She is called “Blessed…among women,” “highly favored,” having “found favor with God.” By some mysterious and supernatural process, through the power of the Holy Spirit, she conceived and brought forth the “Son of the Highest,” the “Son of God” — Jesus Christ, the Founder and Lord of Christianity. [See: The True Christ.]
It cannot be denied. No less than a mighty angel of God (the archangel Gabriel) said these words to a Jewish virgin who willingly became “the maidservant of the Lord” (Luke 1:26-28). She was Mary, betrothed to Joseph, a descendant of Israel’s greatest king, David (Matthew 1:1-15). Mary was herself also a descendant of David, through his son Nathan (Luke 3:23-38). [See: Was Jesus of King Solomon's Line?]
As such, Mary has been venerated by about a third of humanity comprised mainly of Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians (Russian and Greek). These devotees may deny “worshiping” Mary. But they certainly admire her as a very special woman, as one whom God dealt with as with no other: a unique human being — and rightly so.
Devotees address Mary as being “full of grace” and “blessed among women.” They also address her as “mother of God.” And they ask her to pray for them. Is there anything wrong with that last one? After all, God’s word encourages — even commands — Christians to pray for one another (James 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 25; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; 3:1; Hebrews 13:18).
Crossing the line
As mother of Jesus Christ (who indeed is God), Mary truly deserves admiration, respect and honor, even more than most other servants of God deserve. Jesus said this about God’s servants (the prophets and apostles whom God sent to proclaim His word): “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Matthew 10:40; see also John 13:20).
However, there is one thing that the true servants of God — whether an angel or a human being — did not, and will not, do: they will not allow people to bow down to them and worship them. They will forbid them to do so. [See: Acts 10:24-26; 14:8-18; Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:10; 22:9.]
So, how come millions of people get down on their knees to pray to Mary, as supposedly “represented” by sculptures or pictures of “Mary?” Clearly, as a human being with a known genealogy, Mary is not to be worshiped. But why do devotees bend their knees to what they suppose to be “Mary?” And can Mary, now dead, do anything to forbid them from doing so?
In order for Mary to “deserve” more than human admiration and respect, certain doctrines or teachings have been arrived at by leaders of the major “Christian” churches. Among these doctrines are:
1. Mary’s “immaculate conception.” Somehow Mary had to be presented as an exception to what the apostle Paul was inspired by God to write about all mortal human beings (except Jesus Christ): “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23; see also Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22). Or what David said of himself: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).
Jesus was not only the Son of Mary. He was also called the “Son of David” (Matthew 15:22; 20:30, 31; 21:9, 15; Mark 10:47, 48; 12:35; Luke 18:38, 39). Would Jesus then have been tainted” (or “maculate”) with sin through His father David?
To suppose or presume that an ancestor has to be sinless — without the stain of sin (thus “immaculate”) — in order for the descendant or son to be also “sinless” is to deny the plain testimony of Scripture.
Ezekiel 18:20 says, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” (See also Deuteronomy 24:16.)
Jesus’ sinlessness did not depend on or derive from Mary being somehow without sin (“immaculate”), perfectly righteous. Jesus never sinned, not because He was born of an immaculate or sinless Mary, but because He was the Son of God. To Him God the Father did not “measure” or limit the amount of the Holy Spirit He gave Him (John 3:34). With the infinite power of God, Jesus did not sin even once (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5). [See: God's Spirit and Obedience and The Higher Law of the Spirit.]
2. Mary’s “assumption” to heaven. Again, in the effort to bring Mary to the same level as her Son Jesus, the teaching of Mary’s bodily assumption to heaven was formulated. This is clearly in contradiction to Jesus’ plain testimony: “No man has ascended to heaven but He who came from heaven [that is, the Son of Man, Jesus]…” (John 3:13).
Acts 1:9-11 describes the “ascension” of Jesus Christ to heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of God the Father (Acts 2:33; 7:55-56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1; 12:22; 1 Peter 3:22). After this event, the Bible mentions no other human being — including Mary — as having also ascended bodily to heaven. To so claim otherwise — that Mary assumed bodily to heaven — is to go beyond what God has revealed in His word, the Bible (1 Corinthians 4:6).
Like the rest of the dead, Mary did not bodily ascend to heaven. As the case is with all other human beings, it is but her “spirit” that has returned to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; 3:129-21). [See: What Happens to Man After Death?] Being presumably a part of God’s “elect” (2 John 1, addressing “the elect lady” as probably also referring to Mary and her family), she will await the resurrection to everlasting life at Christ’s return. [See: Predestination, "The Next Chapter of History," The Value of the "Firstborn," Abiding in Christ's Doctrine, and God's Feasts and the Jews -- Part 3, especially the section with the heading "The Feast of Trumpets and the Jews."]
Incidentally, some have wondered about Enoch and Elijah, whom God took away from the earth into some “heaven.” To understand better what the Bible really teaches about this, see this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE , select “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the booklet titled “Where Are Enoch and Elijah?”]
3. Mary as our “Mediatrix.” A big deal is made of John 2:1-3, where Mary brings up a situation to Jesus, on behalf of the wedding host or steward about the banquet wine having run out. Mary was thus instrumental in getting Jesus to perform His first public miracle (changing water into wine, as Verses 4-11 relate). This being the case, Mary has now been raised by her devotees to the status of a “mediatrix” (feminine for mediator), between God and man.
However, this flies directly against the God-inspired testimony of the apostle Paul: “For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:6). This agrees with the testimony of Jesus about Himself: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
Now Mary’s devotees would say, “But we go to Mary to intercede for us with her Son Jesus, and He will bring our requests to God the Father. As her Son, Jesus will not refuse Mary’s requests on our behalf.”
That may sound like a lovely and touching proposition. However, this ignores what Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 plainly declares about the dead, which certainly includes Mary: “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten [they cannot remember anything]. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy [their feelings and emotions] have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.”
Like the rest of human beings who have died, Mary is now in a totally unconscious and unfeeling (“insensate”) state. She no longer has anything to do with what happens on earth. Therefore, she has no power whatsoever to influence God to answer prayers “coursed” through her. The Bible command to “pray for one another” is addressed to living — not dead — Christians!
And like the rest of the saints and “firstfruits” of God, Mary will be resurrected immortal at the return of Christ. Scripture declares: “For as in Adam all die [Mary included], even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:22-23).
What about miracles attributed to Mary?
Who hasn’t heard stories, in the span of about a century, of supposed “apparitions” of “Our Lady” (“Mary”) and “miracles” and “wonders” occurring as a result of people praying to “Mary” or touching images of her or supposed relics from her past life? Are these apparently supernatural occurrences caused by the power of God through supposedly Mary’s “intercession?”
To understand the Biblical view of these and other supernatural phenomena attributed to Mary and other long-dead “saints,” we need to turn to Deuteronomy 13:1-5. Here we see that indeed there are “signs and wonders” that happened before, still happen today, and will happen yet in the future. Does the sign or wonder lead to true worship of God — or does it lead to idolatry, the worship of “other gods?” [See: True Worship.] If the sign or wonder leads to worshiping other gods or to idolatry, then clearly the source of the power that made the sign or wonder possible cannot be the Almighty God!
The fact that the supposed signs and wonders performed in connection with prayers or rituals are done before images or pictures of “Mary” and other “holy” men and women (“saints”) demonstrates that the entire occurrence is an exercise in idolatry or idol worship. It violates the first two of God’s Ten Commandments:
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exodus 20:2-6.)
Therefore, the power behind these signs and wonders cannot be God!
If not God, then whose power is behind them? None other than the power of God’s enemy — Satan the devil!
Back in the apostle Paul’s day, “the mystery of lawlessness” had already been at work. This religion of “mysteries” would be led by a “man of sin,” “the son of perdition,” “the lawless one” whose coming would be “according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders…with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12).
From the very beginning, at the Garden of Eden, Satan (in the guise of a wily serpent) had foisted his lies upon our first parents! Adam and Eve believed the word of the devil instead of the word of their Creator God! [See: "Your Eyes Will Be Opened!"]
Is it any wonder that multitudes of men and women today believe in Satan’s lying wonders? Many have been deluded into believing that these so-called “miracles” supposedly of Mary are of God. They do not really believe that Mary is dead and, as Scripture asserts, she no longer has any part in what happens under the sun!
Satan the arch-deceiver
Revelation 12:9 declares: “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast out to the earth, and his angels with him.”
Revelation 16:14 shows that “spirits of demons” will go out to influence world leaders through “signs,” to gather them to “the battle of that great day of God Almighty.”
As the “serpent of old” (Revelation 12:9), Satan was the power behind the “miracles” that the magicians of Egypt’s Pharoah performed in order to challenge God’s wonders wrought in the hands of God’s servants Moses and Aaron. The well-known story is recorded in Exodus 7-11. However, the magicians were able to duplicate but the first two of the “ten plagues” God punished the Egyptians with. They could not mimic the rest of the plagues. They had to admit that the wonders which Moses and Aaron performed were through the supreme “finger of God” (Exodus 8:18-19).
Interestingly, a similar “showdown” between the “ministers” of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) and God’s true servants will take place as God’s “two witnesses” prophesy in the years ahead (Revelation 11:1-6, etc.). These witnesses will speak God’s word boldly to all the world, their work being accompanied by signs that combine those done by God through Moses and Elijah (the latter’s story is found in 1 Kings 17-21; James 5:17-18 also mentions Elijah). In the end God’s supreme power will prevail (Revelation 11:7-13). Satan will be put away with his angels in some dark prison when Jesus returns (Revelation 20:1-3; Jude 6). [See: Two Goats Together, especially the section with headings "Satan's fate" and "When will Satan be bound?"]
Call to proper worship
It is all too easy for people to “idolize” human beings who achieve something of note. (How many modern “idols” have we heard about in recent years? Some use the euphemistic word “icons.”) It was the same in Jesus’ day.
Already the tendency to elevate Mary to greater heights than God wants or intends was around then. Once a woman came to Jesus and said to Him: “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You” (Luke 11:27). Indeed, even God had called Mary “blessed…among women” (Luke 1:28). But Jesus brought the woman’s focus to where it should rather be: “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28).
This is not to say that it would be wrong for people to honor persons to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7). What is wrong is for people to give honor to human beings that only God deserves to receive. Only God deserves worship. [See: The Divine Prerogatives.]
True worship boils down to living by every word that proceeds from God’s mouth (Luke 4:4). Jesus pronounced the worship which the scribes and Pharisees of His day practiced as “vain.” Why? Because it is vain worship that lays aside the commandments of God in order to hold the commandments and traditions of men (Mark 7:7-8), thereby “making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down” (Verse 13). [See: True Worship, Drunk With Strange Wine, God's Feasts and the Jews -- Part 1, God's Feast and the Jews -- Part 2, God's Feasts and the Jews -- Part 3, "Happy New Year!" What If the Sabbath Is Still Holy? God's Feasts in the Book of Acts: Mere Time Markers -- or to Be Observed? Did Jesus Cleanse All Meats? The Law of Christ, and The New Testament Teaching on Giving.]
For a noted commentary on the differing perspectives between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants regarding tradition as compared with the Scriptures, see this link: https://carm.org/roman-catholicism-bible-and-tradition.
Thus many people have been deceived by Satan into thinking they are worshiping God but in reality are not. They may be ignorantly and blindly doing so. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well: “You worship what you do not know” (John 4:22).
The apostle Paul made it clear that Gentiles not yet enlightened by God’s Spirit offered sacrifices (a form or worship) not to God but to demons (1 Corinthians 10:20). He told the Corinthian brethren — as he may well tell us today — “I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons” (Verses 20-21). Otherwise we would “provoke the Lord to jealousy [indignant zeal]” (Verse 22, and compare with Exodus 20:4-6).
Jesus tells us today: “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).
Come out of Babylon!
In his controversial but eye-opening book The Two Babylons, Bishop Alexander Hislop traces the worship practiced by today’s world religions to Babel (or Babylon) of Nimrod’s day. This religious development happened after the Great Flood of Noah’s time (Genesis 10-11).
Archeological evidence shows that ancient religions in Egypt and Mesopotamia had worshiped some kind of female deity, as well as other gods and goddesses. Later archeological evidence shows that the Babylon of King Nebuchadnezzar’s day continued to practice those ancient traditions and beliefs. [To access Hislop's book, check out this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE , select "Reference Material" and scroll down to the book titled The Two Babylons. Especially instructive in relation to "Mary worship" are Chapter II, Sections 2 and 3, and Chapter III, Sections 1, 2 and 4.]
Revelation 17 shows that, in this our “time of the end,” a carry-over of the ancient worship at the original Babylon of Nimrod’s day and the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar’s empire will have reappeared. The combined religious/political/military might of this “Babylon the Great” will persecute the true people of God. Revelation 12 shows that Satan is the power behind this persecution, which will culminate in the martyrdom of God’s “two witnesses” (Revelation 11:7-10).
The “two witnesses” will come back to life, apparently at the same time that Jesus returns to earth to resurrect all the “dead in Christ” or change those remaining alive in Christ to become immortal children of God (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 50-58). [See: Are We All God's Children?] Then all the glorified saints of God will join God’s angelic host at the pouring out of the “seven last plagues” which the seventh and last trumpet will usher in (Revelation 11:15-19; 15:1-16:21).
Revelation 18 details the pouring out of the last, the seventh, plague of God’s wrath upon this God-defying world — and especially upon “Babylon the Great.” God will finally put an end to false and idolatrous worship. Jesus Christ will take all power from the nations and will rule the whole earth with His glorified saints. Only His true religion and True Worship will be allowed on earth then. [See: "The Next Chapter of History" and World Peace -- At Last!]
Since these things will truly take place according to the sure word of Bible prophecy (2 Peter 1:19, KJV), God tells His true people: “Come out of her [Babylon the Great], My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (Revelation 8:4-5). For God’s people to come out of Babylon means that they will have been in it!
May God give you eyes to see and ears to hear, and thus obey God’s true word! Only those who do so will be with Christ forever! [See: Being and Doing and Saved for Good Works.] Then we will see again Jesus’ mother Mary and thank her for being a faithful “handmaid” of God. With her glorified along with the other “elect” of God, she will by then — but not until then — be worthy of worship (Revelation 3:9).
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.