Caesarea Philippi

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Caesarea Philippi
Location

 

1. Few other places in Scripture will provide so much meaning by understanding the location.

 

2. It was here that Peter made the divinely inspired declaration the Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God.

 

3. Caesarea Philippi was an impressive Greco-Roman city near a huge spring that comes out of a cave and is one of the main sources of the Jordan River. 

 

4. It’s about 30 miles (48 km.) north of the Sea of Galilee and is at the foothills of Mount Hermon.

 

5. It was close to a High Place where Jeroboam set up a golden calf for the northern tribes of Israel to worship, which led to their downfall.

 

6. In around 1000 AD there was an earthquake that collapsed part of the cave and changed the water flow. Now the water comes out of the ground below the cave.

 

Historical Background

 

1. This place has been associated with intense false god worship and evil for many years.

 

2. Baal worship took place here during the period of the kings of Israel.

 

3. King Jeroboam set up a golden calf not far from here and commanded all the Israelites in this area to worship it.

 

4. Later, under the Greeks, it became the key place of worship to the fertility god, Pan. Pan was a half human, half goat looking, creature.

 

5. Then the Romans incorporated it into a place of false god worship as well.

 

6. Caesarea Philippi was originally called Panion or Panias, after the Greek god Pan. Later it became known as Banias.

 

7. Herod the Great’s son, Philip, established it as the capital of his territory and named it Caesarea to honor the emperor of Rome. It became a large, flourishing Roman city.

 

8. It was known as Caesarea Philippi to distinguish it from other cities with the same name.

 

9. During the time of Christ, there were 5 main areas of worship to false gods that took place here.

 

  • Herod the Great built a temple right at the mouth of this huge spring to honor Augustus Caesar.  

  • A courtyard area to the worship of Pan. 

  • A temple dedicated to the false god, Zeus.

  • An upper Tomb Temple of the Dancing Goats.

  • A lower Tomb Temple of the Dancing Goats.

 

10. It was a worldwide gathering place of worship to numerous false gods.

 

11. It was literally considered the “Gate of the Underworld (Hades)” by the known world at that time.

 

12. Children would be thrown alive into the entrance to the cave as a sacrifice to the god of Pan, believing this would appease the gods and bring fertility to their crops.

 

13. Some even believe that men would mate with goats in the courtyard of Pan and on the Tomb Temples in ritualistic fertility acts believing this would help their crops. They would also have goats mating with goats as well in these areas.

 

14. It was a sick cesspool of evil and represented the worst Satan and sinful humanity could offer.

 

15. The disciples were very uncomfortable coming to this eerie, demonic, dark place, and no good Jew would have even considered coming here.

 

16. However, Jesus purposefully brought His disciples here to embed within their hearts the imperative truth of who He was, what the mission of His church would be, and the astounding power His church would have over evil through Him.

 

Places of Interest

 

1. Cave Entrance (place the large spring was located)

 

2. Temple of Augustus

 

3. Courtyard of the false god, Pan

 

4. Temple of Zeus

 

5. Upper Tomb Temple of the Dancing Goats

 

6. Lower Tomb Temple of the Dancing Goats 

 

7. Hermon Stream (flows from the cave entrance)

 

8. Byzantine Church

 

9. Cardo

 

10. Moat

 

11. Church

 

12. Crusader Church

 

13. Palace of Agrippa II

 

14. Flour Mill

 

15. Roman Bridge

 

Caesarea Philippi in the Bible

 

1. Peter’s confession regarding the identity of Christ.
Matthew 16:13-15: Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

 

  • To properly understand the meaning of this passage, we must understand the big question Christ asked and the purpose for which He asked it.

  • The question was about who Christ was, His identity, and His essence.

  • In contrast to all the false gods being worshipped at this site, Christ established that He was the only true and living God that should be worshiped.

 

2. Peter’s confession was a direct revelation from God.
Matthew 16:17: And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

 

3. Christ will build His Church.
Matthew 16:18: And I tell you, you are Peter (petros – small pebble), and on this rock (petra – large, massive rock), I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 

 

This passage has had two main interpretations throughout history. The Roman Catholic Church claims that the rock upon which Christ will build His Church is Peter, upon which they build the papacy. Evangelicals claim that the rock is Christ, based upon Peter’s confession.

 

Evidence that the rock is Christ, not Peter.

 

  • Christ used the word petros in describing Peter. He used the word petra in describing upon whom He would build His Church. Christ certainly wouldn’t build His Church upon a pebble.

  • Christ didn’t say He would build His Church upon Peter because He says, “Upon this rock.” He didn’t say to Peter, “Upon you.”

  • Peter had three significant failures in his ministry life: (1) In Matthew 16:23, just shortly after Peter’s confession of who Christ was, Christ rebuked Peter and told him, “Get behind me Satan” (2) Peter denied Christ shortly before Christ’s crucifixion, and (3) Paul rebuked Peter in Galatians 2:11, in front of everyone for a serious matter regarding the gospel. Christ certainly wouldn’t build His Church upon a frail human.

  • Christ is referred to as the Cornerstone and foundation of the Church.

  • Peter understood he was not the rock upon which Christ would build His church as he states in 1 Peter 2:4–6:

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

 

The rock upon which the Church is being built is Christ, the Cornerstone.

 

4. The Gates of Hell will not prevail against Christ’s Church.
Matthew 16:18: And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

 

  • Christ purposefully took His disciples to this evil Pagan place to show them that His Church would be so powerful that the gates of hell wouldn’t be able to prevail or stand against it.

  • Gates were used in the ancient world for defensive purposes. They were used to keep an enemy from entering a certain place.

  • This means that the church is on the offense, and the gates of hell will not be able to withstand its entry and power.

  • Contrary to what some might believe, the church is not on defense in stationary mode standing its ground.

  • God has designed His Church to be in the world, but not of it. This means we should be involved in influencing the world for Christ, not retreating and hiding from it.

  • Christ wants His Church involved in society and reaching every hidden corner of it for Him.

 

5. From Caesarea Philippi, Jesus began His journey to Jerusalem to be crucified.  
Matthew 16:21-23: From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

 

6. Christ teaches about the commitment level He demands from the disciples of His Church.
Matthew 16:24–27: Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

 

Faith Lesson from Caesarea Philippi

 

1. Are we on the offense and influencing our world for Christ, or are we retreating and hiding out?

 

2. Do we truly believe that Christ and His Church are more powerful than Satan and the culture we live in?

 

3. Do we know God’s Word so we can use it effectively in advancing the truth against the lies of Satan and the world?

 

4. Do we understand the spiritual battles that are taking place today?

 

  • The belief that truth is just what each person believes it to be and what works for them personally.

  • The belief that feelings and emotions determine truth, and what’s right and wrong. 

  • The belief that if it feels good, it must be right, or if it makes me happy, it can’t be wrong.

  • The belief that there are no absolute standards of right and wrong that apply to everyone.

  • The belief that truth is rigid, intolerant, and judgmental.

  • The belief that if we speak the truth of God’s Word to someone, we are judging them and intolerant.

 

5. Are we willing to pay the cost Christ demands to be His disciples?


 

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