days.
In Daniel, the 1278 days were rounded to 1290 days, whereas John used 30 day months to come to 1260 days. If we simply add 45 years to 1471, we come to 1516 A.D., or 1517 A.D., when Martin Luther submitted his 95 thesis. (“Blessed is he who waits and comes to 1335 days” – Daniel 12:12, 1335 –1290 = 45 days.)
This is the amazing fulfillment of a biblical prophecy!
The Antichrist introduced Modalism to Rome (190–200 A.D.)
Since believers now worshiped the beast, the Bishop of Rome, as Lord of the Church, what of Jesus Christ? How could He be worshiped?
The reply of the beast was simple: make Christ God, and the people could also worship Him.
Scholars debate the identity of Praxaes, the man to whom Tertullian addressed his thesis against modalism, but it is obvious that Praxaes was the Bishop of Rome. Victor was likely his “church” name. It means “someone who conquers,” an appropriate name for the beast.
In Chapter 1 of Against Praxeas, written by Tertullian, we can see that Praxaes was the Bishop of Rome:
However, he (Satan) is himself a liar from the beginning, and whatever man he instigates in his own way; as, for instance, Praxeas.
For he was the first to import into Rome from Asia this kind of heretical pravity, a man in other respects of restless disposition, and above all inflated with the pride of confessorship simply and solely because he had to bear for a short time the annoyance of a prison; on which occasion, even “if he had given his body to be burned, it would have profited him nothing,” not having the love of God, whose very gifts he has resisted and destroyed.
For after the Bishop of Rome had acknowledged the prophetic gifts of Montanus, Prisca, and Maximilla, and, in consequence of the acknowledgment, had bestowed his peace on the churches of Asia and Phrygia, he, by importunately urging false accusations against the prophets themselves and their churches, and insisting on the authority of the bishop’s predecessors in the see,9 compelled him to recall the pacific letter which he had issued, as well as to desist from his purpose of acknowledging the said gifts.
By this Praxeas did a twofold service for the devil at Rome: he drove away prophecy, and he brought in heresy; he put to flight the Paraclete, and he crucified the Father.
In the second paragraph, Tertullian described Praxeas as “a man of restless disposition” and that he was “inflated with pride” and that he “resisted the gifts of God.”
Praxaes is obviously the man Tertullian described in the third paragraph, as the Bishop of Rome, which is very clear in the original Latin (nam idem tunc episcopum romanum – “the same then the bishop of Rome”). Tertullian’s sarcastic comment about “the Pacific letter” refers to the famous letter of excommunication he wrote to the Churches of Asia and then withdrew. This proved his “restless disposition” and that he was “inflated with pride” as mentioned in the second paragraph. You will notice Tertullian mentions the bishop “insisted on the authority of his predecessors to write the letter.” The last phrase of the second and third paragraphs proves that Praxaes and the Bishop of Rome are the same person.
The final paragraph that we quote from Tertullian is a famous sentence, which is traditionally quoted out of context. Many have presumed that Tertullian’s statement, “he drove away prophecy,” refers to the prophecy of the Old Testament. But when we read this in context, we can see that the “prophecy” the Bishop of Rome “drove away” was the prophecy of Montanus, Prisca, and Maximilla. The Churches of “Phrygia” that Tertullian mentioned are the churches where Montanism began. Montanism is also called “the Phrygian Controversy.” So what was the prophecy of Montanism that the Bishop of Rome despised? It is quite probable that the doctrine of the Trinity did not come from Tertullian himself, but from the “prophecy” of the Montanists, of whom Tertullian was the chief spokesman and writer. (Though, ironically, the Montanists themselves rejected the Trinity explanation of 381 A.D.10)
The Gentiles in the late second century were struggling to find a doctrine that could make Christ equal to God. The idea promoted by the Bishop of Rome was modalism, and the doctrine that came from Montanists was “the Trinity.”
And the Spirit of Montanism was none other than the power of Satan, the Spirit of the Antichrist.
The False Prophet (180 A.D.– ?)
The Coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan with all power, signs, and lying wonders . . .
2 Thessalonians 2:9
Paul told us that lying signs and wonders would accompany the coming of the lawless one. These lying signs and wonders were mentioned by Tertullian: “the Bishop of Rome had acknowledged the prophetic gifts of Montanus, Prisca, and Maximilla . . .”
Both the Bishop of Rome and Tertullian were believers of Montanism.
Montanism was a false experience of speaking in tongues and prophecy, which lasted from 180 A.D. until the sixth century. Scholars debate the exact beginning, but Eusebius, in his Church History, places the whole controversy of it, after Irenaeus, after 180 A.D. He began his account of it in Book 5, Chapter 14.
The mainstream Church considered it to be a cult. They believed these persons were possessed by evil spirits. Its founders, Montanus and Maximillia, were each said to have “died a different death, a mind-destroying spirit, driving each to a separate suicide.”11 Because of Tertullian’s association with Montanism, it is said that he was never made a Church father by the Catholic Church. Or, it may be, because he attacked the Bishop of Rome, for even the Bishop of Rome embraced Montanism.
Nonetheless, Tertullian was the father of the doctrines of the Catholic Church and is widely known as the father of “Latin Christianity.” He was also a significant spokesman for Montanism.
Tertullian said the Bible was full of “heretical subtleties,” and there was no way to refute the teachings of those he thought were heretics because the Bible itself supported them. But, he believed that the Holy Ghost was now correcting the explanation of the mystery through Montanism, which he called “the New Prophecy.”
He (the Holy Ghost) has accordingly now dispersed all the perplexities of the past, and their self-chosen allegories and parables, by the open and perspicuous explanation of the entire mystery, through the new prophecy, which descends in copious streams from the Paraclete.12
Tertullian, the father of Latin Christianity, was the first to
- state that living water baptism had no meaning, saying it made no difference what kind of water was used;
- defend Sunday rest13 (which became the mark of the beast, who “shall intend to change time and law,” Daniel 7:25), and
- propose the Trinity doctrine, “the image of the beast.”
Irenaeus, only 20 years earlier, had identified Lateinos (the Latin) as the very probable solution to 666. Latin Christianity would replace the teachings of Christ.
- Ehrman, Bart D. (2005). Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and The Faiths We Never Knew (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. Page 15–16. ISBN 978-0-19-518249-1. Retrieved 25 April 2012. ↩
- Eusebius, Church History, 6.12 ↩
- Hippolytus of Rome, Against Noetus ↩
- The Second Council of Rome, 193 A.D., and the Council of Ephesus, 193 A.D., are mentioned in Eusebius, Church History, Book 5.23; The Orthodox Church reports this explanation of events in one of its timelines:
193 A.D. – Council of Rome, presided over by Bishop Victor, condemns the celebration of Pascha on Nisan 14, and addresses a letter to Polycrates of Ephesus and the Churches in Asia.
193 A.D. – Council of Ephesus, presided over by Bishop Polycrates, and attended by several bishops throughout Asia, reject the authority of Victor of Rome, and keep the Asian paschal tradition (Markou, Stavros L. K. An Orthodox Christian Historical Timeline. Copyright © 2003 OrthodoxFaith.com).
193 A.D. is the date universally recognized by the Library of Congress, Catholic Library Association, etc. ↩
- Socrates Scholasticus, Church History, Book V ↩
- First Apology, Chapter 13 ↩
- Eusebius, Church History, Book 4, Chapter 26 ↩
- Revelation 17:12 ↩
- “the see” – the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome. ↩
- Jerome, Letter 41 ↩
- Eusebius, Church History 5.16 ↩
- On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Chapter 63 ↩
- Ad Nationes, Chapter 8 ↩