…a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12
[This may be considered a sequel post to: How to Spot the Antichrist pt. 3]
When Jesus was crucified, there had developed three major branches of thought in the religion God had established; these three branches were all divided one from another, and each maintained entirely different paradigms (world-views). But they all agreed on one thing… kill Jesus.
The three branches I speak of are these:
These three factions made up the ruling council of Israel in the days of Christ. (The Jewish historian Josephus describes three ‘philosophical branches’ of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes (‘Wars of the Jews,’ book 2, chapter 8), in context, Josephus was almost certainly speaking of three clerical sects (to which he has a clear preference for the Essenes, which sect is not mentioned in the New Testament) and did not include the political-religious zealots as a faction for that reason (aside from mention of the zealot Juda who was opposed to political interference including taxes and represented the opposite of Herodians (interesting to note it was the Herodians who tried to entangle Jesus on the matter of paying taxes (Matt 22:16-22)). On the other hand, the New Testament writers reference the Herodians as the third philosophical sect as more worthy of note than the Essenes.)
These three forms were also subdivided into different sub-groups (we know historically, for example, that there was also a sizeable group called the ‘Essenes,’ (mentioned by Josephus and others) but these would probably have been seen as a sub-group of the Pharisees by the bibilical writers); these three basic paradigms compiled represent the antichrist system which conspired, and in the end murdered the Son of God.
I should interject here that it was not Rome that murdered Jesus – the judgment of Rome in the Gospels is represented by Pilate. When the Sanhedrin brought Jesus to Rome it was to get permission to put Him to death – they had already decided to do so. Pilate, however, did everything in his power to release Jesus, declared from the judgment seat that he found no cause for death in Him, and finally washed his hands of the innocent blood of Christ. Rome did not murder Jesus; neither, in fact, did the True Israel of God – the Sanhedrin murdered Jesus – they sought to kill Him long before they were able to drag Him before Pilate, they’d been conspiring for most of His earthly ministry. Finally, when Pilate washed his hands of Christ’s blood (which he may well have done due to his understanding, of the law of Moses, which required the elders of a city to wash their hands to prove innocence of blood-guilt (Deut 21:6-9)); the elders, then swore an oath that Christ’s bloodguilt would remain upon them and their children (Matt 27:24 & 25), making it without question who was responsible for the murder of Jesus Christ: the Sanhedrin – who also cursed their offspring with the Messiah’s blood-guilt.
When the Sanhedrin in Jesus’ day murdered Messiah – they became the first True antichrist (‘antichrist’ meaning literally: ‘Against-Messiah,’ or ‘Messiah-opposed’) system. Three primary branches of thought made up the system, as the Sanhedrin contained members of each of these opposing, and in-fighting factions:
These could be considered the three branches of false religion. While it is not my goal here to go into an historic, or scholastic assessment of these groups, but to grasp a basic spiritual overview, let me give just a brief description of each:
Pharisees – these were the religious experts; they studied scripture for hidden mysteries and practiced sundry forms of aesceticism. Pharisees were traditional spiritualists; they believed in visions, miracles, spirits, heaven, hell, etc. If we were to compare them to a field of thought in modern Christianity, the Pharisees would be the widest range of orthodox/ fundamentalist (ranging from strict cessationist to extreme Pentecostal in their spiritual/ dispensational views (the Essenes might be more relatable in modern terms to Monastic Catholics)).
Sadducees – these were on the polar opposite end of the spectrum from Pharisees, today we would call most of them ‘secular humanists,’ or extreme liberal theologians. They did not fully deny scripture (though they did deny the spiritual power of it (which Christ at one point actually declares to them)); essentially the Saducees were a-spiritual (leaning toward atheism) they did not believe in spirits, heaven, hell or the resurrection; they accepted that the books of Moses containing the Law had value for its moral and civil wisdom, and as a secular legal system, and for historical purposes. They did not accept the deeper spiritual implications or the rest of Torah (such as the Prophets) as scripture (as the Pharisees did). They were Jewish by birth and culture, and therefore accepted by the more religious Pharisees who believed all of Abraham’s natural offspring to be God’s chosen people.
Herodians – The name ‘Herodian’ being derived from the Herods (probably predominantly Herod the Great), these supported the reigning political regime. Herod was not the rightful judaic king, being not from the express line of David, rather, he had been set in place as the king in Israel by Rome. He was, nevertheless, a religious character who had desired to make a name for himself in Israel (and among the world) by building a new temple in Jerusalem. Herod’s temple, the one standing in Jesus’ day was larger and more grandiose than the previous temples, and it was, indeed, world renowned. This temple construction was the mainstay for Herod the Great, and a major contribution to the religious community (being the place where the Jews accross the nation assembled to worship). The religious and political were intimately tied together in Herod particularly in his contribution of the temple. This mentality set the stage for religious-political zealots. Perhaps the Herods would usher in the era of the Messiah! Well… they did, but not in the way the Herodians supposed. Speaking of antichrist (as we are) I will also point out here that Herod the Great is also the first type of antichrist revealed in the New Testament. Herod the Great was the Herod that instituted the building of the temple, but he was also the Herod of Matthew chapter 2, who knowingly attempted to murder the Messiah as an infant: Antichrist. Later, another of the Herods (the Tetrarch) was consulted by Pilate in the judgment of Christ at His crucifixion, and there again, the Herods proved themselves to be antichrist; unwilling to save the True Messiah given the opportunity. (Luke 23:7-11) Today the Herodians would be considered religious-political Zionists.
Again, these were the three principal branches of thought that comprised the Sanhedrin in the days of Christ: religious, secularist (or ‘non-spiritual humanist’), political. Of course while these were three at odds factions, they were neither cut-and-dry detached from eachother either; most Israelites fell somewhere within the spectrum of these three groups however. For our purposes, the three groups represent the three main daradigms existing in the sanhedrin: the worldviews which culminated in the execution of Christ more than a study of the factions, themselves.
As I mentioned, these three could be considered the three branches of false religion; each is making an attempt at rihteousness on their own effort – i.e. through expressly carnal means. The most heavenly of the three groups is the Pharisees. The Pharises had a better mental framework for acceptance of the True Messiah than did the other two branches; they understood Messiah to be predominantly a Prophet (whereas the Herodian tendancy would be to assume Messiah to be a political figure). They also believed all of the scriptures, including the writings of the prophets, and were therefore exposed to the statutes that revealed the True heart of God, even as Jesus declared to the Pharisees: ‘[Ye] search the scriptures for in them ye think that ye have eternal life and they arethey which testify of me.’ (John 5:39) Of the three groups, the Pharisees were the closest to the mark, and in fact those of note on the ruling council who accepted Jesus as the Messiah were Pharisees (Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea for example).
But the illness of the Pharisees was adherance to the letter of the law – this led to anointing envy. The Pharisees believed they would become anointed if they meticulously followed every commandment. They were more spiritual than the other sects, but they had spirituality backwards. In order to be righteous, one must have the Spirit of God, one cannot attain the Spirit of god through righteous works. This conflict culminated into their reason for killing Jesus – here came a man who was filled with the Spirit of God obviously… yet He was not a stringent legalist! These spent their whole lives striving to attain the anointing that their fathers had (see Numbers 11) by the strictest adherance to the Law of Moses, and Jesus was so anointed that constant miracles and wonders were falling out His pockets, but instead of rigidly adhering to the commands of Moses, He claimed to be the fulfillment of the Law of Moses! The audacity!
Pilate percieved that they wanted Jesus crucified because of envy (Matt 27:18). The Pharisees had anointing-envy. The Pharisees [by and large] understood that the basis of True spirituality was the anointing, however, their attempts to honor God were on the basis of the carnal commandment (Heb 7:16); while they recognized the spiritual realities of the kingdom of God, these sought to attain the spiritual through strict observance of the law. At the end of the day, they were in the flesh, and missing the mark. So it is, also, with Pharisees today.
The Sadducees sought to be good people, and through their teaching to better society. With all their good intentions, they too were in the flesh and missing the mark. So it is, also, with the Sadducees today.
Likewise the Herodians believed that if only God’s man was in political power, all the world would be right; if the leaders were honoring the True religion, and seeking to honor God in office – surely the stage would be set for the Messiah to come, so that the corrultikn of Rome could be overthrown and Messiah could become the world’s True Emporer! But these, too, were in the flesh and missing the mark – and so it is with the Herodians today.
Astoundingly, the one thing these groups agreed on was carnality – missing the mark. These three groups were man’s (6) ultimate best effort at righteousness. The culminated best efforts of those exposed to the Truth of the One True God had come to the ultimate pinnacle of man’s best religious, and philosophical best efforts. So manh years after the Tower of Babel (man’s first best effort to make a name for themselves), the religion God had personally institutded in the earth came to this point: the cross-section of religious orthodoxy, humanism, and political power. Yet at the spear-tip point of this cross-section of man’s best efforts was not an arrow pointing to God, but one pointing to man; like the tower of Babel these three sects sought to make a name for themselves, rather than to honor God.
In the fullness of time, Christ came – when the tree was full grown, and able to bear fruit of its own. The three sects compiled made up the council that murdered Jesus the Messiah.
Though they thought they believed they were on the right course, regarding the Law of Moses, yet when the True Spirit-Man came perfectly fulfilling the Law of Moses, the:
Pharisees (6) rejected Him. When the True humanitarian came, the:
Saducees (6) rejected Him. When the King of heaven appeared, the:
Herodians (6) rejected Him.
Today there exists in Babylon a Sanhedrin council made up of these same three groups – they are all of them humanity’s best effort at rightousness apart from the anointing of God: antichrist. The beast from the sea will grow in power even as humanity falls more and more in line with one (or all) of these three sects. With Herodian force, they, too, will seek to build a temple to make a name for themselves and to honor Messiah (although they killed the True Temple who was rebuilt on the third day (John 2:18-22)).
These three groups are also alive and well, spiritually speaking, throughout the True Israel of God (the church) today, just as they were throughout the nation of Israel in Jesus’ day. As the day approaches it will be easy for Christians to find themselves aligning with one of these best efforts of man, rather than with the Living Anointing of God. Observance of the Law, humanism, and political Zionism are snares of the devil who gives the beast his throne, and his power.
Beware, the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the Sadducees, church of God.
Revelation 13:18 ‘Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man: and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.’