Less than 20 years after the ascension of the  Lord Jesus Christ to heaven, the Apostle  Paul warned the saints in Thessalonica that  an apostate system would arise: “And for this cause  he shall send them strong delusion that they should  believe a lie” (2 Thess 2:11). A few verses earlier in  his epistle, he warned the Thessalonians that the seeds of this system had already been sown and were  in the process of germinating: “For the mystery of  iniquity doth already work …” (v 7).

Is it an accident that this warning is contained  in a letter to a Greek ecclesia? The Greeks were  renowned for philosophies that corrupted first century doctrine. An example of an ancient Greek  belief is that the Earth is at the centre of the solar  system. Though this is an example of a belief that is  not essential to salvation, many were: for example,  belief in an immortal soul.

Before we discuss the Church, false doctrine  and astronomy, we will briefly explore the scriptural  meaning of the Greek words that have been  translated “strong delusion” in 2 Thessalonians 2:11.  The Greek word translated as “strong” is energeia,  from which the word energy in the English language  comes. To put it simply, the delusion spoken of in  this verse has energy – enough to maintain a false  system of belief  effectively all the way from the first  century AD to the 21st century. It was God who  sent the strong delusion.

The Greek word translated “delusion” is plane,  which according to Strong’s Concordance has the  meaning of “fraudulence, a straying from orthodoxy  or piety, to deceive, delusion, error”. It is derived  from planos, which Strong’s defines as “an impostor  or misleader”. A related word is planetes, defined as  “a rover, an erratic teacher”. The English word planet  is a transliteration of this Greek word.

A planet is a celestial body that wanders against  the backdrop of the fixed stars. Planos occurs in  a few other places in the NT, for example in 1  Timothy 4:1: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly,  that in the latter times some shall depart from the  faith, giving heed to seducing (planos) spirits, and  doctrines of devils”. Planos occurs again in Jude  13: “Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their  own shame; wandering (planatos) stars, to whom is  reserved the blackness of darkness for ever”.

Another place where planos occurs is 2 John 7,  which is of particular relevance to the subject of  this article: “For many deceivers (planos) are entered  into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ  is come in the flesh.  This is a deceiver (planos) and  an antichrist”. This verse mentions a core difference  between truth and error. A large portion of Scripture  contains parables. All the parables in the Bible, including  those spoken by Jesus, present a consistent  picture – what we might call a ‘Parable Universe,’  in which planets represent those who promulgate  false doctrine and the stars those who believe and  preach the truth (Dan 12:3).

Ptolemy and Copernicus

In 140 AD, the Greek astronomer, Ptolemy,  presented a model of the solar system that could  explain the retrograde motion of the planets using  a system of epicycles – the five planets visible to  the naked eye revolved about the Sun that in turn  revolved about the Earth. Although it was, in some  respects, an accurate model of the heavens, it was  wrong. The Ptolemaic model of the heavens held  sway over people’s minds for a period of about  1400 years until the heliocentric view was revived  by Nicolaus Copernicus.

In 1543, Copernicus published a book called  Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium or  The Revolution  of the Heavenly Orbs. The Church soon learned of  this book (remember there were very few books in  existence in these times) and correctly interpreted  the central idea of the book as a direct challenge  to Church authority. The geocentric model of the  heavens was a tenet of Church doctrine; the heliocentric  model was listed in their “doctrines to be  rejected”. No doubt Copernicus delayed publication  of his book until late in his life because, as a  cleric, he was well aware his views would brand  him a heretic.

Galileo’s observations

In 1608 some spectacle makers from Flanders  visited the Republic of Venice, peddling a primitive  telescope. Galileo, a mathematics professor at  Padua, learned of the telescope and built his own  improved version and turned it on the heavens.  He discovered the craters on the moon, the phases  of Venus and four of the moons of Jupiter. When  Galileo saw points of light revolving about Jupiter,  he deduced that he was viewing a mini solar system  and that opened up the far simpler explanation  about our solar system that the planets revolve  about a central sun.

In 1610, Galileo recounted his observations in  a book called Sidereus Nuncius, or Starry Messenger.  In 1611, the year after Sidereus Nuncius was published,  the Holy Office of the Inquisition (HOI)  started collecting evidence against Galileo. The  following entry is recorded in the Holy  Office of  Inquisition records of 1616 : “Propositions to be  forbidden: that the sun is immovable at the centre  of the heaven; that the earth is not at the centre of  the heaven, and is not immovable, but moves by a  double motion.”

Galileo, a heretic!

In 1632, Galileo published a book called the  Dialogue on the Great World Systems in the form of  a conversation between two characters discussing  the Ptolemaic and Copernican world views. Th e  Pope of the day, Urban VIII, was outraged as he  identified himself with a character in the book  named Simplicius (as in ‘simple’), who attempted  to ineffectually defend the Ptolemaic view! The  book was immediately banned, the presses stopped  and an attempt made to buy up existing stock –  although they were too late as the book was a best  seller and all the copies had gone! In 1633, Galileo  was called to Rome for trial as a heretic. He was  forced to recant, although never tortured and lived  under house arrest until his death in 1642. After  Galileo’s trial, the French scientist Rene Descartes  shut up shop and migrated to Sweden. All research  in Catholic Europe stopped.

In 1993, the Church finally pardoned Galileo,  which was in effect an acknowledgement that the Church ‘had got it wrong’ in 1663. Siderius Nuncius   remained on the Church’s index of banned books  (Index Expurgatorius) for 200 years.

Th e clash between the Church and Galileo was  part of a wider pattern of events to do with the  curtailing of Papal power to pave the way for the  re-establishment of the state of Israel, an essential  precursor to the establishment of the Kingdom of  God. Many historians date the beginning of the end  of the power of the Church at 31 October, 1517,  when Martin Luther nailed a document to the  door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, listing  95 serious problems with the Church doctrine of  indulgences (the “pay-as-you-sin” system).

In response to this threat to the Church, in  1542 the Pope set up an organisation known as  the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman  and Universal Inquisition, which, in 1622 was rebadged  as the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, or  the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith  (the origin of the English word propaganda). 1611  saw the publication of the King James Version of  the Bible in England, a major catalyst in the development  of England as a strong Protestant power,  separate from Catholic Europe.

Papal infallibility falsified

The involvement of Galileo with the Church is a  very clear demonstration that Papal announcements can be anything other than infallible. If the Pope  was God’s representative on Earth, how could he  be so wrong on something as fundamental as the  construction of the solar system? In the dispute  with Galileo, would not God have told the Pope  of the day how the solar system really worked in  order to save the Church a lot of subsequent embarrassment?  Even if the Church had backed down  at this time, there would have been some degree  of embarrassment, as the question could be asked  why the Church had an incorrect belief about the  planets for 1400 years!

The Galileo  affair is a supreme example illustrating  the “man of sin” of 2 Thessalonians 2:4:  “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that  is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as  God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself  that he is God.” This incident also exemplified es  Daniel 7:25: “And he shall speak great words against  the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the  most High, and think to change times and laws…”  The treatment of Galileo by the Church is a clear  example of the Church effectively attempting to  override God’s work of creation by asserting that  the observational evidence was wrong and that the  solar system was in fact constructed according to  the Ptolemaic system.

Long term impact of Galileo’s trial

The events surrounding the trial of Galileo hastened  the Reformation in northern Europe but not in the  Catholic dominated south. It can hardly be an accident  that the majority of scientific and technical  development occurred in the reformist countries,  Britain, Holland, Germany and France (especially  among the Protestant Huguenots).

The trial of Galileo stopped all scientific research  in Catholic Europe, the consequences of which are  still with us today, 378 years later. All of the top  research universities of the world are to be found in  the Protestant countries of Britain and the USA .  There are many Catholic universities throughout the  world but according to _ e Times Top Universities  2011–2012, the highest ranking Catholic university  is the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium,  that comes in at number 67. This is not to say that  Catholic universities, and universities in Catholic  countries are not capable of excellent research; it’s  just that the Protestant universities had a head start  that goes back to the trial of Galileo in 1633. In the  trial of Galileo and surrounding events, we see the  finger of God moulding the affairs of mankind to  establish His purpose or, in other words, to make  prophecy happen.

This article reveals the blatant ignorance of the  Roman Catholic Church as it sought to bind the  conscience of a brilliant physicist, who published  the unassailable facts about Earth’s orbit around the  sun and its own revolutions as it does so.

Not till 1993 did the Vatican acknowledge their  error: by then they had made themselves the laughing  stock of the world.