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Simon Magus

John Collins10/01/2013

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The book of Acts tells a story of one Simon Magus, or Simon the magician, who practiced mysticism in the land of Samaria.  He was respected from the least to the greatest in the land, as the people were amazed by his sorcery.  Chapter eight in Acts describes the story like this:

But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.


Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall[b] of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

Acts Chapter 8

In the first book of Against Heresies, Irenaeus reminds us about Simon Magnus.  He makes a clear connection that the Simon referred to in the book, “Against Heresies,” is the same Simon the magician that Luke wrote about in the book of Acts:

Simon the Samaritan was that magician of whom Luke, the disciple and follower of the apostles, says, "But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who beforetime used magical arts in that city, and led astray the people of Samaria, declaring that he himself was some great one, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This is the power of God, which is called great.

Against Heresies

While the apostles tried to build up the church, teaching the children of God the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Simon began to lift himself into authority.  Paul, Peter, and the apostles spread the Good News that the Holy Spirit dwells within, and we have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit – we have no need of lifting another man into power.  But Simon wanted power and recognition.


He, then, not putting faith in God a whit the more, set himself eagerly to contend against the apostles, in order that he himself might seem to be a wonderful being, and applied himself with still greater zeal to the study of the whole magic art, that he might the better bewilder and overpower multitudes of men.

Against Heresies

But worse, Simon became an object of worship to the people.  He did not declare himself to be God, but through examples that pointed to himself, Simon cunningly trained the people to believe that he was God by leading them into this conclusion.  To the Christians that he had pulled out of the Body of Christ to follow himself, Simon became worshipped as the Son of Man.

This man, then, was glorified by many as if he were a god; and he taught that it was himself who appeared among the Jews as the Son, but descended in Samaria as the Father while he came to other nations in the character of the Holy Spirit. He represented himself, in a word, as being the loftiest of all powers, that is, the Being who is the Father over all, and he allowed himself to be called by whatsoever title men were pleased to address him.

Against Heresies

Irenaeus describes the rise of Gnosticism in the early church and their connection to the pagan gods of Greek, Roman, Egyptian and other descent, but describes Simon himself as being the origin of this mixture between pagan god and worship of Christ:

Now this Simon of Samaria, from whom all sorts of heresies derive their origin, formed his sect out of the following materials

Against Heresies

Again in Book II:

I have also related how they think and teach that creation at large was formed after the image of their invisible Pleroma, and what they hold respecting the Demiurge, declaring at the same time the doctrine of Simon Magus of Samaria, their progenitor, and of all those who succeeded him. I mentioned, too, the multitude of those Gnostics who are sprung from him, and noticed the points of difference between them, their several doctrines, and the order of their succession, while I set forth all those heresies which have been originated by them. I showed, moreover, that all these heretics, taking their rise from Simon, have introduced impious and irreligious doctrines into this life; and I explained the nature of their "redemption," and their method of initiating those who are rendered "perfect," along with their invocations and their mysteries. I proved also that there is one God, the Creator, and that He is not the fruit of any defect, nor is there anything either above Him, or after Him.

Against Heresies

And in Book III


THOU hast indeed enjoined upon me, my very dear friend, that I should bring to light the Valentinian doctrines, concealed, as their votaries imagine; that I should exhibit their diversity, and compose a treatise in refutation of them. therefore have undertaken--showing that they spring from Simon, the father of all heretics--to exhibit both their doctrines and successions, and to set forth arguments against them all.

Against Heresies

And finally in Book IV

[This spiritual man] shall also judge the vain speeches of the perverse Gnostics, by showing that they are the disciples of Simon Magus.

Against Heresies

The followers of Simon began to call themselves Simonians, and teaching that their sect was the origin of the secret hidden mysteries – but did so in the name of Christianity.  The unsuspecting would attach themselves to these followers of Simon while thinking they were simply followers of Christ, but over time become seduced into becoming followers of Simon. 

Although they do not confess the name of their master, in order all the more to seduce others, yet they do teach his doctrines. They set forth, indeed, the name of Christ Jesus as a sort of lure, but in various ways they introduce the impieties of Simon; and thus they destroy multitudes, wickedly disseminating their own doctrines by the use of a good name, and, through means of its sweetness and beauty, extending to their hearers the bitter and malignant poison of the serpent, the great author of apostasy?

Against Heresies


When you consider the true nature of a cult as we see today, it is very easy to identify with the world that Irenaeus is describing.  When approached by a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon, their leader is seldom mentioned – their advertisement for their religious sect is Christ.  The leader is simply the “good stuff in the middle.” 

What Irenaeus describes regarding the followers of Simon is exactly the same.  They did not confess the name of Simon, nor did they outwardly proclaim that they had elevated Simon into a place of worship, but they taught his doctrines as through they were scriptural truth.  And the doctrines were so closely woven into their belief system that to deny the teaching of Simon, to them, was to deny Christianity itself.  Simon had essentially attached himself to Christ in their religious sect.

When you examine the ministry of William Branham as compared to Simon Magus, the parallels are uncanny.  The early days of William Branham’s ministry was one welcoming of others in the Christian faith, those who professed Christ as their Lord and Savior, and accepted God’s gift of Grace through Faith. 

And let's everyone, now, we're here representing different denominations: Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, oh, Christian Science, and probably all different types of church, but that doesn't that much to God, what church you belong to.


But while promoting, or representing, each of the denominations of Christian faith in his early ministry – even the Massachusetts cult “Christian Science,” Branham later would say that these denominations he was representing were the very evil “Mark of the Beast” from the book of Revelation:

Now, and when I speak of denominations, I'm not meaning for you to be so cruel and... No, I don't mean for you not to go to your church. Go to your church, what you're supposed to do. But just don't join up with them organizations, because one day I'll be telling you and prove it by the Scripture, it is the mark of the beast. And you just remember, it's the mark.


Just like the days when Simon Magus travelled with the apostles, Branham uplifted Christians in other churches, working with other preachers and evangelists as they lifted up the body of Christ.  But over time, this was reversed.  Branham never summed up his objectives in one single statement that said, “Our group is the only one which God has revealed the ‘hidden mysteries,’ attach yourself to both me [William Branham] and Christ!”

But it is evident that like the followers of Simon, the followers of Branham have indeed attached Branham to Christ. 

In other denominations of Christian faith, great men of the Gospel are not attached.  A follower of John MacArthur does not call himself a “MacArthurite,” and if someone were to fully disagree with MacArthur, he or she could easily stand against his the parts of his teaching that they do not believe to be true – and yet still be considered a Christian.  Even the followers of MacArthur could consider them Christian, though some may disagree and even agree with the teachings they find objectionable.

But religious cults, or sects, that have severed themselves from the Body of Christ have severed themselves to a foundation.  They no longer stand with the other members of the Body, and therefore stand firmly upon their leader’s attachment to Christ – good or bad.  To deny the parts of that attachment that do not fully align with the scriptures would be to deny the attachment itself, and therefore deny the cult.  It is an all-or-nothing type of faith, which leads many to atheism when that faith is broken.

Towards the end of his ministry, Simon Magus was believed to be the return of the Son of Man by his following.  Though he did not outwardly proclaim himself to be such, Irenaeus describes how the teaching directly from Simon had lured the followers into believing that his ministry was the return of Christ.

Interestingly, William Branham associates this particular passage of scripture to his own ministry over 28 times in 1965 – the end of his ministry.  In the years leading up to 1964, the passage of scripture is not even mentioned, and even in 1964 this passage was only mentioned a handful of times.

Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

Luke 17:30

This was the very teaching that Simon Magus convinced his followers to believe.  Without even knowing it, the followers of Simon had lifted the sorcerer into an object of worship: into a god.

The Son of Man, of course, is Jesus Christ, and the Bible tells us that Christ will one day return for His children.  According to the scriptures, Christ Himself returns – but according to the followers of Simon and similar, this return was a supernatural bonding between their leader and Christ. 


Now it's begin to pull away, the wheat's begin to be seen. This is not a Pentecostal age. This is the latter-day age. This is the Bride age. This is the evening Light. This is when Malachi 4 must be fulfilled, to follow God's pattern. This is Luke 17:30, to be fulfill.


Matthew 24, Jesus warns us of men like Simon Magus, men that will rise to convince us that their ministry and their following is the return of Christ.  But to put it simply, Jesus said, “Watch out!  It’s not Me!”

See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.

Matthew 24:4-5


And he says that His return is not something that will be hidden in mystery.  When Christ returns, the entire heavens will be shaken – the sun refusing to shine, and the moon having nothing to reflect.  There will be a sign in the heaven for all to see – not just a small group of people with some “hidden mystery” that have severed themselves from all other Christians.  It will be a sign written in the heavens for all to see – bringing fear to those who have denied his name or have lifted up men into objects of worship, but bringing joy to those who have kept His Word.

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.


“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.  Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Matthew 24:29-31