WHILE PREGNANT WITH A SECOND CHILD, the 35 year-old Empress Poppaea Sabina was kicked to death by Nero, her third and final husband. Yet another antichrist in a succession of many reigned from Rome. Only one year earlier, on a muggy July night in 64 AD, over half of the city was leveled by fire. Rome’s citizens immediately suspected their beloved Emperor of wicked intent. The historian Tacitus is even accredited with first suggesting that Nero had sung about the destruction of Troy while watching it smolder. The rest of history is aptly reminded that he played the fiddle. Regardless, its hot ashes were likely still raining down over Italy when the Emperor contrived another devilish smoke screen of his own. The Christians, he claimed, were responsible for its wreckage.
About this time, and as a likely consequence, the Apostle Paul was beheaded. Nero then built his Golden Palace and its surrounding pleasure gardens, complete with pastures, an artificial lake, and a 114 foot-tall bronze statue prizing himself as the sun god Sol, on the land so conveniently cleared by his Christian tormentors. When the massive project was completed Nero—who rode about town in a sun-chariot embroidered with golden stars and ostentatiously publicized himself as Apollo incarnate—simply shrugged.
“At last I have begun to live like a human being,” the immortal said.
“As for the mysteries of God, they knew them not…” (Wisdom 2:22)
Within the maddening gale the young Hebrew ambassador Josephus set out for the Imperial capitol. His was a diplomatic mission to free the 12 Jewish priests whom Judean procurator Felix had sent to Nero for trial. While in Rome he met with Empress Poppaea and fell in good terms with her. His mission was deemed a success, but his journey wouldn’t come without tragedy. While initially bound for Rome, he narrowly survived shipwreck on a charter. Of its 600 passengers, only 80 survived. And yet such senseless tragedy would go down as an inconvenient footnote to his life and to the impoverished world around him, because it was his return to Judea which secured the true nightmare to come.
In Jerusalem the mood had spoiled. Revolt was firmly fixed upon the minds of the Jews and nothing could convince them otherwise. Though the Jewish people had long been fractured into three political fringes—the Essenes, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees—there was one commonality which they could all seemingly agree upon. They were sick of Rome; sick of the Occult which manipulated and gave muscular tenacity to it; sick of the pagan gods and Apollo and Plato’s globe and the Mithraic globe-cult which Plato inspired and which mutually perverted the firmament above. They wanted their Davidic kingdom, and they were sick of waiting for it. In short, they were sick. History will testify to their fever. Of particular note, they didn’t actually want their David. Rather, they wanted his kingdom, and they wanted it now. And yet this was a war, Josephus pleaded, which they surely could not win.
It can be said that the first century of our modern era was one propagated and prepared for in advance by architects who lapped up dreams enlivened with apocalyptic strokes—encircled with visions of hellfire and brimstone; and yet one which fell on deaf ears by almost everyone involved, particularly those who gaily kept in cadence with the drumbeats of war in order that the kingdom of heaven might finally prosper on Earth. A psychopath managed the world’s day-to-day culinary menu from Rome while zealots in Jerusalem provided his cake with the icing and whipped cream and a cherry to crown it. Sanity was not the spoken dialect of the day. Mental illness was a delectable recipe, and as evidence, Socrates cup of poisoned hemlock was distributed to the public for mass consumption. For the first time in history, the Jew needn’t truly die. The Jew was immortal.
Before Plato and Pythagoras, belief in the continuous life of the soul was represented as a fraudulent doctrine of the surrounding Mystery religions, upheld for the purposes of ancestor worship, self-salvation, and the rites of necromancy, and—despite widespread and persistent mishandling of the soul among Christians today (and likely of every Christian generation since the Apostolic end)—such vocabulary is found nowhere in the pages of Holy Writ, including its New Testament writers. With Alexander the Great’s conquest of the world some four-hundred years earlier—at the end of which he wept—the Greeks were finally free to export their prized product. An antichrist in his own right, Alexander brought with him a doctrine of the devil. For Aristotle, you see, was his personal tutor. In turn, Aristotle was personally schooled by Plato. After Antiochus IV Ephiphianes—a man whom all scholars agree is perhaps the most significant antichrist archetype in the whole of Biblical history—committed the Abomination of Desolation by offering a sacrificed pig on the altar of Zeus in the Temple; Plato endured.
Though the Secret Doctrine, which had strictly remained a hush-hush subject for the neophyte, was finally available for public consumption, not every enlightened soul was pleased. Occultist Manley P. Hall once remarked: “Plato, an initiate of one of these sacred orders, was severely criticized because in his writings he revealed to the public many of the secret philosophic principles of the Mysteries.” The Medieval Italian-Jewish writer Immanuel be Solomon has also stated, Plato “was led to it [the immortal soul] through Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries in which Babylonian and Egyptian views were strangely blended.”
Regardless, Israel was undeniably Hellenized, and in the first century, immortality was their swan song. The immortal soul became in and of itself a literary genre. With 4 Maccabees, the immortal soul found its conversation piece with the teachings of Philo—a first-century Jewish philosopher who harkened from the Occults fuselage in Alexandria and where the Mystery religion would, by no coincidence, take its final stand—by completely suppressing the resurrection of the dead. For Philo, the blessed hope of the resurrection was no longer fashionable. More precisely, the resurrection became a subservient to that of the soul. Righteous souls were suddenly released from their imprisoned bodies here on earth, transported to heaven, transformed into a holy sainthood, and lived eternally in bliss with the patriarchs and God while souls of the wicked continued on in eternal torment. Wisdom of Solomon, also penned in Philo’s own hometown of Alexandria, offered a wrench to the loose screws of the creation account by declaring; “for God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity (Wisdom 2:23).” According to IV Esdras, immortals are kept in soul cages before entering their earthly existence. Likewise, the Slavonic Enoch concurred with the Platonic doctrine and conclusively taught: “every soul was created for eternity before the foundation of the world.”
With the Testament of Abraham, the familiar Patriarch fell in with his usual stereotypical self; he was typecast as a querulous meddler in divine affairs, particularly through the medium of God’s angelic emissary, Michael. Abraham bartered for a prolonged life, and though his impending death brought Michael sorrow—the calendar date, we come to learn, could not be moved to the left or the right—God warmed his angelic heart with glad tidings, and a new revelation. Quite suddenly, the orthodoxy had changed. For the first century Hellenist, Father Abraham was given the assurance that “at this time you are going to depart this vain world and leave the body, and you shall go to your own Master among the good.” Abraham was no longer born for an inheritance in this present creation, because another and far better world awaited him. Wisdom says it like this:
“But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery, and their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace. For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-4).”
Though the first-centuries widespread and misguided faith in immortality is certain, there are some things—dare I say, natural conclusions of the Pythagorean and Platonism—which remain somewhat ambiguous. Immanuel ben Solomon clung to the same questions when he wrote: “It is not quite clear whether the Sadducees, in denying resurrection, denied also the immortality of the soul. Certain it is that the Pharisaic belief in resurrection had not even a name for the immortality of the soul. For them, man was made for two worlds, the world that now is, and the world to come, where life does not end in death.”
This we know of the Essenes. They were in effect sprouts of the Pythagorean seed. The transmigration of the soul is of particular interest, and was not taken lightly for the Essene. They most assuredly believed souls discarded the broken body after its pronounced death in order that it may soon occupy another. Then again, for the Pythagorean, possession of a human is not necessarily assured for the wanderer. Rather, it may occupy a plant or a tree or any other form of living being, particularly the animal food chain. How a soul preforms in its previous occupancy will determine his future identity. And he needn’t possess a weaning baby either! This will seem strange at first, but consider the Gospel of Matthew.
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets (Matthew 15:13-14).”
Assuming this is merely addressing Essene-inquiry, it would be a strange belief indeed to posture that Jesus, a man beyond thirty, could be the resulting experiment of a reincarnated Baptist, who had only recently been beheaded, unless the transmigration of souls became intimately involved. Scripture is often testimony to the ideas of the common people, as well as the self-proclaiming moral, the celibate, the learned, and the religious, most of whom often succumb to eternally gullible thinking. For the Pythagorean as well as the Essene, it was not outside his realm of belief to consider or conclude that our Savior was possessed by the Baptist.
There is another Gospel account involving reincarnation—or rather, a potential belief therein—which deserves mentioning. After Jesus narrowly escaped a public stoning at the hands of the Pharisees, he left the temple and passed a man who had been pronounced blind since birth. We read in John:
“And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? (John 9:2)”
The mere fact that his own disciples would even consider a possibility in which a man could be born blind due to an earlier sin could only come from Essene influence—but what of the Pharisee?
The Pharisee undoubtedly believed in immortality. And yet, when Nicodemus secretly approached Jesus in the night, our Savior challenged his misguided belief. He said: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).” Nicodemus was naturally confused by this. His preconceived notions had hit a theological wall. If the Christian today is a well-watered sprout of Platonism, he will likely think Jesus was agreeing with Nicodemus on his position of the immortal soul. He will therefore refer to his self or any other soul who has made a decision for Christ as being “born again.” If however the Christian shuns Hellenistic thinking and clings to Hebrew doctrine—a banner which refers us to the words of the Prophet: “The soul who sins shall die… (Ezekiel 18:4)”—he will likely understand that Jesus was correcting the Pharisees erroneous faith. Our Savior was redirecting the Pharisees attention to the blessed hope of resurrection which He would secure as its very first fruit. Three chapters later, Jesus informed a group of murmuring Jews as to our true hope—our born again moment. To this effect He said:
“Murmur not among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:3-4).”
There is more which needs said of the Pharisee—much more. The problem however is that the Pharisees followed an imaginary set of principles which they claimed was handed down to them quite separately from what is written. Apparently an esoteric on the side, or so the claim goes, Moses delivered hidden wisdom to Joshua from the mountaintop—and so on and so on. What we might today call a game of Chinese Whispers, they called the Oral Law, and though it would not be published for another 300 years in the Talmud, post-temple rabbi Simeon bar Yochai is believed by many to be the author of the Zohar, the chief work of Kabbalah—with the help of the Prophet Elias, no less. Reincarnation is an undeniable part of his doctrine. While the full spectrum of the Pharisees positions have been endlessly argued, historians will at least agree; they were the leaning liberals of their day.
Like any typical leftist party, their audience was enormous. Rather than blindly following the letter of the Law as the conservative Sadducee might, even if it conflicted with reason or conscience, the Pharisees harmonized the teachings of the Torah with their own ideals or, more precisely, conveniently found their own ideas implied in it. Essentially, they interpreted the Law according to its spirit, not its letter. By doing so, they provided a long-winded resilience to scriptural interpretation among the turmoil of changing circumstances. The Pharisee was progressive.
I can’t help but wonder if Philo held any sway over their hidden wisdom. According to Josephus in The War of the Jews, the Pharisee taught “that every soul is imperishable, but that only those of the righteous pass into another body, while those of the wicked are, on the contrary, punished with eternal torment.” In Antiquities of the Jews, he further elaborated: “they hold the belief that an immortal strength belongs to souls, and that there are beneath the earth punishments and rewards for those who in life devoted themselves to virtue or vileness, and that eternal imprisonment is appointed for the latter, but the possibility of returning to life for the former.” If Josephus is to be believed, they also followed Plato’s soul to its natural conclusions and hearkened a belief in reincarnation—perhaps even transmigration.
The last Apostle may be of some help to us. Paul was, at one time or another, a “Hebrew of Hebrews” and Pharisee of Pharisees; reared with enough notoriety as to be groomed under the highly respected Pharisee Gamaliel. It is evidently clear that Wisdom of Solomon was an inspirational source of his education. In his own writings Paul referred to it. I only wish to bring it up, but shall touch upon the specifics another time. His inclusion of Wisdom into the epistles is critical, because Paul as an Apostle of the Lord renounced many of his former educational conclusions, including Wisdom—for Wisdom, some argue, advocates the preexistence of souls. Clearly, Paul did not.
“As a child I was by nature well endowed, and a good soul fell to my lot; or rather, being good, I entered an undefiled body (Wisdom of Solomon 8:19).”
After Jesus healed the blind man, the Pharisees told the blind persons parents: “We are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses.” And yet Jesus broke the hidden wisdom of their Talmud repeatedly. He referred to them as nothing more or less than “human traditions.” God may have spoken to Moses “mouth to mouth,” but the Pharisees spoke with dark speeches.
When Josephus returned to Judea from Rome, he was unable to restrain his people. This is the political environment which fractured Judea. Likely fearful that he would be accused of treachery if he did not comply, the 30 year-old accepted an appointment as commander of Jewish troops among the lush hills of Galilee where, less than three decades earlier, Jesus the Messiah had once focused His ministry. While Nero relished in paranoia, executing the ringleaders who plotted his assassination in Rome—most of them his own courtiers—Josephus trained his rebellion and secured provisions in preparation for battle against overwhelming odds. Like the Essenes, and very likely the Pharisees, Josephus was an unapologetic Platonist. By following Satan’s immortal soul doctrine through to its natural conclusions, Josephus led his own men into the eternal gullible. The cat was out of the bag. Josephus believed in reincarnation. His men likely did too. Having already rejected their Messiah—hence the true Davidic kingdom, unlike the counterfeit they sought after—this was the strange idolatrous god whom Abraham’s children willingly passed through the fires of Gehenna for.
With these immortal words, Josephus rallied his men to a final fight. He cited, not from Moses or the Prophets, but from Plato’s Gospel.
“Do ye not remember that all pure Spirits when they depart out of this life obtain a most holy place in heaven, from whence, in the revolutions of ages, they are again sent into pure bodies?”
After a 47-day siege, in July of 67 AD, the Jewish stronghold at Yodfat fell to Vespasian’s army. The defeat was purely one-sided. Thousands of Jews were killed in the slaughter. The remainders committed suicide. Josephus, who was soon cornered in a cave, was one of only two survivors.
And yet the worst was yet to come.
Roman legions under Syrian governor Cestius Gallus pitched camp around Jerusalem in hopes of quelling the Jewish rebellion. From the safety of their walled city, the Jews fought back—but to no avail. Cestius’ army overlapped their shields, as though claiming a carefree asylum under the shell of a tortoise—it was a favorite mobilized tactic known as testudo—and boldly advanced forward. Josephus recounts: “The darts that were thrown fell, and slided off without doing them any harm; so the soldiers undermined the wall, without being themselves hurt, and got all things ready for setting fire to the gate of the temple.”
Jerusalem was lost. Except it wasn’t—because what followed could only be described as an intervention attributed to God. “It then happened,” wrote Josephus inquisitively, “that Cestius recalled his soldiers from the place,” adding, “He retired from the city, without any reason in the world.” In actuality, one of Jesus’ most stunning prophecies was already unfolding. It was their final warning. Few listened.
In a rather odd plot twist, the ambassador who became general and then slave soon found himself—in just as quick of a succession—a devoted family friend of his captors, General Vespasian and Titus his son. Across the Mediterranean, on June 9, 68 AD, having learned that he had been tried in absentia and condemned to death as an enemy of the public, Nero drove a dagger into his throat. Following Nero’s suicide, his three successors would each meet a similar violent end, and in as little as 18 months. Though Galba immediately seized the throne, he was assassinated by Otho, one of his earliest followers and a trusted companion to Nero, after the Emperor dressed himself in a linen corset. A soldier cut off his head and, thrusting his thumb into the mouth, carried the horrid trophy about. With Otho, the Empire teetered on the brink of civil war. His reigned lasted but three months before digging a dagger into his breast. As 69 AD came to a close, Vitellius fell prey to a military coup. He was tortured and then dragged by a hook into the Tiber. Here the plot thickens. His usurper was none other than Josephus’ Roman captor, Vespasian—strange indeed.
How Josephus is not accused of espionage, considering the lack of witnesses to his survival at Yodfat, his easing into the Flavian dynasty, or why his meeting with Nero’s wife some years earlier in Rome is not closely scrutinized, considering the outcome, is beyond me. Josephus is simply too much of an underdog success story. The man who lost every last soul to Vespasian’s army soon re-emerged among his peers as Titus Flavius Josephus, having adopted the name of his captor. Returning once more to the war in Judea, Josephus would become eye-witness to the fulfillment of Jesus’ most stunning prophecy by serving as a negotiator alongside the Emperor’s son, General Titus, during the final siege and complete destruction of Jerusalem. It is recorded that General Titus offered peace and amnesty if the city surrendered its rebellion, but sanity was not the spoken dialect of the day. They chose immortality.
One day, some 37 years earlier, Jesus left the temple. Certain disciples remarked how beautiful it was. Matthew records:
“And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down (Matthew 24:2).”
Naturally, His disciples wanted to know when these things would come to pass. Luke records His answer.
“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled (Luke 21:20-22).”
Our Master added: “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled (Matthew 24:34).” James the brother of Jesus, former leader of the Jerusalem church, was of that generation. But he would not live to see the words of his earthly sibling fulfilled. In 62 AD James met martyrdom. Clement of Alexandria relates that he was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple and then beaten to death with a club. The Apostle Peter, who served as a co-elder with James, was also of that generation. But he was also was martyred—crucified actually—under Nero. Paul also. After Cestius simply walked away from his siege of the city three years earlier, whoever remained of Jerusalem’s church likely heeded the words of their Master—and fled to the mountains.
Josephus and his closest family did not heed to the words of the Savior. Over a million souls were killed during the siege, mostly Jews, according to the historian. His wife and parents were among them. Horrifying atrocities followed, some too scandalous even for blood-sporting Romans. Hearing reports that fleeing refuges were swallowing coins to hide them from robbers, besieging troops disemboweled two thousand Jews in one night. Once inside the city, bloated corpses lay open-faced in the street and the discovery of cannibalism—a woman serving up her child—curdled the nerves of Roman soldiers. Seditious robbers had already destroyed property and murdered men of noted importance, fighting “against each other, while they trod upon the dead bodies as they lay heaped one upon another.” There could be no doubting it now, the city of God was a white-washed tomb of wickedness. Some “were in such distress by their internal calamities that they wished for the Romans.” But they too would die—men, woman, and children were trampled underfoot. Blood literally flowed in the streets until Titus’ men were simply “tired of killing.” Round the Altar of the temple, Josephus records, “the heaps of corpses grew higher and higher, while down the Sanctuary steps poured a river of blood and the bodies of those killed at the top slithered to the bottom.” Of the 97,000 survivors, thousands were forced to become gladiators in the arena. The feeble were murdered. The underage were sold into slavery, probably to pedophiles. The rest were shipped off to Egypt.
They wanted a kingdom without its king.
Among Jesus’ warnings of this coming destruction, He said to the Pharisees: “Wherefore ye be witness unto youselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”
The damnation of hell which He spoke of can best be translated as: “being judged worthy of Gehenna.” The generation to which these words were addressed represented the climax of the whole sinful history of the nation, beginning with the murder of Abel, and would be judged accordingly. “That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.” With the date of Jerusalem’s destruction finally upon them, the Apostle Paul had already made clear, in no uncertain terms; the true kingdom was grafted into the story (Romans 11). The church lived on. But after that generation, Jesus promised, Israel was over.
The first century was a dizzying carousel of paradoxes. The distance by which the Jewish faith had strayed is cringe-worthy. They had succumbed to the very Zarathustrian occult practices which they—on the outset, at least—had hoped to suppress. In short, Platonism inspired them, and as a result of the Great Revolt, millions of Jewish souls were likely killed. It is a sum so abstractly vast and incalculable as to never be known on this side of eternity. By adopting Occult practices, even if in secret, they followed Plato’s immortal soul doctrine to its natural conclusions. The Hellenistic Jews forsook the blessed hope of resurrection for a counterfeit reincarnation, despite the fact that Jesus had proved to them that His promises could and would be kept.
It is finished.
I am reminded of the Confederate Freemason and Occultist Albert Pike, who wrote so breathlessly of the immortal soul. He accredited it not to a belief in the Biblical, but rather gave praise where praise is due. The immortal soul arose from his “ancient brethren” who strove to “return to the bosom of the Deity.” The immortal soul, he insisted, must attempt to “pass through the darkness to reach the light.”
For Manly P. Hall, this is the very reason for the Mystery religion. He wrote: “The Mysteries were organized for the purpose of assisting the struggling human creature to reawaken the spiritual powers which lay asleep within his soul. In other words, man was offered a way by which he could regain his lost estate.”
Our Savior mourned for the preconceived notions and willful disorientation of an obstinate people without a shepherd to guide them while they fumbled around, slapping at the walls in hopes of flipping a light switch in the dark, despite the light of the world, who stood right before them, arms wide open. His own creation knew Him not. How tragic. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee,” He mourned the Pharisee, “how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Matthew 23:37)”
Indeed, counterfeit spirits and dark speeches swept the Hellenistic world. Even today the church is still imprisoned by them and worse, unwilling to unshackle the chains. Nobody is binding us to them but our rapacious appetites. Jesus looked upon the engineers and self-promoters of immortality and saw what they could not—nor would not: white-washed sepulchers filled with an anatomy bones. Before pronouncing the temple’s destruction, He said to them:
“Hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness (Matthew 23:27).”
Quite literally, bodies were thrown into Gehenna. Their souls would die with them.