Unlike New Yearâs, Christmas, Halloween, St. Valentineâs Day and other pagan holidays that are celebrated by the secular, non-religious world, the Lenten season is observed by dedicated religious believers.
On Ash Wednesday, many solemnly mark their foreheads with ash. Then for the next 40 days they âfastâ by abstaining from certain foods or physical pleasures until Easter. This is done to supposedly imitate Jesus Christâs 40-day fast in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-2). Some give up smoking. Others give up chewing gum. Still others give up overeating or cursing. People vow to give up anything, as long as it prepares them for Easter.
People who observe Lent may be religious, dedicated and sincereâbut they are sincerely wrong.
Letâs examine Lent, its practices and customs, its historic and religious origins, and its true meaning from the Bibleâs perspective, not from the âtraditions of menâ (Mark 7:7-9).
Examining Lentâs Purpose
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, âthe real aim of Lent is, above all else, to prepare men for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of ChristâŠthe better the preparation the more effective the celebration will be. One can effectively relive the mystery only with purified mind and heart. The purpose of Lent is to provide that purification by weaning men from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer, by creating in them the desire to do Godâs will and to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in their hearts.â
On the surface, this belief sounds sincere. However, it does not agree with the Bible, Godâs Holy Word, the only source of true spiritual knowledge and understanding (John 17:17). God, through the apostle Paul, commands Christians to âcontinue you in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing of whom you have learned them; and that from a child you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good worksâ (II Tim. 3:14-17).
First, understand that the âcelebration of the death and Resurrection of Christâ to which the preceding quote refers is so-called âGood Fridayâ and âEaster Sundayââholidays deeply rooted in ancient paganism. They were instituted by mainstream Christianity in order to counterfeit and replace the Passover season. Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread were observed by Christ, the original apostles and the New Testament Churchâincluding gentiles. God commands His people to observe them today (I Cor. 5:7-8). (Read our booklets The True Origin of Easter and Christâs Resurrection Was Not on Sunday to learn more.)
Second, the Bible says that we are purifiedâcleansed, set apart and made pure in Godâs sightâby the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Heb. 9:11-14, 22; 13:12). This, along with faith (Acts 15:9) and humbly submitting to and obeying God (James 4:7-10) through His truth and prayer (John 17:17; I Tim. 4:5), makes us clean before God. No amount of fasting, abstaining from physical pleasures or any other form of self-denial can purify us.
Third, you cannot, of and by yourself, create within you âthe desire to do Godâs will.â True, God has given mankind free moral agency. But the carnal, natural mind cannotâwill notâsubmit to God. âFor they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the SpiritâŠBecause the carnal mind is enmity [hostile] against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can beâ (Rom. 8:5, 7).
Only through a converted mind, actively led by the Holy Spirit, can God work âin you both to will and to do of His good pleasureâ (Phil. 2:13).
And fourth, âto make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in their heartsâ is a false tradition taught by this worldâs brand of Christianity. It is not taught in the Bible. God is not setting up His Kingdom in the hearts of men. (Request our article Seven Proofs Godâs Kingdom Is Not Here Yet to understand more.)
So where did Lent originate? How did it come to be so widely observed by mainstream Christianity?
Approved by Official State Religion
Believe it or not, Lent was never observed by Christ or His apostles. He commanded His disciples to âGo you therefore, and teach all nationsâŠteaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded youâ (Matt. 28:19-20). Jesus never commanded them to observe Lent or Easter. He did, however, command them to keep Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. In fact, during His last Passover on Earth, Christ gave detailed instructions on how to observe the Passover service. He also instituted new Passover symbols (John 13:1-17).
Notice what Alexander Hislop wrote in his book The Two Babylons: âThe festival, of which we read in Church history, under the name of Easter, in the third and fourth centuries, was quite a different festival from that now observed in the Romish Church, and at that time was not known by any such name as EasterâŠThat festival [Passover] was not idolatrous, and it was preceded by no Lent. âIt ought to be known,â said Cassianus, the monk of Marseilles, writing in the fifth century, and contrasting the primitive [New Testament] Church with the Church of his day, âthat the observance of the forty days had no existence, so long as the perfection of that primitive Church remained inviolate.ââ
Lent was not observed by the first-century Church! It was first addressed by the church at Rome during the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, when Emperor Constantine officially recognized that church as the Roman Empireâs state religion. Any other form of Christianity that held to doctrines contrary to the Roman church was considered an enemy of the state. (To learn more about true Church history, read our book Where Is the True Church? â and Its Incredible History!) In AD 360, the Council of Laodicea officially commanded Lent to be observed.
Originally, people did not observe Lent for more than a week. Some kept it for one or two days. Others kept it for 40 consecutive hours, falsely believing that only 40 hours had elapsed between Christâs death and resurrection.
Eventually, it became a 40-day period of fasting or abstaining from certain foods. âThe emphasis was not so much on the fasting as on the spiritual renewal that the preparation for Easter demanded. It was simply a period marked by fasting, but not necessarily one in which the faithful fasted every day. However, as time went on, more and more emphasis was laid upon fastingâŠDuring the early centuries (from the fifth century on especially) the observance of the fast was very strict. Only one meal a day, toward evening was allowed: flesh meat and fish, and in most places even eggs and dairy products, were absolutely forbidden. Meat was not even allowed on Sundaysâ (Catholic Encyclopedia).
From the ninth century onward, Lentâs strict rules were relaxed. Greater emphasis was given to performing âpenitential worksâ than to fasting and abstinence. According to the apostolic constitution Poenitemini of Pope Paul IV (Feb. 17, 1966), âabstinence is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays of the year that do not fall on holy days of obligation, and fasting as well as abstinence is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Fridayâ (Catholic Encyclopedia).
Today, Lent is used for âfasting from sin and from viceâŠforsaking sin and sinful ways.â It is a season âfor penance, which means sorrow for sin and conversion to God.â This tradition teaches that fasting and employing self-discipline during Lent will give a worshipper the âcontrol over himself that he needs to purify his heart and renew his life.â
However, the Bible clearly shows that self-controlâtemperanceâcomes from having Godâs Holy Spirit working in the life of a converted mind (Gal. 5:16, 17, 22). Fastingâof and by itselfâcannot produce godly self-control.
Paul warned against using self-denial as a tool to rely on your own will. He called it âwill worship.â âWherefore if you be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subject to ordinances, (touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honor to the satisfying of the fleshâ (Col. 2:20-23).
God did not design fasting as a tool for penance, âbeating yourself upâ or developing willpower: âIs it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? When you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh?â (Isa. 58:5-7).
Godâs people humble themselves through fasting in order to draw closer to Himâso that they can learn to think and act like Himâso that they can live His way of life in all things. Notice what the prophet Jeremiah wrote: âThus says the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, says the Lordâ (9:23-24). Fasting (and prayer) helps Christians draw closer to God.
Lentâs Ancient Roots
Coming from the Anglo-Saxon Lencten, meaning âspring,â Lent originated in the ancient Babylonian mystery religion. âThe forty daysâ abstinence of Lent was directly borrowed from the worshippers of the Babylonian goddessâŠAmong the Pagans this Lent seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuzâ (The Two Babylons).
Tammuz was the false Messiah of the Babyloniansâa satanic counterfeit of Jesus Christ!
The Feast of Tammuz was usually celebrated in June (also called the âmonth of Tammuzâ). Lent was held 40 days before the feast, âcelebrated by alternate weeping and rejoicing.â This is why Lent means âspringâ; it took place from spring to early summer.
The Bible records ancient Judah worshipping this false Messiah: âThen He brought me to the door of the gate of the Lordâs house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuzâ (Ezek. 8:14-15). This was a great abomination in Godâs eyes!
But why did the church at Rome institute such a pagan holiday?
âTo conciliate the Pagans to nominal Christianity, Rome, pursuing its usual policy, took measures to get the Christian and Pagan festivals amalgamated, and, by a complicated but skillful adjustment of the calendar, it was found no difficult matter, in general, to get Paganism and Christianityânow far sunk in idolatryâin this as in so many other things, to shake handsâ (The Two Babylons).
The Roman system replaced Passover with Easter, moving the pagan Feast of Tammuz to early spring, âChristianizingâ it. Lent moved with it.
âThis change of the calendar in regard to Easter was attended with momentous consequences. It brought into the Church the grossest corruption and the rankest superstition in connection with the abstinence of Lentâ (The Two Babylons).
Before giving up personal sins and vices during Lent, the pagans held a wild, âanything goesâ celebration to make sure that they got in their share of debaucheries and perversitiesâwhat the world celebrates as Mardi Gras today.
Abomination Masked as Christianity
God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33). He never instituted Lent, a pagan observance connecting debauchery to the supposed resurrection of a false Messiah.
God commands His people to follow Himânot the traditions of men. Godâs ways are higher, better than manâs (Isa. 55:8-9). Men cannot determine for themselves right from wrong or how to properly worship God. Why? Because âthe heart [mind] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wickedâ (Jer. 17:9), and âthe way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own stepsâ (10:23). God designed us and gave us life. He knows how we are supposed to worship Him.
To be a Christian and properly serve God, you must live âby every word that proceeds out of the mouth of Godâ (Matt. 4:4), recognizing that His Holy Scriptures âcannot be brokenâ (John 10:35).
God commands Christians to flee from the pagan traditions and customs of this world, currently led and deceived by Satan the devil (II Cor. 4:4; Rev. 12:9).
Lent may seem like a sincere, heartfelt religious observance. But it is deeply rooted in pagan ideas that counterfeit Godâs plan.
God hates all pagan observances (Jer. 10:2-3; Lev. 18:3, 30; Deut. 7:1-5, 16). They cannot be âChristianizedâ or made clean by men. That includes Lent.
Now you know the true meaning of Lent.